Eight Minute Empire.

Eight-Minute Empire is pretty much what it sounds like – a Civilization-style 4X boardgame that plays in just a few minutes, promising 8 to 20 minute playing times on the box depending on the number of players (from two to five). The tabletop version came out in 2012, followed by a standalone sequel game, Eight-Minute Empire: Legends, that doubles the playing time by adding another layer of rules, which sounds to me like it might defeat the original’s purpose. I missed the physical games, but did pick up the new app version of the original Eight-Minute Empire, which is out for iOS phones and tablets and Android devices for just under $5, and it’s pretty fantastic. The tutorial is great, the app has some in-game tips for newbies (which you can later turn off), and you can rip through a whole game against 3 or 4 AI players in just a few minutes.

Eight-Minute Empire starts with all players on the same region on a map of multiple continents, with each player getting three military units on that space. On a turn, each player will choose one of six available action cards, which cost from 0 to 3 coins to purchase, and which determine the player’s action on that turn: Recruit new troops, move troops on land, move troops on land or via sea, build a city, destroy one troop anywhere on the board. Different cards allow different numbers of troop movements or additions. Building a city gives you the ability to recruit troops to that city as well as to the start region. Each card also has a symbol of one of the game’s six trade goods on it; collecting more of one type can gain you 1, 2, 3, or 6 points, depending on how many cards with that symbol you acquire.

The game lasts seven to ten turns, depending on the number of players, and while the app shows scoring in-progress, there’s no intermediate scoring – the game is only scored at the end. You gain one point for each region you control (more troops than any other player, with a city counting as +1 troop); one for each continent you control (whoever controls the most regions); and various points for the goods you’ve collected. Some cards have wild-card goods tokens, and the app will automatically place those wherever they’ll gain you the most points. If two players tie, which happens fairly often in my experience with the app, the winner is the player with the most coins remaining.

Eight-Minute Empire distills most of the best parts of map/exploration games to keep it simple for players. Everyone starts with the same number of coins, and you can’t get any more during the game. Turn order starts with open bidding; you can bid one or two coins to get to set the turn order, and there’s an advantage to going later rather than going first because you get to make troop movements after other players are done, thus ‘stealing’ another region or even a continent. Conflict is limited to the handful of cards that let you destroy a troop, which the AI players will use if you have one unit alone on a continent (which gives you control of that region and the continent, so beware). There are no actual battles in Eight-Minute Empire, no trading, no theft. You thus focus on where to put your units, where other players might choose to move theirs, and taking the action cards that will help you with units and/or goods while also potentially taking cards that might help your opponents.

The app comes with three levels of AI players, and I’d say the hard AI players are quite capable, strong enough that I needed many plays to beat them and still don’t do it consistently. (The randomness of card draws helps smooth gameplay out too.) It also offers clearer iconography than the printed version of the game, and the only drawback I see in the presentation is that with over 3 players you can’t see everyone’s points/goods status at once. The base game has two maps, the original (pictured) and a “sister continents” map, with several other maps available for $1.99 each or in a pack for $4.99; there’s also an IAP for the Mountains expansion, which was a free print-and-play addition to the base game, available for $1.99. I’m enjoying the two base game maps so far but I have a feeling I’ll eventually spring for others just to add some variety – the configuration of continents alters game play in a significant way, since the cards that allow movement by sea are rarer than those that only allow movement on land. Eight Minute Empire also plays very well on the smaller screen of my iPhone, which makes it a great little time-waster when I’m stuck somewhere without a book. I give it a very strong buy recommendation.

Stick to baseball, 11/11/17.

I have a new boardgame review at Paste, covering the card-drafting game Skyward. I also had two Insider posts go up earlier this week, one previewing some potential offseason trade targets, the other ranking the top 50 free agents this winter. And I held a Klawchat on Thursday.

Feel free to sign up for my free email newsletter, which I send out … I guess whenever I feel like it. I aim for once a week, although I’ve gone as long as two weeks between issues when I haven’t had much to say. You can see past issues at that link.

Also, don’t forget to buy copies of Smart Baseball for everyone on your Christmas list! Except for infants. They might eat the pages. Get them the audiobook instead.

And now, the links…

Klawchat 11/9/17.

I’ve been busy! I have a new boardgame review at Paste, covering the card-drafting game Skyward. I also had two Insider posts go up earlier this week, one previewing some potential offseason trade targets, the other ranking the top 50 free agents this winter.

I’ll also send out the next edition of my free email newsletter either this evening or tomorrow.

Keith Law: It’s the school exam and the kids have run away. Klawchat.

Erix: Why is it that pitchers go in the top 10 in the draft but are seldom top 10 intl prospects?
Keith Law: Is that true? I assume you mean pitchers are seldom among the top 10 bonuses in IFA. I would guess that the reason is that predicting arm health for 15- or 14-year-old pitchers is rather difficult.

Ronald Acuna: What type of package could Ender Inciarte return? Could he be a centerpiece of a top-of-rotation arm?
Keith Law: I would think so – or a middle-of-the-order bat at a position of need (third?). If you don’t get something like that, you don’t trade him.

Wally: What would you do if you were Mike Rizzo? All in for 2018 then let harper, Murphy maybe Stras leave and do a total rebuild? Or, do you think there is enough room between them and 2nd place in the NL East to make some changes now (trade one or more of Murphy/Gio/Roark/heaven forbid Harper?) to extend the window while still giving them a good (albeit lesser) chance to win the East in 2018
Keith Law: All in for 2018 while you have this group. Hard to forecast assembling another roster with 2 real MVP candidates, 2 real CYA candidates, and so much additional talent. Have to go for it.

Bored Lawyer, Esq. : Forrest Whitley had rather high BABIPs throughout his stops in the minors. Is that a blip? What could it mean relative to his stuff?
Keith Law: Wouldn’t take anything away from it. Research on BABIPs has focused on the majors, not minors.

ssimon: Your Stick to Baseball links from last weekend included the L.A. Times’ investigation of Disney’s tax breaks in Anaheim. Are you as opposed to these subsidies for corporations as you are for owners of baseball teams?
Keith Law: No, because there’s at least some economic benefit from such subsidies or tax breaks. Financing a sports stadium doesn’t bring economic benefits; any jobs created are unskilled and temporary, and “new” spending is generally shifted from other (local) outlets. A city or state can subsidize the construction of, say, an Intel fab or a Toyota factory, and thus create skilled jobs that will generate new tax revenues and increase local consumption. That said, there has to be an actual cost/benefit analysis there, and the LAT article claimed that Anaheim isn’t getting what it pays for.

Dan: A thought on the home run spike. Obviously the ball is juiced and that is clear as day. But isn’t interesting that the spike seemed to affect the lower-middle power guys? The players who’d normally hit 10-15 were hitting 20-25 instead. But the top end guys maybe didn’t that big of a spike? Everyone thought Stanton could do this if healthy, this might be Judge’s peak but it wasn’t out of nowhere, and bellinger is also a freak.
Keith Law: I disagree. Stanton, Judge, Bellinger all benefited, clearly. Khris Davis hit 43. Justin Smoak nearly doubled his career high to 38, putting him top 10 in the majors. It seemed to affect everyone.

Same question different day: Given the new bal environment, is it at all possible to project potential power output from minors to majors?
Keith Law: It’s probably doable but I would guess a large adjustment is required to any model – and of course it could become irrelevant if the ball gets un-juiced.

Jay: I think I’ve asked you before but am curious if you think teams are much closer to wanting more studys or medical access to this – How much do you think deteriorating eye sight for hitters as they get older factors into rising strikeout rates compared to just the physical decline component?
Keith Law: My guess, again just off the top of my head, is very little. I believe it’s mostly loss of quickness & reaction time.

Jack: What do you make of the Giants reported interest in Heyward? Is it even legitimate to think that such a trade is possible?
Keith Law: Baggarly said it’s not true. I’ll go with him on anything Giants, other than Omar Vizquel’s legacy.

Patrick: Good day Keith! As a favored source of baseball knowledge, I instead want to tap your knowledge of European metal music.
My hockey playing friends are clamoring for more of that type music, and I don’t know where to start. Recommendations that won’t scare off the rest of the on-ice skaters?
Keith Law: Maybe go for some classic German thrash like Destruction, more contemporary thrash like Hammerfall, Viking metal acts like Tyr, or, if they can handle it, something a little more experimental like Gojira.

Adam D.: I am struggling to see a realistic way for the Giants to contend before 2020. Given what they have now, would you advocate for an Astros-style tear down and who would you make untouchable? I’ll be honest, I am leaning that way and would probably only keep Bumgarner and Posey.
Keith Law: If you’re doing that, you don’t keep anybody. You trade Posey now, because a 30-year-old catcher with 3 years left on his deal and 800 games behind the plate isn’t going to gain value.

Harrisburg Hal: With your math and science interests, did you consider engineering?
Keith Law: My dad was an EE, and he liked his job, but he didn’t encourage that as a career path for me, primarily because he saw how much the job tended to change with each new generation of technology. I did enjoy programming, but I’m not sure it would have worked for a career for me, given my desire to express myself creatively too.

Stupid hypo guy: If their defensive values were the same, Vlad Jr is well above Acuna, right?
Keith Law: That’s true.

