Is Danica Patrick Retiring?

I keep commenting in NASCAR forums dominated by haters: “We need more stories on Danica.” Notice how people always have to comment on her when the topic is NASCAR, even when the write-up or conversation hasn’t mentioned her? They’re always VERY passionate about it. They’ll miss her when she’s gone, just like everyone else.

Some thoughts on why Danica Patrick isn’t so excited about Bristol [1]. The #10 car has neither the speed nor handling to stay with the leaders, especially on a round short track. She’ll likely be lapped by Truex (& the rest) early, lacking the horsepower to get back on the lead lap. Maybe a lucky dog, wave around, or caution breaks for her, but that’s not much to hope for.

All this has led to speculation that Danica Patrick will be done with professional racing after this 2017 season. If she does retire, it’s a much bigger story than Dale Earnhardt, Jr leaving as a driver. WAY BIGGER, and it’s hardly being whispered in the media. Junior Nation is moving up into the broadcast booth in 2018, which is awesome, as it keeps everyone in NASCAR happy. Danica (on the other hand) is a global icon, with strong appeal among the New York (ESPN) & the Hollywood elite crowd, so she’s probably gone for good– as far as NASCAR is concerned.

The list of NASCAR top-name drivers retiring (or being retired) in 2017 is noteworthy to hardcore fans. Earnhardt, Jr for sure; with Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, and now Danica Patrick all likely to not return. Those are two of their biggest stars (Junior & Danica– whichever order you want), and about one-third of the veteran drivers. What about Trevor Bayne at Roush Fenway? The point is, this carnage isn’t over. Race teams are going into cost cutting mode, and drivers salaries are where it starts.

The truth is NASCAR’s Good ‘Ol Boy network underrated, ignored, and intentionally wrecked her– out of jealousy. Danica reaches across class, age, race & gender boundaries like no other athlete; including Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, Roger Federer or Lebron James. I shouldn’t have to tell you why?

Danica Patrick is the only woman to compete against men– in any major sport’s series, for her entire career. And if only one (1) career victory (Indycar) is all she gets, then it’s still good enough in terms of her racing Hall-of-Fame credentials. In Patrick’s case, it’s about her impact on motorsports, which is incalculable.

She was a primary impetus for SAFER barriers. The one thing that could never be allowed to happen (besides her winning), was for her to get killed in a race car. The safety advances she inspired which value women’s lives above men’s is inherently unfair, but pays-it-back by benefiting ALL drivers. If that’s what it takes to make a sport safer & better, then we need more women competing & participating with men. As a parallel, if more women actually participated in war, then we’d have less killing & horrible injuries. Just something to consider…

Danica Patrick handled all the unfairness & cruelty directed at her, as well as anyone could expect. She must have known that her results & competitiveness were being suppressed by male chauvinism & hate. Her driving skills are undeniable to those who competed against her. Open wheel racing, and now NASCAR, are never to be the same again. It used to be “Gentlemen, start your engines!” Who do you think changed all that?

For those who don’t get it: racing is about men competing for the best pussy. When Danica (stunning female) is on the track, and every guy is racing to cut her off, bump & grind her, spin her out, or wreck her– just so they can get off. This is egotistical primal instinct, which ignorance refuses to temper or manage. That’s NASCAR.

Danica Patrick’s elite driving skills rarely get to come into play in NASCAR, as the field is jammed up with dick-weeds, most of whom know they can’t compete, so messing with her is their next best thing. On the other end, the elite NASCAR assholes (JGR) get their wins early in the season, and with their post-season ticket punched, spend much of their remaining time wrecking her– just for kicks. When the Chase starts, she’s not in it, so she’s forgotten. Might this explain why she can’t get enough sponsorship anymore?

As far as retirement goes, her fans will understand. Who needs all this? Danica is a superstar, yet her job sounds like so many of our own work days, filled with joyless drudgery & obligation to others. Where is the time for happiness? Hopefully she’ll find it in retirement, because it’s clear she’s having no fun on the track anymore.

If you missed her career then shame on you, because it’s been really amazing. Beyond beauty, her career is defined by unbreakable determination & underrated intelligence. My personal polling shows Danica Patrick is disliked by most adult women out of jealousy, which is their problem. There are a few women (usually Dale, Jr fans) who say, “Bless your heart!”  For the boys & men, Danica is everyone’s girlfriend (she doesn’t mind, in fact she make a lot of money on it)– and that’s what makes her so awesome.  So (guys), can you can see how there would be some bitch factor hating on her? In short: there is no athlete like her, and no one to replace her.

Footnote: The closest thing NASCAR has to replacing Danica, is Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr– which obviously isn’t the same thing. In case you haven’t noticed, Bubba is black. NASCAR considers this to be very important to their sponsors & ratings, and it’s why they are pushing hard for a team to give him a Cup ride in 2018.

Darrell Wallace, Jr did a nice job filling in for Aric Almirola’s #43 while he was recovering from a broken back. Unfortunately, Bubba’s truck series victory at Michigan last week has been encumbered by NASCAR, after failing post-race inspection. L1 penalty, $5K fine, and crew chief suspension for Bristol. NASCAR and their many of their fans want Wallace in a Cup ride, but this doesn’t help. I hope the kid gets a shot, but he needs to play fair. When you’re a woman or minority (Daniel Suarez) driver in NASCAR, you need to be squeaky clean. And the flipside is: sponsors are OK with cheating, just as long as you aren’t busted. Too much hypocrisy for you?  Welcome to the show that never ends.

Post-Script 9-1-17: Timeline of 2017 sponsors for Danica Patrick

Nature’s Bakery reneges on the remaining 2 years of their 3-year deal with Danica Patrick & SHR in late-January. The only sponsors she had left for the upcoming 36-race season were Aspen Dental for 4 races, Tax Act for 4-6 races, and Mobil/Exxon for 2 races, and Ford for 1-2 races. Many in the industry speculated she wouldn’t make it through the season, with so little time to find new sponsorship. Here is what’s happened since:

Aspen Dental immediately committed to “double–digit” races with Danica Patrick. Aspen soon after became the “official dentist of NASCAR.”

Wonder Woman (2017) opened on June 2, and a huge part of its promotional campaign was Danica. Who else could it have been in NASCAR? Wonder Woman is a bad movie artistically, but it’s a blockbuster hit, as you can see:

Budget $149 million
Box office $806.8 million

It’s not unreasonable to presume that Danica driving as Wonder Woman added tens-of-millions of dollars to the box office.

With a sponsorship shortfall starting to kick in by May, Patrick went the charitable route for several race sponsorships. Code 3 Associates is an animal rescue charity she supports. It also serves as a write-off for her, and when you have her kind of money, you need them. I believe Aspen Dental also picks up part of the bill, as it’s almost always in their blue & white color scheme.

Nature’s Bakery insisted on 2 more races with Danica in 2017, as part of their legal settlement with SHR around mid-season. This is after NB claimed Danica didn’t “represent them well enough” in their lawsuit. Funny how that all turns back around, isn’t it?

Now she’s unveiling her Richmond sponsor: Warrior by Danica, in partnership with the Home Shopping Network (HSN). She’s been moving inventory on HSN for awhile now, after starting her own clothing line last year. Danica Patrick is skilled in sewing, and was motivated by being stiffed by NASCAR on the t-shirt merchandising year-after-year. Her shirts are always the first to fly off the racks, but she has no leverage and accepts whatever pittance NASCAR says they’ll pay her. Now she’s investing in her own sponsorship, and changing the rules– again!

