Halloween is one of the best six holidays of the year (in no particular order, the other five are New Years, 4/20, Arbor Day, Talk Like a Pirate Day, and Alex Anthopoulos’ birthday). You get to dress up, if that is your wont. If not, you get to enjoy the crappy costumes of others. You get Halloween-themed episodes of Community, kids come to your door looking adorable, and (if you’re lucky enough to have them) you get to swipe candy from your kids’ Halloween bags after you go Trick’r'Treating. I’m usually pretty careful to confiscate all the Twixes.
Anyway, on this great holiday, and with the season having finally been wrapped up on Friday, it seemed like a good time to look back on 2011, scary movie style. Happy Halloween, everybody. Send any Twix you get to my house.
Last minute addition: Tony LaRussa is
no horror movie ever Night of the Hunter.
I’m sorry, I wanted to find a good example of a horror movie that was an instant classic, and went out on top, but I don’t think it ever happened. Every single successful scary movie, and damn near every unscary movie, gets a sequel. Or two. Or twelve. It simply is a fact of life.
So as Tony LaRussa announced his retirement today, there is no horror movie analogy that I can think of. LaRussa finishes 3rd all time in manager wins, 2nd in losses, and tied for sixth in both World Series appearances and wins. He managed more games than any other man except Connie Mack, and his 33 years at the helm are tied with John McGraw for second all time. He’s almost 1200 victories ahead of the new active leader in manager wins, Jim Leyland. He’s also the first manager to retire immediately after winning the World Series (Miller Huggins and Dick Howser were forced out due to health reasons the following season in 1928 and 1986 respectively, and Jake Stahl retired as both a player and manager in the middle of 1913.). LaRussa was difficult to like, easy to pick on, frequently combative, and has a precarious place at the head of two organizations tainted by PED allegations. But he was also a damn fine manager, who finishes easily in the pantheon of great skippers and will sail into the Hall of Fame as soon as he’s deemed eligible. Congratulations, TLR. What a great final season. Enjoy your retirement.
(Note: Thanks to Mr. Horrorpants, intrepid Twitterer (@mrhorrorpants) and author of The Ceder Falls Hoose-cows, an online murder mystery novel about a minor league baseball team, we have an excellent suggestion for TLR: Night of the Hunter, directed by Charles Laughton and starring Robert Mitchum as the incredibly creepy Reverend Harry Powell, named the #2 movie villain of all time here, and holder of the second most badass tattoos in all of cinema. A review for the film, which I have been meaning to watch for, like, forever, is here.)
Albert Pujols is Friday the 13th Part 8, Jason Takes Manhattan
Or course, Jason Voorhees wasn’t even in the first Friday the 13th movie, which was more of a slasher murder-mystery than anything else. But by the second movie, Jason was virtually superhuman and consumed with revenge against horny teenagers who happened to wander near Camp Crystal Lake. He was a tank, completely unstoppable no matter how many times he was shot, stabbed, impaled, electrocuted, drowned, or dealt with blunt force trauma. He was pure rage and a killing machine.
Albert Pujols, ladies and gentlemen, is Jason Voorhees. He has straight up killed pitchers since debuting in 2001, becoming an absolute god. Of all the right-handed hitters in baseball history, Pujols has the second-highest wOBP (behind Rogers Hornsby), according to Fangraphs, and the 8th highest overall. He’s also second to Lou Gehrig in wOBP among 1B. According to Baseball Reference, he has the 2nd highest OPS+ of any righty with more than 1500 plate appearances, and the third highest WAR behing Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx. And he’s only 31.
But, like Jason in his 8th movie, Pujols was due for a bad year. Dogged by injuries, PUjols hit “just” .299/.366/.541, with 37 homers and 99 RBI, and posted the lowest WAR of his career. Comparitively speaking, 2011 was a disaster. Likewise, when Jason tried to take Manhattan he delved too far into camp. Also, trying to capitalize on a national disdain for New York City (which had yet to undergo the Giuliani revival), producers used the title to promise a kind of unholy retribution for America’s most troubled city, but only truly delivered on their promise in the film’s final reel. Jason suffered the worst reviews of his illustrious career and the film made the least money of any of the Friday the 13th series.
There’s almost no doubt that, due to injury and age, Albert Pujols is going to slow in coming years. This is not to suggest that he will cease being an excellent player. Indeed, Pujols figures to be a terrific addition to some lucky and soon-to-be-poorer team this offseason. Like Jason, Pujols will keep doing what he does best for a few more years…he just might do a little bit less of it than we’re used to.
