Lancelot Links Goes to 'Jaws 19'
- Jeff Wells has a nice quick write-up on Michael Shannon, who's in two movies get awards attention.
- Here's the trailer for one of those movies: “Freeheld,” starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page.
- A day before the last day of the regular season, Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals pitched one of the great games in baseball history: a no-hitter in which he struck out 17 and walked nobody. Only an error in the 5th prevented a perfect game. It's Scherzer's second no-hitter of the season and only five other pitchers have ever done that. Scherzer's no-nos came against the Pirates on June 20th and the Mets October 3rd, and both teams are playoff-bound. Has that ever happened? No. David Schoenfield crunches the numbers.
- Nice piece by Kostya Kennedy on all the have-nots of baseball making the postseason this year. Not that I was exactly unaware.
- John Oliver on guns and mental health. But mostly mental health. Good last line.
- I realized this years ago but it's nice to see someone do a piece on it: Shea Serrano holds Kate Winslet's “Titanic” character responsible for the death of Jack.
- E.J. Dionne applauds Pres. Obama turning the word “politicize” back on its do-nothing users.
- Neil deGrasse Tyson tells Reddit users the 8 essential books every intelligent person should read and Brain Pickings' Maria Popova objects that there's no women on the list. Really? She adds, “Tyson's selections remain indispensable despite their chromosomal lopsidedness.” So there's that.
- 2015 is the year Marty McFly landed in “Back to the Future II,” so we've been getting various cultural reminders throughout the year. Here's a good one: a trailer to the movie in a background marquee: “Jaws 19” (“This time, it's really personal.”) The faux trailer is great, but what remains unstated in H. Perry Horton's synopsis? By the time “BTTFII” was released in 1990, the Jaws series was up to “Jaws IV.” And there it's remained. There hasn't been a “Jaws” sequel in almost 30 years. In a way, the piece made me nostalgic for a time in which Hollywood kept making “Jaws” sequels I never went to see. It seems like a more innocent time.
- Long read of the week: William Finnegan on Univision's Jorge Ramos and his recent run-in with Donald Trump. Check out the Ann Coulter parts. But I would've ended the piece one sentence earlier.
A “Back to the Future” sequel mocking Hollywood sequels. Now it all feels so nostalgic.
Alternate History: What If Baseball Had Never Gone to the Division Format?
So baseball's 2015 regular season is over and we have our 10 postseason teams, and in a short series anything goes. But I've often wondered what would've happened if baseball hadn't changed to a playoff format in 1969, and the team with the best record in each league continued to meet in the World Series.
This year we would get the Show Me Series: the St. Louis Cardinals (100-62) vs. the Kanas City Royals (95-67), 1985 Redux. AKA, the “Take Pity on Don Denkinger” Series.
We still might get it. But how likely is it? How often do the teams with the best records in each league meet in the World Series?
I'm glad you asked:
|Year||AL Best Record||NL Best Record||AL Pennant||NL Pennant|
|1969||Baltimore Orioles||New York Mets|
|1970||Baltimore Orioles||Cincinnati Reds|
|1971||Baltimore Orioles||Pittsburgh Pirates|
|1972||Oakland A's||Pittsburgh Pirates||Cincinnati Reds|
|1973||Baltimore Orioles||Cincinnati Reds||Oakland A's||New York Mets|
|1974||Baltimore Orioles||Los Angeles Dodgers||Oakland A's|
|1975||Oakland A's||Cincinnati Reds||Boston Red Sox|
|1976||New York Yankees||Cincinnati Reds|
|1977||Kansas City Royals||Philadelphia Phillies||New York Yankees||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|1978||New York Yankees||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|1979||Baltimore Orioles||Pittsburgh Pirates|
|1980||New York Yankees||Houston Astros||Kansas City Royals||Philadelphia Phillies|
|1981||Oakland A's||Cincinnati Reds||New York Yankees||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|1982||Milwaukee Brewers||St. Louis Cardinals|
|1983||Chicago White Sox||Los Angeles Dodgers||Baltimore Orioles||Philadelphia Phillies|
|1984||Detroit Tigers||Chicago Cubs||San Diego Padres|
|1985||Toronto Blue Jays||St. Louis Cardinals||Kanas City Royals|
|1986||Boston Red Sox||New York Mets|
|1987||Detroit Tigers||St. Louis Cardinals||Minnesota Twins|
|1988||Oakland A's||New York Mets||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|1989||Oakland A's||Chicago Cubs||San Francisco Giants|
|1990||Oakland A's||Pittsburgh Pirates||Cincinnati Reds|
