Two distinct takes on the Michael Young situation

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First we have Evan Grant’s take in the Dallas Morning News.*  Grant writes — in a very, very long open letter — that both Young and the Rangers are at fault, both sides have acted somewhat poorly, though understandably so and that each side must swallow its pride and carry on for the greater good of the Texas Rangers:

As I type this, it’s not too late to rescue this, I think. Everybody must accept some blame. The Rangers for the poor manner in which they’ve communicated with a player from whom they have asked so much. Young must accept blame for being overly-sensitive on the matter and lashing back publicly at the organization.

They must sit down, explain their positions, yell at one another and ultimately each accept some blame. That’s what happens in successful marriages, all of which face tests and challenges along the way. This has been the most successful marriage in Rangers history. It would be a shame if it broke up over poor communication.

Then, in contrast, we have Mike Hindman at Baseball Time in Arlington who is NOT having it. For a second.  After saying that Young “has lost his f*****g mind” and that he’s a “nut job,” Hindman writes:

Now that the chickens have come home to roost and some of us wonder how Michael Young became such a narcissistic jackass, we can look back at that moment and see that the Rangers encouraged Young’s delusions by treating a pretty good player as if he were a superstar for no good reason.  This seems to have taught Young that he was entitled to things because he was “Michael Young, Face of the Franchise” rather than for what he actually did on the field.

The local megia — who already liked this very clean-cut, hard-working, immensely likable young man a whole lot — immediately seized on this theme and wildly over-mythologized Young’s “sacrifice.”  It was easy for the beats and columnists to fall in love with Young after having to deal with jackwagons like Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano and Mark Teixeira.  Young, by comparison, was humble and accountable and accessible.  And so the folks in the press box created a narrative of Young bordering on beatification (Patron Saint of Sports Sacrifice), and then they kept doing it, and doing it and doing it some more.

Boom.  And then Hindman goes on to note that two Hall of Famers and one future Hall of Famer — George Brett, Carl Yastrzemski and Ichiro — moved positions and changed roles without anything approaching this kind of sturm and drang, and that that ought to tell us something.

I can’t say that I’ve followed Young’s career terribly closely, but I gotta tell ya: Hindman’s assessment of all of this seems a lot more plausible than Grant’s.  Mostly because Grant leaves the media’s role out of it, and given how much of this has played out in the media — dating back to Young’s initial move off second base — that is a pretty key oversight.

People start to believe their own press clippings, and I’m sure Michael Young is not immune to that.  And like Hindman, I tend to agree that he’s overplaying the victim card a bit too much here.

*Hurm. The post disappeared after I first read it. What is now linked is the cached version.  Did the Morning News take it down?  I dunno.  But let me know if the cached version disappears too.

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.