Dan McQuade: May 2009 Archives
Why, the baseball is starting at 12:30 post meridiem. Hot dog! It must be a Thursday afternoon businessperson (née man) special. And thanks to the Internet, the businessperson special is now available for all of us to enjoy, though the magic of MLB gameday and liveblogs on Walkoff Walk.
That's right: It's time for one Dan McQuade (hey, that's me!) to once again contribute to a downturn in productivity of the American worker -- or at least the American baseball fan. The Reds (21-18, 3.5 GB in Central) snapped the Phillies 5-game win streak last night, but a Mets' loss kept the Fightins (21-17) in first place in the NL East by a game. Joe Blanton (1-3, 6.86 ERA) goes up against the modern day Babe Ruth, Micha Owings (3-4, 3.95 ERA). Game time's at 12:30.
12:37: The game hasn't started yet. Liars, MLB. Liars! The Phillies have a day game lineup today, with Philadelphian/Canadian hero Matt Stairs in right and Greg Dobbs at third.
12:40: Jimmy Rollins continues his recent surge with an infield hit to first base. This surge has moved his OPS+ all the way up to 52!
12:41: Chase Utley doubles over the head of a flailing Jay Bruce, and suddenly the Phils have runners on second and third with nobody out.
12:43: Is this the quickest the Phillies have scored this year? Raul Ibanez grounds out to second, Rollins scampers home; Utley is forced to hold at second. For Ibanez, it's his 37th RBI of the year. He's tearing up fantasy leagues left and right. Phillies 1, Reds 0.
12:48: After a Howard fly out to shallow center, MATT STAIRS walks. Stairs' OBP this season was .500 coming into the game. Is there a time when you have to start trying him more often? I mean, if he's getting on base now more than half the time.
12:51: Shane Victorino (who also homered in that fateful inning against the Dodgers' last October) strikes out to end the inning. No <BIG> tag for you, Shane.
12:55: Willie Taveras flies out, Adam Rosales grounds out, Jay Bruce singles to left. Sorry, I was watching this retrospective of Bret Hart World Title wins.
12:59: And, hey, what do you know, nothing happened. Brandon Phillips grounds out to Fat Joe, who bobbled but got it to Ryan Howard in time. Brandon Phillips has a .788 OPS out of the four-hole this year. That's not good, right? I always forget what's good and what's not good in OPS. It wasn't on baseball cards when I was a kid! How was I supposed to figure it out! End 1st.
Before I begin, I'd like to share with you my favorite screenshot from Major League that tells you, "Yes, this movie was released in 1989."
Each week Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. At-bat now in Cinema Varitek: Major League, the 1989 comedy about the Indians starring Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, Corbin Bernsen, Rene Russo, Wesley Snipes, James Gammon and Dennis Haysbert; written and directed by David S. Ward (who wrote Sleepless in Seattle and wrote and directed The Program). These reviews usually contain spoilers.
Whatever the premise of a movie, it still must make sense. A movie can have dogs or girls (or dogs and girls) who play baseball or it can have an asteroid about to crash into earth. The characters in the movie must react like normal human beings. The details still need to be right.
Even the little things matter. At the end of Air Bud: World Pup, Buddy fills in for an injured Brianna Scurry (as herself) a save on the final penalty kick in the 2003 Women's World Cup to win it for the U.S. I know it's a kid's movie, but: What? Buddy is a boy. He shouldn't be allowed to play in the Women's World Cup. If I were a woman, I'd be offended.
The first time Buddy runs onto the field, the announcer shouts, "It's a dog!" Don't you kinda think a play-by-play announcer in a small suburban town would recognize the golden retriever that had just won the basketball championship? A dog like that, it attracts attention.
It's a bad sign for your movie if people are walking out of the theater talking about a huge plot hole, or a mistake or the couple next to them having sex during the movie's slow parts. A filmmaker can prevent the first two. And don't dismiss a movie's flaws just because it's a kids' film or a comedy (which mainly kids watch). Kids are the only ones who watch movies without being drunk or stoned or asleep. They'll notice this stuff.
Here's where I'm going: At the end of Major League, after the Cleveland Indians win the AL East (the movie's from 1989) in a one-game playoff, the movie ends.
