All posts by CarterHayes

VORS: Value Over Replacement Scribe

With the reporting date for pitchers & catchers only a week away nearly upon us, now is as good a time as any to discuss where we go to read high-quality baseball writing. Since this place first opened in the Old Basement, the abundance & variety of the baseball blogosphere baseball content online has proliferated, to our considerable benefit. No longer must we endure The Poultry Man and his legion of Stribbies.

Here’s a list of who I’m reading these days, based on the sites in my trusty RSS reader & a couple bespoke apps for my pocket-dwelling supercomputer:

The Athletic

This is the new one for me this year. I’ve listed the Twins, Padres, & Rockies as my favorite teams. (I don’t understand why a Big 4 market like Colorado/Denver does not have Athletic presence, yet.) Twins coverage has been...disappointing, even after The Athletic hired a new beat writer. I’m hoping for marked improvement now that Spring Training is here. In addition to following Ken Rosenthal’s national baseball coverage, I’m also subscribed to Eno Sarris’ writing here, but I think Eno’s leaving baseball writing entirely to do the beer thing. (At least, that’s my underinformed impression.)

Michael Baumann & Ben Lindbergh (The Ringer)

Writing for The Ringer means you’ll get columns on more than just baseball from these two guys, but the baseball writing’s pretty good, and occasionally the other stuff interests me, too. Moreover, I find Baumann’s perspective on labor refreshing.

Fangraphs

My primary filter for Fangraphs flags all posts by Jeff Sullivan, who writes at least two posts a day and has a gift for interesting observations and engaging analysis. Beyond that, I flag posts about the Twins, Padres, & Rockies (and filter out those about the Yankmes & Red Sox).

The Hardball Times

I mentioned earlier that it amazes me that The Hardball Times turns fourteen this year. It’s survived longer than the combined existences of Grantland and Sports on Earth. My primary filters these days are for teams (Twins, Padres, & Rockies) and a couple pet topics (ballparks, expansion, & history). I flagged posts for a bunch of authors there at one time (including Dirk Hayhurst, Chris Jaffe, Brad Johnson, Dave Studeman, & Steve Treder), but most of my favorite regulars have moved on. I still miss John Brattain.

Jay Jaffe (Sports Illustrated Fangraphs)

I was never a Sports Illustrated guy until Joe Posnanski. I stuck around after JoePos left, mainly because of Jay Jaffe. Jaffe’s most notable for JAWS and his work on the Hall of Fame, but those are by no means the limits of his baseball writing. In the last year or so there was some pretty substantial turnover at SI, and some of the other writers I found there were laid off or moved on. The new folks haven’t registered much yet, and I have no interest in anything Tom Verducci has to say. Edited to add: And now I may never have a reason to visit SI again, since Jaffe has moved to Fangraphs.

Jonah Keri (CBS Sports)

I hope MLB returns to Montréal someday soon and Keri is there to document it. His love for the Twins’ erstwhile contraction-mates and all-in advocacy for Tim Raines’ Hall of Fame case put him on my radar, but he’s a gifted writer of all things baseball.

MLB Trade Rumors

I installed the MLBTR app on my phone primarily for the push notifications. I’m not a completionist with this site; there’s simply too much to read. So I’ll dip in on players & teams that interest me.

Joe Posnanski (MLB.com)

Stating this purely for the record. Now that JoePos is employed by MLB, I don’t have to filter through columns about scandal-tarnished NCAA football coaches, the Browns, golf, and whatever. He can keep writing about Springsteen, though.

Ed Thoma (Baseball Outsider, his personal blog)

Someone (AMR?) turned me onto Ed Thoma several years ago, and I’ve been reading ever since. Thoma’s based in Mankato and, while a sportswriter, is not a member of the BBWAA. His perspective is a bit more old-school than mine, but I like his features and find his perspective nuanced, even if I don’t agree with it occasionally.

UniWatch

I’ve been reading this since it was still a Village Voice column, and while Paul Lukas’ hobbyhorses get eyeroll-worthy on occasion, the quality of the sartorial anaylsis he & Phil Hecken provide is what keeps me coming back. They’re willing to take deep dives on minutiae that wouldn’t get that treatment anywhere else

Anyone’s bandwidth for writing on a particular subject is limited, which makes the answer to who you enjoy reading all the more meaningful. We only have so much time to keep abreast of the latest analysis, and probably even fewer moments to spend on longform articles. So, who do you consider worthy of that time in your day? What do you value most in the baseball writing you make a point of reading regularly?

