Cup of Coffee: April 20, 2023
The Las Vegas A's, Scherzer gets the boot, MadBum gets the Red Ass, Manfred does Manfred things, NBC's union-busting, and I write too few words about Rickey and a LOT of words about Twitter
Good morning! And welcome to Free Thursday!
There was breaking news last night that the A’s have a stadium deal in Las Vegas and we, obviously, talk a lot about that. We also talk about the brouhaha in the Mets-Dodgers game involving Max Scherzer and the Case of Too Much Rosin.
There’s a HELL of a lot of other stuff today too, so come on in, shake the cornstarch off my mukluks, sit down for a bit and enjoy the latest episode of Cup of Coffee.
And That Happened
Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:
Mets 5, Dodgers 3: The most amazing thing that happened here was that Max Scherzer didn’t literally murder someone. I mean, I’m glad he didn’t, but if he had I’d be one of those talking heads on TV saying “of course I’m shocked, but I’m not really surprised . . .” The whole story on Scherzer getting the boot for (maybe) having foreign substances is discussed in full down in The Daily Briefing, but let us at least register our relief that no one lost their lives in this brouhaha.
As for the game, Jimmy Yacabonis came on in relief of Scherzer and pitched two and a third innings of two-hit ball and Adam Ottavino saved it despite giving up a dinger to David Peralta’s. Brandon Nimmo hit a two-run homer off of the Mets old friend Noah Syndergaard, Tommy Pham hit a sac fly, and Mark Canha doubled in two in the ninth for insurance. To be continued.
Cubs 12, Athletics 2: We’ll cover all the Las Vegas A’s stuff down in The Daily Briefing, so for now let’s just focus on the game.
Subscriber/Oakland fan Aaron Cameron described A’s starter Mason Miller, who was called up to make his big league debut for this game, thusly: “Dude only has 11 minor league appearances, two screws in his elbow, he’s an inspirational type 1 diabetic and throws 100 mph with a plus slider, supposedly.” Not supposedly! Actually it seems, as Miller reached 100 mph with 15 of 81 pitches and averaged 99.3 mph with 53 fastballs on the afternoon, so the dude’s got a hose, that’s for sure. He allowed two runs, four hits and one walk with five strikeouts in four an a third and that’s not too bad for your first day in The Show. The problem, of course, is that the rest of his team is dog crap and the Cubs beat up A’s relievers to the tune of ten runs on seven hits and four walks. Eric Hosmer homered for the first time since the McKinley Administration, Patrick Wisdom hit a two-run triple, and Nico Hoerner added three hits. The A's have lost seven straight and at 3-16 are off to their worst start since 1951, back when they played in Philadelphia. That team — the first one without Connie Mack at the helm — somehow managed to go 70-84. If the 2023 A’s win 70 games I’ll eat Connie Mack’s straw boater. Hell, at this point, with them being a lame duck in Oakland, those comps I made the other day to the 1899 Cleveland Spiders may be more apt than ever.
Rays 8, Reds 0: After taking the first game of this series the Reds dropped the last two while being outscored 18-0. That’s the same score that two forfeits would’ve amounted to so the Reds could’ve just taken a little road trip to Hocking Hills or Big Bone Lick State Park instead. It would’ve been more enjoyable and would’ve given the pitching staff a nice blow. Alas. Anyhoo, the Rays scored six in the first via a Yandy Díaz homer and a bunch more violence Drew Rasmussen allowed three hits in five shutout innings with seven strikeouts and the pen finished the five-hitter. The Rays staff has tossed six shutouts in their first 19 games. The entire three-game series drew 31,794 souls. Well, that’s how many paid. Far fewer showed up. Last year Reds president Failson Castellini defiantly asked where Reds fans were gonna go if the team sucked. I don’t know that anyone knows the answer to that question for sure, but it sure as hell ain’t Great American Ballpark.
Guardians 3, Tigers 2: A José Ramírez three-run jack in the sixth was all the Guardians needed in this one thanks to Cal Quantrill shutting out the Kitties on four hits in his six innings of work. Detroit did claw back a couple in the late innings when Quantrill got lifted after getting hit in the leg by a comebacker but not enough.
