Movie Review: Suicide Squad

(Caution: this review contains spoilers.  It will spoil things.  Much like this movie spoiled a perfectly good Sunday afternoon for me.)

Let me first start this review by clarifying a couple points:  First, I am not a comic book connoisseur or super hero mega fan.  I am aware of their popularity, enjoy their stories, movies or video games, but I usually don’t go too far down the rabbit hole in that general direction.  Second, I have a very high tolerance when it comes to movie quality.  While I enjoy many of the accepted classics, The Godfather, Pulp Fiction, Annie Hall, Psycho to name a few, I am also happy to point out that Mr. Mom easily ranks within my personal all-time top 5 movies.  My point is, I am neither a super hero purist or terribly hard to please when it comes to watching a movie.  Heck, I once took a date to see Fatal Instinct.  (It’s not the one you’re thinking of right now, trust me.)  Please bear these two facts in mind as you continue through my review.

If you thought Michael Keaton was great as Batman, check him out as an unemployed former auto worker and Detroit Lions fan.

I first saw trailers for Suicide Squad in early 2016 and thought that it looked surprisingly interesting to me especially given the fact that I had no previous awareness of the franchise at all.  I do remember Harley Quinn, with her “puddin” and “Mistah J,” from Batman the Animated Series in my younger days.  Other than that I really had no idea who the rest of these characters were.  The combining of several ne’er do wells into a fighting squad seemed like a good concept for a movie and I’ve always been a sucker for the anti-hero premise as well.  In retrospect, I can now see that trailers truly are a marketing tool and can be very misleading when it comes to the actual quality of the movie itself.  When the movie came out in August of 2016 I did not actually see it in theaters.  Instead I only recently watched it on a streaming service at home.  I cannot imagine, however, that seeing it on a theater screen would’ve remedied any of the issues I found within the film itself.  Here now are my pros and cons in bullet point, stream of consciousness form.

 

Pros

Margot Robbie was very good as Harley Quinn.  Her faux-Brooklyn accent kind of came and went, but overall she was probably the most fleshed-out character in the movie.  Her flashbacks to the developing relationship with the Joker provided some needed depth in a movie full of thin, cardboard characters.  It was nothing surprising, but it did cover the story arc of their relationship and played into the main story pretty well.  I’ll stop short of saying Robbie was “born to play this part” but she did fit the role pretty well.  She’s nice to look at, exudes a certain toughness, does crazy very, very well and still lets you know that down deep Ms. Quinn is an irreparably broken individual.

The first couple of crime in Gotham City. (And in my opinion the only two characters surviving this train wreck for any hope of a sequel.)

Jared Leto was good as The Joker.  I’ll admit I’ve always been fascinated by the Joker character in the Batman movies.  I think they’ve always been portrayed very well by a very good set of actors.  Jack Nicholson was superb in the 1989 film.  Heath Ledger was off the charts in the Dark Knight.  Even Cesar Romero was full tilt as the more cartoon-y Clown Prince of Crime way back when.  The character itself has always been interesting to me.  Most villains are either crazy or brilliant, but what do you do with a villain who is both.  His plans are intricate and well thought out and yet he’s willing to do absolutely anything, and I mean anything in his quest for victory over Batman.  It’s a very enduring character and one that can be taken in many directions.  Fortunately for this film, Leto brings the same crazy/genius energy to the character.  His shock of green hair and silver teeth.  Tattoos and trademark psychotic laugh.  I wouldn’t say it outshines Ledger or Nicholson, but it can easily be talked about in that conversation.  In fact, I think the only reason it may not be quite up to that level is that he spends a relatively small amount of time on screen in Suicide Squad.  Going forward, I think Leto would be a solid choice to continue “this Joker” if the filmmakers were so inclined.

The CGI, music, and other “movie” stuff were fine.  Each of the super villain’s power was portrayed in a believable and effective way.  They all looked pretty good on screen.  Killer Croc was particularly cool to look at.  

 

And that’s about it for the good…

 

Cons

“Daddy, I want you to stop killing people…and maybe dress a little less like a 1970’s pimp. OK?”

