"'Pain and Glory' might be a good title for a film on the MLB season that will likely end with Houston's come-from-behind triumph over the Washington Nationals in the World Series. Momentum "waves" in baseball are amazing creations but they can vanish as quickly as they arise."
That, dear readers, was the opening paragraph for an end-of-season summation I started after the Houston Astros limped into Washington for the middle three games of the World Series. They had lost the first two games at home to the red-hot Nats, winners of eight post-season games in a row and the outlook looked dim.
Yet in baseball's marvelously unpredictable ways, it turned out that the Astros were alive and well. And the Nats maybe tried too hard to bring the first World Series victory to Washington in nearly a century. They scored only 3 runs total as the Astros swept three convincingly.
Yet the staunch arms of Stephen Strasburg and ailing Max Scherzer carried the Nats to victory before stunned full houses in Houston expecting the Astros' second World Series win in three years.
For the first time ever in the 115-year history of the World Series, the visiting team won every game. Since the Series went a full seven, it is a record that will never be broken, only tied.
The Nats are very deserving champions, coming from behind in each of the five elimination games they played - one against the Brewers in the Wild Card game, two against the Dodgers in the divisional series, and these last two in Houston.
I thought Will Harris, who gave up the lead-changing Game 7 home run to Howie "Grand Slam" Kendrick (Kendrick had knocked out the Dodgers with a grand slam in the divisional series), gave a very sportsmanlike quote after the game: "I think I made a pretty good pitch. He just made a championship play for a championship team." (Quoted by Ken Davidoff in the New York Post, October 31st.)
I jotted some other wonderful quotes during the intense month of October for those teams lucky to play that deeply into autumn. Here are a couple more:
"The lights shine brighter, but you can't get blinded by them." Tampa Bay Rays catcher Travis D'Arnaud on the atmosphere of October. Travis never could quite put it together for the Mets but contributed significantly to the Rays' run that took the Astros to the final game of a five-game series.
"Those who can, evaluate; those who can't, measure." Nats gm Mike Rizzo defending his use of advance scouting by his staff of older veteran scouts and special assistants. Quoted by Bob Nightengale in USA Today, October 24, 2019.
The high-tech-drenched front office of the Astros has done away with advanced scouting by human beings. They think video and the latest developments in "advanced metrics" are an adequate substitute. Maybe they shouldn't be so sure of themselves.
BTW according to the New York Post, the founder of sabrmetrics Bill James recently resigned from the Red Sox as they are refiguring their front office. He reportedly said he should have left two years ago.
AND NOW THE TIME OF REGROUPING AND WAITING FOR SPRING HAS BEGUN:
It is always a sad day when baseball leaves us and we must face winter alone. But there's plenty of off-season news to keep us occupied. If the 2019 season was a very rare one when no manager was fired, the axes have come down with a vengeance in October.
There will be at least eight new managers in 2020 with the Mets opening still very much in doubt. The former Met infielder Tim Bogar may be one of the finalists and from the little bit I have heard from people I respect, he would be my favorite. He was the Nats' first base coach in this championship year and has worked for other organizations.
But the former agent/turned Mets gm Brodie von Wagenen might be looking for a bigger name. He let a so-called "big name" Joe Girardi slip away to the Phillies, but it says here that he won't regret it. Girardi won his only championship with the 2009 Yankees, and his switch from number 27 to number 28 - for the next championship - never materialized.
It is hard to believe that there won't be a changeover in Seattle. With the NL pennant for the Nats, born the Montreal Expos in 1969, the Mariners are now the only one of the 30 MLB franchises that has never been in a World Series.
But there have been no rumors of a change in Seattle. How long can a team peddle the memories of now-retired Ichiro Suzuki and quickly-fading "King Felix" Hernandez to its fans?
Before I conclude this Halloween evening post, I corrected one of my many cultural shortcomings by seeing my first Pedro Almodovar movie last week. His cinematic reverie "Pain and Glory" about the creative block of a film director/writer played by the marvelous Antonio Banderas is highly recommended.
Madrid and its environs comes alive in this film as Mexico City did in last year's Oscar-winning film "Roma". Both begin with opening water scenes that immediately draw one into the artist's malleable world. An original music score by Alberto Iglesias provides an alluring background touches to the film.
In addition to Banderas's absorbing performance, the gorgeous and talented Penelope Cruz shines in flashbacks as Banderas's mother. Julieta Serrano, who frequently is cast in Almodovar's films, adds a somber quality as his mother as an older woman; Asier Flores is charming as Banderas's precocious character as a boy, and Asier Exteandria adds proper melodramatic flair to his role as an actor who has long feuded with Banderas but loves the chance to play in roles created by his friend/adversary.
This film is not "in wide release," as they say, but is certainly worth a jaunt down to the Angelika Film Center on Houston and Mercer Streets on the Soho-Greenwich Village border.
That's all for now. Without baseball life will be less rewarding but I'll be around trying to take in as much of the sporting, musical, and movie culutre of my "home town". In the meantime, always remember: Take it easy but take it!