Cup of Coffee: November 30, 2023
Signings, awards, a mailbag about baseball reporters, Henry Kissinger’s rotting corpse, my Spotify Wrapped, Geddy Lee's great idea, and a poop-filled Pringles can-flinging attorney from Ohio. Not me.
Good morning! And welcome to Free Thursday!
To say that today’s newsletter is packed is an understatement.
We’ve got signings. We’ve got awards. We’ve got a very long mailbag item about why baseball reporters seem to fetishize giving each other credit for their scoops. We’ve, finally, got Henry Kissinger’s rotting corpse, about which I offer a morally-appropriate eulogy. We’ve got my Spotify Wrapped. We’ve got Geddy Lee having great ideas. We’ve got the tale of the Ohio attorney who pooped into a Pringles can and then threw the can at a crime victim advocate’s office.
You think you’re gonna get all of that at ESPN? The Athletic? From your local talk radio station? Pshaw. Cup of Coffee is the only place all of that kind of fun can be had, my friends, so count your stars you’re home again.
The Daily Briefing
Luis Severino, Joey Wendle sign with the Mets
The New York Mets have signed free agent starter Luis Severino to a one-year, $13 million deal. It includes $2 million in performance bonuses.
Severino, who will turn 30 during spring training, had a terrible 2023 season with the Yankees featuring a 6.65 ERA (65 ERA+) and a 79/34 K/BB ratio across 89.1 innings in 19 appearances, 18 of which were starts. He has spent his entire eight-year career with the crosstown Yankees, seven of which were pretty good — sometimes great — at least when he was healthy. Health has been hard to come by for him for some time, though, so it’s hard to say what the Mets will get out of him in 2024.
But someone’s gotta pitch in Citi Field, right? At the moment it’s Kodai Senga José Quintana, Severino and . . . cannon fodder. Which suggests that the Mets are not done adding to the pitching staff. Or at least they shouldn’t be.
In a less notable move, the Mets signed utilityman Joey Wendle. Wendle has spent the last two seasons with the Marlins where he hit an underwhelming .238/.275/.335 (68 OPS+) with five homers across 689 plate appearances. He only played shortstop last year but he’s played a lot of second, third, and a fair bit of outfield over the course of his career and everyone needs a guy like that. It’s better if a guy like that can hit, but nobody’s perfect.
Félix Bautista and Devin Williams win Reliever of the Year Awards
Félix Bautista of the Baltimore Orioles has been named the 2023 Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year and Devin Williams of the Milwaukee Brewers has been named the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year.
Bautista won despite missing the final five weeks of the season in the run-up to his undergoing Tommy John surgery. When he did pitch he was lights out, though, posting a 1.48 ERA (280 ERA+) and a 110/26 K/BB ratio across 61 innings and saving 33 games. Williams, who previously won the Hoffman Award in 2020, notched a career-high 36 saves while posting a 1.53 ERA (282 ERA+) and a 87/28 K/BB ratio across 58.2 innings.
The Reds sign Emilio Pagán and Nick Martinez
The Cincinnati Reds made two signings yesterday. Each of them, in turn, gave them a new highest-paid player for 2024.
The first one was a two-year deal with free agent reliever Emilio Pagán. Well, one year for $8 million with an $8 million player option for 2025, so he’s guaranteed at least $16 million for two years if he chooses to stick around for both years. Pagán is a fine reliever who had a fine 2023 season with Minnesota in which he put up a 2.99 ERA (144 ERA+) in 66 appearances. But it sort of baked my noodle to realize that, at that point anyway, he stood to be the highest-paid member of the Cincinnati Reds, with the next highest-paid player on the roster being Hunter Greene, who will make $3 million in 2024.
I had written a snarky paragraph about how, even in late November, it’s bad that your highest-paid player is making only $8 million per, but that was mooted early this morning when Cincinnati sighed free agent swingman Nick Martinez to a two-year, $26 million contract that includes an opt-out after the first season. Martinez had opted-out of the final two years of his deal with San Diego that would have paid him $16 million after the Padres declined their two-year, $32 million club option on him. Worth noting that Martinez is a Scott Boras client. It’s not super common for Boras guys to sign in November but I suppose he’s not a blue-chipper who makes markets and stuff.