Where to begin, where to begin…I guess we’ll start with the biggest for me which was the imbalance in backstory detail between the characters.  You get a sort of run down from the very beginning from Amanda Waller, the government bureaucrat who wants to put the team together and some scenes at the high security prison where most of the squad has been incarcerated.  It’s all very boilerplate “team assembly” montage stuff with some DC heroes sprinkled in for effect, but it really doesn’t do much more than give you a name for most of the folks involved.  While we get to see some thorough backstory on Deadshot, his daughter and his apprehension by Batman, we only get a second or two on Captain Boomerang (not that I’d want much anyway, but more on that later).

Also, the background on the Enchantress character and her relationship with Rick Flag is woefully underserved in relation to her importance in the overall story.  (Hint:  She eventually becomes the main bad guy and is the whole reason the team is called into action.  We really need a little more information on her if we’re going to give a crap!  How about a little less snark from dopey Ike Barinholtz at the beginning and a little more info on how the Enchantress ended up in that cave and why she wants to take over the world.)

The best example I can give you of the imbalance is poor old Slipknot.  Those of you who’ve seen the movie know exactly where I’m going with this.  This poor mamma jamma shows up just as the team is embarking on its mission a

I have no idea how this poor SOB even made it into the promotional spots for this film. Maybe he has a larger role in the Blu-Ray extras. I dunno…

nd all we know about him is that he doesn’t like mouthy law enforcement agents and that, according to Flag, “He can climb anything.”  That’s it.  Ten minutes later he’s dead.  And he’s on most of the promotional marketing for this movie.  It’s insane.

 

Rick Flag.  The actor who plays Rick Flag is either the worst actor I’ve ever seen or his character was the most poorly written character ever, I’m not sure.  Maybe both.  Had I been hired to play this role, I would’ve just stopped mid-production and demanded a rewrite.  Flag is supposed to be a highly decorated Army specialist that chews shrapnel and pees excellence, but in this movie he is either a mouthy little punk or a whiny complainer.  He spends almost the entire movie either questioning the “villains” of the Suicide Squad about their dedication to the mission or begging them for their help.  What?  For a decorated Army specialist, he is maybe the single least physically imposing specimen I’ve ever seen.  I’m not saying we had to have Dave Batista playing the role, but this guy looks like me during my junior year of high school.  His little in and out “southern” accent is annoying as well. The sad thing is, by the end of the movie, you want him to assume command of the squad.  This is because you’d rather see anyone in charge besides Amanda Waller.

Worst character/actor combo. Ever. Ever…

Evil Oprah was one of the worst things about this movie. That’s really saying something in this case.

Amanda Waller.  I love it when you have a know it all, pushy, faux tough, bossy, smart mouthed team leader who is eventually shown to be evil and gets his or her comeuppance.  What’s that?  There’s no comeuppance?  No turning tables?  No repercussions?  Are we sure?  Oh.  Well, that sucks.  There you have it.  Amanda Waller.  The smartest thing Deadshot said the entire movie was when she appeared after the final battle and he remarked “How are you not dead?”  How indeed, Will Smith.  How indeed.

Deadshot.  The character is actually not that bad.  He’s a master at any and all firearms and is said to have never missed a shot.  Will Smith, however, is just doing typical Will Smith in this movie.  It’s the scowling anti-hero with the heart of gold.  Sound familiar for the not-so-Fresh Prince?  Smith hasn’t done anything this bad since he helped make Jaden and Willow.

Captain Boomerang looks confused. I guess I’d look confused too if I was in this movie.

Diablo gazes into the flame wondering why he didn’t just self immolate about 20 minutes into the picture.

Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang & Diablo.  I grouped these three together because none of the three are really worthy of a bullet point of their own.  They are all very shallow, two-dimensional characters that play into stereotypes in the worst way.  Captain Boomerang seems to always have a cold one in his hand, a thick Aussie accent and he throws boomerangs for crying out loud!  I can forgive the last one, but in this movie there’s nothing else about him to grab onto.  The character never really advances past being a drunken lout from down under.  Diablo is a latino gang-banger with over the top flame abilities.  His backstory is a little deeper than Captain Boomerang, but is still along the tried and true lines of “I hurt someone I love.  I’ll never use my powers again.  Oh wait, you really need my help, I guess I’ll go ahead and break my vow.”  Even his attempt at a heart to heart with Deadshot and the other members of the squad near the end doesn’t really add much to our interest in him.  Killer Croc, for my money, is the most underused member of the team.  They offer a few little nuggets of information on him, but we’re mostly just supposed to be in awe of his appearance and ferocity.  He’s tasked with a side mission near the end that calls for him to use his special abilities, but it’s pretty predictable on the whole.  When told he has to return to prison at the end of the movie, he says he will but only if they get him BET in his cell. Stereotypes, stereotypes everywhere.