Usually athletes are hustling for someone else. Now Danica is promoting herself, as she has a business plan and the money to do it. That’s what you do when everyone says you’re out-of-options, and nobody does it better than Danica. That’s how you go out, and it’s truly a brilliant move.

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San Diego Keeping Andy Green

Padres extend manager Green’s contract
Skipper’s deal was set to end after 2018; now through ’21

I read this piece, and had to comment. This is what I said, with final thoughts added.

There is no question to this: If Padres GM AJ Preller didn’t extend Andy Green, then some big-spending competitive team would have made him an offer.

More on why this was such a prescient move. Note that a lot of the comments from Padres fans are along the lines of, “They’re a lot better than most people said they would be.” Why is this? It certainly NOT because of the talent on their 25-man roster. Ace lefty reliever Brad Hand is the Padres lone All-Star in 2017.

What makes Hand extra-valuable is manager Andy Green knowing how to use him properly, which steals wins. It’s really hard for Friar’s fans to say who their next-most valuable player is, but it’s probably rookie CF Manny Margot.

This is the youngest roster in MLB, by far. They have carried three Rule 5 players this season, which usually guarantees 100+ losses. Their current winning % is .436, which translates to 70-92. The Padres have overplayed their Pythagorean projection by 8 games, and most of that is due to Brad Hand & Andy Green.

A set-back for the Padres this season has been the performance of 1B Wil Myers. Age 26 & healthy, he’s currently slashing .239/.320/.464. Still good defensively at 1B, but his lack-of-bat seems to have caused some regression there also, as he’s committing more mental errors in the field. The problem at the plate is strike zone judgment. He swings at too many 3-2 pitches that are ball 4, turning them into outs. It’s a team problem as the Padres hit too many solo HR’s (in terms of overall HR-type %), with the worst OBP in MLB. OBP is life in baseball; and pitching, defense & 3-run homers are what win.

As a Padres fan, I suspected trouble when Wil Myers came into Spring Training and stated his personal goal was “40 HR’s & 40 SB’s.”  Myers’ 28 SB w/ 6 CS in 2016, caught many people by surprise. He’s 11 SB w/ 5 CS, so far in 2017. He shouldn’t try to be a SB guy, he needs to stay healthy & mash. His 2018 (and beyond) goals will need to prioritize OBP, if he is to progress as a player.

The Padres invested heavily in Wil Myers this past off-season, so the motivation & resources will be made available. Wil Myers just needs to get his head straight and figure it out. He has all the talent in the world, and that’s why AJ Preller gave up so much to get him, Trading SS/UT Trea Turner & RHP Joe Ross (both currently DL-ed) to the Nationals in a 3-team deal. Rays got RF Steven Souza, Jr, and it’s still hard to know who actually got the best of that deal?  Sometimes it takes 3-5 years to know, and this is one of those cases. Padres need Wil Myers to work out, by being at least above-average production at 1B, otherwise their current rebuilding effort is already starting to crumble.

Final note on handling players. Padres manager Andy Green has done everything he can do with Wil Myers, including recently sitting him for 3 games to “straighten his head out, get a mental break, etc…” September call-ups need to play for the Padres.  As good as their farm system is, Wil Myers may be seeing some more bench time this season– who knows? Stabilizing a young core (with better talent) around him will certainly help. The Padres are definitely doing this, as lefty-hitting 2B Carlos Asuaje may be their most-recent MLB pipeline addition. Acquired in the Craig Kimbrel deal…

Star contracts are a tricky & delicate balance, as ownership/management uses the carrot & stick. The deciding factors always come down to character, motivation & intelligence. The Padres still seem to still believe in Myers, (who at least isn’t whining or venting on teammates), so there’s room for optimism, but there needs to be more tangible progression– soon.  We’ll see…

Hypothetically, a right-handed Joey Votto (career .313/.427/.541), with better defense & base-running should be Will Myers’ player goal. That may be a little lofty comparatively, but it should still be in the area of his goal. What Preller & Green need out of Myers is a durable, championship-caliber 3-hole hitter. That’s the franchise player who drives a lineup, and catapults a team (with any kind of pitching) into contention. It’s what the Padres paid for when they signed him for 6 years $83 M this past winter. How will it pay off through 2022, is a franchise-defining question that hasn’t been answered yet?

From a minor-league standpoint, 2017 has been a huge success for the Padres. Their teams are mostly winning, and their prospects are mostly advancing. AJ Preller has brought in a depth of talent that has transformed this franchise from a joke, into the #3-ranked farm system in MLB. Yankees & Braves are ranked 1-2. Yankees are in the AL, so no worries until the WS– which isn’t happening anytime soon in SD. The Braves have a mess on their ML roster, and their prospects haven’t performed as well as expected, SS Dansby Swanson being the most prominent example. The Padres farm system was 30th (or so), when Preller took over as GM in 2015. Perhaps what’s now most-exciting for Padres fans, is seeing better players (& pitchers) starting to pop-up– seemingly out of nowhere! This is an indication of superior deep scouting, followed-up with proper player development. When you do things right, and stick with it, nice surprises start to happen over & over.

The biggest Padres minor-league organizational set-back of 2017 was RHP Anderson Espinoza blowing out his elbow, necessitating Tommy John surgery. Recall this was the prized pitching prospect, dealt by the Red Sox for LHP Drew Pomeranz in 2016. Pomeranz has since pitched the whole time in Boston, even while AJP was suspended by MLB for “undisclosed anti-inflammatories” in this trade. The irony of all this only deepens for Padres fans.

It still takes awhile for what’s happening here to translate into winning at the MLB level, but the process the Padres are going through is fundamentally correct. If/when it happens, AJ Preller will have turned a hopeless organization into a winner, faster than any GM in modern baseball. In other words, the Padres have to win it all, for Preller & Green to be widely recognized as being the best. Based on their abilities and performance, they’re already at least in that discussion. The GM-manager relationship is the most important to any organization baseball. There has to be 100% agreement on everything between the two, otherwise factionalism & hidden agendas destroy team continuity & chemistry. Time is all that is required for positive proof in San Diego. The enemy is impatience & short-sightedness, which tends to be the preferred perspective of the naysayers & critics, only proving they refuse to understand anything.

Padres Injury Notes & Up-Coming Roster Decisions

AJ Preller took a low-cost free-agency flier on Jered Weaver, to see if he had anything left in the tank. He didn’t, but it didn’t really matter to the Padres season, so there’s no hard feelings. His type of retirement is always a bit awkward, as everyone remembers him as an Angel. Well-handled by the Padres organization & Jered Weaver.

Padres roster decisions GM AJ Preller will have to soon make include: LHP Christian Friedrich, who made $1.8M in 2017, but didn’t pitch at all due to injuries. Left lat muscle & elbow giving him pain. His root issue is lack of hip, back & core strength. Preller & Andy Green will have to decide if he’s worth another go around in arbitration. Preller found better low-cost options last winter, and I suspect he’ll release Friedrich and try a similar strategy this coming off-season. We’ll see how the market plays out after the World Series…

Age 27 LF Alex Dickerson was said to be a “big part of their 2017 plans,” by some in the Padres organization last winter. He of the career 1.0 WAR. I never believed it, especially when rumors surfaced of CF Travis Jankowski & Dickerson being floated as trade bait. Dickerson now has been diagnosed with a bulging disk in his lower back, and has been transferred to the 60-day DL. He’s most-likely finished as a big-league player, and note that this is how many, many sports’ careers come to an end– unnoticed & physically disabled, with pain.

