Cup of Coffee: July 4, 2024

All-Star starters, a trade, bad shoes, bad jerseys, bad omens, Joe Biden, and The Musings of a Would-Be Expatriate

Good morning!

I’d also say “Happy of Fourth of July!” but I’m not feeling particularly patriotic these days, as today’s Other Stuff makes clear. Maybe I need to check myself into a Happiness Factory.” I don’t know. All I know for sure is that it’s Free Thursday and even if it’s a holiday I wrote a lot of goddamn words today, most of them bleak. Sorry. Or you’re welcome. Some of you are masochists who like it when I bring the sad, so it cuts both ways.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

Settling the Scores 

Because (a) I already had over 4,200 damn words written in this damn newsletter before getting to the recaps; and (b) it’s a holiday, I’m punting the recaps today. Here’s what happened, though:

Red Sox 7, Marlins 2
White Sox 8, Guardians 2
Pirates 5, Cardinals 4
Nationals 7, Mets 5
Reds 3, Yankees 2
Astros 9, Blue Jays 2
Atlanta 3, Giants 1
Phillies 5, Cubs 3
Padres 6, Rangers 4
Tigers 9, Twins 2
Royals 4, Rays 2
Brewers 3, Rockies 0
Athletics 5, Angels 0
Diamondbacks 12, Dodgers 4
Orioles 4, Mariners 1

The Daily Briefing

The All-Star starters have been selected

The voting — which I still don’t really understand despite us having this two-tiered system for so long — is over. The All-Star starters have been selected. Here they be:

American League

  • C: Adley Rutschman, Orioles

  • 1B: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays

  • 2B: Jose Altuve, Astros

  • 3B: José Ramírez, Guardians

  • SS: Gunnar Henderson, Orioles

  • OF: Aaron Judge, Yankees, Juan Soto, Yankees, Steven Kwan, Guardians

  • DH: Yordan Alvarez, Astros

National League

  • C: William Contreras, Brewers

  • 1B: Bryce Harper, Phillies

  • 2B: Ketel Marte, Diamondbacks

  • 3B: Alec Bohm, Phillies

  • SS: Trea Turner, Phillies

  • OF: Christian Yelich, Brewers, Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres, Jurickson Profar, Padres

  • DH: Shohei Ohtani, Dodgers

Have fun storming the castle. Or whatever.

Rays trade Aaron Civale to the Brewers

The Tampa Bay Rays have traded righty starter Aaron Civale to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for minor league infielder Gregory Barrios.

Civale, 29, spent four and a half seasons with Cleveland before being traded to the Rays at last year’s trade deadline. This year he has struggled, posting a 5.07 ERA (78 ERA+) across 17 starts. Which is virtually identical to how he performed for the Rays after the trade last year. He’s simply been more hittable with Tampa Bay than he ever was with Cleveland for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.

That said, more advanced metrics like FIP suggest that he’s been pitching in a lot of bad luck since the trade and he was considerably better in the 76 starts he made for the Guardians between 2019 and last year (3.77 ERA, 113 ERA+). Either way, the Brewers have gone through a LOT of arms this year. Indeed, when Civale takes the hill for them he will be their 16th different starter of the 2024 campaign. The most starters the Brewers have ever used in one season before this one is 17, and it’s only July 4.

Gregory Barrios, the player heading back to the Rays, is a a 20-year-old middle infielder at High-A. Per MLB he’s the Brewers’ number 21 prospect overall. He’s doing well this year, hitting .325/.367/.429 with one homer, 17 doubles, 34 RBI, 36 runs, and 18 steals across 61 games in a league where he’s younger than most. Figure he has a chance to hit the bigs by 2026 or so.

A particularly Mets thing

Per Tim Healey of Newsday, J.D. Martinez said he has a sore ankle. His ankle is sore, he says, because he tried a new cleat that didn’t quite fit right. It seems his usual shipment from Adidas was delayed, so he bought new cleats on Amazon, and that caused the problem.

At least he didn’t go with Temu, or he’d be on the 120-day IL.