|1991||Minnesota Twins||Pittsburgh Pirates||Atlanta Braves|
|1992||Toronto Blue Jays||Atlanta Braves|
|1993||Toronto Blue Jays||Atlanta Braves||Philadelphia Phillies|
|1995||Cleveland Indians||Atlanta Braves|
|1996||Cleveland Indians||Atlanta Braves||New York Yankees|
|1997||Baltimore Orioles||Atlanta Braves||Cleveland Indians||Florida Marlins|
|1998||New York Yankees||Atlanta Braves||San Diego Padres|
|1999||New York Yankees||Atlanta Braves|
|2000||Chicago White Sox||San Francisco Giants||New York Yankees||New York Mets|
|2001||Seattle Mariners||Houston Astros||New York Yankees||Arizona Diamondbacks|
|2002||New York Yankees||Atlanta Braves||Los Angeles Angels||San Francisco Giants|
|2003||New York Yankees||Atlanta Braves||Florida Marlins|
|2004||New York Yankees||St. Louis Cardinals||Boston Red Sox|
|2005||Chicago White Sox||St. Louis Cardinals||Houston Astros|
|2006||New York Yankees||New York Mets||Detroit Tigers||St. Louis Cardinals|
|2007||Boston Red Sox||Arizona Diamondbacks||Colorado Rockies|
|2008||Los Angeles Angels||Chicago Cubs||Tampa Bay Rays||Philadelphia Phillies|
|2009||New York Yankees||Los Angeles Dodgers||Philadelphia Phillies|
|2010||Tampa Bay Rays||Philadelphia Phillies||Texas Rangers||San Francisco Giants|
|2011||New York Yankees||Philadelphia Phillies||Texas Rangers||St. Louis Cardinals|
|2012||New York Yankees||Cincinnati Reds||Detroit Tigers||San Francisco Giants|
|2013||Boston Red Sox||St. Louis Cardinals|
|2014||Los Angeles Angels||Washington Nationals||Kansas City Royals||San Francisco Giants|
For the first three years, it was a wash. Same same. Then divergence. If it seems the divergence got worse, it did, because the playoffs became more complex: from best-of-five LDS until 1984, to best-of-seven LDS until 1993, to a two-tiered playoffs with wild card that we have today.
But back to the question: How likely is it for a team with the best record in its league to make the World Series?
- Best-of-five LCS (1969-1984): 56%
- Best-of-seven LCS (1985-1993): 61%
- Wild card era: best-of-five LDS, then a best-of-seven LCS (1995-present): 32%
- The Braves have suffered the most from the playoff format. They had the best record in the NL nine times but only went to the World Series five times, for a deficit of 4.
- Cubs and Pirates also suffered. Both have deficits of 3. That's right: in a non-playoff format, the Cubbies would've gone to the World Series three times in the last 30-odd years: in '84, '89 and '08.
- The Giants have benefitted most from the playoff format: best record once (in 2000, when they lost to the Mets in the LDS), but five World Series appearances for a net gain of 4.
- The Yankees have a deficit of 1, so they'd have 41 pennants rather than 40. Also their period of domination would've been more recent. No pennants in '96, '00 or '01, but pennants in 2006, '11 and '12.
- The two teams that have never been to the Series (the Mariners and Nats), each would've gone ('01 and last year), but now four teams would be no shows, since they're all post-'68 teams that have never had the best record in their league: Rockies, Marlins, Padres and Rangers.
We would've gotten Royals/Phillies in '77 rather than '80. The Braves wouldn't have gone in '91 but would've gone in every subsequent year in the decade, plus '02 and '03. In 2000, the Yankees/Mets subway series would've been replaced by the White Sox/Giants series, but would've reemerged in '06.
Certain teams seem to do particularly well when they have the best record. The BoSox led the AL in wins three times, and each of those times ('86, '07, '13) they won the pennant. And good news for Cardinals fans: Six times they've had the best record in the NL and five of those times they made the Fall Classic (2005 was the misstep).
But overall the playoff format seems tailor-made for upstarts. It's October 5, 2015, and a whole new season.
Who could forget the great Cubs-A's World Series of 1989?
It's the Last Day of Baseball's Regular Season: How Did April's Predictions Go?
It's the last day of the regular baseball season so a good time to check out how all those predictions went back in April. We live in such a predictive culture but we always forget this part. The accountability part.
Here, for example, is Sports Illustrated's four “Baseball Preview” covers from April:
These aren't exactly predictions—they went with teams that traditionally win bupkis—but they went with the wrong teams. Doesn't help combat the myth of the SI cover jinx, does it?
In a way it's even worse over at Grantland, where, on April 6, six writers predicted how the season would go. Put it this way: It went better than their predictions.
