Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang.

My first book, Smart Baseball, is out now in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook. You can find links to order it here or get it at any local bookstore.

Kate Wilhelm won the Hugo and Locus Awards for Best Novel in 1977 for her book Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, which Locus called – I kid you not – the best book about cloning, which I guess is a subgenre I just missed over the years. It’s also much more than just a book about cloning; like the best genre fiction, it uses its setting as a platform to tell a bigger story, in this case one about the importance of individuality in a society that might overvalue the collective good.

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang starts with the fall of civilization; environmental degradation leads to worldwide food shortages and global pandemics. One family in the Shenandoah Valley starts planning for the apocalypse by building a research facility and eventually a hospital on their rural property and beginning a cloning program to combat declining fertility. Over the course of the novel, which jumps forward a few years at multiple points, the clones take over the kibbutz and start building their mini-society in a very different way than their ancestors would have, creating something akin to true communism as described by Marx in the end of Das Kapital. That attempt runs into massive practical and cultural problems, and Mark, the hero of the last half of the book, becomes the reluctant individual who tries to topple the status quo.

I don’t know what Wilhelm’s political views were, but I found it hard to see this as anything but a criticism of communism and its advocacy of a command (centrally planned) economy. The clones aren’t just similar; they experience a psychic bond to each other, so when one is injured, his/her clone siblings feel it, but so they’re also unable to function apart from their broods. Mark is raised outside of the commune for several years by his mother, Molly, who was part of a group that attempted to explore the ruins of nearby Washington, D.C., the members of which were all permanently altered by the traumatic experience of their separation. That leaves Mark the one true individual in the colony, not just able to function on his own, but able to think critically and creatively in ways that the clones cannot. At first, he acts out the way that bright kids do, playing pranks on the clones who can’t think their way out of trouble, but eventually realizes (or decides) that he’s the only person who can save both the colony and what remains of humanity.

And that’s really what this is – a savior story, set against the backdrop of a collective society that doesn’t just deny the individuality of its members, it breeds all individuality out of its members, selecting clones based on physical or mental characteristics needed to maintain the colony. (There’s an anti-eugenics theme in here as well, although it’s not as well-developed.) In a novel with few complete characters – that’s a feature of a cloning story, not a bug – Mark is the best, and comes across as the reluctant hero, beset by internal demons that resulted from mistreatment by the very society that he’s trying to save. I haven’t read the works of Ayn Rand beyond a few snippets, but this seems to mirror the anti-communist, individualist themes of her objectivist philosophy, just with better writing.

Next up: Kelly Link’s Pulitzer-nominated short story collection Get in Trouble.


Smart Baseball is out on Tuesday! You can still preorder it here.

Robert Charles Wilson’s ambitious novel Spin, winner of the 2005 Hugo Award for Best Novel, combines some hard science fiction with some highly speculative work in both cosmology and nanotechnology as it follows three characters after the cataclysmic event that gives the book its title. It’s a bold novel of ideas that struggles a little in its midsection but comes through with a rousing, clever finish that also gives a bleak story a hopeful if uncertain resolution.

The Spin of the title is the name humanity gives a temporal bubble that an unknown, external entity (later dubbed the “Hypotheticals”) has placed around the Earth, causing time inside the bubble to move more slowly than it does outside. Where one year passes on Earth inside the Spin, a hundred million years pass outside of it, which means that after thirty to fifty years inside the Spin, the region of the solar system where the Earth exists would become uninhabitable as the Sun begins the expansion that precedes its death.

The story itself starts with twelve-year-old Tyler Dupree and his two friends, Diane and Jason Lawton, from the night the Spin first appears, obscuring the stars and knocking out satellite communications worldwide. Jason is the scientific genius of the trio; Diane, his sensitive twin sister who turns to religion; and Tyler, the narrator and balancing figure, a bit of a Nick Newland for his bland presence in the story, whose love for Diane is unrequited and whose friendship with Jason feels professional even before, later in life, he becomes Jason’s personal physician.

The narrative jumps around in time, with vignettes from a distant future where Tyler is going through a process we later learn is a massive physical adjustment to a sort of drug regimen brought to earth by a human who has returned to Earth from Mars. It’s one of Wilson’s most clever gambits in the book – Jason and others at his father’s think tank/quasi-governmental organization Perihelion decide to create life on Mars by terraforming and seeding it from afar and then sending people. This takes advantage of the time discrepancy, so the hundreds of millions of years required by evolution take just a few years of Earth time. And it turns out that Life on Mars advances even beyond what life on earth has, with a life-extension treatment that upends the lives of the few on Earth who try it. His return to Earth sparks a second, even more extensive space program that holds the key to humanity surviving the imminent death of its home planet and solar system.

Spin is saved from itself by Tyler and the twins, as the story, while entertaining for its speculative aspects, could not support a 450-page novel by itself. They’re only moderately well-developed, but are at least developed enough to feel real (unlike the twins’ parents, who are straight out of central casting – the hard-driving, materialistic, unloving father, and his miserable alcoholic wife); the twins have a yin/yang dichotomy between them, the hardcore rationalist against the emotion-driven sentimentalist, but Wilson has them behave in ways that transcend two-dimensional stereotypes. Jason’s tortured relationship with his father could make up its own book, and felt more authentic than Tyler’s cold pining for Diane over years when he doesn’t see or hear from her.

The speculative science involved in the second space effort and the resolution of the Spin story reminded me a bit of Michio Kaku’s Parallel Worlds, a non-fiction science book that delves into the idea of the multiverse and whether, for example, wormholes might exist or someone (or something) might travel through a black hole into another universe. In the science world, this might be called “bunkrapt,” but it is fantastic fodder for hard science fiction, and gives Wilson an improbable but internally consistent resolution to the story. There was a point around 2/3 of the way through Spin where I felt like the narrative had slowed down and I was probably going to end up giving it a negative review, but the truly clever endings to the various plotlines make the book a success.

Next up: Another Hugo winner, Kate Wilhelm’s Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang.

Stick to baseball, 4/22/17.

Smart Baseball comes out on Tuesday, so this is the last stick to baseball post before its official release. If you haven’t preordered yet, you can still do so here, or by, you know, walking into a bookstore and asking them to preorder it for you.

The media push for Smart Baseball has begun, with my hourlong chat with Joe Posnanski on his podcast, including talk about the book, boardgames, and how Mike Schur is dead wrong about pies. The Baltimore County Public Library interviewed me about the book and asked about time management. I also answered some questions in an interview for AM New York.

I currently have signings/appearances scheduled for Philadelphia (May 8th), Atlanta (May 16th), Minneapolis (May 18th), Toronto (June 26th), and Miami (July 8th). There are a few more in the works, including a likely signing at GenCon in Indianapolis, but if you don’t see your city on there, contact your local bookstore and ask them to contact HarperCollins. It’ll depend on my travel schedule, of course, but I do have time for a few more of these.

I wrote one draft blog post this week on Vandy’s Kyle Wright and Jeren Kendall, with notes on some Florida players as well. For Paste, I reviewed the epic boardgame The Colonists, which is actually a good game but punishingly intricate.

As always, you can get even more Klaw by signing up for my email newsletter.

