Quotes of the week

A few notes from over the last week or so. I'd been meaning to post longer bits about each of these, but time got away from me and, you know, there was stuff to do. Anyway, a few things I heard/read that deserve some repetition:

  • "I don't care about you. I just want your vote."  This was former president Cheeto Hitler in a rare moment of honesty, talking to the crowd at his hate rally in Las Vegas. The man cares about nothing other than power for himself and becoming a U.S. incarnation of Kim Jong Un.
  • "If the hood fits..."  So said David Ferguson on The Bob Cesca Show last Thursday. David was referring to Supreme Court "Justice" Samuel Alito's outrage, outrage! at being called a bigot. "I just can't with these people," Ferguson went on. "They're like, 'how dare you accuse us of being prejudiced! We just hate black people and queers.' I want to Psycho-shower these people."
  • “He can’t stand for 90 minutes, but he’s 100% able to be President? Have fun explaining that.”  That was alleged Congressman Josh Hawley (MAGA-MO) criticizing President Biden, thinking that the format for next week's scheduled presidential debate will have the candidates seated at a table and that said format was demanded by the president. I seem to remember President Biden standing for a long address at the House of Representatives a couple months back without any trouble. And guess what—standing is not a requirement to be President of the United States. Franklin Roosevelt held the gig for 12+ years without standing at all.
  • "Time never applied to Willie Mays the way it applies to others. He is like a Kurt Vonnegut character, unstuck in time, everything, everywhere, all at once, simultaneously the Say Hey Kid playing stickball in the streets of New York and the wizard outrunning baseballs soaring toward the gap at Candlestick Park, and the slugger tearing into baseballs as if it is something personal, and the legend launching a million memories and making parents and grandparents feel like children."  That's Joe Posnanski, remembering the great Willie Mays, who died yesterday at age 93.
  • And this, from satirist Andy Borowitz:
    THE OCEAN DEEP (The Borowitz Report)—Calling his longstanding fear of being devoured by them “delusional thinking at its saddest,” the world’s sharks issued a statement on Tuesday disavowing “any interest whatsoever” in eating Donald J. Trump.
       “Given his constant intake of Diet Coke and hamburgers, there is nothing to indicate that Trump would be anything resembling a nutritious meal,” the sharks’ statement read. “The very thought of biting into him is nauseating.”

       The sharks said that Trump’s anxiety about being eaten by them demonstrates “an inflated sense of his appeal, to say the least.”
       “We thought the same thing when Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claimed he was eaten by a worm,” the sharks wrote. “Why do these narcissists think they’re so delicious?”
       In perhaps their most withering comment, the sharks concluded, “We might consider eating Trump if the only other thing on the menu was Steve Bannon.”

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The Chicago way

raleybunt
The critical play in Monday night's Mariner win, from future manager Luke Raley

Whenever my Mariners season ticket group gets together for the preseason ticket draft, I scan the schedule for a home series against the Chicago White Sox to make sure I get at least one of those dates. This is because my friend Dave is a Chicago transplant and a Sox fan and it's become a sort of tradition for us to take in an M's/Sox game every year. Well, the White Sox are in town this week for a series against the host Seattle Mariners and I had my tickets, so off Dave and I went to the ballpark by Elliott Bay on this fine, almost-summery Monday evening.

For those that are not baseball followers, the White Sox this year are historically bad. They recently snapped a 14-game losing streak and figure to challenge the Major League record for most losses in a season, a dubious honor now held by the expansion 1962 New York Mets, who tallied 120 defeats against 40 wins (and two rainouts). Dave, of course, knows this, but even a lifelong fan like Dave has been hard-pressed to follow the hapless flailing of this year's Sox. When I mentioned that I hadn't heard of more than two or three guys in the White Sox' lineup, he could only recognize one or two others.

Yet, he was aware of the various ways the White Sox had lost games both last year and this year—including one by balking in the winning run in the 9th inning, one on a bogus interference call on an otherwise routine infield popup, another after their first-base coach went missing during a rain delay—and how they had lost many games that they had at one point been winning (24 so far this season). So despite the fact that Chicago had managed to get into the late innings with a 4-0 lead, he knew not to count any metaphorical chickens. "Whenever I see the Sox here," Dave said (paraphrasing), "the Mariners end up staging a late comeback."

Ms061024
The view from Section 327,  Josh Rojas at the plate

Sure enough, the Mariners, who had been utterly stymied by Chicago starting pitcher Erick Fedde (whom neither of us was familiar with), went to town on the Sox bullpen. Dominic Canzone, about whom I had earlier in the game said was going to have to pick things up if he didn't want to be optioned to Triple-A, led off the home 8th with a first-pitch laser-beam homer for the first Seattle run. That was the end of Fedde's night. Reliever Michael Kopech took over and promptly loaded the bases, but in tried and true Mariner fashion, the next two batters failed to score the easy RBI from 3rd by striking out. (The second of those batters, Cal Raleigh, objected strenuously to the strike three call—manager Scott Servais ran out of the dugout to keep Raleigh from doing anything to get ejected and was instead ejected himself—but it was a good pitch on the black according to MLB Gamecast.)

dave
Chicago White Sox fan, 2024 edition

I thought the Sox were going to get out of it. Dave knew better.

Mitch Haniger followed Raleigh's K with a single to plate two, and then Luke Raley came up and delivered the best part of the entire game: a two-out, expertly-placed bunt single to score Josh Rojas from third and tie the score. Just brilliant. It was the third time this year I'd seen Raley bunt for a hit, and each time it was not a play dictated by the bench but a sharp exploitation of the opposing defense; I continue to be impressed by his skill at a facet of the game that has largely been forgotten in the 21st century. It was a thrilling dose of "Harr-ball" in a homer-happy world. (If Luke Raley decides to become a manager after his playing days, I bet he'd be quite good.)

