Week of February 21, 2020

Amen.


Hallelujah! Aubrey Not Invited to Giants 2010 Reunion

For the record, I always sensed Aubrey Huff was a tool. His “rally thong” bit during the Giants’ run to the 2010 World Series, and the Zoolander-stolen “joke” at the championship parade that year, was just not funny. Huff did not take long to prove me right. 

His post-playing career descent started slowly. I caught him on his radio show a few times and confirmed what I figured: he’s an unfunny meathead. Which is fine. Plenty of people are that, athletes included. But it confirmed for me that I had no affinity for the guy, despite his contribution to a World Series championship.

It was over the last few years, though, that he really showed his true colors. It’s not the fact he supports Trump. I don’t like that, but I also know many of my very favorite athletes also likely support him. Instead, it’s Huff’s pure nastiness; his utter lack of humanity; his “durrrr, why are you so mad, I’m actually laughing” schtick every time someone calls him out for all of the above.

But Huff hit his nadir recently. He apparently went through a divorce in 2017 and claims that has taken the shackles off of him to be “less inhibited online.” I would never wish marrying Aubrey Huff on any woman, but is there any way we can find some way to put that genie back in the bottle? Because over the last two months Huff has gone completely off the rails. 

In November, he posted a tweet at a shooting range with the caption, “Getting my boys trained up on how to use a gun in the unlikely event @BernieSanders beats @realDonaldTrump in 2020. In which case knowing how to effectively use a gun under socialism will be a must.”

I mean, good lord.

In January, he really hit rock bottom, though. In response to a dreadful tweet that said Americans should invade Iran and “take their bitches,” Huff tweeted, “Let’s get a flight over and kidnap about 10 each. We can bring them back here as they fan us and feed us grapes, amongst other things….” 

For the record, yes, Aubrey Huff joked about kidnapping and raping women.

Then, after the Giants hired Alyssa Nakken, the first female coach in MLB history, Huff tweeted that he thought the hiring has “#metoo and #BelieveAllWoman written all over it.” He then tweeted he “couldn’t imagine taking baseball instruction from an ex female softball player,” while tagging Giants players Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Buster Posey, telling them to “have fun with that.”

I walked you through this recent history of disgusting behavior to set a foundation here: Aubrey Huff is a god awful human being. That’s important, because news leaked this week that the Giants informed Huff he was not invited to their on-field 10-year reunion of the 2010 World Series Championship. Huff responded as you might expect – he incorrectly claimed the Giants don’t support free speech, when this has nothing to do with the First Amendment, and he blamed the move on his support for President Trump (even tagging Trump in the post).

Huff, of course, is dead wrong. He’s been a vocal supporter of Trump for years, and the Giants did invite Huff to Bruce Bochy’s retirement ceremony this past September. Huff was there, and I remember because I am pretty certain I booed him (FREE SPEECH!). So what changed, for the Giants, between last September and now? That’s why I set that foundation above – what changed is that Huff crossed so many lines of decency.

Huff’s attempt to blame this on his support for Trump is pathetic. As pointed out by Grant Brisbee, the majority owner of the Giants is also a Trump supporter:

So we’ll first need to dispel the myth that Huff was disinvited because he vocally supports President Trump. This is an exceptionally ridiculous argument and it can be made only through ignorance or bad faith. The principal owner of the Giants is a confirmed Trump donor. Another member of the ownership group, and the widow of a previous principal owner, is holding fundraisers for him. You can be within the Giants’ orbit while still supporting the president.

No Aubrey, this has nothing to do with your political beliefs. You’re a pig, and you suck, and I am so so so glad you’ve had this honor taken away from you. Now, go away. -TOB

Source: The Giants’ Disinvitation of Aubrey Huff is Remarkably Uncomplicated,Grant Brisbee, The Athletic (02/19/2020)

PAL: He misses the attention he got from baseball, and he’s trying to fill the void in his life by saying stupid crap. This should be the last story written about him.


Cake Eaters Center of Hockey Universe

 

I join you while on assignment from the Minnesota State High School Girls Hockey Tournament (more on that next week), but this article – found on the ESPN homepage no less – was of particular interest while back in the motherland. 

The premise of the story, inspired by the 40th anniversary of the Miracle On Ice, is pretty clear: what are the USA hockey hotbeds today? Back in 1980, the USA Olympic team was made up of 12 Minnesota players (and most of the coaching staff), 4 players from Mass, and a couple from Michigan and Wisconsin. That’s it. No other states were represented. 

So, where are the hotbeds today? Anaheim, Vegas, St. Luis, and Nashville are new-comers. Makes sense. NHL markets with recent success experience bumps in youth signups. Infrastructure is needed, too. In other words, ice. 

