Deep Thoughts: Playoff commercials edition

106 Comments

Because I DVR almost everything I watch on TV and 90% of my regular season baseball watching occurs on MLB.tv, the only time I ever really watch commercials is during the playoffs.  And, as anyone who has watched a lot of playoff commercials this fall knows, a handful of them are on HEAVY rotation.

This is pretty pointless — and yes, I realize that I’m half-talking out of my butt here as I don’t know jack about advertising beyond whatever I picked up while watching “Mad Men” — but here are some random postseason commercial observations:

The DirectTV ads may be the most nihilistic and depressing things ever.  The ones in the “don’t wind up in a roadside ditch” campaign are bad enough: they are basically telling you that any attempt to do anything besides watch TV will lead to bodily injury. But at least they core point of that — become a slave to your TV! — is in keeping with their corporate interests.  They’re a TV company, so of course they want you watching, so I cut that a little slack.

But the new spot is something else. You know which one I’m talking about: the woman who gets out of the shower to see the big DVR message in her bathroom, only to have her tooth-brushing husband offer all kinds of acidic and crappy remarks back at her (“well, at least somebody gets to …”):

source:

At least the guy who ends up injured in a roadside ditch will find some modicum of safe, depressing contentment if he gets rid of cable. The tooth-brushing guy, however, is gonna be a miserable, passive aggressive sonofabitch even if his family does switch over to DirectTV.  The worst part: the newest ad has him talking to his kid. Great, not only is he in a bitter and loveless marriage, but there are kids involved. Thanks DirectTV! Where can I go kill myself?

In a more subtle form of anti-marketing, the Taco Bell Cantina bowl commercials perplex me a bit.  I get what they’re doing — expanding their menu and going after Chipotle and the like — but it strikes me that there is no brand stronger in fast food than Taco Bell’s “come here and eat cheap tasty stuff that may not be good for you but by god it’s gonna make you happy” brand.  When I see a chef in an impossibly well-appointed kitchen, poring over fresh ingredients and telling me that “you won’t BELIEVE it’s Taco Bell!” I feel like they are abandoning their core stoner/blogger/Taco Bell-loving demographic.  And I’m not alone in this:

Consider it an opportunity lost.

I do like one thing about those Taco Bell ads: the way Lorena Garcia says “avocados” and “guacamole.” Not gonna lie: I look forward to that.  But one effect it does have is to put the actual avocado commercials — “that’s BUSH LEAGUE, BRO!” — into sharp, horrible relief. They’ve been around forever, and they’re beyond tired. The ballplayer in them is probably retired and nearly eligible for the Hall of Fame now. All I can think is that the avocado industry is so hard up right now that they can only film new commercials every five years and that, by rerunning them all the time, they’re banking on us becoming so sick of that ad that we feel compelled to buy more guacamole simply so that they get more money to produce new ones.

Hey handsome:

source:

I have no idea what to think about these ads. I am not a rum drinker at all and can’t see how I ever will be, but I kinda like them. And that “You Rascal You” song from the one they play most of the time is actually pretty bitchin’.  Easily the best “stumble upon a song you didn’t really know about and then end up liking on its own terms” commercial since that Volkswagon ad that featured Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” back in 1999.

Still, I feel like the woman who the Captain takes out of that party is a bit fickle.  She is understandably creeped out by the old guy in the powdered wig with whom she’s dancing, but is this guy any less creepy?

source:

I dunno. I’m more for quiet gatherings in the first place, so maybe I’m taking it too easy on the dude from the dance.

Anyway, that’s all I got for now. Tune in next year when we celebrate the ten year anniversary of “HER HIS FATHER IS THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY!”  Hoping they bring that one back.

UPDATE:  Forgot one!  The Samsung Galaxy III commercial that makes fun of the people on line at the Apple store.  The one I like the most is the “the headphone jack is going to be on the BOTTOM …[speshhhew!!]” guy.  I don’t know why I like him. I like to imagine that he’s going to become like Henry “Are we have fun yet??!!!” Pollard on “Party Down.”

As for the campaign itself: good luck, Samsung. It reminds me — and this will date me a bit — of the IBM OS2 Warp operating system commercials from 1995.  They were kind of funny and clever and took aim at Microsoft and its slightly delayed introduction of Windows 95.  Those commercials will always live in my memory, but if you can find one person who was really using OS2 Warp after Windows 95 came out you were a better man than I.

Report: Rangers agree to six-year extension with Rougned Odor

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Rangers have reportedly agreed to a six-year, $49.5 million extension for second baseman Rougned Odor, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports and Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The extension comes with a club option for a seventh year, Heyman adds.

It’s close to the six-year, $52.5 million extension Jason Kipnis netted with the Indians in 2014, a sum Odor was rumored to be seeking during contract negotiations over the last two years. Granted, the circumstances are a little different this time around. Both players signed extensions on the cusp of their fourth year in the major leagues, but at 27 years old, Kipnis was coming off of an All-Star campaign and a career-high 4.5 fWAR performance. Odor, meanwhile, saw mixed results in 2016, batting 33 home runs and putting up 2.0 fWAR while struggling to stay consistent at the plate and exhibiting poor defense.

