After starting off the All-Time WBC teams with up-and-coming Australia, we now move on to a nation with a fledgling domestic baseball scene, but plenty of American-born stars. There has only been one Greek-born major leaguer, Al Campanis, who appeared in seven games for the 1943 Dodgers. However, there have been a bevy of Greek-American stars throughout the history of the game. Cody Bellinger, Milt Pappas and Tino Martinez are just a handful of the many MLB players of Greek heritage. As for the nation itself, baseball is still in the early stages of its growth. There is a small, three-team Little League in the capital city of Athens, which focuses on teaching the game’s fundamentals to youngsters. The Greek National Team, known as “Hellas,” is composed of mostly Americans and Canadians with college, minor league and independent ball experience who have acquired Greek passports. In 2021 Hellas took a major stride towards an eventual WBC appearance by securing a spot in the European A-Pool tournament. If they can continue to slowly work their way up the European rankings they could one day find themselves invited to the WBC Qualifiers. As for now, let’s jump into the team.
Catcher: Gus Triandos (1953-1965)
1953 World Series champion Gus Triandos provided stellar play both offensively and defensively for five teams for well over a decade. “The Golden Greek,” as he was affectionately called, posted a rock solid .244/.322/.413 line with 167 home runs and 608 RBI over 4,424 career plate appearances for a healthy 103 OPS+. Add to that his solid defense and four All-Star selections, and Triandos is a great start behind the plate for the Greek squad.
First Base: Tino Martinez (1990-2005)
With an Hispanic last name, Tino Martinez is easily missed when looking for Greek players, but his mother’s Greek ancestry makes him a great find for the team. Known primarily for his terrific run with the Yankees in the late 1990’s, Martinez turned in excellent production for four franchises over his 16-year career. His .271/.344/.471 slash line with 339 home runs over 8,044 career plate appearances gives him a well above-average 112 OPS+. Bountiful offensive play, coupled with outstanding defense earned Martinez two All-Star berths, a Silver Slugger Award and four World Series rings and gives the Greek team a fearsome bat in the heart of its order.
Second Base: Mike Moustakas (2011-Present)
While most baseball fans know Mike Moustakas as a lumbering third baseman, the lack of Greek second baseman forces him into action on the right side of the infield. He’s not completely inexperienced at the keystone though, with 80 appearances there to his credit. While not an ideal fit defensively, Moustakas’ powerful bat makes up for any fielding inadequacies he may have. With a career .247/.308/.434 slash line and 203 home runs over 5,191 plate appearances thus far in his career, the longtime Royal holds a 98 OPS+ and 12.9 bWAR. His three All-Star appearances and 2015 World Series ring prove his worth to the Greek squad, and he adds yet another thumping left-handed bat to a loaded lineup.
Third Base: Kevin Youkilis (2004-2013)
Kevin Youkilis is a complicated addition to the All-Greek team, as he comes from a long line of Romanian Jews and has nary a drop of Greek blood in him. However, his great-great-great-grandfather emigrated to Greece in the 1800’s, changing the family name from “Weiner” to “Youkilis” in the process. While Youkilis may find it hard to actually obtain Greek citizenship, we’re willing to bend the rules given that he won’t be needed on Team Israel, and the Greeks could use a solid third baseman. Hellas fans should rejoice, as “The Greek God of Walks” is quite an addition to the lineup, sporting outstanding defense and otherworldly on-base skills. Across 4,436 career plate appearances, Youkilis put together a .281/.382/.478 triple slash with 150 long balls and an outstanding 123 OPS+. A three time All-Star, he earned two World Series rings and a Gold Glove during his time with the Red Sox, and adds another potent righty bat to the Greek lineup.
