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Tag Archive: MLB All Star Game


Radioactive girl in green hoodThe new TV series Defiance and Graceland have been using Imagine Dragons’ powerful hit song Radioactive as the background music for their promotions. Remember last year’s Phillip Phillips’ song Home during every sporting event, including a live performance at the Major League All Star Game, product ad placements, and even the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team’s theme for two (long) weeks?  We think Radioactive is a far better tune, and it’s addictive.  It’s also been used to promote the movie The Host, for the video game Assassin’s Creed III, shows on the History channel, and the TV show Chicago Fire.

If you haven’t seen the video for the song, we’re posting it here because its depiction of a Muppet vs. Care Bear cage fighting death match can’t be beat.  That’s right, a Muppet (actually a Muppet lookalike) and a Care Bear.   And a haunting girl in a hood with the secret weapon.  That’s just… neat.

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By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

The Midsummer Classic, baseball’s All-Star game, takes place on Tuesday and to help out you non-baseball fans, here are some cool things to keep in mind as you watch.  I’ve tried to frame the game in ways that I hope will make it easier for non-fans to understand.

Centerfielders Abound Just Like The Simpsons Episodes!

In the third season of The Simpsons (a season that I love for my favorite Halloween episode “Treehouse of Horror: II” because the frogurt is cursed) they had a baseball crossover episode called “Homer at the Bat” that starred the biggest baseball stars of the age, including Ozzie Smith, Mike Scioscia, Don Mattingly, Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco and Darryl Strawberry.  At the end of the episode, you hear a revised version of “Talkin’ Baseball” by Terry Cashman called “Talkin’ Softball.”  The new version replaced the signature “Willie, Mickey and the Duke,” with “Homer, Ozzie and the Straw.”  The original song commemorates the city of New York and the three great centerfielders that played there at the time, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Duke Snider.  Today, a couple of new centerfielders, Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, have drawn comparisons to these celebrated players of the past.  Add to them the great defensive centerfielder for the Braves, Michael Bourn, and you have a new part to the song, “Michael, Harper and the Trout.”  As the linked articles say, we’ll be seeing these guys for a while, and you’ll be lucky to catch glimpses of them both in their first All-Star Game.

The Fellowship of the Championship Ring

In baseball when you win the World Series, each member of the team now gets a championship ring.  To win the World Series, a team must win four games.  To get to play four games at home, the league must win the All-Star Game.*  So, think of it this way – the players for each team in the All-Star Game are like the league’s Fellowship of the Ring.  Nine members of the fellowship, nine players start for a baseball team. They are there to protect the interest of their league in procuring rings in October.  Here’s your guide to what person in each league equals each member of the Fellowship.

Frodo Baggins – Mike Napoli, AL;  Buster Posey, NL

Frodo was the guy that was modest but really in charge, and that just screams the position of catcher to me.  I put catcher Mike Napoli here because he looks like he would have hairy feet and Buster Posey because he has a baby face like Elijah Wood.

Samwise Gamgee – Derek Jeter, AL;  Yadier Molina, NL

Samwise had to be the most loyal person in the history of literature.  So, for his position, here are two players that have been with the same team for their entire career.  Derek Jeter with the Yankees and Yadier Molina with the Cardinals.  The fact that Molina also looks like he has hairy feet is just a bonus.  Since Molina won’t be at the game due to being on the bereavement list, I think Carlos Ruiz makes a great substitute as he has always been a Phillie and also looks to have hairy feet.

Merry Brandybuck and Pippin Took – Elvis Andrus and Asdrubal Cabrera AL;  Rafael Furcal and Jose Altuve, NL

If hobbits were ever to play baseball, they’d have to be middle infielders, generally the smallest players on the diamond.  Jose Altuve, the 5’5” second baseman for the Astros, makes this list as the slightest of all the players.  Elvis Andrus joins him because not only is he a middle infielder, he has hobbit power with only 1 home run.  Add to them shortstops Asdrubal Cabrera and Rafael Furcal and you got some serious small and quick guys (small being relative as Elvis and Asdrubal both stand 6’0”.)

Gandalf the Grey – Joe Nathan AL;  Chipper Jones, NL

When I think grey, I think older, as in, “I keep getting older and keep getting more grey hairs.”  So, for Gandalf, look no further than the two oldest players on each team that I didn’t select for another character.  Joe Nathan is just a little bit younger than Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones is the oldest player on both teams at the ripe old age of 40.

Aragorn – Robinson Cano, AL;  Matt Kemp, NL

I think of Aragorn and I think of a strong leader.  So, for Aragorn I choose the Home Run Derby Captains, Robinson Cano and Matt Kemp.  If we were just judging it on dreamy guys, because I think all fan girls swoon at the sight of Viggo Mortensen, then I think Matt would still easily make this cut. (He dated Rihanna.  Don’t worry, you probably don’t know her because you didn’t see Battleship.  Trust me – she’s very pretty.)  We’ll give Robinson Cano the benefit of the dreamy doubt as well.

