erik lundegaard

Sunday October 20, 2019

Altuve's Walk-off Sends Astros to World Series; Yankees Suffer First Pennant-Less Decade in 100 Years

I missed it, but Altuve didn‘t.

So it’s over. The giant frachise with the giant outfielder (6' 7“, 282-pound Aaron Judge) was sent home packing, while the small-market team with the small second baseman (Jose Altuve, 5' 6, 165) continues on to the 2019 World Series on that player's giant, 2-out, bottom-of-the-9th homerun—the first series-ending walkoff HR against the Yankees since Bill Mazeroski went deep against the Casey Stengel-led Evils to end the 1960 World Series.

And I have mixed feelings.

Oh, I'm happy. No doubt. This is waaaaay better than the alternative. A dark shadow has passed. I have a bounce in my step again. More, and I‘ve been finger-crossing for this for the last few years but now I can say it aloud: this decade is the first that won’t see a Yankees pennant since ... the 1910s:

  • 1920s: 1921, 1922, 1923, 1926, 1927, 1928 (6)
  • 1930s: 1932, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939 (5)
  • 1940s: 1941, 1942, 1943, 1947, 1949 (5)
  • 1950s: 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958 (8)
  • 1960s: 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964 (5)
  • 1970s: 1976, 1977, 1978 (3)
  • 1980s: 1981 (1)
  • 1990s: 1996, 1998, 1999 (3)
  • 2000s: 2000, 2001, 2003, 2009 (4)
  • 2010s: (0)

That's why we hate them. And that's why this is a great moment.

And in what fashion they went down! An early Astros lead (3-0), the Yankees chipping away (3-2) but the Astros holding them at bay with great defense (Brantley, Reddick, Altuve, Correa), until, in the 9th, two outs away, Astros closer Roberto Osuna gave up a 2-run shot to DJ LeMahieu that looked like it should‘ve been a can of corn but kept traveling and traveling and barely went out over the outstretched glove of George Springer in right to tie the game, 4-4. Shock, silence. But Osuna gathered himself and got the final two outs, which left the Astros batters facing the Yankees’ 103-mph fastball closer Aroldis Chapman. He got two quick outs. Then he couldn't get his fastball over. He walked George Springer and went 2-0 on Altuve (both fastballs that weren't close), before catching the plate with a slider. So his next pitch was a slider. Which Altuve figured. And deposited it in the left-field bleachers. And as the shortest man with the biggest heart in baseball calmly rounded the bases amid absolute, joyous chaos in Houston, the New York Yankees, the Evil Empire, the giant monster with the monstrous collection of pennants (40) and rings (27), had the stake pounded in its black heart for another baseball season.

How could I have mixed feelilngs about that?

Because I didn't watch it.

It wasn't like I had other plans, either. I had none. I purposely avoided it. I did what I did in Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS, which is to maintain radio silence, internet silence, avoid even potential peripheral contact with the game via Twitter or FB or my phone, because back then it seemed like any marginal contact on my part would result in the Yankees suddenly having life. I'd check the score on, and the Yankees would be behind (yay!) and then suddenly they wouldn't (shit!). This kept happening, too. So I avoided it all for Game 7 of 2017, which the Astros won, and I avoided it again for Game 6 this year. I told myself, ”If you avoid it completely, and the Yankees still win, then watch Game 7.“ Instead, because of my superstitions, the, yes, insane superstititons of the tightly wound baseball fan and inveterate Yankee hater, I missed one helluva game.

You‘re welcome, Astros. My sacrifice is your pennant.

Speaking of: That’s the Astros third; and they‘re playing a team that just got its first. Odd position for the ’Stros. They began in 1962 named for a gun (Houston Colt .45s), played in an artificial monstrosity (the Astrodome), then moved to a baseball-friendly park that for a time was named after an infamous, era-defining financial scandal: Enron Field. Of the 30 MLB franchises, they were the 26th to see a World Series, and it took them longer to get there (their 44th season) than any franchise besides the Senators/Rangers, who didn't win one until their 50th season in 2010. When the Astros won their second pennant in 2017, they took on a team with 19 pennants. They‘ve always been the underdogs.

