Divine Wrath

It’s been a rough week for Seattle baseball fans.

It started with an ordinary aggravation: a rain-out, resulting in a doubleheader. Normally you take those in stride, but it came at an awkward time in the Ms’ schedule: a lot of travel and no off days, thanks to an early-season snow-out.

Then, the day after the doubleheader, Robinson Canó was hit on the hand by an errant pitch. Broken metacarpal bone, out for an estimated 6-8 weeks. A big hit to the team’s playoff hopes and overall morale.

Naturally, then, the Universe doubled down. Before fans even heard the specialist’s appraisal of Canó’s injury and expected recovery time, they found out it was largely irrelevant. MLB determined he’d taken a banned substance and suspended him for eighty games. Not only does that push his return into August, but it means he’ll be ineligible if the Ms’ manage to squeeze into the playoffs.

It’s especially vexing for the fans because of a lack of information. Canó and MLB say he took a diuretic which is on the banned list because it can be used to flush performance-enhancing drugs out of the system. Players don’t get banned for taking that medication; instead, there’s an independent investigation to determine the likelihood that it was taken to conceal PED use.

Canó denies there was any PED use, and that the drug was to control his high blood pressure–a legitimate use. MLB says there is evidence of PED use, but, for privacy reasons, will not discuss what the evidence is or what banned substances they believe he took.

Of course, the result is a persecution complex among Mariners fans, and the rise of conspiracy theories. My favorite says MLB is unhappy at losing the Cubs’ curse as a drawing card and publicity tool. As a result, the theory states, they’re taking steps to extend Seattle’s playoff drought–already the longest in all of the four major American sports–indefinitely. This, of course, ties in nicely with reports that Portland is in the running for an expansion team: how thrilling would it be to have a playoff race between the martyred Mariners and the Portland TBAs? One team trying to break their curse, the other trying to duplicate the success of the NHL’s Vegas franchise–now that’s drama (and ticket sales).

But I digress.

Picture those poor Seattle fans, already dealing with all that.

Tuesday–the same day Canó’s suspension was announced–Nelson Cruz, another key piece of the Mariners’ playoff hopes, was hit in the foot by a pitch.

A wave of fan suicides was forestalled when the team was able to give an update before the end of the game: no bones were broken, but Cruz will be out for several days, and a stint on the Disabled List is still a possibility.

You might think that was enough. But, no. Adding insult to the injuries, most of them couldn’t even watch Wednesday afternoon’s game. Not because of their work schedules, but because it was exclusive to Facebook, one of twenty-five such this season. No local TV, no MLB.TV. Closed your Facebook account in protest of the Cambridge Analytica? Too bad. Don’t want to sit in front of your computer for three hours? Sorry. Don’t have the Facebook app on your mobile device because you don’t want to give them access to your location and contacts? We weep great crocodile tears for you.

Ahem. Sorry.

How was the experience if you were willing to deal with Facebook?

Feh.

In fairness, they did provide a way to turn off the comments window and the stupid emoji scrolling on top of the video. And having the broadcast commercial-free was nice.

Other than that, though…

Even with Facebook comments off, we still got viewer questions and comments slapped onscreen and had to listen to the announcers read them and respond.

Instead of letting fans enjoy the lack of commercials by showing pitchers warming up, attendees singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, and all the other enjoyable non-game elements of the live experience, we got historical moments only tangentially related to the current game and more inane viewer comments.

Let’s not forget the frequent use of split-screen, shrinking the actual game in favor of interviews with studio talking heads, players, and managers.

And, of course, several in-game reminders to buy MLB.TV and get access to “all out of market games”, conveniently not adding “except this one”.

Pardon me again.

So, yeah. Baseball on Facebook is better than no baseball–but that’s a given. If there were any alternative short of flying cross-country to watch the game in person, I’d recommend it.

Still, today is a new day. Mariners fans across the country are risking divine wrath by assuring each other that the worst must surely be over, and life will get better from here.

Game time is 7:10 Pacific, and it will be available through all the usual distribution channels. Surely nothing else can go wrong this week. Right?

Finally!

It’s finally Opening Day. Once again we can bask in the glow of baseball games whose scores matter. For one day, we’ll ignore the controversies–pitch clocks, runners on base in extra innings, minor league pay and the possible impending demise of the independent leagues, and team-based pricing for parking.

Plenty of time for the issues later: the season is a marathon, not a sprint*. For now, it’s sufficient to pour the lemonade (or beer, if your tastes run in that direction), grab a hot dog/barbecued rib/artery-hardening ballpark food of choice, and luxuriate.

* Sorry. Had to say it.

All thirty teams were supposed to play today. That’s never happened before. The idea was dreamed up to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Fifty years ago, as a result of his assassination, all of the teams–there were twenty that season–played their first game of the year on the same day. That had never happened before, and it hadn’t happened since.

