#ESPNIsOverParty: More Convergence At Disney Subsidiaries

I won’t lie, I stopped watching ESPN more than a decade ago. This train wreck was coming for a long time, but I didn’t think the nail in the coffin would be due to virtue signalling politics overriding its core mission as a company. The reason I stopped is because of the extreme east coast bias and the complete disregard for baseball and hockey. Since my two favorite sports took a back seat to sports that ESPN had more broadcast rights for, I never found it that compelling to watch. Compound that with the fact that they would talk about NY and Boston teams on a 5:1 ratio or more of anyone else… it was worthless. I didn’t need yet another commentator to tell me how Eli Manning is the greatest quarterback of all time, because he’s not.

But over the last year we saw something more insidious develop with ESPN. They followed the same path as their sister Mega-Corporate Disney-owned Marvel Comics, in that they hired a bunch of social justice warriors, and started rambling about politics. This of course coincided with Colin Kaepernick’s anti-American sit-in of national anthem at game, of which ESPN was all too gleeful about. Fans, being normal Americans, found it insulting and hated it. Like the readers of Marvel Comics who didn’t want to read “Occupy Avengers”, ESPN viewers tuned out.

But ESPN didn’t just stop there, because as we know, social justice warriors always double down in these situations. Their First Take became a political rant fest. They gave awards to Bruce Jenner for his “bravery”. All sorts of non-sports related nonsense that made their viewership drop even more. They covered the anti-Trump marches and praised them on twitter… I mean, seriously? What happened to sports?

That’s what happens when an organization converges. It only takes a couple of social justice warriors in different positions to shake things up, and completely ignore the real focus of the organization, which quickly transforms it into something that no one can even recognize. The end result is always the same, especially in entertainment media: the customers and viewers disappear.

We’ve see it in science fiction publishing, in Marvel Comics, in the NFL’s lack of viewership early last year, and now ESPN. We want entertainment to be fun. We want sports to be intense competitions between elite athletes. We don’t want a finger-wagging political messages. We get enough of that from idiots reposting clickbait on our facebook feeds.

And yesterday, the result of that hit ESPN as they laid off more than 100 of their journalists. They took the wrong message for what’s wrong with their network and made cuts primarily to baseball and hockey reporters. I wish I could say I’m surprised. I have yet to see a statement from ESPN or Disney about how they realize they erred in focusing on politics, so I expect the situation will get worse. We see that Marvel had taken the wrong lesson as well, thinking a “reboot” of characters to “iconic forms”will help them, ignoring their blackballing practices and the fact that their writing staff hates half of America. These half-measures do little good to rescue an organization from the pits they’ve become. I saw a post on twitter yesterday stating that ESPN is going to become to sports what MTV is to music — and I think that’s the spiral we’re going to see. What Disney group is next?

Independent Journalist Mike Cernovich has called for average people to stop watching ESPN completely,stating: “If you watch ESPN, you are paying the enemy. If you can’t give up ESPN to win a culture war, that’s on you.” At this point, if you want to see a change back to real sports, this is exactly what needs to be done.

Susan Slusser, sports writer for the San Francisco Chronicle has stated “Someone could start a really excellent sports network focused on real news, information and insight with these layoffs. Please do so.” And I agree. I would love to run something like this if I had the proper financial backing. It’s what Americans want out of sports and right now is an ample opportunity to provide what Fox News did to CNN more than a decade ago — provide real news as a counter to the nonsense. The ratings follow suit, as we’ve seen for so long. I think there was a movie, about an unrelated topic that said “If you build it, they will come.” Who can we turn to for a new sports platform?

 

In Which I Take Back My Naysaying About Jharel Cotton From Last Week’s Blog

Such is baseball. He shut out the Royals on the road today, and though the Royals this year aren’t the Royals of a couple years ago, it’s still an impressive feat. A few of the hits last week were some fluke hits, so I should not have downplayed his abilities based on his September 2016 stat line, and I recant my first week knee-jerk reaction.

Forgive me, Jharel!

I’m Going To Talk About Baseball

I’ve mentioned before the traffic differentials depending on what I talk about, and how smart marketing people would focus on what their audience wants, hone that, and keep it going as to not get them to tune out.

But it’s Opening Week and y’all are going to have to deal with baseball talk from me.

A few weeks ago I was on the Baseball by Dummies podcast talking about the A’s season. I was more optimistic than most about our hometown heroes in Oakland, citing that the pitching depth might just carry their blaze offense and terrible defense through to a mediocre season. Fangraphs writer and Effectively Wild podcaster, Jeff Sullivan, has said similar a few times, going so far as to say that the A’s might be a contender for the wild card.