And now, the links…


If you’re here, you almost certainly know I’m a fan of Michael Ruhlman’s work, whether it’s his narrative non-fiction books like The Making of a Chef or his indispensable cookbooks like Ruhlman’s Twenty, Ratio, or Egg. He’s also become a potent voice in the drive to get American consumers, who know more about food than ever before but seem to cook it less for themselves, to reconnect with the sources of their food for the good of our health and our planet. He brings those concerns to his non-fiction work for the first time in his newest book, Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America, a work that simultaneously a paean to the American grocery store and a lament over the importance that processed foods play in our diet (and, perhaps, many of our first-world health problems).

Ruhlman does this by revisiting a regional grocery chain from his youth, Heinen’s, which has survived as an independent business when national chains have been snapped up by multinationals. Heinen’s is still run by the grandchildren of its founder, but they take a progressive view of the business and have shown agility larger chains haven’t by being quick to offer organic produce, prepared foods, and craft beers to consumers. The overarching structure of Grocery begins with a brief history of the grocery store – I remember A&P, but had no idea it was once the biggest company in the world – an then takes us department by department, explaining not just what’s in them but how the food (or not-food) gets to the store and how the markets profit off them.

Heinen’s early forays into non-traditional areas for grocers mirrors the industry’s movement as a whole, sometimes foreshadowing changes (like prepared foods, which accounts for between 4 and 8 percent of sales for each Heinen’s store) elsewhere, sometimes lagging, as with organics. Ruhlman specifically cites the changes wrought by Whole Foods, which, depending on your point of view, either found unserved demand for organic items and higher-quality ingredients or created that demand by offering the goods and marketing themselves well; and Wal-mart, which became the country’s main food retailer the day they sold their first box of Cheerios. The industry-wide shifts have allowed medium-sized chains to add value by offering specialty products, like the Lava Lakes lamb Heinen’s offers (with Ruhlman enduring an interesting adventure on the sheep farm to tell us about it) or some artisanal cheeses from makers who could never service a large national account.

Ruhlman’s always at his best when he’s writing first-person accounts, and that’s true even here, as he spends days with various Heinen’s executives and suppliers, as well as going shopping with one of his personal doctors, Dr. Sukol, who has very strong opinions on what is and is not food. That particular chapter is one of several that points out just how much sugar is in processed foods – more on that phrase in a moment – and how eating these “not food” products, in Dr. Sukol’s eyes, may be compromising our health. She says something that has become a sort of mantra for Ruhlman – that food is not “healthy;” we are “healthy,” and food can be nutritious or it can be harmful to our health (or, I’d add, sometimes both). Some of her opinions are based in sound science and others on working hypotheses (e.g., that glyphosate residues harm our intestinal microbiomes, because that chemical targets the shikimate pathway found in microbial metabolism but not in humans). She buys organic to avoid glyphosate and antibiotics, but doesn’t believe GM foods are harmful in and of themselves. She also says something is not food if you look at the ingredients and couldn’t buy them all individually in a grocery store; by that definition, to pick one example, almond milk is not food, even though the unsweetened version is nutritious and is a godsend to people who can’t drink milk.

Heinen’s also employs a full-time doctor to oversee its “wellness” section, and in my view this is where the author could have cast a more skeptical eye, because this “Dr. Todd” sells a lot of bullshit. He’s light on the science, throwing appeals to nature at Ruhlman in between advocacy of useless supplements like turmeric (the tricky chemistry of which means it does nothing useful in the body despite positive results in the test tube). Heinen’s, like all grocery stores – including Whole Foods – makes millions off selling bottled panaceas, nearly all of which do nothing and get by the consumer with vague promises of “promoting” health but no scientific evidence that they do anything at all. Ruhlman does indeed mention their uselessness and his own skepticism of a supplement-based diet, but I would probably have been thrown out of Heinen’s for pointing out all of the woo that Dr. Todd was spinning.

I enjoy when Ruhlman lets a little snark penetrate his thoughtful tone, like when he was behind a shopper at the grocery store who was buying fat-free “half and half,” a product that, ontologically speaking, cannot exist. It’s okay to disdain such abominable food choices – but Ruhlman emphasizes that corporate marketing has contributed to consumer confusion over what’s good for us and even what certain products might contain. (The entire discussion reminded me of bread vendors who made high-fiber breads by adding wood pulp, which almost certainly wasn’t what consumers thought they were consuming.) And the media have contributed to this by jumping on single studies that appear to identify single culprits for all our food-related health woes, first fat, then cholesterol (poor eggs), then salt, and now – although this one may have some legs – sugar, which appears in products under a variety of pseudonyms, including evaporated cane juice, dextrose, maltodextrin, brown rice syrup, or tapioca syrup. They’re all sugar, and by separating them out in the ingredients, manufacturers can avoid telling you that the #1 component of a product is sugar.

Grocery tends to stick to the very common and widely accepted distinction of processed foods, what Ruhlman describes as being in the center of the store, and the other foods, like meat, dairy, and produce, that are found around the store’s perimeter. (If you’ve heard the advice to shop the edges of the grocery store, those are the departments where you’ll spend your cash.) And I may be overly pedantic on this, but almost everything we eat is processed somehow. Take yogurt: First, it’s processed by bacteria, fermenting milk into yogurt. And second, it’s further processed by man, at least to put it in plastic, but often to add sweeteners, fruits, sometimes gels or gums, and other ingredients. (True Greek yogurt is strained of whey and lacks additional thickeners, but many brands sell “Greek” yogurt that is thickened with pectin or other agents.) The meat you buy at the butcher counter is processed too – a process Ruhlman details, explaining how more of the butchering is done at central locations today rather than in-store as it was a few decades ago. Very little of what we eat is truly “unprocessed.” And there are processed foods in the middle of the store that are quite nutritious – oats, nuts, seeds, whole grains, alternative milks (if unsweetened), maybe even dark chocolate. So don’t tell people to avoid “processed foods,” but tell them, as this book encourages, to read the labels and try to understand what you’re buying.

If everyone in America read Grocery, it would cause a cataclysmic shift in our food system. There would still be a market for Oreos and Frosted Flakes, for fast food and donuts and bad coffee, but the book points out how consumer demand can reshape the food production chain, and how retailers can reshape neighborhoods in turn by bringing better food choices to “food deserts,” underserved populations without easy access to quality food. It’s a potent call to action, as well-written as you’d expect from the author of Soul of a Chef, that should change your approach to feeding yourself and your family.

Stick to baseball, 4/15/17.

I updated my ranking of the top 50 prospects in the minors this week; there’s minimal reranking in there, just status notes on players, with guys moving up to replace those already in the majors. (Jesse Winker was promoted after the piece ran.) I wrote a long draft blog post on Hunter Greene, Brian McKay, and other draft prospects I’ve seen so far. I also held a Klawchat on Thursday.

You can preorder my upcoming book, Smart Baseball, on amazon, or from other sites via the Harper-Collins page for the book. Also, please sign up for my more-or-less weekly email newsletter.

