KIDS SEE GHOSTS

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The third release in the Kanye West pentalogy, KIDS SEE GHOSTS serves as a wildly successful (re)union of West and Kid Cudi. The chemistry exudes throughout the album, as Cudi’s emotive howls haunt Kanye’s ghoulish production.  

Operating as the climax in Kanye’s dramatic structure, KSG follows Pusha T’s Daytona energetic sultriness with an honest emotionality absent on ye, Kanye’s expositionary outset.  From the moment “Feel the Love” hits, you know that this is the Cudi/Kanye chemistry you loved on the unexpectedly influential – and excellent –  Man on the Moon I and II. Pusha-T’s verse ensures that the listener is hearing a continued musical creation with the release of these five albums in subsequent fashion.

Coming in at a tidy 24 minutes, the album seethes, emotes, and viscerally envelops the listener. It moves fast, but lingers. The Andre3000 (nee Benjamin)-produced “Fire” literally picks up musical threads from “Feel the Love” and flips into a Kanye verse much different than anything on ye. The words are sharper, the syllables are placed with more exactitude, and the mirroring of voice/track adds a layering more robust than the minimalist ye.

Cudi and Kanye have both expressed mental health challenges and it fuels KSG. The adopted moniker for the duo, KIDS SEE GHOSTS, is appropriate – and the music feeds off of the visualization of the name. “4th Dimension” takes the 1936 Louis Prima single “What Will Santa Claus Say,” features a haunting echo and a spine-tingling bass line that conjure both literal and mental ghosts.

“Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2)” once again nods to the continuity of This Kanye Project, as Kanye exudes on the the hook “I don’t feel pain anymore/ guess what baby I feel freeeee.”  This harkens back to “Ghost Town” on ye as 070 Shake painfully exclaims “we’re not the kids we used to be/ I put my hand on a stove to see if i still bleed.”

“Reborn” is where we see both Cudi and Kanye at their modern best. “I’m so reborn/ keep movin’ forward” is Cudi’s hook, sung in straight-forward and melancholy fashion, leading right into Kanye’s best verse in a long time:

Very rarely do you catch me out
Y’all done “specially invited guest”‘d me out
Y’all been tellin’ jokes that’s gon’ stress me out
Soon as I walk in, I’m like, “Let’s be out”
I was off the chain, I was often drained
I was off the meds, I was called insane
What a awesome thing, engulfed in shame
I want all the rain, I want all the pain
I want all the smoke, I want all the blame
Cardio audio, let me jog your brain
Caught in the Audy Home, we was all detained
All of you Mario, it’s all a game

Introspective, honest, addressing his demons, cohesive and intelligent. This is the Kanye you love, and the reason why his makeshift effort on ye was such a disappointment. My gut instinct is that there is much more material of this particular nature that was scrapped after the TMZ debacle, but frankly – this verse, and Kanye’s on “Kids See Ghosts” (the track) are more indicative of Kanye doing what he can/should be doing as the King of 21st Century Music.

The title track here features Yasiin Bey (nee Mos Def), whose self-imposed exile in South Africa left a gaping hole in 21st century lyricism. Mos Def always carried gravitas to any project on which he was featured. Bey continues to do so here, with a halting iteration of “Kids See Ghosts sometimes/ spirits moving around/ just moving around (yeah that’s a king)” which hands off into a melodic Cudi verse, which parlays into more hungry, honest – there’s that word again – Kanye. Once again Kanye chooses his words carefully, “ye just going to live up to everything that sucks to you. . .to everybody that said I was better off dead” followed by

Got a Bible by my bed, oh yes, I’m very Christian
Constantly repentin’, ’cause, yes, I never listen
Don’t like bein’ questioned and don’t like bein’ less than
Any a competition in any of my professions

Again, Mr. West at his purest – religious and flawed, hyper self-aware and emotional. Cudi also orates musically what can only be described as “ghostly sounds” that serve to close out the track and evoke the name of the track, album, and duo. Brilliant.

“Cudi Montage” is a very intriguing finish to the album, and veritable transition to Nasir. Using a Kurt Cobain sample from a home recording, Kanye continues to induce spine-tingling in the listener, while figuring out a way to meld the asymmetry of the genres into a work of art.

