Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

Monthly Archive: September 2014

Monday

29

September 2014

0

COMMENTS

Jeter’s Farewell Should End Season Long Retirement Tours

Written by , Posted in Blog, Social Issues

With the 2014 regular season officially over, we bid farewell to Derek Jeter. The Captain supplied his fair share of memorable moments at the All Star Game, his final game at Yankee Stadium, and his final game at Fenway. The only thing missing is an October appearance, which of course won’t be happening.

The recent trend with retiring superstars is to announce one’s intentions in Spring Training, which leads to the “farewell tour,” a concept previously reserved for musicians like Cher and Kiss who typically don’t retire. It’s not surprising to see a desire throughout MLB to milk the teats of these cash cows one last time, but I fear the udders are being prodded a tad prematurely. The milk is supposed to be fresh in October but after a six-month goodbye tour, the milk seems a bit sour.

A season long affair leads to long over exaggerated pregame celebrations, where the opposing team showers the retiree with gifts before playing a game where the objective is to beat the team of the recipient of such presents. This is nice in theory and shows good sportsmanship. Teams like the Yankees and the Braves have nationwide fan bases all over the country, which gives fans who don’t live in the team’s city a chance to say goodbye.

But it’s still kind of weird. On his final visit to Fenway Park, the Boston Red Sox “honored” Rivera with a tongue-in-cheek replay of Dave Roberts’ stolen base in game four of the 2004 ALCS, one of the greatest moments in Red Sox history. While that was followed up with a standing ovation for the fierce competitor, what are the other teams really supposed to do? Are the Kansas City Royals supposed to pay homage to all the times Jeter beat the team? Awkward.

While athletes announcing their retirements a full season ahead of time is odd, it’s hardly a new occurrence or one exclusive to baseball. There’s plenty of money to be made off of these tours and it’s somewhat concerning to see economics factor in to a decision. Jones and Rivera had excellent swan songs that showed they still had some gas in the tank. While I can respect the decision that both players made to go out on their own terms, it’s somewhat saddening to see that another season didn’t appear to ever be on the table. Maybe that’s for the best.

The biggest problem is that it makes people forget that an actual baseball season is going on. The All Star game was more about Jeter than it was about the actual stars on baseball in the year 2014. The Nike and Gatorade commercials are nice and all, but let’s not forget that there’s a current generation of stars who should be honored for what they did this year and not what happened in the late 90s.

September saw a host of anti-Jeter articles questioning the Captain’s declining numbers and the effect its had on the Yankees as a perennial contender. It’s unfair to put the blame on Jeter for the Yankees woes in 2014, but as much as I’d like to call the criticism inappropriate, it’s hard to. When you hear nothing but praise for a 40 year old shortstop who can’t man his position anymore, you need a little dose of reality to remember that the only sport Jeter is going to play in October is golf.

It appears as though we’ll get a reprieve from retirement tours next season as no notable stars appear ready to hang up the cleats. Big Papi’s probably the next one, though he’s gone on record as saying he wouldn’t announce it early in the season anyway. Chase Utley is another who could bow out in the not so distant future who could have a retirement tour of his own. MLB would certainly like that.

The best professional sports retirement announcement in recent memory belongs to Ray Lewis, who announced his retirement four days before the start of the playoffs. Now, history will look fondly on that as the Ravens went all the way but that’s not what’s important. Lewis at 37 and having suffered a torn triceps in the middle of the year, was not the same player he was once was. He wasn’t Ray Lewis anymore, but what he had to give was enough to get the job done.

What was missing was a “me, me, me” narrative that naturally follows a season long retirement tour. The Yankees were officially eliminated with only a few games left to play. All in all, this was a fairly good run for a team that was a fringe contender in the first place. But did that matter? No. Why? Because Jeter got the spotlight. Their playoff aspirations took a backseat to the Jeter festivities. Something isn’t right with that.
It means something that a man like Jeter commands the respect he’s earned by playing the game the right way. But is going out via a season long-fest when your numbers are abysmal and your team misses the playoffs really the right way? Jeter will be thanked and loved by the Yankees fans for the rest of his life. For now, I care about actual baseball. Jeter has left the building. Time to move on.

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Wednesday

24

September 2014

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Does 7th Heaven Stand the Test of Time?

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture

This is the first part of a new series that will be appearing periodically that re-evaluates the legacy of popular TV shows that have been off the air for some time. I encourage you to subscribe to updates if you’d like to follow the series as well as my other work on a more consistent basis.

