Cup of Coffee: January 26, 2023
An extension, the Red Sox get an infielder, Jeff Kent whines, Tito got his scooter back, defying aging, a case for automats, "Poker Face," and why to never talk to the police
Good morning! And welcome to Free Thursday!
Today we have a contract extension, a trade for which I am a day late, a signing of a fallen closer, Jeff Kent with a case of the redass about not making the Hall of Fame, and our short, regional, scooter-related nightmare is over.
In Other Stuff my son’s school is selective about that for which they apologize, we learn how to be 18 years-old again for only $2 million a year, not that anyone should want that, from hell’s heart the automats stab at thee, I’m excited about “Poker Face” and I implore you to not talk to the police.
The Daily Briefing
Rays, Jeffrey Springs agree to a four-year extension
Rays lefty Jeffrey Springs and the Tampa Bay Rays have agreed to a four-year, $31 million contract extension Wednesday. The deal includes a club option for 2027 and can be worth up to $65.75 million if the option is exercised and if Springs meets incentives for innings pitched and various other escalators are triggered. Per the agreement Springs will earn a salary of $4 million this year, $5.25 million next year, and $10.5 million in each of the following two seasons. The option, if picked up, would be for $15 million.
Springs, who came up with the Rangers and then spent a year in Boston before being traded to the Rays, was converted from a reliever to a starter in 2022 and the move suited him. He went 9-5 with a 2.46 ERA (147 ERA+) and had a K/BB ratio of 144/31 in 135.1 innings across 33 appearances, 25 of which were starts.
Springs was entering his second year of arbitration, so the deal buys out two arb years, two free agent years and a possible third. While, if he continues on his current trajectory, this will end up being a pretty team-friendly deal, it’s also the case that Springs is 30 and would not hit free agency until he was 32. Hard to blame a guy for locking in at least $31 million at this point, especially when he, until pretty recently, struggled at the big league level.
Royals trade Adalberto Mondesi to Boston
I missed this one yesterday, but the very busy Kansas City Royals have traded infielder Adalberto Mondesi to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for lefty reliever Josh Taylor.
Mondesi is a hell of a speedster, having led the majors in triples in 2019 and stolen bases in 2020, but he’s been plagued with injuries. Most notably he tore his left ACL only 15 games into last season and missed the rest of the campaign. He only played 35 games in 2021 due to oblique and hamstring issues. For his career Mondesi has posted a line of .244/.280/.408 (82 OPS+) with 38 homers and 133 stolen bases in 358 games. Given how little he’s played over the years — and given that he’s still only 27 — it’s hard to get one’s mind around the fact that he actually appeared in the 2015 World Series for the Royals, but he did. One plate appearance in one game, but still. He’s also eligible for free agency after the 2023 campaign.
The acquisition of Mondesi comes at a time when the Red Sox are scrambling to put a middle infield together given the departure of Xander Bogaerts via free agency and Trevor Story’s potentially season-ending injury. At the time of Story’s injury the Sox’ brass said that Kiké Hernández would play short, but if Mondesi — who has started 241 games at short, 64 games at second and 20 at third base — is healthy, you have to figure that he’ll get a lot of looks there as well. At the very least he provides versatile, if fragile, depth.
Taylor will be a good though by no means earth-shattering addition to the Royals bullpen. He’s entering his fourth year in the bigs and has posted a 3.69 ERA (130 ERA+) with 129 strikeouts at 44 walks in 102.1 innings across 121 appearances.
The Diamondbacks signed Jeurys Familia
The Arizona Diamondbacks have signed reliever Jeurys Familia to a minor-league contract with an invite to big league spring training camp.
Familia had a nightmare season in 2022. He signed with the Phillies before the season, stunk up the joint, got released, and signed with the Red Sox, who DFA’d him in mid-September. In the process he put up a 6.09 ERA (68 ERA+) in 48 games while walking everyone and their mother.
Familia is still only 33, so maybe a fresh team means a fresh start.
Jeff Kent blames “stat folks” for his failure to make the Hall of Fame
As mentioned yesterday, Jeff Kent fell far short of election to the Hall of Fame for the tenth time and has thus fallen off the writers’ ballot. That’s tough news for him and those who back his candidacy, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
If you think Kent is taking all of this in stride, however, think again. He had this to say in a text sent to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle:
“The voting over the years has been too much of a head-scratching embarrassment. Baseball is losing a couple generations of great players that were the best in their era because a couple non-voting stat folks keep comparing those players to players already voted in from generations past and are influencing the votes. It's unfair to the best players in their own era and those already voted in, in my opinion.”
