Cup of Coffee: September 16, 2021

The NL West race tightens, Mike Trout is done, the PED morality police and stadium grifts return, and we learn that a platform of “let everyone die” is bad politics.

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With the shilling out of the way, let’s get down to it, shall we?

Today we observe the NL West race tighten, get started on a brand new stadium grift for a team that does not need a new stadium, learn that Mike Trout is done for the year, get freebies from Christian Yelich, and revisit the glory days of the PED morality police.

In Other Stuff I talk about how I’m beginning to suspect that a platform of “let everyone die” is bad politics, geek out about the Chicxulub Impactor, read about a sordid story of family violence and intrigue that could be fodder for a Ross Macdonald novel, learn what someone who knows nothing about rock and roll thinks about rock and roll and, as is so often the case, there is just one more thing.


And That Happened

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Yankees 4, Orioles 3: An Austin Hays homer — his second of the game -- in the eighth gave the O’s a 3-2 lead but Brett Gardner’s ninth inning two-run single — set up by a double steal by Tyler Wade and Gleyber Torres — put the Yankees back on top and give them the win. Earlier Nestor Cortes Jr. tossed six and a third innings of one-run ball and struck out 11.

This was fun: In the ninth inning the Orioles grounds crew was getting into position to roll out the tarp because a rainstorm was coming (and maybe the game was about to end) but third base umpire Tim Timmons — from New Albany, Ohio! Hi, neighbor! -- waved them off the field just before Gardner’s go-ahead hit. The grounds crew members then ran off the field:

It looked like Timmons ejected them, but he told the press later it wasn’t that kind of thing. It was more a matter of safety because the infield was playing in and distraction to the players and stuff.

Still, just to be safe, I had better make sure to tell me kids, if they’re hanging out in Timmons’ neighborhood, to stay off his lawn.

Pirates 5, Reds 4: Wilmer Difo scored the walkoff run on a groundout from Colin Moran with one out in the ninth to keep the Reds’ woes going. I know I stopped doing the Jeri Ryan thing because it was a bit crude and sexist, but at this juncture I feel it is appropriate to note that the Reds have lost seven of nine with the Seven of Nine “really, are you shitting me?” face.

Cincinnati fell one and a half games back of the Cardinals for the second wild card in the National League. They’re one behind San Diego as well.

Padres 9, Giants 6: The Giants finally lose one, ending their nine-game winning streak. San Diego scored five in the first two innings, Fernando Tatis Jr. had four hits, Jurickson Profar homered, Adam Frazier got four hits, and Manny Machado doubled twice as the Padres snapped a five-game skid. They trail St. Louis by one game for the second NL wild-card spot.

Dodgers 5, Diamondbacks 3: It seems like forever since the Dodgers won on the same day the Giants lost, but they did it here, pulling to within one and a half of the division lead. Here Julio Urías earned his major league-leading 18th victory — on the night when his countryman, Fernando Valenzuela was honored at Dodger Stadium — to help L.A. complete a 6-0 home stand. Gavin Lux went 2-for-4 and drove in two runs on what, as I explain below in Other Stuff, was a big day for Gavins in California. Max Muncy went 2-for-5, drove in a run and scored another, and Justin Turner had three hits and two runs. It was the first time the Dodgers had gained ground on the Giants in the standings in 11 days.

Marlins 8, Nationals 6: Jesus Sanchez hit two two-run homers, the second of which broke a 6-6 tie in the ninth. That was part of a four-run ninth inning which rallied the Fish past the Nats. Bryan De La Cruz homered in the eighth as the Marlins took two of three from Washington. Random line from the AP game: “Miami improved to 2-66 when trailing after eight innings.” Um, thanks?

Tigers 4, Brewers 1: Rookie Matt Manning allowed one run over six and he and the pen combined for a three-hitter. Dustin Garneau homered and drove in two and Tuesday’s hero Derek Hill hit an RBI triple. It was only to games, but it was a sweep all the same for the Tigers. Fun fact: the Brewers are en route to their best regular season in history but they have nonetheless gone 3-11 against Detroit, Minnesota and Kansas City this year. The dregs of the AL Central is their boogeyman, apparently.

