Friday, May 27, 2011

Canon Movie Review: Patriot Games

Here is a look at a movie based off of a book, and also a movie in a series in which a new actor has taken the part of the lead character, the 1992 film Patriot Games. Based off of the novel by Tom Clancy, Patriot Games was directed by Phillip Noyce (Salt, The Saint, Clear and Present Danger) and stars Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan. As many of you are surely aware of, Jack Ryan was played by Alec Baldwin in Hunt for Red October, but because negotiations broke down between Paramount Studios and Baldwin, Ford was tapped as Baldwin's replacement, which was an interesting choice because Ford is 16 years older than Baldwin. Patriot Games also stars Anne Archer, James Earl Jones, Sean Bean, Patrick Bergan, Thora Birch, and Samuel L. Jackson. In Patriot Games, Ryan, a former CIA Agent, thwarts an assassination attempt by an IRA splinter group while vacationing in London. Ryan returns back home, but quickly discovers that he and his family are in danger, as the group wants revenge on Ryan. So Ryan must go back to the CIA to not only find out more about his pursuers, but to save his family as well. A few notes about the movie:

- This movie caused quite a bit of controversy when it came out. For one, Tom Clancy felt that the movie's script was so much different from his book that he distanced himself from the movie. He probably had good reason, considering the movie's ending was totally different from the book and the target of the terrorists went from the King and Queen of Wales to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Also, a lot of people were not too fond of the movie's portrayal of the IRA (a.k.a. The Provisional Irish Republican Army) as a group of loose cannons that travel to America and target an innocent woman and her daughter for vengeance's sake. Personally, I don't know enough about all that to form an opinion on it, but a writer for The Variety felt that the film was 'anti-Irish', which ticked Paramount off to the point that they briefly pulled all their advertising from that publication.  

- As Jack Ryan, Harrison Ford does Harrison Ford things in a Harrison Ford manner. He plays it cool 95 percent of the time, then he starts yelling and running around like a madman when he or his family are in peril. Sure, it's not a bad performance, but it's basically the same type of character he played in The Fugitive and Air Force One, a man that gets thrown into a challenging situation and has a thirst for revenge. The only difference is that in those movies, he added a little more emotion and drama to the proceedings, while in Patriot Games, there were times that looked as if he was just going through the motions.

- Jack Ryan was not the only character to undergo a change of actors, as Anne Archer stepped in for Gates McFadden in Patriot Games. As Catherine Ryan, Archer's performance is much like the film itself, solid overall, but nothing that particularly stands out. I will say that Ford and Archer did have good chemistry when they were on screen together. Thora Birch plays the daughter of the couple, and does a commendable job in a challenging role. In fact, if it wasn't for Richard Harris's performance as IRA head Paddy O'Brien, I'd say that Birch was the best actor in this film.

- Despite all the fancy trappings this film offers, such as filming inside the CIA offices and all that, this basically is a story of revenge. After Ryan kills his brother, Sean Miller (Sean Bean) is broken out of prison and has only one thing in mind, to avenge his brother's death. After Miller and his friends put his wife and daughter in the hospital, Ryan drops everything, takes a leave from his job and rejoins the CIA, basically browbeating the head of the CIA in the process. While Ryan is sometimes cool and calm, and other times driven to anger, Miller is a hothead of the nth degree, and seems to be in a seething rage for the whole film. As Miller, Bean is a convincing bad guy, not making his character too over the top to be believable and proving to be a worthy villian in this film.

- As I mentioned before, the CIA opened up its headquarters and allowed filming to take place there, which was the first time the CIA ever did anything like that. I honestly don't know why they bothered, as other than a few scenes of people sitting around in an office and a viewing of an attack on a North African terrorist camp, the CIA setting was hardly utilized at all. Heck, they spent as much time at the hospital than the CIA building. Seems like a waste of money to me, but to each their own.

- As the director, Philip Noyce does well enough, I suppose. The action shots in this film were well-done and provided quite a bit of suspense. Basically, Noyce did enough to make this film work and lets the actors and scenes speak for themselves. James Horner provides a good and fitting score based largely off of Irish music, and cinematographer Donald McAlpine does a solid job as well.

Overall, Patriot Games is the type of film that is solid on most levels and keeps the viewer interested throughout, but ultimately isn't very memorable or remarkable. The acting is good, but the characters are mostly one-dimensional. The plot moves quickly, but it does have a few holes (such as, why does a splinter group of the IRA seem to have such a large overhead?). This movie was made to be a distraction for viewers for two hours, and serves its purpose, providing some suspense and an ending that is safe and predictable. Overall, I'd give Patriot Games a 5.9 out of 10, as its a decent film, but not great. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this film, than feel free to express them by leaving a comment. Also, if you have an idea for a future review, than share those ideas by sending me an e-mail at

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Worst MLB Draft Picks 1990-1999

What do Chipper Jones, Alex Rodriguez, Roy Halladay, and Derek Jeter have in common? Well, for one thing, they won't be found on this list. Instead, in the second of a three part series, here is a look at the worst draft picks from each year of the 1990s in the MLB Player Entry Draft. Once upon a time, these players were looked upon as future stars, but things didn't exactly work out for them or otherwise, they wouldn't be on a list chronicling the worst draft picks of the 1990s.

1990: Kurt Miller, Pitcher, Pittsburgh Pirates, 5th Pick

Miller was all of 17 years old when the Pirates made him their first choice in the 1990 draft. Although Miller pitched well in the Pirates organization, the team traded him for Steve Buechele during the 1991 season. After Miller struggled some in Double-A, the Rangers traded him along with Robb Nen to the Florida Marlins for middle reliever Cris Carpenter. While Nen soon became a star closer for the Marlins, Miller failed to find his footing despite the expansion Marlins being desperate for pitching. Over the course of 1994-1997, Miller pitched 73 2/3 innings and compiled an ERA of 7.45. Still only 25, the Cubs traded for Miller, and Kurt was solid for AAA Iowa in 1998 (14-3, 3.81 ERA). In 1999, Miller suffered a ribcage injury and pitched only 20 2/3 innings between Iowa and the Cubs, and the Cubs released him after the season. Miller finished his career in Japan, and by 2001 he was out of baseball.

1991: Brien Taylor, Pitcher, New York Yankees, 1st Pick

Coming out of Beaufort, NC, Taylor was the most hyped pitching prospect since Dwight Gooden. The Yankees picked him first overall, and gave Taylor a then record 1.55 million dollar signing bonus. The next year, Baseball America named Taylor the number one prospect in baseball, and in 1993, they named Taylor the number two prospect. After a season in Double-A where the then 21 year old Taylor had a 3.48 ERA and 8.3 K/9, Taylor went back home to Beaufort. But an offseason fight resulted in a torn shoulder for Taylor, and he missed the entire 1994 season. When Taylor came back, his velocity was down and his once stellar control was gone. Over the next four season between rookie ball and single-A ball, Taylor pitched 108 2/3 innings, and walked 175 batters, an average of  14.5 per 9 innings. Taylor attempted a comeback with the Cleveland Indians organization, but by 2000 Taylor was out of the game, becoming only the second number one overall pick (Steve Chilcott being the other) to retire without playing in a MLB game.

1992: B.J. Wallace, Pitcher, Montreal Expos, 3rd Pick

Selected three picks ahead of Derek Jeter, Wallace was largely thought to be a 'signability' pick by the budget-conscious Expos. That's not to say that Wallace was without talent though, as he had pitched in the Olympics for Team USA and set the Mississippi State record for strikeouts in a career. Wallace started his career in single-A in 1993, and did quite well (11-8, 3.28 ERA, 8.3 K/9). In 1994, the injury bug caught up to Wallace, and he had to have surgery to repair his damaged shoulder. The Phillies picked him up in 1995, but Wallace's once strong fastball was gone, and Wallace lasted only one season in the Phillies organization before retiring in 1995, about the same time that Jeter began his Hall of Fame career with the Yankees.

1993: Jeff Granger, Pitcher, Kansas City Royals, 5th Pick 

Granger, like the men listed above him, is further proof of the old sabermetric axiom TINSTAAPP, a.k.a. There is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect. Granger, not only a pitcher but also a quarterback at Texas A&M, was thought of so highly by the Royals that he was pitching in the majors by the end of his first professional season. Of course, that might be part of the reason why Granger didn't succeed in the majors. Granger spent the next two seasons in double-A, with two cameo starts for the Royals in 1994. He pitched decently in those seasons (4.72 ERA, but also 7.5 K/9 with decent control), but the Royals decided to switch him to relief in 1996. The move seemed to pay off, as Granger had a 2.34 ERA in 77 innings at Triple-A, but when Granger got the call, he struggled again (6.75 ERA). Granger was traded to the Pirates in 1997, and in typical Pirates fashion, they had no idea what to do with him, alternating between making Granger a starter and a reliever. Predictably, Granger struggled (6.26 ERA in 87 2/3 innings between Pittsburgh and Triple-A Calgary), and the Pirates gave up on Granger after the season. Granger pitched for four different organizations over the next three years, but never regained the form that once made him one of the top prospects in baseball.

