Cup of Coffee: September 22, 2022
The end of an era in KC, fisticuffs in the Rays parking lot, Aaron Judge is too humble, to return or not to return a milestone home run ball, lawsuits against dickheads, and three basketball items
Good morning! Welcome to Free Thursday!
And, since I haven’t reminded anyone of this for a while, know that if you are so inclined you can give the gift of Cup of Coffee to a friend or loved one:
It is, after all, The International Day of Radiant Peace, and you don’t want to show up to the Radiant Peace Party empty-handed, do you? How gauche would that be?
Today we talk about the Royals firing their team president, two Rays outfielders engaging in some parking lot fisticuffsmanship, Aaron Judge being too humble, and I ask you whether you’d give a milestone baseball back to the guy who hit it or if you’d hightail it down to the auction house to get that paper.
In Other Stuff two of the worst people on the planet got sued and, folks, you love to see it, a Republican pol actually said that thing a lot of people think Pauline Kael once said but actually didn’t, Big Bear — which most of you know nothing about, so I’ll explain — once had a real big bear, and I have three basketball items: one on basketball anxiety, one on basketball entitlement, and one on basketball tragedy.
And now, without further ado, today’s newsletter.
And That Happened
Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:
Nationals 3, Atlanta 2: Subscriber DMCj messaged me yesterday afternoon:
“Please humor me and say something nice about Joey Meneses in tomorrow's recap. He's been the only pleasant surprise in this raging manure fire of a season for the Nats. You can even screenshot this DM and make fun of me if you like. PS Eat at Arby's.”
No need to humor you, Doug! Even if you hadn’t messaged me I would surely have noted that Meneses’ two-run homer in the seventh turned a 2-1 Atlanta lead into a 3-2 Washington lead, and thus was the game-winner.
But to your point, yes, Meneses is having a great season. He’s hitting .328/.364/.536 with 10 dingers in only 43 games. Yeah, he’s a 30 year-old rookie and guys like that on teams like the Nats tend not to be around for The Next Good ___ Team.™ But one of the hidden joys of rooting for a rotten team is rooting for the guys who hold down the fort and play respectable and, occasionally, even good baseball while everyone else sucks. They’re the reason you tune in to watch the game each night even when it’s 2-to-1 odds that you’re gonna lose.
I remember watching Atlanta’s Dion James in 1987, José Alvarez in 1988 and Lonnie Smith in 1989. In a lot of ways they gave me way more joy than watching stars in their prime on contending teams. I suppose Smith is a bit of a different deal in that he was a big star before and he held on for at least a bit after Atlanta got good in the early 90s, but I often felt like I was the only one watching all of these dudes at the time and it was a special feeling. Fans of every team have guys from the lean years about whom they feel the same way.
Joey Meneses is that guy for Nats fans right now.
Royals 5, Twins 2: On the day the club fired Dayton Moore the Royals won thanks to five innings of two-hit ball from the bullpen. I’m choosing to think of that as a tribute to Moore and those mid-teens Royals teams. Strange memories on this nervous night that have me thinking that now, less than seven years later, you can go up on a steep hill next to I-70 by the Blue Ridge Cutoff/Sports Complex exit, look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high water mark — that place where Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland shut down games before they finally broke, and rolled back.
Rangers 7, Angels 2: Dane Dunning struck out eight in five innings, allowing three hits and two runs. This was his first win in five outings. Not that The Dane hasn’t found ways to end worse losing streaks.
Like the time he was on a 15-picture run which saw him stoop to roles as small town sheriffs and enigmatic scientists in dreck like 1957’s “The Astounding She-Monster” and “Attack of the Puppet People.” That was a low for sure, but Dunning hit pay dirt in the character of “Soldier” in “El Cid” in 1961 (not to be confused with the other character in “El Cid” credited as “Soldier” who was played by the great Franco Fantasia). Yes, I suppose being a background guy whom Charlton Heston would have fired if he even looked at him stretches the definition of “pay dirt,” but remember: there are no small roles, only small actors. Plus, this allowed Dunning to get his Screen Actors Guild card back. That was a big deal because, even in the early 60s, goofballs, black beauties, and penicillin wasn’t cheap, and The Dane had a quack in the Valley who would bill it all to insurance under the diagnosis of “general exhaustion.”
