After three back to back post season appearances the Pittsburgh Pirates had a lot expectations going into this year, which they have not been living up to. The Pirates needed to atone for last years early exit in the playoffs to the Chicago Cubs in the Wild Card round. Star players are not performing like star players (Andrew McCutchen .239, Francisco Liriano 4-8 5.33) and the little bit of luck needed in a long baseball season have not been happening for them. The Pirates have not advanced to the next round in the post season since 2013. The most disappointing was the previously stated loss to the Cubs. Pitching has really let the Pirates down this year ranking in the bottom half of the league. Though they do rank 9th overall in the majors in hitting. The Pirates inability to combine both pitching and hitting has led to their below .500 record.
Though the season is not lost for the Pirates. Thanks to other teams struggles in the National League, Wild Card spots are wide open. The current leaders the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins have their issues and the Dodgers just lost Clayton Kershaw to the 15 day DL with a herniated disk. The Pirates are only 3.5 games back ahead of them the New York Mets (40-37) and the St. Louis Cardinals (40-37). The Cardinals are pretty solid overall and should start hitting their stride. As a team they are 9th in the MLB in pitching and 12th in hitting. The Mets have the 3rd ranked pitching staff in the majors led by Noah Syndergaard (8-3 2.49) struggles this year though rank dead last in hitting. If the Mets can find a bat or two before the all star break it’ll be tough for the Pirates to make up ground.
That’s not to say there have not been high points for the Pirates, sweeping the Dodgers last weekend was a great start to righting the ship. Especially since the Dodgers had been riding a 6 game winning streak having won 8 of 10. Notable players who have excelled this year are Starling Marte (.331 6 HR), Gregory Polanco (.299 10 HR) and Matt Joyce (.292 8HR). On the pitching side Mark Melancon ( 0-1 1.48 22 SV) has done an outstanding job shutting down games. The young Gerrit Cole with a small sample size of 12 games this year looks promising and is 5-4 with a 2.77 era.
If Pittsburgh keeps hitting the way they have been and get players like Liriano and McCutchen get back on track they’ll have a real shot at the Wild Card. Great offense is being wasted with bad pitching performances and have made it hard for the Pirates to get on a roll through the first half of the season. Look for them to try and add an extra bat (because you can’t ever have too many) and some help for their pitching staff. If the front office can make these additions the ol’ jolly roger may be raised come post season and they’ll have a good chance advancing in the playoffs.
Role credits pan up, fade to black. An audience invest so much of themselves in television shows and the need for a satisfying conclusion can demolish years of quality programming. What is it about human nature that we need things wrapped up in a nice tiny bow. Since the dawn of time we have looked to the heavens to explain the unknown. In the beginning there were those who claimed of higher power and those that took a scientific route. But none the less we’ve always found the need to try and explain and find answers to what’s out there. Which leads back to television. The finale of an episode represents an end to many things we’ve cherished, to some it’s like losing a family member. An audience wants a satisfying conclusion because there’s no way to know what the future holds for these characters after the final credits role. A poor ending can feel like a betrayal.
The Sopranosfinale left many with a sour taste in their mouth (be forewarned there will be spoilers of shows if not in detail at least in passing). The infamous fade to black scene in the dinner of The Sopranos to many ruined a show they had loved for years. You’re never going to satisfy everyone. But the goal of an ending should be to make the audience’s time feel worth while. Thus The Sopranos conclusion drew so much ire. Alas in most western cinema the “bad guy” always gets a “taste of his own medicine” Did Tony Soprano get gunned down in that dinner? Or did he just enjoy a nice meal with his family? Was the audience upset because they did not see him get that due justice or because the human condition for most does not do well with the unknown.
From M.A.S.H. to Parks and Recreation to Breaking Bad creators strive for that balanced middle ground. Wrapping up loose ends while also offering a glimpse of what the future may hold for each character. Parks and Recreation for fans had one of the most satisfying conclusions. In the finale there is a flash forward in time for all the main characters and even a couple bit characters. We learn Donna is living a great life in Seattle with her real estate business. Andy and April have a baby and are still as goofy as ever. Ron gets to spend his days overlooking the Eagleton National park. Best of all Gary aka Jerry aka Larry aka Terry becomes the mayor and thanks to Donna his co workers finally start calling him by his real name. Perhaps Parks and Rec went too far with breaking down each character, but you can see the love and attention and thoughtfulness put into it by the creators. They wanted to send off each character in a special way and thank the audience for their viewership. This is one way to go about endings. A deep look into each character. Then you have others that stick with just the conclusion for the main character and offer a hint at others.
