Friday, June 2nd, 2017



"At no point in baseball's history was the home run more of a focal point than during the long-ball era (1994 to 2005). We saw record-setting years by Mark McGwire (70 home runs in 1998), Barry Bonds (73 home runs in 2001) and a 66-homer season from Sammy Sosa (1998), with 11.8 percent of all hits leaving the yard during this 12-year span. Of course, that span also carries another more dubious nickname: the steroid era." But here's the thing: Today's players are hitting even more home runs. Are 'roids back? Is the ball juiced? Are bats corked? It turns out the homers are being driven by the same forces that drive many modern trends. Big data and better statistical analysis. What did all the number crunching teach hitters? To hit the ball higher. From WaPo: The statistical revelation that has MLB hitters bombing more home runs than the steroid era. (Caveat: To take advantage of these insights, you have to actually hit the ball. Sadly, my little league career largely mirrored my early love life: I almost never got past first base.)

+ Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson simplifies the math and data: "If you look at a baseball field and look on the infield, there's a lot of players there. There's not as much grass. But you look in the outfield, there's fewer players and more grass. So if you hit it in the air, even if it's not that hard, you have a chance." (Where was this guy when we needed someone to explain climate change to the president?) More from WaPo: These days in baseball, every batter is trying to find an angle.


We Built This City

"The officials wanted me to imagine this land replaced by a futuristic megacity called Amaravati. By 2035, they projected, it would be home to 11 million people and cover 3,322 square miles -- ten times the area of New York City." Building a planned city from the ground up is a risky proposition. "With the exception of war and space exploration, they are the costliest gamble humans make." California Sunday Magazine's Rollo Romig: India builds a city from scratch.


Weekend Whats

What to Watch: Sarah Silverman's latest stand-up special could be her best, with an excellent mix of the personal and the political. From Netflix: Sarah Silverman, a speck of dust.

+ What to Book: As a former UC Berkeley English major and a card-carrying member of the liberal elite, I haven't spent much time reading books that are fast-paced, entertaining, and action-packed (a genre I like to call enjoyable fiction). I've been changing that, and lately I've been loving Steve Hamilton's Nick Mason series. The second book, Exit Strategy, is out now. (And don't miss Hamiton's book, The Lock Artist. It's like Catcher in the Rye if Holden Caulfield could pick a lock.)

+ What to Read: From Dan Barry in the NYT: The Holdup -
A Mobster, a Family and the Crime That Won't Let Them Go.

+ What to Hear: If a man's life is judged by the tribute cover songs that follow it, then Chris Cornell's was a life well lived. I must have heard Black Hole Son a hundred times since Cornell's death. But none of them compared with Norah Jones' moving rendition.


Discord Inferno

A day has passed since President Trump pulled the US out of the Paris climate treaty in one of the more baffling (and damaging) decisions in recent memory. Here's a quick round-up up of reactions, starting with the NYT editorial board: "Paris did not, in short, legally constrain Mr. Trump from doing the dumb things he wanted to do. Which he already has."

+ The New Yorker: Donald Trump's "Screw You" To The World.

+ The NYT's David E. Sanger and Jane Perlez: Trump Hands the Chinese a Gift.

+ In fairness to the president, this decision was not just Trump. 22 Senators sent a letter to the White House urging the move, and Paul Ryan cheered the president for his "commitment to the American people and withdrawing from this bad deal." Here are more reactions from US and global leaders. And here's a look at how the move was covered on front pages across the world.

+ Elon Musk and Bob Iger quit Trump's business advisory panel.

+ One interesting aspect of the reaction to the decision is that it's not based on national borders. In Vox, David Roberts argues that this is all about globalism vs tribalism.


Flame Wars

To paraphrase Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three: The proof, the proof, the proof is on fire. We don't need no water let the motherf*cker burn. It's not just the roof -- or even the planet -- that's on fire. It's the truth. Somehow, the Paris treaty was described as nonbinding and Draconian in the same sentence. And things went downhill from there. From Vox: The 5 biggest deceptions in Trump's Paris climate speech.

+ WaPo: Fact-checking President Trump's claims on the Paris climate change deal.

+ Yes, the Pod Saves America show is highly partisan. But yesterday they interviewed one of climate deal's chief negotiators, Brian Deese, and he did a really good job of calmly explaining what exactly is in the deal, how long it will take for America to pull out (years), and why what we're seeing at the poles might make all of this moot.

+ And for an angrier (and funnier) take on the debacle, I wrote up 10 thoughts on Donald Trump's middle finger to Mother Earth.


Bar Hopping

"US State Department officials believe prisons across West Africa and the Middle East represent key fronts in the battle against Islamist extremism. And for nearly two decades, the US had been operating a program to teach foreign officials how to run prisons the American way." Buzzfeed on why the US is trying to remake the world's prisons.


Canadian Fakin’

"He is at war with law, at war with facts, at war with human nature. He's even at war with gravity -- as his cons come crashing down, he refuses to do anything but pretend to rise. One of the great Canadian swindlers, he's drifted penniless into the upper class on audacity, legal chicanery, and empty talk. More important, he is at war with himself, convinced, against mounting evidence, that he is good." Michael Lista in The Walrus: The Rise and Fall of Toronto's Classiest Con Man.


Board Oversight

"He'd wake up early, go surf with his friends, 'and then you just put your backpack on and run across the street to school. Run back home. It was pretty funny. It was like, no shoes. That's school. Just trunks and a T-shirt. Come home and then go surfing again.' Then John John grew up and became the best surfer in the world." From GQ: Surfer John John Florence's Very Wavy World.


Land of the Rising Fun

"The park will be based on the popular film My Neighbor Totoro, embodying the movie's theme of respecting and embracing nature." From BBC: Studio Ghibli to open 'Totoro' theme park in Japan. (Roadtrip...)


Bottom of the News

"As the game progressed, Rihanna started getting on Kevin Durant -- what else was there to do when Durant was demolishing the Cavs? In the first part of the clip here, you can see and hear Rihanna yelling 'brick!' before Durant shot a free throw. Deadspin: I'm Just Here For The Rihanna-Kevin Durant Feud. (I couldn't hit a free throw if Rihanna was anywhere within 10 miles of me.)

+ Allow me to take a second to thank NextDraft's sponsor: Quip by Salesforce. I get to write what I want, you get to read for free and without commercial distractions, and several readers have emailed thank me for introducing them to Quip's excellent product: Living documents - work smarter, better and faster.