Stick to baseball, 3/26/17.

My annual column of breakout player picks went up on Thursday for Insiders, and I held a Klawchat that same day. I had one other Insider post since the last roundup, on four prospects I saw in Arizona, one Cub, one Royal, and two Padres.

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, 3/18/17.

Two Insider posts this week from Arizona, one on Padres and Dodgers prospects and one on Dodgers, Reds, and Rangers prospects. I’ll have one more post coming from this trip. I did not chat this week because I was out at games every day. The trip also meant I didn’t get to review a boardgame this week either.

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, 3/11/17.

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, 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, 2/25/17.

I wrote one Insider piece this week, on how the Mets should handle their rotation, with six capable major-league starters right now, but five of them coming off of some kind of injury last year, from Thor’s bone spurs to Harvey’s TOS repair surgery. I also held a Klawchat on Thursday.

My latest boardgame review for Paste covers the worker-placement game Ulm, which works fine mechanically but has a theme that’s just so overdone for me.

You can preorder my upcoming book, Smart Baseball, on amazon, or from other sites via the Harper-Collins page for the book. The book just got its first official positive review, from Kirkus Reviews.

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.

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.

Stick to baseball, 1/28/17.

My ranking of the top 100 prospects went up this week, and my org rankings went up last week, so ESPN set up a landing page that links to all my prospect content. When the individual team top tens and reports go up next week, you’ll be able to reach them from this page as well.

ESPN split my top 100 ranking into five posts this year, twenty prospects per page, so here they are from the top to the bottom:

I held a Klawchat Friday after the whole list was up.

And I even got another boardgame review up, this one of the new edition of the 2000 game Citadels, which is actually designed for 4 to 8 players, with rules variants included for 2 or 3. It’s definitely best with four or more, though.

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, 1/21/17.

My annual prospect ranking package started to appear on ESPN.com this week for Insiders, with the farm system rankings coming in three separate parts: teams ranked 1 to 10, teams ranked 11 to 20, and teams ranked (sad trombone) 21 to 30. I held a Klawchat here on Friday, after all three parts were posted.

The top 100 itself will roll out over five days this upcoming week, 100 to 81 on Monday and 20 to 1 on Friday. I will probably chat Friday afternoon again so that you have the whole list available to you before I take your questions.

Over at Paste I reviewed the really adorable boardgame Kodama: The Tree Spirits, a great family game with a new mechanic that almost feels a little artistic.

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, where, I kid you not, someone actually told me “you should stick to baseball” in response to the last edition, because apparently I can’t talk about whatever I want to talk about in my own fucking newsletter

Gah. The links: