Day 22: A song that moves you forward
“A Plea from a Cat Named Virtute,” which is basically a pep talk from a pet to a person paralyzed by doubt and depression, is a song that can get me going.
“A Plea from a Cat Named Virtute,” which is basically a pep talk from a pet to a person paralyzed by doubt and depression, is a song that can get me going.
The prospect of expanding Major League Baseball from 30 to 32 teams has become increasingly likely in recent years, with even MLB Commisioner Rob Manfred suggesting potential expansion cities. Baseball writers such as Jayson Stark for the Athletic (the article is behind a paywall, but is outlined on SBNation) and Tracy Ringolsby for Baseball America have written about what a 32-team baseball league might look like. Since I like thinking about these things, I figured I’d take a stab at where MLB may expand, and how that could change MLB for the better through realignment.
A History of Growth and Change in Major League Baseball
Baseball historians recognize the National League – founded in 1876 with 8 teams – as the first true Major League. For its first quarter century, the National League fluctuated between 6 and 12 teams, with many teams relocating, folding, or being expelled over time. The NL faced competition from three competing Major Leagues during that time, but was able to survive while other leagues collapsed until the birth of the American League in 1901. The NL and AL champions met in the first World Series in 1903, but perhaps even more remarkable is that year was the first in an incredible string of consistency where the two leagues operated with 8 teams each with no relocations, withdrawals, or expansion.
For 50 years the same 16 teams played in the same 10 cities in the Northeast and Midwest. By the 1950s, growing cities – especially in the West – were frustrated by their inability to crack the MLB hegemony, while the teams in the older cities found themselves struggling with attendance. The Boston Braves finally broke the seal, moving to Milwaukee to start the 1953 season. The St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore to become the Orioles in 1954, and the Philadelphia Athletics ventured west to Kansas City in 1955. The biggest shocker came in 1958 when the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers – two of the National Leagues most popular and successful teams in America’s most populous city – packed up for San Francisco and Los Angeles, respectively.
The desire for New York to have another team alongside the Yankees, and for cities like Minneapolis, Denver, and Toronto to get their first major league teams, lead to the announcement of the Continental League in 1959. This third league never played a game, but convinced the National and American Leagues to create 8 expansion teams over the next decade. The American League expanded first in 1961, putting a team in the Los Angeles market, and new Senators team in Washington, to replace the old Senators who were simultaneously moving to Minnesota to become the Twins. The National League followed suit in 1962 with expansion teams in Houston and New York.
The peripatetic Braves left Milwaukee for Atlanta in 1966, and the Athletics completed their trip across the continent by moving from Kansas City to Oakland in 1968. Each league expanded by two teams again in 1969. The National Leagued added teams in San Diego, and the first Canadian franchise in Montreal. Meanwhile, the American League returned baseball to Kansas City and a new team in Seattle. In 1969, the two leagues were also split into two divisions each with a playoff series added before the World Series.
The Seattle Pilots lasted only one year before packing up to fill the baseball gap in Milwaukee and becoming the Brewers. Washington once again lost their Senators who resurfaced in Texas as the Rangers in 1972. The American League expanded once again in 1977 to 14 teams, giving Seattle a second chance and breaking into the Canadian market in Toronto. The National League chose not to expand, and the leagues remained unbalanced for the next 16 seasons.
In 1993, the National League finally grew to 14 teams by expanding to Miami and Denver. The following season the leagues were split into three divisions adding a Wild Card and another round of playoffs, albeit a player’s strike canceled the 1994 postseason, so the expanded playoffs would debut until 1995. In 1997, Major League Baseball scheduled interleague games between American and National league teams for the first time. The following season, MLB decided to add two more teams, one to each league, with the NL getting a team in Phoenix and the AL entering Tampa Bay. This would mean that each league would have an odd number of teams – 15 each – but since MLB wasn’t ready to schedule interleague games every day of the season, Commissioner Bud Selig moved his team, the Milwaukee Brewers, from the AL to the NL.
The Montreal Expos struggled financially and with attendance after the 1994 strike, and MLB even took over the franchise. In 2005, for the first time in 33 years a MLB team relocated, coincidentally returning to the last city that lost a franchise, and the Expos became the Washington Nationals. In 2012, MLB allowed a second Wild Card team to qualify for the postseason, adding another round to the playoffs. And in 2013, MLB decided that they were ready to schedule interleague games every day and balance the two leagues at 15 teams apiece. But instead of returning Milwaukee to the American League, they moved the Houston Astros from the NL to the AL.
And that is where we stand today…
25 North American Cities That Could Host an Expansion Team
Here are 25 potential candidates for MLB expansion. For each city listed, I took into account the city and surround region’s population, the history of baseball in that city, and other big sports teams currently based in those cities.
Realignment and scheduling
Once two more cities are selected, then Major League Baseball would have to decide where to fit them in the existing league structure and how to adjust the season schedule for the new teams. Most likely each league would get one new team to bring them up to 16 teams each, and then those 16 teams would be aligned in four regional divisions of four teams each.
But I hope not. The tiny divisions of four teams will inevitably increase the number mediocre teams winning their and going to the postseason while more talented second place teams in other divisions will stay home. The necessity of an unbalanced schedule in divisional play will also increase the uncertainty of what teams are really the best and which ones just have easier schedules.
What I would propose instead is to bring an end to the American and National Leagues as we know them. They’d be replaced by four leagues of eight teams aligned by regional proximity. Interleague play would end and the eight teams would face one another 22 games each over a 154-game season.
There would be several advantages to this realignment:
Abandoning the league structure seems like a radical break from tradition but I’d argue that the National and American League differences have been eroding for some time. The advent of interleague play in 1997 ended the separation of the two leagues for good, and now interleague games are played everyday of the season. The movement of the Brewers and Astros between leagues also chipped away at that history. In fact, the two leagues ceased to exist as separate entities in 1999. The only difference now is that the AL has a designated hitter and the NL doesn’t. It’s long past time to adopt a consistent rule that all pitchers must hit or all teams may use a DH (although there is another alternative).
My proposal offers a lot for traditionalists. Eight team leagues playing a 154-game schedule was the standard until 1960. No interleague games in the regular season is also tradition and my realignment would preserve the best of interleague play (Mets-Yankees, Cubs-White Sox, et al) while eliminating yawners like Twins-Padres or Mariners-Pirates. But mostly I think this alignment sets up the future of Major League Baseball for new traditions, new rivalries, and new pennant races that will make baseball history.
Here’s how I’d align the teams in the four new leagues, using Montreal and Charlotte as the expansion teams. Different expansion teams would require tweaking the leagues a bit, but it would be the same basic structure. In order to preserve the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry, I placed St. Louis in the Lakes League even though Cincinnati would fit better geographically, but I think the Cardinals and the Reds would not be adversely affected by this alignment.
(3 AL, 4 NL, 1 expansion)
(5 AL, 3 NL)
Chicago White Sox
(4 AL, 3 NL, 1 expansion)
(3 AL, 5 NL)
Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Dodgers
A purist would insist that only the four league champions qualify for the postseason or maybe the top eight teams, but the larger postseason tournament has been a trend for some time and I don’t think it’s going away. So, I propose that the top 3 teams of each league advance to the playoffs for a total of 12 teams. This would be 2 more teams than are in the playoffs now, while the number of teams that don’t get into the postseason remains the same at 20.
The first place teams are seeded 1-4 by regular season record, second place teams are seeded 5-8, and third place teams are seeded 9-12. By virtue of having the best record over a grueling 154 game season, the first place teams will be awarded their league’s pennant, reviving the tradition practiced from 1876 to 1968. The pennant winners will also be rewarded with a bye in the opening round of the playoffs.
So the playoffs would go as follows:
So that’s my plan for expanding Major League Baseball to 32 teams and rethinking the paradigm of how top-level baseball is contested. But I have another plan in which baseball would expand to 48 teams, with the possibility to grow even further. But for that, you will have to wait until next week.
Not only is “Sweet Susan” by Mamadou a song I like with a person’s name in the title, but I really, really like Susan, my wife.
13 years ago this week, my wife Susan and I spent the first three days of our honeymoon in Venice, Italy. There is no other city like Venice, and even other cities named Venice or theme park recreations lack the accretion of human construction over centuries that makes the entire city a colossal sculpture of water and stone. Below are snippets of my favorite memories. If you enjoy this City Story, please check out my previous writings about Brooklyn, Derry, London, and Chicago.
Arriving at Venice’s Marco Polo Airport, we took the Alilaguna water bus into the city. I quickly got acquainted with the lagoon when a wave of briny water splashed through the window and soaked my shirt.
* * *
While Susan napped, I strolled blindly through Venice’s alleys ending up in Campo Santa Maria Formosa. Children were playing soccer in the square and I got involved by kicking back a ball that went astray.
* * *
In the evening we consume cones of limone while listening to the orchestras on Piazza San Marco. We try to dance in the mostly empty square, but that inadvertently prompts every flower seller in eyeshot to approach us and aggressively try to make a sale.
* * *
The next morning, Susan catches a glimpse of everyday Venice from our hotel window, watching a man and his dog pilot a work boat down the canal.
* * *
On our walk through the city, we climb the spiral stair to the top of Scala Contarini del Bovolo . We are greeted by a slim, friendly gatto wearing a jewel-encrusted collar. The view here is more intimate than the Campanile, with views of tiny Venetian backyards and clotheslines.
* * *
We visit the Scuola Grande di San Rocco — home to a fraternal organization that performed charitable works for plague victims — and is richly decorated with religious art by Tintoretto. We enjoyed interpreting the religious themes in the dozens of giant canvases on the walls and carrying large mirrors to study the murals on the ceiling.
* * *
As the sun begins to set, we walk to get a closer view of La Salute Church. The approach included walking through a covered alley that felt like a dark tunnel. We emerged from the tunnel and found ourselves amidst twig-thin fashion models in a photoshoot. We are certain the photographer said, “Yes! Gauche Americans are exactly what this picture needs to make the cover of Elle!”
* * *
We ride a gondola at night, and Venice looks just right from the water. In the darkness, we can peep in windows, look at the stars, and listen to the gondolier greet doormen and waiters as we pass. We laugh as the motion-sensor doors on one of the fancier hotels slide open as we glide by.
* * *
The next morning while we’re eating our breakfast at the Hotel Riva, we the same fashion models from the night before posing for another photo shoot. The whole crew come into the hotel for coffee and pastries, but the models stay true to stereotype and refuse to eat anything. More tart succo di frutti and cherry preserve on rolls for us!
* * *
On our final morning, we visit Basilica di San Marco, where the glimmer of mosaic tiles shine in the darkened interior. After years of settling, the marble flooring rolls like the sea. The walls use many marbles of different colors — pink, green, grey, white — like a Neopolitan ice cream.
Those are some of our memories of Venice. Have you ever been to Venice? What do you remember most?
Is it a science fiction story? Is it about God? Is it really a straightforward song about a bird-shaped nightlight? Is it all these things and more? “Birdhouse in Your Soul” by They Might Be Giants has many, many meanings.
Are you interested in exploring two different parts of Boston’s historic South End neighborhood? If yes, come out and take two Boston By Foot walking tours I will be leading.
First, tomorrow night, Thursday, September 20, 6 pm-7:30 pm, the South End tour leaves from the plaza opposite the Back Bay MBTA Station on Dartmouth Street.
Next, there are two opportunities to explore SoWa: South of Washington on Sunday, September 23, 2018 (a members preview tour – you can become member online or in person) and Sunday, September 30, 2018. Both tours start at 2 pm from Broadway Station on the Red Line.
Tickets are $15/person ($5 for BBF members) and can be purchased online or in person before the tour begins on Sunday.
For pondering life, there is always the lyrics of “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen.
I was born in 1973, the same year Gladys Knight and the Pips released this absolutely perfect song, “Midnight Train to Georgia.”
Today my lovely bride Susan and I celebrate 13 years of wedded bliss. It’s good to remember that day in 2005 when we had over 100 of our friends and family present, sailed on a boat, played kickball, danced, and ate yummy cake. It was a beautiful day. The 4748 days in-between have been pretty good too!
Happy Anniversary, Susan!
I’ve never sung karaoke, but I have a long-standing agreement with an old friend to sing “I Touch Myself” by The Divinyls when I do.
Today I’m attending the Rally for Transgender Equality at Copley Square. Hundreds of people are making it known that our transgender friends, family, children, coworkers, and neighbors deserve equal protection against discrimination in public places such as restaurants, hotels, and hospitals.
In reality, we shouldn’t have to be here as transgender people should not be discriminated against and their rights have been protected under Massachusetts law since 2016. But people acting on ignorance and prejudice have put forward a ballot referendum asking Massachusetts voters to repeal the laws that protect our transgender neighbors from discrimination. No ones human rights should ever be put to a vote, but since they’re bringing this fight to us, we’re here to show our love for transgender people and defend their rights and dignity.
