Adios, Cowboy.

The Croatian writer/poet Olja Savičević’s first novel, Adios, Cowboy, is a bizarre, darkly comic, postmodern fable set in Zagreb’s “Old Settlement,” a part of the city untouched by the Croatian war of Independence. (Zagreb itself is closer to Slovenia than Serbia, but was attacked by Serbian air and ground forces over the war’s five years.) This isolation drives the plot and the mood of the novel, where protagonist Dada, her mother, and her sister are trying to understand their brother’s suicide in the wake of their father’s death from an unspecified disease. And somewhere in here an American film crew shows up to film a western just outside of the Old Settlement because … I actually don’t know why, to tell you the truth, although its grizzled John Wayne-like co-director, Ned Montgomery, hovers over Dada’s family in posters and old VHS tapes.

The war may not have reached the Old Settlement, but the village exists in the war’s shadow. This is a town of survivorship, and the postwar generation is inured to suffering and crisis; Dada says early in the book that “people who have been lucky talk about the worst and the best days of their life. We who have been less lucky don’t talk about that.” Her name is no accident, as Dadaism emerged after World War I as an antiwar, anticapitalist, “anti-art” movement in reaction to what its adherents saw as the bourgeois underpinnings of that pan-European conflict. Here Dada exists in a circle around life rather than within it, heavily detached from her romantic affairs and the problems of her addled mother, yet obsessed with solving the mystery of why Daniel took his own life.

There’s no single plot thread in Adios, Cowboy, in case you couldn’t tell from those two paragraphs; the narrative, such as it is, is as scattered as the prose, producing a constant sense of unease in this reader, similar to that of reading the work of an unreliable narrator. Here, Dada isn’t unreliable so much as muddled, only partially present in her own life as she tries, like a bad noir detective, to unravel what drove Daniel to throw himself in front of a train Anna Karenina-style. She uncovers a partial plot involving their veterinarian neighbor who is probably gay but doesn’t appear, despite the suspicions of the local thugs, to have molested Daniel or any other boys, and finds some of Daniel’s last correspondences to the professor, which only serve to show how confused Daniel himself was becoming over the last few months of his life.

The main story of Dada and Daniel sputters out when she learns some of what was bothering Daniel but fails to find the smoking gun you’d expect in a story like this – if those books, where a survivor finds out some big secret that drove a loved one to suicide, are a type of art, then Adios, Cowboy is its anti-art – and the narrative jumps to the film shoot just outside of the Old Settlement. This bit reads like a related but disconnected short story, where the shoot descends into comic tragedy over a dead chicken and a local Roma woman whose grip on reality is tenuous. Ned Montgomery, of the posters on Daniel’s wall and the VHS tapes that Dada discovers, appears in the flesh on these pages, but as a relic, past his prime, trying not to admit it to himself, dependent on his assistant to function, working on this film as a last gasp back towards the embers of his old career.

Adios, Cowboy appears to have been met with universal praise when it was first published in English in 2015, and it is indeed a highly literary novel, rich with allusions, with a unique prose style and an unconventional structure. But I don’t think I fully understood Savičević’s point(s) here, perhaps because I don’t know much about the Croatian War of Independence or Croatian culture since the war, or perhaps because I couldn’t follow her peripatetic plot. It’s probably best for folks who like reading experimental literature, but not for those who read for story first.

Next up: I’ve finished Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table and have movde on to Jan-Philipp Sendker’s The Art of Hearing Heartbeats.

Stick to baseball, 8/20/16.

I discovered that my upcoming book has an amazon page for pre-orders! The tentative title is Smart Baseball (not #smrtbaseball, although we’re playing off that) and the tentative release date is April 27th. I suppose I need to finish writing it soon.

My main Insider piece this week covered the Reign of Error in Arizona under Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart, both of whom should be replaced now that their contracts are expiring. I held a Klawchat here on Thursday afternoon and discussed that piece a little more.

I was the guest host on the BBTN podcast this week, on Tuesday with Jayson Stark and WATERS singer Van Pierszalowski (a big Dodgers fan), Wednesday with Eric Karabell and Tim Kurkjian, and Thursday with Jerry Crasnick and Nick Piecoro.

I’ll be reviewing a boardgame a week for Paste through the end of the year, and the latest review is on Costa Rica, a light family game from the designer of Relic Runners and Elysium. It’s fun for the kids but I think too unbalanced for adults to play on their own.

And now, the links…

  • Juanita Broaddrick was the most credible of all of the women – and there were a lot – to accuse Bill Clinton of sexual improprieties; her accusation that the then-Governor of Arkansas raped her stood up to what scrutiny was possible twenty years after the incident. Buzzfeed talks to Broaddrick about her opposition to Hillary’s candidacy and asks why her case hasn’t gotten the attention today it deserves. (Hint: it might be because pretty much all non-right-wing media want Trump to lose.)
  • Florida’s Duval County prosecutor Angela Corey tried to charge a 12-year-old kid with second-degree murder while appearing to conspire with his public defender to coerce the kid into accepting it – then charging the same kid with molesting his 5-year-old brother after he rejected it. Corey and Jacksonville’s elected public defender, the delightfully-named Matt Shirk, appear to be crossing numerous ethical lines, including frequently charging minors as adults in felony cases. Corey is up for re-election this fall and if you live in Duval County you should examine her record.
  • Forget Zika or Ebola; yellow fever could be the next pandemic, and we are totally unprepared for it.
  • If you have young kids, when they turn 11 get them vaccinated against HPV. Just fucking do it.
  • A year ago it appeared that vaccination efforts had eradicated polio in Nigeria and thus in Africa as a whole, but it’s back thanks to Boko Haram. So vaccine deniers and murderous Islamists have something in common!
  • Why did NASA, an agency of the U.S. government, issue a $1 million grant to study theology? And why is it now refusing to reveal details of the grant?
  • You could see this coming a mile away: The Austin American-Statesman has run a redemption story for Paul Qui, the former Top Chef winner who was arrested for a domestic violence incident in March.
  • The Atlantic looks at the imminent climate change-induced demise of Kiribati after one of its weightlifters does a dance following a lift.
  • A new study published in Nature Communications found more evidence that neonic pesticides are harming bee populations. Neonics probably aren’t safe, and we should curtail their use until manufacturers can prove they are.
  • Gay BYU students who are victims of assault are disciplined for being gay when they try to report the crimes.
  • The 2016 Olympics haven’t had a major disaster, but the Guardian‘s Marina Hyde notes that they’re a disaster for the host country anyway. Her best point: arguing that the IOC itself should build a permanent home for the Games.
  • Arranged marriages are still common in many poorer parts of the world; NPR ran a fascinating story on one father’s campaign to free his daughter from a marriage he helped arrange.
  • Popular Mechanics explains that chemtrails aren’t real no matter what you read on tinfoilhat dot com.
  • I’m 36 and not on Facebook. You probably shouldn’t be either.” doesn’t quite make the case the headline promises, and I don’t agree with the conclusion, but I think it’s a point worth considering especially as social media, especially Facebook, change the nature of friendships in my generation and those that follow.
  • WIRED endorsed Hillary Clinton for President, the first official endorsement of a Presidential candidate in the publication’s history.
  • Those of you aged 35 and up might remember the Gopher internet protocol, which eventually lost out to the world wide web despite some early promise as the first user-friendly way to access information on the Internet.
  • British physicist and professor Brian Cox took on a climate change denier politican from Australia on the ABC (Australia) TV show Q&A, where the politican came off pretty clearly as a conspiracy theorist loon.
  • Physicists at UC-Irvine, building on research by another group working in Hungary, found evidence of a new subatomic particle that may carry an unknown force. The standard model of physics has long held that there are four fundamental forces; three of them, the weak, strong, and electromagnetic forces, appear to have all been unified at the moment right after the Big Bang, but a solution unifying gravity with the other three has proven elusive. This particle, thirty times heavier than an electron, might carry a fifth force previously unknown and unaccounted for in standard or modern models.
  • The “proton radius puzzle,” where the measurements of that subatomic particle’s radius differ depending on what is orbiting the proton, was further confirmed in experiments using deuterium, a hydrogen isotope with an atomic weight of 2 due to the presence of a neutron in the atom’s nucleus.
  • An experimental physicist in Haifa, Israel, created an artificial black hole to test one of Stephen Hawking’s predictions, namely that black holes will emit a type of feeble radiation (now known as “Hawking radiation”) that, over time, will lead to the black holes shrinking and vanishing entirely – taking all information lost in those black holes over their existence with them. These are early results and incomplete ones at that, but the linked piece gets into Hawking’s predictions and the information paradox.
  • The Romanian soccer team recently donned uniforms with math equations instead of numbers to encourage kids learning math, with kids also getting soccer-themed math questions to work on.

Klawchat 8/18/16.

Chat at 1 pm ET. Questions go in the chat frame, not the comments!

Klaw: I can feel the earth begin to move … for Klawchat.

Carl: Keith, what are the Braves doing with Swanson? Numbers in Double A are just OK and they aren’t going to compete next year. What’s the point?
Klaw: What’s the downside? If they think he’s going to be their OD starter next year at short, giving him 100+ at bats this year is a good developmental step. You don’t wait to bring up your top prospects until you’re ready to compete; you bring them up when it’s the right time for their development so that you can be ready to compete in the future.

Chris Sale’s Scissors: Love the work you’ve done this week subbing for Buster. Been a must listen all week. What’s your take on the supposed rift between Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams? As a fan of the team I don’t think they’ll ever be serious contenders as long as Williams is on the premises as he has no long-term vision whatsoever. His ego won’t allow a rebuild. I actually feel for Hahn, who SEEMS to understand what’s needed but can’t act due to the egos above him.
Klaw: I don’t know any details on the rift, but I agree that Hahn is the more progressive thinker while Williams is more reactionary and operates from an older playbook.

Frank209: Do you think KC’s plan with Strahm is to use him out of the pen this year and then move him into the rotation next year?
Klaw: I think he can be a starter and would hope they’d give him that chance at some point.

Billy: You have better access than me, so can you help get this done: if it takes more than a minute, minute and a half, to review a replay, there isn’t enough evidence to overturn and it stands. Please tell Manfred to make this happen. Thanks
Klaw: Nah, if you’re willing to wait 90 seconds to get the right answer you can wait three minutes.

Kyle: Why are you bias against the Diamondbacks? Just kidding, great write up.
Klaw: Thanks. I believe that is only the second time I have said a GM should be fired, after Bowden was accused of skimming Latin American player bonuses or simply allowing it to happen on his watch while with the Nationals.

Dan Lincoln: Altuve or Trout for best player in baseball right now?
Klaw: Trout. Altuve is having a Trout-like year. Trout is having his fifth straight Trout-like year.

Jacob Paukner: What have you thought of Musgrove so far?
Klaw: Only 18 innings but I’m surprised at the strikeout rate. Sinkerballer with control, so the other stuff isn’t surprising. Definitely a big league starter, average floor. Rare example of a guy who missed a lot of time with a shoulder issue and came back as good as ever.

James: How do you view Swanson relative to Trea Turner? Braves fan here, but I’ve watched a lot of Nats games over the past month and Turner looks like a star player with a better than advertised hit tool and a dynamic trait that Swanson doesn’t have (speed), does Swanson’s all-around prowess still give him the advantage in your mind?
Klaw: Turner has much more speed, Swanson’s more physical and will have some more power. As prospects, Swanson has/had the better floor, Turner had the better chance to be an impact player because the speed could be game-changing if he gets on base enough (which so far he has).

Dario Sanchez: What do you think about Encarnacion signing with Houston in the offseason? Seems like a good fit to fill in at DH and hit at Minute Maid.
Klaw: No. They have lots of guys who can fill the DH spot for them without giving up a draft pick or paying EE’s cost. They already have more bats than spots for them.