Shortstop: Álex Rodríguez (1994-2013, 2015-2016)
No, Álex Rodríguez isn’t Greek. However, his ex-wife, Cynthia Scurtis, was raised in a Greek Orthodox household, and her grandfather, Demosthenes Mekras, founded the first Greek Orthodox church in Florida. A-Rod’s convenient marital ties not only fill a massive hole at shortstop for Hellas, but also gift the Greeks one of the greatest hitters in the history of the game. The 22-year big league veteran posted an eye-popping .295/.380/.550 line across 12,207 lifetime plate appearances, piling up 548 doubles, 696 homers and 2,086 RBI along the way for an astounding 140 OPS+. As a true five-tool talent he tacked on 329 stolen bases with only 76 failed attempts, to go along with outstanding defense at both shortstop and third base. The three-time MVP’s trophy case is filled to the brim, as he earned 14 All-Star selections, 10 Silver Slugger Awards, two Gold Gloves, a batting title and a World Series ring. While his performance enhancing drug use has kept him out of the Hall of Fame thus far, it’s impossible to argue that he wasn’t one of the greatest to ever take the field.
Left Field: Hunter Pence (2007-2020)
Much like A-Rod, longtime Giant Hunter Pence isn’t Greek himself, but makes the team by virtue of his Greek-American wife Alexis Cozombolidis. The 14-year big leaguer adds a boatload of experience and accolades to an already lethal Greek offense. A four-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion, Pence slashed .279/.334/.461 across 7,006 lifetime plate appearances with 623 extra base hits and 942 RBI for an excellent 114 OPS+. The well-rounded Pence racked up 120 career stolen bases and piled up 96 assists while playing an excellent right field. Although Pence only appeared in left field 65 times in total, he should be able to make the switch well enough with Gold Glover Nick Markakis firmly entrenched in right.
Center Field: Cody Bellinger (2017-Present)
Cody Bellinger may not immediately come to mind as a Greek ballplayer, but his father, former big leaguer Clay Bellinger, played for the Greek Olympic squad in 2004. 27-year-old Cody has had a checkered MLB career to this point, starting off on the highest of highs before sinking to the lowest of lows. His first three major league campaigns put him on the fast track to superstardom, as he slashed .278/.369/.559 over 1,841 plate appearances with 111 homers. That showing earned him two All-Star nods, the Rookie of the Year and an MVP Award. Unfortunately, he started slipping during the Dodgers’ World Series run in 2020, and has looked like a shell of his former self since. In 1,143 plate appearances since 2019, Bellinger has slashed a woeful .203/.272/.376 with only 41 bombs. His steep decline was summed up perfectly when the Dodgers opted not to tender a contract to their former star following a dreadful 2022 season. There is hope, however, as the Cubs inked Bellinger to a one-year $17.5 million prove it deal entering his age-28 season. All in all, the 2019 Gold Glover brings fantastic center field defense and plus speed to a fearsome Greek lineup, with the potential for a lot more if he can get his career back on track.
Right Field: Nick Markakis (2006-2020)
The perennially underrated Nick Markakis mans right field for the Greek team. In his 15 years of big league service he produced rock solid numbers while flying under the radar in Baltimore and Atlanta. Across 9,321 career plate appearances, Markakis posted a .288/.357/.423 slash line, with 189 home runs, 1,046 RBI and a wonderful 109 OPS+. While not a hulking slugger, Markakis is more known for gap-to-gap power, racking up 514 career doubles, and his 2,388 hits could see him earn a handful of dark horse Hall of Fame votes in a few years. With a Silver Slugger award and three Gold Gloves to his name, Markakis proves to be a solid all-around talent with exceptional defensive skills, even earning his first All-Star selection in 2018 at the age of 34. The lefty swinger rounds out a magnificent outfield for the Greek squad.
Designated Hitter: Mitch Haniger (2016-2019, 2021-Present)
Longtime Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger adds a steady, yet underrated right-handed bat to a powerful Greek lineup. The 2018 All-Star has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, but has produced wonderfully when he does play. Across 2,437 lifetime plate appearances, Haniger has slashed .261/.335/.476 with 231 extra base hits and 323 RBI for a sparkling 123 OPS+. The 32-year-old Californian puts a bow on a Greek lineup completely lacking in holes.
Bench Player #1: Eric Karros 1B (1991-2004)
The premier bat on the Greek bench is former Dodgers first baseman Eric Karros. While many younger fans know him as a color commentator, he actually enjoyed quite a nice run during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. The 1992 National League Rookie of the Year compiled 7,100 lifetime plate appearances with a .268/.325/.454 triple slash, 284 home runs, 324 doubles, 1,027 RBI and a 107 OPS+, and earned a Silver Slugger award in 1995. He’s pushed off of first base by the slick fielding Tino Martinez, but with plenty of pop in his bat, Karros gives Manager Jim Essian a very overqualified pinch hitter.