The All-Star jerseys are impossibly bad

Via SNY we get a look at the 2024 All-Star Game jerseys. At least the AL version:

Generic looking Juan Soto American League jersey with a tan body and orange/red sleeves

Figure the NL version will be equally generic with blue sleeves instead of red/orange/whatever that color is.

I get that that Nike must make its money and that the maw must therefore be fed with new product, but this is embarrassingly bad. Like something you’d see from one of those just-above-beer-league softball teams where everyone takes things WAY too seriously. No player should be allowed to wear these unless they’re wearing Oakleys from 15 years ago and telling everyone over dinner at Chilis, “the vans leave at 6:30. Anyone not there is off the team. And yeah, I’m serious.”

Heaven forbid that we do what we used to do back when people actually cared about the All-Star Game and let each player wear their own uniform:

1977 NL All-Star team

I mean, this ain’t football or basketball. We’re not concerned about passing to the opposing team here. And unlike what they’ll be wearing a week from Tuesday, most current baseball uniforms actually look good.

Nothing escapes enshittification these days.

The alleged ex-Brewers employee hit-woman was arrested

A couple of weeks ago I shared the story of an alleged hit-woman who was wanted by West Midlands, UK police for the attempted murder-for-hire of a Birmingham shop owner. The fun twist to it was that the hit-woman was from Wisconsin and was at once a front office employee of the Milwaukee Brewers. Weirdly, she was still walking free, posting on Facebook from where she was living in Chicago about how it was all a big misunderstanding and stuff.

Well, she’s not free anymore. From the BBC:

A suspected hit-woman being hunted by police investigating an assassination attempt has been tracked down in Armenia.

Aimee Betro was taken into custody on Tuesday after she was found in a housing complex on the outskirts of Yerevan, Police of the Republic of Armenia said.

She is wanted by West Midlands Police in connection with the attempted shooting of a businessman outside his home in South Yardley, Birmingham, in September 2019.

Mohammed Aslam and Mohammed Nazir, both from Elms Avenue, Derby, were recently found guilty of conspiracy to murder.

It is alleged that the pair hired Betro, originally from Wisconsin in the US, to carry out the shooting.

I’m guessing this will really put a wrench in any plans she has to continue a career in Major League Baseball.

Other Stuff

Bad Omens

The website Tortoise Media published an exclusive report yesterday that celebrated sci-fi author Neil Gaiman has been accused of sexual assault by two women and that he is under police investigation in New Zealand in connection with one of the allegations.

Gaiman was in consensual relationships with both of his accusers at the time of the incidents in question, but they say he engaged in “rough and degrading sex” which “was not always consensual.” Gaiman strongly denies the allegations. New Zealand police told Tortoise that they have made a “number of attempts to speak to key people as part of this investigation and those efforts remain ongoing.” The police say that the investigation is complicated by the fact that Gaiman lives primarily in America and that one of the alleged incidents and one of his accusers lives in New Zealand, where Gaiman lived before separating from his former wife in 2020. His other accuser is in Florida, though there appears to be no law enforcement involvement in connection to her allegations at present.

It’s probably worth noting at this point that little birds tell me — and Reddit users are saying — that this may just be the tip of the iceberg with respect to unseemly allegations against Gaiman. I can’t say if that’s true or not, but (a) that’s what they’re saying; and (b) it’s very, very rare that someone who has a couple of allegations like this against him only has a couple of allegations against him by the time it’s all said and done.

Gaiman, 63, is a bestselling author with The Sandman, Good Omens, Coraline, and American Gods among his most noted works. Many of his books and other publications have been adapted for film and television, often with his active participation as a writer/producer. I just started watching the Amazon version of “Good Omens” and I like it so far, mostly because I like David Tennant in everything. I guess I have to decide if his and the late Terry Pratchett’s contributions to it outweigh Gaiman’s continued involvement.

In closing: my policy of refusing to personally idolize the people whose work you like continues to a prudent one.

What to do about Joe Biden

The 2024 election should, first, foremost, and almost exclusively be about the threat presented by Donald Trump and his fascist cohort regaining power. Over the past week, however, all of the attention of the presidential race has turned to Joe Biden, his age, his health, his fitness to remain in office and to continue in the campaign, and whether or not he should drop out. I cannot imagine a bigger gift has ever been given to Donald Trump in his entire lifetime, and that includes the millions his dad gave him to become a self-proclaimed self-made man, but that’s where we are.

