The Leftover Way
In my side gig as a rec-league softball umpire, I see many kinds of people out for some fun on the diamond. The basic traits can be measured on a pair of scales—on the X axis you have skills, with excellent players on one side and folks who have never picked up a bat before on the other; the Y axis has attitude, with breezy and easy-going ranging to overly competitive and obnoxiously macho. The spectrum is wide on both axes, and most teams are a jumbled mixture.
Over the years I've been doing this I've seen several teams repeatedly, and naturally have developed favorites. I always enjoy it when I draw a shift with, say, Bat Attitude or the Barking Gekkos or the Reinforcers. And there are, of course, individuals on other teams I always like to see. But the cream of the crop, at least from the standpoint of umpiring, are The Leftovers. I did a game with them last night after not seeing them for three or four weeks, it was a blast.
The Leftovers are a rare breed in rec-league softball in that while the players on the X axis remains varied, the Y axis has everyone on the breezy fun side at all times. (Even when, say, the pitcher complains about my strike zone, he does it in a joking way that's purely banter.) As it turns out, that was by design—Neal, the team captain, formed his team using what we might call The Leftover Way.
I grew up a St. Louis Cardinals fan, my formative baseball years being molded by Whitey Herzog and the hit-and-run, and for a time I was steeped in Cardinals lore. They have a thing they call "the Cardinal Way," which is mostly about player development in the minors and emphasizing things like defensive positioning and fundamentals, but also about being good community members and teammates. (It's also a term that occasionally gets used sarcastically as a pejorative during times of budget-cutting or when personnel are moved for off-the-field reasons, like when Herzog was ordered to trade Keith Hernandez because of all the cocaine. Keith cleaned up, but he was dealt to the Mets anyway for violating the Cardinal Way in the eyes of ownership.)
The Leftover Way has been articulated in an article published last month in the local weekly paper known as The Stranger. Writer Nathalie Graham joined the team for one game for the piece and you can read her account here. Neal runs an Instagram account for the team that has highlight reels, stats, and occasional good-natured questioning of my calls. You can see that stuff here.
I have to be an unbiased arbiter when I'm umpiring, but there is truly no better team to root for than The Leftovers.
As for my softball playing endeavors, I will be on the field late this afternoon/early evening in Ballard for the Smiling Potatoes of Death (or "SPuDs"). The Spuddies are objectively bad, but we try to make it fun anyway. It's our own attempt at the Leftover Way.1 Comment
Last night I went to the Mariner game with my friend Dave. Dave is from Chicago, so every year when my group does its season ticket draft, I try to snag a game against the White Sox for him and me to go to. It's cool under those circumstances, because whatever happens, one of us will be going home happy.
It was a good time, mostly—I had some issues on the way down that hindered things a little, but overall it was a fun evening getting to talk and visit with Dave as well as watch the Mariners bungle their way into a skin-of-their-teeth victory (3-2 final after a solo homer in the 7th).
Frist issue was traffic. I was intending to pick Dave up a good hour-plus before game time, which normally would allow plenty of time to get to the ballpark area and park, but some stuff must have been going on as the freeway was backed up for miles and reportedly alternate routes were similarly clogged. It was all I could do to meet Dave at a rail station and take the train down in order to get there on time. The train was packed tight and I was dressed for rainy-evening chill, so by the time the train arrived at Stadium Station I was pretty badly overheated and a little nauseous. I needed a couple of minutes in the fresh air once we got off before I could resume hurrying to the ballpark. Then we had e-ticket issues with our phones while at the gate. I hate being late to games, so things were adding up, but nothing we could do about it really, and we still got up to the concourse at 7:12 for the 7:10 first-pitch. Success, we thought! But, thanks to the new pitch-clock rule and Rob Manfred's jihad against fun time, we'd already missed two-thirds of an inning.
"What?" Dave asked, rhetorically. "We missed two batters already? Seriously?" Stupid Manfred.
Then we had to ascend to my season seats in section 327, so we missed a couple more batters, but hey, we got there and it was mercifully not one of these ridiculous two-hours-and-done games like I'd had the misfortune to attend a couple times already this year. By the time I'd gotten to sit down, shed some of my layers to vent heat, ingested some soft drink refreshment and some chowder that Dave thoughtfully gifted me, I was feeling better and able to enjoy the Mariners' apparent futility as they left more and more runners stranded on base. By the middle innings Chicago was ahead 2-1 and they only had three hits; Seattle had six hits and had left 10 aboard. Thus:
Fortunes reversed by the end, but I have no "after" photo. Oh well.
Anyway, I've a pet peeve with some ballplayers in recent years that one of the White Sox players was participating in, and that's certain players who are "Juniors" wearing their surname plus "Jr." on their backs. It's totally unimportant, of course. But it's grammatically wrong and thus irks my English major nerddom.
Players traditionally have their surname above their number on the back of their jerseys. "SMITH / 12," that sort of thing. The custom the last few years is for guys with names like "Joe Smith, Jr." to wear "SMITH JR. / 12." Now, I would understand this if it was to make a distinction from, say, Joe Smith senior. So far as I know, though, such a circumstance has only existed once in the Major Leagues, and for a rather brief period, when Ken Griffey, Sr., and Ken Griffey, Jr., were simultaneously Seattle Mariners, but they simply each wore "Griffey" above their number 30 and 24, respectively. But in any other circumstance it's just weird.
The White Sox guy in question is Luis Robert, Jr. His surname is not "Robert Jr," it's "Robert." He's Luis Junior. The Tampa Bay club had a pair of brothers a while back, Melvin Upton, Jr., and Justin Upton. They each just wore "Upton," like the Griffeys did, but under today's common usage, Melvin would be wearing "Upton Jr." and Justin merely "Upton." (Only Melvin is older, so Justin is actually junior to Melvin, just to make it weirder.) It's everywhere. Houston manager Dusty Baker, known throughout his long career as simply "Dusty Baker," now wears "Baker Jr." on his back. You've got "Acuña Jr.," "Guerrero Jr.," "Tatis Jr.," "Witt Jr.," "Sousa Jr.," and on and on. Guerrero and Tatis are each not only juniors, but second-generation big-leaguers following their dads, so you might be able to sway me with a case for them; but on the other hand, Guerrero's teammates Bo Bichette and Cavin Biggio are also big-league sons of big-leaguers, and there's no distinction there, so on second thought, no, you wouldn't sway me. Now, if these guys wanted to wear their first names—only done by two players that I can think of, Ichiro Suzuki and Chili Davis—then appending "Jr." would make sense if one was, in fact, a junior. "Vlad Jr. / 27." It could work.
Like I said, totally unimportant. I just had to get that off my chest. :)
Sadly, on the way home from the game I lost my scorebook. We think I must have tucked it under my arm while waiting for the train and with my various layers impeding my ability to feel it there it dropped to the platform without either of us noticing. I didn't realize it was missing until we were halfway to the Capitol Hill stop. Oh, well, not a big deal—though it did have my record of games I'd been to over the past couple of seasons, including the playoff game last year—but I really liked the pen that was clipped to it. I'll need to make a special trip to get a replacement, it's not the sort that can be found at a drug store or something.No Comments yet
Throughout the term of former President VonClownstick and beyond, there have been countless times when someone in media or just on the street—on TV news, in print, on a blog, at a bus stop, wherever—has referred to something about the former president's behavior as "shocking," or some variation thereof. I have never been one of those people. Nothing that man has done has surprised me.
