Stick to baseball, 5/20/17.

My one baseball post this past week was the annual ranking of the Top 25 MLB players under 25, which causes more “read the intro” violations than anything else I write every year. I also held a Klawchat on Thursday while in Minneapolis; I will do a quick eats post from there soon, but I’m about six topics behind here due to travel and lack of sleep.

For Paste, I reviewed the new puzzle game Shahrazad, which has a solo version and a two-player mode, both pretty clever with fantastic artwork and very few rules to learn.

My book, Smart Baseball, came out on April 25th from HarperCollins in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats. I traveled to Atlanta and the Twin Cities for readings/signings this past week, and am very grateful to all of you who came out to buy the book, have yours signed, or just say hello; we had 50+ folks at each event and Moon Palace Books sold out of the book Thursday night. Smart Baseball also got a very positive review from an unexpected source, the political site The Federalist.

I’m still sending out my email newsletter when I can, and the last edition, about some recent troubles I’ve had with my anxiety disorder and the medication I take for it, got the strongest response yet – so many replies and comments, in fact, that I haven’t been able to respond to the majority of them. I did see them all, though, and I really appreciate all the kind words.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 5/13/17.

My one Insider post this week was my first ‘mock’ draft for 2017, although it’s really too early for that sort of exercise. And I held a Klawchat on Thursday.

Smart Baseball is out now in the U.S. and Canada; you can order it here or get it at any local bookstore. We are working on getting an ebook version out in some international markets, but I can’t promise anything there yet.

I have two signings/talks this week, for which I’m very excited (and a little anxious, to be honest). The first is in Decatur, Georgia (Atlanta area), at the Georgia Center for the Book on Tuesday at 7 pm, and the AJC was kind enough to lead their book events page with a note about my appearance. The second is in Minneapolis at Moon Palace Books on Thursday at 6:30 pm. I hope to meet many of you at these events, both of which are free to attend.

I’ve been asked by many of you about organizing other events. If a bookstore reaches out to Harper Collins to invite me, and I can work it into my schedule, I’m certainly open to doing more. I do have further events scheduled for Toronto, Miami (July 8th), and Berkeley (July 19th), plus am hoping to do signings at GenCon and PAX Unplugged later this year.

I spoke with SUNY-Oswego Professor of Digital Media Brian Moritz about the book, analytics in sports, and being a writer. I joined The Young Turks’ video show to discuss the book and media resistance to advanced stats. I also spoke with ESPN Radio in Dallas, with ESPN 1530 in Cincinnati, and with SI Now about the book & Mike Mussina’s Hall of Fame case.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 5/6/17.

Smart Baseball is out! Buy it here or at any local bookstore. It’s available in the US and Canada, in print, ebook, and audiobook forms. I have inquired about distribution elsewhere in the world but I can only report that we’re looking into it and nothing is imminent.

My one piece for Insiders this week covered the very limited market for Eric Hosmer this upcoming winter, given his lack of production and how few teams have openings at first or DH. I held a Klawchat, a bit shorter than normal, on Thursday.

I did an interview with the folks behind the Pocket bookmarketing app, and appeared on the public radio program AirTalk, both to talk about Smart Baseball. I also spoke with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap on his radio show The Sporting Life.

* Anti-vaxxers have targeted Somali immigrants in Minnesota and caused a measles outbreak there. While I understand that we try not to criminalize speech here, how is this – claiming vaccines cause autism, a bad hypothesis fully debunked by science – any different than shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, causing needless panic and great public harm? (And yes, the Holmes quote is itself problematic, and he started walking it back almost immediately.) And why do we permit Wakefield to operate in the U.S.? We could easily deny him entry; he’s a greater threat to the broader population than suspected Islamic militants.

* George Will dropped two strong columns this past week for the Washington Post. The one you might have seen says the President has “a dangerous disability” and calls him unfit for office. The one you might have missed argues for repealing the mortgage interest tax deduction, which costs the US government about $100 billion annually in foregone revenues. This is an unpopular and controversial proposal; passing it would cause a one-time hit to housing prices and put many people underwater on their loans. But the exemption amounts to a regressive tax, and at the very least we should limit such deductions to primary residences (not second or third houses).