And now, the links…

  • The one great longread I saw this week was from Backchannel on what’s happened to Google Books, the tech giant’s stated effort to scan every book, ever, to make them all searchable. I’ve used this feature quite a few times, including during the research for Smart Baseball, where I could search for certain terms or keywords in books I couldn’t get my hands on.
  • California passed a tougher law on childhood vaccinations, and, lo and behold, inoculation rates went up about 3 percentage points.
  • The handful of loonies who opposed the law largely claimed “parental choice” as a reason why they should be allowed to deny their children a safe, effective treatment that can prevent debilitating and sometimes fatal diseases. It’s a terrible argument, because those “choices” affect everyone, not just your children. (Also, that choice isn’t for you – it’s for your child, who can’t choose for him/herself, and depends on you to take care of his/her medical needs.)
  • If you’ve seen a vaccine denier point to measles outbreaks in China as evidence the MMR vaccine doesn’t work, well, the outbreaks occurred among unvaccinated groups. Facts may not carry the day with deniers, but it is on the rational among us to make sure the truth is still out there for people who might be on the fence.
  • A Utah judge praised a convicted sexual abuser during sentencing, with at least one of the victims present. This kind of behavior will only discourage victims from coming forward in the future. Utah judges may be removed from the bench via a judicial conduct commission censure or a 2/3 vote of the legislature, so if you live in that state, get on the phone.
  • I think my new least favorite food buzzword is “clean.” Panera, which is a decent chain choice if you want something vegetarian while traveling, claims its food is 100% “clean,” which means absolutely nothing unless previously they were rolling their bread dough out on the floor. It’s also a buzzword for people who eat weird, ultra-restricted diets that probably don’t provide enough nutrition because so-called “clean eaters” often skip dairy or wheat, foods that are often demonized without scientific basis. I’ll keep eatin’ dirty, thanks.
  • Dr. David Dao, the passenger beaten and dragged off a United flight last week, has filed court papers in preparation for a lawsuit and compared his treatment to what he experienced while fighting in the Vietnam War. Tim Wu of the New Yorker wrote about why he stopped flying United after it merged with Continental. Deadspin’s Albert Burneko discussed the absurdity of backing the corporation in such cases.
  • An American doctor has been charged with mutilating the genitalia of two girls under the age of 10, a barbaric practice common in eastern African countries and in Indonesia known as female genital mutilation.
  • New Mexico has banned “lunch shaming,” the cruel practice of embarrassing children whose parents have unpaid school meal debts.
  • I listened to the entire seven episodes of the podcast S-Town, and I’m not sure if I think the time was well spent. Did I really get anything out of it? Was John B. McLemore, who was most likely a manic depressive on top of the later medical issues revealed in the final episode, someone worthy of a seven-hour biography? The Atlantic also asks about the ethics of revealing so much of his life after his death, and the details of other characters in the play. The Guardian went to Woodstock, Alabama, to interview the locals about their sudden bit of fame, and most didn’t seem to mind the portrayals.
  • I was apparently behind the times, as I was unfamiliar with the Twitter replies-to-retweets ratio until this past week.
  • Paul Krugman wrote that publicity stunts aren’t policy and then Trump ordered (or simply handwaved along) the dropping of the ‘mother of all bombs’ on Afghanistan. It’s working, though: Compare media coverage of the Russian connection, or of GOP rollbacks of Obama policies, to coverage of the Syria and Afghanistan bombings and now our taunting of North Korea. (For what it’s worth, the North Korean government has always been the one that worried me, because it’s essentially sociopathy in government form, and they’re well-funded enough to do mass damage to someone, South Korea or Japan or us. But I would prefer to see a long-term policy solution to the issue, not threatening to Pyongyang to wag the dog.)
  • There can be no beatings and imprisoning of gays in Chechnya because there are no gays in Chechnya, say Chechnyan authorities. This Guardian report says otherwise.
  • I enjoyed this interview with Dana Cree, pastry chef for Chicago’s Publican restaurant group and author of the new cookbook Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream: The Art and Science of the Scoop. Within the Q&A she discusses which ingredients serve as stabilizers to minimize the size of ice crystals in ice cream, providing a smoother texture. I personally do not like the eggless ice cream known as Philadelphia-style, which is just dairy, sugar, and flavors, for that very reason. I prefer frozen custard, sometimes called New York ice cream, which includes egg yolks – often a lot – and less butterfat, because the yolks contain lecithin, which emulsifies the fat and the water in the base and thus prevents large crystals from forming. Lecithin can break down at subzero temperatures, however, so vegetable gums may be better if you’re going super-cold, if you can’t eat eggs, or if you don’t want that slight eggnog note in a delicate flavor like vanilla bean.
  • The first part of this NPR Fresh Air interview with author David Owen, about the Colorado River, is interesting and particularly relevant to me, because one of the main reasons I did not want to remain a long-term resident of Arizona was that the state has no strategy for dealing with the coming water crisis in the region. The Colorado River is overtaxed, badly, and Arizona’s idea of coping is storing a few years of water in underground reserves. He has a new book out on the topic, Where the Water Goes, and discusses some of it in the Q&A. Then he talks about golfing with Donald Trump and I moved on with my life.

Tough Guys Don’t Dance.

I’ve had mixed results with Norman Mailer’s work in the past – I loved The Executioner’s Song, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction even though it’s pretty clearly a work of non-fiction, but bailed on The Naked and the Dead after just a handful of pages because of its turgid prose and Dickensian attention to detail. When I read that he’d written a noir-ish detective novel, though, I figured the genre would at least make up for any obstacles I found in his writing, and contemporary reviews of the book, Tough Guys Don’t Dance, were so positive that I gave it a shot. It’s somewhere in the middle for me, overdone as a work of genre fiction, but also, I think, exploring a theme that’s basically absent from the first fifty years or so of hard-boiled detective stories.

Tim Madden is a writer who never seems to write anything, and whose wife has walked out on him, apparently for good this time. Their relationship is built on nothing much at all, but he’s broken up about it, and goes on a bender one night after meeting a couple from California in a bar in his adopted home of Provincetown (a small town at the tip of Cape Cod that, then and now, is known as a gay haven, which turns out to matter substantially in the story). He wakes up the next morning to find he has a tattoo with the name of a woman he doesn’t know, blood all over the inside of his car, and, eventually, a woman’s head in the place where he stashes his marijuana. He’s then left to try to figure out what happened – including who the woman was and whether he killed her – while various people from his past and present show up, including the woman he once dumped for his wife after they went to a swingers’ party, and complicate his efforts to solve the crime.

The novel’s style seems a clear callback to the hard-boiled novels of which I am so fond, although Mailer’s prose is more involved than the clipped tones of Dashiell Hammett or the sparse artistry of Raymond Chandler. It’s almost too well-written for the genre, in that you can tell this is a very good writer trying his hand at an unfamiliar type of writing. Nearly all of the side characters are straight out of central casting – dimwitted hoods, ex-boxers, corrupt cops – but Tim himself is unique, a writer rather than a detective, a child of privilege who got kicked out of Exeter, a former drug dealer who did a stint in prison where he met a former Exeter classmate of his who’ll also figure in the present mystery.

I’m completely interpreting here, but I think Mailer was trying to explore questions of masculinity, especially as it related to homosexuality, something that’s even telegraphed in the novel’s title, which comes from an anecdote within the book where a mobster utters that line, as if dancing would erode his toughness. (It also called to mind the Belle & Sebastian line, “We all know you’re soft/cause we’ve all seen you dancing.”) Most of the male characters in the novel are grappling with maintaining some sort of facade of manliness in the face of emotions that, I think especially in the 1970s and early 1980s, would have marked them as effeminate, if not as “gay” in the pejorative sense of the term. There’s a lot of just plain ol’ fashioned heterosexual depravity in this book, and of course given the time of its writing (published in 1984), there’s quite a bit of homophobic language, including a reference to “Kaposi’s plague,” which refers to a rare cancer that became common among gay men at the time and turned out to be associated with AIDS. But so much of that content read to me like men trying to prove they’re men – I’m not gay, see how I say awful things about gay men, they’re all (bundles of sticks), I’d like to kill them all, etc. The straight men doth protest too much.

