Joe Versus The Volcano is my favorite movie. I know it’s not a great movie, and I know that in terms of Tom Hanks’ career, it’s considered a bit of a joke and a disappointment, but I love it. The San Diego Padres are my favorite baseball team. I know that in terms of Major League Baseball teams, they are considered a bit of a joke and are always disappointing, but I love them.
The movie is now 24 years old, and if you haven’t seen it you should stop everything and watch it (a former girlfriend bought me the DVD 12 years ago, so I watch it a lot), or you should just realize that explaining the plot and even the ending of things in print doesn’t really spoil the experience of watching things. I guess this is a spoiler alert, but whatever.
In the movie, Joe Banks, played by Tom Hanks, is stuck in a rut. He was once a brave firefighter, but a traumatic experience caused him to quit and get a desk job at a gross factory, which he’s worked at for 8 years, and where he’s developed depression and hypochondria and been forced to work for a hilariously bad boss played by the brilliant Dan Hedaya. On his lunch break, he sees a specialist because he doesn’t feel good, and the specialist explains to him that he has a “brain cloud,” a fatal condition that has no symptoms, but will kill him in 6 months.
Other than the brain cloud, that sounds a lot to me like the Padres, who once made the playoffs 2 years in a row and had a winning record 4 years in a row, but that was 7 years ago, and a ton of depressing shit has happened since then, without the benefit of Dan Hedaya for comic relief.
Joe quits his job, goes on a date with the woman from his office (played by Meg Ryan), but doesn’t get laid because he tells her he has a brain cloud and that’s a real downer. The next day, he’s visited by a strange old man who knows all about him and his brain cloud (the HIPAA violation goes un-investigated), and wants to send him on an all-expense paid trip to a volcanic island, where he will be treated like a king, until he ultimately jumps in the volcano, sacrificing himself to the island’s god. Joe, with nothing to lose, agrees to this ridiculousness.
Along the way he meets two more women who are both also played by Meg Ryan, and he falls in love with the 3rd one, named Patricia, the boat captain who is taking him to the island. Again, he doesn’t get laid because he tells her about his brain cloud and that’s a real downer. Lots of stuff happens, but eventually the two of them end up on the island, get treated like royalty, and the time comes for Joe to jump in the volcano.
Patricia doesn’t want Joe to jump in. She loves him. He loves her too, but he’s committed to making this sacrifice and being brave, going out as a hero. He says “I’ve wasted my entire life and I’m gonna die. Now I have a chance to die like a man, and I’m gonna take it. I’ve gotta take it.” She decides to jump in with him. They get married by the chief of the island tribe, and they walk out to the ledge.
Patricia: Joe, nobody knows anything. We’ll take this leap and we’ll see. We’ll jump and we’ll see. That’s life.
Then they jump.
This is where the Padres are right now. They’ve been on a crooked, messed up road for so long, and now they’re standing at the edge ready to either make a leap on signing Yasmany Tomas, or not, and they need to just take the leap and see what happens. That’s life.
The Padres should absolutely sign Yasmany Tomas, the 23 year old Cuban slugger who is currently a free agent and could sign any day now. They’ve scouted him extensively. New GM AJ Preller has seen him twice. Both VP of Scouting Operations Don Welke and VP of Baseball Operations Omar Minaya have seen him multiple times. He’s worked out privately for the team twice.
Now they should jump.
What happens after Joe and Patricia jump into the volcano isn’t important, and what happens after the Padres sign Yasmany Tomas isn’t important. The act of being brave is important. The changing of mindsets is important. The Padres, too afraid to spend money for so long, need to get out of this rut, and signing Tomas would be doing so in spectacular fashion, much like jumping in a volcano and hoping for the best. It’s risky, but screw it, what do they have to lose?
Even if the Padres don’t end up signing Tomas, because he’s too risky or because another team offers more money, this off-season needs to be about change, about spending money, about taking a hard look at what you have, realizing it’s not very good, making significant changes, and adding real upgrades to the roster.
Take the leap, AJ Preller. With or without Meg Ryan.
The Vocal Minority posts on Mondays. Favorite Tom Hanks movies: Joe Versus The Volcano, Big, The Burbs. I know they aren’t the best movies he’s made, but they’re my favorites. I also really enjoy Hanks and Meg Ryan together, and have seen Sleepless In Seattle and You’ve Got Mail dozens of times. Follow me on Twitter, where I’m finally closing in on 300 followers.