Bench Player #2: Jason Varitek C (1997-2011)
Although not Greek himself, Jason Varitek earns a spot on this team through his wife, Catherine Panagiotopoulos. Varitek spent 15 seasons in the big leagues, all with the Boston Red Sox. He was a core member of the team that broke the Curse of the Bambino, and ultimately earned himself two World Series rings, three All-Star nods, a Silver Slugger Award and a Gold Glove. Across 5,839 career plate appearances the switch-hitter slashed .256/.341/.435 with 513 extra base hits and 757 RBI for a 99 OPS+. The Boston legend gives Team Greece a heck of a backup behind Triandos.
Bench Player #3: Alex Kampouris 2B/3B (1934-1939, 1941-1943)
Spending nine seasons in the big leagues with four teams, infielder Alex Kampouris is regarded as the first MLB Player of Greek descent. The Sacramento native straddled the line between starting and bench player, appearing in 100 games in a season only four times. Kampouris failed to distinguish himself as a star, but did provide decent production on both sides of the ball. His lifetime .243/.325/.367 line over 2,484 plate appearances with 159 extra base hits, 284 RBI earned him a 91 OPS+. Kampouris makes for a nice bench piece for the Greek team, with a solid glove at second and third.
Bench Player # 4: Joe Collins 1B/OF (1948-1957)
Five-time World Series champion Joe Collins was born Joseph Kollonidge to a Greek father and Polish mother. The 10-year big league veteran slashed .256/.350/.421 across 2,704 career plate appearances with 189 extra base hits for an excellent 111 OPS+. The World War II veteran logged most of his appearances at first base, but did sprinkle in 114 games played in the outfield, adding a bit more versatility to the Greek bench. With both Karros and Collins to call on, Jim Essian should feel comfortable playing any matchup in the late innings.
Bench Player #5: Ken “ Hawk” Harrelson 1B/OF (1963-1971)
Ken Harrelson has led one of the more colorful careers in MLB History, as the 1968 All-Star was a fan favorite everywhere he went, and yet found himself out of the majors before his 30th birthday. Fans these days know him as the longtime gregarious White Sox broadcaster and inventor of the batting glove, but Harrelson finds his way onto Team Greece by virtue of his second wife, Aris Harritos. The Hawk did well for himself in his nine big league seasons, racking up 3,364 plate appearances of .239/.325/.414 hitting with 131 home runs and 421 RBI for a marvelous 110 OPS+. He split his time between first base and the outfield, logging 469 and 365 games played, respectively. The Greek bench lacks versatility with its glut of corner infielders and outfielders, but each one can really hit.
Starting Pitcher #1: Milt Pappas (1957-1973)
Born Miltiades Stergios Papastergios, Milt Pappas is undoubtedly Greek enough to make the team, which is a blessing for the squad. A three-time All-Star and Orioles Hall of Famer, Pappas is without question the ace of this squad. Over 3,186.0 career innings pitched he recorded a 3.40 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 1.23 WHIP and 110 ERA+ with 1,728 strikeouts, throwing a no-hitter in the process. With an impressive 17 year body of work, Pappas gives a weak Hellenic pitching staff a strong start to its rotation.
Starting Pitcher #2: Jack Quinn (1909-1915, 1918-1933)
While the name Jack Quinn seems to be the furthest thing from Greek, a few different factors play into his inclusion on this team. For one, very little is known definitively about the man’s background, so much so that even his true name is up for debate. The best guess is that he was born in modern-day Slovakia as Johannes Pajkos and baptized in the Greek Catholic Church before his family emigrated to the United States. Secondly, despite his Slovakian birth. Quinn is purported to have a multitude of ethnicities in his blood, including Polish, French, Irish, Native American, and importantly, Greek. The true identity of the man is likely lost to history, but given his possible Greek heritage and the dire straits of the team’s pitching staff, an executive decision has been made to allow his inclusion on the roster. Much to the delight of Greek fans, Quinn was a heck of a pitcher in his day, racking up 247 wins over his 23 years in the big leagues. Playing until the age of 50, Quinn certainly had durability to go with his talent, as he compiled 3,920.1 career innings of 3.29 ERA ball with a 3.17 FIP, 1.30 WHIP, 1,329 punch outs and a terrific 114 ERA+. With incredible stamina and two World Series rings, Quinn forms a devastating one-two punch at the top of a very shaky Greek pitching staff.
