Just before 5 p.m., feeding time for our baseball addiction, Seth and I crept down the mountain from the Yosemite cabin to catch the game at a truly delicious barbecue joint in Oakhurst. We have meals to cook at the cabin, despite the lack of stove, and things we want to do in the evenings that preclude a 90 minute round trip just to find an available television, so we knew we were only going to catch one more game this vacation and, as it turned out, we picked a fun one. I chose this evening’s game because I wanted to see a great pitchers’ duel and just hoped that Barry Zito would hold up his end of the bargain by building on his heroic NLCS outing. I never expected that a pitchers’ duel would fail to materialize because Justin Verlander was having an off night. But, you know what? Those cheesy Postseason commercials really are true: you can’t script October.
Usually I don’t enjoy a blowout as much as a close game, even when the winning team is the team I’m rooting for, but who could possibly call themselves a baseball fan and not enjoy Pablo Sandoval’s three homerun game? …Well…okay, fine…Tigers fans get a pass on this one. 😉 Sandoval is now only the fourth player to hit three home runs in a Postseason game. Talk about complete and utter Panda-monium in the Bay Area! Also, I think that this one-sided score doesn’t really tell the whole story. From what I saw, yes, the Tigers absolutely gave up when Verlander got shelled, but they also recovered and tried valiantly to get back in the game at the end there, it was just too little, too late. The end result was a dazzling display of highlight reel worthy diving and leaping defensive plays on both sides. With the Tigers showing strong signs of life at the end to the point that the Giants blew through three relievers to get the last three outs, tomorrow’s game could be a different story. But, a story with a similar Giants ending or one more to the Tigers liking, who can say. See previous comment about commercial cliches, scripting and October.
Woah, Woah, Woah. What’s with all this Giants Stuff?
Okay, okay. I know what you all must be thinking, reading my last few posts. Is this an Angels blog or some sort of weird hybrid Giants/Nationals/Orioles blog heavier on the west coast bias than on the east? Have the Angels finally driven this blogger so crazy that she’s lost all focus? Now that’s just crazy talk. Of course this is an Angels blog. But this is October, the Angels almost-an-October never quite materialized, and I will be damned if I spend the month mourning the lack of Angels to such a degree that I miss out on the LAST FEW WEEKS OF BASEBALL before the looooong wintery time without.
Even as a huge fan of the game, it’s so much more fun to root for someone than just to watch with no skin in the game, so once the Angels are out of the running, I pick other teams to root for. Borrowed skin, as it were. No, this isn’t being a bandwagon fan. Bandwagon fans hop on that bandwagon in good times and pretend they’re diehards from way back before jumping right off again in bad times. No bandwagon fans here. I am simply shamelessly loving the one I am with, namely your team, for a week or two or however long they last in the postseason because I can’t be with the one I want…and I have absolutely no problem explaining that. …Also, yes, my father did raise me with an appreciation for the classics and generally excellent taste in music. Why do you ask? 😉
This postseason my adopt a team philosophy has lead me to root for the Nationals – because they’d never been to the World Series as Expos or Nationals and I like rooting for a lovable underdog – the Orioles – because of their long World Series drought, see previous discussion of the Nationals – the A’s – because they had a fun team this season despite the fact that I almost never root for another AL West team also I couldn’t very well break tradition now and root for the Yankees – the Tigers – see previous conversation about the A’s – and the Giants because of family ties…
Our Blogger Heroine’s Strange Origins
…Long story shortened, I am the lone living Red sheep (my grandfather was a diehard Angels fan) in a family split on both my mother’s and my father’s sides between the Dodgers fan base and the Giants. Oddly enough, this means I grew up with a weird affection for both teams. But Kristen, how can you like both teams? Don’t you know about the Dodgers/Giants rivalry? Hello, did you not just read the previous two sentences? I have family on both sides of the rivalry…family who share food across the table at holiday gatherings…holiday gatherings that take place in the months following the baseball postseason. Savvy?
