by Ken Arneson
2020-09-13 23:30

In the 46th game of the Oakland Athletics 2020 baseball season, the A’s got beat 6-3 by Lance Lynn, who is one of the best pitchers in the AL West this year. That’s going to happen. Frankie Montas matched him for five innings, but then he threw two consecutive badly located fastballs in the sixth, and suddenly the A’s were down to the Texas Rangers by three runs. It was a game they could have won, had they not made any mistakes, but they did make mistakes, and that was that.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve gone numb about [waves hands in all directions] all of this. Ordinarily, a coulda-shoulda loss would bother me for the rest of the day, but now, this was just one more row added to a large database table named bad_news. Nobody gets emotional about rows in a database table.

And that’s kind of appropriate, because I checked my logs from yesterday’s piece, and bots are reading this blog at a 10:1 ratio over humans anyway. I think I got about 8 visits from humans, and about 80 visits from bots. My writing is ending up in far more database tables than human brains.

It is a feature of modern life that there are a few thousand famous people whose handful of thoughts and ideas, deservedly or not, end up in the brains of millions and billions of people. And there are a few billion of us other people whose thoughts and ideas end up are utterly forgotten but for a handful of digital algorithms that convert those thoughts and ideas into their final form: statistics.

Is it any wonder, then, that cynicism, the belief that all human beings are simply motivated by their own selfish interests, is on the rise? If you treat me like a statistic, why should I treat you like anything but a statistic in return? I don’t have to feel anything about a statistic. Statistics don’t change, or grow. Statistics have no path to redemption or transcendence. Statistics aren’t worthy of compassion or forgiveness. You’re just a number, a number that’s either useful enough for me to keep, or unprofitable trash that can be destroyed.

Looking back at what I wrote yesterday, about the numbness and the lack of energy and the hopelessness, it might be easy to diagnose me as getting depressed. But I’ve had some experience with depression in my family. I don’t think that this is depression. I think this is grief.

Grief is the emotional reaction that comes with loss. It’s the mind’s reaction to losing something you love. There are similarities with depression, in the sadness and the lack of energy and numbness, but depression doesn’t necessarily have an event that triggered it.

I’m not grieving the loss of a person I personally know. But I’m grieving the loss of too many people who didn’t need to die. And as a result of that, I am also grieving the loss of an ideal, a belief in my home city, state, and country, a faith that even if things aren’t great right now, we have a system that is resilient, that moves towards fixing our problems, and that works in the long run to make things better.

I have lost my optimism that ours is a system that can actually fix its problems. Every day that goes by where the pandemic rages on and we don’t take steps to mitigate it, where people get sick but don’t have enough healthcare, where people lose jobs and also lose their homes, where racism persists and we deny it even exists (both nationally and locally), where the climate changes and the countryside burns and the air is unbreathable and we call the problem a hoax or spread rumors that protesters are setting the fires, I despair. We are being actively stupid on purpose, and the worse the problems get, the more actively stupid we behave.

I’ve lost my faith in our competence as a nation. And so I’m grieving that loss. I don’t think I’m alone. A lot of people are grieving their loss of optimism in America.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a play about such grief. Hamlet grieves his recently deceased father, of course, but he also grieves the loss of values of the people around him. He suspects that the new king, his uncle Claudius, actually killed his father. His mother marries Claudius just one month after his father dies.

If grief is the reaction to losing something you love, what does that say about people who move on from a loss too quickly? That they didn’t really love at all? That they’re really just cynical bastards out to get theirs?

Hamlet is not happy about this turn of events. He continues to grieve, even when others have moved on. If it had only been his father’s death, Hamlet probably wouldn’t be so dour so long. But his mother’s quick remarriange makes it more than just about a death. It’s a loss of belief in a higher principle: that his mother loved his father.

In the first three acts of the play, events serve to further erode Hamlet’s faith in love. His girlfriend Ophelia rejects him on orders from her father. A ghost tells him that Claudius killed his father. And then he gets wind that Claudius has ordered him to be killed. Nobody around him acts in any way consistent with human love.

As Hamlet grieves, his behavior is indistinguishable to those around him from madness. Everyone around him is too selfish to meet his grief with empathy. Since no one is capable of meeting him where he is, he loses faith even further, and the situation spirals out of control.

Grief is a process. You can get to the other side of it, but only when the time is right. You can’t reason your way out of it, as we see in the first act when Claudius and Gertrude try talk Hamlet out of his grief, by arguing that death is normal, and you just have to suck it up:

KING CLAUDIUS: How is it that the clouds still hang on you?

HAMLET: Not so, my lord; I am too much i’ the sun.

QUEEN GERTRUDE: Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.

HAMLET: Ay, madam, it is common.

Why seems it so particular with thee?

HAMLET: Seems, madam! nay it is; I know not ‘seems.’

You can’t rush grief. Grief is not a thing you can fix with a pill, or an attitude change, or an election. Grief will take whatever time it needs.

I’m sure some things will get better if we elect Joe Biden over Donald Trump. We won’t, for a few years at least, choose the stupidest of all possible policies. But our problems are complex. Biden is not some brilliant theorist with a bunch of unique, creative ideas to fix our problems. Biden is what he has always been: a generic Democrat with generic Democrat ideas. I think Biden can stop a lot of the bleeding. I’m not very optimistic that his policies will fix the root causes of our country’s ills.

However, there is one thing that gives me comfort about Joe Biden at this point in our history. Joe Biden has suffered some terrible losses in his life, and been able to come out the other side. He lost a wife and a child in a car accident, and another child to cancer, He is the one politician, more any other major political figure in this country, who knows grief intimately.

In a time when we’re grieving the loss of faith in our values, in our competence, and we’re having trouble figuring out exactly what our values should be, having trouble getting things done effectively and efficiently, We can do worse than to chose a leader who may not have all the answers, but understands how to navigate through grief.

by Ken Arneson
2020-09-12 23:30

I was watching the first game of the A’s doubleheader against the Rangers when I got a call that a family member had been involved in a minor car accident. Nobody was hurt, thank goodness, except the cars, but my game watching was interrupted by having to go to the site of the accident to sort through the physical, emotional, and bureaucratic mess.

The physical and bureaucratic messes are what they are, but the emotional mess is the worst part. Everybody has setbacks from time to time, which is normal and to be expected, but this year has been just an unending river of setbacks, so an otherwise normal and to be expected setback takes on an outsized significance. We’re all just so damn tired of all this crap.

So I missed most of the A’s 5-2 loss in the first game. The car crash mess got sorted just in time for me to get home to watch the second game of the doubleheader. The A’s won that game 10-1, which normally something I’d enjoy immensely, but my heart just wasn’t in it. I was too drained to enjoy anything.

