Cup of Coffee: July 6, 2021

Today we talk about baseball, evil people and EvilCorp. Well, AnnoyingCorp at least. And no I can't hack them. I can barely rig a thermostat.

Good morning!

Yesterday Dave Stewart showed some backbone and wisdom, the Giants showed us their new City Connect uniforms, Adam Ottavino showed his ass and, on the day the director of “Superman” died, Fernando Tatís showed us that a man can fly.

Today Ruth Kapelus pens a thought-provoking guest post, the tragedy of which is that most people require their thoughts on its subject to be provoked in the first place. We also talk about J.D. Vance, the “Top Chef” winner, and I talk way, way too much about my dumb thermostat, Google, and the nature of both customer service and content creation.

And That Happened

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Red Sox 5, Angels 4: Before the game, Red Sox manager Alex Cora was asked about Shohei Ohtani being a possible MVP. He said, “We should make a new award for him. This is something MLB hasn’t seen since Babe Ruth . . . He's not the best hitter. He's not the best pitcher. But he's the best player.” Gee, if only there was an award for the best overall player. Alas.

As for this game, the Red Sox held Ohtani in check, but just barely, with Christian Arroyo throwing him out from where he was shifted to shallow right field after Ohtani hit a 101 mph grounder with two on and two out and reliever Adam Ottavino clinging to a one-run lead. When Ottavino got Ohtani he yelled “happy fucking birthday, bitch!” to him. As if he didn’t just almost blow a two-run lead and as if he didn’t get his ass saved by his infielder and the Sox’ defensive positioning coach after giving up a rocket that would’ve tied the game up nine out of ten times. Welcome to Punkville, Adam. Population: you.

Nationals 7, Padres 5: Yes, the Nationals won, but holy moly will you look at this?

That’s not even about hang time as such. He seems to have jumped, and then while at the apex of his jump, jumped again. My brain can’t process what I’m seeing here.

The Nats didn’t mind, though. Trea Turner came back after missing four games and homered in the first inning. Josh Bell went deep too and both he and Alcides Escobar knocked in two and had three hits each to help Washington end their four-game skid.

Cardinals 5, Giants 3: Kevin Gausman tossed six innings of shutout ball. The problem was that he came out for the seventh and gave up a two-run triple to Matt Carpenter. Nolan Arenado knocked in a third run in the eighth and St. Louis picked up some needed insurance in the ninth. Kwang-hyun Kim tossed seven innings of shutout ball for the Cards, allowing only two hits.

Marlins 5, Dodgers 4: The Giants lost but they lost no ground in the NL West because the Dodgers lost too, with the Fish snapping their nine-game streak. L.A. took a 2-0 lead, Miami came back to make it 4-2 by the fourth, but a two-run rally in the top of the eighth tied it back up. Then Jorge Alfaro hit a tie-breaking homer in the bottom eighth to give the Marlins the seesaw win. The Dodgers stranded 11 runners and made two errors. It was a game they could’ve won.

Twins 8, White Sox 5: Max Kepler homered early to give the Twins a 2-0 lead and homered again late to give them a two-run cushion instead of a one-run cushion. Nick Gordon hit a two-run triple and Minnesota starter Bailey Ober tossed five shutout innings to pick up his first big league win. According to the game story, “Ober was feted with a beer shower in the clubhouse afterward.” Given all the hassle my air conditioner has been giving me over the past couple of days — I complain about that more today down below — that sounds like a great idea right now.

Pirates 11, Atlanta 1: Max Fried was a big pinch-hitting hero the other day. He didn’t do nearly as well at his day job last night, coughing up six runs on seven hits in five frames. Ben Gamel drove in six via a two-run home run in the fourth, an RBI double in the sixth and a three-run shot in the seventh. Pittsburgh scored 11 runs. That’s one more than they managed while going 1-6 last week.

Rays 9, Cleveland 8: Brandon Lowe hit a grand slam in the second inning and the Rays led 5-1 after four, but Cleveland put up seven unanswered runs in the fifth and sixth to take an 8-5 lead. A Manuel Margo RBI single and a Yandy Díaz homer brought Tampa Bay to within one and then they won it with a two-run rally in the ninth. Scratch-and-claw ball.

Mets 4, Brewers 2: A division leader matchup. Pete Alonso doubled in two in the seventh to break a 1-1 tie and Michael Conforto’s RBI single added to the lead. Edwin Díaz got into trouble in the ninth, giving up an RBI single and then facing a two-on, no-out situation, but retired three straight batters to lock down the save.

