Monday, January 25, 2016

See classic Bruce Springsteen photos in NYC

I recently got to see the opening of an exhibition on famous photos of Bruce Springsteen from his prime creative era. (Most are from the mid to late-1970s, back when he was doing great albums like "Born to Run," "The River," and "Darkness on the Edge of Town." my personal favorite. These  photos are taken by some of the top rock photographers of the era, including Lynn Goldsmith. You can see them for free at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in Manhattan until February 9.

"The Ties That Bind" gallery exhibition opening was co-sponsored by Macari Vineyards. And it was packed! Lots of great Springsteen photos on display. If you go to the exhibition, you'll see the original photos that became the covers for "Darkness" and "The River." 'Here are some of my favorites. Go to Morrison Hotel Gallery's website to see more and read more about it :

"Corvette Winter," Bruce Springsteen, Haddonfield, NJ, 1978
© Frank Stefanko, 1978

Bruce Springsteen, Asbury Park, 1979
© Joel Bernstein, 1979

Fast Food, Bruce Springsteen
© Jim Marchese, 1981


Bruce Springsteen At the writing table in his bedroom, Holmdel, NJ, October 1979
© Joel Bernstein, 1979

Bruce Springsteen
© Joel Bernstein, 1979


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mets finally stop pulling snow job with return of Cespedes

We've been hearing how close the Mets are to overcoming any financial concerns for years now. First it was getting rid of Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez and not re-signing Jose Reyes. A couple of years later, it was the expiring contracts of Johan Santana and Jason Bay. Finally, it was increasing revenue by getting to the postseason.  But while even the Kansas City Royals raised their payroll to $130M, the Mets were content with no major signings and a below-average payroll of 115M.

And then the Mets finally put their money where their mouths have been.

Without Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets would not have made the World Series last year. If you're not going to sign him, you need to find another way to make up the lost offense. Before yesterday, all the Mets had done was reshuffle their infield, and for the outfield, add Alejandro de Aza. 

In 2015, de Aza had seven HR and 35 RBI in 325 at bats while playing for three teams. Cespedes hit 17 HR with 44 RBI in 230 AB after joining the Mets. For the season, he hit 35 HR with 105 RBI and a .291 BA for the Mets and Tigers. That might have been a career year - or it might have been a star player from Cuba reaching his potential in his fourth season in MLB at age 29.  It's worth a three-year deal to find out which one it is.

Kudos to Sandy Alderson and the Mets front office for apparently getting Cespedes to leave a lot of money on the table. Kudos to Mets ownership for finally getting the payroll back towards where it was the last time the team was good. And kudos to local columnists and fans for putting on the pressure to get something done.

Now the Mets have gone from a team in danger of reverting to mediocrity - Fangraphs had just projected them to win 83 games in 2016 - back to a playoff contender. The revamped Cubs still look formidable, but at least the Nationals won't have Cespedes and Daniel Murphy flanking Bryce Harper in their lineup.

On the day of the biggest local blizzard in years, the Mets finally stopped trying to pull their financial snow job.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Mike Piazza and the days when the Mets reached for the stars

Mike Piazza reached the pinnacle of the baseball world this week when was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. On Friday, I had the opportunity to be there when Piazza stood at the pinnacle of New York, on the 86th-floor observation deck of the Empire State Building, talking about what makes the Big Apple so special to him.

Piazza found it "euphoric" to be "back here in New York as a Hall of Famer, the way people just honor you, hearing the 'way to go Mikeys' when you’re walking around. It’s a lot of fun."

He praised the "passion of the fans" in New York, noting that, "as a player, you can choose, it can really be a lot of pressure – some guys don’t respond well to it, or you can use it as a catalyst to get better, and for me it was the latter. I was blessed to do that."

Met fans were blessed that management traded for Piazza during the 1998 season, eventually jump-starting their offense. Then the Mets gave Piazza a big contract after the season even though they already had someone at his position (Todd Hundley). Within two seasons, the Piazza-led Mets were in the World Series.

