Strong Island.

Strong Island, available on Netflix, is another of the five nominees for Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Oscars and is one of the two that I think was somewhat widely known before the nominations came out, along with Last Men in Aleppo. Ostensibly the story of a murder that took place on Long Island in 1992 for which no one was ever charged, it’s much more the story of that murder’s effect on the victim’s family over the 23 years between when it happened and when the filmmaker, the victim’s brother*, began the project.

William Ford, Jr., was 24 in April of 1992, trying to pass the physical requirements for a job as a corrections officer, the oldest of three children of Barbara and William Sr. His girlfriend’s car had been hit by 19-year-old Mark Reilly, a white man working at a nearby garage (rumored to be a chop shop), who offered to fix the car for free if they didn’t call the cops to report the incident. Ford and his girlfriend, both African-American, agreed, but when Reilly took too long to repair the car and then swears at Ford’s mother, he returned to the garage to confront him, only to have Reilly shoot him with a .22, killing him. The grand jury returned a no true bill against Reilly, choosing to believe it was self-defense even though Ford was unarmed. Ford’s mother claims in the film that the grand jury was all white, and many members weren’t paying attention during witness testimony.

Yance (pronounced “YAN-see”), the middle child in the family, directed this documentary and appears in it frequently along with his* younger sister, his brother’s best friend (who was there when the murder occurred), his mother, and a good college friend of William Jr.’s. Not appearing, however, are anyone connected with the investigation; the ADA at the time declines to comment at all, even on the phone, while the investigating officer does comment in a recorded interview but does not appear. Neither Reilly nor the other white man at the garage that night appear, and Ford himself has been very clear that he does not want to give Reilly any “space” in the film. The murder is described, but it is an inflection point in the broader story, not a mystery to be solved. The reveal, such as it is, is minor to the viewers but major to Yance.

* Yance Ford identifies as queer in the film, but is referred to everywhere within the film as a daughter, a sister, etc. Apparently since filming ended, he has come out as trans, and most subsequent media coverage uses male pronouns (without, from what I can see, acknowledging the disparity). I’m just following their lead, but I may be wrong.

It is, therefore, a somewhat frustrating documentary, because the topic is so insular. A happy nuclear family was blown up by the murder of their son and oldest child, after which grief starts to tear apart the fabric holding them together. The father dies not long after the murder, long enough ago that he’s only in the film on video once, in archival footage. But their grief is quiet and private, and I didn’t get an emotional connection to the tragedy the way I think Yance might have intended. Their loss is huge, but William, Jr., is a figurative ghost in the film. And the racial aspects, while undeniable – if you don’t think a black man would have been indicted for the same crime with a white victim, I don’t know what to tell you – are also somewhat academic here. There’s nothing here to prove racial bias in the investigation or grand jury proceedings. Instead, Strong Island feels a bit like reading someone else’s diary – like I’m intruding on the grief of a family I don’t even know, and the cascading tragedies of the story are too distant to get the emotional response the writer would have had himself.

That said, it wouldn’t shock me in the least if this won the Oscar, given the racial politics of the film and high profile right now of Black Lives Matter and similar movements. It’s not the best documentary this year, but its subject matter might resonate more with voters than topics like Syria, doping, or the financial crisis.

Klawchat 2/22/18.

New content – I reviewed the amazing competitive legacy game Charterstone for Paste, and wrote up the three-team Souza-Drury trade and JD Martinez signing for Insiders.

Keith Law: Don’t let the walls cave in on you. Klawchat.

addoeh: Please rank these common reactions to dad jokes. A) Subject turns to you and approves of joke. B) Subject turns to you and disapproves of joke. C) Subject turns away from you trying to stifle laughter.
Keith Law: Everyone laughs. Some people just try to hide it.

Scott: What’s a proper punishment for these disgusting conspiracy theorists? Have them fired from their jobs? Exiled? Beheaded in the town square? I mean who wouldn’t blindly trust our outstanding corporate media and government despite a history of false flags, CIA black ops, and programs like Mockingbird?
Keith Law: Fired works for me. And banned from social media. False flag operations that took place a century ago aren’t relevant to claims that there’s a network of crisis actors paid by a specific Hungarian Jew with the complicity of all media … you idiot.

Ray Grace: I just read a fascinating article on the Athletic about Alex Wood going full time out of the stretch instead of the windup, in part because Strausburg had so much success doing that last year. I’m curious of your thoughts on that.
Keith Law: Whatever he’s comfortable with. Dude still really has no history of staying healthy as a starter.

Seb: Keith – I understand Austin Beck is kind of a lottery ticket for the A’s and why he wasn’t included in most of the reputable Top 100 lists. However, he was the 6th pick less than 9 months ago. What do you see as his ceiling? Thanks and keep up the good work!
Keith Law: Ceiling is at least an above-average regular in an outfield corner … I guess CF is possible given his speed, but he’s a long way off. The problem for him if you’re placing value on him today is probability. There’s a high risk he never gets out of AA, given where his approach is right now and what he did last summer.

Mike: I was looking at various minor league MVPs and curious if you had any opinions about either Darick Hall or Fernando Kelli. There’s almost nothing out there about Kelli.
Keith Law: That’s because Kelli hasn’t played in the US yet. Hall was 21 in low-A, not a prospect, older guy with power and poor plate discipline.

Albert: Hey KLaw, love your chats. Rangers questions, do you think Gallo takes a huge step forward this year, perhaps even into Aaron Judge territory?
Keith Law: I’m a Gallo fan, have been since he was in HS, but I think forecasting him into Aaron Judge territory would be purely wishful thinking.

Robert: Keith, what are your thoughts on blaming school shootings (or any shooting) on “mental illness”? I’m in favor of stronger gun restrictions for those with actual mental illness, but this debate is going to intentionally or unintentionally stigmatize people experiencing mental illness.
Keith Law: That’s totally what it is – it takes advantage of the general public ignorance about “mental illness,” particularly that it is all one thing rather than a broad spectrum of disorders from depression and anxiety to sociopathy, psychopathy, and antisocial or narcissistic personality disorders. And it diverts attention from the actual issue at hand, which is that no civilian has any valid reason to own a semiautomatic weapon.

Dr. Bob: Good afternoon, Keith. You saw Derrick Goold’s article about Mike Maddux wanting Cards’ pitchers to elevate the ball some as a way to counteract the hitting trend to lift the ball. What do you think?
Keith Law: If that’s a one size fits all approach, then I don’t like it. Maddux has a mixed track record with young arms from his last few stops, and that approach is one reason for it. You can elevate the ball if you throw particularly hard, or have a high spin rate on your four seamer, or have deception, or have plus command. Many big league starters don’t have those things, or maybe have just one, and having them try to attack the top of the zone is just going to mean more fly balls.

Tony P (@disguyyy): (take 2) Hi Keith, Do you find yourself going down rabbit-holes during times like the last week? It’s been so hard to stay focused when I see misinformation or something I feel responsible for correcting then next thing I know, I’ve done 20 minutes of research just to debunk some idiot on the internet. How do you reel yourself back or avoid it in the first place?
Keith Law: That’s generally time to walk away from the computer. I’m particularly prone to clicking on one thing and waking up 20 minutes later having read four articles and learned a lot but accomplished none of what I sat down to do.

dave: I’ve never seen this simple rule change discussed to improve pace-of-play and shorten games. What if a pitcher had to face a minimum of two batters instead of just one?
Keith Law: That’s been discussed at least since the 1990s. Doesn’t seem to be any desire to do that within MLB.

Manny: Where should devers bat in the Sox line up. Top third, middle third? Does lefty, righty alternation really matter much?
Keith Law: L/R alternation matters for late in games; you don’t want a string of LHB with platoon issues whom opposing lefties can carve up. I don’t know their lineup offhand to say where Devers should bat – he’s probably not among their top 3 hitters so I guess below that. As long as he plays every day, I’m happy.

Rob (Gilbert): I think I remember you saying that you started playing Pandemic: Legacy. How many characters did you use (or did it vary), and did you ever finish?
Keith Law: We didn’t finish S1, just because we keep getting other games (for me to review) and we got caught up in Charterstone lately.

Sandy Kazmir: Spin me tales about why I shouldn’t hate everything upon learning my favorite baseball player will miss most of the next two years.
Keith Law: Honeywell’s not officially out for 18 months … but yeah, doesn’t sound good, and I’d be pretty damn disappointed too with him right on the cusp of a debut. If he’s done, then I guess Andriese becomes the 4th starter and Banda starts in the pen?
Keith Law: Sorry I don’t have something uplifting to tell you, though.

Adam Doctolero: What would you say your core organizational philosophy would be in regards to drafting/player development?
Keith Law: Doubt that’s anything I could distill into a short chat answer. That’s probably a three-page essay.

Chris: I’m still intrigued by Gavin Cecchini. Feel like he has utility player potential at 3B, 2B and OF (hasn’t played out there yet but I don’t see why not give it a try as he’s stuck in AAA). What are your thoughts on him?
Keith Law: Can’t throw enough for 3b.

Jason: Keith…is there an obvious move for StL to make? Or are they better off at this point to see what they have in rotation and bullpen and adjust from there?
Keith Law: yes, I think going after a bigger starter would help. They have OF and P surplus in the upper minors. I like Flaherty a ton, but they can upgrade on that spot for this year and let him start in AAA for a few months.

Jon: What are you looking for for Max Kepler this year? Assume he will get some good run in Minnesota?
Keith Law: Not quite sure what you’re asking in the second question. I expect continued improvement at the plate – he’s always developed on a delayed sort of schedule, unsurprising for someone who grew up in a non-baseball country.

Zach: What to do with AJ Reed? Has to be a trade right? Does his bat still project as a quality hitter?
Keith Law: I’d take a flier on him. Actually thought he’d be a good fit for Tampa Bay, although Cron probably blocks him now.

Nick: Did the Yankees give up too much for Drury? Two top 20 prospects from a great system seems like a lot to me.
Keith Law: It’s not a lot. Even that framing, which I think underestimates the gap between their top 10-12 and the rest of their top 20, doesn’t sound bad … how many teams really have 20 good prospects? Maybe two right now, if that?

