If you follow me on Twitter (and really, if not, why not?), you’ve probably noticed that I’m quite the fan of the new movie, The Muppets. My wife and I (sans kids, after bedtime) saw it last Wednesday night, and had such a good time that we went back and saw it at the same time on Thursday night. It’s pure joy, basically, one of the only movies I’ve ever seen that is joyous and happy and silly without feeling kind of forced and phony, thrown together because the dumb kids won’t know the difference. This is an earnest film, created lovingly and well, that just happens to be family-friendly. It’s great. I’ll just stop and go ahead and second more or less everything Keith Law says in his review here.
So, of course, I had to do something on The Muppets for my weekly Getting Blanked spot. Unfortunately, my friend Larry Granillo at Baseball Prospectus had already expertly done what I’d probably normally do — cast current ballplayers as the Muppets — so I’ve got to pull some tangential thoughts from the movie itself. Here we go:
Albert Pujols apparently has no suitors, which is like Kermit the Frog, sitting all alone in his lonely mansion…
It’s been twelve years since the last (just-okay) Muppet movie, and more than thirty years since The Muppet Show went off the air. In the world of the movie, Kermit is basically retired. We discover him living alone in the mansion that was clearly built for himself and Miss Piggy, its halls covered with dusty portraits of the Muppet friends he hasn’t seen for many years, just kind of going through the motions in a crass and cynical world that has passed him by.
That’s essentially the state yesterday’s news has led us to believe that Albert Pujols is in. Like Kermit, he’s the star of the show, but he’s apparently been forgotten in a world that either already has its stud first baseman (the Yankees and Red Sox) or can’t or doesn’t feel inclined to pay the price for his services (pretty much everyone else). He could take the Marlins’ rumored lowball offer — which would be the equivalent of Kermit appearing on Dancing with the Stars or opening up an ongoing show in Las Vegas or Branson — or he could accept the Cardinals’ offer (well below what was his presumed market value) and just kind of sit where he is and accept his lot in life.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s draft and international free agent provisions are an awkward money grab at the expense of the little guy. Which is kind of like the time Tex Richman wanted to demolish Muppet Studios and drill for oil…
As great as The Muppets is, it’s worth noting that the movie’s principal problem is utterly ridiculous. Oilman Tex Richman (played marvelously by the brilliant Chris Cooper) is set to buy the run-down and mostly abandoned Muppet Studios, ostensibly to turn it into a museum honoring the Muppets. Really, though, he’s a greedy villain who hates the Muppets (and there’s an excellent back story there you need the soundtrack to fully grasp), and he plans to demolish the studios and drill for oil, unless the Muppets can come up with $10 million in a matter of a few days and stop him.
Which, beyond being basically the plot for every movie ever made in which the creators didn’t want to be bothered by crafting a plot, seems especially lazy since the Muppet Studios are in the middle of Los Angeles. The idea of a geological survey suddenly discovering oil under there is kind of far-fetched by itself, and if they did, would the cost of tearing everything down and drilling for it really be enough to forgo the astronomical Los Angeles rents? It’s a bit hard to grasp why a billionaire oilman would be interested in a risky and speculative venture such as that one. It’s disaster for the little guy — the Muppets — but at the expense of a pretty minuscule gain for the big guy.
And that’s pretty much what this new CBA is. The draft and international spending comprise a tiny portion of even the smallest-market team’s budget, so curtailing spending in that area is a very minor, basically negligible gain for owners at large. Yet doing so threatens to absolutely crush the “little guy” — both the amateur players, who, faced with the loss of what was their one guaranteed chance at a big pay day, might now turn to other sports or college, and the small-market teams, who have seen their one real shot at competing (player development) seriously curtailed, making free agency spending that much more powerful a weapon. Tex Richman’s actions threatened to destroy the Muppets with relatively little benefit to himself, and the CBA threatens a disastrous impact on amateur players and small-market teams with an almost negligible benefit to the bottom line of the ownership at large.
The Marlins’ new stadium is threatening to become a sad little place for Ozzie Guillen to do his thing. Which is like when Fozzie Bear ended up working a crappy casino in Reno…
So. We discover Kermit alone at his mansion, and Jason Segel and friends inform him of Tex Richman’s secret evil plan, and they convince Kermit that he needs to try to get the gang together and put on one more show, in a last-ditch attempt to raise the necessary money and save the studio.