And while I doubt “toxic masculinity” was even a term back in the early 1980s – as far as I can tell, it was coined well after the book was written – there’s a huge element of that within the book and behind the crime itself. Without spoiling the whodunit, I’ll say that men trying to either prove their masculinity or suppress characteristics that might be labeled as feminine or gay loom very large within the story, enough that when I finished the book, I found that theme was much more on my mind than the plot itself, which was a little too convoluted, with the murders kind of too pointless for this style of novel. That makes it a cerebral detective story, but maybe not as compelling of a mystery as the classics of the genre are.

Next up: Robert Charles Wilson’s Hugo Award-winning novel Spin.

Klawchat 4/13/17.

You can preorder my upcoming book, Smart Baseball, on amazon, or from other sites via the Harper-Collins page for the book. The book now has two positive reviews out, one from Kirkus Reviews and one from Publishers Weekly.

Also, please sign up for my more-or-less weekly email newsletter.

My updated ranking of the top 50 prospects in the minors is up for Insiders; you’ll see references to it in the chat below.

Keith Law: When your world is full of strange arrangements … Klawchat.

Aaron: This is the obvious small sample size chat. I’m asking this because his hot start has me intrigued, but did you hear anything about Alex Jackson from Braves spring training? What are your thoughts on his bat?
Keith Law: I saw him in Orlando. He looked awful. Still leading with that elbow, cutting up through the ball, and way bigger than he was in HS.

RSO: Is James Kaprelian’s career over after TJ surgery?
Keith Law: Dramatic much?

Tim: Is MItch White a top 25 prospect come the end of the year? Same question with Buehler
Keith Law: Hard to say that now, but I would say unlikely. White might be more likely to shoot up than Buehler, since he’s a lot more physical than Buehler is.

Important Question: Thoughts on Giolito? Very nervous…
Keith Law: Nervous why? because he had a mediocre first outing? That doesn’t make sense – one outing or a few games of at bats shouldn’t sway your opinion up or down of anyone.

Jim : Hi Keith, What is the ceiling for Beau Burrows??? Can he be a #2 or higher??
Keith Law: Don’t think he has that kind of ceiling. Hasn’t shown enough propensity to miss bats.

Johnny Bench: Who can the Cubs trade to get a cost control pitcher?
Keith Law: If they told teams they’d include Eloy and Happ in a deal, they could probably get anyone on the market.

Jack: you didn’t mention seranthony dominguez in your phillies review, what is your opinion on him?
Keith Law: He was in my Phillies org report.

Josiah : US just dropped the MOAB… escalating to the biggest-non-nuclear weapon we have this early in a presidency doesn’t make me feel very safe. What do you think?
Keith Law: I agree. Gotta wag that dog, though.

Danny: Should Albert Abreu have started in Tampa? His throwing 100 doesn’t solve the questions about him starting right i.e. breaking pitches and repeating delivery?
Keith Law: Right, getting hyped already (it’s as if folks decided, well, Kap is hurt, we need to replace him with another Yankee arm in the hype machine), has a great arm, still has a lot of developmental milestones to hit. I imagine he’ll spend much or most of the year in Tampa though.

Julian: Mitchell White, RHP for the Dodgers, is picking up some nice reports. Is his upside as high as the top Dodgers pitching prospects sans Urias? Thanks
Keith Law: I wrote about him in March and put him on the top 50 I posted earlier this week.

Drake: Hey Keith. What about Eduardo Rodriguez intrigues you so much? It seems like he has a really hard time staying consistent throughout the game.
Keith Law: Above avg fastball, plus changeup, will show an average slider, has shown control in the past. I think he gets beat too often on pitch selection – too many fastballs, especially up, in changeup counts. Also needs to throw the slider more to get more consistent with it.

John: What from the Reds hot small-sample-size start can we take as real? Those bullpen arms look solid, though a couple should return to starting.
Keith Law: Don’t take anything from the first week as real.

Cory: You are probably tired of this question (sorry if that is the case) but I’m hoping the Twins take Hunter Greene, but wouldn’t be sad about Brendan McKay. Who would you choose if you were in charge of their draft?
Keith Law: Greene. Chance for a generational talent there. McKay is very solid, not likely they ever regret taking him, but Greene has the raw elements to develop into a superstar and you rarely get a crack at guys like that.

Julian: Too early to be alarmed by Bellinger’s K%?
Keith Law: Too early for everything. It’s April 13th.

Daniel: Lets get the obvious out of the way… Mets fans are already clamoring for Amed Rosario (due in large part to Reyes awful start). When do you project Rosario to be ready to help the Mets? When would you promote him?
Keith Law: Midyear? I worry that Vegas isn’t going to help Rosario develop at the plate at all, because it’s a good hitting environment where mistakes aren’t necessarily punished (and sometimes get rewarded). He may end up needing a promotion to continue to develop as a hitter, especially in recognizing breaking stuff and laying off those pitches out of the zone.

Jay: Had the dark chocolate gelato at Frost last night affogato. It was great, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Keith Law: I was bummed I only got there once on our Arizona trip this year.

Davey Johnson: How does the rest of Eugenio Suarez’ career shake out? Seems to be a lot of tools there.
Keith Law: When he was still with Detroit I thought he had the upside of a regular at short. That’s probably still his maximum potential.

Jim: How come only liberals can express their views on ESPN?
Keith Law: Aw, I’m sorry, snowflake. Did you need a safe space?

JV : Any word on aiken’s velo in his first start?
Keith Law: I know he was only in the upper 80s in March.

Tim L: What are your thoughts on O’s Cedric Mullins? Great spring and buck loves him.
Keith Law: I saw him when we covered their game at home vs Boston – he was in my O’s top 20, pretty athletic, quick-twitch kid with power and some speed too. I know Buck loves him (he told us pregame, compared him to a pretty great historical player) but he wasn’t young for the Sally League last year and needed to make a big jump. Double-A is perfect. I don’t think he’ll hit .500 all year though.

Tyrone: What do you make of Amir Garrett’s good start to the season? Does his athleticism make up for lack of overpowering stuff?
Keith Law: I think it’s two starts, I think you’re underselling the stuff, but I think he’s a hell of an athlete who will continue to improve even after he’s been in the majors a year or two.

Sean: First, thank you for all of the work. I can’t wait to read your book. Second, I am assuming you have seen Buxton this year. He looks awful at the plate. How do the Twins and Buxton fix this?
Keith Law: I said on BBTN that I think it’s become mental. He’s getting killed low and away, and I’m sure the Twins have told him to try to lay off those pitches, but apparently the fear of striking out has overtaken him. If he can’t make that adjustment in the majors, he’ll have to go back to triple-A to clear his head and work very specifically on that problem. A ton of his swings and misses were in that part of the zone, on all pitch types.5

Logan: Have you had a chance to see or hear anything about Austin Beck’s rise on the draft boards?
Keith Law: I saw him and included him in my last draft blog post. I have heard him in the top 5 (Padres, Rays) but I don’t think he’s that kind of prospect. Too much effort in his game.

