Excellent TNB last night with Will Saletan and Adam Keiper. You can listen to the podcast version here.
But weirdly enough, the show was too long to do all at once. So I continued the conversation with Will this morning on the Secret show, which is here.
A few weeks ago there was a debate about the wisdom of Ukraine holding out at Bakhmut.
The Ukrainian government made it clear that it was wholly committed to Bakhmut. The implicit rationale was that (a) the Ukrainians were attriting the Russians at a favorable rate; (b) national morale could not countenance a retreat; and (c) they believed there was a chance that they could hold it and that the meatgrinder would become too much for the Russians.
The concern among some Western analysts was that (a) the attrition rate had hit a point of diminishing returns and (b) Bakhmut was going to fall one way or the other, so better to get troops out while it was still possible.
This morning we have a report from the Russian Ministry of Defense that Ukraine launched a large-scale counteroffensive at Bakhmut yesterday. The Russians claim that all of the attacks were repelled and that Russian units in the Southern group then pulled back to more “favorable ground.”
Translation: The Russians retreated.
I don’t want to make too much of this—it’s one retreat following one counteroffensive in one battle. But it is evidence that the Ukrainian theory of Bakhmut is still viable and that the pro-Putin American ghouls—like Elon Musk pal David Sacks—who have been sadly celebrating the “fall” of Bakhmut since March were wrong.
Here’s what I do want to make a lot out of: Storm Shadow.
No, not that Storm Shadow. This one:
It’s a British long-range, air-launched cruise missile and they are in Ukraine as we speak.
The Storm Shadow has a range of 155 miles—very close to the 185 mile range of the U.S. ATACMS. But it has a couple of tactical advantages over the ATACM:
What does this mean practically? It means that from the Ukrainian side of the Kherson River, they can now reach out and touch the Russians as far away as Sevastopol. As a buddy put it in an email, “Being able to hit any target anywhere in occupied Ukraine with a modern stealth forking cruise missile is a massive capability upgrade.”
Also important to note: We didn’t learn about this transfer until after the fact. Seems possible that other weapons have been transferred to the Ukrainians without fanfare in advance of an offensive, too.
Keep an eye on this.
You sickos have even got my hero George Effin’ Will on your side about the pitch clock. So I give up. Fine. Enjoy the shorter games—because I guess you want to get done with the joy of baseball and back to the drudgery of life quicker?—and pray that nothing serious gets broken.
But also: Know that this isn’t the end. Baseball has been emboldened by the reception to the pitch clock. And they have a plan.
This Grant Brisbee piece in the Athletic is locked for subscribers, but it starts with something eerie: A photo someone sent to Brisbee in 2015. Here’s the picture:
Brisbee doesn’t know the picture’s origins. It looks like a shot of an iPad propped up on an airplane tray-table.
The provenance isn’t the point. The timing is. This thing is from 8 years ago. And nearly every rule change on the list has been accomplished. This is like finding a photo of a second gunman on the grassy knoll.
Only three items are left on the list: Shrinking the strike zone, resetting the lineup in the 9th, and a mercy rule.
Every one of those proposals is an affront to God and nature.
And yet none of them are any more arbitrary than starting extra innings with a runner on second.
These abominations are coming. As sure as the sun will rise in the East. And when they’re proposed and you object—a mercy rule for professionals FFS?—MLB will smile and say, “Oh, well now. People objected to the pitch clock and you all came to love it.”
Here is what you must remember: Every rule change a sport accepts makes the next rule change easier to jam through.
You pitch-clock lovers will have much to answer for.
3. It Was a Different Time
I had never heard about the Dodgers’ Sym-Phony before this week, when my father-in-law started talking about it.
It was a group of Brooklyn guys who showed up to every game and played music to add color—for instance, they’d play “Three Blind Mice” when the umpires got together on the field. It’s much more charming than it sounds. Which is why you have to watch this short documentary about the crew.
When people say “it was a different time,” that euphemism almost obscures the reality. Here are some things you see in the video:
A small man with a scratchy, high-pitched voice, chomping on a cigar while talking about how, when the Dodgers won the pennant, he spent $48 buying every member of the team a salami—and explaining that he brought this box of salami into the clubhouse locker room to hand out to the fellas.
A former player for the Giants talking about how, for games against the Dodgers, he’d take the subway to Ebbets Field and then have to walk two blocks to the stadium, during which fans would give him the business.
Video of umpires in jackets and ties and fans in sport coats and hats.
Tales about guys with names like Shorty Laurice, JoJo Delio, and Philly Caccavelli.
The past is a foreign country.
God bless Hannah Yoest for the art today. Give her a hand in the comments, please?
JVL -- Sentimental traditionalists love the game of baseball to death. And seem bound and determined to take it there.
The game has become essentially unwatchable -- and has in fact been watched less and less for decades -- in part due to its paucity of action (especially for viewers not in the park). If we want baseball to again be more than mere background noise in bars producing occasional sports highlights, it needed/still needs to change.
The pitch clock (and the associated rules preventing a batter from stepping out to adjust his athletic supporter between every pitch is a fantastic change.
My husband grew up in Brooklyn 4 blocks from Ebbets field and used to go to the games, climb up to see the game. He remembers the band and has autographs from many if not all the players. I, growing up in Texas, was a huge Dodgers fan. Nostalgia!