After a Winning Holiday Weekend, Is Maddon Finally Ready to #FreeAlmora?

Almora

The Chicago Cubs had a very nice Memorial Day Weekend. After winning two of three at home against the San Francisco Giants, the boys in blue (or rather green, in holiday honor of our military) took a late Sunday night plane ride to Pittsburgh in order to be at PNC Park for today’s 12:35 PM start time. With bullpen stalwart Mike Montgomery called to the mound in place of an ailing Yu Darvish, and the players working on so little rest, anything could have happened. Instead the Cubbies treated their hosts to a 7-0 rout, led by good stuff from Montgomery and a key fourth inning, two-run homer off the bench from Addison Russell.

At the time of this post, the Cubs sit four and a half games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. That’s not ideal but we’ve got two-thirds of a season left to play. Starting ace Jon Lester has been on fire, which bodes well for tomorrow’s second game of three in Steel City. There’s been some trouble with the non-Lester part of the rotation and Anthony Rizzo is still struggling at the bat. But the end of May is no time for panic. Hell, I’m even coming around to Schwarber as a permanent left fielder. If he’s going to smoke Francisco Lindor at second base like that, I may have been hasty in my season-opening judgment (yes, Internet, I can admit it).

However, nestled within my late-March outfield castigation of Kyle Schwarber was another complaint. One that remains as disappointingly active as it was during Week 1 of the 2018 MLB season. That particular column marked my first public use of the #FreeAlmora hash tag. It appears destined not to be the last. On May 23, Danielle Sauers of Locked on Cubs wrote:

“There’s no doubt that Albert Almora Jr. is a fan favorite. If he doesn’t start for more than a few days in a row, the #FreeAlmora hash tag is bound to be out in full force. He’s young, charismatic, and has been flashing serious leather in recent games, so it’s easy to see why the fans love him. But can he continue to contribute at a high enough level to justify regular starts?”

The answer, Ms. Sauers, is in the question. Almora has continuously done more than enough to justify his regular place in the starting lineup. He’s hitting a team-leading .324, a solid 34 points ahead of 2016 MVP Kris Bryant. And compared with Ian Happ’s (forgive me) hapless fielding, my guy Almora regularly robs opposing players of extra base hits. Treat yourself to another viewing of his May 27 leap into the right center field gap at Wrigley, cheating Giants’ third baseman Evan Longoria of at least a double. Even if Almora Jr. wasn’t a terrific hitter (he is), I tend to side with the stereotyped middle-aged male crowd. Defense DOES win championships.

So what gives? Why does Joe Maddon so maddeningly (there I go again) refuse to give the 24 year-old the regular starting lineup love he’s earned? Writer Tony Andracki of NBC Sports Chicago calls it the Ian Happ-Albert Almora Jr. lineup conundrum. And Sauers continues in her piece:

“The Cubs rarely have to ask ‘who’s on first?’ but the question of who will start in the outfield is a hotly debated topic. Some do not agree with Joe Maddon’s regular changes in the lineup… Almora’s marked improvement is hard to ignore.”

Yet ignore it Maddon does. He may find the Almora versus Happ topic a “poor discussion,” but I’m not sure stubbornness becomes the leader of a team barely clinging to second place in the National League Central.

Come on Joe. There’s plenty of baseball left to play in 2018. But it’s hard to imagine the sustained surge needed to take and maintain first place, unless we #FreeAlmora.

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The Week in Anglophilia: Meghan Markle, Gun Control & the British Social Safety Net

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“Switching gears from the contrast in international murder, let’s take a look at the week in racism (gun violence and bigotry are often inextricably linked in the U.S.A., but that’s an expostulation for another day). Today, May 19, 2018 is the day that the very English Prince Harry married a bi-racial, divorced American actress named Meghan Markle– and his father Prince Charles walked her down the aisle. The British Royal Family has officially taken the stick out of its arse and joined the 21st Century. What a time to be alive. I hope somewhere the late Princess Diana is smiling at the fruits of her own progressive battles with convention and tolerance. Cheers to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Meanwhile over here in the United States of America, President Trump referred to undocumented immigrants as ‘animals’ during a Wednesday meeting at the White House. And since we already know that POTUS doesn’t care for pets and finds those that adopt them to be ‘low class,’ we can assume the name calling wasn’t misspoken affection.

The chasm between the national values and morals of the Land of the Free versus the Motherland has seldom felt wider. Time was, say during the Boston Tea Party days of 1773, we could creditably argue occupation of the scrupled high ground. Leaving aside the conditions of native people, women and men of color (which pretty much everyone did in 1773), the white male British subjects in the New World felt a superiority to those across the Atlantic. That belief was grounded in something more than delusion.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Suddenly Last Summer

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Raven Theatre’s ‘Suddenly Last Summer.’ (Photo: Michael Brosilow)

 

“The simmering hate between the work’s characters is white hot as well. Press materials accurately describe the plot as structured around the mercurial  (and possibly Oedipal) Violet (Mary K. Nigohosian). The dowager ‘has summoned a brain surgeon to her home. Her niece Catherine (Grayson Heyl) has been crazed and traumatized since witnessing the horrifyingly violent death of Violet’s son… unwilling to accept other facts about her son’s life, Mrs. Venable pursues extraordinary measures to keep Catherine silent.’

Of course, because this is a Tennessee Williams script, someone is in the closet and there’s also a plentiful portion of colonial racism. When people of color are not relegated to the periphery, as is the case with Miss Foxhill (played by understudy Song Marshall on opening night), they are forthrightly othered, evidenced in painful detail by Catherine’s story of her never-seen cousin Sebastian’s final days in Spain. At the apex of this moment of sociopolitical resistance, we’ve grown all-too-familiar with uncomfortable tensions between meaningful art, the artist and the cultural period in which he or she created.

So perhaps it’s appropriate that the interpersonal dynamics between Violet, Catherine, and the professionals and family members who spin in their orbit, induce another kind of queasiness. One thing we can say for Tennessee Williams, he liked to dive deeply into the caverns of human experience. It’s the spirit in which Suddenly Last Summer was intended and the talented cast turns in uniformly terrific work.”

Read the full post at The Broadway Blog.

Hey Incels! My Name is Becky and I’m Proud to be Your Enemy

Incels

“Then ‘Becky’ moved from big butts and marriage wrecking into the fight for social justice. For the last two years, I’ve come across social media posts from people of all races and genders calling out the ‘Beckys’ who make life harder for other women and people of color. Pals are usually careful to add an editorial comment absolving me of categorization – ‘of course not YOU Becky Sarwate.’ But seeing the name by which I’m known continually and casually conflated with toxic female whiteness does occasionally sting. It’s ironic that a woman who strives to develop herself as an ally to all, is undercut by the noxious brand associated with her moniker.

However the English language is nothing if not living and fluid. Very recently I became aware of another application of my name to stereotype. Only this time, instead of resignation or revulsion, I welcome the association with proud and open arms. I relish the combative occasions that the misappropriation affords. This Becky feels redeemed.

In April the incel community foisted itself upon mass cultural consciousness when one of its terrorists mowed down 10 pedestrians in Toronto with a van. Heretofore, the community of ‘involuntarily celibate’ men who share a mutual hatred of women largely kept to the Internet fringes where they belong.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.