Your Weekend Reader for Feb. 18-19

by | Feb 18, 2023 | Weekend Reader | 1 comment

I’m not the first person to note that among the four most beautiful words in the English language are these: “Pitchers and catchers report.”

So, with Oregon State University baseball starting its season, and spring training firing up for Major League Baseball, I was happy to notice a couple of stories this week from The Athletic:

First, here’s a story from The Athletic in which writer Jim Bowden ranks the best 45 catchers in Major League Baseball. No. 2 on Bowden’s list: Former OSU great Adley Rutschman, now with the Baltimore Orioles. Rutschman is coming off a sensational rookie season. “I’m convinced he’ll be the best overall catcher of his generation and the face of the Orioles for the next decade,” Bowden wrote. (No. 1 on his list: J.T. Realmuto, a big reason why the Phillies won the National League pennant last year.) By the way, Bowden’s piece does a terrific job explaining why being a catcher is the toughest job on the field.  

One of the intriguing things about the new baseball season is a series of rule changes mostly intended to speed the game up, including a pitch clock designed to shorten the amount of time between pitches (and also to force batters to get into the box quicker, eliminating that endless bit of business in which a hitter has to readjust every single piece of his uniform). One of the new rules bans the so-called shift, in which fielders essentially can position themselves anywhere on the field depending on where hitters like to put balls in play. The Athletic’s excellent Jayson Stark goes deep to show how the rule changes will — and won’t — change the game. (Athletic stories are available only to subscribers. Even though The Athletic is owned now by The New York Times, I can’t offer “gift” links to certain stories the way I can with Times stories — but I can offer up to five 30-day “guest passes” to The Athletic. If you’re interested, leave a comment below.)

Speaking of baseball, I’ve been invited to join a fantasy baseball league this year. I’ve never played fantasy sports, but I’m thinking I’ll accept this offer. I’m thinking of calling my team the Corvallis Virtue Signalers, but I would accept other suggestions as well in the comments below.

One more note from the world of sports: After last week’s Weekend Reader brought you up to date on the Pac-12 Conference’s efforts to secure a new media-rights deal, the conference released this statement on Monday: “The 10 Pac-12 universities look forward to consummating successful media rights deal(s) in the very near future. Based upon positive conversations with multiple potential media rights partners over the past weeks, we remain highly confident in our future growth and success as a conference and united in our commitment to one another.” Of course, that all depends on how you define “very near future.” We know it’s more than six days, because as the weekend arrived, there was no news about a Pac-12 deal.

Speaking of The New York Times, Kirk Johnson (who covers the western U.S. for the Times) has an outstanding piece this weekend about the Coast Guard’s Surfman Course, one of the most challenging water-rescue courses in the world. Part of the reason why it’s so challenging is its location: the Columbia River Bar. The Coast Guard runs the class in the late fall and winter, because that’s when the water is most treacherous. Ruth Fremson’s photographs add immeasurably to Johnson’s story. (I can send you a “gift” link to this story, if you’re interested.)

There was news this week from Lee Enterprises: Axios is reporting that Lee is telling some employees they’ll have to take mandatory two-week unpaid furloughs or a cut in salary. It’s not clear whether the mandate applies to the Gazette-Times/Democrat-Herald, which is owned by Lee. It’s the latest cost-cutting move by Lee, which has aggressively been laying off employees since Alden Global Capital called off its takeover bid. Alden, as you know, has a reputation for buying newspapers and then making rapacious cuts in their newsrooms. But now some Lee employees are wondering if any real difference remains between Alden and Lee.

Here’s an update from the Oregon Capital Chronicle about the Legislature’s work to date on housing initiatives. The Legislature does seem to be tackling this issue with some urgency, and efforts thus far have focused on providing more time before evictions, more money for factory-built homes and new revolving loans to encourage building houses for middle-income families.

A couple of stories from High Country News caught my attention this week: First, we in the West spend a lot of time talking about restoring land that’s been affected by some catastrophe — fire, mudslide, drought, you name it. But we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the necessary ingredients for that restoration, and one of the critical tools for reseeding is (as you might expect) seeds. But a new report suggests that there aren’t enough seeds to go around.

Also from the High Country News is this story examining what we know about whether forest thinning helps prevent wildfires. The consensus among forest scientists is, yes, but the answer is a little more complicated than that. Still, as writer Emily Shepherd notes, thinning is the target of “prolific misinformation,” and her article helps to set the record straight.

This story is a little old — it ran on Sunday in The New York Times — but it’s still interesting, especially for a U.S. Supreme Court geek like me: A pair of law clerks assess the records thus far of the three Trump appointees to the court. The judges are conservative, to be sure, but intriguing differences between the three are starting to emerge. One area where they seem to be united so far is in ruling against Trump in cases involving the former president. To paraphrase Justice Kavanaugh: See? It’s not all bad.

I had hoped to end this edition of the Weekend Reader on a positive note — a little lighter reading, if you will — but instead stumbled across this new piece from The Atlantic: The continued worries over bird flu, which now appears to be spilling over into mammals, highlight a growing existential debate among scientists: What’s the greater threat — disease, or the work in laboratories that seeks to find ways to treat disease? Jacob Stern does a nice job of examining the debate in this story.

But, hey, on the bright side, spring training is underway.

That’s it for this week. See you next weekend.

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