Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the late-night get-together for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Come on in out of the cold December air. The music and companionship in here should be warm. So glad you could join us. Let us take your coat for you. There are still a few tables available. Bring your own beverage.
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 if you thought that Dansby Swanson would sign with the Cubs. Some of you sneaky folks went and voted after the news that he was signing was announced, but when I checked about 20 or 30 minutes after the news of the signing broke, 57 percent of you were wrong and said that Swanson wasn’t coming to the North Side. The other 43 percent of you had your faith in the Cubs rewarded with a brand-new (slightly-used) shortstop. Or maybe you don’t like Swanson and your worst fears came true. If so, you might want to talk to someone about that. Or not. Live your life the way you want to live it.
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 daughter was bugging me the other day as to why “My Favorite Things” is a Christmas song, and the only answer I had was it just was. When I was her age we’d have just had to leave it at that, but these days we have the internet to look things up on. And I found the answer on this article from Billboard. Basically, it’s Jack Jones’ fault. You know, the guy who sang the theme song to The Love Boat? I’m also a bit surprised to discover Jack Jones is still alive, so good for him. Good for us too, I guess.
One person who isn’t alive is John Coltrane. I promised to play Coltrane’s version of “My Favorite Things” if you were all good. I guess you’re all good little Cubs fans this year, so here’s a live version of Coltrane playing “My Favorite Things” in Belgium in 1965. Coltrane recorded “My Favorite Things” before it was a Christmas song, so we can thank Jack Jones for making it a Christmas song so we have this occasion to play Coltrane on the holidays.
It’s an all-star quartet here with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. And of course, ‘Trane on the soprano saxophone.
We had another upset in our BCB Winter Noir Classic as 1959’s Odds Against Tomorrow slipped by Sweet Smell of Success with just 52 percent of the vote. You really can’t argue with the music of Odds Against Tomorrow, nor with the director or the cast. I didn’t mention this is my write-up, but it’s also a good film if you’re a fan of classic cars. But biggest reason to vote for Odds Against Tomorrow is Harry Belafonte. The whole thing was a bit of a passion project for him and it comes through in his performance—acting and singing.
Tonight’s matchup in the Noir Classic is The Big Heat (1953) and The Set-Up (1949). Both of them have actors who would later appear in Odds Against Tomorrow. Gloria Grahame is in The Big Heat and Robert Ryan stars in The Set-Up. Also, Robert Wise directed both Odds Against Tomorrow and The Set-Up.
The Big Heat: Directed by Fritz Lang. Starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame and Jocelyn Brando. (Yes, Marlon’s sister.) There are two classic scenes in Hollywood history of angry men throwing food in the face of poor women. There’s James Cagney pushing a grapefruit into Mae Clarke’s face in The Public Enemy and Lee Marvin throwing a pot of hot coffee in the face of Gloria Grahame in The Big Heat.
The Big Heat is the story about the suicide of a corrupt cop and the one honest cop, Ford’s Dave Bannion effort to uncover the truth and break the corrupt hold that the mob has on his small town. When the late officer’s mistress tells Bannion that the cop had no reason to kill himself, she turns up dead not much later. Not the last woman who is going to end up dead in this movie. I don’t want to spoil things, but this film has a high body count.
The police commissioner is on the mob’s payroll and orders Bannion to stop his investigation. If you want to know where the cliché of a cop being told to “turn in your gun and badge” and then he goes rogue and continues to work the case against orders, here’s where to look. There’s a great shoot-out at the end of the film as well. I think The Big Heat is one of the handful of American movies directed by Lang that are on par with the ones that he directed in Germany.
The Big Heat is a great example of the lone-wolf honest cop fighting against a sea of corruption. You’ve seen that story before, but all those later films owe the concept at least in part to The Big Heat. Besides, Ford, Grahame, Brando and Marvin, this also features Alexander Scourby (whom you might remember from endless commercials for his narration of the King James’ Bible from the last 25 years of the 20th Century) and Jeanette Nolan.
Here’s a trailer for The Big Heat.