Legolas – Curtis Granderson AL;  Andrew McCutchen, NL

I think Legolas, I think lithe.  Yes, both Andrew McCutchen and Curtis Granderson can hit a lot of home runs, but watching them cover ground in centerfield harkens back to Legolas running through the woods without getting winded.

Gimli – Prince Fielder, AL;  R.A. Dickey, NL

Prince Fielder is an easy choice as he is easily the most bearded guy on the field, and if there is one thing that dwarves can do, it’s grow a beard.  R.A. Dickey might not be as bearded as Prince, and since he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, he may be closer to Frodo or Sam climbing Mt. Doom, but I wanted to be sure to include him on a list because he is cool.  He climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.  If you want an NL player with the same physique as Prince and Gimli, the Kung Fu Panda (yes, that is his nickname) Pablo Sandoval is pretty close.  If I had to name a fourth dwarf, David Ortiz of the AL would easily make the list.

Boromir – Josh Hamilton, AL;  Joey Votto, NL

I think Boromir, I think of a big, strapping, huge guy ready to take on all comers.  As far as hitters go, you can’t get much bigger and stronger than Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto.  (If you think of Boromir as a traitor, put a little more Sean Bean as Ned Stark in your viewpoint.)  Right now, Joey and Josh are 1st and 3rd in wOBA, a stat created by Tom Tango to measure the whole picture of a player’s offensive contribution.  What does that mean?  They are the first and third best hitters in the game right now.

Now, you can watch the game, look at all these players and see if you agree with me.  If nothing else, it will keep your mind occupied in between the action on the field.  To make it simpler, just look at the big screen on each player and ask yourself: hobbit, dwarf, elf or man?

*Is it a good rule to have the home team of the World Series determined in this way?  Probably not, but I have much bigger complaints in the world and all the griping I hear now should have been as loud for alternating years back in the 80s.  Weee!  It’s an even numbered year and that means NL home field advantage!  Weee!  Do I sound bitter for being a fan of the Cardinals who made the World Series in the odd numbered years of 1985 and 1987 when I actually paid attention?  Yeeessss!

Pitchers pitching as fast as a Tron Identity Disc

Yes, Tron and Flynn can throw their identity discs with the speed of a starship, but wait until you see what these pitchers can do with a baseball.  Because the radar gun in Kansas City is “hot,” the readings will regularly look to be near triple digits, but even if you know that ahead of time and adjust down two miles an hour, you’ll still have plenty of chances to see guys that can throw a baseball at speeds approaching 100 miles an hour.  Here’s a list of pitchers and their average fastball velocity, but to simplify it to those on the All-Star roster, here are the All-Stars with their average fastball speed:

Stephen Strasburg – NL – 95.9 mph
David Price – AL – 95.5 mph
Justin Verlander – AL – 94.0 mph
Gio Gonzalez – NL – 93.3 mph
Clayton Kershaw – NL – 93.2 mph
Yu Darvish – AL – 93.0 mph

That’s just the starting pitchers.  These relievers can also throw very, very fast:

Craig Kimbrel – NL – 96.8 mph
Joel Hanrahan – NL – 95.9 mph
Fernando Rodney – AL – 95.6 mph
Jim Johnson – AL – 94.3 mph

If you look beyond the speed and just want to see pitches that move in crazy directions, check out R.A. Dickey and his “angry” knuckleball.  Yeah, that’s off the point, but I wanted a chance to mention R.A. Dickey again.

Hope that helps non-baseball fans to enjoy the game.  Happy viewing!

By C.J. Bunce

It’s All Star Major League Baseball week, and if you’re roaming around host city Kansas City this week, don’t bother trying to figure out those big symbols painted on the street at intersections throughout the city.  You’re probably better off not looking at the pavement as you drive, anyway.  They’re just ads for the event.  Planning and reporting for this week’s festivities made me ask myself:  How many host cities are asked to tear down dozens of houses to improve the appeal of major events?  That’s right, part of the deal to get the big MLB extravaganza into town was agreeing to tear down a bunch of abandoned east side homes near baseball fields holding related games.  Those supporting the action say it caused the city to get off its rear and act on something they needed to do anyway.  But local elected officials have been voicing their dismay on behalf of neighborhood residents–why do we need a sporting event to clean up our city?

This same week, halfway across the country, 150,000 or so fanboys and fangirls will descend upon San Diego for the annual International Comic-Con. It makes you wonder–how many houses are getting torn down in San Diego?  Both All Star Week and Comic-Con bring in money for their towns, and from a city management standpoint, that’s all that matters.  For a city like Kansas City, you don’t get many bites at the apple, not many chances to bring in national events, although the city has built up major convention centers like the Sprint Center and Kauffman Performing Arts Center–facilities that rival their counterparts across the country no matter what size the city, and these venues are attracting the commensurate talent. Kauffman Stadium, where the All Star game will be played Tuesday, is without dispute one of the best venues to see baseball anywhere–its giant scoreboard video screen is one of the top of its kind in the country.