* Will’s column about the President came a few days after the vulgar talking yam was inconsistent and even incoherent after a long day of interviews. Remember when he questioned whether Hillary Clinton would have the stamina to be President? That was fun.

* Dion Walters of the Miami Heat wrote a hilarious and poignant piece for the Players Tribune at the end of April, which I missed because it went up the day Smart Baseball was released.

* NPR wrote about northerners flying the Confederate flag while openly denying that it is a racist symbol that stood for and will always stand for slavery. If one of my neighbors put one up outside his house and refused to remove it, I’d take it down by force. It’s no better than flying a flag with a swastika.

* While driving around southern California this week, I spent a lot of time listening to the indispensable NPR One app, which brought me some great stories and several episodes of a new podcast, The Grift, which I highly recommend. Two stories I liked enough to share: how the autocratic state government in Texas is destroying local government powers, and on the development of the Cosmic Crisp apple in Washington, which might be the next big hit apple with consumers.

* An epidemiologist explains why science is never perfect – that studies nearly always have some sort of flaws or biases, but that those don’t invalidate the results or make the studies worthless (a common claim of deniers like anti-vaxxers).

* How’s this for a bad headline. Something called the “Washington Free Beacon” wrote that a Democratic Congressional candidate in Montana said climate change deniers should kill themselves. What he actually said: “If any those of you that feel like this is not a problem, I challenge you to go into your car in your garage, start your car, and see what happens there.” This is obviously a ham-handed and scientifically weak attempt to point out the effects of burning fossil fuels on our atmosphere. But hey, gotta get dem clicks.

* ThinkProgress’ Lindsay Gibbs weighs in on the myth that ESPN is “liberal” simply because we argue against domestic violence or discrimination.

* Speaking of which, those liberal firebrands at Consumer Reports write that the Affordable Care Act led to a decline in personal bankruptcies.

* Someone in Russia is blinding Putin’s opponents with chemical attacks. It can’t happen here, though, right?

* You’ve probably seen the outrage among scientists that the New York Times hired a climate-change denier, Bret Stephens, in the name of “balance.” Did you also catch their publication of a bogus story on “alternative” medicine? Remember: There is no “alternative” medicine. If it works, it’s medicine. Otherwise, it’s bullshit.

* The passage of the AHCA, with many Congresspersons voting for it against the wishes of their constituents, has led to some direct financial results already:

* The Washington Post explains why that organic milk you bought might not be organic. The USDA’s organic labeling program has been a total failure, one of many examples where that agency has raised costs and wasted taxpayer money with no benefit to consumers. FWIW, I do buy organic milk because I want to support antibiotic-free husbandry, and “organic” is a fair proxy for that, but I don’t think the claimed health benefits of milk from grass-fed cows are proven.

* The James Beard Restaurant/Chef Awards are out! The winners include former Top Chef contestant Sarah Grueneberg, who won Best Chef: Great Lakes; her restaurant, Monteverde, provided one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten when I visited last July.

* This piece exhorting us to stop using public wifi networks makes sense, but is not terribly practical. Mobile data remains expensive and can’t match wifi speeds. The solution would seem to lie in making such networks more secure for most uses – although logging into your bank or credit card accounts on those networks will always be a bad idea.

* A new bill in Hawai’i’s legislature is essentially a sweetheart giveaway of state land rights to private tenants.

* Author/writer/Twitter wit Kelly Oxford discusses coming to terms with her panic disorder in an excerpt from her new book, When You Find Out the World Is Against You: And Other Funny Memories About Awful Moments.

* The Atlantic‘s Conor Friedersdorf argues that smugness isn’t a liberal characteristic, but a universal one. People at either extreme can veer into condescension of those with opposing views. Of course, the targets of condescension may have earned such disdain if they’re spouting conspiracy theories or outright falsehoods; treating cranks with respect isn’t going to accomplish anything either.

* If you live in Florida and believe convicted felons who have completed their jail terms should regain their rights to vote – as they would in 40 other states – there is a petition you can sign and group you can join to try to help make that a reality.

Stick to baseball, 4/30/17.