Tigers 7, Rangers 3: Wily Peralta threw seven scoreless innings and picked up the win for the Tigers who have won three in a row and five of six. Back-to-back ninth inning homers for the Rangers made it look more respectable, but this was really just the baseball equivalent of your kid hiding all their toys in the closet and saying that they cleaned their room.

Phillies 13, Cubs 3: Five of the Cubs’ ten straight losses have come in one-run games. Then there have been some like this one. Odúbel Herrera hit a three-run homer and Andrew Knapp, Didi Gregorius, Rhys Hoskins and Alec Bohm all went deep for the Phillies. The Cubs’ last win was that combined no-hitter a week ago Friday. They were tied with Milwaukee for the NL Central when they went to sleep that night. Now, they’re 8.5 games back in third place. Woof.

Reds 6, Royals 2: A four-run seventh thanks to a three-run homer from Eugenio Suárez and a solo shot from Nick Castellanos made the difference here. The Reds have won five in a row while Kansas City has lost 11 of 13.

The Daily Briefing

Dave Stewart rips Dodgers handling of the Bauer situation

Former MLB executive, four-time 20-game winner, and member of the 1981 World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers Dave Stewart said he is refusing to attend the 40th anniversary celebration of that title due to the organization's poor handling of the Trevor Bauer situation. From his interview with Bob Nightengale:

The Dodgers should have stepped up in that situation, and they didn’t. You’ve got to have character standards. “I told them, ‘I can’t show up for that’ . . . “The Dodgers let MLB enforce the leave of absence,’’ Stewart said, “but in my opinion, you don’t need to wait for MLB to tell you what to do. Why are you putting your hands on a woman that way? He tries to say it was consensual, but what kind of person would ever do that?”

Stewart says that when he informed the Dodgers he won’t be attending the July 25 celebration he received an e-mail that read: “The team and the Players Associations support the player until he’s guilty.’’ Which, If it was actually put that way, or in words to that effect, the Dodgers are abdicating their responsibility. Yes, the union is obligated to defend the player regardless, but the team should not be taking the same position. There are far more people to whom a team answers, including its other employees and its fans. The “he’s our guy unless a court says otherwise” is what got the Astros and Roberto Osuna together and got them everything that came with that. If L.A. is taking that position, hoo boy, that’s a bad look.

As for the Dodgers’ handling of Bauer’s leave, as Nightengale notes, teams put players on administrative leave on a regular basis. The Dodgers’ handling of it, in contrast, was a reaction. They’re now saying that Bauer will be out even after his seven-day leave is up, but for a couple of days last week they appeared to be far more concerned with losing his innings than anything else. Of course you probably don’t sign Trevor Bauer, knowing what has long been known about him, if you care all that much about his character, as opposed to just winning, in the first place.

Regardless of the legal/procedural framework surrounding Bauer at the moment, Dave Stewart raises a question that people on the Dodgers should have to answer, preferably publicly, but at the very least to the satisfaction of their conscience: if you’re “standing by” Trevor Bauer out of team unity or some other consideration, what in the hell are you really standing for?

Guest Post: Ruth Kapelus on the Bauer blowback

Subscriber and baseball writer Ruth Kapelus has been following the Trevor Bauer story closely. And, unlike basically everyone else, she has been closely following the reaction to the Bauer story by the men of baseball media. As her guest post today makes clear, she is profoundly underwhelmed.

When Trevor Bauer was linked to the Blue Jays during his free agency earlier this year, the team I grew up supporting, the one I write about - I was filled with a sense of dread. I wrote an article detailing his extensive history with online harassment, misogyny, racism, anti-semitism and transphobia.

When he signed with the Dodgers, I felt relief mixed with sadness for their women fans. And that it was a good fit. A team with well-documented questionable morals (although certainly not an outlier) signing a guy who we all knew was openly cheating with ‘sticky stuff’ made sense. 

What I didn’t say then was that I am also a survivor of sexual and physical assault and domestic violence. That those red flags were - for me - actually screaming alarm bells.

So when the story broke last week about accusations of serious sexual and physical assault against Bauer, I was horrified, but not surprised.

What I did say back in January was this:

“What is a mystery is why so many national baseball writers have spent so much time absolving, minimizing or otherwise diminishing the impact of Bauer’s behaviour to position him as some kind of baseball anti-hero. A wunderkind on the mound deserving of unending attention.