 

Weren’t you in Kill Bill Vol. 1? No? Really?

Katana.  Katana just seems like she was thrown in at the last minute to fill a quota for overall team diversity.  Even though Rick Flag has an app on his wrist that will pop an explosive capsule in the neck of each of the team members if they step out of line (Thank you Escape from New York!), for some reason he still brings in Katana “to watch his back.”  Huh?  You can literally blow the heads off these guys at any time and you still need back up.  What for?  Oh we need an Asian chick with a soul capturing sword?  Okay.  Whatever.  There is also a laughable scene prior to the main showdown where Katana is tearfully talking to her dead Husband’s spirit in advance of the fight.  Via subtitles we can see that she will be happy to die in battle because that means she will get to join him in the afterlife.  One of the other members of the team asks Flag what she’s doing.  He explains that she’s talking directly to her husbands soul as it has been captured by the very sword she uses in battle!  However, Flag says this with the same enthusiasm and emphasis that you’d give to a request to go to the bathroom before the big fight.  It’s just typical of this movie trying to cram too much plot in some areas while cramming too little in others.

Miscellaneous.  If Enchantress can magically teleport to Tehran and get a book of secret plans then why the heck do they need anyone else on this team at all?  Can we not just have her pretty much use her infinite powers and do whatever the heck we need?

What is that? We don’t know. Why does it have an axe? We don’t know that either. What do we know? Very, very little.

Is a meta-human technically a mutant?  If DC continues to toss that phrase around in all their movies, do you think Marvel will sue?  

So what were the alien-like soldiers in this movie?  We really didn’t get any details other than seeing one of the Army officers turned into one by Enchantress.  Shouldn’t they have spent maybe a minute or two more on that since they spent a good chunk of the movie killing those things?

Anybody know where the heck we’re going?

Didn’t it seem like it took them forever to walk through the city?  I know it was intended to provide a backdrop to the witty banter between team members but for a good while there it was just them walking around.

How did Joker survive that helicopter crash?  

Hi, I’m Killer Croc. I’ve got an impenetrable layer of thick skin all over my body and the ability to swim like crazy. But yeah, you regular humans go ahead and set the underwater bomb at the end of the movie. I’ll just fight off some guys while you do it.

Did the regular human Army Rangers that helped to set that bomb at the end of the movie really die?  It seemed like the one Ranger was kinda right there when they set it off.  Did he have time to escape?  Why didn’t they let Killer Croc do all of that and then say that his super powers allowed him to escape harm?  

Can we really trust anyone in charge of these movies if they let Ben Affleck play Batman?  I mean really.  Name one movie that is actually better because Ben Affleck was in it.  I bet you can’t.  Any movie you can name with Ben Affleck, I can tell you someone who would’ve done a better job in that role.  Any movie.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait………………………………………………. Couldn’t do it could you?  

Was SlipKnot a Native American or Latino?  It doesn’t matter really, but if he was Native American it would make the team really, really diverse, huh?  I mean, think about it.  You’ve got an Aussie, a black guy, a white woman, an asian lady, a latino, a native american and a crocodile thing that likes BET.  Really?  That doesn’t seem odd to anyone else?  It’s like the diversity all stars or something.  

Is it just me or was Will Smith in this movie a straight up combination of his characters in pretty much all of his other movies? And what about Deadshot’s mask?  Sometimes he wears it, sometimes he doesn’t?  Does it do anything in particular or what? Seems kind of important don’t you think?

Quick is this from Suicide Squad or Ali? Trick question, it’s actually from Men In Black.

This is serious Will Smith. Or maybe it’s confused Will Smith. Or perhaps sad Will Smith. You never can tell.

When Deadshot talked about wanting to be with his daughter in this movie, he actually grew a thicker mustache and a soul patch. Talk about super powers!

I am a stone faced killer, with a sniper rifle patrolling the remnants of a destroyed city. I Am Legend. I Am Deadshot. I Am pretty much the same character every time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This movie was both written and directed by the same man.  Do you think that gives too much power to one person?  I mean in certain cases it can be great (Quentin Tarantino), but don’t you think those cases are the exception rather than the rule.  I know everyone wants creative freedom and all, but what if you suck and no one is there to tell you that you suck?