Derek: Others (maybe you too?) have said Acuna is by far the best player in the AFL. Is he really much better than Robles? 2017 minor league hitting stats look awfully similar (of course noting that Acuna is half a hear younger, and spent time in AAA and Robles did not). Does Acuna’s defense profile better in CF? It’s hard to believe Acuna has more speed.
Keith Law: I didn’t say that, because I only saw one Acuna AB (and then a HBP). Robles wasn’t there yet, but he might be the better prospect anyway.

ssimon: Based on your estimation of what the QO free agents will receive, which among Jake Arrieta, Wade Davis, Lance Lynn, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Cobb, Greg Holland, and Carlos Santana, would you encourage a competitive team to sign?
Keith Law: I might consider giving up a pick for Arrieta, Cain, and maaaaaybe Santana. That’s it.

Jeff: What are the best mobile boardgames that you would recommend?
Keith Law: One of my offseason projects will be a new ranking of all the iOS/mobile boardgames I’ve played, which has to be over 40 by now. Carcassonne is still the best. Agricola is great. Caylus is too, if it’s still supported. All the Days of Wonder titles are good. 7 Wonders comes next week…

John: How much is Otani actually losing? If he is as good as advertised (an ace and a top five DH in the AL) what kind of money could he get in arbitration?
Keith Law: He won’t get to arbitration until he has three years of service. He’s leaving well over $100 million on the table by coming now.

Dale Cooper: Most murder investigations don’t take as long as MLB’s Braves investig……..wait…..did…..did the Braves……murder someone?
Keith Law: This and the weird leaks have me wondering what on earth is going on over on Park Ave.

Ryan: Enjoying the annual freakout over early offseason Boras asking prices? You’d think people who watch the same movie year after year would get wise to the plot, but apparently not.
Keith Law: And then we had the freakout over the freakout, which was really hard to fathom. I’m in favor of players asking for and getting every dollar they can, but if I think a team overpays a player, darn right I’m going to laugh at them.

Kevin: Out of the HOF veterans committee nominees, who do you think gets elected and who do you think should get elected?
Keith Law: They should elect Trammell and Miller and then fire the entire institution into the sun.

Jason: I find it odd that Corey Ray has fallen down the charts so much? Are his struggles that bad or can he turn it around?
Keith Law: I detailed his swing/stance change in my AFL post. He has to restore his old toe-tap and stride.

Ben: Sooo……Roy Moore is a pedophile. Who knew? Does it sink him? Nah. Theocratic pedophiles are all the rage now. And America’s decline continues.
Keith Law: I am morbidly curious to see how many of his supporters, who must by and large be evangelicals, stand by him by either attacking/doubting his victims or by saying it doesn’t matter. Because … yeah, it matters. Those are felonies.

Jack: thoughts on the college basketball/shoe company scandal?
Keith Law: I have no idea what this means.

Rob: Such sad news regarding Roy Halladay. A great pitcher and from everything you hear, a great person too. As trivial as this may seem right now, is he a HOF’er for you?
Keith Law: I’ve been asked this repeatedly in the last 48 hours and have declined to answer it, because it feels both trivial and a bit macabre to discuss him in such terms.

Chris : I think there’s a lot of value on the “lower end” of this year’s FA market. Guys like Joe Smith, Luke Gregerson, Jeremy Hellickson, Yunel Escobar and Chris Tillman all strike me as solid buy-low guys. Do you have any favorite one-year deal guys that could be this year’s Brandon Morrow or Alex Avila?
Keith Law: I had a few on the back of the 50, and I think I’m doing another piece on that soon? Hellickson made my list. I don’t see Escobar, who seems to have lost any defensive value, in that light, and Tillman’s stuff and results have both been awful since the mid-2016 shoulder injury and heavy use after he returned.

Bobby: Otani. I believe you think he will be a legit SP but the bat won’t play (or not enough to stop him from pitching). Think he comes over as a #2? Better/worse? Thanks, as always…
Keith Law: I think he’s a #1 starter, and opposing pitchers will tell us rather quickly if he’s anything with the bat.

Fatherz: Who are the pitchers in the Padres system that have the highest ceilings? Do Gore or Baez have #1 stuff?
Keith Law: Those are probably the top two ceilings, but I don’t think either has pure #1 stuff.

Bobby: Keith – thanks for these chats. Love them. Now that Tanaka has opted not to become a FA what do you think the Yanks should do re their pitching moving forward? Presumably their BP is more or less set…I know they would get Otani if they can…sign Sabathia maybe – anything else? What do they need to do to make it to the WS next year?
Keith Law: Bulk innings. Offense is great, bullpen is great, you don’t need to go sign Arrieta. You need some league-average quantity from your rotation, especially as insurance – Tanaka’s elbow, Montgomery’s fade in the 2nd half, any pitcher can get hurt.

Bobbo: happy Klawchat day and thanks again for answering questions. liked your positive review of Cave vs Cave; i’m intrigued. any chance it surpasses Jaipur as your fave 2p game? if not, why?
Keith Law: Jaipur is so much more elegant. I’d still have that at 1, and 7 Wonders Duel has really moved up my list from last year.

JQ: Was it ever publicly reported that Daniel Flores was battling with cancer? I do no recall ever hearing about this until the sad news yesterday.
Keith Law: I was totally unaware of this. Heartbreaking news.

Mike: I was thinking about doing a spatchcock turkey this year. Do you need to prep the turkey in anyway like a brine (either dry or wet) or just put salt and pepper on it before cooking?
Keith Law: Spatchcock and salt. Check serious eats for the exact timing but I think I salted the morning of cooking.

AC: If you could wave a magic wand and fix one thing about baseball, what would it be? (Anything from the actual game to contracts, to manager’s outfits)
Keith Law: Gosh. I would probably spike the antitrust exemption, as I think that’s led to many other problems in terms of franchise ownership/locations and labor relations.
Keith Law: Although they did carve out an exemption to the exemption for CBA talks.

Morris Buttermaker: KLaw, I have seen you refer to a pitcher’s mechanics or a batter’s swing when evaluating their chances at further success. Where did you learn this? Years of observation? Learning at the foot of older co workers?
Keith Law: Both.

Gabriel: I’m curious as to what the recent death of Daniel Flores will mean to the Red Sox’s international class this year. Would mlb be scared at the prospect of them blowing past any caps for Otani after the death of Flores and their international signing scandal? Thanks keith. Love your work
Keith Law: You can’t blow past the caps any more. These are hard limits. I don’t know if MLB would grant them additional cap space in light of Flores’ passing, though. It seems only fair to the team, no? The Flores family would still have his bonus – and yes, I understand that is no consolation for them – so they would not be further affected.

Ron: I think Mauer was a better choice for a Gold Glove than Hosmer. Course, he didn’t hit 25 homers. Maybe Dozier wasn’t as good a choice as Pedroia or Altuve? What are your thoughts?
Keith Law: Oh, were the Gold Gloves announced this week? I was all out of fucks to give, sorry.

B: Jake McGee had some odd splits last season and was much better against RHB rather than LHB (SSS WARNING). Do you think he could be a sneaky good sign for a team in need of a LH reliever?
Keith Law: I think he’s a full-inning reliever, not just a LH specialist, given his whole history and his pitches. But one-year splits are probably not reliable.

addoeh: The new Marlins ownership group has already said they want to reduce payroll. They now may be looking to trade their potential MVP winner and only real marketable star. They expect little, if anything, in return and may end up trading him to the team that is willing to pick up the greatest amount of what remains on Stanton’s contract, not on what prospects the other team could give. Does this new group have some short term financing deals that could become onerous if not paid off quickly? It doesn’t make a lot of sense otherwise.
Keith Law: This is my concern – that they trade Stanton to clear the money, but don’t get baseball talent in return – because that farm system is awful right now. Eyeballing it, I’d guess it’s #30.

Augustus: Blayne Enlow looks impressive. Could he start in the future or do you think he’s more suited for back of the bullpen?
Keith Law: I think he’s a starter … he’s also 18.

Logic: There has been much discussion about the timing of pitching changes during the world series. The manager is typically given credit or blame. Do you think that front office may actually make some of these calls once the game has started? I understand a lot of decisions are scripted with some organizations, but I am thinking about when things start to go south. Do you think the front office should intervene during the games? Thanks for continuing the chats, they are appreciated.
Keith Law: I don’t think the FO does this, or should do it. You hire the manager who is an extension of your approach, but you empower him to make these decisions in-game.

Tiberius: Do you think Trent Clark ever reaches the majors at this point?
Keith Law: I do.

Devon : Hey, Keith! Thank you as always for the chats. I was wondering who you prefer offensively in terms of overall future value: Eloy or Acuna?
Keith Law: Eloy.

Caligula: Jesus Luzardo: Is he a GUY or just a guy?
Keith Law: I hear he’s a GUY, unlike your proposed consul.

Jon (Philadelphia): I recently became a vegetarian. So far, the most challenging aspect has been finding decent options when I don’t have time to cook for myself, which is not infrequent as I basically live in the hospital as a surgical resident. In response, I have tried to cook in bulk for the week whenever I have time but am new to this cooking approach. Do you have any practical advice on how to optimize this process while ensuring that I do not compromise on flavor/nutritional content? Thanks Keith
Keith Law: Veg dishes are tricky to do in bulk because most veg don’t survive reheating well. When I have a lot of leftover cooked vegetables, I try to repurpose them. A batch of leftover roasted broccoli goes into the blender with some stock and maybe a little cream to make soup. Leftover aromatics can become the sauce or accompaniment to whatever your main protein is, or added to a cooked bean dish when served.

Joe-Nathan: Is Alex Speas Stetson Allie 2.0?
Keith Law: He’s better than that. But still might never have the control he’ll need to pitch in the majors.