I understand how media in the social media age works. I get the need for clicks. But at some point, the writers who have spent years pumping Bauer’s tires needed to accept responsibility for both the narrative they’ve spun and the harm it has caused.”

It was a concern I personally addressed with some of these writers, always to be dismissed. So many people tried to tell them. They tried. But they weren’t listened to.

Last week when the story was first breaking, and when Jeff Passan, one of baseball’s most prominent writers first tweeted about Bauer, he led with Bauer’s denial, without mentioning what the accusations were, erroneously referring to his agent as his lawyer (subsequently corrected) - and excluding that the complainant had been granted a temporary restraining order against Bauer.

When I commented to that effect, the trolls came out in force:

I won’t lie. I was surprised and shaken by the vitriol, which was worse than what I experienced when I published my article about Bauer in January. Passan made no attempt to monitor his mentions. 

The next day, I commented on a fantasy baseball writer’s tweet answering a question about Bauer’s ‘value’ going forward, saying it was inappropriate to answer the question given the circumstances.

This cued the fantasy crowd to start their pile on.

Normally, I can shake this off. Sometimes I even enjoy putting trolls in their place. I think - you want to keep playing this game with me, fine. You won’t win, and I’ll make you look awfully foolish while losing.

Not this time. Days straight of unrelenting tweets telling me to go fuck myself, calling me a Karen, a ‘librull’ (I’m Canadian, but I suppose this is meant to be some kind of borderless insult) a whore, to go make a sandwich - whatever gendered insult or slur you can imagine, I heard. One even went so far as to track me down in order to send me a FB message because my Twitter DMs are closed.

But what broke me was someone tweeting me to ‘fuck off’ that included a screenshot of the purported texts between Bauer and his alleged victim. These same texts that (while not verified) are being used as a cudgel against any wrongdoing. Texts Bauer supporters claim to exonerate him because ‘she asked for it’. As though one can be asked to have their skull cracked being beaten while unconscious. The same texts which are being treated as gospel truth when a woman’s word is automatically suspect.

Whatever wall of defence I had was breached. The floodgates opened and I cried myself to sleep. 

I was frustrated by the way the story had been covered in the first place. From feeling like people can be silenced from speaking the truth if they can be hurt by enough anonymous people hiding behind a screen, empowered to spew whatever ugliness they want.

Nobody should be cowed into silence by Twitter abuse. At the same time, they shouldn’t become numbed or inured to it either. Because that doesn’t help things to change either. 

I can’t imagine what Bauer’s victim feels. And I don’t want this to be about me either. The very last thing I want is to suggest that being trolled online is in any way equivalent to being assaulted. It is not. There is always the choice to walk away and not engage. Even if it means important conversations don’t happen. In real life, many people do not have that same choice. 

The way sexual assault in sports is reported needs to change. And members of the media must recognize their responsibility and appreciate the importance of doing this right.

Whenever there is an athlete or celebrity accused of sexual misconduct or worse, an avalanche of evidence is demanded. That there must be multiple women all with some version of the same story. As soon as it’s framed as ‘he said, she said’ - what it really needs to be is ‘she said and she said and she said and she said it too’. 

And even then, even with details like the Bauer case - ‘she said’ carries a thousand percent less weight than what he says to deny it.

Recently, Jared Porter and Mickey Callaway were placed on MLB’s restricted list for sexually harassing women reporters over the course of their careers. But this isn’t why I think coverage was less equivocal about them - because if it was about caring about colleagues, it wouldn’t have, in the case of Callaway - been baseball’s worst kept secret.

Likely, it was simply that they were easier to report on. They aren’t players. They weren’t accused of something as grievous as Bauer, although what they were is life-altering for some too. Whether Porter or Callaway work in baseball again or not is inconsequential at the end of the day to a national baseball writer. Not Bauer. Not their guy who they’d spilled so much ink on for so many years.

To fully acknowledge what Bauer is being accused of means to fully acknowledge that they ignored people begging them to stop giving so much free publicity to a player with a well-documented history of racism/anti-semitism/anti-trans behaviour and online harassment, when there are countless other players who could have been featured and had not done the same. But for some reason, accountability is an anathema to many in sports media.

What these men in the media need to understand is that survivors see how they cover assault, how they try to conceptualize it. How often that means minimizing it. The woman (or women) assaulted by Bauer see this. 