It’s not happening today either. As I write this, around 9am Pacific, two games have been postponed due to bad weather. The Pirates/Tigers game in Detroit and the Nationals/Reds game in Cincinnati will be played tomorrow, assuming the weather improves sufficiently.

Traditionally, of course, Cincinnati has always hosted the official first game of the season–a tradition that’s fallen by the wayside in recent years, what with teams playing overseas and scheduled-for-TV games the night before Opening Day–so it’s a bit ironic that the Reds’ game is one of the ones getting pushed.

But, MLK tribute or no, there’s still plenty of baseball today. I’ve got a busy schedule just with the teams I follow. I’ll skip the actual first game of the season (Cubs/Marlins at 9:40); my season will start with the Mets game at 10:10, jump between Baltimore and Tampa Bay for the Orioles (12:05) and Red Sox (1:00), swing down to LA for the Giants (4:08), and finally wrap up with the Mariners at 7:10.

Even without extra innings, that’s a good twelve hours of the One True Game. Sounds about right.

I’ll cut back to something a little more sensible tomorrow–if only because the Mariners have the day off–but I’ll wallow today.

Join me, won’t you? Ignore the parachutes, the trained eagles, and the off-key renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful”. Wait for those two words we’ve been waiting for since November.

“Play ball!”

Too Many Choices

It’s that time of year again.

You know, the one where all the major sports are going at once. Baseball is in Spring Training, hockey and basketball are into the second halves of their respective seasons with the playoffs approaching, and football is all about trades and cutting ties with players who’ve been arrested.

On top of that, the ever-popular Oscar season is over and college basketball’s March Madness is just ahead.

And, just to make it a perfect sweep, Daylight Savings Time kicks in this weekend, leaving us to sleepy to figure out what time the games we wanted to watch are on. I stand by last year’s observation that there is literally nothing President Trump could do that would raise his approval rating more than to do away with DST. Okay, yes, resigning would be a more popular move, but it wouldn’t raise his presidential approval score. Somebody tell him how many jobs it would create, reprogramming all the computers and IoT devices not to make the change. Feel free to exaggerate by a few orders of magnitude; he’ll never know the difference.

But I digress.

Of course, this year we’ve also got the popular game of guessing which member of Congress will be next to resign and which member of the administration will be next to be indicted, subpoenaed, and/or censured. I jest, naturally. As long as they remain part of the administration, they’re in a consequence-free zone. Just ask Kellyanne Conway, who’s been found to have committed multiple ethics violations again, but will undoubtedly not be disciplined this time either.

But I digress again. Sorry, I’m a bit grumpy today. I take some consolation in knowing Democrats are misbehaving too. The resignation of the mayor of Nashville, TN is currently the top trending story on Google–stepping down is a condition of her guilty plea to charges of embezzling city money to finance an affair.

Ms. Conway’s latest peccadilloes scored two ranks lower than Ms. Barry. She’d probably have done better with a new act. Unless you’re the Rolling Stones, you can’t get away with doing the same show over and over again, after all.

Number Two, by the way, is searches for tornado warnings after Illinois residents were incorrectly informed a tornado was imminent. Not as attention-grabbing as nuclear missiles, perhaps, but enough to beat out illegal acts by White House employees. No word yet regarding whether this error was also a result of poor computer interface design, or whether the person responsible will cooperate with the investigation.

Anyway, I’m glad we’ve got such a variety of entertainment choices these days. Enjoy your sport-of-choice!

It’s the End of the World…

It’s been a while since I devoted a rant to the impending Demise of Civilization.


Today’s Sign of the Apocalypse:

I still read the newspaper–yes, the actual paper one–every day. Since I’ve said that, you’re no doubt expecting me to bemoan the decline in newspaper readership as a sign of Impending Doom. Nope. I mean, yes, it is, but that’s not what I wanted to talk about.

Today, a friend of mine appeared in the paper. With a picture. Identified by name. And I realized that if I said that to anyone, their first reaction would be closer to “I’m sorry to hear it. What did he do?” (or maybe “Is he OK?”) than to “Hey, cool! What did he do?”*

When the heck did that happen? It’s definitely a “Damn kids! Get off my lawn!” moment to realize that I can remember when the default assumption was that newsworthy events were good news. Wait, let me qualify that statement because I’m not old enough to have a memorythat rosy. My memories include a time when a non-celebrity making the paper was more likely to be good news than bad. Celebrity news has, so far as I can remember, always been bad.

I’m willing to admit to the possibility that I’m a victim of selective memory, and that one would never have wanted to appear in the newspaper except in a “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” sense. But I know my perception of appearing in the newspaper has changed, and the memory I’ve got is the one I have to work with. So if 100% of the available data indicates things have changed, it must be correct, right?

No wonder I’m the only person reading the printed paper these days.

Moving on.