Rick: You’ve said before that you don’t think that Chris Taylor hasn’t turned into anything and that it’s a SSS. Do you still feel that way even after the season and the postseason he had?
Keith Law: Only a fool would change his opinion of a player based on a postseason performance. It’s not just a small sample, it’s a skewed one.

Galba: Jahmai Jones or Jo Adell?
Keith Law: Jones for me.

Adam: In the broadest scope possible, how many WAR is required to even warrant consideration for the HOF?
Keith Law: I do not favor this approach, sorry. WAR is not precise enough to discuss thresholds, only comparisons.

Onomatopoeia: Kepler and Thorpe too much/too little for Chris Archer?
Keith Law: Too little. Archer’s contract is extremely club friendly.

Zirinsky: Hi Keith. I’m curious: is there any way to structure a pitching staff so that a team could have someone only pitching once per week (I’m thinking of the Yankees/Tanaka but this could apply to others)?
Keith Law: Yes, teams used to do it with “Sunday starters” in the four-man era. No reason you can’t do it today with the use of swingmen/long relievers.

Devon: For the first time in months we have an actual policy (tax reform) being debated in Congress, but it is already devolving into the typical echo-chamber politicization of the issues in the same way every other issue has in the last two-plus years. Is society ever going to go back to a point where people actually research issues and develop their own opinions or are we in a “new normal” where people only do what their political parties tell them to do without questioning?
Keith Law: I don’t see that happening in the next twenty years.

Vespasian: Does Carson Kelly have a future in St Louis? They seem to be pretty dead set on Yadi as a starter. Given the typical lifespan of a catcher, wouldn’t it make more sense for the Cards to flip Kelly for someone who plays a position of need?
Keith Law: Probably, if they don’t see Kelly starting in the next two seasons. But I think he’s a starter, maybe an above-average one if he can get some of the raw power he’ll show in BP into his game swing.

Jim Nantz: In your free agent piece, you named the Rangers as potential players in the 2B market, which I get since Odor was terrible last year. However, he’s still young and I know you rated him highly as a prospect. Any chance he keeps developing and bounces back, or is he simply a high HR/low OBP guy now?
Keith Law: He’s gotten worse for two straight years, and UZR even killed his defense last year (dRS didn’t, so we have a real discrepancy there). Can he improve? Yes. There are very few positive historical comparables, however. And if they want to win in 2018, getting a certain upgrade makes more sense than rolling him out there and hoping he isn’t sub-replacement level again.

Titus: Is Zack Granite just a 4th outfielder or could he be more?
Keith Law: Fourth outfielder most likely.

Joe-Nathan: I remember that you wrote a few posts about Reggie Lawson when he was in HS, and that you liked him but his stuff backed up in his senior year. No one seems to talk about him in the padres system, so I can only scout the stat line. K’s are there, so should people be talking about him?
Keith Law: My understanding is that the stuff isn’t really as good as it was his junior year. I saw him briefly in the spring and it hadn’t gotten that much better. Still a good athlete with some arm strength.

Tony: Is it outrageous to think brad hand could fetch a top 30 prospect
Keith Law: If that’s the ask, then we know why he hasn’t been traded.

Matt: Has Tatis passed Robles/Senzel as a prospect?
Keith Law: He’s clearly above Senzel. Robles … I’ll leave that till the rankings.

Dr. Bob: J.D. Martinez looks to me to be a sucker bet, especially for a National League team. In 2016 his defense was so bad that even though he had a 4.0 oWAR, his overall WAR was 1.8. He’ll be 30 with some injury history. At, say, 5 years, $150 million, you would be looking for an average of 4.0 WAR per year on the wrong side of 30. I’d talk, but probably stay away. What say you?
Keith Law: I agree – I saw that he’s looking for $200 million and thought that I wouldn’t give him half that. He seems like the type of player who could decline in a big hurry.

Jesse: What is it about Carcassonne that makes it so unique of an experience for you to consistently rank it so highly? I love the game too, but find with all the recent new games that have come out in the past five years or so, that it often gets forgotten come game nights.
Keith Law: It’s simple, elegant, extensible, and easy to teach newcomers without a loss of complexity for regulars. I also try not to succumb to recency bias on my rankings. The iOS implementation is considered the best app version of any boardgame, not just by me, but I believe by many in the industry too.

Roy Moore: How sadly unsurprised are you by the latest news about him?
Keith Law: Those who rail against immorality are often compensating for their own immoral desires.

Buck Dancer: The Cardinals appear to be the favorite to acquire Stanton. In your eyes, what is a fair package for them to send to Miami? What would acquiring Stanton do to the Cardinals chances of overtaking the Cubs and holding off the Brewers?
Keith Law: Why are they the favorite? I missed that entirely.

Mark: What prompted you to get into board games? I’m constantly mocked by my family, friends, and even strangers that I’m grown man who is engrossed in board games. How should I respond to these people?
Keith Law: There were 65,000 people at GenCon this year, mostly adults. Some were even … women. Also, if someone mocks your hobby, then they’re not your friends. Unless you’re a brony. Those people are weird.

Daniel : I have great respect for your musical tastes, so I’m interested in your insights on this simply query: Mellencamp or Springsteen?
Keith Law: Pass.

Nerva: Understanding that every prospect is unique, there seems to be a sentiment that some systems are more prone to failing in a type of player’s development (e.g. Orioles with pitchers or the Jack Z. Mariners with hitters). With that in mind, do you factor in organizational structure when rating and ranking prospects? If you have two identical pitchers and one is drafted by the Orioles while the other is drafted by the Dodgers, would you rank the latter above the former?
Keith Law: I don’t. My rankings are team-agnostic because prospects can change orgs at any time.

Charlie: If the Red Sox don’t sign a 1B, what are the odds Michael Chavis gets the most PAs there next year?
Keith Law: Travis will get a long look there if they don’t acquire one from outside (I think they will, someone with power).

Josh: Could Luis Urias be a +10 DRS guy at 2B or is that too rich?
Keith Law: Seems high, but he’s also never played there full-time, has he? He’s played a good bit of short and is competent there.

Rick: Thoughts on barstool ? I think some of the gimmicks are funny but they ripped Cortea for getting married so young and not hooking up with a bunch of different like Jeter ? #cringeworthy
Keith Law: I thought that Correa thing was some movie reference (Anchorman?) I didn’t get.

Jay: You mentioned the Giants as a possible destination for Donaldson in a trade. Would the Jays really trade him in offseason rather than the trade deadline in ’18 (assuming they are not in contention)?
Keith Law: Why not? In the offseason, far more teams think they’re contenders, and budgets are much more flexible.

Cassidy : What restaraunts did you dine at while at AFL ? The usual ? (Bianco, Matt’s, etc.?) anything new ?
Keith Law: The only new spots were Casa de Falafel in Peoria (Iraqi food, in a gas station, really great) and Forno 301 downtown. Otherwise it was Keith’s greatest hits – Hillside, Cartel, Giant, Matt’s, crepe bar, Republica Empanada, Pane Bianco, FnB, etc.

Daniel Morton: Tirso Ornelas stick in a corner or have to move to 1B
Keith Law: Corner OF.

Brandon: Would it not be a good idea for both the Rockies and CarGo to reach a one-year deal, with some playing time at 1B?
Keith Law: He didn’t hit enough to be a regular in the OF last year. Not sure why you’d want him at 1b.

Rex: A FG writer recently said that he thinks it’ll be a while before a team other than the Yankees, Indians, Astros, Red Sox, Dodgers, Nationals or Cubs is in the WS. What do you think about that?
Keith Law: I would take the other side of that bet.

Cassidy : So a GOP candidate is being accused of sexual assault (awful, if true) but do you think an accusation should merit being pulled from running for office ? One person could come forward lying and your life is ruined …?! Just doesn’t seem fair (although I do believe most accusations are true)
Keith Law: It’s one accusation of assault and several of enticement of a minor, plus other accounts of untoward behavior.

Chase: Percent chance that Ohtani will be in an MLB uniform on Opening Day?
Keith Law: I’d go up to 40% now from about 20% before he hired CAA and we heard that the parties have been negotiating or at least discussing. MLB has really, colossally screwed this up. Just waive the cap for him and forget about it.

Jason: Do you prefer dominick smith to greg bird, (Birds health issues aside?)
Keith Law: Smith is a much better hitter with less power and much more defense, so yes.

John C.: I know he’s not great by any stretch, but Ryon Healy would be a huge upgrade at 3B over Garcia and Ruiz for the Braves. Given his youth and contract, which young starter would you be willing to trade to acquire him from Oakland?
Keith Law: He can’t play third.

Jason: Would you care if your daughter smoked weed, but was still productive ? Struggling with my daughter wether to allow it or not
Keith Law: I would not.

Jerry: What are the chances Ohtani already has a deal in place with a team?
Keith Law: Zero. Unless some GM wants to get fired.

Moe Mentum: Rank and defend these decades-old parody movies that end with exclamation points: Airplane! Hot Shots! Top Secret!
Keith Law: Top Secret, Airplane, I never even finished Hot Shots.

David Stearns: Help! I can’t tell if 2016 Jonathan Villar is the mirage or if 2017 Jonathan Villar is the fluke…which one is right?
Keith Law: 2016 seemed way out of line with the rest of his career.