I don’t even know if the news from before the game that Matt Chapman was going to be out for the year with hip surgery played any role in my emotional exhaustion. It was deflating news to be sure, on top of the news from the day before that A.J. Puk was going to have shoulder surgery and also miss the rest of the year. On top of all that, Chad Pinder pulled his hamstring and is also out a while.

As I said on Twitter before the first game, “The sad thing about the Puk and Chapman surgeries is that this year was the only chance for the A’s with Murphy/Luzardo/Puk arriving to have the whole gang here to make a run at a title. Semien, Grossman, and half the bullpen (Hendriks, Soria, Petit, McFarland) are free agents.”

I imagine the A’s will try to sign some of those potential free agents, but not all. Signing all of them would probably add around $40M in payroll, which is extremely unlikely to fit into the A’s budget, particularly before a 2021 season when it is unclear if the A’s will even be allowed to sell tickets to fans at all. I’d guess they’ll resign one or two or three of those guys, and let the others go.

Nope, this year should have been the year–the A’s are solid everywhere, and next year there will be holes to fill, with limited resources to fill them. And now two of their biggest talents won’t be there in the postseason. Now, maybe they can win anyway, but it changes the equation, because when you remove talent from your postseason roster, you need to add more luck to your formula in order to win. And with the A’s postseason history this century, going 1-15 in games when they had a chance to advance to the next round, I don’t believe in postseason luck.

To keep going every day amidst all this chaos takes optimism and hope. I’m running out of optimism and hope. Pessimism is getting sucked into the remaining vacuum. I’m beginning to expect the worst, without any energy to hope for the best. The only thing that’s keeping me going at this point is a sense of commitment and responsibility. Otherwise, I’m going numb.

by Ken Arneson
2020-09-11 23:30

It’s been nineteen years since the hijackings of 9/11/2001. I suppose ordinarily, a nineteenth anniversary of something wouldn’t get much fuss. But it’s an election year, so I think there were a lot more stories going around about commemorating it than I remember on the eighteenth or seventeenth anniversary. I guess that sort of surprised me since there’s a whole bunch of other stuff going on, like the entire west coast of the United States burning, or a disease that is killing as many people in a week as three 9/11s.

Three 9/11s a week. That should be an outrage. But those death totals have become so normalized now that it is fading into the background. We’re all out of outrages to give at this point.

The air quality index today was between 200 and 300, which should also be an outrage, but all it meant that we were stuck futzing around inside our houses like all the other days we’ve been stuck futzing around inside our houses lately, so by now we’re all out of outrages about that, too.

Around noon we got a delivery of a couple of air purifier machines that my wife had bought online, to add to the one we bought last year when the air got really bad from the Camp Fire up north. I opened up the boxes, put the filters in, moved them to strategic spots in our house, and turned on the devices.

Look upon me and respect my wealth, power, and status! Let your mouth fall agape in astonishment and admiration at the life of luxury I lead! For I, the storied and legendary blogger Ken Arneson, have purchased air.

There’s another way to purchase air besides these purification devices: purchase the use of an airplane to get the hell out of this fiery hellscape, and to go somewhere that is less on fire than our current location. That’s what the A’s did when they flew to Texas to play the Rangers this weekend.

Texas isn’t on fire, but that doesn’t mean it is without its issues. It does have quite a COVID-19 problem on its hands, and (in an exceptional segue) also has a Rangers team whose pitching staff is decimated by injuries, leading the Rangers to start a pitcher named Luis García against the A’s, who, by the way, is not the same Luis García who started against the A’s just two days earlier for the Houston Astros. The Rangers Luis García was nowhere near as effective as the Astros Luis García, who shut out the A’s over five innings in his start, while the Rangers Luis García walked the first three batters he faced, and then gave up a grand slam to Matt Olson before he was removed from the game, taking the loss in a 10-6 Oakland victory, and no doubt leaving with his mouth agape in astonishment and admiration at the luxurious patience and power and aptitudes possessed by the spirited and triumphant Oakland Athletics.

Opting Out
by Ken Arneson
2020-09-10 23:30

The fitness club where I’ve played soccer for the last 15 years has three indoor soccer fields, and two outdoor ones. I had been playing twice a week, once on Fridays in an indoor league, and then again on Sunday mornings outdoors by renting the field with a group of friends. They have been closed since March when the pandemic hit.

A few days ago, we received notice that they are opening up their outdoor fields for soccer usage again. So an email thread went around to our Sunday morning group, to survey who wants to play, and under what conditions. Play? Don’t play? Masks? No masks? Social distancing while defending?

Some in the group wanted to play with masks, but most of the group didn’t seem to care at all, and were like, “Woohoo! Let’s go!” I may have been persuaded to think about playing socially distanced with masks if everyone else was just as hesitant and cautious as I was. But I didn’t get the vibe that I would be entering any sort of pseudobubble. This to me felt more like trying to open a college campus than trying to start a bubbled or pseudobubbled sports league.

I opted out.

I may have been the only one who did. There a couple others on the fence. I don’t know what they decided. But to me, the evidence from the various attempts to start sports again is clear: full, solid bubbles work. Pseudobubbles leak. If you’re disciplined and diligent, you can manage and mitigate the inevitable leaks so they don’t become full fledged outbreaks. But they will leak.

Today, I listened to Tim Kawakami’s podcast where A’s GM David Forst was the guest. Forst pointed out that Daniel Mengden had been in proximity with about half the team before he tested positive for COVID-19. But nobody else on the team got sick, because they were all adhering to strict social distancing protocols even in those interactions.

I like my soccer friends, but this isn’t a professional setting. It’s an ad-hoc pickup group. There aren’t any strict protocols being enforced. There’s no way that this can be managed in a disciplined and diligent way. It’s just not structured for that. One leak could be disastrous. The risk is too high for my liking, so I’m out.

They were supposed to start playing soccer this Sunday. But then the air quality got really bad. Just after the A’s 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros on Thursday, the AQI in the East Bay climbed over 200 and is expected to stay there through the weekend. The soccer got postponed until next week.

The A’s are getting out of town just in time. There’s a good chance, had the A’s been at home this weekend, the air would have been so bad that they would have had to postpone a game or two, and add even more doubleheaders to their schedule down the line. Instead, they’ll opt out of the smoky air and head off to Texas, Seattle and Colorado.

Sean Manaea had a masterful game on Thursday, getting through seven innings on only 61 pitches. He was sitting 91-93mph on his fastball the whole game, so he’s looking a lot more like the promising young pitcher he was before he got hurt early last season. Anytime the A’s starters can give the team seven innings, the A’s can back that up with an inning each of Jake Diekman and Liam Hendriks, and that’s pretty much the ballgame.

by Ken Arneson
2020-09-09 23:30

The sky was the sickening color of Houston Astros jerseys being sent through a meat grinder.