Enchantress was basically a one woman team. Which is why she decided to go ahead and try to take over the world I guess.

Finally, does anyone else find it funny that Enchantress tries to destroy the world within seconds of Amanda Waller getting approval to put this dumb team together?  It’s like the whole reason for the movie.

Waller:  I need to put a team of villains together to help defend us from threats.

 

Everyone else:  That seems wildly unsafe and poorly thought out.

 

Waller:  But look, Enchantress can do tricks!

 

Everyone else:  Oh well, what the heck.  It’s fine.  Get that team together.

 

**Enchantress tries to destroy the planet**

 

Everyone else:  Good thing we have this team, huh?

 

Me:  What the…?

 

At an rate, that’s my quick and dirty review of the film, Suicide Squad.  When I heard the reviews last year for the film, I just assumed that the negativity was based on purists or fanboys made because the crease in Deadshot’s costume wasn’t just right or Diablo should’ve been taller.  I figured it couldn’t have been too bad.  I guess I was wrong.  I hate to pile on, but I really do think this movie was a huge swing and miss.  I’d like to say it could’ve been so much more, but given the logistics of a large squad of superheroes and limited time, maybe it couldn’t really be helped.  Either way, I think you’d have to be a pretty dedicated super hero fan to really enjoy this one.  Let me know what you think.   

 

The Miracle of Flight

I sometimes wonder if the Wright brothers knew the magnitude of their contribution to our world as they stood ankle deep in those chilly sand dunes in December 1903.  Did they know their newly crafted controls would allow flight to be experienced in nearly every corner of the globe?  Did they see the ever-expanding family of aircraft through the next century?  From warplanes to rescue crafts, jets to puddle-jumpers, did they really understand the wave of invention and exploration they had unleashed?  Would they truly understand that their simple few seconds in the air would revolutionize how millions travel every day?  Perhaps my greatest question though is, could they peer through the years far enough to see me strapped into a rickety metal seat by a ragged belt, sweating profusely, eyes bulged, attempting, with white knuckles, to hold an airliner up in the sky by the sheer force of my own will.  I doubt it.

Thanks a lot Orville and Wilbur.

As you may have guessed, I am not a big fan of flying.  My wife will attest to this fact.  That is, if you can get her to stop rolling her eyes and cursing me under her breath whenever the subject is mentioned.  In fact, flying helped me realize when the honeymoon was truly over for us and the hard work of marriage had begun.

I had agreed to accompany my wife on our honeymoon (I felt it was the least I could do) to a nice spot in the Bahamas.  Of course, this would require that we fly from Pittsburgh to Charlotte and then from Charlotte to Nassau.  At the time, I attributed my going along with this decision to the fact that I was “in love.”  Looking back, I now attribute the decision to the fact that I am an idiot.

My wife, for her part, was very supportive during both flights down to the island, one lasting 50 minutes, the other just slightly longer.  She loves to fly and has travelled extensively throughout Europe and Russia.  She would see my discomfort, pat my hand, look lovingly into my eyes and ask if there was anything she could do to help.  Would I like to read her magazine for a while?  Use her headphones? Did I want a drink?

“Just relax and close your eyes” she would whisper lovingly.  Then she would gently grasp my hand and assure me that everything would be fine.

We did indeed survive the two flights to Nassau.  As I “de-planed,” I resolved to enjoy the time with my new bride on the beach and not think about the return trip home.  We spent the next several days enjoying the sights and sounds of this wonderful little slice of the Caribbean.  

As the end of the week approached, I would awake each morning to the familiar pangs of anxiety about the flight home.  It was nothing major, just your typical sense of impending doom.  As we drove to the airport on the last day, I tried to concentrate on the new part of my life that was now stretching out in front of me, not the vast expanse of ocean that would soon be stretching out beneath our plane.  My wife seemed to be in good spirits and ready to help me through this little annoyance at the start of our life together.  