We all know the center of the U.S. hockey universe is right here in Minnesota. No surprise. I don’t want a word from the Massachusetts contingent of my family. Not a word.

But then the article got real interesting. 

While there are other contenders for the throne, it’s hard to argue against the Twin Cities as the center of the hockey universe.

“Minnesota is the heartbeat,” Kelleher said.

But can we get even more specific?

Is there a center of the center of the hockey universe?

Consider this: USA Hockey says that the Twin Cities market pulled 10,922 of its total participants in 2018-19 from a region that includes Bloomington (estimated population 85,934), Eden Prairie (64,952) and a little, rather wealthy place ($99,295 median household income, per the U.S. Census Bureau) called Edina (54,791).

No one has captured more Minnesota Tier 1 boys’ state hockey championships than Edina, with 13. They also lost three times in the title game, and finished third three times. Edina also has won the Class AA girls’ hockey title for three straight seasons. 

Among the notable Edina High School alumni: Anders Lee and Kieffer Bellows of the New York Islanders; former Montreal Canadiens player Bill Nyrop; former NHL player Paul Ranheim; and former NHL executive Brian Burke.

“In the Twin Cities, it might be Edina,” said Tom Chorske, a Minneapolis-born former NHL player who’s now an analyst for Fox Sports North. “They win a lot at youth level and produce a lot of college players. A lot of Wild players live in Edina and their little kids are playing there.”

So there you have it: Edina, Minnesota. The center of the center of the hockey universe in the United States.

 

Edina. You’ve got to be shitting me. The inspiration behind “The Cake Eater Anthem”. On ESPN for the world to see. Maybe we’ve known it to be true in our hearts, but no one would want to admit it. 

It’s true. And I can’t stand it. Michael summed it up perfectly.  – PAL 

Source: “USA hockey hotbed heat check: What’s the center of the American hockey universe?”, Greg Wyshynski, ESPN (02/18/20)


Times Like These, I’m Proud to be a Giants Fan

While I realize the Huff thing is at least in part a business decision, I still like it. It makes me proud to be a fan of a team that will ban a clown like that. This story also makes me proud.

Earlier this year, MLB announced some much-needed though still modest raises for minor leaguers, to take effect in 2021. It’s not enough to give them a living wage, but it’s a start. The Giants, though, didn’t waste time. Instead of waiting until 2021, they announced they’d begin paying minor leaguers that raise now, in 2020. In fact, they gave some levels slightly larger raises. 

That’s all nice, and I am sure the players appreciate it. But more importantly, and as you may have noticed in the graphic, the Giants also announced that minor leaguers in AAA Sacramento and AA Richmond would all receive a $500 per month housing stipend, while players in low-A Augusta would receive free housing (if you’re wondering, high-A San Jose players will not receive the stipend because they are already placed with host families and live rent-free).

This is great! No other team offers a housing stipend, so it’s a big deal. Pretty cool move by the Giants. -TOB

Source: Giants Go Past MLB to Raise Minor-League Pay in 2020, Help With Housing,” Henry Schulman, San Francisco Chronicle (02/18/2020)


BASEBALL AND BEER. THAT’S WHAT ENO DOES.

We’ve featured stories from Eno Sarris many times before. Eno is awesome – he’s smart, loves baseball, and writes about advanced statistical analysis in a way that is easy to digest. But if you follow Eno on Twitter, you know that Eno also loves beer. This week, Eno published what I imagine was a labor of love – a detailed and thoughtful ranking of the beer options at all 30 MLB ballparks. Eno rated each stadium on three factors – top-end offering, average offering, accessibility, and then a compound rating of all three. Highly entertaining! Best in Show? Seattle, followed closely by San Diego, with San Francisco a smidge behind in third.

If you’re headed to a stadium this season, you might want to check Eno’s article first. -TOB

Source: “A Beer Nerd’s Guide to Baseball: Ranking Every Stadium by Craft Beer Offerings,” Eno Sarris, The Athletic (02/19/2020)

PAL: That’s just great reporting. My favorite nugget, from San Diego:

“There’s a beer made for the park. In fact, there are (kind of) two. AleSmith’s .394 Pale Ale — named for Tony Gwynn’s batting average that fated 1994 season — is the original gangster, but you can get that all over San Diego and not just at the park.”

Now that’s a great name for a beer.


Video of the Week


Tweets of the Week


Song of the Week

Harry Styles – “Sunflower, Vol. 6”


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“You know, I really would have appreciated a heads up that you’re into dating mothers. I would have introduced you to mine.”

