Thursday, March 31, 2011

Big Expectations for the 2011 Red Sox and other movies

A lot of people have written to me wondering why I haven’t written more recently about the Red Sox. We are on the eve of what could be a great season. It seems like everyone and their moose are picking my boys to win the Division and many others see them winning the pennant and even the World Series.

I am super excited about the season, but I also know the danger of sky high expectations and I am guarded.

No this isn’t fatalistic Red Sox fan being pessimistic. Those days ended for me in 2004 and 2007. But this is a movie watcher with his guard up. I have been to too many films that I felt were going to be awesome to only to be let down.

I can’t help but think that this Red Sox season could be like one of those films. A film that I kept watching the trailer over and over and getting myself pumped up, only to have wildly varying end results.

So which movie that I was overly excited for will the 2011 Red Sox mirror?

Will they mirror
Superman Returns?

The Excitement…
Bryan Singer had done a great job with the X Men movies but I never cared about Marvel comics growing up. But I did love Superman and Superman II. He was going to put love and care into a new Superman movie, complete with the John Williams music, a Christopher Reeve dead ringer in the lead and Marlon Brando’s voice as Jor-El. The trailer was awesome. Hellllllo Childhood!

Did it meet expectations?
Nope. Right from the start I felt like something was wrong. Even the opening Whoooooshing credit sequence with the original score didn’t work. And the film was super dull, super lame and had so many plot holes I wish I could spin the Earth backwards and make it never happen.

The 2011 Red Sox equivalent
If the Red Sox stumble out of the gate in the first game, never get back on track, be completely boring by June, crawl to the ending and find out they somehow had a 5 year old son, then it will be the Superman Returns of baseball seasons.

Will they mirror
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace?

The Excitement…
Are you kidding me? Star Wars was coming back! Lightsabers! Obi Wan Kenobi! We were promised cool young Jedi in action for more than 20 years. Even if it sucked it would be awesome. My brother and I paid full admission to Meet Joe Black just to see the trailer.

Did it meet expectations?
Man I wanted it to. Man I squinted my eyes, ignored the problems and kept thinking “Oh boy. This is going to get awesome ANY MINUTE NOW!” And every once in a while something cool would happen. But there was a lot of Jar Jar… and the little kid… and a story that made no sense… and after some serious denial there was no other conclusion. It sucked.

The 2011 Red Sox equivalent…
The Red Sox play just above .500 but lose a lot of close games and all the fans think “Any minute now this team is going to take off.” And despite a no hitter that is undeniably cool, the team just stumbles towards a confusing and unsatisfying ending. And super prospect Anthony Ranaudo is brought up from the farm and says “Yousa think our pennant chance is gonna DIE!”

Will they mirror
The Royal Tennenbaums?

The Excitement…

The makers of Rushmore were making a great ensemble piece. Bill Murray was back but this looked like it was going to be Gene Hackman’s film to carry. The trailer that mixed Simon and Garfunkel the Ramones was fabulous. No doubt a classic movie was about to be unveiled.

Did it meet expectations?
Frustratingly no. Gene Hackman was terrific as was Anjelica Huston. In fact the film wasn’t bad, just agonizingly uneven. Plus the quirky style and attention to detail that made Rushmore so great felt forced here.

The 2011 Red Sox equivalent…
They get an MVP performance from Kevin Youkilis and a Cy Young performance from Jon Lester, but the season is filled with too many dull stretches and losing streaks. Plus they play too many songs by Nico on the Fenway Park P.A. system.

Will they mirror
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring?

The Excitement…
A major studio handed the reigns to an expensive franchise to a looney like Peter Jackson? I was never a Tolkien fan growing up, but the clips of the film looked amazing and the pre release buzz was so great that I actually read the damn book before I saw it. After being burned on the Star Wars Prequels, maybe Jackson would get it right.

Did it meet expectations?
Well it was good. Parts of it damn good. And Ian McKellen was awesome and it is always nice to see Liv Tyler. But did it have to be that LONG? How many conferences did we have to have with elves, and hobbits and dwarves and Viggo Mortensen? Frodo has the Ring. They need to throw it into a volcano. Let’s get moving!

