Cup of Coffee: August 19, 2021

Insomnia-driven recaps, Day Three of the Bauer hearings, a farkakte MLB labor proposal, Jack Morris, Steve Cohen, and I got MAJORLY trolled by my in-laws.

Good morning! And welcome to Free Thursday! If you’ve just been skating by once a week, may I suggest giving every weekday morning a whirl?

Today you’ll find me going full-on Mother’s Little Helper to kick off the recaps and for that I apologize, but just know that (a) I wrote them from 2:30-4:30 AM because of insomnia, so they’re a bit trippier than normal; and (b) I gotta be true to myself. I also say bad things about the Pirates and Orioles, but I would’ve done that on a full night’s sleep too.

In the off-the-field news of the day the Trevor Bauer hearing continued and I have a lot to say about that. I also have a lot to say about a labor proposal that hit the news yesterday. I also talk about Jack Morris being Jack Morris, Steve Cohen being George Steinbrenner-lite, and Barstool continuing to be a disgusting cesspool.

In Other Stuff I got a gift that was not a carrot in a box but I do, also, talk about a carrot in a box. I also tell you why you shouldn’t go to law school. All the lawyers out there? Just skip that part, OK? You can’t unring that bell.


And That Happened

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

White Sox 3, Athletics 2: Lance Lynn allowed one run in four innings and then got his butt ejected when he threw his belt at the umpires from the dugout when they were trying to do one of their league-mandated foreign substance checks. Lynn’s explanation:

“He was late getting over, so I left my glove and my hat, and then while I was going down in the dugout, trying to see the trainers because I'm dealing with something, he yells at me that he needs to see my belt. So I toss it up and then he throws me out.”

I don’t often take umps’ sides in these things but c’mon dude. If I yell to my kids to get their dirty laundry out to the hamper on wash day and they throw their underpants at me, they’re gonna catch hell for that too.

OK, that was misleading. there is no “wash day” at my house. Every goddamn day is wash day — and cooking and cleaning and shopping day — and I’m literally dying by inches from all of the housework I do.

*puts on fake 50s housewife smile*

Anyhoo, the White Sox’ bullpen picked Lynn up with five innings of one-run ball while Luis Robert singled in Yoan Moncada not once but twice to help them edge out the A’s. Now, can I pour you all some iced tea? No trouble! I’ll just whip some up! I have plenty of time!

*pops some benzos*

Dodgers 9, Pirates 0: Whenever I see a shutout of 9-0 or more I make the joke “haha, the losing team may as well have saved their energy and just forfeited, because when you forfeit that’s the score they put down!” I’m getting sorta wary of saying that though, because in this day and age, when teams tank to save money and trot out position players to save bullpen arms on the regular, isn’t the “strategic forfeit” the next logical step? Like, can’t you picture some polo-clad, Ivy League, consultancy-trained baseball operations executive telling the press “we understand that people wanted to see a ballgame, but we’re obligated to be consistently competitive over the long term, and sometimes that takes short-term retrenchment.” I can picture it so perfectly that it almost scares me.

That didn’t happen here, but really, aren’t the 2021 Pirates slowly approaching the living embodiment of a forfeit?

Max Muncy hit two homers and drove in five runs. He has five homers in his last three games and got “M-V-P!” chants from the Dodger Stadium faithful. AJ Pollock and Corey Seager also homered. The Dodgers used Justin Bruihl as an opener and then gave it to Mitch White who allowed only two hits in seven and a third innings. L.A. is rolling out spring training pitching matchups against Pittsburgh here in order to optimize the rotation for upcoming games against the Mets and Padres, and it makes no difference. Just embarrassing.

Cubs 7, Reds 1: Michael Hermosillo, Ian Happ and Sergio Alcántara homered for the Cubs and Adrian Sampson — who was just called up from Iowa yesterday morning for the daytime start — allowed one run in four innings. If you’re the Reds, and you’re contending for a playoff spot, you cannot drop two of three to a glorified Triple-A team like the Cubs are at the moment, but I’ll be damned if that isn’t what they did.

