Thursday, October 6, 2016

REVIEW: 'Pitch' - Things Get Very Personal for the Padres When They Face the Cardinals in 'Beanball'

FOX's Pitch - Episode 1.03 "Beanball"

The Padres are hyped up to play the Cardinals, whose pitcher broke Tommy's finger in an altercation, but Ginny is rattled when she spots her ex-boyfriend, Trevor, on the team. Al calls on an old friend to help save his job.

Other baseball players have been asking Ginny out on dates for her entire professional career. It's simply another part of the sport to her. She really wants to be treated like any other player. She wants to be one of the guys. The men on the team have trouble seeing her that way though. She is different. There is no denying that. She is making history as the first female to play in the game. That is special. But it can also be alienating for her. She can't be welcomed to this team like any other player. It will take time for everyone to adjust. Ginny and team management want everything to be cohesive right away. The press knows that there is tension and are looking for the scandalous story. There's nothing tantalizing going on. It's just team disunity because of Ginny's presence. She didn't ask for any of this media attention and celebrity fame. She just wants to play baseball and be one of the guys. By the end of "Beanball," that seems like a distinct possibility. This team needs to support her in order to win. But it sure takes awhile to get to that point.

Ginny has a rule against dating baseball players. She doesn't want anything to compromise her love for the sport. She doesn't want anything distracting her when she's on the field. Out there, she's a ball player and not a woman. That's her mindset. It's not the mentality for everyone else though. Plus, Ginny has faltered with this rule in the past. It was only established for the audience in last week's episode. And now, the rule has already been broken. The flashbacks of "Beanball" showcase the time when Ginny decided to date another player, Trevor, and how that really came back to hurt her both personally and professionally. It's a pretty formulaic and predictable story. The show treats it as a big surprise when this boyfriend is the catcher in the game Ginny is playing in right now. It puts all of these issues on the surface in some pretty overt ways. But underneath it all, it's just a simple story that really doesn't do anything to define character.

So, Ginny dates Trevor while in the minors because she believes he's going to quit the game. She doesn't wait until he's already out though. All it takes for him to win her over is to express his intentions of leaving to go to college and get a business degree. That's all it takes. They date for awhile but the entirety of their relationship happens while they are both still playing baseball. So, she broke her rule because she really liked Trevor. He was charming to her and she fell for it. He thought her rule was silly. He doesn't think it's a big deal when he's scouted and traded to a AAA team with the opportunity to move up to the majors. It's important and life-changing for him. It's a celebration. It's proof that he does have the talent to play professionally. But to Ginny, it's a realization of just how vulnerable she has become and how disingenuous Trevor was. He didn't care about her as a pitcher. He saw a woman just like everyone else. He actually got her but didn't take her opinions all that seriously. In hindsight, he knows how much of a mistake that is. He apologizes in the present after facing off in the big game for the week. But it's clear this story will still be important moving forward because Trevor reveals he was hacked. So, pictures of them may be out there in the world for anyone to find. That doesn't seem like a promising plot beat at all. It just seems like another annoying plot contrivance to highlight how Ginny is defined by being a woman in baseball. That definition is starting to wear a little too thin.

It's still powerful when Ginny makes a big deal about another pitcher refusing to throw the ball at her after she starts a beanball war. "Beanball" has a tight focus on this game. Its structure reflects how this is another momentous occasion for Ginny in her career. Because she's playing in the national league, she has to hit as well. She can't solely be a pitcher. The Padres are playing against the Cardinals. The last time they faced off a fight started that ultimately broke Tommy's finger. Tommy hasn't been a great or important character so far. His injury is what led to Ginny being called up. But he has had the most outward contempt for her in the clubhouse. He thinks she'll go back down to the minors after he returns to the roster. Instead, some new guy who has never been seen before is given the demotion. So, Ginny and Tommy will still have to play together. But now, there may be a newfound respect between them. Ginny purposefully hits another player. It's payback for what happened last time. It's what she believes she needs to do to be a part of the team. The only reason why she's discouraged to do so is because she's a woman. She's not afraid of the personal consequences. A fight does break out on the field again. Ginny does lose her temper. It's great that she's not the best role model and is still figuring things out. But hopefully, this is the moment that leads to the team coming together instead of being ripped apart.

"Beanball" also continues some solid development for the supporting characters. So much of it is still in the introductory stages of plot setup. The Mike-Amelia hookup didn't feel random at the end of last week's episode. Shows have a tendency to pair up supporting characters just to have a romantic story in the series. But both Mike and Amelia feel like they are in the same headspace right now. Their lives are defined by baseball but that's not all that they want in their lives. It's clearly a night together they both enjoyed. They are keeping it quiet too. Ginny is left in the dark. That could be setting up some big reveal later on. It's unclear right now. It's largely just clear that Amelia is now even more comfortable running down to the dugout during the game to yell at Mike for what's happening. He didn't know who she was last week. But now, he's very aware of what she's willing to do for Ginny. Again, it's unclear where this story is going but it's very promising. Meanwhile, Oscar struggling to find an interpreter to break the news to a pitcher that he's going back down to the minors isn't a very good story. It's basically a one-joke premise. Plus, it gets in the way of him bonding with his daughter during her big day seeing Ginny pitch for the first time. His divorce is a story that is going to be important. The daughter seems to be more mature about it than him though. He tries springing the news on her after this amazing day. That's just such a silly decision.

And then, Al is doing his best to secure his job for the rest of the season. These opening episodes of the series have focused heavily on Frank's discontent with Al's effectiveness as manager. After Ginny, he has created the most scandals for the year. But it's just fun watching Al work here. He still has a few moves up his sleeve as well. He understands this system. He knows how to manipulate it to this advantage just like the rest of upper management. Yes, his job is largely to lead the team on the field. But he understands the power struggles happening at the top. He knows that he can convince major shareholder Maxine Armstrong to keep him around just by having a meal with her. There's quite a flirtatious dynamic between the two as well. However, parts of the story just feel like the show explaining how it's possible Al will keep his job despite everything Frank has done so far. Last week was all about Oscar talking to Buck about taking the job. Buck does a solid job leading the team to victory here. But now, it's clear Al will be sticking around for the season and will retire at the end if management still wants him out. It's not all up to Frank. Yes, he's the primary voice of the shareholders. But Maxine has the power to oust him of that position should he fire Al. Again, it's fun because of the actors involved. And yet, it still feels like too much of an explanation for how the status quo will remain intact for the next stretch of episodes.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Beanball" was written by Kevin Falls and directed by Kenneth Fink.
  • Al sure has come around on Ginny a lot as of late. In the beginning, he was unsure about having a girl in his clubhouse. But now, he really respects her and cares about how things will look if he's fired immediately after his scandal from last week.
  • The fight on the field was intense. But it was very amusing to watch the two managers just dancing around being there for their teams but not wanting to actually fight. Fortunately, no one was hurt from all of this either.
  • Amelia has a potential corporate sponsor watching Ginny during the game. And yet, that's not really a story that goes anywhere. It contributes to her freakout over the beanball war. But it's unclear if Ginny got the deal or not afterwards because it's never mentioned again.
  • Amelia didn't like it when Elliot cheered too loudly in the luxury box in the premiere. But now, she's right there alongside him. She may not be paying too much attention to the actual game. But she still cheers when Mike hits a home run.
  • There has been a lot of talk about the All-Star game. Players are worrying if they're good enough to make the cut. So, that's clearly foreshadowing to an eventual episode this season, right?