Stick to baseball, 3/11/17.

I had one piece for Insiders this week, covering four players who look different in the early going this spring – Jason Heyward, Tyler Glasnow, Taijuan Walker, and Tim Anderson – although it’s not all positive news. I also held a Klawchat on Thursday.

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, 2/5/17.

My organizational reports for all 30 teams, featuring at least ten prospects ranked for each club (and as many as 25), went up this past week for Insiders. You can find them all here on the landing pages for each division:

American League East
National League East
American League Central
National League Central
American League West
National League West

My list of thirty sleeper prospects, one for each MLB organization, for 2017 went up on Friday, wrapping up the prospect rankings package for the year. I also held a Klawchat on Friday.

For Paste, I reviewed the complex strategy game Forged in Steel, a citybuilder with some worker-placement and card management aspects that, once you get the first few moves underway, really gets going and manages to be both smart and fun.

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…

  • The must-read piece of the week – actually published in early January – comes from British journalist Isabel Hardman, who wrote about how even England’s vaunted NHS doesn’t do justice to people with mental illnesses, although the piece itself also provides a great window into her own difficulties recognizing what was happening to her and getting properly treated.
  • It’s Super Bowl Sunday! If you wouldn’t let your kids play football because it’s dangerous (and has led to the premature deaths of many players), is it moral to still watch the NFL?
  • I thought this New Yorker profile of Evan McMullin, who has emerged as a major Trump critic from the center-right was both an excellent piece of balanced journalism and a good window into someone who, even though I disagree with him on a couple of major policy issues, speaks very clearly to my concern that the man in the Oval Office – well, that man, and the one pulling his strings – needs to be stopped.
  • The batshit insane people who claim Sandy Hook was a hoax believe Trump’s election furthers their cause. I’m just glad these hoaxers are facing legal consequences when they harass relatives of the deceased.
  • As if Betsy DeVos’ awful answers in her confirmation hearing and embrace of creationism and other anti-science bullshit weren’t enough to disqualify her from running the U.S. Department of Education in everyone’s eyes except, well, our President and 50 Senate Republicans, she’s also a major investor in an utterly useless pseudoscience business of neurofeedback that claims it can use brain waves to diagnose and treat autism, depression, and why are we even talking about this it is such obvious bullshit? If you have a U.S. Senator who is planning to vote for DeVos – that’s every Republican right now except Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Sue Collins (Maine) – get on the phone on Monday morning, or send a fax, or go to their offices and make it clear you want a no vote on DeVos. One more Republican will end her candidacy, and while we aren’t guaranteed that the next nominee will be better, I’m not sure they can find one who’s worse.
  • You want more about DeVos being delusional in her belief in anti-science folderol? Look at her use of code words for creationism. While her camp has hidden behind the federal law and court rulings that intelligent design can’t be taught in public schools – it’s religion, thinly disguised as pseudoscience – that opens the door for her to push to change such laws, or challenge the court rulings, to suit her own misguided beliefs.
  • The House Science Committee is something between a joke and a modern-day Spanish Inquisition, thanks to its science-denialist head, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas, where else?), and the new Holman Rule that allows House appropriations bills to target any federal employee and reduce his/her salary to $1. Boys, all you boys, you think you’re so American.
  • Is the white-supremacist (and possible fascist) Steve Bannon positioning himself to be the de facto President? Fifty Democratic Congresspersons have called for Bannon’s removal from the National Security Council, co-sponsoring a House bill that would ban political strategists from serving on the council. (Reports that the appointment requires Senate approval were false or at least incomplete.) Meanwhile, filings from Bannon’s second divorce include accusations that he failed to pay child support and was abusive toward his daughters.
  • I think this ProPublica piece has the wrong title. It’s not can the Democrats be as stubborn as Mitch McConnell, but will they? Of course they can, but so far, I see no signs that they well. Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley is prepared to lead a filibuster of Trump’s SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorusch, who’s filling a seat that should have been filled last year by Merrick Garland. (By the way, if you saw the claims that Gorusch had created a pro-fascism club while a student, those were false.)
  • Eric Trump’s business trip to Uruguay – that is, a trip to benefit the Trump family business, not on U.S. official business – cost the taxpayer over $97K in hotel bills. This is a good example of where the Democrats need to be obstructionist – Elizabeth Warren introduced a bill requiring him to divest, but even the Dems appear to have little interest in this fight.
  • How about that immigration order, now halted, that served as a de facto Muslim ban? The Archbishop of Chicago spoke out against it. The order stranded a Brooklyn doctor in the Sudan. VICE published a list of doctors and researchers thus barred from returning to the United States. Don’t you feel so much safer now?
  • Bloomberg published a short op ed that argues that Trump has failed his Wall Street and big business backers twice over, by putting all permanent resident employees at risk of deportation or refused re-entry, and by failing to repeal the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, which – get this – which requires financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients in retirement accounts. I don’t know what’s worse: that Trump’s camp wanted to repeal the rule, or that the rule was ever necessary in the first place.
