Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Cantu named to MLB's World Baseball Classic All-Time Team

While eleven years is usually a little early to name an "all-time team" for pretty much everything, Major League Baseball has constructed such a collection of ballplayers from past World Baseball Classics (an event that debuted in 2006 and has subsequently been held in 2009 and 2013).  Reynosa native Jorge Cantu, who played for Mexico in all three previous WBC's, was named as the third baseman on an All-Time Team that includes the likes of Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez and Cooperstown candidates Miguel Cabrera and Ichiro Suzuki.

Cantu got the nod ahead of Dominican Adrian Beltre (another HOF-worthy player) and Yuriesky Gurriel of Cuba, according to Matt Kelly of MLB.com.  The former Rays infielder batted .317 with four homers and 17 RBIs in 15 total WBC contests.  Cantu had a memorable 2009 Classic, raking for a .360 average including five doubles, a pair of longballs and six ribbies in four games as Mexico advanced to the second round of the tournament before being knocked out by Cuba.

Here is MLB.com's All-Time WBC Team:

PITCHER - Daisuke Matsuzaka, Japan
CATCHER - Ivan Rodriguez, Puerto Rico
FIRST BASE - Miguel Cabrera, Venezuela
SECOND BASE - Robinson Cano, Dominican Republic
THIRD BASE - Jorge Cantu, Mexico
SHORTSTOP - Jimmy Rollins, USA
LEFT FIELD - Yoenis Cespedes, Cuba
CENTER FIELD - Carlos Beltran, Puerto Rico
RIGHT FIELD - Ichiro Suzuki, Japan
DESIGNATED HITTER - Frederich Cepeda, Cuba

What's ironic about Cantu's selection is that the 35-year-old had reportedly indicated interest in playing in his fourth WBC, which begins Thursday when Mexico hosts Italy in a Pool D game at Guadalajara's Estadio Jalisco.  However, even with the recent roster churn from players choosing to remain in their spring training camps north of the border, Cantu's phone has yet to ring.

He certainly has the bonafides, with an eight-year MLB career for five teams that netted a .271 average, 104 homers and 476 RBIs.  Cantu was named by Tampa Bay sportswriters as the Rays' 2006 MVP after whacking 28 homers and driving in 117 runs to go with a .289 average.   Two years later, he knocked out a career-high 29 homers as Tampa Bay set a record with four infielders each hitting 25+ homers in the same season.

Since his last major league campaign in 2011, Cantu eventually landed in Quintana Roo for 2013, and hit .270 with 31 homers in 83 games for the pennant-winning Tigres.  That led to a year in Korea, where he batted .309 with 18 homers for the Doosan Bears in 2014 before returning to the Mexican League the following year.  After another productive season in Cancun, aiding the Tigres to another Liga title with a .351 average, 25 homers and 100 RBIs, Cantu was sent Tijuana after a slow start last year and wound up playing 82 games but only posting .225/7/43 numbers for the Toros.  He'll be back with manager Pedro Mere's club again this year.

But he'd really prefer to be in Guadalajara this week.