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, 6/3/17.

My second first-round projection (mock draft) went up on Tuesday, and I held a Klawchat, in which some guy got mad at me for answering a question about my first-round projections by including that link, on Friday. It’s bad enough civility is dead, but must we continue to mutiliate its corpse?

My latest boardgame review for Paste covers the light detective/puzzle game Watson & Holmes, yet another game that uses those public-domain characters strictly for marketing purposes. It’s not a bad game, though, just a little too simple.

I’m told that Smart Baseball continues to sell well, although the sales figures I get mean nothing to me (since it’s my first book), but it wouldn’t hurt if you bought a dozen more copies to give out for Father’s Day to … um … your twelve fathers. Feel free to sign up for my email newsletter as well.

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, 11/20/16.

I spent the last week on vacation with my family, in the Bahamas, which was lovely due to the weather, the friendly people, and the rum. Before I left, I filed four offseason buyers’ guides, to the markets for starting pitchers, relief pitchers, infielders & catchers, and outfielders. I also participated in a ’roundtable’ piece with Dan Szymborski where we discussed our NL ROY ballots.

I reviewed the family boardgame Legendary Inventors for Paste; it’s cute but feels a bit unfinished given the imbalance across the various scoring methods. Earlier this month, I updated my all-time favorite boardgame rankings, which now runs to 100 titles.

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

And now, the links…

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?

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 10/22/16.

My second dispatch from the AFL covers Michael Kopech, Francis Martes, Dillon Tate, and more. I also wrote a column on the Dbacks’ hire of Mike Hazen and the lack of diversity in front offices. Both pieces are for Insiders, and neither mentions Tim Tebow. I also held my regular Klawchat on Thursday.

My latest boardgame review for Paste covers the pirate-themed Islebound, a gorgeous game that plays slow and dry.

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…

Stick to baseball, 9/17/16.

For Insiders this week I wrote about eight top 100 prospects who had down years in 2016; that’s not all prospects who had off years, just eight I chose to discuss. I held my usual Klawchat on Thursday. For Paste I reviewed the fun, family boardgame Saloon Tycoon, where players build across their boards and also add up to three levels as they build upward.

You can pre-order my book, Smart Baseball, ahead of its scheduled release on April 25, 2017. I promise I’ll have it written by then.

Several people I know have new books out recently, and while I haven’t read them yet, I wanted to highlight the titles here:
• Jessica Luther’s Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape
• Alan Sepinwall’s TV (The Book): Two Experts Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time (with Matt Zoller Seitz)
• Geoff Schwartz’s Eat My Schwartz: Our Story of NFL Football, Food, Family, and Faith (with his brother Mitch)

I’ve been sending out a weekly email newsletter with links to all of my content and some additional notes or thoughts that don’t fit anywhere else; you can sign up here if you just don’t have enough Klaw in your life.

