Haruko’s 2015 baseball preview extravaganza — The Hall of Fame, who’s going in?

Having read a lot of discussions lately about Gil Hodges, the baseball Hall of Fame and what makes a Hall of Famer, it got me thinking: “How many current players are Hall of Famer?”

I came up with my own list and I broke it down into five categories: No-Brainer Hall of Famers, Likely Hall of Famers, Off to a Good Start for the Hall of Fame, They Have a Shot at the Hall of Fame … and the fifth category is … David Ortiz. I came up with two “No-Brainers,” four “Likely Hall of Famers” and a whole slew of “Too Early to Tell, but Off to a Good Start” and “They Have a Shot” Hall of Famers. Ortiz is a unique situation that I’ll explain.

albert pujols
Albert Pujols

Hall of Fame discussions fascinate me. There are obviously easy picks for the Hall of Fame — guys like Randy Johnson and next year Ken Griffey Jr. are slam dunks, then there are the guys that are a bit borderline, guys like Craig Biggio or Barry Larkin. They’re the ones who create interesting debate. One thing that cracks me up in a Facebook discussion group are people who get sincerely angry over what they see as “unworthy” people in the Hall of Fame — somehow thinking that guys like Biggio and Larkin or Don Sutton somehow “disgrace” or water down “real Hall of Famers” like Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron and Lou Gehrig. I honestly don’t understand that view. I truly don’t. I feel like there’s bigger things in the world to be angry about — like great players like Dick Allen or Gil Hodges who for whatever mystifying reason simply cannot get in the Hall … or global warming … or Citizens United. Those are things worth getting angry about. I think there are probably some unworthy guys in the Hall, mostly old-timers put in via the Veterans Committee back in the day when the committee was beset by too much cronyism.

Clayton Kershaw

There are more than 17,000 men who have ever played Major League Baseball, and a whopping 215 of them are in the Hall of Fame as players. That’s 1.2 percent. That’s one player out of 80 who has ever played. That means 98.8 percent of the guys who have ever played in the entire history of baseball are not Hall of Famers. I don’t think it somehow detracts from Babe Ruth or Henry Aaron’s accomplishments if that number is 1.3 or 1.4 percent. They’re all the elite of the elite no matter what.

Anyway, here is my list of current players. Tell me what you think.

No-Brainer Hall of Famers

Albert Pujols

Already has 500 home runs, has won a Rookie of the Year award, three MVPs and a .317 lifetime hitter. He’s a first-ballot lock. His numbers have dropped off in recent years, but he should still make it to 3,000 hits. He is at 2,500 hits and is still only 35. He should also crack 600 home runs.



Simply the best Japanese player ever. He is 41 and is sitting at 2,844 hits, so he may not make 3,000. I don’t think he needs to get 3,000 hits to make the Hall of Fame. If you include his Japan League numbers, he actually has more than 4,000 hits. In one 10-year stretch, he averaged an incredible 224 hits a year. And he has stolen nearly 500 bases and has an MVP and Rookie of the Year award and 10 Gold Gloves — add to that a .317 lifetime average. I’m a little critical of his low OPS (.771), but that won’t hurt his HOF vote.

Likely Hall of Famers

Clayton Kershaw

Really, I probably could have put him in the No-Brainer category, but he simply hasn’t played enough years yet. He already has three Cy Young awards. He is 98-49 for his career and incredibly is still only 27 and has only pitched seven years. He could win 150 games before the age of 30. He has also struck out over 200 batters five times.

Miguel Cabrera

A rare triple crown winner, three-time batting champ, has won two MVP awards, .320 lifetime hitter, led the league in home runs twice, 390 home runs and 2,186 hits and he is still only 32. Barring major injuries, he should easily reach 3,000 hits (he should do it by the time he is 37) and 500 home runs. Even if he doesn’t hit those milestones, he likely gets in the Hall of Fame.

Robinson Cano

A lot of people seem to forget about this guy. He is a .310 hitter with 218 home runs as a second baseman. He has won two Gold Gloves and has finished in the top six of the MVP voting six times. He is also only 32. In another five years (at the age of 36), he could have over 300 home runs, 2,500 hits and 1,300 RBIs.

