Cup of Coffee: July 15, 2021

A throwback And That Happened, a bunch of toxic people, but a nice palette-cleanser in the form of a student teacher I remembered from 41 years ago.

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Yesterday was the only day of the regular season on which there was no game or event of any kind so, as I have long done on the Thursday of All-Star week, I have dipped into the archives and found an old recap to re-run. There’s also news about Trevor Bauer, an update on the Manfred Man, a minor signing, and an unexpected broadcasting firing.

In Other Stuff we take on Facebook, George W. Bush, Florida, J.D. Vance, and, for a moment, Tucker Carlson. To cleanse the palette from that toxicity, however, I talk about Miss Wilderotter and the presidential election of 1980. May you all live long enough to remember stuff from 40+ years ago like I forced myself to do yesterday. Ye gods.


And That Happened . . . Classic!

Due to the lack of games occasioned by the All-Star break, we now bring you a special Classic edition of “And That Happened.” The following originally ran in the Cup of Coffee Zine on July 15, 1990.

Good morning! I apologize for any mistakes in today’s zine, but they may be unavoidable as I’m using some new technology to to type this out. I have, at least on a trial run, set aside my trusty Xerox 6016 Memorywriter and I am, instead, using an IBM computer. The typing is mostly the same but seeing the words on a screen in front of me instead of on the small display above the keys is, frankly, disorienting. I mean would you look at this? [Nancy — please make sure you tape the Polaroid I took of the computer screen to to the master of the zine before running the copies and stuffing the envelopes]:

I can’t make heads or tails of this, but they say it’s the future, so here we go.

Atlanta 3,1 Expos 2; Expos 6, Atlanta 2: Tommy Gregg hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth in the first game, bringing Atlanta back from behind and spoiling the day for Dennis Martinez, who had tossed six shutout innings earlier. It also got John Smoltz, who had stood to be the loser, off the hook. In the second game Oil Can Boyd outdueled Charlie Liebrandt while catcher Mike Fitzgerald homered and drove in three. Atlanta threatened late but, just like Iraq’s saber-rattling at Kuwait over the latter not respecting oil production quotas earlier this week, it was not a threat worth taking seriously and nothing ultimately came of it.

Angels 8, Blue Jays 7: California took a 3-0 lead into the fifth, Toronto took a 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh, California fired back with four in the bottom half, Toronto plated three more between the eighth and ninth to tie things up at seven, and then, in the bottom of the ninth, Brian Downing hit a home run off of Duane Ward to end the game dramatically. As Downing rounded the bases, a dejected Blue Jays squad walked slowly off the field toward their dugout and eventually on into the visitor’s clubhouse. It’s always a sight to see such a thing, even if it defies pithy description.

Orioles 3, Twins 2: Tied at two in the 11th inning when Phil Bradley singled in Mike Devereaux to bring the game to an end which, as was the case in Anaheim, led the visiting team to walk sorrowfully off the field. We really should come up with a name for games that end in such a fashion.

White Sox 8, Yankees 7: Another loss for the Yankees, who are on pace for their worse season, by winning percentage, since 1913. A bright spot, though, was rookie Kevin Mass, who went 3-for-5, hit two homers and drove in five. That give him four homers in his first 11 games. It may be dark times in the Bronx, but a new star has been born and the Yankees finally have their next Bomber to build around.

Athletics 3, Brewers 1: Walt Weiss hit a two-run single in the seventh to break a 1-1 tie and Bob Welch allowed only an unearned run while pitching into the eighth to pick up his 14th win on the season. Rickey Henderson, who has been fantastic so far this year, somehow went 0-for-4 and grounded into a double play of all things. Almost unheard of from him lately, but he’s a super dope homeboy from the Oaktown. Indeed, he’s known as such, and as far as setbacks go, this ain’t much.

Royals 2, Red Sox 1; Red Sox 8, Royals 7: A split doubleheader represents another lost opportunity for the Royals, who simply have not been able to build any momentum this year. A class organization that has never once finished in last place in its division remains mired in seventh in the AL West this year. Part of me thinks that the veteran club was shaken out of its routine more than most when spring training was delayed by 32 days due to the lockout. Thankfully, however, the savvy Commissioner Fay Vincent brokered a four-year Collective Bargaining Agreement with Don Fehr of the Players’ Union that will, I suspect, finally bring lasting labor peace to Major League Baseball. And just you watch: with stability the order of the day, the Kansas City Royals dynasty will resume in 1991. Mark my words.

