Cup of Coffee: September 9, 2021

The Hall of Fame inductions, who knew what about Jonah Keri, and many words about raising kids in what feels like a doomed world

Good morning! And welcome to Free Thursday! If you’re just visiting, allow me to point to the sign:

If not, hey, that’s OK. I’ll see you again in a week. In the meantime, there’s a lot to get to today, so let’s get to it.

And That Happened

On the day that Derek Jeter was inducted into the Hall of Fame, the Yankees lost and the Marlins won. Such a lack of RE2PECT on the part of the Bombers, really. You hate to see it.

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Blue Jays 6, Yankees 3:

  • First, I a prefer “newsletter writer,” “blogger,” or “pamphleteer” to “columnist.”

  • Second, this is not my lede.

  • Third, how DARE you?

Otherwise, yeah. Total lack of RE2PECT shown here by the Yankees. If the Captain were on the field they would not have lost this game (he would’ve pitched in the ninth, see, because he’d be damned if Vlad Guerrero Jr. was gonna homer off Aroldis Chapman) and the Yankee certainly would not be losers of five straight and nine of 11. Why? Because he’s a winner, that’s why. At least if you don’t count the work he’s done for the past several years in Miami.

The Jays are now only 1.5 behind the now second-in-the-Wild Card standings Yankees.

Red Sox 2, Rays 1: Shane McClanahan and Nate Eovaldi pitched shutout ball for five and seven innings, respectively. Nelson Cruz’s RBI single in the eighth put the Rays ahead but in the bottom half Hunter Renfroe hit a homer with a man on and since two is more than one, the Sox took the lead. In the ninth, Joey Wendle hit a two out double that squirted past the left fielder and rolled into to deep center, Renfroe got to it as Wendle was thinking triple but Renfroe nailed him to end the game. It’s been a while since I played actually competitive baseball, but I still remember my coach saying that “never make the final out at third.” I also remember my coach saying things like “I don’t trust that Mike Dukakis” too. Which is to say it’s been a while since I played baseball. He was right about that third base thing. The Dukakis thing remains an open question.

Tigers 5, Pirates 1: Yesterday I said that there was no way Miguel Cabrera would get to 3,000 hits this year as he needed 33 in his final 22 games. Well, yesterday he went and got four hits — Robbie Grossman had four hits too — so I guess someone must’ve told the old guy and wanted to make me look dumb. If so, hey, I’ll own it. Cabrera had a double and three RBI. Grossman homered and scored three times. Cabrera has 2,971 hits. The Tigers have 21 games left. It’s still a tall order — he needs to average 1.3 hits a game over that span and, on the year, he’s averaged fewer than one hit a game — but another four-hit game or two in the mix changes that, that’s for sure.

Mariners 8, Astros 5: Seattle trailed 4-2 after 5, tied it up with a two-run double from Jarred Kelenic in the seventh and then put up a four-spot in the ninth thanks to a two-run single from José Marmolejos and a homer from J.P. Crawford. The win pulls the M’s to two and a half games back of a Wild Card slot, though they have to find a way to jump over the hot Blue Jays if they’re gonna get there.

Giants 7, Rockies 4: The Baseball Gods are getting lazy late in the season, simply photocopying games. Because, as was the case in Houston, the team that won here was down more than midway through and scored four in the ninth. The Rockies early lead was actually 3-0 and took a 4-3 lead into the final frame when LaMonte Wade Jr. hit a two-run single and Evan Longoria had a two-run double. It was the Giants’ fourth straight win and their 90th win on the season overall. They also, thanks to the Dodgers losing, bumped their division lead up to two games.

Rangers 8, Diamondbacks 5: Nathanial Lowe had three hits — a single, double, and a triple — and scored three time and José Trevino knocked in three. Fifteen pitchers used in this three hour, thirty-five minute game between two terrible, bottom-of-the-standings teams. So damn sad I missed it!

Twins 3, Cleveland 0: Rookie Joe Ryan took a perfect game into the seventh inning in what was only his second big league appearance. It was broken up by Amed Rosario, who lined a clean single through the left side of the infield with one out in the seventh. Ryan would finish the seventh with no further damage and two relievers finished the one-hitter. Cleveland, by the way, has been no-hit twice and held without a hit in a seven-inning game this season, so this was nothing new for ‘em.

Marlins 2, Mets 1: Sanday Alcantara once again pitched fantastically (9 IP, 1 ER, 14 Ks) but got a no-decision because Rich Hill and three relievers held the Fish to one run themselves in regulation. In the 10th Anthony Bender held the Mets scoreless despite walking a guy and, in the bottom half the Marlins bunted over the Manfred Man ahead of Bryan De La Cruz’s walkoff single. Edwin Díaz gets the loss. Which, hey, at least it wasn’t another blown save? Sandy Alcantara, though, man. He’s the least supported dude in all of Christendom.

Orioles 9, Royals 8: Mike Minor shut out the Orioles for six innings and Sal Pérez’s 42nd homer on the year made it 5-0 after seven. All the O’s did then was put up a nine-spot in the eighth inning. Austin Hays kicked it off with an RBI double, Anthony Santander and Ramón Urías had RBI singles to make it 5-3, Kelvin Gutierrez hit a two-run single to tie it up at five, Cedric Mullins hit a fly ball between right fielder Hunter Dozier and center fielder Edward Olivares, who, after the Benny Hill music started playing, crashed into one another, allowing two more runs to score, and then Ryan Mountcastle capped the rally with his 26th homer. The Royals plated three in the ninth on an Andrew Benintendi dinger with two men on, but at that point the wind was totally out of their sails.

Nationals 4, Atlanta 2: Juan Soto hit a go-ahead homer in the seventh to break a 2-2 tie and then Luis García's doubled in Yadiel Hernández to make it 4-2 in the eighth. Six Nats relievers handled almost all of this game after Nationals starter Sean Nolin was ejected in the first inning for throwing a pitch behind Freddie Freeman and then hitting him in the hip with the next pitch, both of which was pretty clearly in retaliation for Soto getting plunked by will Smith on Tuesday.

Cubs 4, Reds 1: Jason Heyward hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the 10th inning for the walkoff win. Chicago’s one run in regulation came via an Ian Happ dinger. The Reds’ lone run came on a Joey Votto homer. I know the Cubs are all new-look and have won a lot of games recently, but the Reds can’t be dropping series to teams like Chicago if they wanna win the Wild Card. As it is, this loss dropped them a game back. Before this series they dropped a series to the Tigers. Just not what you want.

Brewers 4, Phillies 3: Eduardo Escobar hit a tie-breaking solo homer in the sixth to give Milwaukee the series win. Philadelphia remained 2.5 games behind NL East-leading Atlanta and three back in the Wild Card.

Cardinals 5, Dodgers 4: Adam Wainwright pitched into the ninth before running into any real trouble but the pen bailed him out. Homers from Yadi Molina and Tyler O'Neill helped too, as the Cards snapped a four-game losing streak. My Cardinals fan correspondent, Levi Stahl, pointed out to me that the time of game here was a mere two hours, thirty-five minutes. Levi and I are around the same age so we remember when a lot of games were that short, of course, but in this age, that’s pretty remarkable. Also: we would kindly ask that you all get off our lawns.

Padres 8, Angels 5: Yu Darvish righted what had been a severely listing ship of late and the Padres gave him eight runs in the second inning with which to play. With the win the Padres take a one-game lead over Cincinnati for the second Wild Card. Now they go on the road against the Dodgers, Giants, and Cardinals. If they are still clinging to a playoff spot when that’s over, welp, they’ve earned it.

Athletics 5, White Sox 1: Frankie Montas allowed one run on six hits with seven strikeouts in seven frames and Matt Champan homered. Oakland is bringing up the rear of legit Wild Card contenders in the AL, standing three back, but they’re not quite dead yet.