  • The farewell message from Tom Countryman (!), Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, who was summarily dismissed along with five other State Department lifers last week, is well worth your time.
  • Who’s behind the fake-news site CGS Monitor, which uses real experts’ names in bylines on articles they didn’t write? It could be Russia – I mean, of course it’s Russia, right? – although this piece speculates it could also come from Iranian interests.
  • This post from “The Jester” on Russia’s infiltration of our federal government pissed someone off enough that the site was hit with a DdoS attack a few hours after the article went up. Within it, he points out that the ex-KGB/FSB official suspected of helping MI6 agent Christopher Steele assemble that dossier on Donald Trump was found dead in his car on December 26th, and the the author accuses the Kremlin of orchestrating his murder.
  • Republicans are further trying to rig the electoral college system in their favor by pushing blue states to adopt “proportional” electoral voting, which, as that FiveThirtyEight piece explains, means that Clinton could have won the popular vote by five percentage points and still lost the election.
  • A new law in Arkansas allows rapists who impregnate their victims to stop the latter from getting abortions, or a husband to sue to prevent his wife from doing so, and so on. Even setting aside the clear infringement of religious belief into law here, this is as blatantly anti-woman as you can get. I’ve got one state left to visit to be able to say I’ve visited them all, but you know, I think any trips to Arkansas can wait until they start to treat women like actual people. UPDATE: Snopes has more details on the law, such as pointing out that rapists can’t sue for damages, and that the law delays rather than prevents the abortions. The ACLU is still planning lawsuits.
  • Abortion is an important, sometimes lifesaving medical procedure, and keeping it legal and available reduces deaths from unsafe abortions, while improving access to abortion and contraception reduces abortion rates overall. Again, women are actual people, and the infamous photo of Trump signing an anti-abortion executive order while surrounded by men sort of says it all – and that’s why the photo of the Swedish Prime Minister trolling Trump is such a thing of beauty.
  • Protesters plan to shadow Trump whenever he travels so he feels their dislike, an extension of the idea that he thrives on public adulation.
  • The apparently random murder of a woman walking on a Reykjavik street after dark has shaken the city, which is known for its low crime rate and 24-hour party culture.
  • I tweeted about this earlier in the week, but donors across the country are helping pay students’ lunch debts. It’s such a little thing, and so easy to do if you have any cash to donate. We called our daughter’s school, asked how much it would take to clear any outstanding tabs, and wrote them a check. You’ll make a lot of families’ lives easier, and will reduce the shame these kids feel for something that’s no fault of their own.
  • The Brits have all the legislative fun: A Labour MP held up a sign saying “He’s lying to you” behind Nigel Farage in a televised address by the far-right UKIP leader.
  • The University of Nevada joins the growing list of NCAA football programs reneging on scholarship offers weeks or even days before the official signing day. I’m no lawyer, so I’ll ask the crowd: at what point does such an oral agreement become binding on either party?
  • I’d never heard of the Chinese delicacy fat choy, a bacteria that grows long, noodle-like strands, but it turns out its farming is harmful to the environment, and the Chinese government is now cracking down on its production and sale.
  • Recode has a long, fascinating interview with my former colleague Bill Simmons on The Ringer, the rise and abrupt end of Grantland, the demise of his HBO TV show Any Given Wednesday, and much more. I’m still not sure I get the mission of The Ringer; they’ve mixed some great sports content with some head-scratchers where they offer advice to the movie or music industry. But it’s early in the site’s history, and I’m 100% behind any site that supports good journalism and pays its writers.
  • I’m linking here to a piece I saw on Google’s home page (I think) but that I really thought was trash: you could read 200 books a year in the time you waste on social media. There’s a lot wrong with this piece, but let me highlight two things. One, not everyone is wired for the kind of sustained attention required to read a lot of books, and no one should make someone feel bad because s/he isn’t a book reader. I love finding fellow bibliophiles, but if you don’t read books, you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Two, his math suchs. He says “typical non-fiction books have ~50,000 words,” which is wrong; that’s under 200 pages, and even Smart Baseball, which I did not want to be too long, runs over 80,000 words. He also says he reads 400 words per minute and assumes that most Medium readers will too; I doubt he reads that fast unless he’s speed-reading, which doesn’t work (you don’t retain what you read as well), because reading 400 wpm would mean reading about 80 pages an hour, which I think would put anyone at the far-right end of the scale for reading speed … or means he’s reading books written for children. I read a lot, and I read fast, and I doubt I read 400 wpm unless it’s something simple and incredibly engrossing, like genre fiction or a Wodehouse novel. So, yeah, if you don’t read 200 books a year or 100 or even 20, don’t feel bad. This article was just stupid.
  • Is the hunt for paid editors tearing Wikipedia apart from the inside? That seems a bit dramatic, but I think the mere existence of paid editors is cause to retain or recover our skepticism about the reliability of information found on the site.
  • From McSweeney’s: The Rules of This Board Game Are Long, But Also Complicated. I don’t understand why this is supposed to be funny.