In 2015, Sandy Alderson made a midseason trade for Yoenis Cespedes, eventually jump-starting their offense. At the end of the season, the Mets were in the World Series. But if Cespedes ends up in the Hall of Fame, it doesn't look as if he'll be wearing a Mets cap.

There may be valid reasons to avoid giving Yoenis Cespedes a long-term deal, but spare me the excuse that the Mets have no room in the corner outfield. Even if Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto perform as hoped, (which is no sure thing given that Granderson turns 35 in March and Conforto has just a few weeks of MLB experience, during which he was primarily a platoon player) Granderson's contract has just two years to run, so the Mets will soon need to fill a void regardless.

I'm glad Alderson is doing better, but I don't want to hear him say that the Mets are spending again because their payroll has gone up $35 million since 2014 when their payroll dropped $50 million just two years before that.

What would the traditionalists say
about using a bat as a selfie stick?
This has been a special year for the Mets - a trip to the World Series and a trip to Cooperstown for a player who considers himself first and foremost a New York Met. Seeing Piazza in person and hearing him praise teammates John Franco and Al Leiter made me nostalgic for 2000, a year I generally try to forget because of how it ended.

I've been a lot more able to appreciate 2015, since the Mets' success was so unexpected and it didn't end with a loss to the Yankees. But it would be nice to experience another world championship at some point, and unless 2016 Mets management starts acting more like the 1998 version, it may be a long time before we see another title - or another Hall of Famer in a Mets cap.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Paul DePodesta would rather work for the Cleveland Browns than the New York Mets

The Jets ripped my heart out yet again Sunday, but at least I could take solace in the fact that I was not a fan of the Cleveland Browns. As ESPN notes, in a little over three years, crazy owner Jimmy Haslam will have had four coaches, four GMs and three team presidents/CEOs. What NFL executive in his or her right mind would want to work in such an environment? Apparently none, since Cleveland's latest hire is none other than the Mets' Paul DePodesta.

At first glance, it seems insane to leave a team that just made the World Series for a team in another sport that last won a title during the early days of Beatlemania. A team whose troubled quarterback reportedly put on a disguise to party in Vegas last weekend when he was supposed to be recovering from a concussion. Maybe DePodesta wants to be the next Theo Epstein, who brought a championship to the title-starved Red Sox and is well on his way to doing it again with the Cubs. Maybe he thought he was going to the Cleveland Cavaliers. More likely, before too long it will be DePodesta who will feel like wearing a disguise.

The last time a prominent member of the Mets organization left the team after a World Series appearance for a surprising destination, Mike Hampton claimed it was because of the school system.  Perhaps DePodesta will claim that he just wants to be closer to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

But what if DePodesta simply decided that the time was right to leave the Mets? That his marketability would never be higher after the 2015 World Series, because that was as far as this franchise was going to go? Maybe DePodesta saw a franchise still unwilling to spend and figured that there was no place for the Mets to go after last season's unexpected success than down. Every article about DePodesta talks about how smart he is, and he knows what is really going on behind the scenes, as opposed to people like me who continue to naively hold out hope that the Mets will upgrade their offense before the 2016 season starts.

In the meantime, let's see who the Mets pick to replace DePodesta. I just hope it's not John Idzik.

****

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance is holding a parallel vote for the Hall of Fame. Here are the players I voted for, in alphabetical order.

Jeff Bagwell
Ken Griffey Jr.
Trevor Hoffman
Edgar Martinez
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Curt Schilling
Alan Trammell

Unlike Squawker Lisa, whose ballot is here, I am not ready to support Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens. While Bonds would have been a Hall of Famer without steroids, it is far less clear with Clemens. At age 33 in 1996, Clemens had come off four straight mediocre years with the Red Sox, who were happy to let him leave. According to Baseball Reference, Clemens was statistically most similar in those years to Dwight Gooden. But while Gooden failed to realize his Hall potential, Clemens went on to four more Cy Young awards and 162 more wins with the help of his, uh, workout regimen.

