Thursday, October 22, 2015

Daniel Murphy

So this is the first sports post I’ve written in a long while, to commemorate the glorious magnificence of one Daniel Murphy and his improbably nay impossible postseason performance so far. There will be numbers ahead but I’ll try to stick to the semi-legible ones and make fairly simple comparisons so that more people can understand it. Most (but certainly not all) stat minded baseball people are God awful at expressing themselves in an intelligible fashion so I’ll try to avoid too much of their densely overwrought writing.

If you hadn’t heard at this point Murphy, he of 12 regular season Homeruns, has hit 7 in this postseason and 6 in his past 6 games; assisting the Mets in a sweep of the beloved Cubbies. Despite being a White Sox fan I didn’t grow up in Chicago so I have no real hatred for the Cubs but them failing over and over is still amusing. Especially when they have the best Manager in baseball and one of the better GMs. Theo Epstein is probably at least a little overrated but Joe Maddon really is a messianic figure. Speaking of which Lord Murphy definitely fits that description as well.

In the regular season Murphy hit 281/322/449 (771 OPS), a generally unremarkable figure, he’s more or less average or slightly above average. Nothing is offensively bad about Murphy and nothing is particularly great either, he’s just an alright MLB player. He is however white and also has a shitty OBP so that means people will like him a lot for no particular reason; he’s the nitty gritty heart of the team and all that shit. Never failed to run out a ground ball, Rudy personified, effort, passion, love of the game and what not.

So out of the blue he just decided to have a fucking insane postseason to this point and in the NLCS alone he hit 529/556/1.294 (1.850 OPS), with a home run in every damn game of the series. That is, quite simply, preposterous; it just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. He’s not even a young player where maybe he could be having his breakout moment or something, no this guy’s a pretty set in stone alright guy and will continue to be so. How does that series line stackup? Well let’s look back at some old chums of ours and compare:

Carlos “former Lugnut” Beltran 2004 NLDS 455/500/1.091 (1.591 OPS)
Alex “Sucks in the Postseason” Rodriguez 2009 ALCS 429/567/952 (1.519 OPS)
Mickey “Mick” Mantle 1960 World Series 400/545/800 (1.345 OPS)
Barry “My Ego is as big as my Head” Bonds 2002 World Series 471/700/1.294 (1.994 OPS)
Babe Fucking Ruth 1928 World Series 625/647/1.375 (2.022 OPS)
And last but not least David “The Forgotten One” Freese 2011 NLCS 545/600/1.091 (1.691 OPS)

That my friends is a fascinating list. This upstart from New York has some mighty fine company, outclassing all but possibly the best two players who ever touched a baseball bat. Yes yes small sample size and all that, but that’s what makes this whole thing fun. Babe Ruth gives no fucks about legends and so forth, he’s just the best; he didn’t need no fancy ass numbers to prove it back then and now they all vet him and grovel before his transcendent magnificence. Barry Bonds, he of the 36.8% Hall of Fame vote, merely posted a 700 OBP in his lone appearance in the World Series; only a slight improvement over his 2004 regular season stat of 609. Bonds, he was just on base, like always. 400 OBP’s good you say? Nah fuck that shit, 600 or you suck; as Barry would not doubt inform his captive audience.

Freese was a very young player in 2009 so he was a bit of an unknown going in and could have theoretically become a very good player; instead he’s just kind of okay. He became Daniel Murphy over time while Daniel Murphy has just been living his workmanlike $8 million/year life and casually posting an OPS+ over 100. It’s very possible Daniel Murphy has a career year in the next few (post contract ironically) and further justifies his existence, but the man has no chance of ever being a legendary hall of famer or anything. At best he’ll get his number retired by the Mets or something, assuming they win the World Series (get fucked Royals fans). At worst he’ll be like Freese and be an obscure bar trivia question in a few years (I was the only one in the bar who knew it).

What does Murphy’s future look like contract wise? Well he’s probably going to get 4/48 at least, maybe 5/60, maybe something inbetween. Without this postseason I doubt many non-Mets fans would be aware of his existence, even for a short while; and that prominence means he’ll come up in more contract talk, but ultimately it will only boost his price by 10-15% or so; nothing particularly abrasive. I’ll remember you Murph, if no one else does; you did good kid. Now go back to being a normal sized Nick Punto. Unless of course the White Sox sign you, then you’re doomed.

Aside: I’ve only seen Interstellar once so no references, alas. Murphy, it's you.

Friday, October 2, 2015


Sicario is a film centered around the Mexican drug trade and America’s specious involvement therein; the film carries on the legacy of Traffic and the Counselor, but also takes inspiration from other films as well. A simple way to describe it is Black Hawk Down plus No Country for Old Men in the setting of the Counselor. Sprinkle in a little Zero Dark Thirty minus the ambiguous patriotism and you’re set. No Country also follows the drug trade but is much more focused on individuals than ideals so it doesn’t really fit the same exact mold.