Which is not to say there weren't other surprises. I recall a Thanksgiving Day 2016 conversation wherein I was one-hundred percent certain that Trump wouldn't finish out his term, he would undoubtedly be impeached or removed via the 25th Amendment. There was no way he wouldn't commit multiple crimes and graft and be so overtly dangerous that Congress or the cabinet wouldn't act. Well, I was half right on that, but the shocking surprise for me was that the entire Republican party had abandoned even a concerted pretense at ethics and adherence to small-d democratic principles. I mean, sure, there were well-known examples, but everyone?!
Yeah, pretty much. And the cabinet did not act, it was purged of non-corrupt members. Congress did, but failed to convict because of Republicans either on the take or being blackmailed or just being amoral chaos agents who, to borrow a line from Alfred Pennyworth, just want to watch the world burn. And so VonClownstick did finish his term, to the great detriment of the nation.
That was a surprise. That was shocking.
But nothing, not one word, in the indictment of Trump and Waltine Nauta issued by special counsel Jack Smith diverged from expectations. Shocking? Please. This account is of standard, everyday Trump behavior.
I'm not surprised at the sheer volume of stolen documents. Or at the sloppy, haphazard way they were stored at Trump's tacky beach club. Or that Trump was recorded confessing to crimes. Or that he demonstrated a breadth of hypocrisy that is best measured in parsecs. All that is completely consistent with his prior behavior. No one should find it surprising or shocking. Even the red-hatted dupes and marks that make up his fanbase, who are so manipulable that they will swallow any lie he tells them, should be used to this crap.
The indictment is still a critical piece of work, of course. Just because it doesn't surprise doesn't mean it isn't profoundly disturbing.
In 37 charges against Trump (and three against Nauta), the indictment shows the former President of the United States (!) treated the nation's security as a triviality; that he neither understood nor respected the duties of and laws pertaining to the job of President; reiterated his lack of concern for, if not outright contempt of, military service members; that he has no compunctions at all about committing fraud; behaves like a wannabe mob boss; and clings to delusions. Again, profoundly disturbing, not surprising.
Aside from the preponderance of evidence that he's guilty on all counts—yes, presumed innocent legally speaking until trial, but I can't fathom what kind of defense would have any credibility—here are my main takeaways from this indictment:
- Based on what is stated therein, approximately 34 boxes of stolen documents—from the photographs these appear to be banker's boxes, each of which could contain reams and reams of documentation—are unaccounted for. These are presumably either still in Trump's possession or have been disseminated elsewhere, which would constitute yet another serious crime.
- Trump himself curated what each box contains, chose a relative few that could be "discovered" by authorities and even then asked his lawyer to essentially double-check his work and remove anything especially incriminating or treasonous. On the other hand, he chose enough material for 30+ banker's boxes to continue concealing from authorities.
- Implied by the exchange between Nauta and either Melania or Ivanka (presumably Melania), Trump chose an unspecified number of documents to remove to his New Jersey property. These remain unaccounted for as far as is publicly known.
- Of the documents that were recovered, many are marked with classifications requiring them to be observed only in a SCIF (sensitive compartmented information facility), implying perhaps a greater effort required to remove them from the White House? Not sure how that works, but it's curious.
- A number of the recovered documents are marked ORCON, meaning the release and dissemination of the information is controlled by the originator of the intelligence, presumably a foreign nation. So there's stuff here the US government couldn't even release if it wanted to unilaterally.
- Since Trump curated what would be recovered and what would not, and chose items included in the above to be found, it's all the more curious what he chose to continue concealing. Since Trump's sense of what is and isn't important is unique to him, can we presume the unrecovered docs include stuff he thinks can be sold or he thinks is good dirt to keep for leverage against others in his petty feuds or debt crises?
- In trying to convince his attorney to commit crime with him and/or for him, he told a story he has told many times before alleging that Hillary Clinton's attorney destroyed evidence for her, which is why "she didn't get into any trouble." This, of course, referring to the email scandal Trump made into a mantra when he ran against Clinton in 2016, but the fact that he continues to say these things in private reinforces my long-held belief that Trump is so narcissistic and incapable of any sort of empathy that he really does believe that everyone thinks like he does. That his view of politics and corruption is the norm. He's not just making shit up when he says Hillary's lawyer destroyed evidence to keep her out of the pokey, he assumes that because that's how he does things. He assumes everyone in a power position has a corrupt lawyer in the mold of Roy Cohn that does their bidding, just like he did back in the day. He also doesn't get it when some of his current lawyers act with relative ethics and refuse to commit fraud for him because everyone else has their own Roy Cohn, why aren't any of you doing that? All he has in that vein is Giuliani. When he tries to manufacture a scandal about Hunter Biden, for example, in his mind the logic goes (a) there is, of course, a scandal to be found, because everyone is a criminal just like me, so naturally Hunter is dirty because everyone with any sort of power (or connections to power) is dirty, that's why we have power; (b) if dirt can't be found it's not because there isn't any, but because the target is really good at covering it up; and (c) if dirt really can't be found, manufacturing some is fine, because to prove it's made-up the target would have to reveal the real dirt, which of course really does exist because, hey, you wouldn't believe the amount of dirt I've covered up in my day and everyone is like me. This is also why Trump persists in his "everything is so unfair" bullshit—he believes every president keeps government documents, so why is he the only one going through investigations and prosecutions? The idea that no one else gets indicted for this because no one else would actually commit the crime doesn't compute. That would require comprehension that his worldview isn't the norm.
- I know this is just repeating what John, John, and Tommy said in the Pod Save America clip I posted the other day, but some of the transcribed exchanges in this thing are golden:
TRUMP to ATTORNEY 1, in response to the subpoena to produce and return all government docs: "I don't want anybody looking, I don't want anybody looking through my boxes, I really don't, I don't want you looking through my boxes." ... "What happens if we just don't respond [to the subpoena] or don't play ball with [the grand jury]?" ... “Wouldn't it be better if we just told them we don't have anything?”And, of course, the cherry on top of the entire indictment:
TRUMP to book author and staffer, in a conversation at his New Jersey property: “You know, [General Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs] said, 'he wanted to attack [Iran],' and—”
STAFFER: “You did.”
EMPLOYEE 1, trying to find space to move boxes of stolen documents to: “There is still a little room in the shower ... there's some other stuff in there that are [sic] not papers. Could that go into storage?”
EMPLOYEE 2: "Yes—anything that is not the 'beautiful mind' paper boxes can definitely go into storage." (This refers to the Ron Howard film "A Beautiful Mind," about mathematician John Nash, who suffered from delusions and schizophrenia.)
TRUMP, brandishing classified document to author and staffer: "This is secret information. Look, look at this."
This guy cannot be convicted soon enough.1 Comment
This is secret information, look at this
Well. Quite the news day, isn't it. I was working last night—at the umpire gig, training a new guy for three games—and didn't catch up on the indictment news until the wee hours of the morning; then, as is my custom, I was up very late and slept in quite late today and since waking have been catching up on the news around the unsealing of the indictment of former president VonClownstick.
I've printed out the whole thing and am going through it, no doubt I will have more to post afterward. Meantime, here are some bits said by others I've come across around the interwebs (including Twitter, which I went to today for stuff related to this news but which I generally no longer peruse or patronize; I do wish the folks I had enjoyed following there eventually make the move to Spoutible).
