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Cup of Coffee: November 11, 2021
The Rangers, some rumors, Stan the Man, Joakim, lawyer GMs, Portnoy, Republican extremists, Tsundoku, a real life coffin flop, and What We Pretend To Be
Good morning! And welcome to Free Thursday!
Today there is, for once, news about a team raising payroll, not slashing it, a trade rumor, a labor rumor, a notable retirement, I share a reminder of the bad old days, and I offer some words about what NOT to conclude if the Mets end up hiring a guy to be their general manager who has been out of baseball for four years because he’s been working in a big evil law firm.
In Other Stuff I wish a happy birthday to one of my heroes, observe that Barstool jackass continuing to act in an on-brand manner, share a couple of political items which make me angry, but then cleanse the palette by talking about Tsundoku and sharing the same joke about a terrible thing that happened that 10,000 people shared on Twitter yesterday but do so happily because I realize not all of you are Twitter-poisoned like I am and it’ll be new to most of you.
Finally, I want you all to know that there will be a SECOND newsletter hitting your inbox this morning. It’ll be a guest post that (a) runs particularly long so it justifies its own email; and (b) it’s a good topic for Veterans Day, so we’re calling it a special edition.
The Daily Briefing
The Rangers could jack their payroll up by $100 million
From the GM Meetings comes a report that the Rangers could be big players on the free agent market this winter:
You couldn’t walk 15 feet at the GM meetings Tuesday without bumping into another baseball official who all but said the Rangers are going to make it rain in free agency.
[Rangers General Manager] Chris Young wasn’t exactly tamping that talk down Tuesday afternoon either.
“I think it’s all relative,” Young said when asked just how big a spender the Rangers will be. “But, we said towards the end of the season that we are committed to having a payroll consistent with our market size. We intend to push the payroll up.”
Next question: How much?
By as much as $100 million — if not more — a pair of industry sources indicated.
Frankly, I’m not terribly surprised by this report. I mean, to anyone who has been paying attention, it’s obvious that Chris Young was gonna be a big spender this winter.
The dude’s 6’10” tall!
Don’t look at me like that. If you think that was bad just wait until it’s January or February and we’ve really hit the bottom of the joke barrel.
Seriously, though: the Rangers have a lot of holes to fill, have a lot of money from their new stadium and the fact that they are the only team in one of the largest markets in the county, and this is a pretty loaded free agent class, so I suppose there are sillier ideas. For what it’s worth we did hear yesterday, via Jon Morosi, that the Rangers met with Scott Boras recently, and Boras represents a lot of big free agents this winter, including Corey Seager, who Morosi thinks is interested in Texas.
I dunno. No one knows anything. But a team allegedly planning on spending big is fun to think about, so let’s think about it for a while.
The White Sox could trade Craig Kimbrel
I suggested the other day when the White Sox picked up their $16 million option on Craig Kimbrel that they could look to deal him. White Sox GM Rick Hahn said the same thing at the GM meetings the other day:
"What we have to figure out is if it makes the most sense to have Craig in a White Sox uniform going forward or is there a better use of that spot and him perhaps via trade."
Kimbrel joined the White Sox in a deadline and, while he was dominant with the Cubs before the deal, he pitched poorly after the trade, allowing 13 runs in 23 innings and not doing any better in the Chisox’ early playoff exit.
Given that Kimbrel has bounced back to superstar status upon scenery changes on multiple occasions in his career there is likely a team out there (a) thinking that he could do it again; and (b) liking the idea of getting a potential shutdown closer on a one-year $16 million deal.
Joakim Soria retires
Journeyman reliever Joakim Soria is retiring after 14 seasons in the bigs.
Soria spent his first five seasons with the Royals, establishing himself as one of the game’s top closers. In 2012, however, Soria underwent Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss that entire season. After the Royals declined his 2013 option he became a free agent and then spent the remainder of his 14-year career pitching for eight different teams.
And he pitched very well, notching 229 saves and posting a 3.11 ERA (137 ERA+) and a 831/231 K/BB ratio across 763 innings in 773 appearances. He made the postseason four times for four different teams (Tigers, Pirates, Brewers, A’s) too.
That was a nice run, Mr. Soria. Now enjoy the next several decades of your life kicking back. You’ve earned it.
We’re doing this already?
Jon Heyman, being whispered to:
I am fully prepared for the CBA negotiations to get ugly and for there to be a lockout. I am fully prepared for there to be “months of pain.” It’s totally possible because anything is possible.
I am not, however, prepared to take the word of management sources who say things like this is “as bad as I’ve ever seen it.”