You’ll recall the Counselor is a film written by Cormac McCarthy directly for the screen, said film was very divisive but certainly had fantastic dialogue and characters even if the plot was of the meandering variety. Sicario has very similar pacing to the Counselor, which is to say it doesn’t really care about constantly having something happen or having each scene explicitly tie into the next. However Sicario does sort of have the “comfort food” of shootouts and so on that make it a little easier to digest for most people; the shock value in Sicario is limited to a few specific scenes whereas the Counselor just has really weird shit happening the entire time. I wouldn’t force you to pick between either movie (both are excellent) but it is rather obvious why critics prefer the more recent film.

The Black Hawk Down connection is fairly simple, the first major action (if you can call it that) sequence of the film involves a huge train of SUVs with Texas Rangers, Delta Force, CIA, FBI, and Iraqi Combat Troops alongside the Mexican Police straight up invading Ciudad Juarez, heading extremely deep into your Mogadishu stand-in; at this point I was super invested in the movie and they definitely could have gone a whole lot of places, but the one they chose makes a bit more sense than various cinematic options that could have happened. There’s very brief and sudden violence in this part that reinforces the notion that Benicio Del Toro’s titular character is on even footing with America’s Elite troops, which is likely necessary for the (much later) best scene in the film to work.

Del Toro plays Alejandro, a Colombian equivalent of Anton Chigurh (whose background remains a mystery) for all intents and purposes, however instead of being an odd philosophical sort he’s basically just a mercenary boogie man that everyone is terrified of. Perhaps his most impressive trait is his method of interrogating people, whereas Chigurh might flip a coin and give you a mysterious speech Alejandro just invades your personal space. He more or less gets right up next to whomever and each one in turn is scared shitless by his very presence. Benicio Del Toro is 6’2 in reality and maybe bulked up a little for this film so I could see that working, especially if you had a universally known reputation.

Josh Brolin meanwhile just eats that shit up and cackles maniacally off to the side. At the outset of the film Brolin is introduced as a DoD operative but it quickly becomes obvious his origin is of CIA descent. He recruits FBI Agent (?) Emily Blunt after the exceptional initial scene of the film; who is basically a license for the Brolin to do extralegal activities in and around the United States. This is sort of a plot point in the movie but it’s kind of insanely obvious so when Blunt and her partner eventually realize this it falls flat since it’s so late in the film. This isn’t a huge issue with the movie but it does make those characters seem a little more foolish instead of just seeming idealistic.

The only other major flaw the film has is that presumably everyone watching knows everything is fucked and that nothing good or happy can come out of the film, such is the nature of Mexican Drug Cartel movies; however that didn’t stop them from putting in a really weird scene where there’s a brief interlude of presumed happiness which quickly aborts into something else entirely. I don’t necessarily have a problem with the scene in question and I really like the supporting scenes and how they tied it into the plot, but it just kind of dragged a little bit too long; especially when you realize the cause/effect right at the start of a ten minute sequence.

A point I haven’t really touched on too much so far is the film’s acceptance and even staunch belief in American Imperialism in the Western Hemisphere. This isn’t something that the film wants you to believe or even suggests overtly, it simply is in the film and is almost mandatory for you to understand the film. That being so it’s hard to say who exactly the antagonist of the film is, Del Toro is basically just a gun for hire; though a particularly menacing gun for hire. If this film was Traffic they would have included politics in the whole proceeding, but politics are decidedly absent from this film and anyone who actually understands American politics should be able to perceive why. There is no clear difference between the parties at present when it comes to Foreign Policy, and while this film is dealing with a matter closer to home the construction of the film is very much in the vein of a foreign policy matter; or at the very least a black ops matter.

There’s no elected officials in the film to begin with, though it is directly mentioned that the order and organization of the task force came from “on high” more or less. Those would be your typical villains, but this movie really doesn’t have any standard antagonistic characters. Antagonistic things happen and characters do things that would make them obviously the villain in a lesser film; but it is abundantly clear that there is no real, malicious intent on the part of any of the characters. Everyone is just doing their part in a horribly corrupt system more or less, and the people that question this are brought into line.

The victims, on the other hand, are very clear as we have a few more weird scenes in the film that make this a bit more obvious. The only people that really get fucked in the film are the Mexicans, sure Emily Blunt is in peril sometimes but that leads to a breakdown of her sense of justice not irreversible damage to her person. Emily Blunt is probably fine at the end of the movie, hell she might wind up being Brolin’s best bud in the future who knows. But we all know who gets the short end of the stick, because it sure as hell isn’t the Americans.

Overall this was a fantastic movie and is either the 2nd or 3rd best film I’ve seen all year alongside Mad Max and Mr. Holmes. The unorthodox structure is incredibly appealing and I’m glad they were able to work in enough of the more basic concepts to make it appeal to critics. At the end of the day, while there is at least one (the dining room) scene which is one of the best of all time, the film doesn’t really challenge you in the end, it doesn’t leave you with this lingering sense of dread, regret, or confusion. So while the film might technically be better than the Counselor it isn’t as thought provoking or as incredibly difficult to reconcile. A clearer portrayal of a similar message.