Welcome (sticky post)

Hi. Thanks for stopping by. I’m Dave; I’m a technical writer, and I live in Toronto with my significant other and two cats with widely different degrees of shyness.

I tend to write about baseball, weather, music, photography, retro pop culture, and random stuff. I’ll try to use the Category tag properly, if you’re interested in only one of the above.

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Resolution

A while back, I decided that I no longer want to refer to the United States president-elect by name. This is for three reasons:

  • So that I don’t have to think as much about him or what he might do when in office.
  • The new administration is more than just one man – there is an assorted collection of climate-change deniers, nest featherers, obstructionists, and sharks who will be taking office along with him. There’s a frightening but realistic possibility that the new president might very well be a moderate when compared with some of his team.
  • By all accounts, he seems to enjoy plastering his surname in large letters all over everything he gets his hands on. I would rather not add to that.
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Smug pilots

This New Yorker cartoon has made the rounds lately, and I think it hits the nail on the head.

smugpilots

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2016 Blue Jays: Jose Bautista

His injuries in 2016 not only cost him part of the season: they forced him to give up his role as Alpha Dog in the Blue Jays’ lineup. For a while, we almost forgot about him entirely. Obviously, he picked the absolute worst time to become a free agent. Unsigned as of this writing, he and the Blue Jays are delicately dancing around the idea of a one-year contract, though it’s not clear whether the Jays would be willing to pay him more than the qualifying offer value for him. The Orioles apparently refused to consider signing him because their fans didn’t like him, which is somewhat dumb: Baltimore fans would like him just fine if he were flipping bats for their O’s.

My theory on Bautista is that there is an enormous logical and cultural chasm between him and major league umpires. Jose believes that a strike is where the rule book says it is: he has spent many hours refining his ability to distinguish between balls and strikes. Forcing the pitcher to throw it where he can hit it is pretty much his defining skill. Umpires, on the other hand, believe that a pitch is a strike when they say it is: they spent years in the minor leagues taking abuse, eating bad food, and learning to become an authority on the field. This authority is all that an umpire has to protect himself and the fans from chaos. Who is right: Jose, or the umpires? They both are, and they both aren’t. It’s a chasm that can’t be bridged.

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2016 Blue Jays: Justin Smoak

My mental image of Justin Smoak is of him striking out on a breaking pitch that dropped out of the strike zone. He seemed to do this over and over again. It got to the point where, if he got two strikes on him and there were two out, I thought that I might as well go to the kitchen or washroom or whatever, as nothing else was going to happen this inning.

The numbers seem to correspond to my perception. According to Baseball Reference, Smoak had 187 plate appearances with two strikes, and struck out in 112 of them. By comparison, Russell Martin struck out in 148 of 306, Troy Tulowitzki struck out in 101 of 268, and Josh Donaldson struck out in 119 of 368. Smoak was far worse than any of the other three.

My hypothesis is that Smoak is just not able to protect the plate with two strikes. He has to decide in advance whether he is going to see a curveball or a fastball, and adjust his swing accordingly. This isn’t really a criticism: he is among the fortunate few who is able to hit any major league pitches at all. He just can’t hit them with two strikes on him.

If this is his problem, he isn’t likely to get any better – and, indeed, his 2016 averages were almost identical to his career averages. At this point, the contract extension that he signed last summer is looking like an act of corporate philanthropy.

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Santa Claus moments

When I was growing up, I don’t think I ever believed in Santa Claus. This might have been because my parents were less inclined to indulge in make-believe than some, but I think it was mostly because the house that I grew up in had neither a chimney nor a fireplace.

While it might have been possible for me to be convinced that Santa Claus came down the chimney and put presents in stockings set over the fireplace, it would have been very difficult for me to believe that Santa forced the back door and snuck up to the banister over the stairs leading up from the front door, which is where my sisters and I put our stockings. Besides, our parents used to give us strict instructions that we could not emerge from our bedrooms on Christmas morning until a set time (I think it was 7 am), so I kind of figured out that Mom and Dad were providing the presents, not Kris Kringle.

So I grew up not realizing that Santa Claus was really important to people, even after they had long since stopped being children. I found this out the hard way many years ago when doing colour commentary for an improv show: I mentioned that there was no such person as Santa Claus, and I was roundly booed by the entire audience. After the show, a man came up to me and said that if his kids had been in the audience, he would have had to punch me.

I was ashamed and somewhat dumbfounded – I can understand not wanting to disillusion children, but we were adults here, weren’t we? I came to the conclusion that my thoughts were different from the cultural norm, and that I needed to be aware of this in order to function properly in the society in which I live. Since then, I’ve used the term “Santa Claus moment” to refer to situations in which I realized that I needed to adjust my behaviour to fit the way people around me behaved.

By the way, even though I have never knowingly believed in Santa Claus, I sometimes think it’s fun to imagine that there actually is a jolly old man in a red and white suit distributing presents around the world at Christmas time. And, since I am not a parent, I would never tell a child that there is no such person as Santa. I would never want to make a child unhappy, and I certainly never want to get punched.

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2016 Blue Jays: Edwin Encarnacion

The Encarnacion situation seems like one of those logical problems discussed in an introductory philosophy class: a situation, like the Prisoner’s Dilemma or the Tragedy of the Commons, in which individuals acting in their best interest wind up not getting their preferred outcome.

In retrospect, it obvious that Encarnacion wanted to return to the Jays, and that the Jays wanted him back. But both sides, unavoidably, looked out for their best interest. Encarnacion’s agent wanted to find out what offers were out there for one of the best power hitters in baseball, so he turned down the Jays’ offer (widely rumoured to be $80 million over four years). This is understandable, because he didn’t want to leave tens of millions of dollars on the table. The Jays, also quite understandably, didn’t want to get into a bidding war, and didn’t want to see all available free-agent options snapped up while they waited to see whether Encarnacion would return. So they swung into action almost immediately, signing Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce.

It’s a tragedy that Edwin won’t be back. I will miss him, and I will miss walking the parrot or the Edwing or whatever you want to call it. But signing him would have just postponed the tragedy to slightly further off in the future: Encarnacion turns 34 early this year, and isn’t likely to be effective for too long. What Jays fans wanted most – Edwin hitting home runs for years and years to come – is an option that is simply not on the table. Time always relentlessly marches on.

By the way, Cleveland fans will likely need to be patient with their new first baseman, as he has historically been a slow starter: his career OPS in April is .762 (it’s .936 in June). And things will be even worse in Cleveland, where there is no dome to protect him from the early-season cold. If he starts badly again, the team or its fans might wonder whether he was worth the money.

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Politics as dentistry

It occurred to me recently that the current political situation feels like waiting for an appointment to get a whole lot of dental work done. It’s going to be painful and expensive, you’re going to have no control over what comes next, and you have to wait until an appointed time before anything happens.

I am assuming that it’s all going to be horrible, but we don’t know exactly what kind of horrible, other than that it will be different from the various forms of horrible that we have had in the past. It will be 21st century horrible, created in part by modern social media, technology, and/or hackers.

The big test, for me, is what the new United States administration does when one of its supporters, perhaps egged on by a Twitter feed, commits a major crime against a person. Will the administration condemn the crime and the supporter who committed it, or will it exult in its new-found power?

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