John: I read Brian Kenny’s Ahead of the Curve. Does Smart Baseball offer any different takes or more of the same?
Keith Law: It’s not the same, since I wrote it.

Jack: Would the Phillies be smart to sign Arrieta?
Keith Law: No.

Chris: Should more positionless-AAAA bat-only types be tried at catcher? I saw Mets were giving Philip Evans reps there and think it’s a low-risk, high reward move.
Keith Law: I vaguely remember him trying to catch years ago, maybe as an amateur? Kind of a Tony Wolters thing? You have to have the right body, arm strength, and some athleticism to do it. And it’s a ton of work.

Sean: Correct move for Detroit to go move Castellanos away from the hot corner to make room for Candelario? Not like he’s a stud defensively either. But both seem to be able to hit.
Keith Law: Yeah, I think it’s time to turn the page permanently on Castellanos at third.

Jay: If you know, what was the drug Whitley was suspended for, and why all the secrecy?
Keith Law: I think I know, but I don’t know with enough sourcing to report. I think the secrecy is inadvertent – not a steroid, not weed or coke or something worse, so it doesn’t fit neatly in MLB’s buckets. (It was caffeine.)

Larry: I was a little disappointed in your Brady Singer answer last week. Did you get an update from when you last saw him in April of last year? Is the AA and stuff improved?
Keith Law: Disappointed in Singer? He’s had the same arm action since high school and it hasn’t changed. I’ll see him tomorrow night at Miami and Kowar Saturday.

Jason: Regarding StL outfielder prospects…which would you prefer to keep and which would you prefer to trade?
Keith Law: Not counting the big leaguers? I don’t think they have anyone I would HAVE to keep. If you’re getting someone like Archer, you make any of them available. I happen to love Mercado and think there’s more growth there, but I would trade him for sure in the right deal. I have said I think O’Neill is the most blocked, and thus the first name I’d make available.

Luke: Are the Rays really that much worse off than they were a week ago?
Keith Law: I assume this excludes Honeywell? I agree. Maybe two wins worse. Where they sit, that’s essentially zero.

JC: It won’t push them into a contender per se, but considering the Braves are projected to be sub replacement level in the corner OF not including Acuna, should they at least check in on Dickerson? It would also make Acuna not on the OD roster slightly less indefensible
Keith Law: If you can get Dickerson essentially for free, then yes, definitely.

Machado : How do you feel about macahdo moving to SS, doesn’t he project better as a 3B? And do you think he will live back to 3B
Keith Law: Projects very well at SS. I never thought he’d have to move – he moved for Hardy.

Chris: Sandy hinted that John Ricco could be his successor. Mets fans don’t know much about him. Thoughts? (Could also easily see Omar Minaya coup with how dysfunctional they’re run)
Keith Law: I know John a little, but have no experience working with him, and my understanding is he’s worked mostly with the major-league side of operations there so I don’t know a lot of people who’ve worked closely with him either.

Eric: Hi Keith,
What do you think the ceiling for Hudson Potts is this year? He really found his power in the 2nd half of 2017. Can he keep it going and crack the top 100?
Keith Law: Plate discipline/pitch recognition is (are?) his main flaw. Still just 19 this year, though.

Evan: Hey Klaw, got an Anova for Christmas and absolutely loving it. I know you’ve been off of the red meat, but what’s your favorite use for it? Pork chops, chicken thighs? Any special recipes? Thanks for the chats!
Keith Law: Chicken thighs, five hours at 165, then sear off to crisp the skin. I call it the Chris Crawford special: little bit of chicken thighs and cold beer on a Friday night.

Jonathan: Water: Sparkling or Still?
Keith Law: Sparkling, please. (burp)

Nick: With the high washout rate of HS arms, would it be crazy for the Reds to consider moving Greene for a piece closer to the majors? I wouldn’t give him away but if he can be the centerpiece for someone like Chris Archer, for example, should the Reds pull the trigger?
Keith Law: Arms like his don’t come along very often. Some risks are worth taking because the payoff is so high even if the probability is low.

Jim: …not to mention this Administration removed restrictions on people with mental illnesses buying guns…
Keith Law: Please do mention that.

Sally Fan: How many “aces” are there in the majors? Is this a relatively stable number year to year? How much does this play in to evaluating “ace upside” in minor leaguers?
Keith Law: I have personally defined ‘ace’ during my career as someone who’d be the #1 starter in half or more of the rotations in the majors in a typical year. By definition, that would center around 15, some years a few more, some a few … fewer. I do not agree that there are 30 aces. There are 30 nominal #1s, but as the scout Abe Lincoln once said, if you call a dog’s tail a leg, it’s still a tail.

Jay: Thoughts on who came off the best/worst in last night’s town hall?
Keith Law: Didn’t watch.

John: Someone suffering from the broad catch-all “mental illness” is 5x-10x more likely to be the victim of a violent crime than to be the perpetrator depending on the study you look it. Its a red herring of an argument that people find way too compelling.
Keith Law: Analogous: Crazy evangelicals & bigots pushing trans bathroom bills, when trans people are almost 4 times more likely to be victims of violence … oh, wait, sorry, that’s 4 times more likely to be victims of POLICE violence. 47% of trans people will experience a sexual assault in their lifetimes. If there’s a trans person in a public bathroom and I walk in, I’m more worried for him, not for me or any children in the facility.

Jack: All your recent amateur scouting has got me thinking – do you believe there’s anybody on the planet that throws 100 MPH+ that you’ve never heard of before? Thanks!
Keith Law: With a baseball pitcher’s delivery? Doubt it. There are probably kids who can throw a rock or other object fairly hard, but 100 mph+ is a combination of a genetic gift and years of throwing.

Jon: Keith, why does it feel like the Florida teams aren’t getting decent returns in their tanking/rebuilding efforts? Is the playing field more level? Are the front offices of these two teams behind? Desperation?
Keith Law: Revenue bases are very low for both clubs.

Arin, d-town ca: Can Bryce Brentz be an everyday player for the Pirates?
Keith Law: No.
Keith Law: Too much swing and miss.

Luigi: All the commentary I’ve read about Tristen Lutz praises his power. What is the reputation on his hit tool? How good he can be?
Keith Law: His skill is extremely hard contact, which leads to power. It’s not sell-out, dead pull power. He can hit.

Jack: What should the Giants do if they’re in the cellar again come July 31?
Keith Law: Trade ’em all. And yes, I mean all, as painful as that would be.

Ben: So is everyone gonna just ignore the fact that Billy Graham was an antisemitic, anti-lgbt mysoginist?
Keith Law: Who abandoned his kids for long stretches and tried to convince his daughter not to divorce her philandering husband.

PJ: Between Max Fried and Luiz Gohara, who should I be more excited to see in our lovely taxpayer-funded park this year?
Keith Law: Eh, both are pretty fun in different ways.

WhiteSoxAndy: I heard about a rule being discussed on the Rich Eisen show in which teams can put any three players up to bat to start the 9th inning. This sounds like a really dumb idea. Is it?
Keith Law: It is indeed a really dumb idea. I don’t know where it originated.

Ron: Does the addition of Gomez change your evaluation of the Souza trade from the Rays’ perspective at all? The players are obviously not equivalent values by themselves, but does a year of Gomez at $4 mil+prospects turn this into something approaching a win for the Rays?
Keith Law: It’s good value for the Rays, yes. Doesn’t alter the question of whether they got sufficient return for Souza.

Amory Blaine: How good can Luis Castillo be?
Keith Law: Without a good breaking ball, 2017 is his ceiling.

John: Where would juan Pablo Martinez rank in your top 100 prospects?
Keith Law: Answered last week – he would not.

Seath: Im a veteran and I am currently looking at masters programs that is both practical but could open the door in case i want to pursue a behind the scenes career in MLB. I have an MPA now and i’m looking into an MS in Business Analytics (I had to take a Quantitative Analysis class in my MPA program and loved it). Would you recommend something in that area or something completely different?
Keith Law: Thank you for your service. I think you’re on the right track. Ability to work with big data and coding skills will play in multiple industries.

Chris: In your opinion, who is more likely to leave and sign with another team next winter: Harper or Machado?
Keith Law: Both.

Larry: If Alex Jackson isn’t workable behind the plate, is the bat enough to be an everyday corner OF?
Keith Law: Maybe. Odds under 50% but well above 0.

Logic: Keith, Regarding Vincent. It was many years ago now, in the 90’s when I went to Baltimore’s art museum to see an exhibit featuring Starry Night. I had no interest in art and knew nothing about it. I went because my girlfriend (love of my life) wanted to go, besides we could go to Fell’s Point later for some fun. When I saw the painting I was totally captivated. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It’s almost 3 dimensional. A wonderful experience that stills lives in me. If you get the opportunity, check it out.
Keith Law: I will, next time I’m down that way. I don’t think I would have been able to tell you anything about Van Gogh’s style before seeing Loving Vincent, but after the film I realized he does things I can appreciate even as an art philistine.

George: I just thought of this the other day, as I recently had a baby girl and was thinking about vaccinations; if they cause Autism–which they don’t–wouldn’t the numbers of boys to girls with Autism be fairly equal, not extremely one-sided in boys who are affected?
Keith Law: Right. Also, unvaccinated kids get autism at the same rate as vaccinated kids.

Matt: These kids from Parkland are kicking ass and taking names
Keith Law: Indeed. I hope they can keep it going until November.

Daniel: How close is Luke Weaver to a real third pitch, and how good can he be if it’s just a show-me curve that he can throw for strikes?
Keith Law: Not close enough for me to call him a sure starter.

Roger: Concern that Ethan Hankins is already dealing with shoulder issues?
Keith Law: Supposedly just muscular. Of course it’s a concern but let’s see him get back on the mound before we get too alarmed.