Martinez went 6-4 with a 3.43 ERA (119 ERA+) in 63 appearances, nine of which were starts. He was used similarly, though not to as great effect, in 2022. He had battled for a place in the Padres rotation each of the last two years. The Reds will almost certainly see what he can do in that role. If he does a good job as a starter the opt-out Boras negotiated for him will pay him very well this time next year.
Nelson Cruz takes a job with the Dodgers front office
The Los Angeles Dodgers have hired Nelson Cruz to join their front office as an adviser, The Athletic reports. He will reportedly spend most of his time at the organization’s facility in the Dominican Republic.
Cruz recently retired following a 19-year career. He’s not quite done, though, as he plans to play in the Dominican Winter League with Gigantes del Cibao before he hangs up his cleats for good.
Q: Why is baseball Twitter, and basically only baseball Twitter, SO obsessed with specifying who was first on a piece of news? Like, I’ve seen tweets that are solely to be like “I said Joe was first, but it was actually Dave, sorry about that.” The weather channel is never like “storms coming, KMOX first!” I get wanting to provide attribution, but the way baseball Twitter treats it like a race is amusing and strange to me.
The short answer here is that sports news in the early-to-middle social media age massively elevated scoopsters. People like Adam Schefter, Adrian Wojnarowski, Ken Rosenthal, Jeff Passan and the like. People who have gotten very rich by being the first to the punch with the big trades or signings and tweeting them out as soon as they happen. These guys got massive numbers of followers and were invited on TV a hell of a lot for being those kinds of reporters and they leveraged big paychecks out of media companies as a result.
Of course I question why the big media companies pay them for that given that almost all of the heat from scoops benefits the reporter personally rather than translating to web traffic back to the company’s website. They always tweet that stuff out first and I’m guessing the percentage of readers who make a point to go to the reporter’s website for more context after seeing the tweet is pretty damn low. Then again, a lot of things in sports media don’t make sense and there are a lot weirder things afoot than the economy of scoops.
The point here is that transactions scoops have been considered important for some time and as long as there are guys out there making their bones on that stuff there will be guys who insist on being credited for having it first. You don’t see it now so much, but a decade ago there were some actual Twitter fights started by reporters who were cranky that they weren’t given proper credit, even in a tweet from a rando about a relatively minor bit of news. So a convention developed and people still hold to that convention even if it probably shouldn’t matter all that much.
I’ll take my questioner’s word about this credit thing being a baseball only affair, as I don’t spend a lot of time following other sports’ transactions. If there is a difference there I suspect it’s tied up in the fact that life as a baseball insider is probably a little less secure than life as an NFL or NBA insider due to the greater popularity of football and basketball compared to baseball. Rosenthal or Passan can reasonably imagine situations in which they get fired simply because their employers cease to value them the way they once did. To the extent Adam Schefter sleeps he probably sleeps soundly on a pile of cash while ESPN and NFL executives fluff him on the daily, so if someone forgets to credit him once in a while it doesn’t much matter.
Obviously that answer has me venturing deep into the land of speculation, but let’s venture even deeper, shall we? What follows is just my opinion. I may be full of crap and I may be blinded by old beefs and resentments when I offer it, but I also don’t care because I don’t interact with most of organized baseball media anymore and I really don’t give a crap of what most of those people think.
The online baseball media world has changed a lot over the years. The business side of sports media is obviously a tire fire now, but things are far better as far as interpersonal relationships among media members go. No matter how sandblasted the professional media landscape becomes, everyone in it sorta gets along these days at least superficially. There isn’t too much drama in baseball media.
