Social media: what is it good for?

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Now on Hive! But still also on Twitter. For now.

As I rambled about the other day—and I realize this is going to be a little repetitive—the Musk takeover of Twitter has led lots of folks to abandon the platform. When I look at my feed there now, it's considerably different—mostly due to the absence of some things that were there before rather than the new deluge of right-wing BS that others are finding. Probably because my Twitter reach/connection is minuscule compared to some others'.

Now, I completely get why people have left/are abandoning it. Who wants to support an asshat like Elon Musk? Thing is, though, we aren't paying him anything. Twitter is, for now, a free thing, and there are good arguments against bailing out and leaving it to be populated only by wingnut crazies. Others using the thing doesn't actually make it better for Elon, except so far as it makes it a more attractive platform for advertisers, and advertisers are already dropping like flies because Elon is, well, Elon. It remains to be seen if the size of the user base will be enough to get advertisers back, though it does figure to be a thing long-term.

I've already stopped using Facebook for the most part.  I still use it to promote things; too damn many people use it as their only portal to the whole Internet, so you gotta work with it to get any hits at all. But Zuckerberg's brand of asshattery and misinformation peddling ruined it as a useful entity—and his algorithm and setup as it currently is doesn't let me connect with people like it used to anyway—so dropping it was no great loss, especially because Twitter was serving whatever social media "needs" I thought I had.

Now Elon Musk is proving himself to be worse than Zuckerberg. So: to leave Twitter or to stick around and see how things shake out?

Alternative platforms are starting to crop up, with tech nerds looking to take advantage of the opportunity to draw an instant user base from disaffected Twitterers and/or just looking to provide a healthier version of social media. I've checked into a couple of them, just out of curiosity. None of them are terrific. Mastadon is a pain in the ass and its selling point of having no central authority has a significant downside to it; in time, that setup would appear to be more conducive to a free-for-all of misinformation and fuckery. Post could be interesting, but as you can't look at it until hanging out on a waitlist for an indeterminate period there's no way to know right off. Then I saw Hive Social, which is a literal two-person operation but appears to have a lot of promise.

I signed up at Hive. I'm checking it out here and there, it's like Twitter without the character limit in most ways. It's buggy, so to speak, but that's to be expected with a new service rolling out in progress in order to stake a claim to the pool of prospective users (the Android app is still designated a "beta release," though their iOS version has more history; as yet there is no browser version). If it starts to get use by the sort of people and accounts I've found useful on Twitter, it'll serve me fine.

But what are anyone's "needs" on social media? I find Twitter good for finding news and having interactions with people who would otherwise be beyond my reach. I can send Seth MacFarlane a message about how much I liked an episode of The Orville, or compliment Marco Gonzales on a pitching performance, or pass on notes to the writers of Star Trek Discovery and they'll see them (or there's a decent chance they will). I had some fun back and forths with Chez Pazienza before he left this mortal coil. There's all kinds of humor to be found there. But it's also a time suck. If I don't find out about news items quite so quickly or don't get to share a joke with Joe Posnanski it's really not a big deal.

We live in a strange era, this alleged information age. I'll see how this Hive thing plays out, and maybe I'll keep using Twitter or maybe not. But I might be better off ditching it all.

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What's that stench?! It's Elon Musk

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I like Twitter. I mean, sure, it's problematic; lots of people use it to be nasty and there has never been a proper solution to how to moderate it as a whole. But it's been a useful tool for promotion and for connecting with people who share interests and for, you know, screaming into the void when you just have to vent about Rand Paul or whatever.

That was Twitter in the Before Elon era. Here in the Elon Reign era of Twitter, well, it's not so great. Mostly because it's now far, far more permissive of misinformation than it was, and it wasn't great about that before. Plus, it's chaos now. Elon Musk is like mini-Trump here, it's much like the John Mulaney bit about a horse in a hospital. It's just a social media platform, not the entire country and effects on the world, but the metaphor still works. Elon took it over with no idea how it functions and wants to monetize things with no idea what the purpose of the thing is; he went and fired people who, you know, make the thing run; he's alienated pretty much everyone who works there; and his great accomplishment to this point has been to do away with the function that lets people know that a public figure on the platform is actually who they say they are and not someone impersonating them to make trouble. Because reasons.

So people are fleeing Twitter, and I get it. Elon is a dirtbag of, if not the highest order, then a lofty order. I'm sticking around, at least for now, though I'm not checking it nearly as often. It's still useful to me. Sort of. I think. Less so now that it isn't baseball season—it's good for ranting about bad managerial decisions in the moment and arguing the merits or lack thereof of a lineup choice or sharing quips about Commissioner Manfred's bad idea du jour.

Anyway, mostly I'm just curious now. I'm a rubbernecker at a car accident. Will it implode? Will Elon find himself with no staff and the thing turns into a runaway train of some kind? Will the only advertisers left be grifters trying to sell cryptocurrency or NFTs? What level of insanity will the buyer's remorse from this rash impulse purchase drive Elon to? And will that be entertaining?

It's not like Facebook. Facebook is frustrating for other reasons, such as the way so many people use it as their access point to the Internet at large and ignore other means of surfing the web despite the fact that it has turned into a fairly useless platform, what with its constantly changing algorithms turning my feed into a random hodgepodge of unrelated gunk that was posted days or weeks back with no rhyme or reason to it. It's a rarity when something I'm actually interested in shows up near the top of the feed. I haven't used that platform for anything but promoting posts on my website(s) and the very occasional comment on that rare interesting post it shows me. We'd be better off if Facebook disappeared tomorrow.

Twitter is somehow simpler, less overwhelming of the Internet, much more controllable.

At least, it was. We'll see how it evolves from here.

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Travel, the midterms, COVID, and the Black Hole

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Still managing to escape infection

About a week ago, I got back from a trip to see my dad and Marty in Palm Springs. I was down there for just shy of two weeks and it was largely a nice time; there was plenty to do, which kept it from being too boring, but despite the tasks to perform it was still a rather sedentary time. Assembling furniture and repairing plumbing takes some effort, but there's not a lot of exercise happening. Plus, after I'd been there a while I started feeling less than 100%, like a cold might be coming on. It didn't progress, so I didn't worry about it too much.

The day after my return, that's when it felt like it was progressing. I'm up to date on my vaccinations, but still took a home COVID test just in case. It was negative. So again, didn't worry about it. Just a mild cold, really. But it wouldn't go away. My friends K & E canceled having me over for a tech support/dinner visit before their trip to the UK as they understandably didn't want my germs even if they weren't COVID germs before an overseas flight, and I was good with that because I was just tired. And, frankly, a little gloomy. 

I did very little in the week since I've been back. Ran a couple errands, read some, watched some TV, gave the cats some intensive reunion playtime. Mostly slept, though.

Yesterday I still wasn't feeling great, but the gloomy was threatening to get worse. I've written about The Black Hole, as I call it, before; most effectively, I think, in a series of Cloud Five comic strips. (The C5 site has been neglected for years now; someday I may return to it, but for now forgive the sloppiness of the broken layout components. The strips in question are #75-89, the link goes to #75.) Having learned over the decades something of how my Black Hole episodes manifest, I summoned up enough energy to get outside and walk around the neighborhood for an hour or so. Did the same this afternoon. The lack of exercise while in California (and if I'm honest with myself, a paltry amount for some weeks before that) did me no favors and I feel better having put some miles on my lethargic limbs. But I'm still not feeling 100% with the cold.