There's no mention of the American League Championship Series, no mention of the playoffs. The players celebrate, the fans run on the field (again, the movie's from 1989), hey, end of movie. A movie doesn't need a 20-minute epilogue to set up the sequel like Spider-man 2, but an extra scene or two would be nice.
Major League has some funny scenes, and a couple good one-liners. And it has the Allstate spokesman/president on 24 shaving his head with a knife.
But it also has a a montage scene that goes all the way to clip (Q). Sports movies are cliched, baseball movies perhaps more so. But that doesn't mean the every character needs to be a one-note joke. We know virtually nothing at the end of the movie about the characters we didn't know when we first saw them. Whoo, let's celebrate!
Then again, the movie does have this:
Ever get the feeling that now might be the apocalypse, at least in Philadelphia? From the Dodgers coming to town without Manny to icebergs in the Delaware River (in May, no less) to geysers erupting in Northeast Philly near where I grew up (photo at right courtesy of my dad).
Or maybe not. But it is a little rainy out today. The Phillies take on the Dodgers at 1:05-ish, and I'll guide you through this National League tilt. Chad Billingsley (5-1, 2.45 ERA) goes up against Cole Hamels (1-2, 6.17 ERA).
1:03 - Another sign of the apocalypse: A bunch of clowns are parading around Citizens Bank Park today. Tom McCarthy says the circus is in town, but I don't believe it.
1:05 - "It's a wonderful day to play hooky from work," McCarthy says. I support any franchise that encourages things like that.
1:07 - Juan Pierre opens the game with a groundout. Just because Joe Torre has to play Pierre because Manny Ramirez is suspended doesn't mean he needs to bat him first. (Yes, he's on fire so far. Old habits are tough to break.)
1:08 - Rafael Furcal singles to center. There goes the no-hitter! Way to go, Cole.
1:13 - Orlando Hudson strikes out looking on a 3-2 count, and Carlos Ruiz throws to Chase Utley who throws to Ryan Howard to get Rafael Furcal in the basepaths. Strike-'em-out-throw-'em-out and the top of the first is over.
1:15 - The Phillies are up, and Jimmy Rollins (.200/.239/.292, 35 OPS+) is back in the leadoff spot today after two days in the five hole.
1:16 - He's happy to be home at, uh, first! He doubles down the right field line to lead off the bottom of the first.
1:17 - What do you do with your #2 hitter in the top of the first? You sacrifice him to the pitcher, of course. This is one of the things about Charlie Manuel that infuriates me. Shane Victorino nearly beat it out for a hit a pitch after almost being hit. J-Roll's on third and Chase Utley is up.
1:21 - Well, at least it worked. Utley walks and Howard flies out to center. Rollins scores his 16th run of the season. Phillies 1, Dodgers 0.
1:27 - Billingsley strikes out Werth swinging to end it. Billingsley was born in Defiance, Ohio -- "It's a cultural wasteland," some dude says of it -- but lives in Reading in the offseason. This must be a dude who loves cultural wastelands. I kid, I kid. Reading's okay. It's no Old Forge, though. End 1st.
Though owner Lew Wolff will have to pay for a stadium himself, San Jose is ready to negotiate with him to move the Oakland Athletics to San Jose. The city, though, is in San Francisco Giants territory, and MLB would have to approve the move.
Money trumps all, of course, and this is just the beginning of a long, slow move back to Philadelphia for the Athletics. As you can see from the above map, the Athletics will go from San Jose to Portland to the Moon before heading back to the bustling metropolis of Philadelphia in 2113.
Map outline by Jared Benedict; work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Note: The rest of the stuff is just
stolen fair use.
For unknown reasons, 30 games seems to be the cutoff when people start to get really excited about a hitting streak. And after going last year without one of those oh-so-fun 30 gamers, Ryan Zimmerman singled in the first inning last night to reach said mystery magical number. I don't know about you, but I'm pumped.
Reuters has done us all a favor by asking a statistician how great of a chance Zimmerman has to match or beat Joe Dimaggio's 56-game hitting streak. The answer: Not much.
San Diego State University professor and statistician Jim Lackritz estimated Zimmerman's chances from this point of tying the Yankee Clipper at 1 in 414, or .0024 for you math geeks. To break DiMaggio's record, the odds are 1 in 517, or .0019. [...] Zimmerman has already improved his chances vastly as the odds before this streak began stood at 1 in almost 10 million, Lackritz said. "Basically, this is the toughest record in sports to break," the professor said.
Wow, so Juan Pierre must have like a 1 in 10 billion chance of starting a 56-game hitting streak every game.
If he can get a hit today (join Walkoff Walk for your official liveblog of Ryan Zimmerman's possible 31st consecutive game with a hit) against the Giants, Zimmerman is virtually a lock to get to number 35, as the Nats play the Phillies for 4 over the weekend. With the way Phillies pitching has been giving up taters this year, he might be a lock for the all-time homer mark, too.
Incidentally, the Nationals have scored 22 runs in their last three games. They've lost all three.
The hilarious steroid column party today continues with Rick Morrisey of the Chicago Tribune, who writes about how Jim Leyland doesn't hate steroids enough to please him.
I think the fans come to the game, whatever sport it is, and they want their team to win," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I don't think they're thinking about those things.... I think they're interested in their team winning. In any sport, not just baseball. So quote me on that. It's not just baseball."
Allow me to interpret: If fans are willing to look the other way in their pursuit of a winning team, what's the big deal if players are using? And, why is everyone picking on baseball?
It's apparent a lot of work needs to be done in the area of steroids education. If Leyland would look outside his bubble for just a second, he would notice there are millions of impressionable kids out there who might hear a manager slough off the suspension of one of the premier players in the sport. Could any of those kids then be blamed for thinking steroids aren't evil?
He has a point here. Millions of children come home from school every day, turn on their local UHF station to watch Jim Leyland's Fireside Chats, a daytime Emmy-award winning show where Leyland talks about the latest drug suspensions and introduces old Chip 'n' Dale cartoons. How dare he. How dare he.
It's really amazing that paragraph begins with the sentence, "It's apparent a lot of work needs to be done in the area of steroids education."
Last year, a couple major league teams had designated peanut-free zones on certain nights, pandering to some punk kids who can't eat peanuts (and their parents, presumably). The independent minor league franchise in Camden1 has taken this a step farther, with a new peanut-free section at all home games.
The Riversharks' created the peanut-free Suite 319 after an increasing number of customers said they were allergic to peanuts. (Um, obviously.) The team also takes care of its fans who keep kosher or have gluten allergies. Everybody's welcome in Camden!
The highlight of this Philadelphia Inquirer story, though, is the penultimate paragraph.
[Riversharks spokesman Poorya] Nayerahmadi said that he was not sure whether the fans will stand up for the seventh-inning stretch to sing "God Bless America" or "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Both songs are favorites.
Apparently some peanut allergies are so bad you can't even hear a song lyric where one person orders another to purchase him peanuts. But not standing for "God Bless America"? Are we sure this isn't a section for terrorists? Or Carlos Delgado?
Rangers rookie reliever Derek Holland picked up his first career win last night in a 7-1 win over the Mariners. The rook's having a decent start to his career, with a 1.74 ERA and a WHIP just over 1.
To commemorate his first big league win, he had starter Scott Feldman and reliever Eddie Guardado sign the ball. He's going to give it to his parents. (Aww.) Guardado, who pitched the ninth, made the gift extra special, as he signed it like it were a high school yearbook.
Stay strong and KIT, man.
We interrupt Tonight's Questions to bring you a breaking news bulletin: American Gladiators: The Movie is under development. Further news on this incredible moment in the history of cinema after the movie. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled Tonight's Questions.
- WHEN will Jimmy Rollins (and his OPS+ of 28!) be dropped in the Phillies lineup? Hey, how about tonight!
- WILL anyone notice that Roy Halladay is once again having a nice season? They might. They might notice every year, I don't really follow fan reactions to performance of pitchers for Canadian-based baseball teams that closely. Halladay and the Jays take on A.J. Burnett and the Yankees tonight.
- CAN you find a funnier column this week (non-Jeff Passan division) than this one by Stephen Baldwin on CBSNews.com? I'd like to know, because I bet it'd be hilarious.