Scrubs did this with their finale in season 8. Season 9 does not count as its official title was Scrubs [Med School]. In the last 10 minutes while JD is walking out of the hospital for the last time he is reminded of the people he’s met and sees them in the hallway. A great treat for fans to see all of their fan favorites one last time. In the entire episode JD is speaking of endings and how he is so caught up with wondering what his last day will be like. He’s the voice of the audience. We build up these moments and make it almost impossible to live up to our expectations. In the final minutes JD exits through the doors of Sacred Heart Hospital pauses and thinks about his future. But instead of the usual cut and dream sequence we’re treated to a projection on a sheet that had been hung up by his best friend Turk earlier in the episode wishing him a good bye. In this projection we see JD’s thoughts of his future. Marrying Elliot, having a baby with her, Christmas’ spent with loved ones. After, he wonders “why can’t my fantasies come true just once”. It’s a great way to give the audience a slight glimpse of the possibility of what the future may hold without going so far.
One cannot speak of T.V. endings without mentioning the most watched ending of all time, M.A.S.H. For the younger crowd the acronym M.A.S.H stood for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. It was a fictional hospital show that took place during the Korean war. Following the life of Captain Benjamin “Hawkeye “ Pierce (Alan Alda) and rag tag group of others in a mobile hospital and life in the army. Pierce saying goodbye one last time to Captain B.J. Hunnicutt (Mike Farrell) in one of the most bromantic of goodbyes. Though there’s a strong genuine sense to their portrayals. Hawkeye is the voice of the audience, establishing not knowing when they’ll see each other again. But with his charming delivery we feel as if everything is going to be alright. For greater emphasis a big “Goodbye” sign was written with rocks as the chopper taking Pierce lifts off. It was a goodbye to all the characters those who watched this show came to know and love and a goodbye from the creators to the audience that loved M.A.S.H. Many characters came and went in a series that lasted so long but its fans were satisfied in the conclusion. They also had a spin off series but was nowhere close to the success of M.A.S.H.
Speaking of things lasting too long it brings us to How I Met Your Mother. A great premise that was dragged on for 9 seasons and countless ridiculous situations. The show as a whole was endearing and you cared about the characters though they evolved to be caricatures of themselves towards the end of the series run. The final season we finally meet “the mother” Tracy McConnell played by Cristin Miliotti. Miliotti played her character with such charm that the audience rooted for her more so than Robin (Cobie Smulders). They wanted the happily ever after with her and Ted (Josh Radnor) that had been built up for so long. So the ending was a great disappointment to people. There are cases to be made for both sides. One of the arguments made for the ending was Ted learning his final life lesson and that you can’t predict what will happen in life. The other argument; was the story has always been about Robin and Ted. The creators aimed for creativity and the show was an expression of their creativity. In trying to teach such a serious message to their audience it left many behind. That’s not to say it can’t be done. Many shows have ended on serious notes and in surprising ways that both teach a lesson and leave a satisfying conclusion. Whichever camp you fall into rooting for the mother or liking the way it ended the conclusion ultimately let down a lot of fans. Ted, Robin and the rest of the gang had their satisfying conclusions but the mother ended up being more of a side note, not mattering much in the end on a show that was built on her entire premise. Though this kind of thinking takes away from a show that had a lot of great moments in between and other lessons that were delivered in a stronger manner.
The unpredictability of life is a scary thing and the unknown is what’s driven humans to seek out and explore. It’s why the great Stephen Hawking has dedicated most of his life to the “theory of everything”. From the way the universe began to the way it may end. The best shows put us in the shoes of the main character or insert us along for the ride to give us our own conclusion. Television encapsulates all of what we wish for. We can be taken away on Starships, join the Parks and Recreation Department, live out our mob fantasies or be advertising men and women in the 1960’s. The shows we’re most attached to take a piece of them with us which in turn, makes it our ending as well. We want our own story to have a happy ending. We want to know that the people we cared about are happy. So when television shows don’t take it seriously or go completely off the rails (Seinfeld) the message of a show is lost.
