C.C. Sabathia, still a Yankee. Wonderful news.
My cousin’s too big for trick-or-treating, but he was still bummed that Halloween was cancelled. Downed power lines, still rippling with electricity, all over his town. Kids had to stay inside, munching from the family stash.
In our neighborhood, it was business as usual, a rare time when Halloween in the city is better than the variety just across the Bridge.
We have a candy exchange in a big park. The scene is both efficient and chaotic as you can fill your pumpkin in minutes, but the total experience pales in comparison to the coordinated march from house to house that I remember from my childhood.
Luckily, we have a few local spots that give my kids an idea of how it’s supposed to be…
By John Schulian
In my show business alphabet, the scarlet letter will always be “s” for syndication. The instant I started wearing it, the network and cable people doing high-end dramas treated me like I was descended from intellectual pygmies who eat rabid bats and worship Soupy Sales. Only the young and promising receive special dispensation for working on a syndicated show to get a foot in Hollywood’s door. But I was 51 when I crawled away from “Xena” and “Hercules,” old enough to have known better. I would have had to be a miracle worker to avoid being branded as a junk peddler and cast into darkness. Alas, I was fresh out of miracles.
My new status hit me like a pie in the face on my next gig, an appallingly uninspired private eye show called “Lawless.” The title had absolutely nothing to do with Lucy, though I couldn’t help wishing she were around to give our leading man lessons in how to roll with the flow instead of turning to stone whenever the camera was on him. Brian Bosworth was a washed-up football star who realized how badly he wanted to act when Bo Jackson trampled him on national TV. The Boz got his chance in a series of cheap action movies that proved he wasn’t any better at it than he was at tackling. But that didn’t stop the brain trust at Fox TV from handing him “Lawless.” The thinking seemed to be that if enough helicopters landed in Lawlesss’s mother’s backyard simultaneously, we’d have a hit.
I found myself in the trenches with Frank Lupo, who had created or co-created something like 16 series, and Richard Christian Matheson, who had scored big in TV and was now devoting most of his time to writing novels and screenplays. While the network dithered about choppers and the proper sidekick for Bosworth, our biggest decision every day was where to eat lunch. The rest of the time, we cashed fat paychecks, complained about our offices in a converted Culver City warehouse, and listened to Lupo tell stories. My favorite was about Robert Blake, in his “Baretta” days, introducing himself to this son of a Brooklyn pizza maker by saying, “I’m crazy, you know.”
On Friday nights, gang kids would gather in the shadows of our dead-end street to drink and howl at the moon while we scampered for our respective Mercedes. That was as close to the real world as we came, unless you want to consider the fate of “Lawless” itself. Fox didn’t get its desired number of helicopters and we were left to bang out scripts in a white heat. Predictably, the show was cancelled after one episode. The only reason “Lawless” lasted that long was because the network didn’t have anything to replace it at the half-hour.
From that point forward, I could see the last of the sand running through my hourglass. I tried to buy myself more time by writing screenplays, one of them based on W.C. Heinz’s unforgettable magazine story about Lew Jenkins, a go-to-hell prizefighter from Texas who became a war hero in Korea. The Jenkins script got me a flurry of meetings and, for a minute or two, made me the poster boy for the Creative Artists Agency’s in-house campaign to have its TV writers cross over to movies. Unfortunately my timing was dreadful. “Cinderella Man” was already in the works, and so was a Meg Ryan movie about a real-life female fight manager. I wanted to tell the people who were using those projects as a reason to say no to me that Jenkins’ story was better than either of them. But I kept my mouth shut, and when movie people asked if I had any other ideas, I always mentioned Gram Parsons, who married classic country music to a rock-and-roll sensibility and died of hard living way too young. I didn’t get anywhere with that one, either. Johnny Knoxville did. Need I say more?
Eventually I did what most every frustrated screenwriter does. I changed agents. Why not? I’d changed agents, and agencies, even when I wasn’t frustrated. I’d changed them because one agent was a creep who sexually harassed his female assistants. And because my instincts told me another was a bad fit for me. And because a woman who represented me left United Talent for CAA after she became a target for an abrasive, emotionally damaged colleague she had made the mistake of dating.
