The Last Third

As we say goodbye to perhaps the last truly enjoyable World Cup in history, we need to realize that it is not a dream, it is a fact: the next one, in 2022, will be held in Qatar. Will the next Winter Olympics be staged in Death Valley? What the hell, it needs a little work but there are millions of euros and dollars and bitcoins to be made. They know about money in Qatar, a nation of 2.6 million people who enjoy the highest per capita income in the world. Football (soccer) in the desert! Oh well, we Americans have golf in the desert, don’t we? We celebrate diversity, at least on paper, but this is more like culture clash. Qatar is mainly under Sharia law. Alcohol consumption and illicit sexual relations are punishable by flogging. That might actually be preferable to what happens to miscreants here, who are often forced to endure game shows and televised poker. Apostasy and homosexuality are punishable by death. Apostasy, for all of you numerous  secular folks out there, would be equivalent, in the United States, to not liking barbecue.

How does FIFA make these decisions? Despite my access to Wikipedia, which knows everything, I don’t know. I suspect, though, that it is much like the way that the International Olympic Committee operates, in that wire transfers and luggage containing suitable forms  of currency insure that fairness applies in the selection of sites.

They don’t have any Putin or Trump types in Qatar. It’s a family affair, and guys like that are a waste of money. They have an emir, part of the Al Thani dynasty that has been ruling since 1825. The current dude is Tamim binHamad Al Thani and he gets his dough from natural gas and oil reserves.  The best thing that can be said about Qatar is that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates have cut off diplomatic ties with them.

Meanwhile, the major league baseball season slogs on toward the dog days. They call everything after the All Star Game the second half, but arithmetically it is really the last third. What significant things can be tallied after the first 98 games or so?


Insure Your Phone For Fewer Weeds

What are the big news items as we head for Memorial Day? Once upon a time it was set aside as a day to honor those who were killed in wars before it became the opening day of barbecue season and what the retailers, especially automobile dealers, call the beginning of the Summer season. Scientists say that Summer is almost a month away, but what the hell do they know?

One item that has Major League Baseball followers somewhat excited is the effect of all of those new rules on the game. Games are faster, no doubt about it. Pitchers who were once labelled “deliberate”, like Camilo Doval, have been making their catchers and managers nervous as they yin with high speed fastballs and yang with syrupy deliveries. Left sided batters have much less trouble keeping their batting averages above the Mendoza line without the vaunted/hated infield shifts. Base stealers dig the diminishing number of tosses that are meant to keep them closer to the bag. Beer guzzlers watching at home have less time to run to the bathroom as batters stay in the box. One thing that hasn’t changed for the better is the number of strikeouts. As of May 21,there have been 12,063 strikeouts for an average of 25.6 per game whereas last season the average was 25.2 per game. So the average hurler is still Sandy Koufax. The “automatic” runner at second base is , to this observer, about as useful as hoop earrings on a basset hound but the rest of the stuff is okay. If the shifts were not enough incentive to get more batters to learn to put the ball in play somewhere then I guess we should just give up.

Noteworthy items in the first quarter of the season include strong starts by the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore orioles and surprisingly slow starts by the St. Louis cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, and San Diego Padres. The Cardinals seem to have snapped out of their funk (where’s Yadi?) and look ready to contend in that mysterious National League Central except that Adam Wainwright has been looking more like Donovan Osborne this season so far. Paul DeJong is hitting again, though. Pittsburgh lost their promising young shortstop, Oneil Cruz, to injury but they have become interesting with old man Andrew McCutchen helping the youngsters along with another old man, Carlos Santana.

Luis Arraez is having fun reminding everybody of Tony Gwynn and helping Miami Marlins fans stay awake. The Houston Astros appear to have some competition this year, perhaps even including the Santa Ana Angels, but we have said that before. Texas has to be taken seriously, especially if Jacob degrom actually pitches. Atlanta has become a strong favorite to win their division but rumor has it that Steve Cohen is in negotiations to purchase half of the tampa Bay Rays roster, which might help the Mets. It has been delightful to see the Arizona Diamondbacks in the chase in the National league West with their new brand of old school baseball. Zac Gallen and Merill Kelly help them not miss Madison Bumgarner on the mound and Geraldo Perdomo and Corbin Carroll have talent,youth, and speed. Were the Padres better without Fernando Tatis, Jr.? Probably not, but something is wrong and it’s not Bob Melvin.