Giants 5, Marlins 2: Michael Conforto and Mike Yastrzemski each hit two-run homers in the 11th inning to help the Giants snap a five-game skid. The Marlins bullpen had pitched 20.2 scoreless innings until those dingers, but all good things must come to an end.
Cardinals 14, Diamondbacks 5: Tommy Edman and five RBI and Nolan Gorman hit a grand slam but the best part of this game was a walk.
Madison Bumgarner hasn’t been the Madison Bumgarner of old for a few years now, but he’s still a world class red-ass. My dude was in the process of giving up seven runs in three innings while watching his ERA swell to double digits and he still thought it was his job to tell an opposing player that he wasn’t playing the game the right way.
In the bottom of the third inning Willson Contreras got mad at himself for not putting a good swing on a ball he thought he should’ve handled. That has nothing to do with anyone but Contreras. He was not showing anyone up. He was not showboating. He was minding his own business and trying to play the best game he can play. But Bumgarner — who thinks everything is about himself and that policing others, especially Latinos I’ve noticed — decided to bark at him:
I LOVE the bat flip after Bumgarner walked him. I love it even more that by the time that inning ended a 3-3 game had turned into a 7-3 game with MadBum at the booty end of the stick. Just a total asshole. I hope his ERA is Infinity.Infinity by the All-Star break.
Phillies 5, White Sox 2: Trea Turner homered and had three hits, Brandon Marsh also went deep and Taijuan Walker allowed two while working into the seventh. Mike Clevinger took the loss which, since we’re talking about jackass pitchers I don’t much care for, good.
Rangers 12, Royals 3: Marcus Semien had three hits and drove in two, Jonah Heim hit a three-run shot, and Ezequiel Duran cleared the bases with a three-run double as the Rangers sweep Kansas City. They Royals gotta be pretty happy the A’s exist, because if it wasn’t for them they’d be the worst damn thing going. And, let’s be real, they’re still a pretty bad thing going, having lost six and a row while being outscored 52-15 in the process.
Pirates 14, Rockies 3: The Pirates keep rolling while the Rockies keep sucking, having dropped eight straight. Rodolfo Castro hit loooooong homer and drove in four, Andrew McCutchen had an RBI double, and ex-Rockie Connor Joe had three hits as the Pirates complete a three-game sweep in which they outscored Colorado 33-9.
Brewers 5, Mariners 3: Julio Rodríguez hit a two-run homer off of Brewers starter Eric Lauer but that’s all Lauer would allow as Milwaukee rode a five-run seventh to victory. The Brewers sweep Seattle. I'd like to think that there is some old, dead-end Seattle Pilots fan who transferred his or her alliance to the Milwaukee in 1970 who was happy about this but I sorta doubt such a beast exists.
Padres 1, Atlanta 0: The Padres had scored one run in the previous three games but . . . well, they only scored one run here too, but at least in this case that was enough to snap Atlanta’s eight-game winning streak. That run came via a Juan Soto solo homer. Nick Martinez tossed seven shutout innings as San Diego pitchers twirled a four-hitter. The Padres get Fernando Tatis back tomorrow. They get Joe Musgrove back this weekend. Maybe they’ll finally wake up and be the team they’re supposed to be.
Orioles 4, Nationals 0: Kyle Bradish and four O’s relievers combined on a six-hit shutout. Nothing new, of course, as this was the second shutout of the Nats in a row and Baltimore pitchers tossed 26 consecutive scoreless innings. Adam Frazier hit a two-run homer.
Twins 10, Red Sox 4: Corey Kluber got rocked for seven runs in the early going and there’s no coming back from that. Not usually anyway. His ERA is 8.50 now. Not gonna take any joy in my prediction that he would not what the Red Sox needed this year because he was a beast for Cleveland for a good while there, but he ain’t what the Red Sox need. For the Twins, Edouard Julien hit an early two-run homer. Joey Gallo hit a three-run homer in the third. Trevor Larnach hit a three-run shot later. It was just a bloody mess for Boston.
Yankees 3, Angels 2: Aaron Judge hit an early two-run homer and robbed Shohei Ohtani of a home run of his own with a spectacular catch in center field. Later he made another amazing catch to rob Brandon Drury of extra bases. The Yankees then walked it off in the tenth on a sac fly. Big stars doing big star things, man. You love to see it.