1994: Antone Williamson, 3rd Base, Milwaukee Brewers, 4th Pick

Finally, a position player.Williamson was an All-American from Arizona State whom the Brewers felt would excel for them for many years to come as a high-average, power hitting third baseman. Williamson could hit minor-league pitching right away, although he didn't display the power the Brewers had hoped for. To make matters worse, Williamson struggled at the hot corner, making 29 errors in only 76 games for Double-A El Paso in 1995, putting up a horrible .862 fielding percentage. Nevertheless, he was promoted to Triple-A the next year, and had to undergo surgery after hurting his shoulder. Williamson got a brief cup of coffee in 1997 after hitting .286/.389/.434 in AAA that year, but it was clear by 1998 that the Brewers lost all confidence in him, and after hitting .204 in AAA in 1998, the Brewers sent him back down to double A. Williamson finished his career playing for Greenville in the independent Texas-Louisiana league, and after hitting .226, he was gone, with a mere 60 at bats and 11 hits in his brief big league career.

1995: Ben Davis, Catcher, San Diego Pardres, 2nd Pick

Instead of choosing Kerry Wood or Todd Helton, the Padres selected Davis, a high schooler from Malvern, PA, as their top pick in the 1995 draft. Davis started the next year in a high A-ball league, and hit .201/.264/.286 in 98 games. However, Davis did recover, and worked his way to the big leagues by 1998. In 1999, Davis served as a backup for the Padres and hit .244/.307/.361 in 77 games that year. By 2001, Davis had won the starting role, but after a season where he hit .239/.337/.357, the Padres decided to go in another direction and traded Davis to the Mariners. In Seattle, Davis failed to snatch the starting catching job away from Dan Wilson, and after a 2 and a half year stint where he hit .237/.289/.383, Davis was once again traded, this time to the White Sox. Davis played 54 games for the Sox, then bounced around baseball over the next few years, even becoming a pitcher in the Independent leagues. Earlier this year, Davis retired, and is now a post game analyst on Philadelphia Phillies TV broadcasts.

1996: Seth Greisinger, Pitcher, Detroit Tigers, 6th Pick

Greisinger was an All-American at the University of Virginia and was supposed to be a part of a young Tigers rotation that included Justin Thompson, Matt Drews, and Mike Drumright, among others. Well, that didn't exactly work out for the Tigers. Greisinger was rather awful in his debut at double-A Jacksonville in 1997 (5.20 ERA), but made the jump to Triple-A in 1998 anyway. After a strong start at AAA (2.92 ERA), Greisinger came up to the big leagues in 1998, and started 21 games for the Tigers, with mixed results (6-9, 5.10 ERA). Like so many pitching prospects before him, Greisinger's elbow gave out on him, and he missed nearly three whole seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery. When he came back in 2002, Greisinger struggled in eight starts with the Tigers, posting a 6.21 ERA that was unacceptable even for the low standards the Tigers had at the time. After spending the entire 2003 season in Toledo, where he pitched decently (3.97 ERA), the Tigers gave up on him. Greisinger bounced around the Twins' and Braves' organizations before winding up in Japan, where I believe he still pitches today for the Yomuri Giants.

1997: Matt Anderson, Pitcher, Detroit Tigers, 1st Pick

An All-American at Rice University with a fastball that often topped 100 mph, the Tigers made Anderson the first selection in the 1997 Draft with the hopes that he would become their closer in the near future. Anderson shot threw three levels in 1998, and ended up pitching 42 games for the Tigers that year with a solid 3.27 ERA, striking out a batter an inning. However, Anderson, like many other fireballers before him, struggled with his control, and was inconsistent over the next two years. In 2001, Anderson was the Tigers closer with mixed results, although his 22 saves and his downturn in walks (from 8.3/9 in 1999 to 2.9/9 in 2001) was enough for the Tigers to sign him to a contract extension through the 2004 season. In an unfortunate turn of events, Anderson hurt a muscle in the armpit of his throwing arm, and he lost about 10 mph on his fastball. After three years of struggling in both Detroit and Triple-A Toledo, Anderson went through three organizations over the next four years before retiring in 2008. Anderson attempted a comeback with the Phillies this year, but was waived at the end of spring training.

1998: Jeff Austin, Pitcher, Kansas City Royals, 4th Pick

The second college pitcher picked by the Royals named Jeff featured here, Austin came out of Stanford University and was supposed to solidify the Royals rotation for years to come, because Lord knows nobody else was around this time. Austin held out before finally signing just before Spring Training opened the next year, and he started his pro career in high-A Wilmington. By 2000, Austin reached Triple-A, but in two years at Omaha, he didn't do so hot (5.34). But since the Royals didn't have much other options, Austin got his shot in the big leagues. After a 5.37 ERA in 35 innings over two years, the Royals traded him to the Reds. For some reason, Austin started seven games for the Reds in 2003, and he was just awful, with an 8.58 ERA and 21 walks in 28 1/3 innings. Somehow, he won two games for the Reds that year. By 1005, the Reds had had enough, releasing Austin, and after a stint with the Long Island Ducks in the independent leagues, Austin was done as a pitcher.

1999: Eric Munson, Catcher, Detroit Tigers, 3rd Pick

The third Tigers pick in four years to be featured on this list, Munson was a power hitting catcher from USC. The Tigers quickly decided that Munson didn't have the defensive ability to catch in the big leagues and moved him to first base. While Munson was a prodigious slugger in the minors (26 HRs in AA in 2001, 24 in AAA in 2002) he never hit with enough consistency at the big league level. In 2003, the Tigers had the bright idea to make Munson a third baseman, and not only did he hit below average (.240/.312/.441), he was terrible on the field, making 19 errors in 91 games and compiling a .920 fielding percentage. In 2004, the Tigers tried the same experiment, probably because of a lack of options, and Munson neither hit (.212/.289/.445) nor fielded (16 errors in 94 games) well enough to be a major league level third baseman. Munson was released by the Tigers after the 2004 season, and has played in five different organizations since then. Today, Munson is playing for the Bridgeport Bluefish in the independent Atlantic League. For his major league career, Munson hit .214 with 49 home runs in just over 1,000 at bats.

Well, thanks for reading. If you have any thoughts about this list, than feel free to leave a comment. Also, if you have any ideas for future posts on this blog, then send them over to me at

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A look back at the 1960 World Series

Here's a review that came from an idea by Canon Review reader Dickson S., and is a little different from normal Canon Review fare, as we take a look back at one of the wildest World Series of all time, the 1960 Fall Classic between the New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Even though the Yankees outscored the Pirates by a score of 55-27 and hit .338 as a team, they still lost the World Series in seven games thanks to one of the most dramatic home runs in baseball history. Yes, my friends, it was quite a series.

At the time, the New York Yankees were in the midst of an incredible 16 year run (1949-1964) where they won fourteen pennants in those sixteen years. After failing to make the World Series in 1959, manager Casey Stengel and his team fought their way back to familiar territory, winning the pennant by eight games over the Baltimore Orioles with a 97-57 record.  Although the Yankees ended up running away with the pennant, it wasn't that simple, as they were tied with the Orioles on the date of September 14, and faced a four game series in New York against the Orioles. The Yankees swept the Orioles in that series, and proceeded to win every game from that point, finishing the 1960 season on a fifteen game winning streak. The Yankees that year led the AL in runs scored, home runs, and ERA. Offensively, they were led by the legendary CF Mickey Mantle (.275/.399/.588, a league leading 40 home runs and 119 runs scored, along with a 164 OPS+) and the 1960 A.L. MVP, RF Roger Maris (.283/.371/.581, 39 home runs, a league leading 112 RBI). Pitching wise, the Yanks were solid, but not spectacular. Pitching ace Whitey Ford (12-9 win loss record, 3.08 ERA) had missed some time due to a wrist injury, while starters Art Ditmar (15-9, 3.06 ERA), and Ralph Terry (10-8, 3.40) had done well in the regular season, but had never started a World Series game before. With Ford still struggling with his wrist injuries, Stengel made a controversial decision, and had Ditmar open up the Series for the Yanks.

Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Pirates had not won a pennant in 33 years until the 1960 season. But that year, it all came together for Danny Murtaugh's Pirates, as they finished with a 95-59 record and won the pennant by seven games. Unlike the Yankees, the Pirates were firmly in control of the NL lead for most of the second half, never leading by less than three games over the season's final two months. Offensively, the Pirates were led by 1960 N.L. MVP SS Dick Groat (.325/.371/.394), 3B Don Hoak (.282/.366/.445, a team leading 97 runs and 74 walks) and future Hall of Fame RF Roberto Clemente (.314/.357/.458, team leading 94 RBIs). Interestingly enough, the Pirates nearly traded Groat to the Kansas City Athletics in the 1959 offseason, but Murtaugh cancelled the trade at the last minute. The player Groat was to be traded for? None other than the 1960 AL MVP Roger Maris, who instead was traded to the Yankees. Pitching-wise, the Pirates had a pair of aces in 1960 Cy Young winner Vern Law (20-9, 3.08 ERA, 271 2/3 innings pitched) and Bob Friend (18-12, 3.00 ERA, 275 2.3 IP), as well as perhaps the best reliever in the game in Roy Face (10-8, 2.90, 24 saves).

Coming into the Series, the Yankees were considered the slight favorites despite concerns over their pitching staff, mainly because they were the great New York Yankees. Also, they had a huge advantage in the power department and had postseason experience to spare, unlike the Pirates. Sports Illustrated, however, picked the Pirates to win in either five or six games. Comparing the teams side to side, the Yankees had the advantage in the outfield (Hector Lopez, Mantle, Maris compared to Bob Skinner, Bill Virdon, Clemente), but the Pirates had a better infield (Dick Stuart, Bill Mazeroski, Groat, Hoak compared to Bill Skoworn, Bobby Richardson, Tony Kubek, and Clete Boyer, although Skoworn was superior to Stuart). As far as catcher, both teams used a platoon, and while the Yankees duo of Elston Howard and Yogi Berra were more famous, the Pirates duo of Smoky Burgess and Hal Smith weren't too shabby. In fact, the Pirates' duo's numbers (.294, 18 HR, 84 RBI) weren't too far off the Yankees' duo (.261, 21, 101). Pitching wise, while the Yankees had Ford and a solid bullpen, they also had question marks up and down the rotation, while the Pirates foursome of Law, Friend, Vinegar Bend Mizell, and Harvey Haddix were a solid quartet.

The series opened in Pittsburgh's Forbes Field, with Law going for the Pirates against Ditmar. Roger Maris got the scoring going early with a first inning solo shot, but the Pirates answered back. After Bill Virdon drew a leadoff walk, he attempted to steal second, which took the Yankees by surprise and Berra's throw ended up in center field, while Virdon took third. Groat followed up with a double, and then Bob Skinner drove him in with a single. After an out, Clemente came up and drove Skinner home from second with a single, making it 3-1. Stengel had seen enough, and pulled his ace Ditmar after only five batters. The Pirates would add three more runs, two of which came off a Bill Mazeroski homer in the fifth, and Law and Roy Face held off the Yankees as the Pirates took the first game six to four. Game 2 featured a battle of the Bobs, as the Pirates' Friend went up against the Yankees' Turley. The Yankees started the scoring in the third after an RBI single from Tony Kubek drove in Bobby Richardson, and Gil McDougald followed with a double. After another run in the fourth, the Pirates came back in the bottom half, as Gino Camoli and Smoky Burgess started the inning with singles. Don Hoak followed with a double that drove in Camoli and sent Burgess to third. After a lineout by Mazeroski, Murtaugh took out his top pitcher Friend for a pinch hitter in Gene Baker. The gambit didn't pay off, as Baker popped up, then Virdon grounded out harmlessly to end the fourth. The Pirates turned to Freddie Green in the fifth, and he, or any other reliever the Pirates put out there, couldn't contain the powerful Yankees offense. From the fifth on, the Yankees scored 13 runs, and Mickey Mantle hit two towering home runs for five RBIs. The Yankees ended up winning 16-3 and the Series was even heading to Yankee Stadium.

Game 3 of the Series belonged to second baseman Bobby Richardson. Richardson, not known for his hitting ability (as his .252/.303/.298 line in 1960 would attest to), surprised many when, in the first inning with the bases loaded and the Yanks up 2-0, he launched a ball off of Pirates reliever Clem Labine over the left field fence for a grand slam, giving the Yanks a 6-0 lead. After a Mantle home run made it 8-0, Richardson came up again with the bases loaded in the fourth, and this time drilled a two-run single off of Fred Green to make it 10-0. On the mound, Whitey Ford dazzled for the Yankees, pitching a four-hit shutout and giving the Yanks' a 2-1 edge. In game 4, the Pirates turned to the Law, Vern Law that is, and not only did he allow only 2 runs in 6 1/3 innings, he also drove in the Pirates first run with a double, and scored the eventual game winning run off of a Virdon single. Law got himself into a few jams, but found a way out of them thanks to some stellar defense. After Richardson drove in Skoworn in the seventh, Murtaugh went to Roy Face, and Bob Cerv greeted Face with a long fly ball to center field. But Bill Virdon made a great leaping catch to protect the lead, and the ace reliever set down the next seven batters, giving the Pirates a 3-2 victory. Game 5 saw Ditmar go once again for the Yankees, this time against Harvey Haddix. The good news is that this time, Ditmar escaped the first innings. The bad news is that Ditmar didn't get past inning number two. After allowing a single and a double, Hoak grounded to short and scored the first run. To make matters worse, third baseman Gil McDougald dropped the ball and Smoky Burgess wound up safe at third, giving the Pirates runners at the corners. Mazeroski took advantage by doubling into left to give the Pirates a 3-0 lead and chase Ditmar out. The Pirates added another run in the fourth, while Haddix was quite successful, giving up two runs over 6 and 1/3 innings before giving way to Roy Face with two men on and one out in the seventh. Face got the next two batters, McDougald and Maris, and finished the game out for Pittsburgh, collected his third save of the series and giving the Pirates a 3-2 lead heading back into Pittsburgh.

With the Yankees' backs against the wall, Stengel gave the ball to Whitey Ford, while the Pirates hoped that Friend would come back from a so-so start in game 2. Well, Friend couldn't make it out of third inning. With the score 1-0 in favor of the Yankees, Friend hit Kubek, then allowed a Maris double and a Mantle single to make the score 3-0. Then Yogi Berra singled, and Friend was replaced by Tom Chaney, who allowed a sacrifice fly to Skoworn and a two run triple to Richardson that gave the Yankees a 6-0 advantage after three. Meanwhile, Ford dominated once again, and the Yankees cruised to a 12-0 victory to set up game 7. The Pirates once again turned to their ace, Law, while the Yankees countered with game 2 winner Bob Turley. The Pirates started the festivities early, as first baseman Rocky Nelson hit a two run shot in the first inning. After Burgess led off the second with a single, Stengel pulled Turley for the rookie, Bill Stafford. After loading the bases, Stafford coaxed Law into hitting a double play, but Virdon followed up with a two run single to give the Pirates a 4-0 lead with their ace pitcher on the mound. In the fifth, Bill Skoworn broke through with a solo shot, and after Law allowed a single to Richardson and a walk to Kubek in the sixth, Danny Murtaugh took no chances and put his ace reliever Face in. However, Face was tired, as he had pitched three long outings in a week and had very little left. After a Mantle single cut the lead to 4-2, Yogi Berra came up with another big hit in his legendary career, slamming the ball over the fence and giving the Yankees a five to four lead. Face stayed in until the eighth, where he allowed two more runs to pass and gave the Yankees a 7-4 lead with two innings to go.