What I find particularly galling is how many people refer to Bonds and Clemens as among the greatest players of all time. I concede it could be true with Bonds. Let's say he didn't do steroids and ended up with 625 homers instead of 762. Still pretty amazing.  But would a clean Clemens have topped 300 wins, let alone make it to 354?

With all the statistical analysis in baseball, it would be nice to see someone speculate on how Bonds and Clemens would have done without the juice before we start considering them for GOAT.

When I first heard about the Mike Piazza rumors, my reaction was to cover my ears and start yelling out nonsense syllables. Based on everything I've read and heard, I'm a lot more confident in giving the PED label to Bonds and Clemens than I am to Piazza and Jeff Bagwell. But I'm admittedly a biased Met fan.

And even if Clemens eventually gets in, at least let it not be alongside Piazza. Clemens has ruined enough special Piazza moments already.

Mike Mussina was a very good pitcher for many years, but he was never considered close to being the best pitcher in baseball, much less even on his own team. Mussina never won a Cy Young, finishing second once, and never finished higher than 19th in the MVP voting. 

Curt Schilling may have won far fewer games than Mussina did, but he was a more standout performer in his best years, particular in the postseason. Schilling also never won a Cy Young but finished second four times. He had two top-ten MVP finishes and finished 11th and 14th two other times.

Most of all, Schilling was sensational in the postseason, going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and 0.968 WHIP. Schilling was the co-MVP of the 2001 World Series, with a 1.69 ERA and 0.656 WHIP in three starts. In the 2004 ALCS, Schilling and his bloody sock earned one of the most famous postseason wins ever.

I also voted for Alan Trammell, who, according to Jay Jaffe's JAWS analysis is more worthy of the Hall among shortstops than future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter and current Hall of Famer Barry Larkin.

****

Squawker Lisa, I'm glad you resisted temptation when you saw the complete ballot -

Garret Anderson, Brad Ausmus, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Luis Castillo, Roger Clemens, David Eckstein, Jim Edmonds, Nomar Garciaparra, Troy Glaus, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark Grudzielanek, Mike Hampton, Trevor Hoffman, Jason Kendall, Jeff Kent, Mike Lowell, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Lee Smith, Sammy Sosa, Mike Sweeney, Alan Trammell, Billy Wagner, Larry Walker, Randy Winn.

- and did not cast  a vote for Luis Castillo. You could have specified that his Hall plaque be sturdy enough that it would not break if he dropped it.

I'm also glad you did not vote for Billy Wagner, knowing that I would not be able to forgive his 16.88 ERA in the 2006 NLCS. But while Wagner's regular-season numbers are actually worthy of Hall consideration, his overall ERA in 14 postseason games was 10.03.

As for Hampton, at least his induction ceremony would make for a nice Colorado school trip.

Let the arguments begin: Here is my MLB Hall of Fame ballot

Jon and I are proud members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. And each year, the organization votes on their choices for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. While our group's votes don't actually count towards the real HOF, they are nonetheless instructive as to how baseball bloggers' choices compare with the ones from the Baseball Writers of America.

Anyhow, these are the 32 names on this year's ballot: 


Garret Anderson, Brad Ausmus, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Luis Castillo, Roger Clemens, David Eckstein, Jim Edmonds, Nomar Garciaparra, Troy Glaus, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark Grudzielanek, Mike Hampton, Trevor Hoffman, Jason Kendall, Jeff Kent, Mike Lowell, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Lee Smith, Sammy Sosa, Mike Sweeney, Alan Trammell, Billy Wagner, Larry Walker, Randy Winn.

