Tag: Sports Movies

Zach Baron, Political Pontification and One Misguided Eastwood Analysis

What happens when you take a staunch liberal who writes a movie review starring a staunch conservative?

You not only get a critical (and predictable) piece that not only declares the career of a Hollywood icon is now dead, but a pious lecture on what Americans really want and what they reject.

Zach Baron, former editor of the Village Voice in New York City (a publication more leftist than your average MSNBC program), is now the “Cinematrician” of ESPN’s otherwise-perfect Grantland, created by the immortal Bill Simmons.

Grantland is a sports site, but not the tedious X’s and O’s of it. It’s more geared toward point spreads and predictions, wall-to-wall fantasy analysis (that’s a good thing) and a healthy mix of pop culture (since it’s impossible to talk about one and not the other).

That’s what Grantland offers, and nobody (including ESPN.com) should be mentioned in the same sentence. Years from now, dozens of other publications will try to emulate the formula, much like many others tried to copy SportsCenter.  

So unlike many Simmons haters out there (led by Deadspin), please know this: Grantland is obviously my favorite site, and Simmons is my favorite writer of all time.

But this week, Grantland decided to get political. And given Simmons’ hints regarding his democrat party leanings and Baron’s obvious bias, the hit pieces on Eastwood and his upcoming film (Trouble with the Curve) were more telegraphed than the average Mark Sanchez fourth-quarter throw.   

The first piece includes an analysis on Eastwood in the opening paragraph that prompted no further inspection of the rest of the column, when the Grantland staff (the byline) collectively decided that Eastwood’s speech/performance at the Republican Convention was “a critical failure.”

If you watch Rachel Maddow or (insert CNN program here), it was. But progressives ranging from Bill Maher to John Stewart loved it, thought it was original, enjoyed its unscripted nature and declared it awesome. Obviously, most Republicans thought it was cool, too.

Baron would have none of that, however. In his pseudo-review of Eastwood’s new movie, he declared the 82-year-old actor is, “Almost certainly now more interesting off the screen than on it,” and is certainly “in decline.”

Hey Zach, care to mention any big-screen actors or directors over the age of 80 that are ascending in Hollywood today?

Since Eastwood’s 74th birthday, he’s starred in and directed Million Dollar Baby (won Best Picture), Gran Torino ($270 million at the box office on a $33 million budget) and Invictus ($122 million box office, 87 percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes).  

But from Baron’s perspective, here’s where Eastwood is in his life and career today:

Talking to a chair on national television and appearing in the wobbly Trouble With the Curve—the very first scene of which depicts Eastwood’s Gus lecturing his own prostate in graphic, pleading detail—within the span of just four weeks will do Eastwood’s sterling reputation no favors.

Right. Trouble with the Curve (a movie with more positive reviews than negative) and a six-minute speech that was more liked than disliked will be to Eastwood what Buster Douglas and Evander Holyfield were to Mike Tyson.

Speaking of crazy, Baron also went off on a bizarre tangent regarding the heroism of Carmelo Anthony (huh?) and why more athletes should be openly discussing gay marriage (because that’s what my buddies and I discuss every Sunday at our sports bar when setting up our fantasy lineups). Baron’s contention is that simple stories simply don’t cut it anymore with audiences (has he seen Paul Giamatti in Win-Win?). To Baron, an offering that features Carmelo Anthony (the same hero who owns one playoff victory with the Knicks in nine playoff games) or one that explores the sexual preferences of athletes today are what the public is yearning for today. 

Another interesting aspect of his review:

Baron mentions an important name involved with the movie only once: Amy Adams.

She just happens to be Eastwood’s co-star and has largely received critical acclaim for her performance (as she did in Mark Walberg’s The Fighter).

But why let an important character get in the way of Baron’s true objective of the column?

The author concludes that “Eastwood may well be making movies about America, but they’re not exactly about this America, the 2012 one that we live in.”

Here’s what he’s saying: Doing a simple, delightful movie like Curve (the story of an aging scout for the Atlanta Braves trying to hold on to his job while attempting to rekindle a bond with his workaholic daughter) just isn’t cool enough for today’s America anymore. Baron claims it’s the kind of vacant offering only a “sea of angry conservatives” can appreciate.

It’s for the out-of-touch Republican party…all those living-in-the-red-states folks who are backward enough to vote for Mitt Romney…or see a Clint Eastwood movie made in 2012.  

But Baron’s America, a bubble, actually…is confined to the world he covered at the Village Voice in Manhattan. A world where dorky Republicans like me (the guy who owns two fantasy teams, loved Game of Thrones and Entourage, ran co-ed Jersey Shore beach houses and lives in the bar capital of the country, Hoboken) are old, evil, bitter and simply not cool.

So before deciding if Eastwood is irrelevant, remember who the messenger is.

I’m Joe Concha and I approve this message.


For questions or comments regarding this story, write Joe Concha@yahoo.com or use the friendly message board below.

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Moneyball: Brad Pitt Is Perfect Representation of Billy Beane

Moneyball star actor Brad Pitt does a fantastic job representing Oakland Athletics Billy Beane in both the personal and professional aspects of his life.