When I talked myself into believing she had lost sight of whatever it was I did best, I jumped again, to Paul Haas, at ICM. It was the worst move I ever made professionally. When I think of him now, I’m reminded of Murray Kempton’s analysis of Bill Clinton: “too smart by half.” Haas wasn’t book smart, though; he was Hollywood smart, slick and self-absorbed, almost feral in his quest to get to the top of the meat pile. Not unusual qualities in an agent, but I failed to see the warning sign that said “by half” until he told me to meet with the producers of a show about a fat cop who was a martial arts wizard. It was exactly the kind of claptrap I wanted to get away from, so I refused. Then the producers of another show about a fat cop said they didn’t want to meet with me because I’d done “Xena” and “Hercules.” They robbed me of the chance to say no to them first, the bastards.
Far worse, however, was that Haas soon lost interest in me. He had bigger fish to fry, more important clients who could make him more money, and a more prestigious place at the table to claim for his own. The only attention I got from him bordered on condescension. When I wrote pieces for GQ and Sports Illustrated to maintain my sanity, he congratulated me on “reinventing” myself, as if I’d never told him that I was a newspaper and magazine guy at heart. That wasn’t the only thing he didn’t pay attention to. There was also my Lew Jenkins screenplay, which he handed off to two of ICM’s young sharks. Their names were Todd and Danny, and on those rare occasions when I look at the trade papers now, I see they’ve prospered. But when they were supposed to be championing my cause, I never heard from them. After a year of being ignored, I complained to Haas and quickly got a call from Todd. Or Danny.
“That was a great script,” whichever one I was talking to said.
“Thanks,” I said.
“Remind me what it was about, would you?”
I hung up. If it hadn’t, I would have told Todd – or Danny – I had a new screenplay that I had written specifically for the purpose of sticking up his ass. Even now I have moments when I fantasize about seeing one of them in some fancy-schmancy restaurant and decking him. Not so much as a “Remember me?” Just lights out. But I’m too old for such nonsense and too weary to get exercised over the everyday cruelties that pass for standard business practices in Hollywood. Maybe I was gassed back then too and just wouldn’t admit it. How else to explain the fact that I never fired Haas no matter how useless he was?
It took an old friend from “Midnight Caller,” Stephen Zito, to open the door for me at “JAG.” The show was more fun than I expected it to be with one exception: its creator and executive producer, Don Bellisario. With a foul-smelling cigar smoldering in his mouth, a disdain for any idea that wasn’t his, and a tin ear for dialogue, Bellisario leeched all the joy out of writing. He was a bully and a lout and a war lover who’d never been to war. You’d have to go a long way to find anyone in TV more despised. I’m surprised I lasted 25 episodes. Not that things improved when Haas steered me to “Outer Limits” and I promptly shot myself in the foot by telling an executive producer with a lube-job haircut that a story he embraced was no story at all. That would have been my last stand if David Israel hadn’t brought me aboard as his right-hand man on “Tremors.” It had monsters, oddball humor, and weird characters in a forgotten desert town. Hits have been made of less. But we were saddled with the two amiably passive-aggressive guys who wrote the movies on which “Tremors” was based, and they refused to adapt to the realities of TV. They just made the same mistakes over and over until they looked up one day and the show was off the air.
I was as far as I could be from those heady times when Steven Bochco invited me to come out and try my hand at writing scripts. Where once the TV business had given me with hope, I now felt diminished. I found myself remembering the long-in-tooth writers who had come in to pitch their tired episode ideas on “Miami Vice” and “Midnight Caller,” and how I had promised myself I wouldn’t end up the way they had. If I insisted on squeezing the last drop of juice from the orange, that was exactly who I’d be – short on pride and dignity, just a beggar with a nice car. It felt as though there were less of me every time I turned around. I was in a bad sci-fi movie and I was slowly vanishing.
C.C. Sabathia is expected to opt out of his contract today and the Yankees are expected to announce that Brian Cashman will return as general manager. Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher had their options picked up by the team over the weekend.
Last winter, the Yanks lost out on the Cliff Lee sweepstakes. They hope not bag their man Sabathia this time around.
