Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Archive for the ‘tiger woods’ tag

Movie Review: 42


Robinson's most iconic moment; stealing home in the 1955 World Series.

Robinson’s most iconic moment; stealing home in the 1955 World Series.

So, one thing we’ve noticed about having a kid is how our television and movie watching habits have changed.  Here’s a summary:

1. We never go out to movies anymore.

2. We watch about 30 minutes of something between the time we get him down at night and the time we have to go to bed and collapse from exhaustion.

3. If we do rent a movie …  it is something that came out months ago and is either on HBO or on-demand for $5 bucks.  We watch it in 30 minute increments around his sleep schedule.

So, given the above parameters, we just finished watching the movie 42, which chronicles Jackie Robinson‘s breaking of the color barrier in Baseball in the mid 1940s.   Some Links about the topic: IMDB’s movie page, Jackie Robinson’s Wikipedia page and Robinson’s Baseball-Reference page.

Here’s what I thought.

Story and Acting: My wife enjoyed the movie moreso than I did; perhaps it is because of the “love interest” storyline between Jackie and his wife, or perhaps it is because she doesn’t know the whole story of Robinson.  I knew, for example, that Robinson won the Rookie of the Year award in his debut season and a subsequent MVP award, so someone who doesn’t know Robinson’s history would watch the latter half of the movie regarding his MLB debut and maintain some suspense as to how he performed.  The various players just sort of allude to Robinson’s talent level here or there; never letting on just how good of a player he is.

Robinson’s relationship with his wife is a large feature on the movie.  I have no idea how pertinent this is to the man and this story, having not yet read one of the many Jackie Robinson books out there (the most frequently mentioned being Baseball’s Greatest Experiment by Jules Tygiel and Opening Day by Jonathan Eig, not to mention the fact that Robinson seems to have penned at least 4 autobiographies).  But enough emphasis is given that at one point my wife asked, “He doesn’t frigging cheat on her, does he?”  Perhaps a statement on our low expectations of professional athletes in the modern world, thanks to the travails of stars like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan.

Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey might be the best acting job I’ve ever seen him perform outside of Witness or The Fugitive.  I thought Ford was washed up as an actor, but he played a compelling, complex Rickey character who at times was using Robinson’s debut both as a money-grabbing ploy and a morality play.  The two relatively unknown actors playing Jackie and Rachel Robinson were fantastic, all things considered.  Chadwick Boseman and Nicole Beharie both gave excellent performances.

The story itself, as tends to happen, left out some details.  It had to, in order to fit into a 2 hour time period.  I wish they would have spent more time discussing Robinson’s college and military background; he was an absolutely fantastic all-around athlete, winning varsity letters at UCLA in FOUR different sports.  Instead the movie seemed to imply that Robinson had been kicked out of the military (which did not occur) and barely mentioned his background prior to his being plucked out of the Negro Leagues in Birmingham.  Fair enough; Robinson’s legacy had to do with baseball, not his collegiate football accomplishments.

Baseball Sequences: Unlike some baseball movies we’ve seen, at least the pitchers looked like they could pitch in this movie.  Boseman’s ability to look natural at the plate was nearly convincing; per his biography he’s an athlete who still plays basketball.  As it turned out though, they didn’t really have to show a ton of baseball footage despite this film’s title subject; most of this story was to bring to the screen the oppressive and unbelievable racism prevalent in the mid 1940s and to subsequently show how the Robinsons faced it.  Nowhere was this more prevalent or obvious than in the first Brooklyn-Philadelphia game, where the opposing manager (Ben Chapman) stood on the field and hurled insult after insult at Robinson in what seemed like pure racism, but was later explained away as “gamesmanship” by the coach.

Unfortunately, the best baseball sequences didn’t appear until the credits started to roll, where what looked like B-film capturing the players making diving stops in the field appear in slow motion.  Perhaps it is fitting that the baseball action is limited; this isn’t really a “baseball story” like The Natural or Major League is; it does not depend on believable baseball action to make its point.  Robinson could walk and triumphantly trot to first base and it can appear as a monumental moral statement.

Some clarifications on the legacy of early black players: the movie implies that the Dodgers were considering Robinson, Roy Campanella and Satchel Paige to be the first player to integrate.  What’s left unsaid is that the real “star” of the Negro Leagues at the time was Josh Gibson.  Also interesting to me was the fact that a second black player named Johnny Wright was signed in early 1946 and played in the minors the same season that Robinson debued.  I didn’t necessarily know this, but Larry Doby broke the color barrier in the American League just a couple months after Robinson did, to very little fan fare (see this list on Wikipedia of the earliest black players by date and team).  I only mention this because the film post-credits say that (paraphrased) Robinson paved the way for black athletes like Campanella and Don Newcombe.  That’s true: Campanella and Newcombe were the next two black players to play for Brooklyn, but not in the major leagues.

Conclusion: Decent movie.   Probably will never watch it again.  I may be in the minority though; the film grossed nearly $100M and now stands as the 2nd highest grossing baseball film ever made.   I’m not sure i’ve got it in my top 10 baseball movies of all time, but it may slide into contention for best baseball-related drama.  I’ll keep it in mind the next time I update my Baseball Movie post.

What did you guys think?


Nats Off-season News Items Wrap-up 12/28/11 edition


Just how bad is Alex Rodriguez’s knee? Bad enough for an experimental treatment in Germany. Photo John Munson/The Star-Ledger via

This is your semi-weekly/periodic wrap-up of Nats and other baseball news that caught my eye.