That was not always the case, though. Indeed, it used to be a pretty contentious virtual space with pretty clearly-drawn lines separating the legacy baseball media folks and the folks who were either in or were trying to get into baseball media via blogs, message boards, or the general online baseball ecosystem. The former despised the latter as upstarts who hadn’t paid their dues or who they saw as trying to steal their work or their jobs. The latter disrespected the former, considering them to be dinosaurs and they spent a great deal of time going after legacy reporters for bad takes and opinions and stuff.1
The acrimony from the mainstream media folk toward the bloggers back in the day could, at times anyway, become pretty intensely personal. Indeed, two different sports reporters — Jon Heyman and Jeff Pearlman — once tracked down my phone number and called me, in my home, where my children sleep, to berate me and to tell me that I was a bad guy. Fun stuff like that aside, it was mostly a matter of professional and philosophical tension. There was great concern, certainly validated as time went on, that online media was going to imperil the careers of legacy media and the business of legacy media outlets. It was rarely put as crudely as “the bloggers are going to take our jobs!” — and to the extent baseball media has cratered it wasn’t really a matter of bloggers taking reporters jobs, at least directly — but that was certainly the vibe animating the era.
That animating vibe manifested itself in the accusation, often leveled from, oh, 2003 until around 2011-12 when things finally began to settle down, that online writers were stealing the work of the legacy media folks and that content aggregation was basically plagiarism. Which, yes, it could be if, say, some blogger merely copied and pasted a reporter’s “Mudville signs Shlabotnik!” report with nothing else said. But it usually didn’t go down like that. Usually it was a blogger saying “Joe Blow at the Mudville Press reports that The Nine have signed Shlabotnik” at which point the blogger would add the sort of context, analysis, and opinion, particularly sabermetrically-informed context, analysis and opinion, which wasn’t often seen in newspapers back in those days. Despite that, the “bloggers are stealing our work” charge was a common one.
There were all kinds of things that resulted from that reporters/bloggers dynamic, some of it, like those unsolicited, scolding phone calls, were downright crazy in hindsight. But one of the smaller things that spun out of it were reporters going out of their way to credit their colleagues who broke stories, almost as an act of piousness and as a means of attempting to put the bloggers in their place. “Joe Blow had it first,” could, at times, and depending on who was doing the crediting, be translated into “my good friend Joe Blow who went to J-school and put in his time as an agate guy at small papers, after which he was a stringer for high school football games before working his way up to the baseball beat — and NOT that jackass who considers himself to be some sort of informed opinion-haver about baseball despite never once having worked in a newsroom — had the news of that signing first.”
Yes, I realize that all of that sounds rather silly and even paranoid, but [*Craig takes a long drag on his cigarette*] I was there, man, and it definitely went down that way. Ask some of the OG baseball blogger people you know and they’ll back me up. It was a heady time for a lot of us but — and I cannot stress this enough — it was a far stupider time than it was heady. I think back at the fights and feuds that went down back then and cannot believe that they actually happened but they did. If you have as little a life as I do and you choose to look hard enough for it, you can still find relics and remnants from that time. The story credit thing is not a major one, but I think it’s at least partially tied up in all of that business.
In closing: the other day, when this question was posed in the comments, I responded by saying “I may need 1,000 words to answer it.” I just counted and everything above this paragraph, not including the text of the question itself, amounts to 1,239 words. Which is to say that I, as always, remain faithful to my personal brand.
Henry Kissinger is now in Hell
Actually, I don’t know if there’s a Hell. Indeed, I sorta doubt there is. But on the off chance there is one and it adheres even vaguely to the parameters which those who do believe in Hell have outlined, Henry Kissinger is down there roasting on spit and/or being flayed, healed, and flayed again, over and over, right now. Yep: that evil-ass war criminal, who should’ve been rotting in a jail cell for the last half of his life has finally died. Down he was sucked yesterday at the tender age of 100.
Think of all of the people you have known and have loved in your life who died well before they hit the century mark. Now ask yourself how many of them conducted a massive, illegal bombing campaign of civilian targets in non-combatant countries which destabilized them so greatly that the ground was prepared for the ascent of the Khmer Rouge and the genocide it carried out. Your grandma didn’t do that, but Kissinger did.
