business news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: April 30, 2020

    by Kevin Coupe

    This week, - an online bookseller whose goal is to offer financial support to independent bookstores by facilitating their e-commerce efforts - generated more than $1 million in sales - fare more, the Los Angeles Times writes, than the $100,000 it generated during its first month of operation.

    The sales bump appears to be related to the fact that publisher Simon & Schuster partnered with the bookseller to promote their efforts … at an opportune time since most if not all independent bookshops have been closed around the country because of pandemic-related restrictions.

    "[This milestone] means that we’re accomplishing our mission of being a real meaningful support for independent bookstores," said Andy Hunter, Bookshop’s founder and CEO, adding, "I expect Amazon will continue to sell more books than us for all eternity. We’re not trying to sell more books than them, but we are trying to get customers who care about their downtowns, their quality of life and the world that they want to live in to make a switch."

    I think it was smart for Simon & Schuster to get involved - after all, its business will be more stable if one retailer - like Amazon - dominates the landscape to the exclusion of all others.  (Perhaps there is a lesson here to be learned by suppliers to other retail segments that may not be supportive enough of smaller and independent retailers?  Just asking…)

    And I hope that it means something long-term that shoppers are seeing the value of patronizing their local booksellers, and are going through the website to do so.

    The Times writes that "Hunter acknowledges that Bookshop’s sales will drop when stores are able to reopen. 'We welcome that day,' he said. 'We don’t want to hold on to those sales. We want those sales to go back into the stores because that’s our reason for existing: to help those stores'."

    It'll be an Eye-Opener.

    Published on: April 30, 2020

    The New York Times reports this morning that "3.8 million more workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, and that’s probably an undercount.

    "The figures announced Thursday by the Labor Department bring the number of workers joining the official jobless ranks in the last six weeks to more than 30 million, and underscore just how dire economic conditions remain."

    The Times  notes that "a study by the Economic Policy Institute found that roughly 50 percent more people than counted as filing claims in a recent four-week period may have qualified for benefits but were stymied in applying or didn’t even try because they found the process too formidable."  

    Published on: April 30, 2020

    The Los Angeles Times has a piece suggesting that while major meat suppliers are publicly worrying that the food supply chain is "breaking" and could result in shortages arounds the country, in fact the real problem may be the industry consolidation that these same companies pursued.

    Companies like Tyson, JBS, Cargill and Smithfield, the story suggests, "have such a stranglehold on output that it leaves the supply chain with few remedies when even just a handful of plants are down. There have been about 12 closures at U.S. slaughter plants this month because of coronavirus outbreaks among employees who are jammed together on processing lines.

    "That’s wiped out roughly 25% of pork-processing capacity and 10% for beef — enough for analysts to say that the country was weeks away from shortfalls. Meat prices are already surging."

    While the Trump administration has invoked the Defense Production Act to mandate that meat processing plants remain open, Christopher Leonard, author of “The Meat Racket,” argues, "This is 100% a symptom of consolidation.  We don’t have a crisis of supply right now. We have a crisis in processing. And the virus is exposing the profound fragility that comes with this kind of consolidation."

    Here's the background, courtesy of the Times:

    "There’s a reason meat is so cheap in America compared with the rest of the world. A big part of that is the rapid consolidation that has allowed meatpackers to operate on huge economies of scale and run lines at lightning speeds that continue to increase.

    "The number of slaughtering plants has plummeted about 70% since 1967, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A huge chunk of that consolidation came in just the last few decades. In a 2019 report, Tyson lists an acquisition or a consolidation for almost every year of operation starting from 2001, though some of those deals were in packaged food and sometimes made outside the US …  in the coronavirus era, the vastness of these companies is a crucial point of vulnerability for the U.S. food supply.

    "Huge plants are responsible for processing thousands of animals per day. Employees are jammed into elbow-to-elbow processing lines. And low-paying jobs also mean workers face tough living conditions at home, where multiple families are sometimes sharing the same dwellings."

    In Europe, by way of comparison, "The top 15 companies account for less than a third of the European Union’s meat production, and the region has seen far fewer supply disruptions."