Rockies 7, Padres 5: Luckily for Cincinnati the team they’re chasing keeps losing. Of course when you do things like pick up Jake Arrieta from the scrap heap where he was discarded by the aforementioned glorified Triple-A team, what do you expect? Arrieta put the Padres in a 0-3 hole in the first inning and gave up five runs on seven hits in only three and a third overall and then left with an injured hamstring so, yeah, it only took like an hour and change to realize that that signing didn’t work out. C.J. Cron had two hits and three RBI and Trevor Story and Dom Nuñez homered for the Rockies.

Twins 8, Cleveland 7: A five-run fifth pulled the Twins back from an early hole but a two-run ninth by Cleveland tied it back up. But then for the third time in four games Jorge Polanco gave Minnesota a walkoff win when he hit a bases-loaded single in the 11th. Polanco ended Monday's game with a 10th-inning double and on Sunday he hit a walk-off sacrifice fly to beat Tampa Bay. He now has five walkoff RBI. According the Associated Press, that ties the club record set by Kent Hrbek in 1987. Which was before we ever called these things walkoffs. Thinking Polanco needs a nickname. “Jorge Walkoffo?” Eh, we’ll workshop it.

Mets 6, Giants 2: The Mets snap their five-game skid thanks to J.D. Davis hitting a game-tying sacrifice fly in the ninth and Kevin Pillar hitting a three-run homer in the top of the 12th. This came on the day the team’s owner, Steve Cohen, tweeted his displeasure with the team’s hitting approach. I talk about that more below, down in the Daily Briefing, but given that six Giants pitchers combined to blank the Mets until the ninth inning before the bats woke up, I’d suggest not confusing correlation with causation here. Not that I have any faith the New York press will avoid succumbing to that temptation.

Nationals 8, Blue Jays 5: Juan Soto hit a three-run homer in the first and Josh Bell hit a three-run homer in the seventh. Carter Kieboom added a solo shot later that inning. Bell’s homer came off former Nat Brad Hand who appears to have been on a mission to the Jays as a deep cover agent, bringing them down from the inside. Marcus Semien homered twice, but the Jays’ recent woes continue.

Yankees 5, Red Sox 2: Andrew Heaney allowed only one run over seven and New York scored four runs in the second, capped by an Anthony Rizzo RBI single that inspired this tweet from sports radio legend Mike Francesa:

Anthony Rizzo has a grand total of 44 plate appearances as a Yankee, but I suppose what makes one a True Yankee™ is something to which only sports radio legends are privy. Andrew Velazquez hit a couple of RBI singles. I read two stories about this game and did a brief scan of Twitter and the fact that Velazquez is from the Bronx is already a more repeated fact than “Jerome Bettis is from Detroit” was that time the Steelers played in the Super Bowl at Ford Field or “Todd Frazier is from New Jersey” is, well, basically whenever his name comes up. Velazquez, by the way, has only 23 plate appearances with New York. Twenty more and he too will be a True Yankee™ I presume.

Angels 3, Tigers 1: Shohei Ohtanti went eight innings allowing only one run while striking out eight and hit a home run — his 40th on the year — as the DH. Despite that, he was asked — as newsworthiness dictates that he be asked — to comment on Tigers announcer Jack Morris’ racist schtick and subsequent suspension after the game. Just another way in which racism serves to undermine its targets in the most depressing of ways and forces them to talk about crap they shouldn’t have to talk about.

Atlanta 11, Marlins 9: Freddie Freeman doubled in the first, tripled in the fourth, singled in the fifth and hit his 27th homer — a two-run shot — in the sixth and that, my friends, is the cycle. It’s the second time he’s done that in his career. How did he do it? From ESPN:

“My wife, we had breakfast this morning and we had two cappuccinos delivered -- and she chose the cappuccino and she handed it to me and said this is the one with a lot of hits in it. So I have to give this one up to my wife, Chelsea, because if it wasn't for the right cappuccino pick, I wouldn't be here talking to you guys.”

That, my friends, is science. I think. I dunno. I do know that Freeman was hitting .195/.326/.407 on May 7. As of this morning he’s at .301/.399/.520. Contrary to my worst fears, he did not forget how to hit over the winter.