Astros 7, Blue Jays 1: Luis García was dominant, shutting out the Jays on two hits over seven while striking out nine and Jeremy Peña capped a six-run eighth with a three-run homer.
The Daily Briefing
The Athletics are Vegas-bound
The Oakland A’s have entered into a binding agreed to purchase 49 acres north of the Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas with the hopes of having a new stadium ready to start the 2027 season. They are likewise closing in on a binding agreement to construct a $1 billion stadium. The team’s official statement:
“The A’s have signed a binding agreement to purchase land for a future ballpark in Las Vegas. We realize this is a difficult day for our Oakland fans and community.
“For more than 20 years, the A’s have focused on securing a new home for the Club, and have invested unprecedented time and resources for the past six years to build a ballpark in Oakland. Even with support from fans, leaders at the city, county, and state level, and throughout the broader community, the process to build a new ballpark in Oakland has made little forward progress for some time. We have made a strong and sincere effort to stay here.”
“We recognize that this is very hard to hear. We are disappointed that we have been unable to achieve our shared vision of a waterfront ballpark. As we shift our focus to Vegas, we will continue to share details about next steps.”
Shen Thao, the mayor of Oakland had this to say:
“It is clear to me that the A’s have no intention of staying in Oakland and have simply been using this process to try to extract a better deal out of Las Vegas. I am not interested in continuing to play that game - the fans and our residents deserve better . . . I refuse to compromise the safety and well-being of our residents. Given these realities, we are ceasing negotiations and moving forward on alternatives for the redevelopment of Howard Terminal.”
In a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal Rob Manfred said: “We support the A’s turning their focus on Las Vegas and look forward to them bringing finality to this process by the end of the year.”
As for the stadium, The Nevada Independent reports that the governor and state legislators are on board with the deal. It sounds like the usual situation: the politicians are saying there will be “no new taxes” to pay for it yet they are concocting an elaborate special taxing district, diverting, sales taxes, and are using terms like “public-private partnership” which means that hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds are, without question, going to the A’s and their stadium.
Las Vegas will be the fourth city that the A’s call home, having played in Philadelphia from their founding in 1901 through 1954, and moving to Kansas City and playing there from 1955 through 1967. They have been in Oakland for the past 55 years, longer than any other city. They have, quite obviously, however, had one foot out the door for a long time.
The A’s spent many years under two different ownership regimes to figure out a way to stay in the Bay Area, looking at sites in San Jose, Fremont and, for the past several years, in and around Oakland. While for a long time they seemed committed to staying put in the East Bay, ever since the possibility of Las Vegas arose a couple of years ago it’s seemed pretty clear that they’ve been using Oakland as a bargaining chip and had no plans to stay. As it is, they have slashed the payroll, raised ticket prices in an effort to squeeze more money out of fans, and now they stand as one of the worst teams in recent baseball history.
Oakland baseball fans deserve better. They’ve been taken advantage of like crazy all so John Fisher and Dave Kaval can get another billion bucks or two in their pockets. As it stands now the team is supposed to finish this season in Oakland and play there three more seasons before heading to the desert. One can only hope that everyone realizes how awkward that is and that they just pick up and move now and play in some temporary location to save everyone the indignities of more bad baseball in a vermin-ridden stadium with empty seats. Most of all, they can save everyone the indignity of John Fisher and Dave Kaval making a single penny from the people and city of Oakland.
The A’s now have the pile of chips in front of them that they wanted. It’s time for them to collect their winnings, cash out, and hit the road.
Max Scherzer given the heave-ho for having rosin on his glove
As mentioned above, Mets starter Max Scherzer was ejected in the fourth inning after umpire Phil Cuzzi for having rosin on his glove. In the leadup to the ejection Cuzzi noticed rosin on Scherzer’s hands after the second inning and was told to wash it off, which Scherzer said he did. Cuzzi then checked again after the third, said that the combination of the alcohol Scherzer had used to wash his hands and the rosin was too sticky and that he needed to wash it off again and change his glove, which also had rosin on it. Cuzzi and crew chief Dan Bellino then came out to check Scherzer again before the bottom of the fourth. After a heated discussion during which Scherzer repeatedly yelled “it’s rosin!” he was given the heave-ho.