The Set-Up. Directed by Robert Wise. Starring Robert Ryan and Audrey Totter. Based on a popular, book-length poem by Joseph Moncure March. (Although in the poem, the fighter is Black.) Ryan plays Bill “Stoker” Thompson, a down-on-his-luck and aging fighter who steps into the ring one last time. Thompson’s manager has taken money for Thompson to take a dive, but the manager is so sure Stoker will lose, he doesn’t bother to tell him to take that dive. You can guess what happens.
Totter plays Julie, Stoker’s wife who begs him not to fight again. When he decides to fight anyway, she refuses to attend the match. Instead, she wanders the streets (pretty gloriously shot by Wise and cinematographer Milton R. Krasner), torn between her love of her husband and her fear that he won’t come out of the fight alive.
Ryan had been a champion boxer at Dartmouth, so The Set-Up features some of the best and most-convincing fight scenes of any boxing movie of the Classic Hollywood era.
I don’t have a trailer for The Set-Up, but I do have a scene to watch.
The Big Heat or The Set-Up?
This poll is closed
The Big Heat
You have until Wednesday evening to vote. Our matchup later that evening will be between The Night of the Hunter (1955), directed by Charles Laughton and starring Robert Mitchum, and Touch of Evil (1958), written, directed and starring Orson Welles. Also with Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and movies.
Since we had such good luck with the Dansby Swanson question last week, tonight I’m going to ask you about outfielder Michael Conforto and whether he’ll end up with the Cubs.
I probably don’t have to tell you about Conforto’s situation, but I’ll go over it again anyway for those of you who have fallen behind in class. Michael Conforto was a first-round pick of the Mets out of Oregon State in 2014—just six picks after Kyle Schwarber. He made his major-league debut after just 133 games in the minor leagues. There were a few struggles in his first two seasons in the majors, but by his third year, he was an All-Star left fielder.
Conforto was a very good hitter, good for 27 to 33 home runs a year and an OBP between .350 and .412 from 2017 to 2020. He was in line for a huge payday when he reached free agency, but then he had a poor 2021 season, hitting just .232 with an OBP of .344 and just 14 home runs. But he was still confident enough about his value on the market that he turned down a qualifying offer from the Mets.
But in January of this year, Conforto’s agent Scott Boras announced that Conforto had suffered a shoulder injury during off-season training and would be out for the entire season.
So Conforto hasn’t played in a year and he wasn’t all that great in 2021. There are some questions about his arm strength coming off of surgery, which is an issue since his arm in left field was never all that great in the first place. His defense in left field would be a question.
But the Cubs don’t want him for left field as they have Ian Happ there. They want him as a designated hitter. (Although they’d probably like him to take the field from time to time to give the regular outfielders a half-day off.) And if Conforto is healthy and returns to his 2017 to 2020 form, that’s someone you want in your lineup every day.
There have been rumors that the Cubs are one of the teams most in on Conforto. Bruce Levine is on the record predicting that the Cubs will sign Conforto. (Kind of. It’s hard to know if that’s a real prediction or just an off-hand comment.) And then there’s this Tweet from Rockies’ beat writer Patrick Saunders.
There’s other assorted chatter on the internet that the Cubs are “one of the favorites” for Conforto.
Conforto is reportedly looking for a short-term deal, as detailed by Anthony DiComo.
Michael Conforto is seeking a short-term contract of "probably a couple years with an opt-out," according to his agent Scott Boras, after missing all of this season with a shoulder injury.— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) December 15, 2022
Conforto is "back to full health," per Boras, and talking to "a number of teams."
That sounds like something Carlos Rodón got from the Giants last year. A few years guaranteed but with an opt-out after a year in case he has a huge bounce-back season in 2023.
Al already wrote up some of the pros and cons of signing Conforto three weeks ago, although I think with where the market was during the Winter Meetings, the one-year, $12 million deal discussed then is likely to be woefully short. But I’m not going to ask if you think it’s a good idea, although you’re free to discuss that in the comments.
Instead, we’re going to do what we did last time on Dansby Swanson and just ask “Will the Cubs sign Michael Conforto?” Maybe we’ll have the same luck with Conforto that we had with Swanson.
Will the Cubs sign Michael Conforto?
This poll is closed
Thank you so very much for stopping by. If you checked anything, let us get that for you now. Please stay warm this evening. Get home safely. Be sure to tip your waitstaff. Recycle any cans and bottles. And join us again tomorrow night for another edition of BCB After Dark.