Beane is a man obsessed with living up to his predictions, and using statistics and mathematical formulas to determine which players can be successes in Major League Baseball.

Pitt plays this role perfectly, and really gives us a sense of how difficult Beane’s life was as he rose to prominence among the ranks of baseball’s great minds.

Beane’s struggles as a general manager, father, and husband are well played throughout, and the film is as much about losing and dealing with that disappointment than it is about baseball.

Despite the 2002 Oakland Athletics not winning the World Series, and Beane not taking the Boston Red Sox job, one that would have been easier to do than in Oakland, Beane handles the failures with great strength, which Pitt displays beautifully.

Most of us know the story already, but the emotional impact and hardship behind the obvious is the reason to see the movie, and each part is done to perfection.

Pitt shows the struggles of Beane to create a winner with the Athletics, and trying to convince himself, his organization, and his friends that his way is a winning way.

In a movie that accurately portrays Beane as someone who couldn’t make it in the big leagues, that even has an even deeper meaning seen throughout the film.

Via SI.com:

“One of the things I think the story accurately portrays,” Pitt went on, “is how imperfectly we understand ourselves. We are so full of contradictions. Our weaknesses are our strengths and our strength are our weaknesses, and those things are constantly in flux.”

Moneyball is a fantastic film that pays great attention to the small details of Beane and his story, and in the process creates an emotional and exciting film.

Nicholas Goss is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. .

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Moneyball and the 25 Best Baseball Movies of All Time

Moneyball isn’t set to hit theaters until later this year, but it’s already creating quite a stir on the web.

I’ve recently read everything from Brad Pitt not being a good fit as Billy Beane to people anointing the flick as the greatest baseball movie ever made—and it hasn’t even been seen yet!

While the buzz surrounding Moneyball is well-deserved—and it will surely land somewhere on this list after its release—I think it’s safe to say it won’t dethrone some of the all-time classics atop of the baseball-movie list.

In celebration of Americas Pastime, along with all the great quips and immortalized characters we have enjoyed over the years, here are the 25 Greatest Baseball Movies of All Time. 

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Charlie Sheen Will Always Be “Wild Thing” Rick Vaughn

A former Las Vegas showgirl inherited the Cleveland Indians from her deceased husband and wanted to move the team to the warm climate of Miami, sound familiar LeBron James?

In order to accomplish the removal of the Indians she needed to reduce attendance at Municipal Stadium below a total of 80,000 ticket sales which would trigger an escape clause in the team’s lease with the city of Cleveland.

She instructed her general manager Charlie Donovan to hire the worst team possible from a list she had already prepared.

The list included veteran catcher Jake Taylor, who has problems with his knees and was last playing in Mexico, incarcerated pitcher Rick Vaughn, the speedy center fielder Willie “Mays” Hayes (who was not invited to camp but ran his way onto the team), power-hitting outfielder Pedro Cerrano, who practices voodoo, veteran pitcher Eddie Harris, who lacks a strong throwing arm and is forced to doctor his pitches and third baseman Roger Dorn, who is already under contract but is a high-priced prima donna. As manager, Phelps hires Lou Brown, a tire salesman who “has managed the Toledo Mud Hens for the last 30 years.”

The result would be Major League, one of the greatest sports movies ever and the introduction of Ricky Vaughn, or “Wild Thing,” played by Charlie Sheen.

Despite the recent shenanigans of Charlie Sheen and his crazy and insane interviews that have led to the world talking about him, it really doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of him. This is Ricky Vaughn! I mean Wild Thing even had his own bobble head night for the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in 2009.

Rick Vaughn, despite his lack of control, could have one of the fastest pitches the league has ever seen still to this day.

The Yankees loaded the bases when Vaughn was called in, the crowd roaring their excitement over Wild Thing. Vaughn is able to strike out the Yankee’s best batter in three straight pitches and end the inning knowing that he just banged Dorn’s wife and he sits at third knowing about it. Now that is pitching under pressure.

Charlie Sheen’s recent problems seem a bit more complicated nowadays than when he was banging out Roger Dorn’s wife. The way things are going Charlie Sheen may be making a return trip playing ball for the California Penal League.


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Moneyball: The Art of Losing With Style in MLB

Moneyball is a baseball film starring Brad Pitt and Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, and it’s set to open sometime in 2011.

Hoffman will perform as former big league manager Art Howe, and Pitt — one of the most famous people in the universe — will be playing Billy Beane, the “mastermind” general manager of the Oakland A’s.

Can you imagine that? Beane has been so successful in Oakland that a movie is being made about his innovations and triumphs as the A’s leading man. Not only is the film being made, but Beane’s character was given to one of the most recognizable faces in the business — a sex symbol, nonetheless.

And who can blame Hollywood for wanting a piece of this action? Beane has achieved so much during his time in Oakland…wait a second…

Has a Beane-led A’s team ever won anything?

This is Beane’s 13th season as GM of the Athletics, and his club has won the World Series zero times during his reign. Wait, it gets better.

In the previous 12 seasons, the A’s have won zero American League championships.