– Dwight Schrute

Week of February 14, 2020

May each and every one of you find your kissing bandit this weekend.


Astros Sorry If Their Cheating Offended Anyone

The Astros had to face the press on Thursday. For the first time, they were to be asked questions about stealing signs (the garbage bin, the Codebreaker app), and man did the players and the owner Jim Crane come off poorly. 

Here’s a sampling:

 

Bregman and Altuve’s statements were less than 90 seconds, combined. All three of them had a commonality: we’re sorry (for cheating), but it didn’t impact the outcome of the World Series. Oh, and “we’re looking forward to 2020.”

Ah, no. 

Aside from the institutional cheating going on for years in the Astros organization, the most incredible takeaway from the team facing the press today is how completely and utterly unprepared they are to answer questions that any PR intern could’ve predicted would be asked today. This news didn’t break yesterday. That’s how in the wrong the Astros were. They knew the questions in advance and this is the best they could muster. They knew what they wanted – to admit wrongdoing, to admit what they were doing created an unfair advantage but to somehow have that admission stop short of impacting the World Series. 

Leave it to a 1-2-3 fav Michael Baumann to sum it up just right: 

Minutes before Crane went on stage, I joked that it would have been more fun if the Astros refused to apologize, and told the assembled reporters to count the rings and go to hell. Having seen what passes for sincere contrition on Crane’s part, they would’ve been better off taking that approach. At least then I would’ve respected their honesty.

Watching all these video clips of players stuttering through their responses to really simple questions reminded me of cops busting up a college house party and asking the guys who live at the house questions about how they got the beer, why the music was so loud, etc. Everyone’s eager to admit a little bit of wrongdoing, but no one is actually responsible for taking $5 and giving a teenager a Solo cup at door. 

At this point, the only detail keeping me from believing the 2017 Astros title should be vacated is that I’m all but certain the Astros and Red Sox weren’t the only teams doing this. No way. – PAL 

Source: The Astros’ Apology Tour Is Off to a Comically Disastrous Start”, Michael Baumann, The Ringer (02/13/20)

TOB: Man. Great analogy. As for Crane, I loved this tweet, recalling a classic Chappelle’s Show moment:

As for Bregman, Altuve, Correa, Springer: these dudes better have incredible seasons. They need incredible seasons to save their reputations. If they come out this season and hit 30 points below their career averages, then their 2017-2019 seasons will go from suspect to absolute jokes.


Neymar’s Highlights Are Great, But He’s Never Been

I’ve never read Rory Smith’s NY Times soccer column until this week – and even for a guy that follows soccer from the highlights – I enjoyed his musings on Neymar’s squandering of talent as the next generation of players take his place in line in ascension to the throne Messi or Ronaldo at some point will give up. Neymar, playing on the same team as Messi in Barcelona, moved to Paris St.-Germain in an effort to get out of Messi’s shadow (and become the highest paid player on the planet). 

The move didn’t work. At 28, Neymar has faded from contention for the Ballon d’Or (the annual award handed out to the best player in the world). In his place are younger stars like P.S.G. teammate Kylian Mbappé. 

Talent has never, ever been the issue with Neymar. Smith argues it’s how Neymar values the game, and he uses one small moment in a recent game to serve as Neymar’s signature: 

There is something essential about Neymar contained within this vignette: his imagination, his panache, his confidence and his ability, yes, but also his belief that soccer’s highest form is the expression of individual skill. It is that which makes him so in tune with the sport’s modern era, of course — all gifs and memes and six-second snapshots of brilliance going viral — but it is also his flaw.

The thing about those clips, the ones of brilliant goals and outrageous pieces of skill that go viral, accompanied by nothing more than a screed of emojis, is that they are devoid of context, and greatness in soccer, and in all sports, is determined almost exclusively by context.

Neymar’s trickery is an adornment to a game, not a determining factor in it…

Again, I’m not the most ardent soccer fan, but I really enjoyed Smith’s writing. Always great to come across a talented sportswriter. – PAL 

Source: The Fading of a Star”, Rory Smith, The New York Times (02/08/20)


LeBron: “Cheap as Hell”

I am a LeBron James fan and I always have been. That said, I’m not really sure why The Athletic did an oral history, of sorts, on LeBron this week. Like, I don’t know what the occasion is. But it did provide this incredible tidbit:

Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers, former Cavs teammate: D-Wade has said it before and I hate that I have to quote him. But when we go international, which is obviously always Toronto, he won’t turn on his phone. It’s only WiFi. He’s the cheapest fucking guy. He’s like, “That’s bullshit. I won’t turn on my phone.” He won’t turn on data roaming. He’ll only go when we’re either at the arena or at the Shangri-La, “Hey, what’s the WiFi?” Internationally and in Toronto, he’ll never pay for it.