After the game Scherzer had this to say:
“I'd have to be an absolute idiot to try to do anything when I'm coming back out for the fourth . . .He said my hand is too sticky, and I said, 'I swear on my kids' life that I'm not using anything else. This is sweat and rosin, sweat and rosin.' I don't get how I get ejected when I'm in front of MLB officials doing exactly -- exactly -- what you want. And being deemed my hands too sticky when I'm using legal substances, I do not understand that.”
Which, yeah, you gotta admit that farting around like that would be monumentally stupid and Scherzer is not a stupid man. All of this, I would guess, is a function of (a) MLB’s stated intent to crack down on foreign substances more this year; (b) the clownery which surrounded Domingo Germán not getting ejected for having a bunch of rosin on his hands last week, which rankled some folks; and (c) umpires trying to carry out orders, the standard for which they’re not really clear on so they chose to err on the side of harsher discipline.
Scherzer’s agent, Scott Boras, chose to weigh in after the game too:
“MLB standards and rules enforcement should mandate and require an objective verifiable standard. If you want to attack the integrity of the competition you need clear precise standards or else you damage the game and its players. The Cuzzi on-field spectrometer is not the answer. MLB needs to employ available scientific methods (not subjective) to create verifiable certainty of its rules.”
Points for Boras being Boras and referencing “the Cuzzi on-field spectrometer.” That’s why he makes the big bucks.
That said, contrary to what Boras wants you to think, there is a standard to all of this. Specifically, the rule on sticky substances states that “player use of rosin always must be consistent with the requirements and expectations of the Official Baseball Rules. When used excessively or otherwise misapplied (i.e., to gloves or other parts of the uniform), rosin may be determined by the umpires to be a prohibited foreign substance, the use of which may subject a player to ejection and discipline.”
Boras may not like that there is an element of umpire judgment here — and Major League Baseball may have spent the past decade or so trying to change every rule it can change in such a way as to read out umpire judgment — but at some point humans do have to judge these things. Cuzzi, presumably, felt the rosin was “excessive” or “misapplied.” Boras may not like that such a thing can’t be measured in metric or imperial units, but it is a standard.
Scherzer, Boras, and the Mets will no doubt be pleading their case with Rob Manfred and his gang in the coming days. If Scherzer is deemed to have violated the rule on sticky substances, he’ll get an automatic 10-game suspension, which can be appealed.
Rob Manfred wants to limit player contract length
Evan Drellich of The Athletic reports that Rob Manfred wants to limit the length of guaranteed contracts. Here’s Manfred, speaking at a conference on Tuesday:
“A reform that has been of interest to ownership for a number of years is a limitation of contract length. Obviously players love it, it gives them financial security for a very long period of time. The difficulty — and I think players will come to appreciate this as time goes by — those contracts result in a transfer from the current stars to yesterday’s stars. At some point, that has to be true. And I think it is an issue that is important for us to stay focused on, because it creates inflexibility that affects the quality of the teams that you put on the field.”
Manfred does not care a lick about the relative inequities between compensation paid to current vs. yesterday’s stars, of course. He wants to stop teams like the Padres and Mets from spending big money on players and a vocal contingent of the owners want to see that too.
The “problem” Manfred is identifying, such that there is one, is that a number of notable recent contracts are clearly going to pay players past the point when they’re likely to be productive, with some of them paying players well into their 40s. It’s pretty damn obvious, however that clubs are structuring those deals not because they think a given player is going to be worth $25-30 million a year when they’re old. It’s because they’re trying to circumvent the penalties in the Competitive Balance Tax. If the CBT were to go away, of course, I’m pretty sure so too would these 10-11 year contracts — or 14 years in the case of Fernando Tatis Jr. — thereby causing player compensation to more naturally line up with player production. I’m guessing Manfred and the cheapskate owner contingent would not be amenable to that, however.
MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark sees right through this of course, issuing this statement to The Athletic:
“The public statements from Rob Manfred about the owners’ desire to limit guaranteed contracts is just one more in a series of statements attacking fundamental aspects of baseball’s free market system and the freedom of clubs and players to structure deals in the best interests of all parties. The ability of individual clubs to act in their own self-interest in determining how best to put an exciting product on the field for their fans is not something that should be restricted. Anyone who believes that players would ever endorse an assault by management on guaranteed contracts is badly mistaken.”
Just another example of a bunch of dudes who love free market capitalism except when it’s their money on the line.
Trevor May placed on IL with anxiety
Oakland A’s pitcher Trevor May has been placed on the 15-day IL with issues related to anxiety, according to the club. Team GM David Forst had this to say:
I commend Trevor for speaking up about his mental health, and for taking action to address it. The whole A’s organization supports him fully and we are committed to giving Trevor whatever time he needs to be ready to return to playing, as well as continuing resources to help all our players tackle the physical and mental challenges they face daily.
May is, as far as I can tell, the third player to be placed on the IL after seeking help for anxiety so far this season, following Daniel Bard of the Rockies — who was just reactivated, by the way — and Austin Meadows of the Tigers.
May, a nine-year veteran, is 2-3 and has allowed eight earned runs in six innings of work.
Legends of Major League Baseball
Subscribers know that I have a book out now — a kids book, but kids read too! — called Stars of Major League Baseball. It profiles who I reckon to be the top-28 players in the game today. Around 500-600 words on each player with stats, biographical information, and a big photo. It’s the kind of book I loved when I was 8-12 years-old and, I figure anyway, 8-12 year-olds today will like it too. From what my publisher tells me it’s selling pretty well so that makes me and, hopefully, a bunch of 8-12 year-olds happy.
Just before that came out about a month ago my publisher asked me to write a followup: Legends of Major League Baseball. It’s the same format as Stars, but instead of current players it features the top-28 players of all time. Again, at least who I consider to be the top-28. I’m still writing that one — my deadline to turn in the manuscript is next week — but it comes out on October 3 and it’s already available for pre-order.
I thought it was hard to choose the top-28 current players but choosing the top-28 of all-time was a hell of a process. It was inevitable that I would be forced to leave off some inner-circle Hall of Famers. I mean, Cy Young didn’t make the cut. That’s some pretty rough stuff, but I feel like my list of 28, which will not be revealed until October, is pretty defensible. I mean, to the extent there are questionable picks as far as overall quality goes, it’s because I felt that they were more interesting or more important players for young fans to know about. Like, if you’re going by WAR or something you may not include Roberto Clemente, but there’s no damn way I’m not including Roberto Clemente, ya know?
Like I said, I’m up against deadline on that right now so I’ve been going from the newsletter to the manuscript and back every day and my brain is about fried. I don’t think that’s caused Cup of Coffee to suffer, but if it has, I apologize. To make up for that I’ll give you some insight into the process of putting that thing together.
The publisher prefers the book to be in alphabetical order, not a ranking, and I’ve decided to just write it in order. Yesterday I was up to the Gs and Hs. Lou Gehrig was easy to write. That one basically wrote itself. Josh Gibson, like the other Negro League players included, was a lot tougher because you have to navigate the vagaries of the incomplete statistical record of the Negro Leagues and incorporate the many tall tales that surround those guys, all while trying to do everything you can to make sure you mention baseball being a racist-ass institution so as to maximize the chances that Ron DeSantis will ban your book. It’s fun to write that stuff, but it takes a while. Thankfully Lefty Grove comes right after Gibson and, like Gehrig, it’s pretty easy to write about Lefty Grove, so I rattled that one off in like 25 minutes.
Then I got to Rickey Henderson. I should tell you that I love Rickey Henderson more than almost any player in baseball history. Which is a problem because, since this is a kids book, the bios are supposed to be around 500-600 words long and how in the living hell do you only write 500-600 words about Rickey? I mean, I could write 600 words just talking about things Rickey said before even getting to a single thing he ever did on the diamond. And then there are the things people said about Rickey. I felt obligated to include the Bill James quote about how, if you cut Rickey in half, you’d have two Hall of Famers. I also felt obligated to include Rickey’s own quote about how “if my uniform doesn’t get dirty I haven’t done anything in the baseball game.” With those you’re already pushing 30 words! Howard Bryant took 450 pages to cover Henderson in that book of his that came out last year. Covering Rickey in 600 words is cruel and unusual punishment, even if it’s for eight year-olds.