And to continually reduce grievous sexual and physical assault to something more palatable to the person writing about it discounts and dismisses a survivor’s pain and tells them it doesn’t count - and even more importantly - it tells men that it doesn't matter too. 

Big platforms carry big responsibility, to crib a Spiderman quote. And what I see are a bunch of men not wielding their platforms with responsibility. Framing matters. Creating a narrative matters. And right now there is a very loud message being sent to women and non-men that they don't matter. 

Nothing will change; and this sport and the media who covers it will never get safer if those in leadership don't do their part to ensure that it does. Right now, too many people with the power to make a difference are refusing to use it.

I want things to change. I am desperate for it. But this same week, Aroldis Chapman, himself suspended for violating MLB’s Domestic Violence policy, was selected to the All Star Game. And once again, we are told what and who matters more.

Giants unveil their City Connect uniforms

Here they are:

That swoosh gives them some big “Go Vols!” energy. The bridge motif is kinda neat. I dunno. I’ve liked a few of these so far, but I’m not gonna say I love these really. They’re not terrible. They just seem kind of unimaginative.

All that said: I don’t think they’re designing the City Connect uniforms with old people like me in mind. If the sorts of people who buy jerseys like ‘em, welp, they’ve fulfilled their brief.

Other Stuff

The saga of the thermostat continues

That’s me in the photo, talking to me about how to bring down a company with a two trillion dollar market cap. Except I have no hacking skills, no power, and no real ideas. Other than that, it’s exactly the same, really.

If you were on Twitter at 8AM yesterday you saw me rant about this already, but my morning was taken up with a beef with Google over replacing my busted NEST thermostat. It’s in-warranty and they acknowledge it’s defective, but they’re telling me it’ll take seven business days to send me a replacement. I suggested to them that maybe the most massive company on the planet should be able to, you know, print out an overnight Fedex label or allow me to go to the store, buy a new one today and get reimbursed via warranty claim rather than fight this broken one for a week in the middle of a sweltering summer, but I was told that was as impossible as attempting to regulate massive, monopolistic companies in 21st Century America. Not that the customer service rep used those exact words.

I don’t want to overplay this. As far as problems go it’s a pretty minor one, I have some ways to deal with it — the a/c still technically works, albeit in a complicated and annoying fashion —and to the extent I ranted about it on Twitter it was more about me trying to get some yuks than anything else. But it’s all rather absurd in several ways that go at least a skosh beyond me just bitching.

I was on a live chat with Google customer service for several minutes seeking a way around this seven business days wait thing. That they would not, ultimately, help me was not shocking but the manner in which they would not help me was a hell of a thing. For one thing I couldn’t tell if the live chat was attended by a bot or a real person. The chatter had the name “Bella” and said a few things that made it seem like they were sentient, but overall they seemed super unlikely to pass a Voight-Kampff test even if I spotted them the answer about the tortoise. For another thing, after I got mad at Bella and offered my version of Willy Wonka’s “I SAID GOOD DAY!” she told me it was a pleasure chatting with me. I guess that’s better than her saying “let me tell you about my mother!” or “Time to die!” but either they’re on a script, they’re a bot, or I need to up my indignation game.

After the chat I began tweeting about it. I didn’t tag anyone at Google because I really didn’t wanna do that but someone else did and I immediately got the Google account in charge of NEST products to contact me and ask me to DM them.

I’ve never known quite how to feel about this dynamic. I’m not above it. I’ve used the “tweet annoyed things at brands as a means of gaining satisfaction” gambit in the past. I once helped my parents with a rental car issue. I’ve gotten the attention of some other companies and, essentially, jumped the line because they fear someone with a blue checkmark making them look bad on social media. Sometimes you just do what works and that works. Still, I feel uncomfortable with it. Unless it pertains to a professional sports business, a major media company, or someone who seeks to wield political power, I am not a very confrontational person. More broadly, the whole idea that alleged elites can get their problems addressed merely by complaining about something seems wrong to me. Like how some mid-to-upper level apparatchik in the Orgburo circa 1932 could get fine French brandy even if, publicly, such decadent indulgences were considered anathema to increasing the revolutionary consciousness of the workers.