During that time period, they’ve only appeared in the ALCS once (2006). Beane’s Athletics performed well in that series against the Detroit Tigers…if “well” means getting swept. The Tigers made quick work of the light-hitting boys from Oakland.

Simply put, these results don’t make any sense. They don’t make any sense because Michael Lewis’ Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game is likely the most popular baseball book in publishing history. It may not only be the most popular baseball book of all time, it is arguably the most popular book of all sports.

Lewis’ detailed work elevated Beane to a stratosphere never before occupied by a general manager. As far as media coverage and attention, GM’s are often secondary to the skippers that patrol the dugouts of their respective teams.

Thanks to Lewis and Moneyball, things are quite different in Oakland. Beane is the star. The managers (Howe, Ken Macha, and Bob Geren) are puppets manipulated by the front office’s many strings and hindrances. 

The question is: does Beane deserve the stature he has achieved?

Many consider him the best general manager in the game; is he worthy of that distinction?

Well, at the very least, I can’t argue with his ability to evaluate starting pitching. It started with the extremely impressive trio of RHP Tim Hudson (an all-star again this year), LHP Barry Zito (having a bit of a bounce-back season), and LHP Mark Mulder.

Then there was RHP Rich Harden, an incredible but oft-injured talent. RHP Justin Duchscherer has been an all-star, and Beane’s trade for RHP Dan Haren came at exactly the right time in his career.

Today the A’s have a slew of capable young arms, including sinkerballer Trevor Cahill, flame-throwing lefty Gio Gonzalez, workhorse Dallas Braden (of the Perfect Game fame), electric closer Andrew Bailey, and potential long-term ace LHP Brett Anderson.

But the 2010 Oakland Athletics are a mere .500 ballclub. This infusion of impressive arms isn’t leading them to playoff-type success. And why, you ask?

Because Billy Beane teams don’t hit. Not since the steroid star power of 1B Jason Giambi and then-SS Miguel Tejada have the A’s had a lineup for opposing pitchers to fear. Their leading regulars this season are OF Ryan Sweeney (.294 BA) and limited-pop 1B Daric Barton (.279).

Although for Beane, it’s not about batting average; it’s about OBP and OPS. Unfortunately, Oakland’s on-base experts are 25th in the bigs in runs scored. What good is a razor-sharp understanding of the strikezone if you can’t drive in runners in scoring position?

Not much good at all, of course.

While we’re on the topic of offense, I can’t ignore the fact that Beane traded OF Carlos Gonzalez (aka “Cargo”).

Cargo, now an immensely popular member of the Colorado Rockies, is currently leading the National League in batting average at .326. In addition to that impressive average, he has 29 HR, 90 RBI, 20 SB, 86 R, and a .955 OPS.

With those outstanding numbers in mind, Cargo is locked in a nip-and-tuck MVP battle with Reds’ 1B Joey Votto. Both candidates have the statistics to warrant an MVP award, but Cargo is the better all-around player.

If the Rockies find a way into the postseason, in my opinion, Cargo should take home the hardware.

Can you imagine that? Beane, the “mastermind” at the helm of an offensively-starved franchise, traded an all-world talent when he was just 23 years old. Even worse, he traded Cargo for a one-year rental in LF Matt Holliday, who was shipped to the St. Louis Cardinals as soon as the wheels fell off the A’s 2009 season. 

Go figure.

And yet, in the end, I know Billy Beane is a talented executive. I completely understand the financial deficiencies of the Oakland A’s franchise. I know that Beane has drafted and developed some excellent major league ballplayers.

But…the best general manager in professional baseball? Really?

Hollywood, a full-length movie, and Brad Pitt? Really?

I’m sorry folks, but I’m not buyin’ it…

Unless Billy Beane is sellin’ it. I’d probably rip him off in a deal.


(John Frascella is the author of “Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land,” the first and only book centered on Boston ‘s popular GM Theo Epstein. Check it out on Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble online. Follow John on Twitter @RedSoxAuthor.)

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Wild Thing, I Think I Love You: Re-Casting ‘Major League’ With MLB Stars

If you’re a real baseball fan, you’ve seen Major League. If you’re a real Indians fan, you own the DVD, quote it excessively, and own a pair of Rick Vaughn-esque glasses.

It’s an absolute classic full of whacky characters, great one-liners, and some of the best baseball action sequences Hollywood has ever staged. But one of the coolest things about it (and one of the reasons why it holds up so well more than 20 years later) is that life truly has imitated art.

It’s not just that Cubs closer Mitch Williams changed his number to 99 and gained the nickname “Wild Thing” midway through the 1989 season, or that the Indians had become one of the best teams in the game within five years of the film’s release.

Exaggerated and caricatured though they may be, the oddball protagonists in Major League are a lot like some of today’s players.

In this slideshow are 12 current and recent baseball players and personalities who match up well with characters in the movie. The names on this list aren’t all Indians, but some players from Cleveland won out over otherwise more deserving people from other franchises because of their team affiliations.

If you’ve never seen Major League, don’t read any further—not just because there are spoilers, but because you are missing out. Run out to Blockbuster or download it from iTunes or something—just watch it, immediately. Seriously. Now.

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