Discover more from Cup of Coffee by Craig Calcaterra
Cup of Coffee: September 7, 2023
Verlander tops Scherzer, Urías on leave, some unwelcome injury news, a potential new baseball boss in Queens, BlueSky invites, flying the fecal skies, flamingos, the Big Bang, and the Rolling Stones
Good morning! And welcome to Free Thursday!
There was a marquee pitching matchup in Texas last night that did not live up to the hype, a dude struck out 14 in six innings, the Dodgers are skidding, the Yankees are streaking, and any 1962 New York Mets who are still alive cracked that bottle of champagne I imagine they keep in celebration of yet another challenger failing to take their 120-loss crown.
Elsewhere, Julio Urías was placed on leave, the Marlins got some unwelcome injury news, Andrew McCutchen had to update a tweet, David Stearns and the Mets are moving toward one another, and another Japanese star is expected to be posted this winter.
In Other Stuff I have some BlueSky invites, a friend of Cup of Coffee has started his own newsletter, I share some gross airline stories, ponder some out-of-place flamingos, rethink the Big Bang, and struggle to form an opinion about the new Rolling Stones’ song.
And That Happened
Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:
Astros 12, Rangers 3: They were talking up Justin Verlander vs. Max Scherzer for a couple of days in advance of this one as if it was gonna be Ali-Frazier. Turns out it was Tyson-Spinks. Verlander went seven, allowing just one earned run while Scherzer got knocked around for seven runs in three innings while giving up three homers. José Abreu's grand slam in the third was the biggest blow. He’d later add a three-run shot for a seven-RBI evening. Yordan Álvarez and Michael Brantley also took Scherzer deep. Adolis García was forced to leave the game with what the team called right knee discomfort after he tried to make a leaping grab of Brantley’s homer. The Astros sweep the Rangers and lead the AL West by a game. Texas is now three off the division lead and a half game out of Wild Card position. Quite the late season swoon.
Pirates 5, Brewers 4: This was an afternoon game but we stopped into our local bar after dinner early yesterday evening and they were replaying it for some reason. It was jarring, not because the game was a replay but because I cannot remember the last time I saw the Pirates on TV. They’re blacked out on MLB.tv in Columbus for weird historical reasonsand it’s not like they get much national broadcast exposure. Anyway, I wasn’t paying too much attention to the replay, and it’s not like we were in the bar that long, but I did manage to see Ji Hwan Bae hit that tie-breaking triple in the seventh and that was pretty sweet. This year’s Pirates seem a lot more fun than a team ten games under .500 should be. But again, it’s not like I get to see much of ‘em.
Cardinals 11, Atlanta 6: Paul Goldschmidt, Masyn Winn, Willson Contreras and Nolan Gorman all went deep as the Cards pounded Atlanta for the second straight night. Atlanta’s Spencer Strider is being talked of as a Cy Young candidate but he didn’t help his cause here, lasting just 2.2 innings while giving up six runs on six hits. His counterpart, Dakota Hudson, gave up just three runs and seven hits in five innings. In related news, if I were to start another Dane Dunning-style bit it would totally be “Dakota Hudson” as a teen star who had her own Disney Channel or Nickelodeon sitcom around 10-15 years ago but who is now grown up and is the first woman to pitch in the majors. Her show was called “Simply Dakota!” or something like that. It was created and produced by a guy who was banished from Hollywood five or six years ago when it was discovered he was a gross, pervy creep. There’s probably a lot of material to work with there but I feel like it’d get pretty dark so I won’t do it.
Athletics 5, Blue Jays 2: Carlos Pérez hit a two-run homer in the fourth and Kevin Smith hit a three-run homer in the sixth. This was Oakland’s 43rd win of the season, which means that the 1962 Mets record of 120 losses will not be broken. That the A’s wouldn’t lose 120 became obvious some time ago but if you had asked me about it back in May I feel like I would’ve given you even money.
Phillies 5, Padres 1: Petco is a pitcher’s park but if you’ve ever been there for a day game you know the ball flies out of it much more easily when the sun is high. Not that Kyle Schwarber is a product of park effects. He hits ‘em out everywhere, and here he hit a 465-foot leadoff homer. Figure it only goes 455 feet once the marine layer comes in. Zack Wheeler and three relievers combined to three-hit the Dads. Gary Sánchez broke his wrist when he got hit by a pitch, but more on that down in The Daily Briefing.