Adrian Beltre

adrian beltre
Adrian Beltre

Barring injury, Beltre should actually reach 3,000 hits before Pujols. He is at 2,600 hits and will be 36 in April. He also has 395 career home runs and four Gold Gloves. If he stays healthy, he should reach 3,000 hits by the age of 38. When he does, he will be only the ninth player ever with 3,000 hits and 400 home runs (one of those is Alex Rodriguez). I doubt he gets to 500 home runs, but he doesn’t need to. 3,000 hits is automatic Hall of Fame, but if he falls short, he should get in anyway. It just might take him longer.

David Ortiz’s own special category

David Ortiz

I couldn’t figure out what category to put David Ortiz in, so I just put him in his own category because Ortiz creates a unique debate. I’ve seen in a baseball group on Facebook that he is the most polarising player in the game other than Pete Rose, which surprised me, because I’m used to Boston fans who love him. Ortiz is pretty close to Hall of Fame numbers just looking at his raw stats, including 466 regular season home runs and 17 postseason home runs (His postseason resume includes a World Series MVP and an ALCS MVP). He also has 10 All-Star appearances and has finished in the top five of the MVP voting five times. I think it will help his case a lot if he can reach 500 home runs. Look at Fred McGriff at 493 home runs who can’t get in the Hall of Fame.

However, Ortiz presents a bit of a conundrum for two reasons. One is he’s been a DH most of his career and secondly, there are pretty strong suspicions that he has juiced. Looking at the DH question, I’d respond that there’s already two players in the Hall of Fame who played a lot of games at DH — Frank Thomas and Paul Molitor. Thomas played over half of his games (1,300) at DH while Molitor played more than 1,100 games at DH. I don’t understand the Hall of Fame bias against the DH. It’s a position that has been around for more than 40 years now, and guys like Reggie Jackson and Harmon Killebrew didn’t get in the Hall of Fame because they played the field.

The bigger issue with Ortiz is going to be the PED suspicions. Ortiz tested positive for something in 2003. He insists it was a supplement. No one knows what it is; that information has never been released. I try to point this out when people say Ortiz tested positive for steroids — “No, you don’t know that for a fact, you don’t know what he tested positive for.” I think the suspicions will hurt his Hall of Fame vote, but one thing that I think will help Ortiz a LOT is if Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell are voted into the Hall of Fame ahead of him. There are also strong suspicions about Piazza (in fact, Piazza admitted he took Andro in the 1990s, back when it wasn’t against the rules of baseball and it could be bought off a shelf) and Bagwell. Piazza got 69 percent of the Hall of Fame vote in 2014 and I predict he gets in the Hall in 2015. Bagwell got 59 percent of the vote in 2014 and I think he has a legitimate shot at the Hall of Fame in 2015 when the only shoo-ins are Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffmann. With Piazza and Bagwell, who aren’t in the Hall for one reason and one reason only — suspicion — finally making the Hall of Fame, that will help Ortiz’s case, I believe. Hall of Fame voters are starting to ignore suspicions.

Too Early to Tell, but Guys off to a Good Start

Mike Trout

He’s only in his fourth year, but he has a Rookie of the Year award, an MVP, and two second-place MVP finishes. His numbers dipped slightly last year, but he is off to such a spectacular start to his young career, he certainly looks like a Hall of Famer already.

Felix Hernandez

Felix Hernandez

Hernandez to me is close to the “likely” category. I think he needs a few more strong years to make his case. He has a Cy Young (he could have won another one last year, IMO) and has already won 125 games before the age of 29. He has twice led the league in ERA and struck out over 200 batters six times. He could pitch another 10 years and he could win another 125 games at least. We’ll see. 250 is the new 300, I believe. One of the things that has hurt him a bit is a lack of run support in Seattle, but the Mariners are putting together a better team behind him. Another thing that hurts him is for an elite pitcher, he ends up with a ton of no-decisions (86 no-decisions in 10 seasons. Again, I think lack of run support is part of the reason for that. ); It might be completely unfair, but wins is something voters look at. Hernandez has only won more than 15 games once.

Buster Posey

A Rookie of the Year, MVP winner, batting champion (as a catcher), three-time World Series winner, .308 hitter and he’s only been in the league five years. He is still only 28.

Craig Kimbrel

I’m not a big fan of the saves stat, but he has an incredible 186 saves in his first four full seasons. And an incredible 476 strikeouts in 289 innings. He won’t be 27 until May. A Rookie of the Year award winner and already has won two Rolaids Relief Pitcher awards. Top five in the Cy Young voting twice (though relief pitchers virtually never win Cy Youngs anymore).