The 2011 Red Sox equivalent…
The team wins the Division, but each games lasts 4 hours because of fouled off pitches, bullpen changes and arguing with the umps. The season has an unsatisfying ending but we are assured in two years it will all come to a conclusion. Sox fans wonder why they have to wait that long. Meanwhile Dustin Pedroia plays the season with no shoes and big furry feet.

Will they mirror

The Excitement…
All throughout the 1980s, my brother and I were dying to see a live action Batman film that was dark and sinister like the comics. And while Michael Keaton seemed like an odd choice to play the role, the preview made us both jump out of our skins. We dutifully bought the Batman t-shirts like everyone else.

Did it meet expectations?
The amazing opening credit sequence with Danny Elfman’s hair raising score led to the “What are you?” “I’m Batman!” confrontation on the roof. How could it get better than that? It didn’t. There were individual moments that were terrific and Jack was on his game. But what was the plot? And why did they have to climb up the Cathedral? The look was cool then but didn’t hold up over time.

The 2011 Red Sox equivalent…
They start off with a 15 game winning streak and look unbeatable. And the stars play amazingly well. Then the team cools off, plays without focus and Francona makes a series of bizarre choices at the end of the year that hamstring the team’s playoff chances but he keeps making them over and over. And Vicki Vale is brought into the Red Sox clubhouse for no reason.

Will they mirror

The Excitement…
In a summer filled with duds (Jonah Hex? The A-Team? The Sorcerer’s Apprentice?) Christopher Nolan looked like he was coming to the rescue. The previews were awesome. The cast top notch and the effects looked staggering. And early reviews said it was smart and thrilling. How could it go wrong?

Did it meet expectations?
The film was so confusing that this College Humor short easily pointed out the plot holes and jolts in logic. The film would have been better if it were a comedy where the confusing parts could be laughed away. But how boring were these people’s dreams? If Leo didn’t jump into them with his own anxieties, they’d be just dreaming of being in a hotel lobby!

The 2011 Red Sox equivalent…
The Red Sox look good on the field and do lots of flashy highlights. But they make so many strange decisions throughout the season that you wonder if Terry Francona had lost his mind. Why is David Ortiz leading off? Why is Lester taken out after three innings? Why are they pinch running for Youkilis in the 4th? And why is Francona spinning that damn top before each pitching change?

Will they mirror
The Godfather Part III?

The Excitement…
The Godfather! Part 3! I mean what more do you need? The first two films were two of the greatest movies of all time. There were rumors of a third one for a decade and a half. Now Coppola was going back to the Corleone family and he was going to re establish himself as the maestro of American movies. We saw it on Christmas Day, ready to be wowed.

Did it meet expectations?
Not even close. Andy Garcia is great. But it wasn’t The Godfather! Replacing Robert Duvall with George Hamilton? Was Richard Dawson not available? And yeah, Winona Ryder had a breakdown, but was there no other actress available other than Sofia? Plus Anthony Corleone’s character was being built up since the first movie as important. But in this movie he is reduced to singing an opera? Also Al Pacino was no longer silent Michael Corleone but doing a full screaming Tony Montana with his greatest role.

The 2011 Red Sox equivalent…
The team goes on some nice winning streaks, but some key players go down to injury and are replaced with inferior talent. The end of the season drags out and Francona inexplicably brings his own daughter out of the bullpen. Tim Wakefield is talked out of retiring and grumbles “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

Will they mirror
No Country For Old Men?

The Excitement…
After a few subpar efforts from the Coen Brothers (Intolerable Cruelty? The Ladykillers?) they looked like they were back in form. The trailer was nothing short of heart attack inducing and the reviews could be described as orgasmic.

