Good morning! And welcome to Free Wednesday!
I figured that the morning after the World Series was a better day for it than tomorrow would be, so you get the freebie a day early this week.
Inside I, duh, talk about Atlanta winning it all. In so doing I also talk about how I feel about that as someone who has been a Braves fan since the mid-80s but who now, as regular readers know, finds himself pretty estranged from them for a number of reasons.
There is a lot of other baseball news, of course. Today I talk about the upcoming Eric Kay trial. I talk about the Mets as “the pinnacle of the sport” and what, oddly, is a fan club of national baseball writers for their recently fired GM Zack Scott. I talk about a great thing happening in Cleveland. I talk about those crypto ads on umpires’ uniforms and how they got there. I also provide an update on that story about The Athletic from yesterday.
In Other Stuff I rant about Ohio politics in my latest Columbus Alive column, introduce you to the idea of Shotsgiving, discuss life in a windowless dorm room, provide an important update for my fellow 1930s and 40s retronauts, and talk about how love is anger’s great animator.
And That Happened
Atlanta 7 Astros 0: If Game 5 showed us anything it showed us that even a decent lead is not safe from the Astros’ bats, but something about World Series MVP’s Jorge Soler’s three-run homer made it feel different this time:
It was crushed, of course — it went out of the stadium and sat on a sidewalk for eight minutes before someone grabbed it because no one expected a ball to be way the hell out there — but it also silenced the crowd and gave off a totally different vibe than even the Adam Duvall grand slam did on Sunday. Dansby Swanson’s two-run shot and Freddie Freeman’s RBI double and solo home run just kept putting it further and further out of reach. By the sixth inning I felt like the Braves’ lead was comfortable enough to stick and to start thinking more cosmically about it all.
Before I think too cosmically about it, though, allow me to note that Atlanta starter Max Fried did something no one seems to do in the postseason anymore: he pitched six innings of shutout ball. He only needed 74 pitches to do it too, and it was rather deflating when he was lifted as opposed to being allowed to go full-1995 Tom Glavine, but I get it. It was a different time then. Still: it was a strong performance from the Braves’ ace who didn’t look like an ace in his last couple of outings. If you watched Atlanta games in the second half, though, you knew he was capable of this. He’s been one of the most unsung great pitchers in baseball over the past three years and he stepped up big here when Atlanta needed him to.
As for the cosmic: as most of you know, I am, historically, an Atlanta Braves fan. I have been, arguably, since 1985, but depending on how you measure it, no later than 1988. I suffered with them in the 80s. I roared for them in the 1990s. I’ve lived with them in various other states for 36 years and, yeah, because of that, I felt some stuff while watching them take the field in celebration last night. It’s complicated stuff, though, given how much my view of the Braves franchise and baseball in general has changed over the past decade or so.
I talk about that a lot in my upcoming book so I won’t go into detail about it now, but anyone who reads what I write here knows that I have some seriously ambivalent feelings about the Atlanta Baseball Club these days and that my relationship with them has changed. I wear a Braves hat once in a while still and, if people ask me, I still say that I’m a Braves fan, but it feels increasingly wrong to say that given what I know they mean when they ask that and what I actually feel about the Braves.
I’m not the sort of fan who considers a team’s accomplishments my accomplishments and I’ve always felt it weird when people congratulate fans of a team because the team did something good, but even if I was that kind of fan I’m not sure I’d be feeling those feelings now given the distance I’ve placed between myself and the Atlanta Braves since, oh, I suppose starting around 2013 when they announced they were building their new suburban ballpark. For various reasons, most of them off-the-field, that distance has only grown since. But even if the Atlanta Braves Baseball Club, as an organization, and I are estranged, I still felt things last night and I’m still feeling things this morning.
That’s because, as I also write in my upcoming book, I root for a lot of other things now.