    The Times writes that "two U.S. senators are asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate consolidation in American meatpacking and processing for any anti-competitive behavior resulting from concentration. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said that the high concentration has 'undermined the stability of America’s meat supply and become an issue of national security,' according to a copy of the letter sent to the FTC on Wednesday and seen by Bloomberg."

    KC's View:

    In some ways, it sounds like the same old story, as the pursuit of efficiency becomes m ore important than a desire to be effective … and maybe a case where antitrust regulations have not been applied with enough rigor to certain industries.

    Also a case in which Americans not only don't know how their food is made, but also the actual costs of the food they are buying.  We may have "cheap meat," but do we really?

    America may be about to find out.

    Published on: April 30, 2020

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes (admittedly) gratuitous commentary…

    •  In the US, we now have 1,064,572 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, with 61,669 deaths and 147,411 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 3,232,532 coronavirus cases, 228,513 deaths and 1,008,029 reported recoveries.

    •  The Associated Press reports that "for the first time, a major study suggests that an experimental drug works against the new coronavirus, and U.S. government officials said Wednesday that they would work to make it available to appropriate patients as quickly as possible.

    "In a study of 1,063 patients sick enough to be hospitalized, Gilead Sciences’s remdesivir shortened the time to recovery by 31% — 11 days on average versus 15 days for those just given usual care, officials said. The drug also might be reducing deaths, although that’s not certain from the partial results revealed so far."

    “What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus,” the National Institutes of Health’s Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

    The FDA “has been engaged in sustained and ongoing discussions with Gilead Sciences regarding making remdesivir available to patients as quickly as possible, as appropriate,” said Michael Felberbaum, an agency spokesman, tells Bloomberg.

    •  The Wall Street Journal reports that "after weeks of shutdowns to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, several states started easing their restrictions on nonessential businesses last weekend, welcoming customers back and letting some employees return to work. Data from Georgia, Oklahoma and South Carolina show people came out in trickles rather than droves, but travel, clothes and entertainment topped the list.

    "While retail foot traffic is still much lower than last year at this time, the three states showed a slight uptick compared with recent weekends when the social-distancing orders were in place, according to location-based data from analytics firm Unacast."

    The Journal reports that "in the three states, about a million more people went to restaurants than the weekend before and about 70,000 more people went to entertainment venues like movie theaters, bowling alleys or sporting goods operations.  Around 90,000 more people went to nail salons, hair salons and barber shops."

    First of all, of course there was an uptick.  A week ago, everything was closed.  Second of all, this really isn't a surprise … everybody is fed up with being in a kind of lock-down and is anxious to get back to normal lives.  

    I hope with all my heart that these moves by some states to reopen will not result in a marked resurgence of the virus.  I hope that the people who are going back out into the world are cautious when doing so, wearing masks and practicing physical distancing when and where appropriate.  

    I also think we'll know more about how people are going to respond to reopenings when places like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles start to reopen their businesses.  We'll know more when Disney reopens its theme parks.  And, when those things happen, we'll know more about the degree to which the virus is opportunistic about the changes.

    The common thread here - we need to know more.  We just have to hope that, to paraphrase William Shakespeare in "The Merchant of Venice," that it won't go too hard, and that the virus will not better the instruction.

    •  From the Associated Press:

    "President Trump said Wednesday the federal government’s coronavirus social distancing guidelines will be 'fading out' when they expire Thursday, counting on states taking charge as they pivot to reopening.  The administration says the cautionary guidance issued 45 days ago has been incorporated into recommendations given to the states on how they can begin gradually easing restrictions and reopening their economies."

    •  Fox News reports that California Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to close all the state's beaches and state parks as of tomorrow.

    The move comes after people crowded some beaches last weekend as parts of the state endured a heat wave, challenging the state's efforts to enforce restrictions designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.  Newsom said the behavior was an example of "what not to do," and apparently how has concluded that rules need to be toughened rather than relaxed.

    Newsom's plans were laid out in a memo to California police chiefs that was designed to give them "a head's up" so they could plan for the new restrictions.