According to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan, Odor previously agreed to a $563,180 salary for 2017. Depending on when the extension kicks in, it should cover all three of Odor’s arbitration-eligible seasons and two seasons of potential free agency. The team has yet to confirm the extension.

2017 Preview: Minnesota Twins

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Minnesota Twins.

Which iteration of the Twins will we get in 2017? The second-place contenders of 2015, blazing their way through the standings with 83 wins and a handful of hot prospects? The burnouts of 2016, flopping to the bottom of the division with 103 losses and a lineup held in place by Brian Dozier and, well, Brian Dozier? Or something in between?

Finishing dead last has its perks, namely a first-round draft pick and the feeling that things can’t be quite as bad as they were the year before. Unfortunately for the Twins, the only major preparation they made for the 2017 season came in the form of a front office shakeup. Derek Falvey assumed control of the club in October, bringing GM Thad Levine into the fold in November as the club assumed a more analytics-friendly approach toward the rebuilding movement.

When it came to roster revisions, however, there wasn’t much moving or shaking this winter. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe, catcher Kurt Suzuki and left-handers Tommy Milone and Pat Dean vacated their spots on the roster. Falvey avoided some of the bigger bats and bullpen arms in free agency and opted to sign backstop Jason Castro and journeyman reliever Ryan Vogelsong instead.

By and large, the core of the Twins’ roster remained the same. Center fielder Byron Buxton, infielder/outfielder Michael Sano and right-hander Jose Berrios still form the nucleus of the club’s top prospects. Middle infielder Brian Dozier will also return in 2017, though he appears to be on borrowed time with the Twins after putting up monster numbers in the second half of 2016. Ervin Santana will head the rotation again, accompanied by fellow veterans Hector Santiago, Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes, while right-handed relievers Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Pressly and Matt Belisle and rehabbing lefty Glen Perkins attempt to prevent another bullpen collapse in 2017.

Without any major additions to the team (and, excepting the departure of Trevor Plouffe, any major subtractions), the Twins will look to their existing cadre of players for significant improvements in 2017. Miguel Sano is expected to take over third base in Plouffe’s absence, which will bring a welcome end to his short-lived and wholly unsuccessful experiment in right field. Brian Dozier, Jorge Polanco and Joe Mauer should round out the infield, with Byung Ho Park and Kennys Vargas currently vying for a spot as the team’s designated hitter.

The lineup is still four or five or six sluggers shy of formidable, but if Dozier can be counted on to repeat his 42-homer, 5.9 fWAR performance from 2016, there will be at least one Twin worth intentionally walking in 2017. Neither Miguel Sano nor Byron Buxton have quite found their footing against big league pitching yet, and another year spent struggling in the majors could mean another year of sub-optimal run production for the team as well. Jason Castro, who grades as an above-average defender behind the plate, is unlikely to provide any additional pop for the Twins at the plate after slashing just .210/.307/.377 through 376 PA with the Astros in 2016.

The pitching department also leaves a little to be desired in light of the league-worst 5.09 ERA they amassed last season. A veteran-heavy rotation could get a boost from the addition of fifth-starter candidate Jose Berrios, who is thought to be the favorite after fellow rotation candidate Trevor May underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this week. Right-hander Tyler Duffey and 23-year-old southpaw Adalberto Mejia are also waiting in the wings. Both have made convincing cases for their inclusion on the pitching staff this spring, but Duffey is coming off of a 6.43 ERA in 2016 and Mejia lacks some of the polish that Berrios offers. Still, stockpiling young pitching depth isn’t a bad thing, and could give the Twins a cushion in the event of injury or collapse down the stretch.

The bullpen outperformed the rotation in 2016, which is saying… something, though maybe not a lot. They still finished the year with a cumulative 4.63 ERA, good for last place among their American League rivals, and delivered just 2.1 fWAR while taking on the fourth-most innings in the league. The standout performer was 28-year-old righty Ryan Pressly, who worked a 3.70 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 in 75 1/3 innings last year. In light of Ryan Vogelsong’s recent departure from the club, the Twins will round out their bullpen with left-hander Craig Breslow, who turned in a 4.50 ERA with the Marlins in 2016 and is looking for a bounce-back season of his own after reworking his delivery at age 36.

For now, it looks like Falvey and the Twins’ front office are taking a wait-and-see approach to the coming season, which bodes well for their long-term vision (assuming most of their young prospects pan out) and not so well for their chances of moving up in the division in the next year or so. That could change by the trade deadline if they can secure a worthwhile return for Dozier, though given the rumors of their understandably high asking price, it could take more than a few months to get a deal in place.

Even assuming that all the chips fall in the Twins’ favor in 2017 — prospects start hitting consistently, the rotation solidifies, and Falvey loosens the purse strings enough to net more established contenders — it’s difficult to imagine anything more than a fourth-place finish for the club as they continue to rebuild and regroup. Barring any major improvements on the inconsistent, if occasionally productive, lineup of 2016, another last-place finish feels imminent.

Prediction: Fifth place, AL Central.