Such passion, while often contentious, is also contagious so, as improbable and downright wrong as this sounds, I have both an affection and a respect for the Dodgers and the Giants that still pales in comparison to my diehard passion for the Angels. I follow the Dodgers and the Giants out of the corner of my eye while I’m watching the Angels all season. I know the players on both teams and generally wish them both well. If either the Dodgers or the Giants makes it to the Postseason and there are no Angels to root for, then I’m rooting for that team. If both of them ever make it to the Postseason and there are no Angels to root for, well then I’ll probably root for the Dodgers – my immediate family are the Dodgers fans, so I grew up going to games in Chavez Ravine – and try to lay low on FaceBook when the cousins start trash talking. So, you see, it doesn’t matter that I felt nothing particularly for or against the Reds, that I generally like the Cardinals, and that I think the Tigers have a pretty fun team this season. This Giants rooting thing was as inevitable as it is fun and strictly relegated to an Angel-less October.
Two baseball nuts. One week’s vacation. 4th week of October. Two glorious getaway destinations. Zero televisions. Whoa. What’s wrong with this picture? How ‘d that happen? Yes, I know. The 4th week of October is certainly an odd time for baseball fans to go on a week’s vacation, unless said vacation happens to involve following one’s team to various playoff destinations, I suppose. Yet, this is where we find ourselves. My husband’s industry requires everyone to take one week-long vacation each year and our’s was supposed to fall in midsummer, a decidedly less playoff-y time, followed by a long-ish weekend, this weekend, at the Paso Robles Harvest Festival we so adore. But work and family commitments prompted some pretty massive schedule adjusting and, so, here we are. I am not complaining at all – our vacation has been lovely so far! – just explaining how two baseball nuts wound up spending this of all weeks in two places – my inlaws’ Cambria house and their Yosemite cabin – with absolutely no televisions.
With the Angels sadly resting for the month of October, Seth and I figured, eh, missing a week of the playoffs isn’t that big a deal. We’ll be so busy, we won’t even notice we’re missing it, so let’s not bother trying to make plans to watch the games…and this would have been absolutely true if some of the games were on during the day. Night time, however, is a different story. Not a lot of biking, hiking and photo taking going on after the sun goes down. And so we found ourselves catching the NLCS Game 5 in a steakhouse bar in Oakhurst outside of Yosemite. Catching game 6 at the Chili’s in Paso Robles. And enjoying the fine hospitality of the Moonstone Bar and Grill for Game 7, where the food was infinitely better than Chili’s and the bartender did an admirable job of pacifying the Monday Night Football fans with two to three minutes check ins, so the rest of us could enjoy the game that really mattered. Bravo, good Sir, bravo! And all I can say about the game is holy outrageous comebacks, Batman! Congratulations to the NLCS Champion Giants who return from the brink of extension to win the series even better than the Cardinals.
Of course, even when Seth and I have been happily engrossed in purely vacation activities, baseball has a wonderful tendency to find us. Quick commiserations with transplanted Angels fans in the tasting room at Barrel 27 winery. Shooting the breeze with a transplanted Red Sox fan in the tasting room at Clavo Cellars – No worries, no trash talk involved. We all wisely stuck to the safe topics of shared annoyance with newer fans who weren’t around for the losing years and mutual dislike of a certain team in pinstripes. And then there was Chicago Ribs Night at Midnight Cellars.
Midnight Cellars was one of the first wineries Seth and I tasted at on our honeymoon back in 1999 and it was the first winery whose wine club we joined, ensuring many, many years of great wine and outstanding parties. Midnight is truly a family owned and operated winery. Every year for Harvest Festival, the family brings their native Chicago to California, with racks and racks of Carson’s ribs finished on Midnight’s BBQs complete with all of the fixings, live blues and more wine than any mere group of people could possibly consume – though we did put forth a valiant effort and at a minimum put a serious dent in the ribs supply. The end result is delicious, spirited, fun and, while I can’t speak to authenticity as I have yet to travel that far north, I can say that a surprising number of couples from the Chicago area, not all of them friends of the family, are drawn to California for this ribs night before they begin their wine country adventure.