My friend Erik caught COVID recently. He had to extend a stay out of town because of it. My friend Dave likewise had it while traveling and had to stay in a hotel isolating for an extra week. Both wondered if they had it before their trips and it just hadn't manifested yet, and I was wondering if I'd gotten it while traveling too and, thanks to having had my shots, it just didn't feel like anything much and my test was a false neg. People are generally behaving like this is all over with, but it just isn't. So, since my throat is still balky even now, I took another test today. Still negative, thankfully. So I return to the presumption that this is just a typical, mildly annoying cold bug (that isn't really that intrusive) and that my blah week was more depression than infection.

One outside element that probably fueled my depressive slide was the midterms. The pre-midterms, I mean. The day K canceled our evening plans was the day before election day, and she signed off the phone call with "fell better!" and I replied, "well, we'll see what kind of hellscape we'll be living in after tomorrow."

The amount of stress and anxiety that was churning below my surface awareness about what the voters of America might do was, it turns out, huge. American journalism basically sucks, so all the stories I had read about polling and surveys, and the TV coverage reiterating the historical norm for the first midterm in a presidential term being a major shift in congressional power, and the sheer awfulness of some of the candidates running nationwide made for jumpy nerves. And, largely because, again, American journalism basically sucks, an astonishing number of voters in this country had proven themselves to be either nihilist or stupid enough to back autocrats out of ginned-up fear and racist manipulation (or just out of plain meanness).

Thankfully, things turned out pretty well. Not great, mind you, but pretty well under the circumstances.

The Democrats retained the Senate and will very likely get a real majority when Senator Warnock wins his runoff in a few weeks. That's a big deal, they won't have to deal with going halvesies in committees anymore with obstructionists. Most of the insurrectionists running lost, including the batshit-crazy governor candidates in Arizona, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. A huge, ginormous relief.

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Not great, but oh so much better than it could have been

On the other hand, it looks like the Republicans will take the majority in the House. Only by a few seats, which is so, so much better than some predicted—and will provide some entertainment value when Kevin McCarthy or whomever else gets saddled with being the Speaker is unable to manage his caucus of crazies—but still means we're in for some real problems. The 1/6 committee will be stopped. Concocted-out-of-nothing investigations will be the order of the day, spurred on by a sense of hollow grievance and a desire for revenge. Economic hostage-taking will be very much on the table.

Florida slipped further into full-on nightmare territory with its idiot governor easily winning reelection, its idiot senator winning reelection, and a freshly (and illegally) gerrymandered map providing half a dozen or so Republican congresspeople. New York's redistricting cost a few Democratic seats, but that redraw wasn't on a partisan basis. Georgia was a bit of a shitshow; though I have confidence in Warnock winning his runoff, his race shouldn't have been so close, plus Stacey Abrams lost to that crook Kemp. Wisconsin reelected one of the worst senators in office. Texas kept being Texas. Iowans doubled down on guns being a right. Louisianans voted to continue allowing slavery and indentured servitude as possible punishments for criminals. Ohio thought it was worthwhile to spend a bunch of money to pass a measure reduntantly banning non-citizens from voting.

There are always pockets of insanity in US elections—I mean, I'll never understand why anyone votes for Ronny Jackson or Darrell Issa or Marjorie Taylor Greene—but this time sanity prevailed enough of the time for me to relax. Mostly.

Hopefully this means a bit less trouble for me to get back into a stable orbit around the Black Hole and life will feel OK again.

Especially if Lauren Boebert loses.

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Know-Nothing voters

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There's an election in a week. You might have heard about it.

Or, maybe not. Despite the plethora of campaign ads on television and dotting the side of roads and on your favored social media platforms, there are plenty of Americans who simply do not pay attention to such things. We're supposed to be the world's foremost democracy—at least, we used to be thought of that way—but we haven't acted like it for well over a hundred years.

2020 saw a voter turnout that was two-thirds of the voting-eligible population, a surprisingly high percentage—the last time the country saw more than 67% of the VEP cast votes was in 1900. Of course, the portion of the general population that was voting-eligible was, shall we say, a bit different then, so it's not an apples-to-apples measurement. But the trend has been positive from 1996 (under 52% in a presidential campaign that was not terribly competitive), so I'm hopeful that we'll get a good turnout here in 2022.

Of course, ’22 is not a presidential year. Midterms tend to draw 10-20% fewer voters. In 2018, when flipping Congress was essential to saving the world, turnout was all of 50%, the largest for a midterm election since World War I. Half.

Half!! Half of the American voting-eligible public chose not to vote in the last midterm election, and it was to that point the highest-stakes midterm election in the history of humankind. And it was an improvement!

This year's stakes are just as high if not higher. The Republican party has gone full fascist and if they regain control of Congress it is no exaggeration to say that democracy in America will be, if not irreparably destroyed, severely undermined and damaged and corrupted into a tool for autocrats. It isn't just Senators and Congressional representatives, either. Governorships, secretaries of state, every level of government is being invaded by fascist-minded candidates running as Republicans and god help us all if they win.

The Republicans are not trying to be even slightly subtle about their fear-mongering bullshitting appeal to voters who won't think critically, who are naive and malleable and can be manipulated by audacious bald-faced lies. Or more plainly, as the former president put it, “[they] love the poorly educated."

It's nothing new for Republicans to court votes by trying to terrorize their constituents into believing the opposition is some version of the devil, but in the 21st Century, that tactic has been increasingly ratcheted up to open calls for violence and we now see these malleable, manipulated, radicalized voters (or supporters, anyway) openly threaten Congresspeople, plot to kidnap and murder governors, intimidate voters at ballot boxes, and invade the home of the Speaker of the House and bludgeon her husband with a hammer and none of it is shocking.

Yet, people will choose not to vote. Worse still, others will choose to vote and base their votes on propaganda that bears little resemblance to facts. The longtime Republican strategy has been and continues to be—now on steroids, if you will—discourage/suppress voting to keep turnout as low as possible, because they know their base of manipulated malleables is small. If more than 50-55% of the VEP shows up, they believe they have no chance at all, and rightly so in all probability.

So scare the public. "Flood the zone with shit," as Steve Bannon put it. Confuse people. Lie to them. Intimidate them. Terrorize them. Keep them dumb, keep them frightened, keep them ignorant, and above all keep them from voting. Except the crazies, them the R's need to win.

In the years leading up to the Civil War, there was a political party that proudly called themselves the "Know-Nothings." Those xenophobic bigots were geniuses compared to the rubes recruited to and targeted by the modern Republican party. Not only do they know nothing, the party is doing all it can to keep them ignorant long enough to give its candidates enough power to make the will of the people and constitutional principles even more utterly irrelevant than the corrupt Supreme Court has already made them.

They. Must. Be. Stopped.

I've already voted; my ballot was relatively short and each of the races had an obvious positive choice and an obvious threat. It was easy. Plus, I live in Washington state, where voting is perhaps simpler than in any other state with a 100% mail-in system and no party registration (that latter point is a bone of contention for me, but I fully support the all-mail balloting). It took all of five minutes and I dropped the ballot at a collection box at the nearby public library. But so, so many people won't bother to do the same, even in easy-as-pie WA.

Please, whatever state you live in, assuming you're an American eligible to vote, do it. Cast your ballot. But think about it first.

People dissatisfied with issue X and therefore voting against incumbents, what's your logic?

