Thursday, July 30, 2020

Dispatches from Arm's Length, Part 8

I hate to say it, but America just can't have nice things.

There's nothing partisan here: California, Texas, and Florida all equally screwed up. A slow domino effect has started, the states that opened too quickly are facing the ramifications, and the states that opened at a more reasonable speed to slowly are gradually scaling back. Red states like Indiana and Alabama will soon have mandatory mask laws. Any doubts about a second wave have been quashed. The entire country is about to take a step backwards.

I enjoyed my summer, albeit briefly. I took a two-day road trip to Bloomington-Normal, where I visited two friends. My roommate and I made two beer runs to southeastern Wisconsin --we love our New Glarus-- just before the governor of Illinois put the Badger State on a discouraged travel list. I tried to get autographs outside Wrigley Field before last Sunday's Cubs-Brewers rubber match, to no avail. (Wrigley has grown rather strict about autograph hounds since renovations.) Otherwise, it's just six more weeks of heat, interrupted occasionally by Lyft and socially distanced baseball.

As this happens, President Trump and his lazy, deluded response to COVID-19 is impossible to ignore. Where we struggle, other nations have all but recovered. His presidency is no longer defined by Russia, Ukraine, or Stormy Daniels, but rather his narcissistic ineptitude during a pandemic. He gaslights and spreads misinformation in an effort to save face, but his lack of real accomplishments during his 3 1/2 years in office speak volumes. And yet, there's a 40% chance he could still get reelected.  Stay vigilant, friends. 


Sunday, July 19, 2020

30 Teams, 30 Haiku: My 2020 Baseball Preview

This might be the first time I've ever had to write my annual baseball haikus in a t-shirt and shorts. I'm normally waiting for nicer weather, not trying to compose my thoughts in the middle of a heatwave. Let's not kid ourselves, this long-delayed and truncated 2020 baseball season is going to feel very different. Only 60 games, no fans in the stands, a number of "name" players opting out, the lingering presence of COVID-19. As far as forecasts go, this might be the trickiest baseball preview I've ever had to write. I fear that most of the rosters will be 50% Triple-A guys that wouldn't get a shot in a normal context.

Regardless, I'll try to break it down, 17 soma at a time:

1. Phillies (41-19) Didi? And Wheeler?/deep pockets; win-now mindset/but Bryce must rack up.
2. Nationals* (39-21) It's the Soto Show/Kieboom, a firecracker?/new Beltway bombers.
3. Braves (31-29) It's all Ronald now/will starting pitching wobble/in tough division?
4. Mets (29-31) Yoenis, stay away/from wild boars! Injuries/curb all their progress.
5. Marlins (20-40) Good, young pitching here/but run support is meager/not yet relevant.

1. Brewers (37-23) Not as much power/bye Moose, adios Eric/but will still compete.
2. Cardinals* (35-25) A healthy Yadi/would be nice; only the 'Birds/make winning boring.
3. Reds (31-29) All bats, no defense/still improved, yet hunt for Red/October sails on.
4. Cubs (28-32) Another step back/old arms and Grandpa Rossy/can't fix leadoff woes.
5. Pirates (24-36) After bad trades, these/Bucs are frugal; for now, just/enjoy the skyline.

1. Dodgers (43-17) Best team, no question/Betts rides to pennant in a/Lux interior.
2. Padres* (34-26) Hoz, Manny, youngsters/Friars now have a playoff/prayer. Hail Mary!
3. Rockies* (33-27) Gifted on offense/(as usual) though Nolan/drama will distract.
4. D-Backs (25-35) MadBum and Kole were/good adds, but Marte needs to/repeat his '19.
5. Giants (21-39) A new era dawns/surplus of outfielders is/the only intrigue.

1. Yankees (44-16) No Aroldis? Crap!/Surplus of offense still leads/way to playoff run.
2. Rays* (33-27) No star power, no/problem! Low budget wonders/"open" up the East.
3. Red Sox (30-30) No Mookie, no Sale/proves costly; will JD have/to wait for highlights?
4. Blue Jays (28-32) Vlady, Bo, Cavan/Progeny? Nepotism?/Hope for the future.
5. Orioles (19-41) Young guns and loose parts/the disarray continues/Adley, take your time.

1. Twins (41-19) Call the Bomba Squad/last year's sleeper got better/and doubled their fun.
2. Indians* (31-29) The young arms intrigue/Lindor trade rumors linger/a good team in flux.
3. White Sox (30-30) Resurgent... almost/they're another year away/but these kids can play.
4. Royals (25-35) Who is catching here?/Soler power not enough/to help weak pitching.
5. Tigers (22-38) Carole Baskin, save/these cats! Young arms, old Miggy/very little else.

1. Astros (40-20) After "Banghazi"/expect a few HBPs/and villain status.
2. Athletics* (34-26) Healthy pitching would/help topple cheaters; good bats/only do so much.
3. Angels* (32-28) Fishing without Trout/Halos still have depth and arms/to at least compete.
4. Rangers (29-31) Monster rotation/burdened by weak run support/spurs lots of strikeouts.
5. Mariners (23-37) Major FOMO now/King Felix is gone, and the/serfs are not up yet.

(asterisks note wild cards, not cheating)

AL MVP: Anthony Rendon, Angels
NL MVP: Mookie Betts, Dodgers
AL Cy Young: Gerrit Cole, Yankees
NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom, Mets
AL ROY: Luis Robert, White Sox
NL ROY: Dylan Carlson, Cardinals
First Manager Fired: Torey Lovullo, D-Backs
2020 World Series: Dodgers over Yankees in 6


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Random Notes, July 2020

COVID-19 is undeniably the dominant news story of 2020, but that doesn't mean I can't give credence to other news:

+ Remember when I gave Bush 43 a C-/D+ when he left office? The appointment of Chief Justice John Roberts validates my grade. Several key Supreme Court decisions are not indicators of a liberal shift per se, but that the center is struggling to relate to Trump conservatives. As of Monday the 1st, any chance of Roe v. Wade ever getting reversed just took a serious blow. To de-fang the electoral college didn't hurt, either. Roberts is no liberal, but at least he's deciding with his conscience.

+ For the second year in a row, I don't feel up to writing out an entire Fantasy Emmy ballot. I have downtime, but not enough to keep up with the phalanx of quality shows on cable and streaming right now. I am hoping that the TV Academy selects (among nominees, anyway) the Hulu series "Ramy," Ben Mendelsohn for "The Outsider," and Janelle Monae for "Homecoming." Message me for more of my thoughts.

+ It was weird not having any concrete plans for Independence Day. I drove out to my sister's, I hung out with the dogs, then I drove back in time to see my roommate ignite fireworks that he bought in Wisconsin two days prior. I did not mind the laid-back feel, but I miss drinking with friends.

Next Week: at long last, my 2020 MLB preview. Stay safe and stay home.