Travis Jankowski (age 26, career -0.2 WAR) hurt his foot, and has been rehabbing in the minors. His 90 PA’s (so far) in AAA El Paso are .263/.378/.355. He still can’t hit lefties, and has no pop. These were the “top prospects” AJP inherited (most of the best of which, he kept), when he took over as GM. Jankowski is still cheap, but is he worth a 40-man roster spot, when better & younger prospects have to be protected (or else exposed) before the Rule 5 draft?

LHP Clayton Richard & RHP Jhoulys Chacin have both said they want to return, and the Padres should do it– if the cost & contract length is agreeable. Nothing more than 2 years, for either, and more-likely, one year. Padres may get priced-out by the big-silly spenders.

RHP Jarred Cosart is a medical case, and now a long-shot at age 27. Padres expect LHP Robbie Erlin to be ready for ST 2018. He’s still recovering from TJ surgery in 2016. RHP Colin Rea finally submitted to TJ surgery in 2017, after blowing his elbow out in his only appearance as a Miami Marlin in 2016. Pitching is so hard to find, and they’re all so very cheap, so the Padres most-likely keep them all.

 

Update [9-2-17]: Padres cut ties with hitting coach Zinter
Friars on pace to finish last in MLB in average, OBP in back-to-back years

Alan Zinter (below) was an organizational hire by AJP, brought in when Andy Green was hired. He was one of Green’s guys from his minor-league managing stint with the Diamondbacks. AJP is calling this move. OBP is their biggest weakness, so it makes sense. I wonder how bench coach Mark McGwire now fits into their plans?

The Padres have overachieved on their pitching, both starting & bullpen. Keep in mind that not much was expected from the rotation. This over achievement is due to Andy Green & Darren Balsley. The results on the offensive side haven’t been as impressive, and it’s not because Andy Green is a klutz when it comes to using his bench or writing in a lineup. It’s because OBP is life in baseball, and the Friars are dead last again. The Padres lineup can’t continue to allow opposing starters to roll through easy innings, with guys swinging themselves into easy outs. More walks put the pitcher in the stretch, which stresses them. This leads to longer innings, more base runners & more runs. More runs means more wins. The failures of Wil Myers & Hunter Renfroe (mentioned in the article) are the tangible reasons Alan Zinter is fired. His replacement will be expected to produce better results from these two & the rest, but especially from Myers as he’s the big contract. He’s got a ton of talent, which we’ve all seen, but he’s also got head problems it seems.

Sportswriter: What’s the best hitting advice you ever got?
Ted Williams: It was from Rogers Hornsby. He told me, “Make them throw you a strike.”

For Myers & Renfroe, new goals for counting stats need to be: more walks & doubles. This will correlate to less strikeouts & more hits. Cuttings down to protect with two strikes is a prudent approach, especially in stressful at-bats against tough pitchers. Both have the power to hit it out with less than a full swing anyways. What’s lacking is strike zone judgment & control. At times it appears there’s also no plan (individual or team) to attack a pitcher. Hitting is probably the most difficult skill in sports, so it’s not like anyone has figured out all the answers, but just seeing more pitches in an AB (even if it still produces an out), has value. The pitcher is throwing more pitches and will become more vulnerable, sooner.

Padres hitters need to take more of a grind approach to every AB. If this is done up & down the line-up (with their power), it will crush most NL pitching. Note– the best grinding line-up (in recent memory) was the 1998 NY Yankees. That was a high OBP, with power 1-9; and the Padres didn’t really have much of a chance against them even with their best team ever. In the NL it’s 1-8, so this can be achieved with less payroll, which is nice. This is the direction that Preller & Green want to offense to go, as this is what’s holding everything back. Once the line-up consistently produces, the young pitching will be ready from the minors.

Another feather in Andy Green’s cap is his use of defensive shifts, which were the most dramatic in MLB in 2016, his first year a manager. The league has caught up to him & the Padres, by increasing their shifting. The point is Andy Green sees all facets of the game, manages them masterfully, and is highly respected by his peers. Bruce Bochy was only the latest to pay his respects, after their last series. Green knows where his responsibilities begin & end, and is in full partnership with his GM. When the Padres actually have a MLB roster, instead of pre-arbs, prospects & Rule 5 selections, it’s going to get a lot better in a hurry. Manny Margot is a stud, and Carlos Asuaje is a possibility. The Kimbrel deal and all the other moves AJP made in 2016, are going to reap huge bounties for years to come, and it started showing in 2017.

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Resisting Revolution

People naturally resist hard work & pain. It starts at birth and ends at death. Truth & love are dialectical opposites; they are what we most want, but also most fear.

Everyone thinks they’re right about everything. When (if) one discovers the error of this “thinking,” it becomes a humbling, but powerful growing experience.

Most Americans are sleep-walking through their days, on an ego trip over themselves. The idea of putting others outside their own ‘world’ before themselves never occurs to these zombies. They live lives of selfish desperation, hopped-up on themselves, full of disorders & ignorance. Whatever addiction is driving them is their sole reason for existence, as their own force of personality ceased to exist long ago. These are the consumerist, brain-dead constituencies for Bush/McCain/Trump & Clinton/Obama/Sanders.

Left-wing liberals of all stripes are a pesky irritant which always resist revolutionary action. Confined to historical impotence by their dearth of thought & lack of backbone, they can only follow along in rhythm with the right wing, as both are attached to the same imperialist carcass. Liberalism is most notorious for its uncanny ability to discern relevant facts in science, literature & art– exactly up to half the truth– then arrive at precisely the wrong conclusion as to its importance– every time.

The reasons for their .000 batting average is their omnipresent & overriding self-interest in capitalism, which provides just enough crumbs to sustain them. This petty-bourgeoisie layer has been carefully selected & cultivated, providing a significant ideological buffer for the ruling elite. Feminism, black racialism & gay politics are tough to get past, as they have armies of zealots in key media positions, with the full backing of the Democratic Party machinery & the deep-state intelligence apparatus. These frauds & charlatans are able to present themselves as credible and thoughtful leaders, far too often.

The right-wing censorship of free speech that affects everyone on the left (outside of the WSWS), actually protects liberalism. By censoring and cutting off all serious political discussion, the farce of liberalism can still promote itself as credible, without having to face its most-whithering opponents– Marxists. Their political strategy can be correctly described as gutless, but prudent.

Everyday people don’t want to believe that any of this is true, or that it even could be true. It’s so much easier, and a much more attractive option, to ignore all this and play the game like everyone else. The problem is, this game is ending. The corporate monopolies have conquered every domain, and most working people have nothing but a life of debt & drudgery ahead of them. Global warming is getting worse, and all the US president (whichever party) ever wants to do is start another war. That’s when people stop resisting, and start embracing revolution.

It is the job of revolutionary socialists to educate and politically arm as many working comrades & youth as possible. The more the working classes of the world have consciously worked out Marxist political theory, the more coordinately & decisively they will strike at the heart of capitalism when the time comes. It is the role of leadership is to share as much as possible with the best elements of the working class & youth [1].

Sharing is another notion that runs contrary to our “everyday thinking.” Helping someone else, without expecting a return, is foolish under capitalism. “This must be done away with,” is the corporate line. Such messed-up ethics are turning us into monsters, which consume & destroy for no good reason. Facing these truths about our “dark sides” is uncomfortable, and too many people have enabled themselves to avoid any such form of discomfort or social distress.

The ongoing obesity epidemic is but(t) one example of ignoring truth, allowing this disorder to continue manifesting itself. It’s now terribly uncool to “fat shame” anyone, when that’s precisely what overweight people need. Of course, it shouldn’t be a public humiliation, but there surely needs to be a sense of guilt in allowing one’s body to become so desecrated with excessive fat. That’s a healthy and natural instinct, which needs to be scientifically cultivated in order to gain control of deteriorating public health in “first-world” nations, the U.S. being foremost.

