Homeric Fantasy (Baseball)

In honor of the all-star game, I am re-posting this with minor changes. Thanks to everyone who played along the last time

I don’t want to attract the enmity of one part of the world even for the potential devotion of the other, but I have been a Red Sox fan as long as I can remember. In fact, I really can split my life up into four basic periods: before 1986, from 1986-2003; 2003-2007; and post 2007. And I am on the cusp of a fifth: now my children watch games with me. While they drift in and out of attention, they come back for every Mookie Betts at-bat.

But, beyond a particularly pathological obsession with a single team, I really love do baseball. One of my greatest regrets for my life is that I was not blessed with a good eye and fast hands: I did not record a single hit in my entire little league career.

During the spring, the author Guy Gavriel Kay (who hassles me before for loving the Red Sox and has suggested the authorities be notified of my brainwashing of children) was discussing the highs and lows of fantasy baseball on Twitter. I cannot play fantasy baseball because I can’t handle the stress. Somehow, our brief discussion turned into a contemplation of Homeric heroes as baseball players.

This conversation combines two things I love (Homer and baseball). It also comes close to an activity I wanted to run a few years back in a leadership course. My idea was that we would have students play basketball together in teams but in the personae of Homeric heroes. (The activity name was “Hero-Ball”.) Some ‘refs’ were going to randomly impose rules (gods); there would be fans, etc. The reasoning behind this lark was that we too often fail to think about how who we think we are shapes the way we engage with others.

(The activity was vetoed by my department chair at the time as exposing the university to too much liability. I have similarly considered a D&D style role playing game).

So, I spent all day trying to do other work and thinking about this absurd topic. Here’s what I have. First, if we try to select the best heroes from each side and give them positions somewhat akin to their ‘skills’, the Achaeans are clearly ‘stacked’. I made Odysseus a starting pitcher, but I am open to changing him out. The Achaeans have a DH, because they come from a wealthier, younger league.

This is an especially appropriate thought experiment for an All-Star Game because each side of the war is like a roster of All-Stars gathered from the best ‘teams’ all over Greece and Asia. Indeed, for ancient audiences the setting of the Trojan War was like a mythical All-Star game bringing together local heroes in one fantastic spectacle. Think of the catalogue of ships in the Iliad as an elaborate line-up announcement.

[N.B. For baseball haters or agnostics: one could play this game with any sport!]

Team Achaeans

SP Agamemnon
SP Odysseus

Closer Teucer

1B Diomedes
2B Thoas
SS Oilean Ajax
3B Ajax
RF Sthenelos
LF Patroclus
CF Achilles
DH Idomeneus

Catcher: Menelaos
Bullpen: Thersites
Disabled List: Protesilaus, Philoctetes

Bench: The Myrmidons; Epeios (PH), Antilochus (INF/OF)

Coach: Nestor; Pitching Coach: Calchas

Some details and justifications: I generally made those famed for missiles (archery or spears) into pitchers. Odysseus, as I tweeted, reminds me of a wily veteran who leans on junk and the knuckleball but can bend your knees and break your back when he wants to. Agamemnon, on the other hand, is a player coach who throws only garbage but thinks he’s got both power and finesse. The archer Teucer is, obviously, their best option for closer. Thersites is in the bullpen as a crazy specialist.

The hitters are as follows: Achilles, Idomeneus, Ajax, and Diomedes all have obvious power and are distributed according to strength and speed. Patroclus might not be a natural left-fielder, but he’s not standing any where but near Achilles. Sthenelos is a poor man’s Patroclus and Oilean Ajax is sneaky, nasty, and fast, so an obvious shortstop. Menelaos? Well, he is in the middle of everything, thinks he’s in charge, and is the only person the other Atreid will pitch to.

The Trojans have some heavy hitters and one high-priced free agent (Sarpedon), but their team is overwhelmingly stocked with sons and relatives of Priam.

Team Trojans

SP Paris
Closer Teucer

1B Hektor
2B Deiphobus
SS Dolon
3B Sarpedon
RF Glaukos
LF Polydamas
CF Aeneas

Catcher: Helenos

Manager: Priam
Bullpen: Asius, Lykaon, Pandaros

Bench: Sons and Sons-in-Law of Priam

Pitching Coach: Antenor

Disabled List: Troilus, Rhesus, Rhesus’ men

Batboys: Astyanax, Ascanius, Polites

The Trojans have some power with Hektor at 1B (after a shift from Center field to prolong his career), Sarpedon at 3B, and Aeneas in Center. Glaukos and Polydamas are good players, but I don’t see them making the HOF. Dolon, like his Achaean counterpart, is fast and smart. When he goes down with a ‘collision’ injury after facing Diomedes in the basepaths, the Trojans are going to have to put some random son of Priam in there. This won’t work out so well: Deiphobus is already second, but that was Helen’s decision. At Catcher we find Helenos–he sees everything on the field and calls it like it is (often spending the time on the bench talking over signs with his sister Kassandra).

The real Trojan weakness is pitching. Paris “The Prince of Troy” Alexandros throws the prettiest curve ball this side of the Skamander. His fastball is there too–but he can’t seem to keep his focus on the field. He also really kills team morale, and sometimes he disappears in between innings. Their bullpen is strong, but just wait until Achilles gets a chance to face Lykaon with the bases loaded. I am going to call that shot for him.

Lineups: (This is an issue of contention: Achilles wants to bat 3rd followed by Ajax. He also thinks Patroclus should bat 5th, but they have to keep the Cretan contingent happy. Agamemnon has different ideas: he wants to put Achilles in his proper place for his speed.) Note: The Achaeans use a DH because they have a younger league and more men.

Agamemnon, SP

Achilles (CF)
Diomedes (1B)
Menelaos (C)
Ajax (3B)
Idomeneus (DH)
Oilean Ajax (SS)
Thoas (2B)
Sthenelos (RF)
Patroclus (LF)

Bench: Ajax

Team Trojan

The Trojans just don’t have the late game flexibility of their opponents. They top the lineup with some shifty speed, followed by an unknown quantity, and then a trio of power who would intimidate anyone smarter than Agamemnon. The problem with their power-trio is that it is really hard to keep them on the field at the same time. Sarpedon and Hektor get injured; Aeneas’ mother keeps pulling him out of games.

Paris, SP

Dolon (SS)
Deiphobos (2B)
Aeneas (CF)
Hektor (1B)
Sarpedon (3B)
Glaukos (RF)
Polydamas (LF)
Helenos (Catcher)

Now who would like to give me a box score for this game?

Some tweets

The Achaean lineup in Linear B, Courtesy of .@e_pe_me_ri on Twitter

Thanks to everyone playing along on twitter with #HomericBaseball. I am sorry I did not include all of your contributions. @ Me and I will add you!

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