Jack C.: Hey Keith, have been real busy the past couple of days and have finally caught up with the flooding in Louisiana , especially Baton Rouge. Now please correct me if I am wrong because this may sound awful or morbid, but why do we (our country) keep funneling time, effort, and resources to parts of Louisiana that are already below sea level? Did we not learn anything for Hurricane Katrina? While people continue to believe that global warming is some hoax, homes and businesses will be underwater in those areas in the next couple hundred years. It’s happening now. It is just a matter of time until those sea levels rise a couple of feet and nothing can be saved.
Klaw: This came up after Katrina, and the best argument against it that I saw was that such places as the Ninth Ward of New Orleans were heavily populated by African-Americans, and thus such a policy would displace far more minorities from their homes. I tend to agree with you, though, that the cost of allowing those residents to stay in areas below sea level is going to escalate over time and that we need to find permanent housing solutions for all of those citizens rather than bailing them out, literally and figuratively, every five to ten years, including the attendant disruptions to their lives and their work.

Jack C.: Hey Keith, finally got the opportunity to do my first freelance scouting trip this past week to a Snappers – Timber Rattlers game. I loved it. I loved it so much I went down to Clinton, IA on Monday and Peoria, IL Tuesday to watch some more prospects (K. Tucker, A. Jackson, J. Woodford, T. Blankenhorn). I wanted to ask about something I saw in my first game regarding Trent Clark. He was playing CF when there was a ball hit to him off a broken bat. He took a pretty awful first step backwards and the ball eventually fell in front of him. Are broken bat hits extremely difficult to judge (as I imagine)? Does your average defensive outfielder make that play more routinely or is that something only seen out of gold-glove caliber players?
Klaw: He’s not a very good CF; I think he ends up in a corner anyway. Broken bat hits are tough to gauge, but a first step back is not a good sign for his instincts. He’s also just not fast enough to be an average defender in center.

Burlin: Can you recommend chapter book for a precocious 3.5 year old? I got the original Wizard of Oz on hold, but I’m not quite sure. I’ve got some lined up in the next year or two, but would like to start something sooner. Thanks.
Klaw: The Winnie the Pooh books are my go-to rec for that age. The vocabulary isn’t too high and the stories are very gentle.

Chris: Is Gavin Cecchini a viable option for Mets next season at 2B? I’d like to see him get some reps in bigs this season, totally understand the Vegas inflation factor on offensive numbers but would bringing him up for a look hurt at all?
Klaw: Yes, it would hurt because Terry Collins would have to come up with new excuses not to play him, then would criticize him to the local press, and then try to get Sandy to demote him to AAA even when Vegas’ season is over.

John: Is it a huge blunder that the rock bottom Braves called up its top prospect and waste his service time?
Klaw: No, because you have Dave Stewart level understanding of the rules. Giving Swanson 45 days of service this year isn’t going to affect his free agency or arbitration dates.

Nick: Any guys from the complex leagues or even DSL that have popped up or you’re hearing good things about that might make team top 20s or do next year? I’ve heard Jonathan Guzman referenced a couple time times.
Klaw: He’s one of the best names I’ve heard about. Legit 96-100 as a starter.

Nick: Seems like a repeat of last year for Soler: early struggles, prolonged hamstring injury, excellent hitting upon return. What is it with this guy, and what do you think his future looks like?
Klaw: I still think he’s a star if he stays healthy. He’s showing these last 2-3 weeks what he’s capable of doing, and I think he’s adjusting to that slider low and away that just killed him earlier in the year.

Jonas: What happened with Joba Chamberlin and Phil Hughes? Why didn’t they pan out as expected?
Klaw: Joba was jerked back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, and eventually blew out. Maybe he was going to blow out anyway but a single consistent role would have helped. I thought he had the three pitches he’d need to start. Hughes was always a bit overrated for me with the flat fastball and lack of an average third pitch, so I think he probably met realistic expectations for him but not the hype around him.

Dana: Who do you like better to be the Yankees’ first baseman of the future, Bird or Austin?
Klaw: Bird is a bad defender at first.

Tony: Worried about Cody Reed after a rough start to his big league career?
Klaw: No. I don’t worry about any player after a “rough start;” I remember getting a few tweets asking if the Astros had made a mistake/could continue to live with him when he went 0 for 15 to start his career. And I think the differences in the baseball between the minors and majors are making it harder for pitchers to make the adjustment.

Mack: Regarding Chad Kuhl, when you say “doesn’t have a pitch to get lefties out”, are you saying that he just doesn’t utilize a 3rd pitch (like a changeup) or are you saying that the changeup he has is completely unusable? I saw him throwing changeups pretty frequently against a LHH-heavy Dodgers lineup and wasn’t sure if that was a new step for him or if it doesn’t matter because the pitch itself is just horrible. Thanks!
Klaw: It’s just not a good enough pitch.

Patrick: Who is a potential riser in the Sox farm over the next year? Josh Pennington? Roniel Raudes? Luis Alexander Basabe?
Klaw: Raudes for sure. They kept the good Basabe – I wonder if Arizona knew which one they were getting – and I’m definitely buying on him. I still like Travis Lakins quite a bit despite the rough debut season.

Nick: Any intel as to who the PTBNL in the Lucroy trade is?
Klaw: My understanding is that the player has not yet been decided on. So he will be named … later.

Joe: I agree with you re: closers and Cy Young/MVP potential. But I saw you interact with someone on twitter yesterday who was using WPA as an argument. Am I correct that your argument against that was that WPA for closers is somewhat like RBI for hitters, in that it is arbitrarily inflated by [managerial decisions]/[spot in lineup and quality of hitters a batter hits behind] and thus not reflective of actual talent and value?
Klaw: Yep, that’s pretty much it. And what WPA thus loses is how much of, say, Zach Britton’s very high WPA is a function of how he’s been used versus how he’s performed.

Kraig: Why did the Padres agree to take back Rae? Seems strange considering he made a start with the Marlins and he would have taken a physical before the trade was completed?
Klaw: He would not have taken a physical before the trade was completed. You can’t do physicals for in-season trades. The Marlins claimed the Padres had not disclosed something that should have been in Rea’s medicals.

Andy: Is Patrick Corbin’s major regression due to something that the org has done or is it just a cautionary tale that TJS is not a definite.
Klaw: I think they rushed him back – and I said so at the time, even suggesting this past offseason that they consider putting him in the bullpen for some of 2016 to try to slow things down – but I’m hopeful that he’ll be better in 2017 after another offseason of rest.

Walligator: Rowdy Tellez is up to .295/.387/.499 after a brutal start to the season. He is walking almost 13% of the time, while only striking out 18% (with 16 homers to boot). He is just 21 years young. While he undoubtedly has a “bad body”, and is likely to be a DH, is there nothing to like in his profile, given his age and inexperience at the level? Admittedly, I’ve only scouted his stat line–is he someone that you have to watch in person to pick out his flaws? I believe you said he has a long swing or one that can’t handle high velocity…is there any way he can make it work? His slash line at his age just seems excellent, and I would think some AA pitchers can hit the mid to high 90’s…does Rowdy have a chance at a big league future?
Klaw: New Hampshire’s a good place for LH power – remember Eric Thames – and no, he’s not facing mid- to high-90s that often. I think good pitching will eat Tellez alive, like it did in the AFL.

Jackson: Keith, loved the debate with Stark and was totally on your side. Who do you think is the frontrunner as of now?
Klaw: In the Cy Young debate? I don’t think there is one. Whoever has a great final six weeks gets it. And that could be Britton, because voters love a good narrative.

Andy: I commend you for you D-Backs article. Usually it seems, national press tries to stay above the fray to not give the appearance of impartiality. Nothing that was said was factually inaccurate, and the results have not been there, in large part likely due to the process. I am sure that you have your share of accusations of bias, (#meow) but analysis from people more in the know than I am, is why I pay for ESPN insider.
Klaw: Thank you. As I said to an exec who texted me about the story today, these are their mistakes. I just organized them.

Chase: Missed your amateur coverage this summer Keith, hope you’re ok. Can you give us a couple of your top names? This class better than last?
Klaw: Thank you. I have been going to fewer games this year for two major reasons – working on my book (which has an amazon page now!) and due to a family matter that required me to be home more. Chris Crawford did Team USA, Area Codes, and PG All-American for me, and I saw the Under Armour game. Between all of that and notes I’ve gotten from scouts who went to the Cape, I think it’s a better first round crop, lots of college arms, great HS crop in SoCal, weak in the northeast and northwest.

Nelson: The fact that an Olympian in High School cant accept an endorsement or even a concert ticket or else 2 years later she wont be eligible to compete in the NCAA has to be one of the dumbest things I learnt this olympics
Klaw: And another reason why the NCAA is a cartel that should be broken up by the government.

Mark: Earlier this month Preller said SD’s farm system had bottom 5 talent when he arrived and now has top five talent. Do you agree with the first part of that comment?
Klaw: They had Ross and Turner there when he arrived, among others he traded, so no, I don’t.

Bruce: Most people hit right-handed. Why is being a lefty pitcher so coveted?
Klaw: Because left-handed hitters are more likely to have extreme platoon splits.

Chris: Long time reader, first time questioner. Seems like it’s been a positive year on farm for Padres in many areas but not at SS. Granted I’m mostly “boxscore scouting” but looks like a lost year for Guerra….Giron and Rondon just mediocre. Wondering what you think about Luis Urias. Is he a possible avg MLB regular in the future and, if so, can he play short?
Klaw: Urias is a solid prospect, probably not a star, outstanding feel to hit and general baseball instincts. Giron was overrated off the hot start last year. Guerra did indeed have a lost year and I’ve heard some of that is makeup-related.

Henry: Keith, outstanding post today on the Arizona front office. Do you ever get concerned about the backlash you might get from teams when you draft such things? Nevertheless, I’m really glad you’re speaking out vs organizational ineptitude as it hurts the game and your recent post on domestic violence was very much needed.
Klaw: I’m cognizant of how what I write might be received in front offices, but my job is my job – I can’t not do it out of fear that people will be mad at me. I have spiked some ideas or held back some things over the years to maintain relationships or to stick to my own standard of journalistic ethics (and I’ve made some serious mistakes on that front too), but I think I’ve found a balance I can work with.

Speedtrap: There is so much unwarranted emphasis on pitch velocities during a major league broadcast that with some broadcasts it’s almost the dominate topic. Scouts bring their own guns apparently. In your experience what it the difference between the stadiums guns and the readings a scout is getting?
Klaw: Depends on the stadium. Also I think your point about velocities is broader than just broadcasters getting hung up on it. If you’re 14, and you hear all this raving over this guy throwing 101 and that guy throwing 98, what are you trying to develop most as a pitcher? Hint – it ain’t command.

Kelly: You’ve been skeptical about Luis Severino’s ability to start long-term, but you also tend to advocate letting a player start until it’s clear they no longer can. Given the lack of upper-level Yankees pitching prospects, would you let Severino try starting again next year? Or should they just leave him in the bullpen as a potential multi-inning relief ace?
Klaw: My guess is they will try starting him again, but I would probably shift him to the bullpen for a full season, and if he does well there and wants to start, consider transitioning him back to the rotation in 2018. This way he gets a season of success and adjusting to major-league hitters under his belt.

Jonas: What are your go to quick meals when you have a busy week and limited cooking time?
Klaw: It’s summer, so our vegetable each night is usually a salad – no cooking, just prep, make dressing once or twice a week and use it several nights. Our tomato plants are going bonkers, too, so we’ve been doing tomato salads with basil a few times each week. Then the main dish is often a quick-cooking protein, something I can grill or that I can cook quickly in a skillet, often with a basic rice dish on the side because it cooks in 15 minutes without much work. My sister-in-law is Indian and showed me how she makes basmati rice – soak five minutes, toast spices in butter, toast the drained rice for a minute, add broth/stock (2:1 ratio), cook 15 minutes.

Tom: What are your thoughts, if any, on Derrick Hall? Do you think he should go to? It seems, after two failed two failed general managers, he bears a lot of the responsibility for where the team is now, especially since he could have kept Jerry DiPoto and avoided all of this.
Klaw: I think Ken Kendrick has made those decisions, not Hall.

Tim: Yadier Alvarez going to be a top 100 guy for you? I know Longenhagen says he has him valued at 60 FV. Thoughts on his performance in his debut year?
Klaw: I have not seen him, but Eric’s seen him a few times and we’ve discussed him quite a bit, in addition to what I’ve heard from others, all of which makes him a top 100 guy. Huge arm, good athlete, and he’s throwing strikes.