Reds 5, Red Sox 1: Chase Anderson pitched well, Jonathan India and Kyle Farmer each drove in two, and Donovan Solano added a solo homer. The best part of this game, though, involved Joey Votto. Votto is on the IL and is out for the season, but he spent the game walking around Great American Ballpark, just hanging out with fans, taking selfies, signing autographs, and sitting with kids and watching the game.
Brewers 6, Mets 0: Yesterday I talked about the Reds setting the record for hitting batters. In this game the Mets set a major league record for being hit, with their 106th plunking of the year. Naturally, Mark Canha was involved. He was plunked twice, in fact, and Luis Guillorme was hit once. Otherwise it was all Milwaukee, with six Brewers pitchers combining on a four-hit shutout, Mike Brosseau hitting a pinch-hit grand slam, and Willy Adames hitting a solo shot.
Cubs 4, Marlins 3: Patrick Wisdom got Chicago on the board with a dinger in the seventh and then Chicago mounted a three-run rally in the eighth via a bunt/throwing error, a fielder’s choice, and a sac fly. That all sounds so exciting that everyone watching this game had to be like the “Blown-Away Man” in those old Maxell cassette tape ads.
Astros 5, Rays 2: Kyle Tucker hit a two-run homer and Lance McCullers Jr. pitched seven strong innings to help Houston complete the three-game sweep. Randy Arozarena had two hits for Tampa Bay. It’s still unclear, however, if he got any hits during his parking lot fight with teammate Yandy Díaz on Monday night. More on that down below in The Daily Briefing.
Phillies 4, Blue Jays 3: Matt Vierling singled home the Manfred Man in the tenth for the win. Vierling had five hits on the night, in fact, while J.T. Realmuto homered. A night after these two teams combined for 29 runs, this one was scoreless for seven.
Orioles 8, Tigers 1: Jordan Lyles tossed a complete game, allowing one run on three hits and needing only 94 pitches to do it. The only thing keeping him from a Maddux was the solo homer he gave up to Kerry Carpenter in the seventh.
Yankees 14, Pirates 2: No homer for Aaron Judge, but even if his chase of Roger Maris will wait at least another day, his chase of the Triple Crown went on and he did go 2-for-4 with two doubles. Otherwise this was a bloodbath, with Oswaldo Cabrera and Gleyber Torres each knocking in five runs. And while Judge didn’t homer, Torres did. Twice, in fact. In the same inning.
Guardians 8, White Sox 2: Steven Kwan had three hits including a homer and Triston McKenzie struck out 13 in eight innings. Kwan is batting .538 (14-for-26) over his last five games. The Guardians have won seven of their last eight and their magic number for winning the Central is seven. Meanwhile the White Sox season is ending with a whimper.
Giants 6, Rockies 1: Logan Webb didn't allow a hit until one out in the sixth inning, after which he was pulled as the Giants know that this season is toast and that Webb’s arm could be soon too, so no sense in pushing him. The Rockies have lost three in a row.
Athletics 2, Mariners 1: James Kaprielian allowed two hits and struck out six with over seven scoreless innings to outduel Robbie Ray. and to hand the M’s their fifth loss in six games.
Diamondbacks 6, Dodgers 1: Madison Bumgarner tossed six innings of one-run ball to lead the Snakes. This is the first time the Dodgers have lost two in a row in three weeks.
Padres 1, Cardinals 0: Blake Snell took a no-hitter until there were two outs in the seventh and ended up allowing just one more hit after that while striking out 13 in seven frames. The Padres have a five-game winning streak going and their starting pitchers have allowed just one run in that span. The Cards have dropped three in a row.
The Daily Briefing
Royals fire Dayton Moore
The Kansas City Royals are in the midst of their sixth-straight losing season and a rebuild that doesn’t really seem to be gaining any momentum. Now someone is paying for it: Dayton Moore, the Royals longtime top baseball executive, has been fired by the club.
Moore was hired as the Royals general manager in 2006, having previously worked for Atlanta, where he was one of the key scouts and, later, executives which helped the club win 14-straight division titles. The Royals had been in the doldrums for years when Moore took over and had acquired a reputation as one of the worst-run teams in the game. Before his tenure the club had no coherent team-building philosophy and found themselves signing overpriced talent that didn’t seem to fit into any sort of of plan. Moore helped build a good scouting department and the talent pipeline began to improve. Eventually the Royals became a two-time AL Pennant winner and the 2015 World Series champions, primarily powered by homegrown talent.