And here are my 10 choices, in no particular order:

Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Ken Griffey Jr.
Curt Schilling
Mike Mussina
Jeff Bagwell
Trevor Hoffman
Mike Piazza
Tim Raines
Edgar Martinez

I have changed my mind on some of these candidates over time, like the BBWAA writers have. (A few years ago, I would not have voted for Mike Piazza or Mike Mussina; now they are on my ballot.) I also can't do like the Murray Chasses of the world and only vote for Ken Griffey Jr., due to the steroid issue. (And what a joke is it that Chass still has a vote, when he hasn't written for a newspaper in eight years, and is now a blogger just like yours truly!)

And yes, I did put Curt Schilling, arguably the greatest Yankee-killer of all time, on the list. So sue me! I also voted for Bonds and Clemens. You can't have a real HOF without them.

I debated whether or not to include Mark McGwire, but left him out. If the ballot had 12 spots, though, I would have included him.

Anyhow, these are my choices. Who are yours? Comment below!


Sunday, December 27, 2015

If you want to be uplifted, entertained, and inspired, go see 'Creed'!

Hope our readers are having a great holiday season so far. I will write my thoughts on the state of the Yankees soon (spoiler alert: they're not positive!) But in the meantime, I wanted to talk about a really great movie I saw last night. I went to see Creed. It was fantastic, and I say this as a longtime Rocky fan (click here to read my recent review of Rocky, when I watched it again to see if it still held up.) Anyhow, here are my thoughts on the movie. Warning: there are some mild spoilers, equivalent to what you might read in a typical movie review.

Basic story is this: Apollo Creed (who was killed in the ring in Rocky IV)  had an illegitimate son, Adonis, born after his death. The kid grows up in group homes and keeps on getting into trouble. When he's about 12 or so, Creed's widow, Mary Anne, gets him out of juvie hall and gets him into the lap of luxury. He then finds out for the first time who his father was. Adonis, nicknamed Donnie, grows up, gets a job in finance, and seems to have a great life. But he wants to box like his father. Long story short, he quits his job, goes to Philadelphia, and seeks out Rocky Balboa to train him. He also gets a girlfriend, who has problems of her own. Donnie ends up getting a big boxing challenge.

Anyhow, what I want to talk about is the real theme of the movie -- overcoming adversity, being the best person you can be, and getting support from others to do that. And to do it one step, one punch, one round at a time. The three main characters -- Donnie, Rocky, and Bianca -- all have problems that need to be resolved. They're flesh and blood characters who you can't help but root for.

Some of the best scenes in the movie involve Rocky training Donnie, which harkens back to Mickey and Rocky in the original movie.  Seeing Donnie running made me want to get out and do some training of my own after the film! (When I ran four miles this morning, I couldn't help but think of scenes from the movie.)

It's nice to see an inspiring film that has people with relatable problems. What's also cool about the movie is that it has its own twist to the Rocky tale without being a rote imitation. Anyhow, go see Creed.  It really motivated me this weekend!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

What happens when this "Star Wars" non-fan finally watches the movie again? Read on!

I recently watched the original Star Wars movie for the first time since I saw it back in the day. This was a big deal for me, because I am one of the few people in America who has been very meh, as the kids say these days, about Star Wars. So what made me do this? Because of fantasy football. Let me explain.

I wrote this October on Facebook about how I didn't care about Star Wars: The Force Awakens:
"Shocker: I'm one of the few people who has zero interest in the new Star Wars movie. Does that make me un-American?"
Lots and lots of my Facebook friends were stunned and dismayed by my admission. It was as if I said, "I like to eat babies for breakfast. Deal with it!"

Now, I had seen the first three Star Wars movies when I was a kid (I think it was a requirement if you grew up in the 1970s and 80s, along with reading Dynamite magazine and knowing what the words are to "Conjunction Junction.")  I found the movies okay. Never felt the need to see them again, as I noted in that Facebook thread, and they were never like The Godfather or Goodfellas to me. Also, I argued that there was way too much hype about the Star Wars flicks, given that only two or three out of the six installments are considered good.