Andrew McCutchen

Has an MVP and two other top-3 MVP finishes. .299 career hitter with power (128 home runs) and speed (143 steals) in only six years. He is only 28 and has a lot of years left.

Madison Bumgarner

Honestly, if not for his World Series exploits, I don’t know if I would put him on the list, but you can’t ignore what he has done in the postseason so far (and I believe postseason play helps with the voting). He’s been on three World Series winners, has a World Series MVP, an NLCS MVP and is 4-0 with a mind-blowing 0.25 ERA in the World Series. He is 67-49 overall in five seasons, but he is still only 25. He could have a lot of years left.

Giancarlo Stanton

Giancarlo Stanton

He’s only 25 and already has 154 career home runs. He’s had three 30+ home run seasons out of five full seasons. He needs to stay healthy. He’s had two major injuries so far. He finished second as an MVP last year. He could have over 300 home runs before he hits 30.

Guys with a Shot — get back to me in five years

I would say probably most of these guys will not make the Hall of Fame but I am throwing their names out there for the heck of it. I see these as guys who have had solid careers so far but are probably currently short of the Hall of Fame. However, with another four or five excellent years, some of them might have a chance. What I keep thinking is, honestly, five years ago, I would not have thought of Adrian Beltre as a Hall of Famer, but he has had a nice resurgence of his career in his early- to mid-30s. These guys are all capable of a similar kind of resurgence. These are people that I put in the category of “get back to me in five years and we’ll see where they’re at.”

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina

Simply the best defensive catcher of his generation. Seven straight Gold Gloves. He doesn’t hit a lot of home runs or drive in a lot of runs (his best RBI year is 80) so his offence gets overlooked, but he’s hit over .300 four times and is a career .284 hitter. An outstanding defensive catcher hitting over .300 is nothing to sneeze at. If he ends up with 10-12 Gold Gloves and has at least a couple more years hitting over .300, you have to take him seriously for the Hall of Fame.

CC Sabathia

Believe it or not, he is still only 34 and already has 208 wins. His productivity has gone down the last couple of years and he’s had some injuries, but if he regains his health, pitches effectively for another five or six years and ends up with 260 to 270 wins, you have to take him seriously for the Hall of Fame. He has won a Cy Young and finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting four other times.

Joe Mauer

Has won three batting titles and an MVP and is a career .319 hitter. He is still only 32, so another five or six years over .300, he has a chance for the Hall of Fame. Plus, Steve Lardy gets mad if I don’t include at least one Minnesota Twin. Last year, his numbers dipped.

Dustin Pedroia

dustin pedroia
Dustin Pedroia

A .299 hitter who has won an MVP and a Rookie of the Year award. His power numbers have dipped because of a bad thumb, but he has had surgery on the thumb. He is also an outstanding defensive player. Four Gold Gloves and amazingly has made a total of 40 errors in eight full seasons — at second base. Steve Sax once had 30 errors at second base … in one season. Pedroia averages five errors a year … at second base. His offence declined last year and he needs to regain his offensive form he had earlier in his career to have a good shot at the Hall of Fame. He’s still only 31.

Justin Verlander

152 wins in 10 seasons, an MVP, a Rookie of the Year award and a Cy Young (as well as second-place and third-place Cy Young finishes two other seasons). Led the league in strikeouts three times. His velocity and productivity have really dropped in the past two seasons, however. He is still only 32. If he can regain some of the form he had earlier in his career, gets over 200 wins, he has a shot at the Hall of Fame.

Max Scherzer

He is still only 30. He has a Cy Young and is 91-50 in six full seasons with over 200 strikeouts three straight seasons. I wouldn’t bother mentioning him, except Washington just gave him $210 million over seven years … they must know something.

Jimmy Rollins

He is only a .267 career hitter, and the only reason I’ve included him on this list is, believe it or not, he actually has a plausible chance at 3,000 hits. Jimmy Rollins is only 35 and has 2,306 hits. If he averages 140 hits over the next five years … he is at 3,000, and deserves to be in the Hall of Fame discussion. Rollins has won an MVP and once had an incredible season in which he had 30 HRs, 20 triples and 40 stolen bases. No one else has ever done that in the history of baseball. Add to that four Gold Gloves.