It remained tied at four into the 9th, when the M's decided to once again "panic with Stanek"; the Seattle reliever did his typical tightrope walk, going deep into counts with some not-remotely-close-to-the-zone pitches and serving up a couple of hits, but managed to strike out the side and take the tie into the home 9th.

This was when Dave made a prediction. Based on the way the season has gone for the White Sox thus far, Dave predicted that the game would end when the Mariners load the bases, the batter works the count to 3-and-something, and the Sox pitcher is called for a pitchclock violation. Not just a walkoff walk, but a walkoff three-ball walk. It would be only fitting for the 2024 Chicago White Sox.

Rookie Ryan Bliss led off the Seattle 9th with a groundout. Then J.P. Crawford drew a walk. Then Josh Rojas walked. Then Julio Rodríguez singled to short left. The bases were loaded. Then Cal Raleigh came up and took ball one. Hm. Then Raleigh took ball two. I glanced over at Dave and called him Nostradamus. Which, of course, jinxed Dave's prediction as Raleigh crushed the next pitch deep into the night for a game-winning grand slam home run.

"Sorry we didn't get your walkoff pitchclock violation," I said. "But a walkoff slam is also appropriate, right?"

"I guess," came the reply. But it was wistful. I get it. Walkoff grand slams are unusual and exciting—and fun for the home crowd!—but they don't reek of bizarre. And the ’24 Sox need to stumble into as many bizarre ways to lose as possible on their way to 121+.

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Navigating our digital world

ITgraphic

To those of you who receive email notifications when new posts arrive here aboard StarshipTim.com, two things: 1) Thank you; 2) I'm sorry.

Lately there has been an issue with one of the services that I utilize to generate those emails and in my sussing out the problem you may have received multiple copies of the same notification. Furthermore, depending on what email system you use, those duplicates may have tripped the spam filter and relegated all future notification emails to the spam folder. Or straight to oblivion if your filtering is hyper aggressive. So, I ask that you check your spam filter and tell gmail or whatever that those messages are not spam.

Of course, the best way to receive updates from this or any other site is to use the RSS feed, eliminating any potential trouble with a third-party intermediary service. Outlook and other similar email clients have RSS readers built right into them, items show up just like emails do (you add a feed to follow just like you'd add an email account). Browsers have extensions for RSS feeds that are super handy if you don't have or don't want to use an email client for them.

Relying on social media sites for web content is a losing proposition. The algorithms change all the time, and even if a notice does show up in your feed it can be buried under a hundred other posts. RSS feeds let you curate your own portal in one of these reader extensions:

feedbro

I've got a miniature version of this on the desktop version of this site, the feedbox at the top right, but your choice of feeds may differ, so use one of these extensions/email clients!

The RSS feed for StarshipTim.com is https://starshiptim.com/home/rss, link always available in the right column (on desktop; that column is removed on narrow phones).

OK, enough of this, I have work to do.

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Head games

black-hole.jpg

It's not been a good week for me in terms of The Black Hole. Nor has it been a terrible one. It was—and continues to be?—another of those stretches wherein I feel basically OK but I'm scatterbrained.

If I didn't have a long history of this as a manifestation of my clinical depression, I'd be worried about long COVID or something. But I do have that history, and, frankly, given the choice between a stretch of foggy brain and a severe Black Hole episode of despair, I'll take this in a heartbeat.

A friend of mine—whose birthday I forgot this week, apologies—has mentioned a couple of times over the years that she's observed my Black Hole symptoms are worse in the summertime. I don't know if that's true or not, but this has been a rather quick return for a foggy-head stretch, seems like I just got over one of those. Is it just brain chemistry? Added stress? Ennui? Too damn much sunlight? Who knows.

But here's a rundown of my last week or so:

  • Forgot I had Mariner tickets for June 1st, which turned out to be a great game and it would have been fun to be there. I did realize my error in time to sell the tickets pregame on StubHub, so at least I got my money back.
  • Forgot Nikki's birthday and have yet to rectify that. (Sorry, Nikki.) But she's on a road trip right now, so maybe it'll keep.
  • Screwed up during an umpire shift in a circumstance that required more from me. There was a collision at home plate, completely unwarranted, but also I believe not premeditated, more one of those things that happens fast and reaction time was slow. And then my reaction time was slow. Way too slow. I handled everything in a manner that kept the peace and let us proceed reasonably well, but had I been sharper that night I would have been far more assertive and timely in laying down the law and offering better/more obvious defense of the injured party, who happened to be one of my favorite players in the league. Nobody's holding a grudge (that I know of) or giving me any sort of hard time about it, but I know I fucked up and that it was a disservice to one of my faves makes it all the worse, at least in my head.
  • Was late to my own softball game this week because I had transposed the start times of games (6:30 and 7:45 became 6:45 and 7:30, which makes absolutely zero sense) and I missed the first inning.
  • Screwed up yesterday's umpire shift by not remembering that different parks mean different start times because of things like lights and permits. I know this, it's basic information. Yet, knowing I was going not to Capitol Hill but to Wedgwood, I still timed things to arrive at 7pm. On my way down, at about 6:20, I got a call asking if anything was wrong since I wasn't where I was supposed to be at 6:00. Shit. Then to compound matters when I did arrive I went to the wrong field first (#3, not #2), got confused by the lack of people around when I expected two teams of annoyed softballers, and took an extra five or ten minutes to get things straight. Then I became aware that another group had the permit for that field as soon as we were scheduled to be done, so there was no wiggle room for going over time and I just had to rush things and basically those two teams got screwed out of half their time. I'm lucky that they were all understanding and not actually that annoyed. Again, had I been sharper, there was an easy solution involving moving to one of the unoccupied fields instead which would have allowed us to play later, but that didn't occur to me in time to do any good (we did play the second game on another field despite the fact that the bases there weren't pegged in and basically sucked).
  • Today is my sister's birthday, and as my mind is functioning at the speed of someone trying to run a 100-yard dash under eight feet of water, I didn't realize that until I heard someone on a podcast say the date out loud. So I made a call as I was out on errands and added "buy belated b-day card" to my errand list.