I didn't even get into how the Star Wars fanatics in the world kind of scare me. Wearing clothing of characters they like? Playing with toys related to the film? Indoctrinating their children into their creepy cult? Watching certain parts over and over? Lining up for tickets? Too weird. Oh, wait, aren't many sports fans guilty of all of those things?

Now, some FB friends did agree with my assessment of the movies, but most of the responses I received were negative. Very negative. My running club compadre and fellow blogger Josh Pesin was particularly peeved, and wrote this impassioned response to my negative comments:
"George Lucas based the whole Star Wars universe on Greek mythological archetypes using the writings of mythology expert Joseph Campbell. There are deep Oedipal and psychological meanings throughout the films that reflect the weaknesses of the human condition. Unrequited love, a thirst for power, innocence lost, and betrayal are just some of the themes of human frailties dealt with throughout the films. And Lucas created a distant future full of dystopian imagery where robots are banged up, dirtied and worn, aliens are tired of working their 9-5 jobs, and humans still have trouble making ends meet where their crops on farms of far-away planets are just not growing. While the cinematographic images, costumes, score, special effects, and fantastical aliens and creatures all add to an amazing visceral experience throughout all the films, critics who only judge Star Wars from this superficial level are missing the point. Star Wars deep down is a film series that focuses primarily on the nuances, challenges and realities of the human condition."
Then he delivered the kicker. "I would never say I had zero interest in any of your passions. There would be no point in me stating that." Ouch!

That particular comment made me feel extremely guilty. And I wondered how I could make amends.

Josh is able to leap tall buildings in
a single bound. But setting a fantasy
football lineup? Fuhgeddaboudit!
You see, as I mentioned earlier in this blog, I roped Josh into joining our running club's first-ever fantasy football league because we needed ten players, and only had nine. (His team's name? The 10th Guy.) I initially thought he would have football knowledge because he is a real badass, as you can see from this picture. Josh does Spartan Races and marathons (including running the NYC Marathon six times!) and adventure races and road races and polar bear plunges and mountain biking and all sorts of manly stuff.

But that's the thing. He is a sports participant, not a spectator. He likes to play football, not watch it. Let alone pay attention to the intricacies of fantasy football.

Even though I helped Josh every week with his team, fantasy football just wasn't his thing. As he put it to me a few weeks ago: "Me doing this 15-week fantasy football is like you following Star Wars for 15 weeks and being expected to maintain and know your Star Wars characters every week."

Here Josh exclusively re-enacts for Subway
Squawkers his facial expression
when hearing me explain

how NFL bye weeks work.
Ouch again! Josh was totally right in his comparison, and I felt terrible. Here he did me a solid in agreeing to be in my fantasy football league, something that was important to me, and how did I repay him? By dissing a movie that was important to him. What a heel I was. Why didn't I try to learn about his interests, given that he spent a whole season trying to learn about mine?

So I knew what I had to do. And that was watch the original Star Wars again. Maybe he and the many millions of people who love the franchise were right, and I was (gulp!) wrong. At the very least, I could sit through this for two hours, considering Josh sat through a whole season of fantasy football.

Last weekend, I took the plunge on watching Episode IV: A New Hope. The first 15 minutes were slow going; Carrie Fisher's weird accent, dumb hairstyle, and tacky makeup job grated on my last nerve. So did C3PO's manner of speaking. (Why in a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, do they speak in a plummy faux-British accent? Annoying!) I did like the way Tattooine looked, but that was about it.

I really wanted to quit watching at this point, but I decided to plow through it the way I plowed through the Staten Island Half-Marathon with a hip and leg injury. So I gritted my teeth and kept on watching.

And then a strange thing happened. I found myself entertained by the movie. Luke Skywalker doesn't show up until 17 minutes into the movie, but when he did, things started getting interesting, even if he was a little whiny. Alec Guinness was a great actor, so it was fun to see him as Obi-Wan Kenobi. I liked seeing the stormtroopers on the giant lizards. Then the road trip begins with Luke, Obi-Wan, and the droids, and I'm always a sucker for a good road trip.