We live in an era of untruth. People have become so sensitized to their own delusions & disorders, that it’s often impossible to talk to them honestly & constructively. Establishing a healthy equilibrium in this is what people resist the most, but it also contains the revolutionary potential to set them free. Seeing all this is difficult enough, and actually following through is the road less traveled, which most people bypass. The truth is the high road sucks; as it’s long, torturous & full of sacrifices. Those who choose the “easy road” discover (too late) that it’s a dead-end for true happiness. The moral & truth is, the hard road always meets up with us down the path of life, so there’s no use in avoiding it. Embrace it instead.

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Trade Deadline Results & NL Round-Up

Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make.

Steve Stone as color man to the late, great Harry Carey used to repeat that quote often on WGN Cubs’ broadcasts. Everyone said Padres GM AJ Preller HAD to trade Brad Hand (below). His value would never be higher! He’s useless on a bad team, etc…

The most coveted & valuable player this Trade deadline (now past), is staying in San Diego. The MLB Trade deadline is about competitive teams gearing up for a World Series run. Everyone talks about ace starters, and they are what’s most valuable during the regular season. But they aren’t what’s available, as RHP’s Sonny Gray (A’s) & Yu Darvish (Texas) topped the list of available starters that actually were traded.

Yu Darvish (above) was costly, even as a 3-month rental, but the Dodgers kept their top prospects. RHP Justin Verlander was even dicier for the Tigers, considering his age and contract owed, so he stayed in Detroit. None were more coveted than Padres ace lefty reliever Brad Hand.

As we all know, every post-season comes down to the bullpens. Aces can no longer pitch complete games with any regularity, so it’s constantly a battle of bullpens from the 6th and 7th inning on. It’s the team that gets the toughest outs (late) that wins, and that means premium value for ace set-up pitchers. Brad Hand is Andrew Miller valuable (with a better contract), so Padres GM AJ Preller valued him accordingly. There was a precedent set the year before by the Yankees GM Brian Cashman, to extract something similar to what he received in dealing Miller (below) to Cleveland & LHP Aroldis Chapman (a rental) to the Cubs.

Also notice in this discussion I haven’t mentioned the value of acquiring a hitter at the deadline. That’s because there is very little. The rule is: acquire only to keep a position from falling into replacement level & adding depth. The exception is: Unless a HOF-bat with some peak years left becomes available. There were no HOF hitters available this deadline.

Don’t “acquire a veteran bat” because basically they’re worthless due to bad defense, which means giving up prospects for something that isn’t an upgrade. That’s why OF’s Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, etc… attract so little interest. They’re overpaid, overrated players who perform at (or below) replacement level. Teams like the Mets who don’t understand this get stuck with players like these. One way to screw up a promising pitching core is to pay top dollar to put bad defense behind them, and poor hitters in the lineup. The Braves have the same issue.

AJ Preller controlled the market, by NOT trading the biggest prize. Detroit’s closer LHP Justin Wilson was the best reliever that was actually dealt (to the Cubs).  Baltimore couldn’t deal its lefty closer Zach Britton because of injury issues, as he’s too much of a TJ surgery candidate.  In the end, desperate teams had to scramble back to their second options, or worse. See: Nationals acquire closer Brandon Kintzler from the Twins.

Meanwhile the Padres retained their ace closer for another season– at least. Brad Hand will get a nice raise in arbitration, while still being an amazing bargain, helping the Padres win games they would otherwise lose. Those kind of players are really, really valuable. AJ Preller set a reasonable price, and no one was willing to pay what Brad Hand is actually worth, so no deal was consummated for the plum relief ace of this year’s trade season. Every contender, save one [!] is going to regret not trying a little harder to get Brad Hand at some point this October.

NL Round-Up:

Brewers lost another “must-win” game in their rubber match at Miller Park with the Cubs on Sunday (7-30). Brewers fans can choose to 1) believe in 2017, or 2) notice their righty set-up men all stink, and 3) their starting pitching is breaking down (as usual), with RHP Jimmy Nelson as their only front line horse currently not on the DL. The rest of their starters are mediocre-to-poor. The Brew Crew are also below replacement level at 2B & CF.

Brewers fans love 3B Travis Shaw (from the Red Sox), and especially RF Domingo Santana (above– acquired in the Carlos Gomez & Mike Fiers-to-HOU deal) because they are both young and productive. 1B Eric Thames had a fluky hot start, but has cooled since; proving he’s nothing the Brewers should invest a future in. RF Ryan Braun can’t stay healthy, so GM David Stearns can’t deal him. Braun’s chronic injuries are turning a Hall-of-Fame productive hitter into an albatross contract for the small-payroll Milwaukee Brewers.

There are still too many holes to fill, and neither enough money from ownership to cover to the necessary payroll increase, nor the willingness to pay what it would cost in prospects for Sonny Gray, Yu Darvish & Brad Hand (and that’s just pitching need alone) to stay with the Cubs. The Brewers would be emptying their farm system on what would still be a flawed team, which is a mistake.

The Cubs probably won the NL Central when they acquired LHP Jose Quintana (above) from the White Sox. Acquiring left-handed reliever Justin Wilson and backup catcher Alex Avila from the Tigers at the deadline filled the Cubs bullpen & depth needs. The Cubs have Theo Epstein & Jed Hoyer (below) running the show, which is about as good as it gets for baseball management. They made the best deals to get what they needed at the deadline, and improved themselves the most. Their chances of repeating have increased dramatically, while the cost in prospects was considerable, but tolerable.

The truly bad National League teams all currently reside in last place, and will finish there. These are the Phillies & Reds (no surprise), and the Giants which was unexpected. The Phils & Reds are direction-less, lacking leadership at the top. Don’t expect either of their fortunes to change until there are major front office shake-ups.

The Giants are now facing a complete rebuild, after a successful run in winning 3 World Series championships in 5 seasons. Giants GM Brian Sabean will need to take a long look at his organization this winter, as their championship window appears to have closed. They now have an aging & payroll-heavy roster that needs to be turned over. In many ways they are simliar to the Cardinals, but in a tougher division.

The NL West winner will be the Dodgers, and they will have the best overall record in MLB, which now decides home field advantage in the World Series match-up. More on them below. Both NL Wild Cards will come out of the West, in the Diamondbacks & Rockies– both of which were unexpected.

Of the two, the team more likely to be competitive in 2018-and-beyond are the Diamondbacks, with their ownership commitment and new front office. Arizona’s farm system needs to be rebuilt after the damage former-GM Dave Stewart inflicted upon it, and this limits their ceiling in 2017. They probably don’t have the organizational strength to match the Dodgers or Cubs in October, and will likely have to content themselves with a Wild Card and post-season appearance in 2017. But then again it’s baseball, and stranger things have happened…

The Rockies have a promising young pitching staff, which is carrying them in 2017. They will need to keep it healthy, and (of course) find an ace in order to take the next step competitively. I have my reasons for pessimism, and it mostly centers around Rockies GM Jeff Bridich’s decision making. The Ian Desmond signing (5/$70M) has been a bust for Colorado (-0.9 WAR in 2017, and currently on the DL). Only 3B Nolan Arenado (below), and SS Trevor Story are young enough to build around. The rest are veterans, some of whom are having great seasons (CF Charlie Blackmon & 2B DJ LeMahieu), but will soon be too expensive and in decline. Another example of how poorly the Rockies spend their money is LF Carlos Gonzalez. In 2017: -1.3 WAR (so far) for $20 million. The Rockies are having a great season (by their standards), but don’t expect a repeat of this team’s success in 2018.

