Stick to baseball, 3/4/17.

No new Insider content this week, although I believe I’ll have a new piece up on Tuesday, assuming all goes to plan. I did hold a Klawchat on Thursday.

My latest boardgame review for Paste covers Mole Rats in Space, a cooperative game for kids from the designer of Pandemic and Forbidden Desert. It’s pretty fantastic, and I think if you play this you’ll never have to see Chutes and Ladders again.

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

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Stick to baseball, 2/18/17.

For Insiders, I ranked the top prospects for 2017 impact, although we later removed Alex Reyes from the list now that he’s out for the year. I held my regular Klawchat on Thursday.

On the boardgame front, I reviewed the light family-friendly game Imhotep for Paste this week; it was one of the runners-up for the Spiel des Jahres last year, losing to Isle of Skye. Last week, over at Vulture, I wrote about some of the best games for couples.

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

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Stick to baseball, 2/11/17.

No Insider content this week – you’ve had plenty, so don’t get greedy. I did hold a Klawchat on Thursday.

For Paste, I reviewed the asymmetrical two-player game The Blood of an Englishman, which is based on Jack and the Beanstalk. I also returned to Vulture with a post on eight great boardgames for couples, in honor of Valentine’s Day.

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

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  • Detroit Tigers owner and Little Caesars founder Mike Ilitch passed away yesterday. Here’s a 2016 piece on the hidden cost of cheap pizza, where reducing prices often means taking it out of workers’ pockets.
  • One of the best longreads of the week covered how a Huntington, West Virginia, school official improved school lunches contrary to the meddling efforts of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
  • Another great longread: how a young Wikipedia editor/admin is fighting back against misogynist trolls on the site.
  • Eater has a longread, more a collection of shorter pieces than a single story, on the things people will do to hunt and pick rare mushrooms.
  • As much as I crush the NCAA for some of its policies, they’re leading the fight against anti-LGBT discrimination right now, including a threatened six-year boycott of North Carolina that would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business over that state’s hate bill HB2, which prevents local governments from passing laws or ordinances protecting LGBT citizens from discrimination.
  • There’s a potential famine brewing in sub-Saharan Africa thanks to the spread of the fall armyworm, which is devastating crops in Zimbabwe already and may be present in six other African countries. We can talk about organic agriculture all we want, but if a synthetic pesticide stops this worm, it’ll save millions of lives.
  • Speaking of which, Dr. Paul Offit wrote about how Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring cost millions of lives too, because DDT, while clearly bad for the environment as a broad-use pesticide, is extremely effective at stopping the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria.
  • Betsy DeVos was confirmed this week as Secretary of Education, but let’s recall the damage she did in Michigan with her charter-school endeavors. I’ve said on here before that I favor at least some school choice, but school choice is not a panacea for underperforming public schools, and her appointment is a potential disaster for public education in this country.
  • TIME became (I think) the first major publication to run an editorial arguing that it’s time to impeach President Trump. Meanwhile, good journalism keeps coming from unexpected outlets, like Vogue highlighting five things Trump is doing now but for which he attacked Hillary Clinton during the campaign.
  • Buy stock in telecom giants? The new FCC is going to kill off net neutrality, opening those quasi-monopolies up for greater power to squeeze money from content providers and consumers.
  • Meanwhile, Republicans across the country are fighting to restrict voting rights, moves that are likely to help their candidates in 2018 and beyond. If you live in such a state, make your voice heard now, before it’s silenced.
  • Why did House Republicans block a vote on a resolution stating that the Holocaust targeted Jews? Are they so beholden to party that they wouldn’t even vote on a fact?
  • John Yoo, who was Justice Department official under President George W. Bush and advocated heavy use of executive orders, wrote that President Trump has taken executive power too far. This is like Tony Larussa saying a manager uses too many relievers. And a former National Security Council member also wrote for the New York Times that Steve Bannon shouldn’t be on the NSC.
  • Are Trump’s opponents falling into his ‘trap’ with their outrage? I don’t know that I agree with this National Review piece’s conclusions, but it’s worth considering that there are still many voters who will nod their heads at his populist moves without considering their consequences.