Now, not so much. Startlingly so. After this run, they have the most postseason appearances by any expansion franchise (13), and the No. 2 team isn’t close (Angels: 10). Hell, they have more postseason appearances than one of the original 16 teams, the Chicago White Sox (9), who had a 60-year headstart. This third ‘Stros pennant puts them in sole possession of third place among expansion pennants, behind only the Royals (4) and Mets (5). And if they win the Series, they’ll be tied with the Royals, Mets, Blue Jays and Marlins for most World Series championships by an expansion team (2).

Now look who they‘re going against: a city that hasn’t seen a World Series since 1933 and a franchise (Expos/Nationals) that has never seen one, and who took longer to get to the Series (their 51st season) than even the Rangers. Yes, the Nats now have that record in futility. Indeed, the only team that can beat that record, i.e., the only pennant-less team left in baseball, is your Seattle Mariners, who begin their 44th pennant-less season next year.

That said, not sure who I'm rooting for this World Series. This will be the second Series with two expansion teams (Mets-Royals, 2015), and I like both of them. It's a matchup of the stellar starting pitching. In terms of regular season bWAR, the Astros are fielding the No. 1 and No. 5 starters (Verlander, Cole), while the Nats have the No. 6 and 9 guys (Strasburg, Scherzer), and the difference is slim. Right now I just want a Game 7.

Gotta say, on their main page, The New York Times massively underplayed the moment:

”Outlast"? Way to hype it, boys. (And it turns out NYT has done this before.) The inside gets closer: 

BTW: Here's how the Yanks went this entire calendar decade without making the World Series:

  • 2010: Texas Rangers (ALCS, 4-2)
  • 2011: Detroit Tigers (ALDS, 3-2)
  • 2012: Detroit Tigers (ALCS, 4-0)
  • 2013: n/a
  • 2014: n/a
  • 2015: Houston Astros (WC)
  • 2016: n/a
  • 2017: Houston Astros (ALCS, 4-3)
  • 2018: Boston Red Sox (ALDS, 3-1)
  • 2019: Houston Astros (ALCS, 4-2)

Thank you, Texas, Detroit, Boston and especially Houston. Now take 'em out, Carey. 


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Posted at 12:31 PM on Oct 20, 2019 in category Baseball   |   Permalink  
Thursday October 17, 2019

‘The Floodgates May Have Opened’

“When the impeachment inquiry started, a little more than three weeks ago, there were only an anonymous whistle-blower's complaint and the summary that Trump released of his July 25th phone call with the Ukrainian President. Because the investigation has moved so quickly, it is easy to lose sight of how much has been learned since then. Day after day, in fact, the House's impeachment inquiry has produced significant revelations that point directly to Presidential culpability. ...

”Ever since Democrats took control of the House in January, Trump has sought to block them from conducting investigations and oversight of his Administration, defying subpoenas, refusing to send officials to Capitol Hill, and fighting Congress in court. The impeachment inquiry, however, has finally breached the Administration's blockade. Just this past week, the fired U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch; the former National Security Council senior director in charge of Ukraine policy, Fiona Hill; the current State Department deputy assistant secretary in charge of Ukraine policy, George Kent; the Secretary of State's senior adviser, who quit in protest over the Ukraine affair last week, Michael McKinley; and Sondland, a wealthy Trump donor turned E.U. ambassador, all testified, defying Trump in order to do so, and at considerable risk to their careers. ...

“‘The floodgates may have opened,’” said Hill's attorney Lee Wolosky.

— from “Forget Trump's ‘Meltdown’—Follow the Testimony,” by Susan B. Glasser, in The New Yorker

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Posted at 07:10 PM on Oct 17, 2019 in category Politics   |   Permalink  

A Man, A Plan, A Numbskull

Schumer: Is your plan to rely on the Syrians and the Turks?
Trump: Our plan is to keep the American people safe.
Pelosi: That's not a plan. That's a goal.