Rays 8, Orioles 4: Make it 14 straight losses for Baltimore. The O’s have been outscored by 91 runs during that 14-game streak, too, which is an average of 6.5 runs per game. That's the worst run differential in any 14-game span by any MLB team in Baseball-References’s database, which goes back to 1901. With the loss Baltimore also joined the 1911 and 1935 Boston Braves as the only teams to have two 14-game or longer losing streaks in the same season since 1901. They’re just redefining futility. Manager Brandon Hyde after the game:

“We're playing against teams that are postseason contenders and we're a long ways away. They're playing to win it and we're trying to just do the best we can and stay positive with it.”

There’s nothing saying that rebuilding teams can’t play to win too. Until the tanking epidemic, which guys like O’s GM Mike Elias have turned into a perverse art form, clubs at least gave lip service to attempting to win. Now “hey, the other side is trying to win!” is seen as a valid excuse for losing. How inspiring.

Brewers 6, Cardinals 4: St. Louis blew a 3-0 lead with Milwaukee eventually tying it up and forcing extras thanks to two Avisaíl García homers. The Cards fell apart in the 10th with Alex Reyes putting a guy on with a throwing error and then uncorking a wild pitch to let the Manfred Man score with two out. A bunt single scored another run and yet another error brought in a third run, with all three of ‘em unearned.

Mariners 3, Rangers 1: Marco Gonzalez tossed shutout ball into the sixth, Kyle Seager hit a two-run double and J.P. Crawford sacrificed in a third run late. Gonzalez has allowed only two runs in four August starts. The Mariners have won six of their last seven games and have pulled back to within three games of the American League's last Wild Card spot.

Royals 3, Astros 2: Carlos Santana singled in a run in the fourth and, after giving up that lead, Hunter Dozier’s two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh put the Royals back up to stay. Brady Singer didn’t get the win for Kansas City but he was solid, tossing six shutout innings before running into trouble in the top of the seventh. Zack Greinke got a no-decision after allowing one run over six, but his pitching line was weird: zero strikeouts in those six innings. I didn’t know that was even legal in this day and age.

Diamondbacks 4, Phillies 2: Philly jumped out to a 1-0 lead thanks to an Odúbel Herrera leadoff triple + passed ball combination. The Dbacks responded, however, with one run the third, fourth and fifth innings and never trailed again. Arizona starter Humberto Castellanos was strong into the sixth, allowing one run, and had two hits of his own. The Diamondbacks are having fun playing spoiler to marginal postseason clubs lately. They took three out of four games from the Padres over the weekend and have now taken the first two games from the Phillies.

In other news, Arizona reliever Caleb Smith had his glove confiscated after the eighth inning and was ejected from the game after third base umpire Phil Cuzzi found what manager Torey Lovullo called “a couple of suspicious spots.” Smith, who was visibly angry and even had to be held back by his teammates during the inspection, said it was dirt. Lovullo added, “I believe my player. I stand by my player. He said there was nothing malicious happening.”

Well, that settles it then.


The Daily Briefing

Day Three of the Bauer Hearing

Warning: the following contains graphic descriptions of violence and sexual assault

After three days of this I am struck by the notion that Trevor Bauer and his attorneys are indifferent to whether or not a restraining order is entered against him. Sure, they’d like one not to be, and maybe there will not be one entered — Bauer pretty clearly behaved violently but it’s an open question as to whether he poses a prospective threat — but that is not what Bauer’s defense is focused on. Rather, it’s serving as a defacto deposition of the accuser and other witnesses she calls, aimed at getting them all on the record, discrediting them to the extent possible in anticipation of a potential criminal trial or civil suit, and being happy if that’s all they accomplish.

I’m led to that conclusion based on the fact that, for as long as Bauer’s attorneys had his accuser on the stand and for as hard as they worked to make her out to be a slut or a gold digger and to parse text messages that were and were not included in her initial petition for a restraining order, they did absolutely nothing to refute the central allegation: that Trevor Bauer sexually assaulted the accuser while she was unconscious and that he inflicted considerable injuries on her by repeatedly punching her all over her body. And they have presented no evidence aimed at that central question of a prospective threat.

