With the Minnesota Twins collecting just their fourth walkoff win of the season at Target Field, Wednesday night, they are two games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels for the second Wild Card spot in the American League. They could now become the first team ever to make the playoffs having lost more than 100 games the previous year.
The Twins have a 60 percent chance to make the playoffs given that seven of their last 17 games are against the hapless Detroit Tigers. I wrote about how these Twins could be the biggest underdog overachievers of all time, but now the team doesn’t look like overachievers. What once was a -68 run differential is now +8. Everything’s coming together like it did for the Twins in 1987 and 1991.
The Twins traded their All-Star closer and got better! The Twins lost All-Star slugger and third baseman Miguel Sano to injury and got better! The Twins lost the designated hitter with the highest on-base percentage in baseball, Robbie Grossman, and got better! So not only does Paul Molitor deserve an extension with the Twins, he should probably win the AL Manager of the Year award.
I was not a supporter of Paul Molitor’s when Ron Gardenhire was let go by the Minnesota Twins. In fact, I had Ozzie Guillen and Rusty Kuntz ahead of him on my dream list of managers.
I didn’t like Molitor’s first lineup, and there are few I’ve agreed with since, because batting your best home run hitter in the leadoff spot has never made much sense to me, especially with two players with on-base percentages in the top-10 in baseball (Joe Mauer and Robbie Grossman). Dozier gets himself out on the first pitch a lot, and that’s not helpful to his teammates when leading off a game.
I do appreciate Molitor’s willingness to move everyone else around the lineup, though. The rigidity I expected has never been the case, and Molitor has even platooned players effectively, namely Max Kepler. He’s also managed to get Grossman plenty of at-bats without using him in the outfield.
Most impressive is what Molitor’s done with a baby-faced bullpen and over-the-hill starting rotation. When he badly needed someone to step into the rotation and eat some innings, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine gave him 44-year-old Bartolo Colon. That was enough to satisfy me, and it has been enough to satisfy Molitor so far.
Right now, I think these Twins are better than the New York Yankees in a five-game series. They’ve been better in a three-game series thus far this season, and will have a chance to close the three-game gap between them and the Yankees starting Monday in New York. Here’s how the potential playoff preview lines up:
Game 2: Monday, Sept. 18 at 6:05 p.m. CST
A battle of the aces -- Ervin Santana versus Sonny Gray. This should be a good one. Santana tossed six innings of shutout ball to give Eddie Rosario the chance to win it with a walkoff homer deep into the Minneapolis night.
Sonny Gray has been great for the Yankees, but the Yankees haven’t been great for him. In five of his eight starts, the Yankees have managed just one run or less of support despite Gray’s sterling 2.66 ERA since the trade from Oakland.
Game 2: Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 6:05 p.m. CST
Jose Berrios takes on Twin-for-a-game Jaime Garcia. Garcia has struggled mightily since the trade from Minnesota. In fact, he hasn’t pitched six innings since his first and last start in a Twins uniform.
Berrios, on the other hand, is coming off his best start of his career. He might have not gotten a win in Kansas City, but he pitched his best in yet another high-pressure situation early in the game. With the bases loaded and one out in the second inning, Berrios got a double-play grounder off the hot bat of Whit Merrifield. He went on to complete seven innings, allowing just two runs.
Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 20 at 1 p.m. CST (ESPN)
Two players who’ve seen their seasons turnaround in the second half -- Bartolo Colon and Masahiro Tanaka -- close out the season series. Both pitchers are coming off ugly starts, though.
Tanaka allowed seven earned runs over four innings against a tough Texas lineup, but he had won four consecutive starts prior visiting Arlington.
Colon was even worse in Kansas City, failing to complete two innings and allowing six earned runs. He too had been great in his four previous starts, though.
If the Twins are to overcome the history of failures against the Yankees in the playoffs (1-9 in their last 10 postseason games), playing at Target Field might help, despite a better record on the road this season (39-32). The Yankees will enter the postseason on a seven-game homestand ending Oct. 1.
The Twins finish the regular season with a three-game series against Detroit ending Oct. 1. The American League Wild Card Game is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 3 with a time to be determined.
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JJ Abrams taking over writing and directing duties on Episode IX from ousted helmsman Colin Trevorrow is not exactly surprising. Citing, “creative differences” Lucasfilm sent Trevorrow packing, which makes him the fourth time Disney has hired a director -- had said director work on their Star Wars project (for years!) and then fired said director. That’s six feature films, four fired directors and two fired screenwriters.
To be honest, the removal of a screenwriter is nothing new; however, the removal of a director is rare and the removal of a director after shooting some, if not most of the production -- is unheard of.
Unless, apparently, you work at Disney Lucasfilm. Where it happens all the time.