Dodgers 7, Cubs 0: Dodgers starter Mike Morgan is playing for his sixth club now, but the way he’s been going lately — he tossed a three-hit shutout here — he has finally found a permanent home in Los Angeles. His counterpart, Greg Maddux, however, is a different story. He has certainly showed promise over the past couple of seasons, but he may have peaked with his apparently lucky 19-win campaign last year. Here he was shellacked for seven runs, with Kal Daniels responsible for six of them thanks to two three-run homers. Maddux is on pace to lead the league in hits allowed and his difficulty in missing bats is likely to be his undoing as a budding ace. Still, he has shown that he can be a workhorse, so I suspect he’ll make himself into a serviceable journeyman if given the chance.

Cleveland 3, Mariners 0: Cory Snyder homered, Bud Black pitched shutout ball into the eighth and Doug Jones locked it down for the [long, tertiary Cleveland club nickname which included no less than four horrifying racial slurs deleted — Craig]. Mariners starter Randy Johnson, who had won his last six decisions dating back to his June 2 no-hitter against the Tigers, walked seven and took the loss. Like Maddux in Chicago, he’s probably been pitching above his head.

Mets 6, Reds 3: David Cone struck out an eye-popping ten batters in seven and two-thirds innings. Such feats are relatively commonplace from the likes of Rangers pitcher Nolan Ryan, but seeing someone without Ryan’s extraordinarily uncommon high-90s heat punch out batters in the double digits is pretty rare. Imagine if the league were populated by fireballing strikeout artists such as Ryan and Cone. It’d practically break the game. John Franco picked up the save against his former teammates. It’s so strange to see him in any uniform other than Cincinnati’s, really. Obviously he’ll always be considered a Red.

Rangers 5, Tigers 3: Speaking of Nolan Ryan, he picked up the win here. It’s his 298th for his career, so we’re likely to see him reach that 300-win milestone sometime in the next couple of weeks. Still, he was less-than-impressive on this day, walking seven batters while striking out only six. The old timer was bailed out by the youngster Jamie Moyer, who worked two and two-thirds of scoreless relief to help carry the Rangers to a victory that Ryan could not have managed on his own if left in the game. It must be something to be a kid like Moyer and to take the ball from a 43 year-old pitcher knowing that, when he himself makes it to that age, he’ll be nearly a decade into his retirement. In other news, Julio Franco went 2-for-3, drew two walks and scored a run. He’s struggled a bit this season compared to his fantastic 1989 campaign. Had me wondering if he was starting to slow down now that he’s on the wrong side of 30, but when you watch him day-to-day you realize that he’s still got a few years left in the tank.

Phillies 12, Astros 8: Not much pitching to be found in this one, with Phillies starter Pat Combs and Astros starter Jim Deshaies getting creamed for a combined 14 runs on 21 hits. Five Phillies batters each drove in two runs a piece, with leadoff hitter Len Dykstra leading the charge with his 3-for-4 day. Dickie Thon had three hits as well. Heh, “Dickie.” I hate to be childish like that, but you wonder how mature professionals like Dykstra don’t just cringe when they have to refer to a teammate by such a name.

Pirates 8, Padres 4: Barry Bonds homered and Sid Bream and R.J. Reynolds each drove in a pair. It’s really been a coming out year for the young Bonds, who is batting over .340 at the moment and is on pace to hit over 30 home runs. You’d not think that someone as skinny and speedy as Bonds would be able to hit for power, but I suppose flukes happen. Joe Carter drove in three for the Padres. Now there’s a real power hitter. Bonds may reach 100 RBIs this season, but Carter does it like clockwork, year-in-year out. Bonds would do well to emulate Carter and become a reliable run producer if he wants to hold on to the advances he’s made this season. RBIs are really all that matter in this game. Those are runs, duh.

Cardinals 2, Giants 1: RBI singles from Willie McGee and Terry Pendelton brought the Redbirds back from behind in the bottom of the eighth and Lee Smith pitched two scoreless innings to pick up the win. It’s been nine days since Whitey Herzog quit and the Cardinals are now an even 3-3 under interim manager Red Schoendienst. I say you stick with old Red, but no one asks me these things.


The Daily Briefing

Trevor Bauer’s administrative leave extended again

Trevor Bauer’s time away from the Dodgers has been extended for a second time. As of yesterday he is now parked through July 27, per an agreement between Major League Baseball and the players’ union.

Bauer’s last action came on June 28. The next day a woman who has accused him of sexual assault obtained a restraining order against him. He’s been on paid administrative leave since July 2.

It’s possible there will be more clarity in Bauer’s case by the time the latest extension expires, as there is a July 23 hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court during which a judge will decide whether to keep the restraining order in place. While that will not constitute any ultimate resolution of the case — Bauer has not been arrested and the Pasadena police continue to investigate — there may be more information adduced at that time which could allow Major League Baseball to decide if it should suspend Bauer per the league’s domestic violence policy.

Not so fast on the Manfred Man

On Tuesday Rob Manfred was reported as saying that both the seven inning doubleheaders and the Manfred Man — the free runner on second in extra innings — was going to be a thing of the past after next year. And that is basically what he said during his press conference with the Baseball Writers Association of America.

However, a few hours later, on the field before the All-Star Game, my pal Mike Ferrin of SiriusXM radio interviewed Manfred. Mike asked Manfred about those rules changes and Manfred, while confirming his stance on the seven inning games, seemed to walk back the Manfred Man comment.

I don’t have a link to the interview, but if you have the SiriusXM app and search “Rob Manfred” the interview will show up in the All-Star Pregame Show. Here’s what Manfred said on that though:

“I grouped the two together and said they were COVID rules. And the point I was trying to make was that just because we used them for two years you can’t jump to the assumption that they were gonna stay, because they were COVID rules. I also said that I don’t see the seven-inning doubleheaders as part of our future and that’s right . . . I’m softer on the extra inning rule I think. You know, there’s more of a split of opinion on it, I guess we’ll just have to see how that one goes.”

Maybe the Manfred Man still goes away, maybe it doesn’t, but at the very least it sounds like someone is going to either fight for it or pretend to fight for it in negotiations.

Three other fun things from the interview:

  • Jim Bowden is obviously not my favorite guy in sports media, but he gets a nod of respect from me for asking Manfred about being booed by the fans on hand for the first night of the draft on Sunday. I saw that when it happened it Manfred, unlike Roger Goodell, Adam Silver, or David Stern before him, did not take it in stride. He tried to, but he winced a little and you could tell it bugged him. On the followup question from Bowden Manfred again acted like it was no big deal, saying “it is what it is” but you can tell he’s still irked about it, and I’m glad Bowden made our thin-skinned Commissioner revisit it;

  • Manfred was asked about the ball doctoring crackdown and said two interesting things. One was that, before the crackdown, they sent people into the umpire rooms to show umps what a ball with sunscreen and rosin looked like vs. what a ball with Spider Tack and rosin looked like vs. what a ball with just sweat and rosin looked like so umps could tell the difference. It sounds like there are OBVIOUS differences with that too. I don’t believe Manfred on a lot of things, but that all sounded believable, mostly because he used a human speaking voice and not his stilted lawyer voice. In any event, the notion which many of us threw out there — that umps simply can’t tell what they’re looking for — seems less plausible now. The other thing Manfred said was that MLB is working on developing an approved “uniform substance” for baseballs that pitchers could use for grip and believes that they’re making progress on that issue, so that’s worth watching;

  • Finally, Ferrin asked Manfred about the Oakland situation and specifically asked him why the Coliseum site, which still makes all kinds of sense from a baseball perspective, has been dismissed out of hand by the A’s. Manfred straight-up admitted that it was about real estate development. As in, the A’s can’t make as much developing the Coliseum site, which they plan to do, if they have to put a baseball stadium in the middle of it, and because they’d lose all the Howard Terminal development in that case. I’ve long known that’s the reason — I beat that drum around here constantly — and a lot of other people know that’s the reason, but I’m happy to hear Manfred finally admit publicly what MLB’s priorities are.

Thanks for the info, Rob! Let’s do it again next year!

The Angels sign Adam Eaton

Outfielder Adam Eaton, who was released by the White Sox on Monday following his DFA’ing last week, has signed with the Los Angeles Angels.

Eaton, 32, was in his second stint with the White Sox and was batting .201/.298/.344 with five homers, 28 RBI over 58 games this season. He was signed to a $7 million deal that included a team option for 2022 that comes with a $1 million buyout if it’s not exercised. Chicago will pay all of that, with the Angels paying Eaton the prorated minimum salary for the final two and a half months of the 2021 campaign.

The Angels fired Daron Sutton

The Angels did a major reshuffling of their TV broadcast team this past offseason. The most notable part of that was hiring Matt Vasgersian as their play-by-play guy. Vasgersian is keeping his MLB Network and ESPN duties, however, so that means he misses a lot of games. In fact, he’s only broadcast 29 Angels’ contests so far this year. Doing the rest of them was the also newly-hired Daron Sutton. Sutton, the son of Hall of Famer Don Sutton, used to do Dbacks games back in the day. His Angels gig was his first time back doing regular TV work in some time.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, however, Sutton got the axe last weekend. And he has no idea why:

“[Bally Sports told me] the Angels were wanting to make a change,” Sutton said. “They carried the mail on that one. It was the Angels’ decision though.”