Dutch: What are your thoughts on Alexander Canario? The KATOH projection system loves him but I can’t find a single long form article about him. Is this simply an example of KATOH’s weakness for scouting the statline?
Keith Law: DSL player. I don’t know enough about Katoh’s algorithm to comment, but I would question *any* system that tried to project major-league value based on DSL stats.

Brandon: Kolby Allard’s prospect ranking has been all over the place depending on the list you look at. Why are so many people torn on him? Is it his size?
Keith Law: Size and reduced velocity over the course of 2017. When I asked around this winter about him, my top 100, what other teams thought of Atlanta’s system, I got fairly consistent responses that he’d slipped and also been passed by several other arms in their system (like Wilson).

Bort: With Honeywell almost certainly out for 2018, doesn’t it make even more sense for the Rays to trade Chris Archer?
Keith Law: “Almost certainly?” Look, I get that he could have just blown out his elbow, but that statement is not accurate right now.

John: I’m curious about the Megan McArdle thing that you circulated earlier this week. Tried following the links, and couldn’t find anything she had necessarily done wrong. Do you have any insight? The accusation is that she made up a number, but the “proof” was her saying that it was in the middle of a hypothetical. If true, then that’s not wrong.
Keith Law: That was her ex post rationalization for it. She’s also written repeatedly about topics like health care reform without disclosing her numerous conflicts of interest. It was a terrible hire in the WaPo/NYT editorial pages’ race to the bottom.

Seth : what do you think drury’s potential is? everyone keeps saying he’s filled with “untapped potential” … what say you?
Keith Law: Low-OBP but high average with some pop, plays 2nd (poorly) and 3rd (more than adequately), everyday guy for some teams, eventually a good bench player for the Yanks.

M.D. Pepper : Hi Keith, reports from SB Nation noted that Jahmai Jones may be getting some time at second base, which Jahmai somewhat denied. Would it be of value for the Angels if he made that transition and could he be capable of doing so since he played the position in high school?
Keith Law: Not sure when he did that in HS … sure, it’ll raise his value, because I think in that system his odds of staying in CF are low given the presence of other CF like Marsh.

Adam: Even if the bat never comes around, is there still a chance for Javier Guerra to make the majors as a defensive replacement? Or is the bat currently that bad?
Keith Law: Bat hasn’t looked the same since the trade and medical issue. Not sure if it’s medication or something else, but he’s looked much slower at the plate.

CapePorpoise: I’m trying to understand your NYT subscription cancellation. Given the number of links you’ve given, I’m assuming you agree it’s still one of the best news organizations. Are one columnist’s views sufficient cause to require your action?
Keith Law: Not “one columnist,” and I think I made that fairly clear. This is Stephens and Douthat and Norton (since axed, but really, nice process, guys) and to a lesser extent brooks. It’s articles normalizing neo-Nazis and giving excessive voice to Trump voters. And they’ve run their share of pseudoscience claptrap too, like Danny Hakim’s well-reviled piece attacking GMOs contrary to all available science.

Mikey B: Rays just traded Dickerson to the Pirates. FYI.
Keith Law: Well there you have it.

Dr. Bob: Man, did you get hammered by Padres’ fans for stating the obvious about SD signing Hosmer. They should be able to see the same things that we all see. What do you think their motive was?
Keith Law: Plenty of rational Padres fans came out to support me, but the trolls are the loudest, unfortunately. It’s amusing to me how thoroughly a fan base can convince itself of a player’s intangibles even when they have had no direct contact with the player in his career.

Raj: Why do you think Matt Chapman was never mentioned as a top their prospect during his time in the minors? I understand the questions how his hit tool, but wouldn’t his above average glove and power neutralize the concerns about his hit tool?
Keith Law: No, not given the swing and miss rates.

Pat D: I’ve never come closer to telling people I like and respect to fuck off because of one issue than I have in the last week. I’m just so sick of the “evil people are going to do evil things” excuse while the person who says that engages in nothing but fallacies and false equivalences. Time to just cut off contact, right? Also, isn’t it sad to know you’ll never be a great patriot like Wayne LaPierre?
Keith Law: If we can identify evil people so easily, how about we just screen every would-be gun buyer for evil. If you’re evil, you don’t get a gun. Problem solved!

Anthony : Are you finally ready to say that Soroka has a higher ceiling or floor than Allard? You’ve said no to both back in September but now your rankings show different.
Keith Law: How dare I change my opinions on players. In the future, I’ll be sure to keep all rankings perfectly static.

Will in Vero: How did Dallas Baptist get so good?
Keith Law: Recruited very well locally, especially since they announced they were moving up to D1 maybe a decade ago (or longer? jeez).

Patrick: With Solak dealt it came out that the Yankees were pushing him with Frazier in their offer to Pitt for Cole. Do you think those 2 were a better offer than the 4 Pitt ultimately took from Houston?
Keith Law: I do not. I’m not a big Solak fan.

Brian: As a Phillies fan, the plight of Mark Appel and Mickey Moniak has me wondering: when top 5 guys end up being busts is there a commonality in terms of what scouts and people like yourself got wrong pre-draft? Is it about certain tools or focusing too much on one element of the evaluation, etc?
Keith Law: Don’t think you could find two players as different as those two. Moniak seemed at the time and seems still today like a bit of a money-saver option in a draft without a clear 1. Appel was the clear 1 that year, or at worst a great 2, and given what the Astros had available at the time he was a good pick.

Exit Velocity Proves I’m Good : Is there 25+ HR power in Josh Bell?
Keith Law: I believe there is, even without the juiced ball.

Josh in DC: I haven’t read your book, but I will eventually. Do you have any positive thoughts about so-called intangibles (say, leadership ability) in the book?
Keith Law: No, my book focuses on things that actually exist and that we can at least try to measure.

David: Honest question – would you turn down the opportunity to visit President Trump? I’ve thought about this a lot. Does meeting him CHANGE anything (for better or worse)? So would it be all that bad to meet him, just for the experience? Curious to hear your thoughts.
Keith Law: I probably would turn it down. I can’t see any good coming of it.

Chris: I know youre on hiatus from TC, but just a heads up the Volt Bros are on tonight…
Keith Law: Olympics tonight. I don’t control the remote even if I wanted to.

Matt: Keith, it seems like every year there’s a college pitcher I’ve never heard of who starts getting a ton of buzz as a top 5 pick. This year’s model appears to be Shane McLanahan. Aside from being small, what else could keep McLanahan from success in the pros?
Keith Law: I think that’s the biggest knock on him. He’s listed at 165, I think. That’s skinny.

John: I’m not a second amendment guy — in fact, I’ve never touched a gun in my life — but I disagree with you on guns vs. “mental illness.” The Virginia Tech rampage was done entirely with handguns. If there’s someone who has the psychological problems that would lead to one of these shootings, banning assault rifles won’t make a big difference. It would do more good to address the people with psyochotic/antisocial issues. Your point about using too broad a brush on “metal illness” is valid, but it doesn’t follow to ban a type of weapon.
Keith Law: One rampage was done entirely with handguns (can’t a handgun be semi-automatic, BTW? Isn’t that what a Luger of detective novel fame is?) … what about all of the massacres done with AR-15s? No one is claiming we will ever prevent all mass murders. If we can reduce their frequency at minimal cost, then we should do so. As much as I would love to see us improve mental health treatment in this country, that is very, very expensive. Banning weapons designed to kill as many targets as possible in a short period of time is cheap.

Bobbo: thanks for the chats. here’s a two parter: do you tend to veer away from hidden role and deduction games? and if not, are you partial to Deception (a fave of the game group im in)?
Keith Law: I played Deception with some new friends at Gen Con this year and it was fun, but definitely better thanks to the drinks in everyone’s hands. I don’t mind those games at all but they’re more social/party games than strategy games, which is my preference.

Josh in DC: So help me, my kids (8 and 10) like “Life.” Do you have any recommendations of games that are like Life, but not terrible?
Keith Law: Depends on what they like about it. I don’t know any games that try to simulate what (white, suburban, straight, cis) life is like. Do they like that they’re building stuff – like Agricola, where you’re a farmer and have to feed your family and build our your house and raise animals? (It’s also kind of easy in that game to forget to grow enough food to feed your family.)

Jonathan: Would MacKenzie Gore and Logan Allen be enough to pry Kevin Kiermaier away from the Rays?
Keith Law: Yeah, if the Padres are out of their fucking minds.

John: Even if he’s great the next two years, do you think it’s likely that Darvish actually uses his opt out? There is a lot of competition scheduled to be on the free agent market that year (Sale, Bumgarner, & Cole at the top; plus mid-rotation depth like Gray, Porcello, and Pineda, among others).
Keith Law: He could always threaten to use it and try to renegotiate his deal, too.

Dr. Bob: Colby Rasmus just signed with the Orioles. I don’t know if his career would have turned out the same, but I always wonder if TLR’s manhandling him contributed to his downfall. Might be a cautionary tale that you shouldn’t necessarily treat every player the same.
Keith Law: I think the combination of TLR and Rasmus’s father led to his failure to develop.

Todd: Yankees Luis Medina a potential breakout prospect?
Keith Law: He was my potential breakout prospect for the Yankees.

Mike: This isn’t relevant to a sport that you follow, but some Oregon State fans were accused of yelling racial epithets at players from a rival school after a game. What level of punishment to the school do you think can decrease this deplorable behavior? No future home games, tournament bans, something else?
Keith Law: If the school takes action – banning those fans from games, even suspending them – I’d be fine stopping there. You go after the school if it has shown an unwillingness or inability to stop the problem.
Keith Law: Also, what’s worse, Oregon State fans yelling racial epithets, or Oregon State fans giving convicted child molester Luke Heimlich a standing ovation?

RSO: Thoughts on the economy booming right now under Trump? You ever just give him credit or just rip him for every little thing he does like most liberals do?
Keith Law: You dropped your binky. The economy isn’t “booming,” by the way. The stock market is, but that’s not the economy. Q4 GDP growth came in below expectations.

Dennis: Does Nick Tropeano have mid rotation potential or is he a likely back-end guy?
Keith Law: Two pitch guy, most likely a reliever/long man.