You folks that are telling pollsters that gas prices are influencing your vote? Think about it. Why are gas prices high? What are you expecting whomever you vote for to do about it? What has that bloc already attempted, what has that bloc already prevented, what actions will they take to affect the issue? Every Republican in congress voted against the measure passed by the House that would have addressed high fuel prices. Every Republican senator united to kill the bill in their chamber. Who do you think is going to help you here?

More concerned with inflation generally? Well, why do we have inflation? What will each bloc try to do about it? The Republicans have openly avowed to do everything they can to destroy the economy in order to kill social security, including forcing the United States to default on its debts and throw the global financial system into chaos. Will that help you?

Are you worried about crime? As noted above, Republicans are openly encouraging violent crime. How do you think your candidate of choice will address the issue? "Tough on crime" as a political slogan has translated into anti-liberty, pro-incarceration, police-can-do-no-wrong policies rooted in racism and brutality; rather than "tough on crime," those policies might more accurately be described as "crime is OK so long as you're not poor and/or brown, which in and of itself we will treat as crime."

Think it through. Use your head. Question all the slogans, evaluate your source of news, examine your priorities.

Then vote. Let's shoot for at least 60% this time, shall we?

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Playoff highs and lows

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Having quit maintaining that other website that was all about baseball and the Seattle Mariners, one might think I'm not interested in writing more about them. But even though that endeavor was ultimately a bust, I am still a fan and it is October, when the MLB postseason rules the mind.

And the surprising Mariners continued to surprise. I had every expectation that the M's would not survive the new Wild Card round, a more difficult hill to climb than the prior system which would have required them to win one game to play-in to the American League Division Series. But they did survive it, and did so in dramatic, historic fashion, coming back from seven runs down to beat the offensively-superior Toronto Blue Jays 10-9 in the second game of the best-of-three series and thus advancing.

It changed my attitude. My borne-of-two-decades-of-futility jaded pessimism, reinforced by the team's performance in the last couple of weeks of the regular season, had given way to the thrill of unlikely victory and, in true Ted Lasso fashion, belief. These guys could really do it.

Then came yesterday.

In the opening game of the best-of-five series, matched up against their principal nemeses from Houston, the Mariners faced the great and historically dominant Justin Verlander, the Houston ace pitcher that had eaten the M's for lunch all season long. They didn't flinch and hit Verlander hard and bounced him out of the game early, scoring six runs off of him. They took a 7-3 lead into the eighth inning. Even when reliever Andres Muñoz faltered and gave up a two-run homer to Alex Bregman, they were still in good shape, heading into the bottom of the ninth up by two. "Believe" seemed to be holding strong.

But you can never completely believe with this team, because the Mariners are managed by a guy named Scott Servais. As I've repeatedly said, Servais has got to be absolutely brilliant at the off-the-field aspects of his job. Handling the egos of 26 young men with varying degrees of maturity and more money than they know what to do with, keeping that group in a good frame of mind, all that stuff. But during the actual game, when his job requires executing baseball strategy, he is, well, not brilliant. Dim, you might say. Often the players are good enough to overcome this deficiency, which is why the team won 90 games and got into the postseason in the first place. But it's not always possible.

I was watching yesterday's game with my friend Bill, and we were naturally enjoying how things were unfolding. But in the ninth inning the TV cameras cut to the Seattle bullpen, where a left-hander was warming up, presumably readying himself to pitch in the bottom of the ninth. That left-hander was number 38, the high-priced free-agent starting pitcher that won the Cy Young Award last year but this year has been all kinds of mediocre, and over the last few weeks has been eminently hittable and homer-prone.

"Uh-oh," Bill said.

"What the fuck?" I said.

Bill's concern was more general—he feels, and with good reason, that when managers in the postseason use pitchers who had been starters their whole career in relief it usually blows up in their faces. Not always—see Johnson, Randall J., 2001—but when it succeeds there's often (though not always) some extenuating circumstance, like you've burned all your regular relievers already, or the pitcher's specific attributes are especially suited to the situation at hand. You can find numbers to back up either side of the argument, but Bill was adamant. He didn't want to see a starter, any starter, go into the game in relief. Sometimes even when it seems to work it doesn't; see last year's National League Division Series, when Dodger manager Dave Roberts brought starting pitcher Max Scherzer in to close out a win in Game 5—the Dodgers won and advanced, but Scherzer tried to make his next start and had nothing, then couldn't pitch at all for the remainder of the postseason (Scherzer had been called upon in this way before, in Game 5 of the NLDS in 2017, and was terrible and lost the series).

Robbie Ray, 2022
  G IP/G BA HR/IP ERA WHIP
vs. Astros  3 313 .442 0.6 10.97 2.813
vs. rest of AL  24 613 .217 0.1 3.60 1.094
First 27 gms 27 6 .220 0.15 3.45 1.132
Last 6 gms 6 5 .307 0.33 5.93 1.58

My concern was more specific. Robbie Ray was bad the last three times he started a game. Five of the last six, actually, a stretch in which he racked up an ERA just shy of 6.00 and surrendered ten home runs. It was my judgment that he was only on the playoff roster because he was a very pricey free-agent acquisition prior to the season and the team would have been better off with Marco Gonzales on the active roster and Ray off of it (Marco had one poor start vs. Houston this year and two excellent ones).

So, the ninth begins and the pitcher on the mound to begin things is Paul Sewald, who rather inexplicably has excellent numbers on the season. He always struck me as punching above his weight, but OK, sure, Sewald. I'd have Erik Swanson ready to go to back him up, though, just in case. Anyway, Sewald gets a couple of outs, but also gives up a hit and puts a runner on with a hit-by-pitch, bringing up Yordan Alvarez, a left-hand batter and the Astros' best hitter.

Servais has a few options here. 1) Do nothing, let Sewald try and get Alvarez out (Alvarez is 1-for-7 career vs. Sewald). 2) Walk Alvarez. This would be risky, loading the bases and moving the tying run to scoring position, but would let Sewald or another reliever face a right-hander. 3) Go to the bullpen for Erik Swanson, a proven quantity in late-inning relief who had surrendered all of one home run to lefties this year (though with no real history vs. Houston). 4) Go to the ’pen for left-hander Matt Boyd. 5) Go to the ’pen for Robbie Ray.

He went with (5), which was the obviously worst option (though (4) was not much better). Alvarez actually hits left-handers better than righties, Ray was abysmal vs. the Astros all season (as a team, Houston hit .442/.509/.865 off of Ray in three games for a nearly-11.00 ERA and a WHIP of almost 3.000), and as noted before Ray had been homer-prone when a home run would lose the game. It was a decision with no merit to it at all. Calling it stupid is too kind. And it wasn't all that surprising, ’cause Servais has always been a dunce at strategy.

Sadly, Ray only threw two pitches in the game, with the second one sailing over the fence for a walk-off Astro victory, so he didn't pitch enough to prevent him from perhaps starting in Game three or, if it gets that far, four. He shouldn't anyway, but, you know, Servais.

So, the M's are in a hole now, down one game to none in a best-of-five to the arch-enemy rival, and it's their manager's fault. I feel OK about tomorrow's Game Two, with Luis Castillo starting for Seattle against another Houston All-Star in Framber Valdez; Castillo is who you want out there in a do-or-die game. (And while not an elimination game, it does feel like it's do-or-die.) But Castillo can pitch the game of his life, and if it remains close by the late innings one will have to wonder: What nonsense will occur to Scott Servais to do with the game on the line? And will he turn to Ray for the next game?