In the bottom of the eighth, Bobby Shantz began his fifth inning of relief by allowing a single to Gino Camoli. The next batter, Virdon, hit what appeared to be the perfect double-play groundball. However, the ball hit a pebble on the rough infield surface of Forbes Field, causing the ball to bounce right into Tony Kubek's throat. Both runners were safe and Kubek had to leave the game because of his injuries. By this point, Shantz was gassed, as he hadn't had an outing longer than four innings during the regular season. Groat would chase Shantz after a single cut the lead to 7-5, and Stengel went with Jim Coates, a starter during the regular season, to lock the game down. After a sacrifice bunt and a flyout, Roberto Clemente came through with a single to make it a one run game, then Hal Smith had perhaps the biggest hit of his career, delivering a three-run blast to give the Pirates a 9-7 lead. Ralph Terry came in to get the last out in the eighth. With three outs to go, Murtaugh made a curious choice and turned to Friend, who had started just the day before. The move didn't work, as Richardson and Dale Long hit two quick singles off of Friend, and Murtaugh turned to Haddix with the heart of the Yankees' order coming up. After retiring Maris, Mantle hit a single to drive in Richardson, and Berra drove in the tying run with a groundout. Haddix then got Skoworn to ground out, and the game entered the bottom of the ninth tied at nine. Bill Mazeroski led off, and on a 1-0 pitch, the Pirates' second sacker hit the biggest home run in Pirates history, blasting the ball over the left field fence and clinching the World Series for the Pirates. Despite the Pirates' victory, the World Series MVP was awarded to the Yankees' Bobby Richardson, who hit .367 and set a World Series record with 12 RBIs in one series.

Over the years, this World Series has gained a reputation as being one of the biggest upsets in baseball history, partly due to the Yankee mystique and partly due to the lopsided total score. However, I don't know if it's as big an upset as it looks at first glance. Yes, the Yankees blew out the Pirates in three games, but the Pirates also won two games in New York, and judging by their regular season numbers, the two teams seemed quite even. I'm willing to venture that if the series was played ten times, the Pirates would win at least five of them, depending on where Whitey Ford pitched in these theoretical series. Which brings me to my next point. Stengel took a lot of heat for holding back Ford until game three of the series, instead of starting Ford in Game 1 and maybe giving him a chance to start three games. It's a curious move to say the least. According to what I've read about it over the years, Stengel believed that Ford was not up to the task of pitching three games in a series, and that he wanted to save Ford for the home opener because he believed Whitey was a better pitcher at Yankee Stadium. While the first point is up for debate (although Ford seemed just fine the next year working primarily on three days rest, going 25-4), the second point makes no sense at all. Even if you save Ford for game three, he still ended up pitching at Forbes Field for game 6, so what's the difference between that or starting him in game 1 and going back to him in game 4 or 5? Furthermore, it doesn't seem like Stengel had a lot of faith in Ditmar since he pulled him very early in both of his starts. Who's to say what would have happened if Stengel went with Ford instead of Ditmar, but you have to believe that the Yankees would have had a much better chance with Ford possibly starting three games instead of two. The decision, among other factors, led the Yankees' brass to fire Stengel following the World Series.

Well, thanks for reading this look back at one of the greatest World Series of all-time. Remember, if you have any thoughts about this post or ideas for future posts, than share those thoughts and ideas either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Worst MLB Draft Picks: 1980-1989

On June 6th, the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft will begin. Teams have been preparing for months in order to select the player they think could become the next All-Star for their respective teams. But no matter how much work is done, talent evaluation of young baseball players is by no means an exact science. Teams might think they have the next big thing, but often times the 'next big thing' can't adjust to wooden bats, or can't hit a curveball, or has control issues, or suffers a career altering injury. In the first of a three-part series, here is a look at the worst Major League Baseball draft picks of the 1980s. The following picks were picked to bring their teams to prominence, but for whatever reason, each of these players failed to meet the expectations that came with their high draft selection.

1980: Garry Harris, Shortstop, Toronto Blue Jays, 2nd Pick

One selection after Darryl Strawberry, the Blue Jays picked Harris, an 18 year-old speedster from San Diego, with the second pick in the draft. Harris signed quickly and played the 1980 season in Medicine Hat. The good news was that Harris hit .267 and stole 14 bases in 16 attempts. The bad news is that in 60 games, Harris made a whopping 54 errors at shortstop. Soon after, Harris was moved to second base, and in 1981 he played well in single-A for Florence, hitting 15 home runs and stealing 22 bases in 26 attempts. After being moved to a higher single-A league, Harris couldn't adjust, and over the next two years he posted lines of .235/.279/.343 and .224/.266/.348. After the 1983 season, Harris was done, out of baseball before turning 22. True, Harris had good speed, but as the old baseball adage goes, you can't steal first base.

1981: Terry Blocker, Outfielder, New York Mets, 4th Pick

Two picks before Kevin McReynolds was selected by the Padres, and five picks before Ron Darling was selected by the Rangers, the Mets picked Blocker, a speedy centerfielder from Tennessee State University, with the fourth pick in the 1981 draft. Blocker hit well in the minors, hitting over .300 at each level before making the big club in 1985. Blocker went 1 for 15, got hurt, and found himself in the minor leagues in 1986. In 1987, the Mets traded him to Atlanta, and in 1988 Blocker got a chance as Atlanta's everyday centerfielder. It didn't work out, as Blocker hit .212/.250/.283 in 199 at bats for the Braves. After a similar performance in 1989, Blocker was released in played in the Mexican league for a few years. While Blocker never became a hero on the diamond, he did become a hero off the field. In 1995, Blocker came back to Braves' camp as a replacement player. During spring training, another replacement player, David Shotkoski, was mugged and murdered in West Palm Beach, FL. Blocker was so distraught over the death of his friend that he went out and investigated the crime himself, and eventually led the police to the murderer. As for the Mets, they later traded for the two players they passed over in the draft, and both Darling and McReynolds ended up spending the majority of their careers in Flushing.

1982: Augie Schmidt, Shortstop, Toronto Blue Jays, 2nd Pick

Just two years after picking Harris, the Blue Jays went with another shortstop with the second pick of the 1982 draft. Unlike Harris, Augie looked to be close to being ready to play in the big leagues, as the University of New Orelans product was the 1982 Golden Spikes winner as college baseball's best player. Schmidt started out well, but once he got to Triple-A in 1984, Schmidt hit a wall, hitting .201/.280/.243 in 144 at bats. After the season, the Blue Jays shipped Schmidt to San Francisco, and Schmidt failed to impress Giants brass, who released him in 1986 during spring training. Schmidt signed with the Twins organization and played in his hometown at Class-A Kenosha (Wisconsin), where he hit .226/.362/.309 in 301 plate appearances. Schmidt was out of baseball after that, and in 1988 he became the head coach at Carthage College in Wisconsin, a position he still holds to this day. Even though the Blue Jays missed on Harris and Schmidt, it's hard to say that those choices hurt them in the long run. After all, they still had a shortstop named Tony Fernandez and a deep farm system, and from 1983-1993, the Blue Jays had 11 straight winning seasons, with five AL East Titles and Two World Championships during that span.

1983: Jeff Kunkel, Shortstop, Texas Rangers, 3rd Pick

The Rangers had high hopes in making Kunkel, the son of former major league umpire Bill, their first selection in the 1983 Draft. Kunkel, a product of Rider University, was quickly inserted in the lineup by manager Doug Rader in 1984. Too quickly as it turned out, as Kunkel hit .204/.218/.324 and was eventually sent down to double-A after 50 games. Afterwards, Kunkel seemed to be a perpetual 4A player, constantly shuffling between Triple-A and the major leagues. Except for a decent season in 1989 (.270/.323/.437 in 326 plate appearances), Kunkel was never able to settle in as the Rangers' everyday shortstop, losing his job to Curtis Wilkerson, Scott Fletcher, and Jeff Huson, among others. After leaving the Rangers, Kunkel singed with the Cubs in 1992, hit poorly (.138 in 29 at bats) and eventually left professional baseball in 1994. For his career, Kunkel finished with a line of .221/.259/.355.

1984: Shawn Abner, Outfielder, New York Mets, 1st Pick

In a first round that had future All-Stars Mark McGwire, Jay Bell, and Bill Swift selected in the first 10 picks, the Mets chose Abner over all others as the first pick in the draft. In 1985, Abner seemed on his way to success, as he hit .301/.341/.485 at Class-A Lynchburg. However, Abner slipped a bit in Double-A (.266/.303/.436) and was then traded to San Diego in 1987. Abner spent five years in the Padres organization and in 569 plate appearances, Abner didn't do so well for the Padres, with a line of .207/.249/.303. Abner may have had all the tools, but his plate discipline left something to be desired. In 1992, Abner seemed to be turning a corner, as he hit .279/.323/.351 as the Chicago White Sox' fourth outfielder. However, a knee injury kept him out for nearly two whole seasons, and after a short lived comeback with the Mets' organization in 1995, Abner decided to call it a career, finishing his major league career hitting .227/.269/.323 with 11 career home runs in 902 plate appearances.