I’m not sure what era of Hall of Fame voting did not entail people comparing players from one era to another, but maybe Kent is just a purist and thinks that the original voting went down back in the 1930s was the only legitimate Hall of Fame voting.
As for his disdain for “stat folks,” welp, sorry? Maybe that sort of beefing would resonate 20 years ago, but Kent’s career overlapped to no small degree with today’s more statistically savvy era, and his performance in that era tells a story that no one but Kent seems to dispute: the guy had a lot of power for a middle infielder, and he had some pretty great-looking offensive lines in a vacuum, but given that he (a) played in an extreme offense era; and (b) he was a demonstrably below average second baseman, defensively, speaking, a lot of the shine is taken off of his Hall of Fame brief.
Either way, though, Kent’s failure to make the Hall of Fame is not a function of some cadre of non-BBWAA-affiliated “stat folks” campaigning against him. Yeah, there was a time when that kind of stuff took center stage in a couple of cases — statheads helped get Bert Blyleven into the Hall and tried, but ultimately failed, to keep Jack Morris out — but that’s not what’s happening anymore. The BBWAA electorate is by no means perfect, but it’s smarter than it was 15-20 years ago. That same electorate looked at Jeff Kent’s case for a decade and said “nope.”
I’d shake my head a bit more at all of this, but it’s Jeff Kent we’re talking about. He was a prickly sonofabitch when he played and he’s, apparently, a prickly sonofabitch 15 years later.
Tito’s scooter has been recovered
Yesterday morning I passed along news that Guardians manager Terry Francona’s scooter had been stolen. Yesterday afternoon I received this press release from the Cleveland Guardians:
Tito’s scooter was found by the Cleveland Police Department last evening (1/24) and was delivered to him at Progressive Field this afternoon (1/25).
Our short regional nightmare is finally over.
“These images may have offended some of our students or staff and were not appropriate for use during the student lecture”
A local foundation in my town of New Albany, Ohio hosts a lecture series which features notable figures. Sometimes media people, sometimes political people, sometimes activists and the like. The events take place in the evening at the auditorium near the high school. A benefit of that is that on the afternoon before their evening event, most of the speakers give their talk, or some version of their talk, to New Albany high school students.
On Tuesday evening the local foundation got a pretty major speaker: Maria Ressa. Ressa, a Filipino-American journalist who has spent years combatting fake news and authoritarian propaganda, and who specifically devoted herself to reporting on the repressive regime of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. She was arrested and imprisoned by the Duterte regime in 2019 in a clearly trumped-up charge. Her persecution became a major international story and, as a result of it and the work she has put in to fight injustice and to advocate for press freedom, she was named a co-recipient of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. That's a big get for little New Albany!
When I woke up yesterday morning there was an email in my inbox from the high school’s principal to all high school parents:
During Ms. Ressa’s presentation regarding social media and how it may become addictive or used negatively towards others, Ms. Ressa shared graphic images of herself to illustrate how others have attacked her personally on social media. These images included Ms. Ressa’s disfigured face and images of her face superimposed on male genitalia. These images may have offended some of our students or staff and were not appropriate for use during the student lecture.
We ask our students to “Own Their R”. We, as adults, must model such expectations too for our students. We apologize for any offense that may have resulted from the images displayed during the student lecture yesterday and will work with the New Albany Community Foundation to ensure that any future presentations remain age appropriate.
I didn’t see the presentation so I can’t comment on the specific content of it, but I find it pretty damn rich that Ressa gets the “This may have offended people and was not appropriate” treatment when past speakers in this series have included Karl Rove, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Colin Powell, and a bunch of others who have done way, way more tangible damage to society than a Nobel Peace Prize winner showing that hated and ugliness has been thrust upon her. Like, I’m pretty sure my kids have seen way worse stuff on social media in the past 24 hours than anything Ressa showed during her presentation.