There’s no getting around the fact that Biden was awful in the debate. No, a bad debate performance does not justify talk of a presidential resignation, but in the past week he has not done much to come back from that performance and the impression it made. Yesterday I mentioned his tepid-at-best appearance on Monday in response to the presidential immunity decision. Since then he’s made a couple of brief scripted appearances and his staff has assured the world that he’s just fine, but what’s that really worth in this situation? To the contrary, his general absence from the scene has only exacerbated the problem. It feels like the days of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko. I’m waiting for the moment I tune in to CNN and all they’re playing is the ballet.

Biden has to show us, not tell us, that he’s fine and able to do the job. If he’s generally no different than he was when he gave that fiery State of the Union address a few months back and he just had a bad day last week it’s one thing. If, however, he cannot show us he’s up for the job — if he is legitimately unable to fulfill the tasks of the presidency and to effectively campaign for reelection due to his health — he should step down. I would hope everyone agrees on that. Being the President of the United States requires someone in charge of their faculties and able to address a crisis. And, as noted, defeating Donald Trump in a campaign that still has four months to go is insanely important and is not something to be pursued at impulse power.

Given the way the inside of the White House works and the strong incentives for the people around a president to blow smoke or put a happy face on a bad situation, we can’t know it’s all going from the outside. All we can hope for is that someone in a position of power — hopefully Joe Biden himself — is responsibly deliberating that matter right now. And that if he ultimately decides to stay in the race, he can demonstrate his health, vigor, and readiness.

No matter which it is, however, we should be under no illusions: if Biden steps down, either due to necessity or perceived expediency — it will be a Very Bad Thing. It will be an even bigger gift to Donald Trump that the current discourse. It may very well ensure that he wins the election.

I’ve seen a lot of sentiment in the past 24 hours that replacing Biden is a no-brainer that would boost Democratic prospects come November. That seems painfully naive to me for a number of reasons:

  • Biden stepping down, be it out of necessity or that perceived expedience, instantly validates over four years of Trump’s "Sleepy Joe" rhetoric. If it happens Trump will be treated as an astute political operator by the media and by low-information voters who may very well decide the election. He’s anything but that — the attacks on Biden were out of shitty animus and no small amount of projection — but if he lucks into being right on that point it will give him a considerable boost;

  • Biden stepping aside also transforms the election from one which, as I’ve argued over and over, should be a referendum on Trump and a movement to prevent his return to office into one that is a referendum on the new candidate;

  • A new candidate, it should be noted, who has never been president and who may very well have unvetted skeletons and weaknesses, and unprocessed tics, gaffes, and other personality traits, the sort of which political reporters focus on to ridiculous degrees. This would suck all of the oxygen out of the campaign, transform it into a shallow personality referendum, and leave Trump’s truly frightening campaign promises even more under-covered than they already are.

  • If Biden steps aside, the only possible alternative is Kamala Harris, either as the new president, should he resign office, or as the new Democratic nominee if Biden pulls a Lyndon Johnson and stays in office but ceases to seek reelection (more on that in a moment). To bypass Harris in favor of someone else is fantasyland stuff that, in addition to putting someone viewed as unprepared to take over the office in the limelight, would be a slap to the face of Harris, to the office of the Vice President, to women, who have been waiting nearly 250 years for representation in the White House, and not to mention people of color.

  • Of course, Harris-the-candidate might not be a strong one. She has received mostly bad press since becoming vice president. She has made no real mark in her role. Her presidential campaign for 2020 ended before the year 2019 did, amidst fundraising problems and stories of campaign staff infighting that have, to some degree, been echoed in the VP’s office;

  • And of course, there are a great many people who will never say it to pollsters, but for whom racism and sexism will play a huge part if she runs. I would desperately hope that wouldn’t hurt her and that, to the contrary, enthusiasm for a Black/south Asian woman who isn’t 80 damn years old would outweigh that, but my optimism about this country is not super high these days. There were a LOT of people who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton but did for Joe Biden because there are a lot of sexist and misogynistic assholes in America. Even many with otherwise decent politics.

