Cup of Coffee: July 1, 2021

Welcome to a Very Ugly Free Thursday!

Good morning and welcome to Free Thursday!

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Not gonna lie, today’s newsletter is filled with ugliness, both on and off the field. Ugly losses for the Cubs, Yankees, and Mets. An ugly sweep of the Astros. Ugly news involving some rotten people. Indeed, until early this morning the most sunny and breezy item I had in this edition was about Bobby Bonilla so thank God I stumbled on an excuse to post a video of David Lee Roth and Van Halen in their primes to cleanse things with some righteous, face-melting rock and roll or else this would’ve gone way too dark.

So: pop some Tylenol and Pepto, turn up “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” to 11, strap in, and let’s get ugly, folks.


And That Happened

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Angels 11, Yankees 8: There are ugly losses and then there are ugly goddamn losses. This was one of the latter, and that’s with the hours worth of rain delays notwithstanding.

The Yankees scored seven runs off of Shohei Ohtani in the bottom of the first inning and STILL LOST THE GAME! And it wasn’t as if the Angels just chipped away tied it in the mid-innings and then pulled away. New York still led 8-4 with one out in the top of the ninth and had Aroldis Chapman on the hill. Chapman walked the bases loaded, however, and gave up a grand slam to Jared Walsh — Walsh’s second homer of the night — which tied it up. Aaron Boone then went to Lucas Luetge to relieve Chapman and Luetge put two men on and only retired one more before giving up a two-run single to Luis Rengifo and a double to Taylor Ward who knocked in Rengifo to make it 11-8. The Yankees went quietly in the bottom of the ninth to finish off what was easily their worst loss of the year.

I don’t look at win probability charts very often, but I can’t take my eyes off of the one for this game:

With this loss the Yankees are now in fourth place, eight and a half out. They play the Mets this weekend. I realize that George Steinbrenner is long dead, but even with his much milder-mannered son in charge, I can’t help but think that a bad showing against their cross-town rivals would lead to a full house-cleaning in the Bronx come Monday.

Brewers 15, Cubs 7: There are ugly losses and then there are ugly goddamn losses. This was one of the latter. Jake Arrieta was staked to a 7-0 first inning lead, gave back six of those seven runs before the second inning was over and then the Chicago bullpen coughed up eight more in the fourth. Four of those eight came via a Willy Adames grand slam. The loss, Chicago’s sixth straight, dropped the Cubs six games behind the Brewers in the NL Central. The two were tied for first a week ago. Woof.

Atlanta 20, Mets 2: There are ugly losses and then there are ugly goddamn losses. This was one of the latter, but thanks to what the Yankees did, it wasn’t even the ugliest loss for a New York team last night. Ozzie Albies hit two homers and drove in seven. One of those homers came off Mets outfielder Alberto Almora, working mopup duty. Ehire Adrianza and Ronald Acuña Jr. also went deep for Atlanta. Mets starter David Peterson left with “sharp pain” in his side. Thank goodness the Mets don’t have any other issues with pitching injuries.

*looks at the Mets’ IL*

Oh, dear.  

Orioles 5, Astros 2: This wasn’t an ugly loss — it was just a loss — but getting swept at home by the Baltimore frickin’ Orioles is a hell of a thing. Those O’s scored four in the first and got a decent-enough-to-make-it-work start from Matt Harvey. The Astros have lost five of their last six, with the other two in that sequence coming against the Tigers. Baseball is baseball and everyone loses games to worse teams sometimes, but if Houston doesn’t win the division or if they miss the playoffs, these are the sorts of games they’ll look back at and shake their damn heads.

Nationals 15, Rays 6: Trea Turner hit for the cycle on his 28th birthday. On my 28th birthday I was probably watching stories about shark attacks on cable news. People forget this now, but in the summer of 2001 the news was filled with stories of shark attacks and other superfluous things we all thought were really important. After 9/11 happened and the world went crazy people would sometimes say “remember when we all cared about shark attacks?” It was a simpler time. It really was.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Turner became the fifth player in major league history to hit for the cycle three times, joining Adrián Beltré, Babe Herman, Bob Meusel and John Reilly. I never would’ve guessed that he and Beltré would be the only two guys to have done that since before Benny Goodman recorded “Sing! Sing! Sing!” but there’s all kinds of stuff I don’t know even if I kinda think I do.