Chris: If and when Andujar and Gleyber entrench themselves, should the Yanks trade Wade, Thairo, and Drury if they’d be average regulars for so called second division teams? Understanding depth is important, at some pt it is not a good allocation of resources.
Keith Law: Trade one or two of the three, but not all. Someone has to back those guys (and Didi) up.

Buck: What do you think of Nick Senzel getting a look at shortstop this spring? Any chance he can stick there, at least for a few years?
Keith Law: No. Don’t get it at all – he was a poor defender at SS as an amateur, and worked hard to get to average at 3b.

JR : Who are a person or two on the social/political right that you read and respect their rationality and integrity even if you disagree them?
Keith Law: David French comes to mind. I’m sure he’s written something that would make me tear my hair out, but he’s been one of the most consistently thoughtful, rational writers on the right I’ve seen over the last year.

Pj: Yandy Diaz is an enormous human being with a good swing. Will the power come at some point?
Keith Law: I think there can be average power.

wade: I believe you mentioned previously that you remodeled your kitchen and decided not to do a double oven. What do you do when you need to cook two things at different temps but want them to be done at the same time?
Keith Law: Almost never comes up.

Dave: Curious what your problem with Douthat is – he’s devout and I’m not, but I assume that’s not the issue. At least he’s smarter than their other conservatives.
Keith Law: Literally wrote a piece arguing for rolling back part of the First Amendment.

RSO: I really enjoyed hearing you on the RAB podcast. Do you plan on working with RAB on any future endeavors?
Keith Law: I’ve always enjoyed their work and have said yes whenever I could when they’ve asked me to do their podcast.

jake: so im confused, where was florial actually born?
Keith Law: An excellent question. For folks who missed it, Florial told Randy Miller he was born in the DR. MLB thinks he was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and he wore the Haitian flag in the Futures Game last year. Seems like a visa problem waiting to happen, so I’m hoping this is all just a misunderstanding.

Josh in DC: In slamming intangibles as something that doesn’t exist, you also said leadership abilities don’t exist. Look, I’m dubious about most intangibles. But just because something can’t be measured doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Keith Law: If it can’t be measured, then you can’t rationally price it, and that is functionally equivalent to nonexistent.

Jay: Can we look forward to your thoughts after Ohtani’s mound debut Saturday?
Keith Law: Nope. Not until I see him live. I’ll be on the road Saturday anyway.

Ron: Keith-I have 3 pigs and a bird dog that can fly before Tebow will ever make a MLB player. He’s just taking up vital space for a real minor-leaguer.
Keith Law: I have declined to write further about Tebow for ESPN. It is a traveling circus at this point.

Todd Boss: In response to the person commenting on the Va Tech massacre, Mother Jones’ US Mass Shootings database reports that Seung-Hui Cho used “Two semiautomatic handguns” … fyi.
Keith Law: I thought so. I don’t know guns at all, though. Never even held an unloaded weapon.

David: Khalil Lee and K’s; Is he missing pitches in the zone or chasing bad pitches? From a scouting perspective, is one considered better or easier to fix?
Keith Law: You can’t really strike out that often without a little of both.

Tim: With ballparks in the PCL being such launching pads, would you encourage organizations to adopt the humidors at those stadiums? If so, why haven’t they? Is it the cost?
Keith Law: Might be an approval process here that stymies them. Of course, moving the teams works too.

Matt: Evan McMullin is a decent person too.
Keith Law: Yes, absolutely. He’s a throwback in many ways to a conservative movement/philosophy that has been overtaken by bigotry and denialism.

Trav: Also, re: the economy, I wonder how many giving Donald credit for the current economy were heaping praise on Obama for averting a completely failed economy when he came into office.
Keith Law: None, I’m sure.

B: Could you see Lucas Erceg getting a call up in September? He reminds me of a young Longoria, only left handed. Is that way off base?
Keith Law: Seems aggressive on both fronts. I do like Erceg, but his approach is nowhere near as mature as Longo’s was at that age.

Adam: Charles C.W. Cooke is a solid conservative writer, although you would differ greatly with him on 2A
Keith Law: I’m fine disagreeing with writers on substantive issues. I’m not fine with, say, calling for rolling back 1A when your career depends on 1A for its mere existence. Or with a piece defending a child molester because he hasn’t had enough victims accuse him.

steve: Swihart: Makes Sox roster or sent packing?
Keith Law: Makes it. Highly doubt they give up on him without one more good shot to get him healthy and productive.

Scott : I’m flying from Helsinki to Aruba on Saturday with three kids under the age of 10, can you recommend a place to get a stiff drink?
Keith Law: In Aruba, fortunately, the alcohol flows quite freely everywhere you go. Godspeed.
Keith Law: That’s all for this week – thank you all for your questions and for reading. I’ll be at U Miami Friday and Saturday nights to see Florida’s two big starters, so if any of you head to the stadium (or have food suggestions!) let me know. Fuck yeah, baseball!

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, a documentary by Steve James (Hoop Dreams) that originally aired on PBS’s Frontline, earned one of the five nominations for Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Oscars. The film follows Abacus, the only bank to face criminal prosecution in the wake of the 2008 mortgage crisis, through the subsequent trial, largely from the perspective of the Sung family, who founded and still run the small neighborhood bank, based in Manhattan’s Chinatown. The resulting picture is one of politically-motivated prosecution of a non-white institution, of whom the overly ambitious Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr., could make an example, while getting himself in front of the cameras. You can stream the film for free on PBS’s site, or via Amazon Prime.

Abacus Federal Savings Bank discovered in 2010-11 that one of its loan officers had submitted several loan applications with false information – such as forged employment info or inflated income claims – and had skimmed money from some clients, so they reported the violations to the Office of Thrift Supervision themselves, fired the offending loan officer, and began examining other loans he’d made. Despite the self-reporting, the Manhattan DA’s office chose in 2012 to indict the bank and its officers on over 200 counts related to mortgage fraud, including grand larceny, threatening the group with jail time, fines, and the potential closure of the bank. The Sung family, who founded the bank in 1984, chose to fight all charges; one of their daughters quit her job in the DA’s office and went to work on her family’s defense. Their defense included evidence that the offending loan officers had taken steps to hide their misdeeds from executives, that the loans in question still performed, and that their decision to report themselves showed they were not engaged in any systematic attempt to defraud Fannie Mae, which purchased many of the loans in question.

The Sungs are the stars of Abacus, of course, and their dismay and indignation power the film. It’s clear from the start that the family members involved in the bank saw no choice but to fight the charges, recognizing that even a generous plea agreement might ruin the company, and in the film they repeatedly emphasize what the bank means to the Chinese community in which it operates. Tom Sung, a co-founder of the bank and the family patriarch, recounts the difficulty Chinese entrepreneurs would have in obtaining loans from white-owned banks that were perfectly happy to take those same customers’ deposits. Along with community activist Don Lee (who has a politician’s coiffure) and several reporters who covered the case, the Sungs describe the different norms of the Chinese business world, and how American rules that might target mortgage fraud also made it harder for immigrants to obtain such loans, even if their income was legitimate and their default rates were extremely low. (Abacus claims a 0.5% default rate on mortgages it originates; the national rate for serious delinquency reached 4.9% in 2010 and dropped to a ten-year low of 1.1% last year.)

Vance and Polly Greenberg, who served as chief of the DA’s Major Economic Crimes division from 2012 to 2015, both appear in the film to their own detriment, as they come off in the final product as vindictive and unapologetic despite evidence that they put extremely unreliable witnesses on the stand, possibly suborning perjury in the process. (The film was made before revelations that Vance declined to prosecute Harvey Weinstein for sexual assault around the time that Weinstein contributed to Vance’s campaign.) Their star witness, in particular, lied repeatedly under oath and eventually had his plea deal revoked as a result of his false testimony. It’s entirely possible that James isn’t showing enough of the prosecution’s side of the case, although given his reputation and the ultimate outcome of the trial, I am inclined to give him and the film the benefit of the doubt. At the absolute least, Vance and Greenberg failed in their duty to do sufficient due diligence on their key witnesses, and that opens them up to charges of malicious, racially-motivated prosecution. Vance Jr. was unopposed in the November election, which is too bad, as Abacus would make a fine campaign film for anyone running against him.

I’ve seen three of the five nominees for this category now, with Netflix’s Strong Island downloaded for my next flight, and Faces Places due out on DVD at least on March 6th (after the awards … this is so stupid; if you’re nominated and can’t get into theaters, put it out to stream right away, I am trying to give you my money). Abacus is the best made of the three documentaries I’ve seen, but lacks the emotional punch of Last Men in Aleppo or the holy-crap aspects of the more timely Icarus. FiveThirtyEight’s Walt Hickey has pointed out that this year’s slate of nominees is extremely weird anyway.

A Fantastic Woman.

A Fantastic Woman (Una mujer fantástica), Chile’s submission for this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and one of the five nominees, is notable simply for its casting: A trans woman plays a trans woman who happens to be the film’s main character. Daniela Vega delivers a tour de force performance as Marina, the fantastic woman of the movie’s title, a woman whose life is suddenly turned upside down when her cis male lover dies suddenly, putting her in conflict with the man’s estranged family – most of whom refuse to accept her for what she is.

Marina is a nightclub singer who by all external appearances is a woman, but whose status as transgender appears to be known by everyone she encounters, even characters who should be complete strangers to her. She and Orlando, a somewhat older, genteel man, have an unremarkable, romantic relationship, where she has just moved in with him and he surprises her for her birthday with plans for an exotic vacation together. This all goes right to hell when he dies suddenly and his ex-wife and son enter the picture, complete with their bigotry, hatred, and threats of violence, all of which show how they don’t even see her as human, let alone as a woman. The movie documents her refusal to surrender to them, and society as a whole, even in the face of physical attacks and a system that dehumanizes her at every turn.

