Stick to baseball, 1/13/18.

No new Insider content this week, as MLB appears to still be asleep and I was working on the top 100 prospects package, which is scheduled to start running on January 22nd. I did hold a Klawchat on Thursday.

My latest board game review for Paste covers Pandemic: Rising Tide, a standalone spinoff of the original Pandemic, this time pitting players against rising waters threatening to flood the Netherlands, so players must build dikes and pumps while trying to complete four hydraulic stations to win the game. We liked it, as it gives a new twist to the now-familiar cooperative mechanics of Matt Leacock’s various games.

Feel free to sign up for my email newsletter, which costs you nothing and totters somewhere between occasional and infrequent. And, of course, thanks to everyone who bought Smart Baseball for themselves or as a Christmas gift, or as a Christmas gift for themselves.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 11/25/17.

The biggest piece I wrote this week was actually right here, the tenth annual ranking of my top 100 boardgames, including a list (at the bottom) of my favorite titles for two players. And you’ll see in the comments there are still plenty of good games out there I haven’t played.

For Insiders, I broke down MLB’s penalties for Atlanta, looking at the players set free and the impact of the league’s actions for the long term, and also looked at how the top few free agents might end up overpaid this offseason. My next scheduled piece will cover Shohei Otani and will run December 2nd, the day he hits the market for real, assuming there isn’t another roadblock between now and then.

No Klawchat this week on account of the holiday.

Buy Smart Baseball for all your loved ones this holiday season! It makes a great gift. By which I mean it’s great for me when you give it as a gift.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 11/11/17.

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

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

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

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 10/21/17.

I wrote two scouting posts for Insiders from my week in the Arizona Fall League, which you can read here and here. I also held a Klawchat on Thursday.

I reviewed the card/dice game Valeria and its new expansion here on Friday; my next boardgame review for Paste will go up in early November. I also posted about a big boardgame app sale going on right now from Asmodee Digital.

The schedule for PAX Unplugged, a new boardgaming con to be held in Philadelphia in November, is now up. I’ll be signing copies of Smart Baseball there on November 18th and plan to attend the entire event.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 10/13/17.

For Insiders this week, I posted my first batch of scouting notes from the Arizona Fall League, covering prospects from the Cardinals, Yankees, Brewers, Orioles, Padres, Cubs, Rockies, and Twins. I also held a Klawchat on Friday.

Later today (Saturday) I will be at Changing Hands in Phoenix, at 2 pm, to talk about and sign copies of Smart Baseball. I’ll also be signing books at PAX Unplugged, a new boardgaming convention that takes place in Philadelphia the weekend before Thanksgiving.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 10/7/17.

My lone Insider piece this week looked at the top under-25 players on playoff rosters, so of course someone complained that I’d left Manny Machado off the list. I also held a Klawchat on Thursday.

Next Saturday, October 14th, I’ll be at Changing Hands in Phoenix, talking about and signing copies of Smart Baseball, starting at 2 pm ET. This Changing Hands location serves beer and wine, which may help make me more interesting.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 9/22/17.

I wrote three pieces for Insiders this week: scouting notes on Yu Darvish, more notes on Aaron Nola and some young Phillies hitters, and my annual look at players I was wrong about. I also held a Klawchat on Thursday.

I’m down to biweekly game reviews for Paste, so the most recent one is from last week, covering the great Days of Wonder-published title Yamataï, by the same designer who won the Spiel des Jahres (game of the year) this year for his game Kingdomino.

My book, Smart Baseball, is out and still selling well (or so I’m told); thanks to all of you who’ve already picked up a copy. And please sign up for my free email newsletter, which is back to more or less weekly at this point now that I’m not traveling for a bit.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 9/16/17.

For Insiders this week, I wrote two pieces, one on eight top 100 prospects who had disappointing years in 2017, and my last minor-league scouting notebook of the season, covering Yankees, Pirates, Nationals, and Cardinals prospects. I held my regular Klawchat on Thursday. My next column for ESPN will be my annual “players I got wrong” piece; if you have suggestions, throw them in the comments. I try to stick to players who’ve beaten expectations for more than just one season, although sometimes I waive that if there’s a particular story I want to tell.

Over at Paste I reviewed Yamataï, the new boardgame from Days of Wonder, which hasn’t fared that well critically or commercially but which all three members of my family really liked. It’s also a gorgeous game, which never hurts around here.

My book, Smart Baseball, is out and still selling well (or so I’m told); thanks to all of you who’ve already picked up a copy. And please sign up for my free email newsletter, which is back to more or less weekly at this point now that I’m not traveling for a bit.