— Conversation at the White House yesterday, as U.S. policymakers try to fix the mess Trump has made of the Turkish/Syrian/Kurd situation by abandoning the region. The above photo was first tweeted by Trump, who was trying to show that Pelosi had a meltdown; instead, it's been embraced by pretty much anyone who hasn't drunk Trump's stupid Kool-Aid. We need more people standing up to the SOB. Think of how many lives we‘ve already lost because the man on the right either knows nothing or is severely compromised. Or both. Think of our lost standing in the world. The U.S. has been attacked before but this is the first time in my lifetime we’ve done it to ourselves.

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Posted at 07:57 AM on Oct 17, 2019 in category Politics   |   Permalink  
Wednesday October 16, 2019

Most Due

I forgot I did this but a couple of years ago I put together a spreadsheet that tried to calculate which MLB team was the “most due” for a World Series title. I took into account such factors as when they were founded, their total number of pennants and championships, years since a pennant and years since a championship. 

Now you can see why I‘ve never written a book. 

Anyway, it turned out that by my calculations the team that was most due was ... the Washington Nationals. Wasn’t really close. They had zero titles and zero pennants, and had been around eight years longer than the other zero/zero team, the Seattle Mariners. They had it all. But having nothing. 

Now they have something. 

Last night they beat the St. Louis Cardinals 7-4 and won the first pennant in franchise history, and brought to Washington D.C. its first pennant since 1933. Joe Posnanski has a great read, and great Douglass Wallop homage, entitled “The Year the Nationals Won the Pennant.” It talks about the long history of heartbreak for Washington baseball, going back to Senators I (now the Twins) and Senators II (now the Rangers), and the short history of heartbreak for these Nats (formerly Expos). Other years were supposed to be their years and weren‘t; this one wasn’t and it is. They were down at the beginning of the year, they were down late against the Brewers in the Wild Card game, they were down late against the Dodgers in the fifth game of the NLDS; and then they won and won and won. And then they killed the Cardinals. 

How often does the most-due team get its due? It's a thing to behold.

Of course now You Know Who is Most Due. On so many levels. The Mariners are the only MLB franchise left that has never won a pennant, never gone to a World Series. They‘re also the team with the longest postseason drought: 18 years and counting. This is the longest drought not only in Major League Baseball but among the four major American team sports. Imagine that. 

But this is the Nats moment. Now they’re just waiting to see who they‘ll play: the Astros, who have two pennants and one title; or the New York Yankees, who have 40 pennants and 27 titles. Yes, no one’s close to either mark. No surprise, I'm rooting for the Stros. If the Yankees get in, though, what a matchup: Most Due vs. Least Due. Way least. 

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Posted at 08:43 PM on Oct 16, 2019 in category Baseball   |   Permalink  
Tuesday October 15, 2019

Where ‘Grease’ Isn't the Word

Another odd “known for” anomaly from IMDb:

I‘ll cut to the chase: It’s Randal Kleiser, who was a talking head in the documentary on John Milius I just watched, so I went to see what else he'd done after “Grease” in 1978. Turns out a lot, just nothing I'd heard of. Or stuff I'd heard of but didn't know he did—like “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid,” the sequel to “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” He seemed to do a few of those types of sequels. Not the original, just the less-successful sequel. Not “Pee Wee's Big Adventure” but “Big Top Pee Wee.” Like that. 

Anyway, I know him for directing “Grease,” which was the No. 1 movie of 1978, and, if you adjust for inflation, the 28th-biggest movie domestically of all time—just ahead of Marvel's “The Avengers.” It's also part of kitschy revivals, and there was a live musical on TV a few years back. It's still in the conversation. But for some reason, by IMDb's algorithms, you have three better reasons to know Kleiser.