There was the usual morning marine layer of clouds covering the Bay Area in the morning. But above that layer was an additional layer of smoke and ash clouds from fires burning to the north, south, and east of the Bay Area. These smoke clouds filtered out the normal blue light coming from the sky, leaving only yellow, orange, and red light able to get through the marine layer to reach the ground.

Normally, the daytime sun will burn off the marine layer of clouds before noon. But with the smoke above blocking some of that solar energy, the marine layer failed to burn off, and persisted all day long. As a result, the entire day looked like a sunset or an eclipse, with dimmer light and ever-shifting colors.

Another odd effect of this persistent marine layer is that the water vapor clouds caught a lot of the fine smoke particles from the smoke clouds that fell towards earth. Only the heavier pieces of ash could manage to fall through the marine layer and hit the ground. So everything was on the ground was dusted with a thin layer of ash. But because the small air particles that are actually hazardous to breathe weren’t making it to the ground so easy, the air quality wasn’t so bad considering what the sky looked like. The air quality index hovered around 120 all day, which is in the “Unhealthy for sensitive groups” category. Considering that the AQI has been over 200 multiple times in the last few weeks, it could have been worse.

It was against this backdrop that the A’s and the Astros played the fourth game of their five-game series. The game started before sunset, so the strange orange color was still visible against the sky at first pitch.

Jesús Luzardo pitched a pretty good game, yielding only a couple of solo homers in seven innings of work. But the A’s didn’t score until the bottom of the seventh, when a blooper down the line off the bat of Tommy La Stella bounced off the leg of left fielder Kyle Tucker, allowing two runs to score and tie the game.

The game continued tied at 2 until the bottom of the ninth, when Sean Murphy led off by drawing a well-earned walk to lead off the inning against Astros closer Ryan Pressly. Stephen Piscotty pinch ran for Murphy, and got to second base when Tony Kemp was hit by a pitch. Then with two outs, Ramon Laureano drove a ball into the left-center gap for a single to win the game for the A’s, 3-2.

The Astros probably need to win four out of the five games in this series to have a reasonable chance to win the division. But now the A’s have taken three of the first four, so it will take a ridiculously unlikely collapse by the A’s in the last two weeks of the season for the A’s to fail to win the division now.

You would think that the A’s hour has come round at last. But stranger things have happened. In a year when each day brings a new bizarre condition for us to deal with, it would surprise no one if some indignant darkness drops again, and some new rough beast falls from our blood-dimmed skies to vex us further.

by Ken Arneson
2020-09-08 23:30

Frankie Montas got back on track in the first game of the doubleheader against the Astros, pitching five innings, giving up two runs, and getting the win in a 4-2, 7-inning victory. If the A’s are going to go anywhere in the playoffs this year, getting him straightened out and pitching his best is imperative. The bullpen anchors this year, Jake Diekman and Liam Hendriks, nailed down the victory.

Also getting back on track in the first game was Khris Davis. He homered and doubled, each time taking an outside fastball, the kind of pitch he had been missing all hear, and driving the ball to the opposite field.

I wouldn’t get too excited about that, though, because in the second game he was back doing another thing that’s been messing him up, namely chasing sliders down and away out of the zone. It’s good that he’s finally hitting the pitches to hit that he’s getting, but he still needs to stay in the zone with his swings. So consider that a split victory, in a sense.

Matt Chapman missed both games, as did Stephen Piscotty, but Marcus Semien was back and played in the first game. He went 0-4, but played good defense behind Montas. In the second game, the absence of both their normal left side infielders basically cost them the game. The Astros scored their winning run in the seventh and final inning, which was initiated by a miscommunication between Chapman and Semien’s replacements, Chad Pinder and Vimael Machín. A ground ball was hit between them, and they almost ran into each other trying to field it, resulting in Machín bobbling the ball for an error. A bunt single, a walk, and a sac fly later, the Astros had their winning run.

I wasn’t expecting much from Mike Minor in the second game, but he wasn’t bad for three innings. Things got away from him in the fourth, however, with a couple of singles, a walk, and then a HBP. He was replaced leading 4-1 by Yusmeiro Petit, who was uncharacteristically wild. He walked in two runs, and then allowed another on an infield single to tie the game 4-4. All four of those runs were charged to Minor, but it was actually the bad outing by Petit that was more to blame.

So, a day of mixed results. A good starting pitching outing, and a shaky one. A good bullpen performance, and a bad one. Some good hitting, and some struggles. Some good defense, and some mistakes. Some injuries, and some return to health. But given the lead the A’s have in the division, splitting their outcomes between wins and losses should be all they need to cruise into the playoffs.

by Ken Arneson
2020-09-07 23:30

In its ordinary usage, the word “robustness” is an noun that describes the state of being strong and healthy. But in the tech world, the word “robustness” has a more precise and subtle meaning: robustness means having the ability to stay strong and healthy despite errors and failures of various kinds. In a robust system, a weakness in one or multiple parts of the system does not cause the system as a whole to fail.

A well engineered technical system tests for errors at every step, and has contingency plans to handle those errors. There are limits on this, of course. There are tradeoffs between robustness and cost. Sometimes it’s cheaper to build or buy a new system than to fix a broken one. Other times, it’s better to build in safeguards against errors, because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The various crises of the year 2020 have exposed a number of major failures of robustness in the American system. In normal times, the system of free markets handles a lot of the robustness required in America. If there is some part of our system that is weak and/or lacking, then in a free market, the opportunity to profit from that weakness should create incentive enough for someone to come along and fix the problem.

What happens when there are problems that free market does not or cannot handle well? What provides robustness for America when the free market has errors and failures? That’s what government is for, or at least, that’s what you’d think.

The American government is designed to be robust. It divides power among three independent branches, so that if one of the branches fails, the other two branches can correct it.

But what happens if the three branches fail to operate independently? What happens if they instead become dependent, where an error in one branch, rather than being fixed by the other branches, gets spread and amplified into the branches instead?

In that case, America loses robustness. When the free market fails, and American government lacks independent branches, errors can happen that cause the whole system to fail. In that case, it requires someone brave to step up and be independent once again, to point out the errors, take steps to fix them, and right the course.

A baseball season is (usually) long. Slumps and injuries and errors will happen. Part of what it takes to win a baseball title is the robustness of the team roster to overcome those setbacks. If one player is in a slump, another player needs to get in a groove to compensate. If someone is hurt, the backup needs to come in and play well to hold the tide.

The A’s starting pitching has been a little shaky this year. So Chris Bassitt’s 6-0 shutout victory over Houston in the first game of their five-game series was just the kind of thing the A’s needed. Bassitt was not good in his previous start against Houston in the doubleheader last Saturday, feeling he had not prepared properly for that game, so he was determined to correct his mistake and correct the problem. He was excellent, pitching seven innings, yielding seven hits and no walks on his way to the victory. It was just the kind of performance an organization needs to avoid a collapse when all sorts of things seem to be going wrong.

by Ken Arneson
2020-09-06 23:30

The three best baseball players in the world right now are Mike Trout, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Mookie Betts. All three of these players play in western divisions.

