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BCB After Dark: Can I interest you in a closer?

The late-night/early-morning spot for Cubs fans asks if the Cubs should trade for closer Emmanuel Clase.

Cleveland Guardians v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

We’re in full Hot Stove mode here at BCB After Dark: the swinging-est spot for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. It’s cold out there but it’s warm in here. Come on in and grab a table. There’s no cover charge and the dress code is casual. The show will start shortly. 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 about the possibility of the Cubs trading for either Tyler Glasnow or Shane Bieber and which one you would prefer. Bieber won the vote, 38 percent to 25 percent, with another 37 percent saying you wanted neither.

So a lot of you probably aren’t happy that Bruce Levine is saying that it’s likely that the Cubs will get Glasnow. (video)

So here’s the part where I put the music and the movies. Those of you who skip that can do so now. You wont hurt my feelings.

It’s December now so I guess it’s time to start hitting you with the Christmas/Holiday Jazz. Even on the SiriusXM Real Jazz channel, pretty much every other song is a Christmas song right now.

But I do have a real present for you. It’s Miles Davis in 1987 on Late Night with David Letterman playing “We Three Kings.” He’s joined by David Sanborn on sax, Marcus Miller on bass and the World’s Most Dangerous Band—Paul Shaffer, Will Lee, Sid McGinnis and Anton Fig.

The choices are getting tougher in the BCB Winter Western Classic as you had to choose between Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1970) and Little Big Man (1970). But with 63 percent of the vote, you went with Once Upon a Time in the West.

Tonight we’ve got a matchup of a couple of dark Westerns. The first is director Anthony Mann’s Winchester ‘73 (1950). It takes on another “Spaghetti Western,” Sergio Corbucci’s controversial Django (1966).

WInchester ’73 (1950) Directed by Anthony Mann. Starring James Stewart, Shelley Winters, Dan Duryea and Stephen McNally.

It’s hard to believe it in retrospect, but James Stewart’s career had hit a lull in 1950. Stewart’s career hadn’t really recovered from his stint in the military. Some of his films that today that we consider classics, It’s a Wonderful Life and Rope, for example, were considered critical and box office disappointments at the time. So Stewart set out to remake his image with director Anthony Mann. Stewart made eight movies with Mann and generally, Mann tried to stretch Stewart’s acting range. The characters that Stewart played in Mann’s pictures were generally much darker and tormented than the characters he had played earlier.

The first film Stewart and Mann made together was Winchester ’73 in 1950. Stewart plays Lin McAdam, a man obsessed with killing the man who killed his father, “Dutch” Henry Brown (Stephen McNally). He heads to Dodge City on the Centennial because he’s convinced, correctly, as it turns out, that Brown will be there.

The Winchester 1873 rifle was “the gun that won the West,” according to both popular lore and the Winchester company’s marketing campaign. But part of that marketing was that each rifle was tested and certain guns would score in the top 0.1% for the consistency of their grouping when fired. Such super-accurate rifles were termed the “One in a Thousand” Winchesters and were given special status. To celebrate the Centennial, Dodge City is having a shooting contest with one of these “One in a Thousand” Winchesters as first prize. Henry Brown is in Dodge City to win that rifle. Lin also enters the contest, of course.

After several rounds of shooting, Lin and Henry and the only two contestants left for the gun. Lin eventually comes out on top, but Henry and his men soon thereafter jump Lin, steal the gun and hightail it out of Dodge. Lin and his companion Frankie (Millard Mitchell) follow in pursuit, but Henry and his men have quite the head start with the gun.

As you might have guessed, the gun is a MacGuffin, and a cursed one at that. It’s not literally cursed by a demon or a witch or something. It’s not that kind of picture. But basically bad stuff happens to anyone who possesses the gun because other people are willing to do anything to get their hands on it, and the people who want the gun are generally not nice people. Henry quickly loses possession of the gun (and all his money) in a poker match with an Indian trader. The trader loses the gun (and more than that) to a Native War Party, and so on and so on. All the while, Henry tries to get the gun back and Lin follows Henry’s path to avenge his father’s death. Eventually, we learn Lin and Henry’s backstory and the two have their final showdown.