- WILL Ryan Zimmerman extend his hitting streak to 30 games? I probably won't be staying up late to find out.
Kris is back tomorrow and we'll be taking Walkoff Walk through the rest of the week. Look forward to more coherent posts and fewer references to straight edge. (Also, tomorrow, my review of Major League.) In another exciting development for baseball, there are more than four games tonight. Sweet!
Hey, kids, remember yesterday, when I was a cub fill-in blogger for Walkoff Walk? Ahh, those were simpler times, when I was content to make fun of Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan for suggesting lifetime bans for first-time drug test failures.
Little did I know that Passan would come out with a mailbag piece today that tops calling for a lifetime ban.
Agreed. Also, if we establish capital punishment, we can keep people from murdering each other. Oh, wait...
West Lafayette, Ind.
Before I respond ... that was good.
You know, the point is well taken. I'd like to believe that baseball players don't share the same characteristics as cold-blooded killers, but the narcissism I so often talk about in steroid users is the same sort of thing pervasive among murderers.
In no way am I conflating steroid use and murder. Banishment in baseball, though, is the sport's equivalent to the death penalty. I guess the point was: extreme times call for extreme measures, and baseball has gotten to the point where it has tried almost every reasonable avenue to abolish steroid use, only to watch its biggest names continue to tumble. Ultimately, this will keep happening, and baseball will rue not doing everything in its power earlier
Passan is right: A lot of steroid users are narcissistic. That's because most steroid use is done to improve one's looks. People who take steroids to improve athletic performance are outliers. I wonder how often he talks about this, though; I'm thinking of inviting him to my next party to find out. (Just kidding, folks. I don't throw any parties.)
But back to the point: On one hand, taking steroids to improve one's performance and therefore the performance of the team. One the other, taking the life of another human being. The narcissism similarity is pretty obvious here I don't even need to point it out. Baseball will rue the day!
I do think my favorite part of the mailbag is when he calls that email "good."
I know we're only about a fifth of a way into the season, but check it out, people: Albert Pujols is leading two triple crown categories. Yes, he's 10th in average, and Adam Dunn (11 homers to Pujols' 12) and Jay Bruce (him and three other guys have 10) are right behind him in homers.
Yeah, the chances of him actually winning the triple crown are pretty low, but he's already a lock for the "decade" triple crown (whatever that is), and we really don't have anybody else with a shot of triple crowning it anytime soon. It's fun to speculate.
It's even more fun to read John Kruk's piece on Albert Pujols on ESPN.com and speculate what kind of daze -- probably not drugs, I'm speculating hunger -- Kruk was in while writing it.
What, then, is stopping him from winning the Triple Crown this season? Home runs. He is a great hitter, but he's also one who believes in getting the win. He could easily lead the league in home runs every season, but that would probably mean that his strikeout numbers would increase and his value to his club would decrease. This is a Cardinals team that relies on moving runners over to score runs, and Pujols is a big part of that. His selflessness puts this team in the hunt for the playoffs every season, but also takes him out of the running for the Triple Crown.
Really? Albert Pujols could easily lead the league in homers every season? Wouldn't that help his team more than, say, hitting a few points higher in average, grounding out instead of striking out with nobody on and moving over Skip Schumaker once in a while. Hell, by "easily" leading the league in homers every season, he'd be hitting in the 60s every year. That would revitalize baseball (until he's caught taking sheep growth hormone or whatever). Why is Albert Pujols so selfish, caring about his team over the game of baseball as a whole?!
I'll admit I really don't know how this works; I've never played anything above "stickball in the street"-level ball. I've read that, say, Ichiro sacrifices power for average since he's the leadoff man. I've also read, though, that Pujols doesn't sacrifice power for average.
I don't really know how to say this, guys, but I think John Kruk might not be right. I don't know if this has ever happened before.
Above is a series of screenshots from this video of Pat Burrell scared out of his mind when the Red Sox crowd cheered Glen Davis' buzzer-beater for the Celtics on Sunday night. Don't like loud noises? You and me both, buddy.
