Cup of Coffee: November 10, 2022
Lots of news about baseball dirtbags and lots of chatter about the election. But hey, it's free today, and you get what you pay for.
Good morning! And welcome to Free Thursday!
There’s a whole hell of a lot of stuff today.
Managerial news in Houston. A couple kinda major awards were handed out. Stuff about Shohei Ohtani’s future. A kinda minor trade. A kinda minor player option exercised that, actually, says a lot. Potential surgery that gives me the opportunity to make an easy joke. A preview of the trade rumor chaos which will soon engulf social media. Aubrey Huff taking his L, Lenny Dykstra shooting his shot, and a complete scumbag getting prime media real estate to dismiss the idea that Major League Baseball lacks diversity. Seriously: take a bow everyone, it was a banner day for awful people.
In Other Stuff, after taking a day to process, I have a LOT to say about the election, I offer one more comment about the state of Twitter, and I provide an update about my possible aortic aneurism that, actually, is not a possible aortic aneurism but I got your attention, didn’t I?
Let’s get at ‘er.
The Daily Briefing
Dusty Baker officially re-upped for one more year
The Houston Astros made it official yesterday, signing manager Dusty Baker to a one-year contract extension. Not getting an extension, at least not yet, is general manager James Click who we discussed yesterday. The team and Click are said to still be discussing things. I presume Click’s part of the discussion is “there are no heads of baseball operations who only get one-year extensions, especially after winning the goddamn World Series,” or words to that effect. Those would be my words in his position anyway.
Judge, Goldschmidt win Hank Aaron Awards
Major League Baseball announced yesterday that Aaron Judge and Paul Goldschmidt are the winners of this year's Hank Aaron Awards. The Hank Aaron Award is given to “the most outstanding offensive performers in each League.” A panel of MLB.com writers helps determine the winner and there’s a fan vote component as well for some damn reason.
Not that the means of determining the winners mattered this year, as both Judge and Goldschmidt were pretty clearly the most outstanding offensive performers in their respective leagues. Judge hit 62 homers while batting .311/.425/.686 (211 OPS+) with 131 RBI and almost won the Triple Crown. Goldschmidt hit 35 home runs and batted .317/.404/.578 (180 OPS+) while leading the National League in slugging, OPS, and OPS+.
Both Judge and Goldschmidt are finalists in their respective leagues for the Most Valuable Player Award, such as that matters.
Shohei Ohtani is totally walking after next season
Right after the regular season Shohei Ohtani and the Angels agreed to a one-year $30 million deal for his final season before he becomes eligible for free agency. Earlier this week Angels GM Perry Minasian said that the team has no plans to trade Ohtani in order to get something for him before he leaves. Normally that at least implies that the club wants to try to sign the player to a long term deal. Based on the comments of Ohtani’s agent Nez Balelo, however, it doesn’t sound like Ohtani plans to entertain such offers. Here’s Balelo quoted in the L.A. Times:
“We haven't really given that a lot of thought because we are just focused on the one year, which we accomplished and that's what we did," Balelo of CAA said after being asked during the general manager meetings Tuesday whether they would be open to having extension discussions during spring training or in the middle of the season. "So to be honest with you, that's our main focus.
"Now that we have that over and behind us, we're comfortable with the one-year deal and we're just going to kind of focus on that right now."
Given the state of the Angels that’s a pretty reasonable position to take, frankly. As I said earlier this week, I strongly suspect that Ohtani will be made available in trade at the deadline next summer.
Atlanta trades Jake Odorizzi to Texas
The Texas Rangers acquired Jake Odorizzi and cash considerations from Atlanta yesterday in exchange for lefty Kolby Allard. Atlanta will send $10 million to cover the lion’s share of Odorizzi's $12.5 million salary for next season.
Odorizzi, 32, split last season between Atlanta and the Houston Astros. In 22 starts he posted a 4.40 ERA (90 ERA+) and didn’t really eat innings either. He should get a chance to win a gig in the Rangers' rotation but this ain’t exactly a major transaction.