Phil: Keith, I’ve read some good things about Columbia RHP Colin Holderman. He had a great first outing. Any thoughts on him? Is he potentially the next “Warthen surprise”?
Keith Law: I think he had a great first outing. That’s it. He’s not a better prospect than he was a week ago, when he was a fringe guy starting a little lower than he should given his age.

Charlie: Look forward to reading Smart Baseball. Exit Velo getting a lot of recognition on broadcasts this season. If you were to rank its importance as against other hitting metrics, where does it fit?
Keith Law: It’s a different kind of metric – its use is entirely predictive. It doesn’t tell us whether the ball put in play was successful at all. But in combination with other batted-ball data it might give us insight on what a hitter is likely to do, or merely capable of doing, going forward.

Important Question: RE: Giolito. Mainly, his velo has just totally fallen. That’s why we should be a bit nervous.
Keith Law: He was throwing two-seamers at 90-91 his first start. That’s about right for him. So, fake news, maybe?

Drew: Is Hunter Greene a generational talent or a good player who throws really hard.
Keith Law: He’s a lot more than a guy who “throws really hard.”

Matt : What do you think of Matt Adams in left field and MIKE Matheny in general…
Keith Law: Matt Adams shouldn’t be allowed off the infield dirt, for the safety of himself and everyone around him.

Jay: Jake Junis made his debut last night for KC. Is his upside as a starter, or do you see his future in the pen?
Keith Law: If he’s a starter it’s near replacement level.

Jimmy: Is Reynaldo Lopez still a reliever for you or has his SSS this year (including spring training) given him more of a chance to stick as a starter?
Keith Law: Yes, it’s a small sample, but he’s walked nearly a man an inning so far. How would that change my opinion?

Dave H: Thoughts on the Mariners moving Joe Decarlo to catcher?
Keith Law: Irrelevant because he can’t hit. He had a slow bat the day he was drafted.

Scott: Thoughts on Nicky Delmonico? Reports of scouts raving about his swing this spring. Anything there?
Keith Law: He’s always had a good-looking swing; he has had trouble staying healthy, more than anything else.

Jay: Does Sandy Alcantara make jump to StL this summer?
Keith Law: Possible but I think very aggressive.

Valentine Michael Smith: It looks like Joey Gallo will be the Rangers’ third baseman for at least the next month or so due to Beltre’s calf injury. Gallo is slashing .192/.323/.500 so far — is that around the range you think would be reasonable to expect him to put up going forward while Beltre is gone? And if he does, when Beltre returns, do you send him back to AAA, put him in LF, or put him at 1B?
Keith Law: I think he can hit more than that, of course. If he were hitting .240/.323/.500, would anyone blink? Is it just that the very first digit is a 1 that makes it bother us? It bothers me, even though I know all those walks and homers give him a lot of value.

Another Tim: Bryan Price has been mixing in a lot of multi-inning relief appearances, which has me excited. For a guy like Raisel Iglesias, what is the max number of innings he can throw with this usage pattern?
Keith Law: I think it depends on days off between outings. Iglesias is supposed to be unable to handle a starter’s workload, and if that’s true, then two innings one day should mean at least a full day of rest before he pitches again. I don’t think 100 innings is out of the question for a pitcher used in a judicious fashion that gives him days off.

Scott: Have you read the Handmaid’s Tale? Are you interested in the new TV series?
Keith Law: Just read it a year ago. It’s superb. Not sure I can handle watching it – it’s bad enough watching Texas and Arkansas and Iowa strip away women’s rights in reality.

OklahomaBrave: *I know it’s early but Demeritte cut his k% in the AFL and the trend seems to be contuing. Fair to be cautiously optimistic?
Keith Law: No, it’s really not. 5 K in 26 PA is absolutely within the range of normal variation for a guy who might have a ‘true’ K rate of 30%. You need a much larger sample to draw any conclusions at all that he’s different from last year (33% K rate).

Chris: Hi Keith, I’m the one who tweeted at you about Kap. Isn’t this pretty much the single worst thing that could happen wrt the Yanks’ youth movement? They have far fewer top end pitching prospects than positon players, and he seemed like the only one who might end up a true #1. Plus generally buying pitching is much more pricey than position players.
Keith Law: I’m not happy to see it, but guys do come back from TJ just fine. Buehler came back with velocity he had never shown before, since it turned out he’d been pitching hurt for some time. if Kap is one of the 10% or so who just don’t recover, that’s awful for everyone, but I still think he’s going to end up a very good big league starter.

Noah: Do you think any college pitchers in this draft have ace potential?
Keith Law: Probably not. Seeing Faedo tonight and Wright tomorrow here in Nashville, but neither has had a great spring so far.

Joe: What surprised you most when it came to writing the book? What was hardest?
Keith Law: I wasn’t great at tying chapters or sections together. I write such short pieces normally – 2000 words is very long for me at ESPN, and on the dish I doubt I’ve passed 1500 on anything that wasn’t a list or ranking – that it felt unnatural for me to write 5000 word chapters and then have to fit them into the larger work in ways that kept it coherent.

Zach: Where do you rank Pavin Smith in this year’s draft? Do you buy that the Twins may be considering him at #1?
Keith Law: I do not buy that and do not think he’s a top 20 talent in the draft. He’s a very good hitter and he’s a college 1b, among the worst buckets in the history of the draft to take in the first round.

Jason: Hey Keith- as a veteran who is really familiar with ordinance on the business end- the MOAB is basically useless in that environment – big boom doesn’t cut through MOUNTAINS. This clown is just offensive
Keith Law: It did get a lot of headlines, though. Walking through the airport all I saw was Mr. Holocaust Center on every TV with a chyron saying it was the biggest non-nuke bomb we’ve ever dropped. (Yay, America?)

Nick: Thoughts on Judges approach so far this year? I know SSS but he seems to be making more contact.
Keith Law: Again, SSS. However, I’ve said before that Judge’s history is that he struggles to control the entire width of the zone each time he’s promoted, and each time he’s made adjustments after a few months of at bats, learning to control both the outer third and the inner edge. The fact that he’s done it before tells me he can do this going forward, although we can’t say that he’s done it now.

Hinkie: What is most likely: Bryce Harper hits the open market, Manny Machado hits the open market, both hit the open market, or neither hit the open market ???
Keith Law: I think both.

Delroy Lindo: Rank which upcoming albums you are most excited about: Phoenix, LCD Soundsystem & Haim
Keith Law: Phoenix yes, LCDS maybe, Haim heck no.

Sean : Is Mark Vientos a first round draft pick?
Keith Law: Probably yes. Didn’t see him while I was in FL because he went to the NHSI.

addoeh: Is the gap between what advanced statistics fans/media uses to evaluate value and what teams use more incremental or revolutionary? How soon will these stats start to filter down to public use?
Keith Law: It exists now and is getting wider over time.

Joe: What’s worse? Reyes batting leadoff? Conforto playing CF? Terry Collins still writing the lineup?
Keith Law: Conforto out of the lineup seemingly every time he has a big day. Collins should be fired if he won’t play Conforto every day. This has descended into cheap farce.

addoeh: Will Smart Baseball introduce us to any new stats?
Keith Law: If you’re here, probably not. That was very clearly outside of the goals we all set out for the book.

Kenny G: Saw Walker Buehler on Monday. Multiple Front Office members present, and plenty of comments he’ll be up with Dodgers by end of this season (not by Front Office personnel). Would you agree with those comments?
Keith Law: He’s going to be on an innings cap of some sort, which will almost certainly preclude a callup.