The first Muppet they’re able to track down is Fozzie. He’s working a regular gig at a casino in Reno, Nevada, heading up (the outside marquee tells us) a Muppet tribute band called “The Moopets,” with Animool, Miss Poogy, etc. He sings a song to the tune of “Rainbow Connection” that’s just an ad for the casino (“Why are there such great deals / on our hotel rooms? / And the continental breakfast is free…”). It’s just a sad place for a former star to end up, made sadder when we see his dressing room (with approximately two walls and half a ceiling).
The Marlins made the first big move of this offseason, when they nabbed very recently ex-White-Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to head up the new, rebranded, re-stadiumed Miami club. There’s been speculation all along that they were set to make another big splash (or more than one), and they’ve been connected to Pujols, Jose Reyes, Prince Fielder, and approximately everyone else.
But their offers to Reyes and Pujols have been rumored to be extremely light, and now they’re rumored to be heavily in on C.J. Wilson — which, at his assumed price tag vis-a-vis what he has to offer, is worse than being in on no one at all. I wrote here recently that I really believed the Marlins would make a big move, and I still do. However, should the Marlins fail to land any big-name free agents, or (worse) end up with only Wilson, then Ozzie Guillen ends up as Fozzie Bear, leading an unimpressive and wholly inadequate band of Moopets before an uncaring, inattentive crowd.
The Astros are starting from scratch in late November, after firing Ed Wade and Tal Smith. You know, once, the Muppets had two days to rehabilitate this old trashed studio and put a show together…
Once the Muppets finally do get the gang back together and line up a date and slot for their one-off telethon to raise the necessary $10 million, we’re told they’ve got two days before the show goes live. Which is insanely implausible; the theater is a wreck, and the show hasn’t been written yet. The filmmakers take some real liberties with time, and with the whole space-time continuum really, in twisting around the story such that it’s almost kind of believable that the gang might get the whole thing ready to go in time. A lot of traveling by map is involved, and even that doesn’t really do away with all the unlikeliness of it. If you see the theater when they first walk in, two days out, it looks pretty hopeless.
That’s more or less the situation the Astros are looking at right now. Once under new ownership, they immediately fired both GM Ed Wade and President Tal Smith, which was a very long time in coming. But whoever comes in is facing pretty much an impossible situation. The Smith-Wade ticket essentially demolished the major league product, while making only minimal advances among the minor league ranks, and the new administration won’t take over until after the Winter Meetings. So this is a lost year — nothing anyone could do was going to change that — and they’ve got a long, long road back toward respectability after that. The likelihood of the next Astros front office being in place to see the next winning Astros team is roughly equal to the odds that the Muppets could resuscitate that whole studio and devise a winning show in two days. And then they have to move to the American League. So, have fun!
Little-known prospect Devin Mesoraco is set to become a key to the Reds’ 2012 season, and that’s a little bit like when a nobody named Walter set out to get the Muppets back together…
The NL Central is looking increasingly winnable. The Brewers are almost certainly losing Fielder, the Cardinals might be losing Pujols, the Cubs are a mess headed in the right direction (which is, nonetheless, a mess), the Pirates are the Pirates and might be dealing their best player, and the Astros are terrible and headed to the Junior Circuit. The Reds had a terribly disappointing 2011, but are just a year removed from 91 wins and a division title, and still have Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Aroldis Chapman.
But…the belt is tightening a bit, and Ramon Hernandez is almost certainly gone. The underrated second catcher, Ryan Hanigan, has been the subject of trade talks. It seems a given that Devin Mesoraco — who came into 2011 as Baseball America’s #61-rated prospect and hit a mostly-encouraging .289/.371/.484 in AAA — will take over as the starting catcher in 2012. The division is tightly-packed enough that Mesoraco — who’s basically an unknown outside of prospect guys and avid Reds fans — could make all the difference next season.
Which is a pretty tenuous and roundabout way of getting to talk about Walter, the brand-new Muppet and pretty much the star of the film. He’s the brother of Jason Segel’s character (we never meet his parents, which would be interesting, since Walter is very clearly a Muppet and Jason Segel is very clearly Jason Segel), and feels out of place in his small town in middle America, so he loses himself in the Muppets, becoming their biggest fan. When the human characters and Walter take their trip out to LA and Walter stumbles upon Tex Richman’s secret plan, it’s up to Walter, the total unknown, to get the whole gang together and ultimately save the day.
So that’s just like…Devin Mesoraco? No, not really. Just forget I said this whole part, know that Walter is awesome, and go see the movie.
Bill writes regularly for and co-operates The Platoon Advantage, and is far too much of a gentleman to promote his Twitter account twice in one post. Waka waka waka.