That is god damn funny as hell. This is a guy who has made over $1 BILLION dollars over the last 15 years, but refuses to pay roaming charges.

There’s more good stuff here, including former teammate Tristan Thompson reporting that LeBron “eats like shit.”

The best story, though, is probably this one:

Romeo Travis, professional basketball player overseas, lifelong friend: I was walking through the mall (around the holidays last year). A guy kept calling my name. I’m with my kids, I don’t want to stop. A guy just kept calling my name. I stopped and he’s like, “You’re Romeo, you’re LeBron’s friend?”’ And I was like, “Yeah.” He’s like, “Can you do me a favor?” I’m like, “What’s up, man?” He said, “LeBron put me through rehab. I just want you to tell him thank you. He really saved my life.” Those are the type of the stories that he doesn’t publicize. He don’t even, I didn’t even know. This is something I found out just walking through the mall, that he does things like that. People never find out about it. He does favors and stuff for people that he don’t talk about. They know the big stuff. They know the iPromise school and the philanthropy and things of that nature, but they don’t know the small stuff. Those small things are impactful as well. I was just like, wow. I sent a message to LeBron and was like, “I ran into a guy and he said you put him through rehab.” He said, “Yeah I do that from time to time just to help addicts.”

What a good dude. -TOB

Source: “A Card Shark Who ‘Eats Like S—t’ and Helps Save Lives: A Collection of Untold LeBron James Stories,” Joe Vardon and Jason Lloyd, The Athletic (02/13/2020)

PAL: LeBron is also on record saying he loves the free version of Pandora. No joke.


Video of the Week: 


Tweet of the Week:


Song of the Week: Richard Swift – “Would You”

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Women are like wolves. If you want a wolf, you have to trap it. Snare it. Then to keep it happy, you have to tame it. Feed it, care for it. Lovingly. The way an animal deserves to be loved. And my animal deserves a lot of loving.

-Dwight K. Schrute

 

Week of February 7, 2020

Still got it.


The Red Sox Trade of Mookie Betts is Outrageous

Mookie Betts is 27, one-year removed from an astounding 186 OPS+, 10.9 WAR, MVP-winning season in 2018 (which he followed up with a 6.8 WAR in 2019). The Red Sox traded him this week, to the god damn L.A. Dodgers, for pennies on the dollar. Why? In short, because they are cheap.

Betts will be a free agent after this season. He reportedly turned down a 10 year, $300M offer from Boston. That’s obviously a lot of money, but it’s the same deal Manny Machado signed for, and less than Bryce Harper signed for, and Betts is just…a lot better than both of them. An incredible hitter, a great defensive outfielder, a marketable personality, and a megawatt smile. He’s worth much more than Machado or Harper, and as a market setter for future players, he was right to turn down that money. He’s going to get way more this winter.

So the Red Sox will save upwards of $400M over the next decade by trading him, not to mention the $27M he was set to make this season. In the deal, they also unloaded David Price. Price’s best days are behind him, and he has 3 years and $97 million left on his contract. In return they got Dodgers outfielder Alex Verdugo who is good, but not great, and (probably) Twins pitcher Brusdar Graterol, a dude who throws 103 MPH smoke. Both guys make very little. So that’s roughly $60M they save this season. But that’s not quite right. Amazingly, the Dodgers got the Red Sox to pay fully half of Price’s remaining money. 

To recap, the Red Sox decided they didn’t want to pay a generational, home grown talent like Betts, so they dealt him and Price for two good but not great young players, and kicked $50M in for the Dodgers’ troubles. Swell.

The trade has been the biggest story in baseball this week, and the general consensus is that the Red Sox front office should be ashamed. As Grant Brisbee put it:

The Red Sox agreed to trade Betts to the Dodgers on Tuesday, and they should be embarrassed. They aren’t. But they should be. You’ll read about how this gives the team “financial flexibility” and how it’s important for them to “stay under the luxury-tax threshold.” That’s all crap. The Red Sox print money. The bills have pictures of Lou Merloni on them and they have bags of cash buried under each corner of Fenway Park. So much money.