Vega is remarkable in a role that demands that she go through numerous events that I would imagine would trigger awful memories for any trans person (and perhaps any non-binary person, period). Because Orlando falls down the stairs while Marina goes to get the car keys to rush him to the hospital, the authorities assume that she was a prostitute who’d fought back when a client assaulted her, or that she even assaulted him for reasons unknown. There’s an early scene where a doctor and a police officer refer to her in the third person, as if she’s not even there, using male pronouns, even though – again – you wouldn’t think she was trans even after talking to her for a few minutes. (I found this a bit confusing; perhaps the doctor looked at her neck, but that wouldn’t occur to an ordinary person.) Later, Orlando’s son, who proves the most bigoted of all, asks if she’s had “the surgery” (I think Laverne Cox made it clear to everyone that it’s not an appropriate question) and asks the most dehumanizing question of all, “What are you?” Her answer – “I’m flesh and blood, just like you” – and his inability to respond to it spell out the constant fight that trans people face in a society full of people who, frankly, are just too damn obsessed with other people’s sex lives.

This is a star-making turn from Vega, although she dominates so much of the film that there’s little room for anyone else. (Why she wasn’t nominated for Best Actress is beyond me; she’d be a worthy winner, and deserved it over at least two of the nominees.) Gabo, Orlando’s brother, played by Luis Gnecco (star of 2016’s Neruda, Chile’s submission to the Oscars last year), is the most three-dimensional of the other characters, showing uncommon empathy for Marina and the mere willingness to use female pronouns for her. The script, co-written by director Sebastián Lelio and Gonzalo Maza, doesn’t dispense with these characters lightly, but their appearances in the film are a function of their relationship to and interactions with Marina. They’re real because the dialogue feels real, because the treatment she gets at the hands of almost every single person she meets is exactly what you would expect in a majority-Catholic country that only recognized gay marriages in 2017.

Transgender characters have had extremely poor representation in film; other than Boys Don’t Cry, Dallas Buyers Club, and The Danish Girl, all of which featured cis actors in trans roles, major films that have featured trans characters have largely done so for shock value or comic effect. A Fantastic Woman features a trans character, played by a trans woman, in a story that is about everyday life as a trans person in an intolerant society – but in a way that can be interpreted more broadly, too, to capture that feeling of being utterly alone, of feeling unsafe in your own skin, and of the need to find something that helps define you for yourself as opposed to the way that others define you.

I still have Loveless and The Insult to see of the five nominees for Best Foreign Language Film, but Sony Classics has been so slow to roll Loveless, a Russian film that won the Jury Prize at Cannes last year, that I may not catch it before the Oscars.

Loving Vincent.

One of the five nominees for this year’s Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (along with the modern classic that is Boss Baby), Loving Vincent stands out primarily for its appearance: It is the first animated film made from hand-painted frames, in this case done with oil paints on canvas. The conceit was to tell a story about Vincent Van Gogh that used his style and even images from his paintings as the background, while actors portrayed the various characters in front of green screens and were painted into the frames. The 94-minute film comprises over 65,000 frames, each its own painting, created by over 120 painters, while the story comes from letters recovered after Van Gogh’s suicide and the subsequent death of his brother, Theo. The plot here is a bit thin, although the work by the actors – who are more than just voice actors here – elevates what story we get. If you appreciate the visual aspects of animated films, though, you won’t be able to take your eyes off the screen. (It’s on iTunes and amazon.)

The story begins a year or so after Van Gogh’s death, when the Postman Joseph Roulin asks his son Armand (Douglas Booth) to deliver a letter from Van Gogh to his brother and patron, Theo, that was somehow lost but serves as the last letter he wrote before he took his own life. The quest to find Theo turns into a deeper interest in learning what happened to Vincent in the last few months of his life, and why a person who claimed six weeks earlier to be in great spirits decided to end his own life. Armand, who’s a bit credulous to be entirely credible here, bounces around like a sort of soft-boiled detective, visiting the guest house where Van Gogh stayed and the doctor who treated him for his depression and, later, who saw him after he’d shot himself. The mystery aspect here – at one point, Armand becomes convinced Van Gogh was shot by someone else, perhaps in a prank gone wrong, and was covering for the culprit – isn’t compelling at all, since there isn’t any real doubt that Van Gogh 1) was suicidal and 2) shot himself, but the story here is the means to the end of walking us through a tour of Van Gogh’s output.

I went into this knowing almost nothing about the works of Van Gogh, and decided to leave any further reading until after I watched it lest I spoil some aspect of the film. The poster for the film uses his 1889 Self-portrait, but you’ll see many of his most famous works as backdrops for critical scenes; I spotted The Night Café, Wheat Field with Cypresses, Wheat field with Crows, The Town Hall at Auvers, The Sower (at the end), and Café Terrace at Night (the opening scene). The filmmakers also used Van Gogh’s paintings to ‘design’ the characters, most of whom are based on real people Van Gogh painted, with other characters created from his paintings. Some of the likenesses are remarkable, especially Jerome Flynn (Bronn in Game of Thrones) as Dr. Gachet, although there was really little they could do here to make Saoirse Ronan look like anyone but herself.

Because the story itself is so slight, Loving Vincent is more of an achievement than a great film; there’s never been a movie that looked like this, and it subtly introduces some of the audience to the works of one of the most important painters in western history, several of whose paintings have sold for nine figures. (Only one of Van Gogh’s paintings sold during his life, out of the 800-plus he painted.) It’s a gorgeous film to watch, and the leisurely pace of the plot fits the content; you’re meant to savor and even examine these backdrops, not to just focus on the action or dialogue. But that also means it’s not a film for everybody; I’m probably on the outer fringes of the audience for this movie, because I know nothing about art and don’t feel like I even appreciate it like most art fans and collectors would. I can say, however, that I understand Van Gogh’s style more now having seen the movie, and would at least be able to identify some of his works as his, which is more than I would take home from most movies I see.


Otys is a new-ish midweight strategy board game from Asmodee’s Libellud imprint, released here right around the holidays, and the first title from designer Claude Lucchini. It’s a sort of futuristic deep sea-diving themed game, where players try to gather resources to complete contracts, and must manipulate two sets of tiles to be able to make moves. There might be a better game in here somewhere, but I found it rather overdesigned, and the mechanics aren’t well-connected to the theme.

In Otys, two to four players each work with a player board that has six tokens, numbered one through five plus a neutral “X” token, and eight diver tiles, each of which has a different ability. The board has slots for the numbered tokens, and then a column where you randomly stack the diver tiles in a way that has five of them adjacent to the five numbered slots. On a turn, you will pick one of the numbered tiles, slide it to the right, use one of the five “sponsor” tiles from the central board to get something (a credit, a battery, the right to use your diver’s skill twice, etc.), and then use the ability of the adjacent diver. Four of the divers get you specific resources. The others let you add abilities like gaining a new contract card only you can complete or trading credits for resources.

The contracts come in two forms. The game has four resources – white, green, blue, and black, which I think mean actual things like plants and water, but it really doesn’t matter to the mechanics – and some contracts simply require you gather two to four specific resources to fulfill them, gaining points and sometimes a credit or battery token. The other contracts tell you to acquire specific combinations of any resources – so, two of one type, two of another, and one of a third – where you get to pick the colors, and then have similar rewards.

The Otys board; diver tiles are in the center column.

The big catch in Otys, and the only mechanic here that I thought was novel, is that each token/diver row on your player board has a storage space for resources, and to fill a contract, you must have all the right resources in one specific storage space. The spaces can hold three to six resources, but in practical terms, you’re going to use maybe two of them heavily, because gaining resources in all of your storage areas will leave you unable to ever fill contracts. You can also add tokens via one diver (the ‘explorer’) that let you pay two credits, take one resource or victory point or battery now, and then place that token on its other face next to a storage area, providing you with a permanent bonus whenever you fill a contract from that area. The divers are also double-sided, with each bringing an ‘upgraded’ side that lets you invoke its power for one fewer credit or that gives you something else in addition to the single resource.

The numbered ‘key’ tokens must be placed in the ‘hacker’ track below your board after they’re used; you can only bring them back up when the track is filled, which at the start of the game would mean using all of your tokens at least once before using them again. You get one X token to place in any row where you’ve already used the key, and there’s a way – very poorly described in the English rules – to acquire more X tokens from the central supply. This mechanic felt trite, reminiscent of games from Puerto Rico and San Juan to last year’s Entropy, where you have to use all or most of your roles and then ‘reset’ your hand, and the combination of this mechanic and the diver one – when you use a diver, s/he has to ‘resurface’ by going to the top of the queue, with everyone above him/her moving down a spot – just made the game overly complex.

The game ends when anyone gets to 18 points, after which you finish the round so everyone can try to complete one more contract. In practice, that means 3-4 contracts plus the random point or two you’ll add along the way, and it does play in about an hour. The theme has almost nothing to do with the game, and there are way too many restrictions and twists here for me to enjoy the experience. I wish more effort had gone into streamlining the rules, even if it came at the cost of some of the artwork or component design.

Startide Rising.

My reaction to the Padres’ absurd deal with Eric Hosmer is up for Insiders.

David Brin’s Startide Rising is the second book in his Uplift universe, where sentient species across the galaxy (and beyond, I think) have used genetic engineering to bring “client” species to sentience themselves, in exchange for a period of indentured servitude to the patron class lasting something on the order of 100,000 years. Humans in this universe have themselves uplifted chimpanzees and dolphins but done so outside of the established order, granting their clients equal status in a shorter period of time, which has upset some of the most powerful patron races who prefer the status quo. It won Brin the first of his two Hugo Awards for Best Novel, along with The Uplift War (which I read in October), the third book in the series; this book also won the Locus and Nebula awards. It’s just not as good as the latter novel, by which point Brin seems to have improved his storycraft and his character development. And it’s really held back by the whole thing with dolphins flying spaceships.