The Wonder Years had a great message in its ending. As much as we wanted Winnie and Arnold to get together in the end they did not. Narrated by the grown up Arnold he states that’s not real life. Things don’t always work out the way you think they do. An important lesson to learn. The same message How I met Your Mother tried to convey with less effect. Even though things don’t end the way you think they will or how disappointed in the way they happened it doesn’t mean it’s bad. New experiences and new opportunities can be just as great. We can imagine Tony Soprano leaving the dinner and living happily ever after or if we want that due justice we can imagine him getting gunned down in a brutal fashion in front of his family. The ending is what we want it to be. With so many shows we could go on and on, we encourage you our audience to tell us all about them in the comments. Can creators do more? Perhaps, but you can never please everyone. The human condition is not built that way. We’re all individuals with our own hopes and dreams and views of how things should be. So instead of judging a show too harshly and tearing it apart (that’s not to say we shouldn’t critique. Critiquing can be good, it helps us improve), lets remember the magic of the suspended reality that is television. Dedicated men and women that work hard to take us on those Starships, to a bar in New York City, to a struggle for control of a throne. These characters and places can live on forever, in reruns, in our imaginations in fan fiction (as bad as some of the latter may be). Live on in our hearts and minds, forever.
The first stop on “The Great Baseball Stadium Journey” in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was a rounding success. PNC park was majestic and the site lines from our seats were incredible. We’ll be posting our article tomorrow afternoon along with the companion pieces and a mid season review of the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the meantime here are some pictures from our trip.
After a slow start to the season the Los Angeles Dodgers (41-33) have turned things around and if the season were to end today they’d be one of the two wild card teams for the National League. The Dodgers are riding a hot streak 8-2 in the last 10 games having won 6 in a row going into Pittsburgh. Though the San Francisco Giants (47-27) are 9-1 in the last 10 games winners of their last three. Thus the Dodgers still trail the Giants in the NL west by 6 games. It is an “even numbered year” so if history repeats itself the Giants will win it all. The Dodgers will need to continue playing solid and improve their head to head match-ups with said Giants. For a team with such high expectations not to mention such a high payroll it can be said they’re under performing. The Dodgers need to focus on winning baseball games. Clubhouse chemistry has been an issue in the past and we’ll see this year if new manager Dave Roberts can steer the ship in the right direction. Roberts held firm when the team was playing poorly and one of the reasons he was hired was due to his leadership and ability to be cool under pressure.
The pressure is definitely on for the Dodgers having been eliminated in back to back National League championship series. Phenomenal pitching is keeping the Dodgers in the hunt like most years. With the staff currently sitting with a 3.32 era third best in the majors trailing only the New York Mets (3.19) and Chicago Cubs (2.76). Though if their star players don’t start playing like it they’ll find themselves out of the playoffs sooner if not entirely. Adrian Gonzalez (.267) is not looking like the player he was in years past. He is hitting 20 points below his career average but more importantly only has 6 home runs on the season. The silver lining for Gonzalez is he still has managed to drive in 32 runs. The Dodgers will need his “A” game if they’re to advance to the World Series this year. Though it is not only Gonzalez who has seen his numbers drop. Yasiel Puig is hitting only .244 with 5 home runs. Which does not make up for all his strikeouts; 45 in 55 games played. Not having a good year could be said for many other Dodger hitters. The Dodgers overall are 27th in the majors, hitting .235 collectively. Lower, believe it or not, than their neighbors to the south the San Diego Padres (31-43). A team that didn’t score a run until the 4th game of the season.
The Dodgers do have some players who are performing better or as expected. The indomitable Clayton Kershaw (11-1 1.57) has anchored the rotation. When things were bad early this season, the team could count on him to snap them out of a losing streak. Kenley Jansen (3-2 1.48) has blown three saves thus far but has been solid overall. It’s best this happens early in the season and not the post season. The brightest star for the Dodgers has to be rookie Corey Seager. Seager is a leading candidate for rookie of the year hitting .289 and belting 16 home runs while leading the Dodgers with 37 runs batted in.
Seager and Kershaw cannot do it all on their own. The Dodgers need Yasiel Puig, Yasmani Grandal (.192), A.J. Ellis (.191.) and Joc Pederson (.239) to start playing a lot better. This may be an “even numbered year” but the Dodgers don’t have just the Giants to worry about. They also have to look out for the Chicago Cubs (47-24) and Washington Nationals (43-30). Will it be the year the Cubs escape the curse? Will it be another one in the books for the Giants? Or will the Nationals and Dodgers mix things up. If you’re a Dodgers fan you can only hope this current streak is a sign of more sunny days ahead.