James Paxton exercises his very small player option
Last year James Paxton, then coming off of Tommy John surgery, signed a contract with Boston which included a two-year, $26 million team option. That kind of deal usually anticipates a year of rehab — this past year — after which the team gets a the rehabbed pitcher on team-friendly terms. Which, I would argue, is what two years and $26 million is for a pitcher of Paxton’s abilities, assuming he rehabbed successfully.
Earlier this week the Red Sox declined the option, however. In most cases that would inspire the pitcher in Paxton’s position to go seek out a new deal, more confident in his abilities than his former team was. Except that’s not happening: yesterday Paxton exercised the $4 million player option he got as part of last year’s deal.
Given that Paxton went 38-17 with a 3.54 ERA from 2017-19, even a case in which the pitcher and team disagreed about his health would likely be one in which the pitcher could snag more than $4 million. That Paxton himself doesn’t think so and, instead, is taking the $4 million to stay, suggests that he’s really not in good health. Guess we’ll see.
Blake Treinen could have shoulder surgery
Dodgers GM Brandon Gomes told the press yesterday that the team and reliever Blake Treinen are talking through different options for his shoulder injury.
I can only assume that the uncertainty remains because Treinen is doing his own research.
Twitter is doing just fine
I’ve backed off on writing about the latest Elon Musk/Twitter doings because I know a whole bunch of you don’t care about that, but something rather hilarious happened yesterday that would not have been possible but for Elon Musk’s Twitter doings. To wit:
That fooled a good number of people but that, of course, is not the real Aroldis Chapman. We’d know that immediately before Musk started allowing any random person to get a verification checkmark for $8, but now that such a thing is possible, anyone who figures $8 is a decent price for a good laugh will do such things.
This has, not surprisingly, sowed chaos across the sports media world. There was one from a fake LeBron James requesting a trade yesterday too. There was one from Connor McDavid saying he had been traded to the Islanders. There are a bunch of fake Jeff Passan accounts which have not tweeted yet but which are starting to follow baseball writers, which will certainly make the hot stove season a hot mess of fake news.
Given that I’m not in the Oh My God I Have To Get Every Possible Trade Rumor Posted Within Minutes Industry any longer I can take a few minutes to check the seemingly unlikely things out first so I don’t really care, but it certainly puts lie to Musk’s stated vision of Twitter becoming a better news and information ecosystem.
Aubrey Huff takes the L
Aubrey Huff made well over $50 million in his playing career. He could’ve chosen to spend his retirement playing golf, learning to surf, eating at wonderful restaurants, and doing absolutely anything and everything else his heart desired.
Instead, he got brainwashed by Newsmax and other right wing outlets and chose to become a pathetic racist, misogynist Internet troll. And a dumb one at that. Like, even his worst online garbage and personal attacks lack any sort of force due to their utter incoherence. I mean, say what you want about your run-of-the-mill right wing cretin, but at least most of them exhibit basic literacy.
Despite all of that — or, more likely, because of all of that — Huff decided to run for school board in his little seaside paradise of Solana Beach. How’d it go, Aubrey?
Huff earned just 17.5 percent of the initially counted ballots for the San Diego county seat. Huff’s opponent, incumbent Debra Schade, had 82.5 percent at the initial count. Huff’s initial vote percentage is the lowest of any individual running in a two-candidate race for a school board seat in the county.
Dude was a prominent part of the early 2000s Tampa Bay Devil Rays and he still never lost that badly.
Lenny Dykstra shoots his shot
One of the more uplifting stories coming out of Tuesday’s election was Colorado’s Lauren Boebert — who is one of the most extreme dipshits to ever hold federal office — potentially losing her congressional seat. I say “potentially” because, as I’m writing this, the race has not been called yet, but she is losing and most pundits seem to think she will, in fact, lose.
That’s a bad beat for her, no question. But on the bright side, one of the biggest dipshit degenerates the game of baseball has ever produced has taken her likely loss as an opportunity to shoot his shot:
The expression “I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy” comes to mind here, but frankly, I’m not sure to whom, in this case, it would apply. Here’s hoping those two crazy kids can find some happiness in the shitty little worlds they’ve created for themselves.
