And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Brewers 8, Braves 2; Phillies 3, Marlins 1; Padres 3, Cardinals 2: Um, yeah, this keeps happening. The Cardinals, beneficiaries of an epic collapse by the Braves last year are themselves collapsing. And Philly and Milwaukee look like they’ll never lose again.  Just insanity in the NL wild card race these days. It’s kinda great. Well, unless you’re a Cardinals fan. And really, the Braves shouldn’t be too smug in the first wild card slot either. The way they’ve been scuffling offensively lately, they look primed to be bounced in a one game playoff.

Orioles 3, Rays 2: Walkoff hit from Nate McLouth that was technically a single, and a pretty kickass play from Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy. Smell that? Smells like … destiny.

Yankees 5, Red Sox 4: The Yankees hold on, however, despite almost blowing a 5-1 lead and despite losing Derek Jeter to a bone bruise in his ankle. If it’s any consolation, the Orioles seem to keep getting better after injuries to key players, so maybe the Yankees will eventually too. Um, OK, maybe not. Trying to look on the bright side of things here people.

Tigers 8, White Sox 6: Detroit had an 8-1 lead in the eighth and almost woofed it away, but they held on. A Prince Fielder three-run homer gave them some breathing room early. The Tigers are now only one game back of the Chisox.

Nationals 2, Mets 0: See, I TOLD you it would be disaster for the Nats to sit Strasburg! See what happened?! John Lannan goes out there filling in for Strasburg and … um, what?  Five and two-thirds shutout innings?  Um, OK, as you were.  (But seriously; call me when it’s not the Mets).

Rangers 5, Indians 2: Homers from Beltre and Hamilton! Injuries to Beltre and Hamilton! Ambivalence and creeping dread among the Rangers fan base!

Reds 2, Pirates 1: Pittsburgh is still a half game up on the surging Phillies and Brewers and a mere two and a half behind St. Louis, but I wouldn’t give a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys for their playoff chances. Would you?

Mariners 3, Blue Jays 2: Miguel Olivo hit a home run, Kevin Millwood won his second straight start and Rickey Romero loses his 13th straight decision. It’s like it was Improbability Night at Rogers Centre.

Cubs 5, Astros 1: A scary moment for Mickey Storey, as a comebacker got him in the face. Initial reports are that the injuries are minor, but as we’ve learned this past week, initial reports should not be taken at face value when it comes to people being hit in the head with baseballs.

Royals 10, Twins 5: Country Breakfast drove in three and Salvador Perez smacked a homer.

Athletics 4, Angels 1: After getting swept by the Angels last week, after facing a seven game road trip against the frisky Mariners and the these same Angels and after losing one of their pitchers to a freaking skull fracture, everyone expected the A’s fairytale season to end. Nope. The A’s keep rolling, winning their sixth in a row.  Their schedule ahead remains brutal — they finish the season with one more against the Angels in this series today and then face the Orioles, Tigers, Yankees, Rangers, Mariners and then the Rangers once again — but man this has been astounding to see.

Giants 8, Rockies 3: Tim Lincecum provided a workmanlike six innnings, allowing three runs, which for 2012 Tim Lincecum is pretty darn good. Three hits for Marco Scutaro, who has turned out to be a fantastic pickup for the Giants. Their lead in the west is now seven.

Diamondbacks 3, Dodgers 2: Like Pittsburgh, they’re in it if you look at the standings, but they’re not in it if you look into your heart. They’ve lost six of seven and remain only a game out of the wild card, but really, where is the sunshine here? What about their play lately gives anyone any confidence that they can turn this around? Serious question.

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.