Are the Oscars about to take a step back?

There’s more than one reason why we continue to remember the final Oscar awarded on the evening of February 26, 2017 – or, more specifically, the act of its awarding – as a shocking turn of events for the Academy Awards, awards shows in general and those involved, not to mention the millions watching at home.

If dictionaries included video examples of its entries, we would see this under “fiasco”: Those few moments, witnessed then and recalled now as feeling like much longer, when golden statuette-clutching “La La Land” producer Jordan Horowitz announced that the actual Best Picture winners were in fact those behind “Moonlight.” And legitimately so; it remains an absurd occurrence, an oft-forgotten example of the mayhem that can unfold on live television.

When the golden Oscar dust had settled, however, when all the actors (pun partially intended) involved had said their piece on what happened and media outlets broke down the sequence of events like an episode of “CSI,” a more historically impactful (and decidedly less clickbaity) reason for that event’s enduring legacy began to emerge. Continue reading →

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Review: Pixar’s ‘Coco’ is visually gorgeous, surprisingly grounded and vaguely formulaic

After over two decades and nearly 20 films, it’s refreshing for Pixar to provide its most grounded premise yet.

Following sustained success by way of talking bugs, talking toys, talking cars, talking fish, talking emotions, talking rats and “talking” robots, something about a Dia de Los Muertos-centric story featuring human characters (and, yes, talking humanoid skeletons) feels much more relatable, like Pixar declaring a coup upon itself.

But then again, that was the point of “Coco” – to showcase a world with more connections to reality than any other Pixar offering before it, and to flesh out that world with the humanity the animation giant has the reputation of conjuring. Continue reading →

The Warning Track: A Year of Resurgence

The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a weekly basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as off-the-field issues like first-time Commissioner Rob Manfred, which players could be headed to new homes, and A-Rod’s latest conundrum. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. 

 

The 2015 major league baseball campaign has been, thus far, dominated by surprising individual performances. Bryce Harper is finally doing what everyone in Washington expected him to do. Shelby Miller has pitched his way into the Cy Young discussion. A-Rod is etching his name into more pages of the records books. And Kershaw hasn’t been Kershaw thus far.

With all the fanfare surrounding individual players, whether for better or for worse, it’s easy to overlook the status of whole ballclubs, some of which are giving their fans new faith after years of holding the position as cellar-dwellar, lending a whole new dimension to a sport that prides itself on parity in the process.

 

Houston Astros

The Astros – who have averaged a 69-93 regular season record since they got swept in the 2005 World Series – have the best record in the American League at 30-18, second-best in the bigs only to St. Louis.

Read that sentence again. Take a deep breath, maybe two. It’s okay, everyone else it just as shocked as you are. Led by AL Cy Young contender Dallas Keuchel (6-1, 1.98 ERA) and hit machine Jose Altuve (.299 batting average, AL-leading 15 swiped bags), the Astros are coming into their own as a team that is completely defying all expectations – which, admittedly, were minimal – and becoming legitimate threats for the AL West crown.

It’s one thing to have brushed the 2015 Astros off as a team that is simply hot for the time being, but it’s nearing the end of May, and they have yet to lose more than three games in a row.

They embarked on a ten-game winning streak from late April to early May to make a statement, and so far they have justified it, as they are one of only five ballclubs in the major leagues (and only one of two in the American League) to have a winning record both on the road (15-8) and at home (15-10).

That being said, it’s time to take the Astros seriously, something I thought was still a couple years away from happening. They’re proving me and many others wrong, and the sport is all the better for it.

And when you take into account the youth that is energizing the team – Altuve is 25, George Springer 25, Luis Valbuena 29, Keuchel 27 – as well as the fact that Carlos Correa and Mark Appel (the 2nd- and 28th-ranked MLB prospects, according to minor league baseball’s Prospect Watch) have yet to arrive, maybe it’s time we settle in and enjoy this team, because their time might just be right now, and it might just last for the better part of the next decade.

 

 

Minnesota Twins

The Twins haven’t won more than 70 games in a season since 2010, when they were swept in the division series for the second consecutive year. They have’t advanced passed that round since 2002, where they lost in the ALCS 4 games to 1.

They’ve set a benchmark for futility and irrelevance for baseball, but lately they’ve been looking like a team ready to forget all of that history, to the tune of an 8-2 record in their last ten games and a 28-18 mark overall.

That’s good enough to tie them for first in an ultra-competitive AL Central division, where the Royals, Twins and Tigers are all separated by just 1.5 games.