"Believe" was short-lived. Sorry, Ted Lasso.

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Ex-M's in the playoffs

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By special request, a post that I would have done over at GrandSalami.net had I not given up on that site as too much work for too little reward. The topic of which is: After the Mariners are eliminated from the postseason (not saying it's going to happen for sure, but…it's gonna happen, for almost sure), which playoff team should a Mariner fan root for if said fan has no preexisting rooting interest in any of these teams?

One metric is, which team has the most former Mariners on it? Guys you remember from before, whom you might have seen in person, who you fondly recall rooting for in the navy and teal of the Northwest. Another might be, who are the most interesting players still in the mix that you don't know yet but would enjoy? I'm sure there are other metrics, but those are the ones for this post.

So, who's playing for whom now? Let's go down the list of 12 (ugh, twelve? Really, Manfred? OK, fine) playoff teams and find the former M's:

  • Well, the Mariners themselves are one of the dozen clubs, so we'll just assume they're your first choice. Next!
  • Tampa Bay Rays (2 ex-M's likely on the playoff roster): The "extra" team this year filling out the new cash-grab Wild Card round, the Rays still have Mike Zunino, but he's injured. They also have former Seattle reliever J.T. Chargois, who had a really nice season in west Florida (2-0, 2.42 ERA, 0.940 WHIP in 21 games), and fellow relievers Shawn Armstrong and Jimmy Yacabonis (who probably isn't going to be on the roster), both of whom were technically Mariners once. Non-former-Mariner players worth watching are likely Cy Young Award winner Shane McClanahan, the lefty ace of the Rays' staff, and first baseman Ji-man Choi, who defies his physique with athletic plays on the infield.
  • Cleveland Guardians (0): The only former M the Guardians featured this year was relief pitcher Bryan Shaw, who was gawd-awful for Seattle in the mini-season of 2020. He was outrighted to the minors at the end of the season, though. But, Cleveland does have rookie outfielder Steve Kwan, who is worthy of attention, as is second baseman Andres Gimenez.
  • Toronto Blue Jays (3): Toronto is Seattle's opponent this weekend, but should they beat the M's and advance, the Jays might be a team to pull for the rest of the way. Not for any ex-Mariner reasons, though. Toronto has former M's Yusei Kikuchi, who lost his starting job for a bit and had a pretty lousy campaign, and reliever Anthony Bass, who had a pretty good year. Also, David Phelps and fellow reliever Casey Lawrence, but the latter doesn't figure to be active in the postseason. No, the really interesting guys are the second-generation big-leaguers, shortstop Bo Bichette and first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
  • New York Yankees (2): You'd hardly believe it's the same guy, but the Yankees' best pitcher is Nestor Cortes, who stunk up the joint for Seattle in 2020. They also have reliever Lucas Luetge, who was in the Seattle ’pen in 2012 and 2013 (plus cups of coffee in ’14 and ’15). They've also got outfielder Aaron Judge, who hits a lot of homers, and third baseman Josh Donaldson, who is a jerk and nobody likes him.
  • Houston Astros (1): Now, there's no reason whatever to root for the Astros—maybe unless they're up against the Yankees, but even then it's dubious—but they do have a former Mariner. But that former Mariner is reliever Rafael Montero, who was so bad with Seattle it'll be easy to root against him even though he's been really good for Houston. Or maybe because he's been really good for Houston. Either way.
  • Philadelphia Phillies (1): I don't know how the Phillies managed to get this far, but they did, somehow winning 87 games. Their ex-Mariner is infielder Jean Segura, an All-Star for Seattle in 2018 who's been steadily solid for the Phils since being traded for J.P. Crawford. They also have Bryce Harper, who's really good, and Kyle Schwarber, who is not but can hit a ball a very, very long way if he makes contact.
  • San Diego Padres (1): With all the dealing back and forth between the Mariners and Padres over the last couple of years you'd think there would be a lot of ex-M's there, but no. Just catcher Austin Nola, who was key to the trade that got Seattle Ty France, Andres Muñoz, Luis Torrens, and Taylor Trammell. There're a few other guys worth your notice, though—superstar Juan Soto hasn't hit well for San Diego since being traded there, but he's still Juan Soto; veteran third baseman Manny Machado had an outstanding season carrying the Friars' offense; and pitcher Yu Darvish is always interesting to watch. Oh, lest I forget their manager—Padre skipper Bob Melvin also helmed the Mariners in 2003 and 2004.
  • St. Louis Cardinals (0): No former Mariners grace the Cardinals' clubhouse, but a former Mariner farmhand does. Outfielder Tyler O'Neill was a highly regarded Seattle prospect when the M's traded him for pitcher Marco Gonzales. O'Neill is injured now and had a rather poor season, so you won't see him anyway. But, the Cards have the legendary Albert Pujols, ending his career back where it started, and MVP candidates Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.
  • New York Mets (3): No, they don't still have Robinson Canó, they're just still paying him. But they do have some big names you'll remember: DH Daniel Vogelbach, starting pitcher Taijuan Walker, and relief ace Edwin Díaz. Vogey joined the Mets midseason after starting ’22 in Pittsburgh, and he's done pretty well—.393 OBP and six homers as a Met. Walker's been a solid back-end starter and Díaz has been lights-out with a career year. Oh, the Mets also have Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, two of the best pitchers to ever play in the Big Apple, as well as NL batting champ Jeff McNeil and NL RBI leader Pete Alonso.
  • Atlanta Braves (1): The lone ex-Mariner on the defending World Champions is outfielder Guillermo Heredia, who had a terrible year but still gives Atlanta some value as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement off the bench. Their big star is Ronald Acuña Jr., but to me the guy to watch is rookie outfielder Michael Harris, who was one homer short of a 20/20 season (20 home runs and 20 stolen bases).
  • Los Angeles Dodgers (2): Utilityman Chris Taylor has been with LA a while now, so it's not likely news that he's in the mix, but how about starting pitcher Tyler Anderson? After the M's passed on bringing him back to Seattle this year he hooked up with the Dodgers and had an All-Star year, going 15-5 with a 2.57 ERA. Would the Dodgers be where they are without him? Well, yeah, probably, because they're the Dodgers and have the deepest roster in the known universe, including shortstop Trea Turner and outfielder Mookie Betts, not to mention MVP candidate Freddie Freeman. These guys are loaded.

Who do you like? Mets? Blue Jays? Cleveland? Bo-Mel's underachieving San Diegans? The best teams here are the Dodgers and Astros. Please let that not be the World Series matchup again. Bleh.

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Season finale

bsaeball1

The baseball season is over. You can put 2022 in the books for MLB, and it was a good one. Well, it had its moments. It was fun despite some issues. I mean, the DH thing is a horror show and Commissioner Manfred keeps dicking around with things he should leave alone, and there was that whole lockout thing, and hoo-boy were there a lot of strikeouts, but yeah. Good time.

For one thing, Your Seattle Mariners are still playing. Game 162 has come and gone—a dramatic one, at that, so far as a game with no bearing on the standings can be dramatic—and the M's are still in the mix for a title. As fellow baseball aficionado Craig Calcaterra put it, "For the first time in forever the Mariners' season is not ending on the final day of the regular season. Crazy." They'll play at least two more games, in Toronto against the Blue Jays this weekend, and maybe even more than that. Boggles the mind.