Apart from Turner’s heroics Starlin Castro homered, singled and drove in four. Josh Bell drove in three, Juan Soto had three hits and two RBI, and Jordy Mercer homered. The Nationals had 18 hits in all.

Cardinals 7, Diamondbacks 4: Kwang Hyun Kim pitched five solid innings, winning for the first time in 11 starts and (all together now) helped his own cause with a two-run double. Paul Goldschmidt and Tyler O'Neill each doubled twice and singled, and Yadier Molina had a pair of hits. All three drove in a run. The Cards sweep the Snakes.

Rockies 6, Pirates 2: Jon Gray allowed two over six while Garrett Hampson (Hampson?) went 4-for-5 and drove in two and C.J. Cron homered and drove in two.

Tigers 9, Cleveland 4; Tigers 7, Cleveland 1: In the first game Harold Castro and Jonathan Schoop each drove in three runs to power the Tigers to victory. In the nightcap Miguel Cabrera hit his 494th career homer, moving past Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff for sole possession of 28th on the all time list. He also went 2-for-4, bringing his career hit total to 2,919. Detroit finishes June 14-13. They were also 14-13 in May. With these two wins and the Twins’ loss, they also move into sole possession of third place in the AL Central.

Marlins 11, Phillies 6: The Marlins traded for Joe Panik the other day. He had quite a debut for Miami, homering in his first at-bat and adding a go-ahead RBI single during a six-run fifth inning that put the Fish on top to stay. Starling Marte went 4-for-6, Garrett Cooper and Adam Duvall each had three hits for the Marlins, including a dinger for Duvall. Bryce Harper had two homers in a losing cause.

Mariners 9, Blue Jays 7: Seattle had a 4-1 lead and blew it, and then a 6-4 lead and blew it, but a three-run homer from Dylan Moore in the top of the 10th sealed the win. Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger hit two-run homers for Seattle. Moore and J.P. Crawford each had three hits and scored twice.

Red Sox 6, Royals 2: J.D. Martinez hit a three-run shot, Hunter Renfroe homered, and Martín Pérez pitched two-run ball into the sixth to give Boston its sixth straight win and hand Kansas City its eighth straight loss.

Padres 7, Reds 5: Trent Grisham hit a grand slam and a solo shot. The slam gave the Padres the lead in the fifth in a game called in the sixth due to rain. It was the sixth straight win over the Reds by the Padres in the past week. It was their 11th of 12 overall.

White Sox 13, Twins 3: Yasmani Grandal hit a three-run and a two-run homer and Andrew Vaughn, Gavin Sheets, José Abreu and Brian Goodwin went deep as well. Grandal is hitting .186 but has 14 homers and an .839 OPS. That’s some serious Mark Reynolds/Rob Deer/Carlos Peña energy there, man.

Athletics 3, Rangers 1: Frank Schwindel hit a two-run homer in his A’s debut — it was his first big league homer ever despite the fact that he played six games for the Royals two years ago — to help back seven shutout innings from Chris Bassitt, who won his ninth straight decision. Joey Gallo homered for the fourth consecutive game for the Rangers, who had won four straight before this one.


The Daily Briefing

Graphic details emerge regarding Trevor Bauer’s alleged assault of a woman

Warning: the following contains allegations of sexual assault and violence that may be difficult to read.

Yesterday afternoon Brittany Ghiroli and Katie Strang of The Athletic reported on the specific details contained in the restraining order, first reported about on Tuesday, which was taken out against Dodgers pitcher Trevor Bauer. They are graphic. And disturbing. And, if true, they should lead to serious criminal charges against Bauer and, needless to say, strong discipline taken against him by Major League Baseball.