In 1979, director Ridley Scott brought us “Alien“, a horror/sci-fi film revolving around the crew of a space freighter Nostromo battling a merciless extraterrestrial being wanting to use humans as “hosts”. The alien being “attached” to the face of the victim, and implanted its egg down the victim’s throat. The egg would grow and eventually a new “baby alien” would announce its presence by bursting through the victim’s chest. Oh, and the blood of these aliens appears to be a highly corrosive acid, so please don’t let any of it get on you.
The film provided a rarity … a female lead character (Ellen Ripley, portrayed by a then-barely known Sigourney Weaver) that didn’t launch into a “Perils of Pauline” dialogue during a crisis. The movie was an unexpected hit. Seven years later, James Cameron, fresh off his massive hit “The Terminator,” gave us “Aliens”. Rarely has a sequel measured up to its predecessor, let alone surpassed it.
As the film opens Ripley, (the only human survivor from the destroyed Nostromo of the original film) is rescued and revived after drifting for years in a space shuttle while in a form of “hypersleep”. Her employers, a corporation named Weyland-Yutani, do not believe her tale of the “alien” encounter as no physical evidence of the creature survived the destruction of the Nostromo. She has her space flight license suspended as a result of this, and learns that LV-426, the planet where her crew first encountered the Alien eggs, is now home to a terraforming colony.
Ripley is later visited by an employee of Weyland-Yutani, Carter Burke (Paul Reiser, in a rare dramatic turn) and Lieutenant Gorman (William Hope) of the Colonial Marines, who inform her that contact has been lost with the colony on LV-426. The company decides to dispatch Burke and a unit of marines to investigate. Ripley is given the chance to restore her flight status and have her work contract picked up if she will accompany them as a consultant. Naturally shell-shocked by her previous encounter with the Alien, Ripley initially refuses to join, but finally accepts as she realizes she can face her post-traumatic fears. Aboard the warship Sulaco she is introduced to the Colonial Marines, including Sergeant Apone (Al Matthews, who it turns out actually was a Marine for six years), Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn, working with Cameron again after starring in “The Terminator”), Privates Vasquez (the wonderful chameleon of an actress Jenette Goldstein) and Hudson (Bill Paxton, another Cameron holdover from “The Terminator”), and the android Bishop (Lance Henriksen, and yes, he appeared in “The Terminator” as well).
The Marines are dropped onto the surface of the planet and find the colony seemingly deserted. The gungho troops, pumped up by Sergeant Apone but led by the soon-to-be-revealed very inexperienced and over-his-head Gorman, have never encountered anything like this. Their entrance into the colony’s main building is at first executed with typical military precision, but when things start to turn against them, and members are picked off one-by-one by Aliens, Gorman freezes, and Ripley takes over.
A little while later, two living Alien creatures (having hatched from the eggs that had been inside their human hosts) are found in containment tanks in the medical lab, and the only colonist found is a traumatized young girl nicknamed Newt (Carrie Henn). Henn, no more than eight or nine when the movie was shot, gives a wonderfully nuanced performance. It is an exquisite look of utter blankness and shock upon her face as she is discovered, initially resists being “captured” by the Marines, and finally allows Ripley to hold her and calm her down. (Interestingly, this is Henn’s only acting credit in her life . . . she grew up to be a schoolteacher).
Flashing forward a bit, Ripley discovers that Burke hopes to return Alien specimens to the company laboratories where he can profit from their use as biological weapons. She threatens to expose him, but Bishop soon informs the group of a greater threat: the planet’s energy processing station has become unstable and will soon detonate with a catastrophic impact. Now it becomes a race not to save any survivors on the planet, but to just get off the planet.
Ripley, with her maternal instinct dial now at “full”, and Newt fall asleep in the medical laboratory, awakening to find themselves locked in the room with the two facehuggers, which have been released from their tanks. Ripley alerts the marines, who rescue them and kill the creatures. Ripley accuses Burke of attempting to smuggle implanted Alien embryos past Earth’s quarantine inside her and Newt, and of planning to kill the rest of the marines in hypersleep during the return trip. The electricity is suddenly cut off and numerous Aliens attack through the ceiling. An extended and tense battle scene ensues, with Hudson, Burke, Gorman, and Vasquez eventually all killed and Newt captured by the Aliens.