Because KIDS SEE GHOSTS is essentially a “pop-up” art gallery of music. Kanye West fully intended for his pentalogy to be dissected, discussed, analyzed; criticized & lauded. Here, with KIDS SEE GHOSTS hiding in plain sight as the third of five releases, he gives his effort at brilliance, yet it is intentionally ephemeral. As the sum of all parts, the five albums may not hold up as a classic. But KSG certainly is excellent, and carves out a niche in Kanye’s ultimate pantheon.

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Kanye West and ye: minimalist deflection

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 9.20.37 AMI initially thought that I would wait my prerequisite three months to listen to Kanye West’s new release, “ye” – I typically want the ‘noise’ to subside so I can take an uninhibited, zero-influence approach to an album.

That didn’t quite work out – instead, I spent the weekend listening to “ye” on repeat. As I began to internalize the album more thoroughly, I feel that “ye” is ultimately a strong listen, but falls short in one area where Mr. West usually thrives – genuine honesty.

But why? What is actually going on here?

My initial thoughts after my first listen is that I think Mr. West wants the listener to feel  that he is in a super dark place. Confusion and depression are underlying themes throughout the album – maybe not the “depression” associated with somebody that “lost everything,” but from Kanye branding himself as a great artist/iconoclast and feeling the pressure of living up to that standard.

Perhaps Kanye is exhausted with this role; witness him holing up in Wyoming for this album/ gaining weight/ deleting twitter/ disappearing for about a year. After an unparalleled-so-far-in-the-21st-century string of great critical & commercial albums, he thoroughly knows that “ye” needs to follow in that lineage – he MUST produce a magnum opus.  The fact is, in my mind, Kanye probably just wants to hang up the mic. The “ye” album has elements soul-baring and depth; the music is heavily gospel and spiritual, though not groundbreaking like his previous work. And the length. . .this release is only seven tracks and only 24 minutes, with not one six- seven- or eight- minute track as he is wont to do? Dude is tired.

Upon my my second listening and more mental digestion, my theory expands. I think this album is mea culpa. The music, while minimal, is more labored than I even picked up on during the first listen. While gospel over soul samples with hip-hop beats is his true/primary sound – that’s basically all Kanye is producing here.  Some haunting sounds and Slick Rick sample dot the production, but there is no grandeur. It’s concise musically, but basically Kanye-by-numbers. Lyrically, I perceive a sweeping, general “apology” “for whatever I may have done” – kind of half-assed with nary a desire to be genuinely specific.

Overall, I “like” the album –  but this is the sound of a guy who needs to take about five to 10 years off, though I don’t know he has that in him – or if this is possible in today’s milieu. I also can’t escape the thought that this album is somewhat “making excuses” – but for what? The TMZ zaniness? His MAGA hat? Something deeper?

There is also something very peculiar about the overall “sound” aesthetic: this album lacks the complex, driving drum loops that are Kanye’s hallmark; instead, it contains a distinct minimalism; creative, assertive drum use is basically what made Kanye the producer he is today and though he is an expert at utilizing space and time in his music, he is far from a “minimalist.”

After my third trip through “ye,” I was pretty sure that this album is either a partial album and some sort of marketing tactic (a.k.a. he released Lift Yourself and the underrated Ye vs. the People a month ago yet they are nowhere to be found on the final release). My guess is that this particular “EP” release is a substandard yet well-intentioned attempt to address mental health – though even there, I don’t believe it was fully honest. Specifically, Wouldn’t Leave, No Mistakes, Ghost Town – ironically/intentionally his “gospel” tracks – have the potential to really expound upon his mental state, struggles, ‘the feels,’ but they fall short.

What “ye” does, in my opinion, is speak directly to Kim and their marriage. I stand by my assertion that this is a “mea culpa” – though it still does not feel as if Mr. West is directly apologizing or being fully honest to Kim, or more generally, his family – for the pain he caused/is causing).