But the Twins are the hottest of those three, as well as one of the hottest clubs in all of baseball, having not lost a series in over two weeks and outscoring opponents 27-11 on a current five-game winning streak.

These are the Twins, mind you. It’s been a long long time since they’ve been this intimidating. But they are, and the return of Torii Hunter, who spent his first ten big league season in Minnesota, is a big reason why. He’s 29 RBI and 7 dingers to go along with a .280/.333/.457 line. In addition, their pitching has improved by leaps and bounds this season. An AL-worst 4.57 team ERA from 2014 has undergone a seemingly impossible evolution in 2015, where they now sport a 3.94 team ERA.

They’ve also already won half as many extra-inning games this seasons as they did in all of 2014 (3-1 versus 6-7), showing that they have a newfound resilience to churning out victories.

Time will tell if the Twins can live up to the new expectations they’ve set for themselves, expectations they know they’re capable of. It isn’t the most common thing in baseball for a team to go from worst to first as the Twins are gunning to do this season, but at the very least, for the time being, it makes for a good story, and one that might be worth revisiting in the coming weeks and months.

 

Chicago Cubs

Unlike the Astros and Twins, the Cubs entered 2015 with expectations as high as a ball hit off the bat of Nelson Cruz, looking to end over a century of disappointment.

Although they’ve been inconsistent at time, they will have a record over .500 once the calendar flips to June – they are 25-21 entering play today – which for the Cubs is reason enough to get excited, especially seeing as they would be only one game back of a wild card spot if the season ended today.

Much of what the Cubs are expected to do this season and in the coming years is dependent on the performances of their stars – experienced ace Jon Lester, inexperienced phenom Kris Bryant, and budding MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo. So far the potential has not only been warranted, but fulfilled.

After struggling in April to begin his National League career, Lester (has pitched his way back into his starring role as rotation leader, giving up two earned runs or less in 5 of his last 6 starts. He hasn’t quite performed at the plate, but Rizzo, the undisputed face of the franchise at just 25 years old, has more than made up for it, batting his way to a .315 average to go along with 9 homers and 29 RBI.

But the star of the show, and the storyline of the season on the North Side, has been the arrival of basher Kris Bryant. After taking a couple weeks to adjust to the big leagues upon his advent, the third baseman began to hit like we all knew he would. He leads the team in RBI (31) and also has hit 7 longballs and crossed home plate 26 times, all top three for the Cubs.

Although a struggling bullpen (4.07 ERA) has caused them to drop some games in the late innings, the Cubs so far have been making their fans happy.

There’s excitement in the air on the North Side of the Windy City, and if the Cardinals ever cool off on their historic start, the NL Central race should be a fun one to watch down the stretch, especially with the Pirates winning their last seven and making a move toward the front of the pack.

 

 

David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at alex.695@hotmail.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

The Warning Track: Welcome to 2015

The Warning Track is a brand new blog that will cover all things Major League Baseball on a weekly basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as off-the-field issues like first-time Commissioner Rob Manfred, which players could be headed to new homes, and A-Rod’s latest lie. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. 

 

Miami’s 300 Million Dollar Man

It simply wouldn’t do to discuss the rollercoaster ride that was the MLB offseason without talking about the most lucrative contract conjured up in American sports history.

Anyone who has paid attention to major league baseball even just a little bit over the past couple years knows the name Giancarlo Stanton. But not all of them might be able to immediately associate him with the Marlins…which is something that the organization hopes their contract with Stanton will fix.

Let’s be clear: the obvious reasons for paying Stanton the amount of money equivalent to buying about 1,300 Ferraris are pretty clear.

  • The guy can hit, and hit consistently.
  • He can drive in runs, and drive in runs consistently.
  • He has the ability to carry the Marlins to the playoff, and be able to do so consistently.

If it weren’t for a Mike Fiers fastball (and, let’s be honest, Clayton Kershaw season-long impersonation of Sandy Koufax), Stanton would have been a lock for NL Most Valuable Player.

But he’s also the face of the franchise. He has almost single-handedly (a guy by the name of Jose Fernandez had a small part to play as well) put the Marlins back on the map, at least in terms of a free agent destination.

With Stanton’s big payday – or paydecade, as the $325 million will be shelled out over the course of 13 seasons with the Marlins – the Marlins made an announcement that they intend to stay on the baseball map, as a consistent winner and contender, led by a hitter and pitcher who already are considered amongst the elite in their craft.

Stanton has hit at least 22 moonshots every season he's been in the league.

Stanton has hit at least 22 moonshots every season he’s been in the league.