The special treatment via DM was certainly a more human experience than talking to Leon “Bella” Kowalski via chat — it was clearly a real person who understood why I was mad instead of a bot on a script — but ultimately they would not solve my problem. In fact, they suggested a rather convoluted workaround: going out and buying a $30 Honeywell thermostat, using it for the week until the replacement NEST thermostat comes, and then returning the Honeywell once I have my new one (or maybe, they said, they’d reimburse me for it). I basically did this, although instead of buying a $30 Honeywell, I just went out to my garage and found the circa 2004 programmable one that was in the house when I bought it and installed it. I replaced it because I thought it was inefficient and because I couldn’t do anything with it remotely, but at least it works.

I’m not a customer service expert, but I feel like any customer service plan which counsels using the tried-and-true product your company is trying to get everyone to abandon while you take an extra long time replacing your broken, shitty product, has some flaws. Indeed, I imagine the biggest hurdle to Google selling smart thermostats is the idea that, really, no one needs a smart thermostat. That was certainly a thought I had when I bought the new one, and wondered if I was making something relatively simple and reliable into something complicated. Well, seems like that thought was right, and I wonder if a week with the old dumb thermostat will cure me of the need to install the new NEST when it arrives.

As this extended rant makes clear, all is not lost, because I got some content out of it.

As I said, this is not a big problem in the grand scheme of the world and I’ve kinda enjoyed writing about it and I imagine at least some of you are amused by this as a lot of readers have said that they consider my personal ranting to be one of the draws of the newsletter. It’s rather odd to sit back and think, though, about how so much of a writer’s life is like that. “Hmm, this sucks, but at least I can write about it!”

Sometimes that’s good therapy, but a lot of time it’s just, well, content. And what is life if not content creation? At least what is my life if not content creation?

Top Chef winner was fired in December for harassment

I never watched “Top Chef” before the season that just finished up and the only reason I watched this one was because a chef from Columbus was on it. I stopped when he got knocked out.

Before I stopped, though, I formed opinions about most of the chefs on there, at least as well as one can in the context of a reality show. There were some chefs on there I found to be kind of irritating. Some I liked a great deal. My take on Gabe Erales, the guy who eventually won, was “I guess he seems OK.”

And then yesterday I read about how, after the shooting for “Top Chef” wrapped he was fired from his restaurant for having a sexual relationship with a subordinate and then, when she ended the relationship, he cut her hours in a retaliatory and discriminatory way. Which is example one million and six supporting the notion that you can’t judge people based on superficial traits such as how they come off on a friggin’ reality show.

In related news, the Columbus chef I tuned in to watch, Avishar Barua of Service Bar, sounds like a much better person based on more than just his superficial traits.

J.D. Vance is shameless

J.D. Vance, who was caught deleting a bunch of tweets from 2015-16 in which he was critical of Trump and in which he said he voted for someone else, told Fox News yesterday that he held “regrets” criticizing Trump:

“Like a lot of people, I criticized Trump back in 2016, and I ask folks not to judge me based on what I said in 2016, because I’ve been very open that I did say those critical things and I regret them, and I regret being wrong about the guy. I think he was a good president, I think he made a lot of good decisions for people, and I think he took a lot of flak . . . I think the most important thing is not what you said five years ago, but whether you’re willing to stand up and take the heat and take the hits for actually defending the interests of the American people.”

This dude's entire fame and fortune is based on his 2015-16 stance and now he's running away from it like a coward because the winds have shifted and he cares about nothing more than power and approval of the Republican establishment. For all of his well-cataloged faults, Vance at the very least showed a little backbone when his party went all-in on fascism but now that fascism has the upper hand he’s all-in on it too because, hey, venture capital ain’t gonna flow on its own.

What a fraud. What a pathetic clown. What cynical, cheap ass opportunism. How do people like this sleep at night?

Richard Donner: 1930-2021

Richard Donner, the director of “The Omen,” “Superman,” the “Lethal Weapon” movies, “The Goonies,” “Scrooged,” and a bunch of other stuff has died at the age of 91.

Those films alone occupy a lot of space in the pop culture sectors of the brains of people my age and stand as a pretty damn good legacy. For me personally, the first two Superman movies alone mean an awful damn lot, as you can tell by how often I reference them. It’s probably due a much longer essay at some point, but no one has captured the character of Superman better than Donner, Christopher Reeve, and the creative team behind those first two movies and the manifest failures of the D.C. movies of late are all down to those in charge now utterly failing to understand what Donner and his team understood.

RIP, Richard Donner.

Have a great day, everyone.