I root for good games and seeing great athletic feats no matter whose laundry the athlete is wearing. I root for good people, at least as far as that can be determined. I root for the players, not their employers. I root in ways that are motivated by the emotions I genuinely feel in a moment as opposed to a sense of loyalty that was handed to me by parents or the geography of my life 48 years ago or how the circumstances of my life and geography changed 36 years ago. All of those things taken together — with various conflicts they occasion resolved to greater or lesser degrees — meant that I wanted Atlanta to win this series. I wanted them to win primarily because seeing Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, Max Fried, Ronald Acuña Jr., Dansby Swanson, and some other guys I watched come up from baseball infancy and become superstars over the past few years — and seeing them get to celebrate a championship — meant a great deal to me. But that’s all I can make it about me and my Atlanta Braves fandom as it exists in 2021.
In the end what this is really about is an Atlanta Braves team that collapsed badly in 2011, an Atlanta Braves team which left their best reliever in the pen in a pivotal moment and fell to defeat in 2013 and then was ripped apart for a rebuild, an Atlanta Braves team that blew a 3-1 lead in the playoffs last year, an Atlanta Braves team that was five games under .500 in mid-June, an Atlanta Braves team that lost their best player in Ronald Acuña Jr. for the season in early July, and an Atlanta Braves team that did not rise above .500 for good until August standing triumphant. They overcame all of that to win the division. They then went 11-5 in this postseason. In so doing they beat a 95-win Brewers team, a 106-win Dodgers team, a 95-win Astros team and they never once faced elimination in any of those series. It was a hell of a postseason run.
And now the Atlanta Braves are now, for the first time since 1995, World Series champions.
The Daily Briefing
If you’re a subscriber to The Athletic, and you navigated over there after the final out last night, you got to see this story, which appeared while the Braves were literally still celebrating on the field last night and before they were handed the World Series trophy:
A lot of people who defend sports gambling do so by saying that it’s just another way to understand the game. That it’s just another avenue — like sabermetrics, maybe — of appreciating the nature and intricacies of the sport.
If someone can tell me how setting odds and taking bets now on something which will not be decided for a year and which will not be decided until the rosters of every single team will change pretty radically — and, this year, the circumstances under which those roster changes will be made are completely unknown due to forthcoming changes in the Collective Bargaining Agreement — can help anyone understand anything, please let me know.
In the meantime, this just looks like a means of suckering gambling addicts, most of whom just officially lost on whatever World Series champs bets they made and are thus looking for a way to make up for it or to get another fix.
Eric Kay wants his trial delayed
On Monday attorneys for former Angels employee Eric Kay filed a motion to delay his trial in the overdose death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs. The trial is currently set to begin next week. Kay’s lawyers are asking for it to be kicked for at least 30 days because a superseding indictment against Kay is imminent.
That superseding indictment will come pursuant to a motion filed by prosecutors on Monday seeking to add a charge accusing Kay of distributing oxycodone. He’s already charged with distributing fentanyl. Both drugs were found in the body of Skaggs, who died in July 2019 while on a team road trip to Texas. For what it’s worth — and it may be worth a lot — prosecutors vehemently oppose moving the trial, saying that given that none of the evidence will actually change and given that no new discovery is necessary, the trial should not be delayed. They asked yesterday that the trial start, as planned, on November 8.
As I’ve noted here in the past, the trial is likely to feature a parade of high-profile witnesses, including several current and/or former Angels pitchers who were questioned by authorities immediately after Skaggs’ death and are thought to have insight into Kay and Skaggs’ drug activity. It’s also likely that former Angels executive and former Hall of Fame president Tim Mead will be a witness as well.
Bye-bye “Indians” sign
The “Indians” sign started coming down off the scoreboard in Cleveland yesterday. Check out the sad music Cleveland.com put over the removal of part of the “I.” It’s enough to make you cry, at least if you’re a jackass who is super invested in the name “Indians”:
The removal of the letters is expected to take several days. The sign will be placed in storage while the club evaluates options for a permanent spot for it. I imagine some racist group would want it but they probably can’t afford it. Maybe a movie studio should buy it in case someone ever makes “The Albert Belle Story.” I’m available to take a first crack at that script, BTW.
Anyway, you hate to see it. And by “hate” I mean “love.” The only thing that could make this bad is if that roller derby team wins some kind of emergency injunction and the ballclub says “eh, screw it,” decides to revert to the old name, and puts the letters back up on the scoreboard next March.