Here’s another thing. This is the first time I’ve ever sensed Kanye as disingenuous. There is a willingness and a want to be introspective and extant but there is some albatross holding him back from exposing what he really wants to discover.

Not maliciously disingenuous, or even manipulative – I really, really think he wants to discover something but just isn’t getting there.

Furthermore, indulge me as I throw complete curveball that trivializes all of this – what did I really think when he went nuts on TMZ during that whole brief period? I think he cheated on Kim, or worse, and this last six week period has been an act to deflect addressing his shortcomings in their relationship. Basically he was busted and still can’t confess, and all of this “I’m crazy“ and subsequent half assed apologizing through the release of a short album, calculated erratic behavior/bipolar. . .I do not intend to marginalize any of the mental health things he is addressing but it seems to me that it’s a really, really good excuse – this “ye” album – where he doesn’t need to confess his sins/truth to Kim. I mean, when I was a dark place with my wife, I did all kinds of crazy shit just to deflect from the reality that we were living in which I caused. Didn’t matter who or what was in the way, I would manifest medical issues, excuses, apologize for literally six hours straight, write poems, sing songs, buy gifts, whatever resources I had to avoid talking about the real issues.

I kiiiiiiiiiind of sense there’s an element (or more) of that, on a really hypermediaized (hello, 2018) level.

I’m convinced that the seven songs on “ye” are the “see Kim? I made an album detailing my pain (I Thought About Killing You) our travails (All Mine) and apologizing to you (Wouldn’t Leave) and showing how much I love you (No Mistakes, Ghost Town) and care about our family and children (Violent Crime)” – and-thus are probably not the entire (real) album. There has to be more to this.

UPDATE:  there’s an interview with Big Boy (previously of Power 106 fame, currently with 92.3) where he says he literally “scrapped the entire album”  (after the TMZ fiasco) . This makes sense – the two tracks that were “released“ were both not on the album and sounded nothing like the album. Ironically, Lift Yourself (aka Poopity Scoop) is music wise one of the best tracks he produced this time around and to be honest and not to go more psycho babble on it but he literally might have been in a manic phase had just said “fuck it I making this song for North” because musically that song is straight dope

Lastly, there have been artists and musicians historically that are bipolar and I think there something more with his “acceptance” of it and he’s using it as a crutch like “see Kim I told you I am not right in the head.”

Sidenote: it literally makes me cackle incessantly how the critics literally don’t know how to approach this album including a (solid, but wandering) Pitchfork review.

Again – when my wife was dealing with my utter bullshit for literally three years, it was something new every week that would explain away my bad behavior – “I think I’m having a heart attack” “you have no idea how bad things are at work” “I’m under so much pressure” or literally other bullshit.  If I would have thought of bipolar back then I probably would have used that as an excuse. Which is to be clear, not a trivialization of bi-polar or any mental issues. I just personally think Kanye is using that as a deflection point within his serious personal relationships or introspection and not digging into the ‘real Kanye.’

And that is where “ye,” though enjoyable, is lacking.

 

MLB 2017: Quick Analysis, HR Totals

whether ball is or isn’t juiced, there are 28 guys with 30+ home runs and 30 more between 25-29.
So that’s
FIFTY EIGHT
batters with 25 blasts right now.
 
In 2002, there were 54.
In 1998, there were 52.
in 1987, there were 53 (including Dale Sveum!).
And to look closer, I will assume 23 blasts is the cutoff for guys that, with 15+ games left will ‘likely’ reach 25. Well, that would add another FIFTEEN 25+ HR guys in 2017.
The total would be 73. SEVENTY THREE players with 25+ home runs in 2017.
We’ll check in with final numbers in a couple weeks but, WOW.
And just as a bonus FYI, here are some guys that are, um, interesting to note:
Justin Smoak, 38
Logan Morrison, 36
Mike Moustakas, 36
Jonathan Schoop, 32 
Adam Duvall, 31
Lucas Duda, 29
Corey Dickerson, 26
Scott Schebler, 26
Ryon Healy, 25
Eugenio Suarez, 25
——
Matt Davidson, 24 (in his first career 370 AB)
Scooter Gennett, 24
Joey Bats “only” 22
Paul DeJong, Cardinals shortstop, 22 (in only 359 AB)
Rhys Hoskins, 18 (in 118 AB)
Enjoy the homestretch!!!!
Ev