Sterling Malory Chris Archer: So I started reading The Master and Margarita based on the fact it’s your number one book. Any suggestions on what to pay attention to while reading?
Keith Law: Remember that Bulgakov wrote it as an anti-communist fable while he was writing as a state playwright for the Soviet government.

Dan: I know that injuries kinda derailed Isan Diaz’s 2017 but is he still a top 100 caliber prospect for you?
Keith Law: I think so, since the hamate probably wrecked his year.

Tom: I realize I run the risk of being struck by a lightning bolt, especially where I live, but when I heard Vin Scully’s national anthem comments, all I could think of was “89 year old white grandpa misses the point completely.” (Ducking)
Keith Law: Yep. I felt the same. Met Vin once, as nice a man as you’ll come across, but that was quite ignorant given the players he covered in his career.

Dan: Is a line of .280/.350/.400 a pretty accurate projection for Kevin Newman?
Keith Law: A year ago I would have said yes. Given how little power he showed in AAA, just in terms of hard contact, I’m thinking less now.

PD: Really sad story about Daniel Flores. I was looking at video of his release and swing and he looked really good. Where would he had ranked for you?
Keith Law: As with Halladay/HoF, I would simply prefer not to discuss the recently departed in those terms. I’m sorry.

Andy: The last two WS winners have largely done it with home grown hitters carrying the bulk of the load. If you want to throw the Dodgers and Indians into the mix, they also did it with more homegrown hitters (with Kershaw being an exception.) Do you think that the additional certainty with a hitter could make teams value bats above pitching in the top of drafts?
Keith Law: Some teams, notably the Cubs, have argued that you want bats in the top 10-15 picks, then go pitching later. They’ve drafted that way quite a bit. I think the Dodgers have too. There’s more predictability in their performance and lower attrition rates.

Nick: What’s the ideal path for the oriole’s at this point? I say Trade Manny and Brach now, and Britton mid season hoping he stays healthy the first half, sign a couple bounce back candidate starting pitchers to high AAV short term deals and hope to flip them as well? Don’t see a path to winning next year so maybe try to rebuild on the fly without completely tearing it down?
Keith Law: Trade Britton and/or Brach now. If they intend to compete this year, then they keep Machado and ride it out. If they intend to rebuild, then trade everyone now.

Sage: Everyone mentions the ball is juiced, but I’ve heard the seams are not raised like they used to be, causing a decline on effective pitching, and spike in distance a ball does. Are these same thing, or am I misinterpreting ?
Keith Law: Two different things. The coefficient of restitution has changed too (the ball is bouncier).

Chris: interesting trade idea on RAB today: Yelich for Acevedo, Adams, Solak, and Frazier. I know youre not super high on the first two, but what do you think? Obv Denbo knows their system well.
Keith Law: Supposedly they don’t want to deal Yelich at all. That seems like a bunch of quantity over quality.

Andrew: Would a solution like Toastmasters help me with a problem with my public speaking?
Keith Law: I know people who swear by them, but I’ve never participated in it (or done anything for public speaking).

JJ: Keith, weird question, but with as health conscious as players/teams are today, are there players who are major smokers (similar to Leyland)? I know smokeless tobacco is still popular among players and isn’t healthy but was curious how much of that is hidden from public image.
Keith Law: The answer depends completely on what leaf we are discussing.

Joe: Do the minor league use the same balls as the major leaguers?
Keith Law: They do not.

Nick: Greatest mankind accomplishment of all time? Moon landing? Building of Pyramids? Internet? Something else?
Keith Law: Eradicating smallpox.

Andrew: I know you mentioned in one of these chats or your twitter that the interview process isn’t a good way to evaluating a potential hire (Dave Martinez). What is a good way of seeing if someone is a good hire?
Keith Law: Resume and references.

Nick: Who is the most surprising top 10 draft pick you’ve seen since covering the draft?
Keith Law: Hm. Most surprising first rounder was Hayden Simpson, but I think he was 15th or 16th overall. DeShields Jr at 8 to Houston in 2010 was a surprise, just that he went that high, although I think I had him projected to them at pick 19 (they took Foltynewicz there). Hobgood in 2009 and Townsend the second time around to Tampa Bay in 2005 come to mind too.

Jock: Austin Beck – do you think he was a reach at #6 last year or do you think that he represents a good departure for the A’s as they aim to develop more “toolsy” and “high reward” players in hopes of landing a new stadium in a few years? Thanks, Keith.
Keith Law: Not a reach, but huge risk huge reward type of guy.

JJ: Care to make an early prediction on the 2018 ROYs?
Keith Law: I do not, thanks.

Ed: There’s no way Davis doesn’t accept the QO, right?
Keith Law: If he thinks he can get multiple years elsewhere, then he would decline it.

Nathan: Keith! Love your work … I need some help. I’m trying to acquire the taste for straight black coffee. Can you give me some tips on what roast or brand I should start with? Much appreciated…
Keith Law: I never drank my coffee black until I tried Intelligentsia, and from there branched out to other “third wave” roasters (very light roasts, usually from single estates or small regions). Adding dairy to coffee introduces fats that block the bitter receptors on your tongue, but really good coffee that is properly roasted has very little to no bitterness.

yankees fan: I know you have been impressed by sheffield recently. Has he considerably improved since last years trade? If yes, in what way?
Keith Law: He has. He’s throwing harder and has switched to a slider.

Tim: Cooking question. Is it safe to feed a toddler food cooked with wine (braised, risotto, etc.)? I see so much conflicting information online.
Keith Law: Yes. Most of the alcohol will cook out – it evaporates at about 173 F. And a batch of risotto should use 1/2 cup of wine, which works out to about 14 ml of alcohol. Even if your toddler ate the entire batch, well, he’d get sick from all that rice first.
Keith Law: I need to wrap this up to pick up my car from the mechanic’s. Thank you for all of your questions and for reading all the content I’ve put together this week. I should be back next Thursday for a chat, and there will be a video chat as usual when I spatchcock the turkey before Thanksgiving. Have a safe weekend, everyone.

Wise Children.

Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction in 1984, and then won a special Best of the James Tait Black award in 2012 as the best of the 90-odd winners of the annual honor in its history, beating out such widely acknowledged classics as Graham Greene’s The Heart of the Matter (which was shortlisted), Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Robert Graves’ Claudius duology, and E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India. I read it in April of 2016 and found it impenetrable, between her recursive prose and her seamless mixture of unreality into the realistic narrative, without any core characters to whom I could relate or with whom I could empathize. It’s been only a year and a half since I read it and I’d have a hard time telling you what it was about.

Her last novel, Wise Children, is completely different in everything but prose style – but here the almost Proustian prolixity is far more effective, as it reflects the effusive, vivacious personality of the narrator, Dora Chance. Dora and Nora are twins, the illegitimate offspring of the stage actor Melchior Hazard (I trust you’ve noticed these surnames already), who grow up in and around the theatre and whose lives intersect regularly with those of their biological father, their uncle Peregrine who pretends to be their father when he’s not wandering the globe, and Melchior’s various wives and other children, the latter of whom also come in pairs. The book is a bawdy, boozy, life-affirming comedy, told by Dora as she, her sister, and Melchior’s first wife, the Lady Atalanta, prepare to attend Melchior’s one hundredth birthday party.

Carter employs a ton of wordplay in the book, with double meanings, allusions, and rhyming. Referring to a little closet where a lost cask is found at one point, she has Dora call it “the place where the missus could stow away the master if the master came home plastered.” Her prose is musical, and the puns can be auditory or visual (Peregine calling his nieces “copperknobs,” a deviation from the British slang term for a redhead “coppernob,” and then referring to them getting the “key to the door” when they turn eighteen). I’m sure I only caught a fraction of the references to Shakespeare, English poetry, Greek mythology, and more.

The narrative itself is also unorthodox; it’s written like a memoir, but Dora can’t exactly walk a straight line (unsurprising, given her self-professed alcohol intake) when delving into the past, and her reliability is questionable – or Carter is employing a little magical realism, especially when Peregrine is involved. Much of the comedy is situational, as Carter weaves a web of love/hate relationships among the various half-siblings, parents, uncles, and associates, complete with mistaken identities and the Chances taking advantage of others’ inability to tell them apart. There’s a lot of booze, a lot of sex, and a fair amount of confusion over who is actually the father of each set of twins – much of that fostered by Melchior himself, as his interest in fatherhood is directly tied to its utility in his stage career.

This book appeared on the Guardian‘s list of the top 100 novels of all time, rather than Nights at the Circus, and although that opinion seems contrarian I’d have to agree with it. This is more accessible, funnier, and far more engaging. I’d challenge anyone who reads this to not adore the Chances, who make effrontery their primary coping mechanism in a world that would often rather forget their existence, and who turn the randomness of life into a series of opportunities. It wouldn’t make my top 100 novels list, but it is an incredibly fun, erudite book that regularly had me laughing out loud.

Next up: I’ve got 100 pages to go in Dan Vyleta’s Smoke.

City of Ghosts.

City of Ghosts, now available on amazon Prime, follows the citizen-journalist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, which began disseminating information online about the atrocities committed by the Daesh, also known as ISIS and ISIL, during their three-plus year occupation of the once-prosperous Syrian city. RBSS won the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists in 2015, even as some of its leaders were being hunted down and executed by Daesh supporters in Syria and in Turkey. The group continues to operate, with its leadership in exile, relying on anonymous contributors still in the city, which was just liberated from Daesh control by Kurdish-led anti-government forces three weeks ago.

