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Winter Has Come: Oriole Hot Stove Speculations + Columbia Women's Basketball + TCM Tips

I call this time of year in the baseball calendar the "silly season".  It's filled with bestowing awards and moaning about awards not bestowed.  It's filled

with speculations on trades and free agent signings more than actual trades and free agent signings.


It's also filled with the copycat talk of young executives in this Age of Analytics.  I am particularly amused at the similarity in the chatter of new Mets

president of baseball operations David Stearns and beleaguered longtime Yankees honcho Brian Cashman. 


When Stearns were introduced to the press last month by Steve Cohen, MLB's wealthiest owner, he quoted one of Cohen's favorite phrases as the owner looked on approvingly:  We are trying to find "the best in class" as his goal for Mets' future fromt office hirings. 


A few weeks later, Cashman responded by defending his staff even if "it doesn't mean we're best in class" (quoted by Bob Nightingale in USA Today, accessed on line November 12, 2023).  Cashman angrily accused the media of overplaying the Yankee reliance on analytics, but there is no doubt they

are still searching for "the next best thing" in advanced logorithms designed to addle the traditional fan who I argue is not dumb but skeptical.      


Fortunately, there will be substantial baseball news shortly.  A clue to where organizations are headed will be this coming Tues Nov 14 when 40-man rosters for every one of the 30 MLB organizations will be announced.  


As an ardent Oriole fan, it will be interesting to see who is protected and who is "non-tendered" a contract and thus can become a free agent.  I have loved the contributions in recent years of Bird bargain basement infielders Ramon Urias and Jorge Mateo, but it is hard to see both returning next season.  


Mateo has spectacular speed, base running talent, and infield savvy but a very erratic bat.  If it comes down to an either/or, Mateo might get the nod

over Urias whose power numbers slipped in 2023 and occasionally had rare defensive lapses. 


Ramon was a 2022 Gold Glove third baseman though he played less than 90 games there. He is also a fine defensive second baseman and came up to the Cardinals primarily as a shortstop. His younger brother Luis was traded from Milwaukee to Red Sox late in 2023 and his Boston roster spot might be as precarious as Ramon's.  


Ramon and Jorge are endangered because the Orioles are blessed with young talented infielders.  22-year-old Gunnar Henderson, signed as a high schooler in Selma, Alabama, starred at both shortstop and third baseman in 2023.  He will likely be voted the American League Rookie of the Year although Josh Jung has strong credentials from the Texas Rangers world champions.


I don't get carried away with that award - along with Manager of the Year awards, which will likely go to Baltimore skipper Brandon Hyde, the award does not guarantee longevity of career. 


Waiting in the infield wings are two rookies who excelled in the minors in 2023.  Joey Ortiz played at New Mexico State, the same alma mater as budding Oriole ace Kyle Bradish. I am drawn to players who come from unheralded schools and have something to prove.  Ortiz won't be 26 until July. 


Another infield stud is Jackson Holliday who won't turn 20 until Dec 4. Son of 7-time All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday, Jackson was number one MLB pick in 2023 after graduating from high school in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He rocketed through four levels of the minors in 2023.


Already on the Oriole roster, and a solid contributor since late June to the 2023 AL East champion, is Jordan Westburg who starred at perennial college power Mississippi State.  He is another shortstop that can play second or third base and he will only turn 25 on February 18, just as Oriole spring training is heating up. 


The competition among those infielders will be fierce.  So will it be betwen upcoming outfielders Colton Cowser, Heston Kjerstad, and Kyle Stowers. They will try to unseat at least one of the incumbents, Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins, and Anthony Santander who will be a free agent after 2024 season.  


It's quite possible before I file another post before baseball's winter meetings in Nashville in early December that some of the Baltimore core and some prospects are traded for starting pitching, bullpen help, and/or a solid run-producing bat.  I just caution people to read carefully headlines in the blogosphere.  Many posts are about what writers want and not actual news. 


As for other news about my favorite non-baseball teams, only Columbia's women's basketball team looks promising.  They lost six solid contributors

from the 2022-2023 team that won their first Ivy League title. Snubbed by the NCAA selection committee, the Lions went on to play a competitive WNIT final against Kansas at the historic Phog Allen field house in Lawrence.


