Cup of Coffee: February 2, 2023
The Dodgers on Bauer, a minor leaguer is in trouble, MLB Network is off YouTube, and we talk Florida fascism, Italy's birthrates, Tom Brady's divorce, hiking among mountain lions, and drinking bleach
Okay campers, rise, and shine, and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cold out there! And welcome to Free Thursday!
Yeah, I know it’s hacky as hell to quote “Groundhog Day” on Groundhog Day — 60 year-old baseball writers will be doing it all morning on Twitter — but I don’t care. Almost every holiday we have in this country — be it a real holiday or a bullshit holiday — is either patriotic or religious or is primarily driven by commercial considerations. In this sad and fallen world why not take a day that’s already on the calendar to remember a pretty damn decent comedy from a time when things were simpler? Or, at the very least, from a time when we didn’t think that fascism was merely one acceptable ideology to espouse on the mainstream political spectrum. I think that was better anyway.
I talk about fascism today. Down in Florida, specifically. I also talk about Italy’s biggest problem and a straightforward solution for it that the Italian government doesn’t wanna contemplate. I discuss Tom Brady’s retirement, but only from a narrow, idiosyncratic perspective because I otherwise don’t give a rip about Tom Brady. I also talk about an essential item to bring with you if you go hiking in mountain lion country and we discuss the pros and cons of drinking bleach.
Oh, there’s baseball too, because this is a baseball newsletter. Even in February.
The Daily Briefing
Dodgers get a new bench coach
The Los Angeles Dodgers announced yesterday that Danny Lehmann is now the club’s bench coach. Lehmann had spent the past three seasons as the team's game planning and communications coach. Bob Geren, who had been the team’s bench coach for the past seven years, will transition to the role of major league field coordinator.
I would have more in-depth analysis of this but I (a) do not really know what a “major league field coordinator” or a “game planning and communications coach” does; and (b) I remain convinced that the bench coach’s primary job is to have beers with the manager in the manager’s office after games and say things like “sometimes I think we’re gettin’ too old for this, Dave” and “welp, guess we should say something to the troops” and whatnot.
Dodgers brass talks about Trevor Bauer. Sorta.
Los Angeles Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman talked last night about the decision to release Trevor Bauer. It was the first time anyone from the team has spoken on the record about Bauer since it all went down.
During their time with the press Kasten said that the decision to release Bauer was “unanimous,” but he sort of skated around the meeting they had with Bauer just before his release which, to hear Bauer tell it, involved someone from the team saying, at least at first, that they’d love to have him back. The takeaway by some was that the Dodgers were giving Bauer a chance to show some contrition or some sense that he would change his public “I’ve done nothing wrong”/sue everyone in existence stance and, of he did, they’d take him back.
To be sure, an unnamed Dodgers official who was not authorized to speak to the media leaked, right after Bauer was released, that Bauer was lying about that comment. When asked to confirm it on the record, however, Kasten said, “I’m not gonna get into contradicting or agreeing with anything about what was supposed to be a private conversation. I’ll just say, within a very short time we came back and made our decision. I think that speaks for itself.”
Kasten went on:
Asked if there was anything Bauer — who has denied allegations of sexual assault from multiple women — could have said or committed to at that meeting that would have swayed the Dodgers to bring him back, Kasten again deflected.
“I think we all had strong feelings and until we decided — those of us who made this decision — until we decided, I guess anything was possible,” Kasten said. “But I think we all had a strong feeling all the way through the process of the right way to handle this.”
Kasten was also asked why it took the team until the very last day of the two weeks it had to make a decision on Bauer to release him. He blamed the holidays. Almost all of it seemed like an exercise in generalities.
At this point I think it’s worth mentioning that, when the Dodgers signed Bauer, they said they fully vetted him and his character. That was obviously not true based on his blatant and egregious track record of bullying people online the Dodgers barely acknowledged at the time and what was quickly discovered about him once the sexual assault allegations were lodged against him. I don’t believe the Dodgers every actually vetted him so, nah, I’m not gonna give Dodgers brass the benefit of the doubt here.
