Last night, I stayed up far too late watching one of my favorite guilty pleasures, Deep Blue Sea, the story of plucky neurologists and marine biologists trying to outwit and survive the attacks of three super-intelligent sharks on an underwater research station. Ultimately, it’s a stupid movie, but it is the only one that prominently involves Samuel L. Jackson getting torn in half by two sharks, Saffron Burrows in (and out of) a wetsuit, and LL Cool J as a former preacher turned chef with an unsettling relationship with a parrot. It’s well worth your time, if you haven’t seen it. It also fairly well explains the Buster Posey/Scott Cousins/Brian Sabean controversy that has unfolded over the last few days. See if you can follow along.
(By the way, I don’t think I should have to warn you about spoilers for a movie that is 12 years old already, but just in case, there be spoilers ahead. Argh. Feel free to immediately drop what you’re doing, go watch the movie, and then check back here. Please.)
Anyway, on with the show…
Scott Cousins is like the shark.
Well duh. He is a Marlin, after all. Which, like the shark, is a fish. But more importantly, he starts off as the villain in this story. In the film’s first twenty minutes or so, the shark sets off a chain reaction by biting off Stellan Skarsgard’s arm that, through a series of coincidences and clever tool-use by super-intelligent sharks, leads to the station being flooded with seawater and gives the sharks access to more delicious humans.
While Scott Cousins has yet to chow down on Buster Posey (as far as we know), it is his play that seemingly started this. He initiated contact with Buster, rather than sliding into home plate, and ultimately knocked Posey out for the season. It is extremely unfortunate, and it opened the door to more heartache and ultimately to creative death sequences (probably…I mean they haven’t happened yet, but it’s still a possibility, right?). Appropriately, then, Posey is like Skarsgard, a great actor who is unfortunately knocked out of the movie early.
But it’s also not really Cousins’ fault, since the play he made was legal and was endorsed by decades and decades of ballplayers, coaches, and fans approving of violent collisions at the plate. Likewise, sharks are inherently souless, remorseless eating machines. You can’t blame them for getting the ball rolling when Stellan’s delicious Swedish arm is just sitting there, and you can’t blame them for wanting more. Therefore…
Saffron Burrows is like Major League Baseball.
For one thing, I like to watch both of them. Baseball and Burrows are each exceedingly beautiful (God, if only Burrows played baseball!). But more to the point, is that they are the ultimate cause for their own troubles. Burrows injected stem cells into the sharks’ brains, allowing them to grow exponentially smarter. But that did not change the nature of the shark. It just made them angrier and more likely to use poor Stellan’s stretcher as a battering ram. Baseball has systematically glorified the play at the plate, lionizing catchers who hold onto the ball and praising runners who try to knock it out. This has normalized the behavior to the point where it is standard operating procedure for catchers to set up in the baseline even when they don’t have the ball. Runners, then, learn to expect contact and to seek if if they think it will give them a chance to score. Ultimately, this culture of contact that has been created around plays at the plate is far more to blame for the collision that knocked Buster out than anything either Posey or Cousins did.
But that doesn’t sit well with Giants GM Brian Sabean, who went looking for someone to blame on Thursday. And so…
He just had to make a speech, didn’t he? Just had to go and rally the damn troops. Just had to call out Cousins for what was a legal play and make him a villain. A 26 year old rookie with a .220 MLB batting average. You go, Brian. If you missed it, Sabean went on a local radio station to say
“If I never hear from Cousins again or he never plays another game in the big leagues, I think we’ll all be happy. He chose to be a hero in my mind, and if that’s his flash of fame, that’s as good as it’s going to get, pal. We’ll have a long memory. Believe me, we’ve talked to (Mike) Matheny about how this game works. You can’t be that out-and-out overly aggressive. I’ll put it as politically as I can state it: There’s no love lost and there shouldn’t be.”
This is yet another in a long line of disreputable behavior from one of baseball’s most enduring jackasses. To put this in perspective, this is a Major League executive seeming to be openly rooting for the end of a young man’s career and for retaliation against him for a legal play. It’s like Barak Obama publically announcing that the full might of the US military was going to be devoted to killing a single private in the Libyan Army. It’s both ridiculous and unproductive. And as both I and Larry Granillo pointed out yesterday, it’s deeply hypocritical, given how little Sabean seems to care when his own players dish out contact. Would that his speech have ended like this:
What is ironic is that both of these speeches, meant to inspire an audience, ultimately backfire. The Jackson speech just scares his fellow survivors even more, after its anti-climactic end. And Sabean’s managed to unite virtually all of baseball fandom against him and his Giants, and helped many Giants fans to back off the ledge and gain some perspective. It also, by becoming so highly publicized, effectively shielded Cousins from retaliation on the field, since the Commissioner’s office is now involved. So good job, Brian! That’s what you meant to do all along, right?
LoMo, first of all, is awesome. That’s pretty indisputable at this point. He’s incredibly forthcoming and he’s intelligent. So when he went on Sirius Radio yesterday, he made several relevant and extremely blunt points,
“First of all, it’s wildly unprofessional for him to make any comment on the situation. When has he played in the big leagues? When has he played in the minor leagues? Correct me if I’m wrong but he’s never been in a situation like that. It’s terrible. Why would you wish anything like that on anybody? … He’s taking this very hard without the comments that [Sabean]’s made. He’s getting death threats from people. This is his hometown, San Francisco. He’s worried about his family and his friends that are there. And now he’s going to make comments like that? It’s ignorant, it’s inappropriate and he has no idea what the hell he’s talking about.”
The trouble is that LoMo doesn’t exactly help here so much as fan the flames. While he’s right, he’s also not doing anything to resolve the situation. While this highlights how much of an idiot Sabean is, it doesn’t do anything to address the heightened level of anger and resentment toward Cousins and the Marlins. It’s not really what the situation needs.
In the movie, Thomas Jane is a marine biologist, but also an everyman, who expresses horror at what Burrows has done and who feels compelled to try and fix everything. He leads the survivors up through the sinking research station, but along the way loses almost all of them. In fact, Jane never actually kills a shark. In the end, it’s just him and LL Cool J and Saffron Burrows, facing down against one final shark. And Jane…well, Jane doesn’t help much. He gets a dynamite harpoon ready (yeah, it’s that kind of movie) but can’t get a good shot at the shark, who is attempting to break out of the facility and head out into open sea. So Burrows deliberately cuts her hand and jumps in the water to distract it. Instead of using this opportunity to finally shoot the damn shark, Jane jumps in the water after her! It’s useless, Burrows is eaten and bisected by the beastie, and now Jane can’t get out of the water again.
So he uses his amazing underwater acrobatic skills to jump on top of the shark and ride it, while the injured LL Cool J has to attempt the shot. He succeeds in harpooning the shark, but also harpoons Jane, who is then stuck. Jane is only saved because, apparently, he allowed the harpoon to rip a chunk out of his leg or something, but it’s again Cool James who ignites the explosives and blows up the shark (bagging his second hungry shark of the movie, by the way. Jane is pretty much utterly ineffective and incompetent and only survives because he pals around with the only chef/preacher/bird-enthusiast/shark-sniper in the world. Speaking of which…
Joe Torre is like LL Cool J.
Think about that image for a moment…
OK, moment’s over. Torre contacted the Giants and Sabean, and within a couple hours, the Giants organization had issued an apology of sorts. Torre also brought the harsh light of the Commissioner’s Office onto this dispute, meaning that neither club is likely to move to settle any scores in the near future. So, aside from the fact that there are players in casts and scientists lying in ragged pieces on the ocean floor, the nightmare is over…for now.