Maybe Stanton will live up to his contract, becoming the modern day Babe Ruth. In his first five seasons he has hit 154 longballs, meaning he has serious potential as far as all-time numbers go, considering he most likely hasn’t hit his prime (that sound you hear is NL pitchers shaking in their shoes).

It’s very possible that Stanton will continue a recent trend of big-name players signing lucrative contracts seemingly forgetting what it takes to be elite. For whatever reason that same mysterious force might just come down unto Stanton causing him to experience a remarkable dropoff that lasts years, becoming the biggest “what if” in baseball history.

He also could set an major league record for career homers.

But one thing is for sure. The Marling did not only provide security for Stanton – they made a gamble to fortify their franchise’s rising position through the tiers of major league baseball, creating another immortal number for not only baseball but sports history….325 million.

In 13 years, we’ll see what good it has done.

 

Way-Too-Early-Awards-Predictions

There’s never a better time than to think about who has the ability and the bat to embark on an MVP-caliber season, who will try upend the Kershaws and Bumgarner’s of the league with their arms, and which teams will have the resolve to play deep into October. Here is my preseason Awards Watch that probably will prove to be a laughable list by season’s end.

American League MVP

  1. Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels

Simply because you know and I know and pretty much all of baseball knows by this point that Mikey Mike is for real. The guy truly awes in every level of his play, whether it be at the plate, on the field, on base, in the dugout….seriously, wherever. He’s just fun to watch and you know he’ll be pretty angry about where his first postseason trip ended. It’ll be fun to see him take it out on opposing pitchers.

mike trout

2. Miguel Cabrera – Detroit Tigers

Let’s take a look at Miguel’s 2014 numbers….25 homers, 109 RBI, a .313 average. Those are all pretty numbers and all but the most amazing thing? They were all substantial drops from 2013, when he registered 44 longballs, 137 RBI, and an insane .348 average that makes one reminisce of Honus Wagner. Expect those kinds of numbers to return as Cabrera looks to lead the Tigers to the postseason once more.

3. Jose Abreu – Chicago White Sox

With all the incredible numbers that the Cuban put up in his rookie season last year – 36 homers and 107 RBI to go along with a .317 average – he seemed to go under the radar. There’s good reason to believe he’ll put up even more monstrous number in his sophomore year while leading a revamped White Sox team into the postseason.

 

National League MVP

  1. Giancarlo Stanton – Miami Marlins

This is the only prediction I would consider putting serious money on at this point in time. The slugger is going to win multiple MVP’s in the near future, and his potential to hit 50 homers this season will have him on lock for the honor virtually all season long.

2. Jason Heyward – St. Louis Cardinals

Why predict that Heyward, who’s best season was also his rookie season, will be in contention for MVP? Not only does he have a welcome change of scenery from consistently underperforming Atlanta, but he joins a team where he should have a great chance in a majority of his at-bats to drive in runs. The Cardinals are hoping he is the catalyst to exploit their offensive potential, and in a season which will end with him hitting free agency, he has a reason to want to fill that role.

3. Kris Bryant – Chicago Cubs

Why not him? I although I don’t agree with the Cub’s decision to keep The One destined to end the Cubs’ 108-year World Series drought off the Opening Day roster, the wait should only amp him up even more. Bryant has the potential to be the National League version of what Jose Abreu was last year. He’s a sure bet for NL Rookie of the Year, but if the Cubs make serious noise in October, you can bet it will be because of an MVP-worthy year from Bryant.

Bryant hit nearly .500 with 9 homers over 44 plate appearances in the Spring. That translates to about 75 homers over a full MLB season.

Bryant hit nearly .500 with 9 homers over 44 plate appearances in the Spring. That translates to about 75 homers over a full MLB season.

 

American League Cy Young

  1. Felix Hernandez – Seattle Mariners

There’s a reason they call him King Felix. It’s one thing to do what Clayton Kershaw has done in his career, shutting down opposing teams and players….in a league that isn’t known for hitting. Hernandez has been as consistently majestic as his name suggests while pitching to players like Trout, Cabrera, Ortiz, Longoria….he’s a nasty dude. Don’t be surprised if another strong season ends with him winning his second Cy Young.

2. Chris Sale – Chicago White Sox

He allowed only 42 earned runs in 174 innings of work in 2014, and has gotten closer to winning the Cy Young in each of the last three seasons.

3. Corey Kluber – Cleveland Indians

The 2014 winner looks to be even more dominant as the Tribe readies for what should be their first serious postseason run in a while.