(The group that occupied Raqqa goes by many names, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, but the RBSS members interviewed in this documentary appear to favor the term Daesh, which ISIL leaders themselves dislike. As that is what the RBSS members use, I’ll follow that convention here.)

Raqqa was the sixth-largest city in Syria, with a population of 220,000 in the 2004 census (per Wikipedia), and hosted many anti-government protests during the Syrian portion of the Arab Spring, with the toppling of a statue of the late Syrian dictator Hafez al-Assad coming when a mixed coalition of opposing forces took the city from the Syrian army. In less than a year, however, Daesh forces took control of Raqqa, setting up a sharia court and executing opponents in the middle of the day in the town square. The journalists and activists who formed RBSS began almost immediately to document the conditions in the town under the Daesh, including the executions and the extreme privation, by posting videos, photos, and written content to social media and Youtube. With no foreign journalists on the ground in the city, RBSS quickly gained credibility as one of the few reliable (non-Daesh) information sources there, and a film directed by RBSS co-founder Naji Jerf helped them win the aforementioned award from CPJ. RBSS were quickly targeted by the occupying forces, who threatened to kill every member they could find – and the family members of those they couldn’t. They executed several members still in Raqqa, and assassinated several others outside of the country, including Jerf, killed in broad daylight in Turkey in 2015.

City of Ghosts follows the remaining leaders of RBSS, walking back to the group’s origins and carrying the story forward about two years, through the losses of several group leaders, the flights of many others into exile, and their continuing work to tell the world of the conditions in Raqqa – and to try to contradict the Daesh’s recruiting videos, which, shocking as it is, don’t exactly depict real life as a member of the jihadist group. Director Matthew Heineman manages to give the viewer the information s/he needs on the actual progress of the civil war and the occupation of Raqqa as foundation, while still centering the documentary itself on the individuals, all men, who are risking their lives and even those of family members to fight the Daesh with information. Each has his own story, whether it’s specific reasons for joining the effort or the very personal cost paid for his involvement. Watching them flee to exile in Germany, only to be confronted by neo-Nazis and anti-immigrant protesters, only serves to underscore how incredibly lonely this existence must be.

The film did leave me with one question, although it may have been too dangerous to answer. Someone has to be funding the group; we never see these courageous men discussing money, but they have laptops, smart phones, video cameras, and obviously are eating and buying the essentials. The effort may have started organically, but somewhere there must be a source of funds that allows them to continue to live, and thus to work on informing the world that Raqqa is burning. Of course, identifying any funding sources could have put them in jeopardy, and thus jeopardizing the group’s work. At the time of the film’s release, Raqqa was still under Daesh control, and their efforts remained as important as ever.

Documentaries about the ongoing catastrophe that is the Syrian civil war are everywhere now; The White Helmets won the Oscar for short-subject documentary last year, and Last Men in Aleppo is a full-length feature on the same topic (and in my queue to watch). Sebastian Junger’s Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS is supposed to take a more direct look at the state of the war and the failed state of Syria. HBO’s Cries from Syria focuses on the human cost and humanitarian crisis. As obsessed as much of our polity here is with the Daesh and the occasional terrorist attack abroad by adherents, there’s still so little happening to stop the crisis; even if the Daesh, who control a fraction of the territory they did at their peak, are totally removed from power, there will still be a civil war in Syria, with Kurds at odds with the central government, and numerous other rebel groups vying for control of the country. By putting a few young heroes at the heart of its story, City of Ghosts provides a new lens on the disaster while testifying to the relentless human desire to be free.

The Days of Abandonment.

Before Elena Ferrante wrote her bestselling, critically acclaimed Neapolitan Novels – and long before her true identity was outed by a man who decided she didn’t have a right to pseudonymity – she wrote a few other less-known novels that presaged many of the themes of the tetralogy that made her name. One of those, The Days of Abandonment, is a slim novel that overflows with the rage of a woman whose husband has left her and their two kids to shack up with a much younger girlfriend, showing her declining mental state in the face of this betrayal. It’s a primal display of feminist indignation, and given how worthless her husband appears to be, rather satisfying in a perverse way.

Olga and Mario have been married for about 16 years, with two kids, and although they’ve had the normal vicissitudes of any marriage of that length, she’s floored when he announces he’s leaving. He gives no reason, and seems callous in his disregard for the family. At first, she thinks he’ll come back, and manages to hold herself together to a reasonable extent when it feels temporary. When it becomes clear that he’s not coming back, and she learns that he’s left her for an acquaintance about half her age, she spirals out of control, to the point where she can’t take care of herself or her kids as her rage at this treason expands to fill every available space.

While there are specific scenes that give the audience some cheap satisfaction – and I’m not going to lie, when she sees Mario with his girlfriend and tries to beat the shit out of him, I enjoyed it – the power of this narrative comes from her internal cycling. Olga gave everything up for Mario, who was manipulative and controlling enough to deny her any chance at a career, who put his own career ahead of any of her interests, and who now has saddled her with sole responsibility for their two kids. She built an adult life around him, never anticipating that he might pull the rug right out from under her like this, and when he first returns after leaving, he has the temerity to lie about his reasons and to try to paint himself as a sort of victim. Her rage is raw and uncomfortable to watch, but it is entirely justified.

Olga and the kids eventually end up unable to exit their apartment because of a problem with the new locks on their door, installed after Mario left, although given Olga’s deteriorating state of mind, I wondered if their imprisonment was in her head or merely metaphorical. Other scenes are clearly real within the narrative but no less shocking; Olga’s failed tryst with a neighbor reeks of desperation and debasement, although it provides the first nudge that allows the novel’s conclusion – which isn’t as dark as I expected – to stand.

Mario is a joke of a man; husbands cheat, wives cheat, couples divorce, but how Mario cheats and leaves and just ignores his kids for weeks is so callow that you can’t see any redeeming qualities in his character, and he further squanders this by taking something from the apartment without Olga knowing. So it’s really Olga’s narrative, and Olga’s chance for character growth, and Ferrante sells it. If you want to convince a young woman not to center her entire life around a man, this is probably the book to do it.

Next up: I’m halfway through Dan Vyleta’s dystopian novel Smoke and enjoying it tremendously.

The Lost City of Z.

The Lost City of Z is based on David Grann’s bestselling 2009 book about Percy Fawcett, a renowned British explorer who disappeared in central South America sometime after 1925 during an expedition to find the remnants of a long-gone advanced civilization there. Starring Charlie Hunnam as Fawcett, the movie hews relatively closely to Fawcett’s true story and offers many compelling scenes from his first two expeditions to the Amazon basin, but doesn’t give us enough understanding of its protagonist to create real interest in the character’s fate. The movie is available free on amazon prime.

Hunnam plays the dashing hero, complete with a Poirot-esque mustache, whom we first meet as the Royal Geographical Society asks him to journey to the center of the continent to help map the disputed border between Brazil and Bolivia. (If you don’t know much South American history, here’s a good summary: Bolivia kept picking border fights with its neighbors and lost every one of them, including one fight that cost the country its narrow coastline on the Pacific.) He’s reluctant to take on a non-military mission, but does so in the hopes of restoring his family name – the film has his father as a degenerate gambler and drunk, although that may be fictional – and sets off with the help of Coatson (Robert Pattinson) to chart the border and eventually find the source of a major river. The journey is perilous, many redshirts don’t survive it, and even the men who do are in sad shape when they reach the river’s source, but they do and return home to a heroes’ welcome. That spurs another expedition that doesn’t go quite so well, but the two combine to convince Fawcett of the existence of the city of Z, and he yearns for one more chance to go discover it.

Hunnam himself is a charmless man in the lead role – he probably knows his claret from his Beaujolais – and the movie truly suffers for it. Benedict Cumberbatch was originally attached to the project, and his charisma is sorely missed here. Pattinson steals every scene he’s in with Hunnam, thoroughly inhabiting his character’s rakishness and loyalty right to the very end of his arc. Sienna Miller is similarly blank in her role as Fawcett’s wife, looking pretty but feeling one-dimensional – she’s the suffering wife, no, she’s the loyal little lady, no, she’s the proud wife and mother, as if we see three different women at different points in the film.

The scenery, however, is stunning – it is an expertly made film, with gorgeous, expansive shots of the jungle and the rivers. There’s real action and suspense when they’re on expeditions, and the scenes in London feel more like interstitials. There’s a short subplot, based on actual events, around another explorer who comes on their second mission and is badly injured, giving Fawcett a real antagonist but also ending abruptly (as it did in real life). When Fawcett came home, as a father and husband I couldn’t understand his willingness to leave his wife and children, but as a viewer I wanted him to get back to the jungle and do stuff.

Of course, the movie suffers from the unknown: Theories abound as to what happened to Fawcett and his son on their final mission, and Grann used a legend he heard from one of the native tribes in the region to craft a new hypothesis, but we just don’t know. The script doesn’t deal well with the uncertainty, giving us an ambiguous egress for the two men and a sentimental ending for Fawcett’s wife. Perhaps fabricating a specific outcome would have gone too far, but charting their progress and disappearance from London may have served the film better.

This is a very solid, competently made film that just lacks the extra level of emotion that would connect viewers to the story or the main character. We learn so little of Fawcett’s background that his wanderlust is a bit hard to grasp, and Hunnam plays him so clinically that, if I didn’t know better, I’d think he was an American actor trying too hard to nail the upper class British accent. (Hunnam is English.) More prologue might have helped – or less, if perhaps we’d started in the Amazon and skipped some of the home scenes. It feels very much like a movie that could have been great, but isn’t.