Ripley and an injured Hicks reach Bishop and a rescue dropship, but mama Ripley refuses to leave Newt behind as the countdown to planet extinction nears. She locates Newt, and torches the Alien queen’s hive of eggs, enraging the queen. In the film’s climactic scene, we see Ripley’s transformation from simple “employee” to “soldier”. She dons an “exosuit” normally used for loading heavy cargo, and utters to the Alien queen the catchphrase of the movie, summarizing her maternal instincts and pissed-off attitude in six simple words.
“Get away from her you bitch!”
Grab your popcorn, settle on your couch, and hold onto a pillow … tight. You are in for one scary adrenaline-fueled ride.
Another season in the books. Congrats to the Cards, the unlikely champs in what proved to be an exciting season. And what an October.
But we do this 365 around these parts and cover so much more than baseball. We’ll have Hot Stove and all sorts of goodness for you. Keep comin’ back.
[Photo Credit: Joe Martz]
This is it, the 2011 season comes down to one last game.
Let’s Go Base-ball!
[Photo Credit: via Running Amuck]
It’s been a quiet off-season so far for the Yankees, and for good reason. Teams are discouraged from making major announcements during the World Series. Free agents cannot declare until after the World Series. CC Sabathia has not yet exercised the opt-out clause in his contract, though he is expected to do so at some point.
It wasn’t until Thursday that I saw the first major rumor pop up, courtesy of ESPN’s Wally Matthews, who reports that the Yankees may replace Nick Swisher with free agent Carlos Beltran. If the Yankees sign Beltran, they’ll either decide not to pick up Swisher’s option (a bad idea) or they’ll pick up the option and then trade Swisher for some pitching help.
I’ve already made it clear that the Yankees should explore the possibility of trading Swisher, but I don’t agree with any plan to sign Beltran. That’s because Beltran is a Scot Boras client, and Boras is going to demand a three-year contract for his aging outfielder. Beltran is 34, running on surgically repaired legs, and will probably have to DH within the next season or two. The Yankees need to get younger, not older, and they need to commit as many DH at-bats as they can to Jesus Montero.
Beltran is a name brand player, possibly a Hall of Famer, but the Yankees should pursue someone who is younger and more versatile. Michael Cuddyer might be that player. He is three years younger than Beltran, can play the outfield and infield corners, and has a history of hitting in the postseason. He’s not as famous as Beltran, but he would be a much better fit for the 2012 Yankees.
If the Yankees don’t like Cuddyer, they will have other free agent options for right field. There’s Cuddyer’s Minnesota teammate, the lefty-swinging Jason Kubel, who is limited defensively but is only 29 and has more power than his 12 home runs indicate. (He’d also find Yankee Stadium to his liking.) Veterans David DeJesus, Cody Ross, and Josh Willingham will also be available, and at prices considerably cheaper than Beltran. I‘d explore all of them before committing three years and millions of dollars to a fragile Beltran…
The Yankees did make their first transaction of the off-season last week, though it was hardly of the blockbuster variety. As expected, the Yankees declined their $4 million option on lefty Damaso Marte, instead buying out his contract for $250,000. (It must be wonderful to be a major leaguer, receiving a quarter of a million dollars to do nothing.) Marte hardly pitched for the Yankees over the last two seasons–in fact, he didn’t pitch at all this season because of labrum surgery–so it’s hardly the same as losing Andy Pettitte to retirement.
Yet, I’ll always have good memories of Marte, if only because of what he did during the 2009 postseason. He faced 12 batters during that championship run, retiring all of them. Two of those batters came in the clinching Game Six of the World Series, when Marte struck out Chase Utley and Ryan Howard on six pitches. That set the stage for Mariano Rivera to pitch the final two innings and finish off the Yankees’ 27th world championship.
For the most part, Marte was a bust as a Yankee. He made $12 million over the last three years, despite injury and ineffectiveness. But what he contributed in October of 2009 made it all worthwhile…
Last night’s Game Six was so reminiscent of the sixth game of the 1975 Fall Classic that the similarities are eerie. The Cardinals successfully played the role of the Red Sox, facing elimination on their home field. Like the Red Sox, the Cardinals had to come back from a late three-run deficit to earn the right to play a Game Seven.
David Freese decided to combine the roles of both Bernie Carbo and Carlton Fisk, first tying the game with an unlikely triple against the blazing Neftali Feliz and then ending the 11-inning marathon affair with a monstrous home run to center field. That put Mark Lowe in the unenviable role of Pat Darcy, a somewhat unfair predicament given that Ron Washington should never have pinch-hit for Scott Feldman in the top half of the 11th.
On two different occasions, the Rangers came within a strike of winning the first world championship in the history of the franchise. On both occasions, the lead slipped out of their pitchers’ hands, thanks in part to ex-Yankee Lance Berkman, who stalled the celebration with a clutch two-strike single to center field.
Rangers fans have had to wait 39 years to win a World Series. Now they will have to wait at least one more day.
Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times.
And you can put that on my momma, exclamation point, quotation, comma.
[Photo Credit: ATrak]
For the first time in almost 10 years, the World Series will come down to a game seven. It remains to be seen who will get the big hit or make the big pitch in this winner-take-all scenario, but by the end of the game, new heroes will have emerged, and one of them will be named the World Series MVP.
Had the series ended in six games, the Rangers’ Mike Napoli, whom no one seemed to want this off season, was an almost surefire bet to win the MVP. In fact, even if he is unable to play in game seven, the Rangers’ catcher would still be a near lock to win the award if Texas can pull out a victory. Should the Cardinals win, however, the likely MVP is not as clear. With three hits and three RBIs in game six, including a game tying single with two outs in the 10th inning, Lance Berkman has thrown his hat into the ring. Similarly, David Freese, whose WPA of .953 easily became the highest total in a World Series game, has emerged as a strong MVP candidate. In addition, Allen Craig and Albert Pujols, who have each had memorable moments in the series, could earn the hardware with a big contribution in game seven. Even Chris Carpenter could sneak into the mix if he can match his performance in the final game of the NLDS. In other words, the outcome of the MVP race is in just as much doubt as the game itself.
Without a crystal ball, we can’t be sure who will be handed the World Series MVP during tomorrow’s postgame celebration, but at least we can take a look back at those who have won it in the past. In total, there have been 58 honorees since the award was first instituted in 1955. Not surprisingly, the Yankees, at 12, have had the most players named MVP in the Fall Classic, including the only player (Bobby Richardson in 1960) to win the award despite being on the losing team.
Starting pitchers have won 23 World Series MVPs, by far the most of any position. Cumulatively, however, more hitters have been honored. Of the 31 offensive players to be named MVP, third basemen have taken home the most hardware, followed by catchers and shortstops. On the other end of the spectrum, left field and second baseman have almost been shutout, as each position has only featured one honoree.
In terms of batting order, the third and fifth slots have each had six recipients, while, somewhat surprisingly, the seventh and eighth spots have garnered just as many awards as cleanup. Should Mike Napoli win it this year, he would become the fifth seventh place hitter to win the MVP, just one year after Edgar Renteria, who batted eighth, won the trophy for the Giants. At least one player from each slot in the batting order has been named MVP, so come October, just about anyone is capable of being a hero.
World Series MVPs by Batting Order (and last recipient)
Note: Players considered at the lineup slot where they had the most plate appearances. Ninth slot excludes pitchers.
Source: Stats LLC c/o Wall Street Journal
The MVP award isn’t really about positions on the field or slots in the batting order. It is about individuals who rise to the occasion when the games matter most. Normally, when we think about such players, the very best superstars in the game come to mind. And, sure enough, the list of World Series MVPs includes many of these immortal players. From Sandy Koufax, who recorded the highest regular season WAR among all MVPs (10.8 in 1963), to Frank Robinson (8.8 oWAR in 1966) and Mike Schmidt (7.6 oWAR IN 1980), some of the biggest stars in baseball history have shined just as brightly during the Fall Classic.