As Brisbee points out – this is the friggin Red Sox. This isn’t the Rays, or the Tigers, or the Reds, or the Indians. This is a huge market deep with deep pockets that can spent any amount they like. They made their team worse now, and they made their team worse later. It’s hard here to argue they cleared money to spend on free agents later. They had the best free agent, as a homegrown talent, and decided not to pay him his fair market value. The Ringer’s Michael Baumann put it bluntly:

This trade is a disgrace for the Red Sox and for the league. I don’t understand why the owner of such a prestigious ball club—a de facto public institution—would charge his baseball operations department with ridding the team of a once-in-a-generation player when he could keep that player and continue to rake in unspendable profits. It’s such a mind-bogglingly greedy and self-defeating move that I resent being made to try to understand it.

I’m in favor of smart baseball, but if the Red Sox of all teams are going to do this, it does not bode well for the direction of the sport. And if your team tries to do the same, you should be angry. -TOB

Source: If the Giants Ever Do What the Red Sox Just Did With Mookie Betts, You Should Not Be Very Happy,” Grant Brisbee, The Athletic (02/05/2020); The Utter Disgrace of the Mookie Betts Trade,” Michael Baumann, The Ringer (02/05/2020)

PAL: Ryen Rusilllo made a good point about the Betts trade at the top of his podcast this week. That’s the best the Sox could get back for Betts – a friggin’ prospect pitcher with elbow issues and a borderline big league starter in Verdugo? B.S. 

If Betts flatout didn’t want to be there – fine – but wait for a better offer at the trade deadline. Let other teams feeling a little desperate and just close enough to a playoff race get in the mix!

And Brisbee has his fastball going in his article. I especially appreciated the idea of the obligation around keeping the rarest of players: home-grown Hall of Famers. 

Both things can be true. Both things should be true. You buy tickets and shirseys and they keep the 20-somethings on a Hall of Fame path. It’s not complicated. The Giants probably aren’t going to sign their next Brandon to a five- or six-year extension to lock him up deep into his 30s, but they should still do it with the next Buster. Or the next Mookie, if they have one. They probably won’t have one soon. Which is the point.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to take a big sip of battery acid and stare at the Dodgers’ projected lineup for next season.


The Warriors suddenly face a vital challenge: Can they awaken Andrew Wiggins?

No. – PAL 

Source: “The Warriors suddenly face a vital challenge: Can they awaken Andrew Wiggins?”, Anthony Slater, The Athletic (02/06/2020)

TOB: First of all, LOL. Phil’s post made me actually laugh out loud. But, second and super seriously – I disagree. Phil may recall that when Jimmy Butler left Minnesota, he more or less called Karl Anthony Towns a soft player and a loser. People thought Jimmy was a jerk, but I sided with him. KAT is soft, and he is a loser. I said within 2 years, history would prove him right, and I think it has. Wiggins was never going to be good playing next to KAT. He might be good playing next to Curry, Klay, and Draymond. I also think this is a smart play by the Warriors if they think their championship window with Steoh and Klay is still open. Wiggins’ game complements those two much more than DLo does. And, if the Wolves continue to suck as much as I think they will, that first round pick they got should be very good.


The Golf Course Architect Who Couldn’t Play His Courses

I think this will be the second story I’ve posted from the “Overlooked” series by the NY Times. I can’t help it. Such a great idea. 

A refresher: Overlooked are obituaries (written today) for folks that didn’t receive them at the time of their death. 

Joseph Bartholomew more than earned his NY Times obit honor. He spun a childhood job as a caddie into a career as a golf course architect. He designed many courses throughout the south, and it wasn’t until he built the first municipal course for african americans that he was allowed to play on a course he designed. He was good enough to be the club pro and teach lessons at country clubs, but wasn’t allowed to play the courses. 

What did he do? The same he did as a caddie. He listened and learned. After building courses, he got to know guys from whom he rented the construction equipment. Then he started a construction company, specializing in drainage (a good specialty in Louisiana). He took those profits and turned to life insurance, then real estate – which was smart because he also owned the construction company with the equipment necessary to upgrade the acres. Oh, and he built an ice cream factory, too. 

His key to success: embrace the risk, which was not so simple to follow the Jim Crow south.  “That’s the difference between me and most of the rest of the colored people. They won’t take a chance because they’ve been skinned before. I take ’em all the time.”

Joseph Bartholomew: August 1, 1888 – October 12, 1971. 

I’ll say it again: “Overlooked” is one of the best ideas I’ve come across. – PAL 

Source: Overlooked No More: Joseph Bartholomew, Golf Course Architect”, Roy S. Johnson, The New York Times (02/05/20)


Video(s) of the Week:


Tweet of the Week:


Song of the Week: Jose Feliciano – “Just A Little Bit Of Rain”


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I got away with everything under the last boss and it wasn’t good for me. So I want guidance. I want leadership. Lead me… when I’m in the mood to be led.

-Ryan  ‘Fire Guy’ Howard