Stick to baseball, 11/4/17.

My one ESPN piece this week is not Insider: I spoke to Jharel Cotton and Jabari Blash about the hurricane damage and recovery efforts in their home territory, the US Virgin Islands. It’s bad, yet it’s getting virtually none of the attention here that Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico are getting. If you’d like to help, you can donate to the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, St John Rescue, or Family Resource Center, all of which are heavily involved on the ground on the islands.

I also held a Klawchat on Thursday.

Smart Baseball makes a great holiday gift, or at least I think it will, since this is actually the first holiday season since its publication. Also, please sign up for my free email newsletter, which is sort of weekly, and includes some mini-essays that don’t appear elsewhere plus links to all my writing.

And now, the links…

Waiting for the Barbarians.

I’d sort of avoided J.M. Coetzee for a while, given his reputation for dark, depressing themes; one of his two Booker Prize-winning novels, Disgrace, involves rape as a significant plot point more than once in the book. I was in a used book store in Manhattan in June, however, and saw Waiting for the Barbarians, which made the Guardian‘s list of the 100 greatest novels ever written, on the shelf for a few bucks, and figured at 156 pages it would at least be over quickly if I hated it – and maybe it would surprise me. I can’t see it as a top 100 all-time novel, but I got more out of the book than I expected, as it’s a fable that seems to combine some of the best of Italo Calvino and Kazuo Ishiguro (the latter of whom won the Nobel Prize for Literature, as did Coetzee), in a work that I’d call the better Darkness at Noon.

The story is set in an unnamed frontier town at the edge of the Empire, where the main character, the Magistrate, has served his country for some years when a Colonel arrives and “interrogates” some prisoners, including a father and son, about the activities of nearby barbarians who might threaten the town or the Empire itself. The Magistrate is dubious about the actual level of the threat, and is disgusted by the Colonel’s use of torture, which kills one of the prisoners and leads to questionable answers – likely the ones that the Colonel wanted anyway to justify a military effort against the barbarians. When the first effort yields a new set of prisoners, who are further tortured, the Magistrate takes pity on one woman among them who’s been blinded by the Colonel’s men. This decision and a journey to eventually return her to her people pits the Magistrate against the Colonel, who declares him a traitor and makes him a political prisoner and pariah in his own town.

Waiting for the Barbarians was first published in October of 1980, winning the James Tait Memorial Prize for that year, but it certainly seems to presage the United States’ two invasions of Iraq (1991 and 2003), especially the latter which, as we now know, was predicated on questionable intelligence about the Iraqi regime’s possession of or attempts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Coetzee’s use of nameless towns and characters only emphasizes its fabulist, universal nature; he’s discussing core features of leaders who operate without viable opposition and exposing how functionaries may work to provide the answers desired by their superiors rather than the correct or just ones. Coetzee exposes the worst of humanity here, but it’s all well-grounded in actual events that preceded the book’s writing, in dictatorships and democracies.

I read Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, considered one of the peak novels of anti-communist literature, back in 2008, but couldn’t connect with any of the characters and found the narrative to be distant and cold. Coetzee infuses the Magistrate with more complexity; he’s flawed, a little bigoted, or at least mistrustful, but also highly empathetic, and less disdainful of women than the government officials or soldiers who come to the village and do as they please. The submissive response of the residents of the town, who seemed to respect the Magistrate until the Empire turned on him and labeled him a traitor, mirrors the inaction of many residents of past aggressors, including the Axis powers of World War II, who stood by while their neighbors were arrested, tortured, or murdered. The Magistrate seems to hope that if he stands up for what he believes to be just, others will support him; instead, people he thought were his friends act as if he’s not even there, until later in the novel when the tides shift the other way again and it’s safer to come out on his side.

This is a very grim worldview, but it’s an accurate one, and the 37 years since the book’s publication haven’t dulled its (deckled) edges one iota. Leaders continue to provoke conflicts and pursue wars on spurious grounds to distract their citizens or stage some patriotism theater. Had Coetzee made the Magistrate more of a one-dimensional martyr, it would have come at a great cost to the story’s staying power, but because his protagonist is so thoroughly human, it seems like a story that, while depressingly real, will have staying power for decades to come.

Next up: Angela Carter’s Wise Children, also on that Guardian list.

Klawchat 11/2/17.

While you’re here, check out my free email newsletter, sent weekly or just whenever I feel like it, but not more than weekly, really.

Keith Law: I was dumbfounded by truth. Klawchat.

Jake: Seems like Dodgers fans are looking to pin the blame on someone. Is it supposed to be Darvish?
Keith Law: Never a fan of putting the blame for the loss of an entire series on one player, or even just on a manager. Darvish hurt them, probably more than any other individual player, but he was far from alone. Roberts had a bad series, especially Game 5. The Dodgers’ LHB had some atrocious at bats in high-leverage spots last night. Bellinger’s error in the 1st was critical. And yet they still came within a game of winning.

J.P.: What do you make of this new complication between the Ham Fighters and the MLBPA with regards to Ohtani?
Keith Law: I actually think it’s a positive sign that everyone is trying to find a workaround. Maybe he will come over after all.

Tim: Shane baz? is it true he has plus fastball, plus slider plus cutter and average to above curveball and average change?
Keith Law: No.

Eric: After the Vegas shooting, Trump is suspiciously quiet. After the NYC attack he tweets immediately – to blame someone else. Your thoughts?
Keith Law: I think he’s playing to his base and they eat it up like soylent.

Chris : What would your offseason plan look like if your mets? Other than pray for health of Conforto, Wheeler, Matz, Harvey, Thor, Familia, and Cespedes, I’m kind of puzzled on how this team improves that much this offseason. Their health alone is what separates them from 70 and 90 wins, no?
Keith Law: I think that’s fair – their health is a bigger source of potential gains than any offseason acquisitions would be. I also would guess that would make them reluctant to spend this winter, assuming they had any money to spend, because they could spend well and still fall flat.

Pat: Hi Keith, thank you for your prospect coverage. Why is Sandy Alcantara not missing more bats? Is it lack of elite secondary stuff, little deception, is his fastball too straight? I would just think a guy that throws 100 would strike out more batters. Thanks Keith.
Keith Law: Fastball is pretty true, just hard, but velocity alone doesn’t miss bats. You need deception, movement, or spin. He will show you above-average secondary stuff but it’s not consistent. He’s also pretty young, so I’m not terribly worried.

Ed M.: Hi, Keith. I just finished reading Smart Baseball and loved every page. I’m a 36-year-old lifetime baseball fan and I love learning as much as I can about the analytical aspect of the game. One question for you: the phrase “reach/reached base safely” often comes up in your book. This isn’t meant to be a smartass question, but when does one NOT reach base safely? Aren’t all batters/runners who reach base also safe?
Keith Law: We tend to exclude reaching on an error from calculations of times on base.

Harold : Now that teams that blatantly tanked have won the the WS two years in a row, should MLB change the draft rules to eliminate Tanking?
Keith Law: They did condense the slot values of the top picks in the most recent CBA, which I think would discourage deliberately losing … but I don’t think Houston deliberately lost so much as they realized it was stupid to spend money on mediocre veterans. Buster & I discussed this on the podcast today.

Peter : Is Bobby Witt Jr closest thing we’ve seen to Harper in terms of pure talent coming out of high school? Not saying he’s just as good or that type of generational prospect.
Keith Law: No, he’s not in Harper’s class.

Lark11: Defensive shifting makes logical and intuitive sense; places fielders where hitters have higher probability of hitting the ball. That said, I’m somewhat struggling with its effectiveness. MLB BABIP by Year: 2013: .297; 2014: .299; 2015: .299; 2016: .300; and 2017: .300.
Keith Law: BABIP includes home runs, which have increased over that time period, but aren’t affected by defensive shifts. Also, aren’t exit velocities and launch angles increasing? Those should affect BABIP, or at least expected BABIP.

Eric: Thoughts on J-Up’s 5-year deal with the Halos?
Keith Law: Love it for the Angels. Yes, he’s risky, lot of volatility in his performance, but he’s a potential 5-win player and still in his peak years. He was my #1 free agent going into the winter.

Ralph: Would you rather have Pence or Trump as president?
Keith Law: I would absolutely take Hunter Pence as President over the current occupant.

Junkyard Dog: Who do you like more between Justus Sheffield and Max Fried? Who has the higher ceiling?
Keith Law: Sheffield.

Ben: We have officially arrived in an alternate reality, where fossil fuels can prevent sexual assaults and the air is TOO clean. Children need to breath dirty air to build up immunity for Christ’s sake! …..I weep for humanity.
Keith Law: The reality is that these anti-science “scientists” can say whatever they want, and their followers will just accept it.

Adam: The Braves and Coppolella drama has me thinking; Is it an open secret within your industry which GMs are despised by their peers, and what role does the media have in skewing the public perception of these men?
Keith Law: I tend to hear if people don’t like dealing with a certain GM or agent, or even a scouting director, but I think what you hear through the media lens is distorted.

Keith Law: Some food no one cares about is really good and your favorite player is awful.
Keith Law: Wrong. Everyone cares about good food.

Microsoft Excel: So do all the computers and spreadsheets in Houston get WS rings? Asking for a friend
Keith Law: Yes, one ring per vacuum tube.

