Deeply weird article by Malcolm Gladwell about his plan to save high school sports, which he sees as breaking down under the pressure of premature specialization and elitism.
To the extent that we cater to the 90th percentile, we make a sport psychologically forbidding to the 50th percentile. I mean, if your high school has four tennis players who have been honing their topspin forehands and kick-serves for 10 years, why would someone who grew up playing with their siblings on public courts on the weekends want to try out for the team?
Well, CJ plays high school tennis. He plays junior varsity. He didn’t have to try out. There are elite players on his team, including the fourth-best player in Wisconsin. So why does he play?
Hold that thought. Gladwell makes a similar point about the sport he himself competes in, cross country.
If you were a mediocre runner, would you go out for the Corning cross country team? I doubt it. You couldn’t keep up in practice. And you wouldn’t matter. Corning sent eight runners to the state championships, and its eighth-place finisher, a young man named Ryan, was over 2 minutes slower than its best runner. Was anyone even watching when Ryan crossed the line? A sport that focuses its reward structure entirely on the top five finishers limits attention to those top five finishers. By the time Ryan came across the line, the championship was already decided.
But by this point in the article, Gladwell has already explained why you’d go out for the cross country team!
I won’t belabor the obvious about cross country. It is insanely fun. Races take place during the glory days of fall. The courses are typically in beautiful parts of the country. Cross country meets don’t feel like sporting events; they feel like outdoor festivals—except everyone is fit, as opposed to high. Everyone should be so lucky as to run cross country.
But for Gladwell, this is somehow not enough. You have to matter. But why? Mattering is overrated. Kids play sports because sports, as Gladwell says, are fun to play. CJ’s games don’t matter to whether his high school wins the state championship. But they matter to him! The coaches make an effort to match players against kids from the opposing team with roughly similar skill and that leads to good games, games you care about while you’re playing them.
Gladwell proposes a weird Rawlsian scheme where your cross country team’s performance is heavily dependent on how well your slowest runners do. OK, you could do that, and then it would all come down to Ryan. But is that what Ryan wants? I don’t think CJ wishes the varsity team’s fortunes depended on whether he could land the jump serve he’s just starting to learn. That sounds incredibly stressful. I think it’s fine not to matter, and if we teach kids there’s no point in playing unless you’re part of the final score, we’re teaching them something kind of bad about sports.
Back from an east coast swing with the kids. We took the train up from my parents’ place in Philadelphia Friday morning, came back Saturday night; in that time we went to five museums (Natural History, Met, NYPL, MoMA, International Center of Photography) — ate belly lox at Zabar’s, pastrami at Katz’s, dumplings in Chinatown, Georgian food (Tbilisi not Atlanta) on the Upper West Side, and Junior’s cheesecake for breakfast — and saw three old friends. Oh and CJ took a college tour. My iPhone’s step counter registered 30,000 steps the first day (my all-time record!) and 20,000 the second day. We’re getting good at doing things fast!
I don’t doubt New York has been changed by the pandemic but the changes aren’t visible when you’re just walking around as a tourist on the street. Everything’s crowded and aive.
I was worried we’d have conflict about how much time to spend in art museums but both kids like the Canonical Moderns Of Painting right now so it worked out well. AB was very into Fernand Leger and was aggrieved they didn’t have any Leger postcards at the giftshop but I explained to her that it’s much cooler to be into the artists who aren’t the ones that get postcards at the giftshop. She thinks Jackson Pollock is a fraud and don’t even get her started on Barnett Newman.
I took the kids to McNally Jackson and to the flagship North American MUJI (where I bought a new yak sweater, there is just no sweater like a MUJI yak sweater.) CJ went in the NBA store and complained they didn’t have enough Bucks gear. We went in a fancy stationery store where the very cute little desk clock we saw turned out to cost $172. We walked through the new Essex Market in the Lower East Side which is like Reading Terminal Market if everything were brand new. Michelle Shih took us to Economy Candy, which has been there forever and which I’d never heard of. I bought a Bar None, a candy bar I remember really liking in the 90s and which I haven’t seen in years. Turns out it was discontinued in 1997 but has been resuscitated by a company whose entire business is bringing back candy bars people fondly remember. There was a huge traffic snarl caused by someone blocking the box so my kids got to see an actual New York guy lean halfway out of his car and yell “YO!” (Then he yelled some other words.) We were so full from the pastrami that we couldn’t eat all the pickles. I brought them all the way home to Madison and just ate them. I ❤️ NY.