Jose Reyes

A somewhat underrated player, I believe. He has a batting title, led the league in triples four times and led the league in steals three times and led the league in hits once. And a .291 career hitter. He is still only 32 and could easily end up with more than 2,500 hits and 600 steals in another five years.

Adam Wainwright

He has finished in the top 3 of the Cy Young vote four times. Has won 20 games twice and 19 or more games four times. He has 119 wins at 33, and a career ERA of 3.01. If he wins about 70 games over the next five years … time to talk.

Joey Votto

He is still just 31. He had a down year last year, but before 2014, he had five seasons over .300 and five seasons with 24 or more home runs. He has won an MVP and came in sixth two other years. .310 career hitter who walks a lot (he has led the NL in OBP four times), hits a ton of doubles and has a career OPS of .950. An all-around solid player, but he needs to do more to get in the Hall.

Honourable mentions for discussion — Chase Utley, Troy Tulowitzki, Mark Buehrle, Mark Teixeira, David Price, Zack Greinke, Carlos Beltran, Evan Longoria, Tim Hudson, Justin Morneau, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester. I’m sure there’s LOTS of others who could be mentioned that I didn’t think of.






Needle in the eyes: CDC anti-smoking ads get more graphic

anti smoking ad
CDC anti-smoking testimonial. That’s a hole in his throat he is covering up.


The Centers for Disease Control has released a new series of “Tips from Former Smokers” ads designed to seriously turn people off of smoking — we’re talking missing teeth, operation scars and ….needles in the eyes (and yes, I watched with my hand in front of my face.).

The needles in the eye involve a testimonial from a woman suffering from macular degeneration in her eyes caused by smoking. From a story done by NBC last week on this campaign:

This year, Marlene, who isn’t fully identified, tells about having to endure regular treatments for macular degeneration. “Please don’t end up like me. Don’t sit in a doctor’s chair, have a clamp put on your eye, and have needles stuck in your eyeballs. It’s horrible,” Marlene, who is 68, told NBC News.

I get these ads on my Facebook feeds from time to time and I’ve watched a few of them. Great for NBC News to do a feature on the “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign, focusing on the cringe-worthiness of the ads.


Part of the emphasis of the “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign is sending the message that smoking doesn’t just cause lung cancer. Research has shown that smoking either causes or is a huge risk factor for a wide variety of diseases, including COPD, diabetes, sight loss and arthritis. I’ve personally seen how smoking probably made my mom’s arthritis much worse, if it didn’t downright cause it to begin with.

Dr. Tim McAfee, head of the CDC Smoking and Health Office, claims that the campaign has prompted 100,000 smokers to quit.

Some of the stories from former smokers quoted in the CDC campaign and NBC story:

Julia, a 58-year-old Mississippi native, advises on how to use a colostomy bag in one video. “I smoked and I got colon cancer,” she says. “What I hated the most was the colostomy bag. That’s where they re-route your intestines, so you have bowel movements that go into a bag.”

One tip: Get a sense of humor. “You’ll need it,” she says.

“When you have a hole in your neck…be very careful shaving,” advises Shawn, 50, of Washington state, a smoker who got throat cancer.

“Merchants of Doubt”: Big Oil, Big Chemical take a lesson from Big Tobacco

Merchants of Doubt

I have put this documentary in my Netflix queue, though I have a feeling it will be really bad for my blood pressure. This is a documentary by the Robert Kenner, who also made “Food, Inc.” about how the oil industry, chemical industry and pharmaceutical companies have copied the same techniques used for many years by Big Tobacco to “change the narrative” about the dangers of their product (in the case of the oil industry, global warming), by sowing the seeds of doubt and confusion in the American product. The movie has the same title of a book I have to get my hands on by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway.

Lucky Strike cigarette ad 1940s

The purveyors of doubt have been extremely successful in shaping public opinion on global warming, unfortunately, by creating the idea that “there is no scientific consensus” that man is causing climate change, even though 97 percent of scientists involved in the fields of climate, meteorology, etc., have actually reached this consensus. By finding a few loud voices (and likely paying some of those voices handsomely) to rail against the consensus, the industry has pretty effectively changed the discourse and changed public attitudes about global warming. Most polls show roughly half of respondents don’t believe mankind is creating the problem of global warming.

merchants of doubt book

Tobacco was very successful in its campaign to confuse the public for decades. For years, Big Tobacco found its own scientists to refute the growing evidence that cigarettes were behind the epidemic of lung cancer cases that began around the 1930s (roughly 30 years after cigarettes starting becoming popular.). Some of the same exact people who cut their teeth in a massive disinformation campaign for tobacco actually went on to work for the chemical industry and oil industry.