My book is out! You can find Smart Baseball absolutely everywhere – online, in bookstores, and even in some libraries. HarperCollins has links to various online vendors, but if you prefer to walk into a bookstore like it’s 1947 and buy the book directly, well, I like to do that too. I know thousands of you have already bought it, so my thanks to all of you.

I went to MLB Network on Friday and appeared on MLB Now, the show hosted by my friend and former ESPN colleague Brian Kenny. You can watch our discussion of the book. I talked to SI’s Richard Deitsch about baseball on TV and about not sticking to sports on social media. I also appeared on my good friend Will Leitch’s podcast to talk about the book and mock his hatred of Fletch.

I also discussed the book on over 50 radio shows this week; highlights included a long chat with WNYC’s Leonard Lopate, talking to Connell McShane on the Don Imus show, appearing on the Felske Files podcast, appearing on the Fantasy Focus Baseball podcast (with Karabell! But no bias cat), talking to WBAL’s Brett Hollander, and talking to WABC’s Sid Rosenberg.

I do have some upcoming appearances as well: May 8th at Pitch Talks Philadelphia, May 16th at The Georgia Center for the Book (in Decatur), and May 18th at Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis. There are further readings/events scheduled in Toronto, Miami, and Brooklyn for June and July.

My other writing from the past week included ranking the top 50 prospects for this year’s draft for ESPN Insiders, a list I’ll eventually expand to 100. It wasn’t easy getting to 50, though. For Paste I ran through the best new boardgames of 2017, including a few titles from the tail end of last year.

OK, finally, let’s get to some links:

Stick to baseball, 4/22/17.

Smart Baseball comes out on Tuesday, so this is the last stick to baseball post before its official release. If you haven’t preordered yet, you can still do so here, or by, you know, walking into a bookstore and asking them to preorder it for you.

The media push for Smart Baseball has begun, with my hourlong chat with Joe Posnanski on his podcast, including talk about the book, boardgames, and how Mike Schur is dead wrong about pies. The Baltimore County Public Library interviewed me about the book and asked about time management. I also answered some questions in an interview for AM New York.

I currently have signings/appearances scheduled for Philadelphia (May 8th), Atlanta (May 16th), Minneapolis (May 18th), Toronto (June 26th), and Miami (July 8th). There are a few more in the works, including a likely signing at GenCon in Indianapolis, but if you don’t see your city on there, contact your local bookstore and ask them to contact HarperCollins. It’ll depend on my travel schedule, of course, but I do have time for a few more of these.

I wrote one draft blog post this week on Vandy’s Kyle Wright and Jeren Kendall, with notes on some Florida players as well. For Paste, I reviewed the epic boardgame The Colonists, which is actually a good game but punishingly intricate.

As always, you can get even more Klaw by signing up for my email newsletter.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 4/15/17.

I updated my ranking of the top 50 prospects in the minors this week; there’s minimal reranking in there, just status notes on players, with guys moving up to replace those already in the majors. (Jesse Winker was promoted after the piece ran.) I wrote a long draft blog post on Hunter Greene, Brian McKay, and other draft prospects I’ve seen so far. 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. Also, please sign up for my more-or-less weekly email newsletter.

