The Snow Child.

Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child is a grown-up fable, a fairy tale in the more traditional sense of the term (where endings were seldom happy), a very simple story in one of the most striking settings I’ve come across in contemporary literature. In a quick read with only a half-dozen characters of any import, the book manages to delve into questions of love, parenthood, loss, grief, and meaning, without becoming cloy or mawkish. The novel was a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist in 2012, losing to Adam Johnson’s amazing novel of North Korea The Orphan Master’s Son.

The Snow Child takes place in Alaska in 1920, where we meet a childless couple, Mabel and Jack, scratching out a life as farmers in the forbidding landscape, where starvation is a threat each winter if you haven’t grown enough crops and killed enough game to get through the season. The pair lost one baby in childbirth many years ago, and it appears the death and subsequent inability to have another child has left them in a permanent state of barely-there depression, culminating in Mabel’s suicide attempt at the start of the novel. Shortly after, during an early snowfall, the two end up building a snowman – or snowgirl, giving her mittens and a scarf and talking about what this girl might be like (and yes, it’s like that sappy movie The Odd Life of Timothy Green, but only in setup). The next morning, the snowgirl is gone, but both Mabel and Jack spy a young girl running around in the woods with a fox, a girl who turns out to be very real, at least in the tangible sense, but only appears in the winters and says she lives by herself in the mountains in the summers. Mabel recognizes similarities between this child, named Faina, and an old Russian children’s book she had growing up in Pennsylvania, while Jack learns more about Faina’s life before they found her that seem to ground her firmly in reality.

Ivey never bothers to clear Faina’s backstory up for the reader, allowing the character’s reality to flicker before us so we can experience the uncertainty of Mabel and Jack. It reminded me of nothing so much as the saying that being a parent is like learning to live with your heart outside of your body; not only did the couple suddenly find a child years after such a thing seemed impossible, but her appearance defied reality and she would disappear for months at a time without explanation. Mabel in particular seems to vacillate from high highs to deep funks around the girl’s appearances, while Jack is trying to grapple with his rational side even as he comes to love the girl like a daughter.

Faina’s story arc is a bit predictable, and Ivey doesn’t even try to hide it, providing plenty of foreshadowing (and, I thought, winking and nodding at the reader all the way) through the Russian folktale, but despite the girl’s status as the title character and hinge for the story’s action, this book is far more about everybody else. Faina herself has no depth; she’s a wisp of a thing, in physical and emotional sense, but whatever her true identity might be, she’s ultimately the book’s primary plot device. Ivey crafts this forbidding setting that combines breathtaking natural beauty – her landscape descriptions are some of the most evocative I’ve come across – and dark, menacing conditions that seem unfit for human habitation, then drops two characters, already drenched in melancholy for the life they didn’t expect they’d live, into it. Finding moments of joy or even simply of humanity – the relationship the couple develops with the Bensons provides a second emotional center, not to mention lots of great talk of jams and preserves – without resorting to pure sap is a deft trick of both plot and character development. Ivey manages to celebrate life and all that is good within it even in the face of the certainty of sorrow and the realization we all face that we have less control over our lives than we’d like, right up to our endings.

Ivey’s second novel, To the Bright Edge of the World, comes out on August 2nd. Given how much I enjoyed this book, including the detailed yet quick prose, I imagine I’ll read that one fairly soon.

Next up: I’m most of the way through Zia Haider Rahman’s Tait Prize-winning novel In the Light of What We Know, an expansive, erudite novel of ideas that seems to grow in scope with every page.

Stick to baseball, 7/2/16.

For Insiders, I wrote a preview of today’s July 2nd international free agent class with help from Chris Crawford. I also wrote some thoughts on the Futures Game rosters, although of course they’re already getting tweaked for player injuries. I wrote a free piece on Monday, expressing my disappointment in the Mets’ decision to sign Jose Reyes.

Klawchat resumed yesterday after a week off around my Omaha trip, and my latest new music playlist is up too.

Sign up for my newsletter!

And now, the links…

  • Making a Killing: The New Yorker examines the gun business in the wake of the Orlando massacre. Hint: Like any industry, gun manufacturers profit off fear and misinformation.
  • Brian Hooker, one of the biggest proponents of the absolute bullshit idea that vaccines cause autism, lost his 14-year case before the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Hooker’s story is featured in the fakeumentary Vaxxed, and you can bet he’ll keep claiming vaccines caused his son’s autism, not, you know, his own genes and bad luck.
  • A 63-year-old CEO decided to bully and harass a woman on LinkedIn because she posted a Dilbert cartoon he didn’t like. Really.
  • Two good food stories from NPR’s The Salt blog. First, on Purdue improving the quality of life for its chickens, right up to the way in which they’re killed.
  • Second, on the rising popularity of ancient strains of wheat like einkorn, emmer, and spelt.
  • Ah, Mississippi, where a state rep – I’ll let you guess which party – told a mom who can’t afford her daughter’s diabetes meds to just buy them with the money she earns. What an awful person. He eventually met with the mom to try to save face.
  • Former residents of the Chagos Islands, forcibly removed nearly a half-century so the U.S. could build an Air Force base on Diego Garcia, lost their legal challenge for the right to return to their home island. When you read about forced resettlement of Native Americans in the 1800s and think that could never happen today, well…
  • This was a big week for abortion rights, and while the biggest focus was on the trashing of Texas’s HB2, SCOTUS also declined to hear a case where religious pharmacists sued for the right to decline to sell Plan B, the so-called “morning after pill.” This is another win for science as well as women’s rights; the plaintiffs claimed this pill was equivalent to an abortifacient, when in fact the hormone in Plan B, levonorgestrel, prevents fertilization, and is not considered effective after a fertilized egg has implanted on the wall of the uterus.
  • You’ve probably seen Jesse Williams’ speech at the BET Awards, where he accepted the show’s humanitarian award for 2016, but if not, read the transcript and, if you can, watch the video. We may disagree on the content – this was a speech of emotion as much as of reason – but I was most impressed by how well he delivered it. It was a complex speech filled with lines that were clearly intended to serve as quotes or epigrams, and thus filled with landmines for even an accomplished speaker like Williams. It was too clever by half at times (“gentrifying our genius?”) but his delivery was hypnotizing. I could train for years and never do what he did.
  • 107 Nobel Laureates have called out Greenpeace for its anti-science position against genetically modified crops. This rift is only going to grow: Where environmental groups have, historically, been the pro-science advocates, they’re increasingly at odds with the scientific community on genetic modification.
  • Audio link from the BBC World Service’s Witness program on the Cuyahoga River fire of 1969, part of a broader story of urban decline and rebirth in Cleveland.
  • The Rio Olympics are headed for all-time disaster levels, with the Zika epidemic, raw sewage in the waters, unpaid first responders, and, now, soup kitchens closing for lack of funds because the money is going to prop up this shitshow.
  • This 1999 op ed, bylined by Donald Trump, blasts Pat Buchanan as a dangerous proto-fascist who needs to be stopped.
  • Stanton Healthcare is an anti-abortion company that wants to take down Planned Parenthood with a chain of “women’s health” clinics that offers no reproductive health services, not even birth control. Her views are rife with anti-science nonsense, like referring to contraceptives as abortifacients (you keep using that word…) and fearmongering about synthetic hormones.
  • Vaccine deniers like to point to the cases of Hannah Poling and Brian Krakow’s son, but the evidence in both cases turns out to be lacking, especially in the Krakow case, as the boy showed clear signs of autism prior to vaccination. These loons will make anything up to support their anti-science beliefs.
  • Clarence Thomas doesn’t like the idea of restricting domestic abusers’ access to guns. Now, there’s some internal logic in his position: He’s arguing against any gun ownership or access restrictions at all, ultimately, and while I don’t read the Second Amendment that way or believe that was at all the authors’ intent, it’s one possible reading. But given the relatively high rates of homicide committed by convicted domestic abusers, isn’t this a gun control measure that we can all agree would work to keep victims safe without infringing on the law-abiding public’s right to bear arms, to say nothing of that well-ordered militia bit?
  • Quebec City spent nearly $350 million to build a hockey arena that still has no tenant. Cities doing this merely play into the leagues’ hands for extorting better deals out of other cities, sometimes in cities that already have adequate facilities. Meanwhile, I’m going to predict the NHL team in Las Vegas proves a big flop; the city has poor demographics for pro sports anyway, and, of course, no history whatsoever of hockey fandom.
  • An investigative journalist who worked as an English teacher to the sons of North Korea’s elite found herself receiving a torrent of vile criticism for doing undercover work. It’s bizarre and I wonder if a male writer would have received the same treatment.
  • The Koch brothers have gotten a bill through the House that would prevent the IRS from collecting the names of donors to tax-exempt groups, because we definitely want less transparency in campaign financing, not more.
  • The Canadian “naturopath” (read: child-neglecting Dunning-Krugerrands) parents who let their son die of meningitis rather than getting him medical attention were convicted of failing to provide for his well-being, with the father, also an anti-vaccine dipshit, getting four months in prison. I’m stunned they haven’t lost permanent custody of their other children, who are clearly at risk here; if the parents came into court and said aliens from Enceladus were protecting their children, we’d call the parents mentally ill and rescue the kids, but their vaccine-denial views are every bit as bogus.
  • Amy Schumer’s “too dark to air” sketch on gun control wasn’t too dark to release online, and I’m sure the faux-censorship angle gained it more viral traction. It’s quite good, of course, and not least because it features Coach McGuirk.
  • Buzzfeed steals content. It’s not plagiarism, which would be actionable; instead, they’re lifting ideas, outlines, and recipes, things that can’t be legally protected by copyright. It’s legal, but wholly unethical, and made worse by the clownish defenses some of its editors are offering. Apologize, tighten your standards, fire offenders, move on.
  • This New York profile of adult film actress Stoya, including her decision to go public with rape accusations against co-star and ex-boyfriend James Deen – spurring a torrent of similar accusations, none of which has kept him from working in their industry – is quite well done for such a difficult subject. Text NSFW, of course.
  • I enjoyed the Atlantic‘s profile of Black Flag’s legacy but really wanted more.
  • I’ll end on a slightly sappy note – the story of a millionaire, a homeless woman, and the dog that led him to help save her life.

Music update, June 2016.

I ended up with over 30 songs on the rough draft of this playlist, but cut most of them after a few additional listens – many were from bands worth mentioning, like Sigur Ros or Two Door Cinema Club, but I couldn’t justify including the songs on their own merits. So here are 21 new tracks for June, 20 of them currently on the Spotify playlist with one I’m hoping will return to the streaming service shortly. You can access the Spotify playlist directly as well.

Van William – Fourth of July. Van Pierszalowski, lead singer of WATERS, hardcore Dodgers fan, and serious coffee snob (I say that as a compliment), has a new side project under the name Van William with a different sound than his main band boasts. This is the first single, and there’s a second one I’ve heard via their publicists, both of which are definitely more personal and sunnier than WATERS’ stuff. This song has disappeared from Spotify for the moment, but I’m leaving it on the playlist for what I assume will be a quick return. It was my favorite new track of June, and I’m not only saying that because I’ve met Van (for coffee, of course) and talked Dodgers prospects with him.

CHVRCHES featuring Hayley Williams – Bury It. This is a reworked version of a great track from CHVRCHES’ 2015 album Every Open Eye, with Paramore singer Hayley Williams singing the second verse and sharing duties on the chorus. I’m not a Paramore fan, but Williams’ staccato style works perfectly with the hesitating lyrics in her verse. I think this might be the song that launches CHVRCHES fully into the pop mainstream.

Broods – Heartlines. Broods’ second album, Conscious came out a week ago, and there’s a big shift in sound from their debut, with more songs like “Heartlines” and “Free” that feature electronic sounds and quicker tempos. These are the two best songs on the album, but there are still darker, more … uh, brooding songs here, including “Freak of Nature” (featuring Tove Lo) and “All of Your Glory” that are more reminiscent of their debut.

Dagny featuring BØRNS – Fool’s Gold. Norwegian singer Dagny appeared on my top 100 songs of 2015 with “Backbeat,” and this track has a similar feel, showcasing her lower vocal registers in particular, here in collaboration with Michigan-born singer/songwriter BØRNS, who seems like he should be the Norwegian part of the pairing.

Bat For Lashes – Sunday Love. Natasha Khan, who records solo material as Bat for Lashes, just released a new concept album last week called The Bride, about a woman whose fiancé is killed on the way to the church for their wedding – a classic summer listen, really. The album is uneven, although I think Khan is such a risk-taker musically that this is inevitable for her. This particular track is my favorite, trending toward the electropop style she showed on “All Your Gold” from her last BfL album.

Ladyhawke – A Love Song. Ladyhawke is a singer-songwriter from New Zealand and generally an interesting person, diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrom in her 20s and speaking openly about performing drunk to cover her anxiety. Anyway, this is a great summer pop song regardless of her biography. Her third album, Wild Things, came out on June 9th.

Drowners – Another Go. Drowners’ second album, On Desire, just came out last month, and it’s more of the same jangly post-Britpop as they brought on their self-titled debut. I preferred “Pick Up the Pace” from this album, but “Another Go” would be my choice for a second single over the one they actually released, “Human Remains.”

The Kents – The Stakes. This fairly new Canadian indie-pop quartet just released its debut five-song EP Waking on June 1st, and while I may be succumbing to a bit of availability bias, I thought I heard some real Tragically Hip influence here.

Alexandra Savior – Shades. Savior, a singer-songwriter from LA, has become Arctic Monkeys lead singer/songwriter Alex Turner’s writing partner of late, even co-writing “Miracle Aligner” on the latest album from Turner’s side project The Last Shadow Puppets. Her own debut album remains in the works, but this is the first true single Savior has released herself, with her only previous appearance on wax in a song called “Risk” that popped up in HBO’s series True Detective.

Phantogram – You Don’t Get Me High Anymore. Phantogram is so hit or miss, with “Blackout Days” one of the best songs of the decade so far, especially with Sarah Barthel’s voice so front and center. That’s the same reason I didn’t like their Big Grams collaboration with Big Boi; if she’s the best thing about Phantogram, then relegating her to the chorus behind some of Big Boi’s worst raps ever isn’t going to produce anything worthy. This new track is the lead single from their upcoming album, Three, due out September 16th, and it’s much closer to “Blackout Days” territory.

Phoria – Everything Beta. This Brighton trio’s ambitious spacey alt-rock sound is not terribly conducive to the short single format, but they’re worth listening to even with all of the Radiohead comparisons piled on top of them (and Radiohead comps don’t do anyone any favors).

Bear’s Den – Auld Wives. This British duo gets a lot of comps to folk-rock acts included the dreaded Mumford & Sons, but I hear more mid-1980s “sophisti-pop,” a terribly-named subgenre that encompassed groups like Roxy Music, ABC, and Level 42, in this track from their upcoming album, their first since the departure of one of the three founding members.

The Stone Roses – Beautiful Thing. The second single from the unlikely reformation of the likely lads has more great guitar work from John Squire, yet once again Ian Brown seems to have lost his teeth as a vocalist and lyricist. Brown’s best work on his own and with the Roses was always sneering, sometimes angry and sometimes just derisive, but the two new songs this year are both a little too shiny-happy-people to recapture the magic of old Stone Roses matieral.

SULK – Black Infinity (Upside Down). Now these guys sound a hell of a lot like the early Stone Roses, pre-Second Coming, all the way through SULK’s second album, the self-released No Illusions. I highly recommend this song and “The Only Faith is Love” if you’re an old-time Madchester fan like me.

Jeff Beck – Live In The Dark. Speaking of great guitar work, legendary guitarist Jeff Beck turned 72 last week and has a new solo album, Loud Hailer, due out this month. Vocal duties fall to singer Rosie Bones, but this is entirely about Beck’s fretwork, and he sounds as good as ever.

Wye Oak – If You Should See. This indie duo’s fifth album, Tween, is due out in August, and features a more guitar-driven sound than the minimalist electronica of 2014’s Shriek. The songs are all tracks that didn’t make the cut for that album or its predecessor, Civilian, so the eight songs might be a mixed bag musically.

Troup – Mercury and Gold. Big-time throwback sounds from Alex Troup, formerly frontman for British pop-punk act Crashland, and producer Evan Beigel, with thisi raw-edged guitar track that reminds me of lots of unapologetic rock acts of the ’70s, not least because Troup has a Mick Jagger sneer to his singing.

The Wans – Run Baby Run. Hard rock, borderline metal, with a strong melody, from a Nashville power trio off their upcoming EP of the same title, the follow-up to their 2014 debut album He Said She Said.

Descendents – Victim Of Me. I assumed these guys were defunct, but the pioneering punks, nearing their 40th anniversary as a band, will put out, Hypercaffium Spazzinate their first album in twelve years, at the end of July. The song is 96 seconds long, so I see age hasn’t changed Milo and the boys at all.

Gone Is Gone – Starlight. The debut, self-titled EP from this supergroup, featuring members of Mastodon, QotSA, and At the Drive-In, drops next Friday. It’s heavy, but not metal; funereal, but not stoner.

Monument – Hair of the Dog. I haven’t heard any act so happily anachronistic as Monument in ages; the music is very late-80s speed metal, and the singer is doing his best Bruce Dickinson impression. I don’t even know if I like the song or if I just enjoy the surfeit of nostalgia within it.

Banks & Steelz – Giant. This new project from RZA (of Wu-Tang Clan, although I feel like that’s superfluous) and Paul Banks (of Interpol) is the umpteenth attempt to merge alt-rock and hip-hop, most of which have, to my ears, been somewhere between unfortunate failures and painful trainwrecks. The duo’s first single, “Love & War,” wasn’t any better, but this second release is a lot more on the mark, primarily because RZA just takes over – this song is about him, delivering a vintage performance worthy of classic Wu-Tang material, dropping some comic rhymes early before turning political with a full spectrum of progressive talking points in the final verse.

Klawchat, 7/1/16.

Our July 2nd international free agent preview piece is now up for Insiders.

Sign up for my newsletter!

Klaw: My features form with a change in the weather. Klawchat.

Nolan LeMond: With quality arms at every level of the minors, the emergence of Mike Soroka and others, and three more high-upside arms added in the first 2 rounds of the draft, do the Braves currently have the best collection of arms you’ve ever seen in one organization at one time?
Klaw: No, I think we’ve seen other teams do this before, like Kansas City a few years ago. The attrition rate is going to be high, unfortunately, unless they’ve figured out something we haven’t about arm health. But I think overall they’ve got the right idea and have a chance to be an absolute powerhouse MLB team in about 3 years if they deploy these assets the right way.

Brad: Atlanta blowing way over its budget has been expected for a while for July 2, but it seems like the Padres are going to get the better haul. Is the group Atlanta is expected to sign the second best?
Klaw: Atlanta is getting the best overall prospect in Maitan, but I don’t think their group beyond him is any better than those of other teams going all in this weekend, other than San Diego, who appear willing to give $400,000 to any random kid walking down the street in Santo Domingo.

Greg: You’ve been pretty clear that Boston shouldn’t trade Moncada or Benintendi in a deal for Teheran. If that’s the case, am I wrong for thinking there isn’t a match between the two teams? Sure seems like Coppy wants bats in the upper levels of the minors.
Klaw: I would agree, at least in that Teheran’s value is probably more than the Red Sox could provide if they won’t trade any of the big 3 prospect bats.

Nick: Have you seen/when are you planning to see some of the 2017 prep guys? Seems like a lot of good ones so far: Brady McConnell, Jordon Adell, Hunter Greene, etc.
Klaw: Saw Adell last summer, will see others later this summer. Greene has definitely jumped out early.

JV (Cleveland): Any early reports on Triston McKenzie, Brady Aiken or Juan Hillman as their pro careers get underway?
Klaw: Yep. All good. Hillman especially good early. Aiken’s healthy with good velocity so far.

Samwise: How bad is Candelario’s glove on 20-80? I’ve seen you say it’s abysmal while others have said average or even slightly above?
Klaw: Unplayable at third base. No idea why anyone’s called it average or slightly above. I’ve seen him a ton over the years.

Tom: Is Baltimore for real? Can the Orioles win the AL East?
Klaw: Of course they can – in fact I’d say they’re the odds-on favorites by virtue of the standings today. For real is another question; I killed them preseason because their rotation looked terrible, and it has been terrible. They have a starters’ ERA of 4.95, fourth-worst in the AL, and have basically one and a half non-replacement-level starters in their rotation. They could ignore the problem and maybe still win the division, but it’s not a great formula for now or for October.

Joe D: Keith, is Dovydas Neverauskas any kind of RP prospect or just a good marketing ploy by MLB to add him to the futures game? Also, is Europe the next untapped market for MLB?
Klaw: I wrote about him in the preview – he’s a good relief prospect, but of course he’s there because he’s Lithuanian, and I think MLB should always try to include as many countries as possible in the Futures Game. Maybe his inning ends up on Lithuanian TV and a bunch of kids see it and want to pick up a baseball.

Samwise: Could Eloy Jiminez be a GUY?
Klaw: Absolutely.

Anonymous: Thamas Szapucki and Andrew Church have both had very good starts to their seasons (Szapucki with 19 k’s and 9 baserunners in 10.2 innings). Should Mets fans be getting excited about these guys. Are they legit?
Klaw: Szapucki’s been legit, plus FB plus CB so far, throwing strikes. Didn’t offer much projection in the draft but the tradeoff is that it’s now stuff. Church I liked in the past but has no history of health, and now that I look he’s not even pitching that well.

Andy: For me, the biggest issue with all the Mets Rights Asshats, Jose Reyes hit 274/310/378 last year while playing in Toronto and Colorado. This is the guy you want to ignore ethics for and put at 3B? We’re not talking forgetting about in-prime Miguel Cabrera drunk driving. So they’re taking the public relations hit, looking insensitive, and putting someone with zero ML innings at 3b, all because they don’t want to throw some cash for Matt Dominguez, Will Middlebrooks, or someone similar.
Klaw: I chose not to discuss the baseball merits of the move at all in my piece on the signing because I thought it would diminish the core issue of whether teams should take a stance on players who’ve committed an act of domestic violence (in this case, a very serious one). It doesn’t seem to me like a sliding scale, where we’ll accept more violence if the player’s better. For me, at least, I would simply say no, this is not who we are as an organization, regardless of what he can do for our team – and if my bosses said, sign him anyway, that’s when I’d walk away from the job.

Jeremy: What were your thoughts on the Giants allowing Madison Bumgarner to bat instead of using a DH? My general thought was that even if he was a better hitter than the alternative (doubtful) the risks associated with him batting as far as injury, tiring him out unnecessarily, etc, were unnecessary and foolish.
Klaw: I think Bochy probably looked at the lack of any RHB on his bench other than Trevor Brown and figured Bumgarner (a RHB) was a better option anyway than the LHB available. I don’t agree with this at all – Bumgarner, for all the HR he hits, has a .226 career OBP and doesn’t exactly hit any kind of pitcher well, so it’s not even helping the team. Then you get into the injury issues you raised and, well, maybe they should address the bench.

Anonymous: No question. Just wanted to say I really enjoyed being in Omaha for the CWS but OMG THE BUNTING MAKE IT STOP
Klaw: The series ended yesterday and the Chanticleers are still throwing over to first base.

Andy: Can I read anything in to Austin Hedges start? What kind of power potential do you see for him?
Klaw: Repeating AAA in a crazy hitter’s environment. That said, I do think he has 20-25 HR power if he can hit enough to get to it.

Nick: Ever been to Au Cheval in Chicago? Does a better burger exist?
Klaw: Is it just me or is that a bad name for a burger place?

Craig: What is the earliest age that most teams will start to track/scout players? 14? 15?
Klaw: International guys like Maitan, 14. Draft players, summer after junior year of HS, usually.

Alan: You’ve caused quite a stir with Atlanta fans by talking about the Nationals still pushing for Maitan. Is this something we should be worried about?
Klaw: A few months ago, maybe a year, the Nats made Maitan an offer that he (may have) accepted, after which Atlanta (reportedly) upper their offer and recaptured him. I heard the Nats were still trying to get Maitan to accept a $7 million offer – and there is actually nothing preventing any of these players from breaking an agreement with a team prior to the deadline because THESE DEALS ARE ALL ILLEGAL. The whole system is totally, royally fucked up.

Matt Neffer: Keith, in your opinion, should the Red Sox be penalized for their actions in the last international signing period or are they just doing what every other clubs does but on a larger scale?
Klaw: Most clubs do it. Boston got caught. I don’t think the penalty is that big of a deal, though, as they’re going to lose a handful of low-probability 16- and 17-year-old prospects, none of whom projected (yet) as average or better guys. Maybe it will end up hurting them, but this seems more like a message sent to other clubs not to pull the same maneuver … even though the system provides plenty of incentive for everyone to do this. See my previous answer.

Michael: Sorry if this is obvious, but could you explain what happens to a pitcher mechanically when he throws a breaking ball that doesn’t break (a hanging curveball or slider)? Is it a lack of concentration?
Klaw: Usually he either didn’t get enough spin on the ball from the rotation of his wrist or it slipped out of his hand earlier than he’d wanted it to. Better question for someone who actually pitched, though.

Michael: I was at an International League game the other day and saw scouts from a club with the NPB. Is that common? Have you ever seen Japanese scouts?
Klaw: All the time. Fall League too. Looking for tweeners and 4A guys who’ll go all Tuffy Rhodes over there.

Derek: Has recent performance (12+ Ks in 3 of 5 starts) given you a reason to update your prior on Reynaldo Lopez – your prior being that he’ll end up in the pen? Apart from whether he’s a starter going forward, putting him in the bullpen is the best way for the Nats to improve the 2016 pen, right? He may not be Chapman or Miller, but he may be close and he’s free.
Klaw: The bullpen opinion is about his delivery, not his stuff. I’d definitely look at him as a pen upgrade rather than trading for one of those guys.

Michael: I’m far from an economics expert and I go back and forth on a minimum wage and forced overtime pay. While I thought the bill introduced the other day was an abomination, isn’t low minor league pay an unfortunate, ugly consequence of free-market capitalism?
Klaw: The market for minor league players is not free, though. Movement is highly restricted by the draft and the reserve clause.

Derek: Bone spurs: are the Mets being reckless with Syndergaard and Matz?
Klaw: I think I said they were being reckless on Buster’s podcast yesterday, but if I did, then I apologize for a take that was way too hot. There’s so much that I don’t know here, from exactly what’s going on their elbows to what the probability is of further injury – I thought spurs and chips potentially led to damage to the UCLs, but perhaps that impression is out of date – to what these players, highly paid adults with agency, want to do. I shouldn’t have come on that strongly about the Mets’ plans here. I’m sorry.

Jose: How does Trey Griffey get drafted and Andrew Beckwith not get drafted?
Klaw: Griffey, you know the answer. Beckwith isn’t really a pro prospect of any sort.

Dave: Favorite Chvrches song? I’d lean towards Clearest Blue. Saw them with Death Cab for Cutie in Cleveland and they were incredible.
Klaw: Leave a Trace or We Sink.

Adam: Are you concerned about Manuel Margot’s low OPS relative to his playing environment or am I just scouting the box score?
Klaw: Your mistake is looking at OPS, which is a garbage stat. Margot is 21 in AAA with a .353 OBP. His slugging is low, dragging down his OPS, but he’s not a power hitter and will likely never be one. His game is defense, OBP, instincts, but not power.

Ryan: With half a season in the books, has your impression of Rhys Hoskins’ future changed at all? I know you have previously said he is one to watch, but I am not sure how much he should be considered a real prospect based on the history of power hitters at Reading. Thanks!
Klaw: He’s hit away from Reading, while Cozens did most of his damage at home. I’m more inclined to buy into Hoskins’ numbers, plus I have never been a fan of Cozens’ makeup whereas I am of Hoskins’.

Chuck Connors: With the expected arrival of Braves new international signings, I assume Braves remain #1 (by a wide margin) in your farm rankings. How do you compare the Braves long-term rebuild strategy to similar teams (i.e. Astros) at this point?
Klaw: Yes, they’d still be at the top. The Astros managed to grab more college guys in the draft and more near-in prospects in trades, though, so I think Atlanta’s rebuild may take longer. That’s good, because by the time their prospects are ready in 2019 or so, people trying to get to games at The Big Con in 2017 will have found parking.

Adam: You said Adrian Morejon could have been a Top 5 pick in this last draft. Would he immediately become a Top 3 prospect in the Padres system once he signs?
Klaw: Margot, Guerra, Quantrill, Morejon?

Jeff: Shortly after Austin Meadows was promoted to AAA you referred to him on Twitter as a “budding superstar”, is it safe to say he’ll likely be back in your next Top 25?
Klaw: All depends on who else is up and down before then. Next list is in two weeks. Remember he wasn’t healthy last time I did an update, so he was around #26-28.

Anonymous: Any plans on a Cape trip? Any names there you want to see or feel obligated to see?
Klaw: trying to figure out how to get there with other obligations this month (TV stuff) and family matters. Not sure yet.

Adam: Is Chris Paddack legit or just too polished for his competition?
Klaw: Legit. 90-95, plus CH, breaking ball will flash above average, average command now, comes right down at hitters. Great pickup for Padres.

@RationalMLBfan: While Dilson Herrera toils in AAA, the Mets have given playing time to Matt Reynolds, Ty Kelly, Eric Campbell, and Kelly Johnson, have signed Jose Reyes. Why?
Klaw: I don’t know, but I said earlier this year they seem to be down on Dilson for reasons no one seems to understand.

Andy NMB: Hey Keith, who decides on who makes the futures game? On the USA side just a few outfielders. Wondering why Judge although SSS is maybe one of the hottest hitters. I figured he’d be there. Also after signing 1st pick Rutherford, how is the yanks minor league rankings? New rankings coming soon? Thanks for all the hard work…insider, dish & newsletter. Your the best!!
Klaw: Remember that teams get to say no – for example, I believe the Pirates said no on Glasnow, either because they just didn’t want him to pitch (fearing injury) or because they were looking at calling him up before the game. I know MLB puts together wishlists and doesn’t get everyone they want.

Jim: So, Keith, although his June surge is logically unsustainable, is Danny Espinosa now entrenched at SS for 2016? And what does this mean for Trea Turner? Is the CF “experiment” real, or a blip? Thanks!
Klaw: Yep, I think that’s the rest of the season for them, including Turner in CF. He’s probably an 80 runner and has good instincts; I’d be very surprised if he couldn’t become an average defender there, and they could use his OBP skills at the top of the lineup.

EC: Thoughts on Giolito’s first game?
Klaw: Looked good, not his best. CB was ridiculous. FB command was not great, although I liked how he gathered himself after each of the walks to get back into the zone. Was hoping to see more CH, but he got some quick outs on pop-ups and you’ll take those every time. Promising, but in a way I’m glad he was done after four innings because I thought he was going to run into trouble the third time through the order.

EC: I work for a member of Congress and can tell you that Rep. Boustos revoking her support for the America’s Pastime bill is the quickest I’ve ever seen that happen. Her staff must have done an awful job researching for her.
Klaw: I have a feeling she supported it because her dad was a longtime MLB lobbyist and she didn’t look into the bill. Next we need to go after Rep. Guthrie; perhaps he has an opponent this year who supports basic labor rights?

Josh: Keith, as someone who briefly passed through your world (I did the DodgerDivorce thing), I just wanted to say I’m glad you are getting the opportunity to share your views on things like the Reyes signing. While I don’t always agree with you (although I do here), it is refreshing to see reasoned, thoughtful opinion featured and promoted by your monolith employer.
Klaw: Thank you. My editor actually encouraged me to write that piece after seeing me comment on the signing on BBTN on Saturday. I don’t think that would have happened a few years ago, so there are positive things happening in Bristol that you don’t hear about.

Bob: Are the recent reports on Dylan Cease in the NWL similar to the very positive reports from the spring?
Klaw: I heard secondhand that he hit 103 the other day, so, yeah.

Dan L.: Keith I understand not voting for Trump, but how could anyone vote for a person who used all her power and contacts to try and destroy or discredit all of her husbands victims of serial assault or rape? Seems they get a huge pass from people who are always up in arms about other people who do the same. I personally think they are all scum.
Klaw: You have three choices. One, Johnson, is a protest vote with no chance to win. I don’t agree with Trump on matters of science, gender, race, immigration, taxation, regulation, abortion, gun rights, foreign policy, freedom of worship, energy policy, entitlements … and more. So, unless you’re advocating that I abstain, I think my choice here is pretty straightforward.

Brian: I saw Ashe Russell pitched is first inning of the season the other night for the AZL Royals. Have you heard if he was dealing with an injury this season. I just found it curious that Nolan Watson started at Lexington all season but Russell was left back. Thanks.
Klaw: He was 87-91 in extended.

JT: After a slow start, Tyler Beede has had a really strong June in AA, calling out an improved feel for his change up. Do you think he can keep momentum going and be an solid #3? Maybe a #2?
Klaw: More like a #4-5. Doubt he’ll ever have average command.

Jon: Bo Bichette had unbelievable high school stats and in an extreme SSS he has continued those numbers (obp over 500). Any chance he hits his way to A or High A?
Klaw: It’s 19 AB in pro ball … and this year? He’s 18. If he gets to the NYP league that’s enough.

Ian: Why didn’t the Twins ever send Kepler to the Future’s game?
Klaw: He was on the roster two years ago and got hurt.

Angelo: What’s your favorite “cheap” meat to cook? I’ve been doing pork shoulder lately but need to mix it up while being on a budget.
Klaw: That’s probably my best suggestion too. You can often get less popular cuts of steak for less – flap meat, for example, or sometimes skirt steak.

Sean: Remember when all the experts were having to eat so much crow as the phillies ran away with the NL East. Those were some good times, can’t wait until next May for overreaction theater to happen again.
Klaw: What I really remember is fans asking me if the Phillies would add pieces before the trade deadline. Derp.

Larry: Any word on where Lazarito is leaning?
Klaw: No. I looked into it a little this week, just to see if I’d missed something, and no one had any idea. He’s turned down some decent offers though.

Elton: What did you see in Gregory Polanco to allow you to predict (correctly) that his power would improve?
Klaw: I believed in his swing and hand strength.

Rob: Any chance that Aristides Aquino becomes an impact player at the MLB level. Seems to be holding his own at AA this year but has struggled previous years.
Klaw: Great tools but he’s 22 in high-A (not AA) and I think that’s a big part of why he’s playing well. Would really like to see him get to AAA next summer so the Reds can see how much of this improvement is real, not just age.

addoeh: You seemed to thoroughly enjoy Omaha. What cities (MLB, MILB, College) have most exceeded your expectations from a culinary standpoint?
Klaw: Omaha, Nashville, Charleston, Minneapolis, Atlanta, San Diego, Phoenix (cheating, since i lived there), OKC.

Tyler: Several times this year you’ve advocated for TEX to turn the page on Prince Fielder. At the same time, you are always cautious about SSS when a guy is going good. What is a large enough sample size to determine a player has gone bad and is done? Fielder, for example, was solid last year, so it seems like a decision to dump him is based only on this year.
Klaw: He wasn’t solid last year, though; he had a fluky first two months or so but his bat speed was visibly down and he was getting killed on hard stuff in. Sure enough, he was much worse in the second half as teams changed how they pitched him, and it’s gotten worse for him this year. His bat speed is gone. This is why I watch.

Pat: Keith – Bundy is starting to look good, man. Give me a dose of reality so I don’t get too excited
Klaw: He’s been cultivated so carefully this year that it’s creating unrealistic expectations. He’s still got calcification in his shoulder and his arm swing is so much more restricted than it used to be.

Anonymous: Hey Klaw, teacher here…I’m on summer break and can finally make your chats live! Is Verdugo for Vizcaino about right in terms of value?
Klaw: No, massive overpay for Dodgers.

mike: Help Klaw, yesterday my 2 year old was thrown out of “Dance” instead of taking my wife aside to tell them to leave the instructor did so in front of all the other moms and kids. Im pissed. In the meantime she tells my wife clingy kids never change and come back in 5 years. How can she do this
Klaw: did your 2-year-old start chanting “Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams!” in the middle of “Baby Beluga?”

Harvey: Will Jason Groome really attend Jr College?
Klaw: This is the threat, but I think it’s a poor bluff. Next year’s draft class is much stronger in college pitching, and Groome will not likely be more valuable in that class than he was in this one. Also, the makeup concerns about him are not going to vanish with a year at junior college. The Red Sox can offer him about $4 million without giving up a pick next year and he’d be ill-advised to turn that down.

Jack Burton: Did Arcia just need a change of scenery?
Klaw: Yes – or more specifically he just needed to be left alone to play.

Harvey: Is E Rod tipping pitches just a cover for a bigger problem?
Klaw: My guess is that his knee is still bothering him. Can’t do much as a pitcher if you can’t plant your leg.