Blue Jays 6, Rays 3: Robbie Ray and his tight pants were spectacular again, striking out 13 while holding the Rays to one run on four hits over seven innings. He had 21 swinging strikes, too, which mercy me is a hell of a thing. He’s pushing himself to the front of the Cy Young race at this point too. Bo Bichette hit a three-run home run and drove in five in all.

Red Sox 9, Mariners 4: It was 3-3 from the third inning through the ninth before the Sox put up a six-run 10th inning. Kyle Schwarber knocked in two with a single that inning and Christian Vázquez doubled in two. Before that a passed ball and a J.D. Martinez RBI single kicked off the rally.

Phillies 6, Cubs 5: The Phillies bullpen blew the lead in both the eighth and ninth innings but they pulled out the win when Andrew Knapp came home on a walkoff passed ball. Of course winning kinda ugly is just fine when you had lost six of seven and eight of 11 overall.

Cardinals 11, Mets 4: A five-run first and six runs overall off Mets starter Tylor Megill put New York in an early hole they’d never climb out of. Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Harrison Bader, and Edmundo Sosa went deep. Bader drove in three. Jon Lester, who has righted the ship after some shaky outings in the middle of the season, allowed two runs over six innings. St. Louis sweeps the Mets and have won four overall.

Rockies 3, Atlanta 2: The Rockies struck out 13 times in this one but no matter, as Raimel Tapia hit a tiebreaking single off A.J. Minter in the 10th inning on a wet night in Atlanta. The loss trimmed Atlanta's NL East lead to three and a half games over Philly.

Cleveland 12, Twins 3: Oscar Mercado, Bobby Bradley and Franmil Reyes each homered to give Cal Quantrill — whose name, in my continuing belief that it is perpetually 1997 I almost wrote as Paul Quantrill — plenty of support. José Ramírez and Myles Straw each had three hits in Cleveland's 14-hit attack. Mercado and Bradley each drove in three runs.

Astros 7, Rangers 2: Jake Meyers, Marwin Gonzalez, and Kyle Tucker homered while José Urquidy allowed one run and two hits over six innings. Houston has beaten Texas in 13 of their 18 meetings thus far. If I remember correctly the winner of this in-state rivalry wins a golden boot or something. If I was running things the winner would get to leave Texas and never come back but no one ever asks me.

Angels 3, White Sox 2: Brandon Marsh hit a tie-breaking solo homer off Michael Kopech in the eighth inning to put the Angels ahead. The White Sox threatened later, putting runners on the corners with one out in the ninth, but then Brian Goodwin struck out swinging and César Hernández flied out to left to end that threat and the game. Sox starter Dallas Keuchel had been skidding terribly, lately, posting an ERA of 12.98 in his previous three starts. Here, despite issuing five walks, he only allowed two runs in six innings, so I suppose that’s progress.

Athletics 12, Royals 10: The A’s end their three-game skid though they no doubt burned through some antacids to get to the end of this one. They had a lead of 5-1 almost disappear and then had a lead of 12-5 after their half of the seventh. The Oakland bullpen, however, gave up a run in the seventh, coughed up three more in the eighth and loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth before Andrew Chafin managed to lock it down. Sal Pérez homered again, moving into a tie with Shohei Ohtani and within one of big league leader Vladimir Guerrero Jr. The A’s remain three and a half back of Toronto, Boston and New York in the AL Wild Card race.


The Daily Briefing

Royals owner begins stumping for a new taxpayer-funded stadium

The primary owner of the Kansas City Royals, John Sherman, said in a news conference earlier this week that the Royals “need to start thinking about our plans for a stadium over the next five to 10 years.” It better be 10, because the Royals lease on Kauffman Stadium runs through 2031, but whatever.

Sherman added, “Wherever we play, the criteria will be that the process will result in meaningful community impact that is real and measurable. It will result in economic growth and economic activity that benefits this region also in a real and measurable way.”