The upshot: Biden dropping out changes the race entirely.

I can envision a situation in which the change is a positive one. Harris hits the ground running, shows the sort of enthusiasm Biden could never dream of showing, gets the “candidate for change” boost that has so often been beneficial in recent years, and totally stymies that whole “the voters hate both candidates” trope which has dominated this election for the past year. But I can also see Biden stepping down being treated as a “Democrats in disarray!” moment, Harris reminding people why they weren’t hot on her in 2019, and all of this ending up like 1968 all over again when Nixon came into office because, while no one really liked him, he was a known quantity and at least his side was unified.

The final question would be the mechanism via which Harris would take over for Biden: does he simply stop his campaign, finish out his term as a lame duck, and let Harris campaign as Vice President or does he resign from office entirely which would allow Harris to campaign as an incumbent?

That may not be a choice, of course. If Biden is actually mentally impaired, he needs to leave office and there shouldn’t be a debate about it. if, however, it’s decided that he simply that he lacks the energy to campaign, it’ll be a strategic call. Such a call could cut in many directions:

  • On the one hand, Biden resigning and Harris becoming president first would give Harris a pretty decent boost via the trappings of incumbency. She’d land in Air Force One, be referred to as “Madame President,” and would be in the position of demonstrating, rather than just promising, her leadership abilities;

  • On the other hand, her responsibilities as President might prevent her from mounting the supremely whirlwind-ass campaign she’ll have to run having come into the race so late and under such crazy circumstances;

  • Finally, we have to take into account the mechanics of her becoming president to begin with. She’d immediately have to nominate a vice president, which would require both House and Senate approval. That would be a total shitshow/sideshow in which the Republican majority in the House would 100% try to ratfuck the confirmation process in order to harm Harris’ campaign. It’d be a distraction that would take at least a month if not more;

  • That is, if Harris can find a good vice presidential candidate. The only guarantee for such a person at the moment would be four months of campaigning which has about a 50/50 shot of ending in unemployment. If you’re a governor, senator, or member of congress with a future, are you going to resign your job for a short campaign that might crash and burn? It’d be a drama inside a ratfuck.

So yeah, there’s a lot going on with all of this, none of which reduces my current state of anxiety. And all of that comes before we focus deeply on the prospect of a second Trump term.

But hey, since we’re anxious already, let’s do that, shall we?

Musings of a Would-Be Expatriate 

Yesterday I mentioned my little wannabe expatriate frustrations regarding the government of the Netherlands, where I could legally relocate, falling to the right-wingers. In the past I’ve also talked about moving to Portugal and I’ve often talked about how I’d move to the UK in a heartbeat if I could ever figure out a way to obtain permanent residence.

All of that has been mere chatter on my part, usually joking in nature. I’ve not taken any steps to leave the United States beyond some basic Googling and occasional daydreaming. A Cup of Coffee subscriber moved to Portugal some time ago and gave me some really good detailed information on it — which I saved! — but it’s not like I have a plan, let alone a timeline. The idea has been almost tongue-in-cheek on my part, really. Idle musings.

I’ve kept all of that pretty idle for a couple of reasons, some practical some more cosmic.

As far as the practicalities go, my parents, who are not getting any younger and may need to rely on me more as time goes on, still live here. As do my kids. Yeah, they’re in college now and have explicitly told me that they’d LOVE for me to move overseas so they could have a free international crash pad, but it’s hard to get my mind around fucking off across an ocean when they’re still of an age where they come home for holidays and need help moving into starter apartments. If I worked for a company that offered me a promotion to move to London I’d totally do it and everyone would be cool with it because that’s how life goes, but moving that far away from older parents and young adult kids by choice seems different and is harder to get my mind around.

As far as the cosmic stuff: man, there is nothing more self-indulgent than a comfortable and privileged American vowing to leave the country because he doesn’t like where it’s heading. It’s the stuff vapid celebrities say just before elections. It’s one of the few things conservatives like to mock that I agree to be pretty mock-worthy. I loved you in “Red October” and “30 Rock,” Alec Baldwin, but I never took you seriously when you claimed you were going to move to Canada if Mitt Romney got elected. It’s performative nonsense for the most part.

