The Tigers are rusty? The Giants have momentum? Well, fine, I guess we have to go with that

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SAN FRANCISCO — The crowd at AT&T Park cheered a 5-4 putout in the first inning of last night’s Game 1 as though it were a walkoff home run in Game 7. This is not a criticism. It is merely an observation. They were hyped from the get-go — I think it started with the Blue Angels flyover following the National Anthem — and had every reason to remain hyped throughout.

So hyped, I assume, that they wouldn’t want to think too hard about the fact that the Giants won Game 1 in the 2002 World Series too, and that their playoff series wins so far this year all began with Game 1 losses. Put a less annoying way: it is still only one game and anything can happen in a seven game series, even if it did feel like the beginning of a trouncing.

I’ve mocked narratives pretty constantly lately, but two of them which were widely adopted before last night’s game started have fresh currency today: (1) the Tigers were going to be rusty; and (2) the Giants had momentum. They may not have a basis in reality, of course — Justin Verlander’s velocity and lack of command of his fastball was such that fatigue, rather than rust may be the bigger problem and, if anything, the Giants habit of losing the early games of the series and then roaring back is anti-momentum — but I doubt that will change the overall story. The Tigers layoff and big San Francisco MO are likely going to be all the rage today.

A few things we certainly can take away from Game 1 (apart from Pablo Sandoval’s history-making performance anyway):

  • The Tigers looked lost against slow junk like Zito was flinging. The Giants shouldn’t give them fastballs all week;
  • That little weird double that kicked off the third inning rally — the one that ricocheted off the third base bag — is the second weirdo vodoo hit the Giants have had in the past two games. If they get something like that or the Hunter Pence broken bat dipsy-doodle in Game 2, they are officially charmed and wicked in some strange way;
  • It may have been overlooked because the game was already out of hand, but the Tigers bullpen is still a hot mess and based on how he looked in mopup duty last night Jose Valverde should not be given the ball again. Not even once. Even in a blowout he’s so unreliable that Leyland has to use other relievers just to bail him out. He should be done.
  • It’s random, but someone needs to talk to Delmon Young about where he’s playing left field. I watched the game from way up high in the auxiliary press box in left, and I could not see Young, he was so close to the wall.  Given how bad his arm is, anything hit out that way to him should be an instant double. Not sure what that was all about.

That’s all I have as far as in-game action goes (I’ll have more on-the-scene observations a bit later this morning). The Tigers have to shake this one off. It’s still just one game. If people still want to credit momentum, fine, but the idea of momentum being your next day’s starting pitcher has been around a lot longer than the current momentum story. So it’s up to Doug Fister to re-set the storylines.

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

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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”

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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.