Trouble With The Curve
“Trouble With The Curve” is one of those predictable movies that is fun,
anyway, especially for a baseball fan.
Clint Eastwood plays Gus, the old-school baseball scout who has spent his
entire life in the backwaters, watching high school kids and scouting for the
Atlanta Braves. He doesn’t own a computer. He’s not into the sabremetrics
so prevalent in today game, evaluating talent by collecting mounds of stats.
This is the opposite of Billy Beane’s “Moneyball,” which made fun of
old-school scouts who liked the way a player “looked,” pointing out how
deceiving appearances could be. Well, that’s true, but sometimes stats can
be deceiving, also, particularly in high school. A slugger can be a “dead
red” hitter, meaning he can only hit a fastball, and nobody ever think to
throw him a curve, because he plays a different team every time, and nobody
has any scouting reports on opposing players. Gus is the only scout who
notices that this particular hot prospect not only drifts his hands on a
curveball, he doesn’t hit it squarely, which Gus “hears” instead of
sees. His front office doesn’t listen to him, and soon they realize their
mistake: they’ve spent a high draft choice on a “project” who may or may
not overcome his fundamental flaw.
Of course there are plenty of flaws in Gus, who has a bad temper, drinks too
much, smokes big cigars, and doesn’t appear to be worried about diet or
exercise. And he’s losing his eyesight. His beloved wife died years ago, and
there’s a touching scene where he goes to talk to her tombstone (or is it
maudlin and overweening?). He tried to raise his six-year-old daughter by
himself, but felt inadequate because he didn’t know how, and he felt that
his road trips were no place for her, anyway. So first he sends her to her
Uncle, then to a boarding school. He feels like he did the best he could for
her, and there’s no sense brooding about it now, but she’s grown now, and
keeps bringing it up, because she wants him to know she felt abandoned and
rejected. Mickey (Amy Adams) is named after Mickey Mantle. She loves baseball,
also, but has tried to throw herself into a career as a lawyer, where she
can’t seem to earn any respect except by overworking. That’s OK, she’s
emotionally unavailable, anyway. But her father’s only loyal friend,
front-office guy Pete (John Goodman) persuades her to go spend some time with
Gus, even though it might jeopardize her making partner in the thankless firm.
There, in the baseball stands, she meets Johnny (Justin Timberlake), a Red Sox
scout, who cautiously flirts with her, and Mickey realizes how terribly lonely
she’s been, and also begins to understand that she’s much more like her
Dad than she wanted to believe.
Don’t worry, the relationships all improve in the course of the movie. Gus
is vindicated despite the fact that he’s an old curmudgeon who still prefers
his own company and keeps his own counsel. And best of all, for the baseball
fan, is the constant trivia, like, which team was the only one to have four
20-game-winning pitchers? (The Baltimore Orioles, 1975). Who was the only
player to win the MVP in both leagues? (Frank Robinson). If baseball is in
your bones, you gotta love it. And you probably like Eastwood, anyway, no
matter what character he’s playing.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister, St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving,