The Heap’s 2010 Fantasy Baseball Team: The Roster

I just finished my fantasy baseball draft for ‘The Better League,” this year’s league with my friends. I am simply revealing the roster for your 2010 Heap Masters tonight, and I will have an entry in the next few days analyzing the team!

Introducing the 2010 Heap Masters Fantasy Baseball Team!

Catcher- Yadier Molina
First Base- Miguel Cabrera
Second Base- Dan Uggla
Shortstop – Derek Jeter
Third Base- Michael Young
Outfielders- Michael Bourn, Ryan Braun, Juan Pierre
Utility- Alex Rios
Bench- Todd Helton, Jason Kubel

Starting Pitchers- Cole Hamels, Josh Beckett, James Shields, Ubaldo Jimenez
Relief Pitchers- Carlos Marmol, Frank Francisco, Matt Thornton, Jose Mijares
“Utility” Pitcher- A.J. Burnett
Bench- Daisuke Matsuzaka

We’re fielding a very talented and potent team this year, and we hope to adequately represent all of you! I’ll have an more in depth look at the team later this weekend!

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

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“Breaking” News

This just in to The Heap news desk:

Mark McGwire used steroids.

Let that sink in for a second. Or did you just chuckle to yourself, and just shake your head whispering, “It’s about time.”

Today, the former king of swing (dethroned only by another fellow ‘roider) finally came clean after the quite physical evidence of his choices were captured by cameras and seen by the nation for the past decade.

Come on, who of you out there were wholeheartedly surprised by this announcement? In fact, as a baseball fan, I am a bit offended by the timing of his announcement. Not even a week ago, McGwire might have even been voted into the Hall of Fame! Looks like it was one and done. What could have motivated him? Why now? I think he knew he could never shake the stigma of The Juice. He conveniently waited to see if he would make it this one time. He was a long shot, and one, he will forever remain.

Mark McGwire, as a normal sized Human Being

But then, is it plausible to say that the theatrics of the Steroids Era was engineered and puppeteered by Big Baseball itself? You’ve heard it all before all over the airwaves. Baseball, America’s Game was sagging behind the NFL in attendance and popularity. A strike towards the beginning of the decade only made the situation worse.

Enter the Home Run. The pinnacle of offensive explosion in any sport. A timeless play in a timeless game.  The individual’s effort in order to help the efforts of the team, but for those brief moments, the spotlight is on the batter as he rounds the bases. The home run personifies the American individual and the nation. (Check out my essay on Japanese/American baseball in the Original Works page)

Mark McGwire, as a chemically altered beast

In a decade of almost unfettered economic growth, of getting ahead at all costs, the 90s and the Steroid Era go together quite well. But in the end, it all falls down on itself. McGwire and Enron, A-Rod and Bernie Madoff, even Palmeiro and US Banks all had their heyday only to be exposed for what they were. Living the American dream.

Using performance enhancing drugs is cheating. Mark McGwire is a cheater. But don’t you worry, he and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) Sammy Sosa had quite the supporting cast- many of which are still TBD. The steroids era (we can only hope) is in its final act. They will have their curtain call soon.

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

Congratulations

To The Big Unit Randy Johnson, who reached 300 career wins today. Here’s a pic to commemorate the occasion.

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Thanks to BJ for finding this one. Seasons change, but apparently, Randy Johnson’s face does not.

Do they do busts of people in Cooperstown for the HoF? Johnson’s NEEDS to have the mullet and the dirty ‘stache.

In any case, congrats.

I’ll resume the UCBC tomorrow! Be on the lookout!

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Carl Crawford Steals Bases

the heap.'s Logo!

Sorry for the lack of posts. I just haven’t had the urge to write lately. I’ve been in an awful funk that I just can’t shake. Hopefully I’m able to snap ot of it soon. Having some fun with my family this weekend surely helped, as did making an awesome dinner last night.

But you see, the Rays have been in quite a funk themselves. They recently came back from a 3-6 road trip, and hadn’t won a series since opening week against the Red Sox at Fenway.

