erik lundegaard

Wednesday July 17, 2019

Your Best Chance to Get Edgar Martinez Out

If you wanted to get Edgar Martinez out during his long, storied, and now Hall of Fame career, here’s what you needed to do.

He’s a rightie, of course, but calling for a right-handed pitcher didn’t help much. He hit better against lefties but it wasn’t overwhelming: .322 to .308. Still, you need every advantage so you'd take it. 

Away games? The difference between home and away for him was miniscule and actually favored away: .312 vs. .311 at home. Late in the season? He actually hit better in the second half: .309/.314. In fact, you’d probably want to face him in April. Every other month he hit over .300; in April he hit just .297. And get him either in the 1st or 8th inning, where he hit .298. Every over inning he's over .300.

But whatever you do, don’t get behind in the count. On 1-0 pitches, he hit .406, and on 2-0 counts, he hit .441 with a .888 slugging percentage. On 3-0, his OBP was .963.

Come to think of it, getting ahead in the count didn’t always help, either: On 0-1 pitches, he hit .337. No, what you'd want was to get a little deeper into the count, with maybe Edgar behind. That’s when his numbers begin to drift below .300. Edgar’s line on 2-2, for example, was not great: .252/.256/.396.

Got all that? Basically, what you’d want, if you wanted the best chance to get Edgar out, is a right-hander pitching to him, at home, say in the 8th inning, with maybe a 2-2 count on him.

Which turns out to be the exact circumstances here:

Thus endeth the lesson. 

Enjoy the Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sunday, Edgar. Everyone in Seattle will be celebrating with you. 

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Posted at 06:20 AM on Jul 17, 2019 in category Seattle Mariners   |   Permalink  
Tuesday July 16, 2019

Movie Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

WARNING: SPOILERS

Marvel Studios isn’t wasting time, is it? Two months ago, “Avengers: Endgame” ended the saga that began with “Iron Man” in 2008, and now they’re already positioning the new Iron Man, the spectacular Spider-Man, (Tom Holland), while suggesting the beginning of a new saga. Time is money, after all, and poor Marvel/Disney only has all of it.

Not only is much of “Spider-Man: Far from Home” about the dilemma of replacing Tony Stark on the world or cinematic stage, but the mid-credits sequence is a callback to the ending of the original “Iron Man,” with its shocking rock ‘n’ roll line: “I am Iron Man.” This one ends with, whoa!, the return of J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, now bald, and broadcasting to the world that “Spider-Man is .... [static] ... [more static] .... Peter Parker!”

Yes, a little different. Instead of tooting his own horn, which is the Tony Stark way, Peter is shamefully outed, which is the Peter Parker way. But the effect on us is the same. Just as we’re winding down, the movie gooses us. Wow! What happens NEXT? We suddenly anticipate the sequel. We may even watch this one again to sate ourselves in the meantime. Which is entirely the point.

As for the end-credits sequence? Not a fan.

Not smart?
Overall, I liked “Far from Home” well enough. Not as much as “Homecoming” but enough.

OK, it could’ve been better.

It’s the opposite of “Homecoming.” There, Peter did everything he could to prove himself worthy of being an Avenger. Here, he runs from the role. There, he wanted to be Spider-Man; here, he just wants to be Peter. I guess being dead five years might do that to a soul.

Hey, I just realized it’s also a little similar to Tobey’s second Spidey. Pete runs from being Spider-Man in order to enjoy life as Peter Parker with friends and MJ (Zendaya); then he has to return to being Spider-Man in order to protect his friends and MJ; then MJ discovers who he is. The details are different; but if you pull back, it’s similar.

JJJ aside, the world probably would’ve found out sooner or later that Pete was Spidey simply because he’s not doing a very good job of hiding it. I get “face time” for actors but good god he’s unmasked a lot here: on the rooftops of Venice, in a tavern in Prague, on a bridge in London—which all eyes and cameras in the world are on because of the destruction Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) has caused. Not to mention at the beginning of the film, backstage at a fundraising gig hosted by ... who? Oh, right, Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). Really, Pete? No distance there? Plus right before the JJJ reveal, he takes MJ for a spin around NYC as Spidey. What happened to keeping loved ones at a distance because Spidey will always have enemies? Not smart.

That’s actually a question the movie unintentionally raises: Is Peter Parker ... not smart? Constantly unmasking is just part of it. He also trusts Mysterio with the most powerful weapon mankind has created—Tony Stark’s glasses—which Tony, RIP, entrusted to him. First, yeah, stupid move, Tony. Second, Pete, buddy, I get that you want to give MJ the dahlia pendant on the top of the Eiffel Tower, and don’t have time to save the world, which includes you, MJ, the dahlia pendant and the Eiffel Tower. But to just give it up to a guy you met like the day before? Give it to Happy (Jon Favreau). Give it to Nick (Samuel L. Jackson). It’s even more infuriating for Spidey fans because we know Mysterio is the villain. And yet there you are, like a doofus, unmasked in front of him and all customers in this pub in Prague, and handing him the one thing your mentor and idol left you after he saved half the universe.

