PETA ranks the veg-friendly food at major league ballparks. And I tell a story.

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The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has released their annual list of the top-10 vegetarian friendly ballparks.  I was surprised to read that last year’s winner was Philadelphia which, as Old Gator likes to remind us, is known for cheesesteak sandwiches. But they’re number two now. The winner: San Francisco, which is much more in keeping with our predispositions.

Enjoy the list, but the real reason I’m posting this is to tell a story. I may have told it here before, but I can’t remember so you probably can’t either.  Anyway:

The last stop in my legal career was at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.  One of my jobs there was to defend lawsuits brought against the state arising out of stuff that went down on the Statehouse grounds.  Some of it was slip-and-fall cases, but the vast majority of the work involved helping the people who managed the Statehouse property approve (or not approve) petitions for people who wanted to march or protest.

Normally it was easy: they’d call, asking if they can keep some group off the capitol steps and I’d say “Nope, sorry. Gotta let ’em march.”  The First Amendment is so troublesome that way.  But heck, several years earlier the KKK got to rally there, and if you can’t keep them out, you can’t keep anyone out. Besides, the guy who ran that operation was a cranky old guy who didn’t like anyone protesting, so it was a lot of fun to tell him just how little say over the matter he had.

But then, in the summer of 2009, came PETA.  Who, though I disagree with their stance on the tastiness of animals, their suitability for my barbecue and the comfort of their skin when put on my comfortable Eames lounge chair, I do respect in an odd fashion.  They’ve got moxy and chutzpah and, though they’re occasionally (frequently) insane, they usually seem to have a good sense of humor about themselves. Which is essential when you’re wrong so often. Live and let live, I say (note: this motto may not apply to cattle, pigs, chickens and other things that I may want for dinner this evening).

That summer PETA wanted to stage a massive protest on the Statehouse lawn in which they would (a) place approximately 1000 buckets full of pig poop in neat rows; (b) place giant industrial-sized fans all around them in order to blow the stink all over downtown Columbus; (c) bring in giant amplifiers with which to project the sounds of pigs being slaughtered to a mutliple-block radius; and (d) erect giant video screens on which the horrors of factory farming would be displayed.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the guy who ran the Statehouse called me, somewhat upset over all of this.  And while I normally would just say “First Amendment, forget it” and go back to my clandestine baseball blogging, I felt that I needed to dig into this one a bit more.  So I did. And I learned that PETA had just recently tried to do the same protest in Washington and maybe in a few other states besides Ohio, but were denied everywhere else.  Indeed, it was my assumption — based on the fact that they hadn’t yet started suing everyone over it — that the protest was never really going to happen and that they just wanted the headlines that the state’s rejection of the application would provide.  Smart!

The whole thing fascinated me, really, so I decided that rather than simply send a letter saying no, I’d try to find a legitimate yet innocuous basis for denying their application, putting the ball back in their court rather than letting them use my state as an example of intolerance and authoritarianism for their next press release.

After an afternoon of research with a summer law clerk — who herself happened to be a vegan and former PETA member and who had quit the organization because this kind of nonsense bugged the heck out of her — we found some obscure 19th century law that dealt with the storing of offal within the city limits.  We didn’t think that offal and pig poop were the same thing, but we figured it would be fun to make the PETA lawyers research that one and explain it in their letter objecting to our decision or in the lawsuit if it came to that.  If they want to fight over the true nature of poop, by God, I’d fight that fight.

We sent the letter denying their right to rally on the Statehouse lawn.  I spent another four months at the AG’s office before coming to NBC full time. Never heard back from them, so even if it was just a phantom protest/publicity stunt, I’m still claiming that I’m 1-0 all-time vs. PETA.

Gosh, remembering that has me in a really good mood now. I think this evening I’m going to eat a really bloody steak in celebration.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.