Really now, what should the Marlins have done?

42 Comments

Look, I’d be just as happy to kick Jeffrey Loria to the curb as the rest of you. I’m not going to slam him for all of the sliminess involving the Marlins ballpark deal because in those maneuverings, he’s basically just doing everything Bud Selig wants his owners to do. But, yeah, as far as MLB owners go, I think he’s the worst of the bunch.

That said, what should the Marlins be doing differently right now? They went for it, signing Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to big contracts, and they came up way short. Should they have tried to re-sign Anibal Sanchez to a four-year, $48 million deal and gone forward with the same bunch of guys who couldn’t get it done this year? It wouldn’t have made a lot of sense.

I don’t see this as nearly as disgusting as the Marlins’ previous fire sales. They tried their damnedest with Hanley Ramirez and it just didn’t look like it was going to work out. Trading him wasn’t all about saving money — if the reports are correct, they offered to pay $20 million of what he was still owed in order to get better prospects for the A’s — it was also about trying to build a team in which the pieces fit better than they may look on paper.

And it’s not like the Marlins have done any real damage with their spending. None of the contracts they gave out last winter established a new market for players. Six years and $106 million for Reyes? Someone else would have gone that high had the Marlins not moved so quickly. Four years and $58 million for Buehrle? That’s the deal that looked the most out of line at the time, but then, he made $56 million over the previous four years. Three years and $27 million for Bell? Of course, it looks like a bust now, but he had the track record. Maybe no other team would have gone three years at that rate, but he would have received at least $18 million for two years elsewhere.

Honestly, I think the Marlins are going about things the right way now. Given his history of arm problems and his status as one of the top three free agent pitchers available this winter, Sanchez was going to be a very risky signing. And as great as Ramirez was a few years ago, I’m not convinced he ever would have turned it around in Miami.

But with those two gone, the Marlins are facing their toughest decision; whether to trade Josh Johnson. If they keep him, they’re not going to be in bad position going into 2013. A rotation that includes Johnson, Buehrle and the newly acquired Nathan Eovaldi, along with probably either Ricky Nolasco or Carlos Zambrano andwith two premium youngsters on the way in Jacob Turner and Jose Fernandez looks pretty good. One of the Marlins’ biggest issues this year is that neither Giancarlo Stanton nor Logan Morrison has ever been 100 percent. Stanton still has MVP potential, and Morrison could break through offensively and prove more useful defensively at first base. If they use their savings this week to bring in a premium outfielder and a quality third baseman, they could pose a threat in the NL East.

Or they could continue down this path and sell Johnson. As difficult as he’d be to replace in free agency, it’d make a run in 2013 far less likely. On the other hand, they’d have the chance to continue to add to a farm system that entered 2012 as one of the game’s weakest and maybe bolster their chances for 2014 and beyond. I like the idea of retaining Johnson; the NL East should be winnable next year and the Marlins need to try to keep people interested in coming to their new ballpark. Still, if the Rangers are willing to offer a Hanley replacement in Mike Olt and a quality pitching prospect, it might be hard to turn down.

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

Getty Images
2 Comments

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”

31 Comments

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.