So in a year when western teams only play other western teams, that means a western team like the A’s which does not have one of these three players has to face these three players a lot. 16 out of the 60 games the A’s play this season will be against these three players. That’s 26.7% of the schedule. Ordinarily, it would be between 12 and 16%.

When you play 26.7% of your games against the best three players in the world, those three players are going to beat you sometimes. By themselves, even if the rest of their teams aren’t as good as they are.

The A’s played 10 games against the Angels this year. They went 6-4. Two of those four losses you could directly attribute to Mike Trout beating them. They just lost two of three to the Padres, including Sunday’s 5-3 loss, and both of those losses you could say were a direct result of Fernando Tatis, Jr. beating them.

So four of the A’s 14 losses this year, or 28.6%, are directly caused by two of the three best players on the planet. The A’s have 23 games left to play. Only three, against the Dodgers and Mookie Betts, are against those three great players. That’s 13.0%. They are now done with Trout and Tatis.

So ordinarily, you might say it gets easier from here. But the A’s are getting banged up, with Matt Chapman coming out of Sunday’s game with hip tendonitis, after Marcus Semien has already missed several games with a side injury. Even if those two players aren’t among the three best players in the world, they were in the top 20 last year, if not this year, and so if those two are out, it gets easier for the other team, too.

There’s a five-game series against the Astros starting Monday. These five games will probably determine who wins the AL West in 2020. It’s not a good time for the A’s to be hurt, but the Astros are a bit banged up, too.

It’s been a year of attrition. It could all fall apart at any moment, off the field or on. When the A’s had a positive COVID test last week, it was difficult to know if they would even make it through the season. Two of the A’s best relievers this year, Liam Hendriks and Jake Diekman, are both at high risk for COVID complications. If the disease had spread beyond just Daniel Mengden, those two players, the most consistently good members of the most consistent part of the team, might have dropped out. The A’s are suffering a rash of injuries right at the most critical juncture of the regular season. If those injuries cost them some games against the Astros in the next few days, they could end up losing a division that they’ve led all season.

But it’s a blessing to be able to be worried about that, when the alternative is to be worried about a deadly disease, and record heat, and unbreathable air. It’s a blessing to still even be here.

by Ken Arneson
2020-09-05 23:30

Once upon a time, there was a bad college essay that began by quoting Wikipedia:

The term “Whac-a-mole” (or “Whack-a-mole”) is used colloquially to depict a situation characterized by a series of repetitious and futile tasks, where the successful completion of one just yields another popping up elsewhere.

This is either laziness, or what you do when you were planning to pull and all-nighter, but you fell asleep instead, and you have an hour before class to pull some crap together before class.

In my case, it’s sort of the latter, as I was planning to write this essay Saturday evening after dinner, but at 8:19PM, our power went out. It stayed out until after midnight, by which point I had gone to bed.

This is the third time in the last month or so that we’ve lost power. The first one was a planned, rolling blackout. The past two have been from some sort of technical malfunctions, the manner of which we have not been informed. This most recent power loss was also the first one that happened after sunset, so we were left completely in the dark.

But that’s what life is like right now. Maybe there’s a pandemic, and you have to take precautions. Maybe you take precautions, and someone in your family gets sick anyway. Maybe you take a test and that person isn’t sick with the pandemic disease, but you still need to be careful and air out your home and isolate everybody. Maybe once you isolate, there’s a fire somewhere, and smoke, and you need to need to stop airing out your home, and seal everything up. Maybe after that there’s a record heat wave, so you have to cover all your windows up to keep the heat out. You get something into a manageable state of affairs, and then the power goes out. Something else is always popping up.

The A’s aren’t immune to that phenomenon. Just as my family member got sick and we had to isolate (all better now thank goodness), the A’s had Daniel Mengden test positive for COVID-19, and so everyone had to isolate, and then a whole cascade of other issued followed. The A’s only played two games in a week and a half, and were quite rusty at the plate on Friday, but seemed to fix that problem on Saturday, with a few exceptions.

Every part of the A’s team has had to play a bit of whac-a-mole this season, where one part struggles, and the other part has to pick up the slack while that part gets fixed, except for the bullpen. The bullpen, led by Liam Hendriks, has been pretty much rock solid all year. Jake Diekman has discovered a new, nastier slider, which has made him a much more effective, almost dominant, left-handed arm out of the pen. Joakim Soria and Yusmeiro Petit has been quite consistently good, as well. Even the back of the bullpen, with Lou Trivino, J.B. Wendelken, T.J. McFarland, and Jordan Weems. Not a single one of those names has an ERA over 3.00.

The rest of the team, however, has had success come and go. None of the starting pitchers–Frankie Montas, Jesús Luzardo, Sean Manaea, Chris Bassitt, and Mike Fiers– has been consistently good. They’ve all had good days and bad days. Thankfully, not all of them have been bad at the same time, so the A’s have avoided any long losing streaks. They’ve been good enough to keep the team close enough through the middle innings to let the strong bullpen take over.

When the season began, it looked like Fiers and Manaea were broken, while Montas and Bassitt were dominating. But Bassitt has been a bit rocky lately. Luzardo alternates between being unhittable and struggling, sometimes in the same game, like Friday’s game. Montas had a bit of a small injury a few weeks ago, and ever since then, he’s been broken.

Meanwhile, however, the dominant Sean Manaea, the one who threw a no-hitter against a very good Red Sox lineup a couple years ago, suddenly returned in this game. At the beginning of this year, he was having trouble hitting 90mph with his fastball, but here, he was touching 95mph, and sitting 93mph the whole game long. What a difference that makes! He did give up a run on one inning, but he was never hit hard– a couple of the baserunners in that inning were from a bunt single and a bloop.

Offensively, only Mark Canha and Robbie Grossman have been consistently good all year. Stephen Piscotty has been clutch, making contact and getting hits with runners in scoring position, something nearly everyone else in the lineup has struggled to do. Matt Chapman and Matt Olson have both hit for a lot of power, but have had long stretches where they haven’t hit anything at all, and have swung through a lot of fastballs in the zone that they usually punish. Olson seemed to snap out of his funk in this game with three hits, but Chapman struck out five times, despite being ahead in the count during many of his at bats, simply because he was flat out swinging through fastballs inside the zone. His timing and/or mechanics are off somehow. Ramón Laureano started off the season in quite a groove, but then got ejected and suspended by fighting the Astros, has also been in a similar funk ever since. But he homered in this game on a down-and-in fastball, so maybe that problemed has been whacked.

