<span class="vcard">Craig Calcaterra</span>

IAWL

What baseball team did people from Bedford Falls root for?

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source:

It’s Christmas Eve and news has ground to a halt, of course. So I’ve just mixed myself a Manhattan and sat down in front of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” as I am wont to do on Christmas Eve.

I always have a lot of thoughts when I watch this movie. Things like “why didn’t I marry the 1946 version of Donna Reed?” and “how can George and Billy avoid jail for stealing Building and Loan funds simply because their friends covered the losses?” Obviously they didn’t break the law, but at the time it was presumed that they did, and you’re not absolved of embezzlement simply because you replaced the funds later.

Those are just passing thoughts, of course. I love this movie more than most movies. It’s probably a top-five for me, all-time. If for no other reason than the speech George gives Mr. Potter before the big board vote. Which, it’s worth noting, is more relevant today than it was for most of the 68 years since the movie came out. And because I dream of re-creating Pottersville someplace someday. Pottersville looked to be a lot more fun than Bedford Falls. After all, they serve hard drinks there for men who want to get drunk fast, and they don’t need any characters around to give the joint “atmosphere.” Is that clear, or do they have to slip you their left for a convincer?

But even though I have seen this movie at least 30 times — and that may be a conservative estimate — I still have new questions each time I see it. This year’s new one: what baseball team do people from Bedford Falls root for?

It’s generally assumed that Bedford Falls is modeled on Seneca Falls, New York (at least it’s assumed that by people in Seneca Falls). I have no idea who they root for there now — probably the Yankees — but it may have been different in 1946. They had a choice of three teams then: the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers.

Bedford Falls is generally described as a town stuck in the past. The forward-thinking George generally hates the place, and it’s probably safe to assume that the town’s heyday was in the early part of the 20th century. The Giants owned the first few decades of the 20th century more than the Yankees did, really. The adults in Bedford Falls were already grown up when the Yankees started to really kick butt. I’m going to guess it’s a Giants town, but if you have any other ideas, please share.

Anyway: Merry Christmas, ya wonderful old Building and Loan. And happy new year to you. IN JAIL!!! Go on home, they’re waiting for you!

The Braves and A.J. Pierzynski reach a one-year deal; first reported in a ham store

Ham
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The Braves have reached a one year agreement with catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who will likely serve as their backup catcher in 2015.

That’s not terribly surprising — Pierzynski has been a rumored Braves target for some time — but the manner in which the news broke today is all kinds of fun.

Mark Bowman of MLB.com was the first to confirm it. But he heard about it the same way I did. He heard it from Aaron Lunsford. Aaron is not a reporter. But his dad got the scoop:

In addition to me, Aaron also tweeted it at Bowman, David O’Brien and a bunch of other scoopsters. While I decided the best use of my time was to make jokes about ham rumors on Twitter, Bowman checked it out. In other news, I can confirm that the Gonzalez family will be eating ham on Christmas.

Pierzynski hit .251/.288/.337 in 102 games in Boston and St. Louis. He still has at least some cartilage left in his knees and owns a catcher’s mitt, however, which means that he is still employable as a backup catcher.

THE YEAR IN REVIEW: HBT’s most commented-upon stories of the year

megaphone
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It’s the holidays and year-end lists and summaries and things are becoming just as much a part of the holidays as peppermint, mistletoe and passive-aggressive interactions with your family who, despite the fact that you’ve been doing this for five years still asks you “what the plan is” or “what the endgame is” for your writing career. Or maybe that’s just my family. I don’t know.

The point is, over the next few days we’ll be doing some end-of-year type things. Looking back at the good, the bad, the ugly and, more than anything else, the things that are capable of being recapped in list form.

First up: the top 10 most commented-upon stories at HBT for the past year. The stuff that made you angry or excited or snarky or whatever. The stuff that made our comments section live up to the reputation of comments sections all over the Internet, sadly enough. Here they are:

 So, of our top 10 most commented-upon posts, one is about football, one is about commenters themselves, seven are about social/political things and one –one! — is about just baseball.

Man, I really wish you guys would stick to baseball.

 

The average major league salary is up to $3.8 million

Money Bag
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The best things in life are free. But you can keep them for the birds and bees:

Major League Baseball’s average salary shot up to more than $3.8-million (U.S.) this year following the steepest rise since 2001, putting big-leaguers on track to top the $4-million barrier for the first time in 2015.

The actual number is $3,818,923, up from $3,386,212 last year. That’s a 12.78-percent hike, which is the biggest increase since the one that occurred between 2000 to 2001.

Meanwhile, some minor leaguer is staying at his mom’s house today. Partially because it’s the holidays, but mostly because he doesn’t make enough money to pay rent anyplace.

The Yankees are treating Alex Rodriguez differently than they treated Derek Jeter. So what?

Jeter and A-Rod
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote yesterday about how the Yankees are treating Alex Rodriguez very differently than they treated Derek Jeter heading into last season.

He notes that both of them are showing a serious decline in skills, neither of them can really field a position and both of them are coming off a missed season. Yet, he observes, the Yankees started Jeter at shortstop 129 times and didn’t have any contingency plan for him not playing everyday, while they are doing everything they can to minimize A-Rod’s playing time. This year, the Yankees are acting like winning is the only thing that matters. Last year, if they were truly wanting to win ballgames more than anything else, they would’ve severely limited Jeter’s playing time.

Which, yeah. So what?

Look, I’m about the biggest A-Rod apologist/Derek Jeter eye-roller around, but even I see no problem whatsoever with the Yankees taking different approaches to their situations. Sherman acknowledges that they’re different players and that one has earned special treatment while the other clearly has not, but his premise is clearly that the Yankees’ mission is, unwaveringly, to win at all costs, and that the way they treated Jeter showed that they somehow failed to carry out that mission in 2014.

I’d take issue that “winning at all costs” either should be or actually is the Yankees’ mission. If they were being honest the Yankees would also acknowledge that “winning at all costs” is not their mission either. Sure, the marketing arm of the Yankees and George Steinbrenner’s outsized persona has sold that line over the past 20 years or so, probably better than any other team has. But the Yankees aren’t idiots. They’re run by savvy business people who realize that, sometimes, you don’t make a move that may be the winning move if it alienates fans.

Perhaps there are only a small number of moves that they would forego, but they exist. Moves like, say, benching a Mt. Rushmore figure in Yankees history when — if they’re being honest and, internally, I’m sure they were — they realized that the team is not extraordinarily well-positioned to win the World Series anyway. In light of that, playing Jeter everyday wasn’t the winning baseball move, but not too much was sacrificed. And the amount of goodwill that fostered with fans, all of whom can say that they saw Jeter’s final season, final game, final hit and so on — and when they can count the ticket and merch sales that resulted from all of that — more than makes up for the extra handful of wins they might’ve had if they had, I dunno, signed Jhonny Peralta. They were four back of a wild card. Maybe a better shortstop gets them to a crapshoot play-in game, but is it really worth all of the sturm und drang benching Jeter would’ve caused for that meager reward?

Sometimes sports aren’t just about winning. Even when the Yankees are involved. Anyone who has a problem with that needs to gain a bit of perspective.