The Mass Effect: An ‘Eater in Theatres, a Curse Breaker, and a UCI B-Ball Departure

Familiar Face in Moneyball: If you’ve been to the movies recently, you might’ve noticed an Anteater in the movie based on Michael Lewis’ book, “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game.” UC Irvine skipper Mike Gillespie, a Hall of Famer in the college game, put on an Academy Award-worthy performance in a cameo as Oakland A’s coach Ken Macha.

Of course I’m kidding with the Academy Award reference, but Gillespie appeared in one scene alongside an Academy Award-winning actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman (A’s manager Art Howe), Hollywood funnyman Jonah Hill (plays a fictional character named Peter Brand who serves as Billy Beane’s assistant general manager) and some ugly guy named Brad Pitt (Billy Beane). As Beane sits in the Oakland A’s clubhouse (filmed at Long Beach State University), speaking with Brand, Howe and Macha, Gillespie stands front and center with arms folded and a stern countenance.

It’s always a bonus to see professionals in sports films. Notable past appearances include: Terrell Owens (NFL) in Any Given Sunday, Peter Jacobson (PGA) in Tin Cup, Pete Vuckovich (MLB) in Major League, and Michael Irvin (NFL) in The Longest Yard. Also on the cast of Moneyball was Gillespie’s son-in-law Chad Kreuter, a former Angels and Dodgers catcher, who played former A’s pitching coach Rick Peterson. Married to Gillespie’s daughter, Kreuter succeeded the Hall of Fame coach at the University of Southern California and served as the team’s manager for four seasons, after Gillespie had coached for 20 years at USC. Small world!

In terms of the film, the screenplay was adapted by “The Social Network” writer Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian. As a baseball purist, it was unfortunate to see the writers take certain liberties, but the movie still worked. For example, Peter Brand is a fictional character, but using him as an outlet provides some comic relief and an opportune outlet for the explanation of Billy Beane’s general management strategy known as “Moneyball.” It may have strayed from the book’s plotline, focusing more on the 2002 A’s and less on Beane’s influence on the Major League Baseball draft and scouting, but all in all, the film told a good story. And it made my girlfriend cry, so thank you Sorkin and Zaillian for taking a plot that focuses on the nerdiness of sabermetrics and somehow assisting a solid date night.

Trivia Question: Peter Brand is a fictional character said to be the A’s assistant general manager in the film, “Moneyball.” Who actually served as Billy Beane’s assistant in 2002?

Let’s Be Frank: Terry Francona managed the Boston Red Sox for eight years before shamefully exiting his post last week, following one of the worst collapses in regular season baseball history. The Sox held a nine-game lead at the beginning of September and while the lead withered away, everyone seemed to think that the team from Beantown would pull it off. But with seven losses in their last 10 games and a heartbreaking defeat in game number 162, followed by Evan Longoria and the Rays’ walk-off, post-season clinching homer in the 12th inning after trailing the Yankees by seven in the eighth inning, the Sox completed a meltdown of epic proportions.

Francona and the Sox have parted ways, but in eight seasons he was able to do for Boston what no manager could do in 86 years — break the curse of the Bambino. Once upon a time, Aaron (Bleep)ing Boone was wanted in the state of Massachusetts, Bill Buckner was still on the hook for misplaying a routine ground ball, and the Yankees absolutely owned the Red Sox. Two World Series Championships later with a pocketbook that can fork out $160 million worth of salaries, the Red Sox are no longer the red-headed stepchild of the American League, they’re annual post-season favorites. Grady Little, Jimy Williams, Kevin Kennedy, Butch Hobson and Joe Morgan couldn’t get it done. Francona did.

After all of the time in the spotlight, Francona can choose his own destination now. A year off, retirement or a new club awaits him. Both Chicago teams are rumored to be potential suitors. All I can say is, how great would it be for Francona to bring Steve Bartman out from hiding, make Billy Goats a thing of the past in the north side of Chicago and win the first World Series for the Cubbies since 1908. He’d become the most beloved manager in the history of two of the most historical franchises in baseball history. The man who broke two curses! Not just any two curses, THE two curses.

It would take some work; the Cubs finished 25 games out of first place in 2011 and have been haunted by several Zambrano tirades, one underachieving Soriano, one aging veteran third baseman, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Mikah Maly’s Carousel Continues: UCI’s women’s basketball team confirmed on Sept. 24 that senior Mikah Maly-Karros would not be returning for the Anteaters in 2011-12. Irvine started 13-9 with Maly-Karros in the lineup last season, before she missed the final eight games of the season for unspecified reasons. The Anteaters struggled without their 6-foot-1 forward, finishing the season 2-6 in her absence. At one point, UCI won 11 of 12 from Nov. 23 to Jan. 8 with Maly-Karros piling up accolades and double-doubles.

The daughter of former Los Angeles Dodgers great, Eric Karros, Maly-Karros was given the opportunity to rejoin her teammates for her senior season, but she decided to opt out instead. The forward transferred to UCI midway through the 2009-10 campaign and averaged 20.5 points and 11.1 rebounds in 22 games. She became one of the best players the program has seen in decades, scoring a school record 41 points in a game, in the team’s first round Big West Tournament loss to the Cal State Fullerton Titans. Last season, she averaged 19.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in 22 games.

For the Anteaters, Maly-Karros’ departure is a disaster. Since acquiring her via transfer from Loyola Marymount almost two years ago, the team has received a number of promising recruits and transfers, but their hopes for a 2011-12 NCAA Tournament run are derailed without her. She was a difference maker. In her record-setting game against Cal State Fullerton in 2010, she maneuvered around defenders over and over again. Bank-shot after bank-shot, layup after layup; she was a burden in the low post to opposing players in the Big West. She was a once in a generation player for the Anteaters and unfortunately for Coach Molly Goodenbour and the Anteaters, the momentum that’s built towards a 2012 March Madness run has likely halted with Maly-Karros’ exit.

Trivia Answer: Paul DePodesta. The former Dodgers general manager and current vice president for player development and scouting for the New York Mets, DePodesta helped Beane refocus his team structure based on sabermetrics principles (Moneyball).