Robes: Alex Bregman, better than expected?
Klaw: No, just the power, which could easily be a half-season fluke. Everyone thought he’d hit, even in HS.

Jeff: I am a firm believer in not voting if a worthy candidate is not on the ballot. People tell me, “you can’t complain if you don’t vote” – the hell I can’t. Record-low voter turnout would be a wonderful statement to make, IMO.
Klaw: It’s also how you get extremist candidates elected.

Rob: Do you think Lucas Giolito should continue to start once strasburg returns from the DL?
Klaw: In whose stead? He might be a better option than Gio Gonzalez, but I wouldn’t guarantee that, and they’re not demoting Gio to the bullpen anyway so that’s a stupid idea, Klaw.

Dale: Can you define what you mean by “makeup” when describing a prospect? Is it like “character”? Pedigree? Bloodlines? Thanks
Klaw: Pedigree and bloodlines are irrelevant. I’m talking about the type of person a player is, particularly the stuff that matters – work ethic, aptitude, communication skills, willingness to learn.

MichaelT: Re: Reyes and Chapman, is it fair to say your position is that once a player is accused and punished for DV that no team should ever employ him, or that he needs to do something else (not sure what that is) before he can return to the field? I believe that’s the part of the question that throws some fans.
Klaw: What throws me is fans caring about that question rather than saying, oh, hey, he beat his wife, so fuck that guy.

JG: Should Buxton just be left to play?
Klaw: Yes. And perhaps there’s an issue with the Twins’ coaching staff and young hitters? I’m speculating here.

TedT: Has Trey Ball pitched well enough this year to justify his high draft pick and does he project as a major league starter? Reliever?
Klaw: Stuff hasn’t really ticked up. So projectable but it’s never come to pass as expected.

Ed: You’re talking about Atlanta maybe being a powerhouse if they handle their assets correctly. Are you referring to trades for bats?
Klaw: Some of that, yes. Pick the ones to keep, flip some for bats.

Trey: I believe the gentleman was suggesting you abstain from voting. They’re all terrible, I won’t vote so I can openly criticize them all. 2017-2021 is going to be awfully interesting with either Clinton or Trump at the helm.
Klaw: I can vote for someone, because I think her opponent is dangerous, and criticize her at the same time. People who are saying they’re abstaining this year despite their disdain for Trump seem a bit disingenous to me; there must be some level at which you’d vote for a candidate you disliked simply to try to defeat a candidate who scares the hell out of you.

Luke: You’ve guided me correctly with Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne and Splendor, what should the next game be for my family with a 7-year old son?
Klaw: You’ve hit the big three for sure. It’s a bit less common but Cacao is a tile-laying game like Carcassonne with simpler scoring and shorter playing times.

addoeh: The folly of the electoral college. Some people, like me, can make a protest vote and it won’t impact the election because they live in an uncompetitive state. If you live in a battleground state, that may not be possible.
Klaw: I’ve actually never voted in a Presidential election while living in a state where my vote might have mattered. Delaware, my current state, hasn’t gone Republican since 1988. Massachusetts, where I voted in five elections, hasn’t since 1984. Arizona, where I voted in 2012, has gone Democrat once (1996) since 1948. So this is all so much talk.

Sedale: Obviously you were as high as anyone on C. Seager, but has his production thus far even surprised you? He’s on pace for a 30 HR/.800+OPS season as a rookie short stop and has been the Dodgers best bat by far.
Klaw: I wasn’t this high on him in the draft – not until he got to pro ball and I saw how advanced the approach was for his age. He also made a really rapid adjustment when the Dodgers saw he was starting to develop a soft front side in high-A; I think players who make adjustments that rapidly are showing you they’re going to be the exceptions going forward too.

Ian: I think you overstate the power Trump would have. He’s an idiot and couldn’t do many of the things he has suggested. But Clinton’s rhetoric on national security should be getting a lot more attention from progressives. This might be a line in the sand moment. Do we want internet privacy to go away? Do we want drones spying on US citizens (or killing them)? Do we want the govt to fight harder against FOIA? I laugh at Trump and his brand of ignorance but Clinton’s more frightening, IMHO.
Klaw: Presenting this for a little balance, since I didn’t address any of what I dislike about HRC’s policies. You nailed some of them; in general, I do not agree with the Democratic Party’s stances on many issues, including many questions of food policy. (Keep the Republicans out of my bedroom and the Democrats out of my kitchen.) On drones, though, isn’t Trump proposing to use them to monitor the border with Mexico? And to step up airstrikes in the Middle East? I’m basically anti-drone, period, but at this point that’s about as politically tenable a position as reinstating the Volstead Act.

James: reyes – I read your article and understand your feelings on those who hit their wives/family members but if reyes would have taken the year off, gotten counseling (not the lip service kind), got a mentor, would you have supported him coming back or is it a zero tolerance policy? Also, how does your opinion change of some hitting their wife vs. someone who beats up a stranger? I am not trying to corner you, just trying to understand a little more.
Klaw: Domestic violence is not equivalent to beating up a stranger. Domestic abuse is an exercise of power and intimidation. I have never said Reyes should be banned; I have said I would not sign him if I were a GM, and I will criticize a GM who does.

Chris: I’m curious about your opinion on redemption for DV and sexual assault perpetrators. Can there be reform for these individuals? Redemption? To be clear, I don’t mean redemption through athletic performance, but perhaps through therapy, and committing oneself to preventing others from committing DV or sexual assault.
Klaw: I don’t think sexual assaulters can be reformed.

Scott: Is the power Marcus Semien showing real? Because with his improvement in defense, oakland might have themselves a player worth keeping.
Klaw: I don’t think he’s a 30 HR guy going forward – if he is, then hell yeah they have something worth keeping – but between the swing changes, the athleticism, and the hints of power he showed in the minors I could see him now being a 20+ HR guy. He’s definitely an asset now.

Munchkin: Besides Amed Rosario, is there any other exciting high ceiling Mets prospect? It seems Dom, Nimmo, etc have mostly been meh and haven’t developed much.
Klaw: Nimmo I agree. Smith is still just 21 in AA, too soon for you to give up on him. I liked Lindsay from last year’s draft quite a bit. Also think they did pretty well with Dunn this year, another very high-ceiling kid, and I mentioned Szapucki earlier as a dude to watch.

Adam: What are your thoughts on Coppy publicly admitting the Olivera deal was a bad one?
Klaw: He’s right, of course, and I applaud him for saying it. It wasn’t just a bad trade, though; it was a bad evaluation of the player, and ultimately, it’s on the evaluators who said Olivera was something more than he actually was as a player to bear responsibility for a bad deal.

Todd: I’m actually very interested in your answer to MichaelT’s question. And I don’t want my curiosity to sound like a judgment of you; I’m trying to figure out how I feel about the subject and why. On one hand, YES, fuck that guy. On the other hand I am wary of the misanthropic implications of essentially blackballing someone (and I have a hard time separating what he did from the professional suspension he already received). While I fully understand the dangerous psychology behind his criminal behavior, I also believe it costs me when I don’t allow other human beings the space to change. In short, I have a theoretical basis for giving Reyes a chance to grow and learn, while I have an emotional basis for wanting him to piss off and die. Maybe if we didn’t have centuries of oppression, marginalization and abuse of women it would be easier to decide what punishment an abuser should get in each realm of his life.
Klaw: Reyes can get on with his life; I just don’t need to see him do it on a major league baseball field. Playing this sport for salaries of six, seven, or eight figures is not a right, but a privilege. You can lose it, and beating up a woman or raping someone is a fairly good reason to lose it. (A better reason, I’d argue, than failing three steroid tests.) He can go find something else to do with his life.

Sean: I think it’s a bit disingenuous to say that every team does what Boston is being punished for doing. The majority of teams have never exceeded their pools, so they could never have been in a position to need to circumvent the restrictions. It’s the attempt to circumvent the punishment that is their “crime.”
Klaw: Most teams arrange deals prior to July 2nd with agents, which in and of itself is illegal. The whole system is screwed up. I’m saying what Boston did is not unique and at worst marginally worse than all these teams cooking up deals before negotiations are even permitted.

Taylor: Has Ronald Guzman turned the corner?
Klaw: Don’t know; he hasn’t sustained the hot start, and doesn’t have much track record of success, but since he won’t turn 22 until October I’m not going to say anything too harsh here. Merely doing what he’s done in total in AA this year is a positive step.

Tony H: Can a player improve makeup? I’m thinking of someone like Carlos Carrasco who some evaluators — including yourself IIRC — dinged for having makeup problems years ago. Did he just become a better person or is his talent just overwhelming his personal flaws.
Klaw: He was immature and grew up. That happens a lot. (And yes, I dinged him AND Gio Gonzalez for it.) Some issues are bigger; some are issues in certain teams’ eyes and not in others (e.g., marijuana use). The ones that bother me the most are players who don’t or won’t work hard, and players who refuse to work with multiple coaches. It’s a hard game when you won’t even listen to help.

Arin, Ca: What happened to Conforto? Did the Mets miss use him?
Klaw: Aside from the wrist issue, benching him vs LHP really seemed to screw up his mechanics at the plate, so he was pulling off the ball more vs RHP and his whole approach went pear-shaped. I really think Collins is the Mets’ #1 problem right now. If he won’t play young players, they need another manager.

Cam: Is Daniel Norris the answer for the Tigers going forward? Is he fully healthy
Klaw: I don’t know about his health but I’d be very happy moving forward with a rotation that has him and Fulmer at the top of it.

Steve: When are you doing your “Best Under 25” column?
Klaw: Next week, probably.

Doug: Was there any thought by you to head up to MSG for the only NA show for Stone Roses last night? Admittedly, pure bucket list in nature for me, but am so glad I made the trek, as they were 10x better than my expectations
Klaw: Had I liked the two new singles more, perhaps. But I haven’t loved them … and by the way, I’ll have a new music post and playlist up in a little bit.

Klaw: That’s all for this week. Thank you as always for reading and for all of your questions. I’ll be back next week, likely Thursday, for another chat.

Omaha eats.

My column today for ESPN, expressing my disappointment in the Mets’ decision to sign Jose Reyes, is free for anyone to read.

Omaha treated me very well last week, even with the heat and humidity. I’d heard from a few readers over the years that Omaha is a sneaky-good restaurant town – although the claim that it has the most restaurants per capita in the U.S. appears to be unfounded – and that turned out to be the case. I had four outstanding meals there, great coffee, great cocktails, and even managed to check off two more states on my visit list, leaving me with just one left (Arkansas). It’s an incredibly walkable downtown, something I miss greatly as a resident of the suburbs now, and I feel like I could easily spend a week there without running out of new places to eat.

I’ll start with the best lunch I had in Omaha, at Kitchen Table, a recommendation from one of you via Twitter. The co-owner responded with a tweet saying they’d love to have me drop by, and I discovered after I arrived that it’s because the chef/co-owner, Colin, is a big baseball nut and Red Sox fan. Their slogan is “Slow food, fast,” as the menu includes sandwiches, salads, and small plates that either can be cooked quickly or assembled from components that are slow-cooked ahead of time. I went with what is apparently their most popular sandwich, The Whole Bird, a seared chicken breast on toasted, house-made levain bread, with confit chicken-leg salad, crispy chicken skin, a fried egg, and mixed greens, a great mixture of flavors and textures that elevated the chicken breast (which never has much taste in my opinion no matter how it’s prepared) with the sauce from the over-medium egg, the saltiness and crunch of the skin, and a hint of bitterness from the greens. It didn’t hurt that the bread was so good either.

I ended up with two sides, their ‘little salad,’ which is mixed bitter greens (definitely kale and arugula, and I believe mustard greens among them?) with sprouted beans on top and a red wine vinaigrette; and their deviled eggs, a gift from the kitchen that I would never have ordered on my own. The egg yolks were incredibly smooth, seasoned with dill and smoked Spanish paprika, with just enough salt – I’m pretty demanding about eggs being properly salted, because as much as I love eggs, without salt you might as well send them down the disposal. Kitchen Table also serves their own popcorn on the tray with your order and I may also have eaten all of that too. (I didn’t finish everything on the tray, but the salad and sandwich together would have been a pretty filling meal even without the eggs.)