The Daily Briefing

Derek Jeter, Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons, Larry Walker finally inducted into the Hall of Fame

After a delay of a year and change thanks to COVID, the Hall of Fame finally held its 2020 induction ceremony yesterday. Derek Jeter, Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons, and Larry Walker are now on the wall in Cooperstown.

You’ve heard of Jeter, I suppose, so I won’t spend any time talking about him. I will share this super bizarre quote from Aaron Boone about Jeter from the New York Times’ big feature on him, though:

“Derek was, I think, the most confident player I ever played with. The guy who just said: ‘Give me the ball,’ always wanted the ball, and just played the game with a ton of confidence.”

On what planet is “he always wanted the ball” a sensible way to describe a baseball player? Like, maybe a pitcher who always wants to take the ball out there for another inning or something, but I have never once heard a position player referred to as “wanting the ball.” Mostly because baseball doesn’t work that way. You don’t really have a lot of choices on where to throw the ball out there. Unless it’s a grounder to the right side with a runner on first, ain’t no one throwing Jeter anything.

I dunno. Jeter discourse has always been this way. He’s objectively one of the best players in the history of the game — if anything his offense was underrated and outweighed hid faults on defense that I and so many others like to joke about -- and he led teams to multiple championships. Yet, somehow, that’s not enough. There are always some people gotta try to be extra in describing him, to the point where they’re being ridiculous and end up defeating their own intent or inviting counter criticism or whatever. He’s Derek Jeter. He’s one of the best ever. He’s a Hall of Famer. That’s all anyone really needs to say. No one needs to find a new way to portray him as a unique thing in the universe like they so often attempt to do.

In other Jeter induction news, Jeter said this during his speech: “Thank you to the baseball writers -- all but one of you -- who voted for me.” Referring, of course, to the fact that he fell one vote short of matching Mariano Rivera as a unanimous inductee.

As most of you know I took myself out of the Hall of Fame discourse business a couple of years ago because I find the whole politics of voting and vote totals and all of that jazz to be so tiresome and insular and ultimately unimportant and I just don't want to care about that kind of stuff anymore. But I’m not gonna lie. I would kinda like to know who didn't vote for Jetes, because that’s impossibly stupid and I’d love to see the thought process in action.

Moving on.

I tweeted this about Marvin Miller a couple of years ago and I stand by it:

I’m glad he was honored, but Miller didn’t want to be in the Hall of Fame for that exact reason. The longer he’s dead the more he’s spoken of — if he’s spoken of — it will be in the way certain sorts of people talked about Muhammed Ali after he died: reading out all of the stuff he did to make power uncomfortable and acting as if the battles he fought have no continuing currency as they are all safely locked in the past.

That aside, here’s a nice bio of Marvin Miller if you’re not familiar with his bonafides (Note: any subscribers to this newsletter who are not familiar with Miller’s bonafides will be held after class and asked why they have not done the reading).

Larry Walker had a lot of value tied up in things that weren’t valued as highly before his era as they would come to be during his career. For that reason, his Hall of Fame resume was not quite as noted while he played than it came to be in the years after he retired. Whether his production was somewhat under the radar by Cooperstown standards doesn’t change the fact, however, that he was an all-around great player who, in addition to the fantastic plate discipline, defensive value and base running skills that smart set came to focus on, also happened to check a lot of the boxes for things that the so-called experts have always valued. He won an MVP award and three batting titles while flashing power, defense and speed. His Coors Field splits were far less pronounced than other Rockies players whose career accomplishments were discounted. Walker was great away from the Rockies and away from Coors as well. He’s a worthy inductee.

Finally, Ted Simmons: like Walker, a lot of his value came in statistical categories that weren’t appreciated nearly as much during his career as they would be later, leading him to be underrated and explaining why it took the Veterans’ Committee process to get him in.

