07 April 2006

"Hey Bartender! Your Man JOBU Needs a Refill!"

I decided to put on Major League last night, what with the Sox not on, and Pedro coming out of his first start after 6 IP. I thought I'd break a few things about the movie down, especially the team itself.

Here's the roster and lineup that I could divine from watching just last night:

  1. Willie Mays Hayes, CF

  2. Jake Taylor, C

  3. Roger Dorn, 3B

  4. Pedro Cerrano, DH

  5. Not Sure

  6. No Idea

  7. Could Be Anybody

  8. Probably a Middle Infielder

  9. Jack Tomlinson, OF

The rotation featured veteran Eddie Harris, and wildman Rick Vaughn. For a baseball movie, this one is really short on detail for the rosters, etc. Hard to piece together. It is interesting, given the era and the way the characters are drawn, to try and figure out what each character could be based on.

WILLIE MAYS HAYES- Had this movie been made in 1999 instead if 1989, the answer here would be obvious- Kenny Lofton. Wesley Snipes vaguely remembles him, is on the right team, and I actually think kind of runs like him. They're slightly similar players- Lofton was, of course, a very fast base-stealing CF- especially early in his career. That being said, there's nothing there to suggest Hayes is even a passable hitter, where Lofton was actually rather good. Throughout the entire movie, in fact, we never see Hayes get a ball out of the infield- which doesn't mean he doesn't, but here's the thing- he could have been historically bad, but never replaced, because, well, that's sort of the point of the movie. But, he had to be somewhat decent, because, of course, the Indians win their division. To me, he seems like 2001- era Tony Womack as a hitter more than Lofton. The movie came out in 1989, though, two years before Lofton made his debut. So, they basically forecasted Lofton's existence. The movie's always got that in it's back pocket.

PEDRO CERRANO- Not the most PC character in movie history, Cerrano is an eccentric, moody, temperamental Latin player that can mash fastballs while looking like a Little Leaguer against the breaking ball. He's Cuban, and he's into voodoo. Isn't voodoo a Haitian thing? Whatever.

Cerrano seems more like an amalgamation than anything else. One name that came to mind was George Bell, a Dominican player that was almost all power- but Bell didn't strike out enough to be a LOT like Cerrano (who was Bellhorn/ Dunn-like), but there's some similarity there. As far as a Latin player that strikes out a lot, and has trouble with breaking balls, there's always Jose Hernandez, but he unfortunately came around after the movie as well. Cerrano's tough- there's a little Bobby Bonds in him, a little Juan Samuel, a little Mo Vaughn/ David Ortiz, maybe even a little George Foster. Cerrano was obviously their biggest power threat, but he never laid off the breaking ball and was clearly not getting on base much, so the Adam Dunn/ Jim Thome imprimatur just doesn't fit. Rob Deer is a decent comparison, but Deer wasn't Latin. I think a melding of Deer and Juan Samuel works for me. Best move on.

ROGER DORN- I'll admit, whenever I see Dorn, I think of Steve Garvey. The only problem is that the glaring problem with Dorn- his defense- was one of Garvey's strengths. Garvey won four Gold Gloves.

By all appearances, Dorn is the best overall player on the Indians that year. He's a liability defensively, and he's obviously declining, but he seemed to be one player that they couldn't get rid of because of salary, and because they overestimated how much the poor defense would hurt the team. I mean, we see him spraying the ball all over the field when he hits, and those runs had to come from somewhere, right? They did win the division. I think Dorn gets a short shrift for being a vain little bitch.

Which is where Garvey comes in. Between the movie-star good looks, the self importance, and the wife-cheating, there are some strong similarities there. Garvey, like Dorn, wasn't a huge power threat, but he had some pop (likely depressed by Dodger Stadium and Jack Murphy Stadium). Dorn looks like Garvey circa 1985 in this movie; Garvey hit .281 that year with 17 HRs, while Dorn hits .291 in 1989 with an unspecified number of HRs, but if I had to guess, 20 would probably be the ceiling.

EDDIE HARRIS- Probably my favorite character in the movie. I don't know if Gaylord Perry was a strong Christian or not, but either way he better be getting royalties on this movie. Eddie Harris ("this... is Vagisil") IS Gaylord Perry.

RICK VAUGHN- Like Willie Hayes and Kenny Lofton, it's easy to forget that the "Wild Thing" moniker was applied to Vaugh first and NOT Mitch Williams. That said- Williams started his career in 1986. In 1987, he threw 108.2 IP and walked 94. In 1990, he walked 50 in 66.1 IP. The whole Rick Vaughn persona- throws HARD and has no control- is pretty tried and true in baseball history. Williams, Steve Dalkowski, Bobby Jenks- it's not new. These guys tend to carry with them something akin to Vaughn's personality as well- uncontrollable, youthful, hard to pin down.

All that said, the Vaughn/ Williams comparison's too close and too perfect. Life imitating art imitating life.

JAKE TAYLOR- OK, question- how many 38 year old catchers with knees like grinding gears have ever taken a few years away to play in the Mexican Leagues, only to come back and hit second in a major league lineup? It's crazy. It obviously makes so little sense that you can just assume he hits second so that he can come up right after Hayes for plot purposes. So, no sense in dragging that point around.

