Wednesday, April 06, 2022

Sports Ball Returns!

Time for some Baseball Predictions. I haven't posted one of these in a couple years - they were a staple on this humble blog for a long time, but things have been fucked up and bullshit for the last couple years... This year it looked like baseball was oging to be fucked up and bullshit, but somehow they unfucked it at the last minute. It is - well, it is a relief, my friends. Enough so that I will not spend half this post whining about the stupid rules they are foisting on us, from that runner on second in extras to - whatever other stupid rules I was going to vent about. I will stick to predicting! Though honestly, I have almost no idea what is going on in baseball anymore, so these predictions will be somewhere between rolling dice and parroting ESPN. Hey - can't let that stop me! 

AL EAST:

1. Tampa Bay - I don't really know who to pick, to tell the truth. This is widely regarded as an extraordinarily deep division - yeah, it is. I should probably just pick Boston to win, but instead I;ll go with Tampa to repeat. Largely because the game has evolved into a short innings pitching game and no one has mastered the art of openers and middle relief more than the Rays. 

2. Boston - because I am not picking the Yankees, and am not sure about Toronto. But yeah. this is pretty arbitrary. I do think the Sox are going to do well - obviously some of the pitching health is key - but they should hit, and I think they are going to get more pitching than they let on. If Sale ever comes back? Why not dream big?

3. Toronto - they have got a lot of talent on there don't they. They have Kevin Gausman? Was last year real? etc. At least beat the Yankees, all right boys?

4. NY - probably not bad at all, but it's the Yankees! I have to hope they lose.

5. Baltimore - poor Baltimore.

AL CENTRAL:

1. Everyone's picking Chicago - I suppose they should, shouldn't they? They look like they should do all right, though - will they?

2. Minnesota - they went from world beaters to awful last year and - now they have CArlos Correa - they have Gary Sanchez, and will they have the sense to let him bat without donning the tools of ignorance? They should be back in the thick of it, though do they have pitching?

3. Cleveland Guardians - Tito's back, Ramirez and Bieber are there - I am reaching the limits of my knowledge. They should have a shot, right?

4. Detroit - I am shocked to discover that Detroit wasn't terrible last year. Not good, but not terrible. They have Javier Baez now, and Austin Meadows - they have E-Rod! I love E-Rod, and wish him well. I hope the cats exceed expectations and win something this year. They might not be all that bad.

5. KC Royals - I can't name a single player on this team in 2022. I will now go look them up: holy crap! Zach Greinke is back! And I forgot about Andrew Benintendi and young Mondesi. They were not awful last year. who knows, perhaps they won't be awful this year. 

AL West:

1. Houston - I mean, they are supposed to win it.

2. Seattle - they were pretty good last year, look like they could be decent this year. No harm in it.

3. Angels - can they be any good? who cares - I hope to god they are good. a team with Tr9out and Ohtani together better win something, just once - win something! 

4. Oakland - I think they are planning for the future again. I'm sure they will get back into things. Tampa west kind of right?

5. Texas - can I name anyone on this team? They have Martin Perez back! and though I could not have named them - I see they have Corey Seager and Marcus Sieman - maybe there's life in the middle of Texas too. 

Champs? Odds are still good on Houston, I think. Though sure - any of the east teams, the White Sox all have a real shot, and a couple fo the dark horses might get in on the fun.

NL East:

1. Atlanta - don't have Freddie Freeman, should get Ronald Acuna back - no reason to pick against them.

2. Philadelphia - I don't know if there's any reason to pick them, but I am going to. I like a bunch of these guys. Go get em!

3. Mets - I see their luck is holding up, with de Grom and Scherzer hurt. I like de Grom and Scherzer, and Lindor, but I don't like the Mets. They can lose.

4. Washington - Soto deserves better. Though he has his ring.

5. Miami - I have heard of some of the guys on their roster, though I wouldn't have guessed they were in Miami. Yep. Nope.

NL Central:

1. Milwaukee ot repeat - works for me.

2. St Louis - seems about right. They have what they had, right, more or less? no major changes?

3. Chicago - no good reason to pick them ahead of the Reds is there? No good reason not to, right?

4. Reds - ditto, reversed? I don't know. ˜either of these teams look like contenders, but they aren't the Pirates either.

5. The Pirates appear to be the Pirates, though.

NL West:

1. LA Dodgers - it is a force of nature out there. Fine - prove it! Win another one for Mookie!

2. San Diego - this may not be justified, but they looked ready last year, went completely to shit in the second half - I think things will get better. 

3. SF Giants - they won far more than they had any right to last year, and things are likely to correct - but it's still a good team, and a team that plays as a team, so - yeah, they will be in on the action.

4. Colorado - I mean, they don't look awful, on paper, do they? they aren't challenging fo9r anything.

5. Arizona - it's my favorite refraibn - until I looked them up, I could not have named any of them. Now - I did sort of remember that Madison Bumgarner was there, and Ketel Marte existed - that's about it. I don't see a lot of wins there.

Champs? Gotta pick the Dodgers, obviously. There are a few teams that could do it, with any luck, though.

World Series? I know what I want - Boston vs Atlanta. I don't think I can stand to watch Boston take on Mookie, though. I have not forgiven them for trading him, and will not. So Dodgers it is, and no complaint.




Sunday, February 27, 2022

Ukraine

What interesting times we live in. I would rather not live in interesting times.

I need to write something about Russia and Ukraine. I don't know if I have anything special to contribute, but it feels like I should be on record. The situation has the advantage of being pretty morally unambiguous: one of the word's worst actors, Vladimir Putin, invaded Ukraine for nakedly imperialist purposes, and Ukraine has more than risen to the occasion. They continue to hold out; president Zelensky has been positively heroic, leading from the front, and the country has been united and strong behind him; the rest of the world has responded with almost universal condemnation of Russia, and with quick and powerful sanctions against them, and support for Ukraine. The Ukrainians have been winning the propaganda war, for certain, not so much by demonizing the Russians as by holding out, and demonstrating up and down the line, how united and brave and sometimes downright cool Ukrainians can be. Sunflower seeds in your pockets for sure!

That said - it is early days in the war, and Russia is a very big country and can bring its might to bear. And they have nukes and Putin seems almost desperate enough to use them. It is, frankly, still a terrifying situation, even if things now look they could work out. 

I don't have much wisdom to offer. I think, so far, Ukraine itself has been completely admirable in its resistance, in its courage, in its ability to remind the rest of the world that they are a more or less democratic country that deserves to be supported. I think the response of the rest of the world has been admirable: no one is talking about actually getting involved in the war on the ground, but they are supplying Ukraine, they are looking for ways to punish Russia, and the sanctions put on might actually work. There is a fine line here - you want to convince the Russians that this is going to ruin them, without convincing them they have to escalate to survive. That's the scary part. But so far, the world seems to be threading the needle as well as you could hope. And almost everyone is saying the right things.

Almost. The American right did not rise to the occasion. Dear old disgraced former president Donald Trump chimed in first by proclaiming Putin a genius for this - reminding everyone that he was impeached the first time by trying to blackmail Zerensky, and that he has always been Putin's lapdog. Well. And the lesser demons of the right, from Tucker Carlson and Steve Bannon down to Candace Owens and random office seekers have come out to praise Russia and Putin and try to wedge some reference to the culture wars they love to wage into the issue. Most of this has aged poorly, and they have tried to walk it back - but it's out there. Lots of noise about pronouns, lots of references to woke millennials and the like, all of which serves, mainly, to remind us how much the American right admires Putin and his repression, authoritarianism, and two-bit tough guy act. They like Putin - they want to be like him. They might have to pretend otherwise for a week or so, but they can't really hide it. 

But truthfully, they don't matter all that much. They have been left behind. Most of Europe, the US, the rest of the world, has rallied around Ukraine, seeing this invasion for what it is. They've done it without, so far, really attacking the Russians as such - though Russia is a country that, throughout its history, has had as big a gap between how Russians as people are perceived and how their leaders are perceived as you will find. The people of Russia have been as badly served and used as a people anywhere - they deserve, someday, someone worthy of them. In the meanwhile, Putin deserves a particularly corner of hell, as long as he doesn't turn the whole world into hell.


Sunday, January 30, 2022

Hall of Infamy

I should be happy - David Ortiz is in the Hall of Fame. But I am not going to beat around the bush: this might be the moment that delegitimizes it completely. As everyone who cares must know - Ortiz is in; the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are not in. (There are others - Curt Schilling, say - who are also not in, but the reasons are different; and the reasons are the point here.) This is not justifiable. Now we all know - Bonds and Clemens are out because they are accused of steroid use. Pretty creditably, as well. But so is David Ortiz. And that is where the thing breaks down. It's where I have to concede Dan Shaughnessy's point (and I am not one to concede much to Dan Shaughnessy.) If you can't vote for Bonds or Clemens, you can't vote for Big Papi. If you are going to vote for Ortiz, you damned sure better vote for Bonds and Clemens who are obvious and indisputable Great Players in the game.