Funny as it may be, those same Red Sox made their season’s first visit to the Trop this weekend. Rays took 3 out of 4. Next comes Baltimore and then a jaunt up to the new Yankee Stadium. Another 3 out of 4 is quite doable, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

Today we honor Carl Crawford, the longest tenured Ray on the team. He stole a MLB record tying SIX BASES. Unbelievable.

In recognition, fellow Jesuit and Notre Dame Alum James Geyer has created the following picture. Enjoy.

Go Rays. I should hopefully make it to a game in the upcoming weekends. I went to a real stinker against the White Sox!

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

2009 MLB Predictions: A “The Peanut Gallery” Exclusive

The 2009 Major League Baseball Season is upon us, and with it comes some lofty (and some not so lofty) expectations for the 30 MLB teams. Mike Russell, one of the authors at The Peanut Gallery, has offered his preview of the season. Most of his views line up quite nicely with the opinions of The Heap, so please take a gander and his projections. Here’s a snippet.

Peanut Gallery’s MLB 2009 Forecasts and Predictions

Posted in Baseball on April 5, 2009 by remixrunixlp

Ah, Baseball. Finally, April 5th is here, and I can stop pretending to care about the myriad of other sports vying for my attention, for the true champion of my athletic obsession has returned. With every new season comes new hopes. Hopefully baseball will have a full year not marred by another steroid scandal (…or does A-Rod’s little slip count?). Hopefully the hot new rookies on your team pulls an Evan Longoria-esque explosion and catapults your merry band of bat wielding gladiators to golden glory. Hopefully, my friggin’ Mets remember that the full baseball season includes a little month known as September.

If you know me, you know that I LOVE this sport, and this really seems to be the only credentials needed to make EXPERTTT opinions and analysis for the upcoming season (I’m looking at you, Steve Phillips). With that in mind, I’m throwing caution to the wind and making my own predictions for 2009. Yankee fans be forewarned: your team misses the playoffs by one game :( ….and yes, much like last year, would’ve made the playoffs in any other division.

In addition to basic record predictions and playoff guestimations, I’ll also throw my expertise’s substantial gerth around at picking the award winners, “best of…” moments, and of course – it wouldn’t be the Peanut Gallery otherwise – moments of sheer stupidity bound to haunt 2009. Let’s get to it!

Make sure to read the rest by clicking the link above!

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

Japanese and American Baseball: Part 4

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The conclusion of my essay on how Japanese and American culture plays itself out through the sport of baseball.

It was during this time that Japan as an individual nation was looking for a place among the countries of the growing market. In an age of perceived Social Darwinism, Roden writes that “many assumed that only the fittest nations could survive and flourish in a hostile world” and that “athletics, patriotism, and the ideology of manliness were inseparable” (512). The victory by Ichikō gave the Japanese at least symbolic status among the elite, and served as an elementary example of the country being able to compete among traditional superpowers, even though it was merely through sport. With such an importance on the uniting factor of the sport in Japan, it is no surprise that the game developed differently in Japan than it did in the United States. There were no direct allusions to the capitalistic motifs portrayed by the American sport. The individual did not have the power. Rather, it was the team. The individual, on the other hand, came to symbolize great heroes of Japan’s past- the samurai. The introduction of baseball and an increase in population occurred in the Meiji period, a period of relative decline of the old and gradual importation of foreign ideals. Baseball provided a new type of samurai warrior, and a nostalgic reversion to moral ideals of the past. Roden notes that many “compared the skilled batter to samurai swordsmen and embellished descriptions of the game with poetic allusions to medieval warrior epics” (520). In addition, baseball “reputedly nourished traditional virtues of loyalty, honor, and courage and therefore symbolized the ‘new bushido’ spirit of the age” (520). In a time in which modernization may have caused the forgetting of the past, the nostalgic attachments to bushido aided in the creation of the unique version of baseball the Japanese play and ultimately live.

