Stick to baseball, 7/22/17.

With the trade deadline approaching, I’ve had a bit more Insider content than usual this week, including breakdowns of the Ryan Madson/Sean Doolittle trade, the David Robertson/Tommy Kahnle/Todd Frazier trade, and the Tyler O’Neill-Marco Gonzales trade. I also had a long post covering lots of prospects I’ve scouted in the last few weeks, including players from the Phillies, Nationals, Orioles, Red Sox, Atlanta, and Cleveland systems. I held a Klawchat on Friday.

My latest boardgame review for Paste covers the asymmetrical game Not Alone, which pits one player against anywhere from one to six opponents who work together, although we found the game really doesn’t work with just two players and is only slightly better with three.

Thanks to everyone who’s already bought Smart Baseball. I’ve got just a couple of additional book signings coming up:

* Chicago, Standard Club, July 28th, 11:30 am – this is a ticketed luncheon event
* Chicago, Volumes, July 28th, 7:30 pm
* GenCon (Indianapolis), August 17th-20th

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 7/15/17.

For Insiders, I’ve got my midyear top 50 prospects update, a breakdown of the Jose Quintana trade, and a recap of Sunday’s MLB Futures Game, followed by a Klawchat Thursday afternoon where I focused on questions about the top 50.

MEL magazine’s Tim Grierson, whom you might know from his film reviews or his indispensable podcast with Will Leitch, interviewed me in a wide-ranging conversation that touched on Smart Baseball, pop culture, social media, and other non-baseball topics too.

Thanks to everyone who’s already bought Smart Baseball. I’ve got book signings coming up:

* Harrisburg, Midtown Scholar, July 15th (today!) at 3 pm
* Berkeley, Books Inc., July 19th, 7 pm
* Chicago, Standard Club, July 28th, 11:30 am – this is a ticketed luncheon event
* Chicago, Volumes, July 28th, 7:30 pm
* GenCon (Indianapolis), August 17th-20th

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 7/8/17.

For Insiders this week, I previewed the Futures Game and broke down some of the worst omissions from the All-Star rosters. I held a Klawchat on Friday.

On the non-baseball front, I reviewed the high-strategy boardgame Great Western Trail for Paste this week. I also have a new piece up at Vulture looking at how the TV show Orphan Black has used boardgames as an integral part of several episodes.

Thanks to everyone who’s already bought Smart Baseball; sales spiked this month between Father’s Day and the positive review in the Wall Street Journal. I’ve got book signings coming up:

* Miami, Books and Books, today at 3 pm
* Harrisburg, Midtown Scholar, July 15th
* Berkeley, Books Inc., July 19th
* Chicago, Volumes, July 28th, 7:30 pm
* GenCon (Indianapolis), August 17th-20th

If you’re with an independent bookstore and would like to host a signing, please contact Danielle Bartlett at HarperCollins; we’re trying to accommodate everyone we can within my work schedule. I’m talking to one store about a signing/talk in Brooklyn (along with another author) in August or early September.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 7/1/17.

Couple of Insider posts this week – one with reactions to the initial rosters for the Futures Game and one on top prospects for tomorrow’s international free agent signing period. I also held a Klawchat on Friday afternoon en route to Lakewood from Bristol.

My latest boardgame review for Paste is the two-player game Santorini, which has some light chess/Othello elements to it but is played on a smaller board (5×5) that keeps the games a bit shorter.

Thanks to everyone who’s already bought Smart Baseball; sales spiked this month between Father’s Day and the positive review in the Wall Street Journal. I’ve got book signings coming up:

* Miami, Books and Books, July 8th
* Harrisburg, Midtown Scholar, July 15th
* Berkeley, Books Inc., July 19th
* Chicago, Volumes, July 28th, 7:30 pm
* GenCon (Indianapolis), August 17th-20th

If you’re with an independent bookstore and would like to host a signing, please contact Danielle Bartlett at HarperCollins; we’re trying to accommodate everyone we can within my work schedule.

I also spoke with Sportsnet about the book, anxiety, and the 2017 Blue Jays.