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Posted at 01:26 PM on Oct 15, 2019 in category Movies   |   Permalink  
Monday October 14, 2019

Movie Review: Milius (2013)


John Milius is a legendary figure among legendary figures. He was big brother to George Lucas at USC Film School, where he was considered the breakout talent, the guy who was going to make it, while Steven Spielberg considers him the greatest oral storyteller among all of these great filmmakers—a spellbinding raconteur. He wrote “Apocalypse Now,” directed the first “Conan,” wrote the U.S.S. Indianapolis scene in “Jaws.” He took on the b-picture “Evel Knievel,” starring George Hamilton, which inspired my brother to jump neighborhood kids on his stingray bike at age 11. Plus he’s the supposed inspiration for John Goodman’s gun-toting, keeping-kosher Walter Sobchak in the Coen Bros.’ “The Big Lebowski.”

Not a bad resumé. Yet he still felt the need to pad it. Here’s Harrison Ford: “He likes to blow it up bigger than life.” Here’s George Lucas: “And then he’s created this ... persona.”

“Milius,” directed Joey Figueroa and Zak Knutson, acknowledges Milius’ tendencies to inflate himself while doing a bit of the same themselves. Early on, for example, we get a voice saying, “John Milius had more movies made than any writer in the history of Hollywood.” A quick IMDb check reveals 29 writing credits, of which about 18 are feature films. Pull a name out of a hat. Woody Allen has 80 writing credits, of which approximately 61 are feature films. Nope.

Basically, the doc loves the big guy too much. As a result, they miss opportunities to clarify the inconsistencies.

Toy soldier
Here’s one—an early comment from Milius’ son, who’s now a prosecutor in LA:

There’s something about his personality that is sort of oppositional. If the counter-culture was going left, he was going to go right. To be the opposite of the counter-culture. He was trying to be as controversial in a way as possible.

He’s explaining his father’s right-wing tendencies on college campuses in the 1960s. That’s actually where Milius got the title for “Apocalypse Now.” In an archived interview, sucking on his ever-present cigar, Milius explains that back then kids were wearing “Nirvana Now” buttons with a peace sign on them. So to tweak them he modified one. He changed the peace sign into a B-52 and changed “Nirvana” into “Apocalypse.” Apocalypse Now.

Great story. But ... if he were truly oppositional, why, in the right-wing ’80s, did he go further right? He directed and co-wrote “Red Dawn,” the most paranoid of Reagan-era flicks. How is that oppositional? I guess you could say he was still tweaking noses but this time in liberal Hollywood, but I don’t completely buy that argument. You put him in a Republican convention, with his stogie and his AK-47, and he’d fit right in.

Hollywood movies have always glorified guns and violence, and for all his talents he pushed this tendency further: “Dirty Harry” (uncredited), “Magnum Force,” “Conan,” “Red Dawn.” “He doesn’t write for pussies and he doesn’t write for women,” actor Sam Elliott says proudly but a bit defensively. “He writes for men. Because he’s a man.”

The doc begins with an epigraph from the manliest of men, Teddy Roosevelt, about how critics don’t count (we know, we know), and how the credit belongs to the man “who is actually in the arena.” First, and not to get all critic-y, but it’s kind of a self-serving quote from TR, isn’t it? Since TR was that man in the arena? I never really thought about that before. Second, how does it fit Milius? He wasn’t in the arena. He was a man writing about the man in the arena. Or the man filming a story about the man in the arena. I guess a film set can be a kind of arena. But then so can a book group.

He was a failed soldier who wound up playing with guns for the rest of his life. He says he wanted to go to Vietnam and die before he was 26, but he had asthma and washed out. “I missed my war,” he says.

I would’ve liked more on his big-brother friendships with Lucas and Spielberg. They don’t seem like motorbike-riding, gun-shooting types. What did they do together? When did they drift apart? When did Milius realize the ride was over? That his friends were creating mythic stories that were part of the culture and he was ... not? Or no longer?