The Zack Scott Fan Club
Early yesterday I mentioned that Mets acting general manager Zack Scott was fired by the club, in large part due to his August DUI arrest, but also because he no longer fit in with a club which is attempting to move in a completely different direction with its front office. As I said yesterday, I’m sure the DUI did not help, but I suspect that the Mets would’ve moved on from him anyway once they hire a president of baseball operations.
As that news spread, two national baseball writers, however, decided to stump for Scott and paint him as some sort of wronged figure. First ESPN’s Buster Olney complained that the Mets didn’t have to fire Scott but that they “could've simply shifted him into a role with a lower profile -- the job for which he was hired -- and drawn on his knowledge as they began to reshape the team for 2022.” Later, when some readers pushed back, Olney responded with a rhetorical question, asking “would they release a superstar player hit with a DUI?” He then spent more time arguing directly on behalf of Scott, saying that the team should “keep him out of the public role and use that knowledge in informing player acquisition.”
Late Monday night Jon Heyman was on that same train, saying that the “Zack Scott ouster is a loss for Mets . . . [he] seemed to have a good handle on things and while team stagnated in [the] end deadline deals (Baez, Hill, etc.) were pretty good.” He then added that it “may not have helped that White Plains set unmovable court date for DUI as Dec. 8.” Which is a really bizarre thing to say. As if it was an unreasonable judicial calendar which cost Scott his job as opposed to his own actions or obsolescence within the Mets’ front office structure.
Olney’s and Heyman’s objections to firing Scott are a bad look. It’s all akin to a stance that has long persisted in sports — it doesn’t matter what someone does off the field as long as he gets results — but which is thankfully falling out of favor in professional sports, albeit not nearly fast enough. As far as I know, all Olney and Heyman know about Scott are the baseball things, and those things should be what matter most here. Of course, if there’s more at play here — if Scott is a friend or a source of Olney and/or Heyman’s or something and they, like baseball writers have always done are trying to rally support for a “good baseball man” they know — their stance is even worse.
Speaking of the Mets . . .
Here’s a quote I never figured we’d see:
Puma quickly added that, no, the executive was not being sarcastic. I’m struggling to imagine how someone could hold a position as an executive in Major League Baseball without understanding what the word “pinnacle” means, but I suppose we all have our blindspots.
Maybe Puma misheard and he said the Mets GM job was the “pinochle of the sport.” That becoming the team’s general manager is like going to the couple’s house from down the block, mixing whiskey sours and grasshoppers, smoking a lot, and spending the evening playing trick-and-meld card games while talking about how Barry Goldwater has some good ideas but that he’s a little bit too scary. You know, a thing that was ONCE cool and common but now sounds miserably outdated and which no one does anymore.
That’s my best guess anyway.
How the crypto logos got on the umpires’ uniforms
You have no doubt noticed that, since mid-season, MLB umpires have had little FTX logos on their uniforms. FTX, of course, is a Bahamian-based exchange platform that allows users to trade cryptocurrencies. FTX is incorporated in Antigua and Barbuda and handles something like $10 billion in action a day so, you know, it’s your typical mom and pop outfit.
Earlier this week, at something called the Brand Innovation Summit in Chicago, FTX’s President Brett Harrison talked about how that deal with MLB went down. As Sports Business Journal's Thomas Leary reports in his latest marketing newsletter, FTX sought out MLB as "an incredibly trusted institution” in what sounds pretty much like your standard image-laundering operation:
“Harrison told the crowd that his CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried, told the FTX executive team to move quickly as the marketplace reckoned with crypto’s rapid emergence. Harrison's marching orders were to ‘go after the biggest thing you can’ for ‘as large an audience as possible’ to build trust among the U.S. user base . . . ‘To have them endorse us, to have our name on every umpire’s chest, really showed people that crypto is not some super-fringe industry that’s filled with crazy hackers and money launderers,’ said Harrison.
It was not about FTX selling services or products, then. It’s was solely about it associating itself with something that’ll make it look less icky and Major League Baseball was happy to oblige in that de-ickyfication.
What was in it for MLB?