Since we have no stock in pharmaceuticals and venture capitalists are not feeding bloggers the way middle class folks are instructed to feed their lawns by that pushy Scot guy, we can’t afford to attend games in person much. Consequently, we have become more and more dependent on the television to see games and are thankful for the opportunity to see many games at a pretty low cost. it also affords us the opportunity to see and hear the work of the best comedy writers in the land who have, more and more in the last few years, worked for the various insurance companies that help us all in our times of need. After all, if you are in the loathsome business of extracting wealth from folks fearful of losing everything they have and thus becoming a passive observer of commercials, it helps to have an emu or duck or gecko comic character to get people grinning. Also, we’ve been able to keep our weight down by looking at large images of greasy fast food items as they jump or are dumped onto a sturdy paper plate that holds large portions. Plus we get to see all of the smiling faces of people taking drugs for their often serious health issues . They all seem to be thriving despite the possibilities of serious side effects. After Memorial Day, it’s never too soon to get ready for the 4th of July. Have fun!

Spring Delusions

The sun is, at least occasionally, shining. The ice is melting. Maybe one of the wars will end. Maybe that nice person that you waved at a couple of weeks ago will wave back next time. Maybe the Texas Rangers and the Arizona Diamondbacks will stay in first place and the Pittsburgh Pirates will contend all season long. Maybe the Oakland Athletics will stay in Oakland.

Spring puts the emphasis on youth, which is why old farts like it so much. It may not be delusional to believe that the American League division races will all be competitive this season. In the East, the only team that I would rule out at this early date is Boston. If the New York Skankees ever get all of their starting pitchers rolling they could run away with it but every season it seems like, for all teams, the question of consistent health and effectiveness for pitchers seems to remain unanswered. So far it has been Gerrit Cole and then try to score as many runs as you can. Adley Rutschman and the Orioles look to finally be relevant and that , of course, is dependent on the pitching. Tampa Bay and Toronto both look very solid so far.

The outlook for the Central Division shows me so far that there is one potential World Series team in there and that is Cleveland. After the Guardians, mediocrity rules.

The A.L. West is a division full of question marks like The Riddler’s wallpaper. Houston is once again very deep and definitely the strongest pitching team, but will Jose Altuve come back strong? The positive effect of his injury will be consistent playing time for Mauricio Dubon. I will root again in vain for Seattle because they are fun to watch. The addition of Luis Castillo made them credible as contenders and they play good defense. Scouts talk as though Kolten Wong is over the hill at 32 but is he? Everyone is tired of reading and hearing about the failures of the Buena Park Angels but really all they need is for Anthony Rendon to be at his 2019 best, another Patrick Sandoval, and for Arte Moreno to either sell them or move them to Oakland, where a pretty good AA team is still boring loyal fans. Texas has Bruce Bochy now and is acting like they mean it while paying Jacob deGrom $45 million per inning pitched. What the analytical geniuses tend to do is over analyze the past and perhaps underestimate the future, as in potential. More than a little bit, young players seem to not be given the opportunity to develop their skills because the computers are telling us that they can’t hit right handed pitchers (or left handed pitchers) or they can’t field their position, or this, or that. Texas might be a team that gives people that opportunity and succeeds as a result.

Philadelphia became the off season favorite in the National League East but as of now I am saying it will be between the Mets and Braves with a slight edge to Atlanta. Both teams have superior pitching but the Mets lost their reliable closer and that might be the difference. Phillies might get hot after Bryce Harper returns but they will eventually discover that, no matter how many runs they score they will never be able to relax and that can sour the hitters.

Why are the Brewers in first place in the Central and the Cardinals in last? It’s unclear to me so far but the Cubs and Pirates might keep things interesting. This whole division is a mystery to me until I see more. Like the American League Central, the National League West seems to have one good team so far. That would be the San Diego Padres. The Giants are a good example of analysis paralysis. There is a different lineup daily, slavery to lefty-righty matchups, and a real challenge to young players to get comfortable with ever changing roles and roster moves. They need fewer coaches and more players. The Dodgers look a little too comfortable as a contrast to San Francisco. Arizona is a good sleeper choice but Colorado has apparently given up.

Now that the television is back in continuous use,we are reminded that nothing insults our intelligence more than one of those devices. The leading example so far this season is the MLB mascot races. I would wager that there are folks who bet on those.

