Baseball movies always seem to go one of two ways. They either are fantastic high-comedy or fall flat. Major League has had staying power, but Hardball not so much. It is what makes For Love of the Game all the more intriguing. Anyone with cable know that movie has been on repeatedly this week.
One night, it was on the cycle of channels to be flipped to between innings of the Red Sox game and whatever else was on that evening. Certain scenes in it are fantastic, and the baseball in it even seems relatively realistic. Kevin Costner is still believable as a ballplayer, throwing somewhat in a Greg Maddux style.
Nothing in it comes across as too over-the-top. Is the last out a stretch? Maybe, but not unlikely in the course of a game. Now, would a manager have sent up a rookie to pinch hit? Doubtful. Would a guy get killed for bunting in the seventh inning to break up a perfect game? You bet. Those moments can be found in any sports movie.
The problem comes in the scenes between the baseball. Major League on cable is great partly because it cuts Rene Russo's unnecessary lines out of the movie entirely. You cannot do that with For Love of the Game. It results in a 30-minute sitcom. Kelly Preston comes across as a big-time wet blanket straight out of the Rocky mold.
It is why the re-watchability (channeling the inner Mel Kiper) is in question. It can be flipped to for a few minutes, but most people likely are just trying to catch a few scenes here and there. Straight through is another question entirely.
Sure, it comes down to personal preference. There are just plenty of other sports movies that seem to have better staying power.
Not to say that having a ball signed by Costner that says "Tell them I'm through 'for love of the game'" would not be a sweet collectible. Decide for yourself.
On to the notes.
- While the result has little impact outside of the three-hit game itself, congratulations are in order to Derek Jeter for tying the all-time Yankee hits record. There are very few Yankees that Red Sox fans respect, but his all-around play and respect for the game make him impossible to dislike. This weekend will be electric in that stadium when he breaks it.
- Tim Lincecum expects to be able to make his next start on Monday. Lincecum missed his appearance on Tuesday because of back problems, and it had been evident that there was some diminished velocity in his last start. Hopefully, he can get back on the mound and help as teams push for the playoffs.
- In another weird sign out of Philadelphia, Ryan Madson closed out the win last night for the Phillies while Brad Lidge watched. Madson could pilfer a few saves the rest of the way, and if you are close in that category, look to him to help out. It will not be regularly, so only if you have some roster flexibility.
- Quite the night for the Cardinals last night. Albert Pujols hit two more home runs last night, giving him 47 for the season. It would be hard to imagine selecting nearly anyone else as the top pick in next season's draft. Pujols has proven that the injury we thought would impact him is in the past.
- How many owners expected Scott Feldman to win 12 games this season, let alone on the road? Feldman simply dominated Cleveland yesterday, recording his 16th win of the season overall. Let him be another example as to why owners do not need to go after pitching early.
- While Randy Wolf was expected to take the ball for the Dodgers on Friday, he will instead miss a start with elbow inflammation. Wolf has been a very pleasant surprise this season for owners, and this should not have them treating him much differently. Look to him next week as you normally would. Hiroki Kuroda will start in his place.
- Tommy Hanson threw eight shutout innings last night, but had his game blown by Rafael Soriano. On top of Hanson's performance, Wandy Rodriguez went seven innings and gave up just one run in the process. The two have been as good as advertised this season. Hanson needs to be looked at as a number two starter in deeper leagues next season and at least a three in all formats.
- Owners looking for wins should not necessarily be relying on Tampa starters. The bullpen has continued to struggle with Grant Balfour being among the worst offenders. Jeff Niemann threw a fantastic game last night, but the revolving bullpen door doomed his win against New York. Joe Maddon may want to ease off on the itchy trigger finger to pull some of his starters.
- Ricky Nolasco started his outing with six shutout innings before being torn apart a bit in the seventh. Nolasco still managed to win his 11th game of the season, and put together back-to-back wins for the first time since June. He seems to have figured it out. No doubt, he will be buried on some draft boards next season because of the ERA, but batters have hit just .237 against him since the All-Star break.
