Thursday, May 27, 2010

On Rookie of the Year

One of my favorite baseball movies as a kid was Rookie of the Year. I was never a Sand Lot kid, nor even a Little Giants man. Frankly, with how ardently my father and grandfather routed for the Mets and Yankees respectively, I grew up firmly believing that sports were, generally speaking, pretty dumb. (This was probably exacerbated by how bad I was at them, although I was vindicated years later after proving to have been going slowly but outrageously nearsighted. Suck it, right field.)

Anyway, somehow I still found one baseball movie I enjoyed. I never got the draw of Angels in the Outfield, in part because the dad was a deadbeat loser and in part because I loved Back to the Future and didn't like mixing Christopher Lloyd movies. But Rookie had a draw to it I could get behind. It was a sports movie about a kid, my age, who sucked at the sport he played. Granted, he enjoyed baseball, but the similarities couldn't run too far beyond unathletic, nasal Jewish boys with single mothers. He's the absolute worst player on his team, but one fractured and mis-healed clavicle later and he's playing for Dan Hedaya and the Chicago Cubs.

But something always bugged me and no, it was not any scene involving Gary Busey.

No, what really, fundamentally bothered me was the very last scene of the movie. Having re-injured his arm, protagonist Henry Rowangartner fakes out a runner on first for a second out and takes down the Mets' heavy hitter with "the floater," a questionably legal pitch once thrown by his mother. Thus the Cubs defeat the Mets, though they have lost both their best pitchers in the process.

Cut scene to a Little League field some months later as Henry makes the game-winning out back in his old right field, now a respectably decent young player coached by Gary Busey's Chet "The Rocket" Stedman, who just happens to now be dating Henry's mother since she beat up her sniveling douchebag ex.

Now look at this:

That's the very last image that appears on the screen.
You see that ring? That's a World Series ring. It says "WORLD SERIES" on it.

Now this is what I never grasped until recently: in the film, they're playing the Division series.The Mets and the Cubs are both in the same division. The Cubs' manager even tells Stedman (unaware of his freshly destroyed rotator cuff), "I'm saving you for the playoffs!"

I never understood why they were so happy at the end of the movie. They won, sure, but they had an even more important series coming up. One which they would have to play without either of their starting pitchers. Yes, the whole team was reinvigorated by the winning streak, but let's be realistic. The only reason the Cubs were doing so well was because of offensive pitching. Hitting and defensive play held their own, but the whole point was that Henry was pitching ridiculously well.

So apparently between the climax and the denouement we are expected to believe that the Chicago Cubs, without their two best players, went on to defeat four times the American League champions, which statistically has better than a one-in-four chance of being the Yankees. Any New Yorker will tell you that comparing the Mets to the Yankees is possibly the largest discrepancy in both talent and luck of any two teams in major league baseball. Are we really expected to believe that this fictitious version of the Cubs which could barely beat the Mets, sans their top men could defeat the juggernaut that is the New York Yankees?


Or are we just to believe that Gary Busey, likely through high kicks and quoting old Western movies, somehow prevented the continuity guy from making sure the prop department got a Division Series ring?

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