"Again and again, though, the indictment … recontextualizes [the alleged actions] relative to Donald Trump doing the only things that he ever does. Breaking laws in an oafish, overt, seemingly arbitrary way is absolutely Some Donald Trump Shit. But what Trump was doing with all those secret and confidential documents, the indictment reveals, was also Some Donald Trump Shit. While he is certainly one of the most bribe-able individuals of his generation and unquestionably unbound by any higher or finer concerns whatsoever, and while that would not really be the sort of person you'd want having a bunch of sensitive documents in their possession, it is equally salient that Trump is fundamentally an absolutely whopping bitch whose deepest personal desire and abiding life's passion has always been showing off in weird ways and pursuing vinegary personal feuds."
Also, to no one's surprise, Republicans by and large are losing their minds over this and pretending all of this is nothing more than a political hit job. Projection has become the default trait of the modern Republican. Dan Bongino compared President Biden to Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and Hitler for "arresting [a] political opponent" (even though no conviction, let alone sentence, has yet occurred, even though Jack Smith is a non-political special counsel, even though the lack of due process in Pot's Cambodia, Amin's Uganda, and Nazi Germany makes his comparison worthless). Kevin McCarthy, with a straight face and without intending irony, said, "I, and every American who believes in the rule of law, stand with President Trump against this grave injustice. House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable." Ron DeSantis said “[The] weaponization of federal law enforcement represents a mortal threat to a free society," Nikki Haley said that "the American people are exhausted by … vendetta politics," Thom Tillis called it "sad" that "Democrats are presuming guilt for sheer political gain," Steve Scalise claimed that "Joe Biden is weaponizing his Department of Justice against his own political rival." All of this from people who joined in with the crowd shouting "LOCK HER UP" about Hillary Clinton, called for suppression of journalists, and supported unwarranted political hitjobs and baseless accusations and investigations of Democrats Mark Warner, Nancy Pelosi, Adam Schiff, Eric Swallwell, Elijah Cummings, and others, not to mention nonpartisans Anthony Fauci, Andy McCabe, Robert Mueller, the entire FBI, and basically anyone else that spoke out against the treasonous and criminal behavior of Donald J. Trump, his family, and/or his businesses. The 21st Century GOP: Hypocrisy on parade.
As I delve into this long document, I give you some highlights as presented by the guys from Pod Save America. Enjoy.
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My standard view when I go to Mariner games. Slightly higher than optimal, but otherwise great for keeping track of everything on the field
I've gone to three baseball games at the Seattle Mariners' home ballpark this month. The park has a corporately-sponsored name, but since the corporation in question isn't paying me anything I won't contribute to the annoying modern-day normalization of branding everything in sight by using the name here. I prefer to think of the place as "Niehaus Park," after the late Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus, or as "Griffínezuki Field," after the Mariners' three Hall of Famers (two for now, three as soon as Ichiro Suzuki is eligible in two years).
Anyway, branding aside, the experiences were quite different in that (a) the company varied; (b) the games themselves were rather different from each other; and (c) the vantage point changed.
The first I attended mostly by myself, as seatmate DB had had a bit of a day and showed up a little over an hour late, but I was quite engaged by the masterful pitching performance put on by Seattle starter Logan Gilbert, who had a perfect game going into the 7th inning; sadly, his teammates weren't supporting him and he ended up losing 2-1 to Texas. It was a ridiculously fast game, barely over two hours, giving me a little extra confirmation bias regarding the overreach of the new pitch clock in combination with the new normal of 6:40pm start times. When an alleged night game is over before sunset, maybe things need to be rethought a bit.
Second game was courtesy of KA, who bought tickets for herself, her wife, and me through a promotion that got us some extra swag in the form of "Ty France 'Tye'-dye" T-shirts. We were thus seated in the promotional T-shirt section down low in right field, section 116. Being closer to the field like that is neat and, for me, somewhat novel, but on the whole I found it a lousy vantage for keeping track of the game. I'm so used to the view from section 327—from which the entire playing field is visible and I know how to judge the trajectory of balls off the bat, not to mention having a decent sense of whether the home-plate umpire is missing the mark on balls and strikes—that I had trouble following anything hit to left field and no clue whether a pitch was inside or out or down the middle. It's fun to move around some, though, and I appreciate the variety of perspectives on a game. The game was comfortable, a relatively easy 6-1 victory over the hapless Oakland (for now) Athletics, and being treated to greasy fish-n-chips by one's best pal in her company watching a couple of outstanding defensive plays by fill-in first-baseman Sam Haggerty while basking in a beautiful Seattle evening was delightful.
Karen mugging for the camera, us in our Tye-dyes. And evidence that my chipped front tooth is more noticeable than it used to be. I should make a dentist appointment.
The third game was tonight, in the club level way out in deep right (section 213), with WB. WB has been dealing with some life-things that she is remarkably projecting a glass-half-full attitude about; it's an impressive trait of hers that I can only aspire to as I tend to feel injustices a bit more in the taking-offense part of my brain. Anyway, she and I were able to catch up a great deal while watching—or attempting to watch in the first few innings, as our seats were right in line with the setting sun and glare was a real issue—the Mariners' usually outstanding pitching staff fall to pieces against the surprisingly-over-.500 Pittsburgh Pirates, who hit seven home runs in the game. Seven. And not cheap ones, either, these were bombs, including one off the restaurant windows in the second deck. The first of these longballs came on the second pitch of the game. You're just not likely to win when the opponents hit seven homers, and despite some effort to keep things semi-close, the Seattle lineup just couldn't string together enough hits and Pittsburgh took it 11-6.
From what we could see it was pretty.
Sitting in the club level used to have a particular perk to it, in that there are more and allegedly better food options there. The one I was looking forward to tonight was the pasta bar, which prior to this season had been little booth where cooked rigatoni was ready to be covered with the sauce of your choice, heated and mixed in a wok with the protein and veggies of your choice (among just a few options, but still) while you wait. Overpriced, of course, but a way better value than other ballpark concession options and much healthier, and I waited in line for my opportunity to order one such meal. But things have changed, and now they pre-mix all the pasta into a mere two choices that you cannot customize at all: elbow macaroni with meatballs in marinara meat sauce or macaroni-with-chicken alfredo. It felt like a not-at-all subtle middle-finger salute to me and any other vegetarian/pescatarians that (even just occasionally) pay the premium for club-level seating at games. Even the caeser salad offering was prepackaged with chicken, ruining an otherwise tasty snack. The fallback greasy-fish-and-chips were not a ready option either, even if I'd been inclined to have another jump into seafood town so soon after the last one, as there is no Ivar's concession on the club level and I wasn't about to spend two and a half innings hiking up and down stairs to and from other decks to buy something more expensive and less satisfying than what I was set on getting in the first place. I was annoyed, but my perspective check came in the form of a reminder from my seatmate that the ballpark concessionaires didn't deserve my money and I'd be going home $20 richer because of it.
It was also Karaoke Fireworks Night, which was fun; about half the songs were of too recent a vintage for me to have much awareness of them, but I sang along (poorly) with a few and enjoyed the fireworks, though again our seats were less than ideal for that as some of the display was blocked by the retracted roofing structure and the big scoreboard.