Starting Pitcher #3: Billy Loes (1950, 1952-1961)
While the name Billy Loes doesn’t immediately jump off the page as being Greek, he is indeed the son of Greek immigrants who shortened their last name upon arrival in the United States. A veteran of 11 seasons with the Dodgers, Orioles and Giants, Loes crafted the persona of an incredibly talented hurler with a very volatile personality, once even predicting that his Dodgers’ World Series opponent Yankees would win the championship. Public perception aside, Loes showed well during his major league run, tossing 1,190.1 innings of 3.89 ERA ball with a 3.82 FIP, 1.31 WHIP, 645 strikeouts and an even 100 ERA+. While reports of a non-existent work ethic and clubhouse troubles stunted the talent that Loes naturally had, the 1957 All-Star still gives Greece a very dependable third option in the rotation.
Starting Pitcher #4: John Tsitouris (1957-1960, 1962-1968)
Another pitcher with a tremendous amount of raw talent, but serious character problems, John Tsitouris was well known for twirling gems one day and completely imploding the next. With a red-hot temper and a distaste for authority, Tsitouris racked up fines and suspensions as if it was his job. However, when he did manage to take the mound he proved to be somewhat useful, tossing 663.0 innings providing a 4.13 ERA, 3.98 FIP, 1.38 WHIP, and 432 strikeouts for a less-than-ideal 89 ERA+. While he certainly won’t be mistaken for an ace, Tsitouris gives the Greek team another capable arm that can soak up innings.
Starting Pitcher #5: Clint Zavaras (1989)
While the first four Greek starters ranged from ace to innings-eater, Clint Zavaras breaks that mold, as he only had a cup of coffee in the big leagues. Zavaras tossed 52.0 innings in 10 games for the Mariners in 1989 with a bloated 5.19 ERA, 4.42 FIP, 1.52 WHIP and 31 punch outs for a weak 79 ERA+. Never reaching the majors again, Zavaras doesn’t bring much upside to the squad, but with five starters needed, he’ll take the ball when called upon.
Relief Pitcher #1: George Kontos (2011-2018)
Earning the first bullpen spot is longtime Giants right-hander George Kontos who holds a lifetime 3.10 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 1.15 WHIP and 288 strikeouts over 357.0 innings for an excellent 125 ERA+. Never an All-Star, Kontos did earn a World Series ring in 2012 with San Francisco, and he provides Team Greece with a very dependable arm in the late innings.
Relief Pitcher #2: Tim Birtsas (1985-1986, 1988-1990)
A reliable lefty for Oakland and Cincinnati for five seasons, Tim Birtsas was often overlooked on the Reds’ pitching staff due to the presence of Rob Dibble and the “Nasty Boys.” Birtsas did well for himself in the majors, compiling 328.2 innings of 4.08 ERA work with a 4.44 FIP, 1.50 WHIP, 231 punchouts and a serviceable 93 ERA+. With only one save to his name, Birtsas flew well under the radar of most baseball fans at the time, but with a solid body of work he adds a nice lefty weapon to a shaky bullpen.
Relief Pitcher #3: Bob Chakales (1951-1957)
While Kontos and Birtsas was a good start to the bullpen, it’s only downhill from there as the next best option is journeyman Bob Chakales. A veteran of seven big league seasons, Chakales pitched 420.1 innings of 4.54 ERA ball for five different clubs, tallying a 4.14 FIP, 1.59 WHIP, 187 strikeouts and an 86 ERA+ in the process. While Chakales was clearly a below average pitcher, he does provide an ability to eat up innings without completely imploding, which has some value to a suspect bullpen.
