If The Trojan War Had Been A Ball Game


Trojan Heroes


March 30, 2006

What with the news this morning about them finding the palace of Ajax, and Opening Day hard upon us, I found myself putting together the Achaeans' starting lineup...


Opening Day Dawning Rosy For Argives

"Only question is home field advantage for playoffs" says cocky catcher Odysseus

Special to the Mycenae Wall

..leading off is the shortstop, Diomedes, son of Tydeus. A perennial All-Star, many observers rank him among the best ever at his position. With a fearsome bat, he's more like Alex Rodriguez than Ozzie Smith, but his defensive skills have earned him more Golden Gloves than he has room in the closet. And as far as swiping bases? This guy knows how to steal, all right. (Four words: "The horses of Rhesus." Need we say more?) Rock-steady and a clubhouse leader, Diomedes is one of the few players with the confidence to stand up to Agamemnon when the mercurial manager launches one of his famed tirades. There's definitely a spot for this Argive in Cooperstown, unless Olympus gets him first.

Batting second, Ajax, son of Oileus. Long ago reconciled to the nickname, "The Lesser Ajax," the scrappy third baseman is known for his hustle and competitive zeal. Think Jose Reyes, or for you older fans, Pete Rose. If Diomedes gets on base, the Lilliputian Locrian won't just move him over, he'll follow him home. He's got a good arm for those throws across the infield-- "surpassing all Achaeans and Hellenes with the throwing spear," said Homer-- and lightning speed on the basepaths. (Let's remember the blind bard called him "Swift Ajax," not "Little Ajax.") The one worry we have is whether he can keep his hands off the priestesses until the season's over.

Batting third, the right fielder, Ajax, son of Telamon. What can you say about the big guy that hasn't been said already? He'd be the franchise player on any other ball club, but the Salamis Slugger has never given a hint that he resents the attention paid to the sullen superstar playing next to him - or covets his spot as cleanup hitter. He long ago disproved that "great player from the neck down" libel, and it's baffling why the Carl Yastrzemski tag still follows him around. With a catapult for an arm- eat your heart out, Roberto Clemente- and the strength to hit the porches in any direction, The Greater Ajax is a right fielder for the ages.

Batting cleanup, nobody but Achilles son of Thetis... I mean, "son of Peleus."

(Sorry- that "mama's boy" slur is a cheap shot.) But where do we begin? The center fielder has power, he's got speed. In terms of raw talent there's never been another like him: think Barry Bonds at his steroid prime or- since his defensive skills put Bonds to shame- a healthy Mickey Mantle, but even better. The "best player ever?" Maybe. However... and it's a big however... there's no getting around one fact: the guy's a prima donna. In terms of work ethic and clubhouse influence, think Rickey Henderson on a bad day.

We've all heard the story: King Priam of Troy said, "The only thing worse than facing Achilles would be managing Achilles." Apocryphal? Maybe, but there's a lot of truth there. You should be able to build a winning team around this guy, but a lot of managers have tried and failed. How will Agamemnon make out? Ask us at the end of the season.

Batting fifth, the first baseman, Tlepolemus, son of Herakles. Yeah, yeah, wait a minute... come on now- if your dad's the greatest hero that ever lived, people are bound to call you a disappointment, too. Yes, this guy has seen better days, and he's wasted nearly as much potential as Darryl Strawberry, but the dude has a lot of RBI left in his bat. A beefy slugger in the Jimmy Foxx mode, no one will ever mistake Herk's son for Keith Hernandez on defense, but he'll do the job at first.

Batting sixth, the left fielder, Patroclus. Okay, we've all heard the rumors. "He's only on the team because Achilles needs him around." Sure, the two of them came up in the minors together, and okay, even as high-paid major leaguers they room together on the road... not that there's anything wrong with that! But do you think Agamemnon would send any player out on the field every day if he couldn't produce? Sports fans, Patroclus wants to win, and he's got the skills, and the guts, to make it happen. Let's not forget, when his famous pal was holding out in that nasty contract dispute, the son of Menoetius took the field every game and played as if his life depended on it- even wearing his buddy's jersey one day to boost the team's morale.


Continued on page S32


Continued from page S1

Now... the problem spot. The original plan was for Philoktetes, son of Poeas, to cover the keystone corner, but a freak accident involving a snake ended his season before it began and left the Greeks scrambling for a second baseman. Right now a lot of hopes are riding on Idomeneus, son of Deucalion: the "spear-famed" Cretan swings a good bat, and with a wide-ranging shortstop like Diomedes, you don't need a Mazeroski at second. Possible mid-season trade in the offing, though.

The bottom line for the number-eight hitter is, "Don't make the last out and leave the pitcher leading off next inning," so who else would you stick in that slot but The Wily Odysseus? The son of Laertes can foul them off all night until a worn-down pitcher makes that one mistake. This crafty catcher knows the ins and outs of the game better than just about anyone who ever played his position, and he's got an arm that can fire an arrow through a dozen axes, or cut down a runner before he's in swimming distance of

second. Look for Odysseus to slide right into a managerial job when his playing days are over... if his messy personal life does not distract him.

Finally, on the mound, Menelaus, son of Atreus. The manager's brother no longer has overpowering stuff, but he's turned into an unmatched finesse pitcher. Want evidence? He convinced this gang of superstars to play an exhibition road game that was really nothing more than his own personal grudge match. I'm not sure Matthewson or Koufax could have put that pitch over.

So that's the starting lineup that Agamemnon, son of Atreus, will bring to the plain of Scamandros. Sitting next to him, as always, will be bench coach Nestor, son of Neleus, otherwise known as "Don Zimmer without the metal plate." Their biggest worry is the bullpen: Menelaus is not as young as he used to be, and it's doubtful the Spartan southpaw will get past the sixth inning. Middle relief is weak, and the team desperately needs a closer. Look for some pretty intense horse-trading just before the deadline.



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