But despite all these ups and downs, the A’s find themselves after their 8-4 win on Saturday with a 3.5-game lead over the Astros coming into the series finale vs the Padres. They’ve been one of the best teams in the league despite not having everyone playing well at the same time. You just would like to see one of those damn moles stay down once they’re whacked, so we can finally see how great things can be if everything functions smoothly at the same time, just for once.

Not Ready for Prime Time Players
by Ken Arneson
2020-09-04 23:30

For the Oakland A’s, the 2020 regular season re-began on Friday, September 4, at home against the San Diego Padres.

The A’s had only played two games since last Wednesday. They had two games postponed last Thursday and Friday for Black Lives Matter strikes. They played a doubleheader on Saturday against the Astros, and lost both games. Then on Sunday morning, Daniel Mengden had a COVID-19 test come back positive, and the A’s had to shut down, isolate, and stop playing, in order to keep the disease from spreading any further.

So when the A’s came back to play, they had only played one day in a week and a half. It was to be expected that they would not be sharp, and in particular that their bats would be rusty.


The San Diego Padres are a very good team. They have restored their classic brown uniforms. They are fun, youthful, and energetic.

They can bash home runs, and grand slams if you are not careful. Fernando Tatis, Jr. is the Mike Trout of the next generation.

And to the extent that the Padres had any weaknesses, they made fifteen gazillion trades at the trade deadline to fill any holes they had. Fifteen gazillion trades! Even that is fun!

If you are expecting any story about one of their games to focus on their opponent, you need to get a wider perspective. A lot of bad things are happening in the world, and to the extent that baseball is a relief from those problems, the San Diego Padres are the best thing about the 2020 MLB season.

Wake up, people! It’s prime time! The San Diego Padres are here. They are for real. If you are not ready to match wits with the new superstar, if you are not prepared to play at the top of your game, the San Diego Padres will chew up the scenery with you in it, and spit you out, leaving you a forgotten bit player buried in the end credits never to be seen again.

So that’s it, we’ve come to the end, 7-0. I want to thank special pitching guest Zach Davies, Trent Grisham, who had three hits, plus the home run hitters: Fernando Tatis, Jr., Manny Machado, and Luis Campusano, which was his first major league hit!

It’s been a great show! Good night, everybody!

Also appearing:

Laureano 0-3, 1BB
La Stella 0-4
Chapman 0-4
Canha 1-4
Olson 0-1, 3BB
Grossman 1-4
Piscotty 0-3
Machín 1-3
Murphy 1-3

Luzardo 4.2IP, 4R
Wendelken 1.1IP, 0R
Minor 1IP, 2R
McFarland 1IP, 1R
Weems 1IP, 0R

by Ken Arneson
2020-08-30 23:30
My mind is such a jumble right now

Note: this page will change every time you reload it.

Getting Serious
by Ken Arneson
2020-08-25 23:30

The publishing date on these blog entries are mostly a fiction. I write the blog entry’s date as being the same as the game I’m writing about, but most of the time, I’m actually writing these blog entries the following morning.

This time, the world kind of changed the “following” morning. First, one of my kids woke up with a sore throat, a headache, and body aches. Another one woke up sneezing.

And just as I was writing this the Milwaukee Bucks decided not to play their NBA playoff game today, to protest police violence.

As I went to bed last night, I thought, maybe I’ll actually do some baseball analysis in the next blog entry for a change. Maybe break down Sean Manaea, because I find his struggles (or not) fascinating. Maybe dig into the A’s struggles with runners in scoring position.

But now, not so much. Everything is different now. I don’t really care much about writing about the A’s 10-3 victory over the Rangers.

I committed to writing about this season when I had nothing better to do, but there are higher priorities now. We have to care for the sick among us, without somehow getting sick ourselves. That will take some doing.

I’m not giving up on this blog, but it’s no longer a commitment. I’ll do it if I have time and energy, but skip it if I don’t. I’m sure you understand.

by Ken Arneson
2020-08-24 23:30

At 1:12pm PT on Wednesday, August 26, 2020, word came out that the Milwaukee Bucks decided not to play their NBA playoff game against the Orlando Magic, in protest against the police violence in Kenosha, Wisconsin. At 1:43pm PT, the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder also decided not to play. At 2:05pm PT, the NBA announced that all playoff games that day would be postponed.

At 2:59pm PT, MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers decided not to play their 5pm PT game against the Cincinnati Reds. At 4:06pm PT, the Seattle Mariners decided not to play their 6pm PT game against the San Diego Padres.

At 3:35pm PT, Bob Melvin was asked if the A’s had discussed not playing. He said they had not.

The A’s and Rangers played the game. The A’s won 3-1.

After the game, Melvin was asked if the A’s had discussed not playing. He said they did, but it was “too close before game time” to make that decision. He gave individual players the option not to play. Nobody took that option.

I don’t buy the A’s argument that they didn’t have enough time to think about and discuss the decision. The instant the Bucks made their decision, every single person in the A’s organization should have been thinking through the idea about whether they, too, should abstain from playing. They had over two hours from the Bucks decision until Bob Melvin’s pre-game press conference. From the press conference, they still had and hour and a half to discuss it before the game.

Nobody on the A’s except Melvin talked to the media after the game. So at this moment, we don’t know what the A’s reasoning was. We’re left only to guess.

The A’s have three African-American players on the team, including the two highest-paid players on the roster, Khris Davis and Marcus Semien. The third African-American, Tony Kemp, has perhaps been the most vocal of all the A’s players on social justice issues this season. The A’s don’t lack for African-American leadership in the clubhouse on these kinds of issues.

So I’m sure the A’s have some actual reasoning to their decision besides “we ran out of time”. I’m sure we’ll hear it at some point. But this was a very significant day in the history of sports in this country. The A’s had an opportunity to participate in the protest, or to at least give their reasoning why they did not. Instead, all we got from them was a weak justification and an empty argument. It’s disappointing.

Halfway There
by Ken Arneson
2020-08-24 23:30

The A’s finished the first half of this abbreviated season by losing to the Texas Rangers, 3-2. It was a loss like a lot of the other A’s losses this season: the opposing team throws all their best pitchers at them, and somehow, the A’s still get within a whisker of winning the game anyway. That’s the sign of a good baseball team: you have a chance to win nearly every game. That doesn’t mean you win all those games, sometimes you’re more unlucky than lucky, but you’re fighting each game to the end.

You could change any one of about four different pitches in this game, and the A’s would have won the game. Jesús Luzardo gave up three runs in the first two innings, but he really didn’t throw any bad pitches at all. The first five hits he gave up were all either right on the black of the strike zone, or outside the zone. Somehow, the Rangers made contact on those pitches and found holes. And the home run he allowed was to a right-handed hitter who hadn’t homered at all up to that point this season, who hit a home run to the opposite field. Can’t say that was a terrible pitch, either. Sometimes you do everything right, and the sport of baseball itself beats you.