Is this stretch of fogginess over? No, I can tell it's not. I still feel like it takes three times as long to think a thought than it should. But with any luck it'll pass soon. It's a problem.

I did watch the Mariners this afternoon, as they blew a big lead and decided to go to the ninth with reliever Ryne "Panic with" Stanek in for the save. Why did they do that? No one knows. It didn't go well. It felt like ol' Panic was similarly having trouble concentrating on what was in front of him as he walked the leadoff man, served up a base hit and a one-out game-tying triple, and then his doofus manager intentionally walked not just the next guy to set up a potential double-play, but the guy after that as well—a slumping (and slow) Salvador Pérez, who's seen his batting average drop 38 points the last couple of weeks—to load the bases, which even the announcers were a bit dumbfounded by. Result? A hot shot off the bat that only a superhuman effort by J.P. Crawford kept from being a hit but was still enough to score a run and end the game. But hey, those fans in Kansas City got their money's worth tonight, that would have been a heck of a game to be at to see your team give up seven runs before even coming to bat then claw their way back to a close score only to win it in exciting walk-off fashion. Enjoy our slow-witted, unthinking Seattle ways, Kansas City!

 

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PAY ATTENTION

scotus

Anyone/everyone here watch The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu? (If you don't, you're missing out, it's excellent if scary.) You know the scenes that are flashbacks to the before-time, pre-Gilead, when things were incrementally sliding into theocratic fascist dystopia? We're on the cusp of living those flashback times for real thanks in very large part to our extraordinarily corrupt and willfully obtuse Supreme Court.

"Justice" Samuel Alito, third in seniority and first in fascistic ideology, brought us the latest SCOTUS ruling to roll back progress. Utterly ignoring the Reconstruction-era amendments to the Constitution, Alito declared for the Court that states can draw their district maps using racial demographics as their guide and it's just fine, so long as they put forth a "possible" claim that they're not using race as their "primary motivation" in their overtly-partisan redistricting agenda, and if a court rightly says "this is BS and violates the Constitution," just appeal it to the Supreme Court and they'll overturn that.

This is the latest in an apparently ongoing series of rulings SCOTUS has made to gut voting rights in this country and aid the modern Republican party in its efforts to disenfranchise, you know, "those people." In 2013, the Court delivered a ruling written by Chief "Justice" John Roberts that said the Voting Rights Act's key provisions were no longer necessary and struck them down, leading to a new wave of disenfranchisement legislating (the late Justice Antonin Scalia called the Voting Rights Act a “perpetuation of racial entitlement” during that case). In 2019, SCOTUS, in Alito's voice again, declared partisan gerrymandering didn't violate anything and could proceed without interference, placing limits on the challenges brought in the case ruled on this week that were still met.

Justice Elena Kagan delivered brilliant dissenting opinions in more than one of these cases. In the 2019 case, she wrote "If left unchecked, gerrymanders like the ones here may irreparably damage our system of government." She continued:

"The majority’s abdication comes just when courts across the country ... have coalesced around manageable judicial standards to resolve partisan gerrymandering claims. Those standards satisfy the majority’s own benchmarks. They do not require—indeed, they do not permit—courts to rely on their own ideas of electoral fairness, whether proportional representation or any other. And they limit courts to correcting only egregious gerrymanders, so judges do not become omnipresent players in the political process. But yes, the standards used here do allow—as well they should—judicial intervention in the worst-of-the-worst cases of democratic subversion, causing blatant constitutional harms. In other words, they allow courts to undo partisan gerrymanders of the kind we face today from North Carolina and Maryland. In giving such gerrymanders a pass from judicial review, the majority goes tragically wrong."

Similarly, Alito and company once more ignored the judicial standard of conduct in this week's ruling, specifically the principle that a lower court be overruled only in cases of "clear error." From Kagan's dissent:

"In dismissing [the lower court's] strong case, the majority cherry-picks evidence, ignores credibility findings, misunderstands expert views, and substitutes its own statistical theories. Its opinion gives not a whit of respect to the District Court’s factual findings, thus defying the demands of clear-error review.

...

"What a message to send to state legislators and mapmakers about racial gerrymandering. For reasons I’ve addressed, those actors will often have an incentive to use race as a proxy to achieve partisan ends. And occasionally they might want to straight-up suppress the electoral influence of minority voters. Go right ahead, this Court says to States today. Go ahead, though you have no recognized justification for using race, such as to comply with statutes ensuring equal voting rights. Go ahead, though you are (at best) using race as a short-cut to bring about partisan gains—to elect more Republicans in one case, more Democrats in another. It will be easy enough to cover your tracks in the end: Just raise a 'possibility' of non-race-based decision-making, and it will be 'dispositive.' And so this 'odious' practice of sorting citizens, built on racial generalizations and exploiting racial divisions, will continue."