By the time the cantina scene started, I thought "Hey, this isn't so bad." And then the best part of the movie showed up: Harrison Ford as Han Solo! Oh, my. I thought he was so handsome and dashing in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but I never thought of his Star Wars character that way; that could be because I was still four years away from puberty when Star Wars debuted. Anyhow, his appearance in the film, 47 minutes in, made the whole movie for me. Han Solo was just such a great character; one of the original lovable rogues, before that became a cliche.

I also liked the camaraderie with him, Chewbacca, Luke, and Leia. Especially the banter with Leia. And the way Han Solo decided to do something selfless to help the rebels. The ending awards scene reminded me of The Wizard of Oz, and when the movie was finished, I thought, "Hey, this was pretty good entertainment!"

Is Star Wars going to make my all-time favorite movies list? The answer is still no. But I did enjoy watching the movie, and I...was..wrong in my earlier assessment, as much as that pains me to say! I was initially going to just write my review of the film for Josh, but he talked me into writing a blog entry on this. Even thought it would mean I would have to publicly admit that I was wrong about something. "People like honesty and those who keep things real," he said. So even though Squawker Jon thinks this whole blog entry is an all-star effort in navel-gazing, I figured I had to write this up. Who knows? Maybe I'll even go to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But I'm not wearing a costume!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Remembering Frank Sinatra at 100, and why "New York, New York" doesn't make my Sinatra Top 5

So today is the 100th birthday of Francis Albert Sinatra, my favorite singer of all time. He was a great vocalist, and a pretty good actor, too (check out The Manchurian Candidate to see one example of what I'm talking about.)  Part of me wishes I were alive in the era of Sinatra's prime. You know, back when they called women "dames." Heck, I would have made a great sassy dame back in the day! (Squawker Jon just chimed in to say that I am a sassy dame right now! He wouldn't say "great," though. Heh.)

Anyhow, what I like about Sinatra, besides his voice, is that he hit rock bottom, and then had arguably the greatest comeback in show business history. Such an epic comeback, only a horse's head in a bed would seem to explain it. Although that Godfather story didn't really happen, we don't know how much Sinatra's, um, connections, played in him getting the Oscar-winning role as Maggio in From Here to Eternity. Heck of the movie, by the way – watching it will put what you thought your parents' or grandparents' generation was about in a whole new light! (For one thing, Donna Reed, George Bailey's wife Mary in It's a Wonderful Life, is a prostitute in this film. But I digress.)

Anyhow, Sinatra didn't live a golden life. He had emotional scars. He had lots of downs, and romantic misery, and the like. He spent sleepless nights longing over lost loves, most notably Ava Gardner. All of this gave an edge to his singing, and is much of the reason his legend endures.

The way Sinatra didn't just sing but live his songs is part of the reason I still listen to him so often. I dig Sinatra's musing amid misery. Sorry, but I just can't relate to people who have lived perfect, easy lives. Give me the Sinatras or A-Rods of the world over the Jeters of the world any day. I want to read and learn about the people who've made mistakes, and lived to tell the tale. Speaking of which, I just started reading Ben Bradlee Jr.'s biography of Ted Williams, a very flawed (well, he was a Boston Red Sox!) but interesting individual. Good book so far!

I also have to admit finding it amusing to read recently about how Sinatra detested "My Way," finding its egomaniacal lyrics way too much. As the Wall Street Journal explained his thinking, "It would have seemed like the tackiest thing imaginable to stand in the middle of Madison Square Garden and shout out to the world how great he was." Somebody ought to have reminded team player Jeter about that, when he had that infamous Nike "My Way" commercial as part of his endless retirement tour!

Anyhow, I am such a Sinatra fan, I even liked one of the songs Frank's kids did. His daughter Nancy's "These Boots Are Made for Walking" is my top go-to karaoke song, because her lack of vocal range matches mine. Plus she's good friends with Morrissey, one of my heroes.