The A’s got a couple of runs early off Lance Lynn, who has been one of baseball’s best pitchers this season, but then didn’t threaten again until the ninth inning. They loaded the bases with one out for Matt Olson, who was obviously looking for a pitch up in the zone to hit for a sac fly, trying to avoid hitting a grounder for a double play, when the umpire called to pitches *clearly* below the zone for strikes. Olson may not have gotten the job done without those bad calls in that critical situation–he’s been swinging straight through a lot of fastballs lately and is hitting below .200–but again the game of baseball beats you sometimes, as you can’t control what the umpire is going to do to you at any given time, even if it’s the most critical point in the game.

It was a loss, but the A’s finished the first half of the season with a 20-10 record, tied for the best record in the American League. In a year when eight teams from each league will make the playoffs, the A’s would probably have to have a catastrophically bad second half in order to not make the playoffs this year. But anything can happen in just thirty games. Nothing is written in stone.

Half the baseball season is only half the picture, though. It’s half a baseball season in a world turned upside down. We started off with a pandemic and racial unrest, and a major election coming in November, and now we’ve added a climate-crisis fueled wildfire and air quality problem, and Thursday there’s a hurricane about to slam into Texas and Louisiana, and yesterday, police shot another unarmed Black man, this time in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

I had my doubts about whether baseball should even be doing this, and whether they could pull it off. They made some major mistakes early on, with the Marlins and the Cardinals letting semi-epidemics run through their teams, but those mistakes seem to have chastened the rest of the league, as subsequent mistakes, such as some people with the Reds and the Mets testing positive, and with some Indians players breaking protocol, were dealt with swiftly and resolutely, to prevent the disease from spreading any further than that.

I was on the fence about all that before the air quality problems. Now, by contrast, I am feeling very grateful that they are playing. Being stuck at home because of the virus was one thing, but at least I could go in the backyard, or go out for a bike ride if I got tired of being in the house. But when the air outside turned bad, and there was no choice at all but to stay inside the house all day long, I really started getting stir crazy. Those three hours of escapism every day has been psychologically invigorating.

This is only the half of it, though. Who knows what rough beast will be born in the second half, that will knock us off our feet again? We live now, dreaming of victories and triumphs, of glory and greatness, but the shadows of scavenger birds circle us. These thirty games have given us hope, but perhaps they are nothing but the mere pedestal of an ambitious statue that falls over in the desert, eroding away from the wind-blown sands of cruel history.

The Next Hill Over
by Ken Arneson
2020-08-23 23:30

I had a conversation today with a neighbor’s mother, who had come here after fleeing her home that was near one of the major fires going on in California right now. From her house, she could see the flames on the next hill over from hers. She left not because she thought that she was in immediate danger, as the fire would have to work its way down that hill and back up and over hers, but that she knew she would not be able to sleep because of the uncertainty.

And I got to thinking that this is a pretty good metaphor everything that is going on in this country right now. Maybe we’re not the ones with our house burning down in wildfires, and maybe we’re not the ones who are sick with COVID-19, and maybe we’re not the ones who have lost our jobs in the pandemic, and maybe we’re not the ones who are being subject to police violence, and maybe we’re not the ones who are being rounded up and locked up for deportation, and maybe we’re not the ones suffering from any number of other indignities of American society in 2020, but any of those things and all of those things feel like they’re just one hill away from us, and could potentially strike us at any time. So how do we sleep at night?

When the A’s started their game with the Angels at 1pm, the Air Quality Index near the Coliseum read at 238, which is considered in the “Very Unhealthy” range.

Last year, when our wildfire problem first started, I played an “indoor” soccer game with the AQI at about 120. I put “indoor” in quotation marks because it was in an old airplane hangar under a roof, half the walls are just giant sliding doors, and so the building isn’t exactly sealed airtight from the elements. Just from that one game, I developed a cough that wouldn’t leave me until the rains came a couple weeks later and cleared out the smoke.

From my experience, I can’t fathom why anyone would play a baseball game when the AQI is almost twice as bad as the air I played in. But I guess not everybody has had my experience.

Some people need to make their own mistakes before they adjust their behavior. Some people take the risk and get lucky that nothing bad happened, and think they were right for taking the risk. But that’s not how risk works in the aggregate. And if there’s any team that should understand how risk works in the aggregate, it’s the Oakland A’s.

I’m baffled and embarrassed that they played that game at 1pm. I thought they should have waited a few hours. The pattern has been the last few days that the bad air peaks around 1pm, and then starts getting better around 4pm. That turned out to be the case again for this game. The AQI at 4pm ended up being 123.

When there’s danger lurking on the next hill over, you don’t march towards the hill. You get out of there, to somewhere you can live to play another day, to somewhere you can sleep at night.

The A’s and the Angels paid no attention to my admonishments on Twitter before the game, and played the game. The A’s won 5-4 in extra innings. It was one of the few games the A’s have won this year without hitting a home run. Instead, they did something they have rarely done all year: get some timely hits with runners in scoring position, and then, to win the game, hit a sacrifice fly with a runner on third and less than two outs. It would have been a fun game to talk about, if I wasn’t so outraged that they were playing it at all.

No word afterwards if anybody developed any respiratory problems from playing in the bad air.

by Ken Arneson
2020-08-22 23:30

Good defense is a characteristic of this generation of the Oakland A’s. I’ve gotten so used to it now that when the A’s don’t make a defensive play, even if it’s a difficult one, I’m surprised.

Therefore, I hereby note that in the 28th game of the 2020 MLB season, the Oakland Athletics flubbed at least half a dozen plays on defense that they would ordinarily make. Two of these flubs, both my Matt Chapman, ordinarily the best defensive baseball player on the planet, led to all four runs that scored against them in this game, which the A’s ended up losing, 4-3.

The A’s officially committed three errors in the game, by Matt Chapman, Tony Kemp, and Marcus Semien. There were also a few plays not made which were not errors, but could have turned into outs, but didn’t. The first run of the game scored on a play ruled a fielder’s choice. It was a grounder to third with a runner on third and one out. Matt Chapman fielded a grounder by Mike Trout, and threw home to get the runner who went on contact. A good throw would have the runner out, but Chapman’s throw short-hopped the catcher, Austin Allen, and the time it took for Allen to gather the ball let the runner slide under the tag.

In the second inning, with runners on first and third and one out, a ground ball came to Matt Chapman, who could have turned a double play, but instead flubbed the ball for an error, and everybody was safe. The inning could have been over right there, with no runs scored. Instead, a run was in, and two batters later, Mike Trout doubled in another pair of runs.