    Hared to imagine that this will go over particularly well in California, where people are hard-wired to want to go outside all the time, and especially in great weather.  And, it illustrates the difficulties of figuring out where the regulatory guard rails should be - while the state wants to avoid people congregating and spreading the virus, we also know that doctors encourage people to go outside and get fresh air and exercise.  Tough call for Newsom - but those pictures from last weekend gave him limited options.

    •  CNBC  reports that "Los Angeles became the first city in the U.S. to offer coronavirus testing for anyone regardless of whether they have symptoms, Mayor Eric Garcetti said at a press conference on Wednesday.  But those with symptoms will have the first priority, he added."

    There are other parts of California where expanded testing is taking place, the story notes.  "Bolinas, California was the first town to offer widespread testing to residents … And earlier this week, the University of California, San Francisco launched an effort of its own to offer diagnostic and antibody Covid-19 testing to 5,700 residents who live in a specific section of the Mission District, San Francisco’s densest neighborhood.The initiative, which is being done through a partnership with the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, is intended to gather data on the prevalence of Covid-19 in the area."

    The moves occur as a majority of medical experts say that the nation continues to need expanded testing as a way of knowing exactly how widespread the pandemic is.

    •  From the New York Post:

    "The World Health Organization lauded Sweden as a 'model' for battling the coronavirus as countries lift lockdowns — after the nation controversially refused restrictions.

    "Dr. Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergencies expert, said Wednesday there are 'lessons to be learned' from the Scandinavian nation, which has largely relied on citizens to self-regulate.

    "'I think there’s a perception out that Sweden has not put in control measures and just has allowed the disease to spread,' Ryan told reporters. 'Nothing can be further from the truth.'  Ryan noted that instead of lockdowns, the country has 'put in place a very strong public policy around social distancing, around caring and protecting people in long term care facilities … What it has done differently is it has very much relied on its relationship with its citizenry and the ability and willingness of its citizens to implement self-distancing and self-regulate.  In that sense, they have implemented public policy through that partnership with the population.”

    The Post also quotes Ryan as saying that Sweden "also ramped up testing and had adequate capacity in hospitals to handle any outbreaks."

    Based on this story, it sounds like Sweden's approach to the pandemic may have been mischaracterized to some degree.  The Post also notes that Sweden, "which has a population of 10.3 million, has seen more than 20,300 cases and 2,462 deaths as of Thursday afternoon — far higher than its Nordic neighbors, which implemented stricter containment measures, the latest data shows."

    I also think that it probably is fair to suggest that the Swedish government's relationship with its citizenry may be different from the US government's relationship with its citizens.

    •  From the New York Post:

    "Walmart CEO Doug McMillon has signed up for the digital fundraising campaign, All-In Challenge, to help fight the coronavirus crisis, and it includes a chance for small businesses to have their products sold at the nation’s largest retailer.

    "McMillon and his management team have agreed to vet 10 small businesses who participate in auctions for the opportunity to present their business plans. Starting bids for the 10-minute pitches are $5,000 — but only one winner will be featured on

    "The chief executive will also spend a day with a sweepstakes winner at Walmart’s Bentonville, Ark., headquarters and cap it off with a dinner as part of the two-week old fundraising initiative started by Fanatics mogul, Michael Rubin."

    The story notes that "the All-In-Challenge has already attracted the likes of Tom Brady, Leonardo DiCaprio, Peyton Manning, Robert DeNiro and other celebrities who have agreed to donate their time or something of value for fans willing to pay big bucks that will go towards feeding people left vulnerable by the coronavirus crisis."

    Tom Brady.  Leonardo DiCaprio.  Doug McMillon.  I hope the Walmart isn't so jaded that he doesn't get at least a little bit of a charge from being a part of that club.

    •  CNN reports that Costco will begin requiring customers to wear face masks when entering its stores.  The new policy goes into effect next Monday.

    In an email to customers this week, Costco said that "U.S. Costco warehouses will allow no more than two people to enter the warehouse with each membership card."  The exceptions, it said, are El Paso, Kentucky and Puerto Rico, where warehouses will allow no more than one person to enter per membership card.

    Also effective Monday, May 4, most Costco locations and Costco gas stations will return to regular operating hours, the company said.  Select locations will be open from 9-10 am Mondays through Fridays for members age 60 or older, and people with disabilities.

    It says a lot about what "normal" is going to look like that at the same time as Costco is trying to get back to normal hours, it also is requiring the wearing of masks in its stores.

    •  From this morning's Wall Street Journal:

    "Tensions are escalating at food plants between essential workers who feel pressure to stay on the job through the coronavirus pandemic and their employers, who are striving to maintain the country’s food supply chain without interruption.

    "Union officials and worker advocates are fighting for unpaid leave and other accommodations for workers who fear contracting the virus or spreading it to family.

    "Companies are pushing back, in some instances threatening to fire workers who don’t come in or battling unions to make sure factories can stay open. In recent weeks, food plant workers, along with a range of employees from bus drivers to nurses, have walked off the job in dozens of workplaces to protest conditions.

    "The conflicts speak to a vexing problem for government officials and food-industry leaders: how to produce enough food for people across the country while keeping safe those working to produce it? Company executives have said they and their employees have an obligation to keep grocery store shelves stocked through a situation some have compared with wartime, and that plants can find ways to keep employees safe. Some employees, however, say continuing to work puts their lives at risk."

    I would simply observe here that declaring an employee to be "essential" is just the first step in what needs to be a sustained approach to labor relations.  If you tell me that I am essential, but then treat me in a way that feeds my perception that I am only essential to your bottom line, not to something greater and more important, then in the long run you have undermined your argument.  You may not care - this may be just a short-term play to keep things running - but in the end you will have damaged your credibility and even, potentially, ability to compete.

    The word "essential" is being thrown around a lot.  In some cases, it may be all hat, no cattle … which could be an apt idiom for this particular industry.

    •  Count frozen foods among the categories that have seen sales surges because of the pandemic.

    A survey commissioned by the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) has concluded that "in recent weeks, the category has earned new customers, returning buyers, high satisfaction and a desire to continue purchasing throughout the year."

    The survey says that "after a 94% surge in mid-March, overall frozen food sales are holding at 30 – 35% increases in April 2020 vs. a year ago.  The vast majority of Americans are buying frozen food. 86% of all consumers have bought frozen food items, such as frozen pizza, vegetables and entrees, since early March."  And at least some return sales are indicated:  "50% of consumers who have purchased frozen foods since Covid-19’s onset say they will purchase a lot more (18%) or somewhat more (32%) in the next few months."

    •  The Seattle Times has the story of Bop Street Records, a music store that has been a fixture in the city for some four decades.  It has been closed since Gov. Jay Inslee issued a stay-at-home order on March 23, but now "will close its doors permanently at the end of June."

    “I don’t want to say I’m being driven out of business,” said Dave Voorhees, who will continue to sell records from his home after his store closes. “But my lease expires at the end of June and because of the coronavirus, we decided to not extend the lease.”

    According to the story, "Voorhees plans to take home only 20,000 discs for his new wholesale operation. Disposing of the rest of the inventory will be a challenge. He and Jacobs are currently negotiating sales with dealers and store-owners and plan to donate the store’s 25,000 78’s to Goodwill or other nonprofits. Jacobs said some recordings may be stored in private homes if they cannot be sold promptly.  'I’m hoping I can reopen the store between now and the end of June and that I can sell as many records as I can to people,' said Voorhees. 'I refuse to put them in the dump'."

    Published on: April 30, 2020

    Reuters  reports that Amazon's website serving Canada, Germany, France, India and the United Kingdom have been " added to the U.S. trade regulator’s 'Notorious Markets' report on marketplaces known for counterfeiting and piracy concerns."

    According to the story, "Over the years, the list has included China’s largest e-commerce platform,, which is owned and operated by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, as well as websites operated out of Indonesia, Poland, the Czech Republic and other countries.