CJ passed the written part of the driving exam on Friday and started driving with me this weekend. He’s a natural, I think. Or maybe the human-machine interface of an automobile is by now so fully perfected that everyone’s a natural? But you’d think that would be true of a bicycle, too, a vehicle he was not, I can tell you, a natural at operating.
Anyway: he really doesn’t find it hard. After maybe four hours in the car he can already navigate the small streets of our neighborhood without doing anything that makes my knuckles or bladder clench. As for me, I’m reflecting on how hard it is to explain how to do something you yourself know very deeply how to do, and have known very deeply how to do for a long time. There’s a lesson here for math teaching.
The skill that seems most challenging is turning. I wouldn’t have expected this. To execute a turn not too broadly and not too sharply, leaving you parallel to the curb at the same time you’re exactly where you want to be in the lane, seems not to be as intuitive as everything else. Maybe there’s still room for improvement in the human-machine interface!
Anyway, it’s fun. It’s always fun to watch your kids get better at things.
I turned 50 and, as I had long planned, I set foot in my 50th state, North Dakota, on my 50th birthday. It’s not far from Madison to Fargo, about 7 and a half hours drive, but I was a little intimidated; it’s been a long time since I drove more than four hours in a day, and I had questions about my 2001 Forester, which went from Madison to California and back in its youth but which is now, by some measures, an old car. But I needn’t have worried! Driving long distances, when you have the company of one of your kids, is not so bad. We listened to a lot of podcasts about the new MacBook Pro.
The first day, we didn’t see much; by the time CJ got home from school and we were ready to go, it was almost 4, so we drove through the familiar landscape of western Wisconsin, stopping for Culver’s in the suburban outskirts of Eau Claire, and stopped for the night at a Hampton Inn in Brooklyn Park. (Thanks to Hotel Tonight, the perfect app for road tripping, which allows you to easily book a cheap same-night hotel room when you feel you’ve got about two hours of driving left in you.) Nobody is wearing masks in Brooklyn Park, even though it’s in greater Minneapolis, not the hotel clerk, not the people in the gas station convenience store, nobody. It’s something you notice if you’re used to Madison (and we wore ours inside, without anybody looking at us funny.) The next morning, my birthday morning, we set out into western Minnesota, as the forests started to peter out into prairie. This part of I-94 is the land of pretty lakes, like Lake Osakis (the “sak” here is the same as “Sauk”)
and of unexpected roadside attractions
perhaps most notably the world’s largest prairie chicken, in Rothsay, MN.
All these pictures are by CJ, by the way. He has taken up photography. We got him a camera, an actual camera, which it turns out they still make, on the repeated promise that he would actually use it, and he’s lived up to that. He knows what all the buttons do. More importantly, I think he has a real sense for how things should look in an image. Well, you be the judge. It takes a tough man to shoot a prairie chicken.
We roll across the Red River into Fargo around 1:00. I’m now a fifty-stater, I’ve known for a while it was within reach; two cross country trips with Prof. Dr. Mrs. Q and family trips to Hawaii and Alaska got most of the hard stuff done. Then Jennifer Johnson-Leung of the University of Idaho invited me to give a seminar in Moscow and suddenly I was at 49.
It turns out I’m not the only person to leave North Dakota for last. It’s such a common thing that there’s a club for it. I’m now a member:
Large parts of Fargo look like any other low-density Midwestern sprawlville but there’s an old turn-of-the-century downtown that gives you some sense of what the place was like when it was old and rich. (It reminded me a little bit of J. Anthony Lukas’s book Big Trouble, about what was going on in Idaho — big trouble, in case you didn’t guess — around the time Fargo was being built.) There’s a building with “Kopelman’s” engraved across the top. Really? One of us, in Fargo? Really. The building now houses North Dakota’s only abortion provider. A few years ago they found that the mikveh was still there in the basement, under a concrete slab.
We had lunch with an old Ph.D. student of mine, Rohit Nagpal, with his wife, who’s a doctor there, and their extremely enjoyable two-year-old. The lunch place, BernBaum’s, is a Scandinavian-Jewish fusion deli, and it is good. Not “I’m surprised a place in a small-to-medium city in North Dakota is this good” good — good good. Why don’t Jews put lingonberries on our blintzes? Because we never knew about them, is the only explanation.