This is just the latest abuse of power for partisan gain by the Roberts Court. It will continue, and continue, and continue until something is done.

We need Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress and in the White House. Only then will the bad actors perpetuating the ability of this lawless Supreme Court majority be circumvented and corrections can start to be made. Whether that comes in the form of impeachments of Alito and Clarence Thomas or expansion of the Court to 11 or 13 Justices or both or some other measure, the status quo cannot continue.

That way lies Gilead.

 

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Jazz it up a little

BMF
Sure, it's empty here, but just wait until late afternoon, when it will be filled with people lying around, spikeballers, dogs chasing frisbees, bikes, and lots of asshats playing soccer

Whenever I have an umpire shift, I file a report to the league afterward. Usually this is just a pro forma task, e.g. "No problems today, all is well," like one of Constable Odo's log entries. Sometimes it's more involved, like if someone got hurt or I had to eject somebody or there was a forfeit or something, but usually it's just "all good here," and I try to add in a little bit of color to keep it from being too dull.

Last night I was feeling a bit more creative, I guess, and put the earworm in my head of the Beatle song that had been playing in my car when I drove to the park to use in writing the report. Jazz it up some. Give the people in the office a laugh, or at least a smirk. Or maybe they're all Beatle-haters, I really don't know. Anyway, I think it came out pretty well, given that I "wrote" it in my head during the shift and on the way home while replaying the original a few times to get the cadence right. I reproduce it here for the edification of anyone who wonders what it's like to umpire at the Capitol Hill field which is usually filled with people when I show up, some of whom simply don't care about permits and reserved areas.

I give you The Ballad of Cap Hill Softball (apologies to John and Yoko).

 

THE BALLAD OF JOHN AND YOKO CAP HILL SOFTBALL

Arriving at the park at 6:40
Gear bin fully stocked thanks to Mitch
The weather is fine, people are strewn line to line
Clearing the field is going to be a bitch

Christ, you know it ain’t easy
I try to keep my tone light
But the rate this is going
It’s gonna be a long night.

The soccer guys are hostile as always
Occupying our center field
I tell ’em, “move back to play, your goal’s obstructing our way”
One throws our cones as if they’re weapons to wield

Christ, you know it ain’t easy
They always put up a fight
The rate this is going
It’s gonna be a long night.

We finally get our games underway
Twenty minutes behind our sched
A batter crushes a ball, as we are watching it fall
It nearly hits a lazing guy in the head

Christ, you know it ain’t easy
People just aren’t very bright
The rate this is going
It’s gonna be a long night.

Times like this I wish it was a rainy day
Fewer people causing havoc here
But when the catcher says “No jest,
Of all umps you’re the best”
It makes the troubles somehow less important, SWEET!

Had a call when there were two runners
Throw came in where I hadn’t planned
The infielder said, “hey she was out by a thread!”
I said, “the replay center says the call stands.”

Christ, you know it ain’t easy
Sometimes I don’t get it right
There’s just one of me out there
I don’t have Superman’s sight.

By the time the third game was ending
The good points well outweighed all the bad
Most of the players were great
They didn’t mind we ran late
All in all I think a fun time was had

Christ, you know it ain’t easy
I hope I don’t sound uptight
’Cause despite how it started
It was a pretty good night.

Despite how it started
It was a pretty good night!

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Brain fog

peppermintpattypanel

As regulars here know, I deal with clinical depression. I often use the metaphor of orbiting a black hole to try to convey the experience to normals; when things are fine, I'm in high stable orbit. When things are bad, the orbit has decayed and the black hole threatens to drag me all the way down to spaghettification. With good meds, it's a relapsing/remitting kind of thing and since my former doc and I hit on a particular prescription some years back, I've not had a really bad episode. So on the whole, things are good on that front.

But no bad episodes doesn't mean no episodes, nor does it mean no symptoms. 

Lately I've been in a kind of upper-middle ground between "fine" and "spiraling down into noodle form," like the orbit has decayed but only 10 or 15 percent. It's perfectly functional if a bit drab. In the before-time, I'd never have noticed this; it happens gradually, the orbital velocity slows, well, slowly, and I'd have to fall a good distance before it registered. But over the years I have learned to detect precursors to failing orbit episodes and sometimes that's enough to at least arrest the decay if not jump-start a push to achieve higher altitude. With luck I can do that now.

At this altitude, the main symptom of the back hole's increased gravity is a kind of brain fog. (If I lose more altitude the next-worst symptom seems to be excessive irritability.) And today there was a lot of it, sort of cold-morning-in-San-Francisco fog.

I forgot someone's name, not a big deal; I lost track of a bank deposit, which turned out to be fine but wasted a fair chunk of time; I caught myself almost emailing the wrong person named Karen; in preparing to go to the Mariners game, I noted when I should leave home in order to allow for enough time to comfortably arrive in my seat by first pitch under the assumption of a 7:10 start time even though I had just reminded myself that we live in the age of the hated 6:40 starts for most games (yes, I missed the top of the first inning, dammit, but starting pitcher Brian Woo did me a solid by throwing a lot of pitches to get those three outs); and when I got to the ballpark neighborhood, though lucking into my usual free parking space, I left my keys in the car.

I noticed I didn't have my keys after the game ended and we were leaving our seats. Panic started to set in. My car has already been stolen once, and that time the keys were nowhere near it and it was parked in a residential neighborhood instead of a comparatively grungy section of town south of Pioneer Square.