In the end I’m pretty sure that the principal’s email was not some self-driven thing but, rather, was a reaction to parental complaints. Which says a hell of a lot about a place like New Albany. A place where people demand apologies for a talk from a person who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her "efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace" while no one besides me and a few other local radical cranks has ever said boo about them letting hateful and divisive political actors and people who misled our country into brutal and senseless wars speak to our kids with no pushback or critical context whatsoever.
“How to Be 18 Years Old Again for Only $2 Million a Year”
You MUST read this Bloomberg story about a tech centimillionaire named Bryan Johnson who has taken on what seems to be an obsessive if not damn nigh pathological effort to reverse the aging process. He has a team of doctors, researchers, dietitians and exercise scientists monitoring every measurable aspect of his body’s operation, providing him with food, supplements, therapies, and medicines while keeping tabs on every molecule of sustenance he consumes and energy he burns:
Johnson [his doctor] and the team are more than a year into their experiments, which they collectively call Project Blueprint. This includes strict guidelines for Johnson’s diet (1,977 vegan calories a day), exercise (an hour a day, high-intensity three times a week) and sleep (at the same time every night, after two hours wearing glasses that block blue light). In the interest of fine-tuning this program, Johnson constantly monitors his vital signs. Each month, he also endures dozens of medical procedures, some quite extreme and painful, then measures their results with additional blood tests, MRIs, ultrasounds and colonoscopies.
They even measure his nighttime boners. Yes, you read that correctly:
Getting the program up and running required an investment of several million dollars, including the costs of a medical suite at Johnson’s home in Venice, California. This year, he’s on track to spend at least $2 million on his body. He wants to have the brain, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, tendons, teeth, skin, hair, bladder, penis and rectum of an 18-year-old . . .
. . . There’s a regimen and series of measurements for every last part of Johnson’s body. He’s taken 33,537 images of his bowels, discovered that his eyelashes are shorter than average and probed the thickness of his carotid artery. He blasts his pelvic floor with electromagnetic pulses to improve muscle tone in hard-to-reach places and has a device that counts the number of his nighttime erections. Of late, he’s been presenting as a teenager in that regard, as well.
Notably, of the seemingly countless tests and procedures to which Johnson subjects himself, there is no mention of his psychological health. Which, at the risk of armchair analyzing, I’d suggest could stand some examining, as I suspect that Johnson’s whole deal here is a function of some sort of mental illness or trauma or something. At the very least that which he is putting himself through sounds absolutely miserable, completely exhausting, and even humanity-denying. We are, after all, mortal, and even if it’s better to live a healthy lifestyle as opposed to an unhealthy one, we do kinda need to contend with our mortality at some point and actually live our life as opposed to obsessively seek to prolong it at the cost of all other things.
But hey, his money, his life. Congrats on the night boners. And, dear God, don’t get run over by a bus or kicked in the head by a horse at the age of 50, dude, because I don’t think Earth’s irony dampeners could handle the strain.
I have an idea
Corporate cafeterias are struggling, reports the New York Times. They’re a victim of people working at home for the most part but, of course, there’s a suggestion in the article that entitled younger workers don’t want free dinner at the office, which is intended to encourage long hours and to make them more palatable, and would instead prefer to go home earlier.
I’m less concerned with the reason for the decline of the corporate cafeteria than I am eager to nod in smug satisfaction at the demise of one of the (admittedly many) things which caused automats to go out of style. Yeah, fast food and changing tastes was probably the biggest factor, but companies putting cafeterias and lunchrooms on-site, thereby discouraging workers from going out into the city to get themselves a cup of coffee, a bowl of beef stroganoff, and a pice of coconut cream pie had at least a little to do with it.
[Editor: Beef stroganoff? Are you sure you’re not underselling the “changes in tastes” thing? Because frankly I’d rather have a sandwich or a salad]
Yep, cafeterias killed the perfectly good beef stroganoff at the old automat and now from Hell’s heart Horn & Hardart stabs at thee, bitches.
Anyhoo, corporate America: it’s not too late to fix this. Buy yourself some relatively straightforward equipment and your workers will be dyin’ to take lunch, and even dinner, in the old office.
Today marks the debut of the new Rian Johnson/Natasha Lyonne series “Poker Face.” It’s on Peacock, so I imagine only soccer obsessives and weirdos will watch it, but it’s there.