Other notables from 2022:

  • LADThe Los Angeles Dodgers won more games than any other National League team save the 1908 Chicago Cubs, who share the record of 116 with the American League record-holder, the 2001 Seattle Mariners. LA's 111 victories were fairly evenly split across home and road games, night and day games, first and second halves, in-division and not. The only category they didn't stand out in is tight games: the Dodgers were 16-15 in one-run decisions and 6-9 in extra innings. Which really just means that they were so good they had breathing room for more wins than 25 other teams had in total. They'll open the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday evening against either the Mets or the Padres.
  • Aaron JudgeAaron Judge of the New York Yankees hit 62 home runs, besting the previous American League record of 61 held by Roger Maris of the New York Yankees (set in 1961), which bested the prior record of 60 held by Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees (1927). Record hogs. Roger Maris Junior has opined that Judge's new record of 62 should be the official Major League record and the National League feats of 73 (Barry Bonds, 2001), 70 (Mark McGwire, 1998), 66 (Sammy Sosa, 1998), 65 (McGwire, 1999), 64 (Sosa, 2001), and 63 (Sosa again, 1999) homers should be dismissed as unofficial because Bonds, McGwire, and Sosa all cheated with performance-enhancing drugs. OK, I see his point, but I have to point out that tons of people back in 1961 said Maris Senior's record shouldn't count because the season schedule had the modern standard 162 games in it whereas Ruth played in 154-game seasons. So, not the same issue but still...irony.
  • The Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets finished the year tied for first place in the National League East, and while in years past that would mean an exciting Game 163 tiebreaker would be played for the division crown, we now have Commissioner Manfred's lame Wild Card playoff round that simply declares Atlanta the division champ based on the fact that they beat NYMthe Mets ten times, while the Mets beat them only nine times. Now, the Mets won 50 games overall against the NL East while Atlanta only won 48 intradivision contests, which seems to me like a better way to break a tie for first place in the division, but then I am not commissioner of baseball. (If I were, there would be no "Wild Card round" of playoffs in the first place and there would be Game 163, but as we say on Earth, c'est la vie.) The Metropolitans will thus have to play the Wild Card round against the San Diego Padres while Atlanta can sit back and cool their heels until the NLDS starts.
  • Minnesota Twins infielder Luis Arraez won the American League batting title with a paltry .316 batting average, lowest top figure since Carl Yastrzemski's .301 in "the year of the pitcher," 1968. Perhaps most impressively, Arraez did it while striking out only 43 times, which is nigh-unheard of in today's Major Leagues. The only other guy with at least 600 plate appearances and fewer than 70 Ks was Cleveland rookie Steve Kwan (who is a really fun player to watch and perhaps the only reason I'll watch the Cleveland/Tampa Bay WC series), who had 60. Also, Arraez's .316 prevented Aaron Judge's .311 from being the top spot which would have given Judge a Triple Crown. So I'm now a Luis Arraez fan.

Rays-Twins
Good seats still available! Until 2027, after which the Rays are out of here.

  • The Oakland A's, who play in one of the worst facilities in the game, and the Miami Marlins, who play in a modern retractable-roof park with all the amenities, both had season attendance totals under a million. They're both terrible teams this year, so OK, I guess. The Tampa Bay Rays, who made the postseason thanks to the new participation-trophy Wild Card setup and who have been good for years now, barely topped 1,000,000. If not for Miami's relatively new and expensive stadium, all three would be looking for new hometowns as soon as possible; as it is, the A's and Rays will surely skip out as soon as their respective leases allow. (Weirdly, the Cleveland Guardians also had lousy attendance this year, shy of 1.3M, despite winning their division and having a splendid ballpark. The downstate Reds outdrew them, and the Reds are bad.)
  • Lowest-payroll playoff team? The Guardians, roughly $66M (the Mariners are next at $78M, then the Rays at $86M). Highest-payroll playoff team? The Dodgers at $289.3M. (Yankees, Mets, and Phillies follow close behind at $239M, $237.5M, and 209.5M, respectively.) Bit of a spread.
  • The average Major League batter (using a benchmark of 600 PAs) struck out 136 times in 2022. In 2001, the last time Seattle made a postseason, the average figure was 105. Two decades before that, it was 79. Not a good trend.

Personally, I saw just 16 games in person this year, all here in Seattle. The Mariners won 11 of them. I saw six Marco Gonzales-started games (1-4, 2.35 ERA when I went; the guy just couldn't catch a break this season), four Robbie Ray starts (1-2, 3.70), two Logan Gilbert starts (2-0, 0.00), two Chris Flexen starts (1-0, 3.27), a George Kirby (0-0, 4.15), and a Justus Sheffield (1-0, 9.00). Mitch Haniger was the best Seattle hitter when I attended (.469), Julio Rodríguez hit .311. Worst with me in the seats, Jarred Kelenic (.150) and, weirdly, Ty France (.161). Best game might have been the home opener, when Marco beat the hated Astros 11-0, though Logan Gilbert's seven shutout frames in a 6-0 win on May 28, also against Houston, is up there. Worst was definitely September 27th, Seattle lost 5-0 to nobody pitchers for Texas in a snoozer (had great seats for it, though).

Of course, it ain't over yet, there's still a remote possibility I could add one more in-person game for ’22. Fingers crossed. We'll see.

Playoffs start in about 12 hours.

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Good company, bad baseball

SEAlogo2

We are nearing the close of the 2022 baseball season, and as the weather has been unseasonably warm—climate change is catastrophic, but for the here and now it does give us warm sunny October afternoons when by all rights it should be damp and cool enough to be uncomfortable—I've stocked up on games for the last few days of the campaign. Today I went with a number of my softball teammates from the Smiling Potatoes of Death, sitting out in the left field bleachers to witness what was, for most of the game, a contender for Worst Mariner Game Attended This Year.

I can't quite believe this is a playoff team. And yet, Your Seattle Mariners are officially in the postseason, having clinched no worse a finish than the final Wild Card berth in the standings on Friday night in dramatic fashion. Erik can tell you about it.

Of course, it remains to be seen if the M's would have made the playoffs under the system that existed through last year. Or the system that existed from 1994-2012. We can be reasonably sure they would not have qualified under the pre-1994 system, though it's possible; they do have a better 2022 record than any of the other teams that were in their division pre-1994, but the scheduling was a lot different then, it figures things would have played out differently (on the other hand, the Twins won the World Series in 1987 after topping the American League West with just 85 wins, sometimes weird things happen). No, all the Mariners of ’22 have done so far is qualify for what would properly be called the Commissioner Rob Manfred Cash Grab Wild Card Playoff Round That Cheapens the Regular Season and Unfairly Screws a Division Champion.

While it's still technically possible for the M's to play the CRMCGWCPRTCRSUSDC games at home, that scenario will likely vanish tomorrow, and since I have… well, not zero hope, but let's call them realistic/jaded expectations that whomever the M's play in the CRMCGWCPRTCRSUSDC (either Cleveland or Toronto) will beat them relatively easily. Meaning the next three days will be the last games played in Seattle this year. So I went today. I'm going Wednesday for the last game of the season as well. Thought about going tomorrow, but this afternoon's lameness put me off the idea.