We went across the river to Moorhead, MN to see the Hjemkomst Center. So it seems that Norwegian-Americans sometimes become obsessed and build replicas of old Norwegian things. A Moorhead guidance counselor named Robert Asp built an exact replica of a wooden Viking ship. After his death, his kids sailed it from Minnesota to Norway and back. Now it’s in a museum:
A different Norwegian-American, Guy Paulson, built an exact replica of a 12th century wooden church that stands on the southern shore of the Sognefjorden.
OK, not exact; for it to meet US code he had to use nails. “But it would stand up without them,” the guide assures us. Norwegian wooden faces are thick with feeling.
We cross the river and eat schnitzel and spaetzle at a bar where everyone is watching the North Dakota State Bison demolish Indiana State, 44-2, at the FargoDome. Then it’s time to leave Fargo, because we don’t want to have the full distance to drive the last day. The sun goes down over western Minnesota
People on the internet are saying there’s a chance of seeing the Northern Lights, so we parked on the side of a dirt road in a corn field far away from any light and with an unobstructed northern view, and we stood out there freezing for a long time until it was completely dark, but the promised borealic peak never came. CJ got some good Milky Way pictures, at any rate. And we still made it back to the Twin Cities outskirts to sleep.
Sunday morning we went into downtown Minneapolis. CJ wanted to take pictures. We went up to the top of the Foshay Tower, which I’d never heard of.
Foshay was a Minneapolis industrialist who built this huge art deco obeliskical office building in the middle of town, only to lose his shirt in the crash three months after the grand opening. He was eventually convicted of wire fraud (though not before escaping his first trial with a mistrial, the one holdout juror being, it turned out, the wife of one of Foshay’s business associates, undisclosed.) But he remained a popular figure in town and it seems like his full pardon by Truman in 1947 was celebrated rather than questioned.
CJ wanted to see the new football stadium. Really? But guess what, it’s a beaut and I’m glad we walked around it
He got a picture with no people but in fact, even at 10 in the morning, central Minneapolis was already thick with Cowboys fans in full Cowboys paint, gearing up for that night’s game. We walked across the stone arch bridge, picked up some antelope tacos, sweet potatoes, and bison bowls at Owamni, and then drove down to Minnehaha Park because CJ loves taking waterfall pictures.
From there it was a straight drive home, because CJ had Halloween plans with his friends. We listened to Taylor Swift all the way. CJ is a sophomore in high school and when I was that age I was just starting to have Opinions about Records. I didn’t know that CJ had Opinions about Records, but it turns out he does — not vaguely “notice that I am alternative” stuff like the R.E.M. albums I was opining about at 16, but about Taylor Swift. I try to hold back my tendencies to want my kids to value exactly the same things that I do, but I cannot lie, it warms me that CJ has Opinions about Records. I learned a lot about Swift’s progression as a writer and I was even able to sneak in some older songs (“Fire and Rain,” “Linger”) that I felt helped situate Swift within a tradition. Anyway, I kind of knew Taylor Swift was great but I gained new appreciation for a lot of the non-singles, like “Getaway Car.”
We made it back to Madison in time for CJ to meet his friends and for me to greet some of the masses of kids walking for candy; after a year of distanced trick-or-treating, there was a lot of pent-up demand.
Like a lot of people I’m watching WandaVision, the latest Marvel show. CJ is an MCU fanatic and this show, well-acted, imaginatively shot, and legible without extreme knowledge of Marvel lore, is a good one for us to watch together.
It has settled, on the surface, into being a more “normal” MCU show after doing a lot of really interesting stuff in the first half of the season. But weirdness remains, under the surface. For example (and now the rest of this is spoilers) — the scene where Wanda magically blasts a new rendition of her dead husband Vision out of her own abdomen is clearly shot as a childbirth scene, which makes Vision both her son and her husband, so the whole thing has suddenly taken on a Freudian cast which I don’t think is from the comics. And this explains the shock of the old expert witch Agatha Harkness, who tells Wanda she’s something that isn’t supposed to exist; she is “chaos magic,” a witch with the power to spontaneously create. Witches, traditionally, are supposed to be infertile, but Wanda is not. (This is complicated, I guess, by the fact that Harkness herself apparently has a son in comics continuity but she’s presented as married and childless here.)
Isn’t the Mind Stone placed in the middle of Vision’s forehead a little like a third eye? And isn’t death by getting that eye ripped out kind of Vision’s thing?