In discussing the difference in vantage points with WB, she related some of her recent drama stuff which involved an only-in-America dilemma about health insurance that, once resolved, put the rest of her drama of the moment into a far less stressful perspective. Nothing like a massive scary thing that is 100% the fault of a group of terrorists known as the Republican party to illustrate how, no matter the stress level of your drama, things could be way worse.
Tomorrow is another day. Go M's.
Sunset from 213. Ummm...ball? Strike? Did the pitch get hit?No Comments yet
I had free time today, so I finally got around to fixing some longstanding issues with the site as it appears on mobile devices. Long time coming, I know. Anyway, those of you viewing this on your phone or tablet should have a better layout now, though you may have to clear your browser cache if you've been by here before and it still looks wonky.
Firefox on Android is still giving me a little bit of flak, but it's minor flak, e.g. the rounded edges of the content window are still screwy there. Chrome on Android is still not spacing the text properly, but again, minor flak. For you iOS people I'm using simulators to estimate iOS responses since I don't own any Apple stuff, but it seems like it's all good there. Let me know if not.No Comments yet
Bits and pieces
Returned after paying impound ransom. Glass half full.
Howdy. It's been over a week since the last post, but not for lack of material. I'd actually intended to write about a few things since the Great Car Caper, including its own follow-up, but you know how it is. Work, inertia, splitting headaches, a general feeling of "I just don't want to be at my desk anymore tonight." Anyway, in lieu of the various individual posts I'd been pre-writing in my head since then, here's a catchall one with a few bits and pieces from what I'm sure would have been much more elaborate and articulate ramblings had they gotten their due in a timely manner.
- Car update: The police recovered my car relatively soon after its theft and the only damage to it was superficial (exterior) and annoying (interior), which is to day a chunk missing from the plastic "rain guard" (I suppose it guards from rain getting into the door seal?), a small dent, and what appears to have been an aborted attempt to remove my Biden-Harris bumper sticker; and a truly impressive amount of garbage strewn through the inside. Mostly the trash was food wrappers, candy remnants, fast food bags, fast food detritus, that sort of thing, plus a few empty cans of spray paint. I presume the thieves were graffiti taggers.
My working theory is that the thieves used the car to go from place to vandalize with spray paint to next place to vandalize with spray paint, with stops at various fast food and convenience store candy marts, until it ran out of gas, at which point they abandoned it to likely steal someone else's car rather than buy fuel. Score one for my inefficient internal combustion engine.I emptied all the trash, plus a little of my own trash that was still there, and aired the car out for a day or so to get the smell of fast food out of it. That done, and since I don't care to try and fix the superficial exterior damage, the only real harm done to me aside from the inconvenience of being without it for a few days was the ransom demanded by Lincoln Towing, the company that provided the impound lot the police use. They charged me the towing fee, a city regulatory fee, and hourly storage fees for the time they had the car. Quite the racket they've got going. Other cities have laws that protect auto theft victims from this kind of predation, but not this one. Apparently there was an attempt to pass a measure to address this in the state legislature some time back, but it didn't go anywhere. Alas. Still, way cheaper than replacing the car, so I'm choosing to look at it in a glass-half-full sort of way. And I ordered a wheel-lock thingy for future use when parking on the street.
- Erik went to Korea. And Taiwan. Who knew? This strikes me as a little weird, not because Erik went to these places, but because not long ago I had a strange dream in which my dad and Marty were planning on moving to Pusan. It made zero sense.
- The CNN thing with the "Town Hall" debacle featuring former President VonClownstick was something I was all worked up to write a whole screed about, but now that some time has passed I'm less outraged. Not because the event wasn't deserving of outrage, it was. The fact that CNN thought hosting such a forum would result in anything other than a fiasco is mind-boggling. On the other hand, CNN is under new management that wants it to be a place for disaffected Fox "News" viewers to go, so maybe this is just the first taste of their new business plan. Regardless, the thing did serve a positive purpose among all its rampant disservices, and that is that it provided a ton of material for campaign ads against VonClownstick. The program reminded those of us that were no longer paying attention to politics and the news as deeply as others of us do just who this guy is, that he has not changed, that he will not change, that he is among the vilest human beings to have ever lived. And of who his fans are. That he has followers that just eat his vileness for breakfast and regurgitate it onto society.
Most of the news coverage after the fact has been criticism of CNN. Slate.com has a good analysis of it that includes:CNN CEO Chris Licht said, in response to the criticism of his network's production, "You do not have to like the former president’s answers, but you can’t say that we didn’t get them." Except, yes, Chris, I can say you didn't get them. You got propaganda. You got deflections. You got bald-faced lies. When he was all but cornered on the stolen documents thing, you got "You're a nasty person" as his "answer."
Absolutely every single moment of this debacle was predictable, and it is enraging to see CNN making the exact same mistakes it made when Trump first entered into the public sphere eight years ago. The network gave a seditious would-be despot carte blanche to openly lie on live television for an hour, in front of an adoring crowd, with ineffective pushback from a reporter who, if Wednesday night is any indication, is nowhere near ready for prime time. The pregame chatter among CNN’s vacuous panelists, meanwhile, used the same empty framing that has long made the term “talking heads” a pejorative.All the CNN-bashing is deserved, to be sure, but it misses the bigger issue of what the former president said during the televised hour of journalistic seppuku. He perpetuated his election lies. He once again defamed the woman he has been ordered by a court to pay $5 million to as damages for his sexual assault and defamation of her. He called the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade "a great victory." Instead of answering a question about why he stole government documents after leaving office, he insulted the questioner. Of the January 6, 2021 insurrectionist footsoldiers, he said "They were there with love in their heart. That was unbelievable and it was a beautiful day." He avoided taking any kind of position on the war in Ukraine, lest it upset his good friend Vladimir. That is all very, very important information that should show everyone in the world how this man should not be allowed anywhere near any position of any authority ever again, but because of how it was presented (and subsequently covered by many) I fear that point will not get across to anyone who needs to hear it.The American news media as a whole is terrible, TV news in particular, but outlets one might consider to be better, like National Public Radio, are guilty of the same kind of malfeasance, treating the sort of behavior DJT and his minions exhibit as basically normal politics when it is anything but.
- Related to the CNN thing, there is The Gun Thing. I had some further ranting to do on that, on how the gun "debate" is evidentiary just on its own of the fact that the modern Republican party deserves to be labeled a domestic terrorist organization, but instead today I think I'll just let Wil speak for me.
- I had another umpiring shift yesterday, four games in the sun on the first summery weekend we've seen this year up in these parts. By and large it was a good day, few points of conflict. But there were some, and they put me in mind of something my friend (and softball teammate) Mack posted over on the Book of Faces. I will reproduce it here:
I'm sure my Laws of Sports Conduct apply to every recreational sport, but I don't play "every" recreational sport, I just play softball, and here goes:Obviously, Mack's first point is the one that resonates most with me because I'm often on the umpire's side of things. I'm paid a bit more than $20 a game, but not nearly enough to accept the sort of treatment that an occasional player will vent my way. To date I have ejected exactly two players from softball games in over four years, and one of those was for physical violence, but I have been tempted to toss many. Three or four I probably should have tossed but didn't. Yesterday my shift began in an unusual fashion in that, before the games started, I was approached by a guy who had been giving me shit last week. "Hey man," he said, "I just want to apologize for last week. I just started acting out of my head for no reason at all, I don't know what the fuck that was even about. Sorry." This was good, set the stage for a good day that was only marred by one further violation (from someone else on a different team) of Mack's Rule #1 and one inadvertent violation of Rule #2 that led to some potentially damaging violations of Rule #4 that I was able to defuse relatively quickly. The Rule #1 violator is a chronic offender, though, which makes me cringe a little when I see his team on my schedule.
