The first time I remember paying the Stupid Tax was about 10 years ago. Maybe more. I was in my 20s, old enough to be an adult, but dumb enough that I was definitely not.
I got pulled over, probably for rolling through a stop sign, and picked up an extra fine for expired plates. The stop sign was fairly normal, we’ve all been there, but the plates were expired because I legitimately looked at what they sent me in the mail and just threw it away.
Why did I throw it away, you ask?
Because I was stupid.
“You just paid the Stupid Tax,” my dad told me, and I’ve never forgotten those words.
Over the years, I have paid the Stupid Tax many times for many different reasons. I’ve bought the wrong drill bit at the hardware store, or the wrong oil for my lawnmower. I’ve booked non-refundable hotels and then found myself needing a refund. I’ve traveled to Europe and been slapped with completely avoidable ATM and exchange fees. I’ve paid bills late, not because I didn’t have the money* but because I just forgot.
* Well, there WERE times I didn’t have the money.
I’ve needed repairs because I forgot to clean the gutters, overcooked expensive steaks because I got distracted by something on my phone, and bought clothes on a work trip because I left my suitcase in the trunk of my car.
I once bought this quick-release mount because I had this dumb idea about having a TV on my deck without having to buy another TV, only to realize how dumb the idea was for many reasons, including that the quick-release mount was for a computer monitor, and not a TV.
This weekend, I paid a really nice locksmith some Stupid Tax because, swear, the key to my rental car just disappeared. Into thin air. We were in Colorado for a wedding, had some time to kill before our flight back on Sunday, so went to lunch and that’s when the key evaporated and all of a sudden we did not have time to kill.
I have to say, though, this might’ve been the best Stupid Tax I’ve ever paid. We missed our flight, which meant we couldn’t see the kids until Monday afternoon instead of the morning, but on the other hand we had an excuse to have the just-us-and-sushi night Katie’s been wanting, and get one more good night of sleep.
Stupid Tax can be underrated, is what I’m saying.
The eating recommendation is the nachos at Granfalloon — it’s a lot of nachos, but you can never have too much nachos — and the reading recommendation is Taffy Brodesser-Akner on Ben Simmons’ Master Plan.
Glad you asked!
Two things before the latest #VomitIndex. First, for the uninitiated, the #VomitIndex is a dumb thing I came up with based on the premise that asking merely five innings from your starting pitcher is the equivalent of asking the guy in the next cubicle over to not vomit on his keyboard.
Second, I do find a correlation between the number of Vomits and the number of questions about it. Nobody asked last week, when the Royals were getting some solid starts.
Anyway, here goes:
You will not be surprised to read they rank 14th among 15 American League teams in starters’ ERA, and last in starters’ innings. The Royals have 20 vomits in 74 games, which does not include two starts by Danny Duffy when he was building his pitch count back from the bullpen, and the Royals knew he would not go deep into the game and could plan accordingly.
The Royals are 3-17 in those games, and 37-18 in vomit-free games. That means they are on a 109-win pace when they stay vomit-free, and, basically, the 2012 Chiefs when they don’t.
For comparison’s sake, the Indians are 2-9 in their vomits, and 43-21 in the other games. The Tigers are 3-11 with vomits, and 35-27 in the others. The White Sox are 0-8 with vomits, and 38-30 without. Nothing the Twins do is worth discussing here, even by the Minutes’ very loose definition of what’s worth discussing.
To review: the Royals have by far the most vomits, by far the most vomit losses, and win at the same rate as the Indians while staying vomit-free.
That means the entire five-game difference between the Royals and Indians can be found in the vomit.
This was a good weekend to write about the Royals’ (in)ability to develop starting pitching, huh?
Glad you asked!
They had a near miss last night with Adam Wainwright, who got hit hard but found enough to get 15 outs.
The Royals have chased a starting pitcher before the fifth inning 11 times this year, though that includes Bartolo Colon getting hit in the hand by that line drive by Whit Merrifield last week. If you count that, they are 8-3 on the good side of vomits. If you don’t, they’re 8-2.
Well, it would be a four-man rotation, and it would be Ian Kennedy, Edinson Volquez, Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura, perhaps in that order.