 

National League Cy Young

  1. Max Scherzer – Washington Nationals

Someone needs to give Kershaw a run for his money. Scherzer has the best chance of anyone in the last few years to take Kershaw’s throne as the best pitcher in a league of elite pitchers. Moving to the National League should give him his first sub-3.00 ERA season. Seeing him duel Kershaw all season long for the lead in the Cy Young race will be a treat to watch.

2. Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers

What’s the safer bet: that Koufax-reincarnated wins his fourth Cy Young in five years, or that he turns in another ERA under 2?

3. Adam Wainwright – St. Louis Cardinals

He may have problems staying healthy, but when he is, he’s among the top three pitchers in the league.

 

10 Kind-of-Bold Predictions for the 2015 Season

  1. The Cubs don’t make the postseason….

Sorry, Vegas betters. Back to the Future may have been right about a lot of things, but the Cubbies winning only their second postseason series since 1908 won’t happen in 2015, let alone even appear in October.

Everyone just needs to calmmmmm down about Chicago’s potential because that is just what is it at this point in time – potential.

Their core is still relatively young, even their establish superstars in Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are still in their mid-20s, and their rotation behind Lester and Jake Arrieta just doesn’t look imposing. Add to all that the fact that the Cubs play in the same division that could easily see three other teams make the playoffs in the Cardinals, Pirates and Brewers, and it’s easy to see why the Joe Maddon-helmed Cubs will need to wait just a little while longer to contend.

Joe Maddon is one of the best managers in the game, but even he can't turn around the Cubs in just a year.

Joe Maddon is one of the best managers in the game, but even he can’t turn around the Cubs in just a year.

 

  1. ….but the Marlins do.

On the other hand, it’s time for Miami to make a deep run in October. Now that they’ve added Dee Gordon, Michael Morse and Ichiro Suzuki and extended breakout candidate Christian Yelich, they don’t have to rely on Giancarlo Stanton for all of their offense anymore. They should be getting superstar pitcher Jose Fernandez back in June, and when they do, they’ll be a force to contend with as they make their way to October baseball.

 

  1. Lance Lynn contends for the NL Cy Young.

Whenever it was Lynn’s turn to pitch in 2012 and 2013, Cardinals fans were elated because due to #CardinalsDevilMagic (most likely) the lineup tended to give him 5, 6, 7 runs or more, leading to respectable 18-7 and 15-10 records.

In 2014, St. Louis tended looked forward to Lynn’s pitching for a different reason – the guy was really pitching. To the tune of 2.74 ERA, a career-best by more than a full run. Lynn’s durable, he’s consistent, and he’s been the rock for St. Louis whenever they’ve needed one.

Don’t be surprised if he turns it up another couple of notches in 2015, enough to make the NL Cy Young race interesting for a while

 

  1. Mike Trout wins the AL Triple Crown.

He’s gotten close. In 2014 Trout ranked third in the AL in homers, first in RBI…but wasn’t even in the top ten in batting average, hitting .287. I think that number skyrockets for him this year, and he’ll have to do battle with guys like Altuve, Martinez and Beltre…but if anyone can do it why not the best player in baseball?

 

  1. The Padres come close – real close – to winning 100 games.

People don’t realize how complete of a team San Diego is following a furious and aggressive offseason. After finishing a 2014 campaign with the fourth best team ERA in baseball and dead last in runs scored, General Manager A.J. Preller had one priority: offense, offense, offense. Offense here, offense there, offense and offense and offense, oh my! Such a dramatic upgrade in offense that the very word would start to become offensive. So all he did was go out and get Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton and Will Middlebrooks.

Get excited, Padres fans

Get excited, Padres fans

I guess those guys are okay. Just for good measure to shore up the already astute pitching staff, Preller went out and picked up James Shields.

So yes, the Padres got a complete makeover, made up of many pieces that were in dire need of a change of scenery. If they can gel together and establish a chemistry….this group has the potential to finish top five in major pitching and hitting categories, and consistently so.

 

  1. One new pace-of-play rule will set off a firestorm.

The new pitching clock implemented between half-innings was received fairly well over the course of Spring Training. It didn’t seem to rock pitchers’ routines too much and, more importantly, you really could feel the clock doing what it was meant to do – it speeds up a part of the game that more often than not goes on for far longer than fans want. And the clubs like it – commissioner Rob Manfred recently said that he has gotten “uniformly positive” feedback from various organizations.

The other rule that keeps the batter confined to his box is a different story.

The rule, which forbids a batter from leaving the box between pitches – a common routine so that hitters can “reset” for the next pitch – is pretty much being taken seriously by almost nobody. David Ortiz ripped the rule as doing more harm than good for the players, although he recently said he’d do his best to follow it.

