Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Check out the new film Sugar on April 3rd

  Yesterday I had the privilege of sitting in on an advanced screening of Sony Pictures Classics latest release, Sugar, which will hit theaters in New York and L.A. on April 3rd.
  Going into the screening, I didn't expect to see anything too divergent from the standard format most sports films tend to take.  Knowing it was the story of a Dominican player, Miguel "Sugar" Santos, and his journey to the states, it was fairly easy to assume this was the tale of a young man's rise from anonymity to stardom, but it was anything but. 
  Sugar is much less a film about baseball, and much more a film about people.  As American baseball fans most of us hardly tend to take notice of the inordinate amounts of players shuffled in and out of the sport throughout college, the minor leagues, and the majors.  Even more so, I think we tend to dehumanize the players involved.  But Sugar goes a long way to remind us why we shouldn't.  It gives a story and a face to put on the experiences that so many young men have gone through, but up until now have gone largely untold.  
  As baseball increasingly becomes a truly global sport (as evidenced by the solid whipping the U.S. tends to take in the WBC) more and more players are being shipped here in hopes of achieving the dream of making it big.  But what is it like when they get here?  Thousands and thousands of miles away from home.  Struggling to assimilate to a culture they know almost nothing about.  Trying to get through day to day activities while barely speaking the language.  These young players are not only facing the pressure of trying to make it to the big leagues, but the pressure of everyone back at home counting on them, and perhaps most of all, the immense pressure of surviving when their world has been turned completely upside down.  This film allows us to follow Miguel through the process, and to truly identify with what he is facing.
  So if you like sports movies only for the times you get to see a stodgy lawyer lead a rag-tag team to the league championship, or for when a washed up quarterback helps his fellow prison inmates regain their self-respect, then Sugar might not be the movie for you.  But if you are a true baseball fan, do yourself a favor and check it out.  You'll get to see a film that doesn't dismiss its hero as just a player, but shows what it's like to be the person underneath the uniform.  And you'll enjoy a look into part of the baseball world you'd otherwise probably never even have balked at (cheesy baseball pun aside).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

MLB 2009 predictions: National League

The 2009 Major League Baseball season is set for opening day in just two weeks, and what would it be without Errant Balls?  Well, it'd probably still be fine.  But in any case, we're happy to serve up part one of our annual tradition, so enjoy your 2009 MLB predictions...

Atlanta Braves
Unwilling to accept an Atlanta team without John Smoltz on the roster, a deliriously sad Bobby Cox will force all of his bullpen pitchers to wear strap-on beards that he personally fashioned after breaking into Smoltz's home and combing the rugs for samples.

Florida Marlins
Forget 2009, all the Marlins players care about is that they will finally have their own home when the new stadium opens in 2012.  Of course, now they all have to be sure not to do anything to up their trade value lest they be gone long before then.  Also, they have to remember upon its arrival to enjoy it to the fullest before the Marlins inevitably trade the stadium for five smaller, but very promising parks in 2014.  

New York Mets
The Mets will break the trend of September collapses they have suffered over the last two years and make the inaugural season at Citi Field truly one to remember, as they will epically collapse by late July and turn to a desperation, mid-season trade for Aaron Heilman in an attempt to right the ship.

Philadelphia Phillies
After winning the '08 World Series, expectations of the notoriously raucous Philly fan base will be higher than ever.  Legitimate panic amongst the players will set in around mid-August when a 3 game losing streak prompts the public execution of the Phillie Phanatic.

Washington Nationals
Lastings Milledge's team leading numbers in home runs and RBI's will drop significantly after the new rap single he and his often embattled teammate release entitled "Put up yo' Elijah Dukes" goes triple platinum, sweeps the Grammys, and proves to just be too much of a distraction. 

Chicago Cubs
A promising start to the season for the Cubbies will take an ugly turn when the newly acquired and ill-tempered right fielder Milton Bradley strikes out, snaps his bat in half and throws it toward the dugout, severing the right hand of Rich Harden and ending his career.

Cincinnati Reds
Young star Joey Votto's season will get off to a late start when he is held by federal authorities under suspicion of involvement in several mob related murders.  He will be released in mid-April and issued a formal apology when authorities realize he is Joey Votto the Canadian-born, Reds first baseman, and not in fact, Joey "The Clown" Votto of the notorious Cincinnati crime syndicate.