That pub scene may have bugged me the most. After Mysterio and Spidey (as Night Monkey, but obviously Spidey) “defeat” the fire monster, they have a drink together in a Prague tavern—sans masks. And no one stops to congratulate them? Slap them on the back? Buy them a beer? 

Pete: I’m 16, I’m not allowed to drink.
Prague dude: Maybe in America. But here all 16-year-olds drink, particularly ones who save our city!
Everyone: Yay!

Plus there’s a dude in like lederhoesen or some shit? I thought that whole scene seemed off before it was revealed to be a Mysterio illusion. And Spidey senses none of it? Not even with his Spidey sense? For something he finally uses to defeat Mysterio—and jokingly referred to as the “Peter tingle” here—it’s on vacation for most of the movie. It’s always a little frustrating dealing with a superhero who doesn’t want to be a superhero until it’s almost too late. Cf., “Superman II,” “Spider-Man 2,” Superman in “Batman v. Superman.” It’s a theme of second movies. Look for Spidey to “turn evil” in the next one.

Mysterio is handled well. I don’t remember the raison d’etre of the original, or if he had one, but here, the 2.0 version, he’s a Stark underling who felt he never got the credit he deserved; so he uses some combo of tech and drones to create elemental disasters he “saves” people from. Essentially Marvel Studios turns him into a kind of Silicon Valley CEO, barking orders at tech underlings to keep the illusion going. By the end, you despise him. You also understand his power. Illusion is a tough thing to overcome. Just look at all the fools listening to JJJ/FOX News.

Power/responsbility/Etc.
In the end, Spidey gets it all back—glasses, respect, etc.. He also gets MJ, who knows Pete is Spidey but likes him for being Pete. Awww. That said, I don’t sense much chemistry between the two actors—Zendaya and Holland—who supposedly like each other in non-camera life. Maybe it’s a generational thing. This MJ has too hard a shell for me. Love is about vulnerability, and between the two Pete has 95% of it.

Gyllenhaal is excellent—at first, charming, then super annoying—while Martin Starr (“Silicon Valley”) has fun as a hapless teacher buffetted by events.

But the end-credits reveal left me cold. Both Nick Fury and Maria Hill (Colbie Smulders) are Skrulls? Let me ask the Ira Gershwin question: How long has this been going on? We see him hanging on a simulated beach on a Skrull spaceship, then reluctantly going back to work. One theory has Fury being played by a Skrull before even “Avengers: Infinity War,” which means he was dipping toes while Thanos snapped out half the universe? Nice work ethic, asshole. And, hey, where’s the real Maria Hill anyway? We just see the real Nick. If we’re talking face time, good god, give me Smulders.

Anyway, not a fan of all that, but I am excited for the return of JJJ and his fake news. The MCU could make it a great commentary on Fox and Rush and Sinclair and all that bullshit. With its billions, Disney certainly has the power to do it. It probably won’t, which is a shame. I read somewhere that with great power comes great responsibility; but that was written a long time ago, in a Marvel far, far away.

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Posted at 07:45 AM on Jul 16, 2019 in category Movie Reviews - 2019   |   Permalink  
Monday July 15, 2019

The ‘Go Back’ Tweet

It's tough to keep track of all the POTUS norms—let alone civic and civil norms—that Donald Trump is upending. Hope someone not me has a spreadsheet on all of it. 

Sunday we got another egregious example. He tweeted about four women in Congress: “Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Three were born in the U.S.; the fourth was born in Somalia but raised here. All are women of color.

Here's a good, quick response from Charles Pierce of Esquire that nails it:

Then the lies about the tweet—of the “You didn't read what you just read” variety—began:

The legit media have been their usual tepid selves, saying the tweet was “denounced as” racist rather than was racist—as if reality were a partisan issue. Longtime Fox idiot Brit Hume chimed in, saying while the tweet was xenophobic, et al., it wasn't racist, but he was quickly schooled by U.S. Rep Ted Lieu:

And so it goes. Ad naseum. Hope someone's keeping track of it all.

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Posted at 11:38 AM on Jul 15, 2019 in category Politics   |   Permalink  
Sunday July 14, 2019

Census and Sensibility

A good rundown by Charles Bethea on the past few week's between the courts, the DOJ and mostly our idiot president on whether to include a citizenship question on the 2020 cenus. But read the whole piece. It's about longtime GOP gerrymanderer Thomas Hofeller and his estranged daughter, Stephanie, who has real problems of her own, but who's fought her father much of her life. And the info she found on four of Hofeller's external harddrives and 18 of his thumb drives after his death helped the U.S. Supreme Court, or at least Chief Justice John Roberts, side with justice. 