He later added: “I was very surprised.”

Sutton said his removal was “100% without incident” and unrelated to any disciplinary action. He had called the majority of the Angels’ games in the first half of the season. And he had no inkling a midseason change was an imminent possibility.

I only watched a couple of Angels broadcasts in the first half and Vasgersian did both of them, so I haven’t heard Sutton call a game for almost a decade. Can anyone tell me if, from a viewer’s point of view, his dismissal seems justified? Was he bad at it? Is this a welcome move for viewers or a surprising/unwelcome one? I’m genuinely curious because you hardly ever hear of a broadcaster being fired mid-season. At least if they don’t, you know, get in actual physical fights with one another.


Other Stuff

Facebook shows what it cares about

There’s an illuminating though, sadly, none too surprising story in the New York Times about Facebook breaking up CrowdTangle, a company it acquired a few years ago and which, until recently, was allowed to run mostly autonomously within the company.

CrowdTangle, basically, is a data analytics tool which shows people what content is getting engagement on Facebook. It revealed to anyone who looked at it, for example, just how much big right wing voices like Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino dominate Facebook. In doing so, it helped paint a pretty accurate picture of how Facebook has been so effective at causing your Boomer parents, aunts, and uncles to mainline misinformation, how it has radicalized your high school classmates, and how it has inspired the randos who show up in the comments of your mutual friends’ posts to parrot unhinged right wing claptrap.

Facebook, however, does not want people to know specific things about the toxic role it has played in society and politics over the years, so it’s shutting the operation down and will, most people suspect, eventually make all of that information private. That, according to the story, has led to an internal battle within Facebook about transparency of information. The battle, it seems, is being won by those who want to fix the perception that Facebook is amplifying harmful content and misinformation but who aren’t at all concerned with actually, you know, getting harmful content and misinformation off the platform. Right wing propaganda pays the bills, you know.

Like I said, not surprising. Not in the least.

I still have a personal Facebook page and a professional one, and I have told myself that they’re necessary evils — and, really, I don’t spend a lot of time on the platform — but I’m moving closer and closer to just scuttling them both. I know one person who has done that recently and he says it’s not a big deal. Anyone else do that and have any advice?

I Think I’m Taking Crazy Pills, Part 1

Former President George W. Bush on Wednesday called the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan a mistake and said, “I think the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad.” Because, obviously, if we should listen to anyone’s views on the wisdom of U.S. military policy with regard to Afghanistan it’s the guy who literally invaded Afghanistan and set us on the path of a nearly 20-year war there.

Honestly, taking Bush seriously about this would like taking Billy McFarland’s advice on party planning or Captain Edward Smith’s advice on iceberg avoidance.

I Think I’m Taking Crazy Pills, Part 2

Norwegian Cruise Line is suing over a new Florida law that prevents cruise companies from requiring proof of COVID vaccinations from passengers.

On the one hand, yes, this is a sensible damn thing to do in response to an absolutely idiotic and actively harmful law that exists solely because Florida’s governor has turned COVID denial and antivax philosophy into the political platform from which he intends to launch his 2024 presidential bid.

On the other hand, a cruise line leading the charge against the transmission of communicable diseases is like Dora The Explorer naming Swiper the head of her security detail. It’s just antithetical to the enterprise, ya know?

J.D. Vance: “a contemptible and cringe-inducing clown”

Tom Nichols of The Atlantic gives me a much-needed break from the J.D. Vance beat and tells it exactly like it is with respect to the U.S. Senate candidate and Phony-in-Chief:

Not so long ago, he talked about the self-defeating bias against education among poor whites. He acknowledged the self-destructive habits of some of the people he grew up around. Vance wrote, in this very magazine, that Donald Trump “is cultural heroin”—a powerful charge from someone who hails from the epicenter of the opioid epidemic—and provided a “quick high” that could not fix what ails the country.

All of that vanished once Vance decided he wanted to go to Washington—and after the Trump supporter Peter Thiel dropped $10 million into a political action committee. Instead of a truth-teller in his own community, Vance as a candidate has become a contemptible and cringe-inducing clown. 

He goes on to call Vance “a smarmy and pretentious asshole,” and notes that, unlike some of the most brain-dead of Republican politicians out there, “what makes Vance so awful is that he knows better. His intentional distancing from his earlier views shows that he is fully cognizant of what a gigantic fraud he’s become.” I ask you, dear readers, to find the lie in any of that.

To Mr. Nichols and everyone in the national media who follows on with such takedowns of Vance, I say . . .

