From Grantland’s Molly Lambert:

The exceptions to the rule about actresses are touted as though they are symbolic of the whole industry, but even Meryl Streep knows she is a token. Streep played one of Woody’s indelible intellectual women in Manhattan, but she is not among his defenders. In 1980, she told Ladies’ Home Journal, “I don’t think Woody Allen even remembers me. I went to see Manhattan and I felt like I wasn’t even in it. I was pleased with the film because I looked pretty in it and I thought it was entertaining. But I only worked on the film for three days and I didn’t get to know Woody. Who gets to know Woody? He’s very much a womanizer; very self-involved. On a certain level, the film offends me because it’s all about these people whose sole concern is discussing their emotional states or their neuroses. It’s sad because Woody has the potential to be America’s Chekhov. But instead, he’s still caught up in the jet-set crowd type of life, trivializing his talent.”

Robyn was coming up against a problem that video games are still dealing with today: Can the medium support stories and characters in the same way that a film or a novel does? And is that even what the medium should do in its advanced iteration? “I wanted people to really empathize with these characters that we were creating, and I wanted that to push the story forward. And I realized, no, that’s not what’s going to compel them forward in this. It’s just going to be the environment, you know?” The Millers had set out to make a world where the environment, in all its meticulously rendered detail, was the main character, but this left Robyn unsatisfied. “I still don’t think that’s quite as powerful as what you feel with another [character]. The environment is like the other main character in this, and that’s good, that’s great … ” he trailed off for a moment. “But the characters that we were creating were kind of just like every other video game.”

And then there’s a huge discussion after that — as there always is on good Reddit articles — where people are saying, ‘Yeah, why don’t people make these games? Why can’t we just explore? Why do we always have to shoot things?' So, maybe the time is right again to try that. That's exciting. I still think there's plenty of room for something really cool in this genre out there. And I don't think we've done it yet.”

On a narrative level, The Last of Us is about survival, but this is not what makes the game such a model of subtlety. Most contemporary video games are about survival, however facilely. What makes The Last of Us subtle is how rigorously its mechanics and rule set express and emphasize the horror and tedium of survival. One of the things you find yourself doing a lot in The Last of Us is finding ladders, which are used to ascend to higher ground. Another thing you find yourself doing a lot is searching for rags and rubbing alcohol to craft med kits. Another thing you do is wander into abandoned houses and rifle through drawers and cupboards in the hopes of finding scissors and masking tape, which you can use to make a shiv. And don’t forget about the planks of wood, which are awesome to bridge gaps between buildings. And hey, look over there! A brick. The point is, The Last of Us makes you search and scrape for depressingly common objects, which you put to depressingly common use. It doesn’t bother to dress up, make “interesting,” or in any way glamorize this aspect of the game, or cater at all to what the majority of its audience will want to do, which is feel powerful and heroic. It’s pretty hard to feel powerful while carrying a ladder. It’s pretty hard to feel heroic while sneaking up on an enemy and savagely beating him to death with a brick. Indeed, the depiction of melee violence in The Last of Us is as upsetting as anything I’ve played. Significantly, this kind of violence is almost always one’s last resort.

Food Network Star treats celebrity like a recipe and then walks us through each excruciating step. And it’s rarely pretty. The most gifted cooks head to Top Chef. Those with more manageable egos seek validation on Chopped. Food Network Star, by contrast, is filled out by an eager goon squad of pandering fameballs, few of whom seem to have noticed that the ability to dice and the ability to schmooze have as much to do with each other as speaking Esperanto and the Olympic triple jump. The contestants range from the mildly deluded to the clinically insane, and they tend to fall into four distinct categories. There are the Health Crusaders,3 doomed by their limited palates and scoldy POV. (No one wants to watch a half-hour on the glories of kale after binge-watching Cupcake Wars; it’d be like programming The 700 Club after Zane’s Sex Chronicles.) There are the Ethnics, talented and fascinating individuals forced to turn their personal cultural histories into dumbed-down grist for the human interest mill.4 There are the Guy’s Guys Who Act Like Guy, braying meatballs who specialize in spicing shit up and dumbing shit down.5 And then, most heartbreaking of all, there are the poor, misguided Competents.

But here’s the thing: A few years from now, there’s a good chance we’ll look back at even a number like $100 million and wonder how the Rays secured the rights to their franchise player for so long and so cheap. Baseball’s revenue streams are exploding, with the new national TV contract funneling an additional $25 million a year into each team’s coffers starting in 2014. Local TV deals offer even more potential for riches. Guggenheim Partners bought the Dodgers in the spring for $2.15 billion, started flexing their financial muscle in earnest a few months later, and if the latest reports are accurate, might be on their way to a 25-year deal with Fox worth as much as $7 billion.

The Rays have been out in front on many trends over the past half-decade, from loading the roster with undervalued defensive wizards to tacking on club options to every deal possible, even for relief pitchers approaching their 40s.