1. Never so much as grumble to an umpire.
Teams, you're paying the ump like $20 to have them give an unbiased opinion on balls and strikes, safe and out, so STFU and take their word for it. Without an umpire, you'd have no walks and no strikeouts, and some batters would be there for like twenty pitches before they put the ball in play. Also, don't expect the umpire to be better at umpiring than you are at playing. ???? If you suspect that an umpire is mis-applying the rules, you'd better have your rulebook handy, or else don't go out there. Simply, don't. You have a fixed amount of time to play your game. Every minute you spend interacting with an official can cost your teammates an at-bat or even an entire inning of play. It's not worth it.
2. Try to not hurt anybody.
Your job on the field is to make sure nobody gets hurt. So when you're thinking about doing something "sportsmanlike" that can get somebody hurt, don't do it. Don't. Just don't do it. Never ever ever "take someone out" at second base. Don't do it. Your "job" isn't to prevent the double play, it's to keep the opposing player healthy enough to go out to the bar after the game. Don't throw your bat, don't make throws that your teammate can't handle, don't do the "fake tag" thing that makes somebody slide when there isn't even a play on them, and on fly balls—yell loud and clearly that either you're taking it or the other person's taking it. No crashes over a silly pop fly, OK?
3. Respect the equipment.
If you're the kind of player who slams a bat down after striking out, or throws a glove after making an error . . . you need to chill the fuck out. You look like a poster child for a domestic violence abuser, and if your teammate is caring enough, they will and should refer you to some counseling. I often joke that a good craftsperson always blames their tools, because it's obvious that it's not the tool, it's the craftsperson. It's really okay if you're a player who drops a ball or swings and misses. The greatest baseball players in history do that. The reason they "act out" is because of some stupid code that "shows they care." You don't have to show you care—because you shouldn't care. The game doesn't matter. We do this for recreation, not recognition, and certainly not for the adulation. Chill the fuck out.
4. Be supportive of the other team's players.
You're not being disloyal by showing appreciation when the other team makes a nice play or gets a nice hit. It's been proven that we feel better after a high-five than we do after grumbling about a missed opportunity. You don't have to applaud wildly when they turn a double play against you, but you might feel better telling the shortstop, "Nice play" rather than think, "you fucken bastid!"
I've had my share of inappropriate interactions on the playing field. I remember each and every one of them, which is a shame, because I've had so much fun on the field, all of those games and all of those innings and all of those at-bats . . . but it seems that those memories of the pleasant and fun times don't linger. Those memories may not linger, the fun of turning a double play or driving in a run or taking an extra base or making a nice relay throw . . . but the effects of those activities DO linger. They help build friendships, they help build community, they help make the world a better place, one play at a time.
Fun. Recreational sports should be fun. I'm going out there this season to have fun. I invite you, if you're partaking in a recreational sport, to go out and just have fun! And try hard to not hurt anybody!
- I can't believe it's taken me this long to read another Neal Stephenson book. Years and years ago I read Snow Crash, which was terrific, and Zodiac, also quite good, but it's only in the last couple of weeks that I cracked open another Stephenson tome. This one is Cryptonomicon, which is, if I'm recalling Snow Crash properly, not as awesome as that but still pretty darn fine. Plenty more when I finish this one, I guess.
- I am going to unload my tickets to the Mariners/Yankees game on May 31st. That's a softball (playing, not umping) night for me and I'm already missing the prior week's game for similar reasons. Anyone reading this that wants the pair of (quite good) upper deck seats may have them for cost or in trade, otherwise I'm putting them on StubHub for profit. Let me know.
That's not what the song means
So, Thursday night I had an umpiring shift over at Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill. Not unusual, I generally do a couple of those a week out there. On this evening I found myself running late because of a traffic snarl on the freeway—someone had lost a barbecue grill out of the back of a pickup truck, so everyone was wisely slowing down and changing lanes so as not to collide with this tipped-over piece of outdoor cooking tech in the center lane, causing a backup of many miles—and I was hurrying to get to the field on time. Usually on a Thursday I have to park several blocks away. The league doesn't reimburse me for parking as a rule, so I troll for free spots in a very densely populated part of town. On this day, though, I lucked out—someone had just vacated a spot less than one block from the park. The opposite end of the park I needed to be at, but still. Seemed like a break and I got there in plenty of time to set up the field and start the night's games on schedule.
The games were good, mostly with teams I'd not encountered before, though I knew one of the groups from the first game of the evening. Good guys and gals, although some of them kept on nagging me about the conditions; the lights at the park are broken, only about 1/3 of them come on and it's pretty dark when you need to track a fly ball, but what good nagging me about it does is a mystery. For the most part the newbies were good folks too, I was even complimented by one of the guys who was impressed with my "fun differential" (which is a literal inside-baseball joke referring to last year's Seattle Mariners) while another offered to help me collect the outfield cones and another one was effusive about my getting out to call plays on the bases and making sure everyone knew what was what (I figure his prior rec softball experience might be in the city league I sometimes play in, which has some of the gawd-awfulest umpiring I've been around with guys that just stand rooted in place and quietly go "hup" when calling a strike that might well be over a batter's head).
Anyway, when the games were completed at 11:00 and I had packed up the gear, I had some pep in my step and walked the length of the park back toward my car, already plotting out the rest of my night. I have to stop by the league office on the way home to get a gear bag for Sunday's shift, then I'm going to pick up a couple of quick groceries from the one 24-hour Safeway I can think of, then go home, feed the cats, put up my feet, and watch the Mariner game recorded from this afternoon while I eat leftovers from Karen's cooking the prior night. I was humming to the earworm in my head of a Billy Joel song from his 52nd Street album, even though I hadn't been listening to that earlier, and was feeling pretty good.
Then I arrived at my allegedly lucky parking spot to find some other car parked there.
Had I parked illegally? Did someone tow my car? No signs for towing companies anywhere. The posted parking restrictions all expired at 6:00pm and I didn't arrive until a bit before 7:00. But it is Cap Hill, people are zealous about parking. I was kind of freaking out, but also kind of methodical.
I called a friend who has more experience than I do with navigating the parking of Cap Hill, but he had no answers. I called the towing company used by the city police when they tow illegally parked cars. Do you have my car? Nope, sorry. So, the police it is. Called 911—which I was surprised you are supposed to do in a case like this, but you are—and reported my missing vehicle and they dispatched a police unit to talk to me. Took a while for them to get there, a missing car can't be high on the priority list, but they showed around midnight.
Officer Chu was fantastic. Good-humored guy, looked over the site and confirmed, yes, a legal spot, no reason you'd have been towed, 99% likely stolen as it's an older car with no anti-theft stuff. Plus the electronic locks don't work reliably anymore, I have to remember to manually lock the doors, and honestly can't remember if I checked them all since I was hurrying to the field. Chu let me know that the recovery rate for stolen cars is actually pretty high in these parts (around 70%), unlike in other cities and other parts of the country where it can be puny, so I may well get it back before too long. He and his partner, whose name I did not get, gave me a positive experience with the Seattle police, which was reassuring but also made me wonder if certain of my friends would have gotten the same treatment given their ethnic backgrounds. I'm choosing to believe Officer Chu would be just as cool with them because, hey, he seemed like a good dude. His mustachioed partner, who knows, he didn't say much.
