Homer and Baseball, Part Two

Last night, while you were all watching the Super Bowl (congrats to the Saints), I posted part of an essay I wrote as a college junior about the Homeric tradition in regards to baseball. This is the last part of that essay, which focuses directly on the film “The Natural”, which I’m sure you’ve all seen, and the character of Roy Hobbes.

The basic premise of this portion of the essay: Hobbes makes the transition from an Achilles-like character, one seeking fame and fourtune, to an Odysseus-like character, who is searching for his home and a place in the world. For the record, “mythos” means mythology in a much broader sense; think of it as mythology as a way of life and a way of thinking. Anyway, I hope you enjoy:

It is through his characters and story structure that Barry Levinson relays a Homeric message in his 1984 film “The Natural” which stars Robert Redford, Glenn Close, and Wilford Brimley, among others.

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What Makes The Baseball Draft So Hard?

I was discussing hockey with a friend of mine, and an interesting point came up. Here is a chart of the top 10 scorers in the National Hockey League, and their draft position.

Rank Name Draft Position
1 Alex Ovechkin 1st Overall
2 Henrik Sedin 2nd Overall
3 Sidney Crosby 1st Overall
4 Nicklas Backstrom 4th Overall
5 Joe Thornton 1st Overall
6 Marian Gaborik 3rd Overall
7 Dany Heatley 2nd Overall
8 Patrick Marleau 2nd Overall
9 Martin St. Louis Undrafted
10 Brad Richards 64th Overall
11 Patrick Kane 1st Overall
12 Steven Stamkos 1st Overall
13 Anze Kopitar 11th Overall
14 Evengi Malkin 2nd Overall
15 Ilya Kovalchuk 1st Overall

This is fascinating to me. The process of scouting, drafting, and developing NHL players has led to a near-monopoly of the league’s top scorers concentrated among the first few teams in the draft. Teams have been able to take 18 year-olds and correctly determine, for the most part, who will and won’t be a star.… Click here to read the rest

I don't know whether to be elated or terrified

With yet another major projection system not only predicting the Yankees to repeat as AL East champs, but essentially eviscerating the competition in doing so — at least, as much as one can eviscerate a division featuring three potential 90-plus game winners — it’s easy to be optimistic about the team’s fortunes in 2010. Of course, as with any projection system pretty much everything would have to fall right for the retooled, reloaded and presumably upgraded Yankees to blow past 95 wins. Still, better this than being predicted to finish in third place and out of the playoffs.

In other random baseball news, Bill Madden might be the only person in America who doesn’t know that Kenny Williams is one of the most dreadful GMs in the game, inexplicably giving the man who traded Nick Swisher for Wilson Betemit props this offseason for his acquisition of Mark Teahen and awful Juan Pierre.

Matt and EJ at The Yankee U had an interesting back-and-forth about what the Yankees should do with Phil Hughes in 2010.… Click here to read the rest

Baseball and Homer Part One

Homer

In the Spring Semester of 2008 at the University of Connecticut, I took what is called a “capstone” course. Basically, it’s a seminar course and my entire grade was based on one research paper that I wrote. The course dealt with the Homeric tradition (that is, The Iliad and The Odyssey). For my paper topic, I chose comparing those classics to two “contemporary” American films: Barry Levinson’s The Natural and John Ford’s The Searchers.

Both films are excellent examples of their respective genres (baseball and the western). They also have things in common with the plot and character structure of Homer’s work from thousands of years ago. What follows is the portions from my paper (I got a B) that deal with using baseball as the sort of “Americanized” version of Homer’s settings.

Notes: pay no attention to the page numbers; those were obviously for citations from articles/books that you guys most likely won’t have.

That takes care of the West but what about baseball?

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Nick Swisher: “Hopefully I’ve found a home”

Via Bryan Hoch (MLB.com), here’s Nick Swisher on joining the Yankees:

“I’ve been bouncing around from team to team the last couple of years, but, knock on wood, hopefully I’ve found a home,” Swisher said. “I really feel honored to be part of this tradition.”

Earlier this winter, there were reported trade rumblings involving Swisher, however, at the time, those rumors seemed rather unbelievable given the Yankees unsettled outfield situation and Swisher’s strong 2009 season. When one examines Swisher’s historic and projected production relative to his contract, and takes into account his age, as well as his clubhouse presence, I think it is safe to say that the right fielder has, indeed, “found a home” in the Bronx.

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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Robinson Cano and false perceptions of speed

From ESPN‘s Keith Law:

Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote Friday that the Dodgers were disappointed in how slow Hudson was, even referring to him as “Slow-Dawg,” a play on his “O-Dawg” nickname. This struck me as incredibly funny, since I saw Hudson a lot when we were both in Toronto, and he was never a plus runner, stealing 19 bases in three and a half years — yet when he was on first base, pitchers would throw over to hold him with absurd frequency. And from talking to people with Arizona, I know they noticed the same phenomenon when Hudson played there. Unfortunately, I think the cause here is that Hudson looks the part of a speedy, low-power middle infielder, and scouts and coaches are making assumptions that just don’t bear out in reality. He’s not fast, he’s never been fast, and anyone who files a report on him with a grade of 50 (average) or better for his running speed has made a bad evaluation.

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CHONE's 2010 Yankees Ranking Is Their Highest Ever

From baseballprojection.com, courtesy of RLYW:

Normally, projections do not forecast the same range of wins and losses as will happen in real life. We expect that a few teams will win 95+ games, but are not sure exactly which ones, and if you pick any one team (Yankees excepted) the odds are they won’t win that many games.

But yet I’m projecting 99 wins for the defending world champions. I think this is the highest projection I’ve ever had, for any team. I had them at 97 last year and they beat it by 6. I like the moves they have made in the last year. Curtis Granderson is a tremendous player who helps on offense and defense (at least against righties). Javier Vazquez was one of the best pitchers in baseball last year, and Nick Johnson is OBP Jesus. The Yankees are insanely talented, even more so than usual. The breaks of the season could mean that Boston wins the East, or even Tampa Bay, but the talent spread is so huge in this division that Baltimore and Toronto have basically no chance.

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Questions About Tabata's Age?

[image title=”tabata3″ size=”full” id=”14808″ align=”center” linkto=”full” ]
From the Pitt Trib (h/t BBTF):

His birth certificate and passport say outfielder Jose Tabata was born Aug. 12, 1988, in Anzoategui, Venezuela. Yet, during a recent radio interview, general manager Neal Huntington admitted there are “a lot of rumblings” that Tabata might actually be in his mid-20s.

In Latin America, record-keeping can be spotty, especially when it comes to youngsters with excellent baseball skills. The New York Yankees investigated Tabata’s background in 2005 and, satisfied he truly was 16, signed him as an undrafted free agent.

The Pirates are not publicly disputing Tabata’s age, and yet …

“All of the documentation he has used to obtain his visa from the U.S. government and his passport from the Venezuelan government indicates his reported age is accurate,” Huntington said in an e-mail to the Tribune-Review. “Apart from unfounded speculation, there is nothing to indicate his age any different than reported. My point is that while we have reason to doubt his reported age, it is a non-issue to us.”

The Pirates likely have no issue with this simply because there is not much they can do about it at this point.… Click here to read the rest