And now, the links…

  • Scientific American asked the four remaining Presidential candidates to answer twenty questions on major topics in science and has published the answers of the three who responded. (Gary Johnson hasn’t deigned to reply.) My takeaway: Trump remains a terrifying anti-science candidate, particularly in his denial of climate change (note the scare quotes), while Stein comes off as a serious person here as opposed to the pandering crackpot she’s been playing on Twitter.
  • VICE’s Noisey site has an outstanding piece on the history and music of Homestar Runner, one of my favorite cartoons from any medium.
  • BuzzFeed is capable of some great investigative journalism (when they’re not stealing other people’s content on the Tasty or for their videos), like this piece on police departments “closing” rape cases without investigating them. They focus on Baltimore County, Maryland, where even men convicted of previous assaults were getting away with rapes because the cops couldn’t be bothered.
  • More great investigative journalism, this time from the Houston Chronicle: The backwater known as Texas has been denying special education services to special needs kids because they arbitrarily capped the rate of kids eliglible to receive those services at 8.5%.
  • Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker stands accused of, but not charged with, taking cash for favors from large donors, according to court documents obtained by the Guardian despite a court’s irregular order that the documents be destroyed.
  • Mother Jones writers about the dwindling numbers of black teachers in urban areas and the potential impact on black students.
  • How did a young power couple in Afghanistan, including the youngest woman in that country’s nascent Parliament, end up in Nebraska? The Omaha World-Herald has their harrowing story, from death threats in their home country to entry-level jobs at McDonald’s and Home Depot as refugees here.
  • Experts on hate groups say white supremacists see Donald Trump as their “last stand.” Well, when he’s bragging about the 88 military advisors helping him, how could they think otherwise?
  • I don’t even know what to make of the story that Peter Thiel says Trump will nominate him to the Supreme Court if elected. Thiel is the billionaire who funded the lawsuits that took down Gawker and Nick Denton; perhaps he believes that, but as much as I find Trump as President a horrifying prospect, this seems like Thiel’s own fantasy.
  • Speaking of Gawker, Univision, the new owner of Gawker Media, chose to delete a handful of posts related to ongoing lawsuits (some baseless); the chief news officer at Univision agreed to a long conversation with Gizmodo about these decisions. It’s long and meandering but there’s a lot of meat in here, and while the deletions don’t look good at a glance, I think Univision is also offering some strong support for its writers going forward, too.
  • The Scientific Parent explains why the “too much, too soon” anti-vaxxer argument is wrong. It’s ignorant of basic science: Your kid is ingesting more pathogens in a typical day than s/he’ll get in all the vaccines s/he ever receives, and the metals that vaccine deniers freak out over are present in food, water, even breast milk.
  • Dr. Bob Sears, who’s been accused of ‘selling’ medical exemptions to California’s new mandatory schoolkid vaccination law, may lose his license for medical negligence instead. Whatever gets these charlatans out of the medical business is fine with me.
  • Meanwhile, nearly 10,000 New Jersey schoolkids skipped vaccinations this year. If you live there, call your state legislator and ask him or her to sponsor a bill eliminating non-medical exemptions.
  • Trump’s campaign claims he’s given “tens of millions of dollars” to charity but the Washington Post found no proof.
  • A writer for the National Review claims that the left is “weaponizing” sports, citing the NCAA’s decision to pull championship events from North Carolina as a result of that state passing Hate Bill 2. He drops the ball (!) in sentence two, however, since HB2’s biggest effect is that it local governments from making sexual orientation a protected status in any anti-discrimination ordinances. It’s not about bathrooms; it’s about saying you can’t be fired just because you’re gay.
  • The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology is chaired by an anti-science Republican and Christian Scientist, Lamar Smith (TX). Physicist Lawrence Krauss writes that Smith’s been politicizing scientific research, including that related to climate change and ocean acidification, in his little reign of terror, which will likely continue as long as Republicans control the House. And don’t be fooled by the religion’s name – Christian Science is about as anti-science as any cult can get, eschewing medicine and claiming that sickness is caused by an absence of “right thinking.”