A common argument against vilification of baseball's steroid users is that, well, baseball is a sport that idolizes cheating. I mean, you probably won't see it in a newspaper, but it's out there. A-Rod and Manny Ramirez are just following in the footsteps of players who corked bats (stupidly), scuffed the ball, threw spitballs, stole signs, threw at players, used amphetamines, drank during Prohibition, et cetera. Right?
Pfft, says Dodgers third base coach Larry Bowa. In his day, ballplayers knew how to cheat, and kids nowadays just aren't cheating in the time-honored traditions of baseball.
I think when you play a sport at this level and you can get an edge, you take advantage of it," the Los Angeles Dodgers' third base coach said just days after Manny Ramirez became the latest superstar implicated in drug use. "I don't think steroids is what we're talking about to get the edge. People might say that's hypocritical, but those things that we did - whether it was using an emery board or corking a bat, it can't kill you. But this stuff can kill you."
So remember, kids: Before you cheat in a game, make sure to ask steroids expert Dr. Larry Bowa if it's one of the acceptable forms. (And ask him where sucker punching a reporter fits while you're at it.) But please don't listen to Bowa in this regard: Baseball bats are dangerous.
Larry Siddons of Bloomberg News owes me a Pepsi Throwback, because I just spit mine out all over my monitor after reading his lead.
May 12 (Bloomberg) -- The suspension of All-Star outfielder Manny Ramirez for violating Major League Baseball's drug rules shows the sport's anti-doping program is working, according to Roger Clemens[.]
Sammy Sosa was also recently heard praising the changes to MLB's corked bat policy.
Hey, the World Anti-Doping Agency has weighed in on MLB's suspension of Manny Ramirez. Let's see if Google News can fill us in. Does WADA brass think Manny's suspension is enough?
Oh, man, what has Blatter done this time?!
Roger Clemens appeared on Mike and Mike in the Morning this, uh, morning to let everyone know he never took steroids, no way, no sir, no how, and that's his story and he's sticking to it. Still!
Clemens' radio appearance comes on the same day the four New York Daily News reporters release their new book, American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America's Pastime. You know what also had four writers and a colon in the title? That's right: Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch. Point for Clemens!
Of course, this book is by the Daily News, not the New York Post. Point for American Icon.
Clemens told the Mikes he's keeping his head up in these tough times; he didn't mention the millions of dollars in salary over the years, but I assume that's helping him quite a bit in these, erhm, troubled times.
Asked about "American Icon," by Daily News reporters Teri Thompson, Nathaniel Vinton, Michael O'Keeffe and Christian Red, Clemens said "I've seen excerpts of the book, they're completely false." He did not specify which part of the book he had seen.
Vinton, also appearing on "Mike and Mike in the Morning," responded to Clemens' criticism.
"Our book is really backed up by a lot of documentation and interviews with key players," Vinton said, "It's not false, we really researched this carefully ... and take it very seriously."
When asked about the physical evidence reportedly handed over by [ex-Clemens personal trainer Brian] McNamee to federal investigators and whether it had his DNA on it, Clemens said "Impossible, because he's never given me any [performance-enhancing drugs], it's as simple as that. He's never given me HGH or any kind of performance-enhancing drug, so it's impossible."
Later in the interview, he said McNamee "... never injected me with HGH or steroids." Pointing out that his family has a history of heart conditions, Clemens said "It would be suicidal for me to even think about taking any of these dangerous drugs."
Hey, look, Roger Clemens knows just as little about steroids as professional sportswriters do.
Brian McNamee's lawyer also appeared on Mike and Mike and said he's totally certain that by speaking out, it means Roger Clemens will be indicted for perjury for speaking at that Congressional hearing on perjury traps. Oh, goodie.
Oh, to be a minor leaguer. Every once in a while one of the big league stars gets hurt, and then he comes down for rehab and OMG you get to meet him!
A recent example comes from the Oklahoma RedHawks, where Josh Hamilton is on a rehab assignment with a strained muscle. And it's better than even just meeting him. OMG guys look what happened!
The Oklahoma RedHawks were certainly pleased with him on Sunday after their victory over the Round Rock Express at Dell Diamond. Baseball tradition holds that a Major League player assigned to a Minor League team on medical rehabilitation assignment must fund the postgame food spread.
The RedHawks ate Outback on Sunday night.