The action of Startide Rising all takes place on one planet, Kithrup, that has no native sentient species, and is mostly covered by water. (We learn later in the book that an earlier sentient species was granted residency here to live out its senescent years, but is presumed extinct.) A dolphin-piloted vessel, the Streaker, has landed here, with a crew of all three Earth species, to hide out from galactic forces chasing it in the wake of its discovery of an enormous ghost fleet of spaceships that herald the discovery of a previously unknown, long-extinct race that may have been the fabled Progenitors of many or all current sentient species, including humans. While a fierce battle is waged overhead, the Streaker‘s crew must repair their damaged ship and await rescue or plot a dangerous escape, while some members fight internally over the best route and others explore the relatively unscathed planet.

Whereas the multi-threaded plot of the longer Uplift War involved multiple, three-dimensional characters, and created some believable tension in both action sequences and in the slower-burning intrigues, Startide Rising employs a too-large cast of disposable heroes, none of whom is interesting and some of whom verge on the ridiculous. (Among them: Charles Dart, the neo-chimp scientist whose ruthless commitment to research makes him a Spock-like caricature; and the dolphin whose name I forget who spends most of the novel sexually harassing a human crew member, which I think Brin intended to be humorous.) The novel’s very short chapters and constant shifts in perspective don’t help the narrative build any momentum, and the discovery in Kithrup’s oceans that eventually becomes a key part of the resolution is just not well written or explained.

But the bigger problem I had is the dolphins … which are still sea creatures, last time I checked. Brin jumps through all kinds of hoops to explain their presence, and I can at least suspend my disbelief in their evolution to intelligent, self-aware creatures. But they’re dolphins flying spaceships. I can accept a lot of things in science fiction, but I read this book with Tommy Shaw’s line from the Styx episode of Behind the Music stuck in my head. Shaw said he “just couldn’t write songs about robots.” Yeah, well, I just can’t get on board with dolphins – 12-13 feet long, 350 or so pounds, and, you know, without arms or legs – flying spaceships. Normally I’d say reading any series in order is an asset, but if you’re interesting in Brin at all, just skip to The Uplift War, which is better in every way and doesn’t include any dolphin characters at all.

Next up: Joe Haldeman’s Forever Peace.

Stick to baseball, 2/17/18.

My one new piece for Insiders this week covered the top 30 prospects for this year’s MLB Draft, in advance of yesterday’s opening night in Division 1. And I held a Klawchat on Thursday. Unfortunately I did not recover enough from whatever ailment I had this week to make the trip to Myrtle Beach, but hope to be on the road next weekend.

I reviewed the board game Seikatsu, one of my daughter’s new favorites, here this week, with another review hitting Paste‘s site next week. Also, I never tweeted this link at all, but reviewed the Romanian-language film Graduation, from Oscar-nominated director Cristian Mungiu, on Wednesday.

Smart Baseball comes out in paperback on March 13th! Some readers have reported difficulty finding the hardcover version in stores, but it is still available on amazon at the moment.

And now, the links…


Seikatsu was one of my honorable mentions on my list of the top ten games of 2017, maybe the best-looking game I played last year with gorgeous artwork and solid, heavy tokens. It’s listed as a game for 1 to 4 players, but really works best with 3 and fairly well with 2, not with the other counts.

Seikatsu calls itself “a game of perspective,” which is true for the final scoring, which accounts for the bulk of the points in the game. You score two ways in Seikatsu: once when you place a token on each turn, and then once for each row on the hexagonal board at the end of the game – but the rows you score depend on where you sit, so each player scores those rows (or columns, if you want to get all pedantic about it) differently. The result is a fast-moving game that asks you to balance two different scoring methods with every turn, but that keeps those turns short because your options are finite and it’s not that hard to figure out an optimal move.

The tokens in Seikatsu each show a bird and a ring of flowers, which correspond to the two scoring methods. You can place a token anywhere adjacent to another token or the neutral center space, and you score 1 point for that token plus another point for each adjacent token with the same bird image on it. In theory, you could score a maximum of 7 points, but in practice you’ll get 1 to 3 each turn and maybe luck into a 4 once every other game or so. There are four koi pond tokens that function as wild cards; you can place one and name any bird type to score it, after which the tile no longer scores as any bird type for tokens placed adjacent to it.

The flowers come into play at the end of the game. There are pagodas on three vertices of the board, each of which corresponds to one player’s perspective for scoring, splitting the board into seven columns unique to that player. In each column (or row … I’ll stop that now), the player identifies the flower type that appears on the most tokens, and scores points based on that number – 1 point for a single token, then 3, 6, 10, 15, and 21 points for the maximum possible number of six tokens with the same flower type. Koi pond tiles are wild again in this stage, and each player can assign whatever flower type s/he wants to those tiles.

Seikatsu is ideal with three players; with two, it’s a little easier to work the board independently until the last few moves, whereas with three you can’t plan ahead as easily. You only get two tokens in your hand each turn, so long-range planning is just not part of the game, but with two players you can set up your rows of flowers with less interference from other players. We’ve found that with two players, the scores are extremely close – we’ve tied once and never had a margin of victory over 5 points. That makes it a great game for a parent to play with a child, because it’s hard for the parent to run away with the game and thus doesn’t require playing ‘down’ to the younger player’s level. With four players, it’s “team” play, which I don’t think works very well; there’s a solitaire mode I haven’t tried. Seikatsu lists for $40, which I think reflects the high quality of the components but is a bit dear for this type of game; now that it’s been on the market for six months, though, I’m seeing it for under $30 (e.g., $28 on amazon) which is just right.

Klawchat 2/15/18.

My preseason ranking of the top 30 prospects for this year’s draft is now up for Insiders.

Keith Law: Klawchat. You can forget all future plans.

addoeh: “Thoughts & Prayers” isn’t working. Maybe we should try something else.
Keith Law: They’re a renewable resource, though.

Dr. Bob: As Spring Training opens, I expect you to be in the best shape of your life.
Keith Law: I have a cold and I’ve been to the gym twice since New Year’s. So I might be in the worst shape of my life.

Matt: You noted in the draft prospects article its a deep draft, but not top heavy. In your opinion, did the Phillies make a mistake in signing Carlos Santana which caused them to lose their high 2nd rd pick?
Keith Law: I don’t think it was a mistake, but I think it was a cost to consider in the signing.

Davey Boy: Is this a do or die season for Blake Swihart? Can he be a utility type guy at the major league level?
Keith Law: I don’t generally care for the idea of a do-or-die or make-or-break season, and I don’t think it applies to Swihart. If he’s healthy, he will have value. He was a decent infielder in HS – I saw him play third – and I think he’d be able to handle second or third in the majors. Maybe he’s Austin Barnes.

Dan: If you could make a player have one 80 and the rest of his tools 40-50. Which one would you make 80?
Keith Law: If you’re an 80 hitter, nothing else really matters.

Jon: Thoughts on Mike Ford? Does he have a chance to stick with the Mariners all year?
Keith Law: Non prospect. Maybe the final guy on a bench.

Joe: Keith, I feel like Tyler Wade is getting completly overlooked with the Yankees. Would you be confident having him start the season as the starter at second?
Keith Law: He’s getting overlooked? I feel like I’m asked about him constantly – and yes, I think he’s someone’s regular, if perhaps not the Yankees’ because of Andujar and Gleyber.

Doddy King: Texas and Anaheim are both indicating that they are looking at going with six man rotations, with Texas apparently also considering two reliever-to-starter candidates (Bush and Minor) as part of their move. Do you think this is a one- (or two-) off thing, or will more teams explore a six man rotation going forward?
Keith Law: I’m not sure that we know at all if that’ll help reduce pitching injuries, although I’m open to any kind of experiments like this. I do think both of those guys are enormous injury risks as starters, though, and would have kept them in the bullpen.

Dana: Goose Gossage is a jerk, but he seems to have a good point that he was more valuable than most of today’s relievers b/c he pitched multiple innings, right?
Keith Law: Yeah, but he’s right for the wrong reasons. He was more valuable because he threw more innings. He thinks he was more valuable because he did it.

Andy: Why does the government never get anywhere on gun control? If the democrats win Presidency and take control of Congress will something get done?
Keith Law: Money. Why can’t Flint, Michigan get clean drinking water? Money. Why are we still using so much coal despite the pollution it causes? Money. Why doesn’t any government agency do anything to crack down on overprescriptions of opioids? Money. Something like 2/3 of Americans support an assault weapons ban, but the power of money in our system trumps that of the popular vote.

Carlos: Julio Pablo Martinez seems likely to sign with a team at some point. I’ve read he has a good blend of power and speed. Is he a guy to watch? Would he have ranked on your top 100 list if eligible? What are your overall thoughts on him?
Keith Law: Not a top 100 guy. Maxed out, smaller & less athletic than Robert (they played together).

Patrick: My only quibble about these chats, Keith…not knowing the lyric that will lead them off when the queue is posted!
My question–what’s the furthest/most remote you have traveled to see a prospect (HS, Minors, not counting Sidd Finch?)
Keith Law: Jarrod Parker: flew to Chicago, drove 3 hours to Kendallville IN. Braxton Garrett was close: flew to Nashville, drove 2+ to Auburn, AL, then drove 3+ to Atlanta that night (very bad idea).

Tom Hendry: Why do you think so much negative coverage is directed at the free agent player’s camp?
Keith Law: Fans bizarrely support billionaire owners over players, arguing that the latter are “greedy.” (Not too dissimilar from people outside the top tax bracket who argue that the top 1% of income earners should get to keep more of their income, even though it doesn’t help them and may be worse for long-term economic growth.) And the media don’t help by carrying more water for front offices (where they have more sources) than for players/agents.

AJ: Hi Keith. On the whole, I was pretty happy with what Hahn did as far as rebuilding the farm system. The one knock that I did see was that he almost completely gambled on upside and didn’t hedge his bet with any “higher floor” guys. What is your opinion? Also, how soon can you see the ChiSox being a playoff contender? Is 2019 too soon? Thanks.
Keith Law: I think 2020 is more realistic, but if a few of the pitchers come on this year, that would accelerate it. We’ll get a full season of Giolito in the rotation, probably full seasons of Lopez and Fulmer somewhere on the roster (I still think both are more likely relievers), the debut of Kopech, maybe a late late callup for Hansen … that will all go a long way to telling us how far away they are.

