Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Are We Back to Hoping for .500?

Nine days ago, I wrote the following in this space:

The Pirates now face ten games against three really good teams - the Tigers, Nationals, and Braves.  These ten games, I think, are going to tell us a lot about just how meaningful the following five weeks of the season will be for the Buccos.

Well, nine of those ten games have been played and the Pirates have a record of 2-7 to show for it.  At best (assuming that they will beat the Braves tonight), they will be only three games over .500 at the conclusion of this ten game stretch, and they could well be only one game over break even. They will then have only 35 games remaining in the season, and 21 of those games will be against the Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds, against whom the Bucs have complied a 13-26 record so far in 2014.

I am thinking that at this point, merely playing .500 for the season will be a severe challenge for this team.  There are a lot of reasons WHY this team is where they are right now.   If you have any interest in this subject at all, you're familiar with them and you've heard them a million times already, so I'll spare you.

Just saying that perhaps it's time we adjust our expectations for the '14 Buccos.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Catching Up with Some 2013 Movies

We finally got to see the last of the 2013 movies that we wanted to see this past weekend.

The first was Disney's "Frozen".

A typical Disney Pixar-style animated fairly tale.  Cute, funny on both a kid and adult level, and a happily-ever-after ending.  Yeah, I know that people with young kids have already been subjected to this movie about 400 times already, but it was new to us, and we liked it.

The second was "Inside Llewyn Davis".

This one was written and directed by the Coen Brothers, which makes it a movie that I would want to see, and it was a favorite of many hoity-toity movie critics who moaned a lot about it being snubbed when the Academy Award Nominations came out.  My opinion?  It had it's moments, but the Academy didn't make a mistake by not inviting it to it's Awards party.  

If you want to see a movie about the folk music scene in the early 1960's, see Christopher Guest's "A Mighty Wind" instead of this one.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tiger and Rory - A Look Back and a Look Ahead

At the conclusion of last week's PGA Championship, my friend Joe Risacher made an observation on Facebook, and I am not quoting exactly, to the effect of "Is it time to start comparing Rory McIlroy to Tiger Woods and the race to catch Jack Nicklaus?"

Well, thanks to that seed planted by Joe, I decided to do a little research, and away we go....

Rory McIlroy is playing the 2014 season at the age of 25 (hereafter referred to as the "25 Year Old Season").  So far, McIlroy has accumulated 9 PGA Tour victories, and 4 Major Championships.  He also has six other professional victories world wide, for a total of 15 professional victories.  No one would dispute that this is very impressive, and he still has a chance to add to those totals in his 25 Year Old Season.

Tiger Woods 25 Year Old Season was 2001.  When that season was over, Woods had 29 PGA Tour victories, and 6 Majors.  His career totals in these categories are 79 and 14, respectively.  Woods has also added an additional 27 other wins world wide, for a total of 106 in all (I do not know how many of those twenty-seven wins were by the age of 25).

So, doing the simple arithmetic, to catch Woods over the next 13 years (Tiger is now in his 38 Year Old season), McIlroy will have to rack up another 70 PGA Tour wins and 10 Majors wins.  Because he plays much of his schedule between both the American and European Tours, and this could change, he is simply not going to win 70 more times.  As for ten more Majors in that time, well, that could happen, but would you bet on it?

And what about Nicklaus, the guy they are both chasing?  

By the end of his 25 Year Old Season, 1965, Jack had 17 Tour wins and 4 Majors.  He would go on to win 73 total tour wins and, we all know, 18 majors.  He won his last Major, the 1986 Masters, at age 46.  This was also his last Tour victory as well.

Nicklaus also went on the play a bit on the Senior Tour, but not  as  full time Geezer Golfer.  He won a total of ten senior tournaments, and eight of those were Senior Major Championships.  Jack pretty much saw that he could dominate the Seniors when and if he chose to do so, and then hung up his clubs as a serious competitive golfer.