The blood on Kissinger’s ledger didn’t stop in Cambodia, of course. He was instrumental in Indonesia’s invasion and occupation of East Timor which killed hundreds of thousands. He was instrumental in Pakistan’s genocide in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, which killed as many as a million people. He was instrumental in encouraging violent insurgencies in Angloa and Mozambique which killed thousands upon thousands. He was instrumental in a military coup in Chile which led to the deaths of thousands. He was instrumental in political reprisals in Guatemala which killed thousands. I’m sure there were more, but that’s just what I have off the top of my head.
Basically: if there was a right-wing, authoritarian force, governmental, military, or otherwise, which made even a half-hearted claim to be fighting communism between the late 1960s and late 1970s, Henry Kissinger supported it, and his power and influence was such that the word “support” is a massive understatement. He greenlighted it. He encouraged it. He enabled it. He funded it. In some cases he actively directed it. These genocides and atrocities would not have happened if not for Henry Kissinger and the influence he exerted on at least two presidents and the entire might of the American military, intelligence, and diplomatic apparatus.
And he never suffered a single consequence for it. He was able to get away with it all because America, for most of the past century, has excused almost anything if an argument could be made that it was bad for the communists. As we saw in Cambodia, though, that was a pretty empty argument. Indeed, Kissinger was the greatest friend at least a couple of murderous communist regimes ever had, even if he didn’t intend to be. But despite that he continued to get invited to fancy parties, continued to make lucrative speaking engagements, and continued to make appearances on cable news until the very year of his death. He remained a darling of the ruling class, Democrats and Republicans alike, who would kiss up to him even in his dotage under the belief that associating themselves with him gave them gravitas or some sort of Realpolitik credibility.
To hell with all of them and anyone else who offers kind words about the passing of that monster in the coming days. Or, as the late, great Anthony Bourdain once said:
“Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking. Witness what Henry did in Cambodia – the fruits of his genius for statesmanship – and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milošević.”
The dock at The Hague would’ve been far too good for that bastard. Death was the only justice that he was owed. He evaded that for at least a couple of decades past the point most figured he would’ve, but it finally came for him as it comes for all of us in the end. Sooner rather than later if Henry Kissinger decided you stood in the way of American foreign and economic policy, of course.
Rest in anything but peace, Henry Kissinger. The world is a better place with you no longer in it.
Spotify has correctly identified me as sad, middle aged white guy
Spotify’s annual “Wrapped” feature dropped yesterday. It’s when the app tallies up everything you listened to over the past year, shoots it through some algorithms and databases or whatever, and then tells you all about yourself and your habits in ways designed to make you feel special. I know exactly what it’s doing with that and why — it wants us to share our “wrapped” with others, thereby giving Spotify massive amounts of free marketing in which it tries to leverage non-subscribers’ FOMO — but I still fall for it because I’m a sucker normie living in the Age of Solipsism and, frankly, I don’t think any of us have true agency anymore.
OK, you got me. That previous paragraph is really just an exercise in self defense, because upon seeing my Wrapped yesterday I realized just how boring and predictable a person I am. Indeed, Spotify perfectly captured me and my maximal levels of middle age male whiteness:
I was going to take issue with that inasmuch as that’s not even close to my favorite song on that album, but then they hit me with this:
Thank you, New Order, for staving off that last fractional bit of embarrassment. But honestly, I would’ve bet that I listened to “The Alcott” from that National album more than “Crystal.” Crazy that I didn’t. Anyway, at this point I should note that, according to Spotify, out of all of its users, I am a “top 0.5% listener of The National.” I don’t even know what to say about that at this point other than that I’m a living, breathing, cliche.
My other top artists: James (not surprising), the Beatles (a little surprising; I figured the Kinks would be in there but not the Beatles), Depeche Mode, and Jason Isbell (neither surprising).
What else? Oh yes, it in noting where, geographically, my tastes are most common, the app pegged my Anglophilia as well:
Yeah, you know me. Just your regular Stockport bloke.
I’d like to say that I’m gonna try to change things up and diversify for next year, but we are men of action and lies do not become us.
Geddy Lee knows what time it is
I realize that this newsletter is slowly morphing into a Geddy Lee appreciation page, but I have to add one more Geddy Lee item which subscriber Michael D. brought to my attention yesterday.