After finishing with the cops I made my way to the Cap Hill train station and barely caught the last train of the night that would take me as far as the Northgate station, after which I begged a favor of my only friend in the north end with wheels that I knew wasn't a freakish morning person (looking at you, Failor) and that didn't have to punch a clock in the morning.
Ultimately I got home. Way later than planned. But I still watched the M's game (good one, too). And scrolled through autotrader.com to see what I'm looking at as a monetary hit if I need to buy a new-to-me used car; looks like maybe $5-8k. Really bad timing on that, given my giant HOA assessment hit this month.
Ironically, there was a particular CD in the car stereo. On my drive down I had been listening to The Beatles' Rubber Soul. Beatle fen will know what the first track on that album is. And, yes, I might be a star when it comes to the cast of rec league softball umps, but no, car thief, I will not, in fact, love you. Bastard.
UPDATE: Shortly after I posted this, the police phoned me to say they had recovered my car near Harborview Medical Center, not that far from where it was stolen. Apparently it had not had its plates removed and was "in driveable condition," though no word on whether or not it is damaged. It's being towed to an impound lot now and I can call the towing company tomorrow to arrange to reclaim it. Hopefully there's not a big fee attached to that.4 Comments
Philadelphia's ballpark is among my most favorites, with all its flats and angles and variety of spaces outside the main seating area. The only drawback is its location amidst a sea of asphalt in south Philly.
So, yeah, there's a lot of important stuff going on in the news—the governor of Florida seems hell-bent on turning his state into a fascist hellscape that somehow relies on tourism; two-thirds of the Supreme Court is more corrupt than Warren G. Harding, Spiro Agnew, Ted Stevens, and the entire Reagan Administration combined; shootings are rampant across America; and so on—but tonight I'm just going to make a few observations about baseball and the Seattle Mariners. Because, hey, you gotta find some balance, right?
The Mariners just concluded a three-game series in Philadelphia, in which they lost two of three at my favorite big-league venue of those I have actually been to personally. (Philly's corporately-branded ballpark has great sightlines, lovely brick everywhere, angles galore—no rounded walls in sight—lots of great spaces, Phillies history exhibits, lots of great stuff. Too bad it's so far from downtown.) When I'm watching games on television I sometimes mix it up and watch the other team's broadcast feed—since we live in the future and that's a thing we can do now—because (a) the Mariners' broadcast team ranges from OK to bad, with color commentator Mike Blowers the only reliably good voice in the booth, and I like to get a feel for what fans in other markets get to hear day in and day out; and (b) it's fun to get the opposition's perspective on what the Mariners do in the way of, er, let's call it "strategy."
So, the Phillies TV team is headed by Tom McCarthy, a consummate pro and one of the best play-by-play guys working today, with sidekick and color commentator John Kruk, a former All-Star first baseman for the Phils and a general goofball on the air. They make a great and complementary duo, with McCarthy effortlessly shifting from accurate game-calling to engaging with Kruk's blue-collar humor and unfiltered observations of the moment. Some of it is just silly, like their banter about Seattle catcher Cal Raleigh's nickname of "Big Dumper" and how completely off-color it can be interpreted. Some of it, as Kruk himself says on air, gets him emailed reprimands from Major League Baseball for not only skirting the language regs but for not towing the Commissioner's party line (this is the best stuff, naturally).
During these three games, Seattle manager Scott Servais was the indirect subject of criticism by McCarthy and Kruk, though they were generously giving the benefit of the doubt, expressing puzzlement. On Monday the Mariners' starting pitcher was Marco Gonzales, who, as McCarthy helpfully told everyone, was coming off one of the best games of his career in his previous start, one in which he was snakebit by his relief. (Marco had thrown six brilliant innings against Milwaukee, shutting them out on just two hits and an umpire-aided walk; Servais let him start the seventh inning, but then pulled him after just four pitches because the first one was dribbled weakly past the shortstop for a cheap hit and the fourth—which was precisely the type of pitch and in the precise spot catcher Tom Murphy called for, on purpose—was struck for a standard run of the mill big-league single. This was panic time for Servais, who went to the bullpen because, oh my god we're in the 7th inning and we've yet to use a reliever!! and oh my god, Gonzales is nearly at 90 pitches and must therefore be losing it!!! Matt Brash came in to allow both baserunners to score and the score went from 2-0 in favor of Seattle to 5-2 Milwaukee before the inning was over, and there was Marco leaning on the dugout railing, thinking "good grief, I'd have gotten out of that with one run scoring at worst, but nooooo, Scott has to be a slave to the fucking pitch count." I mean, probably. He should have been thinking that if he wasn't.) Anyway, here in Philadelphia, Marco was once more cruising through the game, retiring one Philly batter after another with only one real blemish, a solo home run by Edmundo Sosa. Then in the top of the sixth frame, as Teoscar Hernández is circling the bases on his two-run homer, McCarthy notices activity in the Seattle bullpen. "What's that about?" he asks. Kruk concurs. "Why? Gonzales is only at, what, 70 pitches?" (It was 75, but still.) "There didn't appear to be an injury of any kind, he's not on short rest," McCarthy added (I'm paraphrasing). They were genuinely perplexed.
I, however, have observed Scott Servais manage the Mariners for years and I know what McCarthy and Kruk did not: Servais makes a game plan ahead of time and doesn't let pesky things like what happens in the game deter him from sticking to it, and he's a slave to pitch counts. God forbid a starter goes over 90, it's as if that would bring the horsemen of the apocalypse riding in to rain destruction on all the land.
Tuesday saw the M's start Logan Gilbert on the mound. He too was pulled from the game after just five innings, and once again McCarthy and Kruk were befuddled. Gilbert hadn't been as sharp or as economical as Gonzales had been, but was still in the lead and pitching well. Continuing to puzzle over it, McCarthy seemed to be starting to catch on, opining that perhaps this was just how the Mariners do things because they've had such good relief pitching the last couple of years. I'm not sure how much I agree with the "good relief" part of that, but yeah, that's totally it. The ’pen blew it in this case, though, as Philadelphia came back to win in the late innings.
Then came today, when the starter for Seattle was George Kirby, who, as McCarthy once again told us all—the guy really is a pro, he does his homework—constantly throws strikes and should generate a lot of contact. Which was true, and lo and behold we get to the seventh inning and what's this? Kirby is back out on the mound. McCarthy and Kruk are confused again. McCarthy looks it up: this is the first time Kirby's ever pitched beyond the 6th inning. Is there something different about today? Kruk starts to suggest that since the pitch count is low—still under 70—that's why, but McCarthy reminds him (and us) that Gonzales got pulled with roughly the same count and he was pitching at least as effectively. Confusion reigned again.
For the record, Kirby completed the game. Only eight frames, but still, it's a CG in the books, a rarity in today's game and a near-unicorn-level rarity on a Scott Servais team. Still lost, though, as Philly took it 1-0.
