What happens when movies and TV shows shoehorn baseball into the plot? GIFs.
Movies about baseball don’t do a very good job showing what baseball players look like. With some exceptions, the pitchers usually have slow windups and lollipop fastballs, the batters swing like they’re chopping wood, and the defenders are filmed in short segments that disguise their lack of agility. But those guys are all Royce-Clayton-in-Moneyball good compared to the baseball players in movies and TV shows that aren’t about baseball.
This came up recently when a reader named Tom sent me a YouTube clip from the movie Hook, in which Bob Hoskins throws a pitch and the kid who played the nerd in Can’t Hardly Wait swings and misses. “I stumbled upon it tonight, and was floored that Spielberg would allow that,” Tom told me. But of course Spielberg would allow it, because Hook is not a baseball movie. There are no baseball consultants hired. Everybody just phones it in.
Bernie Williams burned it up with the Yankees during his career, but did the Puerto Rican do enough to blaze a trail to the Hall?
Before Derek Jeter, there was Bernie Williams. As the Yankees emerged from a barren stretch of 13 seasons without a trip to the playoffs from 1982-1994, and a particularly abysmal stretch of four straight losing seasons from 1989-1992, their young switch-hitting center fielder stood as a symbol for the franchise's resurgence. For too long, the Yankees had drafted poorly, traded away what homegrown talent they produced for veterans, and signed pricey free agents to fill the gaps as part of George Steinbrenner's eternal win-now directive. But with Steinbrennerbanned by commissioner Fay Vincent and the Yankees' day-to-day baseball operations in the hands of Gene Michael, promising youngsters were allowed to develop unimpeded.
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Preparing for the dog days of summer by checking up on some of the hottest young players.
Jeff Bianchi, SS, Royals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas)
You really can't get hotter than this, folks. After resurrecting his prospect status by hitting .300/.360/.427 at High-A Wilmington this spring, Bianchi has been absolutely torrid since his promotion to the Texas League, going 8-for-10 over the weekend, including a 5-for-5 effort on Saturday. His averages now sit at .556/.600/.778 in his first nine Double-A games, as he's gone 20-for-36 with five doubles and a home run. One scout who has been watching Bianchi play for years sees a much better approach, saying, "He used to be a guy who just went up there hacking-almost jumpy-but he has a much better plate presence now, he's slowing the game down, and is far more comfortable deep in the count."
Jeff Allison, RHP, Marlins (High-A Jupiter) Wednesday's stats: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K
. . . Then you gotta root for this guy, but for some reason, he's still on the wrong end of many jokes. The best high school arm 2003 draft, Allison take a self-destructive route similar to Hamilton', falling out of baseball and into addiction, mostly to heroin and it's more man-made version, OxyContin. He doesn't throw in the upper 90s anymore, but the 24-year-old still has plus velocity and a solid breaking ball, with last night's outing being arguably the best of his career, which unfortunately consists of just 50 games in the six years since he signed. Nobody would have said it a year ago, but he might have a chance to get to the big leagues as a reliever.
A guy both stat-heads and scouts can love
James Darnell, 3B, Padres (Low-A Fort Wayne) Wednesday's stats: 3-for-3, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB
To many, Darnell seemed like a first-round talent in last year's draft, and he's already making many scratch their heads wondering how he fell to the 69th overall pick. He's a very good athlete with power, average speed, solid defensive tools and crazy-good makeup, but he also performs. After bashing in the Northwest League during his pro debut, Darnell is picking up where he left off, the .296 batting average might not blow you away, but the .480 on-base percentage and .611 slugging should, as 10 of his 16 hits have gone for extra bases while he's drawn a ridiculous 20 walks in just 54 at-bats.
Since it's the Yankees, let's play six degrees of Casey Stengel. First test: Casey Stengel to "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson. Casey Stengel went to high school with William Powell. William Powell co-starred with Clark Gable in "Manhattan Melodrama," 1934. Gable headlined "Gone with the Wind" with Vivien Leigh. Leigh was married to Sir Laurence Olivier, who was in "War Requiem" with Sean Bean. Bean was "Boromir" in Jackson's trilogy.
Idling at the worst moment. With the Red Sox and Yankees on a collision course, the Angels needed to stay close so as to pick up the pieces. Instead they split six with the Blue Jays and the White Sox, two teams that have been cooked for so long they're dryer than my aunt's Thanksgiving turkey, which knowing my aunt is probably hitting the oven right about now. But for Aaron Sele the pitching staff did a good job--all the losses were close. It was the offense that slowed down a bit this week, with Darin Erstad showing what happens when he fails to hit .350. The cool thing about power hitters is that when they get on a little hot streak and hit .350 for a week, they can channel seven days of Barry Bonds even if they're not Barry Bonds. Then, when they go into a slump, they channel some Rob Deer, perhaps batting .220 but sending two or three home runs out of the park and taking some walks. That's still useful, even if it's not ideal. If you're Darin Erstad and you slump, you lack the peripherals to turn into anyone but Rey Ordonez. Even good managers have their blind spots; Erstad is Mike Scioscia's. On the good side of the manager's ledger, Chone Figgins, entirely a Scioscia invention, posted a 1.213 OPS. GRADE: C