JP
J.P. Crawford
france
Ty France
FattyTuna
Abraham Toro

The Mariners were hosting the Oakland A's, otherwise known as The Worst Team in the American League. A playoff club versus a team that lost over 100 games. Much like last Tuesday's experience vs. the not-quite-as-bad-but-still-bad Texas Rangers, the Mariners stunk up the joint, not even getting a hit until there were two out in the 6th. They finally made some noise in the 9th, but by then they were down 10-0 and it hardly mattered. Yep, 10-0. To the A's. And Tony Kemp wasn't even in the lineup.

This, along with last Tuesday and even Friday night's clinching game, illustrated in bold strokes why I don't see the M's surviving the CRMCGWCPRTCRSUSDC. They just don't have the depth. Someone gets hurt, someone makes a costly error, one bad pitch is grooved to the wrong batter, and that's it, the M's have no margin for error. Everything has to go right. Twice. The bench stinks except for Haggerty (who probably should start), the starting lineup has too many all-or-nothing hitters, and the manager is strategically-challenged.

Anyway, so this is likely last chance for in-person baseball before the long winter. The M's reeked of ineptitude this afternoon, but my friends and I still enjoyed the day. I don't see my "Spuddie" teammates much outside of the early-summer softball season, so it's good to have an excuse to hang out and catch up. So I got to hear about D¹ & P's trip to Ireland, discussed the nuance of regional UK accents with C, co-heckled with M, covered a little baseball history with D², and, of course, debated with J and several others who the best-looking Mariners are.

There was no consensus on the latter point, largely because J has an aversion to facial hair. Just not her jam. She went with Adam Frazier and Ty France, who strike me as unremarkable-looking bland generic dudes. (I mean, as pro athletes go.) Aside from J, though, both male and female debaters named J.P. Crawford as a hot number. B chose Abraham Toro, and, sure, he's good-looking guy (and speaks three languages); he's just a crap Major League hitter. But that wasn't the metric of the moment.

Such was the focus of several innings since the M's were doing jack squat on the field, but it was still a good time.

Even though some of my favorite Spuddies did not attend. Where were my gay gals at? S & A¹? L & A²? We missed you. Well, I did, anyway. Next time.

 

SpuddiesMs

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How deep is your fandom

frazier
Mariner infielder Adam Frazier exuding the team's current level of energy and enthusiasm for life

I went to the ballgame tonight with my friends K & E, who are relatively new converts to the roller coaster ride that is the Seattle Mariners. Well, K is, anyway, E was half in the bag beforehand. But they're into it, and this year has been especially fun for them as well as lots of other longer-suffering fans as the team has been contending for the playoffs for most of the season. If the season ended today, they'd be in. (Sure, only because of Rob Manfred's BS expansion of the playoffs, but still, they'd be in.)

But as I've said a few times to various people over the past few weeks, there's still time for them to screw it up. The Mariners have psyched us out before, so it's easy to be jaded. And in the last two weeks, they've reminded us of why jaded is the default emotion for Seattle baseball fans.

From September 15th onward, the Mariners' schedule featured 20 more games, none against even remotely intimidating opponents, and on paper it looked like an easy cruise to a Wild Card berth—the top of those three positions, even. But what did they do? First the went to Anaheim to play the pathetic, perpetually snakebit and geographically confused Los Angeles Angels for four games. The M's lost three of them. Then they hopped up the coast to the East Bay and played the last-place Oakland Athletics. The M's lost two of three. Then a jaunt to Kansas City to play the 28-games-under-.500 Royals. The M's not only dropped two of three to KC, in the finale they blew a nine-run lead, allowing the Royals—who had topped ten runs in a game only five times all year—to score eleven runs in a single inning on the way to beating them 13-12.

Which brings us to tonight. I had by flukey happenstance gotten my pals and myself outstanding seats for tonight's game, right below the pressbox on the club level. The teams that the M's are competing with for playoff spots had already lost or were losing (though Tampa Bay came back and won in extras). The Mariners' big offseason free-agent star, defending Cy young winner Robbie Ray, was pitching against the visiting Texas Rangers, who were 22 games under break-even and ranked near the bottom of the SEAlogoleague in most pitching categories. Time to right the ship and stake a claim to that postseason berth.

Naturally, they got shut out.

It would be one thing if the Mariners lost 5-0 to a pitcher having a brilliant game, or a team that made astounding defensive plays to keep them off the scoreboard. But no. This was still the Texas Rangers. And to rub salt in the wound, they even used the stupid "opener" strategy of starting a relief pitcher for the first inning or two before going to the guy that they expect to pitch the bulk of the game, a tactic that has so much going against it that it tends to backfire spectacularly. Nothing-special Triple-A callups pitched the first 523 innings and nothing-special veteran relievers pitched the rest, a total of six guys, all of whom looked rather "meh" on the mound. This is the crack staff that held the ostensibly playoff-bound Mariners to just two hits over the first six innings.

The M's would get three more hits before it was done, but one was immediately erased on a double-play and the others came with two outs (in the 7th and 9th) down 5-0 and were inconsequential nuisances akin to a single gnat buzzing one's hairline as far as the Rangers were concerned.

I get it, it's a long season. The guys have been playing hard for six months and they're tired. They're a little banged up (Eugenio Suárez was even batting with a broken finger). But tonight it looked like they weren't even trying. Like they didn't care anymore. And that includes their manager.

Sure, Scott Servais often appears not to care about his team winning games when he "strategizes," so that's not new. But here's what he did today. First, he made out a lineup card featuring a middle three that are all all-or-nothing guys: .200 hitters, more or less, that will bop a home run if they make good contact but strike out a lot more. (You could add a fourth consecutive guy if you count No. 7-batting Jarred Kelenic as all-or-nothing, but really he's still just an underachieving mystery surprise.) This is in keeping with the Servais (and Mariners in general) history of living and dying by the home run while giving no more than lip service to other methods of baseball offense and it annoys me. I'm not saying you don't use those guys in your order, I'm just saying don't bunch them all up together. So, of course, the first time the M's had an offensive threat it fizzled—Ty France and Mitch Haniger led off the home 4th with hits, the first of Seattle's night. Two on, none out, middle of the order due up. Home-run threats all, but incapable of much else. Predictable result: strikeout, fly ball, strikeout.

saxplayer
It's a crap photo, but the dude can play the sax.

At that point it's still just 1-0, not that bad. We get to the 8th at just 2-0 and Servais goes to the bullpen for his only lefty reliever, Matt Boyd—who strangely got the sirens and the light-show "Los Bamberos" introduction despite not being (a) a particularly hard thrower or (b) in to put out a fire of some kind or (c) in a position to hold a lead or even a tie—to face the left-handed-batting Corey Seager and Nathaniel Lowe. Not the worst move, but still a bit of a head-scratcher given the circumstance. Boyd promptly hits Seager on the wrist and gets Lowe on a foul out. Then the inexplicable: Servais has Boyd intentionally walk Adolis García to get rookie Josh Jung to the plate with two aboard, but not trusting Boyd to continue he goes to the ’pen again for Diego Castillo. Jung had already homered in the game and driven in the second Texas run with a hard single, but that's the guy Servais wanted to face and what do you know, Jung crushed another one deep into the night for a three-run bomb. Jung had all five RBI for his team.

Not done yet, Servais also made us channel Professor Farnsworth in the 9th, when the M's were trying to keep hope alive with two runners aboard and one out he went to his bench to send up pinch-hitter…Abraham Toro. Eh, whaa? Toro popped up, which was surprising in that he managed to actually make contact with a pitch. Last man up Adam Frazier tried to make it mildly interesting with a deep liner, but it was caught on the warning track to end things with a whimper.