Kruk was also entertaining to me as a critic of the new rules, specifically the pitch clock. There was an issue with time-outs and a clock violation in yesterday's game and Kruk said, "what a great game this used to be." He also remarked that he'd better stop saying such things if he didn't want another email from Major League Baseball. Come on, Kruk, you know you want to say it: Manfred sucks.
Seattle finds itself in fourth place in the standings as the first month of the season draws to a close, three games under .500 and three back of first-place Houston. Not great, but not that bad either, and things still look quite promising despite Scott Servais' inability to think on his feet. One reason they do is the Mariners' third baseman, Eugenio Suárez. Geno has completely changed his approach at the plate from last season. Instead of the uppercut swing of prior years, he's swinging more level and thus hitting more liners and base hits. Compared to this time last year, his batting average is up 30 points and strikeouts are down. Fewer home runs, but more runs batted in. It is exactly the kind of thing I gave up on ever seeing from the Mariners, who for so long have been champions of the "go deep or go home," "launch angle is all" school of dumb hitting coaches. Keep at it, Geno.
Jarred Kelenic is another bright spot on this so-far underachieving team. The former top prospect has learned well from the brutal dose of humility dumped on him in both of his attempts at a rookie season in 2021 and ’22 and is currently the team's best hitter by a mile at .313 (no one else is over .260, though J.P. Crawford has come on strong in the last two weeks). Is he finally going to be the guy that the team brass thought they were getting when they traded Edwin Díaz for him? Is it ridiculous that the word "finally" is in that sentence, as had he not been rushed way too soon to the bigs this is basically when he'd be coming up anyway? (Answers: Maybe, and yes.)
That relief corps that Servais seems to love so much continues to trouble me, but left-hander Gabe Speier has been terrific. Everyone else, well, my confidence is not inspired.
Oh, and last year's big free-agent add, former Cy Young Award winning pitcher Robbie Ray, is this year's James Paxton: One start and done. He'll miss the remainder of the year with a flexor tendon injury. Not great for the M's, but the balance of the starting rotation is really, really good, save Ray's current fill-in (Chris Flexen), who's been pretty brutal. My opinion is that they can weather the loss fairly easily, maybe by taking a flyer on someone recently cut by another team (probably not Madison Bumgarner, though), maybe by recalling Tommy Milone again, who did great in his one chance this year despite being a victim of Servais' absurd proclivities. There's really no one else on the farm that's ready to get a shot. It'll be interesting to see what they choose to do.
The M's go north of the border for their next series, and I look forward to learning how the Toronto Blue Jays' broadcast team handles things and seeing graphics with Canadian spellings like "defence."No Comments yet
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Don't be a level 7 susceptible
The other day I was at the Mariners game with my friend Mack. He and I were discussing the various things, good and (mostly) bad, that have changed in baseball since Rob Manfred took over as Commissioner of Baseball and eventually we got to advertising. The Manfred era has brought more ads to the baseball consumer, including ads on the field of play at some venues (on the back of the pitcher's mound for the TV cameras and on the grass in foul ground along the baselines) and even ads on the players' uniforms.
Thankfully, not even half of the teams have instituted the uniform ads (yet). But there doesn't seem to be enough of an outcry among fans of those teams that have; I suppose our culture has just become so conditioned to accept being inundated with branding and commercialism in every moment of existence that we're kind of numb to it.
Which brings up the meat of my conversation with Mack: What's the point of it all?
Obviously, the point to Manfred and company is revenue; advertisers pay for the opportunity to plaster their logos on spaces that will get exposed to our eyeballs and MLB and the teams rake in some dough. But what's the point to the advertisers? Do they get any benefit out of this, really?
A prominent software company based in the area has an ad on the outfield wall of the ballpark (and on the rotating billboards on the wall behind home plate). Everyone knows what that company is, we see it and register "that's an ad for the software giant we're all familiar with," but does that translate somehow into more money for the company?
Mack listed off all the ads visible from our seats. We know all of the brand names. We may even associate those brands with memorable marketing, e.g. the Bob Uecker ads for a certain beer brand back in the day. We may do business with those companies, we may not. But the fact that they advertise at the ballpark means nothing to us.
If I get on an flight offered by Airline X it's because their schedules and pricing were more advantageous than those of competing airlines, not because they put their logo on the outfield wall or sponsor the Mariners' pregame show on the radio. I suppose if I had never heard of Airline X I might go "hm, they sponsor the Mariners, I will add them to the list of options I look at when booking flights." Maybe. But what percentage of the audience is going to fit into that scenario? Does this bank or that gasoline brand get more business from people that go to baseball games because they put their logos on the stadium wall? Do San Diego Padres fans all now flock to buy the sponsored brand of phones because the Padres wear that company logo on their sleeves? I rather doubt it.
Sometimes marketing has a clear purpose. Like the scenario of never having heard of Airline X, getting the name recognition out there so your company will be thought of and considered, that makes some sense. Big well-known outfits can do well with great commercials; the prominent software company's principal competitor has had some genius ads over the years that have undeniably been very successful. But those tend to be funny commercials or ads that make an impact through the accompanying message, not just a wordmark or a bit of iconography. Don't get me wrong, I love good iconography, and I guess if all else were equal and I was choosing between two brands I may well go with the one with the better design sense. But generally a great logo isn't enough to make me choose Brand X over Brand Y, and the fact that Brand X is in my face every time I watch a ballgame is not necessarily going to help their cause.
I was at another game more recently with another friend, one who still works tangentially in the advertising world, and brought this up. She was of another mind about it altogether, citing various psychological/sociological theories about what are effectively subliminal connections people can make with brands because of the repetition of seeing the names and iconography in circumstances they associate with good times. That sounded a bit too "big brother" to me for comfort, but she's probably right. People are, indeed, sheep in may ways.
I then recalled an episode of the late great sitcom Community, wherein the character of Craig is targeted by a guerrilla marketer because Craig is discovered to be "a level seven susceptible." It's pretty funny as over the course of the half hour we see Craig surrounded by more and more products from the guerrilla marketer's employer corporation. (Also a very creative way to get some product placement bucks while mocking things like product placement. Community was awesome.)
So I guess ballpark ads are like junk mail. There's a relatively tiny rate of return on them, individual consumer-wise, but of those few perhaps enough of them are level seven susceptibles to make it profitable. Kind of like the MAGA problem.
So...humanity is probably screwed.
What a week
Whatever else has gone on the last week-plus, Picard has been a reliable highlight
So, it's been a while since I posted anything here. I've been pretty busy with work of different types. A client gig that was supposed to be relatively small that turned into a pretty involved endeavor because of software bugs led to a few all-nighters that I've not recovered from yet, hence me blogging at 3:00am (again). Also my umpiring gig involved a three game shift the other night that was just a miserable experience—it was raining, it was cold, there was an altercation between players I had to deal with—that I was half-convinced was going to result in my getting sick, but I guess my immune system is better than I gave it credit for and I wasn't out of commission for very long.
But it isn't like there was a shortage of things to post about. I mean, the domestic terrorists and autocrats known as the Republican Party have just kept on doing their thing to frighten their constituents and do anything they can think of to wrest more power for themselves in defiance of democracy. A week after I posted a screed about gun violence there was another mass shooting. Then another one the next day. And another one while that second one was happening, in the same town. Which begat more Republican autocratic power grabs and more Republican legislation to abet domestic terrorists.
You know, the usual.