It’s from a Q&A he did with Paul Rudd of all people a couple of weeks ago in connection with the release of his memoir. In this clip Lee refers to the old people things he and his wife do or would like to do in retirement. Come for the fly fishing and birdwatching. Stay for what he mentions beginning at the 1:19 mark:
So he’s saying that his eyes are drawn toward the mountains in the east? That they fascinate and captivate and give his heart no peace? That the mountains hold the sunrise in the prison of the night, till bursting forth from rocky chains the valley floods with light? Sounds cool.
If you’re reading this Geddy, hit me up. I can tell you everything you need to know, though the information gets fuzzier and more theoretical over the last 42 miles or so.
Ohio attorney suspended for throwing a poop-filled Pringles can at a crime victim advocacy center
As is so often the case, the headline accurately conveys the essential facts of the story.
Yes, an Ohio attorney pooped in a Pringles can. Yes he threw that poop-filled Pringles can into the parking lot of a crime victim advocacy center. Yes he was suspended. Pretty straightforward. A tale as old as time.
Yet I believe it’s worth digging deeper into this shit, so to speak, because the story is so rich with detail. To wit:
This lawyer is in his 70s. He’s a Vietnam vet who claims he was treated for PTSD, but he did not make any claim that his PTSD is what caused him to throw the poop. I guess that was just added flavor;
Due to the high opinion of him in the minds of his peers, he has earned a “Distinguished” rating per Martindale-Hubbell. I can only assume no one from the victim advocacy center took part in the survey;
Context: the poop-thrower had been assigned to defend someone in a capital murder case. The poop was thrown 15 minutes before a hearing which people from the poop-strafed victim advocacy center would be attending;
The poop-throwing was caught on surveillance video, so the attorney could not claim innocence. He did, however, have a defense: that pooping in Pringles cans and throwing them out of his car window was a thing he did all the time in order to “blow off steam,” thereby rendering this a non-remarkable, non-malicious occurrence. Really. That was the main thrust of his defense;
The Supreme Court did not rule as to the number of times the attorney had flung a Pringles can of poop out his car window — yes, he may very well have done it many times! — but here, because the surveillance video showed him casing the victim advocacy center, turning around, coming back past it, and then throwing the can before speeding off, they ruled that this was a premeditated poop-throwing. Which, really, is the worst kind of poop-throwing. Far worse than poop-throwings of passion or negligent poop-throwing;
The Disciplinary Counsel — who brings ethics charges against attorneys — argued for a six-month suspension with all of that being stayed as long as the attorney remained on good behavior. The Supreme Court was not having that shit, however, and suspended him for a year with six months of it stayed. “That shit won’t fly when shit flies,” they seemed to be saying;
Note: a year professional suspension, half of which is stayed, is a substantially greater sanction than anything Henry Kissinger got as a result of having the blood of millions of innocents on his hands;
Not that this was a unanimous decision. Ohio’s Chief Justice and three others joined the per curium opinion giving the attorney the one year/six months stayed business. Justice R. Patrick DeWine — the son of Ohio’s governor — concurred in judgment only. I have a lot of things I’d like to ask Pat DeWine because he’s a big mess of issues himself, but if given the chance, the first thing I’d ask would be, “in what way does your reasoning differ from the majority in regards to the guy who flung a Pringles can full of poop out of his car window? Are you seeing mitigating factors here? Did a law clerk find some poop-filled Pringles can precedent that caused you to stake out your own position on the matter?” I’m guessing that’d be a hell of a conversation;
Oh, the capital murder defendant whom the poop-thrower was representing pleaded guilty in order to avoid the death penalty. The plea came seven months after the poop-throwing. No word if there was any connection, but I guess that he could see the words that were written and/or smeared on the wall.
I think that’s all I got. If I come up with some more jokes later I’ll let you know.
Have a great day everyone.
By way of pretty obvious full disclosure, I was squarely part of that latter group and absolutely went after people. I don’t apologize for it, even if my elbows got a little sharp from time to time and even if my going after people led directly to the BBWAA keeping me from getting a credential, but that’s not important for purposes of this question. Buy me a drink or three and I’ll dish about all of that business for days, however.