Easier Said Than Done

Most of us realize by now that no, you can’t always get what you want. If you try some time, however, you might get Mike Trout versus Shohei Ohtani for all the marbles. That was, indeed, a spectacular finish to what is called the World Baseball Classic, and it was great fun. Now it is Opening Day for Major League Baseball and 2023 promises to be great fun as well. As usual, the consensus among the well fed experts is that an East coast powerhouse team, probably from New York but perhaps from Philadelphia will win it all after all the chalk dust settles. One suspects, however, that Dusty Baker and the Houston Astros might be around at the finish, but let us not get too far ahead of ourselves. I mean it’s not even April Fools Day yet.

Predicting the future is more fun for young people than it is for those of us who are old enough to remember fender skirts and fifteen cent hamburgers, and yours truly has been a member of the latter group for a little while now. So I will refrain from my usual habit of acting like a know it all now that I am what they call long in the tooth (what tooth?). At least, that is, insofar as it pertains to pennant winning. I will venture a few baseball predictions, however, to get us going and here they are. First, Trea Turner, barring injury, will steal 94 bases this year. Shohei Ohtani would match that if he played every day or hit fewer home runs. Second, ballpark sales and consumption of beer and what used to be called snacks but now have apparently become “dining options” will fall off considerably since the pitch clock and other changes are shortening game times so much. This will result in owners chucking all the “new rules” before the season ends. Third, the boring tendency to hire beefy, slow long ball hitters that strike out almost half the time as designated sitters will ultimately trend toward the hiring of speedy runners who make frequent contact with the baseball when they have a bat in their hands as designated sitters. The first and last of those predictions , if accurate, will improve the game.

Let’s get back to the WBC now. The idea of a baseball world cup type tournament is a very good one, and this year was a lot better than previous attempts. Like the rest of the planet, things were still set up largely in favor of the United States, but that’s what glorious empires do. There were some drawbacks, of course. The USA team looked unbeatable, didn’t it? Mexico and Japan were not intimidated though, were they? And it was a bit embarrassing to see US2, US3,and US4 mixed in. Those were Italy, with 24 players born in the USA, Great Britain, with 20 players born in the USA, and Israel, with a whopping 30 USA born players. Still, there were some terrific contests once pool play was completed and there were a lot of heartening , feel good stories. So let’s have more.

Better yet,let us indulge ourselves in a bit of fantasy. What if it became truly a World Series every year? Traditionally, colonial powers extract resources and other forms of wealth from the conquered nations: steelworkers and miners from relatively impoverished nations, for example, or, more recently, baseball players from Mexico, Venezuela, Panama, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, etc. Would it not be great fun if each of these other nations, including Cuba, had their own Major league teams playing in their own cities? What a boost for all economies that might be! The understanding and acceptance of other cultures could bolster the idea of peaceful international relations and understanding to a level that seems unreachable today except in rhetoric from phony politicians.

Opening Day has always been for optimists. This thought will sustain me for now. Congratulations to Team Japan and their venerable manager Hideki Kuriyama. Thanks to Kazuma Okamoto, Munetaka Murakami, Lars Nootbar and the rest of the champions It was good to see Johnny Cueto, Camilo Doval, Rafael Devers, Wander Franco, Ketel Marte, Manny Machado and Team Dominican Republic do so well.Cuba did well with the help ofYoan Moncada, Luis Robert, Jr., and Moenis Cespedes. I was rooting for Mexico to beat japan in the semi-final with Patrick Sandoval, Taijuan Walker, Austin Barnes, and the Cuban who floated away, Randy Arozarena, but it was good that Japan prevailed because we got that Ohtani- Trout finale. Mexico had edged a very fine Puerto Rico team managed by Yadier Molina with Francisco Lindor, Martin Maldonado, and Alexis Diaz. Diaz was the unfortunate one who was lost for the season with injury and his teammate, Jose Altuve, also was seriously injured. Venezuela’s great team was led by Salvador Perez, Miguel Cabrera, and Ronald Acuna, Jr.

Let’s do this more often!

Beware, Las Vegas

The image that many folks have of Las Vegas, Nevada is quite possibly a bit different from reality. Oh sure, at any given time there are present show business folks, gangster types, hookers, drug dealers and visiting losers anxious to part with their money. Also, however, there are regular folks who work jobs , have families, go to school and stuff like that. I know because I’ve been there a couple of times. I wasn’t there to gamble or to see Wayne Newton, although I did once drop a nickel into a slot machine. Two nickels came back so I put in a dime and lost. I’ve been telling people I broke even in Vegas ever since. My purpose here today is to compose a sort of open letter to the baseball lovers who reside in that burning hot desert locale. This is a warning to all such people:beware. There exists now a shifty, slippery person that owns a major league baseball team and he is running a bit of a con game.