Houston Astros
Things will get a bit awkward in the locker room between ace Roy Oswalt and his teammates Miguel Tejada and Pudge Rodriguez when Oswalt walks in on the two drawing a giant caricature of him wearing a diaper and crying that reads: "Wahhhh, performance enhancers taint the integrity of the gaaaame!"

Milwaukee Brewers
Tragedy will strike the Brewers organization when after a wild night out on the town, the bodies of first baseman Prince Fielder and beloved mascot Bernie Brewer are discovered bloated and limp in the team locker room, killed by choking on a bear claw and alcohol poisoning respectively.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Nate McLouth, who led the Pirates in every major offensive category in 2008, will continue to be the only bright spot on the roster in '09 and live like a king in Pittsburgh.  And by live like a king, we obviously mean have his pick of the ladies (that is once the field is pared down by the Steelers and Penguins... and if those who are left are willing to take his word that Pittsburgh does in fact have a baseball team and that he is an All Star). 

St. Louis Cardinals
After a successfully dry off-season trying to keep out of trouble with the law, long time manager Tony LaRussa will be fired after falling off the wagon in late September and insisting that Albert Pujols hit out of the 9 spot and Rick Ankiel switch back to starting pitcher where "the baseball gods meant for him to play."

Arizona Diamondbacks
Freshly recovered from his hamstring injuries of 2008, Eric Byrnes' return will be cut short when he suffers a minor brain aneurysm in an intense pre-game Frutista Freeze chugging contest with manager Bob Melvin on opening day.

Colorado Rockies
Slugging first baseman Todd Helton's offensive numbers will hit devastating career lows in his 12th season thanks in part to the loss of his teammate Matt Holliday in the lineup, as well as the public revelation that his middle name is Lynn. 

Los Angeles Dodgers
After rigorous off-season efforts to re-sign the hard hitting and enigmatic outfielder, the Dodgers worst fears will be realized when Manny Ramirez begins completely dogging it around June, in hopes of being released and allowed to follow the dream he has had since he was a just a little boy growing up in the Bronx... playing cricket.

San Diego Padres
Following the unceremonious release of closer Trevor Hoffman, and facing a likely departure of Jake Peavy, the Pads look like they're in for a rough season.  But just when things look like they couldn't be worse, the team will be lifted when they remember at least their spirits aren't as low as the sales numbers for these sweet jerseys.

San Francisco Giants
A paranoid and delusional Randy Johnson will have a shaky year at best, thanks to a severe mental lapse that his him sure that creepy virtual Tim Lincecum from the MLB 2k9 commercial is out to take his spot in the starting rotation.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What they really said...

Once again, in spite of a week full of compelling stories in the sports world, we as the population at large have been left with dry coverage and less than memorable quotes. So, if you're as sick of the filter that has been arbitrarily put on your sports coverage as we are then read on. Here it is, another exclusive edition of Errant Balls' "What they really said."

Dr. Marc Philippon, surgeon who performed procedure on Alex Rodriguez: "Well, Yankee fans around the country will be happy to hear that Alex's timetable for a May return in right on schedule. The arthroscopic surgery on A-Rod's hip went exactly as planned, no surprises. Well... scratch that. I wouldn't say there were no surprises. Just none regarding the injury or procedure. I was however, a bit taken aback by the tattoo on his hip that read 'A-Rod + DJ 4ever' with a heart around it. Wasn't his wife's name Cynthia?... Oh well, all I know is it was very important to him that this procedure in no way damaged his ink. So whoever this DJ character is, they must be pretty darn close to Mr. Rodriguez's heart."

Terrell Owens, on signing a 1-year, $6.5 million deal with the Buffalo Bills: "I am absolutely excited for this opportunity to play with the Buffalo Bills. I felt like the situation in Dallas had gotten way too volatile and they decided to make me the fall guy, and that was a shame. But now I have a chance to start fresh here, where I truly want to be. (Voice beginning to crack) I mean, what better place for a fitness nut like myself to go than the health mecca that is Buffalo, NY? (Lip begins to quiver) Sure, I'll have to plow 3 feet of snow daily in order to do my driveway ab routine, but that's fine. (Single tear falls from his eye) At least I am joining the proud, winning tradition of the Bills franchise... (Breaks down, now sobbing wildly) DONOVANNN!!! Take me baaaa-haaaa-aaaack!!!"

