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Friday Rewind: Up in the Air
EN ROUTE TO KANSAS — It’s 4:10 a.m. here at the San Francisco airport, and I’m somehow awake, but I have only vague memories of how I got here or anything that has happened in the last two weeks. I think I’ve hit that, “There is no past, there is no future, there is only the next event,” stage of the book tour. The next event is a flight to Salt Lake City, then a flight to Kansas City, then a drive to Topeka. What’s done is done. What’s to come is to come.
Tomorrow, at 1 p.m. Topeka Time, I’ll be in conversation with my dear friend Bill James at the Kansas Book Festival, It will be a lot of fun, and then, I would hope, you will stay in your seat and stick around to hear another friend, the brilliant Candice Millard, talk about her new book, River of the Gods.
Alas, I will probably not be able to stay for long, because I have to get to Kansas City for the Royals-Astros game on Saturday evening — I’m supposed to be throwing out the first pitch to my brother from another mother, Bob Kendrick. How far I will be able to throw an actual baseball at that point of the tour is still up in the air.
Buck O’Neil, when he threw out the first pitch at games, used to walk out to the mound and go through a major windup and then he would walk closer to the catcher and ask the catcher to come closer to him, and he would keep doing this until they were so close that he could hand the catcher the ball. That sounds tempting.
I have a bunch more fun stuff coming up next week — the big thing will be what I expect to be a super-fun baseball chat with the wonderful Tony Dokoupil on “CBS Morning” on Thursday — but, like I say, there is no past and there is no future. At least the flight looks like it’s leaving on time.
Oh, I just remembered one thing about last night’s Substack Party that I really have to share with you. It’s so funny. The event itself was wonderful, a whole bunch of Brilliant Readers were there, my heartstring Molly Knight was there, tacos and drinks were free, I cannot thank the people at Substack enough. We had some lively conversation. It was great.
And then at the end, something happened that still feels a bit like a dream.
A man and a woman came up to me. They said they had not come for the event, but had been walking by, and they saw I was there and wanted to meet with me. It turns out that she was a writer, too … a Norwegian writer who had just written from what I gathered was a massive bestselling novel in Norway about hiking. I guess it’s about more than hiking, it’s about love and nature and finding peace and, you know, weighty stuff. I also gather they were here in the U.S. talking to some people about getting it translated into English.
Anyway, that’s what I THOUGHT I heard … but I will admit that by the point I was talking with them, I was almost completely gone, a sofa with ears, so I kind of just kept nodding and listening and trying to understand what they were telling me in their wonderfully thick Norwegian accents, and in retrospect, I might not even be close. The whole thing felt so strange and lovely and weird. I really need to visit Norway. I’ve been wanting to for many years.
Happy Friday! The Rewind is free so everyone can enjoy it. Just a reminder that Joe Blogs is a reader-supported newsletter, and I’d love and appreciate your support.
Thursday’s WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL Moment comes from Toronto, where the Texas Rangers completed a four-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays to put themselves in the driver’s seat for a wild-card spot. I do realize that this is NOT a moment that Toronto Blue Jays fans will love at all, and I sympathize, because I love the Jays, but we have to pause for just a moment to talk about Corey Seager.
Seager is 29 years old, and he is quietly having one of the most ridiculous seasons we’ve ever seen. He’s only doing it “quietly” because he has missed about two months of the season with injuries. If he plays every game for the rest of the season, he will play in only 119 games.
Here are the greatest seasons in modern American or National league history, best I can tell, in 119 games or fewer.
George Brett, 1980, this is the year he hit .390 (five hits short of .400) and posted 9.4 bWAR. It is a season for the ages.
Jeff Bagwell, 1994, an absurd season before the players went on strike. As it turns out, the strike didn’t exactly affect Bagwell’s season, because he got hurt before the strike happened. But in 110 games, he hit .368 and slugged .750, with 39 homers with 116 RBIs.
Mike Schmidt, 1981, another strike-shortened year, only 103 games; he had a 1.080 OPS with 31 homers and led the league in runs and RBIs.
Ted Williams, 1954, he played 117 games and had a .513 on-base percentage and a 1.148 OPS. That guy could hit a little.
Andre Dawson, 1981, he was overshadowed by Schmidt, but Hawk hit .302/.365/.553 and he played an enormous and magnificent centerfield in those days. What a dynamic force young Andre Dawson was.
So now, let’s talk Seager. He’s hitting .344, slugging .663. He has 40 doubles and 31 home runs. And he has done all that in ONE HUNDRED AND THREE GAMES. It’s utterly incredible. We all know Shohei is going to win the MVP because, my gosh, he’s doing stuff that has never been done. But it is actually Seager who leads league position players in bWAR, even though he has played 30 or 40 fewer games than the other contenders.
And what’s really incredible is how utterly consistent he has been, even while playing through injuries. He was hitting .344 and slugging .623 on June 16. He was hitting .344 and slugging .648 on Aug. 27. He’s hitting .344 and slugging .663 now. Last night, with the Rangers playing for their playoff lives, he went 3-for-4 with a double, a homer and three RBIs.
We can save this part for another time — it’s still a bit too early in the career — but Seager is someone who very well might work his way into the Hall of Fame discussion, especially if he’s entering a new and more dominant phase in his career. When the Rangers signed him for big money, I didn’t fully get it — I’ve always liked Seager a lot, but that didn’t seem like a good fit, either for him or the team. It now looks pretty perfect.
Hey, if you feel like it, I’d love if you’d share this post with your friends!
OK, I’m too tired to go on — I’m looking forward to being a little bit more refreshed and relaxed next week — but I did want to mention something else that maybe you can help me with. I’ve been stunned at how often on this tour, people have come up to me to ask: Whatever happened to Katie the Prefect?
I’ve definitely heard as much, through the years, about that story as any I’ve ever written, but it really has been striking how many people on this tour — so many years later — have asked me to try and find Katie and see how she’s doing now.
So … I’m going to try and do that. I don’t know exactly HOW I’m going to do that, but I’ll start by throwing this out into the world. If you know Katie, and think she might be interested in talking, any help you can provide would be amazing. I’m obviously not looking to bother her if she would rather not be bothered, but it would be wonderful to say hello and thank you again after all these years.
Oh, yeah, one more thing: Brilliant Reader Ray has been putting together a super-fun compendium of special book inscriptions that I signed for you. Really fun.
If you’d like to be included, just send a photo of your book inscription to wwlb at y42k.com. And thank Ray while you’re at it; he’s the best.
JoeBlogs Week in Review
Sunday: Highlights of a magical week on the WHY WE LOVE BASEBALL tour.
Wednesday: Adam Wainwright gets win number 199.