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

“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.

Japanese and American Baseball: Part 2

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

In order to fully understand the integration of baseball into the Japanese culture, it must be noted how the game came to the islands from the West. In an essay titled “Baseball and the Quest for National Dignity in Meiji Japan,” Donald Roden acknowledges the United States and Victorian England as the true diplomatic hard-ballers of the nineteenth century. He writes that “the defenders of outdoor games in Victorian England and America ‘quite consciously’ used the playing field for very real political and social ends” (511). He elaborates on Japan’s own situation by noting that “in the mid-nineteenth century Japan was, like the rest of Asia, vulnerable to imperialist incursion” (512), suggesting the existence of a nation which may have not been wholly united. In addition, the colonial policies of the British superpower and the competitive nature of a young, developing United States was certainly enough reason for smaller, less aggressive countries to be anxious. Roden observes that there indeed was a “quest for national dignity at the end of the century” (514). This was a direct result of the reform which occurred in Japan during the Meiji Restoration. Regarding this same issue, Zingg states that “the search for a usable past in America, the need to assert the country’s special qualities and unique features, indeed, its exceptionalism, has encouraged a focus on the simple, the symbolic, and the idealogical” (388). He concludes by suggesting, “Artificially conceived, vigorously defended, ostentatiously celebrated, baseball is the quintessential American game” (389). Due to extensive migration by Westerners to Japan as part of diplomatic treaties of the Meiji Period, the sport of baseball was one of the chief imports. By the end of the nineteenth century, as the sport slowly became entrenched in Japanese society, Japan would have a legitimate claim to baseball as a source of national unity.

Baseball reached Japan in a pseudo-imperialistic way, coinciding with Roden’s anxieties about Japan’s diplomatic vulnerability. A flurry of immigrating American businessmen and sailors were among the first to play the game on Japanese soil (Roden, 518). Despite Japan not yet being a world superpower at this point, Roden clarifies that “by 1870, cultural and diplomatic exchanges between the two countries were commencing in earnest” (517). It was Albert Spalding, an early baseball player and manufacturer of equipment, who became the international diplomat for the game in the 1870’s, attempting to spread the game to England, France, and even Egypt (Roden, 517-8). Of course, his efforts were not without motives. Roden proposes the conspiracy that “baseball could enlarge the American cultural sphere of influence and bring greater respect for the nation around the world” (518). Even in the arena of sport, the aggressive entrepreneurship which characterized American society managed to pervade into diplomatic dealings between the countries.

To be continued…

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

Japanese and American Baseball: Part 1

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And then there were 3. Last night, the Korean National Team was able to soundly eliminate Venezuela 10-2, clinching a spot in the WBC final. They await the winner of USA vs. Japan, who play today.

The US-Japan match up is intriguing from a historical perspective. Baseball is often considered the quintessential American game, the national pastime if you will. Latin America has also had a strong baseball background, with the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and other countries being primary participants.

One of the goals of the WBC is to spread the game across the globe. Thus we see participants like Italy, the Netherlands (+ Caribbean territories), and Australia to name a few.

Yet what about Asia? The presence of the game is growing there at a rapid rate. The Nippon Professional League (in Japan) has been home to the likes of current superstars such as Ichiro and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Similarly, many baseball players past their prime or trying to make it into the Bigs will go play in Japan for a few seasons.

I wrote a paper for my Introduction to Japanese Popular Culture class about how baseball made its way into the Asian continent by US-Japan relations. In the essay, I discuss how baseball arrived to Japan and how the game developed some key differences between the American version and the Japanese version in regulations, strategy, preparation.

My biggest point is that how the game is play in each respective country actually coincides with the countries culture. The “yakyu” player in Japan is likened to a sword wielding Samurai, while the emphasis on offense in the American game drew a comparison with capitalistic tendencies.

So, just in time for the WBC finals and the beginning of the MLB season, here’s Part 1! Enjoy.