He strongly suggested that the new stadium he wants would be downtown and that it would be funded by taxpayers. His rationale for that was that the 1973 construction and massive 2006-09 renovation of Kauffman Stadium was taxpayer funded, so hey, why wouldn’t the new one be? Really. That’s his reasoning.

What he did not mention, but which is patently obvious, is that the “economic growth and economic activity that benefits this region” he mentioned is about economic benefit to the Royals and the Royals alone. I mean, it’d have to be given the overwhelming number of studies which have shown, time and time again, that taxpayer-funded stadium development is not a driver of municipal or regional economic growth. Rather, it is a gratuitous subsidy to private business. In this case, an ownership group which is led by the billionaire Sherman.

Sherman has no doubt looked around the league and sees how many teams are building little real estate empires around their stadiums and wants one too. He can’t do that where the Royals are now because their stadium — and, as I wrote a few years ago it is a wonderful stadium -- is on public property and there is a football stadium just a few hundred yards to the south of it, sharing the same parking lot.

There is no reason why the Royals could not play in that wonderful stadium for decades more given how well it has been maintained and how perfectly-built it is for baseball. No reason, of course, other than a billionaire seeing some dollars left lying on a table somewhere that he does not yet possess. Unfortunately, Major League Baseball and a great many of cities and states still believe that those billionaires should get those dollars whenever possible, so buckle up for some years-long stadium drama in Kansas City.

Mike Trout probably done for the year

Angels manager Joe Maddon said that Mike Trout isn't expected to play the rest of the season. Trout has been out of action since mid-May with a right calf injury. He’s had soreness in his calf still, and with only a couple of weeks left in the season there’s no sense in bringing him back, Maddon says:

"I'm not anticipating anything to change in regards to him playing. I'd be very surprised . . . I don't expect him to play today or tomorrow or anytime soon”

This totally sucks, of course, as Trout was off to one of his best starts in several years at the time he got hurt, batting .333/.466/.624 (195 OPS+) in his first 30-some-odd games.

Here’s hoping we see the Milville Meteor back at full strength in 2022.

Blake Snell hits the IL

Padres placed starter Blake Snell on the 10-day injured list with a left groin strain. He hurt it in his Sunday start. There’s no timetable for his return but, dudes, there are only a couple of weeks left in the season, so I’d be shocked if he comes back before the playoffs, assuming the Padres make the playoffs.

In very related news, the Padres signed Vince Velásquez to a minor league deal, yesterday. Velázquez had been DFA’d and then released by the Phillies. San Diego, of course, is willing to run out just about anyone with a pulse and an arm at this point, so here we are.

Snell had posted a 1.83 ERA with 59 strikeouts over 39.1 innings over his last seven starts. I’m sure Velázquez is a nice young man, but he’s not going to replace that production.

Christian Yelich is giving away 10,000 tickets

Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich is buying and giving away 10,000 tickets to next week's four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals. The tickets because available yesterday morning at brewers.com/yelich, with a four-ticket limit per game. If I had to guess they’re already gone, but give it a try at least.

Yelich’s statement:

“The fans are a big part of what we have accomplished this season. We want American Family Field to be rocking for that last home stand. And we want to give back in a way that shows how much we all appreciate the enthusiasm and support of the best fans in baseball.”

The Brewers may clinch the NL Central this weekend, but if they don’t they’ll likely do it in the Cardinals series. If you can watch that for free, hey, good for you.

Great Moments in Selective PED Outrage

There are no such thing as time machines, but if you want to be transported back a good decade or so, just read baseball writer tweets whenever the topic of PED use comes up:

I think it goes without saying that Ryan Braun behaved horribly when all of that went down, but it’s also the case that he eventually got punished, he did what he could to atone for his misdeeds, and then played for close to another decade without getting in trouble again. That doesn’t make him a great guy — I still think he’s a jackass because of all of that — but this is an old story. A story worth mentioning, as I did yesterday, now that the topic of Braun’s retirement has come up, but contrary to what Buster says here no “question hangs over his legacy,” let alone one that demands we, as he does, traffic in counterfactuals that are clearly aimed at slagging the guy again. Braun’s legacy, checkered as it is, has been set for a long time. Buster’s tweet was just an exercise in old-timey PED shit-stirring.