My Favorite American Cities

I recently went to Miami for the first time. It was only my second time in a state I have tried arduously to avoid. A 2000 vacation to Spring Training when my high school buddy was with the Braves in Orlando had permanently and adversely affected my opinion of the state. This opinion that has only been emboldened in the recent decade by “Florida man” and other such anecdotal material. Enough people have opined breathlessly on how amazing and wonderful Miami is, so I obviously wasn’t expecting a clone of Orlando, but was nonetheless unimpressed.
A colleague, who makes no secret about Miami being one of his favorite cities – “I’ve been there 300 times!” –  brought up the excellent observation that  I neither spent the prerequisite $5000 for bottle service in South Beach nor spent the majority of my time on the beach. Fair enough. Regardless, The quote that sparked this email thread was, “Miami is not even in my top 15 American cities.”  We toyed around with a little bit of discussion and then he said that that would be a perfect conversation to memorialize, so let’s get to it.
#1 – Los Angeles. Here is the latest paean to the city that I wrote for Quora a few months back: in short, I find it hard to believe that any city – at least that I’ve seen – has the breadth of activities, food, cultureS, quirks, people, ideas, space and creativity. Super glad that my birth lottery dictated I was born here, and no matter how fun a vacation may be, I am always excited to come back.

#2 –  New York. Every time I go, the first three days are amazing and then I think about living there and become claustrophobic and suffocated. It’s amazing, and I truly believe the adage “if you make it there…” Absolutely wonderful city in every regard, but just “too much city” or my L.A. ass to challenge for the top spot.

#3 – Las Vegas.  I mean, it’s the best of the best and the worst of the worst but all the rules are laid out carefully before you go. You know *exactly* what you’re getting into. However you pursue your day (and night) is up to you and therein lies the pleasure (or pain, if that’s your vice).

#4 – San Diego. I used to think the city was too casual, too said, to Republican, too white. Then I realize the diversity the city and the stupendous nature of the cuisine. It is also a city that I could very much see myself living in, and the proximity to Mexico is a huge plus for me/my family.
#5 – Seattle. Kind of a “home-field advantage” for me, if you will, as I was a resident from 2002-2003. The secluded nature of the city and the fact that it’s a city in the middle of a  rain forest make it unique and extremely interesting. I also find it’s a city that revels in its overlooked nature and the arts and technology that come out of there are unparalleled for the city of that size. The food, specifically the seafood, is amazing – and the proximity to Canada is a plus in this case.
#6 –  San Francisco. Although the rise of Silicon Valley (and Silicon Beach) has detracted from the level of tech innovation and overall excitement in the city, it is truly a World City of Renown, and frankly reminds me more of a European city than anywhere in the United States. The food is good, though not as great as it once was, and the weather, especially during the summer, is the pits. But I have fun there and I get genuinely excited when the work schedule brings me that direction.
#7 –  Washington D.C. I initially thought I ranked the city too high but I’m sticking with it.The summers are ghastly with humidity, the winters are frigid with snow but around every corner, literally, is United States history in its most literal sense. There is also a different energy here than any other city I’ve visited, directly attributed to the cast of characters plugged in to the city’s main industry – politics.  It has the best, most efficient mass transit for my money in the United States, good food and a fine collection of old-school bars give it some much-needed flavor. Strictly based on gravitas it also holds extra points in my mind.
#8 – New Orleans. For sheer fun, and I’m not talking about Bourbon Street, this city literally can’t be beat. Grown-up fun of all kinds or you don’t feel the need to be in your 20s to party balls off. The music scene is incredible, the selection and variety and uniqueness of its culinary scene is stupendous,  and it’s deceptively walkable, even on the outskirts. That said, I wouldn’t want to spend more than five days here consecutively and don’t feel the need to go back every year.
#9 – Savannah.  I kind of can’t believe how enchanting, mystical and whimsical this city is. The vision of southern hospitality is alive and well here. The people are probably the most generous and kind that I’ve met in the states. The food is great, everywhere you walk feels like a novel, and drinking is highly encouraged when it’s not Sunday. Really cool place that I’m willing to bet it’s similar to Charleston (where I have not been but is high on my list).
#10 – Austin. Kind of like New Orleans, but clean and with a different cuisine. Also literally too hot during the summer and I say this as somebody who spent my youth on the streets of the San Fernando Valley where 110° wasn’t abnormal. It just *really* feels like the sun is hotter during the summer there. That said, Congress and Sixth are two of the coolest, most fun boulevards I’ve experienced domestically where the music is awesome and the drinks are dirt cheap. I’m not a huge fan of TexMex so it gets derogatory points for it’s overrated food scene, but the outstanding barbecue is worth having time and time again. Some funky, great hotels and I’m always a fan of universities so to have UT in the middle of the city is a huge plus.
Honorable Mentions:
Atlanta –  Cool, fun, probably didn’t see enough Flavor to give it a real ranking.
Philadelphia – Believe it or not, just misses this list. Amazing and underrated food scene, tough but approachable people, really cool history.
Hawaii –  I mean if I can include the whole state this definitely makes the list. Top five, in fact.
Palm Springs – Really, really fun if you’re in the right places. And great for a romantic getaway.
Portland – I know it’s supposed to be hipster central so if I love Seattle and Austin why doesn’t Portland get much love? Basically because I feel that it’s trying a little too hard even though it really is a great city. It’s also smaller than I would have imagined for it outsized reputation.
Denver – I went during the Spring and I loved it but I have a feeling that it would’ve been better if I was there during winter. Didn’t amaze me but it was definitely a cool city.
Miami – see intro.
Chapel Hill –  The University of North Carolina campus alone is worth a mention.
Worst:
Charlotte, St. Louis, but both pale in comparison of “worst”ness to Orlando.
Bucket List:
Charleston, Dallas, Boston, Detroit, Phoenix, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Providence, Minneapolis, Nashville, Madison