Did it meet expectations?
I think so. I mean 98% of the movie was one of the best movies I have ever seen in my life. It was lean, tense, dark, sickly humorous and yet terrifying. Josh Brolin was underrated in his emotionally muted performance. Javier Bardem was one of the scariest characters I ever saw. And of course Tommy Lee Jones as expected brought his A Game. But then the ending was oddly anti climactic. I didn’t mind that I never saw the final confrontation. The Coens are masters at off screen violence. But it just kept going… and going… and long after I stopped caring Tommy Lee Jones was having breakfast. And it ended and I thought “Um… that was great… but….”

The 2011 Red Sox equivalent…
They come out of the gate strong and never look back. They take the Division and it isn’t even close. They get a Cy Young performance out of Jon Lester and the rest of the rotation is terrific. They get MVP caliber performances from Pedroia, Crawford, Youkilis and Gonzalez. In the playoffs they stampede past the A’s in the Division Series and Minnesota in the ALCS before facing the Phillies in a thrilling World Series. And in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7 of the World Series, the Red Sox win when Brad Lidge commits a balk. And replays show that it wasn’t a balk. So there is a celebration and the Red Sox are champs, but the ending just doesn’t feel right.

Will they mirror
The Dark Knight?

The Excitement…
It sounded like the Batman film my brother and I were waiting for our whole lives was finally coming out. After the inconsistent Tim Burton films and the vomit worthy Joel Schumacher movies and Christopher Nolan’s fine if flawed Batman Begins, this one looked like it got it right. No more origin story. No more trips to Asia. Now it was Batman in Gotham City, working with Jim Gordon and fighting the Joker and Two Face. And if the rumors were true, Heath Ledger would make us all forget Jack Nicholson. The trailers looked cool and I let my guard down and allowed myself to get excited.

Did it meet expectations?
You bet. The story was intense. The acting solid. And the actions scenes were exciting and not all computer generated cartoon scenes. And every scene with The Joker was funny and terrifying with an edge that even Jack couldn’t match. And the ending confrontation with Two Face had me legitimately wondering how the whole movie would turn out. How many summer blockbusters can you say THAT about? OK the Cell Phone subplot was unnecessary, but who cares? It rocked.

The 2011 Red Sox equivalent…
The Red Sox win a see saw battle with the Yankees for the Division and Carl Crawford is so great that you forget the crazy performance of Manny Ramirez. They get through the playoffs without playing any team that the Red Sox fans truly care about. No Yankees, no Rays, no Angels. Maybe they beat the White Sox and the Rangers. Then in the World Series against the Rockies it is tight and anyone’s series. But they pull it out and celebrate a World Championship. When Adrian Gonzalez looks muted in his celebration, he is corned by Jonathan Papelbon who asks him “Why so serious?”

Will they mirror

The Excitement…
After sharing laughs with Jerry Lewis, getting lost in SoHo with Griffin Dunne, playing pool with Paul Newman, making short films with Woody Allen and Francis Coppola and tempting Jesus Christ, Martin Scorsese was going back to his violent roots. He was back working with DeNiro, reunited him with Joe Pesci and brought in Ray Liotta fresh off of Something Wild and Field of Dreams. The preview looked terrific, shockingly even better than the trailer for The Godfather Part III. My guard was down and I was ready to be blown away by the master.

Did it meet expectations?
No. It shattered them. Of all the films listed here, it was the only one that I saw with sky high expectations and walked away thinking “Man, it was even better than I could have possibly imagined.” There isn’t a single character in that film that isn’t memorable and quotable. Tiny moments became pop culture signatures. The film was as funny as any comedy I ever saw, as powerful as any drama and as tense as any thriller. The Copa scene and the Layla montage would have been enough. But it just kept getting better right to the end where Ray Liotta breaks the fourth wall. It is such a great movie that I could watch it WHILE I am watching it.

The 2011 Red Sox equivalent…
The Red Sox win 105 games and do so with style and substance. At one point the Yankees look they are ready to make a big run. But Jon Lester just looks at them, takes a bad ass puff of his cigarette with Sunshine of Your Love blasting and takes care of them with a couple of devastating games. The final month and playoffs are frantic and jumping all over the place and not quite as fun as the first half but much more exciting. They make it all the way to the World Series. Despite some paranoia from everyone, they pull it out. Kevin Youkilis is told by Lester that he won the World Series MVP. Youk asks “Where is the trophy?” Lester points down an empty hallway. “Right there. On the corner… it’s over there.” Youk walks down the hall but senses something is wrong…

So the season begins tomorrow… and let’s hope there is a lot more Henry Hill than Superman.