After “Red Dawn,” he claims he was blacklisted by Hollywood. “I’ve been blacklisted as surely as anybody in the ’50s,” he says. The doc, to its credit, then cuts to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Clint Eastwood not buying it. Here’s Arnold:

I have always been out there as a Republican. They don't care if you‘re Libertarian, if you’re an independent, if you decline to state if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, that means nothing to Hollywood. In Hollywood, the only thing that means [anything] is money. 

That said, if you are going to blacklist someone, it wouldn’t be stars like Eastwood or Schwarzenegger. A writer-director is way easier.

That said, “blacklisted as surely as anybody in the ’50s”? C’mon, John. Did you have to go before an Senate subcommittee and explain your past political convictions? Did you have to name names? Show up hat-in-hand before, say, Tim Robbins, trying to get a job? No? Then don’t compare yourself to true victims of government-industry oppression.

Basically it sounds like people just decided he wasn’t worth the hassle. We get a story about how he brought a .45 to a notes meeting with the head of MGM. That’s going to wear fast. At one point, Charlie Sheen quotes Milius saying the following: “‘My fantasy’—it’s insane—‘was to fly across tree tops and drop fire on children.’” The “It’s insane” part is Sheen commenting on the quote. And if Charlie Sheen is questioning your faculties, maybe it’s time to drop the “let’s play with guns” shtick and re-examine.

Tough fall
He didn’t. We hear audio of him self-mythologizing about his post-“Red Dawn” career:

That was the point where they said, “He’s gone too far, now we’ve got to shut him down.” Critics said, “We said he was a threat to western civilization. This is proof.” Pauline Kael told us he was a fascist. He’s genuinely a right-wing character. I am not a fascist. I am a total man of the people. They are the fascists. They are creating the fascist society. I am much closer to a Maoist. However, I am a Zen Anarchist.

What garbage. Not a fascist ... because a man of the people? As if Hitler wasn’t? And who bragged about being a Maoist in the ’80s and ’90s? Not even the Chinese.

He had a tough fall. Opportunities dried up, his manager/best friend embezzled his money, which he never got back, and earlier this decade he suffered a stroke. He lost coordination, some ability to walk, and, perhaps worst of all, the ability to speak. Spielberg is poignant and empathetic on the great raconteur suddenly silenced. 

I had issues with “Milius” but it’s worth checking out. (It's currently streaming on amazon prime.) The man was a pivotal figure at a pivotal time for movies. But his friends created myths that resonated with the world; Milius wound up creating self-myths that didn’t.

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Posted at 06:30 AM on Oct 14, 2019 in category Movie Reviews - 2013   |   Permalink  
Sunday October 13, 2019

Quote of the Day

“I think they have a lot of respect for us. It's the first time they‘ve ever respected us. I think China has a lot of respect for me and for our country and for what we’re doing, and I think they can't believe what they‘ve gotten away with for so many years.”

— Donald Trump, last week, in an executive order-signing ceremony at the White House

Sure thing. Here’s an image from “Detective Chinatown 2,” which was released during Chinese New Year in 2018:

And here's an excerpt from my review of the film:

The U.S.'s most recent and embarrasing export is also visible. Apparently New York City has a police chief who has messy strawlike hair, talks in a bullying manner, and mentions the need to build a wall along the west coast to keep the Chinese out. In case anyone missed the connection, the first time we see him he pops up in front of a giant portrait of Pres. Trump.

Anecdotal, but let's face it: China's not putting that in the film if they think it‘ll turn off Chinese moviegoers. It didn’t. After its run, “Detective Chinatown 2” was the third-highest grossing film in Chinese history.

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Posted at 07:49 PM on Oct 13, 2019 in category Quote of the Day   |   Permalink  
Wednesday October 09, 2019

‘Sort Of’

This has been my cover photo on Facebook for the past year or so. I read it in one of those PEANUTS anthologies and somehow it just spoke to me. Posting it here because I don't know how much longer I'll be on Facebook, given their policies and politics

Zuckerberg sucks. Schulz rules.

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Posted at 11:05 PM on Oct 09, 2019 in category Personal Pieces   |   Permalink  
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Twitter: @ErikLundegaard