The alleged assaults described by the woman began during consensual sexual encounters between the two but, she claims, escalated far beyond anything to which she consented. From the Athletic:

The woman, in the 67-page ex-parte document, said that Bauer assaulted her on two different occasions. Together, the woman said those two incidents included Bauer punching her in the face, vagina, and buttocks, sticking his fingers down her throat, and strangling her to the point where she lost consciousness multiple times.

According to the sworn declaration, Bauer choked the woman to unconsciousness on both occasions. On the first occasion Bauer penetrated her anally while she was unconscious, to which she said she did not consent. On the second occasion the woman awoke from unconsciousness with Bauer punching her in the head and face, inflicting serious injuries. After the second incident she drove herself to the hospital and contacted police. There is now an active investigation of Bauer by the Pasadena, California police department.

Bauer’s attorneys would not comment, and referred to the comments from his agent on Tuesday denying the claims of assault (and doxxing the victim). My take on that is that, upon hearing the initial, lighter-on-details report, the agent auto-piloted to blind defense of his client but once actual details emerged the lawyers got involved and wisely told everyone to shut up because this is serious stuff. The woman’s attorney, meanwhile, said, “without going into detail for the benefit of both my client and Mr. Bauer, the pictures evidencing the unconsented abuse do not lie. Any suggestion that she was not the victim of assault is not only false and defamatory but, in fact, perpetuates the abuse.”

In addition to the active police investigation, Major League Baseball has been made aware of it all. I presume they’ll hold off doing anything before the police do something. Though, of course, even if nothing comes of this criminally, Major League Baseball can still suspend Bauer, as the domestic violence policy is not dependent upon criminal conviction or criminal charges. MLB’s holding off is likely more about not wanting to get in the way of serious police business and, frankly, is probably wise, though one would hope that the Dodgers would find a way to keep Bauer off the field for now. At present he’s scheduled to start in Sunday’s game in Washington.

It’s impossible to read this story and not come away believing that Bauer is a violent and dangerous person with a disturbing lack of concern for boundaries or the well being of others. Despite our system’s criminal failure to hold men accountable for violence against women (see multiple items below and *gestures at basically everything*) I’ll be genuinely surprised if he is not criminally charged.

Former Mets GM Jared Porter banned

MLB has announced that former Mets general manager Jared Porter has been placed on the ineligible list until at least the end of the 2022 season.  

Porter was fired from the Mets in January after an ESPN investigation by Mina Kimes revealed that he had sent explicit and unsolicited texts and photos to a female reporter in 2016 when he worked for the Cubs. Rob Manfred’s statement:

“My office has completed its investigation into alleged inappropriate conduct by Jared Porter.  Having reviewed all of the available evidence, I have concluded that Mr. Porter violated MLB’s policies, and that placement on the Ineligible List is warranted.  We are committed to providing an appropriate work environment consistent with our values for all those involved in our game.”

Not long after the revelations regarding Porter came to light former Mets manager Mickey Callaway was revealed to have similarly harassed female reporters and women on the teams for which he worked. In neither his case nor in Porter’s case was anyone else held accountable — or even mentioned by name — for allowing their odious and harassing behavior to carry on unchecked. This despite the fact that, in at least Callaway’s case, the harassment was well known throughout multiple organizations.

Major League Baseball can prune these bad actors, but until it begins to address the culture of complicity and acceptance of such behavior — until it punishes those in positions of power who turn their head and ignore what’s happening right in front of them — such behavior will continue to occur.

The Angels plan to trash Tyler Skaggs in defense of the lawsuits

T.J. Quinn of ESPN spoke to sources familiar with the Tyler Skaggs investigation and civil cases and reports that the Angels will, in all likelihood, seek to trash Skaggs as the central part of their defense:

Conversations with attorneys on all sides of the legal fight over Skaggs' death indicate the matter could become a referendum on the pitcher's life.

