My computer (a not-quite-year-old Toshiba laptop) appears to be dead, bringing up only a blank screen when I try to start Windows. I’m writing this instead on a borrowed Mac, and I hate it. In my stubborn devotion to PCs, I’m a bit like Kevin Costner’s character in Tin Cup, who keeps trying the same over-aggressive shot over and over on the 18th, despite knowing that it’s the one and only thing that might cost him his tournament victory. I’m fully aware that Macs are almost certainly better for most or all of my purposes, but I just Don’t like ‘em. Can’t quit my PCs.
Anyway, here’s how some of tomorrow night’s Home Run Derby contestants are like sports movie characters, too:
Robinson Cano is like Rocky Balboa.
In the brilliant original Rocky film, Rocky Balboa is an unknown fighter toiling away in Philadelphia club fights; he’s a boxer by trade, but could just as well be working at the steel mill. World heavyweight champion Apollo Creed picks him from among local boxers at random, wanting to give an unknown a chance at the title after his intended challenger has to bow out of a fight. The idea was to make a show of things for the local crowd; Creed never expected it to be a real fight. Rocky, of course, makes the most of the opportunity, giving Creed as much as he can take, and vaulting himself into stardom.
The other 3/4 of the AL Home Run Derby squad was, at least nominally, selected by captain David Ortiz. Jose Bautista was a no-brainer, of course, and selecting his teammate Adrian Gonzalez made a lot of sense; he’s not near the top of the HR leaderboard, but he’s one of the best hitters in baseball now, and certainly has tremendous power.
The third of Ortiz’s three choices, though? Robinson Cano, whose 15 homers are tied for fourteenth in the AL; not only that, but ten of the 15 have come at home, where he gets a huge boost Chase Field won’t duplicate. If Ortiz wanted to honor a player from the rival Yankees, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira (tied for second behind Bautista with 25 homers) would have been the obvious picks; if he wanted to ignore the Yanks completely, nobody would’ve thought twice about picking Paul Konerko or Miguel Cabrera.
So I have to assume (well, I absolutely do not “have to,” but it makes it more fun to) that Ortiz picked Cano figuring that he’d embarrass himself and the Yankees in the process, tabbed him for reasons that had nothing to do with his actual prowess to serve as a kind of a patsy to make himself and the Red Sox look better, just as Apollo Creed did with Rocky. Will Cano be able to step up to shove it in his condescending benefactor’s face and make a statement for the little guy, the way Rocky did?
Jose Bautista is like Roy Hobbs.
I’m sure you’ve either seen or read The Natural (preferably both). Hobbs is a total unknown, somewhat later in life than your typical hotshot prospect, who comes out of nowhere to start hitting like Ted Williams.
In Hobbs’ case, he was a hotshot prospect, whose career was knocked off track for some time when he was shot by a crazy lady. Bautista merely played for the Pittsburgh Pirates — much less dramatic than a bullet in the gut, but it can be just as devastating to a guy’s career. Anyway, like Hobbs, he’s defied the odds and overcome his predicament, and is hitting bombs like it’s 1998. Will his Derby showing be more like the novel, or the movie?
Lance Berkman is like Crash Davis.
Another Costner character; this one, of course, is the thirtysomething catcher kept on in Bull Durham mostly to teach Nuke LaLoosh the ways of the world, the eventual minor league career home run champion who had a cup of coffee in the majors but never really got his shot, toiling away as younger, better and/or luckier players rushed right on by him.
And, OK, that’s a bit of a stretch to apply to Berkman, a big star who has made millions upon millions of dollars, is headed to the All-Star Game and will probably get some Hall of Fame votes someday. But it’s perplexing and kind of sad that Prince Fielder (or whoever actually picked the NL squad) passed Berkman by in favor of his younger and flashier teammate Matt Holliday, when Berkman leads the NL with 24 homers, ten more than Holliday (in 15 more games and about 50 more plate appearances), and seven more than Fielder’s Milwaukee teammate, Rickie Weeks. We can hope that Berkman has passed some of his cheeky veteran wisdom on to Holliday, leading him to success on Monday night.