Much of that talent grew old or moved on and a new rebuild became necessary. To date it hasn’t led to any success, but there is still a decent assortment of players in the organization that could, in relatively short order, turn the team’s fortunes around. That talent will be overseen by J.J. Picollo, however, who was Moore’s longtime lieutenant, and who took over as general manager a year ago when Moore was promoted to president of baseball operations. Now that title belongs to Picollo.
Owner John Sherman, who purchased the club in 2019, said the fate of manager Mike Matheny, whose 2023 option was exercised this past spring, is in the hands of Picollo. Guess we’ll soon see how thorough a house-cleaning the Royals will be getting.
Report: Rays teammates Randy Arozarena, Yandy Díaz fought in a parking lot
Tampa radio hosts Zac Blobner and Tom Krasniqi reported yesterday that, on Monday, Tampa Bay Rays outfielders Randy Arozarena and Yandy Díaz fought in the Tropicana Field parking lot after the team’s loss to the Astros. They say the two had to be separated and that the fight was the reason neither played in Tuesday night’s game.
On Tuesday night, and after this report came out yesterday, multiple Rays fans on social media noted that Arozarena spent most of that night’s game sitting in the bullpen. In the wake of this report it definitely suggests that the team felt it necessary to keep ‘em separated. Which, given what Yandy Díaz looks like . . .
. . . it is probably in Arozarena’s best interest to be as far away as possible.
The Rays got shut out on both Monday night and Tuesday night. They lost again last night. Until we hear otherwise I’m gonna assume that bad vibes are feeding bad vibes. Or maybe it’s a Highlander situation. Really, it could be anything.
Quote of Last Century
Jeff Passan tweeted this yesterday:
When he hit his 60th home run, Babe Ruth said: "Sixty! Count 'em, 60! Let's see some other son of a bitch match that!" When he hit his 60th, Aaron Judge said: "To get a chance to play baseball at Yankee Stadium, packed house, first-place team, that's what you dream about.”
I get the whole humble modesty thing — and I’d never suggest that a guy who isn’t comfortable talking himself up make a big show of doing so — but really, since any blowback for self-centered statements only affects the player and not me, I can confidently say that I’d much rather have Judge say something like Babe Ruth did back in 1927 than what he said on Tuesday night, because “Let's see some other son of a bitch match that!” is objectively ten times more awesome than what Judge actually said.
Spekaing of Judge . . .
The guy who caught his 60th home run on Tuesday gave the ball to Judge for free. This prompted a lot of people to ask others what they’d do if they caught Judge's 62nd home run of the season, which will presumably be pretty valuable since it’ll be the one that passes Roger Maris for the AL/Yankees record. The way I’ve seen the question put is, “are you giving the ball back? And if so, what are you requesting in return?”
Two friends of the newsletter had, what I think anyway, are the two most extreme, though reasonable in their own right takes on the matter. First, Eugene Freedman said this:
“Anyone who gifts a valuable object that they own outright to someone who will soon have a $300M contract or to a team worth billions of dollars is a fool. Get the full market value for the item. Sell it directly based on an estimated auction value. Change your life.”
Then Joe Sheehan said this:
“It’s not your accomplishment. It’s the player’s accomplishment. If the player wants the ball, give it to him. He did the work. Signed bats, tickets, meet the guy, sure. I’m a fool for many reasons, Eugene, just not this one.”
Intellectually I’m on Eugene’s side, I think. We all know the rules of home run balls. We all know how the memorabilia market works and how ruthless any other person who caught the ball would be. We also all know that most ballplayers of a certain stature find themselves with tons of keepsakes from their playing days lost in boxes in their garages and crammed into dusty display cases in the den they only enter three times a year because their house is like 20,000 square feet. Sitting here, with my brain firing on all cylinders, it’s not hard to imagine how much a historic baseball would change my life compared to how much it’d change Aaron Judge’s, so off to the auction house I’d go.
Emotionally, though, I’d probably have a hard time following through with that reasoning if I was actually the one to catch that ball. This is partially because I know myself, I know that I’m WAY tougher in writing than in person, and I know that, in the moment, I’d probably be susceptible to team officials or the player himself being nice to me and offering me things like tickets and memorabilia and all that kind of stuff. More substantively, though, I know that deep down, it really does seem like it’d be a decent thing to give someone a ball that represents their accomplishment. Like, I want to be that selfless person.