There are 10 postseason positions, five for each league, meaning 60 predictions in all from these six writers. They divided them into division winners and wild card winners but I'll just take them all at face value. Choose the Blue Jays as a wild card and that's good enough for me.
So how many of the 60 slots did these experts get right? Twenty-one.
That's 35%. Keep in mind, 10 of the 30 MLB teams, or 33%, make it, so 35% is almost bare minimum. The experts at Grantland did about as well as a horse stomping its foot might do.
Or worse? None of the pennant winners the six writers chose are still in the running. Four of the writers picked the Nats in the NL, two went with the Miami Marlins. In the AL, we got four Sox rooters (two Red, two White), one dude chose the M's while the sixth went with the Angels. In a way, the Angels guy wins. They weren't eleminated until today, so he was closest. Kudos.
And in the AL? Good god. Of the 30 possible slots, they got three right. Three. Three Blue Jays. No one predicted Texas or Kansas City, last year's A.L. pennant winner. Everyone thought the Yanks would be a no-show again. No one thought Houston would go anywhere.
Maybe this is the beauty of baseball. It can still surprise us.
Except for the St. Louis Cardinals, of course, who enter the postseason for the fifth year in a row. And of course my Seattle Mariners, who don't enter the postseason for the 14th year in a row. Now that the Blue Jays are in, that's the current record in postseason woes.
Wait 'til ... Aw, screw it.
From Kristof's column, “A New Way to Tackle Guns.”
Kristof's new way doesn't really feel new but it does feel reasonable: universal background checks, tighter regulation of gun dealers, a 10-year prohibition on possessing guns for anyone convicted of domestic violence, assault or similar offenses. The problem is he's trying to talk to unreasonable people.
Catch of the Day: Kevin Pillar
This was yesterday:
Superman comes to mind. You can see it here.
A Few Thoughts After Watching '2001' Last Night
I was thinking about Kubrick in the mid-sixties making it, when the year 2001 was in the future, and me in my living room last night watching it, with the year 2001 now more than a decade in the past.
And I was turning over the four-part structure of the film:
- The dawn of man, in which a group of ape creatures, driven from their water hole by a rival tribe, awaken to a thrumming black monolith, and thereafter make the giant leap forward: they use a bone as a weapon and take back their water hole.
- The near future, 2001ish, and the discovery of the monolith buried on the dark side of the moon.
- The mission to Jupiter, 18 months later, in which the HAL 9000 computer malfunctions, then kills four of the five crewmembers before being deactivated.
- Whatever the fuck is going on at the end. Old age and new births. A new dawn of man? A dawn of AI?
And I thought about what the year 2001 meant to its creators and what it wound up meaning to us.
To Kubrick, it meant a bland, clean, artificial efficiency. To us, it’s the year a rival tribe grabbed a new weapon and beat its enemies. It’s a year you would associate with the first part of the film (millions of years ago) rather than the last three parts (the near future).
I think Kubrick would've smiled at that.
A vision of the future from the past, with Pan-Am flights to the moon and Howard Johnson’s Earthlight Rooms.
Freedom vs. Community: The Lone Ranger Solution
I like this quote from “A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema, 1930-1980” by Robert B. Ray, from a chapter examining the movies, “It's a Wonderful Life” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”:
As a way out of the impasse between the attractiveness of the outlaw hero's life, lived solely in terms of the self, and the need for community responsibility, the Classic Hollywood movie had proposed the archetypal American solution: the individual hero whose willingness to help society was pictured as a temporary departure from the natural and proper pattern of his life, which remained free of abiding entanglements. Involvement, then, represented only a momentary concession to emergency and not a genuine acknowledgement of society's claims. As Leo Marx has pointed out, such a view discredited politics in America; to make a career out of involvement was somehow suspect.
Cf., Bob Dylan:
The Lone Ranger and Tonto are riding down the line
Fixing everybody's troubles, everybody's 'cept mine
Somebody must've told 'em I was doing fine
Cf., as well, Zorro, “Kung Fu,” “The Incredible Hulk.” Cf., Ethan in “The Searchers,” delivering Debbie but not crossing the threshold to the house. Cf.,...?
He even wore the outlaw's mask.
Saddest Headline Ever
I posted this a few weeks ago but we had server issues and it was never saved. So here it is again. It's from The New York Times:
It took me a moment to realize what that headline was saying: that even though our overuse of oil is warming the planet, it's not warming it fast enough for oil companies to immediately monetize the Arctic for more oil exploration.
It's an open admission that what we're doing is destroying the world as we know it. But the only concern is that Big Oil can't do more of that thing.
I can't imagine a culture more lost.