As for the Yankees? Let’s hope they get their f*cking shinebox!

Follow sullybaseball on Twitter


I expect your ALL to refer to your team that way all season.
It doesn't matter how many times you say "Giants" in a sentence... you need to call them by their full name.

"The Defending World Champion San Francisco Giants are playing today. Batting lead off for the Defending World Champion San Francisco Giants will be Andres Torres. Then Freddy Sanchez, the secondbaseman for the Defending World Champion San Francisco Giants..." etc etc.

You never know when you will be able to use that title again. And until they are eliminated, savor it... fans of the Defending World Champion San Francisco Giants.
Follow sullybaseball on Twitter

A March game that could haunt Milwaukee in late September

Yeah I know it is early.
It isn't even April. So with 161 games left to play, why is this game between Cincinnati and Milwaukee so important?

It is true that there is a lot of time to make up this one game deficit. But these two teams could be two of biggest contenders for the National League Central crown. And guess what? If these two teams go down to the wire, every game in September will be precious.

And if Milwaukee loses the division by a game, I am sure a game where they hit homers with the first two at bats of the season and had a 3 run lead in the 9th to the Reds then coughed it up will be a sore spot.

The games count as much now as they do late in the season.

You had better get your act together, Brewers. The Reds magic number is down to 161!
Follow sullybaseball on Twitter

Cameron Maybin finds a nice way to win over his new team

He was recalled too quickly by the Tigers as a rookie and underachieved with the Marlins after the Miguel Cabrera trade.

Now Cameron Maybin needs to produce in San Diego before wearing the "bust" label.

Well making a highlight reel catch in the first and hitting a 2 out 9th inning game tying home run on the road is a nice start.

Now keep that up over the season and maybe the Padres will have made a steal.

Follow sullybaseball on Twitter

Not a bad opening act!

The season was less than 4 hours old and we already had a 3 run, 2 out walk off come from behind wiping away a 2 run deficit game winning homer.

Hopefully this is a harbinger for things to come in a great baseball season.

Hey Cincinnati... pay attention. You've got a great team.
Hey baseball... pay attention. There is an exciting team that could become THE team in a very wide region. But I said that already.

MAN it feels good to be seeing baseball again!

Follow sullybaseball on Twitter

A beautiful sight on

All teams equal.
No wins.
No losses.

Hope for all teams... even for this day the Pirates.

It all starts today.

Happy New Year everyone.

Follow sullybaseball on Twitter

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sully Baseball's Fearless Predictions for 2011

I made my Division and World Series picks...
And now for a prediction for each team.

ANGELS – The most underrated team going into the season. Vernon Wells will rebound, the starting rotation will be the best in the American League. Scott Kazmir is as good as gone, but Matt Palmer steps in to win 13 games in the #4 spot. The Angels will win the Division.

ASTROS - The Astros will surprise a lot of experts by hovering around .500 all season. Wandy Rodriguez will win 14 games, J. A. Happ will win 13 and Jordan Lyles will be in the rotation for the second half of the season and play well. They won't compete in 2011 but will become a trendy pick for 2012.

ATHLETICS – The A’s will contend throughout the season, but the real news will be in where they play. As MLB wrings their hands trying to figure out what to do with the stadium, San Jose will approve financing for a new ballpark, forcing the issue. The A’s will work out a deal similar to the Nationals deal with the Orioles and the end of the 2011 will bring around the announcement that the A’s are heading to the South Bay.

BLUE JAYS – Jose Bautista’s home run total returns to Earth (22 tops.) And he becomes a strange test case of the post steroids era. He has hit 47% of his career homers last year, getting 54 after peaking at 16. That number will stick out, but unless proven otherwise, it has to be looked at as a fluke (unlike Brady Anderson.)