The American influence of the game had led to a dilemma among the Japanese. As Roden points out, the Japanese “were also torn between playing baseball to project the image of the cosmopolitan, man of the world, and playing to revive the stoic virtues of the feudal warriors” (532). The dedication to the ideals of the past is still seen in Japanese baseball today. Robert Whiting’s book, The Chrysanthemum and the Bat, discusses the numerous aspects of the game which still characterize it as dependent upon the ideals of the samurai despite living in a modern, technologically advanced world far removed from the feudal system. One of Whiting’s first observations is a fundamental difference in how professional teams are run. He writes that “American pro-baseball teams are run like corporations… not so in Japan, where a baseball team is more like a cohesive extended family unit” (20). The argument is strengthened by the observable “paternalism” which is “most evident in the relationship between the manager and his players” (21). This is why Japanese players do precisely what the manager asks, because it is a sense of familial duty. There is no room for the public locker room bickering which is seen in American sports. In addition, the fatherly managers are very much a part of the personal lives of their players. Whiting provides a revealing confrontation between star Koichi Tabuchi and his manager, where the manager lectures, “We are providing an example for the youth of Japan to follow and what you do in your private life reflects on the good name of this team” (23). The American ballplayer’s concern for individual image and the Japanese ballplayer’s disregard for the same factors (and conversely having a concern for the image of the team) serve as observable differences between the two countries, and how their ballplayers ultimately represent their respective societies through social dispositions.

If concern for the team as a collective unit can be interpreted as a nostalgic observance of past Japanese values, perhaps it is not too farfetched for the Japanese baseball player to serve as a symbol of past Japanese society. The most immediate representation of the past is the samurai warrior, and parallels between ballplayer and samurai have been made for numerous years. The connection between baseball player and samurai was initially a construct of contemporary interpretation during the game’s rise in popularity during the early twentieth century. A formal introduction of the bushido-inspired Samurai Code of Conduct for Baseball Players made the allusion a reality- and more often than not, it was a harsh dose of physical reality (Whiting, 36-7). The code is comprised of twelve rules regarding conduct for baseball players. Article 2, which states, “A player must follow established procedure,” provides the area for greatest contrast between American and Japanese ballplayers (Whiting, 40). This article of the Code emphasizes the Japanese obsession with routine and fundamentals. Whiting uses the samurai motif to describe the importance of fundamentals in baseball, as he writes that “there is a right and wrong way to attack an opponent with a sword, to arrange flowers in a vase… and to throw a curve ball” (41). Having the correct fundamental form serves as the ultimate foundation of a player. All other enhancements of skill follow in time. While here in the United States we may hear about famous baseball players hitting hundreds of balls off tees, the Japanese spends just as many hours on fundamentals. Whiting writes that even “the batter who looks good striking out is praiseworthy, while the stubborn individualist who insists ‘I know what’s best for me’ is not tolerated” (41). Lastly, Whiting notes the difference in the American and Japanese camp. The American training regimen is often individual. It is the player who decides what is best for him, and how much time he should spend doing drills and conditioning. The manager in Japan is the quintessential leader. It is he who decides what is best for his team. The team trains together, instead of individual workouts. Clearly, in the world of Japanese baseball, not much room is left for the emergence of the individual. Instead, the success of a player is sincerely attributed to his fellow teammates and his manager.

It is clear that events in both American and Japanese history have framed how the sport of baseball developed in the cultures of the two countries, as well as the literal philosophies regarding strategy and lifestyle. Baseball has remained an aggressive game in the United States due its historical utilization as a tool of Americanization, which emphasized increased entrepreneurship and antagonistic diplomacy. The historical development of the game in Japan has always had its roots in the promotion of nation and team, allowing for the baseball player to assume the metaphorical role of the samurai warrior. Despite the differences in ideology and tradition which have developed between the cultures, baseball continues to be an area of common ground between the Japanese and Americans, and functions as an area of reconciliation even after the events of World War II.

Thanks for reading.

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

Japanese and American Baseball: Part 3

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The continuance of my essay on how Japanese and American culture plays itself out through the sport of baseball.