2017 Baseball Hall of Fame Projections

I love Hall of Fame speculation. Good piece here from Deadspin, which owes much of the speculation to inimitable Ryan Thibbs at the BBHOF Tracker. And nobody asked me, but here are my comments:

Jeff Bagwell 93.3% – good. deserves it. .297, MVP, ROY, 449 hr, 1529 rbi, 202 sb
but here are his comps (more later):
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Tim Raines 90.4% – easy. 
 
Ivan Rodriguez 85.2% – easy BUT .296, 311hr, 1332rbi. one MVP and no other finishes better than 10th.   and for all of this talk about what a stalwart defensively he was, how ironic is this – ‘advanced’ defensive metrics, which obviously didn’t exist to this extent in his day, have him slightly better than average defensively. can’t have it both ways. hmm. here are his career Offensive WAR & Defensive WAR (Tex/Det two line items)
 
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don’t get me wrong. He’s an HoFer. I just don’t think, including steroid allegations, he’s a first-ballot guy.  Not if Piazza wasn’t.
 
Vladimir Guerrero 77.0% my absolutely doggity dog doggggggg but i had to do a fair deep-dive into the numbers. not sure he gets in this year after seeing this vote total, and i had to know why. here’s why:
 
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great comps, right? right. but, but. . .there’s todd helton. and andres galarraga. and well, i’m the first guy to say Beltran isn’t an HoFer. . .but still – if he’s putting up colorado numbers outside of colorado, isn’t that case closed? oh, is it? well – here’s a SUPER interesting black mark for me:
Black Ink Batting – 6 (358), Average HOFer ≈ 27

“Black ink” are times leading the league. in anything. Six times, Vlad? Hmm. What were those career numbers? 

.318, 449hr, 1496rbi, 181sb (with 94 cs!!!). great player. GREAT player. but i can live with him not being a first-ballot guy.
 
Barry Bonds 71.1% – love this. should be in. no conversation necessary.
 
Roger Clemens 71.1% – see above, though pre-emptive footnote in my schilling argument below. 
 