Who thinks what now?
If you thought that Aubrey Huff, Lenny Dykstra, or Lauren Boeber twould be the biggest dirtbags I’d be featuring in today’s newsletter, welp, you’re wrong. Wait until you read who the New York Daily News gave column inches to in order to deny that Major League Baseball has a diversity problem. And no, you will not guess who it is even if you name 100 names.
Well, at least if I don’t give you a hint you won’t. Here’s a hint, though: this column would make way more sense coming from this author if it was about how MLB lacks a sufficient number of underaged girls.
I’d say “wow, the New York Daily News has fallen” but this was the same paper which put a snuff film on its front page a few years ago. It’s the raggiest rag in the business and it’s not particularly close. It always has been.
I gave it a day to let it marinate, so now I offer my election thoughts:
First thought: Tuesday was a pretty damn good day unless you live in places like Ohio. More on that in a second, but for now I’ll just note how pleased I am to see that sanity reigned in far, far more places than I suspected it would this year. Candidates who campaigned on abortion rights and preserving democracy and democratic norms — and/or who ran against people who opposed those things — did well. I stand by what I wrote the other day about the rot being set in far more deeply than any one election can fix, but that’s a really damn encouraging sign not just for 2022 but for the future.
Second thought: Voters under 30 saved our asses. We know this even without looking at the actual numbers because Republicans are crying about the youth vote doing them in:
It’ll be a bit before we have official numbers, but the more reliable exit polls (note: most exit polls suck) showed Republicans carrying voters over 65 by 13 points and voters between 45-64 by 11 points. Democrats won 30-44 year-olds by only two points. Democrats won voters between 18 and 30, however, by TWENTY EIGHT FRICKIN’ POINTS. That is a massive, massive landslide and shows you just how thoroughly younger voters are rejecting the Republican agenda. Mostly because there is no Republican agenda to speak of. Like, they have no policies at all, really, outside of culture war bullshit and the kids do not like that.
It’s also the case that younger voters turned out in larger numbers for this than they have in midterms historically — usually the olds can be relied on to show up while younger voters tend to only vote in presidential years — which is a GREAT sign for 2024.
Third thought: Whenever Democrats even mildly underperform in an election there are tons of national stories and columns in the New York Times, Washington Post and places like that about how they got “a big wakeup call” and that now they must seek common ground with Republicans and examine their priors. Such a narrative is tailor made for what happened to the Republicans on Tuesday, but I sure as hell won’t be holding my breath for such stories. As far as the national media is concerned, only Democrats have to compromise and moderate. Republicans are allowed to be nihilists cum arsonists without any consequences in the eyes of the pundits. If they can manage to break that habit, however, they should be writing things about how voters were turned off by Republicans’ white nationalist rhetoric, the racist ads we saw during the World Series about how white people are victims, and how allowing Tucker Carlson and people who literally attempted to perpetrate a goddamn insurrection to set the agenda for the nation was and continues to be a bad idea.
Fourth thought: Trump took a boot right in the balls this cycle. His most prominent proteges lost and the candidates and issues most closely aligned with him and his nativist agenda did the worst. If anyone in the Republican Party has any sense they would begin moving away from Trump’s poison. I don’t know if that’s possible to do without a massive amount of strife given how thoroughly Trump has taken over the party, but he’s only going to lead them to worse and worse defeats over time and I suspect the smarter people in the GOP know that. Which leads to my . . .