"It was good," pitcher John Bannister said. "Real good."
Is there a more classic baseball rivalry than Oklahoma City RedHawks-Round Rock Express? Yankees-Red Sox pales in comparison.
Unfortunately for the Rangers' AAA affiliate, Hamilton is slated to be back in action today, and they'll be stuck eating at Applebee's or wherever. Don't worry, RedHawks! One day you'll learn what Olive Garden tastes like. One day.
Here's what happened in baseball yesterday while you were wondering who was watching you -- the IRS?
Braves 6, Mets 2. Johan Santana went 6 1/3 innings, surrendering only two unearned runs, but a Jose Reyes error in the 7th led to four runs and the man with the 0.78 ERA got tagged with his second loss of the year.
Indians 9, White Sox 4. The Indians scored in the first inning for the first time this month to help Carl Pavano easily win his third straight start. Send a card to Gavin Floyd, will ya? The ex-Phillies prospect gave up 8 runs in five innings and raised his era to 7.32
Reds 13, Diamondbacks 5. The Reds pounded out a season high in hits (18) to open up a West Coast trip with a win. The D-Backs hit three homers in the loss, which is always nice for the fans at least. At least they saw some dingers!
Giants 11, Nationals 7. Ryan Zimmerman singled in his first at bat, extending his hitting streak to 29. One more and we've got an official break-into-SportsCenter for live updates hitting streak! He followed up his single with a pair of homers to boot; the Nats lost while hitting four homers for the second straight day. Speaking of milestones, Randy Johnson notched his 298th win.
Hey, I'm done for the day.
- CAN Ryan Zimmerman extend his hitting streak to 29 games? The Nationals, fresh off a loss when they hit four homers, are at San Francisco tonight.
- WILL the British ever get over the suspension of Manny Ramirez, "a dreadlocked free spirit"?
- WHAT question was MLB.com's Todd Zolecki asking Shane Victorino that caused him to respond, "It's a deadly disease"?
- WHO is a better pitcher than Johan Santana (4-1, 0.91 ERA)? Certainly not Derek Lowe (4-1, 3.98), who goes up against the lefty tonight.
- WILL I find a way to work in the only other games tonight (Cincy at Arizona, Chisox at Cleveland) into this post?
Hey, this wasn't bad. Thanks to Kris for contributing a pair of posts today; I will be back tomorrow with more exclamation points than you ever thought possible. I promise!
Over the weekend, White Sox closer Bobby Jenks threw a pitch behind Ian Kinsler, then made the mistake of admitting it after the game. "Basically I was saying," Jenks was saying, "'I'm sick of seeing our guys get hit and hurt and almost get taken out of the game.' I threw it with intention."
Whoops! ESPN reports MLB is now investigating Jenks. Okay, that's not really surprising at all, but "sources" told "ESPNChicago.com" this and ESPN wanted to advertise its new website. Just like I thought I should do one news-related post today!
Clearly, Bobby Jenks doesn't get it. Although everyone knows pitchers throw at batters, you never admit it. Kind of like how everyone knows performance-enhancing drugs are prevalent in baseball (and all sports, and life) and drug tests are incredibly easy to fool yet Tim Salmon remains baffled how Manny Ramirez tested negative 15 times. Oh, and there was that unwritten rule that lasted most of the 20th century.
All of this, of course, is what makes baseball America's national pastime.
But the International Baseball Federation (the IBAF, for some reason) sent out a press release today telling people how hot baseball is in Europe right now. It was so hot MLB.com just re-wrote it, which is so silly. Everyone knows you're supposed to re-write it and add pithy comments.
"The efforts that our federations are making to grow the sport at the grassroots level, as well as all the time our partners are putting in to help us tell our story, are being positively reflected in our growth globally," said IBAF President Dr. Harvey Schiller.
Yes! Partners telling stories! Federations growing out of the grass! Global growth! (See? You can just re-write quotes, add exclamation points, and blammo! Instant blog comedy gold.)
There are actually 40 players from "no less than nine European countries" playing in the majors and minors this year, which is the most ever. It might be a ways off before they're playing the World Series in London, but this much is for sure: Baseball sure is played by Europeans.