The flights back home, it should be noted, were not going to be the same as the ones that brought us to the Bahamas.  Instead of two moderately long flights, this trip would start with a two hour and twenty minute marathon of sheer terror to Philadelphia.  Then a quick twenty five minute flight back to Pittsburgh.  Some people have told me that it is safer, and therefore better, to have one long flight instead of several shorter ones.  A nod to the myriad of problems that could occur with every landing and takeoff no doubt.  I don’t share their view, however, and would much rather have a few shorter flights.  Shorter flights, it seems to me, always have something going on to pass the time;  first we take off, then we ascend, then the drinks come out, then the nuts come out, then the nuts are strapped back into their seats and the pretzels are served.  Before you know it, the captain is coming on talking about the weather forecast in your destination city, which is now just a couple minutes away.  I definitely prefer short flights.  Actually, if I’m totally honest, I prefer no flights.  Can we just get the plane to cruise along the ground at that same high speed it achieves just before take off until we arrive at our desired destination?  Sound okay?  No?  Oh well…

If you look closely you can see my screaming face pressed against one of the windows near the rear of the plane.

The first thirty minutes of the flight to Philly were fine.  I simply engaged in some tried and true time-passing techniques I had picked up over the years.  I tried to break up the monotony of thinking about the left wing and engine falling off the plane by worrying about the right wing and engine.  The variation seemed to help.  I was able to refrain from shrieks of terror and rarely did my anxious displays rise above the level of gentle sobbing.

The final part of the journey into Philadelphia seemed to take just short of forever and was accompanied by some turbulence as we made our way up the east coast.  With every bump and bounce I felt as if the plane was going to drop nose first out of the sky dragging my screaming form with it.  Most of these feelings I kept to myself, but on occasion I would ask my wife if she felt the plane lurch or wiggle.  My wife claims those “occasions” numbered in the hundreds, but I think her number is inflated.  Seething rage has a way of playing tricks on the mind.  

 During the last portion of the flight I felt the plane drop in altitude abruptly in what I perceived to be the same manner as a carnival ride gone haywire.  I turned to my wife and quietly remarked “Good gosh almighty!! Did you feel that?!  That can’t be normal!”

My new bride, the woman who had held my hand so gently just days earlier, who had just shared a wonderful honeymoon with me in the Bahamas, who would be the mother to my children and lifelong companion said: “I wish you’d just shut up and not breath another word until we get there!  If you don’t, I swear…” It got a little blurry after that, but I think she went on to pose some serious questions about my lineage, the legitimacy of my parents marriage, and my intellect, or lack thereof.  I couldn’t really make out most of it.  It’s hard to hear when someone is trying to stuff you headfirst into the overhead compartment.

The flight to Pittsburgh was somewhat less eventful, but no less terrifying.  After sitting on the runway for an hour to let a storm pass over the Pittsburgh airport we began our ascent.  The captain gave his usual mumbled briefing about our flight.  He said we’d be in the air for about 25 minutes and that we’d be cruising at around 30,000 feet to our destination.  My keen senses trained on each movement of our plane, I noticed that we’d been ascending for quite a long time.  The reason for this was made known when the pilot returned to the microphone to announce that we were currently cruising at around 50,000 feet and were doing so to fly over the storm now making its way from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia.  For good measure, he mentioned that if the passengers on the left side of the plane looked out their windows they could see the rare sight of a massive storm front from above.  I reacted to this announcement with the scientific curiosity that would’ve been displayed by any college-educated 24 year old in that situation:  I yelled out “For the love of God and all that’s holy don’t everyone look at once!  You’ll tip the plane!”

As three flight attendants, two passengers and my new wife wrestled me back into my seat, I tried to explain my reasoning.  If the pilot can’t be trusted to tell the truth about the cruising altitude of our flight, what other secrets or misdirections was he planning.  I was grateful for the assistance back to my seat given me by the crew and passengers, but I felt the repeated blows to the head and upper body were a bit much for that situation.  The troubling part is that I’m 80% sure the damage was done by my wife.

She isn’t the only victim of my fear of flying.  My brother, Matthew, has been forced to endure air travel with me.  He soldiered through these experiences with the same caring demeanor and positive attitude displayed by my “better half.”  Once, on a bumpy flight to Toronto, he told me that if I touched his leg again when grasping the arm rest or asked if he felt the plane move just once more, he was going to kill me.  He smiled as he made this threat.  The kind of smile that makes you think he may be joking. On the other hand, it was also the smile of a person who has not only arrived at how he’s going to kill you, but has also determined where to dispose of the body.

