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This Week in Freudenfreude: Batter Up!

Yesterday, as the baseball fans in the audience know, was opening day of the 2023 Major League Baseball season. In other words, we've reached the point on the calendar that the Cincinnati Reds, Oakland A's and Pittsburgh Pirates are eliminated from playoff contention. That said, the purpose of this item is not to make a snarky joke at the expense of small-market owners who have decided they'd rather make as much money as possible, competitiveness be damned. No, it's to talk about Andrew Toles, who has been a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization since 2015.

Toles is an outfielder; he has mostly played left field, but at times he was also asked to man center or right. He was actually drafted by Florida Marlins in 2010, but didn't sign. Then he was drafted again in 2012 by the Tampa Bay Rays, and spent a few years in their organization before being acquired by the Dodgers. After a year playing with the Dodgers' minor league teams (mostly Oklahoma City), he got the call to join the big league club.

As a player, Toles had several tools to recommend him. Someone who can play all three outfield positions passably is, pretty much by definition, speedy and endowed with a good throwing arm. He also has a bit of power, and a good batting eye. In his rookie campaign in 2016, he played 48 games and showed a lot of promise. He regressed in 2017, though, and made just 31 appearances, followed by even more regression and even fewer appearances (17) in 2018. That year marked the end of his playing career; he last set foot on a baseball field on Sept. 30, 2018, in a 15-0 win over the San Francisco Giants.

This is where the story gets very sad. Lots of major leaguers flame out, of course, and many of those don't even last as long as Toles did. Heck, there are lots of one-game-only major leaguers, perhaps most famously Moonlight Graham (a key character in the movie Field of Dreams). The sad part is why Toles' career ended. See, he turns out to be profoundly schizophrenic, and his mental health deteriorated badly over the last two seasons of his baseball career before utterly collapsing. Since that game against the Giants, he has spent most of his days homeless, and has been taken into custody by police more than once.

So why does this item make the cut for a political blog? Well, Toles is exactly the sort of person who tends to fall through the cracks given the United States' failure to guarantee healthcare for all. It's all good and well to say that people should work for their healthcare, and shouldn't freeload off of others. But Toles can't work for his healthcare, and while he's on the streets, he's a danger to himself and potentially to others.

But isn't this supposed to be a freudenfreude item? Yes, albeit one a bit darker than most. The positive element of this story was actually already revealed in the first paragraph, though you might have missed it. If you review, you will note that we write that Toles IS a member of the Dodgers organization, not that he WAS a member. See, every year the team signs Toles to a new contract, so he can maintain his (excellent) MLB health insurance, and his family can, at least when he's cooperative, get him the treatment he needs.

The Dodgers are famously one of the classiest organizations in baseball, and indeed in professional sports, and stories like this one help make clear why. Would 'twere everyone felt the way the Dodgers do, such that maneuvering like this would not be necessary. And with that thought, we wish everyone a good weekend. (Z)

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