Rays 3, Red Sox 1: Tyler Glasnow struck out 14 batters in six innings, the Sox were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, and folks, you’re not likely to win when the opposing pitcher does that to ya. Brandon Lowe and Isaac Paredes homered. Tampa Bay took two of three and have won 14 of 15 at home against the Red Sox. No one can suspend me for pointing that out.
Marlins 11, Dodgers 4: Joey Wendle singled, doubled, homered, and drove in four and Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Jesús Sánchez also went deep for the Marlins, who have won six straight. Subscriber Lou Schiff messaged me last night and asked “When was the last time a team hung nine runs on the Dodgers in one inning?” which is what Miami did in the fifth. I don’t know the answer to that, but I can’t remember it happening recently. I also can’t remember the Dodgers losing five of six but that’s happened now too. Rough week for the boys in blue.
Guardians 2, Twins 1: Cleveland starter Gavin Williams allowed one run on one hit over five and four relievers came in after him to allow only one more hit and no runs the rest of the way. Will Brennan singled in Andrés Giménez in the second and doubled him in in the fourth. Cleveland avoids the three-game sweep but it’s probably too late for them to catch the Twins in the standings.
Cubs 8, Giants 2: Seiya Suzuki hit a three-run double, Cody Bellinger homered and each of those two plus Ian Happ had two hits. Jordan Wicks allowed two while working into the seventh. Four wins in a row for the Cubbies, six losses in a row for the fading Giants. Chicago moves to within 1.5 games of Milwaukee in the Central.
Diamondbacks 12, Rockies 5: Usually the Rockies blow leads late. This time they blew a lead early. They were ahead 4-0 after the first inning and 5-1 by the third, in fact, but were trailing 6-5 by the time the third was over and then just watched the Dbacks pull away. Alek Thomas homered and drove in five runs. Tommy Pham had three hits and three RBI. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. added a solo homer. Arizona remains a half game behind Miami for the third Wild Card spot and four games behind the Cubs for the second spot.
Mariners 8, Reds 4: Mike Ford, J.P. Crawford, and Cal Raleigh each homered — a two-run, a three-run, and a solo shot, respectively — to help Seattle build up a 7-1 lead by the fourth and it was academic after that. The win snaps a three-game losing streak for the M’s and helps them keep pace with the Astros, who lead by one game in the AL West.
Yankees 4, Tigers 3: Jasson Domínguez hit his first homer in Yankee Stadium and had himself a 3-for-4 night while Clarke Schmidt worked effectively into the seventh. The Yankees have won five in a row, eight of nine, and they’re back over .500 for the first time in three weeks.
Nationals 3, Mets 2: RBI singles from Ildemaro Vargas and CJ Abrams tied things up at two in the seventh to set up Jacob Young’s walkoff single in the ninth. The win ends Washington’s six-game skid. And introduces me to Ildemaro Vargas and Jacob Young, whose existences I was unaware of until reading this box score.
White Sox 6, Royals 4: Elvis Andrus had four hits, Andrew Vaughn doubled, homered, and drove in two, and Yoan Moncada and Oscar Colás also went deep as the Chisox snap a five-game losing streak. Chicago starter Touki Toussaint gave up two runs and two hits with six strikeouts over six innings. After the game he said “I think I was just executing pitches when I needed to.” As I said the other day, I am against capital punishment so I take no pleasure in reporting this.
Orioles 10, Angels 3: Austin Hays had four hits, including a homer, and four RBI. He and Anthony Santander went back-to-back in the eighth. Santander and Ramón Urías each had three hits. Make it five straight wins for the O’s. The Angels lost their sixth consecutive game and their ninth of their last ten.
The Daily Briefing
Julio Urías placed on administrative leave
“Per an agreement between MLB and the MLBPA, Julio Urías has been placed on Administrative Leave until further notice as MLB continues its ongoing investigation. The administrative leave, which is effective immediately, is not disciplinary under the Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy. We will refrain from further comment until the appropriate time.”