Anything is possible, but it’s difficult to imagine that changing, outside of injury. The order, sure. But the spots, not so much. Perhaps Young could find his way again* or Kris Medlen could come back from the DL healthy and strong or Drew Butera could be the secret weapon but that’s probably the group.
* For what it’s worth, I’ve always liked Young, and one scout I think highly of who agrees with me texted after the disaster on Saturday: “getting harder to defend our boy.”
And, well, yes. That could be good enough to get through a series or more. At or in the vicinity of their best, that’s not a bad rotation. At all.
And I’ll keep pointing this out — the Royals are a better playoff team than regular season.
That was the case even before Sept. 30, 2014, because the bullpen is loaded and the defense takes away far more than it gives up. But it’s especially true now, with two years of playoff success and wild comebacks that have added an earned swagger to the tangible advantages.
I don’t know if the Royals will make the playoffs. I’ve been saying all along it’s more likely they don’t, just because of math, but I do think that if they get in they’re going to be a problem.
Or, c): baseball doesn’t make any sense.
I’m not at all surprised that the Royals are 40-35 — that’s a pace for 86.4 wins — and in second place, though I’m mildly surprised at how they’ve gotten here.
I didn’t think an older team* with so much playoff experience would have so many streaks, good and bad, but that’s how this group has always been. Much of the streakiness can be explained through starting pitching.
* The Royals have the oldest pitching staff in the American League, and seventh oldest positions players, by Baseball-Reference’s measurements, and for a good year or two now one of the best ways to know someone doesn’t know much about the Royals is if they call it a young team.
But, mostly, baseball is just weird:
▪ Volquez has probably been the Royals’ most bankable starting pitcher since his arrival last season, and he just had one of the worst starts in the history of Major League Baseball.
▪ Kendrys Morales has been, over the course of his career, a relatively consistent* switch-hitter. If anything, he’s been better from the left side, to the point that opposing teams used to bring in lefties to flip him around. This year, he has been a nightmare from the left side while his right-handed swing has kept him playable. And, then, well, maybe now he’s all fixed.
* This is a little kooky: over his career, Morales hits .271 as a lefty, and .271 as a righty. His on-base percentage is .332 as a lefty, and .323 as a righty. The difference is in power: he slugs .474 from the left side, and .423 from the right.
▪ Whit Merrifield, a career .274 hitter in the minor leagues, is now hitting .317 in the bigs.
We could go on, but we all understand the point. Baseball’s just weird. The results vary. Most teams and most years, 162 games is plenty to sort out who’s good and who’s not. I’ve thought all along the Royals would not be as good as they were last year, and that they would not need to be.
They’ve always seemed like an 84- to 89-win team to me, give or take. I’d still guess that’s where they’ll end up, and in the AL Central, it could be enough for a playoff spot. Which brings us to ...
We can pick apart any team, in any year. Dayton Moore is among the baseball men who will tell you that every year, the team that wins the World Series is flawed. That includes the 2015 Royals. The flaws are relative, and outweighed by the strengths, but the point is if you spend too much time thinking about what a team (or a player, for that matter) can’t do you miss out on what it can do.
That being said, I believe the Indians are currently the best team in a competitive division. They’ve won 10 in a row, the rotation is clicking, and the offense is booming.
They have flaws — whoever they put at catcher is an out, Juan Uribe continues to get regular plate appearances, and they’re vulnerable in the bullpen — but we can play that game with anyone.
The Rangers have the best record in the American League, and Prince Fielder is a $24 million DH* who is barely hitting better than Omar Infante. They are also working through some injuries in the rotation.
* The Tigers are paying $6 million of that, but still.
The Orioles have the league’s second-best record, and their rotation is mediocre, they have virtually no speed in the lineup (12 steals in 20 attempts) and they strike out a lot. A team with power arms, particularly in the bullpen — sound familiar? — might be able to get ahead of them early, shut them down late, and win a playoff series.
So, I don’t know. If the playoffs started today, the Royals would be in a sort-of-three-way-tie for the second wild card and my guess is the Orioles would be the favorites (so much power, and a very good bullpen).
But I’ve always tried to focus more on strengths than weaknesses.
Or, how about e): a good team that can be streaky.