Complete assholes of course.

Personally, I do not think steroid use should be an automatic disqualifier. I have written about it before - specifically about Ortiz, when he was on the 2003 list. I was, back in 09, far less cynical than I should have been, thinking that Ortiz' presence on the list would make at least Boston fans realize that steroids were simply a Fact of the Game in those days, and let at least Roger back into their hearts. Oh ye of too much faith! Still: I don't think steroid use should disqualify anyone, any more than using uppers would kick Mickey Mantle out, or throwing spitballs disqualified Gaylord Perry, or every white player before Jacky Robinson should be removed. It was, in that era, part of the game. 

Manny Ramirez? that might be a different story - getting caught after the testing regimes went in and were enforced - that might be different. And I am still inclined to try to parse out how steroid era players would have faired in other times. You know how Clemens and Bonds would have fared, because they had made a better than average hall of fame case before they even started using - but Sosa and McGwire? That might involve some calculation. A Rod and Manny - ah - well - A Rod especially might have cheated his whole career - but wasn't he enough better than all the other cheaters that you have to consider him still one fo the best in the game? Ah, such calculations.

And there might be some fun to be had in trying to figure out whether Ortiz belongs in on the merits. It's an interesting case: being a DH, his advanced value isn't great - he's just a bat. But how much credit should you give to specialists? Closers and power hitters and defensive whizzes, who don't get the across the board WAR numbers of a great short stop or starting pitcher or outfielder? Ortiz looked the part - he raked from the time he got to Boston to the end, and even his off years offered some gaudy counting stats. And he did it under pressure, whatever that is worth. Can't deny that. Would it be enough?

But those are just thought games. In fact, the writers vote people into the hall of fame, and they are voting in a way that cannot be taken seriously. If Ortiz is in and Bonds is not, the hall is not about the best players the game has seen. If Ortiz were clean, maybe you could make some kind of weird moral argument about cheating - but he wasn't. He was caught at least once, and - you know - you watch his career and it's hard not to believe it. He went from being a promising slugger to a world beater the year he joined a team with Manny Ramirez and a Giambi. Circumstantial evidence is not entirely useless. 

So there it is. A shame, really, because I don't like kvetching about Ortiz. I would vote for him - the WAR numbers might not be great, but I saw what he did for a team. And while he didn't really win those three world series all alone (though he came close in 2013) - in 2004 and 2013 he certainly got hits that got them there, as directly as you can ask. (Those two extra inning winners against the Yankees; the grand slam against the Tigers in 13.) He also helped me win three straight fantasy leagues, in the mid 10s - though Barry Bonds won me three or four fantasy championships over the years too. What can I say? Spare me the moralism, and especially, space me the hypocrisy. 

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Infamy

Today is another day to live in infamy. A year ago, a mob invaded the capitol building, urged on by, of all people, the sitting president. It is hard to fathom. It is hard to fathom how that former president is still a free man - it speaks poorly of us, as a country that he is not in prison.

This is an infamous day. It is comparable to December 7 or September 11 - or April 12, which doesn't always get the same attention the others do. It might be easier to focus on attacks from outside the country - attacks from inside? It's harder, sometimes, to see them for what they are. But this is an attack, as surely as any of those. Indeed, more of an attack, in some ways - it was (like April 12, 1861) an attack on the principal of the United States as such, on democracy as such, on the Republic as such. 

The fact that the people doing it were ridiculous nincompoops, with their QANON conspiracies and their imaginary voter fraud and their red hats and blue flags and whatnot, might hide some fo the seriousness of it. Were they going to overthrow the government? it is hard to see it. If they didm what would they do with it? But they were still attacking the country. And their leaders - while Trump himself is a clown, an incompetent boob, a failure at every single thing he ever did (including this) - he is still as explicitly anti-American as any American figure in an awful long while. He is a fascist, he wanted to overthrow the government, make himself dictator for life - he failed, and surely will fail again if he is still breaking in three years - but he meant it. And bot everyone around him is as stupid as he is, though - by god, there are some stupid people around him. But they are also evil. There is no stupid or evil problem with Trump and his followers - they are both. And the evil is real.

