Baseball Notes: The Art of Baseball
Regular season baseball can't come soon enough for me so this morning I watched Moneyball.
There isn't a lot of baseball action in this baseball movie, not a lot of postseason drama, and it gets a little sleepy at times. It's just like the MLB season, and that's just what I like. Personally, I like the regular season more than the postseason because I like the grind the of the season, the stories of players coming out of nowhere like John Holdzkom or David Peralta of the Pirates and Diamondbacks who went from independent league baseball to becoming key parts of their teams. I like watching teams that lose that play interesting baseball, or have a great announcer or just a guy that's a physical freak like Billy Hamilton is fast or Wily Mo Pena used to hit the ball a mile or Kyle Blanks will when he can get on the field. It's amazing to see a run like when Joey Votto pulled one ball foul in a whole season or Cliff Lee walked 34 batters in 31 games started. It's amazing seeing Gerardo Parra throw out a runner at home from right field on the fly.
It's amazing to just the way Ichiro can move on the field whether he's 27 years old and playing in the US for the first time or 42 years old. He's 65 hits away from 3000 in the mlb, which would also be 4278 between the US and Japan. Pete Rose had 4256 hits in the MLB and played until he was 45 and hit under .275 in seven seasons. Ichiro has hit under .275 in the US and Japan a total of five times, and two of those seasons were when he was a teenager. I feel like it doesn't take much for me to get on a tangent about the amazingness of Ichiro and pointing out anything disparing about Pete Rose without needing to point out how he's just an overall scuzzy person.
Moneyball doesn't have a lot of baseball action in it but what it does have looks great and cuts seemlessly with game footage. It has game play feel of The Natural, which might be the best gameplay baseball movie even after all these years. I've always liked For the Love of the Game, and Sugar (even though that one doesn't have a ton of game footage either), too.
Saddly, one of the more infurating movies for its gameplay is 42. They get stadiums and uniforms to look great and tell one of the best true stories from baseball history but what it gets painfully wrong is basestealing. Jackie Robinson is not just a social justice figure in baseball, he was also one of the most, and maybe the most, valuable players in baseball history. He is in the 30's for onbase percentage all-time which is currently the most popular statistic in baseball for creating runs, but he was able to create runs on the basepaths by stealing bases, but also by distracting pitchers when he wasn't stealing giving the batters behind him and advantage over the pitcher. In the movie 42, Jackie Robinson only takes off to steal bases as the ball hits the catcher's mit, badly misrepresenting the ability of taking off for second before the pitcher releases the ball. No one leaves when the ball is in the catcher's mit unless it is a delayed steal, and that is only done much like a pitcher's change up as an offspeed way to catch the opponant off guard.
He also played all four infield positions and rightfield at an all star level (and Hall of Fame level). That is something that, off the top of my head, can only be approached by Craig Biggio playing catcher, second base, and centerfield in his career, and Robin Yount playing shortstop and centerfield. These days, that versatility is one of the most romanticized skills in baseball with the breakouts of Ben Zobrist (an all-star in a season where he played every position but pitcher and catcher), Brock Holt (an all-star in a season also playing every position but pitcher and catcher), and Josh Harrison (an all-star in a season playing short, third, second, right and left).
Moneyball is a good movie, a good baseball movie, something interesting to watch to scratch the baseball itch and has an amazing montage of the win streak capped by a great at bat of acting from Chris Pratt (he acts like he takes a pitch well, not sure why but I was fixated on this in this viewing). However, as a product of Michael Lewis (who skims over Miguel Tejada, played by former SS Royce Clayton, winning the MVP that year, and Barry Zito winning the Cy Young that year, Mark Mulder finishing second and Tim Hudson receiving Cy Young votes in the three years surrounding 2002), Aaron Sorkin, and Bennett Miller whose preceding directing credit was Capote, it's a little underacheiving.