Tom Hendry: The Orioles are piling up high with fringe MLB ready catchers. Do they have a growing concern that Chance Sisco cannot catch?
Keith Law: Or maybe Buck has decided he doesn’t like Sisco for some unknown reason? I can think of 20 other teams that would love to take him off Baltimore’s hands.

Dan. : Caden Lemons and Blayne Enlow both look like high upside projection arms from the recent draft. Are they similarly projectable or different in a significant way? If so, how?
Keith Law: Not similar at all; Enlow’s more athletic, better put together, more likely to stay healthy. Lemons had some medical questions post-draft and has more present velocity with less of a breaking ball.

Bored Lawyer, Esq. : Any college series you have your eye on this weekend? Vandy-Duke should be a fun one
Keith Law: Vandy doesn’t have anyone major for this year’s draft, so not that one; I’m hoping to go to the Coastal Carolina tournament but I’ve been sick all week.

DR: As a guy who does a lot to raise the public consciousness on data driven baseball analysis, are there any traits among the recently “woken” smart fans that grate you a bit? For me, rote invocation of WAR as the be all/end all stat gets immediately annoying. Such trait is rather prevalent, I feel.
Keith Law: I think that’s a weak generalization … I see more people complaining that others use WAR as a be-all and end-all than I see actual people using it as such. I’m more bothered by new-stat cherrypicking – hey, we have a new toy, let’s use it to the exclusion of other things we’ve learned or ignore the lack of data telling us how meaningful such a stat is. My favorite was the Mets fan arguing with me that Michael Cuddyer was a good signing because of his exit velocity. That didn’t work out so well.

Rob: It seems obvious to me that public opinion is with ownership over the players on issues of baseball economics. Do you think this is true? How important is it? What kind of PR campaign would it take to equalize matters? I’m not just talking about the slow offseason but about how fans in a number of markets seemed condition to accept what seem to me to be artificial limits on payroll. Sorry for the long question; thanks for the chat.
Keith Law: I’d talk up how rich owners are.

A dude: Can Trammell eventually be a 20 HR guy at the big league level? His ceiling seems a bit unknown, was wondering if that’s because it’s actually that high or due to him having less exposure to the sport than others.
Keith Law: 20 HR seems fair. 30 might be stretching it, ignoring the Reds’ home park and the juiced ball.

Parent trying to learn: Ok keith i need help with this hypothetical. MN arm played at small school. 5’11 215. As a rhp 94-97 fb, 60 curve, 60 slider, 60 change, 30 control, 20 command. Really violent delivery. As a CF 60 hit 70 Power 55/60 run 50 defense in CF 80 arm. Is he a rhp or cf? Where in the draft?
Keith Law: Dude with 20 command is never going to be a major-league pitcher.

Adam: What are your thoughts on Luis Campusano and Blake Hunt, the two Catchers taken by the Padres in the early part of last year’s draft? Neither seem to be appearing on ANY list of Catcher rankings.
Keith Law: Campusano was #17 on my Padres org ranking in a very deep system, so I don’t understand the question. Hunt is much further behind.

Jim876jj: How much has the shine worn off on Meadows? Is it due to the lack of power or frustration with durability/worries he’ll struggle with durability throughout his career?
Keith Law: Doesn’t stay healthy and doesn’t put the ball in the air enough. That’s been a problem for a number of Pirates prospects – he, Hayes, and Newman all show you more power in BP than any have ever shown in games.

James: Hey Keith, any hope that Odor returns to at least being an average player again?
Keith Law: Slim but nonzero.

Andrew: Why is it that in basketball, it’s either you have it or you don’t in terms of work ethic while in baseball, you can learn it overtime (Trevor Rosenthal) for example?
Keith Law: Hm. I feel like there might be some substantial difference between the pools of players under discussion here.

Shonna: My husband and I picked up 7 Ronin after your recommendation. It’s been a staple of our gaming rotation since then, but I was wondering if you and your wife have the same problem we have. Namely that the ninjas win a huge percentage of the time, I get that it’s an assymetric game but any ways to make it a little bit more fair?
Keith Law: We haven’t run into that problem; I think we were close to 50/50 (although we haven’t played it in a while, just because I get so many new games). The ninjas have to win early; it’s a war of attrition for the samurai player.

WarBiscuit: Thoughts on the new minor league team that will be in Madison Alabama? The government is pending approval on the 46 million dollar new stadium. Although I live in Mobile where the Baybears live, the management is very terrible, the stadium is outdated and there is a bunch of infrastructure problems like leaking pipes under the field, which causes rain delays when it rains in the morning, yet sunny in the evening when they have the game, and leaking AC’s, and other stuff that’s too long to mention, so I don’t blame the team for moving out of Mobile where there is little attendance.
Keith Law: It is incredibly stupid to spend public money on sports stadiums for privately-owned teams. But this is Alabama, a state where 1 in 4 residents is functionally illiterate, and that nearly put a pedophile who has openly flouted the Constitution on several occasions into the Senate.

YanksFan: Why do you think Chance Adams ends up as a reliever? He’s succeeded at every level. And keep in mind, you said the same about Severino. Also, have you watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel yet???
Keith Law: Keep in mind, I said the same about Dellin Betances. And Adam Warren. And Tyler Thornburg. And by the way Severino was awful in 2016 before he had his one good year as a starter to date. Adams is nothing like Severino beyond their employer; he’s short, doesn’t have a plus pitch, and doesn’t have the command to get away with the stuff he does have turning a lineup over 3x.

Cal: Keith, what would you tell a 22 year old college kid that has no clue what he wants to do career wise? I have interests and while my major interests me, none of the careers within that major peak my interest. When you were in college, did you pick a major because it interested you, or did you pick it because a certain job interested you and to get said job, you needed this major? Parents seem to think money is way more important than doing something I like, which doesn’t help. I’d love to get your take on this, Keith. I’m honestly at a loss here and don’t know what to do/where to go.
Keith Law: I picked a job because everyone else around me was going for the same kind of job and it was very good money for a 21-year-old. I didn’t like the job and floated through a few careers before falling ass-backwards into this one. So my advice probably isn’t going to be very good.

Byron: Have you heard anything from international scouts about Alexander Canario? A lot of stats-only projection systems rate his potential as very high but I don’t think I’ve seen one actual scouting report on him
Keith Law: I would not consider anything a “stats-only projection system” said about a player who has only played in the DSL.

TP: When should we expect an announcement that you have joined the Athletic? In all seriousness, your work is the only reason I still subscribe to insider.
Keith Law: I appreciate that.

Chris: when you evaluate a prospect how much weight is given to his ability to tolerate dry humping?
Keith Law: That Callaway quote was great – especially because he was right, and that alone made him an enormous improvement over Collins.

tyler: You have said that you would vote for Mo for the HOF. Is he really going to be one of the ten best on the ballot?
Keith Law: Yes. Or I wouldn’t vote for him.

Hank: What % chance do you think Derek Hill has to hit well enough to be a big league regular?
Keith Law: 40% chance or more. Doesn’t have to hit that much to be one given his defense.

Grant: Great draft list. Are you attending either the Perfect Game or Under Armour events this year?
Keith Law: I have no idea – those are in July and August and I don’t even have spring training trips booked yet.

Larry: I get you’re not a fan of Singers arm action but doesn’t the upside justify the risk? There are a lot of very successful leaders w slot guys in MLB.
Keith Law: What upside? I saw him 90-91 last April vs Kyle Wright with a flat slider. How many MLB starters have a slot or arm action like his? Sale and … um … let me know.

Noah: What do you think Gleyber Torres’ full time position will be, long term?
Keith Law: In a vacuum, shortstop.
Keith Law: Of course, in a vacuum, he’d be dead.

Patrick: Keith, did you have a favorite baseball player growing up?
Keith Law: Willie Randolph.

Learner: Have you heard of benjamin reinhard class of 2021?
Keith Law: If such a player even exists, I don’t want to hear about him until June of 2020.

Rod: Keith – I know the constant whining on Twitter can get irritating, but what’s with yoir disingenuous “I prefer to get paid for my labor” retort? Tons of writers get paid and their work isn’t behind a paywall. Just be honest, if that’s how you prefer to operate.
Keith Law: Nothing disingenuous about it. What I earn has always been a function of the revenue I generate for my employer. That’s how the world works.

Todd: If healthy, Clarke Schmidt Yankees a legit top of the rotation starter one day?
Keith Law: No.

David : Hi Keith – Theo said after the Cubs signed Morrow they’d treat him like wade Davis (1 inning; come in if warmed up) treatment to keep him healthy. If this contributes to staying healthy (vs a lot of up and downs) why not make this the rule instead of the exception. Perhaps any loss in situational value could be made up in increased effectiveness and health over the course of the season.
Keith Law: I have a hypothesis that it’s less the up-and-downs and more the back-to-back-to-back days that lead to reliever breakdowns. Better to throw 2 innings today and not throw again for 3 days than to throw one inning three days in a row?

Joe: Why does JD Martinez believe he is worth over $20m per season and Hosmer think he deserves 8 years?
Keith Law: Deserves? Or just wants? There’s a difference; the first is a moral question, the latter a negotiating stance.

Jonathan: What would Shane McClanahan have to do this spring to be in the mix for top-5 pick?
Keith Law: He’s in my top 15; that would certainly mean he’s a possibility for the top 5, given how much baseball is left before the draft.

Santos: Fangraphs has Aaron Judge listed as 70 game power and 70 raw power. If he’s not 80, what’s the point?
Keith Law: I would rate his power at 80.

Jeff: The trait among the newly “woke” that bothers me the most is their tendency to act as if they weren’t late to the party when in fact, they arrived after the keg was already dry.
Keith Law: I like that analogy. Better than Prager’s claim on gravity, certainly.

Jonathan: Orioles send Hunter Harvey and 33rd pick in the draft to the Rays in exchange for Jake Odorizzi. Who says “no?”
Keith Law: Doubt the Orioles would do that.