And yet I sit here right now completely discouraged about the state of America and wishing I was someplace else. Actually thinking that it could one day soon be dangerous not to be someplace else. I am utterly pessimistic about fixing the massive problems we face, most of which are completely self-inflicted and most of which shockingly few people seem to care about. I’ve been politically engaged — often hyper-engaged — since I was like 12 years old but I’ve never felt like this. Even when Trump was first elected my feeling was “uh oh, this is gonna be a bad four years” but I assumed we’d fix it and that his time on the scene would be an aberration.

Except it’s not an aberration. Trump’s 2017-2021 term increasingly seems like a quaint prologue to a new, horrible normal that seems far more likely to befall us today than it did even a couple of weeks ago.

Donald Trump is a convicted felon and an adjudged rapist who has literally — and proudly! — vowed to weaponize the Justice Department to go after his critics and enemies. He has vowed to use shock troops to round up minorities and place them in concentration camps. He has promised to stretch the powers of the presidency in ways not seen in our lifetime. Thanks to the courts, he can now be confident that no one will be able to challenge his doing so, so he and the dead-eyed fascists who will fill his administration will pursue that agenda without fear and without restraint. Again: this is not conjecture. He has openly promised this to both the media and into open mics in front of whatever crowd has appeared before him, countless times. And on Monday the Supreme Court told him no one could stop him.

These aren’t the mere ravings of a silly would-be demagogue. The other day the leader in the most influential conservative think tank — the man who oversaw the writing of the actual roadmap setting Trump’s plan out for all to seesaid, in response to the presidential immunity decision, “we are in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.” If you don’t take that as a threat of literal violence and the bleak transformation of American society, you’re whistling past the graveyard.

The scariest thing about this: the promises of the man currently leading the polls to usher in fully-blown fascism have gotten about 15% of the prevailing political coverage of late, if that. A corrupt, renegade Supreme Court has just sanctioned monarchy, the would-be next president and all of the most influential conservative minds are calling for revolution, suggesting bloodshed if anyone dare oppose them, and writing it down in a how-to manual just in case anyone thinks they’re bluffing. Yet, all America’s media can talk about is President Biden’s bad debate performance and whether or not he should be replaced on the ticket. And it seems that the chunk of Americans who will decide this election via our decidedly undemocratic system of electing presidents don’t really give a shit.

I look back to those past vows from vapid celebrities about leaving the country if an election doesn’t go their way and laugh, because those vows came when the fear was the election of some aging Republican senator who, while making political promises they and I found to be undesirable, were within recognizable norms of 20th/early 21st century American politics. Certainly nothing close to what now looms. The prospect of John McCain taking office was not a pleasant one for me in 2008, but it didn’t make me fear the unleashing of shock troops, the building of mass detention camps, the purging of allegedly disloyal civil servants, the ascendance of a president who claims dictatorial powers, let alone the future of the Republic.

Yet here we are. And here I am. A person who, while always aware of our system’s weak points, has never really doubted our system’s ultimate durability before now. A person who, for his entire life, has had an answer to anyone’s political questions or concerns which at least theoretically pointed us to a better path with at least something approaching confidence that the worst paths will be avoided. A person who fully believes that if Trump is elected in November that future elections will be irrelevant because America will be transformed into an authoritarian state before the next one can be held.

What does one do in that situation? The best solution is to leave, right? At least if one is able?

Earlier I identified a couple of things which have kept me from taking such a thing seriously, but as time goes on they seem less and less compelling. Now the biggest thing stopping me is the knowledge that hardly anyone else can leave, even if they want to. Particularly the people who, unlike white, CIS, heterosexual middle-aged and middle-class people like myself, will be truly and directly in the crosshairs of New America if Trump regains power. I’m looking at the current trajectory of America and It feels like the only choices I have are subjection by a fascist state or abdication of my responsibilities to its most vulnerable people. Of living my last 3-4 decades in a dystopia or abandoning the land and those I care about.

I’ve never truly looked for the exits before, but I can’t seem to stop myself from doing that now. Because I’ve never been this depressed or discouraged about my country. Especially on the goddamn Fourth of July.

Have a great day everyone.


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