1985: Kurt Brown, Catcher, Chicago White Sox, 5th Pick

In the first four picks of the 1985 draft, B.J. Surhoff, Bobby Witt, Will Clark, and Barry Larkin were selected. Not a bad start, right? With the fifth pick, the White Sox decided to take their chances on a high-school catcher by the name of Kurt Brown. The first sign of trouble for Brown took place early, as in the rookie league, Brown hit .205/.273/.313, shockingly low numbers for the fifth pick in the draft. From there, Brown didn't hit too much better, hitting no higher than .272 in a season, with little home run power to go along with it. Brown finally reached Triple-A in 1991, but after a .248/.297/.350 season, the White Sox finally let him go, and Brown was out of baseball. What makes this pick even more glaring is that the next player chosen after Brown was none other than Barry Bonds, only the most talented player of the past 30 years.

1986: Brad Brink, Pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies, 7th Pick

Just one pick after Gary Sheffield, the Philles selected Brink, a pitcher from USC. Brink wasn't impressive during his minor league days, but he kept moving through the Phillies system despite having ERAs over four at nearly every stop. In 1989, Brink tore his rotator cuff after three starts, and missed almost two whole seasons before coming back in 1991. To his credit, Brink fought all the way back and made eight starts for the Phillies in 1992. However, despite an average performance (0-4, 4.14 ERA, 3.5 K/9IP), Brink got lost in the shuffle, and in 1994 the Giants claimed him off of waivers. After two seasons in the Giants and A's organizations, Brink was out of baseball by 1995.

1987: Mark Merchant, Outfielder, Pittsburgh Pirates, 2nd Pick

The Seattle Mariners actually debated over picking between Merchant and Ken Griffey Jr. with the first pick in the 1987 Draft. Obviously, the Mariners made the right choice. Merchant was thought to be the prototypical 'five-tool' player coming out of high school. Merchant showed off his speed in his pro debut, stealing 33 bases in 50 games in rookie ball. In 1988, Merchant struggled a bit, hitting .242/.367/.299, and the Pirates included him in a trade to the Seattle Mariners in 1989. Merchant repeated A-ball that year, and didn't do much better, as his .223/.318/.346 line attests. Merchant remained in the Seattle system until 1992, and seemed to lose his speed along the way, as he only stole three bases in 1992. After the Mariners, Merchant landed in the Cincinnati organization, where he hit .301/.393/.500 for the Double-A Chattanooga lookouts and earned a promotion to Triple-A. That would be as far as Merchant got, as he bounced around a few organizations before retiring in 1998. In 12 minor league seasons, Merchant finished his career with a .263/.356/.397 line, and had to watch as Griffey became one of the best players of his generation.

1988: Bill Bene, Pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers, 5th Pick

With most of these selections, even though they didn't work out, you can see why teams thought that these players would succeed. With Bene, it's hard to figure what the Dodgers were thinking. Yes, Bene had a mid-90s fastball, but he also had a 5.64 ERA while pitching at Division II California State-Los Angeles. But the Dodgers must have loved Bene's arm, as they picked him over Jim Abbott, Tino Martinez, and Robin Ventura, among others. In 1989, Bene pitched 27 innings in single A ball, and walked a whopping 56 batters that year, or 18.67 batters per nine innings. Bene lowered that rate in 1990, to 15.3 BB/9 (96 walks in 56 2/3 innings). The Dodgers decided to move him to the bullpen in 1991, where he did slightly better, but not enough to impress the Dodgers, as he was waived in 1994. Bene tried to stick with the Cincinnati and Anaheim organizations, but his lack of control doomed him, and he was out of the game by 1997. In 445 professional innings, Bene walked 489 batters.

1989: Roger Salkeld, Pitcher, Seattle Mariners, 3rd Pick

The grandson of former major league catcher Bill, Roger Salkeld was a hot-shot high school pitcher when he was selected by the Mariners in the 1989 Draft, a mere four picks ahead of Frank Thomas. For a while, Salkeld made the Mariners look wise, as he rose up to Triple-A by the age of 20, and was ranked the third best prospect by Baseball America before the 1992 season. Then Salkeld hurt his shoulder and missed the entire 1992 season. After returning in 1993, Salkeld seemed to be back on the right track, and made the Mariners rotation in 1994. However, Salkeld didn't do so well, as his 2-5 record and 7.17 ERA shows. In 1995, Seattle traded Salkeld to the Reds for Tim Belcher, and Salkeld got another chance as a starter in Cincinnati's rotation. Despite an 8-5 record, Salkeld still pitched poorly, with a 5.20 ERA. Sent back to Triple-A in 1997, Salkeld pitched even worse (6.75 ERA), and bounced around for a while before finally retiring in 2000.

Well, thanks for reading. Remember, if you have any thoughts about this post, than feel free to leave a comment. Also, if you have an idea for a new post, then send those along to me either by leaving a comment or by e-mail at

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Canon MST3K Review: Space Mutiny

Here is a look at episode 820 of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the infamous 1988 film Space Mutiny, or if you prefer, Mutiny in Space. This fine piece of South African cinema was directed by David Winters (who also directed Linda Lovelace for President) and stars a bunch of actors whom you've never heard of and quite honestly will not hear about any time in the near future. There are a lot of things that happen in Space Mutiny, but only a few make any sense whatsoever. I will say that there is a mutiny, in space, led by a Lt. Kalgan, who wants to get out of space and land the space craft the Southern Sun on another planet. The commander refuses to do so because of some decree 13 generations ago. Also, a pilot somehow appears on the ship after an explosion accidentally blows his craft up and kills his professor or something, and all of a sudden the pilot that has little stake in the whole Southern Sun project is fighting Kalgan for control. Also, there's an engineer with a cane that's involved somehow, and the commander's daughter falls for the pilot, so there's also that. A few notes about this episode:

- Honestly, with a movie like Space Mutiny, in which there are so many bad qualities about it, it's hard to pick out where to start. Let's just say that this movie is so bad that neither the director nor the co-director (Neal Sundstrom, who actually directed most of this film) wanted to be credited with the director title of this film. After seeing this, I can see why neither man wanted this mess laid at their feet. The best parts of the film were probably the scenes where they recycled old footage from Battlestar Galactica, and even then, the footage plays backwards. Everything else is either terrible or just strange.

- According to Space Mutiny, in the future, space ships will be equipped with a whole lot of Commodore 64s that run the day to day operations of the ship. Also, there will be keyboards mounted on the walls for whatever reason, and instead of video surveillance of enemy ships, we instead have to rely on a radar detection screen that looks a lot like the old game Asteroids. In other words, man is this film dated or what. Furthermore, the Southern Sun's 'Enforcers' are each given vehicles that look suspiciously like floor buffers and move about as fast as a Power Wheels car. A strange time, this future.

- The main star in this farce of a movie is a pilot named Dave Ryder, who soon after his arrival, becomes the key man in fighting off the mutiny. This in spite of the fact that he only came onto the ship because he crashed his spacecraft into the giant Southern Sun and had to phase himself onto the ship to avoid death, a fate that did befall his professor. Nevertheless, he soon takes over as pilot of the Southern Sun, I guess because the commander's the type of fellow that believes in second chances. Dave is played by Reb Brown, and if you want any idea of his acting style, think Dolph Lundgren without the charisma and add a girly scream. At least Reb looks the part of an action hero, as he looks like he lifts weights about 10 hours a day. This leads to the MST3K crew coming up with humourus 'manly' names throughout the movie like Punch Rockgroin, Slate Slabrock, Flint Ironstag, and my favorite, Big McLargehuge.

- Dave eventually falls for the commander's daughter Lea (Cisse Cameron), who looks more like the commander's younger sister than daughter. Even though Lea is supposed to be the young hottie in the film, she's actually in her late thirties and has a hairstyle that makes her look fifteen years older than that. Lea, like most women on this ship, is primarily adorned in a one piece leotard with silver fringes around the shoulder. I guess in the future, the men get to wear full body uniforms and the women, well, do not. Anyway, Lea seduces Big McLargehuge with a dance that involves a hula hoop and rhythm less dancing, which was supposed to be seductive but comes across as just plain weird. The two then begin a whirlwind romance in which they show very little chemistry. Interestingly enough, Brown and Cameron are married to each other in real life, which seems to prove the old adage that if an on-screen couple is incapable of showing romantic chemistry on-screen, then they must be involved off-screen. Lea must be a hard person to control, as the commander expresses that he wishes he could control Lea 'as well as I can control this ship'. He says this, by the way, during the middle of a MUTINY. Honestly, I can't believe this commander could have authority over a ham sandwich, much less an entire space ship.

