Didja Hear the One…

Not that I want to bring you down or anything, but let’s talk about how writers get paid.

I mean, I could talk about baseball, but that would be a real bummer. Fans of the Red Sox (15-2) and Mets (13-4) might want to disagree with that assessment, but if I was going to write that piece, I’d certainly point out that nobody’s going to finish the season with 124 wins, much less 143. (Fans of the Reds, Marlins, Royals, White Sox, Rays, and Orioles may, however, take heart in my assurance that nobody’s going to finish the season with a 45-117 record either, to say nothing of 27-135.)

But anyway. Not talking baseball today.

Except…Did you hear about last night’s game between the Twins and Indians? They were playing in Puerto Rico–part of MLB’s outreach program–and the game an extra-inning thriller. Both teams’ pitchers were overwhelming, keeping the game scoreless into the fourteenth inning.

I don’t care what the commissioner thinks. A pitcher’s duel is at least as exciting as a massive slugfest. More so, in some respects. Granted, nobody came close to a no-hitter, but neither team even averaged one hit per inning. Heck, even adding in the four walks doesn’t bring us to 32. Dominant.

In any case, both teams picked up solo home runs in the fourteenth, and both failed to convert scoring opportunities in the fifteenth. The Indians threatened again in the sixteenth, but came up short, allowing the Twins to win on a bases-loaded single.

This game was the perfect argument against that stupid idea of putting free runners on base at the start of extra innings. Would have changed the whole complexion of the game, made it less exciting and almost certainly shorter. Ask those fans in Puerto Rico if they would have wanted the game to end with an exchange of “bunt plus intentional walk plus sacrifice fly” as happened in their World Baseball Classic game against the Netherlands last year?

Sorry, I digress.

Oh, by the way, if high-scoring slugfests are your thing, there was one of those yesterday as well. The As beat the White Sox 12-11 in fourteen innings. That one featured 33 hits and 18 walks. Plenty of base runners, lots of scoring, and an ending that wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting if extra innings started with runners on base. Note that the only run scored in extras was the game winner.

I still say a pitching-dominant game is more thrilling than a bat-heavy one, and the lack of notice of the Oakland/Chicago game outside of those cities supports my opinion. But even so, why would anyone want to ruin a nail-biting conclusion like that?

But, as I was saying–

You know? Maybe baseball’s not so depressing today. I’ll save the discussion of writers’ pay for another day.

Signs of Progress

Multiple sources are reporting that the Cleveland Indians are parting ways with Chief Wahoo. Well, mostly. Effective with the 2019 season, the logo–which USA Today describes rather redundantly as “racist and offensive*”–will be removed from the teams’ uniforms and from all their online sales venues.

* Do you suppose Bob Nightengale, the article’s author, can name anything racist that isn’t offensive?

Some team merchandise featuring Chief Wahoo will still be available at the park and nearby, a move described as necessary to prevent third-parties from taking over the trademark and image and marketing it more widely.

Needless to say, the agreement is widely hated. A substantial segment of Cleveland’s fanbase is up in arms over the loss of their treasured tradition, while opponents of the logo are upset that the ban is neither immediate nor total.

To both groups, I say, “Tough. Live with it.”

There’s nothing stopping pro-logo fans from making asses of themselves by continuing to show up in red face paint and historically-inaccurate headdresses. (Though, come to think of it, I’d love to see how the team would handle a complaint under Progressive Field’s code of conduct, which bans “inappropriate dress” and states that “Inappropriate or offensive images or words must be covered or removed from the ballpark”.)

On the other side, well, we live in an imperfect world. And, while it often seems as if it’s becoming less perfect all the time, this is a step in the right direction. I’d like to see the changes happen faster, but I’m happy to see them happen at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if the logos start disappearing from the uniforms this year. If a couple of pitchers requested it as part of their choice of uniforms, management might decide to cash in on the public relations benefits of eliminating it earlier.

Until racism is completely eliminated, the logo won’t be going away. Look how well we’ve done at eliminating swastikas in the last sixty years.

There’s also the question of the team name. I could be wrong, but I don’t see a name change coming any time soon. If nothing else, the cost would be immense, and I suspect it would take a massive boycott of the ballpark, the TV and radio broadcasts, and anyone who advertises with the team to encourage ownership to make that huge investment.

So this is a baby step. But baby steps are still steps. Let’s celebrate the fact that the baby is walking, rather than than stressing because the baby isn’t going to be skiing in next month’s Olympics.

I’m Back

No, the crisis isn’t over, but it’s sufficiently under control that I’m starting to suffer symptoms of writing withdrawal*. Rather than endure that, I’m declaring the hiatus done. I’ll have more to say about the situation later, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

* Nightmares in which I realize I’ve forgotten how to type and have to write a 90,000 word manuscript longhand. Overwhelming impulses to edit something I said an hour ago because I just thought of the perfect word. Waking up in the middle of the night with a story idea and not being able to write it down because a cat has run off with my pen–no, wait, that’s business as usual.

Moving on.

Something actually went right for the Bay Bridge this weekend. Friday, Caltrans made the long-awaited announcement that the bike and pedestrian path from Oakland to Yerba Buena Island would actually reach the island on Sunday. Monday, Chron writer Jessica Floum confirmed the removal of the dead end that’s been in place for the past three years.

This is a major victory for Caltrans. This is the first component of the bridge to be completed as scheduled!

Well, sort of. The trail was supposed to open along with the bridge in 2013. It did, but stopped about half a mile short of the island. Then it was supposed to open when the old bridge span was fully demolished. Uh… The demolition is still going on–and, thanks to poisonous fumes released by the deconstruction work, the bike path will only be open on weekends and holidays until the work is done.

But that’s nitpicking. The important point here is that Caltrans resisted the urge to make yet another date prediction, only to discover they couldn’t meet their target. Keeping their mouths shut until they were sure may not sound like much, but it actually represents a process improvement. At the risk of reading too much into it, this could even be a sign that Caltrans is beginning to fix their dysfunctional culture of failure.

Yeah, I know: Once is chance, twice is coincidence, and three times is enemy actionlegitimacy. But you have to do anything once before you can do it a second and third time. Keep it up, Caltrans! We’re rooting for you.

Moving on.

It’s been 107 years since the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, and 70 years since they last played and lost. It’s been 67 years since the Cleveland Indians won the World Series, though they’ve managed to lose three World Series since then, running up a combined 7-12 record. Not exactly stellar performances by either city.

But, as Jackie implied recently, somebody has to be MLB’s champion this year.

The only possibilities are the Cubs and the Indians. Sometime between Saturday and next Wednesday, somebody’s record of futility will come to an end.

It puts those of us with no sentimental or geographic attachment to either team in an awkward position. There’s a natural tendency to root for the underdog, but it’s not clear who that is. The Cubs have had excellent regular seasons the past two years, unlike the Indians, who struggled to a .500 record last year. On the other hand, it’s hard to overlook a century-long track record–no concerns about small sample sizes here!

You can make up your own minds–and Jackie’s post includes some good arguments on both sides–but I’m going to be rooting for Chicago for one simple reason: Cleveland, by and large, has suffered in silence. They lose, make the obligatory mumbles about next year, and move on. Chicago, on the other hand, whines and blames anything except their play on the field. Who else blames their losses on a goat? Or their fans–poor Steve Bartman?

I figure if the Cubs finally win a World Series, their fans will have to shut up, and we’ll get some peace and quiet.

Game One is at 5:00 (Pacific) tonight. Go Cubs! Let’s win it–in seven games, of course.