He had a great On-base percentage. He was durable, racking up 150+ games behind the plate an astounding eight times. If that were to happen today we’d be calling the guy a freak of nature. In his day it was noted, but perhaps not as much as it should’ve been. Beyond that Simmons finished with more than 100 RBI in three seasons and 90+ RBI eight times. He complied 2,472 hits. He was an All-Star eight times. He won a Silver Slugger award and got at least a few MVP votes in seven different seasons. He was not just a good hitter for a catcher. He was a legitimately good hitter for most any position and, of the 14 catchers who entered the Hall before him, Simmons had a higher-career WAR than six of them. He was not a borderline selection.

Congratulations to the inductees, living or otherwise, willing or otherwise.

The Hall of COVID

All living Hall of Famers are invited to sit on the stage in Cooperstown during induction ceremonies. John Smoltz is in the Hall of Fame, so he too was invited.

But it’s also the case that (a) John Smoltz is unvaccinated; (b) his unvaccinated state made news recently when MLB Network barred him from appearing live in the studio due to that status; (c) unlike many of the other Hall of Famers, Smoltz was not wearing a mask while on the stage (my guess is that whatever is driving him to not be vaccinated is also causing him to eschew masks); and (d) there were a lot of elderly men on that stage with Smoltz, some of whom have had considerable health problems in recent years.

Guys like Orlando Cepeda, who had a stroke a couple of years ago and was in a wheelchair. Guys like heart transplant recipient Rod Carew, who got seated in front of another unmasked pitcher, Goose Gossage. And based on literally everything he’s ever said in public about politics and civil society, I would be the mortgage Gossage is also unvaxxed.

I can only assume that Trevor Hoffman is sitting there thinking, “ummm . . . is this the best idea?”

Back in July an unvaxxed — and soon to contract COVID! — Aaron Judge was allowed to escort 84 year-old Billye Aaron, the widow of Henry Aaron, onto the field at the All-Star Game and no one seemed to think that was maybe a bad idea. Yesterday Smoltz' unvaxxed ass and what I suspect is Gossage’s unvaxxed ass was allowed to be next to a lot of old, sick people in Cooperstown.

You’d think maybe MLB and the Hall of Fame would try to avoid this situation.

Rays call up Josh Lowe

They Rays are the best team in the American League and feature the sort of depth that most front office executives talk about wanting but rarely ever get. Now they’re getting more talent added to the roster as outfielder Josh Lowe, one of the best prospects in the Tampa Bay Rays’ formidable system, is being called up.

Lowe — the younger brother of former Rays first baseman Nathanial Lowe, who is now with the Rangers — bats left-handed And he bats well, having posted a line of .282/.369/.540 with 21 HR down at Triple-A this year while also going 24-for-24 on steal attempts.

The rich get richer. Wait, the Rays aren’t rich. The Rays get Rayer.

Gambling in tennis is bringing out the best

Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens recently talked about receiving abusive and harassing messages on Instagram after her third-round loss to Angelique Kerber in this year’s U.S. open. She called the experience “exhausting and never-ending.” A few days after that Shelby Rogers, who lost to Great Britain's Emma Raducanu said in her post-match presser that she's now going to have to deal with “nine million death threats” on her social media accounts from strangers who are unhappy with her loss.

If you ever dig into the sorts of comments people like Stephens and Rogers receive — and I don’t recommend you do — it becomes pretty apparent that a great deal of the ire they get is from people who bet on them and lost. They often specifically mention it or at least signal it by referring to the players as “fixers” or “corrupt.” All of this ties into tennis’ seriously sketchy history of match-fixing.

Despite that history, and despite these kinds of threats, tennis’ partnerships with gambling companies continue to expand at a rapid pace. Such partnerships may, actually, be positives as far as stamping out match-fixing — casinos do NOT want rigged contests; they make way more money when things are on the up-and-up — but they will increase the number of people who lose money on matches and lash out at the players whom they deem responsible. And no, it’s no accident that such behavior presents itself in its most vile ways when the athletes involved are women.