I know, I know, sometimes a synthezoid is just a synthezoid.
This is just to record what a Saturday during what we hope are the late stages of the pandemic looks like here.
Slept well but had complicated dreams; the only part I remember is that I ran into Mike Sonnenschein in Pittsburgh while eating a gigantic meatball I’d bought at a hipster bookstore, and he invited me over, but when I got there, it wasn’t Mike’s house anymore, it was Craig Westerland’s. Akshay Venkatesh was there too. We were going to work on something but nobody really knew how to start and Craig and Akshay were absently flipping through their phones. The thing was, Craig had a tiger for a pet and the tiger got out of its cage and seemed really threatening. It was a bad scene.
A cold wave from the arctic settled in here overnight and it was 7 Fahrenheit this morning. AB and I made French toast with the challah that was left over from last night and watched Kids Baking Challenge on Netflix. Then I had to go out into it and scrape the car, remembering, as I do every time I scrape the car, that I broke the head off the scraper so I have to use the jagged plastic edge of what used to be the head, which works well at breaking up the big chunks of ice but is pretty bad at getting the window fully clean. I’ve lived here long enough to not find 7 Fahrenheit that bad, for the fifteen minutes it takes to scrape off the car. I wore the voluminous sweater that’s so ugly I wear it only on the coldest days. I’m not even sure it’s that warm, but psychologically the body feels it wouldn’t be clad in such an ugly sweater unless the sweater was warm, and that creates the right sensation.
Quiet afternoon. CJ had a mock trial competition against teams from Oregon and Brookfield. AB and I worked on some fractions homework. I posted an early-term course questionnaire for the real analysis course I’m teaching for the first time in my life, and I went through another 50 pages of page proofs of Shape. How there can still be so many typos and small verbal infelicities, after I and others have gone over it so many times, I don’t really know. And there will still be some I miss, and which will appear on paper in thousands of printed books. I wrote a math email to Aaron Landesman, about something related to my work with Westerland and Venkatesh (no tigers.) In honor of Dr. Mrs. Q’s half-birthday we got takeout from Graze for dinner. They had the patty melt special, which I’ve only seen there once before, and which is superb, certainly the best patty melt in the city. I got it with Impossible since we don’t eat milk and meat together in the house.
After dinner, we did what we’ve been doing a lot of weekends, play online games at Jackbox with my sister’s family and my parents. Then we all retreated into our zones. AB is doing some homework. CJ is talking to friends on the phone. I washed dishes while I watched a movie, Fort Tilden, about people being out in the city, in the summer, coming in and out of contact with other people. It was funny.
I’m going to put AB to bed and then think, just a little bit, about a cohomology group whose contribution I don’t understand.
When I was younger I cared about sports a lot. If the Orioles lost a big game — especially to the hated Yankees — it ruined my day, or more than one day. I remember when Dr. Mrs. Q. first found out about this she thought I was kidding; it made no sense to her that somebody could actually care enough to let it turn your whole ship of mood.
CJ is different. It has been an emotionally complicated last few years for Wisconsin sports fans, with all the local teams being good, really good, but never good enough to win the title. The Badgers losing the NCAA final to (the hated) Duke. The Brewers getting rolled out of the NLCS by the Dodgers. Of course, the Bucks, the team with the best record in the league and the two-time MVP, getting knocked out of the playoffs. And today, the 14-3 Packers losing the NFC championship to the Buccaneers. And I gotta say — CJ, while watching a game, is as intensely into his team as I have ever been. But after it’s over? It’s over. He doesn’t stew. I don’t know where he got this equanimity. Not from me, maybe from Dr. Mrs. Q. But I think I’m starting to get it from him. Maybe it just comes with age — or maybe I’m actually learning something.
I went to Trader Joe’s this morning. It was an extremely pleasant oasis of normality. Everything was as it always is, except for the guy standing out front apparently doing nothing but who I guessed was there to control inflow in case the store got too crowded. (Verified by a friend who was at the store early this afternoon, by which point the guy was only letting someone in when someone else came out.) When I was there, the shoppers were somewhat sparse, but even so there was a kind of awkward impromptu ballet of people trying to imitate repelling particles as best they could. My friends in New York are saying the grocery stores are out of flour, eggs, milk, meat, and pasta, but here everything is stocked as normal. I filled my cart really high, not because I’m hoarding (we have enough shelf-stable starch and cans and root vegetables to last us a while, we’re fine) but because I now know that when all four of us, one of them a hungry teenager who’s now taller than I am, are eating three meals a day in the house, we actually consume a lot more food than I usually buy.