But that’s what the PED chatter was all about for most baseball writers, of course: going after guys they disliked while going soft on others.

I mean, A-Rod didn’t cover himself with glory back then either, but when Buster is doing sideline work for ESPN this Sunday night is he gonna call up to the booth and ask Rodriguez about the “questions which hang over his legacy?” Of course not, because they’re colleagues. When they weren’t colleagues, though, A-Rod was “tarnished forever” in Buster’s eyes.

Andy Pettitte gets different treatment than Roger Clemens. David Ortiz gets different treatment than Sammy Sosa. Some guys wear the black hats and some guys wear the white hats for some pretty goddamn subjective reasons, with the former getting never-ending scrutiny and the latter almost always getting a pass. Rarely if ever does anyone talk about the larger context of PEDs in baseball. Things like the ownership and executive class’ ignoring and in some ways even subtly encouraging PED use. Things like the media’s comical ignorance and dismissal of it before turning on its collective heel to turn into the morality police and engaging in over-the-top hysterics on the matter.

As anyone who has read my stuff about PEDs going back a full 18 years knows, I was never exactly a hardliner about that stuff. But I have always acknowledged that PED use in baseball is not a good thing, both for the competitive integrity of the game and for the health and well-being of the players. I believed then as I do now that to the extent practical PEDs should be tested for, and their use should be punished. I supported the Joint Drug Agreement when it was first agreed to and continue to believe that vigilance against PED use in baseball is important.

But I never had any tolerance for the morality policing which has surrounded it all. And now, all of these years later, when the PED conversation has mostly faded into baseball history, I have even less tolerance for it.


Other Stuff

Maybe “let everyone die” is bad politics?

California governor Gavin Newsom won the recall in a landslide. California voters rejected removing him from office by a margin of 64 percent to 36 percent. Yes, California leans strongly Democratic, but not that strongly, and even many traditional Republican strongholds like the wealthier areas of Orange County and San Diego County rejected the recall.

Analysts are chalking the landslide up to Newsom successfully turning the recall into a referendum on anti-pandemic measures. Measures such as aggressively pushing for vaccinations and the imposition of mask mandates. Measures which, despite how bad the Delta Variant has gotten, have California experiencing far lower infection rates than the mountain west and the south where Republicans have politicized public health, fought hard against safety measures and, in many cases, have actively promoted irresponsible things like banning mask mandates and publicly dismissing the importance of vaccines. Newsom’s primary recall competitor, the Republican Larry Elder, meanwhile, boasted that he would roll back as many of the anti-pandemic safety measures as he could immediately after being sworn in to office. The voters, it seems pretty clear, did not want any part of that.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, a Republican legislator is sponsoring a bill which would bar anyone — schools, businesses, local governments, you name it -- form mandating vaccines. She needs 50 signatures from fellow legislators to force a vote on it. She has two so far. Even in Ohio, where the government is controlled by extreme right-wingers who have trafficked heavily in pandemic denial, there is pause about how far to go with this stuff.

Between that, the California recall, and literally every poll on the matter, it's almost as if irresponsibility regarding the pandemic is politically toxic. It’s almost as if the both-sidesism the media is giving to the subject is unwarranted. Imagine.

Stranger than fiction

A South Carolina lawyer named Alex Murdaugh allegedly arranged for another man to kill him so that his son could collect on a $10 million life insurance policy. The would-be killing was unsuccessful as Murdaugh walked away with a superficial head wound. The shooter has been arrested and Murdaugh will likely be charged with, well, something soon. Hard to know exactly what. Attempted insurance fraud maybe? Can you be complicit in your own attempted murder? I don’t know. Not my problem.

I do know, though, that something seems to be off about all of this.