His name is John Fisher and the baseball team that he owns is the Oakland Athletics. Fisher and his lieutenants have been stubbornly working the city of Oakland and the county of Alameda California to provide funding and legal shenanigans for a 12 billion dollar real estate development that just happens to include a one billion dollar stadium for what he thinks is his team to play their home games in because another shifty and slippery rich guy coaxed the city and county into ruining their present locale to get him to move the Oakland Raiders (indeed!) back from Los Angeles so they could then move to Las Vegas. I’m not kidding.

John is a Fisher of dollars, not men. His most important lieutenant at the moment is Rob Manfred, otherwise known as the Commissioner of baseball. Fisher doesn’t talk much to the peasants who cover baseball for the various media but every once in a while his Manfred does. One gets the idea that the commish practices for this in front of a mirror after watching clips of the Robert Duvall character in The Godfather although he can’t quite pull it off. He comes across more like an assistant principal threatening tardy students with detention. He said in December that he would soon be speaking with Oakland’s new mayor, Sheng Thao but his definition of soon is apparently longer than two months. After all it is merely a topic that concerns billions of taxpayer dollars and significant alteration of the local geography. “I think the best way for me to answer that is to say that I think the focus since I spoke to you in December really has been on Las Vegas, ” he said last week. Notice that he didn’t say that his answer was the most truthful. Rather, it was the best. There was no accompanying laugh track when he added, “I think the focus in Oakland has been on the funding, particularly of the infrastructure side of the project. That needs to get solved in order for that process to go forward,” In other words, you people who work for a living need to understand that Forbes 500 dudes never spend their own money.

So beware, Las Vegas. Oakland sports fans are loyal and true. Folks who bought tickets to watch really good teams with Sal Bando, Reggie Jackson, Vida Blue, Dagoberto Campaneris, Dennis Eckersley, Dave Stewart and several versions of Rickey Henderson also hung in there with teams like the 104 game losers of 1979. The last few years, these fans have had to endure John Fisher’s extortion as he hoards his vast wealth while claiming he can’t afford a shortstop or a pitcher until he gets what he wants and a new stadium to boot. The real danger is that he might succeed. If he does not, and if the threats that he and Manfred continue to bluster and condescend about become reality, just remember this: if he did it to them, he could do it to you.

The Problem Solver

The dark and dank days of Winter persevere but we have finally reached the month that brings us baseball. In fair weather climes, some college and high school teams are already playing games and, very soon, the major league teams of North America will be reporting for Spring Training. Since it’s one of those pleasant years that the billionaires and millionaires are not “locked out”, we can reasonably expect that things will progress on schedule.

Despite some inanities like the apparent permanent adoption of the rule that places an artificial runner on second base when games go into extra innings, baseball is still the best game going, although international futbol is creeping closer day by day. Following the English Premier League helps get us through the dark days and it gave me an idea the other day. In that league, where American players pop into view occasionally at about the same rate as Hondurans make the MLB rosters, the bottom three teams by won and lost and drawn records are relegated out of the league after each season and replaced by top teams from what we would call the “minor” leagues. So, since MLB continues to enact bad ideas, I feel entitled to propose good ideas that stand no chance of being adopted. A retaliation of sorts, shall we say. Why should the miscreants who run the show in Oakland, Pittsburgh, and Colorado be allowed to pretend to care about winning while frustrating their followers by only occasionally getting serious? Kick them out. Get somebody in there that gives a damn about providing some quality competition more than once every other decade. Going through the motions just to collect easy money from television and sales of “gear” is just the sort of lazy socialism that most of these owners love to gripe about. Put in some work, Chumley.

The arguments against this idea would be easier to shoot down than a Chinese balloon by a multi-zillion dollar fighter jet if excellent competition were the goal but we allow ourselves to be distracted by headlines about jumbo sized bases and how much money everybody is making, Just as the big pharmaceuticals load up cargo planes with cash after taxpayers pay for all of the research and development that enables it, the Lords of the Diamonds want to continue the process that pays well if you lose and maybe a bit more if you win. That’s not exactly a Bill Russell or Jackie Robinson way of going about life.

Soon we will delight, however, in seeing Myles Straw chasing down flyballs or running bases, Hunter Greene firing pitches that can be heard easier than seen, Shohei Ohtani blasting home runs and shutting batters out, and Ke’Bryan Hayes playing third base like Pie Traynor. Spring is, indeed, the best season of the year. It will also do the heart good to see Andrew McCutchen back in a Pirates uniform at age 36.