Trevor Hoffman 71.1% – ugh. fine. WHIP was 1.05 and averaged 9.4 Ks/9. Saves total of 601 is pretty hard to marginalize. I mean, I’m the first guy to say ‘anybody can close for a year or two’ (Keith Foulke, Jeff Shaw, we’re looking at you) but seriously 30 saves/year for 20 years extrapolated here is amazing. fine. you happy?!?!?! still, for me 1089 career innings is pretty wispy. 
 
Edgar Martinez 68.9% – stop tormenting me, man! why do people love this guy’s candidacy so much????!?!? look, for me it’s not even the whole ‘he was a DH and you can’t hold it against him’ thing. it’s that .312 and 2247 hits are not that impressive. that’s a swell career. but you know where that ranks on the all-time hits list? 170th. i know because i made a google doc about it. he’s right between Bert Campaneris and John Olerud. I mean, definitely some legit guys on this list but, um. Not Hall of Famers, all.
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Mike Mussina 63.0% I’m all in on this guy now. He’s getting in. 270 wins is massive.  Don’t love the 3.68 ERA but 1.19 WHIP in that era is just fine for me.  Never won a Cy but 9 top-10 finishes is great. go get ’em, Moose.
 
Curt Schilling 53.3% He’s being ‘punished’ for what he’s saying, and  i’m the first guy to ‘hate’ on that kind of hatred, heh. that said, similar to Clemens (above), the ‘off-the-field’ will be forgiven. he’s getting in.  Especially after Moose gets in. Better ERA (3.46), superior 1.13 WHIP, 3 second place finishes and well, the bloody sock. His comps are underwhelming, but this doesn’t take into account postseason:
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but guess what? when he was good, he was great:
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and outside of players discussed in the Deadspin article, here’s the live Tracker:
Jeff Kent 11.1% speaking of punished, this guy and Sheffield are the two guys that are unfairly maligned due to perceived difficulty, personality-wise. they’re both winners, so there’s one irony. secondly, i mean look at this: .290, 377hr, 1518rbi. first all-time in dingers for 2b, 3rd all time in RBI – behind a couple guys named Hornsby and Lajoie. Cmon, folks. shut up and mark the ballot.
 
Fred McGriff, 12.6%  Bagwell is a shoo-in, right?
Here are Crime Dog’s numbers: 
Career: 493 HR (28th), .284 BA, 1550 RBI (46th)
Now let’s review Bagwell’s:
Career: 449 HR (38th), .297 BA, 1529 RBI (52nd),
Now guess who played in the steroid era and has been speculated to have roided?
interesting. 
 
Manny Ramirez, 31.1% – I get it. More personality backlash. I’ll lay off this year since it’s still early, but if he doesn’t get a Bonds/Clemens-like bump, something is wrong. Maybe it’s a bit much for people to stomach that he was literally busted BUT:
.312, 547hr, 1831rbi, .996 (!) OPS, 8 consecutive top-ten MVP finishes. oh yeah, those comps:
Inline image 7
 
Gary Sheffield, 11.1% these are his numbers with all-time ranks:
Career: 509 HR (26th), .292 BA, 1676 RBI (28th)
253 sb to boot
and THESE comps, literally all HoFers:
Inline image 8
 
Sammy Sosa, 11.1% 609 hr is sweet, but to me – not an HoFer. I just can’t do it. nothing much additional to his game – .273 and a somewhat surprisingly low .878 OPS with six consecutive top-ten MVP. i mean i won’t cry if he gets in as long as McGwire gets in but
 
Larry Walker, 25.9% cool player, good player but .313, 383hr, 1311rbi just needs to be more impressive with more than half a career in Colorado.
Looks like we’re set to have a great crop of HoFers for the next few years. Regardless, always great to speculate toward year-end. Happy New Year to all, here’s to a great 2017 and beyond.

Kershaw. 7th Inning.