"This could get really ugly," one attorney said . . . Sources familiar with the Angels' in-house investigation following Skaggs' death said team attorneys are prepared to paint a harsh portrait of the man they honored two years ago.

"None of it is flattering," a source familiar with that investigation said.

I’m not sure what makes it necessary to trash Skaggs in order to defend these cases. The way these cases need to be framed if the Skaggs family wants to win is as an inquiry into whether the Angels knew that their own employee, Eric Kay, was illegally supplying opioids to another employee, Skaggs, and what, if anything, they did about it. If the Angels knew Kay was doing it and did nothing, they likely face liability. If they did not know or if they made reasonable efforts to intervene and stop him, they likely will not. It’s possible — and even preferable — for a defendant in the Angels’ position to avoid dragging Skaggs through the mud.

Either way, I take real issue with that “team attorneys are prepared to paint a harsh portrait of the man they honored two years ago” line. A factual portrait? Sure, and a factual portrait of a dead opioid addict will not be pretty, almost by definition. But if they seek to make a dead young athlete the bad guy in this case, they’re making a mistake. And are, in my view, being jackasses.

Happy Bobby Bonilla Day!

July 1 is Bobby Bonilla day. That’s the day that the Mets have to pay Bobby Bonilla $1.2 million per their deferred compensation deal with him struck after the 1999 season. The deal: rather than pay Bonilla the $5.9 million he was still owed, the Mets offered to pay him $1.2 million a year every year from 2011 through 2036.

The Mets have been mocked for years for having to continue to pay Bonilla even though he hasn’t suited up for a game since 2001, but that mockery is misplaced. Indeed, the deal was and is not silly at all.

The Bonilla deal is really just a deferred compensation arrangement. Such deals were not super common 20 years ago but they’re par for the course on big contracts now. Max Scherzer’s seven-year deal with the Nats pays him over 14 years and he’ll be making WAY more per year after he’s done pitching than Bonilla will in the 25 years of deferred money he’s getting from the Mets combined. There are many, many other players who have signed big deals in recent years who have similar structures.

The bad part of the deal is not that it goes through 2036, but that it’s at an 8% interest rate. That’s high, but as was pointed out a few years back, the prime rate when Bonilla signed the deal was 8.5%. The Mets probably should’ve made his interest a floating figure rather than fixing it at 8% — Bonilla is getting a windfall on the interest now — but that’s down to the previous Mets’ owners’ well-documented bad financial instincts and their misguided belief that they’d make 10-15% on their investments in perpetuity based on the Ponzi scheme from which they were benefitting at the time, not the silliness of the structure itself.

It’s also worth remembering that the Mets got something for that deferment in addition to the use of that money for investment purposes. As Dan Lewis pointed out six years ago, the $5.9 that was freed up for 2000 was used to bite off a huge chunk of the salaries owed to Mike Hampton and Derek Bell, for whom they traded and who helped them reach the World Series that year. When Hampton walked to take advantage of the good schools in the Denver area, they used the compensation pick to draft a kid named David Wright. None of that happens without deferring Bonilla’s salary given their payroll crunch at the time. It ended up working for them in the short term, and working very well.

So mock the Mets all you want. Mock them for trading for Bonilla in the first place (though they didn’t give up anything of real value for him). Mock them for their choice on the interest rate. Mock the Wilpons for being involved in a Ponzi scheme. But don’t mock them for deferring Bonilla’s salary, because it was a good move for them at the time that allowed them to make moves they wouldn’t have otherwise made, including a move that helped them win a pennant.

Futures Game rosters announced

Major League Baseball has announced the rosters for the 2021 Futures Game, which will be played at 3:00PM Eastern on Sunday, July 11 at Coors Field.

Which has always driven me nuts, by the way, as this game will be going on as 15 actual MLB games are happening and most people will choose to watch them. If MLB truly wanted to showcase the Futures Game it would give it its own time slot, either as the sole Sunday Night Baseball game before the All-Star Break or on the Monday of All-Star Week, pushing the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game itself to Wednesday. As is so often the case, though, no one asked me. Likewise no one asked me if it was cool for the game to be only seven innings long, which it is this year, but hey, they gotta fit that celebrity softball game in that no one gives a crap about, so I get it.