There is another rule change that comes to mind as well. In retaliation for pitchers being limited in how frequently they can throw to first base in order to hold potential base stealers, let us put a strict limit on how frequently speculation can be made on what players will be traded or sold by the trading deadline by announcers, pundits, and otherwise unemployable wretches Once in April, twice in May, three times in June should work.

While I’m solving all of these earth shaking problems, here is one last one that is especially aimed at the middle aged men and women out there. Play ball! Do it as well as you can for as long as you can. Because the day will slowly but surely come that you can’t any longer and, most assuredly, you will miss it.

Close Cover Before Striking

Sometimes, especially before I’ve had coffee, my mind is unsettled about where we all are and the state of the world. It’s difficult when you don’t know how to feel about things and what is right and what is wrong. At those times, I am ever so thankful to have Media and Expert Spokespersons to help me shape my thoughts.

For instance, I should have realized that most of us are happy and content after The Euphemisms, full of good cheer and love for our fellow humans and their pets. Compassion and generosity should rule the day. Happy Whatever It Is, everybody. And poor little Scott Boras. Here is a man who works tirelessly for otherwise vulnerable athletes, helping to secure a future for their families, safe from the ravages of applying for food stamps or having to own a 20 year old car. Having Carlos Correa as a client offered hope to little Scotty that maybe someday both he and Carlos would enjoy the fruits of their labor with a long contract for baseball services that would bring several quotillion dollars to both of their families. As a person who has once broken a tibia, I realize that there are long term effects that must be considered. Fortunately, I am guided by the media, who have assured me that the New York Mets and their insurers will not go out of business if they make the wrong decision and that people should continue to do their duty and buy tickets.

I have also been assured, thankfully, that it is okay to worry about violent hits in the National Football League but that only deranged right wing conspiracy theorists would ever begin to suggest that cardiac arrest might be attributed to any sort of vaccine.Saint Fauci should never be doubted. Forgive me for allowing that thought to enter my brain. The fact that, in 1976, the Swine Flu vaccine was withdrawn by the Center for Disease Control after adverse reactions equal to about half the rate being experienced now with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines should be ignored. I need to concern myself more with the upcoming elimination of defensive shifts or whether or not the Astros can repeat.

Also, the fact that Elon Musk is now getting all of the headlines and air time that Donald Trump was getting just a few short months ago should be no cause for worry, any more than climate change or inflation. I should just buy gold and eat more imitation nachos from Taco Bell. Okay. Musk, by the way, now owns Twitter, giving him the honor of owning at least three of the most over rated, unnecessary businesses in the world. My feeling has always been that only birds should tweet. That thought, of course, leads us right back to Saudi Arabia. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the authorizer of dismemberment, has been one of Twitter’s largest shareholders, having invested $300 million back in 2011 before millions turned to billions. Maybe Scott Boras should talk to that guy. Already pro golfers and futbol stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are toiling for the prince. Maybe the prince can buy the Giants and get Correa into the fold. Anything apparently goes in the wacky world of petroleum and professional sports. Are we ready for the Riyadh Olympics?

Another way that Media has come to the rescue is by consistently assuring me that, even though to my eyes it looks as though the end is near, people like Rob Manfred have things completely under control. The days of cocaine, steroids, and Rose are gone. The games of strikeouts, walks, and pitching changes every inning are going to be conquered. The Oakland Athletics will build a stadium, possibly not in Saudi Arabia, by 2035. Larger bases are on the way. 2023 will mark the beginning of a new Golden Era in baseball. No more glue on pitchers’ hands. City Connect uniforms will delight all the fans. I’m getting enthused. Correa will play somewhere for some length of time. Brandon Crawford is still around, as are Freddie Freeman, Max Scherzer, Nolan Arenado, Justin Verlander, and Francisco Lindor. Hope springs eternal, no matter how much garbage we have to listen to or read.

Happy Holidays

Carlos Rodon wants a seven year contract after having two consecutive pretty good, healthy seasons. Aaron Judge effectively pantsed the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants on his way to a very fat contract with the team he has already been playing for after having a great season. Those are not examples of corruption Those are examples of what the George Clooney character in the movie Intolerable Cruelty called “negotiating”. No, corruption is more like major league baseball umpires wearing patches for all to see that say FTX, the now out of favor crypto whatever company. Now MLB has a chance to agree to never ever put advertising on umpires’ uniforms again, but what do you think the odds are that they won’t? Speaking of odds, corruption is MLB selling advertising space and time to parasites that encourage people to bet their money on games and any number of other sports events while banning Pete Rose for associating with such parasites while he was playing and managing. They like to call it gambling, but it’s only a gamble if you have a chance to win.