The home-road thing is A Thing, and even if I think it’ll normalize by the end of the season — right now, they are on pace to win 59 games at home, and lose 53 on the road — it’s getting harder to brush off.
Either way, this is a good team with a terrific track record, flaws, and significant strengths.
I think we should all be used to the ups and downs by now, but not being used to it is part of the fun.
We’re all smart here — VERY! — so we can recognize this is dumb, but Morales went 4-for-4 last night and is hitting, ahem, .516/.583/.903 in nine games since I wrote this*. More importantly, and more encouraging for Royals fans, he is hitting .361/.424/1.026 in 23 games since May 30**.
* Guys, don’t get your hopes up. His BABIP over that stretch is .500, so it’s probably not sustainable.
** I mentioned this on the Border Patrol, but I tend to be more optimistic on Morales going forward because of his track record.
But if there were any illusions that me calling someone out led to great results, it should’ve been washed away when I wrote about the Royals’ struggles in developing starting pitching and then that happened.
But, if someone had that power, and they wanted the Royals to be good, they should use it on Chris Young*. Or Alcides Escobar**.
* Young is averaging fewer than five innings per start, and leads baseball in home runs surrendered (21) despite ranking 134th in innings pitched.
** Escobar ranks 167th of 169 hitters who qualify for the batting title. He has accounted for 260 outs this season, which is not only comfortably ahead of current runner-up Mookie Betts (who has 19 more plate appearances), but remains on pace to break Omar Moreno’s all-time record of 560 outs***.
*** Moreno led the league in plate appearances that year with 745. Escobar is on pace for well more than 700 himself, but that should slow with his being bumped down in the order. Moreno’s mark may live to see another year.
I actually know two couples who are expecting babies in the next month who — one of them openly, the other sort of despondently — credit the, um, joy of last October. One of the expectant mothers is absolutely convinced it was game six of the ALCS, when Wade Davis waited out Mother Nature and Lorenzo Cain scored from first on the single.
The real answer here is that there are certainly babies born from baseball joy, and the number of them will certainly be exaggerated because it’s a funny story.
But I do wonder how many kids around Kansas City in the highs school class of 2035 will be named Lorenzo.
My (50-pound) dog is constantly rubbing against anyone she can find begging to be petted, likes to lay on top of the back sofa cushions, and often skips meals.
So maybe you’re right.
Yeah, that’s about right. You can make arguments of varying merit for Derrick Thomas, Bobby Bell, Willie Lanier, Frank White, or Alex Gordon. You said players only, not owners, but if we’re allowed to mention coaches there’s a good case for Hank Stram, too.
In a decade or two, there could be a case for Matt Besler, but there is a lot that would have to happen between now and then and I don’t have the energy to argue with everyone who’s going to be mad at that suggestion.
Anyway, my vote would be Stram if you’ll accept a coach, and Thomas if you won’t, but that’s only because I don’t think you’d take me seriously if I answered from my heart.
This depends on the wholly unpredictable question of whether any, some, or all of these guys continue to produce. You didn’t ask, but in order, I’m most confident in Cheslor Cuthbert, Whit Merrifield, Brett Eibner and Paulo Orlando.
I have a feeling that’s a vastly different order than a lot of folks might have, particularly with Orlando, but color me dubious that a guy who breaks into the big leagues at 29 turns into a .350 hitter. He swings at everything. Only three players with at least 180 plate appearances are swinging at more pitches, and 154 of 226 make more contact.
I love the story, and appreciate that he’s watching video, but it just feels like a bubble that might pop.
Anyway, I think it makes things easier. The fewer holes you have, the easier they are to cover.
I’m assuming that the Royals can make a realistic run at signing any of the 2017 free agents other than Eric Hosmer, who’s going to get a contract worth $150 million or so.
So of the rest of the group, depending on price, I’d be focusing on Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Danny Duffy.
Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera are awesome, and should be pursued, but the market for relief pitchers is exploding, and the Royals have shown themselves apt at finding value there. Edinson Volquez, Kendrys Morales, Alcides Escobar, and Luke Hochevar should all be monitored and courted, but at some point you have to make choices.
Moustakas, Cain, and Duffy seem — and this is speculation — inclined to stay for a fair deal, and all bring obvious upside.