As for the rest of the NL, most fit into an amorphic mass of slightly-below-average, veteran-heavy teams including: the Marlins, Braves, Mets, Cardinals & Pirates. Competitively, all these teams are similar to the Brewers as explained above; too many holes in their roster and not enough organizational strength & money to fix them. The Pirates are a typical example. The have the stud in CF Andrew McCutchen (below), but not enough around him. The have some decent young starters, but not enough… I can see how that would be frustrating for a Bucs fan…

The Marlins are impossible to deal with, as long as this team is up for sale. Right now, owner Jeffery Loria (below with NBA star Dwayne Wade) is trying to exploit every advantage in the market to maximize the sale price for his Miami Marlins. That means retaining all valuable assets, so nothing of significant value is moving here anytime soon. This franchise was decimated in 2016 by bad trades, and the tragic death of ace RHP Jose Fernandez.

Padres Update:

The San Diego Padres are again the outliers among the second-division in the NL, but this time in a good way. They are by far the youngest team in MLB, and yet they aren’t the worst. In the spring, the Padres were universally picked by MLB ‘experts’ to end up with the worst record in baseball– ~66 wins projected by most analysts. They currently sit in 4th place in the NL West at 47-58. Their current .448 winning percentage translates into 72.5 wins over 162 games.

The Padres are last in OBP. They have scored only 400 runs, while allowing 533. Their Pythagorean W-L is 39-66, which means the Padres have over-played their W-L record by eight games– so far. Padres are 4-4 in extra innings, and 13-13 in one-run games. Good & bad teams typically split those contests 50-50, which means extreme luck hasn’t been a factor in this over-performance by the Padres.

The reason the Padres record is so much better than their numbers is leadership & coaching. Last season I stated that rookie manager Andy Green was already a top-5 MLB manager. He’s moved up another notch, or two since. Andy Green handled Cubs manager Joe Maddon on Anthony Rizzo’s cheap-shot slide into C Austin Hedges perfectly.

Hedges missed a few days with a thigh contusion, while Cubs 1B Rizzo wasn’t suspended by Joe Torre and MLB. Padres fans weren’t surprised by any of this. Andy Green handled it, by not retaliating. This made headlines as Joe Maddon, Anthony Rizzo and the rest of their supporters looked like a bunch of bush-league blow-hards. Honestly, I was surprised by Maddon’s obtuse commentary & apologetics, after the fact.

The Padres started the season with three Rule 5 picks on their 25-man roster. All three are still with the team, as SS/UT Allen Cordoba (Cardinals) and C Luis Torrens (Yankees) are earning significant playing time for Andy Green. RHP Miguel Diaz (Brewers) is on the 10-day DL with forearm tightness, and may be shut down for the season. In that event, he’ll only need < 2 weeks with the Padres in 2018, before he’s sent back down to the minors. The point is, all three Rule 5 picks are staying with the Padres, and they won’t lose anywhere close to 100 games, despite what the ‘experts’ proclaimed.

Padres GM AJ Preller signed 4 [!] free-agent starters on one-year contracts this past winter, for <$2M each. Trevor Cahill pitched well-enough to be flipped to the Royals with LHP Ryan Buchter (valuable set-up guy) and Brandon Mauer (useless). In return Preller got LHP Travis Wood to start the rest of 2017 and all of 2018 for $1.5 million, along with a few prospects. That’s called getting ahead of the winter free-agent pitching market, while adding depth to your system.

The Padres always presume they can improve a pitcher’s performance, because they have the best pitching coaching in Darren Balsley (above). LHP Clayton Richard and RHP Jhoulys Chacin have performed as expected; innings eaters who get pounded too often. Only RHP Jered Weaver completely busted, and is probably finished for his career. Three-out-of-four on free-agent starting pitchers is an outstanding return-on-investment.

This is a developmental year for the Padres, and a big part of that is keeping their young starters (RHP’s Luis Perdomo & Dinelson Lamet) healthy by limiting their innings. This goes for Perdomo in particular, who threw 146.2 innings as a Rule 5 rookie in 2016. In that sense, the innings absorbed by Richard & Chacin have helped the franchise immensely, making their contracts a tremendous value to the Padres.

AJ Preller (above) has achieved a stunning organizational turn-around since the end of 2015. New manager Andy Green and longtime ace pitching coach Darren Balsley have worked with Preller in this development of young talent at all their levels. The results are now starting to show in the majors, as the Padres aren’t as bad as everyone claimed and what’s more, they’re also getting better faster than most anticipated. The OBP & SLG they lack in their MLB lineup, along with waves of premium pitching talent, are in the pipeline. Player development, as well as injury management & prevention, will determine this franchise’s fate.

Dodgers & Nationals:

A few weeks after the Rizzo/Hedges slide controversy, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts completely lost face in this incident, and was suspended one [!] game by MLB for shoving Andy Green as he was walking back to his dugout. Doc Roberts claimed he felt provoked by what Green had said during their discussion with the umpires.

Dodgers fans should be concerned over Dave Roberts’ volatility & decision-making under duress. It’s suspect at best. It’s easy to manage when everything is clicking, so Roberts looks good now and will probably be voted “Manager of the Year” by the sports-writing media. In reality, he’s not even Top-10, if that tells you anything about what you’re told.

The Dodgers’ post-season hopes depend (as always) on a LHP Clayton Kershaw, who is currently on the DL with a chronic back issue. They’ve got a ton of talent and a loaded farm system under GM Andrew Friedman, and have been the best team all season. They won the Yu Darvish sweepstakes, while retaining their top prospects, so its their pennant to win without mortgaging the future. Sent to Texas were 2B/OF Willie Calhoun, who was the Dodgers’ No. 4-ranked prospect, RHP A.J. Alexy (No. 17) and IF Brendon Davis (No. 27). Good deal for both sides.

The Washington Nationals will win the NL East, but their post-season prospects are dimming. Already righty starter Joe Ross has been lost to TJ. Ace RHP Stephen Strasburg is currently on the 10-day DL. Max Schertzer & Gio Gonzalez are holding the rotation together, but another major injury will likely doom their WS chances in 2017.

Nationals starters (and players) are hitting the DL with regularity again. How bad is it?  Veteran RHP Edwin Jackson is now in their rotation due to injury attrition. Meanwhile the Nationals needed relief pitching help more desperately than any other serious contender. They would have had to deal the best of what’s left in their farm system to acquire Brad Hand. Nat’s GM Mike Rizzo instead acquired A’s relievers lefty Sean Doolittle & veteran righty Ryan Madson, along with Twins closer Brandon Kintzler at the deadline. As a rule, quantity over quality doesn’t work, especially in the post-season.

Nationals manager Dusty Baker (above) is once again pushing to get his injured players back sooner, rather than later: “You’ve got to get them back soon enough to be sharp and effective in the post-season,” Baker said. “Because [if they’re] back … just to be back and not sharp, it’s going to be detrimental to us. But we’d love to have them back, as they’re my starters. I’m hoping that we kind of get them back one at a time in chronological order to help us.” [1]

All this rushing (and useless “hoping”?) with the Nationals ahead comfortably, holding a 13-game lead in the National League East! And people wonder how Dusty Baker wrecks so many arms?

In conclusion, the NL post-season will be wide open with the Cubs having the most complete roster & best leadership, while not necessarily being the best team in 2017. I object to the DH, so I’ll leave the AL discussion– until the World Series.