I really don’t know which Craig would win out in that scenario. I mean, unless the player who hit the big home run was a jackass, in which case it’d be easy. In the case of someone like Aaron Judge, though? Welp, it’s probably good that I’m never likely to be in that position.
Trump, Trump family sued, given a criminal referral
Following a two-year investigation, New York Attorney General Letitia James sued Donald Trump, three of his grown children — the dumbass ones; Tiffany, who is not part of his business empire is not involved — and multiple executives. More fun: James said she referred Trump, his family, and their business to the DOJ and the IRS for possible criminal violations.
There are tons of counts in the 222-page complaint, but it boils down to an accusation that the Trumps ran the family business in a fraudulent manner. They’d inflate the value of their businesses when it suited them — such as when seeking loans — and downplay the value of their assets and income when the taxes came due. People, and the government, got burned as a result.
Worth noting that during the course of the investigation Trump was brought in for a deposition and took the Fifth 400 times. Eric Trump also took the Fifth when questioned. Don Jr. and Ivanka answered questions. The company’s former CFO, Allen Weisselberg, recently pleaded guilty to tax crimes. He’ll likely be the star witness if and when we ever get to the part when witnesses are necessary.
That could take a while, of course. Cases like these take forever to resolve themselves, so don’t expect anything to happen with this any time soon. But it’s good to see something happening to a guy and a family who have been blatantly crooked for decades.
The saga of Ron DeSantis’ odious trafficking operation continued on Tuesday as the migrant advocacy group Alianza Americas and the law firm Lawyers for Civil Rights filed a federal class-action suit on behalf of the people who were flown by DeSantis up to Martha’s Vineyard. The suit alleges that they were fraudulently offered both material assistance and flights to Boston or Washington, D.C. The defendants include DeSantis and the Florida Department of Transportation.
A lot of people were shocked at how fast this suit got filed. To them I’d say that maybe DeSantis should’ve thought twice before sending the migrants to a place where hundreds of lawyers own summer homes. Really an own-goal on old Ronnie’s part here.
In related news — and completely unsurprising news — the company which operated the private jets which flew the migrants to Martha’s Vineyard is a big Republican donor. So, add corrupt and self-serving to the list of adjectives which describe this vile stunt.
“Nobody I know voted for Biden”
For years conservatives have repeated a story about how, in late 1972, the famous film critic Pauline Kael expressed her surprise over the reelection of Richard Nixon since, in her alleged words, nobody she knew voted for him.
That story is a lie, however. In reality what Kael said was “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.” This comment was made in service of an astute and self-aware observation about political bubbles, with Kael herself acknowledging that she lived in one, as did many if not most others.
I mention that because Mark Finchem, the Republican nominee for Arizona Secretary of State was asked the other day about whether he would actually acknowledge the outcome of an election in which a Democrat won. Here is what he said:
Finchem chuckled. “If the law is followed, and legitimate votes have been counted, and Joe Biden ends up being the winner,” he told me, “I’m required under the law—if there’s no fraud—to certify the election.” But, he added, “I think you’re proposing something that, quite frankly, is a fantasy.”
Why, I asked him, was it so impossible to believe Biden won in Arizona, as many polls predicted and postelection reviews confirmed? “It strains credibility,” Finchem responded. “Isn’t it interesting that I can’t find anyone who will admit that they voted for Joe Biden?” Was it possible that lots of people he didn’t personally know had voted for Biden? “In a fantasy world, anything’s possible,” Finchem said.
I would wait to see if any of the Republicans who like to trot out the phony Kael quote as a means of disingenuously casting coastal elites as out-of-touch snobs have any comment about what the Republican nominee to Arizona’s top elections post said here, but I feel like I’d be waiting a very, very long time.
Going back to the 1930s — and lasting until 2004 — the most prominent local grocery store chain here in Columbus was called Big Bear. It was like most other local/regional chain grocery stores: totally adequate but not necessarily remarkable in most respects. And, like a lot of other local/regional chains, after decades of being something of a local institution, it got bought by some out-of-state concern, became laden with debt, could not fight the big boys like Kroger, Meijer, and Wal-Mart, and went out of business. A tale as old as private equity.
