Bill Simmons’ depressing take on “Bull Durham”

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Bill Simmons has tackled sports movies countless times since he’s been writing. And he often has interesting things to say about them. However, I continue to be baffled at his obsession with deciding whether movies are actually “sports movies” or if they’re something else. I mean, yes, it’s interesting to think about the topic — sometimes sports movies could be set elsewhere and tell the same story, sometimes not — but I’m not sure why he considers it such a fundamental, threshold consideration.

“Bull Durham” is his favorite target. He seems to like the movie (well, outside of Tim Robbins’ lack of athleticism, which drives him insane), but the genre of that film bothers him a whole heck of a lot. If you don’t believe me Google “Simmons” “Bull Durham” and “chick flick.” I bet he’s written about it a half dozen times. Maybe more.

None of which ever bothered me too much before — we all have our schticks and we all have dead horses we beat — but I was rather irked by the manner in which he tackled it in his most recent sports movie column this past Friday. Check this out, emphasis supplied by me:

Sure, this is an inventive movie that nailed so many minor league baseball nuances (the lingo, the rhythm, the fans, etc.) and wasn’t afraid to be candid and raunchy (a riskier move in 1988). But why does it really work? Because it caught Peak Costner and Peak Sarandon, two A-list stars at the top of their games. They’re great in the movie and they’re great together. You somehow never hold it against Sarandon that she’s a tramp who sleeps with one new player every season, or that she’s juggling Robbins and Costner and doing everything short of having a threesome with them. And you don’t mind that the last quarter of the movie degenerates into a flat-out love story worthy of the 10,275 times Lifetime has aired this thing.

I’m pretty used to sports bros denigrating or being uncomfortable with anything remotely related to romance, femininity or emotions, but now he’s reduced himself to slut-shaming. To marveling at how it took a near-Oscar-worthy performance for us to get over what he feels is the clear and rational response to a woman having somewhat non-traditional sexual values (i.e. to react so negatively that we would, naturally, hold it against her and consider her a whore). Somehow Sarandon’s character is a “tramp” whereas Nuke LaLoosh — who, like Annie has two on-screen sexual partners in the whole movie — isn’t a problem for him. Nor can I ever recall him talking about male promiscuity in a movie in a negative manner at all.

I have no idea why Simmons is so hung up on the parts of this movie he otherwise seems to enjoy, but it’s sad. It wore pretty immaturely on a single sports writer in his 20s. It wears far less on a sports writer who is in his mid-40s and is a father of a daughter.

Reds having Michael Lorenzen prepare as a two-way player

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For decades, a legitimate “two-way player” — a player who functions as both a pitcher and as a position player — was nothing but a fantasy. The skill sets required for both are too distinct and require too much prep work, it was thought. The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani shattered that illusion in 2018, posting a .925 OPS in 367 plate appearances as a hitter while posting a 3.31 ERA in 51 2/3 innings as a pitcher.

Since then, several more players have been considered in two-way roles. The Rangers signed Matt Davidson earlier this month and could potentially use him as a corner infielder as well as a reliever. Also earlier this month, James Loney signed with the independent Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters, who plan to use him as both a first baseman and as a pitcher.

You can add Michael Lorenzen of the Reds to that list. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports that the Reds will have Lorenzen prepare this spring as a two-way player. He could both start and relieve while occasionally playing in the outfield. Lorenzen, in fact, took batting practice with the outfielders on Thursday. Previously, he had taken batting practice as extra work following a workout with fellow pitchers.

Lorenzen said, “It’s fantastic, the effort they’re putting in. A lot of the excuses were, ‘You know, we don’t want to overwork him.’ Well, let’s just sit down and talk about it then. They were willing to sit down and talk about it, which is one of the reasons why I love this staff so much and why I think the front office did a great job [hiring] this staff. They’re willing to find solutions for problems.”

New manager David Bell said, “We’ve put together a plan for the whole spring, knowing we can adjust it at any time. We didn’t want to go into each day not knowing what he’s going to do. We all felt better, he did, too. He was part of putting it together.”

Lorenzen, 27, pitched 81 innings last year with a 3.11 ERA and a 54/34 K/BB ratio. He’s one of baseball’s best-hitting pitchers as well. Last year, he swatted four homers and knocked in 10 runs in 34 trips to the plate. The last pitcher to hit at least four homers in a season was the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, who did it in both 2014 (four) and 2015 (five). Lorenzen also posted a 1.043 OPS. According to Baseball Reference, there have been only 11 pitchers to OPS over 1.000 (min. 30 PA). The only ones to do it in the 2000’s are Lorenzen last year, Micah Owings in 2007 (1.033) and Dontrelle Willis in 2011 (1.032).