Jon: If Gravmens Velocity stays up around 96 or 97 how does that change his outlook? Thanks
Keith Law: That’s not where Statcast had him sitting, but to answer the general question, yes, he’s got a much higher upside than he did at least year’s velo, when he was basically a fifth starter type. Averaging like 94.5 with that kind of sink would probably make him an above-average starter.

Dallas: You mentioned Adell as a pitcher; are teams looking that way or is he still being drafted as a hitter
Keith Law: I think he prefers to hit, which may dictate who drafts him and how much money he gets.

Brian: Without rushing to judgment, Rhys Hoskins seems to be hitting at yet another level. At what point does his production overwhelm whatever tools seem to be lacking to scouts? Or is he someone who people think the flaws won’t show up until major league pitchers exploit them?
Keith Law: I think there’s a flawed assumption here; I’ve certainly been favorable toward Hoskins the last two years. He’s a first baseman with questionable power, which is a real issue at that specific position because the threshold to be a regular at the plate is so high.

Chris (Chicago): How long do you think you’d last as a vegetarian?
Keith Law: I don’t think I’d have any problem with this as long as I could manage my blood sugar properly.

Dallas: Have you heard any draft movement with Sam Carlson? I saw he was 92-96 topping at 97 (rumor of a rogue 99 was probably just that, rumor; or bad gun). Thanks.
Keith Law: He’s only made one start so far, so I don’t know if that’s where he’s going to pitch all year. He’s had first-round potential since the summer; if he really does sit 92-96 all spring (by “all spring” I mean the six or seven starts he’ll make before the draft) then he’d probably be a top 20 pick.

Ridley Kemp: It doesn’t look like my local bookstore in Austin is going to bring you to town. That being the case, what way of purchasing your book does you the most good? Is amazon better because it benefits your sales ranking, or is there another avenue that is better for you?
Keith Law: Thank you for asking. All I ask is that you buy it however you like to buy books. Physical copy or ebook, doesn’t matter. I want you to buy it, read it, and enjoy it. And no, no bookstore in Austin reached out to Harper Collins that I know of.

Chris: Any chance Adam Haseley goes top 10 or maybe 11 to chi sox? Seems like he has Benentendi helium..
Keith Law: He’s going top 20, I feel pretty confident of that. I don’t think he’s Benintendi, not that kind of pop, but one of the best pure hitters in the class, a CF, and has some power at least.

Harry: Keith, just bought the book and I can’t wait for it to arrive. Would like to go to a book signing in San Francisco. Just wondering how many hours a day do you usually sleep. Father, foodie, blogger, traveling for work. You can’t sleep that much. I’m guessing 5 hours a day max.
Keith Law: Oh no, seven hours or I’m a mess, eight when I can.

Eric: Any word on whom the Braves might target at #5?
Keith Law: Guys they’re not getting. Not sure what the realistic plan will be.

Pat D: I saw you’re coming to Philly for a book-related event on May 8. Any ideas if you might get a little further north to Lehigh Valley at all this year?
Keith Law: I don’t have any minor league games scheduled yet because of draft work and the book. I’ll probably pick that up more in May.

Nick: Sounds like the Yankees were pushing for Kap to get TJS last year but he opted for rehab. Now same thing happens a year later.
Keith Law: Some guys do rehab it successfully though, as long as it’s not a full tear. Besides, it’s his elbow, right? Easy to say “go get this major operation” when it’s not your skin getting cut open.

Logan: Thanks for the answer regarding Beck! Had seem some mention the Braves, but doesn’t seem like a great fit in my humble opinion.
Keith Law: I would agree; I think they can do better at 5. Heck, Mackenzie Gore is a better prospect in the same state.

Nick: I know you’re not a big believer in Jordan Montgomery but he got a lot of swings and misses yesterday and look like a solid major league starter with room to get even better.
Keith Law: TL;DR. I think you’re saying a pitcher had a decent start.

Neil: I don’t think it is too early to think Matt Cain isn’t good anymore. Would the Giants be better off letting Beede have a go at the 5th spot in the rotation?
Keith Law: Yes, they would. Cain has stunk for two-plus years now.

James: Still out on Mike Soroka as an elite prospect?
Keith Law: This is a stupid question. I have never said anything of the sort.

Jason: Should the boycott of major sporting events apply to states that don’t have laws against sexual-orientation discrimination (or partial laws, like just for state employment), or only ones that pass laws forbidding their cities and counties from passing ordinances?
Keith Law: Isn’t the latter an active act of discrimination (or, let’s call it what it is, creeping theocracy), while the former is, at worst, a passive one?

Rick: Keith, any examples of guys you were “most” wrong about? Both better than you anticipated and worse?
Keith Law: I do a column on that every September.

Scott: Did you see Pedro comparing Jharel Cotton to himself mechanically? How much upside does he realistically have?
Keith Law: I heard about it, and I think the only person who can compare a pitcher to Pedro is Pedro. Cotton’s probably an average big-league starter in the end.

Greg: Keith, I like your stuff a lot but weren’t you at least a little hesitant to title a book Smart Baseball as if you claim to know what is the absolute smart way to view baseball? That didn’t give you even the slightest hesitation?
Keith Law: One, it refers to a running gag on Twitter. Two, “as if you claim” is your problem here. I didn’t claim what you said. I didn’t come close to it. You just made some shit up.

Tom: Keith, maybe this is too personal but… do you have any interest in returning to work for an MLB team? What would sway you to accept a job? Is there a specific role ie scouting director that would most appeal to you? Rumor has it you turned down a job with an AL West team a few years back. Do teams often contact you?
Keith Law: I can’t imagine doing so at this point in my life. Yes, I turned that job down, and it was almost entirely for family reasons. (Another reason: I didn’t want to raise a daughter in Texas.) I’m with my daughter a lot more in this job than I would ever be in a front office or full-time scouting job. That’s the most important criterion to me.

Evan: What’s the biggest surprise to you from this season so far?
Keith Law: Absolutely nothing.

mike sixel: It’s April. He’s 23. He only has 500ish ABs in the majors, but when should we worry about Buxton if he isn’t hitting well?
Keith Law: I think you can worry about him now, given that he struck out a ton last year before September too. And if he starts to make more contact right now, I’d want to see him do it for a few weeks or months before thinking he’s turned the corner.

Evan: What’s your opinion on what happened on the United flight? Should the guy sue? And if you think he should, how much do you think he will get?
Keith Law: I don’t think he has any case against the airline, does he? The contract of carriage says they can deny you a seat you paid for.

Brian: Why are so many of the top draft prospects out of college not highly drafted out of high school? I would think most guys take something similar to the Gerritt Cole path in which they are very highly regarded out of high school and 3 years later maintain that same outlook. Are most of the top college prospects guys who had tremendous development post high school? Were “missed” out of high school? Were such strong college commitments that they weren’t worth a high pick? Something else?
Keith Law: Right – guys who went to college and got stronger, or grew, or threw harder, or proved they could hit better pitching after playing high school ball against bad competition. Some were hurt in HS. Lot of logical reasons.

( * >* ): Is too early to ask if the Phillies are leaning towards a prep player or college player at 1-8 ?
Keith Law: I don’t think they’ll lean either way. I think they’ll take BPA.