For what it’s worth, we now know that the incident took place near BMO Stadium, which presumably happened after Urías went to go see Los Angeles FC play Lionel Messi and Inter Miami. Which shows that he was, once again, content to be violent towards a woman in front of thousands of strangers. That says a lot, frankly. I mean, if you’re willing to be violent like that in front of others, imagine what you’re doing in private.
The David Stearns Watch
Ken Rosenthal and Will Sammon of the Athletic report that Brewers executive David Stearns is “down the road” in conversations to join the New York Mets front office, which he would presumably run as its new president of baseball operations should the sides come to terms. The Athletic also reports that the Astros are speaking to him.
Stearns, a native New Yorker, has long been linked with the Mets. Indeed, the speculation that he’d head to Queens was so serious a couple of years ago that Brewers owner Mark Attanasio moved to block the Mets from interviewing him over the past two seasons. Stearns then stepped down from running day-to-day baseball operations for Milwaukee, taking on an advisory role. The Athletic reported that his contract with the Brewers allowed him to begin seeking jobs elsewhere after the August 1 trade deadline, now a move seems imminent.
Not that the Mets are a slam dunk. The Astros, of course, are a better team and Stearns worked for them for a few years before becoming Milwaukee’s GM. One would assume, however, that the long dance between him and the Mets is about to conclude.
Andrew McCutchen is done for the season
Pirates DH/outfielder Andrew McCutchen was removed from Monday's game against the Brewers due to left Achilles tendon tightness. After the game he took to social media to assure his fans that he was OK:
Yesterday, however, the Pirates announced that he has a partially torn achilles tendon that will put him on the shelf for the rest of the year. McCutchen then amended his tweet:
Agreed, that does suck. McCutchen has had a nice bounce back season after returning to Pittsburgh to serve as a veteran presence for a young roster. Indeed, he’s been one of the best Pirates hitters this year, if not the best. He’s slated to hit free agency this winter and has said he’d like to come back for at least one more season with the Pirates, but who knows if that’s in the cards now.
Marlins place Sandy Alcantara, Jorge Soler on the IL
Miami has flirted with postseason contention all year — and at present they’re still very much in the Wild Card race — but their chances took a hit yesterday as two notable players hit the injured list: Sandy Alcantara was shelved due to a strained flexor in his right forearm and outfielder Jorge Soler was placed on the IL with a strained oblique.
Alcantara, whose 28th birthday is today, has fallen off pretty far from his Cy Young campaign of 2023, but he has been a workhorse this year. He leads the league in complete games and batters faced and, thanks to a much better half than a first half, now features a 4.14 ERA (105 ERA+). Those bullpen-saving innings will certainly be missed over the next couple of weeks. Or — and I really don’t want to put this energy out into the world, but feel obligated — for considerably longer given that flexor strains are often the precursor to more serious arm injuries. Here’s hoping that doesn’t come to pass.
Soler has been the Fish’s top slugger, hitting .240/.329/.513 (126 OPS+) with 35 home runs and 71 RBI in 126 games. A team as offensively challenged as the Marlins can ill afford to lose its biggest power threat, but they have almost certainly lost him for the regular season, as obliques can take a lot of time to heal.
A bad break for a team that entered play yesterday only a half game out of the third Wild Card slot in the NL.
Gary Sánchez has a broken wrist
The Padres acquisition of catcher Gary Sánchez in late May helped keep the club afloat when it looked like they’d sink before school was even out. Ultimately they didn’t stay afloat — and Sánchez’s hot start in San Diego cooled off to some degree — but the Sánchez pickup certainly helped the club and it was a good bounce back season for him.
Now he’s done for the year: he fractured his right wrist when he was hit by a pitch from Phillies reliever Jeff Hoffman in the bottom of the eighth during the Padres 5-1 loss yesterday.
Sánchez homered six times in his first 13 games with the club and, for the season, he hit .218/.292/.500 (117 OPS+) with 19 homers. More importantly, a guy who had a bad reputation as a defender and game-caller was popular with Padres pitchers. Blake Snell, a Cy Young candidate, has spoken highly of him, as has Michael Wacha. Fernando Tatís said this about him yesterday:
“The guy came in with a mission, and he started balling out since Day 1. He became one of the best catchers in the game right away . . . He’s a great clubhouse teammate. He’s played hard since the day he got here. How can you put it in words? He’s just a good environment to be around.”