Seth and I were seated at a table with two such couples, four friends enjoying a quick adults’ vacation away from the kids. One gent was asking Siri for the latest football scores on his cell phone. I mentioned I seldom follow football, but love baseball and he then asked how the Giants did last night because ‘I just can’t stand the thought of the Cardinals making it to the World Series again…’ Ah hah, Cubs fans! And they were pleased that we recognized them as such and knew about the Cubs/Cardinals rivalry. As usual, baseball proved to be an excellent icebreaker among fans and we had a lot of fun talking about all sorts of things peppered in between the wine, the ribs, the music, the ribs, the library wine, more ribs, the tequila shots (with the winemaker!!) and more ribs. And I have a feeling the foursome greeted Monday’s win with a little more wine to celebrate.
Anyway, quite the week “off” from baseball so far, wouldn’t you agree?
Waiting all day for a repairman to arrive in a paradisiacal place like Yosemite National Park – you know, just in case you were all wondering or anything like that – is no less annoying than waiting for one back home. Oh, the view from the kitchen windows is infinitely more gorgeous, but that’s about it.
Long story short, the stove in the cabin blew up. Yeah, no joke. Manufacturer’s defect. Gas build up while cooking. Boom. I wasn’t there, mind you, but I assume it was rather spectacular sounding. Fortunately there were no injuries. So, now someone has to be here for the repairman and the Brown Footed Loons happened to be on the verge of migrating again so, voila!, we added an odd detour redundancy to our vacation so that we could wait in Yosemite – before heading to Cambria/Paso Robles for the Harvest Festival and then back to Yosemite for the rest of the week – for a repairman who never showed…yeah, Sears is now a 4 letter word in my house.
While that was certainly a less than awesome start to our vacation – to put it mildly! – I’ll tell you what is awesome: baseball fans! Seth and I decided to give ourselves a treat on the way from Yosemite to Cambria and stop at a little steakhouse just outside the park we’d been dying to try rather than grabbing fast food. Well, wouldn’t you know it, this little steakhouse, it had a little bar. And in the little bar, it had a certain game on both TVs…and a large party of Giants fans, central California being no doubter Giants country, wearing their team gear with pride and rooting loudly. So we decided to kick it in the bar and catch a few innings.
Best decision all day! The food was excellent, the wait staff friendly and the company could not be beat. We sat down just as Buster Posey struck out in the 4th inning. So we were there for what happened immediately after. Hunter Pence’s comebacker hit. Lance Lynn’s errant throw the bounced off the bag. And the Giants’ 4th inning scoring spree. The bar went from sedate to very loud indeed and, even after we confessed our Angels fan status, our cheers were welcomed into the mix. Baseball fans appreciate other baseball fans, especially come playoffs time. Except for a few inevitable bad apples I have found this to be true again and again, a point that was underscored when the rest of the local crowd showed up. This is a very small town and this bar seems to be one of the preferred places from which to catch the game. Four local Cardinals fans wandered in wearing their team gear with pride, clearly transplants from a more birds on bats part of the country. The Giants fans at the bar and the Cards fans greeted one another warmly and, when there wasn’t quite enough room at the bar for everyone, seating arrangements were shuffled about to make sure the new arrivals weren’t sitting at nearby bar room table by themselves. All very companionable and sweet. Like I said, baseball fans are awesome!
The game itself was a breath of fresh air in what had previously threated to be a dull series. Sorry, Cards and Tigers fans, but sweeps and near sweeps are only desirable if you’re an existing part of the fan base of the team doing the dominating. For the rest of us, especially after getting thoroughly spoiled by the wild, tightly contested wonderfulness that was the Division Series X 4, quite frankly, the ALCS was kind of a let down and the NLCS looked like it was heading that way. Yeah, I was rooting for the Tigers in the ALCS, but I rather hoped the Yankees would put up a fight. I get that Derek Jeter’s injury was a crushing blow to team morale, but even before that they were not themselves.