From a New York Times review of “Merchants of Doubt”:

“If you can ‘do tobacco,’ ” one of the perpetrators is quoted as saying, “you can do just about anything in public relations.”

The awesome book, “A Cigarette Century” chronicles in exquisite detail the steps that the tobacco industry went to counter the concerns over cigarettes. The U.S. Surgeon General’s report on lung cancer and smoking came out way back in 1964 and you would have thought this would be the death knell for the tobacco industry. Yet, the smoking rate remained stubbornly high over the next 30 years. Why? Doubt. Confusion. Paid shills. No one knew what to believe.

The tobacco industry established its own laboratories and did its own research, partly to generate data it believed would disprove the fears over lung cancer and smoking. Instead, the tobacco industry’s own data confirmed those fears and the industry kept this information under wraps for decades until it finally came gushing out in the 1980s and 1990s mostly through the discovery process of numerous lawsuits against the tobacco industry.

Meanwhile, the industry continued to maintain the safety of its products, putting filters on the cigarettes (which essentially do nothing) and having doctors in ads and promoting their products as safer than other brands. Incredibly, as late as the mid-1990s, tobacco executives continued to insist during congressional hearings that nicotine was not addictive, despite the reams and reams of evidence proving otherwise.

Like I said, this movie will not be good for my blood pressure. One of the reasons I get so worked up about it was arguing with my mom after my dad died of lung cancer at 49. First, she insisted that it was Hodgkin’s disease, not lung cancer from the four packs a day he smoked. Then, she claimed if he got lung cancer, it was from air pollution. The “air pollution is causing the epidemic of lung cancer” line is  STRAIGHT out of the Big Tobacco disinformation campaign from the 1950s. Twenty-five years later, that stuck in my mom’s head. Twenty-five years later, she used that as a rationale to continue smoking and now she is dealing with severe COPD.

Sigh. The lies people tell. And the people that listen to them.



Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates announce $4 million fund to help small countries fight Big Tobacco

Gates speaks as Bloomberg listens during a news conference announcing joint efforts to combat the global tobacco epidemic in New York

John Oliver will be glad to hear this. (Thank you Orcas for the tip on this story).

Bill Gates and Michael Bloomberg announced this week a $4 million fund to help small countries around the world with their legal battles against Big Tobacco. Gates is contributing through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Bloomberg through the Bloomberg Foundation.

Oliver has been pounding away on this issue on his HBO show, “Last Week Tonight.” When small countries attempt to control tobacco branding and tobacco advertising, they get sued by Big Tobacco into submission though world trade agreement laws and courts into dropping their proposals. This has happened in Uruguay, Togo, Ireland and especially Australia (OK, not so small of a country, but it’s been a bloody legal battle there.).

In this quote from a Guardian article about the announcement, Bill Gates said:

“Country leaders who are trying to protect their citizens from the harms of tobacco should not be deterred by threats of costly legal challenges from huge tobacco companies. Australia won its first case, which sends a strong message. But smaller, developing countries don’t have the same resources. That’s why we are supporting the Anti-Tobacco Trade Litigation Fund with Bloomberg Philanthropies.”

Added Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization:

“In an ominous trend, in some countries the battle between tobacco and health has moved into the courts. Governments wishing to protect their citizens through larger pictorial warnings on cigarette packs or by introducing plain packaging are being intimidated by industry’s threats of lengthy and costly litigation. This is an effort to deprive governments of their sovereign right to legislate in the public interest. We will push back hard.”

I hope $4 million is just a start, because I suspect the international Big Tobacco companies have a vastly bigger legal war chest than that. Anyway, it’s great that people are recognizing the problem that Oliver has exposed on his show.

The tobacco industry has been aggressively trying to expand to international markets, since smoking has dropped so dramatically in the West. The industry particularly salivates over Africa, India and Southeast Asia, where laws and governments are weaker and the smoking rates higher than in the West. (The industry would expand into China bigtime if China allowed it, but the tobacco market there is state-controlled.)