Bob: Keith, how split are teams on B. McKay in regards to pitching prospect or hitting prospect ? 50-50 or more like 70-30 on the pitching side ?? I ask as a Reds fan and rumblings they prefer him as a hitter. Thanks !
Keith Law: I think 60/40 is about right. I would take him as a LHP, though.

Chuck: My wife’s aunt who is anti-gmo -anti-vaccine is coming to Easter dinner. And she is a cardinals fan coming into our Cubs loving house. Do the rules of normal civilization apply here. Thanks for the chat.
Keith Law: Go at her full bore. Bring the science.

Munchkin: What do you think about PRP Injections and stem cell therapy? Effectiveness and potential pitfalls
Keith Law: I’m interested but I haven’t seen any research (which may exist, I just haven’t seen it) on their efficacy.

BD: You are an adovocate of HS pitchers declaring for the draft (injury risk, coach overuse, etc). Ignoring family financial situation, what round/slot figure do you start to think “OK, maybe go to Juco for a year and try and increase the offer?”
Keith Law: After day one, which is two rounds, you get a chance to negotiate overnight with interested teams to take you high on day two and overpay you. But whether the number is $500K or $1 million is going to depend a lot on whether that difference is life-altering for your family.

Ricky: If/When Otani comes over, is he viewed as a two way player?
Keith Law: Nope. This is going to be the most-asked question of 2017, I think. NPB pitching is not close to MLB pitching as a whole.

Josh L: What would you say Corey Ray’s ETA is? Summer 2018?
Keith Law: Probably, since he’s not going to play a full season this year as he comes back from knee surgery.

Touki: Juan Soto getting some notice this week. Your thoughts?
Keith Law: Was on my “just missed” column in January. Essentially prospect #101, although I don’t rank beyond 100.

Jake: As a veteran myself, the bomb is exactly what was needed. If that veteran from earlier looked at a map. Or even knew where Nangarhar was, he would know that a bomb is needed for the extensive tunnel systems they have underground.
Keith Law: I truly know nothing about the subject. I just 1) don’t particularly like how willing we are to drop bombs on other countries and 2) don’t like what appears to be a cavalier attitude on the subject by our current president, after Pres. Obama was himself too enthusiastic about using drone strikes.

CT: There was an article today stating that the Astros renewing Correa for the minimum may be hurting their chances to sign him to a long term deal. Do you think there’s validity to this or was he headed for the open market regardless? In general, do you feel teams should reward players by paying them higher than the minimum when they don’t have to?
Keith Law: No, that’s bullshit, whoever said that doesn’t understand how the system works.

Matt C. (Fort Collins): So many writers invoke SSS all the time, then ignore it regularly (you are an exception). Always makes me laugh.
Keith Law: This is the first question I’ve ever seen from you, but it’s brilliant, so I think you’re awesome.

Metro: As a Mets fan I think it’s pretty cool (rare) to find a good local talent. Any thoughts on Queens native Quentin Holmes? Around where do you project him being drafted?
Keith Law: Probably goes in the 25-50 range. Toolsy, big question around the hit tool and ability to make contact.

Nick: Can a starter like Graveman who throws one pitch 95% of time, as he’s doing with his sinker this year, succeed as a starter?
Keith Law: Bartolo Colon used to throw about 95% fastballs when he was younger.

Brian: Just to clarify—you’ve been positive towards Hoskins. But he doesn’t get much buzz more broadly, and he’s never sniffed top 100 lists. I understand the 1B/power thing, but you have to forgive us Phillies fans for seeing a guy who hits for average and gets on base at every level and getting excited. We’re not used to people who can post an OBP over .315.
Keith Law: Gotcha. I thought you were using his absence from my top 100 as a proxy for lack of scouting support or interest in him. I think teams see what he’s doing and value him – more than they do Cozens, certainly – but think of all the college 1b we’ve seen fizzle out in the high minors or majors. It’s a really high bar to clear. I think that’s why the world, myself included, was so skeptical of Goldschmidt as he came up – he raked where others had raked before, and he was of a class (although he was drafted lower) that has a huge bust rate.

Will in Vero: Cody Bellinger … is he a good enough outfield defender to earn regular ABs there if Gonzalez stays healthy at 1B?
Keith Law: Yes, he definitely is, but I don’t know if the Dodgers want to do that or just keep him at 1b.

josh: ASU baseball is a mess rught now with fumors that the players cannot stand T. Smith. How could he possibly have screwed this job up?
Keith Law: Hadn’t heard any of that. You’d think it would be an ideal job – recruiting couldn’t be easier. “Look at our weather! Our campus! Our facilities!”

Greg: Where does Royce Lewis go? Is he a top 3 pick, or could he fall to 5?
Keith Law: No idea. Draft is two months away and he’s only been playing for four weeks.

Nick: At the time I seem to recall you liked the Jake Johansen pick. What went wrong with him? That whole draft is a mess for the Nats.
Keith Law: I didn’t like that pick. But then he lost most of his fastball after he signed.

Greg: Is Soroka just a midrotation starter? #3? #4? He just keeps producing.
Keith Law: Jose Berrios produced everywhere in the minors, and while I still think he’ll be a good big league starter eventually, look at his MLB work to date.

JWR: Ian Happ hit his 5th HR of the season this morning. Do we still waive it away as SSS or is that enough HR in a short period of time to have significance?
Keith Law: Zero significance. ZEEEEEEEROOOOOOOOOOOO.

Greg: You seem very angry.
Keith Law: Nope. Bad reading job by you.

Kyle: I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to do these chats. I learn a lot from you.
Keith Law: You’re quite welcome. I hope you learned this week that nothing is real and 8 games of baseball stats are merely numbers spit out of a random number generator. Good times! I will be at the Florida/Vandy games tonight and tomorrow and hope to see a few of you there. Thank you for joining me and for all of your questions this week, especially on such short notice since I wasn’t sure I’d be in my hotel room in time to do this. Twelve days to Smart Baseball!

Stick to baseball, 4/8/17.

I had one Insider post this week, on the most prospect-packed minor league rosters to open the season. I have already filed a draft blog post on last night’s outing by Hunter Greene, with additional notes on a half-dozen other draft prospects, including Brendan McKay and Austin Beck. (EDIT: It’s up now.) I held my regular Klawchat on Thursday.

I resumed boardgame reviews for Paste this week with a look at the reissue of Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, specifically the Jack the Ripper & West End Cases set, but found it more like a solitaire puzzle than a cooperative game.

You can preorder my upcoming book, Smart Baseball, on amazon, or from other sites via the Harper-Collins page for the book. The book now has two positive reviews out, one from Kirkus Reviews and one from Publishers Weekly.

Also, please sign up for my more-or-less weekly email newsletter.

And now, the links…

Sarasota and other Florida eats.

Florida spring training kind of sucks, in my professional opinion, because the sites are so far apart and several are wastelands for decent food. I found a handful of decent spots in my week there this year, along with a lot of mediocrity, but I’ll just focus on the good here, including the fact that Sarasota of all places has a decent little food and coffee scene happening.

Baker & Wife is a farm-to-table type of place in Sarasota, recommended to me by a friend who lives nearby, and I was impressed by both the vegetable dishes and, as you’d expect from the name, the dessert. I went with two starters rather than a main, a salad of roasted yellow beets with goat cheese, pesto, and pine nuts, along with crab cakes with a spicy green papaya slaw; of all of that, the only aspect I didn’t care for was the slaw, which tasted too much of fish sauce. The beets were really spectacular, although I am a fan of roasted beets in any form, but I think they pair so well with goat cheese, any kind of nuts, and the salty, bright punch of the pesto. Dessert, I had the “baker’s bannoffie pie,” and I’ll let the menu describe it: “pecan and graham cracker crust, house made banana & vanilla bean pudding, chocolate chips, caramel, cream.” It was that good and then some. It all worked so well together.