As I said when the decision was made to release Bauer in early January, the delay and the details of it all don’t, ultimately, matter. Bauer was released and that’s that. Still, I sorta feel like Kasten is being cute here and I’d not be super shocked if the team at least considered the possibility of bringing Bauer back and that they don’t want to acknowledge that now.
Mets minor leaguer under investigation for domestic violence
It was reported yesterday that Major League Baseball has opened investigation into allegations of domestic assault against Mets minor leaguer Khalil Lee. The investigation comes in the wake of a criminal warrant being issued for Lee by police in Syracuse, New York, and a civil complaint filed against Lee by his ex-girlfriend.
The criminal warrant cites “criminal obstruction of breath” which is a charge typically associated with domestic incidents that involve choking or strangulation. The lawsuit by Lee’s former girlfriends alleges that on May 7, 2022 Lee assaulted her by pulling her hair and choking her during an argument and that the assault left multiple bruises and marks on her body.
Lee was a 2016 draftee of the Kansas City Royals. He was traded to the Mets organization Feb. 2, 2021. That year he was named to the Triple-A All-Star team. He made his major league debut with theMets on May 17, 2021. He played in 11 big league games that season and two in 2022. He is currently on the Mets 40-man roster.
MLB Network is off of YouTubeTV for now
I’m a YouTubeTV subscriber and yesterday I, like all other YouTubeTV subscribers got this message on Tuesday afternoon:
We have been working hard to renew our deal with the MLB Network to continue carrying their content on YouTube TV. However, we have been unable to reach an agreement, and starting today, January 31, 2023, MLB Network content will no longer be available on YouTube TV. You will also lose access to any previous Library recordings from this channel.
It’s your standard carriage dispute, the sort of which tend to get resolved in a matter of days or a couple of weeks after one side makes a financial concession, so I’m not particularly worried about it.
Wait, now that I think about it, the only time I have intentionally tuned in to MLB Network in the past couple of years is when they put some early-round postseason games on there, so I won’t be worried all that much about it even if it were to stretch on for months and months.
Mariners extend Dylan Moore
The Seattle Mariners and utlityman Dylan Moore have agreed to a three-year, $8.875 million contract extension. The deal, which buys out Moore's final two arbitration-eligible seasons and one year of free agency, includes escalators that could make it worth more than $9 million.
Moore, 30, is recovering from offseason core muscle surgery, but should be ready for the start of the regular season. In 2022 he hit .224/.368/.385 (122 OPS+) with six homers and 21 stolen bases across 255 plate appearances while seeing time at every position except catcher. In 2019 he even pitched an inning. Someone tell Scott Servais to put him behind the plate in a blowout. You know, for completeness sake.