Fortunately for baseball fans everywhere, especially those of us watching purely for love of the game, the Giants rallying after two straight losses to shut out the Cardinals and take Game 6 saved the NLCS from a similarly ho hum fate, no matter what happens tomorrow. And it was great to see Barry Zito going retro, channeling pitches from his own more lights out era. I love a good comeback story. They’re one of my favorite parts of the game…along with taut pitchers’ duels, stellar defensive plays, ballsy steals, and diverse groups of great fans coming together to bond over our shared love.
I’m still enjoying the post season immensely and I’m rooting hard for the Cardinals and the Tigers to win tonight. Rooting for the Tigers and the Cardinals? Could it be that what I really want out of all of this is epic trash talk on Red State Blue State? While that interpretation of the facts certainly makes for an entertaining story, it is not an accurate statement. Hmmm…could there be a better segue for my review of Moneyball? I think not:
So I saw Moneyball a few days back (Didn’t we all?) and, eh, I didn’t love it, but I did like it. Look, when not stressed beyond capacity I read voraciously, have done so all my life. Given the number of movies based on books out there, the vast majority of them quite loosely indeed, this means I either had to stop watching movies or learn pretty early on to view movies as a completely separate entity from books. …And from history actually because for every cinematic crime against literature, there are at least three against history. Yes, I was a history major. Why do you ask? 😉
Looking at Moneyball strictly as a movie, I thought it was good. Enjoyable. A little overlong in parts – namely the Brad Pitt moping, and worrying and moping some more parts. Some of the scenes with Brad Pitt’s family were forced and trite. On the other hand, the acting was excellent, some of the dialog was genuinely stirring and the story was appealing. I love underdogs. I love upsets. Heck, I was rooting for the movie A’s by the end of it. From a story telling standpoint, especially knowing that Aaron Sorkin was one of the final script writers, I felt it was missing a big, gorgeous, eloquent mini-speech about baseball or two. Also, once the decision was made to concentrate on the 2002 major league team rather than the draft class the book actually focused on, I wish they had also decided to incorporate more of the players’ background stories as presented in the book – especially when given the choice between including 20 extra minutes of Brad Pitt brooding in a car or 10 minutes each of the story behind Chad Bradford’s unusual even for a submariner style and Scott Hatteberg’s need to socialize. A little sarcastic dialog from a 1st base conversation or two would have been a nice way to break up the montages.
So I enjoyed Moneyball as a movie, but what about as a cinematic glimpse of baseball history? Well it wasn’t that at all, actually. Notice I refer to Brad Pitt as Brad Pitt above, not Billy Beane? That’s because the characters in Moneyball were just that, characters in a fictional movie, loosely based on something that actually happened and, truth be told, a loose interpretation of the book as well. The mischaracterizations and inaccuracies were pretty epic. The movie completely forgets to mention non-Moneyball players, even though a Cy Young performance from Barry Zito and an MVP performance from Miguel Tejada might have contributed to the A’s 2002 success, you know, maybe just a little, along with strong performances from the rest of the non-Chad Bradford pitching staff and other returning A’s players. And as for the Moneyball stuff, Carlos Pena wasn’t traded to force Art Howe to play Scott Hatteberg. Hatteberg was already playing more games than not as a DH because, yes, he didn’t just walk a lot, he could actually hit. He also grew into a decent fielding first baseman. And I could go on and on. All of these creative licenses were clearly taken with the intent to make Moneyball into a better story. And, in that sense, I believe that the creative team behind the movie succeeded. But what happens when we change the truth to make it a better story, especially so much of the truth? Exactly.