It just seems too natural for hitters to leave the box, and having to be constantly reminded not to do so will undoubtedly get on some players’ nerves. Words will be said. The rule will be criticized. And the league might have to find a way to amend it.

 

  1. The 3,000 hit club grows by 2

Two players who could not be on more opposite sides of the spectrum in regards to their standing with the sport will become members 29 and 30 of the exclusive 3,000 Hit Club.

A-Rod, who is only 61 hits away, might do it by the All-Star Break. He’s played well enough in the Spring to assure an everyday spot on the roster, and although he also has a seemingly insurmountable task of rehabilitating his image, you can bet achieving 3,000 hits is also on his mind.

Ichiro Suzuki has a longer road to trod if he wants his 3,000. One of the most respected and beloved stars of the game, Ichiro has 156 to go. That wouldn’t seem to be a problem for the future Hall of Famer, except for the fact that he hasn’t hit that many in one season since 2012. On top of that, his new team, the Marlins, plan on utilizing him in a bench role.

So while 3,000 seem inevitable for Suzuki, it might not happen this year….but I’m thinking the Marlins use him more than they currently plan to. The guy is too good, and if anyone deserves to get to 3,000 it’s him……*coughandnotalexrodriguezcough*.

 

 

  1. A record for most 50-home run players is set.

Who said offense is dead? Major league baseball boasts a bevy of bashers who could feasibly hit for fifty homers in 2015 – both young and old.

Twice in major league history, 1998 and 2001, four players hit 50 longballs.

I can think of five players who can hit that downright insane benchmark this year. Stanton, Trout, Cruz, Abreu and Bautista have the power and the consistency to do it, although the majority of them will be demolishing previous career bests.

Abreu hit 36 homers as a rookie. His power is here to stay.

Abreu hit 36 homers as a rookie. His power is here to stay.

Only Jose Bautista and Nelson Cruz have hit for 40, but they’re all primed for career-best seasons after being on an upward trajectory the next few seasons. And it’s pretty common to see individual players destroy their previous career bests for longballs hit in one season.

I’m betting all the aforementioned players do just that, and in a historic way.

 

 

  1. The Nationals pitch as advertised.

Speaking of history, the Nationals rotation seems hell-bent on making it.

Essentially boasting a rotation made up of aces, Washington’s group of starting pitchers puts the underachieving 2011 Phillies – with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt – to shame. At least in this point in time.

Scherzer. Strasburg. Zimmerman. Fister. Gonzalez. Look down on your works, ye National League, and despair.

Those five combined for 72 wins last year, but the baseball world shouldn’t be surprised if that number swells to at least 85 with what should be a more potent offense.

This group has the potential to rival the Braves of the early 90s, the Dodgers of the 60s. They give Washington a chance to win every game, which is why most have the club as a sure bet to get to the World Series, not to mention eclipse 100 wins.

And if any of them go down for a period of time, no big deal. Tanner Roark, who sported a 15-win season in 2014 with a 2.85 ERA, is just waiting in the wings, a “sixth man” to be envied.

The Nationals rotation will set the bar. It could feasibly set major league records for wins and earned run average, and that’s due in large part to their overall youth. They have yet to hit their prime, except for the veteran Scherzer, who is right in it. And they’ll take Washington on a wild ride through the season and into October.

But they won’t win the Fall Classic. The team to do that will be….

 

 

  1. The Dodgers win the World Series.

Clayton Kershaw has had enough. After being knocked out yet again by the Cardinals, it would be nothing short of astounding if whatever force that has plagued Kershaw the last two Octobers returns again this year. He won’t duplicate the legendary October that Madison Bumgarner had, but he’ll be who we expect him to be.

Yasiel Puig is ready to make the leap into elite status, if he can keep himself from making potentially season-ending crashes into the outfield wall every other game, that is. He’ll lead a team that added the potent Jimmy Rollins and Darwin Barney, and you better believe all the hype that is surrounding rookie centerfielder Joc Pederson. He’s for real and thus far the only reason we can’t lock in Chicago’s Kris Bryant as NL Rooike of the Year.

The Dodgers have been in contender status for a few years without yet reaching the World Series. They’ll make that leap this year – led by Kershaw’s arm and Puig’s bat – whether they meet the Cardinals in the postseason again or not, and they’ll beat the Seattle Mariners to win their first Fall Classic since 1988.

Expect to see this many time in October, and maybe even in early November.

Expect to see this many time in October, and maybe even in early November.

Enjoy Opening Night, Opening Day and Opening Week, everybody.

 

David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at alex.695@hotmail.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. He is a student at the University of New Mexico.