- Of course, no summary of Space Mutiny could be complete without mentioning the leader of the Mutiny, Col. Elijah Kalgan. Played by John Phillip Law. Kalgan is the epitome of evil. After all, he uses an evil, manacial laugh at least 10 times during the film, so you know he must be bad. Kalgan also employs a stare in which it looks as if he's trying to force his skull out of his skin. He also seems to be a fan of torture, and is rarely seen without his personal bodyguard (who is a rather normal looking guy instead of a musclehead like our hero) around. One could argue that Law was overacting as Kalgan, but considering the lack of acting around him, it was at least refreshing to see someone try in this film.

- Man, this movie loved the use of railings. Since the majority of Space Mutiny seemed to be set in a water treatment plant, there were a lot of stair cases and catwalks to be used, and by God they used those to great effect. There were at least 15 people killed off in this movie that either flipped over a railing or were blown off a catwalk and landed on the ground. Heck, somebody even made a compilation video of all the 'railing' deaths in Space Mutiny:

Overall, this episode is one of those that stand out just because of how bad this film is. Any time a character is killed off in one scene and somehow shows up in the next scene, well, you know you've got an all-time bad movie on hand. The skits in this episode were average at best, but the riffing on the movie is hilarious. Overall, I'd give the movie an 0.56 out of 10, but the episode a 7.9 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this post, or ideas for future reviews, than share those thoughts and ideas either by leaving a comment on the blog or by sending me an e-mail at

Friday, May 6, 2011

Your Canon Review 2010-11 NBA Preview in Review

With all the postseason awards given out, and the NBA playoffs in full swing, I figure now is as good a time as any to look back at the picks I made in the Canon Review NBA Preview done in October. After one of the most memorable seasons in recent memory, the NBA Playoffs have been one exciting thrill after another. With the Grizzlies' upset of the Spurs, the Heat coming into their own against the Celtics, and top-notch individual performances from Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, and Zach Randolph, the 2011 NBA Playoffs have so far been one of the most memorable in NBA history. Meanwhile, during the regular season, Blake Griffin became an overnight sensation, the Celtics and Magic made trades that ended up hurting them in the long run, Derrick Rose led the Bulls to their best record since the Michael Jordan era, and All-Stars like Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams were traded in mid-season. So, did I see any of this coming, or not? Well, let's find out by looking back at my preseason picks.

Eastern Conference (Conference Rank in parentheses)

Atlantic Division:

Predictions:                                Current Record:
1. Boston Celtics (3)             1. Boston Celtics (3)- 56-26
2. New York Knicks (7)        2. New York Knicks (6)- 42-40
3. New Jersey Nets (11)       3. Philadelphia 76ers (7)- 41-41
4. Philadelphia 76ers (12)     4. New Jersey Nets (12)-24-58
5. Toronto Raptors (15)        5. Toronto Raptors (14)- 22-60

At the All-Star break, the Celtics looked like the beasts of the East. However, ever since GM Danny Ainge traded C Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder, the Celtics' play has dovetailed, especially PG Rajon Rondo. Now the Celtics are facing a 2-0 deficit to the Miami Heat in the playoffs. After adding C Amare Stoudemire in the offseason, the Knicks traded for another superstar in SF Carmelo Anthony. The end result was a first-round elimination to the Boston Celtics, but considering where the Knicks were the last few seasons, that's a step in the right direction. If the Knicks can get one more piece to team up with Carmelo and Amare, then New York could join the league's elite. 76ers coach Doug Collins came in and led his overachieving team to the playoffs this year.  The Sixers have a promising young core of players led by PG Jrue Holliday and SF Andre Igoudala, although they could use another scorer. The Nets traded for PG Deron Williams just after the All-Star break, and should be a little better next season with a full season from Williams. How much better could depend on the development of C Brook Lopez. The Raptors have a lot of young players, which helps explain their 22-60 record. While the Raptors are young, it's hard to see a team led by C Andrea Bargnani and SG Demar DeRozen carrying a team into contention, at least not without a little help.

Central Division:

1. Chicago Bulls (4)            1. Chicago Bulls (1)- 62-20
2. Milwaukee Bucks (6)      2. Indiana Pacers (8)- 37-45
3. Indiana Pacers (8)            3. Milwaukee Bucks (9)- 35-47
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (13) 4. Detroit Pistons (11)- 30-52
5. Detroit Pistons (14)       5. Cleveland Cavaliers (15)- 19-63

The Bulls were expected to be a good team this year, although very few people felt that the Bulls had a 60 win season in them this year, especially considering that C Joakim Noah and PF Carlos Boozer both missed large stretches of the season with injuries. Credit NBA Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau and MVP PG Derrick Rose for the Bulls meteoric rise. The Pacers had an up-and-down season and fired coach Jim O'Brien in midseason, but interim coach Frank Vogel led the Pacers to a 20-18 record during his stint, and the Pacers snuck into the playoffs. The Bucks were hoping to build on last season's success, but instead they saw the acquisitions of SF Corey Maggette and  PF Drew Gooden blow up in their faces and young PG Brandon Jennings take a step backwards after a strong rookie year. The Pistons made more news by feuding with coach John Kuester than anything they did on the basketball court, and look to be in rebuild mode. The Cavs lost LeBron James and at one point lost 26 games in a row. On the plus side, the team played hard under coach Byron Scott, and Cleveland did not finish with the worst record in the league.

Southeast Division:

1. Miami Heat (1)              1. Miami Heat (2)- 58-24
2. Orlando Magic (2)         2. Orlando Magic (4)-  52-30
3. Atlanta Hawks (5)          3. Atlanta Hawks (5)- 44-38
4. Washington Wizards (9) 4. Charlotte Bobcats (10)- 34-48
5. Charlotte Bobcats (10) 5. Washington Wizards (13)- 23-59

The Heat's big three of James, SG Dwyane Wade and PF Chris Bosh had a few bumps in the road, but at the end of the season, Miami won 58 games and are now poised to make a run at the NBA Championship. The Magic made some major trades in midseason to acquire PG Gilbert Arenas, SG Jason Richardson, and SF Hedo Turkoglu, and while the Magic won 52 games, they were upset by the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. The Hawks, meanwhile, played rather poorly after the All-Star break, but were able to pull it together once the playoffs started and are now tied at 1 game apiece with the top seeded Bulls. The Bobcats played better once Paul Silas took over as coach, but it still wasn't enough to snatch a playoff spot, especially since PF Gerald Wallace was traded to Portland after the All-Star break. The Wizards have an intriguing young team led by PG John Wall, SG Jordan Crawford, and C Javale McGee, but the young Wizards probably have a ways to go before becoming a legitimate playoff contender.

Western Conference:
Southwest Division:

1. Dallas Mavericks (3)      1. San Antonio Spurs (1)- 61-21
2. San Antonio Spurs (6)     2. Dallas Mavericks (3)- 57-25
3. Houston Rockets (7)     3. New Orleans Hornets (7)- 46-36
4. New Orleans Hornets (8) 4. Memphis Grizzlies (8)- 46-36
5. Memphis Grizzlies (12)    5. Houston Rockets (9)- 43-39

I must admit that I was surprised that the Spurs finished with the Western Conference's best record, as the team exceeded expectation by winning 61 games. Then again, I was also surprised that the Spurs fell to the eighth seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs, making their regular season accomplishments moot. The Mavericks once again won over 55 games behind the play of PF Dirk Nowitzki, but, in a change from recent years, the Mavericks have also had postseason success, defeating the Trailblazers in the first round and winning the first two games against the Lakers in L.A. in the second round. PG Chris Paul carried the Hornets to a playoff spot this year, and played very well against the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, serving notice to all the NBA that he is still amongst the elite players in the league. Memphis survived an injury to SF Rudy Gay, a fight between SGs O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen, and other problems to finish as the eighth seed in the deep Western Conference. Then they shocked the Spurs behind the play of PF Zach Randolph and C Marc Gasol, and are currently knotted up with Oklahoma City at one game apiece in their second round series. If the Rockets were in the Eastern Conference, they would have finished with the sixth best record. Instead, the Rockets are the best team out of the playoffs, despite the strong play of C Luis Scola and PG Kyle Lowry throughout the season.