I got more recommendations for one of Kitchen Table’s neighbors, Block 16, than I did for KT, but there was no comparison between my experiences – KT was much better. Block 16’s menu is heavy, full of over-the-top combinations of burgers and sauces and fried things, and I didn’t think any of it worked that well. I chose the Croque Garçon burger, which Alton Brown tabbed as one of his five favorite burgers in the country, with ham, cheese, a fried egg, and truffle mayo, on a ciabatta roll. I hate to disagree with AB, but I can’t see it: The burger was overly salty, and if the meat was any good I couldn’t taste it under all of the toppings. (It probably wasn’t, or I might still have figured it out.) Their seasoned fries were just ordinary; Block 16 is known for a side called “duck duck goose fries” that involves duck confit, cheese, mayo, and crispy duck skin, but that just sounded too heavy and messy to even think about eating. Given the hype and the line out the door, this just didn’t measure up.

Every dinner I had in Omaha was outstanding, so I’ll go in chronological order. First was The Boiler Room, a recommendation from Sarah, our on-site makeup artist and, as I learned, food stylist too. Named for its space, the former boiler room for the 120-year-old building in which it’s located, The Boiler Room’s menu is small and very locally-driven, with six starters and six entrees the night I was there. The braised and smoked pork belly is served with mustard seeds, orange supremes, and a kohlrabi puree, but it’s the preparation of the meat itself that stands out here – I’m not sure I’ve ever had pork belly prepared anything like this, and I mean that in a good way. Pork belly has layers of fat and connective tissue between the highly flavorful meat layers, but this broad slice – like an inch-thick lardon – was meatier with very little of the less-pleasant bits in between, yet without becoming dry from the slow cooking. It may be the result of keeping the belly away from much direct heat that might toughen the meat layers, but anyway, it was superb, especially with multiple acidic elements on the plate for balance.

For the main course, I ordered the grilled hamachi steak, primarily because I wanted to try what it came with – herbed Parisian gnocchi with English peas and rock shrimp. Indeed, the gnocchi were the star; not only was the texture perfect, light but not toothless, but they had huge flavors, with at least thyme and tarragon but probably more herbs I couldn’t pick out. The fish itself was cooked to my idea of perfection, but I think that’s a bit more cooked in the center than many folks would like for a tuna steak. (I am not a fan of seared tuna preparations, where the center is cold.) I also loved the broth underneath the fish, light enough to work as a sauce for the fish while carrying some of the herbs from the gnocchi with it. Seafood in the heartland doesn’t sound like a great idea but this dish absolutely worked.

Dessert was an apricot-cherry cobbler with a shortbread topping, pistachios, and vanilla ice cream, and was also incredible – the topping was like a warm biscuit, and the fruit was tart, so the sweetness of the crust and the ice cream worked to balance it out, instead of the sweet-sweet-sweet approach of a lot of pies served a la mode. The Boiler Room also has an impressive cocktail menu and list of liquors to be served on their own, not just whiskeys but rums, tequilas, and cordials. I had something with two rums in it and I forget what else because I also had some Kirk & Sweeney’s 12-year after that. It had been a long day and I’m not sorry.

Moving along … The Grey Plume is located a bit west of the market district, and chef Clayton Chapman was a semifinalist for a Beard Award in 2015, so it was well worth the short drive. (I rented a car in Omaha, largely because I’m naked without one, but you could easily stay downtown and do without one.) The space and décor all say fine-dining, but the food itself is farm-to-table at heart, perhaps with more emphasis on presentation than you’d find at typical restaurants serving this type and caliber of food. For my starter, I went with the pork belly Dutch baby – a savory version of the eggy pancake, filled with caramelized onions, served with grapefruit supremes, orange puree, and cinnamon ‘snow.’

Pork belly Dutch baby at @thegreyplume in Omaha

A photo posted by Keith Law (@mrkeithlaw) on

The pancake and onions were my favorite aspect of the dish, although they needed something like the pork belly’s fattiness to balance it out – I just thought the combination was so clever, like a twist on the Italian chickpea crepe called a socca, but one where the onions get thoroughly caramelized first rather than merely browned in cooking. Also, as is probably clear, I’m a big fan of pork belly served with some sort of citrus element alongside it.

I didn’t want to have meat upon meat, so I went with the house-made agnolotti with chevre, pickled ramps, spring radishes, and asparagus. The agnolotti were strong, with good tooth to the pasta, but the accompaniments didn’t work on their own or with the pasta. That type of dumpling – that’s really what agnolotti is, just another shape like ravioli or tortellini – needs something more with it, whether it’s brown butter, a light broth, perhaps in this case taking the asparagus and blending it for a sauce, but something to complement the tangy flavor of the goat cheese and also allow the diner to get several components into one bite. That didn’t work here, especially not with the pickled ramps, which were huge (I’ve never seen ramp bulbs that size before) and overpowering.

And then, the dessert, the best single thing I ate in Omaha: A brioche donut, fried in duck fat, sprinkled with sugar, served with soft house-made vanilla ice cream and brown-butter crumbs. Words fail me. I ate the whole thing and I would do it again.

This, my friends, is a brioche donut … fried in duck fat. @thegreyplume

A photo posted by Keith Law (@mrkeithlaw) on

After all of the gluttony of my first 48 hours in Omaha, I wanted something lighter and went to Modern Love, a vegan restaurant a bit south of downtown. I’m obviously an omnivore, but I eat a lot of plants, and while I’m at home I seldom eat meat before dinner, sometimes not at all – but I’m rarely vegan, since I eat yogurt for lunch almost every day. (I’ve tried alternative yogurts but those are a bridge too far.) My colleague Adnan Virk joined me for the most surprising meal of the trip; everything we ate was savory and filling in ways you wouldn’t expect from food without meat, egg, or dairy.

We split a starter, Modern Love’s twist on deviled eggs, using chickpeas whipped with olive oil, stuffed into hollowed-out cucumber “cups” with pea tendrils on top. No one’s confusing the cukes for hard-boiled egg whites, but the filling itself was like a brighter hummus and it was easy to draw a parallel to deviled eggs beyond the visual, since the garbanzos and the olive oil gave the center plenty of fat.

For the main, I ordered the “mac and shews,” their version of a mac and cheese dish, using cashew-milk cheese for the sauce around the elbow-shaped pasta. The pasta was a little soft – the menu says it’s gluten-free, which is probably the reason – but the flavor was outstanding, slightly nutty, coating the pasta like any good sauce should. I was unaware that you could melt nut cheese to create anything this silky. The dish comes with roasted cauliflower in a BBQ sauce, garlicky kale leaves, spiced pecans, and cornmeal crusted tofu wedges. The last element didn’t add much, but the cauliflower and kale especially worked well to play off the smooth, mild flavor of the pasta. Adnan raved about the pesto gnocchi with asparagus, which looked from my spying of various dishes like the largest entree if you’re concerned about sating your appetite here.

Then the dessert, also Instagram-worthy: blueberry crisp with maple-walnut ice cream (made with cashew milk), toasted almonds, and coconut “whip.” This was also gluten-free, although you’d never have guessed that while eating it.

The highest praise I can give this is that you probably wouldn’t have blinked if I gave you this dessert and told you it was blueberry crisp with maple-walnut ice cream, omitting the parts about it being gluten-free and vegan. The blueberries themselves tasted like they were just picked, the crisp was chewy and lightly spiced, the ice cream itself had amazing mouth-feel for something without butterfat. The meal as a whole was incredibly satisfying without any of the things that I’d normally consider essential for satisfaction.

I tried three coffee places during the trip, two in Omaha and one in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The better place in Omaha was Archetype Coffee, in the Blackstone District, a local roaster with many single-origin options and one of the best espressos I’ve ever had – bright without being tart, naturally sweet, with good body. Their espresso blend is 60% Brazilian Nossa and 40% Ethiopian Cochere, and they had a few single-origin beans available as pour-over options and in bags. Their coffee was much better than what I had at Beansmith, located in the Old Market area downtown, where I tried a pour-over Kenyan that was very thin and a little papery, a good sign that the beans were old and/or the roast too light.

The coffee spot in Council Bluffs, drips, is actually an art gallery and vinyl record shop that happens to offer pour-overs of Dark Matter, a coffee roaster from Chicago. They had at least seven options available the day I was there, and the employee who served me spent some time describing the different coffees and notes to me. It’s across the street from a Con-Agra facility, if you happen to be in the area, although I can’t imagine what else would bring you to Council Bluffs.

Omaha’s even hip enough to have a real tea salon, The Tea Smith, with two locations, one in the Old Market area. I went just once, meeting Royals Review contributor and longtime friend Minda Haas Kuhlman there, because nothing suits a humid 90 degree tea like a cup of smoking hot sencha. The Tea Smith has a ridiculous selection of teas available hot or iced and in bulk, and I’d probably be there all the time if I lived nearby because I actually drink more tea than coffee even though I talk more about the latter.

I ate one breakfast out in Omaha, at Culprit Cafe, which is a bit more bakeshop than breakfast spot. I tried their most substantial option, the galette, a savory tart with braised beef cheeks, a poached egg, gruyère, caramelized onions, and a brown butter hollandaise – really a variation on a Benedict served on a pie crust. It was just too heavy for me, but I rarely eat big, heavy breakfasts like this – especially not with beef. The tart crust itself was amazing, though, so if you want coffee and a pastry, this is probably an ideal spot.

In the non-food department, Omaha has an amazing boardgame cafe close to the Archetype location called Spielbound, with food and drink options as well as a selection of what had to be 200+ boardgames, mostly Euros but with a good selection of family and trivia games too. They offer memberships and $5 one-day passes to use games from their libraries, which, given the list prices of many Eurogames, is a pretty good deal to try some out. I browsed for a while and learned that the classic game St. Petersburg was reissued by Z-Man Games within the last two years.

I also spent about an hour persuing the stacks at Jackson Street Booksellers in the Old Market, although I had pretty limited success in finding books to buy. Their selection of old, used, and out-of-print books is enormous, but perhaps even more eclectic and less organized than most large used bookshops I’ve visited; it’s quite possible they had more titles I wanted, but their system of filing them on the shelves is inscrutable and nobody offered to help in the hour I was there. I did walk out with Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead, Philip José Farmer’s Hugo winner To Your Scattered Bodies Go, a Graham Greene short story collection, and a French version of Le Petit Prince for my daughter.

Had I had one more meal in town I would have tried The Local for their selection of over a hundred local craft beers. Oh, and no, I wasn’t interested in Runza or Zesto’s or Sullivan’s. I won’t judge you if you want to eat at places like those, but I do try to aim a little higher when it comes to feeding myself.

Stick to baseball, 6/25/16.

I wrote two pieces for Insider this week, one on prospects who could be recalled by contenders this summer and one placing thirteen top draft picks (#1-12, plus #16 for obvious reason) within their new organizations’ prospect rankings. I was not able to chat this week due to a lengthy flight delay on Thursday and the chance to hang with a longtime reader and now friend of mine who lives here in Omaha.

Also, with travel and some other stuff, I’m behind on dish blogging, but I finished Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child and it was wonderful.

And now, the links…

  • I’ve been a fan of and advocate for CHVRCHES since well before their first album came out, but this appears to be the year they cross fully into the mainstream of pop music. Nerdist interviewed the trio at Firefly, including observations on their pop leanings despite their indie status. Personally, I have never disdained pop music for being pop, but disdain some pop music for being vapid. Anyway, if you haven’t heard the new version of “Bury It” featuring Hayley Williams along with Lauren Mayberry, it’s one of the best singles of the year:

  • The U.S. patent system has been a disaster for about twenty years now, with no sign of it abating. Popular Mechanics followed one lawsuit by an inventor against a big company that presents a balanced look at how the system just doesn’t work.
  • Why is Estonia, the tiny former Soviet state on the Baltic sea where the people speak a language that isn’t even Indo-European, one of the most tech-friendly nations on the planet?
  • A burger made entirely from plant materials that looks, tastes, and even smells like beef? I’d try it. I’m no vegetarian, not by a long shot, but my diet is increasingly plant-based these days.
  • This was good if horrifying: Buzzfeed Canada editor Scaachi Koul wrote about two times she was roofied by men, and how would-be rapists identify potential victims.
  • Deadspin goes deep on the ugly, crooked business of gambling touts, focusing in particular on RJ Bell and It’s an outstanding piece of longform investigative journalism.
  • The Atlantic interviewed the author of a new book, The Poverty Industry, about how private companies are looting government funds intended for foster children and the elderly poor.
  • I work for a Disney subsidiary, and thus am a Disney cast member, and have some indirect stake in the future of the company – especially as my direct employer’s revenues may be affected by declining cable subscriptions. This interview with Disney CEO Robert Iger was more candid than I expected and had some welcome news about our intentions in the digital, non-cabled space.
  • Why would a strawberry grown locally cost more than one grown in California? Well, it comes down to economies of scale, cheap transport costs, and, most fundamentally, a question of what we’re paying for when we pay for produce.
  • The story of the Trump campaign giving $35,000 to a phantom firm called Draper Sterling is more comical than controversial, but still an entertaining read.
  • A fascinating video on the mapping of Laniakea, the supercluster of galaxies that contains the Milky Way.
  • A mother whose baby nearly died of pertussis has some things to say to vaccine-denying parents.
  • Dr. Alice Callahan, a science researcher and instructor at Lane Community College in Oregon, penned a great, unemotional op ed against the vaccine-denier film Vaxxed. If you have (idiot) friends who saw the film, or want you to see it, well, I doubt anything will change their minds but you should send them this anyway.
  • Could the Orlando shooting lead to meaningful gun control legislation? I doubt it, but this Washington Post op ed argues it might because this time, the NRA’s opponent, the LGBT community, knows how to change the culture.
  • The nasal-spray flu vaccine was just not that effective in the last several seasons, and the CDC has recommended discontinuing its use in favor of traditional, injected vaccines.
  • One little-reported effect of the “Brexit:” Spain now wants shared sovereignty in Gibraltar, as the British enclave (which Spain has claimed for 300 years) voted 95% to remain in the EU.
  • I love this New Yorker cover about as much as I hate the UK leaving the European Union:

The Elegant Universe.

