“Bull Durham” is good because of (a) sex; and (b) the lack of “one big game”

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Bull Durham was released 25 years ago last week and there have been many retrospectives about it in the sporting and cinematic press recently. I know people’s mileage varies on this sort of thing, but I tend to agree with most of the assessments of the movie as the best baseball movie ever.

Ron Shelton, the film’s writer and director, gave this quote to The Atlantic and it’s probably the reason I like it the most:

“The fault I found with most baseball movies, with most sports movies, is that they were invariably about ‘The Big Game.’ Any professional athlete can tell you that he was never about winning The Big Game. There was always another game to play. Essentially, I tried to add two new ingredients to the baseball film: sex and the idea that life didn’t simply build up to one big game.”

Which is why I like baseball as a sport. Way fewer “big games” than there are in other sports. Which isn’t to say I don’t like big games when then happen. It’s mostly about not liking how we’re supposed to feel about that big game and how people write about that big game and how life is supposed to be put on hold for that big game. That mindset is the total opposite of why I like baseball. It’s a diversion and a stress-reducer for me. Always has been. Why spend so much time and effort crowding out the important things in your life and creating stress when it doesn’t have to be there? Sex is more important than baseball. Ten random baseball games are better than one important one.

“Bull Durham” is one of the few baseball movies which actually matches the tone of baseball as I choose to understand it and consume it: one in which baseball provides a nice backdrop to real life. Even other baseball movies I love like “Major League” have that all wrong. In terms of tone, “Major League” is a football movie, what with its band-of-misfits and one big game climax. It’s great because it’s hilarious, not because it captures something truthful and valuable about baseball.

Diamondbacks, T.J. McFarland avoid arbitration

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Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the Diamondbacks and reliever T.J. McFarland have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $1.45 million salary for the 2019 season. McFarland, in his third of four years of arbitration eligibility, filed for $1.675 million while the Diamondbacks countered at $1.275 million. McFarland ended up settling for just under the midpoint of those two figures.

McFarland, 29, was terrific out of the bullpen for the D-Backs last season, finishing with a 2.00 ERA and a 42/22 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. While the lefty may not miss a lot of bats, he does induce quite a few grounders. His 67.9 percent ground ball rate last season was the third highest among relievers with at least 50 innings, trailing only Brad Ziegler (71.1%) and Scott Alexander (70.6%).

McFarland was dominant against left-handed hitters, limiting them to a .388 OPS last season, but the D-Backs deployed him nearly twice as often against right-handed hitters, who posted an aggregate .764 OPS against him. It will be interesting to see if the club decides to use him more as a platoon reliever in 2019.