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Cup of Coffee: August 11, 2022
The Tigers fire their GM, Daniel Vogelbach's milkshake brings the boys across the plate, the latest 1970s action-comedy from NBC, the Fifth Amendment, and forgetting the Lord of the Rings.
Good morning! And welcome to Free Thursday!
We have to get on, we have to get on we have got so much time and so little to do — strike that. Reverse it. This way!
And That Happened
Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:
Mets 10, Reds 2: Make it six in a row for the best team in New York. Francisco Lindor went 2-for-3 with a walk, two driven in and three runs scored. Daniel Vogelbach’s milkshake brought three boys to the plate, Tyler Naquin homered, and Pete Alonso had three hits. Mets are making it look easy, man.
Brewers 4, Rays 3: Rowdy Tellez homered in the bottom of the ninth to tie it up at three, made a tough throw from first to third in the top of the tenth to nail the Rays’ Manfred Man, thereby averting trouble, and then Willy Adames singled home the Milwaukee Manfred Man in the bottom of the tenth for the walkoff win. “Rowdy and Willy” sounds like one of those action-comedy series that were common on network TV in the late 70s/early 80s, all of which got pitched and bought because of how much “Smoky and the Bandit” made at the box office. I’m gonna guess that “Rowdy and Willy” premiered as a backdoor pilot in an episode of “The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo” which itself had a backdoor pilot in “B.J. and The Bear.” Neither of which would’ve existed without “The Dukes of Hazzard,” probably, but now we’re getting far afield and I should just move on.
Cubs 4, Nationals 2: Nationals starter Josiah Gray had a shutout going until the seventh when he gave up a homer to Nico Hoerner. After that the wheels fell off and Cubs plated three more. A key to those other three runs was outfielder Victor Robles airmailing a throw home that he shouldn’t have even made which allowed the go-ahead run to reach third base and the trailing runner to reach second, after which the former scored on a sac fly, the latter moved to third, and subsequently scored on a single. The best part was that earlier in the game Robles made a fantastic diving catch. In closing, Victor Robles is a land of contrasts.
Mariners 4, Yankees 3: Carlos Santana hit a go-ahead two-run homer during a three-run seventh inning which put the Mariners over and to give them the series win. The Mariners have gone 10-10 since the All-Star Break. But considering that featured 13 games vs. the Astros and Yankees, eh, not too bad?
Padres 13, Giants 7: The Giants had a 4-0 lead in the third but the Padres plated six runs that inning to take the lead. The Giants then had a 7-6 lead in the sixth, but the Padres plated seven runs that inning. Just not San Francisco’s day. Especially when you look and see that those seven sixth-inning Padres runs came via seven straight two-out hits. I’m too lazy too look but I’m gonna guess someone on the Giants chalked that up to not “executing” something or other. Among those hits: Brandon Drury’s go-ahead, three-run homer and Austin Nola's two-run shot. Manny Machado and Jake Cronenworth each had three hits and Drury drove in four. San Diego now heads to Washington, where Juan Soto and Josh Bell will face their old team. Should be a fun mood in the crowd there. And by fun I mean *inserts that GIF of Nats infielder Lucius Fox barfing on the field before that game back in April*
Atlanta 8, Red Sox 4: Down below in the Daily Briefing I have an item about Atlanta calling up top prospect Vaughn Grissom, who barely has any experience above A-ball. In the item, which I wrote yesterday afternoon before this game, I talk about how the club is hoping he can show that he can handle this level. Based on this game I’d say he’ll handle it just fine. Grissom hit a two-run homer over the Green Monster and onto Lansdowne Street to extend an early Atlanta lead and later singled and scored another run. Waiting for him at home after the homer was a fellow barely-played-at-Double-A guy, Michael Harris, who had singled ahead of Grissom. Tommy Pham homered for the third straight game. Guessing the trade to Boston is agreeing with him.
Guardians 3, Tigers 2: A few hours before the first pitch, the Tigers fired general manager Al Avila, which I discuss at length below in the Daily Briefing. Avila did not, in his seven years at the helm, ever manage to produce a young impact player one might consider calling up from Double-A in the middle of a playoff chase like Atlanta seems to crank out every year. There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere. Anyhoo, this win and the Twins loss in L.A. puts Cleveland in first place in the Central. Cleveland, by the way, has won a pennant and three division titles and is pushing for a fourth since Avila took over as the Tigers GM, all without spending money or signing big free agents or anything. There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere too.