I talked about “Poker Face” when the trailer first dropped a few months ago. The look of it suggested that it was a throwback sort of TV show, only lightly serialized with “murder of the week” plots and big named guest starts. Sort of a “Columbo” or “Murder She Wrote” kind of deal. Since it is debuting this week there have been a bunch of articles written about it and, yep, that’s exactly what it is. It’s even a “Columbo”-style “howcatchem” — as opposed to a whodunit — in which we see the actual crime happen early on and know everything about it, with the episode focusing on how the star solves it.
I was already gonna watch the show, but these final grafs of the Daily Beast’s review of “Poker Face” absolutely ensures that I will be watching them as soon as humanly possible after each episode comes out:
“Poker Face doesn’t want to reinvent the wheel; in a vein similar to the Knives Out films, its aims are to resuscitate a genre that’s fallen out of favor for no reason other than the fickle nature of tastes and fads. Charlie isn’t a deep character but, as with Angela Lansbury’s Murder She Wrote novelist and Tony Shalhoub’s Monk obsessive-compulsive gumshoe, she’s rich in quirky, engaging personality, and Johnson and company concoct a raft of intricate puzzles for her to solve at each stop along her zigzagging cross-country odyssey . . .
“. . . Through its first six episodes (which were all that were provided to press), Poker Face sets itself on a comfortable course through a wild and diverse American landscape marked by nursing homes, dinner theaters, heavy metal clubs, and backwater radio stations. It’s a journey that’s meant to be up and down, and no doubt will be, depending on which Hollywood luminary pops up at a given site. With Lyonne and Johnson at the helm, though, the series proves to be a gamble—on old-school style, attitude and convention—that consistently pays off.”
Inject it directly into my veins.
Don’t talk to police
Farhad Manjoo has a useful column in the New York Times in which he uses the example of the prosecution of Alec Baldwin as a means of explaining why you should never talk to police, especially without an attorney present. In that particular case it seems like Baldwin — who, based on what I’ve read doesn’t seem like he should’ve been charged with a crime but was anyway — talked himself into a criminal charge.
Manjoo, who is more interested in the general proposition than he is in Alec Baldwin’s case, acknowledges that such a “don’t talk to the cops” stance may cause people who have not had much if any experience with law enforcement to be uncomfortable — one’s in experience with cops, their belief in a just world, and their affinity for law and order and all of that noise works overtime to make certain sorts of people want to be helpful — but it’s always a bad move.
Why? Because the police are not on your side and they will absolutely lie to you and try to trick you:
Looking beyond the Baldwin case, Duane argues that a key danger is that in trying to defend yourself to the police, you may unwittingly admit some wrongdoing. Navigating around such dangers is made all the more difficult because courts have given the police wide leeway to lie to people being interrogated.
“They will lie to you about what crime they are actually investigating,” Duane writes in his book, “whether they regard you as a suspect, whether they plan to prosecute you, what evidence they have against you, whether your answers may help you, whether your statements are off the record, and whether the other witnesses have agreed to talk to them — even about what those witnesses have or have not said.”
A hell of a lot of innocent people have been jammed up because of that. And a hell of a lot of people guilty of very minor things have been jammed up for truly major things because of that.
One can imagine reasonable exceptions here, of course. If you are a simply sitting on a sidewalk bench and you a big car accident in the street in front of you, sure, you’re almost always going to be safe telling someone what happened. If you yourself are making a report of some kind you’ll want to provide the information necessary. Sure, even in those instances you can hang yourself up on unexpected things (e.g. don’t make a police report about someone stealing the cigar box full of cash from your illegal cockfighting event) but we live in a society and that sort of stuff is generally safe.
If, however, you’re approached or pulled over by a police officer asking questions and especially if you are detained or if you feel like you may be detained — definitely ask the cop if you are being detained — don’t say jack crap beyond “I want to speak to my lawyer.” It’s not just your Constitutional right. It’s the smart damn move.
Have a great day, everyone.
What the police are not saying about Tito's scooter: he loved that scooter and was determined to get it back. So he jackhammered his way into his basement floor and dug up the old bats he promised he would never use again, along with the old baseball cards used as currency by other retired ballplayers, and searched obsessively till he found the scooter in the possession of some young punk international mobster financiers. Legend has it that Tito once struck out three men on one pitch. The legend served him well.
Some early morning trivia: Nighttime Boners was the original title of Undercover Angel.