  • Media Matters writes about ongoing criticism of the NY Times‘ perceived bias against Hillary Clinton. I’ve always thought of the Times as a clear, left-leaning publication, so their coverage of HRC’s campaign has surprised me this year.
  • Somalia is a failed state and has been without a real central government for a quarter century now. The northern section of the country calls itself Somaliland, and is seeking internal recognition of its independence. There are some recent examples in east Africa that argue against it, as Eritrea and South Sudan have been plagued by fighting and corruption since their secessions from Ethiopia and Sudan, respectively. Somaliland isn’t leaving a real country, however; there is no competing authority to their own bootstrapped government.
  • The U.S. ended sanctions on Myanmar, but it’s not clear Myanmar (ex-Burma) has actually earned this economic reward. Aung San Suu Kyi’s acquiescence has left many observers puzzled, and the linked piece from the BBC tries to explain it.
  • Author Lionel Shriver (We Need to Talk About Kevin)’s address to the Brisbane Writers Festival on cultural appropriation caused a substantial backlash against her claims that the term is the result of “runaway political correctness.”
  • The Washington Post‘s editorial board wrote that the Hillary Clinton email story is “out of control” relative to its actual importance. I agree; she made a mistake, a significant one, but one that pales in comparison to those of her opponent in this election, such as Trump calling again for Hillary’s assassination.
  • U.S. colleges continue to protect athlete rapists because sports. At UNC a rape victim went public to force the school and the county to stop delaying their investigation. Two women at the University of Richmond did the same, one revealing that a school administrator said the rapist had a right to “finish.”
  • New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose stands accused of gang-raping a woman, and Julie DiCaro writes for Fansided about the civil suit that’s going on right now – including his lawyers’ strange choice not to try to settle the case.
  • Mental Floss shows six math concepts demonstrated via crochet, with the first two (the hyperbolic plane and the Lorenz manifold) the most interesting.
  • Apple’s been getting killed – rightly so – for the iPhone 7’s lack of an analog headphone jack, but VICE’s Motherboard points out the iPhone 6+ has its own very serious engineering flaw.
  • Back in the 1960s, the sugar industry paid Harvard researchers for favorable results, part of a decades-long nutritional con that had us afraid of fat but thinking sugar was mostly harmless.
  • Colin Kaepernick’s protest is working, writes Josh Levin at Slate. Given the widespread conversation he started, I’d have to agree: He used a non-violent, non-disruptive act to make his point, and we’ve spent several weeks talking about all aspects of it, from race in America to the purpose of jingoistic displays at sporting events where many of the players aren’t even from the U.S.
  • Bayer’s pending acquisition of Monsanto has raised questions about Monsanto’s GM seeds business as some farmers find the returns don’t justify the higher costs. This piece from the WSJ is remarkably balanced, avoiding “frankenfoods!” hysteria and discussing pros and cons of genetically modified seeds. One point of note: Weeds that are or have evolved to become resistant to glyphosate have already started invading farms with GM seeds.
  • You’ve probably heard a lot about the Native Americans’ opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, which will cross much of their land, but before this NPR piece I hadn’t heard much from the pipeline company’s side. For example, I didn’t know that this pipeline will cover the same route as an existing natural gas pipeline installed in 1982, or that the areas the tribes affected say are sacred may not be so.
  • Why did the Governor of Kentucky speak before a hate group and threaten armed sedition if Clinton wins? Why does nobody care about an elected official doing this?
  • Radiolab had a great podcast describing the ordeal of a girl who turned 18 without any documentation to prove she exists. It has taken her over a year just to acquire some of the things we take for granted, and she’s still fighting for a social security number.
  • A man in nearby Smyrna, Delaware, reports that this relaxing tea better fucking work, according to The Onion.