Breakout players, media, Jay Cutler.

My annual breakouts piece is a photo gallery this year with shorter text from me. And yes, I still love Rickie Weeks, even though he’s not on there.

I’ll be on First Take via phone at 10:20 am on Thursday, and KTAR at 9:24 am Arizona Time. I’ll be on Baltimore 105.7 FM tonight at 9:30 pm.

Yes, there will be a Phoenix food post soon. It’s mostly done, but I’ve got some more preview stuff to hand in to ESPN.com first.

There will be a Klawchat on Thursday at 1 pm.

So can someone explain this Cutler thing to me? I keep hearing how the Broncos have to trade him. Isn’t he under contract? So he wants a trade. I want a million dollars, a night with Ashley Judd, and a pony. If I’m Josh McDaniel, I’m staring at two options:

1. Keep Cutler and make it clear to players and agents that I am in charge.
2. Trade Cutler for 80 cents on the dollar* and show everyone that the lunatics are running the asylum.

*This is my assumption, as someone who doesn’t really know football, because Denver would be seen as somehow unable to keep Cutler, and because I doubt you ever really get full value when trading a top-ten quarterback.

Erik Kuselias was subbing for SVP on the Tirico/VP show today and kept saying how Cutler has “leverage” – but does he? He’s an employee of the Broncos. If they decide to bench him for four games to teach him a lesson, as long as they’re paying him and abiding by the letter of the contract, they are within their rights to do so. I’ve heard no mention of a contractual obligation on the part of the Broncos to avoid hurting Cutler’s feelings, nor does he have a no-trade clause or a no-discussing-a-trade clause or a no-even-thinking-about-a-trade-even-while-you’re-on-the-throne clause. If Cutler doesn’t show up for a required camp or workout, you fine him. You may be able to suspend him without pay, which would be true in MLB. But just like I don’t give in to my daughter when she throws a tantrum, a GM shouldn’t give in to a player (or agent) when he throws one.

Am I wrong?

At least he’s consistent.

Jay Paris screws up a ballot.

Again.

(Hat tip to Jeff from Rotowire.)

“Girls were also romancing each other.”

Now that I have your attention, go read the excellent New York Times article from which I took the title quote. It’s about the recruiting of a star high school football player, and let’s just say that the University of Texas’ PR department is probably displeased with the Gray Lady this week.

(Hat tip: Infinite Sportswriter Theorem.)

UPDATE: Texas fans and supporters are questioning the veracity of the recruit’s claims about Texas – shocking – and the Texas section of rivals.com has a retort (but not a disproof – more of a claim that the Times writer is biased against Texas) here.

UPDATE #2: The recruit himself is now backing away from some parts of the English-class essay that was quoted in the Times article.

Quick links.

Working on a book writeup, but two links worth seeing:

  • Someone did, in fact, estimate where the Twins would be if they’d done nothing this offseason. I think the answer is pretty aggressive, but a three-win swing is probably the difference between playoffs and no-playoffs for them.
  • Tom Brady is worth 1.35 Albert Pujolses. Or something like that. Of interest: Matt Cassel went to the same high school that later produced Mike Moustakas and Matt Dominguez (corrected – never blog before the double-espresso).
  • If you didn’t get the Rob Dibble stuff in today’s chat, here’s what he said about me. I’m terribly broken up about it.
  • Bad news for libertarians … and anyone else who dislikes corruption and subsidies for billionaires.

