The first baseball sighting was on the tube the other night. The Yankee network YES had the brilliant idea of showing a game last summer with Masahiro Tanaka facing the Tokyo Giants.
American broadcasters, aware of Japanese subtleties, were calling the game, pitch-by-pitch.
In real time, Tanaka was chartering a jet to get to New York.
My reaction to watching him pitch in the Tokyo Dome -- against those classic orange-and-black-trimmed Giants uniforms -- was that Tanaka was poised, and had a variety of pitches, but not a lot of power.
Will he be able to find the extra 5 mph he will need in MLB? Not evident from the few innings I saw. That's the Yankees' problem.
More important, I saw baseball being committed. Saw a dandy over-the-shoulder basket catch by a second baseman. And I saw a Giants pitcher wince when he did not get a third strike call from the umpire. Sure enough, he fell apart, started to groove the ball, and gave up four runs. Baseball in mid-season form, with all its human imperfections.
I did have one flashback. Playing for Rakuten was Kazuo Matsui, now 38 -- the other Matsui, as he is known in Queens. He is still the only major-league player to lead off three straight seasons with a home run, but Mets fans celebrated when he went to Colorado early in 2006. The Yankees kept their Matsui, much longer.
Now the Yankees have Tanaka and the Mets have Matsuzaka.
Meantime, my high-school pal Thor Larsen visited Scottsdale the other day and took a photo of the stadium, just waiting for
pitchers and catchers. Stay warm.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.