Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Baseball Season Cometh

The start of the baseball season is four days away, and I can't wait. I'm getting my fantasy teams in order and looking forward to the games in which my favorite teams crush my hated teams. Which teams are those? Well, I'll tell you. Here are three teams that I want to succeed this year and three teams I want to fail.

Teams I Want to Succeed
1 - Texas Rangers
This should be no surprise to anyone who read my blog post from October 22nd last year. I have followed the team for almost twenty years and I have no plans to stop. And now they have an American League pendant to show for their efforts. But even if they had finished in the cellar last year, they would still top this list and many more in years to come. Here's hoping they go all the way this year.

2 - Los Angeles Dodgers
I freely admit that this is a choice of convenience and a bit of bandwagon hopping. I officially moved to the LA area in 2004. During that time the Angels were enjoying an impressive streak of success atop the American League West. Most of my friends were Angels fans. It would have been easy to switch allegiances and only my family would have thought less of me. But I held my ground. But there was this other team in town, one that played in the National League. Much like the Angels, though to a lesser degree, they were enjoying a nice run of success. Having no official ties to any other National League teams, I decided to officially pledge allegiance to Dodger blue. And it sure didn't hurt that their best player has the same name as me.

3 - Tampa Bay Rays
For their first ten years of existence, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were the laughingstock of Major League Baseball. They were bad. Really bad. But in the spring of 2008, amidst the hoopla of them exorcising the Devil from their name, I took a long hard look at their roster. To my surprise, I realized that they had quite a collection of quality and intriguing young talent across the board. I figured that at this point they had the experience to put it all together and finally play some serious baseball. I was right, and they went to the World Series that year. Ever since that Spring I have enjoyed pulling for the David in Tampa Bay to defeat the Goliaths in New York and Boston.

Teams I Want to Fail
1 - New York Yankees
They are the Evil Empire. They beat my Rangers the first three times the Rangers made it to the postseason. They overpay for players which drives the market up and takes players I want for my teams. And then if these contracts go sour due to poor performance, they are not handcuffed financially and can go out and make more overpriced acquisitions. And the attitude I get from the Yankees Nation is one of entitlement - as if they deserve to win the World Series every year, and when they don't it is as if they have been denied their birthright.

2 - San Francisco Giants
They are the sworn enemies of my Dodgers, going back to the days when they both played in New York. They beat my Rangers in the World Series. At this point I'm pretty much contractually obligated to hate them. Besides, giants are for slaying and are always bad guys. (And anyone who tries to bring up my favorite band to counter my argument, I should point out that they are not giants, they only might be.)

3 - Milwaukee Brewers
I actually don't have anything personal against the team. However, this year is a now-or-never year for them. They have several key players who will be free agents at the end of the season, so if it looks like they won't make the postseason, they are going into selling mode. Players they might be willing to trade to my Rangers: first baseman Prince Fielder, pitcher Zack Greinke, pitcher Shaun Marcum, and possibly pitcher Yovanni Gallardo. I also wouldn't mind it if the Florida Marlins floundered for similar reasons, as they have the wonderful pitching duo of Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Top and Bottom of 2010 - #1

Baseball (1994)
Ken Burns’ loving yet epic documentary tells the story of baseball through the twentieth century. It chronicles the sport from its humble beginnings all the way to the mega-franchises of today, with numerous highs and lows along the way. There is plenty of talk about Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Ty Cobb, but it also examines the way baseball existed outside the major leagues, with plenty of time devoted to the Negro leagues. And when scandal strikes baseball, there is no angry finger pointing or blanket pardons for the guilty parties. Instead, the scandals are treated fairly and the predominant tone is one of sorrow that they marred the face of baseball and hope that we have learned from these mistakes so they will not happen again. The men and women interviewed in the film range from former players to sports writers to broadcasters to fans of the game. I would call this a love letter to baseball, except that description falls far too short of the amazing accomplishment that Baseball is. All 19 hours of it.

New Moon (2009)
I thought that this would at least be an improvement over Twilight. After all, they replaced the original director with the director of the snappy About a Boy so at least the plodding pace would be sped up. No such luck. The incessant pausing in mid-sentence by every single main character was amplified. We also get what pretends to be a love triangle for Bella whose talent for being vapid reaches new heights. I kept waiting for something to happen. And waiting. And waiting. And then there was a glimmer of what might be mistaken for some rising action and I thought, “Now we must be getting to the explosive climax.” But instead of something happening the credits just rolled. The climax was so uninteresting that I completely missed it and I had to think back and figure out what it was supposed to be. At least the first one had a poorly-staged action piece for a climax, but the only suspense in New Moon came from waiting to see if anyone could get through a complete sentence without a giant pause.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Top and Bottom of 2010 - #2

Toy Story 3 (2010)
Toy Story 2 is one of my favorite films of all time. As in top 20. Maybe top 10. So Toy Story 3 had a lot to live up to. While not quite as good as its predecessor, Toy Story 3 is still quite good. The wizards at Pixar deftly juggled Toy Story's huge cast of characters as well as half a dozen new ones. The story delves into themes just touched on in Toy Story 2, dealing with what happens to toys when their owner outgrows them. There are thrilling chases, plenty of laughs, and an exquisitely orchestrated "prison break." And while the action climax may fall short of previous Pixar efforts, the final scene packs such an emotional wallop that any faults the film may have are instantly forgotten.

Twilight (2008)
Fortunately I watched this with protection,* otherwise I probably would have done irreparable damage to either my eyes or the TV, or both. Bella is a completely uninteresting character, and why she shuns all the high school boys, who generally come across as a fun and interesting group, to instead fawn over the creepy-looking Edward who has no social skills and who apparently has never seen a comb in 200 years of existence, is never adequately explained. She should be calling the cops, not foisting her presence on him at every possible moment. AND WHOSE IDEA WAS IT TO HAVE VAMPIRES SPARKLE IN THE SUNLIGHT!? The inane story, flat performances, and erratic camera work combine to form one of the most inexplicable phenomena of the last few years.
*Commentary track from Rifftrax featuring Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett.

Coming up next: the best of the best and the worst of the worst. Any ideas as to which ones they will be?