The Entrepreneur and the Samurai: A Brief History of the Development of American and Japanese Culture Through Baseball

The cultures of Japan and the United States differ drastically in how each is historically depicted. The samurai has become a prominent representation of Japan while the American cowboy is often seen as an emblem of freedom and prosperity. In current times, it would seem that both of these images have been replaced by the clean-cut businessman. Entrepreneurship had become a more prominent part of American society due to a booming economy, and the postwar Western influence on Japan created a cultural affinity between Japan and the United States. The Japanese people have been interested as well as influenced by Western ideals and cinema, while Americans have recently developed an interest in various forms of Japanese media such as anime, manga, and the language itself. The sport of baseball has provided both peoples a cultural congruence. Despite the superficial similarities between the Japanese version of the game and the American version, many differences remain when examining the game as a deep, direct cultural expression. Differences in how players are perceived by a country’s public depend on how society related with the trends of the nineteenth century. The developmental history of the sport of baseball serves as a microcosmic depiction of the early relationship between Japan and the United States, while ultimately aiding the development of cultural representation through the persona of the baseball player in each of the countries.

The history of the sport finds its roots on American soil. It has become almost idiomatic to suggest that baseball is an exclusive entity of the United States. Scholar Paul J. Zingg notes in his essay “Diamond in the Rough” that “by its own proclamation, baseball is America’s ‘national pastime’” (387). Clearly, the historical richness of baseball in the American tradition would perhaps merit such a self bestowment. The earliest traces of the game date as early as 1839, traditionally believed to be invented by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York (Zingg, 387-8). Other than the mere convention of inventing the sport, what is it about the game that leads to a general sense of American exclusivity and ultimately American cultural definition? Much had to do with the increase in industrialization, which occurred in the middle of the nineteenth century. Steven Gelber writes in his essay “Working at Playing” that “the first organized games in the late 1840’s coincided with the initial wave of factory building, and the baseball craze of the decade after the Civil War paralleled the development of a full-blown industrial economy” (3). In its early history, baseball provided a respite to work-wearied laborers. More notoriously, it gave men a sense of freedom. Gelber comments on this perception of baseball, by writing that the sport was “an expression of free choice,” which “provides us with one view of the nineteenth century American male’s ideal world, a world entered without compromise” (3). The factory served as a monument to responsibility and mandate. It was necessary to work in order to survive. Baseball, on the other hand, was an activity done freely. The rising popularity among members of the working class may also be a result of impersonal nature of the American workplace in the nineteenth century. Gelber discloses the benefits of sports, as he conjectures that “besides the obvious physical and psychological change of pace that sports may provide for workers, some argue that sports also compensate for the lack of human relationships in the work place” (5). Surrounded by the cold, metallic entities of machinery for the entire day, sports offered a formidable escape from the constricting aspects of the quotidian life. More specifically, it was because of the harsh American lifestyle of the years following industrialization which lead to the observable integration of the sport into the culture… (to be continued)

smallheap.jpg image by jmooser

You Are Dead To Me!

The feel good story of the 2008 baseball season may end up leaving a bitter aftertaste in the mouths of Rays fans everywhere. Rocco Baldelli, who has been the face of the franchise for many years, has signed a one year contract with the Boston Red Sox Sux. Blasphemy.

Not the sort of news I enjoy coming home to.

What makes this incredible to me is the amount of time the organization gave to Rocco to overcome injury (some inappropriately inflicted during the offseason) and for him to stage a comeback after being (mis)diagnosed with a mitochondrial disorder. In the 2+ seasons prior to the back half of the 2008 season, Rocco had played next to nothing, being a regular on the 60 day DL list and on injured reserve.

Clearly this is a frustrating situation to be in as a player. No matter what team you are on, even if it was the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, most professionals want to play. I don’t want to take anything away from Baldelli’s accomplishments as a member of our ball club. He was many times the sole reason to drive across the bay and watch the team play in that sarcophagus of a stadium (before current renovations).

I’m not sure how I should judge this. Of course, it initially comes across as a slap in the face to the efforts of the Rays organization to keep him in the game and to provide him hopeful support. Then again, could it be that someone in the front office really messed up? Or perhaps this was to be expected when Rocco filed for free agency after the season. Did we not up the ante when it came down to it? I definitely think the chance to play closer to where he grew up was a huge factor as well. I can’t help but think that the signing of Pat Burrell only expedited the process.

Nevertheless, we will miss you Rocco. You will always be remembered as a legendary Ray, and as an essential part of the eventual success of the franchise.

I’ll try not to boo too hard when they announce your name when you visit the Trop.