Why? Mostly because there are very few management sources who have seen things get very bad. There was some ugliness last year surrounding the COVID-era season restart, but apart from that it’s been multiple cycles of fairly smooth labor negotiations from management’s point of view going back to 2002 or so, which kind of undercuts anyone’s credibility when it comes to assessing the ugliness of it all.
What I’m guessing is really happening here: management sources — who aren’t told “no” very often — are expecting the players to roll over, are seeing them instead actually stand up for themselves and take tough tacks in negotiation, and are construing that as “bad” or “ugly” or whatever. Alternatively this is a management source trying to condition people like Jon Heyman and his followers that things are bad so that if and when the owners lock the players out they will have laid the groundwork to do so without too much scrutiny by casting the players as unreasonable.
If we have a lockout and no deal come January or early February, sure, I’ll be prepared for “bad” and “months of pain.” But right now I suspect this is all a combination of inexperienced management hands and spin control.
A note on Adam Cromie
Yesterday I talked about how the Mets are considering former Nationals assistant general manager Adam Cromie for their GM position. Cromie, as I noted, is currently a fourth-year associate in the mergers and acquisitions department at the law firm Jones Day, working in its Pittsburgh office.
Since his name has come up I’ve heard some murmurings about various connections between Cromie’s law firm and Chris Christie, who is reportedly advising Mets owner Steve Cohen on the hiring process. I’ve also seen some basic “Jones Day is a bad place because they represented [some unsavory person, company, or cause]” with that being used in service of suggesting things about Cromie, his ethics, or how he got on the Mets radar or whatever.
I’m here to tell you, folks, that that line of thinking is not the way to go with this.
Jones Day, despite its MANY faults, is a huge international law firm, not a group of 20 guys who meet in mahogany-paneled rooms while drinking expensive scotch, twirling their mustaches, and carving up the world among themselves. I mean, yeah, the partners who run the firm are probably doing that — I used to work for some former Jones Day partners and, man, they’re definitely a type — but that’s not very illuminating with respect to Cromie.
Cromie works in the Pittsburgh office, which is not exactly ground zero for international law firm plots. As I said, he’s a fourth year associate, which means he’s much closer to being asked to hold some partner’s briefcase while he takes a piss than he is to be asked his opinion on anything beyond the deal he’s currently assigned to. While there is all manner of unseemliness all over law firm work, the likelihood that Cromie is involved with the salacious, controversial or headline-making parts of Jones Day’s practice is so vanishingly small that it’s laughable to even discuss it. There is likely some warehouse operator in Harrisburg who wants to acquire some warehouses in Altoona whose fate hangs on whether or not the whatchamacallit covenants Cromie has been asked to draft carve out the right thingamabob, but neither Donald Trump, the Pope, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, or the Trilateral Commission are looping Cromie in on their conference calls.
In reality, Cromie is probably unknown by the vast majority of Jones Day’s lawyers outside of his practice area. There are likely even people who work on his own floor in Pittsburgh who just yesterday learned that he's an actual baseball guy. “Huh, he had a picture of a baseball team in his office; figured that was maybe from college? Neat,” they’re saying to themselves. None of this is to excuse a big law firm's excesses or anything, but in cases like these there is often a rush to say “ah, he works at that firm and that firm one time did . . .” and in this case that's just not likely to be revealing in any way whatsoever. Again: dude is a fourth-year associate. In Pittsburgh. Working in mergers and acquisitions.
Let’s all be patient. If Cromie gets the job, there is gonna be plenty of time and reason to rip him a new one. I mean, he’ll be running the Mets, after all.
A reminder of the bad old days
I saw this on a Facebook group dealing with collectibles and memorabilia. It’s a letter from St. Louis Cardinals president and majority owner Sam Breadon to Stan Musial in the spring of 1943, when Musial — who became an everyday player for the first time in 1942 and helped lead the Cardinals to a World Series title over the Yankees — conducted a brief holdout, seeking a raise:
Maybe Musial didn’t “have more to do” in 1943 than he did in 1942, but he sure as hell did a lot more, winning the MVP Award and leading the league in batting, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, OPS+, total bases, hits, doubles, triples, games, and plate appearances. And, following his holdout, he made only $6,250 to do it. In the next five years Musial would win two more MVP Awards and lead the Cardinals to two more World Series titles. All while being the nicest damn man on the face of the earth.
And I’m sure that, through all of that, he was considered overpaid by Sam Breadon.