So, in honor of Frank Sinatra's b-day, I'm going to list my five favorite Sinatra songs, in reverse order, from 5 to 1. And no, "New York, New York" does not make this current list. It's a little overplayed at this point for me! Sorry.

5. "The Lady Is a Tramp": I still don't know what the heck the lyrics in this song mean. Why is the lady a tramp because she doesn't show up late to the theater, and because she won't dish the dirt with the rest of the girls? Even if it's meant facetiously, it still doesn't make much sense to me. Nonetheless, I still love this song!

4. "It Had to Be You": One of my favorite movies of all time is When Harry Met Sally. And Sinatra's version of this song highlights the most pivotal scene in the film. One of the movie scenes where I can recite every word of dialogue, for whatever that's worth! Harry Connick, Jr. also sings the song in the film, which is an okay song. But Sinatra's version kills.

3. "Luck Be a Lady Tonight": Longtime Subway Squawkers readers may know that Guys and Dolls is one of my favorite musicals ever. I know all the songs by heart. I am also a big believer in "yeah, chemistry," as Marlon Brando's Sky Masterson puts it in the film. But as sexy as Brando was in that role, he couldn't sing a lick. Sinatra, who plays Nathan Detroit in the film, was peeved he didn't get the part, which has the best songs, with "Luck Be a Lady Tonight." Looking back on it, Sinatra sang the heck out that song on his own, years later. But Brando sold it with his looks and charisma. Click the links and see for yourself.

2. "The Way You Look Tonight": Some of the best lyrics of any Sinatra song. Phrases like "keep that breathless charm" and "that laugh that wrinkles your nose, it touches my foolish heart" are so memorable. What woman wouldn't want a man to sing this song about her? A classic. Even the instrumental part of this song is terrific.

1. "I've Got You Under My Skin":  Many people consider this Sinatra's greatest song. So do I. The great Nelson Riddle worked with Sinatra on the arrangement of this song, but the instrumental crescendo in the middle of "I've Got You Under My Skin" was Sinatra's idea.  Someday, I will dance with someone to that part of the song; it's just so perfect! I also loved this Vanity Fair description of Sinatra regarding this song, which talks about his "terrible impatience—with the incompetence and stupidity that were so rife in the world, with things he needed to happen instantaneously, and so rarely did. The realization that he was like nobody else, and therefore destined to be alone. His terrors: of aloneness itself; of sleep, the cousin to death. And always, always, the vast and ravening appetites." That sums up Sinatra in a nutshell.

* * *

Honorable mention: "That's Life," "Fly Me to the Moon," "Summer Wind," "I'll Be Seeing You," "All or Nothing at All," and "It Was a Very Good Year." In closing, check out Sinatra, with Count Basie, performing "Fly Me to the Moon" to some prisoners. Good stuff!


Do you have a favorite Frank Sinatra song? Tell us about it!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Ben Zobrist, Michael Cuddyer and the phony big move

The Mets failed to get their top target, Ben Zobrist, and I'm almost relieved. Four years and $56 million seems a lot for a player who turns 35 next May whose days of double-digit homers and stolen bases are in the past. Getting Neil Walker for one year until Dilson Herrera is ready while shedding Jon Niese's salary is a better plan, since the Mets are now in better position to add the big bat they still need.

The big bat that nobody expects them to get.

I have to wonder if part of the Mets' interest in Zobrist was to attempt to refute the notion that they are unwilling to spend money to improve the team. Look, we signed a big free agent that lots of teams wanted! Zobrist is a good player, but he's more of a complementary piece than a game-changer. And $56 million is practically chump change in this free agent market - the top players available could end up getting four times as much.

Last year, the Mets raced to lock up free agent Michael Cuddyer. It looked like a dubious move at the time - Cuddyer was turning 36 and injuries had limited him to 49 games the previous year. After preaching prospects for several years, the Mets surrendered their top draft pick to sign Cuddyer.  But for $21 million, they could say they signed a free agent, even if his entire contract was less than a superstar makes in a year.