Both Murdaugh’s wife and an adult son (not the would-be beneficiary of the insurance policy) were murdered in June in a case that remains unsolved. The adult son was awaiting trial himself on charges related to a boating accident which killed a 19 year-old woman who was with him. Alex Murdaugh’s father, who was 81 and who was also a prominent lawyer, died three days later at 81. Murdaugh was also recently let go from his firm after he was accused of misappropriating funds. His lawyer says he is an opioid addict and the attempted murder-for-hire was an indirect suicide attempt, as he believed that his insurance policy had a suicide exclusion.

When I first read the headline, I thought “this is like the movie “Fletch.” Reading more, though, and it sounds like a Lew Archer novel in which a multi-generational family suffers from some dark curse and a moral decay of which the conspicuous violence is but a symptom.

Sadly, Ross Macdonald is not around to write such things anymore — and even if he was he’d not touch it because it’s taking place in South Carolina, not California -- so we’ll have to settle for a true crime podcast series and, possibly, a “Law and Order” or “CSI” episode about it. But yeah, there’s more going on here than it seems.

The Chicxulub Impactor

Yesterday’s bit about astroid defense led me to read this story about the Chicxulub asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs. I can never get enough of planet-killing events, apparently.

This story focuses primarily on scientists trying to figure out where Chicxulub came from. Was it a rando asteroid streaking through space? Was it burped out of orbit from that big asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter? And if the latter, what burped it out of orbit?

Fascinating stuff, but mostly I’m reading it because, again, planet killing porn is totally my jam. Of course, I name-checked Galactus the other day, so you knew that.

The Joneses

The fact that Morrissey has, over the past several years, revealed himself to hold all manner of repugnant views has not made me abandon his music or the music of The Smiths. However, I would feel WAY better about it all if I could enjoy that music without having to deal with Morrissey.

To that end:

And it’s not a one-off. It was reported on Tuesday that, in the wake of this impromptu thing, Astley and Blossoms (not the Gin Blossoms; just Blossoms) will perform “The Songs of The Smiths” at two events next month. One in Manchester and one in London.

After this is over, I demand that Johnny Marr hire Rick Astley and get out on the road. I would pay top dollar for multiple tickets on that tour.

How to tell when someone knows nothing about rock and roll

Speaking of white people and rock and roll, yesterday some nitwit host of The Daily Wire said that Barack Obama destroyed rock 'n roll because “rock 'n roll was about white male angst . . . Obama came along and said young white men aren't allowed to have angst”

Like basically everything else you can think of, white dudes certainly appropriated the music we now call rock and roll but it was by no means a white male thing in its origin and conception. Unless of course you can find the white male angst in, say, Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Rock Me,” which was described in 1942 by music critic Maurice Orodenker as “rock & roll spiritual singing.” To be sure, there is neither a single inventor nor invention of rock and roll — it was an evolutionary process involving a gloriously messy cross-pollination of gospel, blues, boogie woogie, swing, jazz, country, folk and various sub-genres of all of them — but Black music of various strains was an outsized progenitor. Black musicians, meanwhile, such as Tharpe, Big Joe Turner, a number of jump blues musicians, and on through to Chuck Berry, were the genres most important early innovators.

In closing: get bent, Mr. “Rock and Roll is All About White Male Angst.” Maybe go listen to some music which existed before Limp Bizkit.

Just one more thing . . .

I should’ve had this item yesterday, but 50 years ago yesterday the first proper “Columbo” episode aired: “Murder By The Book.” There had been two earlier pilots/TV movies, but this is where it really began as the first episode of season one of the series.

Written by the soon-to-be-legendary Steven Bochco, starring the great Jack Cassidy, and directed by the soon-to-be legendary Steven Spielberg, “Murder by the Book” set a standard for the series that would often be nearly matched but which would never be exceeded. It was perfectly written. It was perfectly acted. It was perfectly directed. It was, essentially, a cinematic product, even though it was delivered to the small screen.

If you have the chance, check it out. From here everything wonderful about that series flowed.

Have a great day, everyone.