Yes, that jagged horizon you see over third base is not the top of the stadium, or a cloud, but a mountain. As the sun was setting after 7pm last night in Las Vegas, the 2022 Minor League Baseball season was opening. I missed being at Coca-Cola Park for my IronPigs opening night, but I did the best thing that I could- I took in my first Aviators game at the Las Vegas Ballpark, a 3-2 win over the Reno Aces. The ballpark is just a few years old, so of course it’s really nice, but a few things stood out to me:
- There’s a pool in center field, which is part of a general theme of the ballpark reminding me a little bit of the Diamondbacks park in Arizona.
- The palm trees in the park definitely gave it a San Diego/Los Angeles feel.
- The lower deck really reminded me of Dodgers Stadium.
- I couldn’t find any Oakland A’s fitted hats to get.
- The bar in right center was cool.
Overall, really cool ballpark. Not really any bad seats in the place to speak of. “The Berm” in right field, the grass seating, is a great view, but definitely not as big as back home at Coca-Cola Park. There are actual seats pretty much all around the outfield, which was pretty cool too. And yeah, the view from the right field corner at sunset is fantastic.
The other day I got drinks at a place called Atomic Liquors in the Fremont East District. I figured the name was just a name, something the owner likes. It was explained to me that actually back in the day, people would sit there and drink, and watch atomic bomb tests way off out in the desert. That sounded insane for like ten seconds, then it dawned on me- yeah, part of the history out here is that we used to test bombs out here, and to this day we have major political fights about storing nuclear waste out in this region. While popular culture has made a story of UFO sightings and Area 51 (which is legit a shady place, but not for reasons of alien life), the real reason the government owns such a large amount of land in the Western states is one of two reasons- military/defense activity and conservation. The Departments of Defense and Interior both are major, major players out here.
There’s a whole history of the west that is entirely foreign to East Coasters and Acela centric thinkers. This whole region was literally at one time part of a foreign country. The government is the largest land owner. Climate change is a big issue everywhere, but here the fears are droughts and a lack of usable fresh water, and of course fires. Native American reservations are a huge part of the region, and take up a substantial portion of land themselves. The border is a bigger issue next door in Arizona and California, but it’s not an abstract political talking point out here, immigration matters to every part of life here. And yes, obviously the nuclear past and military presence here matter. Politics and society are just different in the Western United States. The issues, attitudes, and needs are different out here. It’s a very different place, in a refreshing way.
In my last post I gave you all of my regular season MLB predictions. To close the loop, I’ll give you my ridiculous playoff predictions now.
In the National League’s first round I’m predicting a New York Mets victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, and a Philadelphia Phillies win over Gabe Kapler’s San Francisco Giants. In the Divisional round I have the Los Angeles Dodgers outlasting my Phillies and the Mets knocking off the Atlanta Braves. In the NLCS I have the Dodgers sweeping the Mets. Mookie Betts wins the NLCS MVP.
In the American League, I have the LA Angels beating the Chicago White Sox, and the Boston Red Sox beating the Toronto Blue Jays in round one. In the divisional round I’m taking the Tampa Bay Rays over Boston, and of course the Houston Astros over the Angels. In the ALCS, Houston defeats Tampa. Jose Altuve wins the ALCS MVP to drive everyone crazy.
The World Series, you ask? Houston over the Dodgers. Verlander wins the MVP.
And there they were again- two Presidents, two guys that ran on two national tickets together, two people who seem to have a genuinely good relationship, a somewhat uncommon theme at the stratosphere of American national politics. Presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden, both former bosses of mine (removed by many levels from my day to day, of course), are far more similar than most people would think at first glance. Obama is obviously younger, and was elected much younger than Biden, and his Presidency as our first Black President was far more historic by definition than Biden’s. When you get past their age and race though, their actual policies, political climates, and styles have more in common than different. Both faced an animated left flank that wanted them to go further on policy than they wished to go. Both had an ascending far right-wing movement that attacked them with previously unprecedented venom, both politically and personally. They bookended the highly consequential Trump Presidency and battled an increasingly belligerent Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. Both ended a war began by George W. Bush in the aftermath of 9/11 in Asia. And now, both legislatively and through executive action, both have massively expanded access to health care in the United States. Of course, there are more policy and legislative similarities. Both started their Presidencies with a need for a massive Stimulus bill. Both spent much of their first pushing through a major piece of legislation that is their signature achievement, for Obama it’s Obamacare and Biden infrastructure. Both have been unable to get major legislative action on climate or immigration through Congress. About the only major difference so far has been Biden’s attempt at passing Build Back Better, and his lack of success on it.
And for all of that, there is a question if their political fortunes are going to end up being a whole lot different. Obama took a beating in the 2010 midterms, like Bill Clinton before him in 1994, and it appears Joe Biden might join the club. The good news for Clinton and Obama is they were re-elected, unlike Carter and LBJ, who both suffered bad midterms before them. Obviously Biden would prefer to follow Clinton and Obama’s example, not Carter’s. The path from there is remarkably consistent, with the exception of Clinton having a better second midterm than Obama. Both men won and became more popular as they finished out their second terms. From there, both spent their first few years out of office as the most popular person in the party. For Biden, he can only hope for the same path, but there are complications. Hence, Barack Obama returned to the White House with an approval in the mid-50’s, while Joe Biden sits around 40% right now.
The question Democrats should be asking about right now is why does every Presidency of their’s go right according to the same script? For how awful, ignorant, racist, and whatever else the party says the GOP is, the voters keep giving them back control of Congress the first opportunity they get to after we win the White House. Is it inevitable that the party that wants to govern can’t possibly deliver what they promise? Is it just inevitable in American politics? Or is what the Democratic Party offering simply not that wildly appealing? On some level it’s probably mostly a combination. Obama and Clinton’s Presidencies became more popular as people had a chance to take in the benefits, rather than watch the process. This begs another simple question- why get bogged down in the process over and over again? The definition of insanity, from the city supposedly filled with “smart” people.
To close, I went to the Sportsbook on Monday afternoon and did something idiotic- I bet on Kansas to win money line (straight up bet) and North Carolina to win against the 4.5 point spread. I only bet a couple of bucks on each (cash in my wallet), but as soon as I thought through my bet, I regretted it. Neither was a big enough wager alone to win a payout larger than the money I spent. Well wouldn’t you know it, I won both. My next prime rib is paid for.