  • Is Trump’s fight against the judiciary his Watergate? I doubt it, although there are some parallels.
  • Marco Rubio has moments where he appears to be one of the few GOP leaders willing to oppose the President or stake out a position near the center, including a little-heard speech he gave this week on the demise of civil disagreements. That’s great, Marco; now vote against your party’s President on something that matters.
  • Meanwhile, the GOP continues to use the term “fake news” to keep up its attacks on respected, objective journalism outlets, such as Alabama representative Mo Brooks calling the Washington Post fact-checkers “fake news” for pointing out that his voter fraud claims were, well, fraudulent.
  • Ah, North Dakota, where two Republican legislators said in session that women should spend Sundays taking care of their husbands. Will they face any electoral consequences for this? I doubt it.
  • Vaccines! There are over 400 mumps cases in Washington State’s outbreak. That’s why Peter Hotez, Ddirector of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, can say that the anti-vaxxers are “winning” in another NYT editorial. (I subscribed to the Times online in the fall, mostly to keep these posts going, because they are producing some tremendous content across the board right now.)
  • If you saw the Daily Mail piece claiming that politicians had been hoodwinked by falsified climate-change data, well, don’t read the Daily Mail, as it’s become an unreliable source on any economic, political, or scientific topic. And the story was utter nonsense.
  • Former Top Chef contestant Mark Simmons of NYC’s Kiwiana made his feelings on the Muslim ban quite clear with a pro-immigration message printed on his restaurant’s receipts.
  • Is artisanal chocolate the next big food trend along the lines of craft beer and coffee? I’m a little skeptical, and this piece glosses over chocolate’s big sourcing issue (there’s a lot of child labor and de facto slavery in the cacao supply chain), but I think there’s a market here for better chocolate that can make consumers feel better about what they’re eating.
  • An Intelligentsia Coffee staffer wrote this informative post on why we steep tea but brew coffee.
  • The British Academy of Film and Television Arts has published research on how to help women and people of color in the film industry, a sort of response to the #OscarsSoWhite criticisms we’ve heard the last few years. (The Oscar nominees are much more diverse this year, quelling such complaints for the moment.) It gets more at the root of the problem than the attacks on the Academy Awards do – you won’t see women nominated for Best Director if women are rarely hired as directors or if their films struggle to find funding or distribution. There were few acclaimed movies in 2016 directed by women; I think the best-reviewed was Certain Women, which received very little distribution at all.
  • Is mining asteroids an essential part of our future? I think it is, in some sense, although I’m surprised this piece doesn’t mention iridium, a critical element in manufacturing electronics; it’s believed most of the iridium on earth came from the meteor or comet that caused the K/T extinction event.
  • Vice’s Noisey asked a person with synaesthesia what several songs “taste” like to him. Synaesthesia is a rare brain function where senses ‘cross;’ Vladimir Nabokov had it. I don’t have this, but I do associate all twelve months with certain colors, because when I was maybe five my mom had a Peanuts calendar hanging in our laundry room where January, May, and September were colored in red; February, June, and October in blue; March, July, and November in green; and April, August, and December in yellow. Those months still have those colors to me today.
  • Humor: This New Yorker fake-dialogue post called “I Work from Home” hit a little close, especially as I’m writing this post at 10:30 am on Saturday while still in my pajamas.

Stick to baseball, 1/14/17.

I’ve been writing Top 100 stuff (and making related phone calls) all week, so the only content I wrote that didn’t appear here on the dish was my review of the boardgame DOOM, an adaptation of the 1990s first-person shooter video game and an update of an earlier attempt to make a boardgame of it.

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

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Stick to baseball, 12/10/16.

I wrote a bunch of stuff this week to cover all the major transactions before and during the winter meetings, including:

The Cardinals signing Dexter Fowler
The Yankees signing Aroldis Chapman
The Nationals’ trade for Adam Eaton
The Cubs/Royals trade with Wade Davis and Jorge Soler
The Rockies signing Ian Desmond
The Rays signing Wilson Ramos
The Red Sox trading for Chris Sale
The Red Sox trading for Tyler Thornburg
The Giants signing Mark Melancon
The Yankees signing Matt Holliday
The Astros signing Carlos Beltran

I also held a Klawchat on Friday afternoon.

Over at Paste, I reviewed Terraforming Mars, one of the best new boardgames of 2016, and one that will place high on my ranking of the top ten games of the year when that’s published in the next few days.