Northwest Division:
1. Oklahoma City Thunder (1) 1. Ok. City Thunder (4)- 55-27
2. Utah Jazz (4)                        2. Denver Nuggets (5)- 50-32
3. Denver Nuggets (5)      3. Portland Trailblazers (6)- 48-34
4. Portland Trailblazers (10)       4. Utah Jazz (11)- 39-43
5. Minnesota Timberwolves (15) 5. Minnesota T'wolves (15)- 17-65

Perhaps I was a bit high on Oklahoma City at the beginning of the year, but hey, they did win 55 games and are favored to go to the conference finals. With C Kendrick Perkins teaming with Serge Ibaka to form an intimidating front line to compliment All-Stars SF Kevin Durant and PG Russell Westbrook, the Thunder will be a force to reckoned with for years to come. The Nuggets traded their best player in SF Carmelo Anthony, but instead of folding, the Nuggets rallied, and coach George Karl led them to a fifth seed in the West. Yes, they did fall to Oklahoma City in the first round, but Denver proved that there is life after 'Melo. The Trailblazers surprised me this year, as they survived a lot of injuries and made the playoffs. A large reason for that is the play of PF LaMarcus Aldridge, who stepped up his game and became an All-Star caliber player. The Jazz were a team in transition this year, as long-time coach Jerry Sloan resigned, then the team traded All-Star point guard Deron Williams. As such, the Jazz finished the season 8-20, and must rebuild around C Al Jefferson, PF Paul Milsap, and PG Devin Harris. The Timberwolves had the Most Improved Player in the league in PF Kevin Love, who also led the league in rebounding. Yet they still finished with the worst record in the NBA, which should tell you all you need to know about Love's teammates.

Pacific Division:

1. Los Angeles Lakers (2)    1. Los Angeles Lakers (2)- 57-25
2. Phoenix Suns (9)                  2. Phoenix Suns (10)- 40-42
3. Los Angeles Clippers (11) 3. G'State Warriors (12)- 36-46
4. Sacramento Kings (13)   4. L.A. Clippers (13)- 32-50
5. Golden State Warriors (14) 5. Sacramento Kings (14)- 24-58

It was a typical successful season for the Lakers out in the Pacific division. However, the Mavericks have the Lakers in a 2-0 hole in the playoffs, so if the Lakers want to win a third title in coach Phil Jackson's final season, then Kobe Bryant and co. must step it up. The Suns got a great season out of PG Steve Nash, but this year his supporting cast wasn't quite up to the task and the Suns missed the playoffs for the first time since 2004. The Warriors provided their fans with a lot of scoring, led by guards Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. However, if the Warriors want to be a playoff team next year, they've got to improve on defense. The Clippers have the NBA rookie of the year in PF Blake Griffin, and he and SG Eric Gordon give the Clips two great building blocks. Look for the Clippers to be the most improved team next year, if there is a season. Sacramento not only saw their team lose a lot of games, they also almost saw their Kings leave town. While the Kings will play in Sacramento next season, things probably won't be much better next year, as the owners are broke and the team is still too young to contend. But you could do worse than having a young core led by PG Tyreke Evans, PF/C DeMarcus Cousins, and SG Marcus Thornton.

Preseason Picks: 

1. Kevin Durant, F, Thunder (27.7 points per game, 6.8 rebounds per game)
2. LeBron James, F, Heat (26.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 7.0 assists per game, 1.6 steals per game)
3. Kobe Bryant, G, Lakers (25.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.7 apg)
Dark Horse: Dwight Howard, C, Magic (22.9 ppg, 14.1 rpg, 2.4 blocks per game)

1. Derrick Rose, G, Bulls (25.0 ppg, 7.7 apg)
2. Howard
3. James
4. Bryant

At the beginning of the season, it was thought that Rose would be a very good player, but still a year away from becoming a superstar. However, Rose stepped up his game, became the best point guard in the league and at 22, became the NBA's youngest MVP. Howard set a new career high in scoring and led a questionable Magic roster to a 52 win season, which is why he finished second. James had a great season, but the fact is that Rose and Howard meant more to their team's success than LeBron. Kobe was his typically solid self, while Durant finished fifth in the MVP voting after leading the NBA in scoring and leading  the Thunder to their best record since 1998.

Defensive Player of the Year:
Preseason Picks:
1. Howard, C, Magic
2. James, F, Heat
3. Joakim Noah, C, Bulls (48 games played, 10.4 rpg)
Dark Horse: John Wall, G, Wizards (1.8 spg)

1. Howard
2. Kevin Garnett, F, Boston Celtics (8.9 rpg, 1.3 spg, 0.8 bpg)
3. Tyson Chandler, C, Dallas Mavericks (9.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg)
4. Tony Allen, G, Memphis Grizzlies (1.8 spg)

I picked Howard at the beginning of the season largely because he had won the previous two awards and is still in the prime of his career. While I was right, I'm not going to take too much credit for it since most people that follow the NBA also made that pick. Garnett was once again the backbone to the Celtics' strong defense, while Chandler gave the Mavericks a much-needed quality low post defender and has helped that team immensely on the defensive end. Allen may not be the most consistent player on offense, but he also could-be the best on-ball defensive guard in the NBA today, as he showed in the Spurs series. James finished ninth in the balloting, although he didn't stand out on the defensive end as he did two years ago with the Cavs. Noah missed 34 games due to injury, but when he was in there, he was a menace to opposing offenses all across the league. As for Wall, well, I thought his quick hands would lead to more steals, but oh well. I think he might develop into an elite defender in the future, but I was a little quick on the gun this year.

Rookie of the Year
Preseason Picks:
1. Blake Griffin, F, Clippers (22.5 ppg, 12.1 rpg)
2. John Wall, G, Wizards (16.4 ppg, 8.3 apg)
3. DeMarcus Cousins, F/C, Kings (14.1 ppg, 8.6 rpg)
Dark Horse: Tiago Splitter, C, Spurs (4.6 ppg. 3.4 rpg)

1. Griffin
2. Wall
3. Cousins
4. Landry Fields, G/F, New York Knicks (9.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg)

Griffin's had a lock on the Rookie of the Year Award ever since the second week of the season, so it was no surprise that he was a unanimous selection for the award. As for the others, Wall and Cousins had up-and-down seasons, but both showed flashes of brilliance. As long as Cousins keeps his head on straight, both should become stars in the league. Fields was a revelation for the Knicks, and should be a solid role player for the Knicks for years to come. As for Splitter, well I was wrong, as G Gary Neal proved to be the best rookie on the Spurs this year.

NBA Finals Prediction: Heat over Lakers in 6
Well, it's kind of late to change things now, so I'll stick with the pick. The Heat have played as good a game as they have all season in their first two games with the Celtics, so I'm still pretty confident in that pick. As for the Lakers, to be honest, I can't see them coming back against the Mavericks after dropping the first two in L.A. But I'm sticking with the pick until the bitter end.

Overall, I don't think I did too badly this year. Out of 16 playoff teams, I only missed three (76ers, Grizzlies, Trailblazers) and I did get two of the three major awards right. Yes, I did underrate the Bulls and Spurs, but I think I did all right. Well, thanks for reading the Canon Review NBA Preview in Review. Remember, if you have an idea for a future review, or thoughts about this post, than share those ideas either by leaving a comment or sending me an e-mail at

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Canon MST3K Review: The Beatniks

Today review is a look back at episode 415 of Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Beatniks. Released in 1960 and directed by Paul Frees (the voice of Boris Badenov and the original voice of the Pillsbury Doughboy) in his only directorial effort, The Beatniks stars Tony Travis, Karen Kadler, Peter Breck (who starred on Maverick and The Big Valley), Joyce Henry, Bob Wells, and Sam Edwards (the banker on Little House on the Prairie. In The Beatniks, a young singer named Eddy Crane (Travis) is discovered at a diner by an agent named Bayliss (Charles Delaney), whose car just happened to break down in front of the diner. The agent is so impressed that he offers Eddy a spot on a talent showcase, and Eddy wows the audience. Along the way, he falls for Bayliss's assistant Helen (Henry). The only thing keeping Eddy from being a star is his beatnik friends, particularly his girlfriend Iris (Kadler) and the mentally unbalanced Bob Mooney (Breck). A few notes about this episode, and there will be SPOILERS, so read carefully.

- This movie has many problems going for it. However, the biggest problem is that in a movie called The Beatniks, there are no actual beatniks in this movie. Where are the bongos? the berets? the weird facial hair? There's not even a hint of beat poetry in this film. Instead, these so-called 'Beatniks' are usually adorned in leather coats and seem more like a 'greaser' gang than anything else. They seem to prefer generic 50s style rock music, and the only thing that could be defined as 'counter-culture' about them is their criminal lifestyle. There's nothing resembling anything related to Jack Kerouac and Allan Ginsburg in this movie whatsoever.