A good breakdown of the Futures Game rosters can be found at Baseball America, where they deal with the American League and the National League in separate posts. You can learn everything you need to know about the players there.  

John Smoltz thinks Shohei Ohtani should just pitch

Shohei Ohtani is the biggest story in baseball right now. He leads all of baseball in homers and is hitting .277/.360/.685 and hit .309/.423/.889 in 97 PA with 13 homers in the month of June alone. On the pitching side he has a 3.60 ERA in 12 starts and is striking out north of 12 batters per nine innings. He is the current favorite to win the MVP Award and is getting quite reasonable comparisons to Babe Ruth as it relates to being a two-way player.1

Over the years there have been some who have wondered whether Ohtani should pick a lane, primarily due to his injury history as a pitcher. The thinking is that if his arm doesn’t hold up he can still be a top-flight outfielder — maybe even a center fielder given his wheels — and that could provide more value to the Angels over the long haul than the two-way thing, even if he’s doing a fantastic job with both so far this year.

What you don’t hear much of are people saying that Ohtani should just pitch and not hit. But you do hear some. Specifically, from John Smoltz:

“Ohtani is a special player that I think everyone is rooting for,” the Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz said on ESPN. “But I think the reality is, how much longer can this not take away from each great talent that he has?”

Smoltz suggested that giving up hitting could unlock Ohtani’s pitching.

“If all he did was pitch, he’d be on the trail of a Jacob deGrom”

Maybe you heard that back before Ohtani’s got a chance to prove himself as a hitter, but I don’t feel like anyone outside of TBS’ top baseball analyst saying that now. And, yes, I’d be saying that even if Ohtani didn’t give up seven runs and walk four dudes in two-thirds of an inning last night.

House of Dreams

It's not mentioned in the real estate listing, but if you look at that house and note the movie posters in the office (photos #33 and #34) and see the name on the director's chairs in one of the rooms (photo #37), it's clear that the home of Brian E. Frankish, the Executive Producer of "Field of Dreams" is for sale.

Frankish has a bunch of other producing and assistant directing credits, including an Associate Producer’s credit for “Strange Brew” of all things, though for some reason he doesn’t have a poster of that on the wall of his office. Weird choice given that, based on his filmography, it’s easily the best movie with which he’s ever been associated. “Strange Brew” owns, eh.

Given my well-documented disdain for “Field of Dreams,” I wonder if ghosts would talk to me and tell me do to dumbass things if I bought this house and moved in. Anyone wanna start a GoFundMe and help me find out?

Other Stuff

The Bill Cosby decision

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has vacated the Bill Cosby’s conviction for drugging and sexually assaulting a woman and has ordered his immediate release from prison.

It’s worth noting, in light of Cosby’s triumphant claim of his “innocence” yesterday, that this ruling is one related to due process not one of factual innocence. The opinion rests primarily on the argument that Cosby’s due process rights were violated when he was charged with assault in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania for a 2004 assault after being promised by the county’s previous prosecutor that he wouldn't bring criminal charges against him. With the promise in place, and with the Fifth Amendment off the table, Cosby incriminated himself in a deposition in a civil case brought by his victim. That deposition later served as the basis for Cosby’s criminal prosecution.

At this point I think it’s also worth noting that it’s possible to believe two things at once, even if those things seem to have some surface tension to them.

Specifically, it’s possible to think that authorities should not lead a person to believe that they are not in legal jeopardy and then use statements made in reliance on that belief to criminally prosecute them. That’s a problematic thing in the criminal justice system. Its actually pretty blatant prosecutorial misconduct in my view. No matter who the defendant is and how loathsome he is, he should be given the benefit of the doubt compared to prosecutors or the police. Due process matters, even for those who have done heinous things.

