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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Week 3 Recap: Sox, Pats Not as Money as the Movie...


Quite the eventful weekend, here in Rooch Nation.  Saw a movie about a team with no money that when on an epic winning streak, while at the same time watching another team, with a ton of money, continue to perform an equally epic collapse.  I guess you could say, it was an interesting study in contrasts.  And by "interesting", I mean I don't think at this point even I want the Red Sox to make the playoffs anymore...

That, and I'll touch on the Patriots.  Maybe some other stuff, too, if time permits...



I get a lot of shit for being a "movie nerd".  Hey, what can I say?  If being a "movie nerd" means that I actually "pay attention" when I watch movies, and I have a good idea of what I like and what I think is good, then yeah.  I'd have to plead guilty as charged.  But in reality, while I may be a "nerd", I really only have two major questions I look to answer when identifying whether or not a movie is any good.  1) Was it a story worth telling? AND 2) Was it told well?  And in the case of Bennett Miller's Moneyball, which I happened to see over the weekend, both questions are answered with a resounding YES...

Right???
The movie stayed true to the book, but didn't follow it page by page, and was very effectively and creatively adapted; the acting performances were spot on, with Brad Pitt leading the way, but by no means stealing the show (Seymour-Hoffman plays a very "interesting" Art Howe, while Brent Jennings slays as then A's base coach, Ron Washington); and the only complaint I can offer in regards to the cinematography, which excelled at providing a unique inside look to a Major Leageu clubhouse, is that it might be just a touch too long, with a run time of about 2:10.  We're talking a world class baseball movie in the mold of Field of Dreams, Eight Men Out, Bull Durham and The Natural.  The last one probably being the best comparison seeing as in virtually every close up Moneyball has to offer, Pitt has continued in his aging to look more and more like Robert Redford.  Which, once again, brings me back to the curious casting job of A River Runs Through It (where Pitt looks like a young Redford, yet Redford performs the narration for for Pitt's older brother in the film, played by Craig Sheffer).  But that's a decent movie at best, and I'm here to focus on Moneyball, which has easily lept well over that over sentimentalized POS, and gone right up next to Fight Club and Snatch as one of Pitt's greatest roles...

A great character actor, with yet another great acting performance...
This movie is bigger than just Pitt, though.  Jonah Hill does a fine job as the mercurial stat geek, Peter Brand.  And as I mentioned earlier, Philip Seymour Hoffman does a great job as a surprisingly villainous, Art Howe.  Said by someone who read the book, too.  Maybe it's that it's been so long, but I just don't remember Howe being nearly as disgruntled and ornery as he was portrayed in the film.  Even so, whether it was authentic, or just some artistic license, it played really well, and added yet another dimension to what was already a very compelling story line...

That's probably worth mentioning, too.  While the story line is very compelling (I read the book and watched that season very closely and I still was anxious to see what would come next), it's not too confusing.  Especially considering the mathematical nature of the subject matter.  You don't need to have read the book before going to see it, although like with ANY movie that's based on an existing book, it certainly doesn't hurt...
OMG! Is that Bob Hoew?!?
And on that note, here's a recommendation inspired completely by the Teds that were seated behind me.  If you think you will need to ask more than 3 questions in order to adequately follow a movie's plot, then you should never again go see a movie in the movie theater.  DVR, DVD, On Demand.  That's more your thing.  Whether the person you're asking has read the book is irrelevant, too (especially in this case, because this woman's "source" was frequently incorrect.  Gave me a lot of lot of fantasy baseball team name ideas, though, with "That's Bob Howe" being the current front runner. So there's always that).  In movies, they do this funny thing, especially in good movies, where they actually TELL YOU THE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW! Everyone's in front of the same screen here, folks.  Nobody has any "extra" information.  If you're missing stuff, that means you're too slow to pick it up, which again, means you probably shouldn't be watching movies in a venue where they don't let you rewind and pause.  A little harsh, perhaps, but it's the truth.  Oh, and if you have to ask, "Is that Billy Beane?" at any point of the film, as the woman behind me did, then I'm pretty sure you don't have any grounds to sue on when someone turns around, punches you the gut, and then goes on to disfigure your face with molten hot nacho cheese...

Billy Beane: Head facilitator , but not inventor, of the Moneyball movement...
But that's how good this movie was.  Even despite the two Teds that I managed to sit in front of, I still walked away very pleased with my overall movie going experience.  And that's from a movie nerd that had pretty high expectations.  SO, if you get a chance, go see it.  You won't be disappointed.  Moneyball changed the game of baseball, whether everyone can agree on that or not, and this movie excels and telling you why that statement is true, while at the same time explaining why the latter cynicism still remains.  It's just a great piece of storytelling, which in the end, will almost always make for a great movie...

Rated 8/10 on IMDB.com (similar rating given to Good Morning Vietnam & Reservoir Dogs)

The Bills are a good team, and good teams are hard to beat at home...
Patriots Update
Overall: 2-1

"The Patriots are starting to resemble those Dan Marino Miami Dolphin teams. Great passing game, but they can't stop anybody, and they can't effectively run the ball."

I've heard a lot of incantations of that statement over the last 36 hours, and I have to say I don't disagree with the sentiment.  The only difference being, I'm not saying it with a sense of panic, and I'm not saying it simply as a negative reaction to the Patriots loss as nearly 9 point favorites this weekend to the Buffalo Bills.  But those are pretty big problems.  Ones that can be adequately masked, at least against lesser teams, by the potency of the passing game (and if Tom's 4 picks really have you worried, then we weren't watching the same game), but ones that I'm sure also have the full attention of head coach, Bill Belichick.  He has to know that this team, playing as it is now, is no better than a coin flip to win a playoff game, and when Tom Brady is your quarterback, those just aren't acceptable odds...