Barry: Do you like UA and PG separating their games so that the best players can participate in both showcases, or would you rather have them closer together so that more kids get the exposure?
Klaw: I like this better. No more competition for the players. They’ll still get some differences on the rosters due to geography, and in recent years one or both games have suffered when they’ve been on the same weekend, like the 2015 UA game when almost no one could throw strikes.

Joe: Manny Machado still in the MVP discussion?
Klaw: I don’t think so; he’s about 60-65 points of OBP behind Trout/Altuve, with similar power production, so to make him a viable candidate you’d have to argue his defense is Andrelton Simmons-level. I don’t think it is. Top 5 candidate but not top 3. I think the AL MVP race is Trout/Altuve/Donaldson, then Betts/Machado. But I think it will end up Altuve/Betts, Donaldson/Trout/Machado.

Wes: What exactly is a “hitch” in reference to a player’s swing?
Klaw: A big move (with the hands) down, back, or down and back from the load position – that is, not the way the bat needs to go to get to the ball.

Kevin: What are your thoughts on Newcomb’s improvement?
Klaw: Improvement?

Lev: As a GM, how do you properly value an injury prone superstar like Stanton? He’s clearly capable of hitting 50, but will he ever have a season with enough at bats to reach those levels?
Klaw: I think the problem for Stanton is that he can’t stay healthy enough to ‘earn’ the salary he’s guaranteed. The Marlins may end up in a spot where they’re trying to move that contract and can’t. You can hope you get that full season of production, but if you’re running a projection how could you assume it?

Bill: Am I wrong in my thinking that a prospects hit tool is the most important tool by a wide margin? Are prospects that don’t have a lot of exciting tools but can just flat out hit underrated by the industry?
Klaw: It’s the hardest one to evaluate, and it’s incredibly important – if you hit, we forgive lots of other sins, and if you can’t hit, you’d better have something like a 70 glove.

Alex: Do you believe Alex Reyes will be able to develop into a frontline starter?
Klaw: Can, yes. Will, not sure. Stuff is there. Apparently a bright kid and good worker. Delivery needs some tweaking, which I think would help him stay healthy and add power to the breaking ball.

Jordan: Could you see the Yankees starting the 2017 season with 4 starting rookies? (Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin)
Klaw: Bird’s not a rookie and Sanchez won’t be by then either. I could see all four starting the season with the big club, though.

Brad: Keith, we hear a lot about Greene, Faedo, Wright and others as potential 1-1 candidates. Where are the potential 1-1 bats?
Klaw: Jeren Kendall is the best of the group. Jordan Adell is pretty exciting but I think might be too raw for 1-1 right now.

Joe: Does Jordan Montgomery have enough fastball to be a starter?
Klaw: I don’t think so.

Michael: I like that you do it, but can it ever be awkward running into people you criticize? What happened if you saw Dave Stewart or Terry Collins at the Winter Meetings and they said something to you, even something innocent?
Klaw: I would be friendly and open. If such a person wanted to have a real discussion about what I wrote, I think I have an obligation to do it (and I would). If someone wanted to come yell or swear at me, I don’t think I have an obligation to take that.

Jeb: No love for Manowar : )
Klaw: Never could get into them. Power metal kind of left me cold.

Robby: Looks like everyone agrees Luke Weaver’s drop and dive delivery won’t allow him to have an average breaking ball. Can you get by as a #3 or #4 with a fastball, changeup, and cutter?
Klaw: Think he’s a 5th starter or long reliever. Definitely a major leaguer with value, so that’s not some code for writing him off. Just can’t see him having that breaking ball he needs.

JP: Aaron Judge or David Dahl?
Klaw: Dahl ends up the more valuable player thanks to position/defense. Judge does more with the bat, if you’re asking a fantasy question.

MeisterNJ: With so many companies claiming they use ‘all natural this’, ‘wild caught that’, ‘small batch’, somebody has to be lying right? Any way to verify these things short of going undercover?
Klaw: Nope, it’s basically on regulators, who don’t have the time/budget to investigate them all, or independent organizations like journalists or consumer-rights groups.

Davey: You mocked energy drinks on Twitter a little while back. What’s the criticism? Overreliance on placebo effect? Caffeine not as effective as people say? Does your criticism hold even for sugar-free ones?
Klaw: They don’t do what they claim to do, are loaded with ‘nutrients’ that don’t help, and taste like shit.

Marty: Matt Manning is striking a ton of guys out, but also getting hit pretty hard, especially when the lineup turns over against him. Do you think his secondary stuff develops enough for him to start in the big leagues, or do you see him more as an eventual reliever?
Klaw: See him as a future starter – grade 70 or 80 athlete, limited pitching experience, golden arm. Not surprised at all that he’s struggling to turn a lineup over since he was fastball-spike CB in high school.

Alex: What do you see in a player that makes you think that player will be able to make adjustments in the future? You seem optimistic on Soler. Randall Grichuk could also be a great player if he could learn to make adjustments and hit stuff soft away. My question is what do you see in a swing that sways you one way or the other?
Klaw: Athleticism. Looseness/flexibility. Some selectivity – if you show me now you can sort of recognize a breaking ball, or a pitch that’s inside, then I’m more inclined to think you can improve that recognition (Joey Gallo, for example) than to take a guy with no clue and believe he can make that adjustment. Grichuk has never recognized breaking stuff, going back to HS, which is why I’ve never really projected him to figure that out.

JC: It could even be ignorant to ask, but is Dave Stewart’s….sub-par tenure as GM going to be detrimental to future minority front office candidates? Or will teams know well enough that pushing for more diversity shouldn’t backpedal at all due to one man’s failure?
Klaw: I certainly hope not. I think it’s reflective of a Chief Baseball Officer hiring his buddies, and of the flaw in hiring someone who hasn’t been involved in the game for 13 years.

Fritz: Any hope for DJ Stewart or is he another bad Baltimore first round pick like Hobgood?
Klaw: I was not a fan of his in college but in no way did I expect him to fail to hit for any power like he has this year. I didn’t like the body or athleticism and thought he was a slow-bat DH type but would run into 20 bombs.

Steven.: AJ Minter 2017 NL Roy?
Klaw: As a middle reliever? No.

Darren: Thoughts on the jays firing their scouting director? He had done a good job getting the jays the prospects they needed to make all those trades last year.
Klaw: If this was just “we want our own guy,” fine, that’s how the business works. Parker had had a few good drafts until this past one, where I assume the new regime changed his mandate. I also thought firing Blake Davis, one of their cross-checkers, was totally bizarre – that should be the decision of the new scouting director. I don’t see why the GM or President would have any reason to fire someone below the scouting director.

Cara: If a stud HS hitter is facing relatively weak competition, how do you get a true sense of their abilities?
Klaw: You’re looking at his swing, his body, his athleticism, his BP, and hope that you’ve seen him the previous summer with a wood bat against better competition.

James: I can preorder your book and get it on April 25, 2017? I also find it interesting that the book will be 304 pages. Just giving you crap, love you man. And yes, I will be preordering the book.
Klaw: I also find it interesting that the book will be 304 pages. But yes, it’s due out in April.

Ian: Wait, is that Amazon link you provided legit? That title is spectacular and I’m pre-ordering on the spot if that’s the actual Amazon page….
Klaw: Yes, it’s legit, and I believe that’s the final title.

Jason: Trent Clark or Kyle Tucker, if you could only have one who would it be?
Klaw: Clark. Better pure hitter.

Kelly: Do you see Tyler Austin as a potential regular, or is he more likely a very good bench player? Either way, I’m very happy that he’s healthy enough to get a chance after a few rough years.
Klaw: I’m willing to buy Austin as a starter.

JP: Do you think Kopech could be an effective reliever for the Red Sox in September?
Klaw: I brought this up somewhere yesterday – podcast? – but I think it’s a stretch. He’s killing guys with one pitch, and yes it’s an 80 fastball, but big league hitters will get to that.

Chris: What is your favorite way to cook/grill Salmon?
Klaw: Pan-seared, cooked right to medium, with a beurre blanc.

Tim: Thank you for being so high so early on Mookie Betts. I picked him up in a fantasy keeper league just prior to his promotion in 2014. In a related story, my team is killing in this season.
Klaw: You’re welcome but I was way too light on him, in hindsight.

Nic AZ: With a little pro data on Cal Quantril, what kind of ceiling/floor do you see for him?
Klaw: All I’ve heard on him from scouts so far is positive. He could turn out to be 1-1 good now that he’s healthy.

DP: Keith, you were okay with the Cubs signing Heyward to the big contract this past offseason. He is the type of player I worry advance metrics tend to overvalue. Thoughts??
Klaw: I was, but I never thought he’d evaporate at the plate like this. I thought he was a great defender who could hit but put the ball on the ground too often.

Alex: So, is Moancada the third baseman of the future for the Red Sox? That seems to be the only position currently in flux for them. Can he handle the gig defensively? I assume he’d need a full season as a minor league third baseman to get ready.
Klaw: I think he might end up in the OF. Athletic enough to play anywhere (CF?) but actions at 2b aren’t really right for the infield. Not ruling any position other than SS out, though. Also he could probably moonlight as a tailback for the Patriots.

Frank: The Giants said publicly that one of the reasons they felt they could trade Matt Duffy was because Christian Arroyo is the going to ready shortly to take over 3rd base. How would you compare Arroyo to Duffy and how soon do you think he will be ready? Thanks.
Klaw: Although I liked the trade for Moore I don’t think Arroyo is that close, not with the bat at least, and I don’t think he has the arm for third base.

Nan: I often think about your controversial 2009 NL CY Young vote and appreciate you stuck to your guns using real analysis. In a similar vein, using advanced stats like FIP, how do your views on Cole Hamels’s season compare to the mainstream media
Klaw: His ERA is great, his FIP is over a full run higher … but the main reason is because he’s been so much more effective with men in scoring position. He’s been slightly better from the stretch than the windup, a small enough difference to dismiss it as noise. But is pitching better from the stretch, or with men on base, a specific skill? For a hitter, it’s absolutely not. But Kluber has been worse with RISP this year than with the bases empty, while Hamels has limited hitters to .206/.281/.310 with RISP. I do not know the answer to this – how much we should factor that in, when FIP doesn’t consider it at all.

Bryan (Montclair, NJ): Any recommendations for a daily coffee maker? My Cuisinart grind and brew machine just kicked this week.
Klaw: I use a V60 ceramic pour-over … uh, thing by Hario. Takes about 5 minutes total to make a cup, including grinding etc. Much prefer that to machine drip.

Jason: Is Scivicque just a guy, a backup catcher, or a starting catcher (even if a lower-tier one)?
Klaw: Backup catcher. For Aybar, you couldn’t expect anything better.

Jordan: Can you please make a scouting trip to Vanderbilt to see Jeren Kendall and Kyle Wright next season? (But mostly so me and a couple of buds an meet you)
Klaw: Oh, I’ll be there. You think I ever turn down a chance to go to Nashville? I might retire there.

Kenny: What are your thoughts on Seattle not playing games during instructional league and instead using the time to work on specific player skills, or to institute their organizational philosophies?
Klaw: I applaud the novel line of thinking. Instructs can be useful, but they’re hardly the only way to do things. I remember seeing Luiz Gohara in an instructs game in 2012, for one inning, on a 100 degree day, and thinking if I stayed any longer I might die. I doubt the players were any happier to be there than I was. (Gohara’s a GUY, by the way.)

Evan: In your opinion, what is the most likely explanation to the Fermi Paradox?
Klaw: The weight of the fuel.

Drake: Oldest a prospect has ever been drafted in the 1st round?
Klaw: Jeremy Guthrie was 23, I think. James Ramsey of FSU was at least 22.

Aaron Houston: KLAW, can you provide link to Diamondback story?
Klaw: Yes, here it is.

Jay: Are Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez future starters for Toronto, or solid backups?
Klaw: I think McGuire’s a backup and Ramirez might sneak into average regular LF.