It’s not, of course, just baseball. During the gloomy days when baseball lies dormant, hard core addicts like myself have to pacify ourselves with Strat-O-Matic , the board game, reading books, physical exercise like walking the dogs, household chores and what not. However, this off season has been different. This year, thanks to corruption, we have the World Cup. F.I.F.A, which I believe stands for Fatcat International Futbol Association, holds this event every four years. Kind of like the Olympics, which is another corrupt organization. Usually, the World Cup is held during the Summer. Here in 2022, FIFA is holding the event, which is rightfully touted as the most popular sporting event in the world, in Qatar. Qatar is an uninhabitable , wretched piece of desert where 2.6 million people “live” with the highest per capita income in the world. The piles of money come from natural gas and oil reserves. The people live under Sharia law. Alcohol consumption and illicit sexual relations are punishable by flogging. Persons found guilty of adultery get 100 lashes. Apostasy, which means renunciation of Islam, and homosexuality are crimes and they are both punishable by death. Grant Wahl, a fine journalist and a person of honor and compassion is now dead. Wahl went to the World Cup in Qatar. He was denied entry to a stadium because he was wearing a t-shirt with a rainbow that espoused support for homosexual, bisexual and transgender people and his cell phone was confiscated. He fell ill with what he thought was probably bronchitis, sought medical treatment and received what he described as a strong cough syrup and antibiotics. Then, a healthy man of 48 who was fine before arriving in Qatar suddenly collapsed and died at a soccer match. His brother believes he was murdered, and I really hope that an independent autopsy is performed because otherwise I would agree with his brother. The World Cup is being held in December because the temperatures in Summer would make it unbearable to play or watch in person. There have also been many deaths to migrant laborers from other hapless places on Earth who worked on the various sites for the games to be played and the players, coaches, and spectators to be temporarily housed. Billions of dollars were spent on that and who knows how much was spent to convince the FIFA folks to make such a stupid mistake.

Despite all of the wickedness, there I have been, following the whole thing and hoping that the beautiful game would somehow help me overcome the revulsion. I was doing all right, just feeling a bit hypocritical, until the match between Argentina and the Netherlands on Friday. After all, it’s a bit unfair to be all upset about the murderous or unhealthy practices of rulers of other countries when you live in a place that became an empire based on the ancient traditions of slavery and genocide. Who are we to talk?And what is the real working religion all over the world? More than Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or anything it seems to be money is God universally.

Anyway, the quarter final game between the Dutch and Argentina was evenly matched. However, thanks to very poor refereeing, the game got ugly toward the end and yellow cards that should have been given much earlier in the game dominated the final 15 minutes or so. I’d been rooting for Argentina for most of the game but gave that up after many incidents of poor sportsmanship and downright dirty tactics. Argentina eventually won on penalty kicks after extra time ended with a 2-2 draw. Then, Lionel Messi, considered by many to be the best player in the world, showed himself to be a sore winner. Not satisfied with the victory, the Argentine who plays very well but with no apparent joy, proceeded to taunt the losing team and prove himself to be a whiny loser. He complained that the Dutch coach, who is widely respected, “disrespected him” before the match. It was already difficult to respect Messi after learning he had made some sort of business deal with folks in Saudi Arabia, the home of Prince Dismember, who authorized the disappearance of a journalist he didn’t like a while back.

So it is not a pretty world and I guess that’s not news.You can play for the Cleveland Browns after sexually assaulting about 20 women but not if you take a knee during The Star Spangled Banner, an anthem that celebrates bombs bursting in air. Because protesting police brutality is more of a crime to some people, apparently.

Fish Without Ice

Here we all were all revved up and ready to go for the Halloween game between the Houstons and the Phillies when Mother Nature busted in and acted more like a wicked stepmother. Quickly, two thoughts came to mind. First, does this mean Thor won’t start Game Three? Second, can we lock up Rob Manfred before he decides to schedule a doubleheader of seven innings games for whenever late Fall stumbles back to Summer?

Speaking of the most honorable and bland commissioner, he already clinched the October Snidely Whiplash Award. He wins in a landslide for his statement to Chris Russo on Sirius XM that given the lack of “pace” in Oakland the Athletics “…have to be looking at Las Vegas…”. The commissioner’s good friend John Fisher is the billionaire principal owner of the A’s, and he has a plan.He would like the city of Oakland and the county of Alameda to spend an aircraft carrier loaded with hundred dollar bills to build a stadium since the one that’s been used since they arrived from Kansas City in 1968 got ruined when Al Davis owned the Raiders and the local extremely honest and not corrupt politicians were luring him back home after he split for Los Angeles only to see the NFL then allow the Raiders to move to—Las Vegas. Let’s all have a nice drink before I go on. There, that’s better.