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Google’s Fake Searches

What I outlined and predicted about the WSWS, was proven true a few days ago. I wrote in March: “By far the most dangerous online organization to the ruling class is wsws.org, the World Socialist Web Site. What deep state planners fear more than anything is a revolution from below. That is a decisive force, which they can not control. Therefore, a ruthless & highly-sophisticated misinformation & suppression campaign must be directed against this site, and any sympathizers.” [1]

That thesis was confirmed on July 27, 2017 when the WSWS published “New Google algorithm restricts access to left-wing, progressive web sites.” This was followed the next day with “Google rigs searches to block access to World Socialist Web Site,” which provides indisputable proof that Google is politically manipulated by capitalism’s paymasters & Black Hand.

Read “Does the WSWS write about Leon Trotsky? Not according to Google,” and try their suggested searches. The WSWS is a well-optimized & mobile friendly site. Huge strides were made in tagging (to improve site searchability) of their older articles during their 15th anniversary year in 2013, in which past articles were reviewed and yearly summaries were written by younger SEP writers. And yet Googling “Trotsky” gets the WSWS a first result on page 13!

The Fourth International (and Ric Size) can only do so much online until they run into capitalist suppression, and this is it. This is fascism, where free expression is censored & slandered, every second of every day. It’s just the precursor to physical violence & annihilation, which is what these sickheads really know & revel in. Trump is their authority (excuse) to use the most venomous attacks, as everything is now flowing from ignorance, fear & hate. Nothing good can come of this madness, and it must be checked with fierce & organized resistance– ASAP.

The only political party in the world that is fit for this task of leadership is the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), which is the US branch of the Fourth International, the political party founded by Leon Trotsky in Paris in 1938. A relentless campaign to expose Google is in order, but what’s needed even more is grassroots organizing, leafleting, and active engagement in the “real world” from supporters of a socialist revolution. This savage censorship of the truth, in the name of combating “fake news,” is just another attempt to throw poison in the eyes of the workers & youth of the world. For the suppression to be this blatant indicates the level of desperation in ruling political circles. This is how much they fear the truth.

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Autographs & the Memorabilia Market

“Can I have your autograph?” That’s a deceptively simple question. Firstly, what is an autograph? It’s a person’s signature on something. Most people sign their names everyday in many different ways, without thinking much about it. As a practicing dentist, I’ve written my signature more times than I care to remember on insurance forms, lab instructions, prescriptions, doctor’s notes, etc. I’ve never had a patient or staff member insist on keeping that piece of paper for the value of my signature.

Then again, I’m not famous, so no one seeks my written signature for its inherent value. If I ever become famous, I will definitely join those who refuse to sign autographs. Oscar Wilde (below) once wrote, “The artist shouldn’t try to become more public, the public needs to become more artistic.” That is correct, so consider what that means and how it applies to autographs.

Autographs and other sports memorabilia collecting can be linked in origin to the baseball card industry, which revved up in the 1980’s and took off in the 1990’s. Before then, baseball cards (like autographs) were a mostly a childhood delight. Kids collect and trade stuff naturally, with sports heroes & other celebrities being among their favorites. Baseball cards have been around as long as baseball itself.

In 1952, Topps decided to sell baseball cards in packs, which led to a massive growth in their popularity. By the 1980’s, a number of new companies began producing baseball cards including Fleer, Donruss and Upper Deck and the market expanded considerably. Since 2000, there has been massive increase in speculation in this industry, attributable to an influx of new collectors with high disposable income. Much of this is comparable to what’s going on in the art world, with forgeries and dirty dealing being the norm.

Today, most signature seekers are actually professional autograph traders, who make their living by selling them, rather than keeping them as personal souvenirs. Celebrities aren’t stupid, and many have found their own ways to deal with this problem:

Basketball star Bill Russell (above), and actors Paul Newman & Greta Garbo all declined autograph requests in their days.

Actor Will Ferrell (above) mocks and taunts fans when they request his autograph. Makes you think twice before asking.

Talk show host Rosie O’Donnell (above) has refused to sign autographs for years, calling adult autograph seekers “sad.”  She’s correct.

Constantly overrun with requests, actor/comedian Steve Martin (above) years ago had business cards with his autograph pre-printed, or cards that read, “This certifies that you have had a personal encounter with me and that you found me warm, polite, intelligent and funny.”  Very creative.

Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney (above) announced in 2010 that he would no longer sign autographs while out, and said that “most people are very understanding because they understand privacy.”  Most do.

Here’s his former band mate, Ringo Starr two years earlier:

Professional golfer Jordan Spieth has recently commented on signing autographs. “We like to sign stuff for charity or for kids — and if you ask anybody universally it’s the same way, it’s just, they (professional autograph hustlers) frustrate us.”

Danica Patrick was recently videoed at Pocono after practice, trying to explain herself to a few merciless autograph hounds, who have no interest in anything except getting the goods for themselves:

Bottom Line: No one (not even a handicapped kid) should ever expect an autograph from anyone. An autograph is a gift that a celebrity chooses to donate. Do you go up to other people (you don’t know personally) and ask them for a gift, and actually expect to receive it?  Do you interrupt people while they are working, expect them to do you a favor, and berate them if they don’t comply?  That’s completely selfish.  Athletes are competitors, which means they are wound tightly and they don’t take this kind of crap. When celebrities are provoked by seekers, you will get any of these above reactions, which are all justifiable.

Memorabilia is about making money, not the integrity of their product. And just what is their product, anyways? A signature. A card. A ball or jersey. It produces nothing in value, and is the very definition of a speculative bubble. Dealers, auction houses and industry “experts” talk openly about finding novice buyers, which are required to perpetuate this sham industry. As long as people invest into this, it will continue.

Third-party authentication (TPA) services grade cards and other memorabilia, for a fee. Like any other business, the idea is to make money, and they do that by pleasing their customers. This means authenticating known forgeries from ‘good’ customers. Autographs are commonly sold with certificates of authenticity (COA’s) and letters of authenticity (LOA’s), while trading cards use a grading system. COA’s, LOA’s, and grades are meant to assure the buyer that the signature or item is genuine.

The problem is the entire sports memorabilia and trading card industry is run by a few people with bad reputations and/or criminal records. Third-Party Authentication giants PSA/DNA and JSA have cornered the market as the official “experts” endorsed by the major sports and collectibles auction houses, and even the online auction giant eBay.

PSA/DNA’s lead authenticator, Steve Grad, has a spot on the History Channel’s hit show Pawn Stars as their ‘on-air expert’ for autographed materials. The TPA’s are advertised as the gold standard of an autograph industry fraught with fraud, deception and forgery. The FBI has claimed that over 50% of the signed collectibles in the marketplace are counterfeits [1].

Often the services that do the authentication are also the ones that own the property and are selling it, creating an obvious conflict-of-interest. Shills are routinely used in the auctions to make the prices go up. There is an entirely unregulated industry, full of hustlers & con men.

Industry pioneer Bill Mastro (above) formulated the TPA grading system to help protect himself and his fellow auctioneers. TPA’s have also shielded themselves from any liability by stating that their LOA’s are nothing more than an opinion and guarantee absolutely nothing. Mastro has acknowledged that he trimmed the world’s most valuable baseball card, the T206 Honus Wagner (below) once owned by NHL superstar Wayne Gretzky, greatly inflating its value.

Authors Michael O’Keefe and Teri Thompson present a strong case that the card was actually cut from a sheet of cards, trimmed and altered. It seems that too many people have too much to lose, if this was actually proven, so the facts are conveniently ignored. No owner will allow “The Card” to be removed from its protective case to be re-authenticated, as that would risk losing all it’s value. On October 1, 2016, “The Card” sold for $3.12M in a private auction.