Okay, so it was entertaining but took creative license to the extreme with the history. So what about all of the folks who don’t know any of the history behind the movie? Are they going to start running around quoting Moneyball as fact? I don’t really see this happening to any degree that should concern. Look, here’s the thing with movies. They rarely if ever get it right and when they do the authenticity usually lies more in the feelings than the actual facts. And for a movie based on history, touting “based on a true story” in the ad campaign means roughly the same thing as using the author’s name in the title of a movie adapted from a book – what appears on screen bears only passing resemblance to the source material. And I think that most savvy movie goers understand this.
What’s that you say? The typical movie goer may not be savvy? Maybe these anecdotes will quell a few fears:
A few weeks ago, a casual baseball fan friend of mine told me about this great looking movie he just saw a preview for, Moneyball. After describing the gist of the plot he had gleaned from the preview he said, But here’s the weird thing. Did you know that they’re using the Oakland A’s for this movie? I mean, using the Cleveland Indians made sense in Major League. But I can’t figure out why anyone would want to use the Oakland A’s for a feel good comeback story movie. My apologies to A’s fans everywhere. These were my friend’s words, not mine. But I relate them here to demonstrate that some folks with more distance from the game than we lot kind of gloss over the “based on a true story” angle and just assume the whole thing is fiction.
And the non baseball fan’s perspective? I was chatting with a good friend a few months back who grasps the concept of baseball and goes to the occasional Dodger game when tickets fall into his hands as they are wont to do from time to time if you live and work in Los Angeles County, but who would not describe himself as even a casual fan. I mentioned enjoying chatting and snarking with a couple of Tigers fans at the Big A on 4th of July. He gave me a really confused look that typically means, “Explain?” So I explained that the Angels were playing the Tigers that night. He repeated the confused look and I gave him one of my own. I mean, what more could one explain?
(Close your eyes Michael David.) I am sorry to say that he then asked The Tigers? That’s not a team I’m familiar with? Okay, this is a very smart man. And he’s up on current events and popular culture. And he grew up in Maryland and went to a few games at Camden Yards as a child so this isn’t some sort of weird west coast bias thing. Apparently if you aren’t really a baseball fan, any team that isn’t the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, your local team(s) or a few isolated others, then that team could be a completely fictional movie team for all that you know…and seeing as fictional movie team comes pretty close to describing the 2002 Oakland A’s as depicted in the film Moneyball, maybe in this case that’s a good thing.
So, if this movie still hath offended think but this and all is…well…if not outright mended, perhaps a bit more in perspective. Those who are close to baseball know how weak and idle this particular theme was from a historical standpoint and those who are not close to the game are very likely to think it’s fiction for a completely different reason. And as for the folks who believe it to be gospel…well…they probably believe almost everything the movies tell them anyway, like the Da Vinci Code is word for word real…and that the 300 Spartans went to war in nothing but teeny, tiny leather speedos…and, and that Nicolas Cage has a broad acting range and can deftly insert himself into the leading role – and accent! – in any action movie.
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Notice that I reviewed Moneyball without ever once offering my opinion on Moneyball philosophy and/or sabermetrics? Yeah, I thought I’d be a little different. Besides, there is enough fodder there to declare Moneyball an entertaining movie but a bad “based on a true story” without ever touching sabermetrics. However, for the record, I think that sabermetric stats are one of many great tools available for assessing baseball players but they are just that, only one tool in the belt. I also think that traditional stats, paying attention to a player’s intangibles and also just plain old gut feel, instinct and observation are important tools for assessing baseball players. I think that it makes the most sense for baseball teams to use every tool available. Completely ignoring any of the tools in favor of one particular tool might work on an occasional player by player basis. But you can’t build a team that way…nor, if you read Michael Lewis’ original book was he initially theorizing that you could. He…a…got a little carried away there by the end of the book and strayed from his own premise. But I’ve got a whole post about that back in the archives if you’re really interested in reading my thoughts on the book.