We all saw the monkey, and nobody wanted to address it. It had morphed into an elephant with a HUGE 7 on its side.
Kershaw walks Rizzo. on FOUR pitches. that are NOWHERE near the zone.
“this can’t be happening.”
“this IS happening.”
Rizzo takes first.
Zobrist bats. Frustrating, unorthodox stance. mouth wide open while hitting. really makes for an awkward plate appearance, but the dude can hit. and he’s a righty.
Grandal, spooked by Gonzalez charge from 1B, drops a catcher popup (super-difficult/underrated catch, ps).
“this really is going to happen again, isn’t it?”
Zobrist hits a hard foul ball.
“Dammit.”
Zobrist inexplicably takes a fastball through the heart of the plate for strike three.
HUGE sigh of relief.
Addison Russell. Stud. Struggling, but a stud nonetheless.
1-1 count crack off the bat, flyball to left.
Kiké, positioned perfectly in left, makes the catch. two outs.
 
“He’s gonna do it. Clayton’s gonna get the monkey off his back once and for all.”
But baseball is funny. It really is.
Who steps up – well, it’s Javier Baez. The man that had a superstar-in-the-making reputation for two years without producing. Until this postseason, when he’s become a superstar within a fortnight. And he has one of the two hits on the night off of Kershaw. He’s an immediate Cubs superstar, already entrenched in Cubs lore, especially after his astute play in the field earlier, where he intentionally allowed a pop flare fall in front of him, instead of catching it – the result was a double-play. very heady. 
 
So Baez, the most confident of all Cubs, is at the plate. The air hangs heavy with humidity and bladders are weighed down with beer. Wrigley Field is rollicking.
First pitch to Baez is a ball. The crowd, fervid with excitement, shakes the ancient ballpark.
Kershaw fires a 95-mph fastball letter-high and on the outside half of the plate. Baez takes a mighty rip and CRACKS a bomb deep to center. Every fan, at Wrigley and watching on FS1, takes to their feet. Kershaw huddles over, hands on his knees – this one is gone. The sound, the crowd reaction, Baez’ little hop-step after he hit it –
“We all knew this was going to happen. Damn 7th inning.”
And Joc Pederson, one foot on the warning track, settles under the heavy ball for the third out, excitedly points at Kershaw, who breathes the biggest damn sigh of relief and smiles his way into the dugout.

The monkey? The elephant? They’re gone. Kershaw is the only animal left in these playoffs.

My Vin Post

I’ve had nearly the entire calendar year to internalize the impact of Vin Scully’s retirement.

It’s different than when an athlete opts to end his playing career. Kobe Bryant & Derek Jeter received the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar treatment with tours, gifts, roasts, etc.; others, such as Barry Bonds or Allen Iverson, are forced to abandon their ride into the sunset. Magic Johnson, Barry Sanders & Bo Jackson are examples of retirements that were shocking in their suddenness. Each fantastic playing career carries specific moments over a generation – or if the athlete was particularly transcendent, generations plural – and defines a city, an era, a specific way of playing the game; something that entrenched the athlete in the milieu to the extent that their retirement itself was notable.

But for many Dodger fans and Los Angeles natives – and for me, specifically – the career of Vin Scully is inextricably intertwined with Life in L.A.

There was Vin when I was doing my homework in Mrs. Saunders class in first grade. There was She Is Gone. . .In a Year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened. There were the sombreros being thrown to the sky when old friend Pedro Guerrero made the last out (a GIDP) of Fernando’s no-hitter. There was Vin in Spring for Henry Rodriguez’ four-homerun game. Vin was there when I came home from my first JV game as a 14-year old sophomore. It was Vin, as my Dad would kick back on the floor with his Golden Retriever, Doc, the two of them laying with the screen door ajar, letting the dulcet tones of Vinny complement the perfect San Fernando Valley summer breeze.

Vinny introduced me to Mike Piazza. Hideo Nomo. Ramon and Pedro Martinez. Omar Daal. Ismael Valdes. Vinny was serenading me as Eric Gagné, the mediocre starting pitcher morphed into Eric “Game Over” Gagné, still the most dominating pitcher I’ve seen, asterisk or not. Vin was in love with the O-Dog. Vinny ushered in Mannywood. Yasiel Puig became The Wild Horse.