For those not familiar with this story, Honus Wagner was the great shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates at the turn of the 20th century. The legend is Wagner objected to his likeness being used to promote tobacco use to children (baseball cards came in cigarette packs back then) and demanded the American Tobacco Company pull the card from the market. The other claim (from researchers) is that Wagner, who chewed tobacco himself and did advertisements for cigars, was actually just holding out for more money. Whatever the reason, only between 75 and 200 Wagner T206’s ever made it to the public, as compared to the “tens or hundreds of thousands” of T206 cards, over three years (1909-11) in sixteen brands of cigarettes, for any other player. There are only ~65 known Wagner T206’s left, and most are in poor condition. Here are a few examples:

The point is, whenever someone brings a ‘newly discovered’ Wagner T206 to the market, it is greeted with both excitement & skepticism. Most of the time they are proven as forgeries. The facts point towards the world’s most valuable baseball card most-likely also being a fake, and that doesn’t bode well for this industry in the long-term. The truth is, this sports memorabilia craze is like all the rest under American capitalism, in which lawlessness & unethical behavior dominate, in order to make money from nothing.

Final point of etiquette: Parents need to teach their kids that when they ask for a celebrity’s autograph, they are making a bargain for life. The celebrity is choosing to give a piece of him/herself to the fan. If it eventually gets sold, then the celebrity isn’t making a fan, but instead feeding the machine. When this happens over & over, celebrities get jaded. All celebrities monitor this nowadays.

The overall message on everything discussed above, is that the current set-up isn’t working for celebrities or the fans.  It’s only benefiting a thin layer of parasites who are ruining things for everybody else.  Most athletes will tell you that they enjoy signing autographs for charity, and especially for the kids. They do it for that look of surprise & joy that only comes from innocent eyes, and makes a fan for life. The problem of problems is that everything under capitalism has to make money, and it’s the bleeping money that ruins everything.

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NASCAR Notes & SHR Issues

One-third of the way through the 2017 Monster Energy Cup season and here are my NASCAR observations. The dominance that Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) had last year was purely on the engineering side– with the newly-introduced low-downforce package. Toyota nailed it better than the other manufacturers in 2016, and that’s why JGR was the dominant team, especially early. In the end, Jimmie Johnson won it because he’s the smartest driver, who works best with his crew chief (Chad Knaus, below) and the rest of their team. I expect him to be in it again at Homestead, along with Martin Truex, Jr, Kyle Larson (all above), and a Penske driver.

Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) is a mess, with sponsorship issues and a glaring lack-of-performance from top-paid driver Kurt Busch, who won Daytona this spring but has completely checked-out since. He’s suing his agent over money, which must be creating friction throughout the entire organization, as it paints SHR as a ‘second choice’ for Kurt Busch [1].  Kurt Busch seems to get involved in a lot of lawsuits and conflicts:

In the #14 car, Clint Bowyer has neither sponsorship nor a win, despite consistently having winning speed. He needs to perform or bring in money, or he’ll be out after 2017. Kevin Harvick is their top-performing driver, and the best chance for SHR to reach Homestead.

At least one JGR (Kyle Busch), and both Penske drivers have proven more consistent speed & performance than any SHR driver so far. Winning at Homestead depends very much on changes made during the season. Last year was a textbook example. The smartest crew chiefs and team owners (Penske & Hendrick) make a huge difference for their teams & drivers. Expect that to continue…

Last at SHR is Danica Patrick, who is out there to make money for everyone. Her fans understand this and don’t mind too much, as long as she isn’t being wrecked. Wonder Woman (above) was another iconic sponsor for her, as she continues to lasso in the money. You can’t lie to that.

Even Nature’s Bakery insisted on her for two races, after falsely claiming she was the reason they had failed to pay their bills, as part of their settlement with SHR [1]. Obviously SHR is recouping as much as they can from Nature’s Bakery, without putting the fig-bar company into bankruptcy.

The suit was over $31M owed to SHR, through Nature’s Bakery’s 2-year sponsorship deal with Danica Patrick. NB failed miserably at executing any kind for business plan that would capitalize on having a global icon marketing their brand. People often say that one person isn’t bigger than an institution, but that is incorrect in this media age. Danica is an icon, and Nature’s Bakery are a bunch of yahoo’s from Las Vegas, who had no idea what they were getting into with NASCAR sponsorship.

The fallout is that everyone here has to swallow some bad medicine to make this go away. Two races each for Danica & Clint Bowyer settled this lawsuit & counter-suit. This gets the #14 car (quite possibly) the only sponsorship it will have all season. Danica Patrick is presumably asked to quietly acquiesce to all this “for the good of the team.” That’s what happens when you’re a superstar and everyone knows it, which makes everyone else jealous, so they give you a 25th-place car every week…

That’s the dysfunction that is SHR (2017 above), and I can easily see this team replacing drivers and reducing to 3 cars next season, with Kurt Busch & Clint Bowyer being the most-likely cut candidates. This is a business, and there is too much waste at SHR. It can’t continue for much longer with these meager results.

Miscellaneous ‘Monster Mile’ Notes:

Dale Earnhardt Jr is pretty much cooked as a competitive driver. He’s winless in 2017 and currently 22nd in points. Another speeding penalty on pit road at the end of Dover, cost him a chance at a top-5 finish. He was running in back all day, and got a lucky break late (along with 6-7 other cars including Danica Patrick), when a caution came out as everyone else had already pitted on green. Junior got 4 fresh tires and came out 10th, until he was penalized and had to go to the back of the lead lap (16th). He finished 11th, which gets him no Cup points.

Kyle Busch’s #18 Toyota lost a left rear tire as it exited pit road on the first stop. Busch’s crew chief could face major penalties for the detached wheel, as none of the 5 lug nuts were attached. The rule (written in 2015) states that “loss of wheel(s) due to improper installation will result in a mandatory minimum four-race suspension of the crew chief and the tire changer and tire carrier of the lost wheel(s).”

Then again the #18 team may not be sanctioned at all, as JGR is already lobbying for a free pass [3]. When there are rules, and the puppet-masters adjust them by ‘judgment of intent’ on a case-by-case basis, then you have the anarchy that is NASCAR.

Final Dover update 6-8-17:

NASCAR actually stuck to their rules (which is a bit surprising), so give them credit here. If the #18 team wanted to avoid this punishment, then Kyle Busch’s crew chief (Adam Stevens) shouldn’t have allowed their car to leave the pit box without a rear right tire being fixed on. The rule is for safety, and intent doesn’t matter when a tire comes loose, which creates a dangerous situation for everyone on the track. Put the tires on correctly, and there won’t be a problem.
 
As far as those whining about ‘excessive punishment,’ everyone in NASCAR knows this suspension means nothing, as the crew chief is only excluded from being at the track, and can still be in radio contact with their team during the races for which he is “suspended.” The #18 team does have to find a new jackman and tire changer for the next four races, and that’s really the extent of this penalty.

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What is Russia?

Everything in the US political media is anti-Russian propaganda.  We are daily bombarded with innuendo of ‘Russian hacking & interference in US politics,’ with most people unaware of any historical facts concerning this country.

Any timeline of modern Russia begins with the overthrow of tsarism in 1917.  Throughout the Middle Ages and into capitalism, Russia remained a feudal relic.  Its spaces vast & impenetrable, while its industry meager and confined to a few industrial centers. The most important was St. Petersburg, primarily due to its port on the Baltic Sea.