So I left my friends to the mercies of Metro transportation (it's OK, they're used to it) and jogged back to my parking space, expecting to find my car missing. But it was there, untouched, the keys right there on the driver's seat. Faith in humanity restored, at least for now. Whew. Big shout-out to my next-door neighbor and fellow night-owl Sean, who happened to be home when I called and was perfectly willing to go into my place, grab my spare key, and drive it all the way down to me without the slightest complaint. Sean is good people.

So I survived the day without much hassle despite all the fogginess, the Mariners won handily against the Oakland-for-the-moment A's, and I was informed that for my gig as a softball umpire I am getting a small pay raise.

Now if I can just muster up the energy to raise the orbit some maybe I'll be looking at a good stretch of time for a while.

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Whitey Herzog

herzog

If I ever had anything like a "mentor" in my baseball fandom, it was a guy I never met. He was a former mediocre ballplayer not good enough to be an everyday presence in any big league lineup, but then went on to be a Hall of Fame manager. His name was Whitey Herzog, and he died a few weeks ago at age 92.

Whitey's time as a manager coincided with my formative years as a baseball nerd. He took over the Kansas City Royals of the American League in 1975 and it was around 1976 or ’77 that I became interested enough in the game to start reading box scores and developing favorite players and noticing how different ballparks played and so forth. But I knew nothing of Whitey or managers or strategies then. It wasn't until Whitey got fired by the Royals (after three straight division titles, the fools!) and took over my favorite team, the National League's St. Louis Cardinals, that I started to take notice.

I'd been a fan of the Cardinals for one reason: one of the first games I remember seeing on TV was a Cardinal game in which Lou Brock stole bases. That was cool. Thus, they became my team. They were bad back then, but I don't think I was aware of it in real time. What I remember about my Cardinal fandom from those days was being excited if they were playing the Dodgers (we got Dodger games on our local radio) and feeling good when I'd open up a new pack of baseball cards and find Cardinal players in it. (I have a distinct memory of getting a Lynn McGlothen card with him wearing the pillbox-type white-striped cap I only ever saw on cards, never on TV. Also one of Bake McBride in a regular uniform.)

When the 1980s rolled around, I was more curious about the off-field workings of a team and that's when Whitey—who had become both the field manager and the general manager of the Cardinals, the first person to hold both jobs simultaneously in decades and the last one to do so to date—started dismantling the Cardinal roster. Garry Templeton, the popular All-Star shortstop? Gone, traded. Ted Simmons, the popular star catcher? Gone, traded. Ken Reitz, Leon Durham, Pete Vukovich? Get out of town, boys. It wouldn't be until later that I really knew what was going on, I just thought it was curious that so many guys would be traded away deliberately.

1981 was a strike year. The season just stopped right in the middle, so my attention wasn't what it would be going forward, but it did bum me out that the Cardinals finished second in both halves of what became the "split season" of ’81. But 1982. Now I'm a teen and I'm learning things. I'm reading the "transactions" section of the sports page every day, looking for new moves Whitey was making as the season started, wondering what it meant. This is still the primitive before-times, of course, so following an out-of-market team was a challenge that mostly relied on the daily box scores and the occasional yahtzee of the Cards being featured on Monday Night Baseball or the NBC Game of the Week, as well as Vin Scully's radio play-by-play on those 12 meetings a year between the Cardinals and Dodgers ("A very pleasant good evening to you wherever you may be, I'm Vin Scully, along with Jerry Doggett and Ross Porter, and it's time for Dodger baseball!"). Still, I had my faves. First baseman Keith Hernandez topped the list. Also the guy they'd traded Templeton for, Ozzie Smith. And there was this new guy I'd never heard of named McGee that looked really funny when he batted. And they were good—won 90 games, swept Atlanta in the National League playoffs, and beat Milwaukee in the World Series. And when your team wins the World Series in the first year you're really die-hard paying attention to the ins and outs of the sport, well, that's it for you, you've crossed the Rubicon. Your foundation as a fan has been set, and in my case it was set with Whiteyball.

 Whitey looked at his environs, first in Kansas City, then in St. Louis, and noted the artificial turf and big outfields. I can use this, he thought, and favored speedy guys and defensive stars in KC with Willie Wilson and Frank White and company. In St. Louis, he had total control and didn't just favor such players, he went out and got them from other teams and had no trouble dealing away players who didn't fit his vision. And the Cardinals became a revelation to the league, winning games left and right by stealing bases, manufacturing runs, making defensive plays, and treating the home run like a deterrent more than an actual weapon—so long as you had one guy in the lineup who would pop one every now and then, the pitcher had to worry about it, and that was enough.

The ’82 Cardinals won it all with their top home run threat, George Hendrick, hitting just 19 longballs, good for 17th in the 12-team National League. As a team they hit all of 67, dead last in the NL. But they were first in on-base percentage, first in most defensive metrics, and stole 200 bags, far and away more than any other club. To me, that's a far more exciting way to play and to watch baseball.