It’s possible to simultaneously believe, however, that Bill Cosby is a sexual predator who has had 60 women credibly accuse him of drugging and raping them, with Cosby himself admitting, under oath, to having done it. Indeed, the only reason he was not rightfully and permanently thrown in jail for it decades ago for his scores of sexual assaults is because of our society’s pathological protection of sexual predators, particularly when they are rich and powerful men, preventing charges from being lodged against him before the expiration of the statute of limitations, not because he is innocent in any practical sense.

Which is to say, Bill Cosby is a free man, but he remains a piece of shit serial rapist who I hope we hear nothing from ever again. Instead, I hope we listen instead to victims of rape and other forms of assault, violence and abuse, that we believe them when they say what happened to them, and that we punish their abusers within but up to the fullest extent of the law irrespective of their wealth or standing. Above all else, I hope that we never let another predator like Bill Cosby operate with impunity for so long that he becomes unable to be punished at all.

Donald Rumsfeld: 1932-2021

Donald Rumsfeld died yesterday. He was a war criminal who personally authorized the systemic torture of prisoners, laid the groundwork and stood responsible for the massacre of civilians, and was one of the primary architects of an illegal and immoral war.

That’s how he should forever be remembered. I have already said too much about awful men today, but at least this one is now thankfully dead so that’s all I’ll say about him.

Wakanda Forever

Variety reports that the “Black Panther” sequel, entitled “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” started production on Tuesday. Director Ryan Coogler is returning. He wrote the screenplay too. All cast members whose characters survived the first outing except, obviously, Chadwick Boseman, who died of colon cancer last August, are expected to return.

There has been no reliable information out there about how they plan to handle Boseman’s death. His character’s last appearance came at the funeral of Tony Stark at the end of “Avengers: Endgame,” so unless they have a LOT of unused footage of him, or unless they plan on killing him off while he’s under his Black Panther mask, depriving him of an in-person death scene, they’re going to have to be creative about what happened to T’Challa. As for who takes up the mantle of Black Panther after him, welp, we’re just gonna have to wait until July of 2022 when the movie comes out.

(Psst! bring back Killmonger somehow and let him do it! Killmonger was right!)

Sammy Hagar misses the point

Former Van Halen singer Sammy Hagar was asked about other former Van Halen singer David Lee Roth in an interview. Here’s what Hagar said about Roth:

“The difference between him and I [is] I sincerely care. What is important to me is enlightening and elevating people spiritually and making them happy and making them have big dreams, making them want to be better themselves. And my goal with everything I do is to bring that to people and change their life, if I can. I don't think [Roth] cares about anything like that. And that's the difference between our presence. He's very much into himself, very much into being a showman and doesn't really care. I don't know what he cares about, I really don't. I don't know him. I have no idea who that guy is. I don't think anyone does. But he entertains me. I enjoy watching him do stupid shit . . . He's not what he's saying he is; he's pretending. He's totally bullshit. Everything he does is thought up and it's an image. It's nothing to do with who he is; he is not exposing who and what he is.”

I like to be enlightened and spiritually elevated as much as the next guy, but that’s not what listen to Van Halen for. I listen to Van Halen when I want my face rocked off through monster guitar riffs and and virtuoso pyrotechnics and David Lee Roth’s gonzo, showman shtick serves as the perfect counterpoint to that.

I’m not an absolutist about it — Van Hagar had its moments — but gimme a break, Sammy. No one really needs to know who this guy is. They just need to know that this frickin’ owns:

After all of today’s awful stories, I think I’ll listen to all of Van Halen’s debut album, cranked as high as it will go, in an effort to cleanse my brain pan.

Have a great day, everyone.

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1

For an in-depth look at that, you should see yesterday’s edition of Joe Sheehan’s newsletter in which Joe breaks down exactly how good a two-way player Ruth was and exactly how long he, actually, was a true two-way player. The short version: Ruth’s double duty was over a shorter period than you probably realize and what Ohtani is doing now is comparable.