Relief Pitcher #4: Gus Keriazakos (1950, 1954-1955)
Adding to the risk of the Greek bullpen is fringe major leaguer Gus Keriazakos, who appeared in 28 total games over three seasons with the White Sox, Senators and Athletics. Born Constantine Nicholas Keriazakos, Gus had a brief run in the big leagues starting at age 19 and ending at 24 years old. Over 73.2 lifetime innings Keriazakos posted an unsightly 5.62 ERA, 4.38 FIP, 1.67 WHIP and 42 punch outs for an underwhelming 67 ERA+. Much like Chakales, Keriazakos had a less than successful major league career, but with multiple seasons in the big leagues to his credit, he at least provides some stamina to the team.
Relief Pitcher #5: Daniel Moskos (2011)
The fourth overall pick in the 2007 MLB draft, lefty Daniel Moskos had high expectations coming up through the Pirates system. Unfortunately, he only made his way into 31 games during the 2011 season. Over his 24.1 innings of work, Moskos earned a 2.96 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 1.56 WHIP, 11 strikeouts and a 127 ERA+. While his results at the big league level were quite encouraging, Moskos was never able to work his way back to the majors.
Relief Pitcher #6: George Tsamis (1993)
While Moskos showed well in a brief taste of big league action, former Minnesota Twin George Tsamis had the opposite outcome, posting poor results in 41 big league appearances. In 68.1 career innings, the left-hander put up a 6.19 ERA, 5.14 FIP, 1.65 WHIP, 30 punch outs and a woeful 70 ERA+. Another warm body, Tsamis doesn’t hold a ton of value for a relief corps lacking in depth.
Relief Pitcher #7: Kevin Pickford (2002)
Bringing an end to the Greek bullpen is former Padre Kevin Pickford. A veteran of only 16 big league games, Pickford compiled a 6.00 ERA, 5.36 FIP, 1.90 WHIP, 18 strikeouts and a miserable 63 ERA+ in 30.0 career innings. Yet another left-hander, there isn’t a lot to say about Pickford’s addition to the squad.
Manager: Jim Essian (1991)
Journeyman catcher Jim Essian enjoyed a 12-year big league career with five franchises in the 1970’s and 1980’s. After his playing days ended Essian transitioned into the coaching ranks, and eventually piloted the Chicago Cubs for 122 games in 1991. The Detroit native was the third different manager for the Cubs that year, and steered them to a 59-63 record. Despite never managing in the majors again, Essian has stayed near the game throughout his retirement, managing in various leagues. Although he comes from an Armenian background, “Skip” Essian held the reins of the Greek National Team until 2018, mentoring his nephews Chris, Scott, Mike and Ted Demetral who played for Hellas. The now 72-year-old still serves as an honorary coach and advisor to Team Greece, and gives the squad a steady hand and lots of experience at the helm.
- Nick Markakis (L) RF
- Álex Rodriguez (R) SS
- Tino Martinez (L) 1B
- Kevin Youkilis (R) 3B
- Hunter Pence (R) LF
- Cody Bellinger (L) CF
- Mitch Haniger (R) RF
- Mike Moustakas (L) 2B
- Gus Triandos (R) C
Team Greece is roughly the inverse of Team Australia, as their offense is good enough to hang with the best of the best, but the pitching staff will ultimately let them down. A lineup riddled with All-Stars can get Greece into the middle of the pack, but a shaky rotation and flat-out terrible bullpen will cost them a lot of games. Hellas is one of the ultimate stars-and-scrubs squads of this all-time WBC with borderline Hall of Famers like A-Rod, Milt Pappas and Jack Quinn sharing the field with Kevin Pickford and Clint Zavaras. Don’t be surprised if the Greeks go on a homer-crazy run like the 2007 Rockies, but much like Rocktober, don’t be shocked if it comes crashing down at the end.
As for the nation of Greece itself, baseball still has a long way to go. There are some current MLB players with Greek ancestry for fans to root for like Mike Moustakas, Mitch Haniger and Sam Huff, and plenty of up-and-comers like Niko Kavadas, Eli Lingos, and John Doxakis. However, with only three little league teams in the entire country, and a national team composed almost entirely of foreigners, it will likely be a few decades at least before we see another Greek-born player in the big leagues.