Still, I managed to do it somehow. I’m mad that, because it’s a kids book, I couldn’t include the legendary “Full Share! Fuck that, you can change someone’s life!” story. I genuinely think that’s a fantastic moral and ethical lesson for kids, but again, 600 words is rough.
Anyway, I think I did Rickey basic justice. And I think the book is gonna be pretty good, even if I felt obligated to include Roger Clemens in it too. Christ he’s an asshole.
NBCUniversal trained managers to bust unions
When I started at NBC in 2009 I was a contractor, even if it was really full-time employment. I was made an actual salaried employee with benefits and everything in 2011.
Some time in, I wanna say 2013 or 2014 (my memory is fuzzy), I was made a manager of some sort. I didn’t really do anything different on a day-to-day basis, but it was something of a formalization of the fact that, at least in NBC’s eyes, I was ultimately responsible for the editorial content of HardballTalk. If you looked at NBC’s org chart I was technically Bill Baer, Nick Stellini, and Ashley Varela’s supervisor and I would do their employee evaluations (everyone got A’s pretty much all the time because (a) I’m no cop; and (b) they always did a great job anyway). I’d handle minor scheduling changes, but neither my compensation nor my benefits changed, I was not given the key to the executive washroom, and I never really felt like I was any sort of manager. I’ll leave it to our friend Eugene Freedman or one of the other employment lawyers among you to determine if that actually made me management or not, but if I was a manager I was probably the only one there who listened to Billy Bragg songs while managing.
Throughout this period there was a wave of digital media unionization going down, with workers from the Gawker sites, Ringer, Vice, and others joining up with the Communication Workers of America and other unions. Nothing along those lines ever happened with the NBC Sports writers as far as I know, but I did occasionally wonder whether it would and what kind of drama would personally befall me as a union-supporting person who was nominally but probably not legally a manager. Mostly I wondered if I’d get fired for not going after Bill or Nick with a bag of doorknobs if they tried to unionize or, alternatively, get fired for trying to unionize myself given that, in NBC’s eyes, I was a manager.
I mention all of that because yesterday I read a story in Bloomberg which revealed that, at some point in the past four years, NBCUniversal had its managers do training simulations in which they learned how to bust unions:
In the hourslong simulation, managers were tasked with running a television station called WSEE-TV that had to figure out how to prevent employees from unionizing with the Communications Workers of America. Training materials that accompanied the 2019 session laid out the importance of keeping unions at bay.
“Your corporate management will not tolerate losing WSEE’s nonunion status,” according to the document, which was viewed by Bloomberg News. “It is a well established, unwritten policy for NBCUniversal managers that the continuing nonunion status of union-free operations is a condition of employment.”
I’m guessing this was primarily for TV people, not digital people, as I’m pretty sure someone at one of the “Talk” sites would’ve said something about it if this came up. Either way, neither I nor my piddly little baseball vertical were anywhere near important enough to get this kind of training. Hell, even if we were, I’m guessing my own bosses knew me well enough by then to keep me out of it because they probably suspected that I’d rat ‘em out to the Daily Worker or start cosplaying as Joe Kenehan from the movie “Matewan” or whatever.
The best part of the story, though is NBC’s effort at damage control:
The media company said it only conducted the role-play session once in the past four years. “This specific training exercise purposely showcases an extreme example of what not to do as part of our broader management training aimed at respecting an employee’s right to organize,” NBCUniversal said.
That is, literally, Principal Skinner admitting that he too was at the burlesque house but that he was only in there to get directions on how to get away from there.
Anyway, I am now sad that I didn’t get a chance to go after Bill and Nick with a bag of doorknobs. They’re funny guys and probably would’ve said something clever if I had.
Need to kill some time?
I’ve mentioned before that, as a kid, I was a hard core “amazing facts” addict. As in, I would read as many of those “1001 Strange But True Facts” books and the like. Hell, I still read that kind of stuff whenever I stumble across it.