- Sometimes things just do not make sense. Joe Blanton is 0-1 in three starts against the Nationals this season, allowing them to hit .323 against him in 15.1 innings. Ryan Zimmerman has had the most fun, going 7-for-14 with two home runs against the Philadelphia starter.
- It is rarely pretty, but Scott Baker has gone 7-3 on the road this season. In his last 10 starts overall, he is 5-0. Baker has had problems, but has managed to allow three or fewer runs in eight of his last 10 outings. Against a struggling Toronto team, Baker is not a bad play in deeper leagues.
- While owners should look to keep Ichiro, Kenji Johjima, and Jose Lopez active against John Lackey, look to sit Adrian Beltre. Beltre is only 9-for-41, good for a .191 average, against Lackey. The others are all hitting well above .320. Lackey has given up 17 hits in 12.1 innings to the Mariners this season.
- Ryan Rowland-Smith is not the sexy name, but he has been productive. Rowland-Smith has a 3.25 ERA over his last three starts and is slowly solidifying his spot in the rotation for next season. It is not likely he keeps his WHIP at 1.07, but he is a reasonable bet for a 1.30-1.35 WHIP over the course of an entire year.
- Another pitcher with back issues should be able to make his start on Thursday. Roy Oswalt has not had much luck this season, but is expected to take the mound. Oswalt has had good success against Chipper Jones, but look to use both Adam LaRoche and Nate McLouth. Both have good numbers.
- Derek Lowe has a win this season against the Astros this season, but he has had some problems on the road in 2009. Lowe has a 4.87 ERA and batters have hit over .300 against him away from Atlanta. Look to keep all your normal Astros in the lineup for this one, as they have solid collective stats against the starter.
- After missing a start with knee issues, Jarrod Washburn will take the mound against the Royals. His last start against Kansas City was his best as a Tiger. He held the Royals without a run over eight innings of work. In four of his six starts with Detroit, he has allowed at least five earned runs. Still, the bad offense should do his numbers good.
- Very limited schedule across baseball, as only seven games are on the docket. Not much else to look at in terms of matchups here.
- Spot Starts: Brett Cecil, Ryan Rowland-Smith
- James Shields has actually been hit relatively hard by the Red Sox. There are some issues in the Boston lineup. Look to avoid Kevin Youkilis, as he is 3-for-23 against Shields. Jason Varitek is no better at 3-for-18 and Jacoby Ellsbury is 4-for-21. The rest of the Red Sox lineup is good to go.
- Zack Greinke is 2-0 against Cleveland this season in four starts against them. Greinke has only a .500 record on the road, but his ERA is still under 3.00. Look to use Asdrubal Cabrera against Greinke, as he has gone 9-for-17 in his career against the Kansas City starter. Shin-Soo Choo is the only other starter above .300 against Greinke.
- Andre Ethier is hitting .567 against Matt Cain in 30 at-bats. Keep Rafael Furcal and Matt Kemp active as well. Orlando Hudson is the toughest bet in the Dodger lineup. He is only 2-for-21 against Cain. At home, Cain is tough, having gone 6-2 this season with batters hitting only .227 against him.
- Andy Pettitte has given up just two earned runs in his last 14 innings of work at home, and he tends to pitch very well against the Orioles. Look to avoid the 2-for-21 of Ty Wiggington and the 0-for-9 of Luke Scott in this matchup. Pettitte's season at home has not been fantastic, but Baltimore is putting up a lot of young, impatient hitters and that plays well to Pettitte's strengths.
- Cole Hamels has been lit up by the Mets in two starts this season. Hamels has given up 21 hits in just 10 innings of work. The Mets do not have a ton to throw at him, but it seems to simply be the uniform, as he is only 1-4 against the Mets since 2006.
- Spot Starts: Joel Pineiro, Doug Davis, Jorge De La Rosa