Miss Wilderotter

Tucker Carlson is a waste of human flesh, but there was a really damn illuminating profile of him in the Washington Post yesterday. The author, Michael Kranish, combed through basically everything he could find about Carlson to see what makes him tick and how that all squares with his status as, basically, the leading voice shaping the modern Republican Party.

One of the things Kranish went through was Carlson’s memoir from several years ago. In it Carlson cited his first grade teacher, a Mrs. Raymond, for helping shape his conservative views. She did it, he claimed, by being an unhinged and overly-emotional liberal who spent all her time teaching kids about social justice as opposed to teaching kids how to read.

Plot Twist: Kranish found Mrs. Raymond, who is in her late 70s now, and talked to her. She debunked Carlson’s narrative, calling it “the most embellished, crazy thing I ever heard.” Sounds like Carlson made it all up, frankly, which would not be surprising.

Like I said, I don’t care a lick about Carlson, but the story did remind me of a student teacher I had when I was in the second grade: Miss Wilderotter. And yes, it was “Miss” because it was 1980 and most unmarried women were still using “Miss.” Olden Times were wild.

Miss Wilderotter was brought in to the class, normally taught by Mrs. Huffman (there were a lot more “Mrs.” back then too), and was gradually given more teaching responsibilities that fall. I liked her a lot. Probably because, in contrast to the 60-something year-old Mrs. Huffman and my middle aged kindergarten and first grade teachers at Dillion Elementary, Miss Wilderotter was young. Couldn’t have been even in her mid-20s, I imagine. She was also soft-spoken, smiled a lot, and was kind, and that wasn’t necessarily common among the teachers I had had to that point either.

I remember Miss Wilderotter reading us Shel Silverstein poems from “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and putting a lot of entertaining oomph into the characterizations. When she, as Peggy Ann McKay, said she could not go to school that day we really did believe, for a moment anyway, that she was in fact sick. At seven years old you don’t really have crushes yet, but you can form innocent fixations of a certain type, and seven year-old me had something of a fixation on Miss Wilderotter.

The one thing I remember most about Miss Wilderotter, though, was how one time, after reading to a group of us over on the reading carpet in the corner of the room, she just started talking to us about stuff that was going on in the world and asking us about our lives and things. Some kids started asking her questions too. One asked her what she knew about the Mt. St. Helens eruption which, though it had happened a few months before, was still a pretty big damn deal for the second grade crew. We ate up that stuff, man.

Then, as it was the fall of 1980, someone asked Miss Wilderotter whether she was going to vote for Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan in the coming election. She paused at the question, probably wondering if she should talk about politics with second graders. She then leaned forward in her chair a bit, got a smile on her face and, lowering her voice to a near-whisper — as if she was sharing a deep, delicious secret with us — said “I’m voting for John Anderson.” And yes, she put special, reverential emphasis on “John Anderson.” I remember it like it was yesterday.

Anderson, if you are unaware, was a former Republican who had mounted a misguided and ultimately doomed third party candidacy that year and ended up getting 7% of the vote. Most of that vote came from Rockefeller Republicans who were scared of Reagan, liberal intellectual types who knew that Reagan was bad news but had lost any faith they ever had in Carter, college students, and people who got most of their political news from “Doonesbury.” Miss Wilderotter was still a college student then and, I suspect anyway, fell in with the liberal intellectual types as well. I do not know if she read “Doonesbury.”

Other than the Shel Silverstein poems, the John Anderson thing, and her basic kindness and sweetness, I don’t remember much about Miss Wilderotter. Part of me wonders, however, if, like Tucker Carlson attributing his conservatism to Mrs. Raymond, I could make anyone believe that my affinity for lost political causes — and, yes, most of my political causes are horribly lost if not utterly doomed — is the fault of Miss Wilderotter. Hell, part of me wonders if, unlike Carlson, those views of mine actually are partially attributable to her.

If you’re still out there someplace, Miss Wilderotter, I am sorry that the whole John Anderson thing didn’t work out. And I hope you had better luck at the polls later in life.

Have a great day, everyone. And remember: subscriptions are cheap for the next two days:

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The names of the Atlanta club and the Cleveland club have been changed for this reprinting, replacing the clubs’ formal nicknames as they appeared in the original zine. In 1990, you see, the editor of Cup of Coffee was not as sensitive to matters related to Native American representation as the current editor is. Indeed, inspection of the boxes of records in the Cup of Coffee warehouse reveal racist materials that are so ghastly that they defy description. For the time, of course, this was seen as progressive. Indeed, our previous editor was the recipient of many honors from anti-discrimination organizations, all of which were run by white business leaders, as was the practice of the time.