Phil: Which gaming conventions are you planning to attend this year? I was bummed to miss you at PAX Unplugged.
Keith Law: That and Gen Con. Origins never works bc of the draft. Always possible I’ll do something semi-local if my schedule permits but nothing planned yet.

Beau: Read your top 30 this morning: how close is Cadyn Grenier to a 1st rd talent? Does he have any untapped upside?
Keith Law: I think if he hits – if he performs and answers questions about his hit tool – he’ll be a first rounder.

Todd: Did Luis Severino hurt you in some way? You seemingly have hate for the guy, and back in the day, even the 90s, top flight starters used to struggle early, guys like Smoltz were terrible early in their careers. Its ok to admit your wrong Keith
Keith Law: Grow up, Todd. #your

Dr. Bob: The Cardinals signed Mike Maddux to be their pitching coach to go a new direction and away from the Dave Duncan/Derek Liliquist approach. I think it’s a gutsy move, considering their success with pitchers. Do you have an opinion on Maddux?
Keith Law: He hasn’t had a great track record with young pitchers so far, which would concern me given how guys like Flaherty, Weaver, maybe Hudson will all be expected to contribute in St. Louis this year.

AJ: Speaking of Sale, I know when he first came up you weren’t sure of him sticking as a starter because of his arm slot (or maybe I am mis-remembering). What has allowed him (and other lower arm slot starters) to stick? Development of a change up?
Keith Law: Also had a grade 35 slider in college. The White Sox shifted his hand position without truly altering his slot – although it was his delivery with its high elbow in back that bothered me more than just the slot – to allow him to get on top of the ball. Within about 18 months it went from a below-average pitch to a grade 70.

Scott Boras: Can Beer be more than a DH for an American League team?
Keith Law: Probably 1b. Would help his cause if he showed he could play average defense in LF.

Nick: Surprised to see Swaggerty ranked so high. Does he have a high enough upside to be a top 5 pick? Do you see him as a Jacoby Ellsbury type (the good version)?
Keith Law: I wouldn’t have ranked him there if I didn’t think he had that upside. One of the best pure hit tools in the draft with speed and a chance to profile as a good CF.

Jay: Did you play baseball video games growing up? If so, what was your favorite?
Keith Law: Lots of them. MicroLeague, Earl Weaver, Hardball…

Kwame : Is there anything the average fan can take away from spring training or is it all propaganda?
Keith Law: It’s just health. I ignore everything else. Remember the year Andy Oliver set Florida on fire? Gabe Gross hitting 8 HR in Dunedin one spring? Taijuan Walker’s almost-perfect spring training for Seattle? They’re facing inconsistent, uneven competition in scrimmage conditions. It’s not meaningful.

Chris: Why do people get so personally offended by your views on a player like Sevy. Why not just enjoy what he has become if you’re a fan of his? Life’s too short.
Keith Law: I have no idea. This is the one thing that perplexes my wife about my job above all else – why people get so mad (and, often, act so childishly) about baseball opinions.

John: Pretty random request, but is there a book/article you can recommend for me to share with friends/family who don’t see the link between hundreds of years of explicitly racist policy (primarily toward African-Americans) and the gargantuan gap that exists in general/overall equality today?
Keith Law: I didn’t love the documentary The 13th (on Netflix), because I thought it preached to the choir too much and was heavy-handed in a lot of places … but maybe that’s right for your audience.

Joe: Keith, do you have a general stance on manipulating service time for prospects? Is it only worth it for the tippy top guys (Bryant, Gleyber, etc.)? Should it vary by organization?
Keith Law: It is good business and bad for the industry. I would manipulate free agency in most cases, but wouldn’t waste time playing with the super-two date.

Andrew: Seems to me the changes to the draft and ifa’s created this tanking, I’d like to see it go back to being spend what you want. Thoughts?
Keith Law: I would too, but God forbid players get whatever the market will pay them. Especially those pesky non-American players, who earn less than their US/Canadian-born counterparts in the draft.

Chris: I had no idea Lazarito’s natural position was SS. I always assumed he was an OF. Other than the arm, which you mentioned doesn’t play, how does he look there? Does he have the footwork and actions to play there if the arm was stronger?
Keith Law: Played SS before signing, now in LF. Was never going to stay at short.

Brent: Sale was really an odd exception, similar to trying to scout a knuckleballer. His left elbow could contain alien dna, and I wouldn’t be terribly shocked.
Keith Law: I agree, but I’m happy to wear that one as a position I staked out strongly that was 100% wrong. It’ll happen again before I’m done.

Jonathan: Odds that Jorge Soler ever lives up to his potential?
Keith Law: If you tell me he’ll be healthy for a full season, I think he’ll produce like a regular.

JR : Have you played any/all of the Ticket to Ride spinoffs? Do they provide something that different from the original game that justifies the cost?
Keith Law: Europe for sure. They get a bit more involved from there. I have tried England, Nordics, Switzerland, and have the app expansion for Pennsylvania but haven’t tried it yet. I played France at PAX Unplugged with my daughter, and we liked it, but it does make the game longer.

Chris: Man, if people got as heated and passionate about gun reform and control as they did about 16-24 y/o baseball prospects, maybe we could like, I don’t know, do something important and beneficial for our society.
Keith Law: Indeed. Hang on, I’m just going to go play a board game.

Chris J: FYI, there’s a smallish gaming con in Aberdeen the first weekend in March, if you won’t be on the road. (GAD-CON).
Keith Law: (cancels all travel plans for that weekend)

Marshall MN: Is your game closet overflowing at this point? Do you keep all the ones you have played, or if they aren’t any good just give them to someone else?
Keith Law: I have sold a number of the review copies I’ve gotten and donated all of the proceeds to charity – I think I’m over $500 donated now, all to the Food Bank of Delaware or to hurricane relief for Puerto Rico and the USVI. I only have five games on the list for right now, but update it often: (User pays the sale price + shipping, and then I donate all of that, including the shipping, to charity. So I make no money off this.) I have swapped some other games, donated some to a local school, given some to friends. I clearly have over 100 and I just don’t need that many.

Nordberg: If you could negotiate for the player’s union for the next CBA, what 2 things would you push for the most?
Keith Law: Raise the minimum salary to $1 million. Free agency after four years.

Chas: Have you checked out the Athletic? I like the names they’re bringing in, am fine paying for quality, but worry it’s a front-loaded thing that will get spun off and crack up in a year.
Keith Law: I subscribed the other day. The first piece I read was kind of lousy but I won’t judge them on just one look.

Nick: What type of upside do you project Andres Gimenez to have? Do you think he can be a starting SS and lead off hitter on a first division club?
Keith Law: That’s the hope. Would like to see a full year of progress & performance from him.

Chuck: What the heck are the Orioles doing?
Keith Law: A good question. I wonder if ownership has tied Duquette’s hands. Britton’s injury killed them too.

Patrick: Keith, I look at the improvements someone like Corbin Burnes made in the Brewers minor league system.
Would you avoid having him pitch in Colorado/AAA? Does he have anything left to prove in AA?
Keith Law: I would avoid that. Put him in the major league bullpen as a long reliever to start the year. Their rotation is really weak for a would-be contender anyway, and there will be an opening at some point. I’d rather see him pitch in the majors and struggle while making adjustments than pitching in Colorado Springs and struggle while losing his sanity.

Mr. Athletic: Thanks for the subscription. What other sites have you subscribed to?
Keith Law: I subscribe to the Washington Post & Baseball America. I cancelled my NY Times subscription on Monday after the Bret Stephens “stop smearing Woody Allen” piece. Certainly open to suggestions on worthwhile outlets – I believe in paying for content, obviously.

Andres : Thoughts on the new MGMT or Franz Ferdinand albums?
Keith Law: Never been an MGMT fan. The new FF album is shockingly bad. Thought the latest Wombats album was solid, not as good as Glitterbug. A little disappointed in Dream Wife’s LP. Next album to give some time to is Django Django’s latest.

Bill: Yankees fan here, but to be fair to you I think your concerns about Severino were about the ability for him to make it through multiple seasons given his windup. It’s only been one (very very) good year. I assume at this point, tho, obviously he should be left in rotation
Keith Law: I agree that he should be left there. It was that plus the lack of an average breaking pitch when he was in low-A and AA. He did improve his slider dramatically – I think he’s just throwing everything harder – between 2016 and 2017.

Rick C: Should the Braves just wait a couple weeks to call up Acuna, or wait until they can be sure they’ve passed the point where he’d become a super 2 player?
Keith Law: I think he’s ready, but there isn’t a great argument for bringing him north on Opening Day. So start him in triple-A with the idea – and him aware of this – that he’ll come up by May 1st if he rakes in AAA again. I hate super two manipulation because it assumes that 1) you know where the date will be 2) the process will not change in the interim and 3) the player will never be sent down again.

Harold: I work at an elementary school in a very low income, mostly minority area. We have dozens of strategies that strive to close the achievement gap while helping these kids understand what opportunities are out there for them. No matter what we do or how many grueling hours we spend with these kids, nothing seems to change. For every kid who we can reach and push toward higher achievement, there are dozens who never buy in or who get lost in the morass of their communities. What in the world can we do to get kids out of this cycle of despair?
Keith Law: Efforts to help a smaller number of people tend to be much more successful than similar sized/cost efforts to help a larger number of people in a less significant way. “End world hunger!” makes for good marketing for your charity, but it’s an impossible goal that reduces accountability too. “End hunger in this one village in Niger” is a lot less sexy when soliciting funds, but you have a chance to achieve that goal. It’s feasible. You can come up with plans and timelines that will allow for accountability back to donors and that can be altered on the fly if something isn’t working. And then, if it works, you move on to the next village. You will never, ever fix the problem at your entire school. But if you can take ten of those kids and get them on a path out of the cycle of poverty, then that’s a success, in spite of the kids you weren’t able to help … because you were never going to be able to help all of them anyway. Ten successes is better than none.
Keith Law: That’s all for this week’s chat. If I get to Myrtle Beach, I’ll say something on social media so folks can find me there. Thank you all for all of your questions and for reading!