So Matt Chapman could have made two plays, but didn’t, and the Angels led 4-0 instead of it being tied 0-0.

The A’s, being the good team they are, fought back, and got within a run, but couldn’t get all the way back to tie the game up.

Does the A’s defense suck because it sucked in this game? It’s only one game out of sixty. One bad game does not make a trend.

That’s easier to remember in baseball, when the next game is tomorrow. It’s easier to hold onto the idea that the A’s have, if not the best, but one of the best defenses in the world.

In a game like politics, however, when the next game is two, four, or six years later, a bad game, a bad administration, an imcompetent regime, it can be difficult to believe that what’s going on now isn’t a permanent change. The American government sucks right now, it can’t do anything right, and it’s easy to lose confidence in our system when that happens. But if America elects a competent government in November, perhaps this bad regime, this bad year, can be forgotten as an anomaly, a bad period in the long history of a great country, like a bad defensive day by a great defensive team in a long baseball season.

by Ken Arneson
2020-08-21 23:30

A 5-3 score is perhaps the most ordinary outcome for a baseball game. It is not the most common outcome, mark you. I’m going to differentiate here between common and ordinary. 5-3 is an ordinary score because it’s not the most common of anything. It is the seventh-most common final score in MLB history. The two-run difference between winner and loser is not the most common difference. A one-run difference is, of course. 5-3 is not the most common two-run difference, it’s second to 4-2. So 5-3 is the second-most common outcome of the second-most common run differential.

In other words, this A’s 5-3 victory over the Angels was in many ways quite ordinary.

I’ll take ordinary. We have a dysfunctional federal government in a pandemic in a climate crisis that is leaving our state on fire and the air unhealthy to breathe, and we’re all stuck in our homes with the schools closed and the kids trying to do a school year online which we’ve never tried to do before, and God, I really could drink in a nice, big, cold glass of ordinary right now.

Neither starting pitcher in this game, Mike Fiers or Andrew Heaney, was great. Nor were they horrible. They were ordinary. The A’s, for once, got a two-out hit with runners on, when Stephen Piscotty doubled in two runs in the top of the first, that put the A’s ahead 3-0. There were not any dramatic turns after that. The A’s, for once, got a two-out hit with runners on, when Stephen Piscotty doubled in two runs in the top of the first, that put the A’s ahead 3-0. There were not any dramatic turns after that. The win probability chart was as close as a straight line from 50 in the first inning to 100 in the ninth as a baseball game can get. It was a straightforward game, from start to finish.

If there was anything remarkable about this game, is was more in what the Angels did than the A’s. Anthony Rendon went 4-for-5, and seems harder to get out right now that Mike Trout, if that’s even possible. David Fletcher had three hits, one of which was on one of the worst pitches I’ve ever seen anybody get a hit on. It was literally a fastball on the inner half of the plate above his eyes, and somehow he put his bat on it for a double to right field.

Those types of hitters, who can hit any pitch you throw in any location, good or bad, I find extremely annoying to face as an opponent.

The top of the Angels lineup is might be the best lineup in the AL West. It’s a series of incredibly tough outs. But there are holes in the bottom of their lineup, especially with Pujols and Ohtani not playing up to their previous standards. With ordinary pitching, they’d probably be an above-.500 team. But their pitching has been bad. Too many holes, and so the Angels are 8-19, while the A’s are 19-8.

Minor Inconveniences
by Ken Arneson
2020-08-20 23:30

Hey, so remember six days ago when we had a brownout so I went out to my car and cranked up the radio and listened to the A’s game? Well, maybe that wasn’t my greatest idea, because I didn’t drive my car at all after that for five days because, you know, you’re supposed to stay home because of all the pandemics and bad air quality and stuff, and so when my wife went to start the car yesterday to go run an errand, the car battery was almost completely out of juice, and it wouldn’t start.

I have a car battery recharger thingy that I’ve had in my garage since, well, I don’t know, I can’t remember where I even got it from. I’d guess I inherited it from my dad, who passed away 23 years ago. This was the first time I’d ever used it. I took it out of its faded and warped cardboard box, and the dang thing was pristine, not a scratch or a dent or a smudge on it. For all I know, it may be the first time it had ever been taken out of that box.

I read the instructions and connected it up to the car battery, and let it start recharging the car battery. I thought it would take an hour or three to finish, but it was more like six or seven hours, and by the time the indicator light went on saying that it was done, it was almost midnight. I disconnected the charger, started the car to make sure it worked, then closed up shop and went to bed.

So this morning, I had some errands to run, but I didn’t really trust my car battery to work, and I didn’t want to get stuck in some parking lot somewhere needing help to jump my car, when the air quality was unhealthy and a pandemic is going on, so I started up my car and drove it to my in-laws’ house, parked my car there, borrowed their car to run my errands, and then went back and swapped cars again, and drove our car back home.

None of which is of any particular consequence in the big scheme of things, except for noting that all the little minor inconveniences that we have to deal with on a normal day in a normal year in a normal life, feel so much more bizarre and surreal in a bizarre and surreal year.

A’s first base coach Mike Aldrete missed today’s A’s game because his home is apparently near one of the ten gazillion wildfires burning in the state of California at this time, and he needed to be home to handle that problem.

The rest of the A’s weren’t immune from that problem either, as when the game started, the air quality around the Coliseum was registering in the 100-150 AQI range, which is designated as “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups”. By the end of the game, it had climbed over 150 into the “Unhealthy” range. If you ask me, I think they should have postponed the game at that point, like you would in a rainout. But I kind of don’t think the idea even crossed their minds, as even though they keep saying bullshit like “the health of our employees is our top priority”, it clearly isn’t because this being the last game in the season between these two teams, nobody wanted to have to deal with the logistics of how to finish this game on another date. So maybe they should be honest and say, “Logistics is our top priority, but the health of our employees is probably somewhere in our top ten list of priorities, and almost certainly in our top twenty.”

Putting aside whether they should be playing at all, (a major theme running through the season) this was a very enjoyable episode of A’s baseball. In this 5-1 victory over Arizona, Matt Chapman hit two monster homers to the second deck in left field, and Matt Olson hit a home run, as well. And perhaps most importantly, Khris Davis hit the ball hard three times, once to left, once to center, and once to right. All season up until now it has seemed that Davis has been trying to pull every pitch for a home run, but in the last two games he has played, he has shown signs of coming out of that, of hitting the ball hard in the direction the pitch lets him hit it. If he can keep doing that, and he can get back to the great hitter he was from 2015 to 2018, the A’s offense might become a juggernaut.

And then there’s Sean Manaea. He lasted 5 1/3 innings, but honestly, I don’t know how he did it. He only had good velocity in the first inning. After that, his fastball was mostly 88-89mph, and so far this year, as soon as his fastball has dropped below 90mph, usually around the 4th inning, he’s started getting hit hard. But this time, it dropped below 90mph in the second inning, and he kept getting outs. I suppose it helped a lot that he was able to locate his offspeed pitches well.