But really, no matter what the manager chose to do or not do wasn't going to matter tonight. These guys didn't have it in them. They're dragging. Listless. Playing as if they are all feeling as I do in the midst of a black-hole episode that has all my senses seemingly encased in a thick layer of gauze.

As we were making our way out of the stadium, we went by a guy playing the saxophone near the parking garage. He was belting out a pretty fine rendition of "How Deep is Your Love" by the Bee Gees and I wondered if he was making a comment on the Mariners and their late-season crash-and-maybe-burn. As in, hey, what a crap couple of weeks for these guys! They look like toast! But we'll love them no matter what. I think. Wait, will we? 'Cause we're living in a world of fools, breaking us down...

My friends and I still had a nice evening. It was a warm night out at the ballyard in good company with a terrific view from seats that are generally well beyond my price range, and I feel like I need to get at least one game per season in with these particular pals or things just go off-kilter, so totally worth it.

I just wish the team we came to see play had been up to the task.

EKT

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New Rules

Manfred
Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred, laughing maniacally as he continues to mold the game of baseball like a toddler pounding a lump of play-doh into an unrecognizable blob

He's at it again.

The Commissioner of Baseball, one Robert D. Manfred, has made it his mission to turn the game he is the current custodian of into something all of its previous custodians would not recognize. So far, he has instituted a swarm of smallish rule changes as well as a few huge ones to Major League Baseball and he's got more coming next year.

If I may paraphrase J. Jonah Jameson, the man is a menace.

Manfred simply does not like baseball, at least not in the sense of the game as a whole, balanced concept that requires strategic thinking and intellectual trade-offs to navigating the game. Nor does he value competitive integrity or the richness of detail. He likes simple. He likes not to have to think. He likes short attention spans.

Thus far, the Manfred regime has given us:

  • The no-pitch intentional walk
  • The "universal" designated hitter (ugh)
  • Requiring teams to declare in advance who is a pitcher and who is not and imposing a limit on how many pitchers a team can carry
  • The "zombie runner" in extra innings (which some of a certain age have humorously taken to calling the "Manfred Man")
  • An entirely avoidable and self-inflicted labor stoppage that delayed the opening of this season
  • Expanded playoffs, the first taste of which we'll get next month, which now allows nearly half the teams in the Majors into the postseason and devalues both the season as a whole and the winning of a division title
  • Advertising on the fields, not just on stadium walls and scoreboard signage, but on the fields themselves (in foul territory and on the pitcher's mound)
  • Advertising on uniforms, which we'll start to see in this year's playoffs and will be an everyday thing starting next year
  • The three-batter minimum for pitchers (this one I actually don't have a problem with, though the reason it came into being is no better than the rest of this)
  • Ugly unis for the All-Star Games
  • Effective acceptance of the Houston Astros' cheating scandal with virtually no repercussions for the perpetrators

Starting in 2023 we will also now have:

  • A pitch clock. No longer will baseball be the game with no clock, there will be one to mandate that pitchers and batters move things along regardless of circumstance. Well, not quite regardless—the clock will have 15 seconds on it when the bases are empty, 20 when a runner is on base. If a pitcher takes too long before delivering a pitch, a ball will be added to the count; likewise, if a batter steps out or isn't ready to go within eight seconds (he will be permitted to request a time out once per plate appearance) a strike will be added. Further, only 30 seconds will be permitted between batters; if the next batter in the lineup isn't ready to go 30 seconds after the previous play, he starts with a count of strike one. Despite this having been experimented with in the minor leagues in recent seasons, it remains to be seen how this will play out; it might be OK. Used to be that the players that were slower to deliver a pitch or who took "excessive" time at the batter's box between pitches were relatively rare, but today they're more commonplace and it will at least be interesting to see if this cuts down on so-called dead time without disrupting anything else. But the law of unintended consequences pretty much guarantees there will be issues.
  • A limit on how often a pitcher can try to pick off a baserunner. This is a clear and blatant declaration that pitchers should not care about runners; Manfred has openly said he wants to "create more action," which apparently means preventing a defense from trying to get runners out. I love the stolen base, it's one of my favorite plays, but all this does is cheapen it.
  • A restriction on where defenders can play. For the history of the game, only the pitcher and catcher were required to be at any specific point on the field. No longer. Two infielders must begin each play on either side of second base and forward of the outfield grass. No more shifting three infielders to one side, no more moving your second baseman into the outfield, no more four-outfielder defenses. This also is based on Manfred's desire for "more action," and because batters as a whole have chosen not to combat defensive shifts over the years, it probably will result in more base hits as fielders will be prevented form playing where they should be allowed to play. The language of the rule is vague enough that someone will at some point cause it to be clarified; it's intention is to maintain the restriction until "the pitcher releases the ball," but it also says the infielders "may not switch sides during the game." So when J.P. Crawford makes a great play running from his shortstop position to flag down a hard grounder on the outfield grass at the right side of second base, is he in violation of the rule? I think not, but someone will exploit the language to challenge such a play.
  • Larger bases. The bases on the field will grow from 12" square to 15" square. This will be odd at first but quickly folded into expected norm, I think. Again, this is to give offenses a boost by making it that much harder to get baserunners out. The one positive to this is the extra area will give first basemen a little more of a safety margin on potential collisions on close plays at first, but this could have been accomplished simply by extending the base an inch or two into foul territory instead.
  • The completion of the destruction of the American and National Leagues as anything more than labels. Manfred's predecessor started this process in the ’90s, but with this year's adoption of the designated hitter rule (pause for dry heaves) by the National League and next year's change in the schedule that has every team play every other team in both leagues during the regular season, the merger from two distinct entities into one is concluded.

Not one of these changes was made with the good of the game in mind. Every one has been with an eye toward getting bigger short-term profits for a business that already rakes in $10 billion in annual revenue.

Manfred believes that the game needs to be dumbed down and sped up in order to attract younger viewers with short attention spans. He thinks that making the game into something else will get him bigger television ratings. He things more playoff games will mean more TV money overall. He thinks that the baseball audience likes hitting and doesn't care about fielding and by making these changes to unbalance things a bit that people who do not watch baseball will decide they now will watch baseball.

Which is just dumb.

You don't say, "hey, non-fans, I know my game is slow and boring because it requires thinking and thus doesn't appeal to you, so I've dumbed it down closer to your level and made it a little bit more frenetic! You like that, right?" and expect to convert everyone. People who come to baseball come to it because it's different. Because if you know what's going on, that so-called dead time isn't usually so, there's actually tension and stuff going on strategically.

A pitcher worried about a stolen base threat on first was actually valuable to both sides if you understood the situation. Having the pitcher in the lineup made for decisions during the game and a thought process about building your team and planning a game that are just wiped out now. Having the option to dare a batter to hit the other way by leaving a whole third of the field undefended was an opportunity for both teams to exploit. Gone. Sure, few if any people will miss the Nomar Garciaparra-like ritual of stepping out of the box, re-fastening the batting gloves, and taking three practice swings like a mini-hokey-pokey before every pitch, but not many guys did that. 

Frankly, the 2023 changes aren't going to be as big a deal as the ones we're already seeing now (or have known are coming, like the jersey ads), which are far more damaging. The pitch clock, the shift ban, sure, I object to them on principle, but in the old days shifts were rare and few players took a lot of time between pitches anyway, so it won't seem too bad. The step-off rule, that I hate and can't figure why any pitcher would approve of it.