Okay, so Fisher and his group of respectable looking shitheads don’t just want a new stadium. If they did, they could build it where the current white elephant is. No, they want a million and a half square feet of commercial space, 3,000 residential units, hotel rooms and more. The politics of this mess have been making headlines for years if not decades but progress has been glacial. Some of the best teams ever assembled have called Oakland their home. Putting a team with its history, or any team for that matter, in Las Vegas is perhaps not as bad as holding the World Cup in Qatar unless it is permanent. It fits with the current trends in the world though. Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were banished from the baseball world not so long ago. Their crime? Taking employment with gambling casinos. They were paid for being seen and hanging out, schmoozing with the suckers maybe. Pete Rose is still banned for his unabashed wagering activities. Now, of course, there are big bucks to be made for MLB by selling advertising space and time to Draft Kings, Fan Duel and other folks who can’t find honest work. Go ahead, kids, tune into ESPN or MLB TV and get the scores, highlights, and odds.

How did the Oakland Athletics fall into the Gap anyway? It’s kind of a jeans thing. Charlie Finley thought he was rich, but when free agency came along in the 70s he realized that larger fortunes than his would soon be in the ball biz or else it was all going to go kaput. He tried to sell the team to oil maggot Marvin Davis but could not escape his lease and Davis (no relation to Al) wanted to move the team to Denver, So, for $12.7 million, Finley sold it to Walter Haas, Jr., who owned Levi Strauss. This brought about a relatively happy time for the A’s and their fans. The days of Carney Lansford, Tony LaRussa, Dave Stewart, Mark McGwire, Dennis Eckersley, pennants, flags, et cetera. In 1994 Haas was gravely ill and he sold the team to another investment group which, a decade later, sold to the group led by Fisher, son of the founder of the Gap, Inc. It pretty much stinks so let’s get back to the 2022 World Series.

As stated in a previous epistle, I’m rooting for the Astros but it’s fun no matter what. Seven games would be great because after that there’s nothing but that Qatar World Cup and then spring training. Then we can go back to arguing about Family Size bases, pitch clocks, and shift nostalgia. Kyle Schwarber, Alex Bregman, bless them all! Memories of Gene Tenace!

Day Games Are For Weaklings

It finally happened. In his eleventh season of major league baseball, Bryce Harper, who is probably the subject of the most ballyhoo ever created for a player not representing the city of New York, propelled his team, the Philadelphia Phillies, to the World Series with a two run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning last Sunday. The Phillies, a remarkable story in a dizzying 2022 season, are looking like the Team of Destiny. They are reminding us of things like the 2003 Florida Marlins. Those Marlins were a wild card team that finished ten games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. Jeff Torborg managed that team to 22 losses in their first 38 games before losing his job to Jack McKeon, a 72 year old veteran suddenly in charge of a bunch of guys in their twenties, including a 20 year old Miguel Cabrera and 21 year old Dontrelle Willis. They won 75 games with McKeon to win that wild card berth. They were shut out by Jason Schmidt and the San Francisco Giants in their first playoff outing but won the next three. Then they dispatched Dusty Baker and the Chicago Cubs in seven games to earn the right to get plastered in the World Series by the New York Yankees that, like the Braves, had won 101 games. Except that didn’t happen as the Marlins won it in six games with 23 year old Josh Beckett completing a shutout in the clincher.

Can the Phillies keep going? Now they are facing a veteran, solid Houston Astros team that is yet to lose a playoff game after fairly well cruising to the American League West division title. The improbable results have been piling on this year, but despite winning “only” 87 games and being the last team to qualify for the playoffs, this is a tough Philadelphia team. They played a third of the season without Harper, whose left thumb was fractured by a Blake Snell pitch in San Diego at the end of June and whose elbow ligament injury had already forced him to be a designated sitter rather than an outfielder. Their own mid season managerial hire, Rob Thomson, got good results letting young infielders Alec Bohm and Bryson Stott develop in a pennant race, Harper is being Harper with his first chance at all the marbles and J.T. Realmuto is like having Houston’s Martin Maldonaldo defensively plus he can hit and he can run. After Zach Wheeler and Aaron Nola, the pitching is a bit iffy.