Alex Gordon is the exception to the rule that to sign your own free agents you have to do it at least a year early, so if the Royals are going to extend any of those guys this winter could be the time.
The downside on Moose is that he’s essentially had one good season out of six, but you’re betting on a very good defender, improved contact and plate discipline, irreplaceable part of your team personality, as well as an insatiable love for the game, and proven dedication to both his own performance and the club.
The downside on Cain is age — when he hits free-agency he’ll be a 32-year-old center fielder who needs to stay at that position to hold maximum value. You’d be betting on a terrific teammate with a low-maintenance personality that defies his talent, and a late bloomer who may defy the typical aging curve. He still has a reputation for injury in some circles, but this would be his third straight season with at least 500 plate appearances, and assuming you don’t resign Morales, you’d have a rotating DH spot to keep him fresh and healthy.
The downside on Duffy is he still hasn’t thrown more than 149 1/3 innings in the big leagues, so you’re essentially betting on the potential of a guy who’ll be 29 in his first year of his next contract. But you’re betting on an elite talent who is finally putting it together, the product of admirable resilience and belief, another true believer in self and club.
Starting pitching is so damn hard to develop, and it’s actually even harder to find in free-agency. If you think there’s a chance this is the real Duffy — and, for whatever it’s worth, I think this is the real Duffy — then that’s a gamble worth taking.
I know this is weird, but my favorite team is USA Basketball. I freaking love it. I love everything about it.
I love the international game, and I’m totally naïve on the patriotism of it, with many of our biggest stars sacrificing their summers and shots to play together and win gold. I love the history of USA Basketball, too, about how we went all-in with the Dream Team, got too cocky and lazy around the turn of the century, and then completely rebuilt with humility and dedication and sacrifice. I remember which guys play in the Worlds and Olympics, and which guys don’t, and make completely unfair judgments about their reasons.
I wish more stars were playing this summer, particularly Kawhi Leonard and Russell Westbrook. I totally get Steph Curry and LeBron sitting out, and am bummed that Anthony Davis and LaMarcus Aldridge got hurt.
But I still think we’ll be OK, because Kevin Durant will be the best player in the tournament, unless Kyrie Irving continues his Teen Wolf routine, and DeMarcus Cousins is going to annihilate European bigs, and Draymond Green is perfect for the international game, and there are shooters who will make a mockery of that closer three-point line.
But, other than that, I’m all in on the 100. Man, that is a hell of a race.
Also: if you’re interested in the Olympics, you should absolutely be reading Vahe.
Only if they can bring Iceland on as a travel partner.
I giggle every time I hear someone talk about any major pro sport being free of PEDs, and I’m not just talking about baseball’s home-run rate spiking.
It is my belief that PEDs are among the most misunderstood elements of professional sports, on so many levels.
We tend to think of these things only in terms of home-run hitters, but some of the most prevalent users are relief pitchers wanting to shorten and improve recovery time. If it was all about bulking up, pro cycling wouldn’t be the dirtiest sport in the world. If we really cared about this as a health issue, or because of the example it sets for kids, we’d pay more attention to its role in our most popular sport.
I believe the whole conversation around PEDs has been dishonest, and ill-informed. I believe many fans and media are disingenuous on the topic, or parroting outrage they have heard in other places and think they should also feel.
I don’t believe they are evil, or the destruction of any value. In fact, I believe they can be used safely, under supervision, to improve health and performance.
In other words, yes, I believe at least some of the increased velocity across baseball is due to chemicals. And I am entirely non-outraged by it.
My wife is a legitimate sports fan, particularly when it comes to baseball (and Michigan State), and I’m not going to ask her right now because I don’t want to start a whole thing around the house, but I’m pretty sure she’s still convinced Omar Infante is a solid hitter.
Me: he’s actually one of the worst hitters in baseball.
Her: You and your stats.
Me: Love you, boo.
Anyway, my advice ... show her this.
Also, plead with her to understand that all baseball teams are flawed, that the year before the Royals won the World Series with a team that finished next-to-last in the league in homers, the Giants won it with a team that finished fifth out of 15 in runs, seventh out of 15 in ERA, and basically had one good pitcher.
If that doesn’t work, only watch home games with her.