High praise compared to what was said about him when he played in New York. Tough break for him now.
Another Japanese star is expected to be posted this winter
Jon Morosi of MLB Network reports that Yokohama DeNA BayStars left-hander Shōta Imanaga is expected to be posted this offseason in anticipation of him coming to the United States to pitch. Imanaga, who just turned 30, has a 3.18 earned run average over the course of eight seasons. He strikes out a lot of guys and doesn’t walk many. You may have seen him last spring as he pitched for Japan in the World Baseball Classic allowing two earned runs over six innings.
If he is posted by the BayStars, Imanaga will be one of several Asian baseball stars to hit the market this winter, including Orix Buffaloes rightyYoshinobu Yamamoto and outfielder Jung-hoo Lee of the KBO's Kiwoom Heroes.
I do not know what I did or did not do in order for this to happen, but somehow I was given five invite codes for BlueSky yesterday. I have found that there are no real great ways to distribute these without it turning into something in between a pain in the ass and a frenzy, so I’m just gonna list the codes here and make it a first-come-first-serve thing:
If you copy one of them and it doesn’t work for you, welp, someone beat you to it. Welcome to Thunderdome. You’re welcome to the five people who are able to take advantage of it. I’m sorry to the folks who cannot.
Stephen Silver’s The SS Ben Hecht
Film critic, commentator, and Cup of Coffee subscriber/multiple-time-linked writer Stephen Silver has launched a newsletter. It’s called The SS Ben Hecht, and it’s a daily newsletter about movies and film culture. In Stephen’s words . . .
I am going to be sharing film reviews, essays, historical retrospectives, film festival coverage, and the occasional interview. I’ll also be telling stories from throughout my years of writing, and pulling back the curtain a bit on the film criticism profession and my experiences in it.
For now the newsletter is free, though Stephen is taking pledges for future subscriptions, which is a way more sensible way to go about it than I did (i.e. just sort of assuming it would work and not having anything approaching a backup plan).
Stephen’s first substantive post went up yesterday and, as befits a baseball fan like him, it’s about “Eight Men Out.” But he does not talk about that movie without first taking a justifiable swipe at “Field of Dreams,” which is wholly necessary if one is to speak intelligently about baseball movies in general or baseball movies which feature Shoeless Joe Jackson in particular.
Of course, one could also take many swipes at “Eight Men Out” for the tremendous liberties it and the 1963 Eliot Asinof book of the same name took with the historical record, but it was still a better damn movie.
Fly the fecal skies
I’m now only six days from flying over to England for my big hike. But while the overseas flights and the hiking accommodations have been sorted for months, it’s been a busy week of planning all of the subsidiary stuff. The train from London to Manchester. The hotel in Manchester for my two days worth of acclimating, chilling, and revisiting one of the best breakfasts and one of the best dinners I’ve ever had. The train from Manchester up to Saint Bee’s where the hike begins. Getting from Robin Hood’s Bay, at the end of the hike, down to York, where I will stay and visit a couple of days before heading back to London and home. While I am no one’s idea of a super traveler, let alone a super travel planner, I greatly enjoy sorting out this kind of stuff and putting the finishing touches on a grand adventure.
But when you are planning travel, the last thing you want to see are stories of travel nightmares. This week, however, has been chock full of them. Like the diarrhea plane to Barcelona. Or the Air Canada vomit express. Click at your own risk, but if you do [*extremely Bono voice*] thank God tonight it’s them instead of yooooouuuuuu . . .
All of which reminds me of a Wikipedia article that has given me nightmares from time to time: the Japan Airlines Food Poisoning incident. It was horrific, but there was only one fatality, and it wasn’t even one of the people who got food poisoning. Rather, it was the manager of the airline’s catering operation who killed himself in the aftermath. Heavy stuff, even if it puts me in mind of the movie “Airplane!” or “Zero Hour,” which more people who like “Airplane!” should know about.
Anyway, note to self: if the crew of the Virgin Atlantic flight I’m on next week starts serving ham omelettes as day breaks during the beginning of our descent into Heathrow, take a hard pass and eat a protein bar instead.