BRAVES – The Braves are good, but Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe come back down to Earth cutting their playoff run just short. Meanwhile Jayson Heyward continues to hit the ball well but Freddie Freeman isn’t ready yet.

BREWERS - The Zack Grienke trade becomes the sequel to the Mariners acquiring Cliff Lee. It looked great in December and it will fall apart grotesquely in practice. The basketball game heard 'round the world will keep the Brewers out of contention. They finish barely above .500. Meanwhile Prince Fielder is dealt to Colorado.

CARDINALS – Colby Rasmus never gets out of the doghouse and is dealt. Rasmus seems to think he has already lined up his MVP cred when he called out Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa last year. I can’t imagine life is getting any easier in Cardinal land, especially with the Pujols contract and the Wainwright injury looming over the team. Rasmus will be dealt at the deadline for pitching help and an eye on 2012.

CUBS – Mike Quade is as good as gone. The Cubs are in transition mode and Quade’s job seems to be keep the seat warm. Once some of the bad contracts are shed and some sort of direction if found, Quade will be axed. If he is the manager at the July 31st trade deadline, I will be stunned. LaRussa is courted to be the new manager for 2012 and hopefully brings Pujols with him.

DIAMONDBACKS - Justin Upton and Kirk Gibson have a tense confrontation. The result? He goes on a tear the second half of the season and becomes a trendy pick for 2012 NL MVP. The Diamondbacks finish dead last but there is hope for the future.

DODGERS – Don Mattingly will be a rotten fit for the Dodgers. It is not his fault that the Dodgers don’t have the personnel, but a team in flux like this needs a veteran manager, not someone who will have growing pains. Oddly, this is a team Grady Little should manage, but he is no doubt persona non grata in Dodgertown.

GIANTS – Brandon Belt will be the Giants first baseman by June. With a slimmed down and motivated Pablo Sandoval and a focused Buster Posey, the Giants will have three homegrown stars in their lineup to go with their homegrown rotation and bullpen ace. The Giants pull away and win the Division with a week to spare.

INDIANS – In a lost season in Cleveland, one star will regain his luster. Grady Sizemore will be the Comeback Player of the Year, hitting .300 for the first time in his career, getting his OPS near .900 and stealing 30 bags.

MARINERS – Eric Wedge can’t turn the ship around in his only year in Seattle. Felix Hernandez and Ichiro Suzuki continue to be terrific but Chone Figgins will be shopped in a salary dump, Milton Bradley cut, Jack Cust benched and Jack Wilson will somehow get 400 at bats. Seattle fires Eric Wedge at the end of the year.

MARLINS – The final year in Joe Robbie Stadium (or whatever it is called now) will be amazing and with lots of empty orange seats. Mike Stanton becomes one of the truly exciting players in the game. Hanley Ramirez will have the best year of his career. Josh Johnson will pitch like an ace and the Fish will make the playoffs for their third time in their existence. Edwin Rodriguez keeps his job into the new ballpark.

METS – The July 31st trade deadline will be “Meet the Mets!” time for contenders. With the team facing an economic crisis and virtually no chance to contend, any healthy expensive body is being dealt. Carlos Beltran is good as gone if he can play. Jason Bay will be shipped off too. Maybe even Jose Reyes. David Wright too? It is possible.

NATIONALS - As all attention is placed on Hagerstown and the development of Bryce Harper, the big league club stumbles out of the gate and never recovers. To shake things up Jim Riggleman is let go right after Jim Leyland is fired from the Tigers. But when Leyland turns down the Washington job, interim manager John McLaren finishes the season as Washington looks to court Tony LaRussa in the off season.

ORIOLES – The Birds take a step forward, but Mark Reynolds swings and misses. Now of course Reynolds is going to strike out a lot. He already officially has 6 strikeouts and the season hasn’t started yet. But he will be exposed even more than he was before in Arizona and it just won’t work out in Baltimore. The team itself will start to make strides toward respectability, but Buck Showalter is going to get fed up at how many runners are left in scoring position after a Reynolds at bat.