I didn’t wear a mask to the store — but why didn’t I? Everyone is saying that you are probably not going to get COVID from touching contaminated surfaces, as long as you are good about handwashing. They think the spread is really person to person — he coughs on you, you cough on me. Wrapping a scarf around the lower part of your face isn’t an N95 mask (remember when I didn’t know what an N95 mask was?) but any form of barrier has to block some reasonable portion of whatever droplet cloud a person coughs out, right? And that’s the game, to block a reasonable proportion of transmissions, to get that exponential constant down below 1. A few people in the store were wearing masks, maybe 1 in 20.
All the talk in the store was about the rumor that Governor Evers was signing a statewide shelter-in-place order, and when I got home I found out it was true. (Despite reassuring information about surfaces, I am trying not to take my phone out when I’m out in the world, to avoid potentially contaminating it.) Ours isn’t called “shelter in place,” it’s called “safer at home,” which I guess is meant to sound softer. What this is going to mean, I think, is that a lot of workplaces which are currently operating are going to stop. And that maybe I should have planned more state park walks with the kids last week because now it’s forbidden.
CJ’s middle school friends have a film club; they watch a movie and then discuss it for two hours the next day on FaceTime. He’s watching Guardians of the Galaxy right now. Last night we made Cincinnati chili, which I’ve never done before. Boiling the meat has always sounded gross to me but it really does make for a meaty-but-not-greasy chili. One small upside: I am making things you have to simmer for an hour, something I rarely do when I have to start dinner after I get home from work.
All in all, starting from the baseline that the news is very bad, the news is not bad. In Italy, which has been in hard lockdown for what, a week? the rate of new cases is starting to decline. (The mathematician Luca Trevisan is in northern Italy and his blog is a very good snapshot of what it’s like to be in the middle of the outbreak there.) China, after two months of lockdown and quite a long spell without major new infections, is starting to loosen up; what happens next seems pretty important. A big new wave of infection or have they really beaten it?
Saw this with CJ. Good movie. If you’re wondering, can you see this with your adolescent, definitely yes. If you’re wondering, will my adolescent have a deep conversation with me afterwards about the challenges of growing up, well, that’s not really CJ’s style but good luck with it!
My favorite thing about Eighth Grade is the way it captures the adolescent challenge seeing other human beings as actual people, like oneself, with their own interior lives. Other people, for Kayla, are still mostly instruments, things to do something with, or things from which to get a response. Or maybe she’s just at the moment of learning that other people are not just that? Very good the way she records Olivia’s name in her phone as “Olivia High School” — other people are roles, they fit in slots — the crush, the shadow, the rival. Olivia, older, engages with Kayla’s real self in a way that Kayla isn’t yet ready to reciprocate.
But why did she have to say at the end that high school was going to be cool, except math? Come on, teen movie, be better.
I’ve lived in Madison for 13 years and this is the first time I’ve noticed anybody caring about the Milwaukee Bucks. It’s definitely the first time I’ve cared about the Milwaukee Bucks. But now the Bucks have a legitimate superstar in Giannis Antetokoumnpo and a likeable cast of supporting characters like 19-year-old former refugee and skinny blockmaster Thon Maker. The kids had a rare unscheduled day on Sunday and the Bucks were in the playoffs against the Celtics and there were nosebleed tickets on Stubhub for $40 apiece so why not?
You may know that I kind of hate driving so if I’m gonna drive all the way to Milwaukee it’s got to be for more than a Bucks game. When I thought about what the kids would really want to do it was pretty clear — see the Brewers, stay over, then see the Bucks. So that’s what we did!
Notes on the Brewers:
I got lost in the impossible off-ramp spaghetti surrounding Miller Park and we ended up not getting into the ballpark until the second inning. The Brewers were already down 4-0. 4-0! To the sad Miami Marlins, the team Derek Jeter is using as a tax dodge, the team so bad Marlins Man cancelled his season tickets!
But as soon as we sat down, Travis Shaw muscled a huge home run to left center. Didn’t even look like he got all of it, he kind of sliced it. But Travis Shaw is a big strong man.