The other day a local magazine ran a little item looking back at the early days of Big Bear. Specifically, it looked back at when the company’s original store — on Lane Avenue right night to Ohio State — had a cage outside that actually held a real life bear.
In related news, when they closed, most of the Big Bear stores were purchased by the Pennsylvania grocery chain Giant Eagle. While I think they’ve been generally successful in Columbus, based on that magazine story I think we all know what they need to do if they want to truly capture the hearts and minds of the local grocery-shopping public. All they need to do now is to find a bird of sufficient size to match the name of the store.
This video of the basketball action following this tweet should have caused me the level of stress and anxiety it did, but it has caused me a great amount of stress and anxiety:
I mean, it’s just a little rule change, but the flow seems so radically altered that it’s hard to watch! And yeah, I know that this is, essentially, making it like the soccer inbounds process, but it plays way less kinetically on a giant soccer pitch than it does on a much smaller basketball court.
I don’t watch much if any basketball anymore, but was this a rule that was needed to solve a problem in game flow, or is this just tinkering around?
As you’ve no doubt seen, Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver was recently suspended for a year after his long and rich history of racist and misogynistic behavior as a team owner came to light. In issuing that suspension NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was widely seen as going easier on Sarver than he could have and it led to an immediate backlash from players — on his own teams and on others — the players union, his co-owners, and sponsors, none of whom want him to continue to be associated with the Suns.
As a result of that, yesterday it was announced that Sarver would sell his stake in the teams. He’ll probably get $2 billion as a result, so it’s not like he’s being shipped off in shackles to Van Diemen's Land or anything, but you wouldn’t believe that to listen to Sarver. In a truly Thom Brennamanesque statement, this is what he said:
“As a man of faith, I believe in atonement and the path to forgiveness. I expected that the commissioner’s one-year suspension would provide the time for me to focus, make amends and remove my personal controversy from the teams that I and so many fans love. But in our current unforgiving climate, it has become painfully clear that that is no longer possible – that whatever good I have done, or could still do, is outweighed by things I have said in the past. For those reasons, I am beginning the process of seeking buyers for the Suns and Mercury.”
It doesn’t take an advanced degree in reading between the lines to see that Sarver considers himself a victim here, and his reference to his faith and “our current unforgiving climate” is just an updated appeal to the sorts of folks who rage against so-called cancel culture. None of which is shocking, as this is a guy who, until the very moment he was suspended, claimed he did nothing wrong despite spending years and years belittling and degrading those who work for him in the most vile ways possible.
Good riddance to bad rubbish. I’m sure he’ll use the $1.6 billion profit he stands to make from the sale of this team to surround himself with people who make sure he knows, every day, that the real injustice in all of this was his having to suffer a single consequence for his atrocious behavior, but at least he’ll be gone.
I never watched former UCLA basketball player Jalen Hill in action. I only know him by name because, as a teenager, he was part of a notable scandal. I do know, however, that he took responsibility for his mistakes and went on to be a key part of a couple of pretty decent Bruins teams before he left the program in the spring of 2021 due to mental health problems including anxiety and depression.
The bravery and vulnerability Hill displayed in leaving the game that, to that point in his life, defined him was remarkable. As was what he had to say when he was quoted in an article a little while after leaving the Bruins: “Now every day it just seems like I’m winning because I’m here . . . I’m alive and my mental state has changed immensely.” It was a story, it seemed, of a young man trying to take control of his life and meet his troubles head-on.
Jalen Hill has died earlier this week. He was only 22 years old. The circumstances of Hill’s death have not been made public, but it has been reported that he “went missing in Costa Rica” before his fate was discovered. Given those circumstances, and given his mental health struggles, it’s not unreasonable to suspect that Hill died of suicide, even if it has not yet been confirmed.
For reasons readers who have been around a bit know, I am both familiar with and sensitive to the mental health crisis afflicting young people these days. I do my best to keep perspective about it all and to understand and accept that every person’s mental health journey is unique and that one cannot allow oneself to assume that that which happens to one person is likely to happen to another. But stories like Hill’s are hard for me to read, especially when it seems like things were trending in a more positive direction for him. It’s a reminder that anything can happen and that the battle is never over.
Rest in peace, Jalen Hill. A peace which I desperately wish you had found in life.
Have a great day, everyone.