When Batter's Box first issued what Craig Burley has taken to calling the "Hall of Place Names" challenge, to be honest, I expected a bunch of U.S. states (some are upcoming, incidentally) and some major cities (we've already seen Brooklyn, Mobile and San Francisco, with more on the way) to dominate the submissions. Barring that, perhaps a series of foreign countries similar to the All-Canadian team that started it all.
Wouldn't you know, the very first two teams received (from Bauxites Matthew Elmslie and Greg Williams, in that order, respectively) were for the same non-North American city? And if you think hard enough, you can probably guess that it's ... well, let's turn that description over to Elmslie:
"The first place I thought of when I heard about this exercise was the Ballmouth," wrote Elmslie. "If, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sunnydale, CA is the Hellmouth, where all the spooks and monsters come from, then this place is the Ballmouth. I refer to the little Dominican hamlet of San Pedro de Macoris."
Speaking of spooky, working completely independently of each other, Williams and Elmslie came up with exactly the same starting eight position players (Elmslie went traditional and did not select a DH), though it is also perhaps unfortunate that they both settled on the same outfield -- George Bell and Rico Carty flanking Sammy Sosa, even the young Sosa, might be the worst defensive outfield in the history of the Great Game.
The benches and pitching staff differed slightly, though there was enough overlap to confirm that the best choices could easily be agreed upon; though there are a few additional editorial changes made here as we combine the two efforts; can somebody, somewhere, find a backup -- or better yet, starting -- catcher from San Pedro de Macoris? Anyway, it's time to say ...
WELCOME TO THE BALLMOUTH
** indicates Hall of Famer * indicates All-Star
C Angel Pena (71 G in 3 seasons)
1B Pedro Guerrero* (.300/.370/.480 despite Dodger Stadium)
2B Luis Castillo* (.293, 281 SB, three Gold Gloves through 2005)
SS Tony Fernandez* (2276 hits, four Gold Gloves)
3B Fernando Tatis* (.298/.404/.553 in '99)
LF Rico Carty* (.299/.369/.464)
CF Sammy Sosa* (588 homers to date)
RF George Bell* (1987 AL MVP)
DH Alfonso Soriano* (.280/.320/.500 through 2005)
IF Manuel "Manny" Lee (.255 in 11 years)
IF Robinson Cano (.297 as 2005 AL rookie)
UTIL Juan Samuel* (161 HR, 396 SB)
UTIL Jose Offerman* (.360 OBP)
UTIL Mariano Duncan*
SP Joaquin Andujar* (127-118, 3.58)
SP Daniel Cabrera (22-21, 4.75 in first two seasons)
SP Ben Rivera (23-17)
SP Julio Santana (17-31 through 2005)
SP Salomon Torres (32-43, 4.48)
CL-RH Jose Jimenez (110 saves)
RHRP Jose Valverde (33 saves through 2005)
RHRP Guillermo Mota (22-24, seven saves through 2005)
RHRP Hector Carrasco (35-46, 18 saves through 2005)
RHRP Josias Manzanillo (13-15, six saves)
Notes ... In a nod to defense, Soriano moves to DH (both Elmslie and Williams had him starting at 2B, understandably) while Williams' original DH, Luis Castillo, moves to 2B ... Apparently they disapprove of lefthanded pitchers in the Dominican, at least in San Pedro de Macoris -- it doesn't look like any have ever made The Show, while more than enough righties are around to fill out the roster's holes ... Speaking of holes, though there is no backup catcher, presumably the versatility on the bench -- everyone except Cano has/had played virtually everywhere BUT behind the plate -- will provide emergency relief if needed. Meanwhile, welcome to a regular gig, Angel Pena! ...
Greg writes: "I remember reading a lot of players' baseball cards with San Pedro de Macoris on the back (not coincidentally a lot were former Jays) so I figured I'd give it a shot ... Some weak pitching to say the least, but a deep lineup save for catcher." And, he adds, "Plus the X-Factor -- Manny Lee."
Matthew writes: 'It's a team with strengths and weaknesses. They're going to hit the ball, and they've got a reasonable bullpen, but there's no outfield bench, the catching is weak, and the rotation is thin."
"Still," he adds, "that's a pretty strong team to come from a single town. Strange thing -- I always heard of San Pedro de Macoris as a small town, but I found a population number for it of 217,141 in 2002, which isn't small. So maybe the number of ballplayers to come from here isn't so weird after all. I did have to leave quite a few names off the team, guys who had (or are going to have) real major league careers."
Among the players NOT making the roster -- though feel free to argue for a change or point out someone we've missed -- are pitchers Jesus Colome and Santa Alcala as well as infielders Juan Castillo, Pepe Frias and Manny Alexander.
So that's it for now, Bauxites ... can you slay the Ballmouth?