Casey: Think the Blue Jays will hire someone from the Indians as their new Scouting Director?
Klaw: I had two guesses: Chuck Ricci, Rays cross-checker, who used to work for Cleveland in the same role; and Marc Tramuta, Mets cross-checker, former Jays area scout and regional cross-checker.

Chris A: When do you think you’ll get to see Kevin Maitan in person?
Klaw: Probably in the spring, assuming we do TV in Florida that pulls me down there in late March. He’ll be a priority guy.

Brian: Honest question: do you think your book will be worthwhile for someone (say, myself) who already thinks pitcher wins are for losers, batting average is for suckers, and saves don’t mean shit?
Klaw: Fair question. I certainly hope so, because I’m trying to make the book entertaining enough that you’ll enjoy it even if you agree with what I’m saying, and maybe I’ll have some new arguments or anecdotes that will make it worthwhile. That’s been an issue for me as I write it – balancing the need to make this accessible to everybody and the desire to write a book that my regular readers would still enjoy.

Braden: What’s your favorite song to play on your guitar?
Klaw: It changes. Seasons in the Abyss is one of my favorites.

Gerry: Dom Smith is hitting a robust .351/.418/.580 over his last 196 pa’s with just a 12.8% k rate – safe to say he’s finally becoming the prospect you always thought he would be?
Klaw: Yes, I think this is closer to what he is, although I’d like to see him do that over a full season.

Tim: Should Rookie of the Year factor in future potential? Or should it just go to “rookie who had the best season.” Looking back it’s pretty comical that Chris Coghlan won ROY over Andrew McCutchen, for instance.
Klaw: I’ve argued for the former, which means things like considering age – a 21-year-old and a 25-year-old having the same season are not equivalent.

Aaron: In one of your last boardgame ranking posts on the dish, you mentioned you had Village but needed to play it more. Have you played it more? Write-up in the works, or any general feelings? Thanks
Klaw: Nope, haven’t played it at all. I own at least ten games I’ve never played, because I get new games to review all the time. I think Paste has three reviews from me that haven’t run yet and I’ll file another, for Saloon Tycoon, in the next day or two.

Klaw: That’s all for this week’s chat – thank you all, as always, for all of the questions. I’ll be back at some point next week, maybe Friday, to chat again.

My Brilliant Friend.

I’ve been guest-hosting the Baseball Tonight podcast this week during Buster’s absence; today’s show featured Eric Karabell and Tim Kurkjian, and yesterday’s show featured Jayson Stark and WATERS singer/serious Dodgers fan Van Pierszalowski, whose newest single, “Fourth of July,” came out last month.

Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, a quartet of books documenting the lifelong friendship between two women, from early childhood in Naples onward, have sold over a million copies in the U.S. since their translation into English in 2012. All four novels ended up on various bestseller lists. And yet their author is unknown, writing only under a pseudonym, while the stories themselves are mundane, devoid of the violence or suspense that tend to dominate fiction sales. The tetralogy, which Ferrante considers one novel published in four installments (a true bildungsroman), tells a very ordinary story in compelling, realistic detail.

I was aware of the books – it’d be hard to be a bookworm without encountering them at some point – but hadn’t picked one up until Lindsey Adler (writer for Deadspin) recommended them, saying she couldn’t put them down. My Brilliant Friend, the opening novel in the series, did not grab me quite to that extent, but it is a superb work of modern realism and characterization, especially of the two women, who get the kind of depth rarely given to female characters in fiction, even contemporary fiction.

Those two characters, the narrator Elena and her friend Lila, are two halves of a whole, different in many fundamental ways but complementary in times when they’re close to each other. (Like any friendship between kids, this one has its vicissitudes, including periods where they’re not really speaking to each other at all.) Elena is booksmart but has to work to get there; Lila is precocious, autodidactic, but has a devil-may-care attitude to schoolwork and life. Both girls come from poor working families averse to continuing their education; Elena’s family reluctantly permits her to continue her schooling thanks in part to the efforts of her teacher, while Lila’s family won’t hear of it and Lila has to continue her learning on the sly. The possibilities of their lives seem limited to them at an early age, and while Elena has at least the sliver of hope provided by an education, Lila’s only real way out of poverty appears to be through marriage, even though she has the idea for a business and the spirit of an entrepreneur.

The novel lacks the intrigue of a modern bestseller. There’s a murder in their town, but it’s tangential to the main characters and only seems to exist to set up some later circumstances. There’s an affair, with consequences, but again it’s sort of off-screen and serves as backdrop for the younger generation of girls and boys. The town itself is tiny, like Jane Austen’s three or four families in a country village, and the social circle of Elena and Lila is small and constantly rotates them back into view with the same handful of kids. Lila’s withdrawal from school when Elena continues sets them on distinct paths that strain their friendship but, apparently, don’t break it, even when the way the two girls are treated by others starts to change.

My Brilliant Friend is definitely an incomplete story; I haven’t bought the next book yet, although I will at some point because I’m interested in what the future holds for the two characters and found Ferrante’s spare, descriptive prose highly readable if a bit dry. The novel doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, which would be untrue to its spirit as a story of two ordinary lives and the bond between these two women. It just leaves you wanting to know where they’re going next.

Next up: I just finished Olja Savi?evi?’s strange postmodern novel Adios, Cowboy and have begun Michael Ondaatje’s novel The Cat’s Table.

Stick to baseball, 8/13/16.

I wrote one Insider piece this week, on the decline and fall of Yasiel Puig as a hitter, not as a clubhouse problem or social media superstar. I also held a long Klawchat on Thursday.

I attended GenCon for the first time last week and wrote three pieces about it for Paste, including the top ten new games I saw, the summary of every other interesting title, and an essay on the experience of attending for the first time.

And now, the links:

  • This piece on Twitter’s ongoing failure to deal with harassment sheds much light on how and why the site has allowed abuse to flourish. Lack of diversity in company leadership has been one major problem.
  • Vox advances the thesis that NBC’s coverage of the Olympics is terrible because they view the games as entertainment, not sports. I find their broadcasts unwatchable; we record them and fast-forward through maybe 90% of the content, including every recorded feature they’ve prepared on the athletes, because all I’m interested in is certain events.
  • Deadly bacteria, like the one that causes cholera, are spreading as ocean temperatures rise. Climate-change deniers tend to focus on air temperatures, but I’ve yet to find one who can rationalize away our warming and increasingly acidic oceans.
  • A woman who was sexually assaulted while a student at Harvard Law School explains why the school needs to apologize, part of the “just say sorry” campaign for schools to at least accept that modicum of responsibility. I’m ashamed to read the details of how HLS mishandled her case, including the subsequent readmission of her rapist and the actions of 19 professors who have defended him and participated in shaming her.
  • Anita Hill spoke to NPR about progress in workplace since her sexual harassment claim, which became a story in 1991 but never really threatened the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas. If a nominee today were accused of doing what Hill said Thomas did – and I see no reason to disbelieve her – would he sail through to the bench as Thomas did?
  • Amazon is quietly eliminating list prices in response to a number of complaints, including lawsuits over misleading discounts off prices that never really existed.
  • Three student-scientists at Stanford believe they’ve developed proteins that will kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They’re seeking investors and aren’t disclosing the details – which I hope isn’t too similar to Elizabeth Holmes’ history – but this could be very good news in what is about to become a huge public-health crisis.
  • Clay Shirky explains why there’s no such thing as a protest vote. I happen to agree, and I have in fact cast such a vote in the past – but won’t this year.
  • On the other hand, Reason has an op ed on why Republicans voting for Trump would be wasting their votes, although the author is really just arguing that Trump is not a conservative and that he’d be a disastrous president … but I believe he’s arguing conservatives should vote for Gary Johnson instead.
  • Texas, which has executed more prisoners since 1976 than 45 other states combined, is about to execute a convict who didn’t kill anybody. He was in the getaway car when his partner in the planned robbery killed the store employee.
  • So far, the Rio Olympics have not led to any of the disasters predicted for them. That doesn’t mean giving Brazil the Olympics was a good idea; the economic harm done to the country could be long-lasting, such as wasting $62 million on Olympic posters to hide a favela from public view.
  • The pseudonymous surgeon and scientist Orac weighs in on the latest Medscape survey on vaccine-refusing or hesitant patients, with some prescriptions for the best strategies in dealing with them. He also notes that the media (hi!) have become less tolerant of anti-vax bullshit over the last few years.
  • The DoJ report excoriating the Baltimore police department included a note where a prosecutor called a woman who reported a rape a “conniving little whore.” Much of the coverage has focused on the department’s problems with racial bias, but the BPD has an abysmal record at investigating rapes, too.
  • Vanity Fair has a longread on the Bill Cosby rape case(s), explaining how this one particular incident reached a courtroom and opened the gates for fifty-nine other victims to come forward.
  • A judge in Louisville, Kentucky, has gotten some positive attention on social media for two cases where she showed some human decency. The first case, of a female defendant who appeared to have been seriously mistreated by jailers, is about much more than just a judge showing compassion.
  • Australia has a large detention center for asylum seekers on the remote Pacific island of Nauru – a functionally insolvent island state that depends on the center and foreign aid for its economic survival – and a Guardian investigative report found widespread abuse of children in the camp.

Klawchat 8/11/16.

In case you missed them, all of my GenCon wrap-up pieces for Paste are now up, including the top ten new games I saw, the summary of every other interesting title, and an essay on the experience of attending for the first time.

Klaw: It’s a helping hand that makes you feel wonderfully bland. It’s Klawchat.

Mike: Keith, do you feel like the Yankees would be best served by calling up BOTH Judge and Austin and giving them significant ABs?
Klaw: I do, in Austin’s case to see what they’ve got since he’s repeating AAA, in Judge’s case because I think he’s going to need some time in the majors to work on keeping the swing and miss to a manageable level.

Mike: Tim Tebow? Really? Any chance in hell that any MLB general manager gives him the time of day?
Klaw: This was an absolute non-story and I want no part of it.

Bindu: Do you think Brandon Woodruff can be a quality MLB starter?
Klaw: Sure. Less sure of precisely what quality, but I do think he’s a future MLB starter.

Jim: Alec Hansen has been great so far. Have you heard anything about what the White Sox have done that Oklahoma could never figure out? I know it’s a small sample but his walks are way down.
Klaw: He’s also facing some pretty weak competition up there. I’m thrilled to see what he’s doing – I thought he was a potential 1-1 pick coming out of the fall – but tempering my enthusiasm until we see him in a full-season league.

Justin: If you had an AL Cy Young vote, would JA Happ be your choice at the moment?
Klaw: He wouldn’t be on my ballot at all.

Scott: Can we go back to Monday for a second? You tweeted that Al Trautwig was wrong for stating that Simone Biles’s adoptive parents were not really her parents. It’s a fact that Biles was adopted by her grandparents; she considers them her parents and calls them Mom and Dad. Yet objectively, Trautwig was correct. He stated a biological truth. (You typically stand on the side of science.) Why do you believe Trautwig did something wrong?
Klaw: Because he absolutely did something wrong. This is like confusing sex and gender. And it was not his place to say that the people Biles and the law regard as her parents are not her parents. I am related by marriage to someone who was adopted at birth. He does not know and has never known any parents but the ones who raised him. Are you going to tell him that those are not his parents? Furthermore, I thought Trautwig’s comments were indirectly racist, given the higher percentage of African-American kids raised in non-traditional households. He was way out of his lane, and doubling down on Twitter like he did was unacceptable.

John: What’s the best option for an undrafted player still trying to make it in baseball?
Klaw: Indy ball or, if possible, an open tryout with an actual MLB scout (not a part-timer or ‘associate’ who may not have any power to sign a player).

andy: Thoughts on Yankees’ handling of A-Rod farewell tour and Girardi’s comments on “winning”?
Klaw: Embarrassing for Girardi in particular, since he had no problem playing the corpse of Jeter in all of the Cap’n’s final season and batting him second.

Marshall: what are your thoughts on Dustin Peterson? Is he an everyday ML outfielder or a good 4th?
Klaw: Chance for an everyday corner OF because he can hit. Limited upside unless there’s power in there I don’t foresee.