Matthew also played a part in another flight-related incident.  At one point in my struggle with air travel, I took a prescription anti-anxiety medication prior to flights to help with the abject fear of the trip.  The medication did take the edge off, so to speak, but the underlying issue was still there.  It made it manageable, but it also made me so “relaxed” that I was essentially useless for a few hours after touching down.  I would be alert and could tolerate the flight, but when that fearful stimulus was out of the picture, the medicine seemed to take a strong hold on other parts of my person, namely basic motor functions and rational thought.

Ah, the Vegas Strip. I’ve been there. At least I’m pretty sure I’ve been there. That Ativan is a heckuva drug.

Matthew had flown with me to Las Vegas for a pharmacy convention (sounds fun, right?) because my wife was pregnant at the time and elected not to accompany me.  It was a five hour flight to Vegas and I’d taken a dose of medication prior to departure.  To ride out the grueling trip across the country I decided to take another dose during the flight.  By the time our plane touched down, I was very, very relaxed.  We landed, picked up our luggage and were waiting in line for a taxi outside the airport.  I just remember thinking how good I felt at that point.  Just really, really good.  Everything was good.  Good.  Our taxi took us to our hotel where we waited in line to check in.  My company had set up the reservations and paid for the room, we just needed to confirm our information and get the keys.  As the line thinned out, I finally stepped ahead of Matthew and up to the counter and began the check in process.  After confirming my identity the receptionist at the front desk asked some more detailed questions about our room.

“Smoking or non?”, she asked.

“Non.”

“Would you like a view facing the strip?”

“Sure,” I replied.  Who wouldn’t want to see that, right?

“Will you be using the mini bar?”

“No.”

At that point, I was as chemically altered as I cared to be.

“Would you like twin beds or king size?”

As I stood there, with my brother standing slightly behind me, but still close enough to be recognized as the other member of my party, my mind tossed the question around for a moment.  I thought, “What could be better than a king size bed facing the strip?”  Seemed like the way to go.

“King size.”

“Wha..?” said Matthew.

The receptionist responded with an inquisitive, furrowed brow and a shake of the head.  I just stood there with, what I have to assume, was the biggest, dopiest grin anyone’s ever had on their face ever.  

Matthew didn’t say much the rest of the week, but I have to assume that two grown men spooning in a king sized bed was not his idea of a wonderful trip, even if we were in Las Vegas.  Enough time has finally passed so that he and I can share a good laugh about the whole ordeal.  I’m not sure if it’s a related issue or not, but he still won’t sit beside me at Thanksgiving dinner.

My last encounter with flying happened about six years ago when I decided at the gate not to board a flight to Las Vegas for another pharmacy convention.  My wife had come along this time and did everything she could to get me to get on the plane.  I was having none of it and decided to remain earthbound.  I haven’t flown since.  I would share more details, but my lawyer advises me it’s best not to discuss an ongoing case.  He feels it could hurt my defense in my wife’s filing to have me committed.  Yes, whatever the Wright Brothers hath wrought, I just know it’s all wrong for me.

The First 5 Things I’d Do If I Was MLB Commissioner

With the 2017 MLB season quickly approaching, interest in the national pastime naturally increases. With that in mind, I’d like to share with you the First 5 Things I’d Do If I Was Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Let me qualify this list by stating that while some facts are included in the list, these ideas are based mostly on my own opinions. Some of the items may improve the overall baseball experience and make the game better for the average fan. Some of the items may lead to increased interest in the sport and make the game better for the owners or players. ALL of the items on this list, however, would make the game better for me. And isn’t that what it’s really all about…or something? At any rate, without further ado, my list:

1. Reinstate Pete Rose – I’ll get the serious one out of the way up front. First a few concessions on my part: Did Pete Rose have a gambling problem? Yep. Did he bet on baseball? Yep. Is he a bit of a jerk at times? Umm…yes. Is he still most likely the greatest hitter who ever lived? I say yes. I also think he gets the cold shoulder from those in MLB because they simply do not like him. Pete has few advocates in the game because he rubbed too many people the wrong way with his sandpaper, Charlie Hustle style. They didn’t like him then. They don’t like him now. What’s that? His betting on baseball and possibly the Reds forever tarnished the precious lily-white image of baseball and for that he should remain permanently banished? Give me a break. Read up a little on some of the upstanding citizens currently in or going into the revered hall in Cooperstown. For the sake of brevity, I’ll simply focus on one of the more recent selections.

You can say a lot about Pete Rose, but one thing you couldn’t say was that he was anything less than full throttle on the baseball diamond.