Clearly, this is an incredible cast. Dan Duryea plays “Waco” Johnny Dean, an outlaw who comes into possession of the gun at one point. Johnny is planning to meet up with “Dutch” Henry to pull off a job. He’s basically playing the same violent, misogynistic psychopath that he played in all those film noirs of the period. Stewart rises to the occasion of playing a good guy with a violent, obsessive dark side and McNally is a believable villain who doesn’t overplay things. (No mustache twirling here!) Shelley Winters is a bit wasted here as a bar girl who gets kicked out of Dodge and ends up becoming the forced companion of Duryea’s character. But Winters was a pretty great actress when she was young and she makes the most of what little she has to do.

(It seems like poor Duryea had to abuse a woman in every film he was ever in. I have read that he was actually a very nice man in real life, married to the same woman for 35 years until his death. He was a very good actor.)

For those of you who like to see big stars before they became famous, Winchester ’73 has minor roles for Tony Curtis as a cavalry soldier and Rock Hudson in redface as an Indian brave.

Here’s the trailer for Winchester ‘73.

Django (1966) Written, directed and produced by Sergio Corbucci. Starring Franco Nero, Loredana Nusciak and José Bóldalo.

This is the film in this tournament for Quentin Tarantino fans. Obviously Tarantino is a big fan of this film, and his 2012 film Django Unchained, while not a remake or a sequel, is clearly an homage to Django and similar “spaghetti” Westerns. Tarantino even cast Django star Franco Nero in a small part in Django Unchained.

You can see why Tarantino loves this movie. It’s stylish and über-violent. Because of the violence and the infamous “ear-slicing” scene, Django was rated for audiences 18 and up in Italy. The British Board of Film Censors banned it from the UK outright. Sweden banned it as well. While it wasn’t banned in the US, no distributor would pick it up without major cuts and thus, it was only shown personally by Corbucci at film festivals in the US until 1972.

Django is one of two “spaghetti” Westerns in this tournament based on the Akira Kurosawa movie Yojimbo. (A Fistful of Dollars is the other one.) Django, a former union officer, rescues a prostitute, Maria, (Nusciak) along the US-Mexico border who is about to be crucified and burnt at the stake by a gang of Klansmen. This lands him in the middle of a war between the Klan (or Red Shirts) and Mexican bandits. Django decides to get rid of both groups once and for all so Maria and the rest of the town can have some peace.

The main appeal of Django, besides the large amounts of violence, is how cool Nero as Django looks throughout the entire film. When we first meet Django, he’s walking through the desert dragging a coffin behind him by a rope. We soon find out what is in the coffin (SPOILER ALERT): a gatling gun that he will use to gun down copious numbers of Klansmen and Mexican bandits. (SPOILERS OVER) Django spends most of the film shooting up large numbers of bad guys. Even after Django gets his hands crushed by the Mexicans, he finds ways to keep gunning down outlaws.

The plot of Django doesn’t really matter. It has one, and if you are familiar with Yojimbo or A Fistful of Dollars, you’ll recognize it, although Cobucci made some alterations to keep it fresh. And probably to keep Kurosawa from suing—as he did sue Sergio Leone. Django is out to destroy both sides and double-crosses them both several times to accomplish that. But Django, at its core, is about a good-looking and cool badass killing lots of bad guys with a beautiful woman at his side. It’s a gonzo-violent film that’s not for the squeamish. Now if you are the type of person who enjoys watching the Saw films, then this is going to seem pretty tame. But it’s really graphic for a 1960s Western. It makes Sergio Leone look like Howard Hawks.

So if that’s what you want in a movie—and I know a lot of you do—then Django is going to be an enjoyable romp for you that does a lot with a tiny budget.

Django is available for streaming on Peacock. It is also on Tubi, Pluto and a few other free services with ads. Winchester ‘73 is available for rent everywhere. There’s also a copy out there on a video platform that starts with the letter “d” and has the word “motion” in its title. You can probably find it there. I did.


Winchester ‘73 or Django?

This poll is closed

  • 69%
    Winchester ‘73
    (63 votes)
  • 30%
    (28 votes)
91 votes total Vote Now

You have until Wednesday to vote. Also, up next is William A. Wellman’s The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) taking on John Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949). The Ox-Bow Incident can be rented, but there’s also a complete copy on YouTube. It’s been there for six years, so I think we can say the rights owners don’t care at this point. She Wore A Yellow Ribbon is also available for rent, but there’s also a copy that has been uploaded to a service that starts with the letter “v.” You can probably find it the same way I did.

That’s a real interesting matchup. The Ox-Bow Incident is dark. It’s also low-budget and sparsely-shot. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon is bright, had a huge budget and looks terrific.

Welcome back to everyone who skip the music and movies.