On a side note, the Baseball World Cup is in September. It is sure to be one of the top two baseball-related competitions among different countries this year.
Each week (or so), Dan McQuade reviews a baseball movie. This week in Cinema Varitek: the 1992 comedy hit A League of Their Own, starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell and Lori Petty, directed by Penny Marshall, written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel.
The first installment of Cinema Varitek tackled Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch, a movie that ends with a dog winning World Series MVP (for the Angels, no less). This week, Cinema Varitek looks at an even more preposterous baseball movie, one where girls play baseball. Hey-o!
(I kid, of course. Everyone knows girls don't play baseball because A.G. Spalding wasn't loved enough by his mother. Or something like that.)
If the makers of the Air Bud straight-to-DVD franchise had made a movie about girls playing baseball, of course, it would be less believable than The Sixth Man. If Seventh Inning Fetch is sports movie cliche done horribly wrong, A League of Their Own is movie cliche done impressively right. Yeah, the movie's full of holes, spends a lot of time developing several characters who disappear halfway through the movie and has one of those too-perfect-to-happen sports movie moments at the end. But it's enjoyable.
What's actually most enjoyable, though, is the first game of the season, when Rosie O'Donnell's character trips over the third base line when she runs onto the field.
Even if you hate baseball, the movie is worth watching just to see Rosie falling on the field over and over (if you choose to watch this scene over and over, as I did).
A quick primer on the movie's plot: Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis) is always better than her kid sister, Kit (Lori "Tank Girl" Petty) at everything, including softball. But when a scout (Jon Lovitz) wants to find players, he takes Kit! And Dottie! Hmm, I guess that isn't much of a twist. He also finds an ugly girl who can hit the ball a mile (Megan Cavanagh), takes them to the tryouts at Wrigley Field and then disappears for the rest of the movie. (He'd return for the very short-lived TV series based on the movie the following year.)
The movie is about the (real) All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, an actual women's baseball league founded during World War II. (The league wasn't originally called that, and the women played a baseball/softball hybrid when it started out, but close enough.) A bunch of people try out, including Mae (Madonna) and Doris (O'Donnell) and a girl who can't read. In a shocking twist of fate, all the main characters make the Rockford Peaches.
At their first game, all the fans actually heckle the players as they take the field (even before Rosie O'Donnell falls). Why would they attend the game just to heckle the players? Actually, wait, I was a Phillies fan in the 1990s, I've done that with regular baseball before. Anyway: With the league in trouble, Dottie Hinson makes the cover of Life with perhaps the hottest scene in baseball movie history.
Thanks to Matt for sending in this video of a 1980s Budweiser commercial, ostensibly filmed at old Busch Stadium. No one deserves a cold beer more than an umpire who made a correct call in his first big league game. I love how he wins over the manager of the NotRoyals who doubted him at first. And he's wearing No. 42! Sly. Nowadays, the commercial would point out how much Budweiser honored Jackie Robinson.
This comment on YouTube really sums it up nicely: "Good commercial. You can see the mutual respect the manager and the umpire have for each other." Nowadays, the commercial would end with the ump bashing a beer bottle over the head of the manager.
When news broke that Manny Ramirez failed a drug test last week, I immediately turned on ESPN for some hilarious, breathless commentary that a baseball player would have the audacity to take a drug that would make them better at baseball. Sometime around 7 pm, Buster Olney nailed the best line of the day, saying that if players felt bad about being suspected of steroids, they should blame A-Rod, "who looked Katie Couric right in the eyes and said he didn't do steroids." How dare a player lie to our most respected journalist who has had her colon inspected on live television!
Since then, a lot of people have written some pretty amazing, unintentionally hilarious things about Man-Ram taking steroids. As usual, Bill Simmons leads the way with this column set in the dark, post-apocalyptic future of 2014. In this dark time, each section of Fenway Park has a sponsor (gasp!) and the Green Monster is called "The Pepsi Green Monster." What horrors we will witness in five years! Anyway, Simmons takes his son to the game and recalls October 2004:
Ever since Boston won the World Series 10 years ago, I always imagined pointing to that 2004 banner and telling my little boy, "That's the team that changed everything." So that's what I do. I point at the banner and tell him, "That's the team that changed everything."