Fifth thought: With Trump taking that hit, and Ron DeSantis cruising in Florida, we are set up for a massive showdown for the 2024 Republican nomination and overall leadership of the GOP as a whole. DeSantis may have been afraid of Trump before but he need be less afraid now. And others in the party may move to back DeSantis assuming neither backs down. The problem, though, is that Trump’s cult is still massive and that cult will not blame him for Tuesday’s results. They’ll rally to him harder and there will be a GOP civil war. Even if the leaders and the donors abandon Trump — and there’s absolutely no guarantee of that — Trump’s ability to command attention and, let’s be honest, his way, way, way better mic skills, will be a nightmare for DeSantis. Trump is not a team player. Even if Republicans try to move on from him, he will spend the next two years absolutely abusing the guy and DeSantis, quite frankly, doesn’t have the skills to fight that off. Trump likely can’t win a national election anymore but he can certainly cause other Republicans to lose them and while spite isn’t a sustainable motivator for most people it’s like rocket fuel for Trump. I’ll be over to the side eating popcorn.
Now, because I have spilled so much ink on J.D. Vance over the years, let me say a couple of things about Ohio.
Ohio is, politically speaking, Alabama now. Or Florida or Arkansas or whatever other deeply red state you prefer. That was apparent to a lot of us before, but there’s no two ways about it now. If you hear any pundit describe Ohio as a “swing state” for the foreseeable future you should ignore them because they’re morons.
Republicans won every statewide election in Ohio on Tuesday, gained a firmer control of the Ohio Supreme Court, maintained supermajorities in both Statehouse chambers, and overwhelmingly passed two statewide ballot initiatives enshrining the concept of cash bail in the constitution and prohibiting local governments from expanding voting rights. Ohio Democrats didn't just lose statewide, though, they were absolutely crushed. No executive office candidate came within 17 points of the GOP candidate. No Democratic Supreme Court candidate within 13. Even in past Ohio Republican sweeps Democrats have usually had at least one or two candidates mount a competitive statewide race, but not this year. It was an absolute train wreck.
The closest race: Tim Ryan’s loss to J.D. Vance for the U.S. Senate seat. But even if it was close, it was still disappointing. Indeed, it was anger-inducing because that race, unlike almost all of the others, was a winnable one. Vance was massively unpopular for an Ohio GOP nominee. He barely won his primary, only eeking it out because Trump gave him a last minute endorsement. He had higher unfavorables within his own party than anyone else. I’m not saying it would’ve been easy to beat Vance given Ohio’s inherent rightward lean and the money Peter Thiel pumped into the state, but it was possible.
The problem: Tim Ryan ran a shitty campaign. A lot of people have pushed back at me on that — and I have pushed right the fuck back — and a lot of national pundit types are actually out there praising Ryan for running a strong race, but that’s insane. It was a shitty campaign from start to finish.
As we’ve seen, the good news nationally for Democrats was largely a function of them running on protecting abortion rights, preserving democracy against Republican authoritarianism, and voter distaste for racist and white supremacist messaging. Those things were almost wholly absent in Ryan’s campaign. Instead,Ryan openly courted right-leaning voters during his campaign and made unprecedented efforts for a Democrat to align himself with Trump. To wit:
He praised Trump policies in TV ads, going so far as to saying — many times! — that he, and not Vance, was actually more in line with Trump on certain issues than Vance was. None of his TV ads included the word “Democrat” nor did his yard signs, which all had a bold red background, in a clear effort to make people think he was a Republican.
He centered his campaign on casting China as Ohio’s greatest enemy which almost immediately blurred into broad, Sinophobic rhetoric. Indeed, Ryan himself wore t-shirts on the campaign trail which read “China vs. [whatever city he happened to be in], which was not a good look;
He ran one ad in which all he did was shoot a gun at a target, turn to the camera and say “not bad for a Democrat.” Which was bad enough before you realize that his shooting form was, actually, terrible. It was like the prosecutors making O.J. put on the gloves.
A lot of the media people patting Ryan on the back for his campaign gave him credit for “helping” some Democrats win some key Congressional races in Ohio. These people, quite clearly, paid no attention to either those races or the one Ryan ran. Those winners all made a clear demarcation between themselves and their Trumpist opponents. They made it clear that what their opponents stood for was wrong and that they stood for better things. Most notably abortion rights and democracy. Ryan, in contrast, campaigned on "I'm more like Trump than Vance is, actually" and openly wooed GOP voters.