Theo: Is Hendricks really a #1? What did you miss on him? He’s the only Cubs prospect you said wouldn’t be great who has been awesome. 19/20 ain’t bad.
Klaw: Hendricks isn’t close to a 1 – he’s been extraordinarily lucky/helped by his defense this year. But he also became a much better groundball guy with the Cubs too, which is where I was too light on him.

Fred: Seems like the 2017 draft class is loaded with arms. What college or HS bats do you see that could be in the 1-1 conversation?
Klaw: I think the best prospects in the class are Vandy OF Jeren Kendall and SoCal two-way HS guy Hunter Greene, better on the mound but also a prospect as a SS.

Jack Conness: Hey Keith, I am going to do my first freelance scouting trip next Monday to a Cedar Rapids Kernels vs. Peoria Chiefs game. Any tips for a first timer? Where to sit? What to analyze? How difficult is it to scout defense? I plan on bringing out the iPad and recording the guys I plan on scouting too. I’ve done all the reading and research available on the world wide web, but would love a helpful hit or two from someone with your pedigree. Thank you very much.
Klaw: You should just watch the game. So much of evaluating players via observation is about comparing them to players you’ve seen before over years of doing it. So this time, just focus on what you see, rather than trying to convert those into fast opinions on players. Also, I hate seeing iPads used as cameras, FWIW. There’s no way you’re filming anything without blocking someone’s view.

Chris: Was the Herrera/Wotell return for Bruce a little light?
Klaw: No, I thought it was great for the Reds.

Paul: I know you’ve been a big fan of Coppy and the Atlanta rebuild, but is there any justification for the Kemp trade? Locking him into LF for three years seems like the last thing a young team needs.
Klaw: If he’s terrible, they can just release him. I don’t think there’s much there, although there’s at least some reason to hope he’ll play a little better in a new environment, and there’s so little power on the market I guess I could talk myself into seeing him as having a little value … eh, whatever, he’s still pretty awful, but better him than Olivera.

ken: Klaw, please help me understand what the Rays are doing. I can’t seem to understand their moves the past couple of years. It looks like one bad move after another. They say they are building young talent, are making bad trades / not developing correctly? Thx
Klaw: “Bad” move is a little strong here, but I do think they’ve allowed their analytical side to weigh in too heavily on certain moves, like taking Souza rather than holding on to Turner/Ross. I liked the return for Moore on its face, but I don’t know what his actual market value was – could they have gotten more for him, rather than taking a package of players they had previously liked, even though that return is sufficient for what they gave up?

Reeve: Heard any updates on the Twins GM search?
Klaw: That’s not going to go anywhere till September. Anything you hear before then – oh, this guy’s high on their list – is BS.

Max Kellerman: I’m a huge fantasy nerd and am looking to make a couple pickups… I seem to be higher on these five guys than most publications: SP Reid-Foley (TOR), 3B Andujar (NYY), SP Weaver (STL), SP Paddock (SD), 1B Tellez (TOR)… Are you a believer in these guys? Your light being shed would be much appreciated. Thank you.
Klaw: I like Paddack but he’s out with TJ. Reid-Foley is a starter, maybe like a 4th starter in the end. Andujar’s interesting but I don’t think he ends up starting for the Yanks. Weaver still doesn’t have an average breaking ball and Tellez is a DH who can’t hit good velocity.

Darren: Hi Keith, I’m curious if you grill vegetables, do you prefer to put them in aluminum foil to grill and steam or just put them directly on the grill? What is your favorite seasoning for veggies besides salt and pepper? basil? rosemary? a curry mix?
Klaw: Right on the grill, just rub with oil and season with salt and pepper. If the vegetables are good quality they don’t need much seasoning afterwards.

Jeff G.: As the father of 13 year old pitcher, I am very interested to see what your opinion is on the following question. What is the number one red flag for you when scouting high school pitchers? I would assume some something to do with mechanics, but I could be wrong.
Klaw: Bad mechanics, yes, especially for guys who are throwing hard and appear to be expending max effort on their fastballs. That seems to be the worst combination of variables for predicting future injury. If your hat is falling off on every pitch, then you have a problem.

Ya’akov: Curious if you think SF’s Shaw has enough hit tool to be an everyday 1b? Thank you for all the content you create, your work on is what I miss most since cancelling my insider subscription.
Klaw: I don’t. I think he’s power over hit and a mediocre enough defender that he may max out as a 4A guy. Even with that special Giants woo.

Greg P: KLaw – Texas’ Eric Jenkins didn’t make your pre-season Top 10 for the Rangers, but he’s pretty young. Is there anything here that makes you think he’s anything more than a pinch-runner?
Klaw: That’s a little harsh but I don’t think there’s going to be enough hit tool there for him to be a regular.

Kevin w: Ever been to Jamaica?
Klaw: Never been to Jamaica or played the boardgame but I have enjoyed plenty of Appleton rum.

Casey: I know you weren’t high on Harrison Bader when the Cardinals drafted him but he is now up to AAA with success at each level. Do you see him as an average regular or more of at 4th outfielder?
Klaw: Might be an average regular if he’s really got a plus hit tool; he’s had a great pro career so far but he doesn’t have power (or project to have it) or walk that much. I’m still inclined to think he’s an extra guy, but that doesn’t fairly credit him with how well he’s hit so far even with aggressive (and prescient) assignments.

Kevin w: Best player not in the hall but should be (the steroids guys do not count)?
Klaw: Tim Raines’ absence is a joke. Top 100 player of all time.

Andy: Madison Bumgarner is widely recognized as one of the best hitting pitchers. He’s 180/271/328 this season, which is better than his career norms. Prince Fielder, having neck pain and widely being seen as one of the worst hitters in the majors this season, hit 212/294/334. Tell me again why anyone likes seeing pitchers “hit”?
Klaw: The worst part of the Bumgarner mythology is that the Giants are now using him as a pinch hitter when he’s worse than pretty much anyone they could pull off their bench or out of their AAA lineup. Having Bumgarner, a good hitter FOR A PITCHER, is not a substitute for carrying another capable bat on your bench.

Joe: How do you project Rhys Hoskins versus Dylan Cozens moving forward? Hoskins’ splits are exponentially better, so do you see him having a major league career?
Klaw: I also think Hoskins has a better swing, and I’ve said before I was not a fan of Cozens’ character when he was in the draft, so I would rank Hoskins higher … unless you were asking me just about power. I think Cozens has far more raw power than Hoskins does.

Terrence: How much power does Ronald Guzmán have in him? Seems like a 20 HR guy to me, but I’m only scouting the stat line.
Klaw: Potential would be more like 25-30 IMO.

Adam: How do you evaluate a player’s initial return from Tommy John Surgery? Cal Quantrill and Brady Aiken had theirs at essentially the same time but Quantrill’s stuff seems to be coming back much quicker.
Klaw: I don’t. Anything that first year back is a bonus. And a lot of guys don’t get all their velocity or command back right away, so panicking out of the gate would sell them short.

Zach: Between Steven Brault, Chad Kuhl, and Trevor Williams, which one of them has the best chance of making it as a starter and why?
Klaw: I’ll answer with this: if he doesn’t find a pitch to get LHB out I don’t see how Kuhl can be a starter.

Greg: Hi Keith, I have twins turning 5 today, and I was wondering if you have some suggestions for children’s books that start to read like adult books. What age should we start to give them advanced reading and what are some of the better choices to give a child this young that can already read well enough to be challenged. Thanks.
Klaw: Happy birthday to your kids! At that age, my daughter was reading chapter books aimed at early readers, a lot of which were … well, garbage. The two Winnie-the-Pooh books might be appropriate. She’d also reread stuff I’d read with her; Berkeley Breathed’s Mars Needs Moms was a big favorite.

Eric D.: Keith, your thoughts on Benintendi’s promotion and results thus far? Can he develop 25 hr power?
Klaw: I think he has 25 HR power, yes. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did that next year, given 150 starts.

Tim: Was TJ Friedl on your radar at all this year? Does he have MLB potential or is he a bit too small to project in the major leagues?
Klaw: No, he wasn’t even a top 5 rounds candidate in the spring; he had no prior track record and Nevada-Reno’s ballpark is about 4000 feet above sea level. He had his coming-out party with Team USA, using the wood bat, showing some speed, and because he was a free agent he ended up getting something like third-round money, which is probably about right. I don’t think he’s too small; I think he’s about the right risk/reward profile for a third rounder, which is to say if I could redo my draft top 100 now he might just sneak on to the back end of it.

Karl: Willy Adames is having a very solid season at AA as a 20 year old. Do you think he’s a top 20 prospect?
Klaw: I do not.

Aaron: What do you make of the Tommy La Stella ordeal. As a Cubs fan, it does seem to me like he has reason to be mad. However, he had options and Chris Coughlan didnt. At the end of the day its a business and this seems like a very bad business decision for La Stella and puts the Cubs in an awkward spot welcoming him back.
Klaw: I really have no idea. It’s not really a baseball topic.

All of NY: What is Terry Collins doing and why
Klaw: The wrong thing, because reasons.

Dave: Will Matt Thaiss get a chance to play catcher or is he strictly a 1b-only guy?
Klaw: Not a catcher.

Nick: Please tell me Collins hasn’t already ruined Conforto…
Klaw: Ruined is awfully strong. Ruined his season, perhaps, but not his career.

Bobby: Noticed that you’ve previously referred to a player as “just a guy” and “GUY.” What’s the difference? This question is really difficult to Google. Thanks for all of your work!
Klaw: If you say them out loud it makes a little more sense. He’s just a guy (sad trombone) vs he’s a *GUY* (bold italics underline).

zak: I know you always been a huge Giolito fan but would you still say he is the best pitcher in the minors despite his struggles as of late?
Klaw: I would still say he is the best pitching prospect in the minors. You’re being far too recentist, in addition to overweighting the stat line.

Jameson Taillon: Can I be better than Gerrit Cole? My combined minor league and MLB line this year is 104 Ks vs 12 BBs….
Klaw: Better than Peak Cole is awfully good. But I think you can be a top 15-20 pitcher in the NL.

Michael Conforto: What did I do to deserve this?!?
Klaw: I don’t know how you’re gonna get through.

Buck: Should Britton get Cy Young votes?
Klaw: No. It’s stupid season, where people forget that a closer who might not see 70 innings can’t be as good or valuable as even the tenth-best starter in the league who throws 160-plus.

Pramit: SSS and recency bias aside, have you seen anything from Devon Travis that would indicate he’ll be a better player than what you initially projected?
Klaw: Swing is improved and he’s got really good hand-eye coordination.

Mark: Ridiculous sample size aside. The ball seems to bounce off gary sanchezs bat, was his defense behind the plate the only reason he wasn’t a more highly touted prospect?
Klaw: Defense (receiving specifically) and concerns about his work ethic. The latter seems to be over now.

Ryan: In a previous chat you mentioned that if Travis Demeritte were to drastically reduce his K rate, he could be an impact player in the majors. How likely is this, and do any other players come to mind that accomplished that?
Klaw: It’s not THAT likely but he’s athletic with great bat speed and doesn’t have a ton of reps in the minors to date, so it’s a better chance there than with, say, a slow 1b-only type who swings and misses too much.

Tim: Keith – I enjoyed your review of Anomalisa, I only wish I had enjoyed the movie half as much. Without firsthand knowledge of depression, it was hard not to see that character as solipsistic and kind of a bully given the power dynamic between he and everyone else in the film, which he seemingly exploits at every turn. I guess my questions are two: 1) does the film have an obligation to be explicit about his depression (giving your interpretation the benefit of the doubt); and 2) does the character have an obligation to be a decent human despite his malady?
Klaw: I think that’s part of the point. People with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses can be very difficult to be around, to work with, to be married to, etc., because of the way those conditions alter your behavior – which is yet another reason to seek treatment, or to get your loved one to seek treatment, whether that’s individual or family therapy, medication, or more.

Jim: Hi Keith, anything new on Kapreilian? Surgery or no surgery?
Klaw: Good luck getting an answer on an injured Yankees prospect. Russian hackers couldn’t even get you that info.