His comps are tough. Appearance-wise, he's kind of a blend of Gary Carter and Darrel Porter. Taylor's a lot tougher and down-and-dirty than Carter ever was, and isn't nearly the player that Porter was. Plus, Porter never played past 35. Best as I can tell, Taylor is a contact hitter with fairly limited pop (save for when he's pantomiming in his Miami Vice suit about pennant-winning HRs), which makes the idea of him calling his shot all the funnier. Think Toby Hall doing it today.

I think Bill Freehan's a good guy to go with. A gritty leader-y guy, Bill was good enough in his prime to have been like Taylor (who, remember, was "one of the best in the majors before he hurt his knees"), and tailed off to around what Taylor likely was in '89. Has a "winning" history- caught for the Tigers in 1968, when the won the Series. Freehan retired after his age 34 season, but if some Vegas stripper inherited the Indians in 1979, he wouldn't have been a bad candidate for the Jake Taylor role, I think. Good enough not to arouse suspicion, but gone long enough to suck to her standards.

LOU BROWN, MANAGER- As a decision maker- let's say he's a good "movie" manager. Late in the decisive one-game playoff against NYY, he does the following:

  • Starts 65 year old Eddie Harris on short rest. Harris has trouble raising his arm above his belt by the time he's reached the 7th inning.

  • Brings in Rick Vaughn in a CRUCIAL spot to face Triple Crown Winner (!!) Clue Haywood (played by former Brewers PITCHER Pete Vuckovich). In previous ABs against Vaughn that season, Haywood had homered, homered, homered and homered. I may be forgetting a homer or two. Tells his catcher Taylor, "I got a hunch."

  • With a man on 2nd and two outs, lets Jake Taylor- who breaks a sweat gelling his hair- lay down a bunt, hoping to leg it out.

  • Though it's the 3B coach's call, allows Hayes to ROUND THIRD FROM SECOND on a bunt. Didn't realize Hayes was also equal part Carl Lewis.

  • But, all these decisions work out. He's like Jack McKeon in the 2003 playoffs. Dumb move after dumb move, and he falls ass-backwards into amazing luck. McKeon's a good comp because he's "no-nonsense" and really lets his players have it. That said, McKeon's old-guy phase wasn't really in full swing in 1989, and Lou Brown doesn't seem like a complete asshole.

    Earl Weaver was similar in temperament, but Earl Weaver was also the smartest man to ever manage a baseball team, and Lou Brown doesn't seem to be. The guys that seem to survive on Brown-like temperament (Sparky Anderson, John McGraw, Weaver) all seem to be a bit more advanced strategically. Lou Piniella and Jack McKeon are good recent comparisons. Dick Williams may also work from the pool of managers from before the film's release.

    A couple other things that bothered me, and we'll for a moment pretend this isn't a movie, because, well, that's a pretext for most of the questionable parts of the movie, especially plot-wise.

    OK. Why, when the Indians began to surge, did Rachel Phelps feel powerless to stop it? Even if the resurgence happens AFTER the trading deadline, and the Indians basically play like the 27 Yankees for two months to get back in the race- couldn't something be done that made them TOO bad, but didn't look like, say, a Marlins firesale? I mean, she could have taken her best part(s); say, Cerrano and Dorn, and traded them to a contender for a few minor leaguers. You know, what the Pirates do every year in July.

    Then, they could have put Harris and Taylor on waivers (because they're too old, etc), or even DFA one or both of them. Vaughn would be tough to move with his control problems, so you could send him down to the minors (like Brown himself nearly did) to "work on his control." I think you'd be more or less stuck with Hayes, unless someone wanted him in a Dave-Roberts-type-role. You could also "suspend" him for his "showboating." Things could be done.

    Also, as vengeful as what Suzanne Dorn does to Roger- and it most certainly is deserved, obviously- it's as big a burden on Vaughn, too, right? I mean, she seems to actually like him a little- so why does she let him fuck her, tell him then that she's Dorn's wife, and then tell Dorn? Yea, Dorn's pissed- but at least he gets the pleasure of "seeking revenge" or whatever. It almost reads like her setting VAUGHN up.

    If I ever watched the Red Sox win the division, and in the ensuing celebration Josh Bard brings his girlfriend on the field and hoists her into the pile, I'll probably break something.

    Rachel Phelps is a former stripper, right? And all those players in the locker room are at least 18... correct? So why does the cardboard standy of her with the removable clothing have pasties on the nipples and a thong on? They really couldn't have gotten a naked chick under there? This was a rated R movie, right? I mean, even Harris was into some smut (you see him reading "Hustler" on the team bus), and he was a Bible Thumper. Strange.

    The stadium sing/ dance-along to "Wild Thing" when Vaughn comes out of the bullpen makes me really uncomfortable. Like, really. I usually just look away. I turn back in time for "strike this MOTHERFUCKER out!" though.

    My favorite part? Harris drinking Jobu's rum then getting clunked on the dome-piece by a flying bat. The spirit of the movie in one shot. Nice.

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