Gooood Morning October!
1 And with October comes the wonderful post-season of that all-American sports that does not leave its athletes with brain disease, that requires some erudition and an attention span longer than a terrier puppy’s to appreciate, and that does not subject its fans to incoherent political theater as part of the price of watching a game. Yes, “it’s baseball, Ray.”
Yesterday the Boston Red Sox finally clinched the America League East title, the first time in over a century that this perverse team has won a championship in consecutive years. In other words, nothing can spoil my mood today.
There are a couple of baseball ethics notes, too:
- In Miami, Giancarlo Stanton has one last game to hit his 60th home run, which would make him the sixth major league to reach that mark in baseball history. Two of the six, Babe Ruth, whose 60 homers in 1927 stood as the season record for 34 years, and Roger Maris, the Yankee who broke the record with 61 in something of a fluke season, reached the mark fairly. The other three, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds, were steroid cheats. Ever since Stanton caught fire after the All-Star break and looked for a while as if he would exceed 61, wags have been saying that he would become the “real” record holder, since the totals of Mark, Sammy and Barry ( 73, the current record, in 2001) shouldn’t count. Of course they should count. They have to count. The games were official, the runs counted, the homers are reflected in the statistics of the pitchers, the teams, and records of the sport. Bonds should have been suspended before he broke any records, but baseball blew it. Saying his homers (and Sosa’s, and McGwire’s) don’t count is like arguing that Samuel J. Tilden, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton were elected President.
Integrity exists in layers, and the ultimate integrity is accepting reality. The 1919 Reds won the World Series, fixed or not. O.J. is innocent in the eyes of the law, and Roger Maris no longer holds baseball single season home run record.
- In Kansas City, manager Ned Yost did something gracious, generous, and strange. The Royals, a small market team that won two championships with a core of home grown, low-visibility stars, now face losing all or most of them to big free agent contracts that the team simply cannot afford. Fans are often bitter about such venal exits, and teams usually fan the flames of resentment: better that the market be angry at the players than the organization. After Red Sox fan favorite Johnny Damon, a popular symbol of the 2004 World Series winning club, left for greener pastures in the New York Yankees outfield, he was jeered every time he came to bat in Fenway Park for the rest of his career.
But Ned Yost, who will be left with a shell of his team and a new bunch of kids to manage in KC next year, was not going to let the players who made him a winner depart amidst anger and recriminations. During yesterday’s 4-3 victory in front of the home crowd at Kauffman Stadium, Yost engineered an emotional curtain call for all four of the players who were probably playing their last games as Royals.
He pulled them from the game, one by one, all while the team was in the field or the player on the bases, so each could get a long standing ovation: Eric Hosmer in the moments before the fifth inning; Mike Moustakas with one out in the sixth. Lorenzo Cain for a pinch runner. Alcides Escobar in the middle of the seventh.
And none of them took a knee on the way out…
2. I have been researching to find any objective reports that support the claim that the federal government and FEMA are not doing their best to help Puerto Rico. There aren’t any. There are plenty of videos of the devastation, but even the New York Times, which is the head cheerleader for anti-Trump porn, has only been able to muster headlines about the relief effort being criticized. All of my Facebook friends writing—it’s really dumb, everybody—about how Trump is uncaring as they signal their virtue by telling us how their hearts go out to the residents of the island literally know nothing about the relief efforts. They don’t know anything about the planning, the logistics, the problems or what is feasible. Nonetheless, they think they have standing to say that it is incompetent, or slow (which means, slower than it has to be), or, and anyone who says this better not say it to me, based on racism. Their assertions arise out of pure partisan bias, bolstered by convenient ignorance.
Vox’s Matt Yglesias, one of the knee-jerk doctrinaire leftists in the commentary world who does an especially poor job hiding his malady, attempted to take a shot at the Trump administration by tweeting,
“The US government supplied Berlin for nearly a year by air despite a Soviet blockade using late-1940s technology.”
This is only a valid comparison for the willfully obtuse. You can’t airlift electricity and water, or a communication and transportation infrastructure that is necessary to distribute supplies. Berlin was surrounded, but it had all of these.
What has happened is that a beleaguered mayor, perhaps one not as inept and corrupt as New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, but she’s using his playbook, is trying to deflect her own citizens’ impatience and fear by blaming someone else, confident that the news media and foes of a Republican President will treat the accusations as valid. They just aren’t, at least based on what we know now. The devastation in Puerto Rico is unprecedented. Unprecedented disasters cannot be addressed as quickly as victims want, need, or expect because they are unprecedented. Yesterday Bloomberg interviewed retired Navy Captain Jerry Hendrix, who knows a lot more about such operations that I do, you do, or Matt Yglesias. His comments are instructive, but the partisans whose objective is to score political points don’t want to be instructed.
One point Hendrix makes is especially worth repeating:
“Puerto Rico is an island that suffers from its position in the middle of the Caribbean and its physical separation from the U.S. Its roads were in disrepair and its electrical grid was antiquated prior to the hurricane. The island has also suffered for years from ineffective local government and rising local territorial debt.The Navy used to operate a large Navy base there, Naval Station Roosevelt Roads. I spent six months on the island in 1993, but when the island’s population protested the presence of the training range at nearby Vieques Island, the Navy shuttered the base, taking $300 million a year out of the Puerto Rican economy. I have no doubt that the federal government will be taking a hard look at large infrastructure investments and I hope that local governments look at building and general construction codes to make future buildings more hurricane survivable.”
3. The latter point bolsters President Trump’s response to the criticism wafting his way from Puerto Rico. The President is right on the facts: the devastation was magnified by incompetent government on the island, but blaming the victim always feels wrong even when it is justified. As this President always does and always will do, Trump had to start tweeting insults; he could not sit back and let less powerful people attack him, even when his returning fire is perceived as punching down, even when it galvanizes his political enemies. It’s foolish; it’s unpresidential; it’s petty.
Then again, Bush was properly silent as Nagin, as responsible for the New Orleans mess as anyone but Katrina herself, implied that the federal response was intentionally slow and thus racist, and Bush suffered grievous political and popular damage anyway. As seems to frequently be the case, Trump’s unethical response may be more effective than the ethical one, in part because his opposition today is so shameless and without ethical foundations itself.