So far, Sonny Gray’s been hurt, the bullpen has continued its trend from the last couple years and blown a game, and Jharel Cotton, A’s #4 starter turned #3 starter, delivered a less than stellar outing. Now, to be fair to Cotton, his pitches looked pretty solid (especially dat change up!) for the most part, and we’re talking about a few mistakes and a few bloop hits that were out of his control being the big differential, and he received zero, and I mean ZERO, run support, which is never good for a pitcher. But I’m already seeing articles “he doesn’t look like the pitcher we saw last September.”

The problem is the expectation of September. In September, you bring up minor league players to play also against minor league players. Many of these players shouldn’t be in the MLB, and Cotton is now facing a lineup of real competition for the first time. It’s to be expected. That his actual mechanics seem to be good for the most part. His fastball comes in hard, he just needs to gain that full control through a start that is tough to do when you have to face the Mike Trouts of the world. Incidentally, Trout didn’t fare all that great against Cotton last evening. A bonus for the A’s young pitcher.

It’s still a learning curve phase for him. He needs a good 3-4 more real major league starts, not in September, for us to be able to make conclusions about whether he can hang here, and whether he is the pitcher we saw in late 2016 against sub-part talent. I’m still holding out hope, but I don’t see the A’s as a wild card team, and I’m not even sure my close to 75 win prediction will hold. After all, we’re 1-2, not looking that sharp, and have only faced the hapless Angels (and Mike Trout) so far.

The Spring Training Experience

Over the weekend I did my first ever Spring Training trip with my father, father in-law and my oldest son. We went to the Cactus League in Phoenix, AZ to see the Oakland A’s for three games: KC Royals (Away), TX Rangers and Chicago Cubs. It was about the perfect weekend trip timing wise, taking off early on Friday and leaving late Sunday to allow us to catch 3 games with a two night stay. The flight isn’t too long to Phoenix, about an hour and forty five,  making Spring Training the perfect weekend getaway.

We arrived with what we thought was plenty of time to get to the Royals stadium after checking in at our Phoenix Doubletree hotel. What we didn’t expect was California-level traffic out to Surprise, AZ where they are located. You could say we were…  shocked. It took us an hour and a half and we didn’t get there until the second inning.

Set up at a table for charity were A’s superstars Rollie Fingers and John “Blue Moon” Odom, heroes from the 1972-1974 championship team. It was cool meeting them, taking a picture, getting their autographs. Nice of them to spend each day of Spring Training at the stadium for charity like that.

Friday night didn’t see much of the A’s starting lineup for 2017. We got a team of mostly minor leaguers going up against a Royals team I didn’t know too much about. Still, the stadium there was nice, had a hometown minor league atmosphere with someone grilling hot dogs right behind the stands, smoke blowing out onto the field. The weather was great for an evening in AZ, for a perfect time all around. The A’s continued their crazy amount of run scoring through training with an 11-7 victory. Home Runs were poppin’ out of that park in Surprise left and right. I did get to see Jharel Cotton pitch, who came up last year and will be part of the rotation this year. He shut down KC pretty well in his outing, which was impressive. Someone to watch.

The DoubleTree Hotel was probably my least favorite part of the experience. A bit noisy, outdoor rooms that felt one step above a motel. Wasn’t too clean either, saw a few stray hairs in the bathroom upon arrival which irks the germaphobe in me. I stayed there because they had a Spring Training deal, knew we’d be out most of the time and was told that several of the A’s were staying there, in hopes my kid might run into them—we didn’t run into anyone. I would probably stay in Mesa or over that direction or at a nicer hotel next time.

Onto day two! We arrived about an hour early, after batting practice but with a lot of players still on the field. One thing I’ll mention here is my 8 year old son is a ball and autograph hound. He managed to get three balls thrown to him from the stands on Friday evening, and already had two before the game started on Saturday. One of those he used to get autographs from A’s players, which by the end of the game he had the ball completely filled. I have no idea who signed which brings me to another cool part of spring training: this above anything else is a nice family atmosphere. I felt completely comfortable letting my 8-year old run around the stadium autograph hunting without my direct supervision. It doesn’t feel that way back in Oakland, I’m sorry to say.

The Mesa stadium is nice, but It think I liked that open back area Surprise version a bit better. It had a nice grassy area in center field, whereas Mesa has this monstrous wall there blocking a snack shack from home run balls. Hurts the ambiance just a little bit, but it is a nice stadium overall. The concessions are down a long tunnel which reminds me of walking through the Coliseum, but if you’re on the home side of the stadium it’s a bit of a trek to go back and forth between everything. A minor complaint as sitting close to the field and really getting up close more than made up for it. The overall atmosphere is pretty nice, and the food options need to be imported to the MLB park – SO much better. Dave Kaval, if you read this, I want the soba noodle group in Oakland!

