The Rundown: Everybody Wants Some, SI Non-Jinx, Cuba Libre, and Scouting Lester

Top Of The First

In case you haven’t heard, Richard Linklater has a new movie that will drop as a limited release this Friday and then nationwide next week. The film is called Everybody Wants Some and it is the sequel (with different characters) to his 1993 hit Dazed and Confused. I was invited to the screening at SXSW and didn’t get to see it, but I watched it today (thank you Paramount) and, as I agreed NOT to write a full review before it’s release, I will bless you with a few adjectives and one statement:

Hilarious, Heartfelt. Entertaining. Memorable. Go see it.

One last thing: the soundtrack, some of the best of early 1980’s rock and roll, is worth the price of admission alone. Everybody Wants Some is a baseball movie but it’s not just a baseball movie. The cultural references are spot on and I loved the callbacks to mixtapes, freshmen hazing, and the old school car stereo systems.

The Adam LaRoche Thing Won’t Die

I have singularly lost the will to do The Rundown because of this continuing storyline. I mean, everybody in baseball has issued a statement or weighed in on what happened. Here’s mine: “I see no reason why adolescent boys should be hanging out in men’s locker rooms. It’s unhealthy and a little sketchy, and I think sometimes baseball players might need to step outside of their bubbles to see how incredibly awkward the issue is for real people.”

End of story.

The Sports Illustrated Non-Jinx

As has been the case since the Cubs’ signing of Dexter Fowler, I am usually in the middle of piecing together a few paragraphs on a certain subject when Evan beats me to post with an entire story. He does a much better analysis than I so that’s always okay.

In saying that, let me talk some of you off the ledge. Jinxes, curses, hexes, spells, black magic, the kiss of death, yada, yada, yada — these things do not exist. At least not to the extent that they apply to an outdated, vanilla sports magazine that has become somewhat irrelevant in the digital age (though their sports photos are still quite exquisite).

If the Cubs don’t win the World Series this year it only means one thing: a better team did. So put away the holy water and the rosary beads and send the exorcists back to St. Rita. Let the season play out and stop perpetuating the nonsense. I went to my fantasy draft a few years back dressed as Bartman and I still won the league.

PS – the Cubs are only on the regional cover of the magazine.

Cuba Libre

Major League Baseball in Cuba – it really happened. I didn’t watch the game in it’s entirety because I personally loathe ESPN, but I wish I had. I had no idea Bob Ley of ESPN was still an active journalist, and I missed his interruption by a Cuban protestor.

I think it’s great that we are witnessing a thaw in Cuban-U.S. relations. As far as historical feel-good moments in my lifetime, it ranks right behind the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War.

President Obama attended the game and his visit to Cuba could very well mark the last big celebration of the communist Castro brothers’ now-arthritic regime. Long-time Cuban dictator Fidel Castro is 89 years old and his younger brother, President Raul Castro, is 84. The eventual passing of the Castro brothers will almost certainly bring about market and human rights reform and the demise of Trotskyite Socialism on the beleaguered island. Tourist companies, airlines, and hotel chains are already lining up for the inevitable gentrification of Cuba.

“This is a new day,” President Obama said. “We continue to move forward on many fronts when it comes to normalizing relations [with Cuba].”

He’ll need to convince Congress to first remove a blockade/embargo that at this point in history seems pretty absurd. The blockade was instituted in 1960 and strengthened in 1962 over threat of war. It should have ended when Ronald Reagan ended the Cold War in 1989.

The outcome of the game was very, very secondary to the pomp and circumstance of the day, but for those who are into afterthoughts, the Tampa Rays beat the Cuban National Team 4-1.

Scouting The Cubs – Jon Lester

Lester got off to a typically slow start in 2015, but he was stellar in the second half, though likely somewhat obscured by an historical post All-Star run by Jake Arrieta. Overall, Lester reversed a three-year decline in groundball rate, keeping with a team concept that stresses hammering the lower portion of the strike zone. More importantly, Lester showed improved dominance after July 1, and his peripherals generated a sub-3.00 ERA with an expected ERA of 2.75 over his final 17 starts.

Lester relies primarily on his fourseam fastball (94 mph) — which generates a high rate of swings-and-misses — and his cutter (90 mph), also mixing in a curve and sinker. He mixes speeds and location very well, but still has a propensity to give up a large number of fly balls, which means he can be prone to a few home runs.

His 2015 second-half performance bodes well for 2016. Going into his age-32 season, we can expect Lester to flash true top-of-rotation skills. Manager Joe Maddon will rest the big left-hander a little more this year, so expect 185-190 innings with an ERA right around 3.15, about a strikeout per inning, and a WHIP around 1.12. With that in mind, if Lester can keep his groundball rate in the 49-52% range, he could potentially win 16-20 games.

6 – 4 – 5 – 3

Cincinnati Reds stud pitching prospect Cody Reed had a problem seeing when his glasses fogged up mid-inning, so he went with nothing but fastballs for an entire inning Monday night.

The Milwaukee Brewers had a rough weekend. Brew Crew Ball provides the full analysis. The guys who run that blog are really on their game. Add it to your bookmarks.

Viva El Birdos provides a spring recap of the St. Louis Cardinals top prospects.

Rum Bunter has the latest Pittsburgh Pirates news.

The Pittsburgh Pirates want an expanded Wild Card round and after the last two seasons you can’t really blame them. I think it will eventually happen, but more for financial reasons than the fact that the Pirates have been stymied in consecutive years.

Fact, Fiction, Truth, Or Rumor

President Obama explains why he has epically failed at the ceremonial first pitch.

More Obama: The U.S. President decried the lack of diversity in baseball and called for national unity against terrorism in the wake of this morning’s bombings in Brussels.

A photo essay of Cuba’s history in baseball. Must see.

Sports On Earth has a wonderful analysis of aging baseball players and a look at this year’s ten oldest players, including Bartolo Colon, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz. No Grandpa Rossy? Ross just turned 39 over the weekend so he barely missed the cut. He certainly looks older than the others though.

Tigers SP Daniel Norris bought a $14 t-shirt and a used VW microbus (which he lives in during Spring Training) when he received his $2M signing bonus in 2011. And that was pretty much it.

Bottom Of The Ninth

My thoughts and prayers go out to Brussels, to the victims, their families, and friends in the wake of Tuesday morning’s tragedy. It is my hope that global terrorism will one day end and that the free world will one day rediscover the peace and safety that we’ve grown up expecting, a freedom that children of this generation may never know.

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