When episodes like the ones involving Stephens and Rogers come up, people often talk about how rude and ugly social media is and how it’s social media’s fault that athletes are subjected to such behavior. I don’t think it’s social media as much as it’s gambling and the culture it fosters. A culture in which problem gamblers believe athletes owe them something and are answerable to them. And that if they do not perform the way in which the gambler wants them to perform, there must be consequences.

Other Stuff

My latest political column at Columbus Alive

My every-other-week Ohio politics column is up over at Columbus Alive. As is usually the case its substance is relatable to non-Ohioans as well.

This time out: Dave Yost, Ohio’s Attorney General, signed on to a lawsuit last week with 19 other attorneys general seeking to invalidate federal anti-discrimination measures protecting LGBTQ and transgender persons. The rules are necessary to enforce the landmark 2020 Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County which held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from firing people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Yost and his fellow culture warrior GOP attorneys general are claiming that Bostock only covers firing people, not discriminating against them while they’re still working for you. I wish I was making that up, but that’s really what their complaint boils down to. Even worse: they don’t even care if they win. Indeed, most of them know that they will not win. The point is to vice signal to the bigoted Republican base as they all try to advance their political careers. It’s pretty pathetic. It’s also the new normal.

What if America had six political parties?

America has two political parties. In reality, though, those political parties are more like umbrella organizations which house people who, in other countries, would be members of two, three, or maybe four distinct parties. It’s just sort of how our system rolls.

It doesn’t have to roll that way, of course. We could, at least theoretically, have multiple smaller parties, working in coalitions with one another. I’m not sure if that would actually work in practice. Indeed, I’m kind of dubious that it would given the way the established parties have entrenched their power and would fight against any effort of offshoot parties of any consequence to form. But at least as far as ideology goes, it makes a lot of sense.

Which party would you be in? That’s what this quiz from political scientist Lee Drutman seeks to determine. It’s 20 questions. They’re pretty straightforward. You’ll be shocked to learn that I would be in the Progressive Party. Where are you?

What you don’t know about Jonah Keri

I wrote recently about Jonah Keri’s guilty plea to domestic violence charges. They were bad enough as reported from his court appearance, but Julie DiCaro of Deadspin published a story yesterday which revealed facts of the case which are even worse than we knew. You can read all of that here, but I offer a warning for anyone who doesn’t want to read graphic details of serious domestic violence.

A good point DiCaro makes, and reports, is that Keri’s attorney’s claim that his violence was a function of mental illness does not hold up. He quite obviously turned on the charm and turned off the violence — and vice-versa — at will, and that’s not a thing people suffering from mental illness can usually do. The behavior pattern is one of your standard violent abuser, presenting one public face and one private face, not someone suffering from mental illness.

A larger point DiCaro makes, however touches on the ecosystem of sports media, at least some portion of which was at least aware that Keri was a creep who had engaged in disturbing behavior with respect to women in the industry:

None of the women we spoke to for this story were willing to speak on the record, out of fear that, despite how far he’s fallen, Keri could still harm their careers, or worse. Continued silence from men in the industry who — according to the women we spoke with — were aware of troubling stories about Keri, certainly hasn’t made sports media feel any safer.

As I said before, apart from a sort of smug/climber vibe he gave off, I never had reason to think ill of Keri, and had no information about him being a creep, let alone his violent nature. But if, as the story suggests, there are men who were in his orbit who knew about it and who (a) remained silent; and (b) enabled Keri’s elevation in the industry despite what he did to harm women in the industry, well, that’s a damn problem.

Bye-bye Bobby

The south lost one of its last participation trophies yesterday, as the giant Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia was taken down. You can watch that rather enjoyable and festive event here.

I was particularly taken with the Washington Post’s description of the event:

Workers have removed Virginia’s biggest statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from its towering stone base and cut it into two pieces, ending the monument’s 131-year reign embodying this city’s mythology as the former capital of the Confederacy.

Lee’s surrender came so fast — after less than an hour of work Wednesday — that hundreds of onlookers were caught by surprise. 

I see what you did there.

