And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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I went to the optometrist’s office yesterday for an eye exam. They gave me the eye drops. And they were worse than usual. In addition to causing my pupils to dilate and my vision to blur, they somehow caused me to be transported back in time to 1968 when no one could score any damn runs.  What are in those things, man?

White Sox 1, Indians 0: Everyone who expected Jake Peavy to pitch a three-hit shutout in his second start after his return to the rotation, raise your hand. Not so fast, Mr. Peavy! You had a freaking detached latissimus dorsi muscle, and should barely be lifting your arm at all at this point, let alone raising it in response to my questions! Man, modern medicine is pretty damn incredible.

Red Sox 1, Tigers 0: There was a time a couple of years ago when my first impulse with these recaps would be to focus on any outstanding pitching outings first. Since it’s the Deadball Era, Mark III apparently, I’m going to need a new approach.  How about this: An offensive explosion for the Red Sox in the eighth as Saltalamacchia hit an RBI double, busting the game wide open!!!!  Five straight wins for the Bosox.

Phillies 2, Rockies 1: Whoa, a winning team scoring more than one run? Show offs.  Cole Hamels allowed one run on five hits, striking out eight. Jason Giambi ended the game striking out as a pinch hitter. Based on both the looks of him and on the amount of life seemingly left in him, he may as well be Quint in “Jaws” at this point.

Yankees 4, Orioles 1: Fifteen innings, with the win for New York coming courtesy of two-run double by Robinson Cano.  Of course getting us to extra innings in the first place was the Orioles tying it up in the ninth, and with respect to that, the big point of contention in real time (i.e. on Twitter) was Joe Girardi’s decision to send Mariano Rivera out for the ninth inning with a 1-0 lead instead of letting Bartolo Colon finish the game.

Stop and think for a minute how insane that sounds as an actual point of contention.  Yes, I realize that Colon was on it last night and had thrown only 87 pitches.  And I’m actually cool with people who say that, if they were in Joe Girardi’s shoes, they’d have kept Colon in the game because hey, Rivera doesn’t have to close out every win.  But on what friggin’ planet have we landed where someone can actually rip a manager for sending out MARIANO FREAKING RIVERA to protect a ninth inning lead?  Neither decision would have been a bad one. The one that Girardi had made happened to backfire. Shit happens. And besides, if it’s not for the Yankees’ impotent bats, we’re not even having this conversation.

Academic now because, hey, the Yankees won, but if they hadn’t, how much disingenuous criticism of Girardi would there be over this?  And now that I think about it, it’s 5:40 in the morning as I’m writing this and I haven’t read the New York papers yet. Maybe there still is some criticism.

Cubs 7, Marlins 5: Highlight of the game: buck naked streaker. Second best highlight: Marlon Byrd’s tie-breaking homer in the eighth.  Hey, cut me some slack. I see homers every day.

Pirates 5, Reds 0: Remember when we were making fun of Charlie Morton for aping Roy Halladay’s delivery and we were saying stuff like “yeah, you wish, buddy!”  Well, I’m not sayin’ they’re even or anything, but it is worth noting that Halladay hasn’t pitched a complete game shutout this year and he only has one game with a higher game score than Morton had in this one.  And, though there’s a huge difference in quality in Halladay’s favor once you dig into the peripherals, just for fun let us note that Charlie Morton is 5-1 with a 2.62 ERA and Halladay is 5-3 with a 2.21.

Mets 3, Nationals 0: No healthy position players, no fans in the stands, no dry weather, no problem: Jon Niese threw seven shutout innings and Justin Turner continued his nice little run with a two-run double.

Cardinals 5, Astros 1: A costly win as the Cardinals had both Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday leave the game with injuries.

Rays 6, Blue Jays 5: Tampa Bay jumped out to a 6-0 lead by the third inning and then held on. Matt Joyce homered and is at .365/.434/.619 on the year. Elliot Johnson had three RBI.

Rangers 5, Royals 4: Eric Hosmer’s homer in the bottom off the ninth of Neftali Feliz tied it, and the Royals had a chance to win after that when both Jeff Francoeur and Billy Butler reached base. However, each was pinch-run for — by Jarrod Dyson and Mike Aviles, respectively — and both Dyson and Aviles were picked off first. Mercy. Into extra innings, where Adrian Beltre’s two-run single in the 11th proves to be the game winner.

Giants 8, Dodgers 5: On a night when so many teams couldn’t muster offense, the two lowest-scoring teams in the NL combine for 13. Because that makes sense.

Brewers 5, Padres 2: The Brewers have the worst road record in baseball. The Padres had the worst home record. Something had to give!

Mariners 3, Angels 0: Jason Vargas shuts out the Angels on four hits over seven innings while striking out nine. Two RBI singles for Jack Cust proving that, contrary to popular belief, he is not in fact dead.

Twins 4, Athletics 3: Three RBI for Trevor Plouffe, including the game-winning sac fly in the 10th. Two wins in a row for Minnesota. In their case I don’t think it’s too much to call this a winning streak.

Diamondbacks 5, Braves 4: Ryan Roberts scored from third on an infield hit by Justin Upton in the bottom of the 11th — despite the Braves’ drawn-in infield — completing the comeback win. Atlanta had its chances to win this one but ran its way out of a great scoring opportunity in the sixth and couldn’t nail down leads in the 7th and the 11th.  Not surprisingly, Fredi Gonzalez used Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel again.  At this rate they’re each going to have close to 90 appearances.  Take it easy Fredi.

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.