I was going to highlight the news that Nick Markakis is leaving Baltimore for Atlanta and Michael Saunders has been traded from Seattle to Toronto as a further sign of the impending collapse of civilization, but the more I think about it, the less I’m sure about that.

Both players had been with the same team for their entire professional life. I had written a rant about how players never stay with their original teams for their entire career any more. “Where are the Edgar Martinezes and Cal Ripkins?” I asked. But you know, Edgar and Cal were exceptions. Players staying with a single team has always been unusual. It became less common after the introduction of free agency, sure, but even before then, team owners swapped players like kids swapped baseball cards.

So, not a sign of the Decline of Civilization. And, as Jackie pointed out in her farewell blog post to Nick, baseball players may actually move around less than the typical American, who changes jobs every four and a half years.

Maybe that’s the real sign of the impending collapse. I need to think about that one for a bit.

But if that’s not a sign that Civilization is lurching towards its inevitable end, what is?

Non-ironic citation of R.E.M. as the greatest band ever? I’m very tempted to say yes on that–we all know it’s Brave Combo–but I’ll give Jackie a pass on that, seeing as how she’s currently bereaved.

Mayonnaise on hamburgers? Probably. We’ve established that mayo is the devil’s condiment. Putting it on a burger does nothing to redeem the condiment and much to corrupt the meat.

There is, however, a single fact that proves civilization is not on the decline, but has actually collapsed completely. That fact? People think peopleofwalmart.com is funny. (I’m deliberately not making that a link. If you want to take a look, put in the minimal effort of copy/pasting the URL.)

Enough said. See you in the survival bunker.

* For the record, it was good news. Part of the centennial celebration of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

If You Insist

Somebody asked me why I didn’t do a “thank you” post this year.

“I didn’t do one last year, either,” I replied.

“Then it’s really overdue. And it beats writing about sauerkraut.”

I couldn’t argue with logic like that, so here’s the 2013 thank you post. Look for the 2014 post somewhere around 2018.

Let’s start with the obvious, just to get it out of the way. I’m thankful for people who suggest blog topics. I’m especially thankful for the ones who don’t suggest that I let them write a “guest post” that would be an advertisement for whatever piece of cheap junk they’re selling at an inflated price. (Oh, look: there are three of those suggestions in the comment spam today!)

I’m always thankful for Maggie. She deserves a medal for putting up with me and this career that’s chosen me. With a little luck, the career will produce enough money for me to buy her that medal. I suppose that means I need to be thankful for her patience.

I’m thankful for all of you who come by and read what I’ve written. Even those of you whose interest begins and ends with leftover sauerkraut (still the single most popular post on the blog, with more than eleven times as many page views as the next most popular*).

* For the curious, Number Two is Crimes Against Humanity, this past July’s semi-review of Weird Al’s latest album. It does make me wonder why I keep writing about baseball and cats, when you all obviously consider my strengths to lie elsewhere. But I digress.

How about baseball management that listens to my complaints? I’m thankful to them. A week after I complained that the Mariners hadn’t done anything to improve the team, they picked up arguably the best right-handed free agent bat available. (Allow me to extend apologies to Jackie and the rest of the Orioles’ fans who were hoping their team would re-sign Nelson Cruz. Jackie, since blogging clearly works, may I suggest an impassioned plea for your guys to use some of the money they offered Cruz to lock down Markakis?)

And, speaking of baseball, I’m incredibly grateful for those of you who read the baseball posts and don’t laugh hysterically when my predictions go massively wrong. Cases in point: In recent weeks, I’ve predicted that the Ms wouldn’t sign Nelson Cruz, that the Giants would re-sign the Panda, and that the As were one of the only three teams that wouldn’t be looking for a new third baseman this winter.

And finally, I’m thankful* for Caltrans and the Bay Bridge for providing me with a source of blog posts that will never run out. Even over the Thanksgiving holiday, they were busy giving me more material.

* I’m so thankful I almost sent them a check, but then I realized that the interest they earn on the funds sitting in my FasTrak account dwarfs anything I could squeeze out of my bank account (see the earlier comment about medals and delayed gratification).

Their latest offering? Why, they’re discussing the possibility of saving millions of dollars by not tearing down all of the old bridge! That’s right: the one that they determined was seismically unsound. The one that had to be removed in order to eliminate the risk it would pose to the new bridge in a major quake. The one they promised to remove in their agreements with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

Of course, those promises were made before the bridge ran billions over budget. A chance to save a few million dollars is almost irresistible, especially if it can be done in the name of “Art” and “the betterment of the bay”. The BCDC is especially dubious about the proposal, but claims to be willing to discuss terms–including “building bridges out to walkways”. Uh, guys, do you really want to trust these folks to build more bridges?

I expect the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s negotiations with the BCDC to be a source of high comedy for months to come. Stay tuned!