At best, Cuddyer could have been a starting point to a productive offseason, but the Mets' only other offseason signing was, wait for it, John Mayberry Jr.  I wish Sandy Alderson a speedy recovery and appreciate the fact that he delivered a pennant last year, but all of the praise he got for his midseason moves should not obscure the fact that the offense was in such bad shape last July because of the moves Alderson did not make the previous offseason.

So far, this offseason is going better than the last one. Adding Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera shores up the infield, while Niese was ticketed for the bullpen once Zack Wheeler returns. If the Mets re-sign Bartolo Colon, all that would be left to worry about would be another reliever and a big bat.

But until I see otherwise, it's hard not to wonder if this will be another wait-and-see-how-the-Mets are doing before opening the pursestrings at the trading deadline when you only have to pay for two months of the next Yoenis Cespedes and Tyler Clippard.

Cespedes has his issues, and I'm not saying he's worth any price. And the money being talked about for Jason Heyward is money you give a superstar, not a very good player who is not yet a superstar. But the Mets' offense was the worst in the league before they got Cespedes. Michael Conforto's first full season is unlikely to make up for the loss of Cespedes. A full year of David Wright at his peak would go a long way, but Wright is well past his peak and injury-prone. A full year of Travis d'Arnaud would be great, but d'Arnaud is very injury-prone as well. 

The Mets have been pushing 2016 season tickets since before last season ended. How would they feel if fans waited to spend money on the team until July 31 to see if they were in contention?

***

Update - just saw that the Cubs signed Heyward. So the Cubs have now added Zobrist, Heyward and John Lackey to a team that won 97 games last year and has young hitting talent to match the Mets' young pitching. It must be nice to root for a big-market team. 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

About Brian Cashman's lack of regrets on his moronic decisions, including passing on David Price

Some more thoughts on the Yankees letting David Price go to the Red Sox. Yesterday I read a story about how Brian Cashman's injury after jumping out of an airplane was even worse than we knew at the time. Turns out he broke his foot and had to get multiple surgeries on it. What's more, his body still shows the evidence of the mishap. "I've got a plate with 8 screws in my right ankle," he told the Boston Globe. "Do I regret it? No, it was wild."

What is he, 14? It was wild? Good grief. There's Cashman's mindset in a nutshell. I don't understand that bravado, especially given his job.

I am sidelined right now from running due to bursitis in my right hip and tendinitis in my right hamstring. I got hurt during the Staten Island Half-Marathon on October 11, and the pain got worse and worse over the next few weeks until I saw a sports medicine physician in early November and got a diagnosis. I have multiple regrets about my first real running injury. I regret not going to a doctor earlier. I regret continuing to run with the pain. I regret not doing weight training -- I found out after the fact that this was a big factor in why I got hurt in the first place.

You know, having regrets isn't necessarily bad. Maybe, oh I don't know, sometimes people learn from their mistakes? But given that Cashman bragged this summer about riding a bicycle around New York City without a helmet, it doesn't seem like he ever does. Or he learns the wrong lessons, like passing on David Price because he made the mistake of giving CC Sabathia the ability to opt out and shake down the Yankees for more money. (An aside: I have running club friends who mountain bike and do triathlons and all sorts of badass things. And guess what? They all wear protective gear, including helmets, when doing so. Guess they're just not as tough as Cashman.)

At any rate, after seeing the Yankees pass on the best free agent in the market, I have to wonder, do Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner have a coherent plan? Or is it like Cashman recklessly jumping out of the airplane and breaking his ankle -- they just do whatever and hope for the best? This team is another year older. The chances that A-Rod and Tex have the seasons they did last year are slim. And if Tanaka is the closest this team will have to an ace, they're in real trouble.

I can understand not trading for Price. But not signing him as a free agent, especially when it wouldn't cost a draft pick, is lunacy. Sorry, fellow Yankee fans, but there's no way to spin this decision as a good day for the Bombers.