Dominican Republic manager Felipe Alou, on being ousted from the WBC by the Netherlands: "The Dominican Republic is a country with a fine baseball tradition, so I cannot lie to you today and say that it wasn't tough to be dealt an early exit by a non-baseball country like the Netherlands. There's really no excuse for what has happened. I mean, I don't even know where the Netherlands is... wasn't that where Peter Pan took Wendy to get down? Hell, I'm almost 75 years old and I was about to insert myself to pinch hit for fear that I'd never be allowed back to my home country if we suffered a second loss at the hands of Rufio and the Lost Boys. But I guess when it really comes down to it, I have to give credit where credit is due. Those freaky-deaky Dutch bastards wiped the floor with us. "

Sterling Realty Services, brokerage that ran unsuccessful auction of Michael Vick's mansion: "Let's be honest here, we can't be all that surprised in a market like this one that we're having some difficulty unloading a $3.2 million mansion. And I'm sure Mr. Vick's current status as a convicted felon isn't exactly driving up consumer desire either. But it seems a little ridiculous that no one even reached $160k, which was required just to start the bidding. It's hard to understand how we could come up so very short, even in such a poor market. In retrospect though, it may not have been the best idea to leave Mr. Vick's big-screen TV on with its closed circuit connection to his underground war room where upwards of 500 dogs died... but it was on when we got there. And I guess we may have been well served removing all of the dog skin rugs around the house, but we had planned all along to sell it 'as is'... Oh well, hindsight is 20/20."

Charles Barkley, on his weekend spent in jail for a DUI: "It wasn't as ter-ible as I expected it to be, and it had to be done. I made a mistake, and like any normal person I had to pay the price. Of course, my price was much less than that of a normal person, because of my famousity and all, but let's just say I had to pay A price. And I'm okay with that. Overall, it was pretty relaxing. They let me rock my sweet sweatsuit, which is way more flattering than those striped pajama messes. You know I can't afford to be wearin' horizontal stripes, they didn't call me the 'Round Mound of Rebound' in my playing days for nothing. And for the most part, I just sat around and read. Since my stay was so short, I was able to avoid the washroom, which helped me avoid a new nickname like the 'Round Mound of Shower Pound,' and nobody wants that. Anyway, I think I really learned my lesson and I don't ever wanna go back there. Although I must say, if I ever do, I hope that next time I at least run into Madea and can snag an autograph."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

NFL off-season update

The NFL off-season is in full swing with the start of free agency landing some big names in the headlines via fat new contracts, big time trades, and surprising cuts. While all of the changes can be a bit hard to follow, unemployment has blessed me with the ability to watch SportsCenter 14 hours a day, so I'm here to help. And remember, this is no fun for me. I'm gluing myself to ESPN every day for you people, so... yeah, you're welcome.

Albert Haynesworth- Possibly the biggest name (and biggest everything else for that matter) on the market signed a monster deal with the Washington Redskins worth $100 million over 7 years. The hefty defensive tackle is also slated to earn considerable bonuses each season, based of course upon how many in-division heads he is able to stomp.

Brian Dawkins- The seemingly ageless safety wanted to remain a Philadelphia Eagle, but wound up signing a 5-year deal with Denver when nothing materialized. Maybe, however, the Eagles had the right idea on this one? If I'm a GM I can't in good conscience sign anyone whose file photo looks like this to a five year deal. Then again, this is the NFL, so the Broncos can always just cut him in two years when osteoporosis has ravaged his bones.

T.J. Houshmanzadeh- The Bengals lost their most versatile receiver and perhaps their most creepy hairdo when T.J. signed a 5 year, $40 million deal to head to Seattle. All I can say is it's a good thing Jim Mora has replaced Mike Holmgren as the Seahawks head coach, because with this signing there is no telling just how disgustingly soaked in saliva Holmgren's mustache may have become from having to say Houshmanzadeh over and over.