Not all the news was bad, though. My state Attorney General, the awesome Bob Ferguson, stuck it to a suburban gun shop for over 2,600 counts of violating the law limiting what amount of ammunition can be sold, that was very cool. And my governor made noise about protecting my state from those autocratic Republican terror laws. Oh, and former president vonClownstick is squawking about his criming, which is equal parts entertaining and scary.
And then there was the pop culture stuff. Season 3 of Star Trek: Picard is nearing its conclusion without missing a beat, continuing to deliver some truly great stuff. (I wonder if there might have been a little overreach in this week's episode, but I guess we'll find out in the finale next week.) Ted Lasso is also in its season 3, and while it continues to be great it's pacing is a bit slower than over on Picard; interesting stuff has been set up, but not much payoff yet. Then there's a little show called The Big Door Prize—it's on Apple TV+ and from some of the folks that made Schitt's Creek, starring the always charming Chris O'Dowd, whom I enjoy in pretty much anything he's done. That show is a really interesting character study of disparate people in this small town that become enamored with a seemingly magic machine that tells them "their true life potential." I recommend.
What I haven't made time for the past week-plus is my new bike, which still awaits my attention to replace its seat and install a rack. Hopefully I'll get to that soon. Nor have I done any reading of anything other than some news, which is very unusual. Not counting the reference materials on SQL databases I made use of in the aforementioned all-nighters, anyway. My pile of books and comics just keeps growing and I need to make a dent.
Anywho. This has been a blithering blog post of no import and little focus. I now return you to your regularly scheduled websurfing.No Comments yet
New Season Primer
For the benefit of the few of you that were loyal readers of the now-defunct site I used to run about the Seattle Mariners, here is a much-abbreviated version of what might have run there as we approached Opening Day last Thursday.
Keeping track of the offseason player movements is sometimes a challenge, and as you tune in or go to the ballpark in 2023 you may wonder, "What happened to so-and-so?" and "Who's this guy that I never heard of before?" Well, fear not, I'm here for you. And after last season's playoff run, the team was already in pretty decent shape, so there's not a ton of new faces to learn. We'll miss some of the guys who have left Seattle, but welcome the new additions to the fold.
|Gone from 2022||New in 2023|
|Player||New team||Player||Former team|
|Adam Frazier (2B/OF)||Baltimore (free agent)||Trevor Gott (RHP)||Milwaukee (FA)|
|Mitch Haniger (RF)||San Francisco (FA)||Teoscar Hernández (OF)||Toronto (trade)|
|Kyle Lewis (OF)||Arizona (traded)||Cooper Hummel (C/OF)||Arizona (trade)|
|Carlos Santana (DH/1B)||Pittsburgh (FA)||Tommy LaStella (IF)||San Francisco (FA)|
|Erik Swanson (RHP)||Toronto (traded)||A.J. Pollock (LF)||Los Angeles Dodgers (FA)|
|Abraham Toro (IF)||Milwaukee (traded)||Gabe Speier (LHP)||Kansas City (waivers)|
|Luis Torrens (C)||Chicago Cubs (FA)||Kolten Wong (2B)||Milwaukee (trade)|
|Jesse Winker (LF)||Milwaukee (traded)|
|Curt Casali (C)||Cincinnati (FA)|
|Matthew Boyd (LHP)||Detroit (FA)|
The big moves were the trade of Winker and Toro to the Brewers for Wong and dealing Swanson and a minor-league prospect to the Blue Jays for Hernández. The rest of the shuffling was fairly minor, though Pollock could become an important piece and I'm intrigued by Hummel.
With Frazier leaving, the Mariners needed someone to hold down second base, and though I'd have preferred it if they gave Sam Haggerty a chance to claim the spot, Wong is a proven hitter and defender (though he played below expectations in Milwaukee). Losing Haniger is a bummer, but Hernández is a terrific pickup to take the right field job. Cutting ties with Kyle Lewis wasn't popular, but I like it—he may well turn into a fine hitter, but aside from being injury-prone, he only showed three weeks of solid production for the M's; it was just magnified because those weeks came in the mini-season of 2020. There wasn't room for him in the outfield mix anymore anyhow, and Cooper Hummel was an on-base machine at all levels of the Diamondbacks' minors and put up decent defensive marks as a catcher while capable of playing the corner outfield as well, so I like the trade.
Winker is apt to have a great year now that the M's have dealt him away, but I don't mind shipping him off in the Wong trade. One year of Winker for one year of Wong, contractually speaking, plus the addition-by-subtraction of unloading Toro in the process. If spring training is anything to go by—and it rarely is, so who knows—Jarred Kelenic might just be ready to come into his own, making Winker eminently expendable. And if Kelenic still can't cut it every day, Pollock can step in beyond a strict platoon, and there's some outfield depth in the minors/coming off of injury.
On paper, you'd think the guy the M's will miss most is Swanson, but Swannie's better off with the Blue Jays. Manager Scott Servais never seemed to know how to use Swanson in a way that played to his strengths, so getting traded might be how he gets to finally be a go-to 8th- or 9th-inning guy.
Anywho, the ’23 Mariners will feature a very strong starting rotation, even though Robbie Ray is on the injured list after just one game. With Ray out for likely a month or more, it'll be Luis Castillo, Chris Flexen (in Ray's spot), Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzales, and George Kirby. It's not often that the number two spot is the weak link, but weak is relative here. These guys could all go deep into games if their manager would allow it, but as it's Scott Servais we're talking about, they'll get shortchanged some innings in favor of an overstuffed bullpen more often than is ideal.
That ’pen is a bit of a crapshoot, too. One of the club's strengths the past couple of years, the relief corps strikes me as the Mariners' biggest potential trouble spot. There's a lot of upside in youngsters Andres Muñoz and Matt Brash, but they're both still a bit raw; Diego Castillo was great a few years ago, but not lately; Gott seems like your average middle-relief guy. It just seems iffy to me. Is the Paul Sewald of 2022 for real or will he regress? Matt Festa and Penn Murfee have looked great from time to time, but they've also looked awful on occasion; Speier has been hit-and-miss, both literally and figuratively, in his time with the Royals, and he's the only southpaw in the group. Of course, if Servais let his starters pitch seven-plus on the regular, this would be less of a deal; why, they might even realize that carrying eight relievers is kind of bonkers! Yeah, yeah, I know. Never happen.
But with that pitching staff and a lineup that features Ty France, Julio Rodríguez, Eugenio Suárez, and Hernández, this looks to be a fun season. Wong and J.P. Crawford up the middle are among the best defenders at their respective positions, and thanks to the (dumb) rule that caps the number of pitchers on the roster, the team will have a workable bench complement. I mean, it'd be better to have five than four, but Servais has to have his extra reliever. Thankfully the bench has a lot of versatility—Haggerty can play six positions; Dylan Moore, when he gets healthy, can play seven; Hummel can spell the catchers or let one of them DH without courting the disaster scenario of having a catcher get hurt and no one left to put on the gear; and whichever outfielder isn't in the lineup (most often Pollock or Kelenic) figures to be the go-to pinch-hitter.
Got all that? See, not much different from 2022. It's not like being a Reds fan, for whom only every fourth guy is a name you might recognize; or a Marlins fan, where every other name prompts a reaction of, "wait, he plays for Miami now?" (Did you know Jean Segura is a Marlin now? See, you didn't, did you.)
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