Tinariwen – Assàwt (The Voice of Tamashek Women)

Looks like I get a second day...

This song is a tribute to the Tamashek women fighting for freedom in Tinariwen’s homeland, Mali. The band, which has been exiled, recorded the album it appears on in Paris, Morocco, & Joshua Tree (I’m wondering if that was at Josh Homme’s studio). Collaborators on the album included Mark Lanegan, Kurt Vile, & Alain Johannes.

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Otis Redding – I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)


Live at the Monterey International Pop Festival
17 June 1967
filmed by D.A. Pennebaker

Fifty years ago today, Otis Redding & the Bar-Kays boarded a plane heading to a one-night-only gig in Madison. It had been a tumultuous autumn at the University of Wisconsin as generations clashed over the Vietnam War, and one can well imagine students & music lovers anticipating the ascendant King of Soul’s visit as a brief moment of respite. The venue, The Factory, was just off State Street, midway between the university & the Capitol. Big O was the headliner with his backing band; opening for them was a Rockford-based group called The Grim Reapers fronted by Rick Nielsen.

Redding had played two shows in Cleveland & appeared on WEWS-TV’s Upbeat the day before, so he & most of the Bar-Kays flew in on his private plane. It was drizzling, foggy, & hovering around freezing in Madison, and Redding’s pilot, just ten months removed from earning his multi-engine license, was from Georgia. A few miles from Truax Field at 3:25 p.m., over Lake Monona, everything went wrong.

Otis was 26. Jimmy King (guitar) was 18, Ronnie Caldwell (organ) would’ve turned 19 in seventeen days, Phalon Jones (sax) was 19, and Carl Cunningham (drums) was 19. Ben Cauley (trumpet) was the only survivor. Also killed were the pilot & Otis’ valet (Matthew Kelly, 17).

Otis Redding & the Bar-Kays (with a special guest) on 09 December 1967:

So much music was left in that voice, those lungs, & those hands.

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13 November 2017: November Darkness

Thanks to a link posted by someone I follow on Micro.blog, I came across The Dark Feels Different in November, which introduced me to the concept of ma:

Ma loosely translates to negative space, to emptiness, vacancy, blankness. It is a pause, in time, space, music, conversation. “Ma makes nothingness palpable and tangible,” writes Ando. It’s a space ripe with an atmosphere of uncertainty, suspension, and possibility. The Japanese character consists of the graphic for door and for moon, suggesting “a door through the crevice of which the moonshine peeps in,” as the Swedish linguist Bernhard Karlgren defines it in his Analytic Dictionary of Chinese and Sino-Japanese. Ma is the crack that lets the light in.
...
The candlelight makes one better know the dark, the shadows, the spaces unseen. And the dark—the hollows and corners behind the curtains, above the rafters, the places where dimness pools—helps one better know the light.

Likewise, ma makes one aware of the presence of absence. It’s the gap where the moonlight sifts through; it’s the space between two slate stones that guide your steps along a path; it’s the hollow where ghosts gather; it’s the pause in conversation, the ripe silence of the unspoken.

It’s worth your time.

23 October 2017: Love that Lutefisk

On Saturday we took my mother-in-law, who is 100% Greek, to a lutefisk supper at a very old, tiny Norwegian Lutheran church within the exclusive economic zone of the People’s Republic. As she recently bought a place in preparation to move up here from Flatlandia, it was our way of welcoming her to the state. Arriving early, we walked around the churchyard. I noted a few headstones with dates of birth dating back to the eighteenth century, which one doesn’t often see in this part of the country. There was a marble cenotaph honoring seventeen congregants who served in the Civil War: six of the men were named Ole. There were also two Arnes & a Knut.

How @SouhanStrib could silence his critics

The so-called Greener's Law advises, "Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel." As any old farmhand can tell you, when you pick a fight with chickens, eventually you get egg on your face. (I made this up.)

Star Tribune scribe Jim Souhan recently authored a screed against baseball bloggers, calling them "plagiarists, amateurs, [sic] cowards and professional liars" who don't "have to have the courage and work ethic to show their faces in the clubhouse every 10 years or so." A prudent reminder here to readers that Souhan continues to insinuate that bilateral leg weakness, the diagnosed condition which afflicted Twins star Joe Mauer in 2011, does not exist. Souhan's professional biography does not indicate he holds advanced medical or athletic training degrees.