In late June, the Supreme Court ruled, in Rucho v. Common Cause, that the federal judiciary did not have the authority to stop legislators from drawing district maps in order to maximize partisan advantage. It was a 5–4 decision, split along ideological lines, with the conservative Justices all in support. Later that day, the Court issued its ruling on the census case. It was another 5–4 decision, but, this time, Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion for both of the cases, sided with the liberal wing of the court, concluding that the Commerce Department's stated reason for adding a citizenship question—that it would help the department enforce the Voting Rights Act—“seems to have been contrived.” ...

It appears likely that Roberts's deciding vote was influenced by the evidence that Hofeller brought to light. “Chief Justice Roberts is somebody who is very concerned with the institutional reputation of the Court, and the Hofeller documents—which the Court was clearly aware of—cast so much doubt about the government's stated reasons for wanting a citizenship question,” Michael Li, the election-law specialist, told me. “It just smelled and felt like something was wrong.”

Then Bethea gets into what happened in the last week or so. Basics:

  • The Commerce Department issued a statement that census forms would be printed without a citizenship question
  • Hours later, Trump tweeted that reports mentioning this fact were “incorrect or, to state it differently, fake! We are absolutely moving forward, as we must, because of the importance of the answer to this question”
  • The DOJ then tried to replace its entire team of lawyers on the case
  • Tuesday, a federal judge said no, saying the department's stated reasoning for the wholesale switch was “patently deficient.”

Which leads us to our finale:

Finally, on Thursday afternoon, in a press conference at the Rose Garden, Trump said that his Administration would no longer seek to add a citizenship question, and that he was issuing an executive order that called on the Commerce Department to comb through “all legally accessible records” related to citizenship. (The order appears to demand something that was already taking place.) Trump also said, when speaking of the need for citizenship data, “Some states may want to draw state and local legislative districts, based upon the voter eligible population.” The comment reinforced the impression that adding the citizenship question was always an effort to strengthen the Republican Party's advantage in future redistricting by amplifying the representation of, as Thomas Hofeller put it, non-Hispanic Whites.

Here's to finding more external and zip drives.

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Posted at 12:36 PM on Jul 14, 2019 in category Politics   |   Permalink  
Saturday July 13, 2019

Jim Bouton (1939-2019)

I was surprised that he was 80. He always seemed so young to me. He was young at heart—the perennial rebel. 

Even so, he was hardly the iconoclast everyone made him out to be. If you read “Ball Four”—and you really should—you‘ll see that half the time he’s just a guy trying to fit in. “I don't like people to think terrible thoughts about me,” he writes early on. “Despite my efforts to be one of the boys,” he writes after his roommate Gary Bell is traded midseason, “the fact that I was Gary's roommate is what helped most.” 

That's what makes the book so good. It's that tension. Bouton wants to fit in but he can't because 1) he is different from most ballplayers (he reads, he writes) and 2) he has a low tolerance for stupidity. And within the 1969 Seattle Pilots organization he kept finding it. 

Coaches question players for taking baseballs out of the ballbag: “What are you using them for?” they ask. The Yankee clubhouse manager refuses to stock orange juice because “If I get it, you guys just drink it up.” Bouton is interested in a new sports drink called Gatorade, and buys several cases for the team, but the Pilots’ GM not only won’t compensate him he launches an investigation into this so-called “Gatorade.” 

My favorite example of managerial ineptitude is during a late April game against the Minnesota Twins when pitching coach Sal Maglie yells at pitcher Darrel Brandon not to worry about Rod Carew leading off third. “For crissakes, get the hitter,” he yells. “The runner isn’t going anywhere.” So of course Carew steals home. And of course there's no mea culpa from Maglie. “You know you’ve got to pitch in the stretch from that situation,” he tells Brandon.*

(*Should we forgive Maglie somewhat since, though Carew tied a Major League record that year by stealing home seven times, it is early in the season? Sure, somewhat. Except Carew had already stolen home twice. This was his third. He was off and running. And not just him. In this game, the Twins had four stolen bases—including one by Harmon Killebrew, who wasn't exactly Lou Brock. That was all Billy Martin, by the way. Up to this season, Killebrew had 7 career SBs with 8 CS. Under Martin? In 1969? Eight SBs and 2 CS.)

The Pilots were a bad team and management made them worse. During the course of the year, Seattle sends to the minors one of the best relief pitchers of the 1970s (Mike Marshall), and they trade the future 1969 Rookie of the Year to Kansas City (Lou Piniella). “Lou wasn't their style,” Bouton says simply. Exactly. He wanted to win.