Angels 5, Athletics 4: Magneuris Sierra hit an RBI single in the 10th inning then doubled home the go-ahead run in the 12th to help the Angels complete their sweep of the A’s. Earlier in the game Luis Rengifo hit a three-run homer for the Angels and Tony Kemp hit a three-run double for the A’s.
Phillies 4, Marlins 3: NL ERA leader Sandy Alcantara had everything under control heading into the eighth, having limited Philly to one run. But even he gets tired, apparently, and the wheels fell off for the Marlins and their ace that inning, with Philly hitting four straight singles off of him before he induced a double play. Then he gave up two more singles to make it 4-3 and that was that. Kyle Schwarber had three hits and drove in two here as the Phillies win their seventh straight and 12th of their last 13 contests.
Rangers 8, Astros 4: Leody Taveras drove in five runs for Texas, including an RBI triple in the fourth and a bases-clearing double in the 10th inning. When asked about that triple, which came off of Justin Verlander, Taveras said “I was not trying to do too much. He's a really good pitcher, and I was just trying to put the ball in play.” Tavares is only 23 years-old but he’s got the empty cliche part of the game down like he’s a grizzled veteran.
Royals 8, White Sox 3: MJ Melendez and Salvador Pérez each had three hits and two RBI and Kyle Isbel drove in two runs and scored twice. Melendez hit a tie-breaking homer in the seventh as the Royals win it going away.
Cardinals 9, Rockies 5: Albert Pujols and Nolan Arenado each had RBI hits, a single and a double, respectively, in the Cardinals' five-run first inning and hit back-to-back homers in the sixth. Each of them fell a triple short of the cycle, too. The last time Pujols hit a triple was 2014. The time before that was 2010. He only has 16 triples in his 22-year career and nine of those came during George W. Bush’s first term. All of which is to say that I don’t think anyone was really holding out hope that Pujols would finish off that cycle.
Pirates 6, Diamondbacks 4: Rodolfo Castro had a single and a triple a night after a cell phone flew out of his pocket as he slid into first, so nice rebound. The fact that half the AP gamer here was about Castro’s phone thing from the other night suggests to me that this contest wasn’t exactly riveting. Ben Gamel hit a two-run double. He’s played seven years yet every time I see his last name in a box score I think “Mat Gamel” who only played 106 total major league games, the last of which game a full decade ago. Brains are dumb, man.
Dodgers 8, Twins 5: Chris Taylor a go-ahead homer in the sixth and Joey Gallo added a pinch-hit three-run shot in the seventh. Max Muncy also went deep. Make it ten in a row for L.A.
Blue Jays vs. Orioles — POSTPONED:
🎶A misty shadow spread its wings
And covered all the ground
And even though the sun was out
The rain came pouring down
And all the light had disappeared
And faded in the gloom
There was no hope, no reasoning
This rainy day in June🎶
Yeah, I know it’s August, but we just talked about the Kinks yesterday, so they were on my mind. Besides, as I wrote in the recaps exactly one year ago today, “Time just turns into a big gooey ball of vagueness for me once the summer hits. What happens in August may as well be June. My temporal brain doesn’t get right again until we get a morning low in the 40s.”
The Daily Briefing
Tigers fire GM Al Avila
The Detroit Tigers fired General Manager Al Avila yesterday. The statement announcing his termination, from team owner Chris Ilitch, thanked Avila for his 22 years of service to the organization but said he’s out effective immediately. A search for a new head of baseball operations will now begin. In the meantime Sam Menzin, an assistant GM, will run things.
It’s a move that is pretty clearly overdue.
Avila has been in the position for almost exactly seven years. He took over when Dave Dombrowski was fired just as the Tigers near-decade of competitiveness, during which they won two pennants and four division titles, came to an end. Detroit would attempt to compete in 2016 but that went nowhere. By early 2017 longtime owner Mike Ilitch was dead, his sons had taken over, and an era of rebuilding and low payrolls commenced. By now it’s pretty obvious that that rebuild has failed.
The return on the Justin Verlander trade in 2017 has come to nothing while Verlander has gotten a World Series ring and a Cy Young Award in Houston and seems poised to win another Cy Young Award there this year. The return on the trade of J.D. Martinez to Arizona was even worse. Avila likewise got almost nothing of value for Ian Kinsler. Trading Nick Castellanos in 2019 got the Tigers Alex Lange, who has been a pretty solid reliever, but you finish off rebuilds with solid relievers, you don’t start them with those guys.