"We did want to make sure this was a brand that had integrity," noted MLB Exec VP/Business Development Kenny Gersh. "It was a multi-month process. Four or five months later, we couldn't be happier with the way they've executed on the relationship with us and more importantly on their own strategy of really becoming a leader in the U.S."
So it was money. Money MLB was happy to accept as long as some bare threshold of respectability was allegedly met. In no event was it about how FTX or cryptocurrency fits into any grander vision of MLB. It may as well have been Doosan or any of the other many sponsorships MLB has readily accepted regardless of whether it has anything to do with baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, or Chevrolet. Hell, maybe next it’ll be the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund. Word on the street is that they’re really good at “executing on the relationship,” if you catch my drift.
OK, I should be fair. MLB’s Kenny Gersh did at least make some effort to talk about how FTX and crypto fit into the fabric of baseball in America:
“Gersh also was bullish on what blockchain tech can deliver for MLB over the next 3-5 years: ‘Blockchain is really about identity, authenticity, and ownership in the digital space. ... How do we take these things that baseball fans love in the physical world and bring them to the digital world? Both from an accessibility standpoint and a demographic standpoint.’”
Pass me a digital Budweiser and a bag of digital peanuts. The goddamn digital game is about to start.
FanDuel says it’s not in on The Athletic
Yesterday I shared a report from The Information about FanDuel and DraftKings being in the bidding for The Athletic. I don’t know about DraftKings, but FanDuel says that report was bullcrap. Per Boardroom, which reported on the comments of Peter Jackson, the CEO of FanDuel’s parent company, Flutter, during an earnings call yesterday:
“That is not something that we are bidding for. I mean, that’s a private equity firm who’s trying to get some interest in an asset they’re selling . . . Rest assured, we speak on behalf of FanDuel. They are part of Flutter. None of our brands, none of us, none of the companies.”
The notion that LionTree, the private equity firm which is soliciting bids on behalf of The Athletic, may be trying to pump up interest in the company in the media is certainly a plausible one. It could be an effort at trying to pump up bids from companies which are interested in The Athletic by claiming their competitors are in the bidding too.
Guess someone needs to go ask DraftKings where it stands. And how it likes to be messed with in this way if, indeed, it is bidding.
My latest Columbus Alive column
My latest Ohio politics column is up at Columbus Alive.
This time out I talk about how, in forcing the resignation of two members of the Ohio Board of Education, our governor, Mike DeWine, again showed his cowardice to stand up to his party’s extremists in the Legislature.
Why did he force the Board members to resign? Because they said that racism is bad and that we should have less of it. Really. I wish I was lying, but nope: in Ohio, in the year 2021, you can lose your job for condemning racism. Mostly because of a moral panic:
The animating principle of the outrage that led to the repeal demand was the racial resentment that Republicans have made a central pillar of their political platform. The supposed excesses of anti-racism education form the base of that pillar, with the mere mention of our nation's racist past or present being branded with a once-obscure academic term — critical race theory — that has nothing to do with any of the concepts expressed in last year's Board resolution or whatever is taught about racism in Ohio's primary and secondary schools.
There is no bottom. The extremists have fully taken over and “nice” and “respectable” Republicans like Mike DeWine fear them so much that they will not stand in the way of even the most egregious conduct. The state I live in is doomed. I really don’t want to live in it anymore.
There’s a bar/arcade here in Columbus called 16-Bit. Old school cabinet video games which you can play for free because they’re making all the money off of you while you drink. I’m guessing most cities have this kind of thing. It’s fun. And yeah, I’m saying that because I’m old and, while I can’t play almost any modern video games with any competence, I can still kick ass at Gyruss. It’s all about the patterns, dudes. Two stages to Neptune.
Once Halloween wraps up, people tend to skip right over Thanksgiving and start focusing on the December holidays. But 16-Bit Bar+Arcade is hoping to change that by bringing some glory to Thanksgiving. Shotsgiving is a five-course meal in the form of a flight of shots. The full Thanksgiving meal will feature:
Green Bean Casserole
Turkey w/ Stuffing
You can stop into the bar to try one of the shots for $6, or order the entire “5-course meal” for $25.