Mark: Apologies in advance if you answered this and I did not see it but I wanted to get your thoughts on the Jays 6-man rotation re: Aaron Sanchez. Do you agree with this approach? Why or why not?
Klaw: I like that better than simply shutting him down or sending him to a bullpen role that probably doesn’t do anything to reduce the odds of him getting hurt. The idea is to never have him throw a pitch while fatigued, knowing that at this point in the year, fatigue is probably inevitable at some point. A 6-man rotation reduces those odds while still serving the greater goal of winning the division.

Jason: Question about who has to pass through waivers to be traded now (since you didn’t chat last week). Let’s say the Braves claimed Chris Sale and agreed to trade the Shelby Miller package (please ignore the merits; I doubt that would be enough) – Inciarte (in the majors), Blair (in the minors but on the 40-man roster), and Swanson (not on the 40-man roster). I know Inciarte would have to pass through waivers and I believe Swanson would not. What about Blair?
Klaw: Blair’s on the 40-man roster so I’m about 99% certain he would.

Wade: Will you alter your scouting plans because of Zika?
Klaw: It hasn’t come up. I’m not having any more kids so it’s not a huge concern for me. If I were 28, that’d be a different story.

Ted: I keep reading that Matt Chapman as a plus glove and plus power, is his hit tool so poor that it prevents him from being a top 100 prospect? Is he under consideration for the top 100 in your opinion?
Klaw: That’s correct. His hit tool is below-average AND he’s not hitting for average or contact as a 23-year-old in AA.

Patrick: Any interest in the new Dinosaur Jr album? Reviews have been positive
Klaw: I liked the one song I heard.

JD: David Dahl has shown the ability to play at the big league level. Seems like he could be a plus-CF’er in the bigs. Agree?
Klaw: I agree. Have had him rated pretty high ever since he got into pro ball, even just after that first stint in short season. Poor guy just hasn’t been able to stay healthy but the ability has always been there.

Lou: Does Hicks have anything left? Coming into the season I had high hopes. His swing just looks all over the place.
Klaw: I did too. Wouldn’t give up on him but his year is inexcusable – he didn’t hit when he was playing irregularly, then he started playing more and didn’t hit then either. The weird thing is that he’s making plenty of contact, it’s just weak contact, which wasn’t really a thing with him before.

James: How’s the book coming along?
Klaw: It’s coming along, slower than I wanted, but it’ll get done eventually.

Gunnarthor: Can you comment on this. There seems to be some ire in Twins land b/c it was revealed that Dave St. Peter, the team president, doesn’t have an answer for why Jorge Polanco didn’t play short this year in the minors. He said that would be a question better suited for the baseball department. I think that makes sense. The President of the team has a lot of duties and delegates more. He probably shouldn’t have input on something like that. Correct?
Klaw: Right. That’s not his job. If he were a president like Epstein or Friedman, that’d be a different story.

Jim: Hey Keith, I’m looking to buy my wife a sous vide machine for her birthday. Any idea what model I should look at, any tips for using sous vide and any foods in particular that you think come out great using sous vide? Thanks!
Klaw: I have this Anova model and can vouch that it works great.

addoeh: So is Hendricks more of a middle of the rotation guy than a back of the rotation guy?
Klaw: Yep, that’s probably about right.

Alex: Do you actually believe that if she’s President, Hillary will appoint judges who will try to eliminate rulings like Citizens United? Hasn’t she benefited most of all from that ruling with her thirst for pay-to-play schemes and $360k per plate fundraisers?
Klaw: Where have I ever discussed Citizens United or even said much in favor of Hillary? My interest in this election is pretty much about defeating Trump.

Dan: I have a six year old son. I am his adopted dad, my wife is his biological mother. This was always going to be a hard situation, but now I have to worry when watching TV with him that someone will tell him that I am not his “real” father and his “real” father is the asshole that ditched him before he was born. That is why this NBC shit is important to me and other people.
Klaw: Exactly. Thank you.

Ray Grace: Thanks for the recommendation of The Third Plate – really fascinating read. Is Rob Segeden a legit player that got lost because of injury or a 4a type guy?
Klaw: Four A type of guy.

Matthias: Any Baltimore eating recommendations (aside from all of the crab cakes) for me? I’m here for a month for work.
Klaw: I haven’t been but I’ve heard Woodberry Kitchen is fantastic.

Michael: Why do pitchers need to put on jackets when they reach base or run slow if they will likely make an out? These are grown men. Is running hard to first really going to stop you from throwing well in ten minutes?
Klaw: I don’t know the answer to that. I suppose the belief is that it keeps the pitcher’s arm from cooling off too much?

Ryan: Other than the Qualifying Offer, because let’s face it -it’s awful – what is the one other thing you would like to see changed in the new CBA?
Klaw: I think the draft is broken, personally. Severing it from free agents would be step one. I’d also like to see minor leaguers get some rights in this process, like better pay (hah!) or earlier free agency if they’re not put on a 40-man roster.

JEFF: Not much of a question, but more of a comment- Went to Crack Shack in San Diego. Man, that’s some good fried chicken
Klaw: I would not lead you astray. On Kyle Hendricks, maybe, but not on food.

JR: Can Managers regress? IIRC, last year you believed that Collins was an average manager (apologies if I’m not remembering correctly). However, the past couple of weeks, you’ve been very critical of him on twitter (and I agree with you 100%). Do you think he has regressed and is now a horrible manager, or was he a bad manager last year too and the team talent was good enough to out perform his stupidity?
Klaw: Oh he had some moments in the postseason. I don’t remember praising him or criticizing him much at all last year.

John: Hi Keith, regarding the resurgence of Dylan Bundy, he seemed to struggle mightily out of the bullpen earlier this season. Do you think his performance is due to finally being healthier than he has in years or possibly also due to some mechanical adjustments?
Klaw: His arm action is different now, less loose and fluid, and the curveball isn’t what it used to be. But the velocity is good and if he can repeat this delivery without pain then I say go with it. I don’t like seeing him go 90-odd pitches, though, given that he has or had calcification in his shoulder before the season and just a few months ago couldn’t miss bats even out of the pen.

Josh C: Would you try to get value out of Michael Kopech by moving him to reliever and getting him up quickly before he suffers any injury?
Klaw: Need other pitches beyond the fastball for that.

JG: Berrios getting rocked again today. What needs to change?
Klaw: Notice how many pitching prospects – highly ranked ones – have struggled right out of the gate this year? (Michael Fulmer, you may be excused from this discussion.) The ball was already different from the minor league ball anyway; perhaps the juiced ball this year (hat tip, 538) has exacerbated this issue.

Anonymous: any idea about the PTBNL the brewers will be getting from the rangers? Sure would love to see a guy like Guzman or Jurado
Klaw: I don’t think it’s close to that.

Nick: Do you believe Sanchez could be an All Star catcher? 25 Hr’s a year?
Klaw: Yes, I do.

Jay: Mitch Keller or Luke Weaver?
Klaw: Keller, for sure.

Troy: Keith – thoughts on the slow start for Corey Ray? What do you think of the problems Brett Phillips is having?
Klaw: Ray went from college right to high-A, an unusually aggressive assignment especially for a guy who already had some contact issues. I’m not concerned about the performance, but I don’t know that he was ready for the level and then wonder what we’re accomplishing by sending him there.

Jack: Do you believe Will Craig can hit? Above average regular?
Klaw: Can hit a little. Didn’t hit with wood last summer, played in a bandbox this spring. Not an above average regular.

Jason: Thoughts on Patrick Weigel? Big strikeout numbers and a big arm, but he’s 22 in Rome.
Klaw: Yep, can’t take the numbers too seriously. Good arm, but way too old for the level.

Ricky: Has Luiz Gohara turned a corner this yr?
Klaw: Yes, and I’m particularly glad to see it given how much I’ve talked him up in the last four years.

Chris: Bigger boxes like Whole Foods that cater to the non-GMO, organic shopper seem to be fairly polarizing. My friends heap a ton of insults at me because I do most of my shopping there. To be sure, the prices are higher. But I figure that if I can afford to control what goes into my kids’ bodies (right or wrong), that’s not a bad thing. Am I wrong or are my friends?
Klaw: I’d say you’re right in that what food you buy is pretty much your call – and to some extent, shopping at places like WF allows you to reduce the impact of your diet on the environment and to opt out of the Big Ag-driven processed food pyramid. It’s far from perfect, but unless you’re rotating crops in your backyard it’s one of your best bets.

John: Speaking of ruined, what are the M’s doing with Taijuan Walker?
Klaw: Has not been the same since he shortened his stride a few years ago. The breaking ball never came back.

Jacob: Why only one child?
Klaw: Why not?

Scherzer’s Blue Eye: Your ESPN colleague ripped the Nationals for not going all-in on Chapman or Miller. I contend, and as we know I am usually right, that the Nats did much better by getting Melancon for much, much less. Miller and Chapman are better, but the Nats were much smarter. Am I right, as per usual?
Klaw: You are right, this time. I won’t ask who the colleague was because I don’t think I have to.

Nathan: Have you ever read the Lemony Snicket A Series of Unfortunate Events with your daughter? If so, thoughts?
Klaw: I read the first three ages ago and found them bleak and far less funny than I expected, so I haven’t suggested them.

Gus: How does Terry Collins still have a job after saying he didn’t know if Brandon Nimmo was faster than Jay Bruce? These are basic fundamental things about his players that he doesn’t even know!
Klaw: The front office seems completely disinclined to do anything with Collins, even telling him to play Conforto already, until after the season.

Nick: Heyman reported today that the Braves turned down an offer of McCann for Folty and Inciarte. Would you have done that?
Klaw: Hell no.

Marshall: Re: Hillary and Citizens United, the person that posted that comment does not understand what that ruling allowed. Expensive fund raisers were allowed before and after the CU ruling.
Klaw: And since I could not reasonably explain to you what Citizens United really did and did not do, I can’t share an opinion on it.

Jasp: Why is Bellinger a top 100 guy but Willie Calhoun isn’t? They both can hit for power and have about the same avg, is it because Bellinger has a better glove?
Klaw: Bellinger is a year younger, has more power, a way better body, and is a 7 defender at first. You are just looking at the stat lines. Calhoun’s a prospect, yes, but he’s my height, which would put him in the bottom 1% of big leaguers.

JD: Comment on Carlos Gomez. Bat speed diminished or poor approach at the plate. It appears that there has been a decline as even balls that he barrels have stayed in the ball park. Does not appear to have much left in the tank. He can still run, but at 30 years of age, that tool has to be diminishing soon.
Klaw: I think the approach is the biggest issue. If he could corral himself, he’d have some value. The problem for him now is a noncontender has no real incentive to pick him up, since they wouldn’t have any time to flip him anyway, and would a contender see enough value to claim/sign him now and play him?

Dan: Related to adoptions, I also have two kids down the street from me with their grandma because their parents ditched them (they’re cousins, two separate sets of dipshit parents). They still see their parents around the city and know they have other kids that they kept. You can see on their faces how it weighs them down. It’s easy not to think of this stuff when you don’t have to.
Klaw: Exactly. So when this becomes a public issue and Loutwig makes an ass of himself by de facto telling a teenaged girl that she doesn’t know who her parents are, we should stand up for her and all adopted kids and parents and say no, that’s not right.

Rick: I know you were not big on the AJ Minter pick. If he ends up a dominant reliever, was it worth it? Or are you just completely opposed to drafting a pitcher that high with no intent to try them as a starter?
Klaw: I wouldn’t take a pure reliever in the first round, but he wasn’t taken that high (around 75th?), so that’s fine. He was hurt at the time, though, with TJ, and I thought Atlanta paid him way more than they needed to.

Elton: Is Jose Peraza looking like a backup infielder now?
Klaw: Yes, which is why I didn’t have him on my top 100 this past winter.

Tom: Sort of stunning to think about how, at age 26, Ichiro had 0 MLB hits. Makes you wonder what number he’d be sitting at now if he’d debuted in MLB at 19 or 20.
Klaw: Well, it made me think of how nice it would be if MLB’s all-time hits leader was someone we’d actually like to have all over our record books.