Hurricane Idalia wrought a great deal of destruction when it made landfall last weekend. It also happened to dump a bunch of flamingos where flamingos usually cannot be found:
The iconic, pink plumaged birds first started showing up all over Florida, on both coasts and the northern Gulf Coast as Hurricane Idalia passed. By Saturday however, three days after landfall, flamingo sightings had been reported in Alabama, South and North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia . . . George Keller had just completed a fruitless search for monarch butterflies in Caesar Creek State Park in Waynesville, Ohio, Friday morning and decided to look for birds instead. He saw park workers looking at something and he walked over. "I was like wait, those are flamingos. What are flamingos doing here?"
According to the article it's not unheard of for flamingos to be caught up in hurricanes and dropped hundreds of miles from where they started, but this is said by experts to be pretty extreme. Which is kinda neat on one level, but imagine being a flamingo and, of all the places you can go, you wind up in Ohio. Sheesh.
Still, this is not great for flamingos, as they’re really not suited for Midwestern winters. Which is why I suggest that, rather than let them suffer from starvation and freezing, we deal with them humanely by releasing some of their natural predators to Ohio. According to Wikipedia that includes lions, leopards, cheetahs, jackals, and pythons. That may upsetting to some people, but we have to let nature manage itself.
Rethinking the Big Bang
On the one hand, reading something from an astrophysicist and a theoretical physicist about how it may be necessary for us to totally rethink the origins of the universe because the Big Bang and associated theories are no longer explaining everything we can observe is totally fascinating.
On the other hand, reading that mere months after reading three popular science books about the origin of the universe and life on Earth and thinking I knew enough to be reasonably competent about such matters in cocktail party conversation is rather frustrating. I’m working hard trying to fake like I had a good education here and the smart set won’t let things lie for a couple of decades. Just rude.
Next thing you know I won’t be able to hold forth on what I know about Piltdown man and geocentrism.
The new Rolling Stones single, in advance of that new album I mentioned yesterday morning, came out yesterday. It’s called “Angry.” And it’s . . . fine? I dunno.
Mick is still in great voice at 80. There are recognizable Stones riffs, “woo woos” and hand claps. It’s nothing groundbreaking but at the same time it’s not self-consciously nostalgic or downright gimmicky like things former Beatle members have done or the Stones, if they weren’t such pros, could’ve conceivably done. You could imagine “Angry” as some album track filler on anything they’ve put out since, oh, “It’s Only Rock and Roll” and it would neither thrill nor disappoint you. Like I said, it’s fine.
If I’m having difficulty with it it’s probably because I’m not sure how you’re supposed to even process new songs from acts like The Rolling Stones in the year 2023. Contemporaries like Dylan and Paul Simon who are solo singers can more easily change and, in practice, have. They certainly aren’t doing the same things they did in the 60s or 70s. But a blues-based rock band like the Stones aren’t really able to change their approach that much and no one would really want them to at this point. I’m guessing that the Stones themselves would be the first people to say that it’s not fair to compare “Angry” with “Tumbling Dice” or “Start Me Up,” but it’s still hard to grab onto something to think in this instance. I suppose if I were being super critical I’d talk more about how a new Rolling Stones song is pretty inessential at this point, but that seems sort of shitty. Let ‘em do what they want to do. Which is why I’m left with “fine.”
I will say that the video is clever. Maybe showing the band in their different eras is somewhat nostalgic and gimmicky — and the woman riding around the Strip in the convertible was probably in diapers when their last album came out — but it’s fun. Beats making Jagger walk around a soundstage for three days lip-synching.
Anyway, it . . . is.
Have a great day, everyone.
The Pirates were owned by Columbus, Ohio-based John W. Galbreath from 1950 until 1985. Galbreath tried to make central Ohio into Pirates country, carving out a little fiefdom in between the Cincinnati Reds/Cleveland-controlled areas. During a good chunk of the time he owned the Pirates their Triple-A team was the Columbus Jets. Also as part of this he got the Columbus area designated Pirates territory for various internal MLB purposes which carried over into the cable blackout rules. Columbus never did become Pirates country — it tends to go back and forth between the Reds and Cleveland depending on which team is doing better at the time — but it wasn’t a crazy idea. There are a ton of Steelers fans here now as a result of (a) a concerted push by the team to cultivate the area; and (b) the Browns either sucking or being non-existent in recent years. All that’s left of Galbreath’s efforts, however, are the Pirates being blacked out here.