Bloomberg is a noted anti-smoking advocate … you could even call him a zealot (I know some New Yorkers would). As the mayor of New York, he oversaw a number of restrictions on smoking (strict smoking bans not only in bars and restaurants, but in parks) and tax increases for cigarettes. He could be accused of taking his health campaign too far into “nanny state” territory because he also tried to ban large sodas in New York, a move that was ruled illegal by the courts. His heart is in the right place, at least.



John Constantine’s smoking evolution — 1988-2014

satan gives constantine a smoke
Lucifer (Peter Stormare), gives John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) a light.

Smoking might be taken away from Wolverine soon, but there’s a precedent. Smoking has already been taken away from a comic book legend — John Constantine.

Several years ago on a blog far away (that blog is long gone; I abandoned it about six years ago), I wrote a piece about “Constantine” and smoking. “Constantine” was and probably still is the most patently anti-smoking movie to ever come out of Hollywood. “Constantine” was a total Keanu Reeves vehicle and it was released in 2005, coming right after the end of “The Matrix” triology.

Constantine gives a spider a smoke bath


It wasn’t a particularly good movie (it gets a 46 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes), it was a total rip-off of “The Matrix”, it made a fair amount of money ($200 million worldwide), but was not a huge hit and it completely pissed off loyal “Hellblazer” readers because it changed everything about John Constantine. In the comic book series, Constantine was blond, British and cocky. In the film, he was dark-haired, American and sullen.

And all that being said, looking back on the movie 10 years later, I think “Constantine” was arguably the most influential movie ever for changing the culture of smoking in Hollywood. “Constantine” came out roughly the same time as “Stranger than Fiction,” another anti-smoking Hollywood movie.


Remember the time — 2005. At the time, smoking was rampant in Hollywood films. Not just R-rated movies, but PG-13 movies marketed to teens and even PG- and G-rated movies marketed to kids. Hollywood had a long, sordid history of promoting tobacco products, for decades for free, and then beginning with Superman II, for a price. Hollywood, every bit as much as Madison Avenue, promoted smoking as cool, suave and hip going all the way back to the early 1930s.

john constanine 5
John Constantine in the comic books.


Even after payments between Big Tobacco and Hollywood studios supposedly came to a halt after the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, movies continued to show smoking as cool, suave and hip. Hollywood didn’t get a nickel for 50 years to promote tobacco products, made millions from Big Tobacco for about 18 years and amazingly, mystifyingly, even after those payments were supposedly stopped, Hollywood STILL just kept giving the tobacco industry all kinds of free advertising in movies marketed to teens.


I was part of a huge push to get an R-rating for smoking in movies. A push that I think has mostly succeeded, though it was a bloody fight. Hollywood resented us do-gooders, even though it was perfectly cool with R ratings for more than one F-bomb, the slightest glimpse of full-frontal nudity and ANY drug use, even someone just rolling a joint. But take away cigarettes from PG-13 movies? CENSORSHIP! R ratings are not set in stone for smoking, but the campaign has discouraged studios from having smoking scenes in PG-13 and PG movies.


Along came “Constantine” and “Stranger Than Fiction.” I watched “Constantine” again this weekend on satellite, and I was reminded of what a genuinely groundbreaking film this was. It wasn’t popular at the time, it pissed off “Hellblazer” fans, and the anti-smoking message feels like a forced and trite plot point, but dammit, this was the first movie I ever saw that came right out and said, “smoking sucks.”

constantine 3
“Constantine,” released in 2005, was the most anti-smoking movie ever made


I went to see this movie in the theatre and despite the mixed reviews, I loved it. Maybe because of the anti-smoking message. I didn’t know much about the “Hellblazer” comic book series, and if I had known much about it, I probably would’ve hated the movie. Anyway, “Constantine” was surprisingly pretty scary and Peter Stormare and Tilda Swinton  were amazing as Lucifer and the Archangel Gabriel, respectively. Stormare played the most terrifying Satan I’ve ever seen (as I said, “Constantine” is a surprisingly scary movie), with tattoos, a lisp and wearing a white suit with black oil dripping off his bare feet. Keanu Reeves was badly miscast and more or less played the movie as Neo from “The Matrix.”

lung cancer
Lucifer rips the lung cancer out of John Constantine’s body — ewww!


Most movies about the Devil and the Apocalypse and religious drivel are hopelessly dopey (I mean go watch “The Omen” again sometime and you’ll be reminded just how stupid and ridiculous that movie was) and compared to other films of the genre, “Constantine” was not as dopey as most — despite Shia Lebouf’s painfully bad role in the movie. The plot is similar to “The Prophecy,” which is another Apocalypse religious hokum movie I can actually stomach, mostly because the Devil is simply a spectator and the real bad guy is the Archangel Gabriel (again) and Christopher Walken is amazing as Gabriel. His greatest role by far.