Perq is a new third-wave coffee bar in Sarasota, using beans from various artisan roasters around the country, and offering numerous cold-brew and single-origin espresso options along with the usual. It’s a sizable cafe too, unlike a lot of third-wave spots, and they appear to rotate through various roasters – they had a number of I knew from my travels and when I chatted up one of the baristas, he mentioned several other great roasters they’ve used, like heart, Sightglass, Four barrel, Counter Culture, and more.

I had half a decent meal at Selva, a Peruvian restaurant downtown, where the ceviche was very good and the entree I had was not. The ceviche isn’t truly traditional; they have numerous combinations that include various fruits, acids, and types of fish, and the tuna/watermelon ceviche I got had larger pieces of fish than I’m used to seeing in ceviche. It came with a spicy lime sauce for dipping or pouring to taste, and I would recommend using that if you end up here. But the main course was kind of a mess – a duck breast that was cooked very inconsistently, and served with a risotto that was anything but.

There’s also a tiny Buddy Brew location right near Selva, at the entrance to the parking garage downtown not far from Tamiami Trail. I would go to Perq before this, but Buddy Brew is solid.

Elsewhere in the state, I discovered the brand new Foxtail Coffee in Orlando’s Winter Park neighborhood thanks to a scout’s recommendation, and both times I went there was a line out the door. They had four coffees available from different countries; I tried their espresso one day and an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe pour-over the next, the latter of which came with a roasting demonstration from Iain, one of the owners and a baseball fan as well. It’s right near the old location of the Ravenous Pig, which has moved into the old Cask & Larder space but which I can report is still some of the best food to be had in the Orlando area.

Near the Jupiter complex is a very unassuming little coffee shop and roaster called Oceana, which does a lot of single origins as well but roasts most of them darker than I tend to like. Their pour-over options are the way to go – I had an Ethiopian the first day I was there, and I’ll be honest in that I was so in need of the caffeine I don’t remember much beyond the sheer pleasure of feeling it hit my bloodstream. Pass on the espresso as their extraction rate is way too high and the result is watery.

Merritt Island’s Cuban Island Cafe is worth a stop if you’re in that area, which I’d never visited before; I went for my standard choice, lechon asado, which in this case came with some amazing black beans, one maduro, one tostone, and well over a half-pound of pork.

I’ll also mention Harry’s Pizzeria in Miami, which appeared on a list of the best pizzerias in the U.S. a few years ago that I’ve kept on hand for my travels, hitting more than half of the 48 places they listed. The pizza itself was just average, but I had an escarole salad to start that was tremendous – lemon, anchovies, parmiggiano, and bread crumbs. It hit a little of everything, adding salty, sour, and umami notes to the slight bitterness of the raw greens. They have a few non-pizza options that might be worth trying if I ever go back to have that salad again.

I Contain Multitudes.

You are currently covered in bugs.

That’s the fact that drives Ed Yong’s book I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, his highly acclaimed 2016 book about the microbiome, a relative neologism that refers to the interconnected world of microorganisms that exist in, on, and around all other life on earth. Without these bugs, we almost certainly wouldn’t exist, and the best estimates Yong has have bacteria and other microbes in and on our bodies outnumbering the cells of our actual bodies by a margin slighter over 1:1. You do not just contain multitudes, Yong quips (borrowing a line from Walt Whitman), but you are multitudes.

Yong spends as much time dispelling myths as he does explaining the new science of the microbiome because everyone who reads this has probably grown up believing one of two things about bacteria and other microbes: They’re dirty and bad and cause illness and death; or, some bacteria are good and we want lots of them but not the bad ones. Yong says neither is accurate; there aren’t “good” or “bad” microbes per se, but that the effect a microbe can have depends entirely on where it lives and thus what it’s able to do.

Microbes make the complexity of life on earth possible, sometimes serving as the difference between life and not-life, as in creatures that live in inhospitable, lightless environments at the bottom of the ocean near steam vents that bring geothermal heat out into the water. Scientists discovered creatures there that seemed to have no business existing in the first place, such as a worm that had no mouth or digestive tract. It turned out that the worm in question plays host to bacteria that provide it with all of the energy the worm needs by converting sulfur compounds found in that dark environment into chemicals the worms can use.

He also explains how evolution works differently – and apparently faster – in bacteria than it does in multicellular organisms, thanks to something called HGT, Horizontal Gene Transfer. (As opposed to, say, the Mariners moving Segura to second base if Cano is hurt; that would be a Horizontal Jean Transfer.) Bacteria have the ability to swap genes with other bacteria in their environment, meaning they can alter their genome on the fly while still alive, as opposed to humans, who are stuck with the genes that brought us to the dance.

Perhaps most relevant to the lay reader are the two chapters near the end of the book where Yong talks about how probiotics don’t work and how we might use bacteria, including their HGT superpowers, to fight diseases like dengue and Zika. Probiotic products are all the rage now, but there’s no evidence that swallowing these bacteria – which appear in tiny amounts even in products like yogurt – alters your microbiome in any way. Your gut flora are largely a function of what you were born with, meaning in turn what you got from your mother in birth (vaginal delivery exposes the infant to the bacteria in the mucosal lining) or via breast feeding (which contains more bugs plus compounds that encourage the growth of helpful bacteria in the cut), and what you eat now (more fiber, please). So skip the kombucha and eat more plants.

Mosquitoes that spread disease often do so with the help of bacteria they host, but there’s an effort underway in Australia – a country far less hostile to science than the United States is – to release mosquitoes of the same species that carries viruses like dengue or chikungunya, A. Aegyptes, that have been infected with a Wolbachia bacterium that renders the critters immune to the viruses. These mosquitoes would then move into the environment, mate with other mosquitoes, and thus spread the bacterial ‘infection’ through the population, thus dramatically reducing the number of bugs flying around with the disease in the first place. A separate but related endeavor aims to do the same with the mosquitoes that carry the parasite that causes malaria in people, a disease that has proven particularly obstinate to the development of a vaccine (in part because it’s neither viral nor bacterial).

Yong’s book seems comprehensive, although I came into it knowing extremely little about the subject. He gets into fecal transplants, including why they’ve helped people with deadly C. dif infections where traditional treatments failed. He discusses antibiotic resistance, of course. He provides copious examples of symbiosis and dysbiosis in the wild, and how many species, including animals, deprived of their normal microbiomes fail to thrive. And he gets into how climate change is altering microbiomes worldwide, leading to mass deaths on coral reefs and the spread of a fungus (also highlighted in Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, the most recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction) that has already wiped out numerous species of tropical frogs.

Most important, however, is that Yong keeps this all so accessible. I find the subject interesting anyway, but his prose is readable and his stories quick and quirky enough that the audiobook held my attention throughout, including during some rather dreadful trips between spring training sites in Florida. Granted, it might make you think very differently about shaking hands or touching various surfaces, but I Contain Multitudes might also encourage you to eat better, get a dog, and throw out all your triclosan, while giving you a new appreciation for germs.