The long history of Major League Baseball means it’s relatively rare to see something completely new. But the Tampa Bay Rays did just that with their lineup for Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Royals, with their nine-batter lineup featuring players from eight different countries. DJ Rice noted that on Twitter:
Todays Rays lineup is the first in MLB history to have eight different nationalities in the same starting lineup. United States, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico, Panama, and Taiwan. @MLBRandomStats @TBTimes_Rays @TriciaWhitaker
— DJ Rice (@TheReddDJ) August 21, 2022
That’s pretty remarkable, with the only overlap being Dominican players Margot and Siri (at designated hitter and center field respectively). This particular lineup was more diverse in terms of countries than a typical one for the Rays, with two regular starters, Cuban third baseman Yandy Díaz and American shortstop Taylor Walls, both sitting out and their spots taken by Isaac Paredes (Mexico) and Yu Chang (Taiwan, seen above during an Aug. 12 game) respectively.
However, it wasn’t quite as widespread as it could have been. Another regular starter, first baseman Ji-Man Choi (Incheon, South Korea), sat out this game. If Choi wound up DHing instead of Margot, that would be nine players from nine countries (and that is maybe a possible Rays’ lineup at some point). But players from eight different countries is still pretty remarkable, and it’s historic.
Interestingly, this comes despite the Rays’ numbers of players born in countries and territories outside the U.S. not being near the top of MLB. They weren’t even in the top nine teams for internationally-born players on the 28-man roster on Opening Day, with Houston leading the way with 16. And they weren’t in the top eight teams with players from the most countries and territories outside the U.S. at that time, with the San Diego Padres leading the way there with eight, the Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays each having seven, and five teams having six.
Despite that, the Padres have not had players from eight different countries in a lineup, and they’re not likely to any time soon. That’s because a couple of their unique countries come from pitchers, including Yu Darvish (Japan) and Nabil Crissmatt (Colombia).
Beyond that, the Rays’ lineup has evolved a fair bit since Opening Day. And that led to this particularly special lineup Sunday. It’s not something that’s going to happen a lot, as while there were a record 275 MLB players born outside the U.S. on Opening Day (thanks in part to active rosters expanding from 25 to 28), many of those come from only a few countries. The Dominican Republic (99), Venezuela (67), and Cuba (23) topped that Opening Day list.
At that time, there were only 12 non-U.S. countries and territories with more than one active player, and nine with only one (the Rays hit only one of those nine, Taiwan). So it’s pretty hard to put together a single-team lineup hitting eight countries and territories (counting the U.S.). And that explains why this hasn’t been done before.
[DJ Rice on Twitter; top photo of Harold Ramírez (Colombia) celebrating with David Peralta (Venezuela) from an Aug. 19 game, from Kim Klement/USA Today Sports]