Happy Birthday Kurt Vonnegut
It is Kurt Vonnegut's birthday. He would’ve been 99 years old today. Although he would’ve told you many years before he died that he’d never make it that long because of all the Pall Malls.
It’s not an original choice, I realize, but Vonnegut is my favorite author. It’s at least mildly original for someone who calls Vonnegut his favorite author to say that, of his many books, their favorite is “Mother Night,” but that’s my favorite Vonnegut book. It’s not his best book, objectively. It’s not his most original, or funniest, or most influential by a long shot. But it is, probably, the one with the most moral clarity and it states that moral in its very first paragraph:
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
There were times in my legal career when I’d play a role whenever I went into court, took a deposition, or interacted with an opponent or client. It didn’t happen all of the time, but there were times when I’d yell, rant, rave or bring other unpleasant tactics or rhetoric to bear — or play dumb and act like a country lawyer who simply wasn’t aware of something I was presumed to be aware of — as long as it advanced my cause. When I did so I believed it was OK because it was fake. That I was doing those things in a calculated manner in order to bring about my or my client’s desired outcome.
But I came to realize — around the time I re-read “Mother Night” when I was in my early 30s — that it didn’t matter what I thought I was doing. To the people in that courtroom or conference room I wasn’t acting like an ass. I was an ass. My intentions were irrelevant and unknown to anyone but me. It was, to quote another bit of pop culture which communicated basically the same thing as Vonnegut in “Mother Night,” what I did that defined me.
It’s no accident that I began to lose my enthusiasm for the law around the time of this realization. I could no longer pretend that as long as I could come up with a justification for what I was doing that what I did was justifiable. Because it simply wasn’t true. It wasn’t true because there is not a “real” you or me underneath it all. Not one that matters to anyone. We are what we do. We are how we treat others. When we’re dead all of those hidden intentions die with us and all that is left are what people observed and experienced of us.
It’s OK to fail, because people fail. It’s OK to fall short of our objectives because that happens too. And sometimes we simply don’t have any choice at all and are forced to engage in the least odious of several odious options. But it’s not OK to create fictions about who and what we are or to hide behind our amorphously described better intentions when we willingly do wrong. There is no such thing as doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. It’s just the wrong thing.
I took note of Vonnegut’s words the first time I read “Mother Night” as a teenager, but they did not stick with me. Not really. Ever since I re-read those words 15 or 16 years-ago, however, I have done whatever I can to live my life by them. To not believe that if I behaved poorly it was OK if I believed, in my own mind, that I was a good person. To not get lost in irony or playing a role or assuming stances that I do not believe because doing so was temporarily advantageous to me in some way. Because, again, we are what we do.
Happy birthday, Kurt Vonnegut. Thanks for a whole hell of a lot of things, but thank you especially for a guiding principle that has served me well, and illuminated so very much, for a very long time.
David Portnoy suspended from Twitter
Barstool Sports founder/pathetic cretin David Portnoy was suspended from Twitter for 12 hours the other day because he shared a screencap of an email exchange with Nicolas Carlson, the editor-in-chief of Business Insider. Business Insider, of course, was the outlet which reported last week that Portnoy has engaged in multiple sexual encounters with women half his age which, while starting out as consensual, turned violent with Portnoy choking the women in question and filming them without their permission.
The email exchange started with a Barstool staffer requesting that Carlson appear on Portnoy’s podcast to discuss the Insider story. Carlson declined, saying that the story spoke for itself. Portnoy posted it as a means of portraying Insider as evading scrutiny or whatever but it’s far more important to note that the email that Portnoy posted showed Carlson’s email address.
Given Portnoy’s m.o. — and that his last tweet before his suspension read, “I’ve eliminated sleep from my schedule. Just running on adderall, coffee and revenge nowadays” — it is 100% obvious that the screencap was shared in an effort to foment a harassment campaign against Carlson from Portnoy’s 2.7 million followers. I mean, it’s absolutely textbook Barstool here.
The guy is an absolute scumbag. Just the biggest slime in media. And he won’t be happy until he gets someone hurt or killed.
The GOP is an Extremist Party Part 3,394
Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, has received death threats after voting for President Biden’s infrastructure bill. Among the multiple threats was a voicemail in which a caller told Upton, “I hope you die. I hope everybody in your fucking family dies” and called him a “traitor.”
In related news:
Upton told the newspaper the calls started after his Republican colleague, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, publicly posted the names and phone numbers of Upton and a dozen other GOP House members who voted in support of the bill, calling them "traitors."
Gee, I wonder if those things are connected.