Arbitrarily, let's say that Rory will win five more Majors over the next three seasons, not unreasonable given how he has played this summer, but no sure thing, either.  That will give him nine Majors by age 28, and at that time we can start the -can-he-catch-Jack discussions seriously.  Even then, the odds against him will be long (Exhibit One to support this statement: Tiger Woods, himself!)

And what about the all-time "standings" of Majors winners?  Take a look:

Jack Nicklaus 18
Tiger Woods 14
Walter Hagen 11
Ben Hogan, Gary Player 9
Tom Watson 8
Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Harry Vardon 7

(By the way, the one name on that list that all but serious golf history nerds have forgotten is Walter Hagen, and he may well have been the most interesting and most colorful guy of anyone else on the list.   Look it up if you don't believe me.)

So, even if you give McIlroy his five additional Majors as speculated above, he would be tied for fourth all time, and in some VERY exclusive company, even if he doesn't match Nicklaus and Woods.

My conclusions:

  • No one is going to catch and surpass Nicklaus' 18 Majors records.
  • Woods will catch and surpass the record of 82 PGA Tour wins, held by Snead, which isn't the record he wants, but will be a gold standard in and of itself.  And one of those wins might even be another Major Championship, but he is running out of time to win five more of those.
  • The greatest professional golfers of all time are Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.  I could be talked into supporting either one of them for the honor, depending on what argument you make.
  • Rory McIlroy may well be in the discussion one day, but let's wait anther 3-5 years before we begin making that argument.
One final word about the guy who may well be everybody's favorite golfer, Arnold Palmer.  I don't believe that anyone would argue that Arnie was the greatest golfer of all time, but a case can be made that he was and is the most important golfer of all time (I'll bet even Jack Nicklaus would agree on that one.)  That, however, is a subject for another post.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Some Pirates Thoughts

Before settling in to watch the Pirates-Nats game tonight (currently 3-0 Nats in the third inning), some thoughts and observations.

Observation #1

I do not usually go crazy over criticizing and savaging the Pirates front office over every little move they make, but I have to say that I got a little P.O.'d when listening to the game on, I believe, Wednesday night, and hearing Greg Brown and John Wehner  launch into a dialog about how it is going to be pretty much impossible for the team to re-sign Russell Martin for 2015 any beyond, because, gosh, you know Russell has indicated that he might want to test the market to see what his value might be, and, you just know that one of those crazy big market, cash-rich teams is going to make some crazy offer that the Pirates just will never be able to match, and it would be good business for them to do so anyway.   

I almost couldn't believe what I was hearing.  The whole thing just smacked of being orders from on high (Nutting and/or Coonelly and/or Huntington) telling the broadcasters to start spreading the word that "we ain't going to sign Martin and it's not our fault - it's Martin's fault and the fault of the Angels/Yankees/Red Sox/take-your-pick".  Hey, the announcers are paid by the Pirates, and who among us hasn't done things at our employers' behest that we didn't necessarily like, but that was really insulting to the audience's intelligence, and I can't believe that Brown and Wehner kept a straight face while doing it.  As one Pirate Chatter put it on Facebook, it was a line of b.s. akin to parents preparing their six year old for the fact that the family dog was about to be put to sleep.

Observation #2

Michael Martinez has been playing second base in place of an injured Neil Walker.  Martinez is hitting .135.  You read that right One-Three-Five.  He also made an error in the Tigers game that may  - and I emphasize may - have cost the Pirates a chance to go into extra innings in that game.  A Pirate Chatter made a statistical case that Martinez may be among the dozen or so worst players in all of baseball history!! All. Of. Baseball. History.

Now I realize that when you lose an all-star caliber player, which Walker has been this season, to injury, you are not going to replace him with a player of equal talent.  But really, in all of organized baseball, couldn't the Pirates have found somebody, anybody, better than Michael Martinez?  I mean...

