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VAN DYCK: Best team money doesn't need to buy

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It's a team Carl Pohlad would love — salaries so small they're hardly more than a night out on 's credit card. It's our All-Cheap All-Star team, where not one player makes even the major league average salary of $2.55 million. A virtual Bud Selig Small Market Dream Team. It's a team of players who have been discarded (Esteban Loaiza) and are highly regarded (Albert Pujols), but whose salaries do not match their statistics — yet. It's a team you wouldn't worry about being motivated for an All-Star game, not with the money carrot still dangling in front of them. These players are still hungry enough not to have fear of an injury ruining a contract. So what are the rules for making the All-Cheap All-Star team? Really, there are no rules. First, your must have star-like statistics (yes, some of our players even made the real All-Star team). Originally, we set out to have every salary under $1 million and it would be possible to do that, but then we realized we would be cheating ourselves. And we also realized that inflation has ballooned salaries at positions like shortstop and first base (no thanks to A-Rod, Jeter, and ). Maybe you think inflation hasn't changed things? Consider this: , a second-year player at that, receives more as an All-Star bonus ($1.6 million) than every player on our team except two. And we could have survived nicely without either of those players, but decided to splurge (sorry, Mr. Pohlad). (In truth, at $1.725 million is on our team because of his versatility. He would be labeled the DH.) OK, how cheap is our All-Cheap All-Star team? Well, the average salary of Tuesday's nine-man American League starting lineup, including the DH, is $11.45 million (exaggerated by the combined $60.7 million of A-Rod, and Delgado). The average salary of Tuesday's eight-man National League starting lineup is $7.5 million. The average salary of the eight-man All-Cheap starting lineup is $748,000. Throw in Mora and it grows to $857,000. But Mora's worth it and, besides, he has quintuplets to feed. Statistics? Darned right we have them. Loaiza and lead their leagues in ERA, Mora and their leagues in batting average. So here's our All-Cheap All-Star team and, actually, we would look forward to playing either one of the real All-Star teams any time any place: Catcher: A. J. Pierzynski ($365,000), . One of Pohlad's own gets the nod over AL starter ($1.8 million) only because of money (but he does have more RBI). 1B: ($1 million), . We would love to have the ' , but he's injured (hey, rules are rules). Not that anyone should diss Fick's 49 RBI and near-.300 average. 2B: ($800,000), . This was a tough choice, what with ' All-Star making only $316,500. But Soriano can steal bases, hit home runs and lead off. Case closed. 3B: ($302,000), . With apologies to Houston's ($300,000), Blalock is hitting well over .300 with 14 homers and 48 runners knocked in. He's the real deal. SS: ($1.7 million), . OK, so we splurged but imagine a middle infielder with 53 RBI. Hey, he's better than that other , who makes $5.75 million from the . Cheap alternative? How about , who has been one of the reasons for Arizona's resurgence. OF: ($900,000), . Baseball's biggest bargain. But don¿t feel sorry for him, his time at the pay window is coming. OF: ($520,000), . His .300 average, 28 homers and 83 RBI are almost equal to those of teammate , but for $18 million less! OF: ($400,000), . Sure, we know about ($314,000), ($300,000), Scott Podsednik ($300,000) and ($300,000). And we know that Dunn is struggling to stay above .200. But we also know he has 25 homers and 48 RBI. You want Bradley instead? No argument, and he would save us $86,000, too. DH: ($1.725 million), . No, we don¿t need him to make this a super team, but at age 31 he's a good story. And he's hitting over .350, too. Leave him off and you can insert Dunn as DH. SP: ($500,000), . As deals go, they don¿t get any better than this for the ERA leader. SP: ($300,000), . Hey, no one had to get hurt for him to make our team. However, we would like to find room for and his $300,000 salary if he weren't hurt. SP: ($325,000), . His return from injury was like the adding a rookie. . .a rookie with 12 victories. SP: ($440,000), . He won¿t be cheap much longer, not with 10 victories and a 3.32 ERA. But right now, he's ours. SP: ($300,000), . Like Willis, he has come out of nowhere to help his team get into playoff contention. And he noses out , who is getting a little pricey for our team at $1.45 million (that's without his All-Star bonus). Yes, we're big believers in Prior, by the way, although he could use some work on his baserunning skills. RP: ($301,000), . Of course, if you have a bad heart, you might rather pick the ' ($320,000) or the D-Backs' rookie ($300,000). Veteran baseball correspondent Dave van Dyck is a regular contributor to FOXSports.com.
Tagged: Orioles, Red Sox, White Sox, Indians, Royals, Yankees, Athletics, Mariners, Rangers, Blue Jays, Braves, Cubs, Astros, Nationals, Cardinals, Rockies, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Rays, Melvin Mora, Manny Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Derek Jeter, Ramon Hernandez, Joel Pineiro, Vernon Wells, Milton Bradley, Albert Pujols, Alex Gonzalez, Nick Johnson, Mike MacDougal, Brandon Webb, Dontrelle Willis, Jose Valverde

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