My latest column at ESPN looks at five potential callups for contenders.

Brian Greene’s 1999 bestseller and Pulitzer Prize finalist The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory is more like two books in one. The first half to two-thirds is a highly accessible history of the two main branches of physics, the macro world perspective that culminated in Einstein’s discovery of general relativity, and the micro (I mean, really micro) perspective covered by quantum mechanics. The two theories could not be unified until the advent of string theory, which Greene lays out in still somewhat easy to follow language. The last third of the book, however, delves into deeper topics like the nature of spacetime or the hypothesis of the multiverse, and I found it increasingly hard to follow and, unfortunately, less compelling at the same time.

String theory – more properly called superstring theory, but like the old basketball team in Seattle, the theory has lost its “super” somewhere along the way – is the prevailing theoretical framework in modern physics about the true nature of matter and the four fundamental forces. Rather than particles comprising ever-smaller subparticles that function as zero-dimensional points, string theory holds that what we perceive as particles are differing vibrations and frequencies of one-dimensional “strings.” String theory allows physicists to reconcile Einstein’s theories of general and special relativity with the explanations of three of those four forces (strong, weak, and electromagnetic) provided by quantum mechanics, resulting in a theory of quantum gravity that posits that that fourth force is the result of a massless quantum particle called the ‘graviton.’ Gravitons have not been observed or experimentally confirmed, but other similar particles have been, and all would be the result of those vibrating strings, open or closed loops in one dimension that, under the framework, are the most basic, indivisible unit of all matter and energy (which are the same thing) in the universe.

Strings are far too small to be observed, or to ever even be observed – you can’t observe a string with a particle, like a photon, larger than the string itself – but physicists believe string theory is accurate because math. And that’s one of the biggest challenges for Greene or anyone else writing about the topic: the proof isn’t in experimental results or great discoveries, but in equations that are too complicated to present in any text aimed at the mass audience.

In fact, the equations underlying string theory require a universe of not four dimensions – the ones we see, three of space and one of time, which Einstein treated simply as four dimensions of one thing called spacetime – but ten or eleven. These “missing” dimensions are here, at every point in the universe, but are tightly curled up in six-dimensional forms called Calabi-Yau manifolds, as if they exist but the universe simply chose not to deploy them. They must be there, however, if string theory is true, because the calculations require them. This is near the part where I started to fall off the train, and it only became worse with Greene’s discussions of further alterations to string theory – such as higher-dimensional analogues to strings called 2-branes and 3-branes – or his descriptions of what rips or tears in spacetime might look like and how they might fix themselves so that we never notice such things. (Although I prefer to think that that’s where some of my lost items ended up.)

The great success of this book, however, is in getting the reader from high school physics up to the basics of string theory. If you’re not that familiar with relativity – itself a pretty confusing concept – this is the best concise explanation of the theories I’ve come across, as Greene uses simple phrasing and diagrams to explain general and special relativity in a single chapter. He follows that up with a chapter on quantum mechanics, hitting all the key names and points, and beginning to explain why general relativity, which explains gravity in a classical framework, cannot be directly coupled with quantum mechanics, which explains the other three forces in an entirely different framework. Building on those two chapters, Greene gives the most cogent explanation of superstrings, string theory, and even the idea of these six or seven unseen spatial dimensions that I’ve come across. We’re talking about objects smaller than particles that we’ve never seen, and the incredible idea that everything, matter, energy, light, whatever, is just open and closed one-dimensional entities the size of the Planck length, 1.6 * 10-35 meters long. To explain that in even moderately comprehensible terms is a small miracle, and Greene is up to the task.

This was a better read, for me at least, than George Musser’s book on quantum entanglement, Spooky Action at a Distance, which covers a different topic but ends up treading similar ground with its descriptions of spacetime and the new, awkwardly-named hypothesis “quantum graphity.” Quantum entanglement is the inexplicable but true phenomenon where two particles created together maintain some sort of connection or relationship where if the charge or spin on on of the particles is flipped, the charge or spin on the other will flip as well, even if the two particles are separated in distance. This appears to violate the law of physics that nothing, including information, can be transmitted faster than the speed of light. How do these particles “know” to flip? Musser’s description of the history of entanglement, including Einstein’s objection that provided the title for this book, is fine, but when he delves into new hypotheses of the fabric of spacetime, he just completely lost me. Quantum graphity reimagines spacetime as a random graph, rather than the smooth four-dimensional fabric of previous theories, where points (or “nodes”) in space are connected to each other in ways that defy traditional notions of distance. This would provide a mechanism for entanglement and also solve a question Greene addresses too, the horizon problem, where disparate areas of the universe that have not been in direct physical contact (under the standard model) since a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang currently have the same temperature. I didn’t think Musser explained quantum graphity well enough for the lay reader (me!), or gave enough of an understanding that this is all highly speculative, as opposed to the broader acceptance of something like string theory or absolute acceptance of quantum theory.

Next up: Back to fiction with Eowyn Ivey’s Pulitzer Prize finalist The Snow Child.

Stick to baseball, 6/18/16.

No new Insider content this week, although if you missed them you should check out my
American League draft recaps and National League draft recaps. No Federal League draft recaps, though, as the league folded in 1915. I held my weekly Klawchat on Thursday.

Sign up for my newsletter!

And now, the links:

Klawchat, 6/16/16.

Questions go in the frame below, NOT in the comments. My draft recaps for all 30 teams are up for Insiders, one file for AL teams’ drafts and another for NL teams’ drafts.

Sign up for my newsletter!

Klaw: In this journey, you’re the journal, I’m the journalist. Klawchat.

Joel: Re Nimmo: Is it that you’ve heard that nothing much has changed or that simply put, it’s basically impossible to tell if prospects doing well in Vegas and the PCL are for real (sorta a reverse Savannah problem)? Either way, Nimmo had struggled for a while so it’s certainly nice to talk about him tearing the absolute cover off the ball, regardless of where it is happening…..
Klaw: I’m hearing nothing’s really changed, but the latter point is probably the more important one here. Vegas, Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, Reno are all such severe hitter’s parks – mostly due to altitude – that it skews the stat lines of lots of players and makes it hard to separate the wheat from the chaff by eyeballing the numbers.

Cedric: I know you’ve always been high on Dom Smith and have said we should just wait till he gets to the normal ballparks in AA…….only he’s been awful this year (at least just by “scouting the statline” standards). have you heard anything regarding him and his struggles?
Klaw: He’s been very disappointing, but he also just turned 21 yesterday and is in AA. And he’s still making lots of contact and is even drawing a few more walks. But yes, to your point, this is below what I expected from him, and no, I haven’t heard of anything like an injury that might explain what’s happened the last few weeks.

John: You mention that moniak will probably never have an average power tool. One of the reasons that’s you say is because of his narrow stance and line drive swing. How often do teams tinker with this? Is it a common thing for teams to change a stance or a swing path?
Klaw: Stance isn’t hard to change, swing path can be very hard to change. Some guys can do it – Ben Zobrist and Jose Bautista are the two best examples I can think of – but far more struggle. Better to take the player based on what he is and will be with his current swing, at least when you’re drafting 1-1.

EC: I haven’t heard much talk about the “inverted W” recently. Was it disproved? Just a silly way to talk about mechanics?
Klaw: A silly way to talk about mechanics. I never liked or used the term and have said that I can make a lot of pitchers appear to do it simply by changing how high I’m standing while I shoot the picture or video. However, the “high elbow” in that position often means the pitcher is pronating pretty late relative to his front foot landing, and that’s generally a bad thing for arm health.

Michael: I love your work and generally agree with your positions, but I am pretty disappointed you have pushed for the judge in the Stanford case to be recalled. While you or I may disagree with the sentence, it is at least defensible given the probation officer’s recommendation and the severity of filing as a sex offender for life. Judicial independence is an important part of the American legal system and for you (or anyone) to advocate the removal of a judge for one decision is unprecedented and dangerous. (Attorneys who have worked with that judge have repeatedly called him impartial) You may have read extensively on the case (actual court documents), but most have not, and to call on the mob is somewhat irresponsible. Judges are independent for a reason: so they purposely do not give in to the whims of public opinion. You have a voice many of us would love to have. Criticize the judge and his decision all you want. But do it through speech, not a recall.
Klaw: He sentenced a man convicted of felony sexual battery to a jail term commensurate with a misdemeanor. The sex offender registration issue is a red herring: California law does not say jail OR registration, it says jail AND registration. If you read the probation officer’s report, it’s a pro-defendant disaster, and the victim has said it misrepresents her wishes for the defendant’s sentence. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say a judge who treats sexual battery in such a cavalier manner, even in one case, does not belong on the bench.

Eric H.: Realistic ceilings for Christin Stewart and JaCoby Jones, in your opinion?
Klaw: Stewart above average regular, Jones up-and-down guy or AAA player.

Michael: Why did the Rockies wait so long to DFA Reyes? Clearly, that was a PR decision, but they kept him on the club through the winter and let him play in the PCL.
Klaw: I don’t think they would have been allowed to cut him sooner, at least not before MLB or authorities had weighed in on the charges. Also, I’m good with the outcome. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Bruce: I know it’s SSS but do you think Chris Paddack has top of the rotation potential? Did you foresee this when he was drafted in the 8th round?
Klaw: You’re definitely scouting the stat line if you’re taking 18 innings and talking TOR potential. For that to be true, I’d want to see at least two plus or future-plus pitches, a solid third and maybe fourth, a great delivery, size, history of health … a lot that Paddack doesn’t have. He’s 89-94 with an above-average split-change, no real breaking ball, and just missed almost two months with some kind of arm soreness. Good body and delivery. Great pick in the 8th round, but I could not possibly hang an ace ceiling tag on him just yet.

Owen (London): It’s only June and already Dusty is talking about consistency &the importance of being consistent, not to mention clutch hitters hitting clutchly in clutch situations. I live in London and I’m schvitzing.
Klaw: But they’re in first place ergo he must be a good manager!

Fred: How would you rank Thor, Matz, deGrom, Harvey, Wheeler in order must re-sign/not trade?
Klaw: Thor and deGrom at top. Wheeler is an unknown till he’s back. I’m least sanguine about the long-term health and durability of Harvey and Matz.

NickTheStick: If you had an AAA affiliate with an extreme hitters environment, would that change how you move a hitting prospect through the system? Hold him a little longer at AA? Maybe even call him straight up from there?
Klaw: Skip AAA entirely.

TedT: Assuming Jason Groome signs, about where on your list of top Red Sox prospects will he start out?
Klaw: No more than fourth or fifth I’d say. Pretty good system already.

Rick: You had Dylan Cozens as your sleeper for Philly pre-season. He’s roared out to a 19 HR, 13 SB, .967 OPS start with higher walk and strikeout rates than last season. Product of Reading or is this the breakout you imagined?
Klaw: I think it’s a lot of Reading, but also some maturation at the plate. I’ll buy into it more fully when he does it AAA. Hoskins too, whom I like even though he’s not my ‘type’ of player. I think some of it’s legit, but you can’t believe HR totals in Reading.