I was a devotee. To this day, my favorite team of all time is the 1985 Cardinals, the team that most successfully embodied the Whiteyball philosophy. Though Whitey was no longer the GM—he stepped down from that post prior to the ’83 season—he still held a lot of clout with the front office and made that ’85 club league champs (101 wins). They had the Rookie of the Year in a scrawny outfielder named Vince Coleman who stole 110 bases. They had the NL MVP in Willie McGee, who hit .353 and stole 56. They had Gold Gloves at center field and shortstop, plus future Gold Glove winners at third base and right field; the Cy Young runner-up in a great year for pitchers plus a second starter with 20 wins; and stole not 200 bases like the ’82 team did, but 314 (league average of the other 11 NL clubs: 120). Second baseman Tommy Herr drove in 110 runs while hitting just eight homers. That team was awesome, and that team was Whitey Herzog baseball. (Except for Jack Clark. He was the first baseman, acquired in a preseason trade to fill the gaping void that had been made when Keith Hernandez was traded in ’83 because of off-the-field behavior, and though Clark was critical to the team, it was in the function of the deterrent. He didn't fit the Whiteyball mold at all—not a good defender, not fast, not a "fundamentals first" kind of guy—but he could hit and he could hit them out on occasion, giving the team their one power threat and often an extra baserunner. Pitchers would often pitch around Clark and he drew a lot of walks, both intentional and the sort of "intentionally unintentional" type. Which was just fine with Andy Van Slyke, who usually batted behind him.)

When I moved out on my own and came up to Seattle and started going to Mariner games at the Kingdome, my season-ticket mates Erik and Mike, in a clever melding of my Herzog allegiance and my status as cat-guardian, dubbed my preferred brand of baseball "Harr-ball." It was often frustrating to watch the M's in those days, even when they were winning, because they won with boppers. Very little Harr-ball to be found.

These days, even in the less-homer-friendly outdoor venue the M's now call home, not only is there still a dearth of Harr-ball, there's a lack of basic managerial smarts and strategy that makes me miss Whitey Herzog on a near-everyday basis.

Whitey Herzog didn't make me a baseball fan. But he did make me the kind of fan I am. And I'm grateful. RIP, Whitey.

HerzogHOF

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One of these things is not like the other

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A while back I made reference here to what I call the "battered spouse contingent" of the Republican party. I was subsequently asked what I meant by that, and it's pretty simple—people who continue to vote Republican despite the fact that Republican policies have hurt them repeatedly. That wasn't readily accepted as valid by my questioner, and in the interests of civility I didn't press the point overly much.

This individual reminded me a lot of people I've known over the years that have espoused sentiments like, "it doesn't matter who wins [a presidential election] because they're all the same." Or, "I voted for [third-party candidate] because s/he's the only one that I agree with," or for reasons of protest over the two-party system.

The "they're all the same" garbage seemed to peak (in my lifetime, anyway) in the 2000 campaign between George W. Bush and Al Gore. We can thank Ralph Nader for a lot of that. But regardless of the why, the result of people thinking like that was a GWB administration that began with corruption of the energy industry (Enron, anyone?), then 9/11 shocked the president despite his having been warned well in advance that something like it was being planned, then the response to 9/11 changed the world for the worse for decades.

They were not remotely the same.

While it's not as prevalent as it was in 2000, the idea that there's little to no difference between the parties is still espoused by a not insignificant percentage of Americans. Most of this is out of ignorance, some willful some not, but today the idea is being pushed indirectly by the Republican party—because if everyone is corrupt, then who cares that so many Republicans are? The Trumpification of the GOP has us more polarized than ever, but the parties have been starkly different for a long time. People who are not political junkies like me just don't know it.

So I had this idea to put together a little snapshot of how the country did under the last several presidents, something that would be easy to digest. Kind of like the back of a baseball card, with the important stats and facts laid out in black and white. (While my formal education in American history is limited to some University survey courses, I am a bit of a history nerd and know a thing or two from study and from having lived through time with my eyes and ears open.) And then I heard Buzz Burbank on The Bob Cesca Show joke about how we need a "pamphlet drop" to remind people about everything from 2016-2021, and I started expanding the thought.

In putting that idea into form, I found it isn't practical to just list economic stats and global crises if you want to convey the performance of an administration. You need more information. But I've endeavored to find a middle ground between back-of-the-baseball-card and pages-in-an-encyclopedia to show at a relative glance how the country fared under different administrations.

So, parameters:

Firstly, to my knowledge and judgment, the last Republican president who was worthy of holding the office—that is, who took his oath the the Constitution seriously, who actively worked for the benefit of the people as a whole, who didn't commit or abet crime or corrupt practices, and who wasn't otherwise overtly doing harm for his own purposes—was Dwight Eisenhower, POTUS No. 34, whose term ended in 1961. (One could make an argument for Ford, but he wasn't elected as either POTUS or VP and that pardon... No. The pardon is a disqualifier.) In Ike's time, the Republicans were a centrist party that balanced a belief in free-market capitalism with the needs of the populace, were staunchly anti-Communist and saw the US as a global force for freedom and democracy, and were happy to maintain the social status quo. Since then we can see a steady decline from that to today's autocratic, anti-democracy, isolationist, corruptly fascist Republicans, with mileposts along the way in Richard Nixon, Henry Kissenger, Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell, all the way to Trump and his Trump Sycophants.

So we begin with Ike's successor, John F. Kennedy, in 1961, and examine several items for each administration: economic indicators, military conflicts, scandals, global or national crises, notable staff, important achievements or policies, and Supreme Court appointments. I wrap each one up with a brief(ish) few paragraphs of context, keeping things to a single page (though I did have to adjust my typesetting format a few times to make that work). It's a remarkably even split between the two parties in power—in those 64 years, there have been six Democratic presidents and six Republican presidents, each covering a total of 32 years (including 2024).

But before getting into the individuals, here's a composite back-of-the-card snapshot.