Upton, as I noted yesterday, is facing discipline from the Republican Party for his vote. Greene and others engaging in this extraordinarily reckless and incendiary behavior are not currently facing any discipline at all.
“Cancel Culture has gone too far” says people who can point to no examples of cancel culture
The website The Hill reports on a poll about “cancel culture” which they claim finds that “an overwhelming majority” of voters think cancel culture is out of control. Their basis for saying so: “seventy-one percent of registered voters said they strongly or somewhat believe that cancel culture has gone too far.”
If you look down the poll results a bit, however, you also see, in response to the question “How much have you seen, read, or heard about the term ‘cancel culture’?” a full 48% of respondents said either “only a little bit” or “nothing at all.” How, in light of that, 71% can believe that it’s “gone too far” is an interesting damn question.
Know what? I’m beginning to think that “cancel culture” is a bullshit concept that right wingers have demagogued in such a way as to make people mad about it even if it’s not a thing that actually exists in their lives or matters to them in any real or substantial way.
And . . . we’re burning books now
Radical conservatives have been trying to take over school boards all over the country. In some places, such as Spotsylvania, Virginia, they’ve succeeded and, in a very-on-brand move, they’ve decided to ban a bunch of books from the high school library.
The board voted 6–0 to order the removal. Berkeley District representative Erin Grampp was not in attendance for the vote on that issue.
Two board members, Courtland representative Rabih Abuismail and Livingston representative Kirk Twigg, said they would like to see the removed books burned.
“I think we should throw those books in a fire,” Abuismail said, and Twigg said he wants to “see the books before we burn them so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff.”
Gotta tell ya, I did Nazi that coming.
Great Moments in Tsundoku
I learned yesterday that the Japanese have a word for the act of buying books and then never reading them: Tsundoku. I learned that after I tweeted, “Is there a word for "I'm gonna buy that 600+ page book because it sounds really cool but I know myself and I know I'll read like 110 pages of it and put it on a shelf, not because of its limitations, but because of my own?"
The reason I tweeted that was because I just purchased, based on this review, Dan Jones’ new popular history about the Middle Ages, Powers and Thrones. It’s 656 pages worth of Middle Age history for middle age dads.
I desperately want to have read that book, even if I doubt I’ll finish it before Christmas. Or, for that matter, before Opening Day. I just know how I roll. I can devour detective novels, baseball books, and shorter and breezier non-fiction things fairly easily, but every time I set out to read an even remotely-hefty non-fiction book — even a plainly-worded popular history like this one appears to be — I absolutely crawl.
I didn’t used to be this way. When I was a lawyer I’d read for pleasure voraciously and relatively quickly. When I was in law school, college, and high school I read even more voraciously and more quickly (I could buzz through those Vonnegut books, let me tell ya). Ever since I started writing for a living back in 2009, however, my brain is just sort of mush every time I put a new book in my hand. I chalk it up to basically reading, writing and being online all day — there are only so many words a brain can process — but that can’t be all of it, because I read and wrote a lot when I practiced law too.
A lot of it is likely due to Internet addiction and my habit of going back and checking to see if I’ve missed anything in the evening. Did someone make a trade? Did a free agent sign? Those theoretically quick scans of the timeline at 9:10 PM turn into a half hour lost to mindless scrolling. There’s also the fact that I just go to sleep way earlier now than I used to even five or ten years ago. Unless I’m reading a potboiler or something with a lot of gunplay and snappy dialogue my brain just starts to snooze because it no think too good after dark.
But dammit, I’m gonna read this book, and not in the usual five different spurts over six months way I often do with bigger books. I’ll do it if I have to rent a cabin in the woods someplace in December and go there without my computer and phone. I fear if I don’t I’m gonna become the dumbest smart guy you’ve ever met.
Let me preface this by saying this is horrible. I want no one to say that I don’t think this is horrible, OK?
A Massachusetts family whose loved one’s casket fell open as it was being lowered into a grave, causing the body to fall out, has sued the funeral home and the cemetery.
The family of Andrew Serrano, a resident of Lawrence who died in March 2019, allege negligence and reckless infliction of emotional distress in the suit filed last Wednesday in Essex Superior Court, The Eagle-Tribune reported . . . The “corpse fell out of the casket” in full view of “horrified family members who became visibly distraught and hysterical,” the suit said.
Now, you believe me when I say that I think this is horrible, right? You don’t for a minute think that I think this is funny? Good.
Because now that that’s settled, I’d like to share something completely unrelated.
Have a great day, everyone. And as I mentioned above, be on the lookout later this morning for a Veterans Day Guest Post Edition of Cup of Coffee.