And That Happened: Thursday's scores and highlights

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Twins 8, Tigers 3: You say the Tigers all but put it away
yesterday? Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens
that the Twins, here, were only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference
between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.

Nationals 2, Braves 1: Of course with all dead, well, with all
dead there’s usually only one thing you can do. And now that the
Rockies have clinched the Wild Card, we’re simply going through the
Braves’ clothes looking for loose change. Tommy Hanson is some loose
change. He didn’t win, but seven innings of one-run, nine strikeout
ball probably clinched the Rookie of the Year award. More generally
speaking, I’m proud of my team for not mailing in the last month of the
season like so many of us out here in Braves Land thought they would.
Last winter I said this team was really shooting for 2010. Based on how
2009 is ending, 2010 looks pretty good right now.

Rockies 9, Brewers 2: Congratulations Colorado. After the
horrendous start to the season and the canning of Clint Hurdle, I don’t
think anyone gave them a snowball’s chance, but here they are with the
wild card. Well, for now anyway. If they sweep the flaccid Dodgers this
weekend, they win the west. If you’re Colorado, do you try to make that
happen, or do you try to rest regulars over the weekend and hope to get
back at the Dodgers in the NLCS?

Cardinals 13, Reds 0: Somebody obviously rubbed Chris
Carpenter’s balls down properly! Five innings, zero runs, a grand slam
and a two run double. In an effort to extend his campaign of accusation
and gamesmanship, however, La Russa protested the outcome of the game.
Always keep ’em guessing. That’s Tony’s motto.

Red Sox 3, Indians 0: If I were Eric Wedge I’d play this garbage
100% straight. Hold a team meeting before tonight’s game. Give serious
sounding quotes to the media suggesting that I was still passionately
interested in the development of this team. Play it up so much that
someone would feel obligated to subtly remind me that I was fired
already. As for Boston, it had to be nice to see such a strong start
from Lester after last week’s comebacker. The next time we’ll see him
is Game 1 against the Angels.

Astros 5, Phillies 3: Cliff Lee was shaky last night. And down
the stretch in general, going 2-4 with a 6.13 ERA in his past seven
starts. I guess he’s the Game 1 starter, though who the start will come
against is still to be decided.

Orioles 3, Rays 2: “From the tracks on his arms, large caliber
wound, proximity to a heroin market… I’d say it was a heated dispute
about the symbolism of red and blue in 18th-century French romantic
poetry.” Yeah, I know they won. They still get a H:LOTS quote.

Rangers 11, Angels 3: After questions swirled regarding Kevin
Millwood’s health and whether the Rangers should allow his option to
vest, he comes out and wins his last three starts. This one was a ten
strikeout, 122-pitch complete game, and as the Rangers enter the
offseason, the question of who the veteran anchor of the rotation is
going to be has suddenly disappeared. As for the Angels, this was
merely a tuneup. John Lackey only threw 40 pitches, and he’ll start
Game 1 against the Red Sox.

Mariners 4, Athletics 2: A two-run single for Mike Sweeney in
the fifth puts Seattle over the top. Given that he’s at the end of a
one-year contract, it could be Sweeney’s last moment of glory in the
big leagues.

Giants 7, Diamondbacks 3: A day of curtain calls. Rich Aurilia
played in what is almost certainly his last home game for the Giants
and Randy Johnson pitched the ninth inning. I suppose, theoretically,
he can pitch over the weekend in San Diego, but his presence on the
active roster is less about helping the team right now than it is about
going out with his boots on as opposed to the DL. If I’m Bruce Bochy I
let the Big Unit finish his career high-fiving his catcher and
teammates.

Pirates vs. Cubs: Postponed: It’s harder to lose 100 games if you only play 161!

Former outfielder Anthony Gose is throwing 99 m.p.h. fastballs in the minors

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Anthony Gose played for five seasons as an outfielder in the big leagues. He never hit well enough to be a regular, and a series of altercations with his minor league managers and coaches didn’t do too much for his future either.

His fastball, however, may eventually make up for all of that.

Toward the end of spring training it was reported that Gose would begin work as a pitcher. Given that he was a highly regarded high school pitching prospect with a plus fastball, it wasn’t a crazy notion. When Tigers camp broke, Gose stayed in Lakeland in extended spring training, throwing bullpen sessions and stuff.