Observation #3

The Pirates make a waiver deal and acquire relief pitcher John Axford.  Axford was once an All-Star (at least, I think he was), but like many older relief pitchers, he's not what he used to be.  At best, he is an improvement over guys like Pimental and Gomez, and he may take some of the strain off of Hughes and Watson and Wilson.  It's a deal that could be of marginal help to the team.  It's not worth celebrating with champagne and dancing in the streets, but it's not one that is cause for boiling up tar and feathers for the Front Office, either.

Movie Review - "Magic In The Moonlight"

As it has for the last several years, the late summer brings us the release of the latest movie from Woody Allen.  This year it is "Magic in the Moonlight" starring Colin Firth and Emma Stone and written and directed by Allen.

As has been the case with all of Allen's movies in recent years, the filming does not take place in New York City and instead is filmed in a European location, this time in the south of France.  The movie takes place in 1928, and Firth plays a magician, the very best magician of his time who plays to sophisticated audiences all across Europe.  He is also totally full of himself to the point of obnoxiousness, an agnostic with little or no belief in God, faith, or the idea of an afterlife.  He is called upon by a fellow magician to travel incognito to the south of France to try a debunk a young woman, played by Stone, who is a spiritualist who is claiming to be able to contact the dead husband of a wealthy American woman. Firth accepts the challenge to prove that the woman is a fraud.

I won't give away any key plot points, but you can guess what happens.  The stodgy Firth falls for Stone, who isn't sure whether or not to reciprocate.  Firth is very good in his role, and Stone falls into the long line of Allen female co-stars (Louise Lasser, Diane Keaton, Mia Farrow, Scarlett Johansson), and she is quite good, although she has a long way to go to achieve the cachet of Keaton or Farrow.  (That could happen, though, as IMDB reports that Stone will also be a part of the movie that Allen will release in 2015.) Perhaps the best character is Firth's Aunt Vanessa, played by Eileen Atkins.

Although there are no big belly laughs in this one, there is still a lot of funny Allen dialog, terrific period costumes and music, and the cinematography of southern France, as well as how Allen uses he sunlight to backdrop several scenes, is almost breathtaking.  And has been the case in many of Allen's films, this one has a rather sweet and positive ending.

Do I think this is one of Allen's better movies? No, probably not, but even a middle-of-the-road picture from the Woodman is better than almost anything else that graces the movie screens, particularly during this summer season.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

To Absent Friends - Lauren Bacall

Sad news continues to arrive from Hollywood this week with the news of the death of actress Lauren Bacall at the age of 89.

I was surprised to see that IMDB showed only 49 movie acting credits and 20 TV acting credits for Miss Bacall.  I would have guessed that she had been in many more roles, but what roles she did have.   

Perhaps she is most famous for her roles with husband Humphrey Bogart in "To Have and Have Not", "Key Largo", and "The Big Sleep".  She also appeared in such other notable movies as "How to Marry a Millionaire", "Murder on the Orient Express", and she was terrific in John Wayne's last movie, "The Shootist".

Fans of "The Sopranos" will also a remember a memorable role for her in that great series.  She played herself and was mugged and robbed of a awards show gift basket by Christopher.  She then proceeded to fight back and shout out a string of profanity that was classic.

As I said, her roles with Bogart will probably be her most remembered, and here is a sample of some great dialog from "To Have and Have Not":

RIP Lauren Bacall.

To Absent Friends - Robin Williams

 Robin Williams

The news of the death by suicide of Robin Williams, comedian and Academy Award winning actor, that arrived yesterday is both sad and shocking.  By now, this news has been well documented by both social and conventional media, and there is not much that I can add to summarize the life of one of this generation's funniest men.

How sad that depression appears to be the cause of what drove Williams to this last and seemingly inexplicable act.

The following picture was sent out by the Motion Picture Academy as a tribute to Williams, and, as I said, what more can I add?

"Genie, you're free."
- Aladdin (1992)

RIP Robin Williams.