Rick: Loved your newsletter, but I couldn’t help thinking how much your decision might have changed baseball history. If you had gone to the Astros, they surely would have drafted Kris Bryant, and the Cubs never would have won the World Series.
Keith Law: You’re very kind, but you failed to consider the possibility that I’d have given terrible advice and the Astros would never have sniffed the playoffs.

Hey there: Do you have a favorite/least favorite kind of player to scout (other than assholes like Chapman, or guys that can’t play)?
Keith Law: I love athletes. Granted, I can’t stand it when they have physical tools and no instincts or feel, but there’s absolutely something electric about seeing players who can do things with their bodies that even an average professional athlete can’t do.

Mike: I was wading way too deep into this with my wife last night, but now that it’s complete, where do you think this World Series ranks among those since 2000?
Keith Law: The blah game 7 hurts; I’d put this behind last year’s and 2011 for sure, probably 2001 as well. I could argue for 2002 and 2014 in there somewhere.

Roger: Should the Astros add Whitley and Tucker to their 25 man roster to start the 2018 season, or let them work in the minors for a few more months than bring them up mid-season?
Keith Law: That’s very premature.

Jim Nantz: I’m worried Conforto’s shoulder injury is going to sap his power for next year? Do you share this concern?
Keith Law: I don’t think we have any evidence either way on this.

Dr. Bob: As a Dodgers fan, I’m bummed at the end result, but I’m hopeful looking to the future. Friedman has built the right kind of organization. The team’s deep pockets has allowed it to eat dead money without hampering its ability to sign other players. We’ll see if the process adjusts the “book” that Dave Roberts seemed to be working from.
Keith Law: I wonder if Roberts is the right guy going forward, which I know sounds weird given the season they just had, but it does appear that he’s not a very good tactical manager, and I don’t know that he’s a good developmental manager, at least with young pitching. I don’t think firing him is some panacea or even a good idea, but the more I see him, the more I think they can do better. And, building off that, they’re going to have to develop young pitching soon, so they don’t have to go trade for a Darvish each July.

Roger: Do you ever really get an offseason since minor league ball is essentially now year round?
Keith Law: I’m done. The minors ended in mid-September, and I’ve already gone to the AFL.

David: Cardinals GM John Mozeliak has said an impact bat is most likely going to have to come via trade. There’s speculation the Cards will be in on Christian Yelich and Josh Donaldson, maybe even acquiring both players. Cards fans are worried two such acquisitions will deplete the farm system. Do the Cards have enough surplus prospects to make a couple of deals and not be barren? Who in this system is untouchable in your eyes? Thanks.
Keith Law: Not sure anyone could trade for both those guys and still have depth – maybe Atlanta, but even they’d have to pay with quantity – but the Cards do have a lot of prospects with value to other clubs and I don’t think they have anyone untouchable right now.

Andy: Did I miss it, or was the atrocious strike zone in the Series glossed over?
Keith Law: Nope, it came up, and I know the teams had a lot to say about it. It was game to game, though. Bill Miller’s was by far the worst. Last night was no picnic either.

Daniel: This is obviously not a small ‘if’ but if Kaprielian returns to form and stays healthy, could you see him becoming the top pitching prospect in baseball? Seemed to have that profile before he went down. Just hadn’t pitched enough yet.
Keith Law: He has #1 upside if he’s healthy. He hasn’t been healthy for a full season in pro ball, which would probably eliminate him from consideration for #1 overall.

Josh: Besides Ticket to Ride, any game recommendations for a newly-reading kid? Shorter play times would be preferred.
Keith Law: Depends on age, but I get the sense you’re talking 4 or 5, and there are now kids’ versions of TtR, Carcassonne, and Catan.

Ridley Kemp: Howdy Keith,

I have a long-ish Charlie Morton question. I’ve always been a fan of his because of his extreme ground ball rates and his ability to avoid the long ball. He’s definitely become a different pitcher this year, working up in the zone, getting more strikeouts at the expense of allowing more home runs. My question is: Is he really a better pitcher now? His ERA and FiP this year is about the same as what they were in most of his healthier years (2011,2013, and 2014). He certainly LOOKS better, but are the results that different?
Keith Law: He did just post the lowest FIP of his career, and that’s not adjusted for league/year … his ERA- was a career best, and it was just his second ERA+ over 100 (which is average) in any season over 20 IP. So yeah, I think he’s better.

Chris: Can I get an FYEAHBASEBALL!
Keith Law: Fuck yeah, you can.

Tracy: Hi Keith, I usually ask you questions related to books or current events but I actually have a baseball question—an odd one, but here goes: If you were able to go back in time and survey a particular baseball era, not just scouting players but also observing the way the game is played at that time, which would it be? For me, it would be going back to the height of the old Negro Leagues and seeing what we really missed out on.
Keith Law: Oh, 100% on that. There’s so much myth around those guys and so little facts that I’d love to see what it really looked like.

Ben: GOP tax bill apparently allows churches to endorse political candidates. Unless they plan on taxing churches, that should be illegal, no?
Keith Law: Of course it should, but nobody cares – and good luck getting anyone to agree we should tax churches. (Reminder that the Church of Scientology harassed its way into tax-exempt status.)

Jim Nantz: When will your top FA list comeout?
Keith Law: Monday.

Michael: Hi Klaw – thoughts on the Gabe Kapler hire? While I was initially in the Wathan camp, the more I have read the more I like this move.
Keith Law: I’ve known him a few years and I’m a big fan. Ideal hire for a club that will be full of young players for the next few years. Brings energy & new ideas. And he’s actually managed a year in the minors, which puts him ahead of a lot of recent managerial hires.

Bobby: Keith – thanks in advance. Love these chats. I have always thought that managers in baseball don’t move the needle much. Clearly, Cashman thinks otherwise as he is taking a risk moving on from a very good manager in the hope of finding a great one. What do you think in general re manager importance and specifically re the risk Cash is taking and the commitment he is showing (to the concept that a manager is very important).
Keith Law: I’m not clear that this was Cashman. Couldn’t it have been ownership? It feels too impetuous to be Cash.

Archie: Do you think the game is trending too much toward the 3 true outcome model? If so, what would you do to “fix” things?
Keith Law: Tighten the manufacturing specs on the ball, and raise the bottom of the strike zone (which already happened a little this year).

Casey: On a scale of doesn’t matter to existential dread, how much consternation should Dombrowski’s hiring of LaRussa give Sox fans?
Keith Law: Doesn’t matter. Doubt he has any influence.

Zach: What do you make of hearing that Darvish was tipping his pitches (according to Beltran on postgame show)? After he was traded to Dodgers, they apparently “fixed” that issue.
Keith Law: Eduardo Perez said the same for us last night – he specifically saw a hand movement. If that’s true, then the question would be why no Dodger coach picked it up after the first inning.

Michael: Hey Klaw – What do you think is the actual deal with all of the anti-sabermetrics comments across the board. These people are so angry, you’d think someone kidnapped their kids. Do you think it’s just a matter of: this is what I know, this is what I am used to, math is hard, I’m not getting younger, get off my lawn, and waaaaaa, waaaaaa – ?
Keith Law: I think many people view technology as an existential threat. And they’re not entirely wrong – Houston is replacing pro scouting with video work and analytics. Automation is affecting all industries. Beat writer jobs are disappearing because of technological changes. So I get it. But it’s evolve or die. You can’t just will away analytics because they bother you.

Mika: Do you believe it’s likely we’re living in a computer simulation? On a scale of 1-100, how full of crap is Elon Musk?
Keith Law: I think the ratio of media attention Musk receives to the quality of his commentary is too high and increasing exponentially. (And yet he’s doing some legitimately good work, like Tesla getting a hospital in Puerto Rico back online with solar panels.)

Podcast: It’s kind of funny how Game 7 pretty much turned on exactly what you said to Buster on the podcast about Hinch being more flexible than Roberts
Keith Law: I thought Hinch managed a great game last night and a great series in general, whereas Roberts didn’t seem to have a clear plan if Darvish was out that early.

Bobby: Where would you rank the Tiger’s farm system right now? Middle of the pack? Who else is likely to be dealt this winter? Thanks!
Keith Law: I haven’t started any prospect work at all, but eyeballing it, I’d say below middle of the pack.

E: Have you seen Trumps’s quote on the tax cut? Every time his words are written down and read, it reinforces just how little he knows about, well everything.
Keith Law: If this issue matters to any of you, I would suggest ignoring what the President says and focusing on what the actual tax cut/reform proposal says – and what experts say it will do. For example, they’re proposing cutting the mortgage interest deduction dramatically. The way it’s shaped, it will adversely affect homeowners who financed very expensive houses … and homeowners in very expensive real estate markets, which almost all happen to be in blue states. And that, in the longer term, would likely slow the acceleration of house prices as the real cost of buying & financing houses above the threshold increases because you lose some of the tax break. That’s one tiny bit of the proposal and already its effect is complicated.

Todd: Domingo Acevedo the next Betances or is he a legit starter?
Keith Law: Reliever for me. Out of control delivery.

Drew: First of all, thank you for all of the work you do throughout the season. I particularly appreciate your appearances on the BBTN podcast, and wanted to ask you something about that. While I agree that Darvish’s two world-class clunkers in the WS shouldn’t costs him tens of millions of dollars, do you think it makes a reunion with The Dodgers unlikely? As analytically savvy as the front office is, do you think they’re keeping fan blowback in mind?
Keith Law: No, I don’t think that would affect them, but if having him for three months told them something about him – his psyche, his preparation, whatever – that they didn’t like, that would affect their decision beyond what the data suggest.