Joe: How much coffee do you drink daily? And does the caffeine have any ill effects regarding anxiety?
Klaw: One cup of coffee or a double shot of espresso. That’s it.

Gary: Keith, I’m about a month into trying to lose weight by working out way more and eating better. I’m a total novice with healthy eating though. Where would you recommend I start to learn?
Klaw: Ask your doctor. I don’t know you or your metabolism and what is right for me might be wrong for you. I shouldn’t eat a super-high protein diet because I have an inborn error of metabolism. That might work for you. About the only universal advice I would have on eating is to eat more plants.

Marty: Do you think Addison Russell still becomes a star?
Klaw: Yes, I do. Remember he came up very young, probably a year before he was ready.

Rick: Seriously people – “why one child?” and “when is the second child coming?” questions are rude and intrusive. Don’t ask them. I used to get so tired of them, that I replied to someone out of frustration, “we’d like another, but we can’t afford it” – the look on their face was priceless
Klaw: Incredibly rude. I know someone very well who had her second child in April. You want to ask her why she isn’t planning to have a third and have her tell you, well, I nearly bled to death on the table while my son was being born?

Brent: I saw your write ups on GenCon games. Was that your first time at the event? I’m curious how your overall experience was? (I also live in Indy and enjoy people watching downtown).
Klaw: First time and I had a great two days. Hoping I get to do it again next year for longer.

Joe: Whats so great about Folty and Inciarte that you wouldn’t give them up for an above avg catcher? Two below avg big leaguers for on good one that can handle a young pitching staff and help sell tickets to your new stadium.
Klaw: This is not a good question. Please try again.

Mike: re: TJ Friedl. Was he not on your pre-draft top 100 because he was not highly ranked or because you weren’t aware he was draft eligible?
Klaw: He was not highly rated by scouts. I did not see him. I don’t think Eric did either but you would have to ask him.

Adam: At what point do the Braves pull the plug on Davidson and Riley as hitters and put them on the mound?
Klaw: Little hasty there, Adam.

mcgive_it_to_me: With Ben Cherington being a top candidate for the Twins VP/GM role I hear a lot of about how the good of his Red Sox tenure (developing their system) comes with the bad (free agent signings like Panda). Wouldn’t a lot of that pressure be taken off Cherington in Minnesota where ownership would never mandate him to make splashy free agent signings each winter?
Klaw: He’s not “a top candidate” because I don’t believe they have any candidates lined up.

Jasp: So is Calhoun going to be a Howie Kendrick, Dozier, Kolten Wong, or none of the above?
Klaw: He’s not like any of those guys, really.

Marshall: The JAWS rating system has Utley as a borderline top 10 all time 2b – despite him having a great career I can’t see him smelling the HOF because of voter ignorance, but I think of him as one of the defining players that separates statistically centered analysis versus traditional guys.
Klaw: He was one of the 2 or 3 best players in baseball at one point and I’d be fine with putting him on my ballot if I had the space.

Rick: Did the Dodgers make a mistake by drafting Gavin Lux instead of Delvin Perez?
Klaw: That’s unfair, especially two months out, but really just to call it a “mistake” when Perez’s positive PED test had just come out – and it cast some doubt on the stuff he’d done so well that spring to launch himself into top 5 status.

Jason: Here’s Citizens United in a nutshell. An independent group (Citizens United) produced an anti-Hillary movie in 2008 that they wanted to make available on-demand. The law at the time prevented “electioneering communications” by corporations and unions 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election. The Supreme Court held that, as long as the communication was independent (i.e., not coordinated with a campaign), that restriction violated the First Amendment. Because it was independent, there could not be quid pro quo corruption or appearance thereof (which is basically the only justification for campaign finance laws under Supreme Court jurisprudence)
Klaw: Yeah, campaign finance laws are one of those topics I probably just shouldn’t talk about because I don’t know anything about it. (Cue people asking why I talk about baseball, then!)

Andrew: Any Astros position prospects have a decent chance of helping the club in 2017 – Teoscar, Fisher, someone else?
Klaw: In a significant way? It’s Bregman and Reed. Not sure who else or where such a player might play.

Junior: Have you heard anything on Cal Quantrill? Looks like he’s had a couple impressive starts in Tri city.
Klaw: Everything I’ve heard has been very positive. Stuff, delivery, athleticism. Could end up being the best guy from the draft, which was what he was supposed to be before he got hurt.

Byron: I’m back in Rochester cuz I stink. Everybody else has given me advice so what say you?
Klaw: Stay there and hope either Molitor & staff are replaced or that you’re traded to an organization better equipped to develop you as a hitter.

Klaw: That’s all for this week’s chat – thank you all for reading and for all of the questions! I’ll be back next Thursday at the regular time.


All of my GenCon wrap-up pieces for Paste are now up, including the top ten new games I saw, the summary of every other interesting title, and an essay on the experience of attending for the first time.

Richard Price is back in the news these days with the critical acclaim for the HBO limited series The Night Of, an adaptation of a British series, with Price as lead writer on the U.S. version. (I’m only through episode three, but it’s excellent.) Price isn’t new to HBO, writing five episodes of The Wire, and gritty urban stories are his milieu in literature as well, with his 2008 novel Lush Life one of the best novels of the century so far. I just tore through his 1992 novel Clockers, later adapted by Spike Lee into a film that also featured The Night Of‘s John Turturro, an unsparing, compelling portrait of both sides of the pointless battle in the war on drugs.

Set in Price’s fictional Dempsey, New Jersey, Clockers focuses on two primary characters, the low-level drug dealer Ronald Dunham, known as “Strike,” and the homicide detective Rocco Klein, who end up on a collision course when another dealer who works for the same person as Strike is shot and killed execution-style, and Strike’s clean-cut brother Victor surprises everyone by confessing to the crime. Klein doesn’t buy the confession, and Strike is certain Victor is covering for him (even though Strike was assigned to make the kill, he wasn’t able to follow through), so each is, in his own way, trying to get Victor off the hook without knowing who actually committed the murder.

Price’s gift in his work is his ability to create entire universes populated with a variety of realistic, distinct characters from the kids known as “clockers” working the street for Strike and his boss to the mixture of homicide and drug cops, some of whom are incredibly bigoted, to the handful of extras whose lives intersect with Strike’s and Rocco’s. There’s substantial balance in all of his portraits, avoiding the cliched cops-good-clockers-bad mentality without losing sight of the murder that set the entire story in motion, so that the reader feels empathy for the “bad” guys and plenty of antipathy for some of the “good” ones. While Klein and his partner are flawed, they’re relatively well-behaved compared to the street cops responsible for policing the drug trade at the housing project where Strike works, and Price gives us racist cops, cops on the take, drunk cops, and okay maybe the cops don’t come off too well in Clockers, perhaps worse in a lot of ways than the majority of the clockers, most of whom are kids, come off.

If there’s a message in the novel at all, and I could see Price arguing there isn’t one, it’s that the drug trade exists because of the lack of other opportunities for poor urban youth. There’s a constant dialogue among the clockers, including Strike, his boss Rodney, Strike’s brother Victor, Strike’s intended protege Tyrone, Tyrone’s surrogate dad Andre the Giant, and so on, about the limited alternatives to dealing. School is barely mentioned, and only with disdain. Young black men who work regular jobs, like Victor, are respected, but Strike et al see the brighter financial outlook from dealing and decline to take the difficult, legal route. Andre, a cop who tries to mentor some of the at-risk kids in the projects, especially Tyrone, is respected and feared, and is known to use violence to make his will known because that’s the language that works. He might be the closest thing Clockers has to a “good guy,” except that he’ll use extrajudicial means to protect the kids he’s trying to help, and the other kids are terrified of him, so if that’s your good guy … well, then you get the gist.

Price doesn’t moralize much anywhere in the book, though; this is dispassionate, plot-driven writing, and even an easy target like the wastefulness of the War on Drugs doesn’t get a whiff. (The book was published in 1992, when drug decriminalization was only far-left hippie talk.) The only time he goes astray is in the scenes of Klein’s home life; he’s an older first-time father, struggling to balance the amorphous time demands of his job with the desire to be a father and a wife who may or may not understand how his job works (he thinks she doesn’t, but we don’t really get her side of this). It’s thinly drawn, especially the characterization of the wife, but also because we don’t see enough of his family relationships to get more out of it than that he loves his daughter and is thinking about the future after his career as a detective. That’s the difference between this novel and the superior Lush Life, by which point Price had honed his plot development skills so that the scenes off the streets were every bit as compelling as the scenes on them.

Next up: Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, the first novel in her Neapolitan Novels tetralogy.

Everybody Wants Some!!

My first GenCon wrap-up post for Paste covers the top ten new boardgames at this year’s convention.

I wasn’t sure about seeing Everybody Wants Some!! (amazoniTunes), Richard Linklater’s 2016 movie about a college baseball team set in 1980, because baseball-themed films are generally quite terrible and I was concerned this might be a big bro-movie too. The indispensable Grierson & Leitch podcast convinced me to see it anyway when both critics put it on their top six movies of 2016 to date, and when Will Leitch said it’s only tangentially a baseball movie anyway (which is true). As it turns out, the movie is more of a slice-of-life portrait than any kind of baseball story, and it’s witty and endearing, full of memorable lines and characters, without getting too sentimental or losing its pacing.

There’s little plot to speak of in Everybody Wants Some!!, so Linklater has to keep the dialogue moving to keep the movie from dragging, but the script must have looked liked the one from His Girl Friday given how little silence there is anywhere in the film. (If no one is talking, it’s because there’s music playing, and if there’s music playing, there’s probably someone singing or rapping along with it.) We start with the arrival of Jacob (Blake Jenner), a freshman pitcher who was second-team All-State as a Texas high schooler, at the two off-campus houses where Southeast Texas State University’s baseball team resides, which also serves as a rapid-fire introduction to most of Jacob’s new teammates, led by the garrulous intellectual Finn (Glen Powell) and frat-boyish bro McReynolds (Tyler Hoechlin, former ASU baseball player and a dead ringer for Angel Eyes from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in this film). Within a few minutes, Jacob is in the car with four of his teammates – Finn, Dale (J. Quinton Johnson, the only African-American player on the team), Roper (Ryan Guzman), and another freshman, slow-witted catcher Plummer (Temple Baker) – heading out on the prowl while doing a Bohemian Rhapsody-esque take on “Rapper’s Delight.” Their brief cruise puts Jacob in contact with Beverly (Zoey Deutch), the film’s only substantial female character; his brief courtship of Beverly is the closest thing the movie has to an actual narrative, a meet-cute subplot that takes up maybe 10% of the movie.

From there we follow the boys – and the film makes it clear that these are boys who just look like men – from one party to the next, with only a little bit of action on the field, and a few hilarious scenes at the house (including the stoner/hippie Willoughby trying to exchange thoughts telepathically with Dale, Jacob, and Plummer). There’s no real direction but “forward,” so the film ends up driven by its characters and dialogue, the latter of which sparkles whenever Finn or Dale takes center stage, Finn for his rapid-fire delivery and vocabulary full of $20 words, Dale for his note-perfect delivery and spot-on facial expressions. The only character of the dozen or so we meet who misses the mark is Jay Niles, played by Huston Street’s brother Juston, a bombastic, tightly wound pitcher who claims he throws 95, was drafted by the Blue Jays, and calls himself “Raw Dog” … because he’s the raw dog. It’s all caricature, no nuance in a cast of characters who otherwise have some two-dimensionality.

Linklater captures the time and place of Everybody Wants Some!! perfectly between the music, the clothes, the hair, and the dialogue, and takes advantage of it in ways that he couldn’t if the movie were set closer to today. There’s some mild hazing of the freshmen, at least one part of which would be completely unacceptable today, and the boys’ attitudes towards women are definitely a product of their time. The sexual liberation of the 1970s is still in full swing with no thought of STDs, let alone the virus that changed the landscape in the following decade. The script takes full advantage of the liberties of its milieu, giving us comic moments that would be unsettling (or just offensive) in a contemporary setting.