Nationals In General

  • Per CBS’s Danny Knobler (who really needs a new profile picture), the Nats had to out-bid the Red Sox for Gio Gonzalez‘s services, possibly indicating why the price in prospects went so high.
  • Buster Olney ranks the current 10 best rotations in the game after all our recent FA moves and trades.  Philly is still #1, but surprisingly LA Angels have not risen to #2.  Honestly I think the Angels have supplanted the Rays at the near-top.  And, amazing of amazing, he has the Nats at #8.  Here’s a direct quote from the article: “It’s possible that a year from now, we will view the front three of the Washington rotation as the best in the majors.”  That is high-praise indeed; perhaps THREE years from now when we have the likes of Solis, Meyer and Purke shaken out into possible MLB starting roles … but a year from now there will still be the stud 1-2-3 punches in LA, Philly and SF.
  • The next day, Olney ranks the current 10 best bullpens and, again, the Nats come in 8th.  They were 5th in the MLB in bullpen ERA last year and may need one more arm to continue that trend.
  • John Sickels‘ has published his preliminary Nats top 20 prospect list (I may have linked this in the last article frankly).   This was posted just prior to the Gio Gonzalez trade, meaning that his #3, #4, #6 and #9 prospects are now playing for Oakland.   The list is considerably thinned now, of course, but what we got in return may make everyone forget what we gave up.

Free Agents/Player Transaction News

  • Carlos Beltran signs with the St. Louis Cardinals, probably pushing Lance Berkman to the Albert Pujols vacated first base position with Beltran playing RF.  Its a good signing for St. Louis, who obviously is taking a step back offensively but Beltran should help soften the blow.  What gets me though is the price Brian Sabean paid for a couple months of Beltran, only to decide in the off-season that he wasn’t worth signing.

General Baseball News

  • Great article on Brian Cashman, the Yankees, payroll and their direction over the past few years from Jonah Keri on  Whereas most teams operate on payroll budgets, the Yankees never really have before … but they do seem to be targeting the luxury tax threshold now.  Not that any team with a $189M payroll can be really that “constricted,” but the fact remains the Yankees have only won the world series once in the past decade.  This same topic covered here as well by Bob Klapish.
  • Oakland reportedly granted permission to move to San Jose.  This certainly affects the Giants and their market, though probably not as much as people may think.  When the team moved from Candlestick into the city, the move was a significant distance more than just the 7 miles and 15 minutes added onto the drive for most suburban fans.   Now those fans in the far southern parts of the Bay area, the affluent areas closer to Stanford, Sunnyvale and deep in Santa Clara county will be just a few minutes (against the majority of traffic) from an Athletics stadium, even if its built north of San Jose in Milpitas.
  • Of course, the A’s have been in a dismaying sell-off of talent so far this off-season, and don’t have a starting outfielder under contract, so they could be severely struggling until they do secure a new stadium.  Ken Rosenthal talks about this topic here; noting that Billy Beane has taken one look at his division rivals Texas and Los Angeles and concluded that the A’s are a lost cause in 2012.  Now they’re so young and weak that they may very well lose 110 games.
  • Side effect of all the action in the AL west this off-season; does anyone doubt that the AL wild card, long the property of the also-ran in the AL East, may suddenly belong to the AL west titans for the forseeable future?  Texas and Los Angeles look to feast on the incredibly weak Athletics and the still-not-contender status Mariners and could easily take 14 of 18 from these teams (in much the same way that the 103 loss 2009 Nats went 3-15 on the year versus Philadelphia).  Meanwhile, New York has done little to address its needs this off-season, nor has Boston (except to swap relievers but do relatively little to address injuries to its pitching staff).  Tampa continues to be who they always are; a young cheap team meticulously assembled to sneak up on team with 5 times their payroll … but all these teams seem set to beat each other up while their wild card contenders in the west get fat on easy teams.  Perhaps its only a one-year issue; the addition of a second wild card really lowers the difficulty bar for most of these franchises.
  • Boy, if you didn’t think the Mets franchise was in serious financial trouble, check out this article and the high lighted quote from Craig Calcaterra.  Quick calculations show that the team owes around $900 million on various loans coming due in the next few years.  I don’t see how this team could possibly stay solvent for the next 5 years.  But then the question becomes; how do you possibly pay off this much debt on a franchise that you couldn’t possibly argue is even worth $900M?
  • Phew; The Yankees have to be concerned reading this news item: Alex Rodriguez went to Germany to get experimental treatment on his knee.  In case you had forgotten, this is the same guy the team still owes $143M in salary plus a likely $24M more in homer-plateau reaching incentives that he seems relatively likely to reach.

Collegiate/Prospect News

  • Updated 2012 draft order from  This also has a significant amount of interpretation of the new draft and compensation rules in the new CBA, and is honest in admitting that there are some things we just don’t know.  As it stands now, the Nats draft 16th overall and then not again til #80 overall because of the massive number of supplemental first round picks.
  • We have lots of family that went to UCal-Berkeley, so I always take interest in stories about the school.  This article talks about some larger fiscal problems in the State of California, ones that led to the disbanding of their baseball program and the subsequent fund-raising efforts that resurrected it (a good thing, since they made the CWS this year).  We talk a lot in politics about education and funding, but to see tuition rising 18% in one year in California public schools, with more budget cuts set on the horizon, is kind of depressing given the state of our economy in general.
  • One of the few local area Div1 baseball programs George Washington announced their spring baseball schedule.  A three-game set in mid-march versus Georgetown is the local highlight here; one game in Arlington then two at Georgetown’s home field in Bethesda (Shirley Povich stadium).  They have home-and-homes with George Mason but not JMU this year, and have a mid-week visit to the slaughter in UVA.  GWU plays in the A-10 in baseball; a pretty weak baseball conference but with some interesting teams nonetheless.




General News; other

  • Wow, i’m hoping this guy lost a bet.
  • Kobe Bryant; how about a little discretion buddy?  The “proof” is a little lacking though.  This website did the same thing with all of Tiger Woods‘ alleged affairs.