Adam: You referred to the Padres draft as confusing. Do you generally like the talent they were able to acquire by essentially buyin low or would you have preferred to see them go top heavy like what the Braves did?
Klaw: I would have gone for it at 8, 24, and 25, while the best players were still on the board, and then gone a little cheaper later to overpay those guys if needed.

Nelson: Klaw, do you consider osteopathy a real science or more pseudo? And if so, when would it be better to go to an Osteopath over a MD?
Klaw: There is a lot of pseudoscience within osteopathy. This essay does the best job I’ve seen of breaking it down.

Michael: Jenkins called up by the Braves……in the bullpen now but you still buying him as a starter long term??
Klaw: Yes, but he needs to miss more bats to be a starter, and I’m wondering if he’ll move to the pen and miss more bats straight off so that that becomes his long-term role.

Francis R.: Have you read Sam Harris’ essay “The Riddle of the Gun” His arguments are so reasoned, this should be required reading for all lawmakers and pundits before they start discussing gun control.
Klaw: Yep, it’s outstanding. Highly recommended.

Al: How can the Orioles stay in the race? Is it impossible? Is strong hitting, defense and bullpen work enough? Because they arent going to get quality starting all year….does that hurt the bullpen then?
Klaw: They haven’t been getting quality starting so far, other than Tillman, and are still basically a .500 team since the 7-0 start. If that means they’re heading for 86-76, are they still fringe contenders?

DPF: Could Cutch get 2 top 100 prospects and a MLB regular if traded this offseason?
Klaw: Depends on whether he gets healthy and performs in the second half. I’m sure he’d still fetch something of value even if not, maybe two top-end prospects and that’s it, but teams will be wary of paying up for him if they’re afraid he’s not 100%.

Gary: Do you think Keuchel turns it around? His peripherals seem to suggest he will.
Klaw: Yes. Seems to be way off mechanically. Stuff is fine.

Pete: Hi Keith. Will the Pirates promote Meadows and Keller soon? Would you?
Klaw: No. No rush on either guy. Both young for their levels with minimal experience below.

Joe: Jake Lamb’s power outburst legitimate? Already up to 12 so far this season.
Klaw: Yep. I’m on it.

Pineapple: Are you a Psych fan, Klaw?
Klaw: You know that’s right.

Nate: Does Josh Hader move into your top 50 for the next prospect rankings?
Klaw: No. Delivery issues remain.

Brad Z: Does Beau Burrow’s low K rate concern you?
Klaw: No. He’s 19 with a handful of innings of pro experience.

Brad Z: Matt Hall has pretty good numbers at West Michigan. How do you project him going forward?
Klaw: Non-prospect.

Nelson: How many older guys like Duvall are there in the Minors that can come up and hit 25+Hrs with a .300 OBP immediately. Are there a bunch, or is he really unique?
Klaw: I don’t think he’s that unique. Most teams wouldn’t play a guy with his lack of OBP skills, so we don’t see it happening very often.

Mulechop: Merrifield has looked pretty good so far. Can he be a league average 2B?
Klaw: No. Like, not even sure I’d give him a 1% chance.

I reordered the following two questions for clarity. I have not changed any of the text.

Anonymous: We talked briefly on twitter yesterday about Syndergaard and you said a complete game has no intrinsic value. Taken to the extreme, if pitcher A has 30 starts of 8 IP and player B had 30 complete games and all other stats are equal, nothing differentiates these two guys in your eyes?
Klaw: Well, player B has nine more innings. Whoop de do.

Ben: Keith, Player B would have 30 more innings in that scenario. One more inning for each start X 30 starts=30 innings. That’s a pretty big difference, is it not?
Klaw: Sorry, I totally misread the question and you’re right. Still, the difference is the thirty innings, not the complete games. I guess the better analogy would be Player A makes 20 starts and completes them all, while Player B makes 30 starts and averages six innings in each, so 180 innings each. Is Player A somehow more valuable because he’s completing all of those games? I don’t buy it. How?

Nathan: Logan Shore at #47. Was that a good, safe pick or should the A’s have aimed for a higher ceiling talent?
Klaw: Little safe, but appropriate for the round.

Ray: You believe in science. Are there studies that show one week of pitching too much causes major injuries? I’m against overuse too, but it seems that throwing 250 pitches in 72 hours one time isn’t as big of a risk as pitching itself.
Klaw: ASMI research has consistently shown that pitching while fatigued increases the risk of injury. If you think anyone can throw that much and not end up fatigued, well, we just disagree.

006: Don’t understand why they would activate Willson Contreras at this point….they are 24 games over .500, no? Unless something is wrong with Montero/Ross?
Klaw: I believe Ross got dinged up last night – Ron Coomer apparently floated this on Chicago radio today.

Ben: Is Kendall the best college hitter in the draft next year as of now? What about best overall college prospect?
Klaw: Right now, he’s the best college position player in the class. I don’t know who’s clearly 1-1 if anyone, but I am hopeful this is a 2011 situation where 4-5 players are good enough to go 1-1 and you can’t really go wrong with any of them.

Tom: Josh Bell already has more homers this year than last year, although his K% is up to 17. Is he turning into a power hitter or just a hot streak?
Klaw: Not sure what the “although” is … that’s a comically low K rate for a hitter like Bell. I think he’s pulling the ball more this year, unlocking power he’s always had.

Vin: Why do you think Bryan Reynolds fell so far in the draft? With so much ability, it seems foolish that teams were so scared of his strikeouts, especially considering his awareness of the strike zone.
Klaw: Yeah, the strikeouts, concerns he’ll struggle vs good lefties, better pitching … where the Giants took him, I’d take that toolset eight days a week. I would have taken it 30 picks higher. He’s not hopeless at the plate, but he’ll need to tighten his approach.

Ben: At what point do we become concerned with Judge’s AAA stats, particularly his propensity to strikeout at a high rate?
Klaw: I believe I raised this concern last summer when he was in AA. That said, he’s been cutting the K rate this season – started June 0-8 with 3 Ks, and since then has 9 K in 56 PA, hitting .409/.536/.636 in that 12-game span. Small sample, hardly definitive, but at least pointing in the right direction.

Doug: Are you surprised Cal Quantrill received an above slot deal? Especially considering Pint went well below.
Klaw: Yes. I can’t imagine returning to stanford next year for Marquess to run him into the ground was an appealing alternative to signing.

Ben: Do you think Severino figures out his command issues on his offspeed pitches?
Klaw: I have no way to tell. I think the delivery makes it hard for him to repeat his arm stroke, but that was true last year and his command was better than it was this year.

Andrew: David Paulino has posted impressive numbers in AA, but I don’t know too much about him…is he a potential rotation guy?
Klaw: Bullpen guy. Power arm with delivery/command questions.

BW: You said you were surprised Alex Kirilloff went to the Twins. How good do you think he can be?
Klaw: Only in that I just didn’t have good intel on the Twins this year. That’s my mistake, not theirs. Above-average everyday right fielder with power.

Jack: Why did Groome back out of his Vandy commitment?
Klaw: He was never going to Vandy. I think the ploy was for him to threaten to go back into next year’s draft, but that class is so loaded with college arms that it’s not a credible alternative to signing.

Nate: What do you expect from Tim Anderson this season? 275/300/400?
Klaw: I’d take the under, slightly.

Brett: Keith, are you concerned at all about Rafael Devers season so far in high A? You had him ranked I think #9 in your pre season prospect list. Any concerns long term?
Klaw: None. Again, he’s been much better lately, and he’s only 19 years old.

Scherzer’s Blue Eye: So Bob Davidson tosses Rendon because “he thought he was going to throw the bat at me.” Is there a more ridiculous statement, especially given the player involved. And, why aren’t Umpires held to more public accountability?
Klaw: No idea. That was clear provocation by Davidson, who was confrontational with Rendon immediately after tossing him. MLB should be much more open about umpires who pull this crap.

Rudy: The AZ baseball coach said he’d rather not breathe than lose a game which tells you why he doesn’t give a shit about his players.
Klaw: And adds to the impression that he flunked Anatomy 101.

Tuesday: I’ve got a weakness for mysteries set in another time, if not involving actual people (see Name of the Rose by Eco, Instance of the Fingerpost by Pears, Monaldi & Sorti). Any good ones you can recommend?
Klaw: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (and his other great novel, The Moonstone) are set in the 1850s because that’s when they were written. TWIW is considered the first major suspense novel.

Michael: Why do the PCL and California League exist then? Is it too expensive to start leagues in better environments?
Klaw: Where would you put them? Especially the PCL, which has teams in good-sized metro areas in the west that can by and large support these clubs. There are a handful of A-ball type markets unserved on the east coast, but not enough to add a half-dozen or so AAA teams.

James: Still think Archie Bradley is a starter?
Klaw: Long term, yes.

Donny Baseball: Is it realistic to ask for Schwarber for Miller?
Klaw: You can ask. The worst that happens is they say no. It’s not insulting to ask for that.

Scherzer’s Blue Eye: Scouting the Stat line: Drew Ward is breaking out. True or False?
Klaw: False. Repeating the level.

Jeremy: Zagunis just moved up to AAA. Can he be a major league contributor? He has a .400 OBP at every level in the minors.
Klaw: And has no position. He’ll play in the majors but I don’t see where he’d be a regular.

Matt: Some see AJ Puk as a bargain at No. 6, but with his recent struggles, was he actually a big risk at 6? Or do you think he will get things sorted out being with professional coaches?
Klaw: Not a bargain. About right. Has work to do on the delivery – lower half in particular is not well synced with upper half.

Santos: Serious question – why can’t you trust HR totals in Reading? You generally don’t hear that in the East.
Klaw: Small park that favors HR dramatically relative to other Eastern League parks.

Ignatius O’Reilly: The Rangers have a comfortable lead in the A.L. West, despite getting very little from Yu Darvish and nothing from Prince Fielder. They have a strong farm system they can use to make deadline deals, but other than bullpen help, is there anything (or anyone) out there they should really be giving up a big package for come July?
Klaw: Nope. And really, they could continue to improve by benching Moreland for Gallo.

Kevin: In what round, or specific player, was the first guy taken that you had no notes on or had not heard of?
Klaw: Travis MacGregor was the only day one guy on whom I had nothing. Not coincidentally, everyone I asked called that the ‘worst’ pick of the day – the subset of teams I asked had him either as a fifth rounder or as someone who should go to college.

Jason: Tyler O’Neill is putting up even better numbers as a 20 year old in the Southern League… is he on the rise?
Klaw: Yes – I’m most impressed that he’s not striking out, actually, as that was a real concern I had about him. Power was absolutely there, Cal League or not, but I didn’t know if he’d hit enough to get to it. He’s doing that and more and is still just 21 in AA.

Colin: I know Grichuk can’t tell a strike from his head, but do you like what the Cardinals are doing with Wong and CF. Do you think he can handle it adequately?
Klaw: I haven’t liked their handling of Wong for a while now, going back to the weird (punitive?) demotion … last April? or was that 2014? Either way, moving him off 2b seemed awfully reactive. He was never great there, never bad.

Kyle: Keith – do you think Mengden and Overton can become #4/5 starters in a solid rotation?
Klaw: Yes. Mengden might be a 4. Odds are both are 5s. Above replacement level, below average. Overton I’d like more if the velocity ever gets all the way back to pre-TJ levels.

NEP: Starting tomorrow how would you split up the playing time between the 3 Cubs catchers with Contreras coming up?
Klaw: Start Contreras 4 days out of 5, let Ross catch the other day, give Montero a fruit basket.

Jimmy: I know Adam Duvall is a first half outlier but can’t there be a ‘well that came out of nowhere’ spot on the All Star team or because home field is wrongly linked we can’t have fun like that?
Klaw: It really goes against the original purpose and main current value of the game: Get the best players all on one field at one time for the mass audience to watch. No one but Mrs. Duvall is turning on the game to watch Adam Duvall play. People will tune in to watch a genuine star having an off half-season, like Giancarlo Stanton. If you want to slip in a few guys who’ve come from nowhere, then make them young players, especially rookies, who will form the next generation of stars.

Justin: What is a realistic line going forward for Aledmys Diaz? .260/.330/.400 with average D at SS?
Klaw: I think he’s a below-average defender at short but the triple-slash line is probably right, maybe a little too low in the batting average.