Lucifer arrives in “Constantine”

Anyway, in the comic book series “Hellblazer,” which began in the late 1980s, John Constantine was portrayed as a gruff, chain-smoking Brit. At one point in the series, he was dying of lung cancer until he made a deal with two demons for his soul to save his life (the demons couldn’t let him die because they were rivals).

The film “Constantine” took a different twist. Constantine was dying of lung cancer, but he explicitly blamed the cigarettes for his condition. In one scene, he traps a spider under glass and blows smoke under the glass, telling the spider, “welcome to my world.” Later in the film, Constantine commits suicide to make a deal with the devil and in the absolute best line of the entire movie, Constantine asks Lucifer, “do you mind if I smoke?” and the Devil responds, “no, go right ahead. I’ve got stock.” Awesome line!

In the 2014 “Constantine” TV show, John Constantine is blond and British, but does not smoke at all.


In the end, Constantine is allowed to go to Heaven because he sacrificed himself by committing suicide to save someone else. Not wanting to let Constantine go, Lucifer rips the lung cancer out of Constantine’s body to give him a lifetime of chances to screw up so he can someday collect his soul. The film concludes with Constantine seemingly reaching into his trenchcoat pocket for a cigarette, but instead pulling out a stick of gum. Awesome. I loved it. Trite, beating people over the head with the anti-smoking message, but I loved it.

In “Stranger than Fiction,” a character played by Emma Thompson was originally written as a chain-smoker. However, the producer of the film Lindsey Doran hated smoking and hated smoking in movies. After battling with the director, they agreed on a compromise, Thompson’s character would still smoke, but it would be portrayed in a negative manner. Sure enough, throughout the movie Thompson’s character continually has to grab tissues as she coughs up gobs of phlegm. Gross and disgusting. Her assistant, played by Queen Latifah, begs Thompson’s character to quit smoking throughout the film and at the end of the movie, Latifah leaves a pack a nicotine gum on Thompson’s desk.

Not-so-glamorous smoking in “Stranger Than Fiction.” Note the wadded-up tissue of phlegm.


I honestly feel those two movies are when the tide began to turn against smoking in movies. That’s why, despite its many, many, many flaws, I will always have a soft spot for “Constantine.”

As an aside, this past year, there was a “Constantine” TV show on NBC. They completely took John Constantine’s smoking out; banished completely. That’s how far the issue has come. Constantine was blond, wise-cracking and British like he was supposed to be, but they didn’t even bother making his smoking a part of the character or a plot point, they just simply dumped it as unnecessary and a relic of the past. The show only lasted 13 episodes and likely isn’t coming back. However, a “Constantine” sequel has been planned by Guillermo del Toro. It was be interesting to see if they make it if they will bring back John Constantine’s smoking.

 Epilogue of “Stranger than Fiction”

 “Constantine” 2014 TV series




Disney’s bizarre 1951 cartoon about smoking: “Hey mister, you got any weed?!”

Holy crap, I just stumbled across this while writing a post about Marvel Studios and just HAD to add a post about it. This is the weirdest thing I have ever seen.

I did a bit of research and found that this cartoon comes from 1951. It’s about Goofy taking up smoking, his attempts to quit and his nicotine withdrawal.

My favourite part is when a desperate Goofy goes up to a guy with a cigar and begs him for a smoke, going through a list of slang for a smoke, including “fag” and “weed.”

Adding to the surreal irony of this cartoon is the fact that Walt Disney himself was a chain-smoker and died of lung cancer at the age of 66.




Holy Wolverine! No more smoking in Marvel movies?

Hugh Jackman as Clint Eastwood as Wolverine


Disney CEO Bob Iger announced last week that there will be no more smoking period in any film distributed by any Disney-affiliated studio rated PG-13 or lower from now on (Not sure Disney still makes R-rated movies, the studio did for a while through Touchstone.)

“We are extending our policy to prohibit smoking in movies across the board: Marvel, Lucas, Pixar, and Disney films,” said Iger.

I was already kind of aware that Disney had clamped down on smoking in its movies (Disney cartoons have a long history of portaying smoking to young audiences). However, here was the part of the story that struck me — Marvel movies include the X-Men (The Marvel mega-brand was purchased by Disney a few years ago.)