Rather, you start rebuilds with young starting pitching and young bats and Avila and his baseball operations staff have done a pretty poor job of developing those guys. The early round draft picks who were supposed to form the core of the next good Tigers teams — Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Riley Greene, Tarik Skubal, and Spencer Torkelson — have either been injured, been slow to develop, or both. Avila has done a worse job with later round talent, failing to develop the sort of farm system depth with makes for a strong organization or to come up with surprise, out-of-nowhere talents a handful of which nearly every team comes up with every couple of years.
Whether this is a scouting issue which has prevented the team from identifying talent to acquire or a player development issue which has prevented the team from maximizing the talent it has is sort of irrelevant at the moment because the buck stops with Avila on both of those counts. The Tigers problems are systemic problems, not simply matters of injuries or bad luck. And when you have a systemic problem the man in charge of that system has to go.
The biggest question now: who replaces him? It’s impossible to say a day out from his firing, of course, and it seems from the press release — and the timing of the firing — that the team will take its time in finding his replacement. It’s worth asking, however, how attractive that Tigers GM job is.
This is not Mike Ilitch’s team anymore and the pursestrings are not likely to be wide open like they were in his day any time soon. Sure, Chris Ilitch’s Tigers have never been good enough to where he’s been pressed to start spending big to put the club over the top, but there are those around baseball who question whether he will. There are also those familiar with the Tigers front office who say that Ilitch has some micromanaging tendencies, which is not the sort of thing forward-thinking player development types are too keen on subjecting themselves to.
Then there was yesterday’s presser following Avilia’s termination during which Ilitch completely passed the buck and refused to take even token responsibility as the boss:
The whole “I didn’t do it!” thing is an absolutely atrocious look for a team owner. Yeah, maybe Avila didn't do a great job, but you don't throw him under the bus like this at his termination presser. With specific reference to the Verlander trade, I refuse to believe that Chris Ilitch read about it in the paper or something. He was there and involved and at the very least could've vetoed it, but now it’s all on Avila, apparently.
A real leader takes responsibility for stuff that happens underneath him, but not Chris Ilitch. If this is how he talks about subordinates at a presser, imagine what he's like behind closed doors. What’s more, imagine being a bright young baseball mind who gets a call from Ilitch asking him to come in for an interview after watching that. Is this a guy you want to work for? A guy who inherited the team from his daddy, gets all the money and demands the kudos when things go well, but blames everyone else when things go sideways? Yeah, fat chance. I have to imagine that yesterday’s presser has scared away at least a couple of otherwise strong candidates who might’ve taken Ilitch’s call.
We’ll see eventually, of course. For now, though, the Tigers play out the string, their future once again in doubt.
The Mets walkup music was pretty spiffy yesterday
Yesterday was Women’s Day at Citi Field for the Reds-Mets game. As part of that, Mets players walked out to songs sung by women. There were a lot of certified bangers on that playlist too.
Jeff McNeil’s choice of a Hilary Duff song was, I suspect, based on the fact that four years ago Pete Alonso was quoted in an article talking about how McNeil, who was his roommate at the time, unironically loves the “Lizzie McGuire” movie. Even better? Daniel Vogelbach, not listed above, had ‘em play “Milkshake” while coming to bat.
I’d probably go with a Kim Deal or a Liz Phair song. You know, to maintain my Gen-X bonafides. Which one? I dunno. Ask me at the end of today’s newsletter.
Atlanta calls up top prospect
As I mentioned up in the recaps, the Atlanta Baseball Club made a bold and unexpected move yesterday, calling up top prospect Vaughn Grissom. Grissom, primarily a shortstop, will slot into second base given the absence of Orlando Arcia who, in turn, was there because of the absence of Ozzie Albies.
Vaughn, 21, is coming up straight from Double-A. Indeed, he has only played 22 games at Double-A after starting the season in High-A. He hit well in both of those stops, however, with a line of .324/.405/.494 with 14 homers and 27 stolen bases in 96 games. The early callup is not unlike that of Michael Harris, who was selected earlier this season despite having played only 43 games at Double-A. Harris has thrived in the bigs thus far, and Atlanta is obviously hoping that that sort of lightning can strike twice. He certainly got off to a good start of it against Boston last night.