Wes Welker helps the Patriots score with the quickness...
So, what do they do?  Well, I'm putting it all on the coach.  A coach whose NFL Films feature was EXTREMELY underwhelming, by the way.  They need better schemes on offense, to help sustain longer drives, and better schemes on defense to (same old song) get more pressure on the quarterback.  And I'm not saying they shouldn't score as quickly as possible, I'm just saying they shouldn't do that with EVERY DRIVE.  Part of being an efficient and effective offense, is being able to burn up the clock and keep the opposition's offense OFF THE FIELD.  So yeah, scoring quickly is great, just not every drive.  Because when that's your style, your scores may be fast, but your 3 & out's are even faster, which means your defense spends more time on the field.  That'll usually spell trouble no matter how good your defense is, and with this mediocre group, it's been no exception...

Like I said, I'm not panicked.  Hell, I'm not even worried.  It's too early in the season for a 2-1 team to be worried.  I am anxious, though.  To see what the coaching staff does, if anything, to slow down the pace of games against legitimate competition.  Who knows, maybe they wanna keep runnin' up and down and continue hoping they can "get the ball last" so they can punch it in for the winning score.  What I know about Bill Belichick tells me that's probably not the case, but I guess we'll see over the next few weeks.  Starting with a tough match up in Oakland, with yet another team that should have trouble running up and down the field with the Pats...

Run DMC will be a handful this week for the suspect Patriots D...
Speaking of those pesky Raiders, I picked them to win this weekend, part of a 3rd straight winning week that still has all my followers sitting in the black.  Granted, things would have been a lot better had I listened to myself and not picked Atlanta and Arizona, but those are the breaks.  It's an incorrect science I'm dealin' with, here, and sometimes you have to break a couple Bunson burners to get things done.  This past weekend, I broke 9 of them...        

NFL
Last Week: 12-9-0

Overall: 35-24-2 (.581)

NCAA
Last Week: 9-4-0

Overall: 25-11-1 (.689)


Red Sox Update
Overall: Tied with Tampa Bay with 2 games to play

This video pretty much sums up the 2011 Red Sox.  Underachievers that are all about excuses.  Granted it doesn't speak for everyone, but it goes a longer way towards speaking about the masses than it does pointing out a few rogue individuals.  That's why I'm not sure I even want them to advance to the post season.  Screw the fact that they'll be dead on arrival should they somehow find a way to stumble in.  I just don't like the way they're handling business, and I think missing the playoffs is the only way the method of handling said business has any possible way of changing...

At this point, I say let Theo go, let Terry Francona go, and just start fresh next year with a new crop of guys running the show.  Hey, with JD Drew retiring it will almost seem therapeutic.  Extreme too, I know, but I see this poor attitude as a systemic issue, and when that's the case, you gotta cut that thing off at the head if you have any hope of stopping the problem.  I'm not saying these guys suck, I'm just saying it seems to me like perhaps they've run out their string.  They were very effective, for a very long time, but that can't be expected to last forever, and I think it's time now for everyone to just part ways...
These two could be laughing their way right out of jobs...
Theo, for all his brilliance, still can't seem to get a handle on free agency.  At least not to the degree he should, considering the resources at his disposal.  And what's really frightening, is the character of guy that he's been known to bring in.  JD Drew, for one.  That Ted up there, John Lackey, for another.  And forget about his performance, but Carl Crawford doesn't exactly seem like a team first kind of guy, either.  Theo just doesn't have a great track record when it comes to getting free agents, and while that's not reason enough for him to be shown the door, that combined with the team's recent performance certainly doesn't do him any favors when he's updating his resume.  This is a team that should be competing for a World Series title every year, but one that due in part to his inability to get the right guys in here, hasn't even sniffed one since they last 1 in 2007.  Just not acceptable.  And while he's proven he can trade and draft with the best of 'em, without being able to bring in the big money free agents, he'll never be able to compete with the Yankees, let alone win more titles...

Remember the Idiots? Because we could use them
right about now...
As for Francona, again, good guy, good at what he does, I think he's just lost that connection with his clubhouse that allowed him to lead this team to two World Series titles.  Not that they aren't listening, it's just that he's no longer got that same group of "idiots" that he was able to relate so well to.  He needs a team full of Nick Swisher's (who I think played Jeremy Giambi in Moneyball), guys that will do their job but keep the atmosphere loose.  That's the type of atmosphere he obviously thrives in.  One where he can get a good read on a guy, because he's open about how he feels, and put his trust in him.  Even when this team was winning they weren't loose and fun, and that's the type of team he needs to be managing.  So, not his fault, I guess, for being stuck with a group of whiners and underachievers, but it's easier to can him and move on, than it would be to retool the entire roster...

So yeah, I'm looking for big changes on Yawkee Way.  And while I obviously wouldn't mind the shadiest run ever to a 3 World Series title in 8 years, I tend to think missing the playoffs will probably be better for this team's long term health.  At the very least, it should light a fire under the returning players, but my hope, is that it offers a chance to tinker with management, and get this franchise back on the right track...


That's it for me, friends.  Hope you found the movie review helpful and insightful, and I hope you still believe me when I tell you that I'm a Red Sox fan.  Because I am.  It's just that sometimes you need some tough love in order to move through the tough times.  And that's what I'm trying to provide.  Not a knee jerk reaction to the current state of affairs, just some tough love.  Just like in Moneyball, I have complete faith that the answers are all there, it's just high time they started looking at a different way of finding them...

Have a good week, friends.  And I'll catch you on the flipman...


Teddy Williams...
100...

#$>

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