So what’s going on over at Disney Lucasfilm?
The simple answer: They keep hiring indie directors who are used to having enormous creative control. Those directors don’t do well when under the microscope of a colossal tent pole franchise construction where everyone wants a piece of the pie.
That being said -- four director replacements in six movies? Are we talking gross management incompetence or are all these changes justified? Or is it both?
Let’s take a look at the hit list:
Screenwriter -- Academy Award Winner Michael Arndt. Movie: Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Screenwriter Michael Arndt, (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3), was brought on to Star Wars way back in 2012, and he toiled on the screenplay for almost a year and a half -- and never produced a single complete draft.
By the end of 2013, JJ Abrams had had enough, stepped in as writer but also hired screenwriter and Star Wars vet -- Lawrence Kasdan (writer: The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Raiders of the Lost Ark). Arndt was out and Abrams and Kasdan hacked out a first draft by January 2014.
It should be noted that Abrams has gone on record to say that while it’s true Arndt never finished a completed draft but Arndt did turn in plenty of notes, treatments & outlines and offered plenty of ideas and input that made it into the final Abrams / Kasdan screenplay.
Arndt discusses with Entertainment Weekly, some of his story problems and the ideas that did not make it into the final draft:
“Early on I tried to write versions of the story where [Rey] is at home, her home is destroyed, and then she goes on the road and meets Luke. And then she goes and kicks the bad guy’s ass, It just never worked and I struggled with this. This was back in 2012. It just felt like every time Luke came in and entered the movie, he just took it over. Suddenly you didn’t care about your main character [Rey] anymore because, ‘Oh fuck, Luke Skywalker’s here. I want to see what he’s going to do.’”
Fair enough. But still. If you work on a screenplay for a year and a half and don’t turn in a single complete draft -- you get fired.
I call this firing: Completely reasonable.
Director -- Josh Trank. Movie: Untitled Boba Fett feature film.
During the 2015 Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, CA, Lucasfilm set up a panel for directors Gareth Edwards of Rogue One, Monster and Godzilla (2014) and Josh Trank of Untitled Boba Fett feature film, Chronicle and Fantastic Four (2015) to discuss their upcoming Star Wars projects. Mysteriously, Trank no showed. Edwards pushed forward alone. Soon there after we found out that Trank pulled out of the event a two days before when he realized he was getting removed from the Boba Fett film. And, sure enough, a week after the Anaheim celebration, Trank was fired from the Boba Fett feature film.
Trank’s statement at the time:
“After a year of having the incredible honor of developing with the wonderful and talented people at Lucasfilm, I’m making a personal decision to move forward on a different path. I’ve put a tremendous amount of thought into this, and I know deep down in my heart that I want to pursue some original creative opportunities. That said, the Star Wars universe has always been one of my biggest influences, and I couldn’t be more excited to witness its future alongside my millions of fellow Star Wars fans. I want to thank my friends Kathleen Kennedy, Kiri Hart, Simon Kinberg, and everyone at Lucasfilm and Disney for the amazing opportunity to have been a part of this. May the Force be with you all.”
Very polite. But the firing was not surprising. Do a quick Google search on Trank and Fantastic Four and you will find a slew of articles that detail Trank’s erratic behavior on the set of the much maligned F.F. film. It really was no shock to hear he had been fired. In fact, his juvenile antics, his chronic tardiness and absenteeism and, according to many cast and crew members, his unprofessional behavior on the set of the Fant4stic has all but effectively ruined his film career. Trank has had no major studio work since the F.F. and nothing mapped out for him on future charts.
With the horrible stories coming off the F.F. set, it’s not surprising that Disney had cold feet about the young director. The Boba Fett film died with Trank’s departure.
Okay, so -- several months of crazy, bad behavior by immature director and no one wants to work with him ever again?
I call this firing: Completely reasonable.
Directors -- Christopher Miller and Phil Lord. Movie: Untitled Han Solo feature film.
The co-directors behind the new Han Solo film were replaced after shooting, reportedly, almost eighty percent of the film. This is totally unheard of.
According to the Hollywood Reporter:
“Several sources close to the movie and others close to the directors tell EW that ever since filming began back in February, Lord and Miller, who are known primarily for wry, self-referential comedies like 21 Jump Street and the pilot episodes for Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Last Man on Earth, began steering the Han Solo movie more into the genre of laughs than space fantasy.
According to some sources, the split was a subtle one that became magnified over time: Lucasfilm and producer Kennedy believed Lord and Miller were hired to add a comedic touch; Lord and Miller believed they were hired to make a comedy.”
For a more detailed view, I wrote about it a few months ago. But, basically, the directors ignored the required tone of the film and began to make a screwball comedy. Some of the actors complained to execs and producers. Director were fired. Ron Howard was hired to finish the film.