There is likely an added motivation for calling up Vaughn, of course. If he can show that he can handle big league pitching down the stretch, it might give the club less of an incentive to try to keep impending free agent Dansby Swanson, who is likely to command a hefty price tag this winter. Atlanta showed last year with Freddie Freeman that they’re willing to let big free agents walk. It’ll be easier for them to do the same with Swanson if Vaughn appears to be big league-ready.
Oh please, oh please, oh please, oh please
Rumors in the runup to tonight’s Field of Dreams Game:
As a fan of massive, totally avoidable P.R. train wrecks and cringe-worthy self-inflicted P.R. wounds, I am hoping against hope that good sense and good taste fail to prevail and we actually get that hologram.
Please don’t do this
The Washington Post, completely falling for the right’s “Trump is above the law” framing:
I know there are people at the Washington Post who are smart enough to understand that choosing not to properly and legally use legal process against a politician simply because he is a politician is also politicizing justice, but apparently they don’t have final say in story headlines.
Please don’t do this, Part II
Yesterday Trump refused to answer questions from the New York attorney general’s office during a deposition, choosing to invoke the Fifth Amendment. It led to a lot of this kind of commentary. This from a Democratic congressional candidate:
I get how tempting it is to make such a statement. Trump is a hated figure with a long and rich history of being crooked so, when he’s asked questions about his alleged impropriety and he pleads the Fifth, going after him with this line of attack is hard to resist. That’s especially true given that he’s on-record saying the same thing about others who take the Fifth.
But it’s still a profoundly wrong, profoundly stupid, and profoundly harmful thing to say. The “you don't remain silent or invoke the Fifth unless you're guilty” thing has been used against the powerless by the powerful for a very long time and it’s the sort of thing that, at best, causes otherwise good people’s — and innocent people’s — reputations to be ruined. At worse it pressures people into speaking to law enforcement or prosecutors when it’s against their best interests to do so. It’s no better to say such things simply because the target is a bonafide piece of crap.
And yes, I get that there is something superficially satisfying about throwing Trump's old words about those who would take the Fifth back at him, but it’s not so satisfying that it’s worth perpetuating the erroneous idea that those who take the Fifth are guilty of something. That’s true even in service of a hypocrisy charge. Hell, it’s especially true in the case of a such a charge when Trump is involved because both he and his most ardent supporters are shameless nihilists who care not one lick about intellectual, ethical, or even rhetorical consistency. People have been firing hypocrisy charges at both him and Republicans in general for the past six or seven years. We’ve all learned that nothing comes of it because you cannot shame the shameless.
It’s OK to hate Donald Trump. It’s OK to hope the worst for Donald Trump. It’s even OK to presume, if you’re not a juror at least, that he’s guilty of all manner of corruption because his entire life has been nothing but one audacious act of unpunished corruption after the last. One can do that, however, without saying demonstrably wrong things about an extremely important Constitutional right upon which people who do, actually, face legal jeopardy depend.
Eternal Sunshine of the “Lord of the Rings”-free Mind
Peter Jackson was reported to have sought out hypnotherapy to make him forget his work creating the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy so that he could watch the movies like a normal person without his experience of making them overshadow the experience of viewing. He apparently did not follow through with the idea, however.
I don’t think hypnosis would work. Really, the only thing that I imagine could possible work would be for him to make several thousand more films, most of which are short and disposable. At least that’s how it goes for me and my writing. I routinely stumble over things I wrote a few years ago — hell, sometimes a few months ago — and have absolutely no memory of writing them. Once in a while I encounter the stuff as part of a Google search while preparing to write something and discover that, oh, I actually wrote much the same thing back in 2014.
The most extreme example: I once found an article I wrote for NBC that had been pirated and reproduced by some rando aggregation site. I was at first unaware that I had, in fact, written it, because the page format and colors were unfamiliar and my byline was very tiny and I had overlooked it. When I was about halfway through it I thought “this guy is so full of shit.” A few sentences later I came across some phrasing or verbiage I use a lot and it clicked, “wait, I’m the full-of-shit guy who wrote this.” That was a hell of a day.
If you’re reading this, Peter Jackson, you don’t really wanna forget you made the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy because if you watch it and hate it, you’ll feel really, really bad when someone reminds you it was your baby all along.
Now, what was that song we were talking about way up in the Mets walkup music item? Oh yeah . . .
Have a great day, everyone.