Yes, the headlines this morning will all be about this or that text message sent by the accuser to various people. One can draw any number of conclusions about what those messages mean and don’t mean, but none of them speak to the injuries the woman received, which are well-documented, or refute the notion that Bauer beat her and anally penetrated her against her will while she was unconscious. The inconsistencies Bauer’s attorneys elicited from the accuser spoke to secondary and surrounding matters — how she reacted to the assault — and not at all to the assault itself. The text messages show a person who is at turns confused, angry, sad, depressed, or desiring vengeance, but those are all understandable feelings for a person in her situation to have. What Bauer’s attorneys did not do at all was discredit the central claim that he assaulted her in horrible ways.

Maybe that makes it harder for the accuser to recover any money from him in a civil suit. Maybe that makes a prosecutor less likely to bring a criminal claim against Bauer for fear of the case being difficult. But the central truth of this entire affair — the stuff that Major League Baseball will look to regarding Bauer’s behavior, irrespective of whether charges are brought — points pretty clearly to Bauer doing exactly what his accuser said he did. Everything else is secondary.

After 12 hours of testimony, his accuser said, under oath, “I did not consent to bruises all over my body that sent me to the hospital and having that done to me while I was unconscious.” There was zero evidence presented which explained how those bruises appeared in a way that was benign or refuted the idea that the woman was unconscious when Bauer inflicted them. That, in my mind, is all that matters.

A word on the coverage of the Bauer hearing

I'm a happy Los Angeles Times subscriber. It’s really an excellent paper. But I have to say, I’ve been really disappointed in its coverage of the Bauer hearing over the past couple of days.

The coverage has fronted salacious “storyline” things that are legally irrelevant, such as the accuser’s past sexual partners and has given breathless style-over-substance play-by-play of Bauer’s attorneys’ cross-examinations, and has failed to provide legal context to the point of misrepresentation. It has covered the hearing like a sporting event, not like the serious legal proceeding that it is.

We saw this on Tuesday when, at the outset of the cross examination of Bauer’s accuser, the reporter on site for the Times, Steve Henson, tweeted “here we go” as if it were the kickoff for a Rams playoff game. There was drama-creating scene-setting about who was wearing what in the courtroom that came off like a description of what color sweaters the Kings were wearing against the Sharks. Yesterday he tweeted about "every crumb of the social media trail" of the accuser, which implies a hidden, secret plan waiting to be discovered as opposed to facts simply being deduced. Throughout Tuesday and Wednesday Henson transcribed testimony yet did not explain the testimony’s relevance. Meanwhile he left out the concession on the part of Bauer’s attorney on Tuesday that Bauer hit her and anally penetrated her while she was unconscious. As mentioned above, much of that cross-examination Henson transcribed was legally irrelevant here and was aimed at casting aspersions on the accuser. By simply giving it a megaphone, Henson’s reportage aided Bauer’s attorneys in that regard and simultaneously provided an object lesson about why victims of sexual violence are loathe to come forward and seek justice.

I don’t think it requires an actual attorney to be on site to cover cases like this — there are plenty of non-attorney reporters who can comprehend and communicate what’s actually going on here — but it’s clear to me that Henson was not the proper person to be covering this story for the leading news outlet in Los Angeles. The coverage required someone who understands the legal standards and considerations at play, not someone who was covering it because one of the parties is a Los Angeles Dodger.

MLB proposes a farkakte salary minimum proposal

Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic reported last night that in a face-to-face collective bargaining meeting on Monday MLB made its first major economic proposal to the Players Association. I’m here to tell you that it’s complete and total horseshit.

The idea: a salary minimum of $100 million in the sport, which would putatively cause the tanking and/or low payroll teams like Cleveland, the Orioles, the Pirates and Marlins, among others, to pay more. The catch: the increased payroll of the currently low payroll teams would be subsidized by a tax on teams with higher payrolls, with that tax threshold starting $180 million.

