Saturday, 16 September 2017

Friday Night Jazz




Friday is here. Friday afternoon. Despite the way we feel each Monday morning, it always does arrive. 

Eventually.

I'm feeling a bit "random" today, so nothing too coherent or involved to add, so I thought I'd just offer some short-takes.


The Sky Already Fell

As those who read from time to time know, while I am increasingly less interested in sports, I do remain a baseball fan, and my particular team is the Toronto Blue Jays. They've made it to the playoffs in two consecutive years (after more than 20 straight years of not even pretending to contend). The've in fact twice made it to the American League championship series. And truth be told, twice embarrassed themselves with poor showings both times - going down 4-2 in 2015, and 4-1 last year.

This year, the team is almost surely going to accomplish the feat of transforming in a single season from playoffs to last place. 

Last night, the Jays lost (again) in extra innings. The team is now 5-14 in extra innings games. This is far and away the poorest showing of any major league team - no other team has even lost 10 such games.


The Sky Already Fell, Take Two

No one better exemplifies the nearly free-fall than former slugger and all-star Jose "Joey Bats" Bautista. Bautista was made famous a few years ago for leading the AL in home runs in consecutive years (a team record 54 in 2010, and then 43 more in 2011), receiving a Silver Slugger Award in each.  More recently, he is famous for being punched in the face and receiving a less prestigious Black Eye Award from Rougned Odor.

Bautista this year is battling to stay above the Mendoza Line - currently winning the battle with a .205 average (he went 0-5 last night, inching closer). 

According to data at ESPN.com, Baustista, the proud owner of a -0.7 "WAR" (wins above replacement - a statistical measure of how much better or worse in pure wins/loss estimated compared to a hypothetical 'replacement' player who could be plucked off the waiver list). This means that Bautista is the worst player in Major League Baseball, at least by this metric.

Another First to Worst.

Ironically, the year he hit his 54 homers, Bautista won the Blue Jays' "John Cerutti Award for displaying goodwill and character."  No joke.


Going the Other Direction

I spent my high school years living in Cleveland, Ohio. During that time, I passed many evenings (and weekend afternoons) watching the Cleveland Indians play in their massive, hulking, crumbling stadium. The team was comically awful, and the crowds so sparse you could hear individual insults being yelled at the players from the seats on the other side of the field.

Good times.

Well, Toronto decided that - in order to pay Bautista $17, $18, and $20 million for this, next, and the subsequent year, they needed to let go of their other slugger, Edwin Encarnacion. (EE was so poor in Toronto at third base, his nickname became E-5, made all the more poignant because he actually wore number five on his jersey).

Encarnacion is not having a great season in Cleveland (he's currently hitting .252 with 34 home runs after a very slow start), but it's a damned sight better than Bautista. At least EE is better than a "replacement" player (WAR is +2.2).

I wonder if the Toronto GM (Mark Shapiro) would make a different decision if he knew then what he does now? He came from Cleveland, so is it a case of divided loyalties?


Going the Other Direction, Take 2

Speaking of Cleveland, the Indians last night won their 22nd consecutive game. In dramatic fashion. The Tribe trailed 2-1 going to their last ups in the ninth. Down to their last strike, rising star Francisco Lindor looped a double over the glove of left fielder Alex Gordon, who came *this* close (hold your thumb and forefinger close together) to ending The Streak. Gordon claims that the ball glanced off the top of his glove.

That's how things go when you're winning.

I still have family back in Cleveland, and others who live elsewhere, but still follow the Indians, and they are (understandably) excited that maybe this is the year after a 70-year winter of darkness.

The playoffs are a crap-shoot (just ask last year's Red Sox, who on paper should have clobbered the Indians, but in fact, were not only sent home by Cleveland, but were sent him in a sweep) of course, and it's possible that some team will get lucky in a short series and beat the Tribe.

But 22 in a row? And during that time, the Indians not trailed their opponents in 201 of the 207 innings played. They have ended an inning behind exactly six times over three weeks. They've outscored their opponents by a 142-37 margin. Aside from last night, there has been very little drama as they've simply ground opponents into mush. Scarier still for their foes, the Pythagorean W-L formula of Bill James says that the Indians' AL-best 91-56 record actually underestimates how well they team has played. Given their runs scored and runs allowed stats, Cleveland could expect to be 99-48 right now. 

Read that again.

The Indians have only played six extra-inning games (winning four of the six), the fewest in the major leagues.

It's Cleveland still, of course. And a crushing, shocking defeat is still possible out there. Likely, perhaps even.



Lights, Camera, Scandal



Speaking of shocking results, the French this spring elected something of a fresh face to be their president; 37 year-old Emmanuel Macron, whose previous experience in politics was a very, very brief turn as the economics minister for the failed quinquennat of François Hollande, won out over a field of damaged opponents to take up residence in the Elysee Palace.

Macron is known for his florid speech, youthful handsomeness, and Mrs Robinson-esque wife.

Turns out, there may be something to how he looks so good, even for a relatively young man.

The French newspaper Le Canard Enchaîne (who broke the scandal that destroyed François Fillon - his English wife was on the public payroll for a no-work job that would be right at home in New Jersey) reported that Macron has billed the French state $10,000 per month for makeup.

Read that again.

While only his hairdresser knows for sure, that strikes me as a lot of rouge for a man.

This is not really raising many eyebrows in France, and Macron's defenders point out that this is not in fact, out of line for les présidents. For example, Hollande, spent more on his haircuts and makeup, and anyways, Macron spends a lot of time in front of a camera. Et donc, quoi?

On the one hand, Hollande is balding, so not sure why he needs to spend so much on a hairdresser. Point: Macron. On the other, Hollande has the charisma of a failed breeding experiment involving a toad and a pig, so one might argue that he needs the help.

Oh la la, c'est compliqué.


Bring it on Home

Finally, Hollande was back in the news this week, finally sitting for an interview with the French news press. Hollande is having some difficulty, apparently, coping with his ignominious rejection, at times citing ruefully how he imagined leading the state towards the glorious 2024 Olympiad.

But the interview reads as far more introspective - and reality-based - than the current book tour that his American partner in electoral failure (Hillary Clinton) shows.

Quoted:
Je devaits désormais se consacrer à d'autres missions. J'essaie d'être utile à la place que j'occupe.
(Going forward, I must dedicate myself to another purpose. I am going to try to be useful in whatever the future brings)

If only Mrs Clinton could just dedicate herself to something "useful" - and no; making money pushing a finger-pointing book is not really useful beyond reifying biases of her base.

Happy Friday to all.....



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