By the 1890s baseball had become one of the most popular collegiate sports in Japan despite the constant exclusion from the game the Japanese often faced by Americans. Through the victories of Ichikō in Tokyo, the dominant team of the decade in collegiate baseball, the Japanese were able to instill a sense of legitimacy to the sport in the nation, as well as demonstrate to the Americans that it had an adroit grasp on the game. The cultural separation between the members of the Yokohama Sporting Club, an organization which only allowed American baseball players, and the Japanese continued to exist throughout the decade. Roden points out that at this point, it was clear that “Americans in Yokohama played baseball to be more American, Japanese students, especially in the higher schools, turned to baseball in an effort to reify traditional values and to establish a new basis for national pride” (520). The rationale behind such a zealous effort to want to beat the Americans at their own game must have stemmed from the global success and unity the United States emblematized. If the lowly Japanese were able to beat them, perhaps a similar position of global acknowledgment awaited Japan. Ichikō dominated the national scene for years, and in October 1891, they formally challenged the Yokohama Athletic Club to an international match, or kokusai shiai, and were continually turned down for five years (Roden, 521). Claims such as “Baseball is our national game” and “Our bodies are twice the size as yours” only fueled the “little Japanese” students and resulted in the strong, persisting desire to play the international match. The importance of the match was so paramount, that Roden comments that “a simple game of baseball therefore began to assume the dimensions of a righteous struggle for national honor” (521). Finally, the two sides played on May 23, 1896, at the home field of the Yokohama Athletic Club, being the first official baseball game between American and Japanese teams (Roden, 522). As fate would have it, Ichikō would win the game 29-4, utterly humiliating the members of the club. Due to the presence of the Japanese media, the players became national heroes (Roden, 524). The two sides would play in a series of rematches, with the Yokohama Sporting Club calling upon reinforcements from stationed navy ships. The club finally managed to narrowly win a game on July 4th 14-12. Perhaps baseball would always be the “American Pastime.” But as Roden points out, “by overwhelming the Americans in their ‘national game,’ the students aroused considerable ferment and pride in the 1890s that extended down to the lowliest denizens of the treaty ports” (533). National pride was finally achieved, and as a result, baseball continues to be an integral part of the culture.

The series between Yokohama and Ichikō may have proved that the inhabitants of the two countries may have had the same ability to play the game, but how each culture is represented through the figure of the ballplayer is drastically different. Gelber captures the essence of the portrayal of baseball in the United States, by writing that “baseball was not merely a ‘mirror of American life,’ it was an integral part of the cultural matrix of modern business society. Baseball expressed and reinforced urban life, business organization, and the values that underlay them” (3). It is clear that Gelber argues that the characteristic aggression of American capitalism and the propaganda-like reiteration of the urban American dream permeate into the sports world to serve as an ample representation of the sport of baseball as a whole. Gelber’s research shows that the businesslike characteristics of American baseball are far from coincidental. He suggests that “the bulk of modern social science data supports the congruent theory, and the congruence between baseball and business explains the rise of the game during the economic expansion of the nineteenth century” (4). Thus, interest in the sport grew hand in hand as entrepreneurs attempted to make and collect their own interest in aggressive speculation. Arguments have been made for the game being a prime example of rural life, which would contrast with the urban vision of a game played predominately by city slickers. Scholars point to “pastoral” elements of the game such as the natural presence of the sun, grass and wind, and also the timelessness of the game, and seasonality symbolized by the four bases (Gelber, 6). Yet, critics who wish to dispel this rural interpretation immediately point toward the West in the United States as conquerable rural land which could be urbanized. Gelber even writes that baseball “established an artificial rural environment” (6). Thus, the baseball player was a symbol of urban potential energy- only being contained for a short amount of time. He was a symbol of expansionist power, and in many ways, these ideals still are stressed in the American game today, as entertainment value is sought, rather than just the win. Offense trumps good fundamental play every time in the American version. The individual has the power to win or lose the game, and it is the individual who is traditionally extolled in American society.