Chris Carpenter is Nightmare on Elm Street
Can you imagine the gall of Freddie Krueger? He’s a sadistic child molester and murderer who thinks he’s the one who’s been wronged when the parents of the neighborhood in which he preys on kids get together and burn him alive. Look, I’m not advocating for vigilante justice, but Freddie might have more of a legitimate complaint if he weren’t, you know, totally guilty and the worst human being in the world. Anyway, Freddie, as you know, vows vengeance on the families of those who killed him, attacking and killing them in their dreams.
Chris Carpenter has similar large, brass balls. Last year, Carp had words with Carlos Lee after Lee appeared upset after popping up what he thought was a hitable pitch. Tony La Russa explained that “If he gets you out, he gets you out. Zip it and go back to the plate. If he gives it up, you zip it and let the guy go around the bases–or single, double, whatever it was. Most pitchers let the guy jabber.” Then, during Game 5, Carpenter proceeded to yell at Mike Napoli after Napoli flew out to centerfield. See, Chris Carpenter doesn’t mind trash talking when he’s the one pointing out your failures. But God forbid you should make any noise about how you let yourself, your god, your country, and your team down. That, my friends, takes chutzpah.
Also, in the interest of full disclosure, Chris Carpenter is a pretty awesome pitcher. He led the National League in innings for the first time, bumped his strikeout rate up, and his walk and homerun rates down. Plus, coming back on three days rest to pitch six strong innings and keep your team in the seventh game? That’s a nightmare for any opposing team to have to face.
Ron Washington is Halloween III
Laughably bad, Halloween III is perhaps the dumbest mainstream horror film ever made. The plot revolves a Halloween costume manufacturer who, with his android army, plans to kill everyone wearing one of his masks during a commercial for his product, which everone is already wearing. Also, their heads will explode. Now, why are children watching a commercial on Halloween, rather than being out Trick or Treating? Why are they wearing their masks while watching TV? Because another commercial, perhaps the most annoying commercial ever conceived, told them to. And why would this guy want to murder a bunch of children? Because.
I don’t want to say that Ron Washington lost this series for the Rangers. Certainly, their pitching had a lot to do with that. But virtually none of Washington’s moves made any sense, and many of them came back to bite the Rangers. Washington batted Michael Young fourth during the entire postseason, giving him 74 plate appearances to hit .229/.257/.414 with just three walks. Mike Napoli, meanwhile (who finished 2011 with the highest OPS of any Ranger, and just two fewer homers than Kinsler and Beltre despite finishing with 300 and 100 few plate appearances, respectively, than either of them), never hit higher than 6th, despite hitting .328/.414/.500 with three homers in 70 trips. Napoli still totalled 15 RBI, but could have done much more if, say, he had been hitting nearer to Ian Kinsler, who had a .438 postseason OBP. Plus, Washington’s obsession with intentionally walking batters utterly failed over the last several games of the Series, including the unforgivable decision to walk David Freese to load the bases in Game 7.
The bullpen management was also incredibly troubling. Alexi Ogando walked seven of the 21 batters he faced, yet Washington went to him in six of the seven games. Scott Feldman allowed 11 baserunners in five innings, yet was used five times. Meanwhile, Neftali Feliz, who is supposed to be the best pitcher in the Rangers bullpen was used just four times, and pitched a grand total of just 3.2 innings. Washington is going to get a lot of credit in the next year or so for managing two World Series teams in a row, and for providing a good environment for players to succeed. That very well may be deserved praise. But Washington should also be accountable for the decisions he made that cost the Rangers runs and games in what turned out to be an incredibly tight series.
The Minnesota Twins are Saw VI
The Saw franchise had a solid concept when it debuted back in 2004. People don’t appreciate their lives enough, serial killer Jigsaw believed, so he would make them choose life over pain by ensnaring them in horrific traps that they could only escape by hurting themselves. The original, starring Tobin Bell, Cary Elwes, and Danny Glover, was great grindhouse filmmaking, with a great hook, a lot of tension, and a great twist. Since that original film, however, sequels have appeared every year like clockwork, until this year. Each year, they become more derivative and less imaginative. They’ve lost their shock value. Now, they exist only to torture audiences with cliches and with unsettling visual images.
The Twins have been similarly watered down over the years. They’ve let big talent like Johan Santana and Torii Hunter leave, while acquiring almost nothing in return. They’ve let good players like JJ Hardy, Jason Bartlett, and Matt Garza go for absolutely nothing. They have been bled of talent until all that’s left are the central concept (All-World Catcher and slugging 1B) and no support. And when those two central pillars fail, as they did this year, the whole house comes tumbling down.
It’s possible that the next iteration of the Twins and of Saw will find new ways to breath life into their genres, but it’s really hard to see that happening at the moment.
The Houston Astros are Human Centipede
Just completely unwatchable.