So far, the Winter Meetings have consisted of everyone sitting around and doing nothing, Everyone is waiting for one of two things to happen—for Shohei Ohtani to sign and for the Padres to trade Juan Soto. So far, neither Ohtani nor the Padres appear to be in any hurry.

So tonight we’re going to take a look at another pitcher who has been connected in trade talks with the Cubs, Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase.

There’s a lot to recommend about the 25-year-old Clase. For one, he led the majors in saves in each of the past two seasons. Clase’s arsenal is a 100 mile per hour cut fastball and a 91-93 mph slider. Also, he has five more seasons of control. He’s only going to make $2.9 million in 2024. That goes up to $4.9 million in 2025 and a still reasonable $6.4 million in 2026. After that, the deal he signed with the Guardians give them two option years at $10 million with a $2 million buyout. That’s still a good price for an elite closer. It’s a lot less than Josh Hader is going to get on the free agent market, for example.

But there are some red flags on Clase as well. While he was clearly fantastic in 2021 and 2022, there was some drop-off last year. While Clase led the league in saves with 44, he also led the league in blown saves with 12. His strikeout rate per nine innings dropped from a very good 9.5 to a solid but unspectacular 7.9. His walk rate per nine increased from 1.2 to 2.0. Clase’s ERA went from 1.36 to 3.22. His hard-hit and line-drive rates spiked as well.

Now let’s be clear. Clase’s numbers in 2023 were not bad. And any team getting that kind of production out of a reliever for a $2.9 million salary would not complain. It’s just that Clase went from arguably the best reliever in baseball in 2022 to a merely good in 2023.

Why that is is not clear. Clase’s velocity was not down. Michael Cerami over at Bleacher Nation did a great piece on the pros and cons of Clase and his theory is that the spin rate and movement on his pitches dropped last season. If so, you’d think that would be something a team could fix, wouldn’t you? On the other hand, if it were fixable, you’d think the Guardians would have fixed it. But the comforting thing about that is that there isn’t any indication that Clase’s issues are injury-related.

Now why would the Guardians trade an all-star closer under a team-friendly contract? The short answer is that they don’t have to. But the Guardians won 76 games in weak AL Central last year and don’t look like they’ll be contenders anytime soon. When a team isn’t ahead in the ninth inning in many games, they don’t really need a closer. The Guardians could try to trade Clase now when his value is high and figure that by the time they’re competing again, they’ll find another closer.

If the Cubs trade for Clase, he won’t come cheap with five years of control. Over at SB Nation’s Guardian’s site Covering the Corner, Quincy Wheeler writes that a fair offer from the Cubs would be Christopher Morel and prospect RHP Ben Brown. (And that is qualified by arguing that the Guardians would have to be convinced that Morel could play a decent outfield if given a chance.) Usually when another team proposes a trade with the Cubs, they make some unreasonable offers—and to be fair, I’ve seen a lot of unfair offers by posters on this site about what the Cubs would have to give up to get someone. But in this case, that deal doesn’t seem unreasonable. Maybe the Cubs could talk the Guardians off of Brown and on to someone else like Jackson Ferris, but on the other hand, Brown did struggle with control in half a season after his promotion to Iowa last summer. If the Cubs are convinced that Clase will stay an top-ten closer on a team-friendly contract for the next five years, Morel and Brown are a small price to pay for that. But if the Cubs are worried that Clase’s 2024 season is the start of a period of decline, then it might be best to stay away.

So now it’s your turn to weigh in. Should the Cubs make a trade for Emmanuel Clase? I’m not going to give you the option of saying “Yeah, I’d make the trade if the Cubs could give up Miles Mastrobuoni and Keegan Thompson.” The Guardians are not in a position where they have to trade Clase to save salary. They’re only going to make a trade that makes them better in the long run. You can argue for a different set of players than Morel and Brown, but they should be of somewhat similar value.

But if you want to explain what you would give up for Clase, do so in the comments. Just don’t expect the Guardians to listen if you’re offering stuff the Cubs wouldn’t miss.


Emmanuel Clase?

This poll is closed

  • 49%
    The Cubs should make that trade if the cost is close to what is described in the article
    (98 votes)
  • 50%
    The Cubs should stay away from Clase
    (100 votes)
198 votes total Vote Now

Thank you to everyone who stopped by this evening. It’s been so good to see you all again after the weekend break. Please get home safely. Stay warm. If you checked anything, let us get that for you now. Tip your waitstaff. And join us again tomorrow for more BCB After Dark.