Thursday, April 14, 2005

Closer - a movie review.

My wife and I watched the movie Closer last night. She was surprised that I didn't mind seeing it, and i realized why once it started -- it wasn't a movie about relief pitching in baseball. Actually, I am still having trouble figuring out what significance the title has with the content of the movie.
I was a little disappointed in the overall movie. As a film, it did things well -- it had great unity bringing closure to things that happened throughout the story while ending the same way it begins. The film played loose with the timeline in a way that made the next year feel like the next day, not letting the viewer know how much time had passed until it was necessary, and never waiting too long as to frustrate or confuse the viewer. There were elements of this movie that I really liked, including some time spent focusing on photos, or film "stills", during a motion picture -- that irony was not lost on me. The idea of the photographs all being "a lie" was a view on the character's personality as well as the writer/director's opinion of the medium itself. All these things were very well done, but I do not think that it could save the story of the vulgar and unhappy, miserable lives the characters lead and make this film enjoyable to watch.
None of the characters were at all likeable. Even at the point when you think Alice (Natalie Portman) is a likeable or sympathetic character, the story takes you down another path which ruins that idea completely. Each of the four characters spend the 4 years of movie time lying to themselves in order to convince themselves that they have what makes them happy. Each of the four characters do despicable things to themselves and each other. My wife suggested that the only thing that made the movie endurable was that they didn't do these things to anyone outside of this group of four. It was hard to watch without wondering who actually acts like this in our real world -- how could people let this go on for so long, how could people be so cruel to each other? I think that the answer is in what the movie omits from the story -- the jumps in the timeline conveniently leaves out any explanation for the horrible decisions these people make. The film catches us up on the story by telling us just enough for us to understand that bad decisions have been made, but makes no justification for them. We are left to believe that these are just bad people, making poor decisions. None of the characters, as a result, were at all likeable.
For stylistic elements, a decent soundtrack (I can't listen to that Damien Rice song in the same way ever again), and well done elements of film, it might be worth the 100 minutes. But if you want to see a story about lovers who end up with the wrong mate, who then decide to switch things around a little to see if they can get it right, ending with some justifiable reason for the infidelity like "True Love wins over all", then you have come to the wrong place. Skip it, and check out Shrek 2 instead.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Fantasy Baseball 101 -- The Market

Welcome back! I am happy you are reading and I hope you are enjoying. I apologize for the delay since my last article, but it seems "draft fever" is highly contagious and I have spent the past 5 days in bed hopped up on some flu remedy or cough syrup. For those of you who participated in the draft, I am sure you noticed how your pulse raced a little bit as your pick neared. I am also sure that you broke a little sweat when the player you had your eye on was suddenly taken off the table by the manager ahead you. Draft Fever. Feels good.
It's remarkable how rewarding this is -- I don't think that there was one person who participated in the live draft who didn't walk away thinking, "Yes, this is the team I wanted." I even think that the non-par managers fared pretty well too.
Generally, the first 5 rounds of the live draft are pretty standard. There are rare surprises, and each manager expects to get their handful of studs to help carry their season. Of course there are a few "OMG's" here and there, but that is the nature of the live draft. It's beginning with round 6 that the challenge, and the stress, really begins.
Rounds 6-10 of this draft will be the hearts of your lineups, the souls of your pitching squads. These next 5 players you will pick aren't as good as the "studs" but they are still solid players on their own. In fact, there may be a few "sleepers" in the pack; players who might at the right time suddenly awaken into the star player you want them to be.
There are a finite number of strong players at any position that you want to build your team with, and after that the pickings are slim. In some cases, a bad pick an hurt more than it can help. In the search for that perfect sleeper I found myself stretching for Rob Nen, the once studly closer, who decided midway through a season on the DL that he would just retire. Ouch -- a wasted pick.
Let me look a little further at that one position - the Closer. The closer produces Saves (that coveted stat), K's and eats innings while keeping his ERA and WHIP down. Every team has at least one closer, so there are plenty to go around, right? Not exactly. There may only be 12-14 worthwhile closers in the entire league. These closers will do exactly like i had said, produce good numbers, while at the same time do not get hurt. Figure that a strong Fantasy Team needs up to three decent closers. If you settle on poor closers in later rounds of the draft, you might get your Saves category locked up, but it could be at the expense of Losses, Hits and Earned Runs. Managing these risks are the nature of the game. Knowing ahead of time that RP are few and coveted, it is wise to earmark a few for early rounds of the draft.
This is where the idea of "the market" comes into play. In Economics 101 we learned the law of Supply and Demand. A lower supply causes greater demand, and higher supply causes lower demand. If during the draft you notice that a certain position is being picked ahead of where you thought they would normally be ranked this creates a change in "the market", where this one position becomes overvalued because of their scarsity.
It happens often where some managers might get anxious and draft that position immediately after that "trigger". Situations where 4 or more players are drafted from one position is called "a run". This is why it is important to pay attention to what every one else is drafting while you make your picks. By the time the draft comes back to you, you may feel pressure to join in that panic buying and draft the same kind of player. Chances are, in these cases, you pick a player who is overvalued at this level of the draft that you still have a chance at getting in later rounds if cooler heads prevailed. Then again, sometimes you just have to strike when the iron is hot.
The types of positions that typically experience Market fluctuation depending on how others are drafting are: Closers, Ace Starting Pictures, Catchers, 2nd Basemen and Shortstops. Each of these are high-impact positions where the talent pool is thin. There will undoubtedly be a run on one position or another during this draft -- its just important to plan ahead so that if you get caught up in it, you can still come out ahead.