The Astros are the sentimental favorite in this corner. Sentiment doesn’t win games but Dusty Baker does. We’d like to see him win a World series in his third try. The Houston shortstop, Jeremy Pena, is really good. His father, Geronimo Pena, was a journeyman infielder for St. Louis in the 90s but the son’s future looks very bright. All aspects of the game are capably covered by this team, which is the only division winner to survive. Power, deep, deep pitching, and solid defense takes you to the top. Baker’s player career and his managerial resume are both top notch and much of his success is due to the fact that he gets universal respect and affection while being tough as nails. Then there is Justin Verlander. The 39 year old amazed us all with his won-loss record of 18 and 4 after pitching one game in 2020 and none last year. Accomplishing that after Tommy John surgery shows us a competitive fire that bodes well for Houston and explains Verlander’s 244-133 career record with a 3.24 earned run average.

Harper turned 30 October 16 and, if the injuries do not begin to accumulate, he may well be headed for a Hall of Fame career after all. He’s got 285 home runs in his 11 seasons, a sparkling .390 on base percentage, and a slugging percentage of .523. His best year was early on as a Washington National in 2015 but his second best was last year so he’s not old yet.

Baker’s first team as a manager was the San Francisco Giants in 1993 when they won 103 games as one of the best non playoff teams ever. He spent ten years there capped by the 2002 disappointment in the World Series versus Anaheim. He then managed the Cubs for four years and the Nationals for two and now three in Houston. If he sticks around next season he will compete with former Giants skipper Bruce Bochy in the A.L. West. It’s hard to fathom why a well off certain Hall of Fame candidate like Bochy wanted that job but we all like a challenge. Baker’s career record as a manager is 2093-1790.

It’s television that helps all these gifted athletes and their owners make all of that money and prevents young schoolkids from having to call in sick. Let’s hope that the weather in Philley is more like Labor Day than Thanksgiving. We can hope that some day some way those wealthy folks will remember that this game got popular and fun to play in the sunshine. I have my doubts, but in the meantime I will remain grateful for people like Baker, Verlander, and yes, Harper. It’s a prime time world whether we like it or not.

Sports Awards

Buck Showalter deserves to be the National League Manager of the Year winner for 2022. It’s important to note that with a week to go in the season because if the Mets wind up finishing behind the Atlanta Braves the loud and spoiled New York fans will probably be calling him a loser. Brian Snitker will always be deserving, and Oliver Marmol has done a great job with St. Louis but Showalter has guided a team that perpetually has done two things: get over rated because of their spectacular but oft injured pitching and then struggled to break .500.

There are several candidates in the American League: Brandon Hyde of Baltimore, Scott Servais of Seattle, Terry Francona of Cleveland, and , as always, Dusty Baker of Houston. I’ll go with Francona because the Guardians will be the biggest underdog in the playoffs for good reason and their leader is so positive he could probably sell encyclopedias even today.

Shohei Ohtani is a great choice for American League Most Valuable Player except for the fact that the Newport Beach Angels are so damned lousy. His pitching and batting numbers are both all-star quality, but there’s this guy in New York who has been saving Aaron Boone‘s job all season. Plus Aaron Judge is a really nice fellow even if he does wear the pinstripes. It’s a crowded field for MVP in the National League, even if you limit your selections to people who play their home games in Los Angeles. I will pick Paul Goldschmidt for his work this year and also as a lifetime achievement thing. By the way, the Cardinals’ three wheelchair players, Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols, and Adam Wainwright are my sentimental choices to mess up the Dodgers’ big plans.

Rookie of the Year, American League: Julio Rodriguez, who has made the Seattle Mariners both interesting and, finally, good. In the National League. it has to be Michael Harris II of Atlanta.

Now for some special awards voted on by Baseballanarchy exclusively.

Mensa Club Lifetime Reject Award: Fernando Tatis Junior.

Best Role Model For Aspiring Athletes: Max Scherzer

Best Argument For the Pitch Timer: Camilo Doval and Jose Urena (tie)

Best Example of Corporate Cluelessness: Rob Manfred

Best candidate for Early retirement: Replay Review

We’ll Miss You Very Much So Stay Close: Yadier Molina

Now I have to go and tend to my injury. There were 38 college football games available for viewing yesterday and, as part of my cultural deep studies program, I recorded all of them. I had to use 17 borrowed televisions and a half dozen of whatever those recording devices are called, but I got them all, including San Jose State at Wyoming. However, I believe that I sustained a concussion. Nobody took a knee, so we’re good.