And now, the links…

  • Russell Carleton looks at the utility of pickoff throws over at Baseball Prospectus.
  • This isn’t surprising if you follow Zack Greinke at all, but the pitcher told MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert how he used Statcast data to help turn his 2016 season around.
  • “The Time I Got Recruited to Collude with the Russians.” Long, and you may have seen it, but it seems like more evidence of wrongdoing from the Trump campaign last summer.
  • VICE details a planned (or, really, hypothetical) pay-for-play college basketball league that would focus on the Historically Black Colleges & Universities that have largely missed out on the financial windfall of modern college basketball.
  • The mother of an immune-compromised daughter who was hospitalized recently because she was exposed to chicken pox lashed out at vaccine deniers for putting her daughter’s life at risk. Your decision not to vaccinate your kids isn’t just about your own neglect, but potentially harms other vulnerable people in your community.
  • If you heard that a European Union court ruled against vaccine safety, well, not really.
  • A research paper in the New England Journal of Medicine looks at benefits of increased health insurance coverage under the ACA, including lower costs of reduction in mortality rates compared to other policies. (One of the authors is Dr. Atul Gawande, the author of Being Mortal and The Checklist Manifesto.)
  • Eater has a great profile of gelato maker Meredith Kurtzman, who recently retired after two decades in the NYC food scene, working at restaurants (notably at Mario Batali’s Otto) and earning plaudits from chefs and restaurateurs for her work. It’s a wonderful piece because it doesn’t shy away from the fact that Kurtzman isn’t a very engaging or even likable subject.
  • The NY Times is now charging for access to its cooking site, which … is fine, actually. I know there’s always a backlash when sites charge for content, but if you want good content, you’re going to have to start paying for it somewhere. I subscribe to their main site, the Washington Post, and Fine Cooking magazine, among others. However, charging for recipes is tricky because they can’t be copyrighted – you can copyright text, but not the specifics of a recipe – which makes this a little different than most subscriber walls.
  • The great BBC series Broadchurch just returned on Wednesday for its third and final season, and IndieWire ran a Q&A with star David Tennant that’s more insightful than the standard “actor talks about series he didn’t write but explains everything anyway” sort of piece.
  • The Koch Brothers plan to spend $400 million to help elect conservative Republican candidates in 2018. Repealing Obamacare and reducing taxes on the highest earners are two of their main policy priorities.
  • Daniel Vaughn’s latest list of the top 50 BBQ joints in Texas came out a few weeks ago for Texas Monthly, and if you’re visiting that state, it’s a great resource. (If you live there, well, I’m sorry.)
  • The new Presidential commission on so-called “voter fraud” – which does not actually exist on any significant scale – is really just an attack on voting rights. Even some GOP-led states are declining the requests for state voter information. Delaware hasn’t made any statement yet, but I have reached to the Secretary of State, asking them to refuse to comply.
  • Sen. Al Franken very calmly de-pantsed Energy Secretary Rick Perry on climate change, helped by Perry’s apparent lack of any knowledge on the subject whatsoever.
  • Whole Foods had long contributed to local farmers both in access to markets and in providing low-interest loans to help farmers ramp up operations to serve the chain. Now the farmers worry these programs will end after amazon’s purchase of the retailer.

Stick to baseball, 6/10/17.

I’ve been busy this week, with a top 100 draft prospects “Big Board” up for Insiders, and a free article profiling top draft prospect Hunter Greene, who gave me some really thoughtful answers on the topics of preparation, being a two-way player, and baseball’s declining African-American audience. I also held a Klawchat on Friday afternoon.

I’ll have a new mock draft up tomorrow (Sunday) and my editors and I will update that file until the draft begins Monday evening. I’m also planning to do a chat Monday afternoon as the draft gets closer.

In non-baseball content, BBC America asked me to to rank the main clones on the show Orphan Black, which returns for its fifth and final season tonight on the cable channel. The first four seasons are all available on Amazon Prime, and I highly recommend it.

Over at Paste, I reviewed the cooperative puzzle game Unlock!, which is actually a series of modules that mimic the escape-room experience by asking players to solve riddles on cards and enter codes into a free app on their phones. The publisher sent me four of the modules; I played three before the review, and they’re all difficult but worth playing. The fourth, The Island of Dr. Goorse, was too abstruse, and that’s not just my opinion but the opinion of all five of us who played, including my father, the (retired) electrical engineer and one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 5/27/17.

My one Insider piece this week was on Luis Robert, his deal with the White Sox, and the poor history of Cuban position player free agents. I did not hold a Klawchat, and will have another mock draft up on Tuesday.

Smart Baseball continues to sell well and I am very grateful to all of you who purchased it. I have about 100 signed bookplates that I can send out to readers who’ve bought the book, and I’ll get that info to everyone soon – probably in my next email newsletter.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 4/1/17.

My predictions for 2017, including full standings, playoff stuff, and award winners. If you skipped the intro and got mad online about it, I’ll reiterate here: it’s just for fun. I do not run projections, and I will never beat a well-run model at the predictions game except as a fluke. I also wrote one post earlier in the week covering Cardinals, Tigers, and Atlanta prospects I saw while in Florida; there will be another post coming this weekend. I did not chat because I was in the car or at games all week.

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

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

And now, the links…

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.

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

And now, the links…

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.

And now, the links…

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.

And now, the links…

  • 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.