You can preorder my upcoming book, Smart Baseball, on amazon. Also, please sign up for my more-or-less weekly email newsletter.

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Stick to baseball, 12/3/16.

I had a couple of Insider pieces this week, on the trade of Jaime Garcia to Atlanta, the Cespedes contract, the trade of Alex Jackson to Atlanta, and my proposal for an international draft (written before the CBA negotiations ended). I also held a Klawchat on Thursday.

My latest boardgame review for Paste covers Grifters, a “deckbuilder without a deck” that I thought played a little too mechanically.

You can preorder my upcoming book, Smart Baseball, on amazon. Also, please sign up for my more-or-less weekly email newsletter.

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Stick to baseball, 11/12/16.

I ranked the top 50 free agents available this offseason, for Insiders; once these guys start signing, I’ll post reaction pieces as appropriate. My annual offseason buyers guide series started on Friday with the outfield market; the infielders guide will go up today, followed by relievers Sunday and starters on Monday. I wrote an overview of the potential for big trades this winter, given the weak free agent class.

I held my regular Klawchat on Thursday, but there will be no chat this upcoming week.

My latest boardgame review for Paste covers Cones of … I mean, Council of Blackthorn, a pretty good backstabbing game that I think has one major mechanical flaw.

I also updated my all-time favorite boardgame rankings, which now runs to 100 titles. I think that’s plenty, even with the 40-50 or so I try each year for review purposes.

  • I’m going to start this week with reactions to the election of Donald Trump and the Republicans’ de facto control of all three branches of the federal government (assuming they fill the SCOTUS vacancy with one of their own). If you read just one story about the election, make it this one, on how the GOP’s attack on voting rights may have delivered them the White House. If you support the erosion of the voting rights of American citizens, you stand in opposition to a fundamental principle of the modern democracy. Rolling the clock back to the time of poll taxes and literacy tests just to get your guy elected is wrong, and every one of us should be willing to see a candidate we oppose elected if that is the cost of letting everyone who is eligible to vote have the opportunity to vote. If you live in one of the fourteen states that worked to restrict voting rights, you need to stand up now for yourself and for your neighbors.
  • Rod Dreher, senior editor of the American Conservative, called this America’s front-porch revolt. Michael Moore, of all people, predicted the Trump victory months ago and I think he’s correct about the economic insecurity that drove it. (His five-point “plan” for Democrats is a little light on details.) Glenn Greenwald points out that this was partly the result of politicians’ refusal to heed the lessons of Brexit, that (my words here) economic insecurity and self-interest will trump (pun intended) a lot of other concerns. Esquire‘s Charles Pierce is just plain confused by it all. David Remnick of the New Yorker called Trump’s victory an American tragedy. Unlike the book of that name, however, this won’t be boring, even if the ending is just as awful.
  • Garrison Keillor says Trump’s core voters won’t like what happens next; I suspect he’s right about much of this. Amanda Taub of the New York Times calls the win the rise of white populism, using social science research to identify three driving factors there – fear of outsiders, fear of physical attacks, and the collapse of “white identity.”
  • Even Leslie Knope weighed in, with her usual dose of wide-eyed optimism after despair.
  • A Muslim-American woman wrote for the Washington Post why she voted for Donald Trump. It’s an eloquent, thoughful piece, although I wish I shared her lack of concern over civil rights matters.
  • Climate Central says we’re fucked. Scientists in general are stunned and dismayed as the most anti-science President in our nation’s history is set to control the EPA, the NSF, the USDA … okay, that one sucks, but you get the idea.
  • The Guardian wrote before the election how journalists face “tough choices” when climate science deniers are elected. No, they don’t. You fucking hit them with the truth every time. There is no ‘both sides’ here, like there’s no both sides on evolution or vaccinations. If politicians, elected or appointed, deny the truth of climate change, then it is the media’s responsibility to stick to the truth rather than play along for their jobs’ sakes.
  • Did third-party voters cost Hillary the election? I find this piece overly speculative, since some of those voters may have stayed home rather than vote for either major-party candidate, but if you consider the issue of, say, Hillary failing to convince Jill Stein supporters to come vote for her, there’s merit in the examination.
  • “A KKK-endorsed man who openly bragged about assaulting women has risen to power by stoking rural, white Americans’ fears, and, come January, every branch of the federal government will belong to him and his allies.” Ann Friedman at the Cut tells voters angry over the results what to do now.
  • North Carolina’s HB2, the so-called “bathroom bill” that also created a statewide ban on ordinances protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination, may have cost Republican Governor Pat McCrory re-election. The race is close enough that provisional ballots must still be counted, so it’s not quite over yet. Yet despite this, Trump took North Carolina, in part by suppressing the African-American vote.
  • Kavitha Davidson, my colleague at the magazine and ESPNW, wrote about being a rape survivor, including a graphic description of how invasive the examination is at the hospital after the fact, for those of you who still think women just make this shit up for kicks.
  • The best longread of the week, election or otherwise, was the New Yorker‘s piece on the failing state of Venezuela, which has implications for baseball, oil, and global security. Hugo Chavez was a disaster, but his death has left the country even worse off.
  • The mother of comedian and writer Harris Wittels, who wrote for and appeared on Parks and Recreation, writes about her son’s long battle with and death from heroin addiction.
  • Astronomers around the world will collaborate in the spring of 2017 to try to take the first picture of a black hole. That’s tricker than it sounds, since nothing, not even light, can escape the black hole’s gravitational pull within its event horizon.
  • Researchers in Queensland, Australia, are trying to develop the first ‘vaccines’ for food allergies. With such allergies on the rise in the developed world, this could be a lifesaving invention for millions of people.
  • California voters rejected Proposition 60, which would have required porn stars to wear condoms on screen, but was opposed by public health groups as well as the industry itself as a backdoor (pun unintended) attempt to drive the industry out of state.
  • Does Trader Joes force its employees to act too cheerful? The New York Times explores some employee complaints about the privately-held retailer, which enjoys a cult following on both coasts (of which I am very much a member).
  • The NY Times article from last week claiming GM crops didn’t deliver promised results was flawed, but so were some responses to it, in part because of misunderstandings of the technology itself.
  • The Times also had an article just before the election on Latina hotel workers gaining a political voice in Nevada, one of the only swing states to end up on Clinton’s side on Tuesday. The article is extremely well-written and even David Simon praised its kicker at the end.
  • The BBC visits a private radio station in Damascus, still playing music and sharing news in the midst of the country’s devastating civil war.
  • A new strain of meningococcal disease is on the rise in Australia, raising calls for the relevant vaccine to become part of that country’s required list of childhood vaccinations.