Tim Ryan, too, could’ve run on abortion rights and saving democracy. He could’ve attacked J.D. Vance’s white Christian nationalism and tied him to everything odious about Trump but he couldn’t do that (and didn’t do that) since he chose to run, basically, as a Republican. In the final weeks of the campaign, Vance took to noting just how Republican Ryan’s ads and stump speeches were, telling his audiences that “if you want a Republican as your Senator, you should probably vote for the real one.” The public took him up on that offer.
There's probably a lesson to be learned from reactionary, cultural conservatives generally getting their asses handed to them on Tuesday and Tim Ryan losing a winnable race after running a campaign in which he aligned himself with Trump and said racist shit about the Chinese, but for some reason the pundits and certain sorts of Ohio Democrats don’t want to think too hard about that.
All I know now is that after spending the past six years railing against J.D. Vance and everything he stands for (and the lack of his standing for anything else), the man is now one of my two United States Senators. I suppose I offended the gods in a past life and this is my penance. If so, welp, I’ll take my medicine and make whatever lemonade I can out of these lemons (yes, my metaphor machine is completely borked at this point). At the very least the man is great for content.
Let’s move on now, shall we?
OK, one more Twitter thought
I’m not saying I have a monopoly on wisdom when it comes to the paid subscription business, but while there are not many businessy things in which I have more experience in than Elon Musk, I have run a subscription-based business longer than he has. As such, I can assure him that this is not how you do it:
I mean, I know all of you who are paid subscribers send me money every month or once a year because you dearly love me and my work and would do so no matter what, come Hell or High Water. But I also kinda suspect that if I turned off automatic renewals — and especially if I unsubscribed all of you simply to implement some mildly modified features — my churn rate would spike pretty damn high.
But sure, dude, you’re doing a great job over there.
Possible aortic aneurism update
I’ve been keeping two diaries of late.
One of them is about the cascade of misery that my family and I experienced earlier this year and how we’re trying to deal with it all as time goes on. That one will likely never see the light of day as it’s for me and my personal mental health. Indeed, the only reason that would ever be published anywhere is if it took some sharply cinematic left turn that absolutely demanded it be shared with the world. Unless that left turn involved my 79 year-old father suddenly becoming a decathlon champion or my son becoming the charismatic leader of a massive cult of some sort, such a thing would, by definition, not be a good thing for me or my family. In reality that diary is getting increasingly mundane as time has gone on which is, actually, a pretty wonderful thing. And yes, it’s helping me maintain my mental health.
The other diary will likely get dumped on my website or in this space one day. That’s about my decision to walk across England next year and everything I experience as I plan and train to do that. That’s also pretty damn mundane — no one cares nearly as much about my musings on trekking poles and hiking shoes as I sometimes delude myself into thinking they do — but it’s useful for me as a means of checking my progress and keeping myself on task. And, like most travelogues or training guides or what have you, at least someone might find it useful.
That diary is, likewise, a private diary for now, but I wanted to share my latest entry with you all because it deals with a thing that came up here earlier this week, which many of you commented on and about which some of you, quite sweetly, reached out to me privately. Here’s the entry:
November 9, 2022: I wrote a thing in my newsletter about the back pain I get while walking and how it has me considering trekking poles. A subscriber who happens to be a cardiologist replied, telling me that I should immediately get a stress test because inter-scapular pain can be a sign of an aortic aneurism. So that was cheerful. For what it's worth, I do not think I have an aortic aneurism, but I messaged my doctor about it anyway. My doctor replied, saying that he does not think I have an aortic aneurism either. He said cardiologists, by definition, tend to see patients with cardiac problems so it can skew things. He said that in his several decades of being a PCP, he has had only two patients who have presented with inter-scapular pain that was, in fact, attributable to cardiac problems. He is not the sort of doctor who blows things off, though, and he said that I can come in and get an EKG and we can go from there. I’ll probably do that soon.
I am mostly writing about this here because, if I do end up dying of an aortic aneurism while ascending a mighty fell in the middle of the Lake District, this diary entry will make for fantastic content.
If you think that’s dark you should see the other diary.
Have a great day, everyone.