Manaea is starting to remind me a lot of Barry Zito. When Zito first came up, his fastball was in the 90s, and his curveball and changeup were so good as well that whether or not he was locating his pitches, he could get batters out. But then the fastball began to lose velocity, falling into the upper 80s, and Zito became more inconsistent. On the days when is command wasn’t right, or one of his pitches wasn’t working, he became much more hittable. Instead of a dominant pitcher who could win a Cy Young, he turned into more of a .500 pitcher, who could dominate on his good days, but also struggle mightily on his bad days, and it all added up to something mediocre.

This was a good day for Manaea, but I am still not confident that today’s Manaea is the new, real Manaea. I think that unless that Manaea can somehow get that velocity back for good, the real Manaea is this mediocre Manaea who has his good days and his bad days, depending on his command, and you’re never sure which one you’re going to get from start to start.

It’s a short season. Do the A’s have the time and patience to figure out what they have in Manaea? The trade deadline is in 10 days. Manaea should get two more starts before then. Two more pieces of data left from which to make a decision about him.

Still, the A’s are 18-8 now, and have the best record in baseball. If your biggest worry is that your fifth starter is kind of mediocre, you don’t really have the kind of major problems everyone else is having, you just have some minor inconveniences.

Your Story to Remain Untold
by Ken Arneson
2020-08-19 23:30

Ever know of a story that would fit the moment, but it’s not your story to tell? Can you avoid the temptation to tell it anyway?

There are two problems with stories that belong to someone else:

  • It’s a violation of trust to take from someone else their right to decide if and when their story becomes public, and
  • You would be telling the story second hand, so you might get it wrong.

I was watching the A’s-Diamondbacks game (a fun 4-1 A’s victory led by Jesús Luzardo’s best start thus far) when word came over the Twitter wire about a homophobic slur uttered on the air by Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman.

I could tell some stories here which related to that, but I’m not going to, because of the reasons in the first section above, and also because that essay would pretty much have the exact same structure, and come to the exact same conclusion, as my essay two weeks ago about Ryan Christenson.

The conclusion is this: what people really want when some famous person does something appalling is not for any particular specific punishment. People don’t really care if these offenders are fined some money, or lose their job, or go to jail. What people want in these situations is for that person to lose their status.

You could fine a famous person a huge chunk of money, AND take away their job, AND send them to jail, AND make sure they give a sincere, heartfelt apology, AND make amends for all the damage their bad behavior caused, but if after all that they come back and end up with the same status they had before, nobody is going to be satisfied.

What we really want from people like that is for them to have to start over, from the bottom. Being famous has huge outsized advantages in our high-tech media culture. Take those advantages away. Humble them. They did something stupid, like a young ignorant fool. Treat them like that young person, who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Start them at the bottom, and make them have to earn their way back up.

That’s not too hard to do when it’s a coach, or an announcer. Send them down to the minorest of minor leagues, and move everybody up a notch.

That’s harder to do for a player. You’re not allowed to send a 10-year veteran to the minor leagues, for example, your only choice by the rules is to let them go. But for younger players, the rules allow for that. The Cleveland Indians did exactly that recently with Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger, who violated the COVID-19 protocols and then lied about it. Because both of them had options remaining, the Indians sent both of them down to their alternate site, and are kind of letting them rot there. It may be costing Cleveland some victories, because both of them are good players, but they felt it necessary for everyone to be satisfied.

So the point is, again, just like the Ryan Christenson incident: despite most of the rhetoric you will hear, these reactions are not really about seeking punishment, or about surpressing free speech. It’s about lowering status. Thom Brennaman said something horribly homophobic, and people will not be satisfied until Thom Brennaman’s status is lowered, not as the first act in a redemption play, not as the first scene of a death and resurrection story, not even as the origin story of a true villain, but until he is just as anonymous as the rest of us, the non-famous, the forgettable and forgotten, whose stories will never be known by anybody.

Beaten Down
by Ken Arneson
2020-08-18 23:30

As I’m writing this, word has come down that there is a wildfire in the Santa Cruz Mountains. People near the fire are being asked to evacuate. Smoke from the fire is descending into Silicon Valley and making the air quality bad. The bad air hasn’t reached me in the East Bay yet, but I imagine it’s only a matter of time.

I don’t know how I’m going to muster the energy to deal with all this stuff all at once. And I’m not even, you know, actually doing anything. I’m not an essential worker. I’m not a firefighter. I’m basically just an ordinary citizen, hiding away at home, trying not to make things worse for anybody else. But it’s like a literal siege. We’re trapped inside the walls of our house, and everything on the outside of those walls is hostile and wants to kill us.

For some people, who live in dangerous parts of the world, every day of their life is like that. Not that I didn’t understand that intellectually before, but on an emotional level, I’ve lived a fortunate life. I’ve had bad days, and bad situations, but they’ve always been temporary, and I’ve never thought of them as anything other than temporary. I’ve never before experienced the exhaustion of life being one bad thing after another, constantly, with no end in sight. Even with the pandemic, I’ve sort of been able to hang on to the optimistic idea that it is temporary, that we will get over this at some point. But this fire thing, the air quality thing, again, it’s pushing me to the edge. I don’t know how much longer I can cling to these cliffs of optimism. I can feel myself letting go, contemplating the idea of letting the despair swallow me.

There’s really only one thought that’s keeping me hanging on, that makes me determined to hang on to my optimism, to not give in to despair and cynicism: the idea that becoming too exhausted to fight back is exactly what the damn fascists want, because their opponents giving up is the only way, in the end, they can win, and I will not let that motherfucker Donald Trump beat me.

I don’t care how much bullshit is thrown at me, I don’t care how many battles I lose, I don’t care how beaten down I feel, they only way they win in the end is if we give up, and I will not let that asshole win.

Speaking of being beaten down, the A’s lost to the Diamondbacks 10-1. Frankie Montas was coming back from his back strain, and although he claimed he felt good physically, for whatever the reason, he couldn’t locate any of his pitches, and he got pounded: 1 2/3 innings pitched, 9 runs allowed.

It just wasn’t his day, or the A’s day. Some days, you just get your butt kicked. It happens. Don’t give up, come back tomorrow and try again.

That is, if you’re allowed to even play tomorrow. There may be a big giant fire blowing smoke into the Oakland Coliseum making the air quality too harsh to play in. You never know. It’s been that kind of year. But you can either let it beat you down so you give up and quit, or you can choose to deal with it the best you can, and keep going until you win.

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This is Ken Arneson's blog about baseball, brains, art, science, technology, philosophy, poetry, politics and whatever else Ken Arneson feels like writing about
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