The WB had more than its fair share of signature series throughout its ten-year lifespan. Shows like Dawson’s Creek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Felicity have helped the channel carve its niche in the hearts of the angst-riddled youth of America. But no show fully embodied the spirit of the network quite like 7th Heaven. A recent cast reunion photo prompted me to pick the show as the first subject of this new feature.

While the first three shows I mentioned have had their legacies reinforced by the successful careers of many of the actors involved, 7th Heaven was semi-robbed of that luxury by Jessica Biel, a divisive talent to say the least. 7th Heaven was the only WB show to be on the air for the networks’ full tenure and holds an overwhelming majority of its ratings records. For the last few years, it was just about the only thing going right which paved the way for the merger with UPN to form The CW.

Powered by family values in an era where programming was increasingly looking to deviate into edgier content, 7th Heaven found success in the simplicity of its formula. This was a show about a family and not much else. It turns out a crowded house and a never-ending supply of melodrama is enough to churn out eleven seasons worth of material. Despite the reliance on the shock value of the “very special episode,” the series was the gold standard for the PTV.

But what are we supposed to think about 7th Heaven in the year 2014? It might not be on Netflix, but it is on Amazon’s Prime Instant Video, making it a viable option for binge watching. The real question is whether or not the series holds up eight years after it went off the air.

The first thing we need to do is figure out 7th Heaven’s prime years. For a show that lasted eleven seasons, this cannot be done unanimously. We can separate the show into three distinct eras with a standard deviation of half a season. Seasons one through four focus mostly on the Camden family alone. Five through seven start to introduce outside characters into the mix such as fan favorites Robbie Palmer and Ben Kinkirk. Eight through eleven are defined by the post adolescent years of nearly all the Camden children with friends of Ruthie filling in for the empty nest left by Matt, Mary, an adult Lucy, and an occasionally absentee Simon. A rough sketch, but not an inaccurate one.

Seasons three through six stand out as the show’s prime years. The majority of the Camden children are old enough to carry their own plotlines and Matt’s college years as well as Mary’s mischievous ones supply memories of the show’s lasting memories. As with shows like Law & Order, prime years are made difficult by the show’s episodic nature, but these were the years where the melodrama yielded its finest fruit.

Which makes recommending it to new viewers problematic since season one is largely forgettable in the grand scheme of the show. Regardless of whether or not you’d like to include season two in the prime years, and there’s a case for that, it’s hard to recommend a show that requires the viewer to sift through hours of subpar material to get to the good stuff. In this day and age, that simply isn’t necessary.

This of course has no effect on the show’s nostalgic value as older viewers have enough necessary background information to simply skip right to the prime years. As far as rewatchability is concerned, the show holds up quite well. The sets get somewhat monotonous after awhile, but there’s little within the show’s actual content that’s genuinely dated. Being a family show, this is hardly shocking, but it is somewhat unique to see a show that doesn’t fall victim to the trends of its time.

7th Heaven’s legacy was affected by the ill-fated eleventh season on The CW. The renewal occurred after the tenth season finale ratings beat all the other shows that were scheduled to make the jump, but that had a price that should have been taken into consideration. The show was always a ratings hit, but the large budget, which was the main factor in ending the show after season ten, prevented season eleven from ever having a fighting chance at success. Following a heartfelt finale that reunited all the Camden’s, season eleven was filmed on a shoestring budget and it showed.

So what to make of 7th Heaven in the year 2014? If you grew up watching the Camden kids get in trouble for trivial reasons, you’ll likely enjoy the stroll down memory lane. It was a concept that the show nailed perfectly and few shows have even attempted to mimic the formula. First time viewers might have trouble figuring out why they should care. Had Barry Watson, David Gallagher, and Beverly Mitchell been more successful, this likely wouldn’t have been the case. Beyond it’s addictive nature, it’s hard to hook new viewers into a 90s prime time soap opera with all the other choices.

But if you’re looking for a glimpse of what The WB was like, it’s impossible to get an accurate image without watching at least a few episodes of 7th Heaven. It may not have been as buzz worthy (or as good in certain parts) as Dawson’s Creek or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it outlived the networks entire roster and as such, remains a piece of the 90s worth remembering.

Here is a list of shows I’m considering doing “Does This Stand the Test of Time” on. Oz, Ally McBeal, The X-Files, Six Feet Under, The OC, Homicide: Life on the Street, Beverly Hills 90210, St. Elsewhere, Batman: The Animated Series, Babylon 5, Boy Meets World, Andromeda, and Stargate SG-1. If you would like to see one of these next or if you have your own suggestion, please comment below. Thank you for reading.