DEMOCRATS (8 TERMS)

Total budget deficit increase: (–$2.716 trillion)
Avg. inflation rate: 3.25%
Recessions: 2 (15 months; 4% of tenure)

Major wars: 2, 1 inherited
SCOTUS appointments: 9

 
REPUBLICANS (8 TERMS)

Total budget deficit increase: $3.338 trillion
Avg. inflation rate: 4.24%
Recessions: 7 (6 years, 8 months; 21% of tenure)

Major wars: 4, 1 inherited
SCOTUS appointments: 15

 

Republicans added three and a third trillion dollars to the deficit, Democrats recovered over two and two-thirds trillion of it despite the handicap of having to pay all that interest on Republican debt. Republicans gave us almost seven years of recession to the Democrats' one and a quarter (more than half of which was recovering from The Great Recession of G.W. Bush). Tell me again how the Republicans are the fiscally responsible ones.

Anyway, here's the completed project. I plan on distributing it to some podcasters I like in hopes they will make it available to their audiences in hopes that members of those audiences will share it with folks they know and in an ideal world it "goes viral." Not really expecting that, based on my history in trying to promote things on the Internet, but we'll see.

Feel free to spread this around, everybody. 

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The Manfred Legacy

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Worst. Commissioner. Ever.

Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred is widely and rightly reviled. He has managed to change the game of baseball fundamentally in a few short years, instituting new rules like the extra-inning "zombie baserunner," the ever-changing pitch clock, participation-trophy-level playoffs, and the metastasization of the cancer known as the designated hitter. A lot of people like some of these rules, which I simply don't understand in a few cases. I think most of them were solutions to problems that didn't exist; the only ones I don't have at least some objection to are the limit on mound visits and the three-batter minimum for pitchers.

Suffice to say, the dude has left his mark. Things are way different than they were before he surfaced from whatever sea of goo his species lives in. But I have to hand it to Craig Calcaterra: he went beyond the rules and pinpointed the real legacy of Commissioner Manfred.

I’ve spent several years mocking all of the “Official ___ of Major League Baseball” sponsorships we’ve seen since Rob Manfred took office. Selling everything that isn’t nailed down, selling lots of things that are nailed down, and inventing new things to sell from whole cloth has really been his singular achievement as commissioner.

Craig was working up to the weirdness within the new rotating sponsor ads on the login page of the MLB phone app, but his broader point is seen everywhere. It's really quite gross. Especially when the jersey ads appear on uniforms now made so cheaply that they look like baggy knockoffs made with iron-on technology in a child-labor sweatshop. Which, if we're being real, they probably are.

Manfred can't leave his job quickly enough. But we're stuck with him for another five years. By which time we might all be watching Blernsball.

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Opening Day

openingnightTMP

Lots going on of late. Most of my free time has been occupied with a project I'll post about later, plus I've been doing the umpire thing, and all kinds of news has been noteworthy, and I've been mildly under the weather since Sunday and binging a rewatch of Enterprise.

But for now, TODAY IS OPENING DAY and I'll be heading down to the ballpark in an hour or so.

In years past I'd have been doing a lot of writing and editing of season preview stuff relating to Your Seattle Mariners, but as we all know, the website that stuff was for and its antecedent publication are both gone the way of the dodo. Thus, I haven't been paying nearly as much attention to the doings of the baseball world in the preseason; I didn't watch a single spring training game or renew my subscription to The Athletic or even pony up to get the everyday newsletters from Joe Pos or Craig Cal. (Craig, I may well take you up on your Opening Day discount offer, but I'm still wavering.)

But the season is here now. Time to buckle down.

The hometown Mariners are not a group that inspires a great deal of confidence, but you know what, they could be really good. They just need to overcome their manager, their lack of depth on the bench, the inconsistency of their ace starting pitcher, the rawness of the rest of the young rotation, a questionable third-base platoon, and an untried relief corps. Otherwise, they look great.

New to the club this year are second baseman Jorge Polanco, who we hope will resemble the Jorge Polanco of 2019 more than the Jorge Polanco of 2020-2023; third baseman Luis Urias, whom I expect nothing from; corner OF/1B Luke Raley, who so far has looked like a Quadruple-A type player, but maybe?; DH Mitch Garver, who actually could be really good; and the welcome return of Mitch Haniger, who we all hope can stay off the injured list.

With that crop of newbies, how can we contain all the excitement?!

Game 1. 7:10pm PDT. I'll be up in section 339 (not my regular seats) keeping score.

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Why do we still do this?!

clock2

Yep, it's time once again for the nearly-national indulgence in social engineering we call Daylight Saving Time. And once again, I'm posting about how it's something I wish would just go away.

I am, of course, biased by my upbringing in a state that wisely chooses to ignore this tomfoolery. (Seems I'm also in the minority in opposing the practice.) We never changed our clocks in my childhood, though I do recall once when we were visiting my grandparents in California on the weekend the switch occurred and I was excited to be the one to move the hour hands. It was novelty, I guess. But since we never bothered with it, I didn't understand the point of the thing until much later.

Now that I've been living with the practice for a quarter century, and at a latitude where it actually makes a difference...well, I still think it's dumb. (And misnamed—we're not "saving" anything, just moving our schedules.) And a pretty stark commentary on how stubborn and how easily manipulated humans are.

Let's look at why DST exists at all. Because I'm a bit of a history nerd and this is a good way to procrastinate doing my taxes.

First instituted in Europe 1916, followed by Australia and parts of Canada in 1917 and the United States in 1918, the idea was to reduce civilian energy consumption during World War I. (The US law also established consistent time zones in the country for the first time, to aid in the railway and emerging radio broadcast industries.) President Woodrow Wilson liked the concept of Daylight Time—then defined as beginning on the last Sunday in March and ending on the last Sunday in October—and wanted to keep it after the war was over, but Congress said (paraphrasing) f*ck that sh*t, and repealed it in 1920, pointing out that saving fuel for the war effort was no longer a factor. Wilson vetoed the repeal, but Congress overrode. Hooray for separation of powers!