Ron DeSantis is turning Florida into a fascist state
In our current political age it’s easy to let the nearly daily outrages wash over you, but no matter how desensitized we may become, some things manage to stand out as truly odious, truly dangerous, and truly appalling. Such as what Ron DeSantis is doing to Florida’s educational system. From just the past couple of weeks:
Teachers in Manatee County, Florida, were ordered to make classroom libraries inaccessible to students until the books can be reviewed for content by “media specialists” who have been retrained by DeSantis’ Department of Education to identify books it deems unacceptable, “harmful,” “pornographic” or the stuff of left-wing ideologies which DeSantis believes "contain “unsolicited theories that may lead to student indoctrination.” If teachers fail to comply, they risk a felony charge. Note: books the DeSantis administration has previously deemed “pornographic” or otherwise unacceptable include any and all books with LGBTQ+ themes or prominent LGBTQ+ characters, books with Black protagonists or prominent secondary characters who are Black, and covers everything from award-winning authors and educational staples like Toni Morrison to rite-of-passage reading like books by Judy Blume;
Because teachers are super busy as it is and because they are under a deadline to hide or remove books, Manatee County has solicited volunteers to assist teachers with this process. This has led to right-wing activist groups such as “The Manatee Patriots” to solicit the help of what they call "Woke Busters" to “SAVE the CHILDREN and OUR Society.” Basically, it’s an untrained vigilante book-banning mob which is urging its members to “get into the school libraries” and determine whether teachers are “following the laws.” Volunteers are urged to “be on watch for anything that looks inappropriate,” including “activism” and “globalism,” the latter of which is, as everyone knows, a well-worn antisemitic euphemism. Worth noting that the chair of the Manatee County School Board who ordered the hiding and/or removal of books, and who was appointed by DeSantis, was recently a featured speaker at a Manatee Patriots meeting;
Last week DeSantis announced that he is banning an Advanced Placement African-American Studies course that teaches teenagers about the Civil Rights movement, Black culture and contemporary issues that impact Black people;
Also last week The Florida High School Athletics Association’s sports medicine advisory committee, in a move blatantly aimed at banning and stigmatizing trans athletes, moved to require high school athletes to submit information about their periods in order to participate in sports. Among the questions it intends to ask students is if they have had a period, when they first got their period, the date of their most recent period, and the regularity of their cycle during the previous 12 months. All of that is, quite obviously, is aimed at going after trans people ;
On Tuesday DeSantis’ plan to destroy New College of Florida, a prestigious, nationally-regarded liberal arts university in Sarasota, took a massive step forward. Specifically, a slate of conservative new board memberswith no previous connection to New College who were installed by DeSantis last month fired its beloved president and replaced her with a former GOP House speaker/DeSantis operative, installed another DeSantis appointee as the new board chair, moved to hire a former Republican lawmaker as the school's new general counsel, and began the process of abolishing programs aimed at increasing diversity, equity and inclusion on campus. All of this, by the way, was prefaced by months of DeSantis attacks on higher education which parroted conservative culture war talking points about critical race theory and gender.
Of course, if you only read some papers, you’d think this was simply a matter of bold politics and “brand-building” as opposed to blatant fascism and state-sponsored bigotry:
I absolutely love the fact that the governor of the third largest state in the country is threatening teachers with felonies if they don't empty classroom bookshelves, has essentially banned the teaching of Black history, seeks to terrorize and stigmatize students in furtherance of a hateful campaign against trans people, and is destroying an entire college for ideological reasons and The New York Fucking Times thinks that the key takeaway here is what it means for the 2024 horse race. Apparently, if it doesn’t happen in Manhattan it’s just theater.
My angst at the media aside, what is going on in Florida right now is profoundly reprehensible and downright dangerous.
There is this notion out there among the mainstream media and no small number of Democrats that it’s a mistake to take on people like DeSantis and the deplorable lackeys he is elevating to power because to do so is to take the low road or to get down on their level or to give them the culture war they so desperately want. This, however, is painfully naive. Ron DeSantis has long since moved past doing shocking things to get attention or to elevate his profile. He is, in every way that matters, ushering in a fascist regime in the State of Florida, complete with book-banning, persecuting minorities and intellectuals, subjecting children to invasive and exploitative medical examinations, and installing racists, bigots, and authoritarians into positions of power. His political motives for doing these things are irrelevant because he’s fucking doing them and he’s harming people — especially children — and institutions in the process.
There was a time, not terribly long ago, where what DeSantis is doing would make him a pariah. Where his name could not be mentioned without talking about how illiberal, toxic, and destructive he and his agenda are. Where mass boycotts of his state would be undertaken and where people would fill the streets in protest. It’s well past time that that’s how DeSantis be treated now, because what he is doing right now is not “provocative.” It is not “brand-building.” It is not “controversial.” It is simply wrong. It is simply evil. It is simply un-American. Saying anything less about it is to enable it further.
Speaking of fascist states . . .
. . . Or, at the very least, a state which just elected the ideological heirs of O.G. fascism, Italy, thanks to its aging population and plummeting birthrate is the West’s fastest-shrinking nation.