Now, the director, not anyone else -- creates the tone of the film. UNLESS -- you are making a franchise picture with decades and decades of backstory and baggage. Then the tone is probably set in stone and with that in mind you do what the studio tells you too. On the other hand, the duo directors were well known for their highly improvisational film sets (both the modern 21 Jump Street films). It’s hard for me to fathom someone hiring directors that are known for improvising vast portions of their film and then -- fire them for improvising vast portions of your film.
I call this one: Partially reasonable.
Director: Gareth Edwards. Movie: Rogue One
Technically, Edwards was not fired from the set of Rogue One but he certainly wasn’t in charge of the reshoots -- of the film he directed. Instead, Tony Gilroy (writer/ director: Michael Clayton, screenwriter: The Bourne Trilogy) was assigned to retask Rogue One to make it less grim and give it an entirely new ending. There are enough stories leaked from the set and the editing studio to suggest that a full thirty percent of the film was rewritten and reshot, with the majority of the film’s storyline being rearranged in the final edit.
Disney never confirmed much regarding the hiring of Gilroy and on the movie's changes other than a generic, “All movies have reshoots,” but -- why would you not let the director of your film -- direct the reshoots? Of the film he directed?
There really is only one answer -- Disney was not confident Edwards was the right director for the job (or, perhaps, in the first place).
Word on the interwebs is that Edwards just went too far in making his gritty, realistic space war movie and ignored the principal reason he was there -- to make a Star Wars movie. So Disney brought in someone else to do it "right."
Edwards worked on this film for three years. I find it unlikely that, suddenly, at the very end of principal photography, execs at Lucasfilm were like, “Wait-a-minute! This isn’t what we wanted.” How the hell did it take execs two years of pre production, an entire year of principal photography and then multiple edits in order to figure this out? Besides, Edwards delivered the film -- he always told Disney he was going to deliver! From day one Edwards called it a “gritty, realistic space war film.” And then he gave Disney just that.
And then they gave his job to someone else.
I call this one: A mixed bag but probably; partially reasonable.
Director -- Colin Trevorrow, Writer -- Jack Thorne. Movie: Star Wars Episode IX.
Back full circle. Another director fired. Another screenwriter fired. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed, Jurassic World) turned in multiple drafts but no one at Disney was satisfied with the work.
So they brought in another writer, English playwright and TV scriptwriter, Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Skins, Shameless). When Disney decided to let Trevorrow go for “creative differences,” Abrams stepped in and teamed with screenwriter Chris Terrio (writer: Argo, Batman vs. Superman and Justice League), which means Thorne was let go.
Disney is being very tight lipped about all the changes up to and including the recent Star Wars Episode IX shake up. No one knows, yet, if any work from the Trevorrow / Thorne drafts will be kept or if everything will be trashed and Abrams / Terrio will start from scratch.
Another Disney-Lucasfilm dust up. To be honest, I'm sure there will be many more to come.
I call this one: Not enough information to judge. Yet.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be released December 15th, 2017.
Star Wars: Episode IX will be released December 20th, 2019.
Media giant, Larry King, reveals he underwent surgery this summer to treat lung cancer.
The 83-year-old veteran broadcaster and TV host said, in an interview with US Weekly, that a routine check up revealed an abnormal chest x-ray that was followed up with a CT scan and later PET scan. The result was early stage lung cancer.
In July, King had a stage I cancerous mass removed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and was back to work within a week.
King suffered a heart attack in 1987 and hadn’t smoked since. Prior to quitting he had been smoking three packs a day. Since then, he’s been diligent with his annual check-ups stating, “I’ve gone through a lot in life – I’ve had a heart attack and heart surgery. Part of my checkup is the chest X-ray, and that is the protocol.” King referred to his bypass surgery after his heart attack, managing diabetes, and undergoing radiation treatment for prostate cancer over the years.
King suggests the cancer was not a metastasis to the lung but rather a primary lung cancer. In the US interview, he stated, “the doctor said that tobacco from 30 years ago is still related to this lung cancer.”
It’s true. Although lung cancer risk drops dramatically the longer one avoids tobacco products, the resulting tissue damage, injury to one’s immune response, and genetic mutations may persist. Moreover, lung cancer can occur even in non-smokers.
Early lung cancer can be silent. As it progresses, however, symptoms such as chronic cough, wheeze, blood in sputum, lethargy and weight loss can ensue.
But Larry King won’t let this hold him back. He’s currently working on the sixth season of Larry King Now.
Larry King and Dr. Daliah Talkers Los Angeles 2011
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Daliah Wachs is a guest contributor to GCN news. Doctor Wachs is an MD, FAAFP and a Board Certified Family Physician. The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00 pm (all central times) at GCN.