The World Series MVP has been an All Star 32 times, an MVP five times (Koufax, Robinson, Jackson, Stargell and Schmidt) and Cy Young on seven occasions (Turley, Ford, Koufax (2), Saberhagen, Hershiser and R. Johnson). However, there have been several World Series MVPs who had very little success during the regular season. The most improbable of these was the aforementioned Richardson, who, despite having a negative oWAR and OPS+ of 68, managed to knock in 12 runs, almost half his regular season total, in the 1960 World Series. Bucky Dent, another Yankees’ middle infielder, was also a surprise MVP when he carried the momentum of his three-run homer in the one-game playoff at Fenway Park into the 1978 World Series. In that series, Dent hit .417 with seven RBIs, earning the most valuable player award over Mr. October (2HR, 8RBI, 1.196 OPS).
Among non-Yankees, Renteria (0.6 oWAR), Rick Dempsey (0.6 oWAR in 1983), and Steve Yeager (0.1 oWAR in 1981) rank among the least likely position players to win the MVP in the World Series. The unlikelihood of these players winning the award was summed up best by Dempsey, who while discussing his accomplishment famously joked about his regret over not negotiating a bonus clause into his contract. “Given the odds against that happening, they would’ve given it to me,” Dempsey told reported after the Orioles’ World Series victory. “I’d have asked for $200,000, they would have said, ‘Here, take $400,000.’”
The average regular season WAR of pitchers who have won the World Series MVP is one full win higher than their position player counterparts, but there have still been more than a few improbable honorees. Johnny Podres, the very first MVP in the Fall Classic, was just a 22-year old kid with little success in the majors when the Dodgers took on the rival Yankees in the 1955 World Series. So, needless to say, no one was expecting him to finally make the difference in Dem Bums’ quixotic attempt to beat the mighty Bronx Bombers. However, that’s exactly what the left hander did by winning two complete games. Thanks to Podres, the Dodgers were finally able to enjoy victory instead of being forced to “wait ‘til next year”.
For 30 years, Podres was the youngest player to win the World Series MVP, but in 1985, a 21-year old right hander claimed the mantle from him. That season, Brett Saberhagen took the American League by storm, winning 20 games and earning the Cy Young award in only his second season. The ALCS wasn’t as kind to the young pitcher, however, as the Blue Jays knocked him out before the fifth inning in both of his starts. Saberhagen rebounded from that disappointment in the World Series, surrendering only one run in two complete game victories to give the Royals their first and only championship to date.
So, as the Rangers and Cardinals head into game seven, round up all the usual suspects. One of them is bound to have a big game. At the same time, however, don’t take your eyes off the role players. As the Rangers, and the Brewers before them, have learned, guys like David Freese can be just as dangerous as Albert Pujols, especially when you are one strike away from winning the World Series.
“If you break open a song, you’ll find the eggs of other songs,” he told me. “Misunderstandings are really kind of an epidemic and acceptable. I think it’s about one thing, but someone else will say, ‘That song is kind of a rhino in hot pants on a burnt rocking horse with a lariat shouting, “Repent, repent!” ’ I think that’s great.”
…In the past thirty years, Waits, as a songwriter, has tried to retain a sense of craft while finding musical settings that take his compositions out of some nostalgic tar pit. On “Bad as Me,” he sounds like someone who knows the history of pop and uses only the bits he needs to make the hybrid creature that will carry him to safety. “I’m always looking for sounds that are pleasing at the time,” he told me. “The sound of a helicopter is really annoying until you’re drowning, and it’s there to rescue you. Then it sounds like music.”
I love the part about sounds changing their meaning. Wonderful.
It’s cold today, not autumn chilly but the start of winter cold. Last day of what has been an enjoyable baseball season and I am sorry to see it end.
I saw these guys on Broadway when I got out of the subway, walked over and felt the ground shake beneath me. A good feeling, watching men work, the ground vibrating.
Early in Game 6 Nelson Cruz caught a fly ball for an out. But he stabbed at it and he looked like a clumsy kid not a big leaguer. But nobody ever said that being good means looking good. Last night’s game was unsightly in many ways, fielding errors, poor relief pitching, but it was dramatic and entertaining when it wasn’t infuriating. The Rangers were one strike away from winning their first Whirled Serious, twice. The Cards finally won it on game-ending home run by the man who dropped an easy pop-up a few hours earlier. Pain and joy and Game 7.
[Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images]