"Isn't that the team that cheated?" he asks. My father and I glance at each other. A few beats pass. "Well, technically, no," I stammer. "I mean ..."
"I thought they had a whole bunch of steroids guys on that team," he says.
"Well, yes, but baseball only did a test run of steroid testing that year, with no punishment," I said, and my son shot me a quizzical look. "Okay, yes, steroids were illegal, but they were only made illegal in the late 1980s as the War on Drugs intensified."
My son looked confused.
"In the late 1960s, Richard Nixon needed to demonize 'the young, the black and the poor,' without actually coming out and saying it, so he started War on Drugs. After a brief lull -- during which Jimmy Carter supported marijuana legalization! -- the plummeting price of cocaine helped popularize crack in Los Angeles and New York led Ronald Reagan to, one, sell cocaine and, two, intensify the War on Drugs with the help of the Democratic Congress and the media (especially the New York Times). Congress outlawed steroids in this climate after drug scandals in Olympic sports and professional wrestling."
My son was now asleep.
"That's right," I said. "I'll never accept Hulk Hogan's first World Heavyweight Championship as legitimate."
Hm, I'm sorry, I lapsed into a bit of a tangent there. I think that's what I will tell my son one day, when I'm trying to explain J.C. Romero's positive drug test last season. Let me tell you, though, that my little tangent was way more interesting than Simmons' column. And about 15,000 words shorter, too.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports continues the parade with a column calling for lifetime bans of anyone who tests positive. Jeff Passan is so anti-performance enhancing drug he doesn't drink coffee before writing his columns. He draws "sXe" on his wrists. When he won the award for Best Clean Sportswriter of the Year in 2006, he gave a speech that ended with him pleading, "Let's see what Rick Reilly could do without Red Bull. Let's just see."
The Phillies played at Citi Field for the first time last week, which gave me the chance to marvel at the Mets' giant Inaugural Season patch in full 1080i HD glory. Let's take a look at a screenshot now, as this will never get old.
I know people have been making fun of this patch on the Internet since it was invented (the Internet, not the patch), but, really: Wow.
Citi Field also has quite a few interesting ads adorning its outfield walls, too; instead of baseball standards like Budweiser, Coors, Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite, the Mets have decided to class the place up a bit.
Here's what happened in baseball yesterday while you were wielding your pink bat with pride.
Cardinals 8, Reds 7. How do you give up five homers and still win? You play the Reds! Jerry Hairston Jr. and Micah Owings homered off closer Ryan Franklin in the ninth, but Colby Rasmus' RBI double in the top of the 10th won it for the Cards. "That was a blast!" Jay Bruce said after the loss. Aw, those young players. They learn to speak in cliches so quickly.
Braves 4, Phillies 2. How do you lose a game when Matt Stairs (pictured: Cat Stairs) goes 2-for-2 with a pair of walks? You let Casey Kotchman rally against your bullpen. Kotchman hit a 2-RBI single in the seventh to put the Braves ahead. Kotch is your NL doubles leader with 13. Do they call him Kotch? They do now.
Yankees 5, Orioles 3. A three-run blast by Johnny Damon in the seventh inning pushed the Yanks past the Orioles. The Baltimore nine has been outscored 57-35 after the sixth inning this season. It's getting desperate. There are fans out in the street calling for the glory days of Jorge Julio.
Mets 8, Pirates 4. Despite a preponderance of statistical numbers, the Mets are hitting baseballs like they are Donald Duck and Citi Field is Mathmagic Land. Or something. They've won seven in a row, are in first in the NL East and all the Mets fans are becoming insufferable. The less said about this, the better.
Red Sox 4, Rays 3. Jason Bay doubled in David Ortiz in the bottom of the seventh last night for the winning run. Joe Morgan spent most of the telecast yammering about something. My remote spent all of the telecast on mute.
Dan McQuade here. I'll be piloting this ship through major league baseball's chorionic gonadotropin-infested waters for at least some of this week here on Walkoff Walk. As an added bonus, this week you will get at least three (3) baseball movie reviews! Later today, A League of Their Own, and tomorrow, Major League! In honor of my mother, I'll be typing with a pink keyboard today. Hi mom!