Everyone is focused on the final "Star Wars'' movie that just opened, but what concerns me more is the upcoming release of the "Bad News Bears'' remake.
Remaking "The Bad News Bears'' is like sending Halle Berry to a plastic surgeon. What's the point? The original "Bad News Bears'' is not only one of the great sports movies of all time, it is one of the most honest. The original so accurately portrays Little League that you can practically feel the snowcone juice dripping down your hand.
Little League is filled with overbearing coaches, parents who take the games too seriously and thoughtless, foul-mouthed kids who pick on the smaller players. And because of that, it's time for the Off-Base guide to coaching Little League.
1. Show up sober. Or if you must drink and coaching Little League is enough to drive a Southern Baptist minister to hard liquor at least drink vodka so the kids can't smell it on your breath. Otherwise, they start questioning your hit-and-run calls.
2. The parent is always right. By this, of course, I mean the parent is usually wrong, pigheaded and embarrassing, but it's best just to nod your head and agree. Remember: it's just baseball. It's not worth getting shot over.
3. Snowcones are nice but money is a better incentive. My favorite manager gave us a dime for every hit and 30 cents for every hit against select pitchers and remember, this was back when 30 cents could buy you a pack of baseball cards and a comic book. Just be prepared in case your star player shows up before a game with his older brother as his "agent.''
4. Don't be an jerk by yelling at the umpire. Remember, it's only a game and he's a volunteer doing the best job he can. The best way to handle a bad call is to shrug it off and tell your players that no one is perfect. Then after the game, slash the umpire's tires.
5. Opt for the Clear instead of the Cream when dispensing steroids.
All right. Now that you have the basics, here are some actual tips from real major league players and coaches:
1. Don't pressure the players there'll be plenty of time for red-faced, overbearing authority figures screaming and cursing at the kids when the government reinstitutes the draft in a couple years. "Don't push kids too hard,'' Derek Jeter says. "The only way they're going to stay around the game is if they're having fun. Yeah, you have to make it a learning experience, but it has to be a fun experience.'' Vary practice routines and keep the kids active. Hit them grounders and fly balls during batting practice so they aren't standing around, picking their noses, while the worst kid on the team swings and misses at pitch after pitch. And if things break down totally, just hose down a section of the infield and let them practice sliding around in the mud.
2. Give positive reinforcement At least, as much as possible, when they miss a fly ball because they were busy picking dandelions. "There is so much of 'Don't do this' and 'Don't do that' in teaching baseball to kids but they also have to have enough positive feedback that they want to come back again,'' Seattle pitching coach Bryan Price said. "The kids want to know when they're doing something right. They may only do it right one time out of 10, but it's important to really focus in on that one time.''
3. Don't teach pitchers the curveball, a slider or a split-finger ever. As Price says, "All you need to pitch successfully in Little League is a fastball and a changeup. And sometimes, you're doing the batter a favor by throwing the change because they can't hit the fastball.'' There is plenty of time to teach breaking balls after the arms have matured. Just ask the Reds pitching coach.
4. As one wise man once said, strikeouts are fascist Price also advises that you should remind your ace that he should not try to strike out every batter. Grounders are more fun for everyone. Watching batters swing and miss repeatedly not only is dull, it puts fielders back on their heels and leaves them unprepared for when the ball is finally hit. That leads to even more errors, and who needs that in Little League?
5. Most important, let everyone play no one signs up for Little League to sit on the bench. Make sure everyone plays as many innings as possible and gets a crack at several positions. The important thing is not to win, but to play.
That said, feel free to park the booger-eating spaz in right field, where he'll do the least damage.
Box score line of the week
Just when you thought it was safe to look at the standings, the Yankees came roaring back, winning 10 consecutive games and rising back above .500. They reached the .500 mark Sunday with a rare performance from Randy Johnson. The Big Unit winning wasn't rare (it was his 250th career victory), it was the way he won. He didn't strike out a single batter, the first time in five years he had failed to do so. His line:
6 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
It was just the fourth time in 487 career starts that the Big Unit has not struck out a batter.
Lies, damn lies and statistics
Just to show you how much times have changed, the original "Star Wars'' cost $11 million to make in 1977. The current episode cost $115 million. Meanwhile, according to The Sporting News, the Yankees' payroll in 1977 was $3.7 million. The Evil Empire's payroll this year is $206 million. And if you think the "Star Wars'' franchise has been around for a long time, consider that Rickey Henderson already had stolen more than 40 bases in the minors when Luke Skywalker first appeared on a movie screen. The most amazing stat of the year so far? The Angels have allowed just three inherited runners to score (out of 39). It's not like when Whitey was in St. Louis the Cardinals have been caught stealing more times (11) than they've been successful (eight). David Wells allowed as many runs against Oakland Wednesday as Roger Clemens has allowed all season (seven). Nice to see that with global warming, the war in Iraq and Social Security concerns, Congress still is making steroid use a priority. Oh, and with all the attention on baseball's "terrible'' steroid problem, it's interesting that the athlete caught with a whizzinator last week plays in the NFL.
From left field
Kenny Rogers extended his scoreless streak to 30 consecutive innings by shutting out the Twins last week. Heading into this weekend's start, he hasn't allowed a run since April 21 (Cincinnati's Paul Wilson has allowed 26 runs in that same span). That's impressive, but it still falls 15 innings short of cracking the top 10 longest scoreless streaks in modern big league history. The 10:
|THROWIN' UP GOOSE EGGS|
(Source: Baseball Digest)
Win Blake Stein's Money
This week's department: Terrible Movie Sequels That Did Not Star Jar Jar Binks.
Q: Which former member of the Evil Empire's front office also appeared with "The Bad News Bears?"
A: Former Yankees general manager Bob Watson, who made a guest appearance in "The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training'' when he played for the Astros.
"Do you watch 'CSI: New York?' How about the regular 'CSI?' Or 'CSI: Miami?' Who watches 'CSI: Phoenix?' or 'CSI: Spokane?' Tonight on 'CSI: New York,' it takes place at Yankee Stadium and they find a dead Red Sox fan. It's a big mystery. They find traces of gun powder, they find hair and that's just in the hot dogs.
Jim Caple is a senior writer at ESPN.com. His first book, "The Devil Wears Pinstripes," is on sale now at bookstores nationwide. It can also be ordered through his Web site, Jimcaple.com.