Stick to baseball, 11/5/16.

My big news this week was the formal announcement of my upcoming book, Smart Baseball, which will be released in April of 2017. I have gotten many requests from readers over the years for a recommendation of a book to let them get up to speed on ‘new’ stats, and since the book on that topic didn’t exist, I decided to try to write it. You can pre-order it via amazon and other sites already; it will be out in hardcover and as an e-book, but Harper Collins has not decided on an audio version yet. I also do not yet know what appearances I’ll be making or if there will be any sort of tour.

I held my regular Klawchat on Friday this past week, and my latest boardgame review for Paste covers the Hanabi-like deduction game Beyond Baker Street, where you can’t see the cards in your own hand and must give clues to other players on what cards they hold.

My email newsletter has now passed 2500 subscribers; thank you to everyone who’s already signed up. If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?

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Stick to baseball, 10/15/16.

I have written two posts on the Arizona Fall League so far, one on real prospects and one on Tim Tebow. (These were originally one article, but the baseball editors chose to split it up.) There will be another post coming soon covering everything else I saw while in Arizona. I wrote a piece earlier in the week discussing the use of instant replay on slides, which has come up several times already this postseason. I held my usual
Klawchat on Thursday as well.

My latest boardgame review for Paste covers the abstract two-player game Agamemnon, which I think is just fantastic. It’s quick to learn and play, offers some simple variations to increase the replay value, and has just the right amounts of competition and randomness for a great two-player title.

You can also preorder my upcoming book, Smart Baseball, on amazon. Also, please sign up for my more-or-less weekly email newsletter.

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  • One of the Central Park Five – five men arrested and convicted of a brutal rape, only to be exonerated when the actual rapist confessed over a decade later – wrote an emotional editorial on how Donald Trump continues to harm him with the candidate’s continued insistence that the men were guilty. (Trump ran a full-page ad at the time of the crime, calling for New York to reinstate the death penalty for these five kids.)
  • Trump’s comments about “rigged” elections pose an existential threat to our democracy, and Professor Rick Hasen’s post calls on other Republican leaders to disavow these statements, as we already see Trump supporters talking about taking up arms if he loses the election. Of course, this isn’t new for Trump; he is also threatening to jail his opponent if he wins.
  • Adults who weren’t vaccinated and caught vaccine-preventabble diseases cost the U.S. $7.1 billion in 2015 in medical costs and lost productivity, in case you’re wondering why you should care about morons who don’t get vaccinated.
  • Yet another study has found no link between thimerosal or mercury-containing vaccines and autism.
  • Creationism is on the rise in Europe, even though Europe as a whole is more secular than the U.S. and has been more accepting of the reality of evolution.
  • The Guardian has a great longread on the insanity of the bottled water industry. In the developed world, where tap water is safe to drink, it is absolutely criminal to consume bottled water at the rate we do, from the environmental costs of shipping it to the wastes of plastic involved in packaging it.
  • World leaders meeting in Rwanda this week are trying to ban another set of greenhouse gases. Banning hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) requires amending the Montreal Protocol, but these gases are more than 1000 times more potent in contributing to warming than carbon dioxide is.
  • A Chinese mining firm has received approval to destroy a koala habitat in Australia so they can build a coal mine. There’s a lot wrong here, since burning coal itself is a contributor to climate change.
  • There’s a state of emergency in Ethiopia, where two ethnic groups, the Oromo and the Amhara, have protested rule by the minority Tigreans, the same sort of sectarian divisions that led to Eritrea’s secession and ongoing skirmishes between the two countries.
  • A reader sent along this story on the ‘biryani wars’ in India, where the iconic dish has become subject to accusations of tainted food and government inspections.
  • The Trump/sexual assault storyline has been well-covered everywhere, so I’m not linking to any of those hundreds of stories. But one thing I want to highlight that’s tangentially related is writer Kelly Oxford’s call for women to share their stories of sexual assault on Twitter, which produced a deluge of replies. The Washington Post and the Guardian had two of the best summaries of Oxford’s efforts and the conversations it has launched.
  • Meanwhile, Mike Pence’s own policy positions have skated a bit under the radar, which I think is a mistake given the instability of his running mate. This is the first time I’ve linked to Cosmopolitan, but their summary of Pence’s anti-abortion policies is worthwhile. He tried to pass a law that would have required women who had abortions or miscarriages to hold funerals for the dead fetuses. Not mentioned is that he also tried to allocate state funds to “gay conversion” therapy, which doesn’t work and is opposed by the American Psychiatric Association.
  • The NY Times found the one 19-year-old black man who’s skewing the USC/LA Times poll. The reasons are a bit technical, but I think they provide some good insight on how polling works.
  • The President of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women resigned her post and wrote a long explanation of why, calling it an “unhealthy relationship” when the party she supports is backing a candidate who has a history of sexual assault and of bragging about it.
  • Three men were arrested in Kansas this week for plotting terrorist acts. The men were white and appear to claim to be Christian, and their targets were Muslims. I doubt they realize how incredibly un-Christian such actions would be.
  • Wisconsin forward Nigel Hayes dropped some truth on his Twitter feed about the NCAA and its institutions profiting off the unpaid labor of athletes:

    Emma Baccelleri wrote more about Hayes’ commentary in a strong post on Deadspin.

Stick to baseball, 10/1/16.

My annual look at players I got wrong went up for Insiders on Thursday, and the list starts with the amazing season Kyle Hendricks has had. Earlier this week I wrote about the increasing production coming from MLB’s youngest position players, although I admit I don’t have a great explanation for the trend. I held my regular Klawchat here on Thursday.

Over at Paste, I reviewed 7 Ronin, a fantastic two-player game with a Seven Samurai theme that plays in under a half hour. It’s ninjas versus samurai for control of a small village, and even though the rules are asymmetrical the game is extremely balanced.

You can also preorder my upcoming book, Smart Baseball, on amazon. Also, please sign up for my more-or-less weekly email newsletter.

And now, the links…