And That Happened: Monday's Scores and Highlights

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Angel Pagan homer.jpgMets 6, Cubs 1: A pitchers’ duel until the 7th when the Mets unloaded on the Cubs’ bullpen, courtesy of an Angel Pagan homer, a Jason Bay double, an Ike Davis single and a Sean Marshall wild pitch.

The Pagan at bat was hilarious. Jose Reyes was on first base, getting a few throws over, but never really looking like he was stealing, mostly because he couldn’t figure out James Russell’s move. The ESPN crew was going on and on with that totally cliched rebop about how a fast guy “changes everything” when he’s on the bases, and all of that. Pagan then golfs one out to the deep part of the park, rendering the running game rather quaint and totally moot. Any acknowledgment of this fact by the announcers? Nah. They go into that “you can credit Reyes for disrupting the pitcher” jive. Just reminds you that so much of what we hear in a baseball broadcast is received wisdom bordering on religion. Pagan just timed it perfectly and unloaded with a beautiful, powerful swing. But no, gotta talk up that non-factor of a running game because you heard someone say that one time back when Lou Brock roamed the Earth.

Oh, Ike Davis debut: 2-4 with an RBI. Just before the RBI single Sean Marshall totally buckled his knees with a couple of curveballs, suggesting exactly why Davis has a reputation of being lost against lefties. The fact he stuck in on the third pitch and got the hit suggested, however, that it’s something he’s going to be able to overcome.

Rays 8, Red Sox 2: We spoke about this one at length already, but let’s add one more nugget in the form of a Victor Martinez quote after the game: “It’s kind of weird. Nothing is going our way. Every team we play, it
keeps falling their way.” I didn’t know that V-Mart wrote emo lyrics.

Nationals 5, Rockies 2: A homer and four RBI for Willie Harris puts the Nationals over .500, and I have to ask myself: did I rank these guys too low? More importantly, did I overrate the Rockies? Smallest crowd in Nats’ history, by the way.

Blue Jays 8, Royals 1: Brandon Morrow impressed, allowing one run and three hits and striking out eight and Jose Bautista hit two homers and the Jays won in a laugher. A record low crowd for Rogers Centre, breaking the old record which was set five days previously. I guess the Royals coming to town doesn’t really compete with Hockey Night in Canada during the playoffs.

Padres 3, Giants 2: Break up the Padres. Their fourth straight win came in dramatic fashion: a David Eckstein walkoff homer in the tenth. The little guy’s homer helped bail out Heath Bell, who had blown the save in the ninth by serving up a dinger to Juan Uribe.  Oh, and Chase Headley was nearly smacked in the head with the barrel of Uribe’s bat in the fourth inning after it was splintered by a Clayton Richard pitch.

Angels 2, Tigers 0: Joel Piniero’s good night (7.1 IP, 9 H, 0 ER) overshadows Dontrelle Willis’ pretty good night (6 IP, 4H, 2 ER, 2 BB).

Cardinals 4, Diamondbacks 2: Five straight losses for Arizona. Matt Holliday was 3-5 with a homer and 2 RBI. Brad Penny threw seven strong innings. Pfun Pfact: Albert Pujols went 0 or 3 against starter Rodrigo Lopez last night and is 0 for 8
against him in his career. Lopez should retire now so he can tell his grandkids about that.

Mariners 8, Orioles 2: The M’s put up seven in the third, so they didn’t really need Doug Fister to no-hit the Orioles into the seventh inning, but he went ahead and did it anyway.  Chone Figgins on the 6’8″ Fister: “It’s good being tall.”  Oh, and this game featured the third record-low crowd of the night.

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.

The Yankees set up “The Judge’s Chambers” cheering section for Aaron Judge

New York Yankees
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The Yankees aren’t well-known for going all-in on goofy, fan-friendly fun. While some organizations are happy to jump on new and even silly or ephemeral trends for the yuks of it, the Yankees have tended to keep things rather businesslike when it comes to promotions and things. They’ve always played the long game, assuming — not always unreasonably — that their brand is best defined by the club’s history and greatness and quiet dignity and stuff.

Aaron Judge and his breakout rookie season is changing things. His fast start has caused fans to dress up in judge’s robes and stuff, so the team is having fun with it. They’ve set up a special section called “The Judge’s Chambers,” complete with a jury box vibe:

 

Fans will be selected to sit in the special section, which is in section 104 in right field, right behind where Judge plays, and will be handed foam gavels with “All Rise” written on them. To be selected at the moment it’d help if you wear one of those judicial robes with Judge’s number 99 on the back or his jersey or an English judge-style powdered wig. Going forward, the Yankees will also use the section for groups and charity events and stuff.

Judge is on a 58-homer pace right now. It’s unlikely he’ll keep that up, but he certainly looks like the real deal. And, for the Yankees and their fans, he’s giving them the chance for some real fun.