Sponsors have dumped hundred of thousands of dollars into promotions for All Star week.  Nike, Chevrolet, Bank of America, even the Budweiser Clydesdales are all at the stadium, despite temperatures nearing 100 degrees (plan on buying a lot of bottled water if you’re going in person).  At the Sprint Center even more promotional activities are underway at the “Fan Fest,” including members of the original women’s baseball league featured in the movie A League of their Own.  Again, baseball is about money, money and money.  And so is Comic-Con.  If you’re a fan of either, you just ignore all the glitz and go after what you want–watching the baseball game (which seems like it may be an afterthought with all the promotions) and meeting your favorite comic book artists and writers and your favorite TV and movie stars, once you make it through the crowds at Comic-Con.

So I figured, what better way to start out All Star Baseball and Comic-Con week than revisiting the successful Brad Pitt movie Moneyball?  Last October, borg.com writer Jason McClain was a bit dismayed with the film.  He had read the source material, based on actual events and real people, and I think his best praise was that the film was just OK.  After finally seeing it, if you’re like me–less of a diehard baseball fan and more of a baseball movie fan, you may very well love Moneyball.  In fact, I’d argue inclusion of Moneyball is a must on a future borg.com Top 10 baseball movie list.

Jason identified the best part of the film, namely Pitt as protagonist Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, and young Yale economics grad Pete Brand (name changed from the original person in the story) played by Jonah Hill (Superbad) in a much deserved Academy Award-nominated role for best supporting actor.  In an attempt to encourage Beane to push everything aside and do the right thing for himself, Pete shows Beane footage of a classic baseball moment–Jeremy Brown rarely takes the chance to round first and break for second base.  This one time he does he screws up and tries to make it back to first, getting tagged by the first baseman in the process.  What Brown didn’t realize was that his hit made it over the wall.  He’d hit a home run and didn’t know it.  Pete’s point?  Beane was a success and just didn’t know enough to stop and soak it up.

Moneyball is obviously about money in baseball–not just how baseball has changed from its origins into this established, maybe bloated system that resists any effort to change with the times.  It applies to movie stars in NYC and Hollywood, too, but you have to ask: Does anyone deserve $7 million for whatever they do?  I once made it to a day game to see the Yankees play in the Bronx.  Strawberry struck out at bat.  Twice.  Pretty underwhelming game.  But what was memorable was all the local kids at the game.  Each one had a well-marked season’s scorecard with plenty of margin notes.  These were the diehard fans.  And when you think about increasing prices everywhere, including tickets for baseball games or movies, you wonder at what point fans will just stop going.  Or for a change, when prices actually drop.  But that would require thinking differently.  That would require real change.

More than money, Moneyball is simply a great sports story.  Brad Pitt offers one of his less difficult but most subtle and smartly played roles.  For the first time since Twelve Monkeys I saw Pitt in the big leagues as an equal to the likes of Robert Redford in The Natural.  (One humorous bit is every scene he is stuffing his face with some kind of food or having a dip).  The fact that he is willing to stop and change when no one else wants to is inspiring.  As strange and unlikely as it seems, Pitt mirrors Gregory Peck’s role in the Hollywood classic Twelve O’Clock High.  In that film, the Allies keep fighting but keep losing at the same time.  It’s a war of attrition, and hard decisions must be made that affect lives of airmen but actually the fate of the world is at stake.  Peck’s role is clean-up man.  He’s the fixer.  In Moneyball, the stakes are different, but for Pitt, this could be the end of his world if he is not successful.  Can he change the very nature of baseball so his ball club can survive?  Years ago a CEO who was about to get the axe asked me for advice.  “Where did I go wrong?” he asked.  Set in his own ways, he resisted change.  I recommended he watch Twelve O’Clock High for some inspiration.  But it was advice asked and given too late.  Resisting change is natural, and it is powerfully hard to do.  That’s why those people who are successful at moving forward in the face of huge resistance make great stories.

As for criticisms, I will leave those to Jason–he noted (probably justifiably so) that the filmmakers (and underlying source work) may have been harsh in its portrayals of real-life coach Art Howe and scout Grady Fuson.  In brief, these guys are used to the old rules and resist change.  As the story of Moneyball is about change, and as those resisting it, they become the villains.  Whenever you portray real-life people in movies or non-fiction works, someone isn’t going to like the portrayal (particularly the public figures themselves).  Yet you always have to ask whether there is at least a grain of truth in these portrayals.  In what is one of the best pieces of storytelling of all time, Jon Krakauer’s account of a failed attempt of several climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest was met with much opposition, by nearly every other guy who climbed the mountain with Krakauer.  But that does not detract from the fact that the story told by Krakauer is gut-churning, nail-biting, and exciting.  Ultimately accounts of real life can seemingly take on their own lives.  The events of May 1996 on Everest are separate and apart from Krakauer’s bestselling memoire Into Thin Air.  So, I think, may be the film Moneyball versus its source material, the Michael Lewis book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, or even the real events that summer where the Oakland A’s broke baseball’s winning streak records.  We don’t really know what Beane and the man Pete was based on were like then, but we know the characterization of these guys in the film was superb.  And we can love the film whether it got everything real life right or not.

Whether you’re in it for the fandom or the money, this is bound to be a great week from Kansas City to San Diego. Bring on the fans!