- The leader of the gang is Eddy. He and his gang go and rob the same liquor store over and over whenever they need money, wearing some sort of crude homemade kabuki masks as a disguise. After a chance meeting with an agent at a diner (after they damaged his car, mind you). The agent, Delaney goes all ga-ga over Eddy's voice and offers him a chance to sing. While Eddy's voice isn't too bad, the problem is that it's rather obvious that the actor (Tony Travis) is lip-synching the song, and rather poorly I might add. Since about a fourth of this movie is devoted to showing Eddy sing, that tends to become a problem. While most of the songs are you typical generic love songs that one would expect from a poor man's Perry Como, Eddy's first song in the diner has some lyrics that are, well, interesting, with a chorus of 'Sideburns don't need sympathy'. They don't? Besides, how would Eddy know, since he doesn't even have any.

- Eddy has two main love interests in this film. His original girl is Iris (Kadler), a clingy type who becomes kind of annoying after a while. Not to be mean, but I assume Eddy dates her because she has a car or something. After Eddy starts his singing career, he starts to fall for his agent's assistant, a platinum blonde named Helen. Helen has a smile that reminds me of the pro wrestler Edge, and that's not necessarily a compliment. I wouldn't say she's bad looking, but her eyes and mouth seem to be too big for her face. As the movie progresses, a love triangle ensues, although it's not all together suspenseful and the movie makes it pretty obvious who Eddy prefers.

- Despite being a bunch of hooligans who are called beatniks but not actually beatniks, Eddy and the rest of his gang are mainly just a bunch of harmless goofballs who just happen to be too rowdy for their own good. That is, except for Bob 'Moon' Mooney. To say that Mooney was crazy would be an understatement. He walked around as if he were on an all-day heroin binge, and did strange things frequently, such as grinding his hips against a table while sitting down. Mooney becomes so unhinged that he becomes a danger to friend and foe alike, and eventually he kills a bartender. While Mooney was meant to be a bit of a nut, actor Peter Breck does such an over-the-top and hammy job that it makes Mooney look like a second-rate caricature of a psychotic man. For example, when a hotel clerk comes to tell the gang that they're making too much noise, Mooney gets right in the guy's face, and with a crazy look in his eye, puts his finger on his throat, and says that if the hotel manager tells anyone about this, he'll 'moon you'. I guess that had a different meaning back then. Mooney later has a meltdown in the hotel room, which is one of the worst examples of overacting that I've ever seen. I was shocked to learn that Breck had the most successful career of anybody in this film, as he's just terrible in The Beatniks.

- This episode also features a short clip from General Hospital, circa 1963 or so. It's quite a dull clip, as four people are having dinner, with two of them celebrating their recent engagement and the other two just look bored out of their minds. The segment is by far the weakest of the episode. The host segments in this episode were pretty good, all in all, particularly Joel and the 'bots explaining how to define a beatnik and the rise and fall of musical sensation Tom Servo.

Overall, yes, The Beatniks is a bad movie. But it's the type of bad movie that is full of unintentional comedy and, while dumb, isn't painful to watch a la Red Zone Cuba. There are quite a few laughs in this episode, and the overacting of Mooney provides many comedic moments. Overall, I'd give the movie a 2.8 out of 10, but the episode a 7.3 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this or other posts, or ideas for future posts, than let me know about them either by leaving a comment on the blog or sending me an e-mail at

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Canon Movie Review: Sleepers

Earlier this evening, I watched a movie that depending on who you talk to may or may not be a true story, the 1996 film Sleepers. Directed by Barry Levinson, Sleepers has a deep cast, including Robert DeNiro, Brad Pitt, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Patric, Kevin Bacon, Billy Crudup, Minnie Driver, and others. Heck, John Williams even did the score for the film, so you know that Levinson went all out on this film. In Sleepers, a quartet of boys from Hell's Kitchen circa 1968 have their lives changed forever when a prank goes awry and nearly kills a man. For the prank, the boys are sent away to the Wilkinson Home for Boys, where they suffer many abuses by a team of guards led by Sean Nokes (Bacon). Thirteen years later, a chance meeting between Nokes and two of the boys he abused leads to the foursome taking out their revenge on the guards that wronged them while at Wilkinson, with some help along the way from an aging crime boss (Vittorio Gassman as King Benny), another friend of theirs from Hell's Kitchen (Driver), and the priest that has known them for most of their lives (DeNiro). A few notes from the film, and there probably will be SPOILERS, so read carefully.

- The movie's plot is basically told in three parts, the boys' childhood in Hell's Kitchen leading up to the incident that got them sent to Wilkinson, the incarceration period, and what happened 13 years after where the group got their revenge at the guards that abused them at Wilkinson. Of the three parts, the first part of the movie was the most compelling and well-done, at least to me. Levinson does an excellent job of bringing 1960s Hell's Kitchen to life, and the four boys (Shakes, Michael, John, and Tommy) are all quite interesting characters, with Shakes (played by Joseph Perrino) and John (Geoffrey Wigdor) especially standing out. The film also offers an interesting battle for the boys' souls, so to speak, as they have two mentors. One being the priest Father Bobby Carillo (DeNiro), a former criminal who reformed and found himself in the church, and the other being King Benny, the mob boss that runs Hell's Kitchen. While this part may have run a bit long, it does serve an important purpose as it introduces us to each character and makes the audience feel for them once the abuse at Wilkinson starts.

- Something I find interesting is that, in a film with two Academy Award winners (DeNiro, Hoffman) and one of the hottest young actors of the time (Pitt) in the film, that Kevin Bacon gets top billing. It's espcially odd since Bacon plays the main villain of the film. I will say, though, that Bacon is very convincing as the sadistic, perverted prison guard Sean Nokes. I wouldn't necessarily say it's Bacon's best performance, but it's in the top 5 for sure. DeNiro also does an excellent job in this movie as Father Carillo, playing the role very convincingly, while Hoffman does a convincing job as alcoholic lawyer Danny Snyder, even if he is somewhat underutilized. Overall, the acting is mostly well done, although I will say that I found Pitt's performance as the district attorney/mastermind of the whole plan to be a little flat. Maybe it's just me, but I think the role could have used a little more anger and intensity behind it, and at times I think Pitt was playing it too cool.

- There are a few cinematic themes to this movie, but the main one seems to be revenge. After all, it's hinted at early in the film when Shakes' father tells of King Benny getting revenge on a person that beat him up eight years ago, and the book The Count of Monte Crisco is brought up numerous times. Eventually, the four boys, now men, get the opportunity to take their revenge on Nokes and the rest of the guards, and the whole last half of the film or so is dedicated to that revenge. While it may be satisfying to see those guards get their comeuppance, it's done in such a way that lacks suspense. After all, you see Nokes get what was coming to him early on, and since he's the main guard, the revenge of all the other guards seem to be just icing on the cake. Plus, while the movie established Bacon as the main villian, it did very little to distinguish the other guards as separate villains, so you end up seeing a bunch of guys that you hardly knew about get their comeuppance. Then again, since it's based on a true story, maybe that's how it went down.

- Speaking of which, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding author Lorenzo Carcaterra's (who is called Shakes in the film and in the novel) claim that Sleepers is based on a true story. For one, the state of New York deny there ever being a case anything like the one described in the movie, where a juvenile detention center guard is murdered and the accused are found not guilty. The state also claims that there are no records of juvenile inmates being physically and sexually abused by guards, which would be a hard claim to completely prove, but that's their position. Carcaterra claims that, although the names have been changed, the story is true and he lived through it. From what I can tell by crudely researching the subject, I kind of have my doubts about his claim, and the story as a whole, especially everything that happened after Nokes' murder, seems a bit too clean to have happened in real life. Then again, I could be wrong and Carcaterra's being completly honest.

Whether or not Sleepers is based on a true story, this is a good film that borders on greatness. Levinson does a great job as a director, keeping the viewer interested and the plot fast-paced despite the film being nearly 2 and a half hours long. Williams' score and Michael Ballhaus's cinematography are also top-notch, and the acting is at a high level overall. While the plot had a couple of holes, (for example, the character of Carol Martinez was hardly mentioned in the first hour, but all of a sudden she's playing a major role and being presented as a direct peer to the quartet of boys featured earlier) overall it was a compelling story. The ending seemed kind of 'too perfect', though. Overall, Sleepers is a very good film that will make you think about a variety of subjects, although I would not recommend this film for children. I'd give Sleepers a 7.6 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this or other posts, or ideas for future posts, than let me know about them either by leaving a comment on the blog or sending me an e-mail at