4/6 Windy Days

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.

4/4- Patiently Waiting

Happy Opening Day of Baseball week. It’s a beautiful day here in Las Vegas, the sun is out and it’s hot! The Grammys were here yesterday, but are they really the Grammys with no Foo Fighters, Taylor Swift, or Kanye West (I know he’s batshit and troublesome, but still.)? Tomorrow night I’ll be watching the Las Vegas Aviators open their AAA season against the Reno Aces (Oakland vs. Arizona), but the big news here is the A’s considering a move from Oakland to Sin City. This comes days after some billionaire proposed a new casino and arena on the Las Vegas strip. Is there a new basketball team moving here or something? No, not at this point. But why not build a new arena with no tenant?

This is not a unique issue to Vegas, but it is particularly visible here. The Governor of New York (more on this in a moment) has so far proposed a new Madison Square Garden (a couple of years after renovating the old one) and is about to build the Buffalo Bills a brand new Taj Majal stadium on the state’s dime. In Nevada, the stadium/arena craze fits into a larger attitude of building to build. There’s a ton of open land around Las Vegas, it’s in a desert, so why not just keep expanding metro Vegas. Build a new arena, casino, or condo complex, tear down the old one, build something else. If you drive in metro Vegas during the day you see lots of work and construction trucks weaving in and out of traffic. If casinos and gambling are the primary industries of Vegas (with all apologies to the music industry, sex workers, bail bondsmen, and the weed industry), construction is their sidekick here. I’m not sure that’s a sustainable model in a West that lacks the resources they need, but absolutely nobody asked me.

Andrew Cuomo really might do it. He might launch a primary challenge to his successor, Governor Hochul. Hochul went from a smooth entrance to a mess. Her Lt. Governor might be jail bound for bribery. Her and the legislative leaders who ran Cuomo out can’t pass a budget or get much done. Her money for arenas and stadiums is getting a cold response in the press. Her polling leads on Cuomo are somewhere between 4-8% suddenly, meaning she’s in a world of hurt. In short, she’s vulnerable and the spurned predecessor still has millions in his campaign account to spend. The cheap, canned thing to write here is that after Trump, smart money is on Cuomo shocking the world. Right now, that’s wrong. If he enters, and one more bomb drops on her, that very well might be true.

Other than Andrew Cuomo, I can’t think of anyone this race really benefits. I guess that would “vindicate” him against the Democratic establishment all the way up to the White House, and that is more than a bit amusing to me (because somehow they probably deserve it), and it would deliver an absolute death blow to the New York City far-left crowd, which I’d be happy with. Honestly, Cuomo would be betting that public sentiment of the Democratic Party being awful would fuel his campaign, and it might. He may in fact prove that even Democratic primary voters didn’t care about the accusations against him, which I suspect is partially true. But who really cares if he’s right or not? This is a vanity run, meant to show he’s bigger than his critics. It’s nothing more than that. It doesn’t disprove the harassment or nursing home accusations, or that his brother used his media position to help him, or really mean anything. I suppose you could kindly say it proves New Yorkers thought he was a good governor, but didn’t his three victories prove that? In my humble opinion, many of Cuomo’s fiercest critics in their liberal enclaves of the city, are awful. I think he was a pretty good Governor, but I’m not sure he’s a great guy either anymore. We don’t need a primary to re-litigate this.

I think the “off-season” is finally over enough to put out my MLB regular season predictions. These will inevitably be wrong, but why not?

AL East- x1. Tampa Bay Rays 97-65 x2. Boston Red Sox 91-71 x3. Toronto Blue Jays 88-74 4. New York Yankees 84-78 5. Baltimore Orioles 56-106

AL Central- x1. Chicago White Sox 90-72 2. Minnesota Twins 83-79 3. Detroit Tigers 80-82 4. Cleveland Guardians 72-90 5. Kansas City Royals 62-100

AL West- x1. Houston Astros 95-67 x2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 86-76 3. Seattle Mariners 81-81 4. Texas Rangers 73-89 5. Oakland Athletics 62-100

NL West- x1. Los Angeles Dodgers 106-56 x2. San Francisco Giants 90-72 3. San Diego Padres 80-82 4. Colorado Rockies 74-88 5. Arizona Diamondbacks 60-102

NL Central- x1. Milwaukee Brewers 92-70 2. St. Louis Cardinals 83-79 3. Chicago Cubs 78-84 4. Pittsburgh Pirates 62-100 5. Cincinnati Reds 58-104

NL East- x1. Atlanta Braves 95-66 x2. Philadelphia Phillies 88-74 x3. New York Mets 84-78 4. Miami Marlins 76-86 5. Washington Nationals 70-92

As for the individual awards, I’m going with the following:

NL MVP- 1. Freddie Freeman 2. Bryce Harper 3. Christian Yelich

AL MVP- 1. Vlad Guerrero Jr. 2. Mike Trout 3. Shohei Ohtani

NL Cy Young- 1. Walker Buehler 2. Aaron Nola 3. Corbin Burnes

AL Cy Young- 1. Lucas Giolito 2. Noah Syndergaard 3. Shane Bieber

NL Rookie of the Year- 1. Seiya Suzuki 2. Oniel Cruz 3. Bryson Stott

AL Rookie of the Year- 1. Spencer Torkelson 2. Bobby Witt Jr. 3. Adley Rutschman

NL Manager of the Year- 1. Brian Snitker 2. Craig Counsell 3. Joe Girardi

AL Manager of the Year- 1. Charlie Montoyo 2. Alex Cora 3. Joe Maddon

It wasn’t that long ago that Republicans were a bunch of prude squares, trying to impeach a President for having a consensual affair. They were full of religious fanatics and blowhards, televangelists that routinely said completely insane stuff that even they couldn’t possibly really believe. Not much has actually changed, only two years ago they put a fully unqualified, religious fanatic in Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court, and she will probably write at least part of the opinion overturning Roe v. Wade when it comes out next month. Yet, perception has changed. It’s Republicans (incorrectly) ranting about suppression of First Amendment rights, while it’s Democrats who threw a fit about the last President having an affair with a porn star. To at least a chunk of the public, it’s the GOP that is now “live and let live,” while the Democrats are the annoying party arguing for repercussions for your every vice. Sure, House Democrats just passed legal weed on a near party line vote, but who would even know it? Our messengers in DC are simply terrible at this.

Back in the next couple days…