Five or ten years from now, we’ll look at Everybody Wants Some!! as the starting point of the careers of a number of these actors, especially Powell and Johnson, each of whom grabs hold of the viewer’s attention whenever they get the opportunity. Johnson manages to be hammy the way a college kid plays for laughs without ever seeming to be “acting” so, and he gets extra points for writing the music for the rap song that airs with the closing credits. (He told me on Twitter that the actors each wrote their own verses.) Powell takes dialogue that would sound ridiculous out of just about any character’s mouth and infuses it with charisma that manage to make it just believable enough to fly in a film where no one else talks in a way remotely resembling his hifalutin speech. I wish Deutch had had more to do than to stand around and look cute; she gets two little moments to act, and the one at the costume party near the end of the film showed some comic chops that might have come in handy elsewhere in the movie.

Doing that would have gone against the ethic of Everybody Wants Some!!, though, since at heart this is a smart “bro” movie, one that neither celebrates the idiocy of young men nor mocks them for the same. Instead it celebrates camaraderie with a heavy dose of nostalgia, hitting that moment right before you realize that your life choices might be limited, that the dream you’ve always chased might not come true, and that there are also new possibilities you hadn’t previously imagined. Linklater’s script is never maudlin, even in moments where the characters almost acknowledge that their baseball careers are probably stopping here on campus, and the humor doesn’t stop long enough for the mood to turn bittersweet. It’s a bunch of guys who are living in the moment and having a good time in that brief span of post-adolescence where you have yet to hit adult maturity, and while I didn’t see myself in any of these characters, it still evoked that memory of being part of a big group of people with nothing more in mind than having fun.

Stick to baseball, 8/6/16.

Seems like it’s been a lot more than a week since my last links post, since I’ve traveled twice in the interim. Here are all of the Insider pieces I wrote in that span, all of which relate to the trade deadline:

How the Yankees’ rebuild gives them a top 3 farm system
The Liriano/Hutchison trade
The Matt Moore trade
The Jay Bruce trade
The Lucroy trade
The Will Smith and Zach Duke trades
The Carlos Beltran trade
The Reddick/Hill trade
The Andrew Miller trade
The Melancon trade

My review of Quadropolis, the fun new city-building game from Days of Wonder, is also up over at Paste. It’s a little more complex than Ticket to Ride (DoW’s biggest title), but my daughter, who’s now 10, loved it. There are many ways to score, so it’s a game of choosing two or three of those paths to focus on rather than trying to do a little of everything.

There was no chat this week due to travel, and I’ll be taking the beginning of this week off to work on my book, returning to ESPN duties on Thursday (and chatting as well).

And now, the links:

  • HTTPS is now now vulnerable to a new exploit. This is kind of a big deal because the “s” is supposed to mean that the connection is secure.
  • The Rio Olympics are probably going to be a disaster, and the IOC is a corrupt mess, but the inclusion of a separate team of athletes who are refugees was one of the IOC’s most noble decisions in ages. One of those ten athletes is a Syrian swimmer who swam for three hours to push her refugee boat to safety, saving the lives of 20 other refugees in the process.
  • This week, vaccines and the Presidential race collided in a big way, as delusional Green Party candidate Jill Stein continued to pander to the anti-vaxer movement with equivocations so broad the Porter in Macbeth thought she was overdoing it. She’s wrong, and so is snopes’ defense of her statements, according to the important pro-science (and anti-pseudoscience) blog Skeptical Raptor.
  • Stein’s moment of science denial means Hillary Clinton is the only one of the four candidates who hasn’t pandered to anti-vaxers. This is important, because if you think people who believe something so monumentally stupid as this anti-vaxer bullshit are a constituency you can and should capture, I’m not voting for you.
  • The Sacramento Bee, a paper in a state where I’d guess Stein has some support, also ran an op ed calling her view disingenuous.
  • On to the election … Meg Whitman, a politically active Republican who ran for governor of California on the GOP ticket, has chosen to support Hillary Clinton with her money and her time, because she views Trump as a dangerous demagogue, comparing him to Hitler and Mussolini and – the part I both liked and agree with – “warned that those who say that ‘it can’t happen here’ are being naïve. I connected the Sinclair Lewis book of that name to Trump back in March.
  • The former head of the CIA quit his job at CBS and endorsed Clinton, explaining why he believes she’s the right choice for our national security in this first-person op ed.
  • In the left-wing British newspaper The Guardian, columnist Nick Cohen writes that the cowardice of other Republicans has allowed Trump to get this far. This isn’t the GOP of Ronald Reagan, nor is it the GOP for whose candidates I have voted dozens of times in federal, state, and local elections since I first gained the vote in 1991.
  • I thought this was the best political-comedy tweet of the week:

  • Let’s move on to food, including this piece from 2015 on how resting the meat improves barbecue, even when the resting time is a few hours.
  • I missed this outstanding piece from the New York Times when it first ran in October, on genetics Ph.D. and wheat breeder Stephen Jones, called Bread is Broken, which explains how our wheat and thus our bread has become so much less nutritious over the last two centuries, and how we might fix it.
  • I’ve saved this recipe for watermelon rind preserves with ginger and lemon to make the next time we buy a whole melon.
  • The nation’s third-largest poultry producer is defying rising concerns and even a CDC warning about prophylactic use of antibiotics in our food chain, even running ads bragging that they still use these drugs. Antibiotic resistance is as real as evolution – the latter causes the former, inevitably – and this is flat-out irresponsible. But I’m glad they’re outing themselves so I can try to avoid their products.
  • Remember when I was horribly sick in January with a fever of 101+ for six straight days? The drug that finally defeated the infection was Levoquin, part of a class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones, but those drugs have some nasty side effects, including tendon damage. WHO considers these antibiotics an essential medicine, one of the most effective drugs against gram-negative bacteria, but more doctors need to reserve them, as my doctor did, until other safer antibiotics have failed.
  • Germany’s Condor Airlines has started a “book on board” program that grants travelers an extra kilogram of weight allowance if they show a sticker from their local bookseller.
  • Jess Luther has done great work on the systemic problem of coddling college athletes who rape women, especially the rampant corruption in Baylor’s football program. Her book on the topic is coming out this fall and here’s her first interview about it.
  • In a related story, the University of Florida appointed a booster of the football program to adjudicate a Title IX hearing on a rape case involving Gator football players.
  • Deadspin reports on the opening hostilies in the battle over the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark boondoggle. The City Council of Arlington approved the stadium proposal 7-0 despite no evidence whatsoever of economic benefit and some early signs of public dissent.
  • ISIS has become a hot-button term in our Presidential election, but that doesn’t change what they are, the evil the Daesh do in Syria and Lebanon, or their attempts to sow terror in Europe. This piece on how they’re kidnapping and training child soldiers will chill your soul.
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan is facing an opponent in the Republican primary for his seat. This wouldn’t be notable except that his opponent wondered aloud why we allow any Muslims to be in our country.

Music update, July 2016.

I don’t know if this was a weak month for new music or if I was just too busy to find as much of it as I normally do; either way this is a shorter-than-normal playlist, but anything I didn’t discover in July will just have to come find me in August. If the embedded panel doesn’t work you can access the Spotify playlist directly instead.

The Naked And Famous – Higher. I’ve liked most of the Naked & Famous’ output to date, including this anthemic new single, but they also seem to me like CHVRCHES without the charisma of Lauren Mayberry. N&F’s lead singer Alisa Xayalith does her job, and the group’s lyrics typically bring a few clever flourishes, but for whatever reason her voice doesn’t compel you to listen. “Higher” is their most radio-friendly track since “Young Blood,” though, and I’m hopeful they’ll get some crossover airplay.

Jagwar Ma – O B 1. Jagwar Ma is among the leading lights of Australian indie pop, with drawn-out takes on spacey psycheledic pop music. Their first hit “Save Me” appeared in 2011, followed by a full-length album in 2013. This track appears to be the first ahead of their second album, and it’s just as weird and spaced-out as their work to date, almost defying you to grab hold of its twisted melody.

ELEL – When She Walks. ELEL – again with the all caps, although I suppose Elel might look odd – is a pop octet (yep) from Nashville led by Ben Elkins, with a sort of roots-rock element to its instrumentation and arrangements. I kind of liked their debut single last year, “40 Watt,” but this is much catchier and the instrumental bridges elevate the song well above your standard alt-pop track.

Biffy Clyro – Howl. Biffy Clyro is a band name you could only get away with if you were from Scotland, but this trio is, so it’s all good. Once an experimental rock act, they’ve gone indie-pop as they’ve gotten older, with this track reminiscent of another Scottish power-pop act, Teenage Fanclub. Their seventh album, Ellipsis, is due in September.

Local Natives – Fountain Of Youth. Good Local Natives have a little more tension, almost a yearning, the way “Heavy Feet” stood out from the overall mellow Hummingbird album. This song, like “Past Lives” earlier this year, has me cautiously optimistic about their upcoming album Sunlit Youth.

HUNGER – Amused. HUNGER (stylized in all capitals because reasons) is an Austrian electronic pop trio about to release its second album, which is a deep throwback to the post-new wave synthpop era – mid-period Depeche Mode, for example. They also really remind me of Cause & Effect, a band I don’t even know that well.

Jeff Beck – Right Now. Jeff Beck’s guitar work, both technical proficiency and his ability to craft compelling riffs, is incredible for someone in his ’70s, and while the vocals of Rosie Bones are a distraction here I’m still buying in to hear Beck’s fretwork.

Wild Beasts – Tough Guy. Wild Beasts are huge critical darlings in the U.K. but are probably too strange and artsy to find much of a following here; if you’re a fan of alt-J or Everything Everything, then you’d probably enjoy their work, which has a heavy electronic component and plays around with song structures. It’s also very distinctly British, which I consider a positive but others may not.

Zhu – Palm of My Hand. Stephen Zhu had one of my favorite songs of last year with “Hold Up Wait a Minute,” an inspired collaboration with Bone Thugs N’ Harmony and Trombone Shorty, but the California-based DJ and producer’s output is so all over the place I haven’t found another song I’ve liked from him until this almost completely instrumental electronic track, which starts with a melodic guitar solo before spacing out with a mournful piano riff, mostly over a throbbing drum-and-bass line. Zhu’s debut album, Generationwhy, came out last Friday.

Of Montreal – it’s different for girls. These guys are delightfully bizarre; their sound doesn’t always come together for me, but when it does they make some of the most unique alternative pop music out there. Lead singer Kevin Barnes’ lyrics don’t always rhyme, and they cover topics not typically found in pop music. His delivery is over-enunciated and effeminate. The song structures vary from track to track and often fall apart mid-song, like Barnes forgot where he started and didn’t bother to go back to it. This song, which is like a psychedelic reimagining of a vintage Blur track, is the lead single ahead of their album Innocence Reaches, due out August 12th.

Prophets Of Rage – Prophets Of Rage. Prophets of Rage are a supergroup that could easily end up a disaster – the three musicians from Rage Against the Machine together with Chuck D (Public Enemy) and B Real (Cypress Hill). On the plus side, either one of those guys would represent an upgrade over Zack de la Rocha. On the minus side, this could end up some cliche-ridden rap-rock. This lead single, bearing the band’s title, is probably a 55: above average, better than I’d feared, not as good as it might have been 20 years ago.

Pixies – Um Chagga Lagga.


Nani – I Am Volcano. This LA-based quartet, featuring a singer born in Bosnia and raised in Canada, just dropped this lead single in June, a manic punk rush powered by lead singer Nina’s tumbling, vaguely poetic lyrics.

Descendents – Beyond The Music. The Descendents are pretty much an automatic inclusion on these lists; they’re older but they haven’t grown up musically, just in their lyrics (like “No Fat Burger,” an ode to fighting high cholesterol). Their new album Hypercaffium Spazzinate features twenty-one mostly short, mostly similar tracks, but there are a half-dozen with melodies just a bit better than the rest, including this one, “Without Love,” and “On Paper.”

JEFF The Brotherhood – Idiot. I saw JEFF (grr) the Brotherhood in Tempe in 2012 with Nick Piecoro. They were … adequate. Kind of loud, not very hooky, but “Idiot” definitely brings the hook without materially changing their heavy guitar/drum sound (think Drenge, Royal Blood, and all these other rock duos mining the same formula).