Senior Abby Hsu returns and she is developing into a complete player not just a sharpshooter with the enviable quick release. 

The Lions are playing a very tough pre-league schedule with most of the games at home at Levien Gym, Broadway W 120 Street SE corner.

Upcoming are Duke Tu Nov 14 6p.  

Towson Th Nov 16 7p.  

Northeastern Sa Nov 25 4p. 

Providence W Nov 29 11a - the annual game to which hundreds of NYC schoolkids are invited.

Villanova Sun Dec 3 2p.

Memphis Wed Dec 6 6p. 

Wagner Su Dec 10 2p.

Ivy League home season begins with Penn Sa Jan 6 2p. More informatioin at gocolumbialions.com


And now before I close, some tips on the upcoming TCM (Turner Classic Movies) schedule. All times EST.

The two sports-related movies in November are F Nov 17 5p "The Set-Up" (1949) maybe the best boxing movie ever.

Robert Ryan who was a boxer at Dartmouth gives one of his riveting performances. 


F Nov 17 is All-Noir from 730A "Too Late for Tears" (1949) with Lisabeth Scott as not exactly the girl next door LOL

Through 8p "Between Midnight and Dawn" (1950) Mark Stevens, Edmond O'Brien, Gale Storm

Among other highlights:  1215p "Detour" (1945) about as grisly as "Too Late For Tears"

130p "The Maltese Falcon" (1941) the first Bogart/Lorre/Greenstreet collaboration - we'd love to trust Mary Astor.  However, . . . 

315p "Born To Kill" (1947) - Lawrence Tierney almost typecast and Claire Trevor a year before she plays another Claire in "Babe Ruth Story"

615p "Naked City" (1948) the original, a film that producer/inspirer Mark Hellinger never lived to see completed 


Sun Nov 19 345p "Pat and Mike" (1952).  Set in a golf world with legendary Babe Didrikson Zaharias in a cameo appearance, look near the end

for Chuck Connors, former first baseman, at the start of a career that led to TV's "The Rifleman". 


Also on Nov 19 at 10p Belafonte's "The World, Flesh, and the Devil" (1959) by no means sport enters here but quite a film about aftermath of

a nuclear war with only Belafonte, Inger Stevens, and Mel Ferrer as survivors.


Every Tuesday in November is Gloria Grahame night - one of the queens of Noir who always attracted good directors:

Tu Nov 14 triple-feature starting at 8p "In A Lonely Place" (1950) with Bogart as writer with anger problem to put it mildly.

Directed by Nicholas Ray, then married to Grahame.   

Followed by two Cold War era films: 945p "The Glass Wall" (1953)  directed by Maxwell Shane with Vittorio Gassman

and 1130p "Man on A Tightrope" directed by Elia Kazan with Fredric March


Tu Nov 21 8p "Bad and the Beautiful" (1952) Grahame's Oscar that she should have gotten for "Crossfire" (1947)

"TBATB" is one of the best films about Hollywood, dir. Vincent Minnelli with the wonderful David Raksin title song

10:15p "Odds Against Tomorrow" (1959) minor role for Gloria but Robert Wise directs bank robbers Ed Begley Sr., Belafonte and Ryan whose

racial enmity sabotages the plans 


Tu Nov 28 8p "The Big Heat" (1953) dir. by Fritz Lang with Glenn Ford and co-starring Jocelyn Brando, Marlon's sister

10p "Human Desire" (1954) another Lang not for faint of heart with Ford and Grahame and Broderick Crawford

1130p "Naked Alibi" (1954) with Sterling Hayden, Gene Barry, Chuck Connors again - have not seen this one about police brutality.


That's all for now.  Always remember:  Take it easy but take it.  And even if recovery from ubiquitous covid is slow like mine,

stay positive, test negative.







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"Learning To Keep The Bank Open At Night" & Other Thoughts for the Early New Year (updated)

The great Boston Celtic guard Sam Jones passed away on December 30 in Wilmington NC at the age of 88.  The Basketball Hall of Famer was part of the Celtic dynasty that won eight NBA titles in a row (1959-1966) - Yankee and Montreal Canadien fans, eat your heart out.


Sam's use of the backboard on his angled jump shots was something to behold even if you grew up a Knicks fan.  