Saturday five, 11/6/15.

My annual ranking of the top 50 free agents this offseason is now up for Insiders, and I held my weekly Klawchat right after they were posted.

I reviewed the app version of Camel Up for Paste this week. Since I wrote that review, there’s been a minor update that cleaned up some of the issues I had with the graphics, notably the info available on screen to you. It’s available here for iOS devices or Android.

And now, the links…

  • Well this just sucks: Kevin Folta, scientist and advocate of genetic engineering of food crops and generally of the safety of food science, is removing himself from public debate. He’s been attacked by the FraudBabe and the dipshits at U.S. “Right to Know,” a group that uses the veneer of consumer rights to mask a blatant science-denial/anti-GMO policy. They’ve been using FOIA requests to try to scuttle legitimate research and discussion. The only solution I see is for more of us to speak up and out about science.
  • Peet’s Coffee has purchased a majority stake in Intelligentsia, their second such move into high-end craft coffee after their purchase of Stumptown. I don’t know what this means for the space; I don’t see a natural synergy here but fear it’s more a move to neutralize competition from a higher-margin competitor
  • We forget that the people pictured in certain memes are actual human beings, such as the skeptical Third World kid, so the BBC has done a story on that picture, finding the aid worker pictured but not the child.
  • Canada’s new government seems about as pro-science as it gets, including the creation of a new post, Minister of Science. Can you imagine any of the current Republican candidates for President doing such a thing? So many of them have staked out one or more denialist positions that this seems out of the question.
  • Some good sense from the Environmental Defense Blog on what the news about China’s coal consumption really means. Tip: Climate change is still real, and the CO2 measurements aren’t affected.
  • Thanksgiving is coming and it’s never too early to start cooking, at least when it comes to preparing stock, as Michael Ruhlman explains. I actually make a brown chicken stock instead, since I always have chicken carcasses in the freezer (bones and necks, and sometimes wings) but rarely have turkey.
  • Smile You Bitch: Being a Woman in 2015” lives up to its provocative title. Rape culture is everywhere, and it’s ingrained in many young men from childhood.
  • Speaking of treating women like navel lint, I give you the NFL’s attempt to hush up Greg Hardy’s domestic violence case.
  • So the demise of Grantland led to a lot of thinkpieces (and a few readers telling me they were canceling their Insider subs, which, to be perfectly honest, just punishes all the wrong people here), but one I liked was from Fortune, talking about its implications for the business of longform journalism. I didn’t read a lot of Grantland’s stuff, but I do believe their mission mattered, and I hope the end of that site is just a blip.
  • From Forbes, a good piece looking at the limited research to date on pediatricians who turn away vaccine-refusing parents. That’s a lot better than the nonsense hit piece on Bryce Harper the same publication ran earlier last week.
  • I’ve often wondered about whether linking to Spotify in my music posts was helping or hurting the artists in question, but Cameron from the band Superhumanoids told me in September that it was the former, and now FiveThirtyEight has a piece supporting this with data.
  • The long-running TV series Mythbusters is ending after its next season, and the NY Times offers an appreciation, crediting the show with rising interest in STEM education and careers.
  • New research on the lizards called tuataras supports the theory that the penis evolved just once for mammals and reptiles and has just, well, hung around.

Saturday five, 9/5/15.

I had two Insider pieces this week, one on hypothetical postseason award ballots and one on notable September callups, and then someone else I didn’t expect to see came up after the latter was posted so why do I even do anything.

Klawchats at ESPN.com are indeed dead, as are all chats there, but I think I’ve found a solution that will let me resume the chats here after Labor Day. I’m looking for a little help with a script to clean up the transcripts so I can post them after the fact for everyone to read, so if you’re handy with perl, Python, or the like, please let me know. I’ll keep doing Periscopes, but they don’t work for everyone, including my deaf readers, so I want to make sure I use both media going forward.

My review of the second edition of the boardgame Evolution plus its Flight expansion is up at Paste. You can buy the game for $48 on amazon.

And now, the links…

  • How “Big Egg” has used underhanded and possibly illegal tactics, with the help of the USDA, to try to sabotage Hampton Creek’s vegan mayonnaise. It’s incredibly sleazy.
  • Andrew Zimmern talks about the future of food, from synthetic food replacements to insects as a sustainable protein source.
  • Scientists have discovered a naturally-occurring protein that would help slow the melting of ice cream. I see a problem with this, though: Ice cream tastes better when it’s at the brink of melting, because our taste buds don’t detect flavors in cold or frozen foods that well. That’s why ice cream has to be high in sugar – otherwise it wouldn’t taste sweet.
  • A Chinese writer talks about how the “gross” immigrant food of her upbringing has been culturally appropriated as “trendy.”
  • The programmer adapting the board game Brass into app form has started a blog about the process.
  • Chef Rick Bayless – yep, that’s Skip’s brother – writes about his dismay over the unbanning of GMO corn in Mexico, using culinary and cultural arguments rather than (un)scientific ones.
  • An experiment among Israeli schoolteachers found unconscious gender bias in math grading, bias that affected those kids’ choices as they advanced to higher grades. I know some of you get on me for discussing bias (racism, sexism, etc.) where it isn’t immediately evident, but these issues still exist, especially racism within the white-dominated baseball industry, even though it’s rarely explicit any more.
  • Alton Brown talks to the New York Times about his attitudes about our attitudes about food.
  • A paid anti-GMO shill for the organic agriculture industry was “severed” from Washington State University. Particularly notable are the undisclosed conflicts of interest, the same violation of which the anti-GMO side is accusing Kevin Folta.
  • Why is Missouri executing one death-row prisoner a month?
  • Vaccine denier Dr. Bob Sears – whose license to practice medicine still hasn’t been stripped, for reasons I can’t begin to fathom – is continuing to push his looney-toon, law-breaking agenda on gullible parents.