So: they need to be held accountable. Trump needs to be held accountable.s long as he walks around free, we are failing the country, we are encouraging him and worse people to try it again. And even if they fail again - a lot of people will suffer for it. The Confederates failed - but they caused unimaginable suffering before they did. I fear for the nation...

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Me I'm All Smiles... Welcome 2022

And here we are. Happy New Year! No one is going to miss 2021 - the only thing it had going for it was not being 2020. But it rivals 2020. People kept dying, they kept dying unnecessarily, as vaccines came out and big chunks of the country refused to get them, and prominent political and media figures urged people not to get them, and people kept dying because of it, the disease hangs around and everything remains shitty. 

Speaking of things hanging around making the world shitty, Donald Trump, having gotten stomped in the election, tried to overthrow the government. He failed, but he's still walking the world free, to our national shame. He still talks like he is going to try it again, the Republicans are doing all they can to stop enough people from voting to make it so he can win without a coup, though they are all pretty much fine with a coup at this point. The supreme court, a completely illegitimate institution at this point, works on undoing the twentieth century and the Reconstruction amendments. Republicans, in general, have basically adopted Trump's fascism wholesale, running on a constant attack on intellectual freedom and truth. All of which is mostly aimed at running on a platform of putting Black people back in their place. And women, foreigners, gays and anyone else they can find to hate and abuse. 

In other words, we suck. 

I suppose I can take solace from the economy recovering, though who knows how long that will last with COVID still going strong. I would take more solace if the Democrats were all Democrats. Joe Manchin has decided to singlehandedly betray more or less everything he is supposed to represent - Build Back Better is good for the country, will be good for West Viginia, and is good for the Democratic party - isn't that what a Democratic Senator is supposed to care about? immediate constituents, the country as a whole, and his party? In his case, there is also himself and his donors - he has decided to represent them. Now true - I single out Manchin when the entire Republican party is acting the same way - but they are openly seditious and fascist - they are openly working against the country and their voters. Though to their credit (for what it's worth) they do work for the good (short term anyway) of the Republican Party, which now, is all about power, looting the country, and oppressing Blacks, women, gays, foreigners and so on.

Alas. 

Well, I will not belabor politics anymore. How goes it with me? Not great. I suppose things are going along well enough in the general sense - gainful employment that doesn't drive me too crazy, I'm healthy, smart enough to be vaccinated (though not lucky enough to get a booster - I was scheduled for this very day, but the local pharmacy is down a person so closed up at the last minute. Bloody hell.) That all could be worse. 

But I have become unspeakably lazy in the last couple years. Just look at the output on this blog! And that reflects general lack of motivation for anything. I don't watch movies anymore, not much anyway. I don't write much, not much of anything. I did Nanowrimo, as usual, and produced almost 70,000 words - though with almost nothing I could imagine being part of an actual novel, in the end. Weird stuff. I used to hope to finally finish something - these days, I hope not to go backwards. And outside of that? I mentioned a couple years ago surfing on YouTube - that's still a thing, but these days, I spend most fo that time scrolling through YouTube looking for something to watch. Sad. 

I did knock off a few books last year - most notably autobiographies of Richard Thompson and Will Sergeant - both very fine books by very fine guitar players. I have been worshipping Thompson for 30 odd years; I was reminded this year how much I liked Echo and the Bunnymen back in the 80s, and spent a lot of time this year listening to them. This happened with the Gang of Four a while back - I heard them, remembered how much I liked them for a while, and went back and dove in and have worshipped them since. The bunnymen have gotten the same treatment this year. Don't ask me why it took so long.

All of which does bring up one thing that went a bit better this year: I did listen to a lot more music than I have in a while. I tend to latch on to things - art forms - movies or music or books, or other things, like different sports or games or what have you - and ride them hard for a few years, then - stop. I stopped obsessing about music a while back, after obsessing about it hard for a long time. Strange. This year? I didn't pay m,uch attention to anything contemporary - but I paid attention to some old stuff. The last couple years, really. I will have to write about that some day. This year? Echo and the Bunnymen, the Kinks and Brian Jonestown Massacre got the weight of my attention. A lot of it from YouTube, though I bought records, and listened to them. Interesting. Maybe I will write about it again.

Anyway - there you have it. Something to mark the change of the calendar. I will even end with a resolution of sorts: I want to post once in a while on here. Something. Something besides obituaries and laments about the end of the republic, I hope. Maybe music.