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Thursday

11

September 2014

2

COMMENTS

Rob Manfred’s First Act as MLB Commissioner Should be to Make the DH Universal

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It’s hard to imagine MLB without Bud Selig, who will be stepping down as Commissioner at the end of the season. Skeptics of his replacement, Rob Manfred would argue that it likely won’t be much different as Manfred was clearly Selig’s desired successor. As Selig’s tenure included several noteworthy changes to both league alignment and the game itself, we can expect that Manfred will implement his own changes at some point.

One of those should be to apply the designated hitter rule to both leagues. The DH has been widely contested since its introduction to the American League in 1973. While baseball purists despise the notion that AL teams can employ a batter who doesn’t have to take the field, there’s another factor that’s particularly relevant in the year 2014 that we should not ignore.

Economics.

NL teams are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to acquiring the services of free agent hitters. While many players themselves dislike being the DH, feeling an extra pressure to get on base even though that’s something that even the best of them will fail to do more than 60% of the time, it offers extra security for the teams themselves. This comes in two ways.

The DH is often used for defensively challenged and aging players to keep their bats in the line-up. This helps cushion the blow of free agency that’s built on a model that forces teams to pay premiums for post-prime years. It’s highly doubtful that Robinson Cano will continue to be worth over twenty five million when he’s 40, but he wouldn’t be on the Mariners if they didn’t offer him that. Without the DH slot, they wouldn’t have been in position to do that and likely wouldn’t be in this year’s playoff race without him.

It’s also useful in that sense considering that younger players can come from the minors and outperform veterans, leaving teams in an awkward position. Back in 2005, The Phillies were forced to eat a large portion of Jim Thome’s salary in order to free up first base for Ryan Howard. That wouldn’t have needed to happen if there was a DH in the National League.

The Phillies find themselves in a familiar position once again with Howard, only this time it’s Darun Ruf who’s beginning to show signs that he’d be a more productive option at first base. Unlike Thome, Howard is all but completely immovable and Philadelphia is in a pretty terrible situation with him.

The Dodgers also find themselves in a similar predicament with their outfield. Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford all have tens of millions remaining on their contracts, but younger players such as Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson have played their way into the line-up with Scott van Slyke also looking like an appealing option. None of their big money outfielders will be able to be moved unless the Dodgers pick up a significant chunk of the tab.

Now you might think that this just goes to show you not to hand these deals out. Serves them right, right? Not necessarily.

When the Guggenheim Group purchased the Dodgers for 2.15 billion in 2012, they inherited a team largely in shambles. Instead of waiting a few years to build from the ground up, they poured money into the team in order to field a contender as quickly as possible. While they probably wouldn’t have granted Ethier an extension knowing that Crawford was on the way, it’s hard to condemn the owners for doing whatever it took to revitalize baseball in Los Angeles. They accomplished that.

But that has its downsides. While last offseason, it was thought that only one of the three needed to go, Pederson’s ascent means that they’ll likely need to move two. And they won’t get much, if anything, in return.

The DH would allow Kemp, who boasts a respectable 3.0 oWAR hampered down by a -3.2 dWAR, to continue to contribute to the team. His offensive contributions are essentially negated by his defensive liabilities, which also hamper his ability to stay on the field. An AL team could greatly benefit from Kemp, even more so since the Dodgers would be footing most of the bill.

It’s certainly tempting to completely write off an NL DH as something that only benefits the Dodgers or the Phillies. That’s true in the sense that as teams with deep pockets, a DH would allow them to invest more in free agency. But it really allows NL teams to have the same roster advantages that the AL does.

Injuries are on the rise. While there’s no proven data to support the idea that the increases in Tommy John surgeries have anything to do with the pitcher batting, AL pitchers are at an increased risk now that interleague play is dispersed throughout the whole season. Banged up hitters get to take a partial day off with the DH, limiting the exacerbation of injuries.

League offense is also on the decline. That’s not likely to change drastically unless steroids are reintroduced, but it would change a bit if we stop forcing pitchers to take ugly hacks every five days. Hitting isn’t their job and it shows.

The arguments against the DH have lost credence in recent years. The increase in bullpen specialists has taken much of the strategy away from late game substitutions in the NL. The usually defensive oriented benches in the NL prevent a double switch from being anything other than a minor upgrade over a pitcher. Sabermetrics frown upon bunting. These strategies exist because they present a better offensive option than the pitcher, but so does the DH.