Which is way, way lower than the current Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) threshold of $210 million. A $210 million threshold that teams now uniformly treat as a hard salary cap and bend over backwards to avoid spending more than that. If they were to install a $180 million threshold teams would absolutely treat that as the new hard cap. So, yes, you may very well get all the teams that are currently tanking their brains out to up their payrolls a bit, but it would cause the currently higher-spending teams to slash payrolls. Taken all together you’d get a flatter payroll landscape, sure, but there would be less paid in salaries overall. If you want to put hard numbers on it: Per Cot's Contracts, Opening Day payrolls showed seven teams under $100 million by a collective $145.7 million. The teams over $180 were over by a collective $259 million. This proposal, if enacted for 2021, would suck around $114 million out of overall payrolls, assuming everyone was acting rationally to optimize their tax burdens. Which they would do, because the people who run baseball teams are hardwired to do just that.

If MLB cares about tanking it would simply suggest a salary floor to address it. It doesn’t care about that, though. It only cares about limiting the overall amount of money going to players, which is what this scheme would lead to.

In related news: it’s been a bit since I talked about this kind of thing, but it’s important to note as labor stuff gets going that MLB and the owners are notorious for leaking to the media while the MLBPA generally does not. When you see labor news out there — especially if it’s being reported by Ken Rosenthal and, to a lesser degree, Jeff Passan — know that it is usually something coming from the league in an effort to make the league seem reasonable and the union seem unreasonable. In this case, this proposal is being leaked to show that MLB cares about tanking. The point here is to get media outlets to run with the story that “MLB wants to make sure all teams pay at least $100 million to players!” with little or no scrutiny as to what else the plan would do.

My advice: don’t fall for it. My further advice: subscribe to this newsletter if you don’t already because I am one of the few folks out there who will call this stuff out for what it is as the labor stuff begins to ramp up over the coming weeks and months.

Jack Morris gets suspended

On Tuesday night Tigers broadcaster Jack Morris decided it was a good idea to affect a phony, Mickey Rooney-in-Breakfast-at-Tiffany’s Asian accent when referring to Shohei Ohtani during the Angels-Tigers game. He apologized soon after, but the apology seemed to be at gunpoint, so to speak. Yesterday afternoon Bally Sports Detroit suspended Morris indefinitely, saying that it was “extremely disappointed” with his remarks. The Tigers issued a statement as well, saying that it was “deeply disappointed” in Morris and that it fully supports his suspension.

As I mentioned yesterday, this is not Morris’ first rodeo when it comes to callous insensitivity. Everyone knows, or should know, about his sexual harassment of a reporter named Jennifer Frey in 1990, which continued into 1991, when Morris was making his Hall of Fame case during his postseason run with the Twins.

Beyond that, you do not have to be too deeply embedded inside the world of baseball to have heard stories about Morris’ legendarily crappy character and general loathsomeness. If it wasn’t this, it’d be something else. Or could’ve been something else in the past. Rotten people are going to show themselves to be rotten people eventually, and Morris is one of the more rotten people in baseball.

Steve Cohen goes full-Steinbrenner

George Steinbrenner never had Twitter, but if he did, he probably would’ve tweeted all kinds of smack about his team. Steve Cohen does have Twitter and he did that about the Mets yesterday morning, albeit in far more polite terms than I imagine The Boss ever would’ve.

Two reactions here: (1) where is the lie?; and (2) how will this play?

I'm guessing some people will say Cohen shouldn't air criticism of his team in public like this, but if I owned a baseball team I'd be shitposting about them all the damn time. Or I’d pull a Ray Kroc and take to the PA system. Maybe I wouldn’t use the word “stupid” like Kroc did — that crossed a line that Cohen didn’t cross — but if it’s my toy, I’m gonna play with it.

OK, I suppose there’s a third reaction: what is Steve Cohen gonna do about it? He’s a billionaire over a dozen times over and his team plays in the largest media market in the country. Is he gonna spend for those better hitters he wants? If you’re gonna talk the Steinbrenner talk, you gotta walk the Steinbrenner walk, Stevie Boy.

Reminder: MLB is still talking to Barstool

Yesterday Media Matters published the latest accounting of the cesspool that is Barstool and it is the most comprehensive accounting to date. It reads like an indictment which, really, it is. An indictment that is helpfully categorized too, with separate entries for the following:

  • Sexualizing minors and whitewashing nonconsensual explicit content;

  • Perpetuating and encouraging sexism and misogyny;

  • Perpetuating and encouraging racism;

  • Perpetuating and encouraging anti-LGBTQ attitudes;

  • Spreading coronavirus misinformation;

  • Encouraging violence and harassment; and

  • Promoting right-wing grievances and conspiracy theories.