Bart Scott- The Jets made their first big move of the Rex Ryan era, snatching Pro Bowler Bart Scott out of Baltimore with a six year, $48 million deal. The much sought after linebacker said that a late-night visit from Jets coaches really helped sway his decision, and that waking up in their team van after being chloroformed showed the Jets’ were truly committed to him.

Matt Cassel and Mike Vrable- In a deal that surprised many to say the least, the Patriots traded their valuable backup quarterback and their long time linebacker to the Chiefs for next to nothing in return. The deal has aroused suspicion around the league because it seems that the Pats could have gotten so much more, but essentially handed the players to their former buddy and current Chiefs GM Scott Pioli. In any case, I'm sure this will all be cleared up when Bill Belichick points out that they simply felt obliged to offer Pioli the standard "thanks for not outing me for cheating all those years" discount rate.

Kellen Winslow- After five rocky years with the Browns, Winslow was finally shipped out of town to Tampa Bay for undisclosed draft picks. Although an undeniable talent, Winslow couldn't seem to shake the injury bug in Cleveland, battling a bad shoulder and most recently a staph infected testicular region last year. To make matters worse his sometimes abrasive personality didn't help any with the front office. So there you have it Bucs fans, all it took was a few draft picks to land you a legitimate threat at tight end with an irritated set of balls and a bad attitude. Enjoy!

DeAngelo Hall- The Redskins were able to re-sign the big play cornerback by offering him a 6-year, $55 million contract to remain in Washington. Team owner Dan Snyder would like to extend his thanks to Al Davis, without whom the Skins never would've even landed Hall in last year's "Holy hell the Raiders are such a friggin' mess we're just going to start cutting superstars at mid-season" lottery.

Derrick Ward- The Giants lost the all important wind in their three-headed "Earth, Wind and Fire" running attack when Derrick Ward signed a 4-year, $17 million deal to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Earth (Brandon Jacobs) and Fire (Ahmad Bradshaw) were reportedly so devastated they spent the entire day watching old highlight montages, while stuffing their faces with Rocky Road ice cream and listening to “After the love has gone” on repeat.

Laveranues Coles- In a bit of a surprise move, the Jets cleared cap space by electing to cut long time number one receiver Laveranues Coles. While upset to be parting ways with Gang Green, with whom he has spent the majority of his career, Coles says he is looking forward to a possible reunion with former QB Chad Pennington in Miami and playing a vital part in screwing the Jets in 2009.

Plaxico Burress- While he is facing quite the daunting off-season in court, the Giants have said that if he is able to resolve his legal issues, wide receiver Plaxico Burress will be welcomed back to New York with open arms (and kevlar vests). If he in unavailable however, Big Blue will likely look to sign another big name receiver, possibly a Harris Smith, to fill the void.

Kurt Warner- Despite a fledgling interest in the 49ers it looks like Warner will likely land back in Arizona as negotiations with the Cards continue progressing. In a wise strategy, the Cardinals didn't complain a bit when their notoriously christian QB decided to visit San Francisco, and even supported him in exploring his options. And so, after only a short visit in the city with a... let's call it larger than normal Bravo Channel watching community, and an inordinate amount of dreadlocked heathens praying to the gods of their choice, Warner bolted back to Arizona, even offering the Cards a discount rate.

Jim Leonhard- Clearly picking at the remains of his former team, Jets coach Rex Ryan landed another former Raven in safety Jim Leonhard. While not a big time name, Leonhard, whose name is derived from the Gaelic word for Lionheart, should prove a valuable commodity on defense as he is able to debilitate opposing team members by shooting rays of hearts from his fluffy tummy.

Jason Taylor- Looks like the former Dancing with the Stars runner up will be taking his fancy feet elsewhere this year, as the Redskins cut the Pro Bowl defensive end after his refusal to take a pay cut. Although reluctant to drop him outright, the Skins realized their need to make room for the other geriatric former stars they'll inevitably sacrifice draft picks for in order to hold down fourth place in the NFC East.

Michael Vick- Still no foreseeable plans for Vick's NFL future, as the remaining 23 months of his sentence will be served under house arrest thanks to a lack of room in halfway houses. To me this seems too easy, I say do to him what he did to the dogs. Let him finish out his sentence on a convict filled barge, and send them out to sea where they will do battle until one is crowned king of their floating hell.
(gotta love the Simpsons)