In his anti-blogger invective, Souhan details the groups of people he believes are and are not trustworthy sources of information about baseball. He includes himself in the former category, along with beat writers and "tethered bloggers," while team broadcasters, "untethered bloggers," and Sid Hartman your grandpa the late Jim Ed Poole are in the latter group. (One wonders where ESPN-era Hunter S. Thompson falls in this taxonomy.) Souhan draws a stark contrast between his fellow Anna Politkovskayas of sports truth and the "local trolls and national know-nothings," who he accuses of being professional chickens:

[T}hey have the opportunity to get credentials and talk to people face to face and defend what they write, especially the many untrue things they write, and they never show up. They are afraid to. They are actual trolls, unwilling to do the work or look people in the eye and justify or defend what they’ve written.

There is a reason they take this approach. Their stuff wouldn’t stand up to the scrutiny of players and team officials. They’re afraid. And they would have to face the traditional journalists they’re trying to push aside so they have a place at the table.

...

These untethered-from-reality bloggers are trolls, liars, plagiarists and frauds. But mostly, they’re cowards.

Souhan's churlish defense of the unwavering bravery of the beat writer and the noble courage of the newspaper columnist has been echoing in my mind for the last few days. How could anyone doubt the stones of the guy who has to hear from Minnesotans who don't like how he does his job? What better way, I thought, for Souhan to show just how much juice he really has in this town, and just how unfettered by jeopardy to professional relationships his reporting is, than to write a series of columns on subjects that put his courage on display and show bloggers how the pros do it? Remember, this is the guy who claims he is one of "two columnists in town ... who can call up Tom Kelly or Hrbek or Torii Hunter whenever we like[.]"

So, I drafted ten suggestions for Souhan's column requiring the all access pass & intestinal fortitude of a real sports journalist:

  • Souhan should ask his buddy Torii Hunter to go on the record about whether he still thinks Twins like Miguel Sanó, Rod Carew, & Tony Oliva are race "imposters." Has Torii ever apologized to Carew, Oliva, or Sanó for his bigotry?
  • During the Nineties Souhan was a Twins beat reporter for the Star Tribune. Which Twins were steroid users when he was a beat reporter? What do clean teammates think of the PED users in the clubhouse during that time? Why didn't Souhan write about steroids in the organization then?
  • What does Jim Pohlad think about his father Carl's failed attempt to take a payout from Major League Baseball to contract one of the American League's original franchises? What did the family hear from its former stars like Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Rod Carew, & Kent Hrbek? What did Tom Kelly say to the Pohlads?
  • What do Pohlad & St. Peter think the Twins owe the fans financing their taxpayer-funded ballpark after the worst stretch of on-field & front office incompetence during the club's half-century tenure in Minnesota? How high is Pohlad willing to raise the payroll to win the World Series and make good on the promises made to fans about championship-caliber baseball at their new ballpark?
  • How do Jim Pohlad & Dave St. Peter justify the Twins' ongoing corporate partnership with Kwik Trip, a company run by enthusiastic Trump supporters, in light of Trump's policies on immigration and his detestable rhetorical footsie with white supremacists? Does that connection reflect the values of the Minnesota Twins and its leadership group?
  • In light of recent movements to remove statues in public spaces that memorialize figures who professed significant racial prejudice, do the Twins plan to remove the statue of former owner Calvin Griffith, who told an audience that includesd a reporter for Souhan's own paper he moved his club because Minnesota "only had 15,000 blacks here"? Get a response from Pohlad or St. Peter on the record.
  • Interview Bert Blyleven and ask how he feels about the "untethered bloggers" who were the staunchest & most persistent advocates for his election to the Hall of Fame. What does Bert think old-school sportswriters missed in his career, and what can they learn from bloggers like those who supported his candidacy? What has Bert learned in his broadcasting career that has given him new insight on pitching or playing the game?
  • What is the full, real story behind the firing of former head trainer Dick Martin? What does Martin think motivated his dismissal? And why have the Twins, who once had such a good reputation for injury prevention that Martin had an athletic training award named after him, been so plagued by injury problems since Martin left?
  • Next time Souhan passes Derek Falvey & Thad Levine in the hallway, he should ask them which websites they would  recommend to Twins fans who want to learn more about evaluating players, then provide links to & descriptions of their recommendations.
  • Ask Glen Perkins for his on the record comment on Souhan's claims about his conditioning and when he plans to announce his retirement; report his response, word for word.

If Souhan has the cast iron drawers of a seasoned journalist, surely he won't balk at this small list. Since he has Access, why doesn't he show us he's not afraid to use it?