The fact that they have a green bean casserole shot is proof that you’re in goddamn Ohio, because Ohioans LOVE their green bean casserole on Thanksgiving. But despite the fact that I hate green bean casserole, I’m not gonna lie, I’d still do the shot. It and all of the other ones, because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday by a country mile and sometimes you just gotta carry out the mission.
FYI for my fellow olds
I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but longtime subscribers know that I have a 1930s-40s fixation. That fixation manifests itself, in part, in listening to SiriusXM’s 40s Junction station a lot.
Those of you who occasionally check in with the big band and swing stuff, or those who are just curious, should know that 40s Junction is leaving channel 73 of the satellite service as of today and will be replaced by the Christmas music of Holiday Traditions (mid-century classic Christmas songs). It will be gone until after Christmas. In the meantime it will be available on channel 296 on the SiriusXM app — which actually works really well and I use it a lot more than my satellite receiver these days — until December 25th. As of December 26th, it’ll be back on the satellite service on channel 71.
I feel like forcing the sorts of people who seek out Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Gene Krupa to use a smart phone app instead of the old Philco is cruel and unusual punishment, but I suppose at this point all the O.G. swing/big band fans are dead and it's mostly just hipsters like me listening to it, so it’s probably fine.
What it’s like to live in a windowless dorm
A couple of days ago I wrote about the proposed 4,000+ student dorm at U.C. Santa Barbara, in which almost all of the rooms will lack windows. All of this is courtesy of 97 year-old billionaire Charlie Munger, who fancies himself an amateur architect/social engineer and thinks such a thing is a good idea.
Fun fact: Munger has already designed and built a dorm like this, albeit on a much smaller scale. It’s a graduate student dorm at the University of Michigan which follows the same basic principles. CNN.com took a look at it yesterday and talked to students who live there to get their view.
Those reviews are mixed. In online ratings the place ranks pretty highly, likely because the building has a lot of amenities. That’s the tradeoff, right? Interior cabin cruise ship-style dorms in exchange for nice common spaces. There are a lot of individual complaints, though, mostly about how discombobulating it can be to go to sleep and wake up in rooms with no sunlight or natural darkness, the need for heavy use of SAD lights, and the like.
I, personally, would fall in with those folks. I need windows. But others differ. That’s fine. They’re messed up, but that’s fine. There are a lot of messed up people in the world and we somehow all still manage.
Love becomes anger’s great animator
Just over a year ago I wrote about Singer/songwriter Nick Cave’s free newsletter called The Red Hand Files. Cave, in addition to being an outstanding artist and performer, is a deep and insightful thinker and writer and The Red Hand Files, drafted mostly in response to reader questions, is a wonderful gift whenever it shows up in my inbox.
Yesterday’s installment was particularly moving. It, like a number of them, touches on the death of Cave’s 15 year-old son Arthur, who fell from a cliff while hiking near their home in Brighton, England in July of 2015. Someone asked him about the lyrics to a song called “Heart That Kills You,” that Cave wrote in the aftermath of that. Cave, as is his wont, did not hesitate to talk about the song and what he was thinking and feeling at the time he wrote it.
This passage, referencing what, in the song, spoke of Cave’s then expectation that his wife’s and his old age was going to be sad and angry following the tragedy that befell his family, stuck with me all day yesterday:
Into old and angry age
— goes the final line of the song. It turns out that this line did not prove to be true. As Susie and I grow older, the anger at the indifference and casual cruelty of this world can still burn bright, but it does not define us, for the oxygen that fuels that anger is love — love for the world and love for the people in it. Love becomes anger’s great animator, as it should, as it must.
It’s hard not to be angry about a great many things these days. That’s the case even if, like me, you’re normally a person who is pretty content and who normally proceeds through life with a certain equanimity.
As anyone who reads much of what I write knows, I don’t think it’s healthy to bottle up or deny that anger when it comes, but I do think it’s important to be mindful of what Cave is saying here. To remember that the oxygen that fuels that anger is love. And to never lose sight of that which you love even if its loss or its threatened loss hurls you into anger.
That which you love always — always — has to be the star that guides you lest the anger consume you.
Have a great day, everyone.