Roger Cormier is a new contributor to FanGraphs. This is his delightful and strange first piece.
One could be excused for assuming that Eric Hosmer was made, not born. Made to confound the so-called “advanced” defensive metrics. Built to suppress that uprising known as the “fly-ball revolution.” Manufactured to lead a club written off by the projections — to lead them to a world championship. Engineered, in short, to thwart those who have attempted to harness the wild, loose ends of the game.
This long, chilly Hot Stove season appeared to be designed just for him, a comeuppance for his agitation. He, the One Demanding the Eight-Year Contract, would wait. And wait. And wait.
And then, like all mortals do, he would settle. And it would be glorious. The universe would finally bend towards justice. We would forever look at a picture of Hosmer in a puka shell necklace and laugh until we died, happy.
But we were naive. Instead, he did sign an eight-year deal. And not only that, but the pact would allow him to leave after five years if he wanted. That’s right: he even has Free Will.
How did we get here? How did we let such a polarizing creature into our lives?
As it turns out, Eric Hosmer is neither myth nor machine, but an actual human being — the progeny of two carbon-based lifeforms, even. He wasn’t constructed to singlehandedly defy sabermetric orthodoxy. Rather, he was born in South Miami. He is a person with feelings. He was once a boy.
I wanted to learn more about him, so I turned to primary sources, digging through newspaper and internet archives to build a portrait of the man. It’s a story I found interesting — and which also just so happens to be the truth.
The story begins not with Hosmer himself, but with a seven-year-old named Ileana. Ileana’s family won a lottery for a temporary work visa. They got to fly out of Cuba and into the United States. Cuban officials threatened to cancel the visa the night of their flight because two of her dolls were missing. The neighbor to whom Ileana lent the dolls presented them to the officials just in time, and that was the last time she was ever in Cuba. (Another version of events, the one told by Eric himself, is similar, except Ileana was nine, and the two dolls was one teddy bear. It doesn’t matter.)
Read the rest of this entry »