The going rate for a win on the open market now lies somewhere between $5 million and $6 million, depending on how this hot stove season shakes out. Given the combination of typical 5 percent per year salary inflation and the media revenue forces to come, it may very well cost close to $10 million by the time Longoria’s new contract expires in a decade. So even if you’re skeptical of a player who’s never posted a .900 OPS (Tropicana Field significantly suppresses offense, but still), derives much of his value from defense (good luck getting one publicly available measure of defense everyone can agree on), and has legitimate injury concerns, Longoria doesn’t need to perform like a superstar in the later years of the deal for the Rays to get good value on their investment. If he stays near his current level for the next few years, then ages into a merely average player by the time the next decade rolls around, that would be more than enough.

With all of that said …

… Valentine’s at fault here, too. The tussle with Youkilis; zinging Middlebrooks with a, “Nice inning, kid,” after the rookie third baseman botched a play; confusing a right-handed pitcher for a lefty, filling out the wrong lineup as a result … these are real problems, both personal and tactical, for which Valentine should bear some or all of the blame. (There have been other instances where Valentine’s been ripped for bad decision-making; many of those complaints are justified, though you’d be hard-pressed to find a manager who doesn’t make his share of bone-headed mistakes.) There have been plenty of studies that chronicle the importance of a positive work environment and a supportive boss, and the difficulties that can crop up when that work environment turns sour. If the clubhouse tenor is as bad as Passan makes it out to be, that would certainly qualify as a bad work environment.

Chris Jaffe, the author of the excellent book Evaluating Baseball’s Managers, wrote a comprehensive piece on Valentine’s track record and tactical tendencies, showing that Bobby V’s been an effective manager for much of his career. In particular, he’s had a lot of success getting the most out of previously mediocre players, with everyone from Benny Agbayani to Turk Wendell to … hell, half of this year’s Red Sox roster outperforming their modest expectations.

What the post mostly brushed over was Valentine’s history of conflict at various stops. In some cases, you could chalk it up to scapegoating, like when he took the rap for Mets failures mostly caused by Steve Phillips’s missteps. But Valentine’s media-friendly persona and blunt management style hasn’t always played well either. And whether their complaints are fully justified or not, several 2012 Red Sox apparently haven’t been impressed by their new skipper’s approach.

When Bard talks about how his mechanics undermined his confidence, which further undermined his mechanics, which further undermined his confidence, he sometimes sounds like someone trying to heal himself through magic. Everything he says comes out in the language of someone looking for something that he’s lost, and lost it so thoroughly that he’s not entirely sure what it was anymore, except that it was precious. So much of pitching depends on things that have become so natural that there’s almost something fundamentally metabolic about them. All the systems have to be in subtle harmony, and the less that they are, the more obvious the symptoms of the problem become. He’s not sure what’s wrong with him, except that everything seems to be.

Grantland’s Jonah Keri:

And then there’s Daniel Nava. His pedigree was so modest that he …

• tried out for his college team at Santa Clara as a walk-on

• didn’t make it

• became the equipment manager

• left after two years because he couldn’t afford tuition

• transferred to junior college

• went undrafted

• signed with the Chico Outlaws of the Golden Baseball League

got cut by the Outlaws after a tryout

• came back a year later

• and finally got signed by the Red Sox on the say-so of assistant director of pro scouting Jared Porter …

• … for $1.

Nava is now the leadoff man for the Sox, hitting .294/.411/.462 and making the league minimum, after J.D. Drew’s $70 million contract expired at the end of last season. The little things always matter. Even when you’re a team as flush as the Red Sox.

Bill Simmons Releases 2,000-Page Book Exploring How Fucking Clever He Is

"I’m extremely proud of this book, which I think I’d really have to call my life’s work—or, at least, the work of my life thus far," Simmons said at a launch party sponsored by publisher McSweeney’s and hosted by Malcolm Gladwell, who did not manage to find an opportunity to speak …
In his 14-page introduction to Wit, Brilliance, Insight, Simmons, pop culture critic Chuck Klosterman poses the question of whether Simmons is brilliant because of his decision to embrace the entirety of television while writing for people who like to watch sports on television or, indeed, in spite of it.

Bill Simmons Releases 2,000-Page Book Exploring How Fucking Clever He Is

"I’m extremely proud of this book, which I think I’d really have to call my life’s work—or, at least, the work of my life thus far," Simmons said at a launch party sponsored by publisher McSweeney’s and hosted by Malcolm Gladwell, who did not manage to find an opportunity to speak …

In his 14-page introduction to Wit, Brilliance, Insight, Simmons, pop culture critic Chuck Klosterman poses the question of whether Simmons is brilliant because of his decision to embrace the entirety of television while writing for people who like to watch sports on television or, indeed, in spite of it.

(Source: The Onion)