With the All Star Game fast approaching it’s time to shift our reviews from “Quarter Season” to “Mid Season” At the start of the season there was hope for Yankees fans. The addition of a couple new players and the resurgence of Alex Rodriguez bode well for the 2016 season. Many pundits had them winning the AL East. But as the beginning of July approaches the Yankees find themselves (35-36) 6 games back in the AL East trailing the first place Baltimore Orioles followed by the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees are in the unenviable spot of riding it out or cleaning house and reloading for next year. General manager Brian Cashman has stated he’s not ready to wipe the slate clean yet. But alas things have not gone the way the pinstripes wish it would have. Poor play and injuries to key players like C.C. Sabathia (5-4 2.71)and Mark Teixeira havae contributed to a poor first half of the season. Teixeira was also struggling mightlily at the plate hitting only .180 with 3 home runs. A good team snaps out of their slump and the Yankees have come a long way from being 8-15 at the start of May. The bad news is they haven’t gained ground either, still 6 games back now towards the start of July.
There are some bright spots, though few and far between, which is not enough for a team and city that is use to winning. Didi Gregorius (.286) has been solid behind the plate but his fielding has been less than desirable and under the average of most shortstops, currently sitting at minus 7 runs saved. Gregorius will need to improve his defense if the Yankees are to make up ground. The shortstop is the catalyst of the defense. Carlos Beltran is having a great year hitting .286 with 19 home runs and 51 runs batted in. On the pitching side the Masahiro Tanaka (4-2 2.91) has proved solid despite the lack of run support from his teammates. Though the standout has been Andrew Miller (4-0 1.17). Miller has been solid out of the bullpen and also picking up 7 saves in spot opportunities. Yankees fans are some of the most ravenous and these silver linings are not enough. Brian Cashman has not been getting the job done and if the trend continues the Yankees will be missing the playoffs. Which would be a big disappointment to a team with such high hopes going into the season and after the loss last year to the Houston Astros in the American League Wild Card game. Should the players stay or should they go? That is the question and not a choice that will easily be made.
The last day of E3 Dinosaur Spaceship explored the surrounding offerings. Starting with E3 Live which was a registration event open to fans. E3 Live was a small sectioned off area outside next to the Staples Center. With a WB booth showing off various games including “Lego Star Wars The Force Awakens” and “Lego Dimensions“. There was an Alienware section showing off steam machines and A giant Titanfall Statue pictured above. There was a Facebook experience section, a tent showing off the HTC Vive, a twitch booth and booths selling some merchandise. Overall the event was very disappointing. The vibe speaking to various people at the event was wondering if we were in “the right spot” or if there was more around the other corner. The Space was about the size of two basketball courts. It was nice of the software association to offer tickets and they were free but the overall experience was lackluster. If you weren’t able to get into the actual conference and this was all you saw I can imagine they’d feel very disappointed. Perhaps with how quickly tickets to the event were given out it shows strong support for the general publics willingness to attend the event. Perhaps this will lead to a general sale of a limited amount of tickets to the public in the future.
Next to the E3 Live event was an event sponsored by Doritos called MixArcade. Here there was a stage set up where Artist performed at night and a tent where various arcade games could be played. On a hot Thursday in Los Angeles the Mix Arcade tent was a nice respite. E3 Live should take a hint from Doritos (ironically) and make future events (if there are) more like this. More games a place to relax.
Around the back of the tent was a nice spot where you could see the giant screen where you could play arcade games. Thursday June 16th that feature was not available as they were filming a commercial in that location. As you can imagine Dinosaur Spaceship was not allowed to take pictures while this was going on.
Granted there wasn’t much to see outside of the convention. But we wanted to make sure we covered the whole experience for those who could not make the trip out there for themselves. We’ll have more extensive coverage in the coming days of our thoughts from what was shown and all the announcements.
It’s been a great week so far but the fun isn’t over yet. Dinosaur Spaceship is on the ground floor today at E3 and we’ll have extensive coverage of what we’re able to get our hands on later this evening. If there’s something you would really like us to check out or what’s been your favorite thing so far? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to make it happen. One of the biggest surprises has been the return of God of War. The fun is just getting started so stay tuned.
With so much focus on Sony and Playstation at these conferences it’s easy to forget about Nintendo. Granted Nintendo has nary a presence instead choosing for the last couple years to focus on revealing new information directly to the audience. The “Nintendo Treehouse” is the source for all their E3 news. Tuesday Nintendo showcased “Pokemon Sun”, “Pokemon Moon” releasing November 18th, 2016 and “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the wild”. Nintendo will have more to show today June 15th starting at 10am pacific.