In recent years, Vin was not there for the playoffs; first because of organizational ineptitude in the 90’s and subsequent Fox era, but mostly because of the Business of Baseball, which precluded ‘local’ broadcasters from doing much of the TV postseason work. Also, Vin’s age (the voice is truly timeless; humans, even a Saint, are not) demanded that the rigors of a baseball travel schedule were simply too much and the road games were increasingly narrated by Rick Monday, Ross Porter, Steve Lyons. Or Charley Steiner. Eric Collins. Recently, L.A. legends Orel Hershiser and Nomar Garciaparra have seen more TV work as Vin only works home games and the occasional trip to San Francisco. And Joe Davis, The Man Who Has to Follow in Scully’s Shoes, does a great job – but he’ll forever live with the moniker he’s no Vin Scully. So there’s less Vin now than ever.

And that’s okay. I’ve become busier. We all have. My son, Felix, is nearly 3 years old. And besides, “baseball is too slow.” But maybe that’s a good thing? When I do get to hear Vin, which I did about 30 times this season, I’ve flashed back to those serene summer nights in Sepulveda. I’d get off of a three-way call on my parent’s landline, run out to do a cannonball in the pool, careen back in the house, grab some Cap’n Crunch and Get Back to This One. You could always Pull Up a Chair, but if you couldn’t, that was okay. Vinny was going to see you again tomorrow night.

I really began to appreciate Vin and think about the dreadful and imminent end of Scully’s magical run a few years ago. I wondered if I’d enjoy Dodger games, or the Dodgers, or honestly, baseball, as much when he was gone. I didn’t want to find out, but knew it would happen. And when Felix was born, I wanted him to be able to hear and recognize Vin’s warm voice and that musical cadence. We sit and listen to games – a few innings, in Felix’s case, and I’m always sure to emphasize Vin Scully. He’s not likely to remember these nascent memories, especially of some old broadcaster, but I’m glad that I did have these years to share, and pass down the tradition.

Vin Scully is the narrator of this City I Love. Vin Scully is not just the voice of Los Angeles, he is Los Angeles. He came west as the city was just finding it’s sea-legs, a post-Baby Boom bastion of suburbs and planned communities that required you to have a car. No, really – that was a novel concept in 1958, and it’s exactly why Vinny became Los Angeles. You were, and still are, in a car all the time, and Vinny was painting games nine months out of the year. Until he’s not. And then what? Life goes on. L.A. will be here, Vinny and my Dad will hopefully live well into retirement, and the Dodgers will continue drawing 3 million fans per year. Baseball will certainly move forward. So will I, so will Felix.

But it will be different, an impact unknown. There may be a void, there will definitely be a ripple in the fabric of my fanmanship. But I do know that Vin Scully’s retirement will be more poignant and powerful than any I’ve experienced in sports.

I sent a letter to Vin during the first Dodgers season after Felix was born. I didn’t expect nor receive a response, and was told that he actually receives more mail than anybody in the organization. Maybe he read it, likely he did not, but the copy is below and the sentiment still holds.

Because Vin Scully really enhanced my life. And proud Los Angeles native or not, I’ve never said that about any type of celebrity before. And I certainly haven’t said it about an athlete. I do have a sombrero, but I’m not going to throw it to the sky, Vin. I’m just hoping that I can enjoy and cherish your five remaining telecasts and maybe, just maybe, the Baseball Gods will reward you and the fans whom you’ve impacted with one more improbable October.

July 15, 2014

Mr. Scully –

I just want to reach out and thank you for your presence within the Dodgers organization and the City of Los Angeles. I am a second generation Los Angeles native, and recently had a son (Felix) that will be the third Lovett male to be serenaded by your voice from April to October of each year. 

You are truly the voice that defines summer and provides the soundtrack to our great city. I am proud to be able to pass on the tradition of ‘listening to Vin’ to my son. 

In short, your legacy and influence is immeasurable and I cherish each of your broadcasts, and I appreciate your commitment to pulling up a chair and ‘getting back to this one’ in beautiful Chavez Ravine.

Enclosed is a picture of the three of us – my father, Stu; my son, Felix & me.

With admiration and appreciation,

 

Evan Lovett

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