It’s another week here at BCB After Dark: the late-night club for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. I hope you had a terrific holiday weekend. Come on in out of the cold. Have you been out shopping? If so, you probably need to come in and relax. We can check your coat for you. There are still a few tables available. No cover charge tonight. Bring your own beverage—hot or cold. There’s no corkage fee either.
BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.
Last week I asked you about who the Cubs should sign as a new catcher, assuming that Willson Contreras is gone for good. A clear winner with 42 percent of the vote was Christian Vázquez. In second place with 22 percent was Mike Zunino.
There’s no baseball outside of the Winter Leagues, but there’s the big United States/Iran soccer match at 1pm Central on Tuesday.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.
My wife has definitely changed the channel in the car radio to the Christmas channel now, so those of you who don’t want to hear Christmas music have lucked out because I don’t want to listen to it either after driving with her for an hour earlier tonight. Those who do want to hear it, do not fret. I promise you that we’re going to have a lot of Christmas jazz in the coming weeks. I’m definitely going to feature the Modern Jazz Quartet doing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” I may feature John Coltrane playing “My Favorite Things,” but only if you are all very good little boys and girls.
So tonight I’m just going to feature bassist Christian McBride, along with Christian Sands on piano and Jerome Jennings on drums playing “Baubles, Bangles & Beads.” This is from 2016.
If you missed BCB After Dark on Thanksgiving, I mentioned that I had an idea for a bracket tournament of film noir. Every evening I’d post two noir classics and you’d vote for one to go on in the tournament until only one film remains.
The feedback I got on that, from those of you who were here on Thanksgiving, was overwhelmingly positive. So unless people have some sort of major objections tonight, I think we’re going to do that.
But before we have our little Winter Noir Classic, we’re going to have to decide on the rules and the contestants. First off, we have to decide what qualifies for the tournament. Do we include only what I’d call true film noir, which I’d define as American films made between 1940 and 1960, or do we include “neo-noir,” which would include films made in the style of classic film noir but after 1960? My initial inclination was to include neo-noir films like Chinatown, Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing, L.A. Confidential, etc, but then I feel like we might have too many candidates for a final bracket. (Thief, which I recently wrote about, would also qualify) I want to keep this from getting out of hand.
My first thought was to just have 16 films in the competition, but I suppose we could go to 24 or maybe 32, although I’d prefer not to have a 32-film bracket. I think it would be hard to avoid a larger bracket if we included neo-noir.
The other question is do we include foreign films such as Breathless, Rififi and Elevator to the Gallows? That opens up a whole new can of worms. On the one hand, it was the French that coined the term film noir. But other than the French, I’m not real familiar with foreign films that fit in the noir genre. I suppose Rififi could count since it had an American director, Jules Dassin, who had made several noir pictures beforehand, but my instinct is to limit it to American (and probably British) films.
Finally, I need your help with the nominations. I want you to tell me which films you think should be in our Winter Noir Classic. I’ll leave the nomination period open all week and I’ll ask the same question again tomorrow and Wednesday night/Thursday morning.
Then, of course, there’s the problem of “What is noir?” I don’t think TCM host and noir expert Eddie Muller’s definition of noir as “suffering with style” is going to help us here. I think we have to go with Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography: “I know it when I see it,” for our definition of noir.
I can tell you five films that I believe absolutely have to be in the tournament: The Maltese Falcon (1941), Double Indemnity (1944), The Big Sleep (1946) and Sunset Boulevard (1950). I’ll also add In a Lonely Place (1950) as it’s one of my personal favorites and I’ve written about it recently. I’d probably put in Detour (1945) as well, as silly as that film is, but I’m willing to be talked out of it. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)? The Night of the Hunter (1955)? Probably. But it depends on how many nominations we get.
(I’ve got the year of the film in there because a lot of these films were re-made with the same title. Please do the same in the nomination process if you can, or at least make clear which version you’re nominating. There’s a 1978 version of The Big Sleep, for example. I haven’t seen it myself, but it stars Robert Mitchum.)
Honestly, I could name a lot of noir that should be included, but I’d prefer that you chip in this week with your nominations. The first five classic noirs I mentioned are definitely in, so you don’t need to nominate those.
And as we work to get our little tournament in order, I do plan to write about The Thin Man (1934) and the first sequel Another Thin Man (1937) on Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Those two films are definitely not noir, but they do contain some pre-noir elements. But William Powell and Myrna Loy, as Nick and Nora Charles, were having way too much fun for the Thin Man movies to be considered noir.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and cinema.
The Astros signed former White Sox first baseman José Abreu to a three-year, $60 million contract earlier today. (Or yesterday, depending on when you read this.) The Cubs were rumored to be in on Abreu, and a deal for him made sense. The Cubs got very little production out of the first base position last season and they can’t really just hand rookie Matt Mervis the job without a backup plan in case he struggles. Abreu was already familiar with the city of Chicago from his years on the Southside and the Cubs were familiar with him. Although Abreu is due to turn 36 in January, he was still a productive hitter last year, although his power totals were down.
Now we don’t know what the Cubs offered Abreu (if anything), but I think we can safely guess that it wasn’t three years and $60 million. It’s possible that Abreu prefered the World Series champion Astros to staying in Chicago with the Cubs, but I’m also pretty confident that Abreu simply chose to sign with the highest bidder.
There’s a concept in situations like this called the “Winner’s curse,” where in order to win an open auction, a bidder (in this case a team) generally has to bid more than the asset is worth. That’s because the winner of the auction is the highest bidder, which means they value the player more than everyone else does. So unless everyone else is wrong in their evaluations, then the winner has paid too much.
On the other hand, if a team is never the highest bidder and is never willing to overspend, then they end up signing no one. And that’s no good either, as you all know.
Al wrote an article on the pros and cons of signing Abreu last month. And earlier this month, I asked you if you thought the Cubs would sign Abreu. It’s funny, because in each case, exactly 40 percent of you were against signing Abreu and 40 percent of you thought that the Cubs would not sign Abreu. (Sixty percent of you thought the Cubs would.) We won’t know whether the 40 percent who were against signing him were right for a while, but the 40 percent who said the Cubs would not sign him were right on the money, so to speak.
So this is all a long way of asking “If you were Jed Hoyer, would you have matched what the Astros gave Abreu?” Yes, three years and $60 million is a lot of money and years for a declining, but still quite good, 36-year-old first baseman. On the other hand, Abreu was the best first baseman on the market and was a very good fit for the Cubs roster.
So what’s your thinking? Would you have matched or exceeded the Astros offer to sign José Abreu?
Should the Cubs have matched or beaten the Astros offer to José Abreu?
This poll is closed
Thank you so very much for stopping by this evening. Bundle up against the cold. Be sure to layer. Wear a hat. Please get home safely. If you checked anything, we can get that for you now. Please recycle any cans and bottles. Tip the waitstaff. And join us again next week for another edition of BCB After Dark.