That's also part of the beauty of “Ball Four”: Bouton held a job most of us only dream about, yet his story is also ours: My boss is an idiot. Who can’t relate?

On Facebook, on the day Bouton died, I wrote this: 

Rest in peace, Jim Bouton, lover of baseball and books and Mount Rainier. You were less iconoclast than a man with a low tolerance for stupidity; but that marked you in Major League Baseball. Hell, it‘ll mark you almost anywhere. The last line of BALL FOUR is as good as any last line of any book ever published: “You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”

This is the Rainier reference. In “Ball Four,” it’s from the July 26 chapter—a few days before he's traded to Houston. He writes:

It's still hard to get used to playing baseball again after the All-Star break. Three days off reminds you how much tension you live under playing baseball every day. During the break Harmon Killebrew can't get you. Reggie Jackson can't get you. It's peaceful. Like looking up at Mt. Rainier. That's the great thing about our ballpark. When a home run hit off you disappears over the fence your eeys catches a glimpse of the majesty of Mt. Rainier and some of that bad feeling goes away.  

Godspeed, Jim. Keep giving them the ol' Rufus Goofus.

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Posted at 04:27 PM on Jul 13, 2019 in category Baseball   |   Permalink  

Good-Bye To All That

“Choosing a single day that epitomizes Donald J. Trump's presidency — amid the endless tangle of jaw-dropping, reality-bending, norm-shattering days — is a fool's errand. But for a White House correspondent departing the beat after eight years, Thursday came awfully close.

”From Mr. Trump's morning Twitter rant (asking how anyone could vote for a Democrat over “what you have now, so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius!”) to his social media summit (in which he praised a room of right-wing agitators for “the crap you think of”), to a news conference that ended with his merry band of provocateurs almost coming to blows with reporters, the White House finally surrendered itself to being a stage set for Mr. Trump's greatest reality show."

— Mark Landler saying goodbye to all that in his farewell New York Times column covering the White House (he's becoming London bureau chief). Read the whole thing. It's brutal. And sad. For our country. 

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Posted at 10:53 AM on Jul 13, 2019 in category Politics   |   Permalink  
Thursday July 11, 2019

Arliss on Cagney

In 1931, Warner Bros. biggest star, George Arliss, who had played Disraeli in “Disraeli” (twice: silent and talkie), and who would soon resurrect his stage role as Alexander Hamilton in “Alexander Hamilton,” was casting his new comedy, “The Millionaire,” in which he, of course, played the title role. The following is from his autobiography: 

There was a small but important part in The Millionaire, the part of an insurance agent. The scene was entirely with me and was the turning point in the story. I knew it depended largely on the actor of this small part whether my change of mental attitudes would appear convincing. I saw several promising young men without being much impressed one way or another, but there was one more waiting to be seen. He was a lithe, smallish man. I knew at once he was right. As I talked to him I was sure he could give me everything I wanted. He wasn't acting to me now. He wasn't trying to impress me. He was just being natural, and I thought, a trifle independent for a bit actor. There was a suggestion of here-I-am-take-me-or-leave-me, and hurry up. As I came to my decision, I remember saying, “Let him come just as he is. Those clothes and no makeup stuff. Just as he is.” The man was James Cagney. I was lucky.

Also unlucky. Arliss had had a nice run, but Cagney's naturalistic acting helped put an end to his more theatrical version. Within a year, it was Cagney who was Warner Bros.' big star—even if he wasn't treated as such by Jack Warner. He's been the longer-lasting, too. Arliss kept going, playing Voltaire in “Voltaire,” and Cardinal Richelieu in “Cardinal Richelieu,” but increasingly America wanted to see less of these guys and more of Tom Powers and Rocky Sullivan. 

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Posted at 10:25 AM on Jul 11, 2019 in category Movies   |   Permalink  
Wednesday July 10, 2019

‘Tucker Carlson Has Failed to Assimilate’

“While I favor granting citizenship automatically to children born in the United States, I was reminded of birthright citizenship's biggest downside Tuesday while listening to Tucker Carlson on his Fox News show.

”Unlike immigrants, natural-born citizens such as Carlson are neither screened nor forced to pass a citizenship test nor made to swear an oath. And when they stray from the American way, no one thinks to tell them that they‘re failing to assimilate.

“But isn’t ‘failure to assimilate’ an accurate way to characterize Carlson's angry identitarianism? Carlson, who broadcasts to millions of viewers on national television, keeps fueling xenophobia and needless social strife by singling out people who weren't born in America for special ire, then attributing negative qualities to whole groups. He just can't get with the program of the American experiment.”

— Conor Friedersdorf, “Tucker Carlson Has Failed to Assimilate,” on The Atlantic site

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Posted at 12:25 PM on Jul 10, 2019 in category Quote of the Day   |   Permalink  
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