The game on Saturday actually came down to a walk-off with Oakland besting Texas 8-7.  I think notable was Ryon Healy going 3-3, looked like a stud out there and I’m excited to see him this year in Oakland. Hope he gets a lot of playing time.

Saturday night we hung out with some friends who live in the area, walked around at night, had a good time all around.

Sunday morning we got out early, checked out of the DoubleTree and went early to the Mesa Commemorative Air Force Museum. I saw an ad for this at the ballpark and since we had some time to kill before the game and it was close by, figured we should check something out. I was expecting a little room with some models and some facts but wow was I in for a surprise. They had full on motors on display, more than a dozen planes including a B-17 Flying Fortress, restored to original condition. You could walk through, see all the turrets and cockpit, walk through the bomb bay, it was fricking awesome. This museum was almost worth the trip by itself. If you really plan in advance and save up $500, you can take a flight on the B-17 I learned as well. I might have to do that sometime in the future because how many times in your life will you get to fly on a real WW2 plane?  Apparently there are 7 left in flying operable condition in existence.

The Sunday game vs. the Cubs was crazy. The first two games were half full, very relaxed, people running around. This day was PACKED with Cubs fans. I planned all this far in advance and actually got tickets above the cubs dugout, 2nd row, surrounded by a sea of blue. The Cubs fan base was very nice overall, had some good conversations. Watching the Cubs come out, I have to admit, they look like a far more imposing athletic baseball team than the A’s do, everything you expect out of seeing a baseball team. It was cool to get to see them play. Kris Bryant signed my kid’s glove and Ben Zobrist threw him a ball. Jake Arrietta pitched and he was lights out, scary. He tossed a no-hitter for the three innings he was in.  This was a cool game as a lot of people left because the Cubs went up so much, but the A’s minor league team later on scrapped it out about as well as I’ve seen anyone play. These guys were out there to compete which was nice to see. They came back and topped the Cubs 9-8.

Overall, super fun time. Even though it’s practice and doesn’t mean anything, it’s almost better than watching regular major league games. Highly recommend making the spring training trip.

On the A’s season, I’m not sure how much I can glean here. They’re scoring tons of runs, mostly behind their minor league farm. They’re giving up a lot as well—but again, mostly with their minor league farm. I was happy to see how well Ryon Healy was playing, as he’s probably who I’m rooting for most on the major league club right now position player wise. Jharel Cotton was a treat as well, who is probably my favorite pitcher on the club. Matt Chapman looked solid in at bats, and I expect him to be up later this year. Franklin Barreto was a beast on Sunday – he really is inspiring for the future of the team. Was happy to see Renato Nunes get some hits and if this is any indication I think Chris Parmelee might be a sleeper Major Leaguer who isn’t on anyone’s radar.

Pitching wise: Santiago Casilla looked terrible, zero control. It was his first outing, however, so it may just be warming up. I really hope so. Raul Alcantara is in the mix for starter/long man for the club, and he had a solid outing, despite giving up a couple of runs. Bobby Wahl came in and closed against the Cubs and looked phenomenal – I hope to see him up with the club soon. Ryan Dull pitched Friday (another favorite of mine I forgot to mention) and delivered a pretty great inning. The pitching staff is actually very promising, they just need a little more experience.

Everyone’s been complaining about this A’s rebuild like crazy the last couple years, and I’ve watched them make moves which are intelligent and yet they don’t get credit for it. Josh Donaldson, while I pine for him, wouldn’t have been the difference of 2015-2017 making the A’s contend. Barreto may be that difference in the future, and Kendal Graveman is no slouch either. Yes, the Cespedes trade was a whiff, but that’s behind us now by many years, and he wouldn’t be with us anyway. Look at this though: the A’s went from last in farm system in 2014, to #12 prior to training this season according to Bleacher Report – I think they’re underrated even with that with the way the prospects are up showing off their stuff this week. The A’s have a solid core coming up and they could fluke into a good 2017 season, but for 2018-2019 they’re looking like real contenders. I trust in this plan and like what I’m seeing for the future.

 

World Series Game 7 Analysis: The State of Baseball’s Future

Wait, this is a science fiction writer’s blog, right? Aren’t you going to talk about your new book, Star Realms: Rescue Run and its hot presale on Amazon, 2 days only for a kindle version at $2.99?  http://bit.ly/starrealmsnovel   There you go. Buy it and support awesome fiction! Seriously.

Now that that’s out of the way. PLAY BALL! Continue reading