PADRES - The Padres start the season off well but by June, reality sits in. Heath Bell is shopped around. The Phillies and Angels are interested and he heads north to Anaheim. Cameron Maybin flops and the middle infield of Orlando Hudson and Jason Bartlett are dealt at the trade deadline.

PHILLIES – Forget Jose Contreras, Ryan Madson or Kyle Kendrick as Brad Lidge's replacement. The Phillies will make a deal for a closer. Detroit's Jose Valverde will be available when the Tigers fall apart and he will be logging saves in Philadelphia by July. The Phillies will go on to win the World Series.

PIRATES - There will be lots of talk about how the Pirates are trying to turn the corner with Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen as the corner stones. But the team can't get out of its own way and Paul Maholm becomes trade bait. Jameson Taillon is on the big league club for good in July.

RANGERS – The good fortune that befell the AL Champion Rangers in 2010 goes away for the defense. They will hit well but will miss Vlad Guerrero more than they expected. The Michael Young controversy sorts itself out as an injury to Ian Kinsler puts Young at second base.

RAYS – Jeremy Hellickson and Reid Brignac will make everyone forget about Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett. Hellickson will win 15 games and the Rookie of the Year while Brignac will bring a steady glove up the middle. Meanwhile Manny Ramirez will get a few big hits, but Johnny Damon will contribute next to nothing.

REDS - Aroldis Chapman takes over the bullpen closer role as the Reds role and never look back. Jay Bruce challenges Joey Votto for MVP of the team and Edinson Volquez wins 18 games. The Reds win the Division by 8 games.

RED SOX – The Red Sox will have a solid year, but Josh Beckett will be the 800 pound gorilla of the season. He won’t get it on track and will resemble Jack Morris in 1993. That year Cito Gaston dutifully put him on the mound every 5 days out of respect until an injury mercifully pushed him off the playoff roster. In 2011, the Red Sox will look for any excuse to keep him off the roster 15 days at a time. The Red Sox make the playoffs but fall short in the ALCS.

ROCKIES - Todd Helton will finally run out of gas. And the Rockies will play half heartedly through June. At the trade deadline, hoping to give the team and the lineup a jolt, they part with a prospect and some other farm hands to bring in Prince Fielder. It pays dividends with some big homers in the thin air but he doesn't fit in with the straight laced Rockies clubhouse and is perceived as a mercenary by Colorado fans who prefer Helton. He bolts via free agency.

ROYALS – Alex Gordon will run out of chances but the Royals will surprise everyone by posting a winning season. Billy Butler will be dealt to a contender but never mind that Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas will be in Kansas City by June and give the team a major spark. They will finish the season 84-78.

TIGERS – The Jim Leyland era, which began so wonderfully with the 2006 Tigers, crashes and burns in the first half of the season. Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander will both be solid, but the team will stumble out of the gate and never recover. Leyland will be fired in June and a veteran manage is brought in to pick up the pieces. (Perhaps Ken Macha.)

TWINS – They will fight tooth and nail with the White Sox for the Division with Kansas City breathing down their necks. Delmon Young’s All Star season last year will prove to be a fluke and Justin Morneau just can’t stay healthy. And the good fortune of Carl Pavano will fall off the table and he will be removed from the rotation by July. As the Twins fall short, there will be whispering about replacing Ron Gardenhire.

WHITE SOX – The most fun team to follow this year will be on the South Side of Chicago. I didn’t say the best. I said the most fun. Guillen and Williams will be at each others throat and the Twitters updates will fly. But so will the balls off the bats of Dunn and Konerko. And Jake Peavy will return to make 20 starts, almost all of them in the second half and help pitch the White Sox back into the playoffs.

YANKEES – The “reclamation project” plan for the #5 starter will go about as well as the Red Sox taking a chance with John Smoltz and Brad Penny in 2009. In other words, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Mark Prior, Kevin Millwood and any other washed up pitcher will flop. Look for kids like Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman getting starts after the All Star break.

So let's take a look at these at the end of the year and see what I got right and what looks just damn foolish!

Follow sullybaseball on Twitter