Walt: How difficult would it be for a team to go 11-0 and break the 2005 White Sox record?
Keith Law: Entirely doable. If we had another 200 postseasons before the end of the world, which seems unlikely, some team would do it.

Andrew: Any books you can suggest on how to manage time?
Keith Law: I’ve seen books on the subject but have never read any. My advice to people who ask about my own time management is probably not great, but it’s to look at how much time you use on unproductive things each day. If you watch 2 hours of TV each night, that’s obviously your choice … but it’s 2 hours you’re not doing something that might be more productive, whether it’s work, learning, reading, being with family, whatever you value. And maybe you value TV time. Maybe you’re Alan Sepinwall and TV time is work. It’s all about what you want to accomplish during the day.

Willy: I’ve read that Eloy is a protypical RF, and I’ve read that he’s barely a LF who may and up at 1B. What do you think?
Keith Law: He’s a good RF. Anyone who said he’s barely a LF hasn’t seen him.

Joe: How easy are in-game adjustments to make for a player? I’m thinking specifically of Bellinger laying off the breaking ball down and in but am asking if that is something we should expect from players?
Keith Law: I think in-game adjustments are tough. Maybe half of MLB hitters can do that. Probably less than that.

CapePorpoise: Any opinion on the meal delivery services HelloFresh and their ilk? For couples like my wife and I with limited menu imagination, It is kind of fun to be working with fresh tarragon and dill and rosemary in these meals, and we’re definitely getting the kind of variety we’d otherwise never experience.
Keith Law: Never tried them, but I also work from home, so i have the time to go shop for food, and I actually enjoy it.

ck: Not necessarily my opinion, but if Kershaw was available for 4 IP, why not start him?
Keith Law: It’s an excellent question. I might argue that the Dodgers had 3 options to start, and they chose the worst one. (That’s a bit of a conceit – I don’t know that they knew that beforehand or that we did, and Alex Wood hasn’t really been the same guy since the last DL stint.)

Todd: Am I wrong in saying that last off season the Yankees were under rated, but now next season they’ll be way over rated? See it all the time in sports, an upstart team has a big season ahead of schedule and everyone inflated expectations.
Keith Law: Yes, that’s the typical pattern, but they could alter their fortunes depending on what they do in free agency, especially for pitching.

Andy: If you’re Cleveland, what decision are you making about Bruce, Santana, and Brantley?
Keith Law: Brantley has an option that I assume they’ll decline. The other two are just free agents, so the decision is made.

Lark11: Any early thoughts on Griffin Conine and where he’ll go in the 2018 draft? First rounder? Top half of the first round? Thanks!
Keith Law: I have been told first rounder, not top 10 type, although the college crop is weak enough that some guys will be pushed up into that tier. The UVA hitters weren’t supposed to be top 10 prospects coming into spring 2017 and ended up going 7 and 8.

Chris: Book question: I have To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis next on my to-read list. Having read your review, do you think you missed a lot by not reading Three Men in a Boat first?
Keith Law: I read Three Men in a Boat right afterward, but the other way around would have helped. It’s a quick read and in the public domain if you have a Kindle or iBooks.

CKS: Given the blatant disregard for the international free agency rules by most teams, is there any push to finally fix the problem? Or will this continue to be an issue for years to come?
Keith Law: The lesson of the Atlanta scandal is, as always, don’t get caught.

Hinkie: I know it’s very early … but … could you give us a top of the draft mock (shot in the dark guess): 1 Tigers _______ , 2 Giants ________ , 3 Phillies ________
Keith Law: Nope. It would be pure bullshit.

Kris : Should the Braves go young in rotation or trade for a pitcher?
Keith Law: If they trade, it should be for a power bat. The system has a ton of pitching but little to nothing at the corners or with power.

Alan: Favorite movie of 2017?
Keith Law: So far, Dunkirk, but I’ve only seen 12 movies so far.

Philip: If you were in charge of the A’s, would Bruce Maxwell still be in the organization?
Keith Law: If he’s guilty of threatening someone with a gun, then no, I would cut him loose.

Jeffrey: Orioles should move Machado in the offseason or mid-season? And how can they justify bringing back their whole coaching staff?
Keith Law: Should move him and Britton this winter, don’t get the sense they plan to do either (yet).

Jason: Keith, I have never had anxiety until a couple weeks ago an intruder attempted to enter our home a few weeks back. Now I feel very nervous and anxoius going to sleep. Any advice?
Keith Law: Wow, I’m sorry that happened to you. That’s a discussion to have with a doctor; when I had my worst anxiety/panic, I took Xanax to help me sleep for about a week until I could get used to a regular sleep pattern.

CapePorpoise: Have you read much John Fowles? Granted, I was much younger, but French Lieutenant
Keith Law: Only read that one. Didn’t love the unique ending.

Derek: Thoughts on Dave Martinez as the Nats new manager?
Keith Law: I’ve only heard good things about him, other than that he doesn’t interview well, which as I’ve said before is a terrible way to evaluate a manager hire anyway.

Hinkie: What do hear about Gabe Kapler, both as a new manager and as a person ?
Keith Law: O AN HE SEXY

JJ: I’m guessing this was Carlos Beltran’s last ride. If so, is he a HOFer?
Keith Law: I think he’s a borderline guy by historical standards. I’d probably vote for him.

Cindy: Austin Riley has had some great results in the AFL. I’ve read a scouting report here or there that says that he has cut down on his swing, lost some weight, and is now able to catch up with high velocity fastballs….something he couldn’t do before on a regular basis. Have you heard anything about this? How far away is he from the majors?
Keith Law: Saw him. That’s just not true – I saw velocity blow him up again, as his bat is still slow. He’s gotten better at third base, though; that was true during the season as well.

Craig: Thanks for the chat Keith, really enjoy your work. Any feeling on if Tanaka opts out or not? Would you if you were him?
Keith Law: It depends on the health of his elbow, and I doubt anyone has a great read on that other than him and the team doctors.

JJ: Three playoff managers got the axe after their post-season was done: Baker, Farrell, and Girardi. Are any of those three “game changers” that should hired elsewhere immediately?
Keith Law: No, but all three did fine jobs and none deserved to be fired based on team performance or the jobs they did on the field. (We often don’t know off field factors.)

Todd: Better in 2 years? Bregman or Moncada?
Keith Law: Bregman.

Bobby: Would anyone in their right mind actually make a play to deal for Miguel Cabrera? I’ll never say never after seeing Prince Fielder dealt but this seems impossible
Keith Law: That would be bonkers.

Josh: Thanks for answering the kid game question. I’m actually talking about a 1st grader who can handle Ticket to Ride but isn’t quite where she can read and comprehend quickly enough to make competitive decisions in real time. And our lifestyle is such that long play time like TtR is too much.
Keith Law: Splendor might be pushing it a little … but maybe not. It’s largely a color-matching game and the graphics & tokens are kid-friendly.

Corey: Also, Americans are increasingly terrible dealing with gray area or nuance. Everything in the US including obviously our politics has grown either/or, zero-sum, us vs them. People can’t accept that analytics is one tool among many. That somehow, you can only run a team with “the nerds” or the “baseball guys” but not both.
Keith Law: This would apply to many issues in our society outside of sports. But yes, the idea that using analytics means you hate scouts or coaches or humans is wrong.

Bobbo: The blurb you did for Farlight in your Paste – Best of GenCon 2017 enticed me. Also the one for Echo. did you play/obtain them? any chance of full reviews for either? thanks for the chatting!
Keith Law: I haven’t seen Farlight beyond that demo, but I hope to catch them again at PAX Unplugged. I don’t know which game you mean by Echo, sorry.

Karl in Utah: Was this year from Whit Merrifield an anomaly or do you think it is sustainable (assuming the juiced ball stays in place)?
Keith Law: I do not think it’s sustainable.

Eric Reiners: I’ve read reports that eliminating the mortgage interest deduction entirely would be one of the easiest ways for the government to boost revenues while keeping the effect on the middle/lower class as light as possible. Real estate values would initially take a hit across the board, but it’d be an effective way of tackling the deficit. I’m surprised they even took this step, to be honest, as it mostly affects rich white people. But on the other hand…they had tax cuts to rich white people to fund.
Keith Law: It would affect the middle classes more. US tax policy has encouraged home ownership for decades. Pulling that deduction entirely would amount to a regressive tax that hits the lowest-income homeowners more than the highest-income ones.

Ryan: Has Randolph progressed at all for the Phillies? For someone drafted for his pure hitting ability, he has struggled.
Keith Law: Not really. It is disappointing.

Drew: My daughter just turned three today. Any book recommendations from when yours was that age?
Keith Law: I believe that’s when I read her the first two Mary Poppins books and the first two Winnie-the-Pooh books.

Jason: It appears Keaton Huira played the field without any issues with his elbow. Assuming that continues would he skyrocket up your Top 100 lists? How high?
Keith Law: Skyrocket? He’ll be on the top 100. Let’s leave it there for now.

Harold: Sounds like you don’t want to pay your fair share.
Keith Law: On the contrary, I have no complaints at all with what I pay in taxes; if anything, I think our local/state taxes here in Delaware are too low. But I don’t see the economic benefit to reducing my taxes while raising those on lower-income households, or of giving me more of a reduction than the lower-income households get.
Keith Law: Thanks as always for all of your questions. The top 50 free agent rankings post will go up on Monday for Insiders, and I’ll be around at some point next week to chat about it. Enjoy your (sadly baseball-free) weekends.