    "Last year, the American Apparel and Footwear Association, for the second year in a row, urged the USTR to include foreign domains owned and operated by Amazon on the list.

    The USTR said it had received complaints that seller information displayed by Amazon was often misleading and allegations it was too easy for anyone to sell on Amazon 'because Amazon does not sufficiently vet sellers on its platforms'."

    Amazon responding to the listing by saying it was a  “purely political act” and an example of the Trump administration “using the U.S. government to advance a personal vendetta against Amazon.”

    The Trump administration has consistently criticized Amazon for paying too little for shipping via the US Postal Service, and has blamed Amazon for many of the Post Office's current financial problems.  In addition, the White House has had a problem with Amazon CEO-founder Jeff Bezos, who in a private investment owns the Washington Post, which has been aggressive in its coverage of the Trump administration.

    Published on: April 30, 2020

    …with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  Amazon this week has extended its contract with the National Football League, which allow Amazon Prime members to stream Thursday Night Football games for the next three years.

    But here's the big deal - Amazon also gets the exclusive right to one Saturday game next season that won't be available to national broadcast and cable audiences.  (The local markets of the teams playing will have the games broadcast.)

    Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though the original deal had Amazon paying the NFL $65 million p[er season.

    Amazon's exclusive rights to a Saturday game is, I think, a leading indicator of where the TV rights game will be played.  It isn't hard to imagine that someday Amazon - or Google or Facebook or Apple - could land the exclusive rights to a major sport or tournament.  Skeptics should remember that there was a time not that long ago when people didn't think that cable networks would have rights to major sports games, and think of how many games are played only on ESPN or Fox Sports.  This is where the world is going, folks.

    •  Reuters reports that Amazon "has bought cameras to take temperatures of workers during the coronavirus pandemic from a firm the United States blacklisted over allegations it helped China detain and monitor Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters."

    According to the story, "China’s Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co Ltd shipped 1,500 cameras to Amazon this month in a deal valued at close to $10 million, one of the people said. At least 500 systems from Dahua, the blacklisted firm, are for Amazon’s use in the United States, another person said.

    "The Amazon procurement, which has not been previously reported, is legal because the rules control U.S. government contract awards and exports to blacklisted firms, but they do not stop sales to the private sector."

    It may not be illegal … but Amazon would appear to be waving a red flag in front of a bull that is in the shape of the US government.  This won';t make the inevitable Congressional hearings any more pleasant.

    Published on: April 30, 2020

    •  WGRZ reports that "Wegmans has rolled out their new SCAN app to Western New York. The app has been in the testing phase in stores in Rochester and Massachusetts.

    Here's how it works:  Customers download the SCAN app through the app store or Google Play, and then connect the app to their Shoppers Club accounts.  They ten scan items via their smartphones when shopping, and go through self-checkout to pay when leaving the store.

    Wegmans notes that "The idea is to cut down on time spent inside the store, and there's no better time for that than now.  You also never have to put your credit card information in the app."

    •  Bloomberg reports that Starbucks is saying that it is "in talks with landlords for potential lease concessions and expects to pay reduced rents after the coronavirus pandemic passes. Still, the company is current on its rent bills, according to Chief Financial Officer Patrick Grismer, even as many of its stores remain closed."

    “We are having ongoing conversations with our landlords in various markets regarding what may be commercially reasonable lease concessions in the current environment,” Grismer said.  “We’ve not yet confirmed those arrangements.”

    Published on: April 30, 2020

    •  Big Y Foods announced that it has hired Sarah Steven - a veteran of Pepperidge Farm, Godiva Chocolatier, and Iredale Mineral Cosmetics in a variety of marketing roles - to be its new senior director of marketing.

    Published on: April 30, 2020

    One MNB reader yesterday criticized one of my headlines:

    I feel we need to reign in our language around the virus - the stronger the language, the more fear we can sow. If we were more pragmatic in our language choices (example - you used “plunges” for the 4.8% drop in GDP which is a drop but the “plunge” would be the 30% future potential not the 4.8%. Perhaps the GDP dropped as expected - 4.8% - in the first view of how the coronavirus may impact the economy). Your are the writer - so you know how language can be used to manipulate/influence the reader.