Both the government and those outside of government characterize what’s happening in Italy as a “demographic time bomb.” That’s a dramatic and often loaded term, but as I’ve mentioned a couple of times in this space recently, it’s basically true that declining populations can disrupt labor markets, threaten the fiscal sustainability of pension systems, and slow down economic growth. At least assuming the given country in question does not radically changes its governmental and social policies to accommodate a shrinking population base, which is a pretty damn big ask and thus a pretty safe assumption.
There is a great way to offset such problems though: increased immigration. Of course the Italian government — even more so than a lot of other western governments given who is in charge these days — is unwilling to countenance such a thing even though the country is facing a dire demographic future. Indeed, opposition to immigration and, in some cases, draconian enforcement of anti-immigration policies, is one of the cornerstones of both Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government.
There is a lot of ugly cultural/racial stuff tied up in all of that, of course. The appeal of far right policies that are hostile to immigrants — especially Black, brown, and non-Christian immigrants — is, after all, not limited to any one place and has always resonated in Italy. But Italian politicians have been fretting about the country’s demographics for a long time now and none of that fretting and none of the various policies aimed at fixing the problem have born much if any fruit.
It strikes me that a well thought-out set of policies which would encourage immigration, however, would likely find much more success. I won’t hold my breath until places like Italy embark on such a strategy, but that’s the smart play.
Tom Brady retires again
Tom Brady announced his retirement yesterday. Again. This time he says he means it. I suppose we are safe to take his word for it this time even if I would not be shocked to see him show up at a press conference announcing that he has signed with the Raiders next month.
I’m long on record as not being into the NFL anymore, so whether Brady is retired or not is not a thing I care all that much about, but there is one part of his story that has made me think a bit over the past year or so: the conventional wisdom that Brady’s un-retirement last year is what caused his marriage to Gisele Bündchen to end. The thinking being — and the jokes supporting — the notion that Brady had a choice between saving his marriage and playing football and that he stupidly chose going 8-9 with the Buccaneers while getting his head pounded into the turf over having sex with a supermodel and living in the same house as his children.
While, again, I don’t give a rat’s ass about Tom Brady, that framing has troubled me somewhat. It strikes me as an oddly personal and unknowable thing offered as a means of crapping on Tom Brady more than anything else. Which is weird because there are a TON of reasons to not like Tom Brady as it is. I know that there were gossip items out there about all of that, but I assume that’s a function of either the parties or people close to them trying to spin things. If I had to guess, I’d assume that Brady and Bündchen’s marriage was already pretty dicey and Brady un-retired either because he wanted to be anyplace but home or because they tried to work on it some, realized it was pointless, and playing football gave him something to do while he figured out the next part of his life.
I don’t know why I care about this, but as a divorced guy myself I tend to presume that things are messier and more complicated with most people’s marriages than whatever the public story is.
Planning is important
As I’ve mentioned, I’m going hiking in the Bay Area late next week. Yesterday I got this message from my friend/hiking companion who lives out there:
Hey, they say to never hike alone, right?
Don’t you wanna hang out with the Bleach Boys, baby?
From the Ottawa Citizen:
They say it’s toxic, and that may be true, but bleach keeps you young. Or so I've been told. ‘Cause no one who drinks it lives to be old.
Have a great day, everyone.
Among the new board members: Christopher Rufo, an avowed white nationalist who has been among the most powerful drivers of the hysteria around Critical Race Theory and the transgender panic currently gripping American politics; Matthew Spaulding, a dean from ultra-conservative and Christian Hillsdale College in Michigan, and Eddie Spier, the superintendent of a religious charter school in Sarasota.
Stan Kasten was a smarmy dickhead when he was Nats GM - most famously, openly encouraging fans of division rivals like Philly and New York to come to DC if they couldn’t see their favorite team at home. At least he’s consistent in his smarmy dickheadedness?
Tom Brady’s retirement ends an era. He was the last Montreal Expos draftee still playing pro ball.