Now he’s seeing game action. As the Detroit Free Press reports, Gose threw an inning for the Class-A Lakeland Flying Tigers against the Palm Beach Cardinals last night. He allowed one run on one hit with one strikeout and one walk, lighting up the radar gun at 99 m.p.h. This is the tweet from Lakeland’s assistant general manager:

The Free Press says that the Tigers’ vice president of player development, Dave Littlefield, is “very optimistic” about Gose’s progress.

Given that he’s still only 26 and he’s a lefty it wouldn’t shock me at all if he makes his way back to the bigs someday soon.

There is no need to lament the loss of “The Great Hollywood Baseball Movie”

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Today in the New York Times Jay Caspian Kang writes about what he calls the loss of “The Great Hollywood Baseball Movie.” About how there are few if any big baseball movies anymore. Movies which traffic in baseball-as-metaphor-for-America with Jimmy Stewart (or Kevin Costner)-types playing characters which seem to transcend time, elevate our emotions and rack up the dollars at the box office.

It’s a bit of meandering column, with just as much time spent on Kang’s seeming dissatisfaction with modern baseball and baseball telecasts as his dissatisfaction with baseball cinema, but he winds it up with this, which sums his argument up well enough:

Baseball’s cinematic vision of Middle America no longer means what it once did. The failing family enterprise and the old, forbearing white — or Negro Leagues — ballplayer now remind us of an extinct vision of the country and the growing distance between Middle America and the coasts. The attempts to update the archival, sun-kissed, Midwestern vision — whether on last year’s “Pitch,” the Fox TV show about a woman pitching in the majors, or “Million Dollar Arm,” the 2014 Disney movie in which Jon Hamm goes to India to convert cricket bowlers into pitchers — are canceled or bomb at the box office.

You won’t be surprised that I take a great deal of issue with all of this.

Mostly because it only talks about one specific kind of baseball movie being AWOL from cinemas: the broad works which appeal to the masses and which speak to both the past, present and future, often with a hazy nostalgia in which love of baseball and love of America are portrayed as one and the same.

It’s worth noting, though, that such films are extraordinarily rare. There was a brief time when such things existed and did well at the box office — the 1980s had “The Natural,” “Field of Dreams,” “Bull Durham” and “Major League” in a relatively short period of time — but that’s the exception, not the rule.

Baseball movies are almost always niche flicks. Biopics made of recently deceased stars like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. Weird slices of life like “The Bad News Bears” or “The Sandlot.” Quirky comedies that are baseball offshoots of larger cinematic trends like “Little Big League,” which was just the latest in a series of “kids doing adult things” movies popular at the time. Or “Rookie of the Year” which is essentially baseball’s version of one of those body-switch movies that come and go. Or “Mr. Baseball” which was just a fish-out-of-water comedy like any other.

We still get those kinds of smaller baseball movies fairly often. They’re still pretty decent and still do pretty decently at the box office, even if they’re no one’s idea of a blockbuster.

“Moneyball” was done well and did well, not as a mass appeal movie, but as one of many business/Silicon Valley flicks that have popped over the past few years. “Sugar” was a great movie, but a small movie, exploring a culture about which most people aren’t aware and basically serving as a character study. “42” is just an updated (and much better) version of those old biopics of baseball stars. “Everybody Wants Some” may be the quintessential niche baseball movie in that it’s a story about characters which just happen to have a lot of baseball in their lives. “Bull Durham” was like that too, but it just came along at the right time to become a massive hit. As many have noted, baseball was more background than plot in that movie, even if the background was amazingly well done. I’d argue that most good baseball movies use baseball like that rather than put it squarely in the foreground.

There will likely always be baseball movies, but they will almost always be smaller ones, not large blockbusters or Oscar bait with an epic sweep. Most baseball movies are like baseball itself in that they lack a grand consensus. Baseball is not The National Pastime anymore — it’s just one of many forms of sports and entertainment available to the masses — so it follows that the movies which deal with it will likewise not have that massive cross-market appeal.

I think that’s a good thing. Smaller baseball movies more accurately reflect the sport’s place in the culture. To portray baseball as something larger than what it actually is opens the door to a lot of artistic and cultural dishonesty and runs the risk of creating some really bad art.

I mean, have you seen “Field of Dreams?” Bleech.