    A fair criticism … and as soon as I got your email, I changed the headline to say, "Q1 US GDP Drops Almost 5 Percent."

    So thanks for that.

    Got the following email from an MNB reader:

    For your readers who question universal health care impact on Covid-19 results need look no further than previous information in your column to see UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain, all of which have universal health care that did not prevent populations from having multiple health issues that Covid-19 preyed on.

    Fair point.

    From another reader, via LinkedIn: 

    The H3N2 killed a million people in 1968, quarantine in the U.S. Food for thought?

    Yeah.  My first thought is how many people might not have died had there been a more aggressive response.

    Maybe I'm overly emotional about this, and not sufficiently analytical.

    But more than 60,000 people in the US have died of this virus, for which there currently is no vaccine or proven treatment, in the last few months.  How are we not moving heaven and earth to make sure that it won't be 60,000 more?

    From MNB reader Adam Dill:

    First, thank you for the daily thought provoking FaceTime with the Content Guy.  I have appreciated hearing your thoughts on what is happening in the industry.

    I was sad to read the comment from one of your readers that, “we are in an economic crisis, not a health crisis.”  Why can’t it be both?  I have friends working in hospitals that would argue it is a major health crisis and fiends who have been laid off or own small businesses that would argue it is an economic crisis.  Have we lost our ability to hold two different beliefs as both being true?  At the extremes, it appears if you think one way, then you are viewed as evil by the opposite view.  As we have heard many celebrities, news casters, and public servants say, we are in this together.  How do we actually act like a community and come together to find ways to address both.  We are in a health and economic crisis.  Both are happening and we have to be wise in addressing both.  One does not get solved without impacting the other.  Let’s come together and find creative solutions that can address both.  There is no magic bullet, but there are ways to help lessen the impact of both.  We are seeing creative solutions across our industry in how grocery stores are operating, how restaurants are shifting to take out (and movies in their parking lots), to seeing small retail shops build their online store to serve their customers.  Let’s hold both crises together, knowing real people are being impacted by both.  I am inspired by the creativity and ingenuity of our nation.  People are finding solutions and working to help ease both the health and economic crisis.

    This note might have been more cathartic for me to write than for you to read.  Thank you for having a platform where we can learn from each other.

    Responding to our drive-in movie stories, one MNB reader wrote:

    Kevin, I passed a drive-in in PA last weekend while out for a “sanity drive” with my wife.  While the theatre was closed, they were allowing the facility to be used for local churches to hold services. 

    We had a story yesterday about how UPS is going to be using drones to deliver prescriptions to The Villages, the enormous Florida senior citizen community.

    Prompting MNB reader Bob Thomas to write:

    If using Florida Health Department figures on STD hotspots and news stories about The Villages, the drones will be carrying Viagra and antibiotics.

    C'mon, man.  I have readers and friends with parents living at The Villages.

    Published on: April 30, 2020

    USA Today reports that "Major League Baseball officials have become cautiously optimistic this week that the season will start in late June, and no later than July 2, playing at least 100 regular-season games, according to three executives with knowledge of the talks … And not only would baseball be played, but it would be played in their own major-league ballparks, albeit with no fans."

    The story says that "MLB is considering a three-division, 10-team plan in which teams play only within their division – a concept gaining support among owners and executives. It would abolish the traditional American and National Leagues, and realign the divisions based on geography.

    "The plan, pending approval of medical experts and providing that COVID-19 testing is available to the public, would eliminate the need for players to be in isolation and allow them to still play at their home ballparks while severely reducing travel."

    Here's the possible one-year realignment:

    East:  New York Yankees and New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, Miami Marlins

    Central:  Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Detroit Tigers.

    West:  Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels, San Francisco Giants, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners.

    KC's View:

    Normally, I'm a purist and traditionalist and would find this realignment to be abhorrent … but I've gotten to the point where I don't care.  I'd just love to see some new baseball.