Watching Wisconsin beat Iowa last week, Big Ten Network color commentator Stephen Bardo turned a phrase I had never heard when he praised a Badger's similar shot as "learning to keep the bank open late at night."  


A tip of the cap to Bardo, the former U of Illinois star who has the best qualities of a commentator - enthusiasm and clarity.


So far in this early Big Ten season, Wisconsin is surprising all the pundits who picked the Badgers for 10th in the conference race.  In the Alice in Wonderland world we are living in, the Big Ten has fourteen teams. Teaching basic arithmetic to a youngster these days must be quite a challenge.


There is nothing, I repeat nothing, like when one of your sports teams surprises the "experts" and gives hope for a real competitive season.  Wisconsin didn't need me on Monday January 3rd when they spanked Purdue, ranked #3 in the country, on the road.  


I went instead to hear at the Met Opera (in a fully-masked 2/3 filled house) Massenet's lovely little opera "La Cenerentola".   Based on the Cinderella legend created in the 16th century, the music was written in 1899 but paid homage in many sections to 18th century Baroque music.  


On Thursday night Jan 6th, I was back home to watch on the tube the Badgers control Iowa to move to 3-1 in the conference.  All five starters scored in double figures, led by the breakout sophomore Johnny Davis from Lacrosse WI.  


A wiry guard-forward listed at 6' 4", Davis is the son of Mark Davis, a 13-year former pro who played one year in the NBA.   Johnny's twin brother Jordan is a substitute guard for the Badgers who are now 13-2 and 4-1 in the Big Ten after beating Maryland on the road, 70-69.  


The Badgers blew a 21-point lead but rallied to beat the Terps.  Junior forward Tyler Wahl had a career night with 21 points and his usual defensive tenacity.  Up this Thursday Jan 13 is a rematch with Ohio State who handily beat Wisconsin in Columbus two weeks ago.


The Big Ten schedule is quite a grinder, but fun to watch. Especially when the "experts" dismiss you as also-rans.


Back here in the big city, virus concerns forced cancellation of Columbia women's matchups with Princeton and Penn. They will be re-scheduled soon. 


The Columbia men blew a big halftime lead at Princeton on Friday night but held on to the

lead on Saturday against a Penn team that doesn't seem to be as potent as usual.  Nonetheless, a win is a win and we'll see if my first alma mater can string a few victories

together for rest of season. 


As expected, there is nothing new on the baseball lockout front.  No negotiations are

scheduled and probably won't be until the end of the month. 


The Super Bowl is Feb 13 and spring training camps are supposed to be open the next day.  


Cutting down on the minor leagues, flirting with shortening spring training, and a

general disdain for baseball's traditions is not my idea of how to grow the game - a favorite shibboleth of both MLB and the MLB players association.  


In a sports industry that is part of a very competitive marketplace, pro baseball could find

itself before long as just a niche enterprise.      


Nobody is listening to me so let's turn to the solace of some old movies.  For early risers or night owls or VCR recorders, Mon Jan 17 at 6AM EDT, TCM shows "The World, The Flesh, and The Devil" (1959). 


Harry Belafonte stars as a miner in Pennsylvania working underground when a nuclear bomb wipes out most of the world. Harold J. Marzorati's photography of an empty Manhattan as Belafonte drives into it and starts walking around is particularly stunning.


Belafonte finds a survivor in Inger Stevens who is certainly someone to live for.   Another survivor comes along, Mel Ferrer, and the inevitable triangle develops.  


Ranald MacDougall (1915-1973) wrote the screen play and directed this arresting

film.  He earlier was a screenwriter on "Mildred Pierce" (1945) and "The Breaking Point" (1951), John Garfield's last film for Warner Brothers that came out just as he was being Red-baited.


1959 was quite a year for Belafonte and his production company HarBel.  His "Odds Against Tomorrow," sometimes called the last Noir film of the classic period, came out that year.


Back here in the East, the Jan-Febs have started with a vengeance.  No huge snow

storms yet in NYC but cold weather pretty common. 


Connecting to increasing sunlight is one of my ways of dealing with frigid temps. Dreams of spring training - the best time of the year in halcyon days - may have to be put on back burner.   


Once again the main advice is Take It Easy but Take It, and especially nowadays:

Stay positive, test negative.    



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