Allow me to offer a reminder that, at any time, Major League Baseball could tell the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand or any other sports media reporter who has mentioned the negotiations that it is no longer in discussions with Barstool over a content partnership but chooses not to because it sees value in working with the Barstool brand.


Other Stuff

Gift of Dreams

Last weekend my in-laws told me that they had sent me a gift but did not tell me what it was. The package arrived yesterday. This is what was inside:

The ball also has a farmhouse on it with the words “If you build it he will come.”

The ball was designed by a painter named Emily M. Wolfson for a series called “Unforgettaballs.” This particular ball was purchased from the Baseball Hall of Fame. And yes, it was 100% purchased to troll me. My father-in-law, who sometimes comments here under the name Gary P., told me that he will only keep his subscription if I keep the baseball and display it in a prominent place in my home.

So that’s how my life’s going this week and, apparently, for the foreseeable future. I mean, yeah, I gotta keep their daughter happy — that’s a given — but I also want that sweet $65 from ‘em every August, so now I got the Field of Dreams ball on my desk.

Carrot in a Box

The British comedian Sean Lock died of cancer at age 58 earlier this week. I had heard his name before but knew almost nothing about him or his work before the news of his death, so I am not sharing this as a personal remembrance or reflection or anything like that. I am sharing it because a friend of mine who was a big fan of Lock’s work posted a video of him on her Facebook page that is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

It’s from a show Lock appeared on regularly called “8 Out of 10 Cats,” playing a game called “Carrot in a Box.” It’s exactly what it sounds like.

People say “lol” a lot, bit I literally laughed out loud, uncontrollably, while watching this.

Dear God, don’t go to law school

Ian Millhiser of Vox posted a thread last night giving his advice to people starting law school this week. It’s advice that is probably frightening as hell to people just starting law school. If you’re one of them, however, know that only about 2/3 of it is true.

I think Millhiser is right about how borked the profession is and how much the deck is stacked against you if you want money and happiness because, at best, you get one in that business. He’s right about how the best paying, sexiest legal jobs are the most soul-crushing and morally compromising. He’s right about how, if you want to do good things with your law degree, you had best not have a lot of debt. He's totally right about the system being broken overall. Law schools are profit centers for universities and they keep cranking out high-tuition-paying newbie lawyers, but the legal practice model has broke down since Boomer attorney decided that, rather than hand off cases and clients to the next generation(s) as those cases and clients were handed off to them, they’d continue working into their 70s and guard their money piles like rabid dogs. The idea that younger lawyers would work a soul-crushing job for a few years but have a light at the end of the tunnel has been discarded. Now they are expected to work a soul-crushing job indefinitely, with no opportunity for advancement or reward.

I think Millhiser is wrong, though, about grades and credentials mattering forever. They matter for your first job, but after that it’s about your work and your connections. He’s wrong about sucking up to professors, because that’s really not going to get you anywhere. If you’re already at the top of your class and you suck up, sure, you’ll do well, but you were going to do OK at the top of your class anyway. If you’re just kinda getting by with a gentleman’s 3.0 (hi, 1995-98 Craig!) no amount of hanging out at the prof’s office hours is gonna lead you to legal Nirvana.

Finally, I’d dial back that “government lawyer making $150K a year” talk he engages in by a great deal. Yeah, there are feds who make that or more if they’re in the financial regulation world, but those are tough jobs to get. If there were relatively easily obtainable government legal jobs paying $150K, I'd still be working that government legal job I had 12 years ago. For me that meant being a senior assistant Ohio AG with 10 years experience and case-running responsibility. I made like $75K in 2009. It has not doubled since then, that's for damn sure. I found the job to be rewarding and if the baseball writing thing didn’t work out I would’ve stayed there, but lower your expectations if you want to work in the public sector and, again, limit your law school debt.

I dunno. His items 1-7 are mostly baloney. After that he makes a lot of sense. Overall, though, I’d recommend you go to med school or become a teacher or learn to fix air conditioners before I’d tell you to go to law school these days.

Have a great day, everyone.