Stick to baseball, 2/10/18.

My one new piece for Insiders this week covers the Cubs signing Yu Darvish to a six-year deal. I also held a Klawchat on Thursday.

I reviewed the new, light strategy board game Majesty: For the Realm for Paste this week.

I’ve been sending out my free email newsletter a bit more regularly now that the prospect work is over. Also, Smart Baseball will be out in paperback on March 13th; you can pre-order it on amazon or elsewhere, although at the moment the hardcover version is about $1 cheaper.

And now, the links…

Leaving Arizona.

I had columns up this week on picking players to try to win one All-Star Game and on the Futures Game rosters. I talked to San Jose mayor Chuck Reed on this week’s Behind the Dish, and was a guest on Slate’s Hang Up and Listen podcast this week. And I chatted today as well.

I mentioned on Twitter last week that after two years and nine months, we’d sold our house in Arizona and decamped for the east coast, choosing Delaware as our new landing spot. It wasn’t exactly a secret, but the sale of the house happened on such an odd schedule – the appraisal took forever, arrived three days before the draft and we closed just 16 days after it came in – that I never quite made the Big Announcement that, hey, we were leaving paradise.

Many of you asked why – why leave Arizona, and why choose the drive-through state of Delaware. If you don’t care about personal stuff like this, feel free to skip this post.

Why leave Arizona? That’s simple, and it’s complicated. My wife did not enjoy living in Arizona, and especially did not like being so far from family and friends in the northeast. My daughter wants everything – she loved the weather and the pool in Arizona, and she hated leaving her friends, but she missed her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and year-old cousin (my niece), all located between New York City and northern Virginia. It would be easy to just say that I go where they go, and it would be true, but the decision for me was a bit more involved than that.

I loved living in Arizona. I suffer from seasonal depression when the winter grey and the winter darkness become too much. If you thought the top 100 prospect packages were better the last three years – I did, at least – my improved mood in those three Januaries probably had something to do with it. It’s a lot easier to get up and get rolling in the morning when the sun is practically screaming at you to start your day. I loved the near year-round baseball, with spring training and Fall League suddenly home games, and access to rookie ball and two Pac-12 schools, as well as the ability to commute trips to SoCal and Vegas. The food scene in Phoenix exceeded all of my expectations for it going in, and it’s improving rapidly, with more emphasis on seasonal and local ingredients where possible. And while I’m not a particularly materialistic guy – the move reminded me of how little stuff I have beyond kitchen tools and something like 36 cubic feet of boardgames – I did love our house, which we built new through Shea Homes. (Other than dealing with their partners Foresight Security, the process overall was very positive, as was our experience as homeowners.)

I relented on the move primarily because of work – with a commitment from Baseball Tonight for a minimum number of dates, and the difficulty of getting from Phoenix to Bristol, it made more sense to return to somewhere within driving distance. It has been bothering me that I’ve only seen my niece twice in the fourteen months since she was born, and that my grandmother just turned 99 while I haven’t seen her since Christmas. (Phone calls with either of them are about equally productive at this point.) Minor league scouting beyond rookie ball was difficult over the summer as well, because the only team within driving distance is the Tucson Padres, who are about to head down the highway to Hell Paso next year anyway.

The political environment itself didn’t drive me out of Arizona, although the support for Joe Arpaio, who violates civil rights with impunity and ignores the pile of unsolved sex crimes while chasing cameras and headlines with his anti-immigration sweeps and blatant racial profiling, boggles my mind. We lived in a moderate area, highly educated and higher income, and I can’t say that the gap between the state’s overall political leanings and my own ever affected my life in any material way.

That said, I do believe Arizonans are living in a deep state of denial about what climate change is going to mean for them – for the heat, for energy usage, and for water. We had highs of 117-118 over the last two summers, and those days will become more frequent, with highs in the 120s, which are dangerous and will put ever-greater strain on the local electrical grid – one that makes far too little use of the abundant solar and wind resources available in the Phoenix area. (ASU did do something very smart recently – they covered the football/baseball fields’ parking lots with solar panels.) The state’s water policy revolves around hoarding – they have about five years’ worth of supply stored up in underground tanks, which is part of why the Colorado River no longer reaches its delta on the Gulf of California, and also is a lousy plan for long-term sustainability. Water is cheap, and there are no real conservation efforts. We had neighbors with grass lawns. Las Vegas at least pays people to replace grass with low- or zero-water alternatives. In Arizona, no one cares if you leave the sprinklers on all night.

There’s also very little attention paid to the shape and scope of development in the area. There’s no concept of zoning anywhere, and the response to sprawl has mostly been to build more highways further away from the city center, like route 303, going from out by Goodyear north through Surprise up to I-17 north of town. (My daughter often asked if there was a route 404, but I told her all I got was a “highway not found” error.) Mass transit barely exists; they just hooked up the light rail to the airport this spring, and from where we lived, it was never practical to use it whether we were flying out or going to Chase Field. When the population spreads without any planning or control, it will settle in a shape that is not conducive to mass transit solutions – which is exactly what you have in Phoenix.

All of that did add up to one very real concern for me: property values won’t just keep going up out there as they have since the market bottomed out and we bought into it in 2010. The area can only hold so many people, and water shortages could mean rapid declines in property values. I’m not keen on holding on to assets with that kind of downside risk, and the strength of the Republican Party in the state did not make me feel better, because they do not seem to have any intention of focusing on these environmental/growth issues, and because they are far more focused on things like restricting abortion or asking Obama to produce his birth certificate.

If it were just me out there, though, I would have stayed at least a few more years. I hated leaving the friends I made out there, the long list of places I loved to eat, and the spectacular weather nine months out of the year. Even the summer heat is tolerable when you have functioning air conditioning and a pool in your backyard. It also made smoking things on the grill easier, because I never had to worry too much about the temperature dropping below 180 or so unless I let the fire go out completely. The only factor that truly motivated me to move was the air – my daughter and I both suffer from seasonal allergies, and my original hope, that the dry desert air would help us, turned out to be ill-founded. The air quality in Arizona is quite poor, especially in the summer, and neither of us found much relief, while my wife had allergy issues for the first time after we moved there.

As for Delaware, it’s two hours from my in-laws, three hours from my parents and my sister, four hours from Bristol, two-plus from New York City, and has low taxes. The Wilmington area offers good schools, and I’ll have three different minor leagues within 90 minutes of me, possibly four. We’re taking a little bit of a leap of faith, but given that I had no interest in returning to the tundra of New England, wouldn’t touch the tax rates of New Jersey or New York, and won’t abide Pennsylvania’s Puritanical liquor store system, Delaware kind of won by default.

It does seem like I have quite a few readers living here in New Castle County, so if there’s interest, perhaps we could try a meetup before a Blue Rocks game at the Iron Hill Brewery that’s right by the stadium. It’d be great to get to meet more of you in person, and perhaps to learn some insider tips on living around here. So far we’ve had good meals at Two Stones and at the slightly pecular Matilda’s/Mad Mac’s in Newark, but I’m sure there’s far more for us to discover.

One final note, unrelated to why we moved, but about the fact of the move itself. I’ve mentioned a few times here and through other venues that I suffer from anxiety, and have been receiving treatment, including medication, since last summer. The move hasn’t been good for me in that department, in part because of the stress of moving itself (especially with a daughter and two cats in tow), and in part because I liked living in Arizona so much. I’ll write more on that at some other time, but the last three weeks have been less than fun.