It takes four games to get to know players. There is no evil empire in this World Series, no strutting WWF bad guys like Bonds or A-Rod or Clemens. Maybe that’s why the television ratings are down.
The World Series is sometimes an acquired taste unless one of the teams is familiar. But four games are enough to appreciate players, and to understand why they are in the World Series, and perhaps to even wish your home team – now scattered to the winds, never to convene in quite the same form again – had them.
I really did not know Joe Panik or Salvador Perez before this season. Blame the World Cup last summer, or western time zones, or my time perhaps ill-spent watching the tiny cluster of young talent on the earnest little Mets.
Now I can see why the Giants and the Royals were tied, 2-2, going into Sunday evening’s fifth game, the all-important fifth game. (Seems to me that the broadcasters have had each of the first four games as pivotal, also.)
Panik has been a revelation, three years out of St. John’s University, and possessing the fundamentals like bunting and making contact and throwing to the right base. Harold Reynolds, who has become a very astute TV color man, critiques Panik’s play at his old position, second base – how the kid takes grounders on the grass during practice in anticipation of a defensive shift into short right field.
So many players lack fundamentals these days. Perez, the catcher for the Royals, moves so fluidly, loves to throw, and seems to know his options before the ball goes into play.
Good players on good teams, and now the Series has gone on for a while. A fan can anticipate, or second-guess, the moves by the managers. Bruce Bochy makes sure he plays his Yusmeiro Petit card in the middle innings; Ned Yost stocks up his bullpen for the final three innings, but the game got away earlier on Saturday night.
Four games is time to appreciate the smile of Eric Hosmer at first base, the intense features of Hunter Pence. With that Dickensian name, Pence could be a madcap stagecoach driver pushing his horses to get to London before dark.
It’s become a good Series. Maybe it will go seven. Too bad kids aren't watching the World Series. I blame Major League Baseball for staging games at night for decades. Then again, kids don't read newspapers, either.
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.