Learn more about why you should vote Yes on 3 at the Freedom for All website.
Today’s prompt is wonderfully vague, but no one is going to argue against Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” being a classic.
The sound design of this podcast really sells the panic and hopelessness of plagues of locusts in the 19th century plains, and a good explanation of why they ended.
The history of kit homes sold by Sears, Roebuck from catalogs. Additionally, the story of how adaptive reuse is transforming the distinctive architecture of former Sears plants in cities throughout America.
Sun Ra released “Nuclear War” in 1984, but Yo La Tengo recorded four different covers of the song. “Nuclear War (Version 2)” is my favorite because a chorus of children singing profanities just slays me in all figurative uses of that word.
Title: Luke Cage
Release Dates: 2018
Number of Episodes: 13
The second season of Marvel’s Luke Cage is a lot like the first season in that it has some remarkable high points that make it compelling television, yet is mired with so many writing, storytelling, and acting flaws. I find myself rooting for Luke Cage to be the stylish, yet socially conscious drama that examines the problems of contemporary Black American communities through the lens of superhero tropes it wants to be, and constantly disappointed when it fails.
Let’s focus on the good first:
Acting – there are once again some excellent performances that help carry this show. I’m particularly impressed by Theo Rossi as Hernan “Shades” Alvarez who really came into his own in a bigger role this season, and his troubled friendship with Comanche is especially well acted. I was kind of hoping that Shades wouldn’t so much turn good by the end of the season, but at least become a “frenemy” who works with Luke, which I suppose is still possible in future episodes.
The new antagonist John “Bushmaster” McIver played by Mustafa Shakir is also a good addition. Bushmaster’s Ahab-like obsession gets kind of ridiculous, so it’s a credit to Shakir that he does so well with the convoluted writing and characterization. Bushmaster is a brutal and cruel character and yet I was really able to feel empathy for him, and again was kind of hoping he would be redeemed and ally himself in some way with Luke.
Other good performances include: Reg E. Cathey bringing gravitas to underdeveloped role as Luke’s father, James Lucas. Chaz Lamar Shepherd provides a humorous spark as Raymond “Piranha” Jones. And Rosario Dawson is good as always as Claire. Alfre Woodward tends to get melodramatic as Mariah this season, but it’s still Alfre Woodward, who is always worth watching.
Direction – The show has a distinctive style of cinematography and staging that I really enjoy. The show’s makers do a good job of choreographing fight scenes, and filming even simple conversations from intriguing angles. It’s also really good at just showing Harlem, and making Jamaican Crown Heights look distinctively different.
Music – Live performances at the Harlem Paradise are a highlight of any Luke Cage episode. This season we get to see Gary Clark, Jr., Esperanza Spalding, Ghostface Killah, Stephen Marley, Faith Evans and Jadakiss, KRS-One, and Rakim, among others. The music used to score the episodes is also universally well-selected and suited to the scenes and stories.
And I’m surprised to say this, but Danny Rand’s guest appearance actually worked well. Danny and Luke have good chemistry, and if this was a trial balloon for a Luke Cage/Iron Fist spin-off comedy/action/drama, I’m all for it.
And now the bad:
Gratuitous violence – a crime drama is going to have it’s fair share of violence, but Luke Cage seems to revel in depicting it this season, particularly in a key scene of a massacre in a Jamaican restaurant. Not only does the camera linger on the most gruesome aspects, but the entire scene is replayed as a flashback in the next episode! In a media environment where Black bodies are often seen as disposable, it’s particularly troublesome to see this done in a show that is supposed to be empowering.
Inconsistent characterization – A lot of the characters seem to have their motivations shift constantly to whatever the plot needs them to do. This is especially true of Luke Cage is constantly said to struggling with things – his father, Claire, being a hero – and then having those struggles easily resolved or dropped until they’re needed again to create “drama.” The apparent heel turn he takes at the end of the season really feels like it came out of nowhere.
Misty Knight was one of the best characters of the first season, but here her story arc is that she’s a renegade cop reacting against the bureaucracy. Except for most of the season, everything she does makes her look like a really crappy cop, which makes the character look stupid rather than heroic.