Allan Huber “Bud” Selig was selected for the 2017 class by the “Today’s Game Era” committee. So what has he done to leave his mark on baseball? He did work to give us the Wild Card Playoff era. He oversaw a massive increase in revenue. Oh and he made the All Star game “count” again. What else you say? Well, he was part of the owner’s collusion in 1985 through 1987 where owner’s entered into a “gentlemen’s agreement” to freeze out all free agent players. Teams would not sign a free agent unless they were fully released by their original team. The original teams refused to release them meaning they would not be signed period. The ensuing legal action by the players association eventually resulted in owners paying $280 million dollars in damages to said players. Selig became “acting commissioner” in 1992 and in 1994 oversaw negotiations so contentious they eventually lead to the first cancellation of the World Series since 1904. (Way to go Bud! Here’s your plaque!) The cancellation brought an abrupt end to some of the most exciting pennant races in years. It also could be argued that it robbed a dazzling young Montreal Expos team of postseason glory eventually leading to the end of baseball in that city. (Again, way to look at the big picture Bud!) Sensing that he’d not done enough to pull baseball over the brink, Selig politely looked the other way as every Mark, Pudge and A-Rod in the game enhanced their performance and made a mockery of the record books. As previously stated, revenues did rise during this time, but at what cost to the integrity of the game? Selig did finally make the token effort to rid the sport of steroids in 2005 when he pushed for increased testing and stricter penalties for positive results. This was only after he was called before Congress on the matter and several years after the damage was already done.

This is just one example of a Hall of Famer with a less than stellar “all around” record. There are many others. Hall of Famer Tris Speaker was a Klan member. Hank Aaron admitted to using amphetamines, or “greenies.” Players testified under oath that Willie Stargell used amphetamines and also distributed them to teammates. Gaylord Perry said he always had some “grease” on him somewhere when he went to the mound so that he could alter the ball for a little extra movement. He admitted this decades after the spitball or greaseball was made illegal in baseball. This admission also came BEFORE he was elected to the Hall of Fame. Basically, no one’s record is spotless, not ball players and especially not great ball players.

My point is not to vindicate Rose by denigrating Selig. My point is to say that even people who make good contributions to baseball, have often also made bad contributions to the game. Pete Rose should be in the hall of fame because he was an integral part of multiple championship teams in two cities. He should be in because he collected 4,256 hits, more than anyone else in the history of the game, while playing his guts out over the better part of three decades. He should be in for what he did on the field, not kept out because of his faults off of it. Ask yourself this: which left a larger “stain on baseball” Rose’s betting or the steroids Selig allowed to permeate the game?

1972 World Series. Actual photographic proof that World Series baseball can, indeed, be played in sunlight.

2. More regular season, postseason and (yes) World Series games in the day time – Now that I’ve climbed down off my soap box, let me throw this idea out there: If baseball is really interested in drawing back younger fans why not start the games when those fans are actually awake? What time did the Cubs finally win game 7 last year? Quarter past four in the morning? I know, I know, ten year old boys don’t define the spending habits of the family and money is the most important factor in all of these decisions. Well I offer this as a counter argument: If you can provide a ten

year old boy with a significant experience or lasting memory that revolves around your game, would that ten year old not grow up and, more often than not, stay loyal to said game. If we don’t bring baseball back to front and center in the lives of our youth they will not consistently follow baseball as adults. I love baseball. I love baseball for many reasons, but one reason I love baseball is that in the many summers of my youth I could watch day games on TV with my grandma. My grandma didn’t really know Johnny Bench from Johnny Cash, but my memories of those games will forever tie me to her and to baseball. If we don’t give kids a chance to watch some baseball on their own schedules, we are ensuring that most of the “future fans” will grow up with no link to the national pastime.

 

The last day game played in the World Series was Game 6 of the 1987 matchup between the Twins and Cardinals.  In an act of superior planning and foresight all to common with Major League Baseball, this “day game” was played indoors at the Metrodome.  The last REAL day game was in the 1984 World Series in Detroit. It is ridiculous that not one game has been scheduled for a daytime start since that time. The Series has become a slave to the prime time television spot so that Capital One or Chevrolet can bombard us with more advertising or so Fox can beat us over the head with whatever new show now graces their fall lineup. Advertising dollars have become the “be all, end all” while generation after generation of young fan grows up never seeing the beauty of meaningful, World Series baseball played in the beauty of sunlight. Major League Baseball then has the audacity to wonder why they cannot reach the young fans of today.