More shortly…

The Boston Herald/Spygate affair.

So, as a friend of beleaguered Boston Herald writer John Tomase, I’ve been wrestling with how I might address the topic without coming off as too biased on John’s behalf. Seth Mnookin spared me the trouble with his excellent post on the subject today:

But the vitriol and derision being directed at Tomase is over-the-top. (And getting angry at him or at the Herald is a bad way to displace frustration/anger over the Pats slightly-less-than-perfect season.) He had what he thought was a big story, and he thought he had made the limitations of his story clear in the piece itself. The allegations contained therein logically followed from what was already known. And nobody he interviewed would say, flat out, that the piece was wrong.

This was, more or less, going to be my main point. The calls for Tomase’s firing – there’s even a Facebook group dedicated to it – don’t make much sense to me. Is he accused of malfeasance here? No one seems to be making a credible accusation along those lines. He got a scoop that appeared legitimate, and ran with it. One would assume that at least one Herald editor knows about Tomase’s source(s), and was sufficiently satisfied with the sourcing to green-light the story.

Is he accused of frequent mistakes along these lines – viz, running a story without giving the target(s) enough time to respond? To my knowledge, this is the first time John’s been charged with this kind or, in fact, any kind of journalistic error. So what is the justification for calling for Tomase to lose his job? Doesn’t some of the responsibility lie with the editors, as Seth says, to rein the writers in?

Super Bowl picks.

Throw your picks in below if you feel like it. As usual, bear in mind that I know little about football and don’t pay much attention to it until the playoffs.

My instinct is to take the Giants and the points, although I would still predict a Pats win. Double-digit spreads always feel like sucker bets to me. That said, in this case, I think there’s a decent chance the Patriots will try to run up the score, on top of the fact that they’ve already seen the best the Giants can throw at them and have now had two solid weeks to prepare for it. So I’ll say the Patriots win and beat the spread – say, 41-24.

One other thought on the game. I’m a casual Patriots’ fan, since they’re the local team and they hired Parcells around the time I settled up here – I have always loved that defense-first style of football – and now it’s just habit to root for them, but it doesn’t ruin my week when they lose. This time, though, I’ll be rooting hard for them for a reason unrelated to the franchise: I like history.

When I was a kid, I followed all sports. If Newsday printed standings for a league, I’d pick a favorite team and follow it. (I always rooted for the Denver team when there was one. I still don’t really know why.) And every year, I’d root for an NFL team to go undefeated. There was just something so appealing about that zero in the “L” column – it hadn’t been done since before I was born, and to a kid who liked math, there was something beautiful in the idea of a team going 16-0. (And, yes, in a team going 0-16, although now I have a harder time rooting for anyone to fail to that degree. Well, except the Cowboys.) And every year, I’d get my hopes up, and some time in November, the last undefeated team would fall, and I’d see those idiots from the ’72 Dolphins with their champagne, celebrating someone else’s defeat. So the Patriots going 16-0 this year fulfilled that little wish I had as a sports-nut kid, and I’d love to see them finish it off today with a victory – and, since they’re already on Mercury Morris’ front lawn, to see them urinate in his flower bed and take a dump in his fish tank while they’re at it. Celebrating someone else’s failure is bad enough, but the way the mainstream media celebrates these jackasses’ annual celebration really rubs me the wrong way.

So I’ll be rooting for New England today, despite my New York roots, because I like to watch history happen. The guacamole is made, I’ve got the materials to make tacos for our small crowd, and there’s a chocolate cake cooling on the counter, waiting to be sliced, filled, and frosted. It’s time for football.

EDIT: Jake’s post reminded me of one thing – Tom Brady’s the obvious pick for MVP, but if it’s not him, I’ll take Wes Welker.

NFL picks.

Usual disclaimer – I am not much of a football fan, let alone any kind of expert, and I am not placing any actual bets on these games – but here are my picks:

San Diego (+14) over NEW ENGLAND – New England to win
GREEN BAY (-7) over New York

I’m leaning towards the under on both games – anywhere from 46.5-48 on the first game, and 40.5-41.5 on the second.