With no Federal law in effect, states and localities either observed DST or not as they chose. For a couple of decades there was temporal chaos! New York City was on Daylight Time, upstate New York was not! Rhode Island followed it, but not Connecticut! Pandemonium! Except not really, because this was the 1920s and ’30s and it wasn't all that important when people didn't travel much or very quickly.

It wasn't until the next big war that DST made a nationwide comeback, with FDR mandating it year-round from February 1942 through September 1945, again to save on fuel consumption. Once the war was over, so was "war time" and localities again prevailed on the subject.

Now we're into the 1950s and ’60s, though—there's more travel, by air as well as rail; there's more broadcasting, TV as well as radio. The hodgepodge is becoming a real issue. (Apparently there was a 35-mile stretch of highway in Ohio and West Virginia wherein the local time changed seven times from one end to the other.) So, we get the 1966 "Uniform Time Act," a title that is simultaneously spot-on descriptive and contradictory of itself. Neat trick. That legislation says states and localities can't go their own way anymore, everyone within a time zone will be consistent with their local time, and that DST will be in effect from the first Sunday in April until the last Sunday in October. States that don't want to participate are exempt only if they pass a state law declaring the entire state (amended in 1972 so the entire area of a state within one time zone could exempt) stays consistently on Standard time year-round. The rationale is once again a theoretical savings in energy consumption during the spring and summer months. (This law interestingly also placed areas of certain states in new time zones, aligning more with longitude than state boundaries in places like Florida and Texas.)

That's where we are today, save for two more legislative tweaks to extend DST's duration—first in 1986 to add three weeks in April, then in 2007 to add three weeks at the front end and one week at the back end. Now we're on DST from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November, nearly two-thirds of the year.

So that's the how and when of it, but the thing that I really find curious is the why.

The rationale for each and every one of the DST laws is to save on energy consumption by shifting activity to earlier in the day so as to take greater advantage of sunlight. But in our human society, asking large numbers of people to move up their daily activity by an hour for part of the year is an impossible request. We're too set in our ways.

We could just say, OK, starting in April schools are in session from 8:00am until 2:00pm instead of 9:00am until 3:00pm. Broadcasters move their scheduling up one hour. Businesses aren't mandated to have any particular hours anyway, but are encouraged to follow suit and open from 8:00-4:00 instead of 9:00-5:00 or whathaveyou. But what kind of compliance would we get?

Some, sure. But a lot of businesses and private schools and such would say, "nah, things are fine the way it is, I don't want to start an hour earlier." Still others would do it, but later in the year or for a different span of months. We're stubborn creatures. We don't like being told when to do things.

But we're also manipulable. We'll go along with it if we're tricked into doing it. Force us to move our clocks and we'll likewise not change our ways—our stubbornness could still come into play by simply acknowledging that the time shift is fake and we'll simply operate our business hours from 10:00 to 6:00 for the duration, maintaining the same schedule as before, but no; we're used to the number on the clock being the proper measure of time, so we just do it because this way we "don't change our habits." Except we totally do.

There's been a lot of noise in recent years about doing away with the change, but mostly on the side of adopting DST year-round (essentially returning to FDR's "war time"). A number of states have passed legislation stating that they'd go on year-round DST if and when Congress amends the Uniform Time Act to allow it. But we've done that before and it didn't go well.

In 1973, in response to the OPEC oil embargo that caused a national gasoline shortage and contributed to economic recession, Congress passed Senate Bill 2702, which President Nixon signed into law in early 1974. SB2702 extended DST year-round for two years during which studies would be done to determine if it should be extended in perpetuity. But within weeks, popularity of the measure went from 79% to 42%, mostly because of early-morning "night" causing more traffic accidents: school children were being killed on their way to school in the darkness, even in southern latitude states like Florida, and some schools did the sensible thing and reverted to astronomical-time scheduling. One study concluded there was a small savings in energy use, not quite 1%; another found gasoline usage actually went up, defeating the primary purpose. But Congress repealed the measure after not even one year, with a House statement noting that any meager energy gains "must be balanced against a majority of the public’s distaste for the observance of Daylight Saving Time."

Of course, things are a lot different now than even in the ’70s. Power usage happens round the clock now. Energy sources are more varied. Does consumption actually change anymore during DST months? Even in decades past studies were inconclusive, with some saying, yes, electric lighting use dropped a small fraction, but energy used for home heating and cooling went up. Others said the overall benefit was about 0.5% difference in overall usage. But nowadays? With computers running 24/7, LED bulbs replacing inefficient incandescents, more renewable sources entering the electric grids, 24-hour societal activity in most cities? I'm quite dubious.

I'm a night owl. I don't care when the sun comes up in the morning, my natural tendencies are to be up late and sleep late. If we went to permanent DST, fine, at least we won't be switching clocks twice a year anymore. But my preference is permanent Standard Time. When high noon actually happens at, you know, noon, not at 1:00pm. Society can change its schedules if it wants to without the trickery of moving the clock hands.

Hell, baseball teams are already starting most of their games at 6:30 instead of 7:00 (and went from 7:30 to 7:00 20 years ago or so), which annoys me no end. For me, later is better! F you, morning people! Creatures of the night rise up!

Anyway, the immediate bottom line is that I have to start my umpire shift tomorrow at noon, which is really 11:00am, and I'll very likely be working five games on only a few hours of sleep. Hopefully I won't blow too many calls.

 

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