 

The one, the only, Michael Jack Schmidt.

3. Immediate return of the “road blues.” – In the seventies and eighties many teams featured sky blue road uniforms. They were a blessed departure from the drab grays for many teams. They were colorful without being gaudy and overdone. I mean who doesn’t love these uniforms:

Rockin’ Robin Yount showing off the blue uniform, his blond curls and one of the best logos in baseball.

Sweet, sweet road blues. (And dig those stirrups!)

One of the most disturbing trends in all of sports uniforms is the increased use of black as an “alternate” color or uniform. If you’re the Oakland Raiders, San Antonio Spurs, Pittsburgh Steelers or Chicago White Sox then I’m all for you wearing your black loud and proud. (Although the White Sox had an epic red and powder blue uni combo in the seventies!!) However, if you’re just adding your logo to a black jersey top to sell more alternates (I’m looking at you Mets of the 2000s) then I’m not buying. When I’m commish, any team that sported a powder blue road uniform at any point in their recent history will go back to that uniform. That means you Royals, Braves, Mariners, Cardinals, Brewers, Phillies, Twins, Rangers, Blue Jays and (once they’re reinstated) Expos. My personal preference would be for every team to return to their full uniform combo circa 1982, but we’ll start with the blue road uniforms and go from there.

 

4. Houston Astros back to the NL and Brewers back to the AL – Why you ask? Because that’s where they belong. In fact I’m not sure why this hasn’t already happened. The only reason I can think of is that the MLB has some goofy idea that having the Astros and Rangers in the same division will spark some sort of Texas rivalry. The same goes for having the Brewers and Cubs in the same division. I think interleague play has rendered this a silly argument as there are plenty of chances to match these teams up over the years if that is the ultimate goal. Besides that, true rivalry is much more likely if both teams are competitive, a state the Astros have only recently rediscovered and the Brewers seem to be unable to find. But wait, you can make this switch straight up because the Brewers will be forced into the AL West. That’s actually an easy fix. Once the Brew Crew returns to the AL, they can be moved into the Central and the Kansas City Royals can be moved to the West. The rivals for all three teams would be much more natural in their “new” divisions. The Astros would be back in a division with their old NL West foes the Cincinnati Reds and back in the National League with the Dodgers, Padres and Giants. The Brewers would be back to battling the Tigers, Twins and that “other Chicago team,” the White Sox. The Royals would be back at it with old AL West foes in the Mariners, Athletics and Angels. It just makes too much sense not to do this. Unfortunately, it makes so much sense that baseball will probably never actually undertake the move.

If stirrups are good enough for Keith Hernandez, they’re good enough for me.

5. If you play baseball, you must wear stirrups! – Let me follow that up by saying, if you want to wear your baseball pants like sweat pants, a la Manny Ramirez, there’s no place for you in my league! When I was a Little League baseballer I had to wear a pair of bright yellow stirrups under my pants and above my socks. There was a right and a wrong way to put them on and no real way to make them look “cool.” But they were part of my uniform and if I was putting them on that meant I was getting ready to play some baseball. Stirrups are just part of the game. I’m glad to see them being embraced by many college teams in recent years. I just wish they would be made mandatory in MLB. Listen, I’m all for asking why. Why do we have to do it this way? Why do we accept things as they are? Why must we conform to certain rules? However, there are certain things that should always be part of the game and, for me, stirrups are one of those. I feel the same way about long baseball pants as I do about those wretched T-shirt jerseys the NBA is now foisting on its fans. I mean, since we’re asking why: Why don’t we just show up in clown pants and a red nose for Pete’s sake? Or just play shirts and skins? Or market an entire weekly football broadcast on national television featuring teams wearing colorful but unappealing distortions of their original uniforms? Oh wait…  Fads will come and go. Stirrups are not cool, they’re not retro, they’re not throwback. They’re simply baseball.

So that’s it from the commish’s office for now. Feel free to chime in with your own official acts in regards to improving Major League Baseball, goofy ideas about the game or fixing your pet peeves. I still have some other winning ideas that didn’t make the list: the first game of opening day should always be played in Cincinnati, we need to bring back bullpen carts and can we talk about redecorating awful, awful Marlins Park in Miami. Until next time.