The only sad part of this is that, now that the statue is gone, how will we ever know what happened in the Civil War? I mean, that’s what those things were all about, right? At least according to a lot of people on the right who are so enthralled with monuments to racists and traitors.

Nihilism and hope

The author Michael Chabon wrote a Twitter thread early yesterday, inspired by his sons’ college essay. According to Chabon, the essay required his son to “respond to a prompt that asked him to imagine his future.” In the thread Chabon talks about how both he — someone who came of age during the cold war — and his son — who is coming of age in our current, modern hellscape — have attempted to balance nihilism and virtue, cynicism, and hope when thinking about what kind of future there is to be had in their respective realities.

Here is the part which got to the heart of it for me, in which Chabon identifies the one alternative a kid of the Cold War, and maybe a kid of the present day, could identify for the nihilism which is otherwise so tempting to embrace:

It was around that time that I first encountered an alternative to nihilism, equally valid, equally clear-sighted and unillusioned, yet compatible with an acceptance, even an embrace, of life . . . This approach had evolved in response to the terrible absurdities and burgeoning sense of meaninglessness that arose in the wake of the 20th century’s cataclysmic wars, totalitarianism, rationalized slaughter, Auschwitz, Hiroshima . . . It was called existentialism. It argued—put roughly—that life’s only meaning is the one we bring to it, that its purpose is for us to determine, each for ourselves . . . And most importantly, it argued that in this absurd universe without purpose, meaning, or objective morality, in a world where nothing matters, the only principled alternative to suicide is to behave as if it all *does* matter. As if we and the consequences of our actions matter.

I don’t know if I ever called it “existentialism” — I didn’t get hipped to that term until I was in college — but it was definitely the approach I roughly, almost blindly, clung to when a nuclear war which would kill me before I got old seemed inevitable. I didn’t really appreciate it at the time, but I absolutely began to think of what little acts I could do, when whatever existence I could create was all that mattered in the midst of so much I could not control. That rather than despair at what seemed like the horror of the present, I’d try to live a life of dignity and some sort of personal virtue in which I just pretended the horrors were not there for as long as I could, however deluded such thinking was.

As I got older — and as the world became less scary in the late 1980s and through the 1990s — I let this go for a bit, and began to think of the world and my existence in it more . . . situationally, I suppose. I lived a life of bargaining, in a way. One in which I tried to figure out how to make peace and find prosperity within the system and to find actual meaning in the world. It worked for a while. It ceased working after a while. And then the world began to get really scary again and all of it seemed pointless.

So I found myself, about six or seven years ago, walking back to where I used to be when I was younger. Not fully writing off the world in a fit of nihilism, but certainly knowing that its horrors were more than I could contend with by myself and, in light of that, contenting myself with trying to make a good life for myself and those with whom I was at least tenuously connected within the maelstrom. To find beauty and grace where I could find it and attempt to find meaning in those small moments and spaces as opposed to the world at large.

Personally, I am content with where I have landed. But I’m pushing 50, too, and my personal contentment is an easier matter compared to that of younger people. Meanwhile, I have a 17 year-old daughter and a 16 year-old son who are contending with the world too. Sometimes I think they’re better equipped to deal with it than I was because they’ve only known this world and were not told stories of hope, triumph, and a just world like kids of the mid-to-late 20th century were. Sometimes I worry that they’re scared to death but hide it with sarcasm and a jaded persona. That they hide a nihilism that I hope they never embrace.

Beyond providing the basics of food, shelter, love, and support, I’ve tried to consciously do whatever I can over the past several years to be a model for Anna and Carlo of how to proceed through a world gone mad with some semblance of grace, virtue, calmness, and equanimity. To find that small space where happiness can be found even if there is not much to be happy about in the grand scheme. Most days I feel like I’ve done that. Some days I worry that it’s hopeless. I don’t know how it will play out in the end.

Anyway, there was no point to this other than me working some of this out in writing. And my being kinda glad to see that I’m not the only parent who thinks about such things.

Have a great day, everyone