And now, the links…

  • The one great longread I saw this week was from Backchannel on what’s happened to Google Books, the tech giant’s stated effort to scan every book, ever, to make them all searchable. I’ve used this feature quite a few times, including during the research for Smart Baseball, where I could search for certain terms or keywords in books I couldn’t get my hands on.
  • California passed a tougher law on childhood vaccinations, and, lo and behold, inoculation rates went up about 3 percentage points.
  • The handful of loonies who opposed the law largely claimed “parental choice” as a reason why they should be allowed to deny their children a safe, effective treatment that can prevent debilitating and sometimes fatal diseases. It’s a terrible argument, because those “choices” affect everyone, not just your children. (Also, that choice isn’t for you – it’s for your child, who can’t choose for him/herself, and depends on you to take care of his/her medical needs.)
  • If you’ve seen a vaccine denier point to measles outbreaks in China as evidence the MMR vaccine doesn’t work, well, the outbreaks occurred among unvaccinated groups. Facts may not carry the day with deniers, but it is on the rational among us to make sure the truth is still out there for people who might be on the fence.
  • A Utah judge praised a convicted sexual abuser during sentencing, with at least one of the victims present. This kind of behavior will only discourage victims from coming forward in the future. Utah judges may be removed from the bench via a judicial conduct commission censure or a 2/3 vote of the legislature, so if you live in that state, get on the phone.
  • I think my new least favorite food buzzword is “clean.” Panera, which is a decent chain choice if you want something vegetarian while traveling, claims its food is 100% “clean,” which means absolutely nothing unless previously they were rolling their bread dough out on the floor. It’s also a buzzword for people who eat weird, ultra-restricted diets that probably don’t provide enough nutrition because so-called “clean eaters” often skip dairy or wheat, foods that are often demonized without scientific basis. I’ll keep eatin’ dirty, thanks.
  • Dr. David Dao, the passenger beaten and dragged off a United flight last week, has filed court papers in preparation for a lawsuit and compared his treatment to what he experienced while fighting in the Vietnam War. Tim Wu of the New Yorker wrote about why he stopped flying United after it merged with Continental. Deadspin’s Albert Burneko discussed the absurdity of backing the corporation in such cases.
  • An American doctor has been charged with mutilating the genitalia of two girls under the age of 10, a barbaric practice common in eastern African countries and in Indonesia known as female genital mutilation.
  • New Mexico has banned “lunch shaming,” the cruel practice of embarrassing children whose parents have unpaid school meal debts.
  • I listened to the entire seven episodes of the podcast S-Town, and I’m not sure if I think the time was well spent. Did I really get anything out of it? Was John B. McLemore, who was most likely a manic depressive on top of the later medical issues revealed in the final episode, someone worthy of a seven-hour biography? The Atlantic also asks about the ethics of revealing so much of his life after his death, and the details of other characters in the play. The Guardian went to Woodstock, Alabama, to interview the locals about their sudden bit of fame, and most didn’t seem to mind the portrayals.
  • I was apparently behind the times, as I was unfamiliar with the Twitter replies-to-retweets ratio until this past week.
  • Paul Krugman wrote that publicity stunts aren’t policy and then Trump ordered (or simply handwaved along) the dropping of the ‘mother of all bombs’ on Afghanistan. It’s working, though: Compare media coverage of the Russian connection, or of GOP rollbacks of Obama policies, to coverage of the Syria and Afghanistan bombings and now our taunting of North Korea. (For what it’s worth, the North Korean government has always been the one that worried me, because it’s essentially sociopathy in government form, and they’re well-funded enough to do mass damage to someone, South Korea or Japan or us. But I would prefer to see a long-term policy solution to the issue, not threatening to Pyongyang to wag the dog.)
  • There can be no beatings and imprisoning of gays in Chechnya because there are no gays in Chechnya, say Chechnyan authorities. This Guardian report says otherwise.
  • I enjoyed this interview with Dana Cree, pastry chef for Chicago’s Publican restaurant group and author of the new cookbook Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream: The Art and Science of the Scoop. Within the Q&A she discusses which ingredients serve as stabilizers to minimize the size of ice crystals in ice cream, providing a smoother texture. I personally do not like the eggless ice cream known as Philadelphia-style, which is just dairy, sugar, and flavors, for that very reason. I prefer frozen custard, sometimes called New York ice cream, which includes egg yolks – often a lot – and less butterfat, because the yolks contain lecithin, which emulsifies the fat and the water in the base and thus prevents large crystals from forming. Lecithin can break down at subzero temperatures, however, so vegetable gums may be better if you’re going super-cold, if you can’t eat eggs, or if you don’t want that slight eggnog note in a delicate flavor like vanilla bean.
  • The first part of this NPR Fresh Air interview with author David Owen, about the Colorado River, is interesting and particularly relevant to me, because one of the main reasons I did not want to remain a long-term resident of Arizona was that the state has no strategy for dealing with the coming water crisis in the region. The Colorado River is overtaxed, badly, and Arizona’s idea of coping is storing a few years of water in underground reserves. He has a new book out on the topic, Where the Water Goes, and discusses some of it in the Q&A. Then he talks about golfing with Donald Trump and I moved on with my life.

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, 3/26/17.

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…