I have a ton of links from the NY Times this week, which requires a subscription above a certain number of free articles. I normally try to spread my links out across many sources, but the NYT had so much great content this week that I stuck with it. I’ve tagged a few of them as such for those of you who don’t subscribe (I do, obviously). And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 9/9/17.

I wrote two Insider pieces this week, naming ESPN’s 2017 Prospect of the Year (hint: it’s Vlad Jr.) and covering and on the strange saga of Juan Nicasio over the last ten days. I held a Klawchat on Thursday.

Last week, I wrote about the major Game of Thrones-themed boardgames for Vulture. My next boardgame review for Paste will come this week.

My book, Smart Baseball, is out and still selling well (or so I’m told); thanks to all of you who’ve already picked up a copy. And please sign up for my free email newsletter, which is back to more or less weekly at this point now that I’m not traveling for a bit.

And now, the links…

Boardgame news will return next week; I know of two significant Kickstarters to launch on Tuesday, but at least one of them is currently covered by an embargo so I can’t talk about it just yet.

Half-Earth.

Biologist E.O. Wilson has won two Pulitzer Prizes for Non-Fiction, including one for, of all things, a textbook on ants, along with numerous other awards for his lengthy bibliography of popular and scholarly works on evolution, sociobiology, ecology, and conservationism. His 2016 book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life falls into the last category while drawing on multiple fields of expertise to make his case that we should preserve half of the area of the planet for conservation to maintain biodiversity and fight climate change, but for a work by a great scholar and professor, Half-Earth feels half-hearted, as if Wilson knows what he wants to argue but couldn’t be bothered to support his side sufficiently to sway the unconvinced.

The idea of preserving half of the planet, land and sea, for conservation isn’t new nor is it Wilson’s; he credits Tony Hiss with coining the term “half-earth” to describe the concept in a Smithsonian magazine article in 2014. And there’s little doubt that man’s impact on the planet – its environment and the millions of other species on it – has been a net negative for everyone but man, with the pace of change only accelerating as we continue to alter the compositions of the planet’s atmosphere, soil, and water supply. Wilson does well when describing what we might lose or have already lost as a result of our mere presence or our industrial activities, talking about habitats we’ve razed or species we’ve driven to extinction deliberately, through the introductions of invasive species, or through other changes to the environment. But he assumes that the reader will see these losses as significant, or even see them as losses, without sufficiently detailing why it matters that, say, we’re wiping out the world’s rhinoceros population, or various island birds and rodents have been exterminated by the introduction of non-native snakes.

What’s missing even more from the work, however, is a consideration of the costs of an endeavor like the one Wilson is proposing. Man is fairly well distributed across the planet, and setting aside 50% of its land mass for conservation would require resettling hundreds of thousands of people, possibly millions, many of them members of indigenous populations who live in the least-altered environments on the planet. Crowding the planet’s seven billion people (and rising) into less of the space will trade some environmental problems for others, as various forms pollution rise with population density, and many large urban areas already struggle under the weight of their people, with third-world megacities paralyzed by traffic and its attendant problems. Relocating people is expensive, difficult, and traumatic. There’s also the very real question of feeding those seven billion people and supplying them with fresh water, which we’re already struggling to do; if you reserve half of the world’s land and half of its oceans for conservation, those tasks become more difficult and likely more expensive – a cost few people will be willing to bear directly. It might be necessary, but Wilson glosses over the practical problems his solution would create.

There is, however, one good reason to read Half-Earth right now, at least in the United States, where the current federal administration is rolling back environmental protections left and right, including cutting funds for wildlife area acquisition and management. But I thought Elizabeth Kolbert’s Pulitzer-winning book The Sixth Extinction made the same general case more powerfully and thoroughly, describing the current, anthropogenic mass extinction that could rival the K-Pg event for sheer number of species exterminated if we don’t do anything about it. Kolbert goes into greater depth with more concrete examples of how man’s activity has altered the planet and moved species around to extinguish some species and threaten others, including a lengthy discussion of chytrid fungus, a thus-far incurable ailment that is killing off tropical frog species with alarming speed.

I think Wilson also fell into the trap that William Easterley (among others) has identified in charitable and other “good intentions” efforts – aiming impossibly high, so that you can never meet your stated goal. You want to end world hunger? That sounds great, but it’ll never happen, and the only outcome will be the creation of a giant organization that absorbs donations without ever accomplishing much of anything. Micro-efforts yield more tangible results, and increase accountability for workers and donors alike. So while saying “let’s reserve half the planet to save it” is an admirable goal, and may even be the right strategy for the long term, it ain’t happening, and talking about it doesn’t get us any closer to solutions. If you want to help save the planet, work towards small, achievable goals. And right now, that probably means working for change in Washington.

Next up: Nina George’s 2013 novel The Little Paris Bookshop.