So, does that mean no more smoking for Wolverine from the X-Men? Wow, a cigar is a really big part of Wolverine’s persona. We’ll have to see if they follow through with that.

Other Marvel characters often seen chomping a cigar: Ben Grimm, Nick Fury and Sgt. Dugan from Captain America. I’m not sure if Nick Fury has been smoking in the recent Marvel movies. But, it’s a moot point now if he had been.

This also means you will not see any smoking in any “Stars Wars” movies, though off-hand, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen smoking in any “Star Wars” film. Did Obi-Wan smoke a pipe sometimes?

Nick Fury
Nick Fury


As it stands, very little (if any) smoking gets sneaked through the PG-13 rating today anyway. I believe what has happened is studios just don’t want to butt heads with the MPAA over smoking in PG-13 movies and have more or less voluntarily removed smoking from teen and kids’ movies. Smoking is still pretty much shrugged off in R-rated movies, which is fine.

However, Iger said smoking could still be allowed in some movies in a historical context. For instance, in a movie about Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln could be portrayed smoking his pipe.

Sgt. Nick
Sgt. Dugan


Of course, Disney will not be going back and wiping out smoking from all of its old movies, and I’m not one to advocate going that far.

BTW, I just HAD to find the cartoon that went along with that Goofy image. Here it is.


John Oliver’s Jeff the Diseased Lung takes off

john oliver2

John Oliver of “Last Week Tonight” did a follow-up story on his show’s creation of “Jeff the Diseased Lung.”

Jeff the Diseased Lung is a trademark designed by Oliver and his show for the tobacco industry which is fighting efforts in smaller countries around the world to limit tobacco industry advertising and branding. Oliver’s show took out billboards in Uruguay and sent out t-shirts to Togo starring Jeff the Diseased lung.

Since, then, Jeff and the Twitter hastag #jeffwecan have taken off far beyond what Oliver expected. Also, there are a number of YouTube videos made by Jeff the Diseased Lung fans. Here’s one, here’s two, here’s a third. The first two are great, but that third one was … WTH?

Someone even made their own Jeff the Diseased Lung costume in Mexico City.

Oliver’s epic rant against the tobacco industry, more than 18 minutes long, savaged Big Tobacco over its efforts to harass and intimidate smaller countries that are trying to control tobacco advertising. Australia is one country that now requires simple plain packaging on tobacco products, along with graphic warnings.

As Oliver points out in last week’s piece, Ireland is another country that has joined Australia in requiring plain packaging. Hey, I wrote about that weeks ago, I beat John to the punch. He finds an incredible argument in Philip Morris’ lawsuit against Ireland: Philip Morris argued that, “a dance is only meaningful when it is danced, as a trademark is only meaningful when used.”

As Oliver retorts: “You know you have a pretty weak legal argument when it sounds like a rejected @#$%ing Jewel lyric.”



More on Leonard Nimoy’s death — COPD fundraiser and Leonard’s tweets

Leonard Nimoy’s family to raise funds for COPD Foundation


leonard Nimoy shirt

Leonard Nimoy’s granddaughter, who has an online retail store dedicated to her grandfather, announced she will have special Live Long and Prosper shirts available (SHOPLLAP.com, ) to raise money specifically for the COPD Foundation.

His granddaughter, Dani Schwartz announced:

“Hi all, as you all know, my Grandpa passed away this morning at 8:40 from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” Schwartz wrote. “He was an extraordinary man, husband, grandfather, brother, actor, author — the list goes on — and friend. Thank you for the warm condolences. May you all LLAP.”

CBS collects Leonard Nimoy’s anti-smoking tweets, including a secret message in Star Trek IV

Screen capture from “Star Trek IV”


CBS collected a bunch of tweets Nimoy made urging people to quit smoking during the final year of his life. Nimoy disclosed in February 2014 he had COPD caused by smoking 30 years ago.
Nimoy only took to Twitter to promote his granddaughter’s online business selling Leonard Nimoy T-shirts and other products.
Here was the tweet that cracked me up the most. From Star Trek IV, a movie Nimoy directed. In a brief scene, an Earth-bound character is wearing a big button that reads: “I Quit Smoking.” Nimoy disclosed he purposely sneaked that into the movie. I never knew that before.
nimoy tweet