Scratching that itch yesterday was this Twitter thread, into which a zillion people dropped that one fact that they happen to know and will bring up in social situations from time to time. Things like “the Bass Pro Shops pyramid in Memphis, Tennessee is the ninth tallest pyramid in the world,” or “Anni-Frid Lyngstad of ABBA’s father was a Nazi solider in occupied Norway,” or “Caitlin Jenner’s first wife and Kris Kardashian’s late husband dated Elvis and Pricilla Presley, respectively.”
Yeah, I’d say a good chunk of the “facts” in that thread are, at the very least, half-facts if not completely wrong, but debunking parts of amazing facts listicles is half the fun. It’s how I found out that, actually, lemmings don’t commit mass suicide by jumping off cliffs.
Speaking of Twitter . . .
Willy Staley of The New York Times has written what I consider to be the most comprehensive and perfect explanation of Twitter — its history, its platform, its users, its content and its future — that I have ever read. It seems impossible to capture the zeitgeist of such an unwieldy ecosystem in a single article, let alone a readable one, but Staley has somehow done it. Indeed, it is not just eminently readable, it is funny and entertaining and relatable even to those who are not completely brain-poisoned by Twitter.
Or at least I assume so given that I am among the most Twitter brain-poisoned people in existence. I mean, here’s Staley talking about Pew Research data regarding what it defines as “heavy users” of Twitter, who land in the top quartile of users and who produce 97% of all tweets:
There’s also some data about the heavy users, and though Pew would not approve, let’s pretend, for our purposes, that it can be used to make a composite sketch of one. We’ll call him Joe Sixpost. Joe produces about 65 tweets a month, an average of two a day. Only 14 percent of his output is his own material, original stand-alone tweets posted to the timeline; half of his posts are retweets of stuff other people posted, and the remainder are quote-tweets or replies to other tweets. None of this stuff travels far. Joe has a median of 230 followers, and on average his efforts earn him 37 likes and one retweet a month. Nevertheless, it is heavy users like this — just the top quartile — who produced 97 percent of the larger group’s posts.
Staley then proceeds to characterize this so-called heavy user as a total piker, using his own Twitter use as a measuring stick. Staley, who has 23,600 or so followers, notes how, over the previous 48 hours, he had made 14 posts, which would put him on a pace for 210 posts a month, all while he’s busy trying to raise his kid and live his life. He then, using a pretty astute “Twitter is not a mirror, it’s a prism” analogy some have come up with to explain the platform, observes that the degree to which Twitter has warped him — and the degree to which he has warped Twitter and those who use it — is considerable and even humbling.
When I read that I blanched. I blanched because, as of 2PM yesterday afternoon, as I was writing this, I have 57,694 Twitter followers. I joined Twitter in the first week of December 2009. That’s around 4880 days ago, give or take a day or two. Between then and this writing I have made *checks Tweetdeck, gulps heavily* . . . 249,542 tweets. That’s an average of 51 tweets a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. When you account for the fact that I tweet far, far less on weekends, on holidays, and when I’m traveling, it . . . well, it’s a goddamn mess of Twitter addiction, that’s what it is. The prism which has warped me and which I have in turn warped looks more like the Phantom Zone which imprisoned General Zod, Ursa and Non.
One one level, that’s the most pathetic thing I have ever learned about myself. On another level, though, I already basically knew that even if I haven’t done the actual math and, having read Staley’s piece, I think I’m pretty OK with it. Not because tweeting a quarter of a million times in a little over 13 years is some worthy use of one’s time and mental capacity — it certainly isn’t — but because Twitter always has been more than the sum of its pretty banal parts. Being a media person helps justify it a bit because as Staley and so many others have noted, Twitter is way more useful for media people than non-media people. Working at home, alone, also helps justify it in that Twitter is, basically, my office. Or at least my water cooler.
I mean, shit, outside of an actually rather fun team-building thing at NBC in 2019 I literally have not been in a single meeting of any kind since November 2009. If I had to it all over again I don’t think I’d trade even one of my quarter of a million tweets for ten minutes in a meeting. Even if it means that I’ve been brain-poisoned.
Have a great day, everyone.