Finally, there’s Gabrielle Dennis as Tilda Johnson, Mariah’s estranged daughter. She goes from compassionate doctor to dupe to righteously angry to femme fatale on whatever whims the plot needs her for. Could be she’s a bad actor, could be bad writing, probably both. Regardless, Tilda’s entire story arc is a wasted opportunity.
Repetition – All throughout the season entire scenes take place that give us the exact same information revealed in earlier episodes. And the speeches – God help us, the speeches – that are repeated again and again. Luke musing on being a hero, Mariah preaching about family first, and Bushmaster relentless tirades on revenge. The repetition just makes them look ridiculous rather than thoughtful.
Failure to heed the writing advice of “show don’t tell” – Both the inconsistent characterization and repetition are partly the result of the writers wanting to tell the audience things rather than show them. For example, we’re constantly told that Luke is going through internal struggles, but are rarely shown this excepting a few good scenes such as his fight with Claire early in the season.
So those are my thoughts on a mostly good show that frustrates because it could be a great show. The final episode of the show felt really out-of-place with the rest of the season, almost as if it were the opening of the next season rather than the conclusion to this season. I don’t know where they’re going with Luke becoming a crime boss or if that’s a show I even want to watch, but I guess I’ll find out if and when season 3 is released.
Susan and I danced to “Cheek to Cheek” by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald at our wedding, just about 13 years ago.
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Narrator: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Publication Info: New York, NY : Simon & Schuster Audio, p2013.
Sáenz has written a beautiful novel about friendship, family, love, coming of age, and coming to terms with your identity as a teenager. Set in El Paso in the mid-1980s, the book is narrated by 15-year-old Mexican American boy Aristotle – or Ari – who has learned to repress his feelings from his parents. His father won’t speak of the horrors of fighting in the Vietnam War and neither of his parents will talk about Ari’s much older brother who is in prison. The story begins when Ari meets and befriends Dante, another Mexican American boy his age, at the swimming pool. Dante and his family are more open in their feelings and he draws out Ari over a series of meaningful conversations. The two boys deal with the typical trials of teenagers as well the specific problems related to understanding their identity as Mexican Americans and masculinity. They suffer injuries when hit by a car, are separated when Dante’s family goes to Chicago for a year, and explore their sexuality. Without giving too much of the plot away, this is an absolutely beautiful book and one that I think a lot of young people (and formerly young people) can identify with. As an added bonus, Lin-Manuel’s expressive voice is absolutely perfect for the audiobook narration.
He didn’t say anything. And then I heard him crying. So I just let him cry. There was nothing I could do. Except listen to his pain. I could do that. I could hardly stand it. But I could do that. Just listen to his pain.
The 1970s offers some great songs, and some awful, terrible, no good songs. “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum is one of the good ones.
I’ve made a top ten list for every year of my life, so if you want to see more songs I like from the 1970s, check out these pages:
The three parts of this Titan comics miniseries include two different stories. “Operation Volcano” takes up most of the pages with “Hill of Beans” filling out each volume.
“Operation Volcano” is set in 1967 when a hydrogen bomb exposes an alien craft in the Australian desert. RAF Group Captain Gilmore – a character introduced in Aaronovitch’s Remembrance of the Daleks – calls in the Doctor and Ace to investigate. Subsequent issues reveal a horrifying snake-like species that can attach itself to humans and tap into their consciousness. But all is not what appears and the Doctor knows more about these aliens than he lets on. Can his plan prevent the destruction of Earth by nuclear weapons, and how does Gilmore end up in the future with a snake on his back? There’s a strong UNIT/spy thriller feel and the artistry captures the 60s style (write up to the illustrator lovingly detailing the women’s breasts and short-shorts in the classic style). This is faithful the Seventh Doctor stories as portrayed by Sylvester McCoy and the Virgin New Adventures and I could see it succeeding as a tv adaptation.
“Hill of Beans” catches up with Mags, the werewolf from The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, and the physic circus. She’s under threat as her planet Vulpana is under fascist rule and rounding up werewolves and other noncomformists. Eerily, the villain looks like Donald Trump and says “fire and fury.” The art style is softer and works to capture an 80s aesthetic. Being the shorter of the two stories, it is very bareboned, and everything gets resolved rather easily. Again, though, it could be fleshed out into a tv show or book.
My preteen years – roughly 1983-1986 – corresponded with the funky fresh era of old school hiphop, so let’s go with “Jam On It” by Newcleus.