MLB makes changes for monetary purposes all the time. The second WC and home field advantage being determined by the All Star Game come to mind. But this is a change that helps deal with the disparity between the AL and the NL. It’s not about which league is better. It’s about which league gets to take bigger risks with its money. There’s really no good reason why the Dodgers have to eat tens of million of dollars to send players away when the Yankees can keep their aging roster fresh by utilizing an advantage NL teams don’t get to have.

Baseball is the only major American sport that has its leagues play by two different sets of rules. While that adds a certain element of individuality, that simply isn’t a valid reason to penalize NL teams from utilizing their resources to the best of their ability. It’s time for a change and hopefully Manfred puts an end to the atrocity that is the pitcher batting.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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Sunday

7

September 2014

0

COMMENTS

The Importance of Joan Rivers to The Celebrity Apprentice

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture

For the second time in less than a month, we’ve had to say farewell to a true comedy legend. Joan Rivers’ impact on entertainment is both profound and well documented. As such, I decided to do a tribute based more on her impact on my television guilty pleasure, The Celebrity Apprentice.

From top to bottom, it’s hard to argue that season two of Donald Trump’s faux business competition was its weakest. Neither team meshed particularly well with each other. The men had the argumentative Herschel Walker and Clint Black, the boring Brain McKnight, Jesse James, and Scott Hamilton, as well as the comedic, yet short lived Tom Green and Andrew Dice Clay. Green pales in comparison to other season’s joke contestants such as Gary Busey and Rod Blagojevich. Then there was Dennis Rodman, whose alcohol infused antics were funny for a little while until it became clear that the NBA Hall of Famer had a serious problem that needed to be addressed rather than laughed at.

The women weren’t much better. Joan along with her daughter Melissa, provided most of the team’s entertainment value. The team was compromised mostly of even less famous dead weight than the men. Claudia Jordan, Natalie Gulbis, and Tionne Watkins did absolutely nothing throughout their time of the show. Khloe Kardasian, who back in 2009 had yet to become a household name, was famously fired for taking a task off to deal with a DUI, which seems reasonable until you consider that contestants are frequently allowed to miss tasks for other engagements. Annie Duke filled the role as the season’s high roller, but her semi-celebrity status and bland personality made her far less exciting than other big money players. It wouldn’t be fair to say that Brande Roderick did nothing, but her status as one of the more memorable contestants goes to highlight the core problem with this season as a whole.

The Joan/Melissa Rivers dynamic is one that had never been done before on CA. Alliances have been made over the years, but we’ve never seen two family members participate at once. Since Trump has a fascination with the dated men vs. women mold, the two Rivers started off on the same team. This was fairly uneventful for the first part of the show, which is to be expected as the real drama needs time to develop. We saw the seed of a Joan/Annie feud planted in the second episode, but that was just a glimpse of what was to come.

While being on separate teams didn’t cause the drama that Trump would’ve liked, it did make for some exciting boardrooms. Joan or Melissa would often interject on the other’s behalf in confrontations, often to the chagrin of the boardroom advisors. Piers Morgan openly challenged the notion that Joan should defend her daughter, a question Trump was smart enough not to ask.

Joan provided the season’s most memorable moment when she chastised Annie and Brande for their tactic’s, which lead to Melissa’s firing shown here.

 

 

The two most important things to take away from this video are that Joan is a great mother and that she knows that this show is a joke and should be treated as such. Her line “I don’t want to hear this charity nonsense” seems foolish when you consider that the show’s prize is $250,000 to the winner’s charity plus the hundreds of thousands raised throughout the show. But that’s just the surface level of what was at stake here.

Joan showed character in thwarting Brande’s sympathetic stance. But she was right in assessing that the show is essentially an extended 15 minutes of fame for the bulk of the cast. She had arguably the strongest ties to her charity than any of the other contestant, having served on the board of directors for God’s Love We Deliver since 1994, but she knew that the game, like anything else, should be played with class. And when class wasn’t shown to her daughter, who had her fair share of tirades, she walked out with her. That’s what you do.

Of course she came back to win and showcase her charity to millions of people who may not otherwise know their great work. It’s not hard to imagine what that season would have been like without her. It was an uneventful season filled with boring and unlikable “celebrities.” Except for Joan, who came out winning for a whole number of reasons.

Rivers made a career of calling things as she saw them, but what made her special was that she could do that with a sense of class and human decency. Her victory on Celebrity Apprentice wouldn’t crack the top 100 of her career accomplishments, but that goes to show you what an extraordinary woman she was. You wouldn’t be able to say the same about Piers Morgan or Arsenio Hall, who owe their post CA success to Trump’s rigged nepotistic nonsense. She will be missed for many reasons, but I’ll remember her most fondly for “poker players are trash darling, trash.”

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