And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights

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It was shutout Tuesday, apparently. Let’s tally the goose eggs:

Yankees 3, Rangers 0: Hiroki Kuroda with the two-hit shutout. He was masterful, but man, there were a lot of ill-advised Texas swings in the parts of this one I watched. Either Kuroda had them more fooled than someone on the foolingest day of his life if he had an electrified fooling machine, or else the Rangers were just hacking for the hell of it.

Dodgers 11, Pirates 0: L.A. is on fire. Chad Billingsley with eight shutout innings and an 11 run, 13 hit attack by L.A., all without the benefit of a homer. Five of six down for Pittsburgh. Pirates fans: panicking yet?

Braves 6, Padres 0: Tim Hudson shut out the Padres for six and a third and the pen took it the rest of the way. A Martin Prado three-run homer in the seventh put the game out of reach.

Phillies 1, Marlins 0: A first inning mistake to Jimmy Rollins was all that marred Josh Johnson’s night, but that’s all that was needed because Kyle Kendrick, Josh Lindblom and Jonathan Papelbon combined to shut out the Marlins. Philly has won four of five.

Reds 3, Mets 0: Tough luck for the Mets as they tried to join the shutout party, shutting out the Reds until Jay Bruce hit a three-run homer to win it in the bottom of the ninth.The Reds did join the party though. In fact, they were so unimpressed with the Mets bats in this one that they left Aroldis Chapman on the bench so as not to totally humiliate everyone. Mat Latos carried the laboring oar here for the Reds.

Royals 5, Athletics 0: Jeremy Guthrie, Tim Collins and Greg Holland do the honors here. Notice the sameness to these recaps? Shutouts are awesome if you’re rooting for the team doing the shutting out. They’re kind of boring for the rest of us, though.

Cardinals 8, Diamondbacks 2: The Dbacks, just when they looked to be making a move in the West, have dropped four of six. Homers from Matt Holliday and Jon Jay.

Orioles 7, Red Sox 1: Two homers for Mark Reynolds. Another disaster of a start for Josh Beckett. I wonder if anyone is texting the front office to tell them that they won’t play with him anymore.

Astros 10, Cubs 1: Man, a Darwin Barney fielder’s choice deprived us of another shutout. Lucas Harrell was still pretty spiffy, though (8 IP, 6 H, 1 ER).  And he was staked to a lead even the Astros bullpen couldn’t blow.

Tigers 8, Twins 4: Doug Fister has been really strong of late. He’s won 3 of 4 and has helped stop the bleeding after bad Anibal Sanchez outings. He did it again here, going eight innings in which he allowed four runs, though none of them were earned. Miguel Cabrera becomes the first member of the 100 RBI club this year.

Rockies 8, Brewers 6: A 14-run, 28 hit game that took just over three hours. Not bad, actually, given all that carnage. A 4 for 4 night for Carlos Gonzalez, who I have decided is the most invisible superstar in baseball. There, I just called it.

White Sox 3, Blue Jays 2: After the game Robin Ventura said “It was good for us, a big win.”  I wish once a manager would say something like “Eh, we won. Whatever. No big deal. It’s not like it mattered or anything.”

Giants 6, Nationals 1: Like I said yesterday, “statements” in baseball last one day sometimes. Madison Bumgarner restores order with a five-hitter. Brandon Belt with two RBI singles and an RBI double.

Mariners 3, Rays 2: Facing a golden sombrero and down 0-2 to Fernando Rodney, Eric Thames avoided his fourth strikeout of the game in the ninth and, instead, hit a walkoff RBI single. This is fun:

“Casper (Wells) said to me in the seventh inning, ‘Hey, in the ninth, you’ll be the hero, don’t worry about it,'” Thames said. “It’s crazy how this game works.”

Hurm. And I was told you can’t predict baseball.

Angels 9, Indians 6: Zack Greinke wasn’t fantastic or anything, allowing four runs over seven innings, but he got his first win as an Angel. Thanks in part to Ubaldo Jimenez, who was much farther from fantastic. Albert Pujols doubled and homered and drove in four.

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.