Brewers just keep creeping back. Crowd stays in the game, at no point do you really feel the Brewers are out of it. Three straight Brewers hit what look like go-ahead home runs but each dies at the wall. (Ryan Braun at least gets a sacrifice fly out of it.) In the 8th, Derek Dietrich loses an Eric Sogard fly ball in the, I dunno, the lights? The roof? He plays for the Marlins and he just doesn’t care? Anyway the ball plunked down right next to him, Shaw hustles in from second to tie it, Eric Thames, who starts the play on first, tries to get in behind with the go-ahead run but is tagged out at or rather substantially before the plate because Eric Thames made a bad decision.
Josh Hader looks like he should be playing bass in Styx.
Then comes the bottom of the 9th and the play you might have read about. Still tied 5-5. Jesus Aguilar, who’s already warmed up twice in the on-deck circle, finally gets his chance to pinch-hit against Junichi Tazawa. Gets behind 0-2. And then just starts fouling, fouling, fouling. Takes a few pitches here and there. Full count. Foul, foul, foul. And on the 13th pitch, Aguilar launches it to center field. I thought it was gonna be one more death on the warning track. But nope; ball gets out, game over, fireworks. I felt like my kids got to see true baseball.
On to Milwaukee. Bucks play the Celtics at noon, in what, if they lose, could be the last ever game played at Bradley Center. (This is a bit of a sore point for UW folks, who absorbed as a budget cut the $250m state contribution to the arena’s cost.) We have breakfast at the hotel and chat with a nice older couple in Packers/Celtics gear — what? — who turn out to be Boston forward Al Horford’s aunt and uncle from Green Bay.
This is only the third NBA game I’ve been to, CJ’s second, AB’s first. We wander around inside the arena for a bit. Two separate groups of Bucks cheerleaders come up to AB and applaud her curly hair. I think people are especially struck by it when they see us together, because I don’t have curly hair, except here’s a little-known fact: I do have curly hair! I just keep it short so it doesn’t curl. In 1995 or so it looked like this:
Anyway. The atmosphere, as I have promised AB, is more intense than baseball. Bucks build up a 19-point lead and seem poised to coast but the Celtics come back, and back, and back, and finally go ahead with 52 seconds left. Jaylen Brown plainly capable of taking over a game. Aron Baynes has a very dumb-looking haircut. Milwaukee’s Thon Maker is ridiculously skinny and has very long arms. He’s just 21, a former refugee from South Sudan. We saw his first game as a Buck, an exhibition against the Mavericks at Kohl Center. Those long skinny arms can block a shot.
Game tied at 102, 5 seconds left, Malcom Brogdon (called “The President” — why?) misses a layup, and there, rising like a Greek column above the scene, is the Greek arm of Giannis Antetokounmpo — the tip-in is good, Celtics miss the desperation last shot, Bucks win 104-102, crowd goes berserk.
I was going to blog about this last week but got busy so let’s throw in more sports. Bucks eventually lose this series in 7, home team winning every game a la Twins-Braves 1991. The next Friday, I’m giving a talk at Maryland, and the Orioles are playing that night. It’s been five years since I’ve seen OPACY. I brought CJ along this time, too. The Orioles are not in a good way; they’ve won 6 and lost 19, though 3 of those 6 were against New York at least. Attendance at the game, on a beautiful Friday night, was just over 14,000. The last baseball game I went to that felt this empty and mellow was the AAA Tucson Toros, several months before they moved to El Paso and became the Chihuahuas. Chris Tillman, tonight’s starter, was the Orioles’ ace five years ago. Now he’s coming off a 1-7 season and has an ERA over 9.
So who would have thought he’d toss seven shutout innings and take a no-hitter into the fifth? Never looked overpowering but kept missing bats. His first win in almost a year. Manny Machado, surely now in his last year as an Oriole, strokes a home run to dead center to get things started. It’s a beautiful thing. It doesn’t even look like he’s working hard. It’s like he’s just saying “Out there. Out there is where this ball should be.” Pedro Alvarez homers twice, in exactly the opposite manner, smashing the ball with eye-popping force. Jace Peterson, who the Orioles picked up off the Yankees’ scrap heap, steals third on the shift when the Tigers third baseman forgets to pay attention to him. He did the same thing against the Rays the night before. I am already starting to love him the way I love Carlos Gomez. Maybe now the Orioles are going to go back to being a bad team that makes good use of players nobody else wants, like Melvin Mora and Rodrigo López.