Still, I'd accept it all gladly if Manfred would use his new, negotiated ultimate power to impose changes without union approval to abolish the DH and consign it to a fiery death.

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The Apple problem

TL

I'm late to the Ted Lasso party. I had heard from many people in many contexts how it was a great show that I would really enjoy and the I was missing out by not watching it, but there were two issues in addition to the general reality of there's-so-much-enjoyable-TV-these-days-and-only-so-much-time-I-can-watch. They were: a) It's a show set in the world of English soccer, and I do not like soccer; and b) It is a show on Apple TV+.

Now, (a) is not a problem, as it turns out; as with many workplace shows, the soccer thing is merely a setting for the characters and not liking soccer is not a detriment to enjoying the show. But (b) was a real trouble spot.

Apple's streaming platform has garnered a reputation (deserved) for quality. The programming is high-end, no doubt, and the high-definition stream is as good or better than anyone else's, but on that technical side of things there is no accommodation for viewers who do not have one of the following: An Apple-made television; a Roku or other reception device dedicated to streaming video; an Apple device like a Macintosh computer or an up-to-date iPhone that can run the TV+ app (there is an Android app, but it won't work on most Android devices); or a PC equipped with a top-end internet connection and supercharged modern processing hardware. They clearly tailor the service for Apple machines as a way to try and increase the Apple marketshare.

As I don't own any Apple hardware or a Roku-like dedicated streaming device, the Apple TV+ service was incredibly problematic to use. My dedicated streaming device is an old laptop PC running Windows 10 and hooked up to my television. It has perfectly adequate processing power to run any other streaming service with no problems. But trying to watch Apple TV+ on it was nearly impossible—livestreams, like when the Mariners are on the exclusive Apple TV Friday night telecast, play with more buffering and stuttering than is even remotely tolerable; and their shows would load and play through the opening preroll ad and then freeze up on a black screen. So, even though the Apple TV+ subscription fee is quite reasonable, it was basically worthless to me.

Still, I had two or three times signed up for the service in an attempt to legitimately watch one of the greatest shows ever made for television, For All Mankind. When I could not make the service work, I resorted to piracy to watch that excellent program. Because it is awesome, and I had given Apple a month's worth of subscription fee for zero return so I felt OK about it. But after the last time the Mariners game was unwatchable on Apple TV+, I went on a quest to find a way to make the damn thing work, and the ultimate solution was to completely wipe the laptop and reload a bare-bones Windows installation, add no programs to the machine except for browsers, a video player, and antivirus software. Give it the lightest workload possible while still running a relatively modern operating system, then tweak the browser settings in every conceivable way to prioritize the handling of video streams.

It now works. I can watch Apple TV+. Livestreams still suck, presumably because I don't have a T1 line and a massive quad-core processor on that old laptop, but recorded programming does play properly so long as nothing else is running concurrently. (Apple TV+ livestreams, incidentally, also suck on my office machine, which is considerably more powerful.)

I have therefore, as of last night, become a Ted Lasso convert.

All the folks who sang its praises to me were right. It unabashedly showcases a hero that is the nicest, most generous guy that ever lived, who takes mounds of abuse and lets it roll off his back, and who slowly wins over the critics by simply doing his own thing and being dedicated to his values. Totally my kind of thing. I love it. Even though it's ostensibly about a soccer team.

I'm about halfway through the first season now, so please no spoilers, but since the Mariners are off tonight I will likely spend my late-night tonight watching a few more episodes after I get home from my umpiring shift and will no doubt binge through the rest over the next few weeks.

Unless, of course, my brilliant machinations to run Apple TV+ stop working.

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Collecting

storage

“Why do you even have these?” a friend of mine asked me.

I was applying some paint to the recently-constructed cabinets I'd made in my garage, cabinets that were custom-designed to hold comic books. I stopped, looked up, and found myself at a loss.

I mean, I had an answer, it was there, but articulating it was proving difficult.

See, I love comics. The medium, the wide variety of cartooning styles found in them, the characters that have permeated our culture, the more obscure works that most people have never heard of. (Well, not all of them, but a lot.) I started reading them longer ago than I can remember and was a fan from a young age of Batman and Captain Marvel (the original '40s one, during his '70s revival) and Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four and other superheroes. I read the occasional Archie comic or Yogi Bear issue too, but mostly I was into the standard DC and Marvel superhero soap operas.

Then, when I was around 11 or 12, I discovered comic-book specialty stores. Back issues. The collector's market.

It was a revelation. At that point I became not merely a fan, but a collector. I learned that the condition of one's comics is vital. That one needed to invest in protective sleeves for them, that storing them lying flat is bad—they don't actually lie flat, you see, the spine side creates a bend in the stack and bent comics are worth less—they should be stored upright. That comics drawn by certain artists are in more demand than those by other artists, that there are "key issues" of long-running titles that command big bucks (or at least "big bucks" by the standards of a 12-year-old in the early 1980s).

FF23
Back in the day, my goal was to acquire every issue of Fantastic Four. Never did it, as the first dozen-plus were too pricey for me.

My friend had been holding a copy of Secret Avengers, which was in a small pile of comics destined for the "eBay box," which had by then become a series of boxes. I stalled a little bit in answering her question as I tried to find the right words for my response by going on a tangent. "Well, that pile I'm not keeping," I said. "Those are eventually going on eBay. Even with these new cabinets, I don't have enough room for everything so some stuff will have to go."

But the majority of them, yeah, I was keeping. And I was adding to the mix all the time, spending anywhere from $40 to $100 a month on new comics (which, accounting for both inflation and the changes in the comics biz since then, equates to what about $8-$20 would have bought in 1987, so I feel like I've cut down a lot since my teenage comic-buying heyday). Why do I have them?

NaR
One of the more fun new comics right now is Not All Robots, by Mark Russell and Mike Deodato Jr.

Sure, some of them have decent monetary value well above what I paid for them and keep increasing over time. But most just kind of hold steady or never had much to begin with. If it was about "investing," I'd only have kept about 30% of my collection over the years.

I have them because I like them. Because it's a hobby. Because I am, at my core, a huge nerd. Because my growing-up years were so influenced and tied to the morality plays of Marvel Comics and because I developed a deep appreciation for the talents of people like Marshall Rogers (RIP) and Steve Rude and Neal Adams (RIP) and Mike Deodato Jr. and Terry Moore and Alex Ross and Brian Bolland and Clay Mann and the recently-deceased George Pérez (RIP), among quite a few others.

But that doesn't really get at why I keep them and collect them. I mean, they take up a lot of space. Moving them is a royal pain. Keeping them organized is time-consuming. I've spent a lot of money on their storage (though a lot of that was fun too, building the cabinetry on my own and, on some of them, with my dad). There are reasons not to.

Yet, I do keep them and I do have them. My inventory software (yes, I have inventory software for this) has my current tally at about 8,700 comics, not including some of the 1,000-plus in the eBay boxes. Storage capacity is now once again full up. More keep coming in. Why do I have these?

Because I want to.

Any attempt at articulating the not-rational yet deeply held reasons for it basically comes down to that. I have these because I like them, or in some cases because I did at one time. I keep them because I want to.

As space continues to get tighter more chaff will be moved into the eBay piles, but eventually I will probably make yet another storage unit. It's my own version of the never-ending battle.

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