Tom: I recently blew through a bunch of your restaurant recs found here on this very site. I’ve probably gone to about 15 places you’ve recommended and have always like them. No question – this is just a PSA for everyone chatting.
Klaw: Thanks! Glad they’ve worked out. One of the consolations of heavy travel is that I find some pretty fun places to eat.

Paul: Klaw – I know you’ve been buried in amateur prospect coverage the last month or so, but have you happened to catch any recent reports on Touki? I see that he’s still walking a ton of batter, but his last start was streamed on MILB, and good grief he looked filthy. Guess that’s pretty much the MO, though.
Klaw: Yep, stuff is great, still the same great athlete, just raw. Going to take him a while. I think everyone knew that when the Dbacks drafted him and when they gave him away.

FS: if Dunning is ML ready reliever, should Nationals consider promoting him this season? Their bullpen can use the help.
Klaw: No. He’s a starter long-term and I would transition him into that role.

Bret: I know you weren’t a fan of the Blue Jays draft, though in the past few years they have typically had a lot of success (when signing their picks). Do you attribute it to a change on leadership/philosophy, or just a case of not happening to be on the same page with particular player choices?
Klaw: This looks like a new philosophy in the draft and it certainly doesn’t match mine.

Ian: What have you heard on Brandon Marsh?
Klaw: Nothing really, other than that we’re a month from the signing deadline and anything players say at this point is probably codswallop. Perhaps it’s a ploy on his part or his agent’s – I don’t know that, but it’s possible.

Pete: Does Derek Hill’s defense make him at least a 4th OFer, even if he never figures it out at the plate?
Klaw: Yes, assuming he at least can put the ball in play 75% of the time.

Anonymous: I just read that Harris piece. Measured, but flawed. 100,000 people don’t die every year because doctors fail to wash their hands. 100,000 die every year from infections which live in hospitals and when you are cut open, you are susceptible to them. And protocols are in place to reduce that. In the same vein, we should protocols in place to reduce gun deaths whether mass shootings or singular incidents.
Klaw: I agree and favor much stricter laws on who can buy guns and what guns they can purchase. (I do not own a gun and hope I never have cause to change that.)

Busty Taker: Did Dusty Baker kick your dog?
Klaw: No, but he said my cat wasn’t clutch and needed more AAA seasoning. (Grow up already.)

Aaron: How many guys from next years draft class are you familiar with at this point?
Klaw: Twenty guys, maybe? Not enough to really talk in more than general terms. I try not to use any bandwidth on the year ahead until the draft has passed.

Anonymous: Hi Keith, any scouting report on Gourriel? Does he have a much higher floor than so many of the other Cuban players that have defected, given his age and track record?
Klaw: I saw him very bad last summer, but apparently he played much better over the winter. I highly doubt he can come right to the majors and contribute, given his age and time off, but he could be an everyday player next year for someone. I’d be really concerned about investing too much given how slow and old he looked last July, though.

Dan: What is going on with Ronald Acuna? Reports this season have been great but he hasn’t played in over a month and is on the DL but I haven’t seen any details on his injury. Is it serious?
Klaw: Broke his hand, I think. I know some Atlanta blogger(s) tweeted a picture of him wearing a cast.

Dan: What Toni Morrison work would you recommend someone starting with?
Klaw: Beloved, then Song of Solomon, then stop. It’s all downhill from there.

Dan: Brent Honeywell has been out over a month with an arm issue. I’ve heard it’s not overly serious but there has to be some level of concern with a young guy an elbow issues. Have you heard anything about his status and do you think he’s a big injury risk going forward?
Klaw: I think anyone who misses that much time with an arm injury is a risk going forward.

Ed: What does Tom Hatch project as in the bigs? a 4 or 5? Or bullpen? He seems like a solid pick for a college player in the 3rd round.
Klaw: Could be a 3 if healthy but he’s had some real health issues.

Brewersfan: Brett Phillips is striking out a lot… (32%) Should we worry about that? Maybe lost his status as top100?
Klaw: Completely serious question: Why do so many fans assume players jump in or out of the top 100 after 60 games? Is the skill set the same? The swing, the body, the delivery? Is there an underlying explanation, like an injury (remember when Hosmer played half a year in low-A with a broken metacarpal in his hand), that might explain a poor performance? Phillips is still the same guy he was last year. He might just take a little longer than we’d like.

Nationals Review: A few weeks ago when Espinosa was pretty awful at the plate you and I discussed replacing him with Turner (thanks again!). Now that Espi is hitting, at a clearly unsustainable but incredibly awesome 8 HRs in last 70 PAs… Seems silly to replace him with Turnet today, but How much rope should he get?
Klaw: None. I think that’s pure recency bias – he’s the same guy he was in May and April and 2015. What would you project him to be the rest of this year – the player he’s been the last 70 PA, or the guy you and I discussed him being when we talked a few weeks back?

Tom: O’Hearn, Mancini, Healy – are any of them legitimate breakouts? Which one profiles the best?
Klaw: Most hope for O’Hearn. Not much of a believer in the other two. Mancini’s 24 and hasn’t been anything special in AAA.

RP: Jim Salisbury, a well connected Philly writer, says Moniak is getting $6.5-7M and Gowdy is getting $4.5M. The Gowdy number can’t be true, can it?
Klaw: I doubt those numbers are true, sorry.

Rick: How frustrating it must be to offer an honest opinion on a player (McCullers) only to have him totally miss the point and blast you on Twitter as some “crappy” blogger. It’s not even like you said he’ll never be a starter.
Klaw: Also, I said he’d be a closer, potentially, which is like an $8-12 million a year job. It was a childish comment and I did not respond for that reason.

Bill: How does Moniak’s offensive skillset compare to J.P. Crawford’s when he was drafted?
Klaw: Liked Crawford’s swing more. Better runner underway. Didn’t know Crawford was this disciplined a hitter at the time.

Biff: Keith, newly working in the Wilmington metro area, what are your go-to can’t miss local spots?
Klaw: Cocina Lolo, La Fia, Two Stones are our favorites in the area. The best food is in Philly though.

Clem: Do you have a report on Josh Okimey? Tearing up the lower minors with lots of walks…is he a prospect?
Klaw: Yes, he is. Think I mentioned him last week in chat. Got MUCH stronger this winter, body totally changed.

Rob: Rowdy Tellez and JD Davis were once hS teammates. Is there a better chance they play against each other in the big leagues or that they are once again teammates….on the USA Men’s National Slo Pitch Softball Team.
Klaw: The latter.

Marshall: Name the 3 first rounders from last week that you think have the best chance to become multi-time all stars.
Klaw: Not sure I’d put that on anyone in this draft. It was really weak at the top. My top 3 guys were Ray, Groome, and Garrett, so that would be my answer, but even so I’m not sure they have that kind of potential … Ray because he doesn’t have quite that upside as a probable LF, the other two because they’re high school pitchers.

Adam: I am here every week and a big supporter of you and havent had a question answered in months………have I been black balled or just asking bad questions?
Klaw: I get hundreds of questions every week. The software says I have over 400 this week. Can’t get them all.

Chris: Luis Ortiz is holding his own in AA it looks like, but I’m only looking at stats so it could be way off. Is he a Guy?
Klaw: He’s a GUY, but probably not really ready for AA, more there because the Rangers didn’t want to leave him in the Cal League. Kate Morrison (@unlikelyfanatic) saw his last outing. She’d have more for you.

Brian: Do you agree w/the idea that the Phillies system is very deep but has few really elite talents?
Klaw: That’s fair, other than Crawford.

Anthony: Tyler Austin was a guy you liked awhile ago. Then injuries and lack of production struck. He is playing pretty well this year though. Has he made it back on to your radar yet?
Klaw: Really believed in his swing. Was not the same for two-plus years after the wrist injury … and maybe he was never that good before? Long way to go to reestablish himself, since it’s only 11 games in AAA and he’s played at that level before.

James: Would the Padres really trade Wil Myers? How can that be a good move?
Klaw: What if they get back multiple pieces who can help them?

Ben: Six years later I would like to ask it: what the hell were the Yankees thinking with Cito Culver
Klaw: I did not like the pick – he wasn’t on my top 100 for the draft that year – but I believe a lot of it was that they loved the kid, knew him really well because he’d played on their scout team that summer at East Coast Pro and Area Codes, and perhaps overrated him as a player because of his makeup.

jim: Who is the better pitcher out of allard wentz and Anderson
Klaw: Allard, Anderson, Wentz, in that order.

Jeffrey: I think one could make the argument that in some cases, the best players aren’t really “stars” as far as being widely known off the field throughout the country. I’m as big a Reds fan as their is, and I’m not sure anyone outside of Cincinnati cares a lick about seeing Joey Votto take 2 walks. He’s a wizard, but he has the personality of a loaf of bread. So sure, give the Reds token slot to Duvall. Or Bruce. I doubt anyone will care.
Klaw: Actually I’d advocate Finnegan over those others. Always need more pitching in those games and in one inning he’ll hit 97 a few times with a wipeout slider. And he’s been their best starter.

Pat: The closeness of those PCL cities to the MLB team also adds value when adding AAA guys to the MLB team due to injuries. LAD can call up a guy from Albuquerque & he’s in LA in 3-4 hours. Can’t do that with a guy playing on the East Coast.
Klaw: Very good point. Even helps for the Cal League – you can send Puig to rehab in Rancho Cucamonga and, uh, keep tabs on him while he’s there.

Dan: I just finished The Sympathizer and man, was it good. (pun not intended) I was surprised at how easy it was to read given the structure. I read your review before the chat and saw you enjoyed it as well.
Klaw: Yep, totally see why it won the Pulitzer. Oddly gripping given the subject matter and lack of any traditional narrative element like a mystery or concern over a sympathetic main character.

Mike: I’m a physician (MD). I work with DOs (Doctors of Osteopathy). They’re medical training is largely the same as MDs, and they are held to the same standards for board certifications and medical licensure. While some aspects of their training are questionable, a DO physician should not be considered “inferior” to an allopathic physician. I thought it was worth pointing this out to your readers as there is a lot of unfair bias in the medical community against them.
Klaw: Thank you for that. I think it’s doctor to doctor. That raging crackpot pediatrician in Tennessee who came out as a vaccine-denying quack is an MD, so there are idiots on both sides.

Mike: has your perception on aaron blair changed any from his mlb starts? do you think Flowers would help frame more for him than AJ? Thanks KlAw
Klaw: No change. Isn’t AJP the worst framer or one of the worst in baseball? So an elastic net would be better behind the plate.

Karl: Are Mitch Keller and Kuhl org type guys or do they have potential to be #2 or #3 rotation guys?
Klaw: Big gap between those outcomes. I think Kuhl’s a two-pitch reliever. Keller might be a 2. Good athlete, fresh arm, chance for three pitches.

Ridley Kemp: I have a meta-question: Approximately how many Donald Trump-related questions have been asked of you so far?
Klaw: Almost none. Definitely some selection bias here.

Dan: Hi Keith-saw Tim Anderson in his second game. Not knowing his milb stats, I focused on his plate presence–he seemed like a guy ready to swing, very animated. I cd be totally wrong, of course. But do you eval plate presence like you do mound presence?
Klaw: Not really, unless the body language is terrible, like Donavan Tate’s was in HS – totally disinterested.

Jeff: Tyler Mahler was your Reds sleeper this year, threw a no-no this week. So uh, please pick a bunch more Reds sleepers. Thank you.
Klaw: Um …. Jackson Stephens! Aristides Aquino! Nick Senzel! Wait, that might be cheating.

Mike: The Rockies took mostly arms (probably right due to strength of draft and BPA)….will they ruin a few deliveries by tinkering like Matzek and Gray?
Klaw: I get the sense that’s over with now. I hope so at least.

James: Does Kevin Newman have the best hit tool you’ve ever scouted?
Klaw: No, but I think it’s plus. I got some grief over ranking him as high as I did – not just from readers but from friends within the game. Granted, it’s only high-A, but at least he’s played well out of the chute.

Klaw: That’s all for this week; sorry there were some little software glitches and a brain cramp or two on my end. I’ll be back at some point next week, but with travel to Omaha for BBTN it might not be on Thursday. Thank you as always for reading.

Stick to baseball, 6/12/16.

It’s been quite a week, but the draft is over, finally, so I have some thoughts and analysis on what happened:

• My round one notes
• My round two notes
• My NL team-by-team recaps

I’m still writing the AL recaps and will have those up by tomorrow.

I chatted before the draft and after the first five rounds.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter.

And now, the links…