By 1871, Western Europe had solidified its nation-state system, which pressured the long-existing balance of power, eventually causing its violent break-up in “The Great War.”  Austria-Hungary was partitioned & Balkanized after WWI. The same fate would have met Russia, if not for the Bolshevik party led by Lenin– and finally Trotsky.

The Russian tsar Nicholas II (above), had thrown his backward army into the trenches in 1914, and by 1916 they had collapsed. Germany was compelled to devote most of its resources to the Western front versus England, France (and later the US).  Only this (and Russia’s vast spaces) kept St. Petersburg & Moscow from being taken by German forces.

The overthrow of the tsar (February, 1917) and the conquest of power by the Bolsheviks in October, led by the most-advanced elements of the working class, established a worker’s government in St. Petersburg. What ensued was a global reorientation by the capitalist powers, ending ‘The Great War’ (with many still-unresolved issues) in order to devote all its resources towards overthrowing the worker’s government that had been newly-established in Russia.

By 1922, the Red army had repelled imperialist forces from around the world, and established the first worker’s state in human history, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).  It’s leader, VI Lenin (above) had survived an assassination attempt, but eventually became incapacitated by a series of strokes, and died in January 1924.  This led to a factional struggle for supremacy within the Bolshevik party, eventually pitting powerful bourgeois/fascist elements led by Joseph Stalin, against Leon Trotsky (below).

Trotsky had great support among the people for his leadership during the revolution. Lenin ordered Trotsky to organize & command the Red Army during the civil war, and without him, the revolution would have surely perished. That is the value of leadership.

Great genius is always attacked, and everyone has vulnerabilities.  Trotsky’s ‘liability’ was his brutal honesty, which won him the eternal respect & friendship of Lenin, but few others. Most feared & hated him politically, and Stalin (below) was adept at laying traps, creating intrigue, and back-room politicking; where Trotsky was always advancing the Russian revolution onto the international stage.

This led to parliamentary (conservative) maneuvering, which ousted & exiled Trotsky by the end of the decade. He was exiled to outer Siberia, then the Turkish island of Prinkipo, Norway, and finally Mexico. He continued his revolutionary leadership there, establishing the 4th International (today: WSWS.org).  He was viciously assassinated by an agent of Stalin in August, 1940, while working in his study.

An accurate synopsis of the USSR (above) is that it greatly advanced Russia through its socialized property relations, catapulting it to super-power status by the end of WWII. The Stalinist bureaucracy attached itself to the state (which owned everything), and gorged itself until it collapsed from within. The Soviet people were suppressed by a totalitarian police-state (KGB), but their standard-of-living was much higher than it has been since capitalist restoration [1].

This leads bourgeois historians to generally omit, distort, or gloss-over the Soviet era (1917-1991) from any discussion of Russia.  The US ideology towards the Soviet Union (during its existence) was hysterical red-baiting. Any solidarity with the Soviet people or appreciation for their beautiful land made you a “communist.”  Hollywood actors, musicians and other artists were blacklisted after WWII for these offenses. The FBI, led by J Edgar Hoover, investigated whomever he pleased with no accountability for democratic rights.  Most of the rest just got in line.

US ‘anti-USSR’ propaganda began to soften by the mid-1980’s, with perestroika (capitalist reform).  The failed USSR invasion of Afghanistan (1979-89) betrayed their military weaknesses.  The CIA & US special forces trained radical Islam ‘warriors’ to wage a terror war against the invading Soviet forces, and were largely successful.  This US-created Frankenstein mujahideen became the progenitor of Al Qaeda/ISIS.  The Chernobyl nuclear meltdown in the Ukraine (above), revealed severe limitations in the Soviet Union’s ability to provide basic necessities to its people.

In 1989, the Berlin Wall was opened (above), which re-integrated East Germany back into the west.  Finally the Soviet Union was liquidated in December, 1991.  Bourgeois analysts, intellectuals and historians were completely shocked at these events, while unanimously proclaiming the “end of history,” whatever that was supposed to mean?

Their point was: capitalism ‘won,’ and socialism had failed. As far as their analysis of how & why, Trotsky still explains it better than every bourgeois historian/propagandist, in his classic book cited above.

The break-up of the Soviet Union downsized Russia’s territory by approximately one quarter. This comparison map below illustrates the regions that have been ‘liberated.’  Note that these are important geo-strategic areas, along with new countries in central Asia that have HUGE untapped oil & natural gas reserves.

In bourgeois ‘thinking’ there are no permanent allies, only permanent interests.  That’s what’s always in play with the anti-Russian hysteria– deep state interests. The deep state is the hidden US apparatus that controls all the economic, military, political & media levers-of-power.  It is currently in a raging conflict over how much to escalate their ‘war on Russia.’  This war has never stopped, and as the global influence of the United States continues to decline– both economically & politically (Trump), then the more it resorts to militarism as a solution.

Right now, the power to annihilate humanity is in the hands of some very unstable & angry people.  These fascist forces can not be reasoned with, they must be met with organized political resistance.  Those are the hard facts that liberals always avoid.  Liberals prefer to be ostriches, continuing along with the heads in the sand, as if things will (somehow!) work themselves out.  They can’t be bothered with careful consideration & sacrifice, as they’ve done enough of that already. That is their collective psyche, and that is why Marxism orients itself towards the working class & students.

So why do American’s know so little about Russia?  First, there’s a language barrier. Even their Cyrillic alphabet is foreign, so Americans get little news that’s direct from Russia. Can you read any of this popular Russian newspaper shown above?  Everything we see on Russia is through the US-government propaganda lens.

Russia has a long history, much longer than the US.  Their contributions to literature, music, dance, science and political theory remain landmarks of human culture & civilization. To not embrace it is philistine.

To not appreciate the natural wonders of Russia, is to simply turn off one’s humanity. I will end this post with a small sample of it’s magnificent beauty, and ask why we have to be at war with this?

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Medical Marijuana & Florida Politics

Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana was approved by 71% of Florida voters on Election day 2016.  but it never had a chance of become reality. The Florida legislature had 60 days to pass this amendment in law, and willfully ran out the clock in defiance of the voters of Florida.

Before this amendment was publicly passed, Republican party machinery worked behind the scenes to make sure that widely-available legal marijuana never happened.  With backroom deals made to venture capital & hedge fund investors, Florida is being setup as the new model for legal marijuana under corporate control.  “Vertical integration” is the term that keeps being bandied about in the local media (and in Tallahassee, photo below), meaning monopoly control for a few hand-chosen cannabis distributors.

Background: In 2015-16, twenty-four nurseries applied for the five (5) to-be-available state licenses for medical marijuana, in a secretive process by a board appointed directly by Florida governor Rick Scott, with each coughing up a $60,000 non-refundable application fee.  Licenses were awarded to Costa Nursery farms of Miami, Knox Nursery of Winter Garden, Hackney Nursery Company of Tallahassee, Chestnut Tree Farm of Alachua and Alpha Foliage (Surterra Therapeutics) of Homestead.

Click on any of the five hyperlinked entities above, and you will notice that none of them grow marijuana!  For example Jake Bergman (photo above) is the CEO of Surterra Holdings, Inc. a cannabis-based therapeutics company, seeded by Wall Street hedge fund firm Vakyrie Capital. Surterra has a well-documented history of using pesticides (medically harmful), and their plants have been denied and returned by the State of California due to pest infestations. [1]  Alpha Foliage is simply a Florida-based shell company which gets Surterra their coveted license. Marijuana growth & production will be outsourced to behemoth cannabis cultivator MJardin.

What MJardin offers to the Florida growers is a turn-key cartel service to licensed Florida cannabis businesses. The five license holders merely partner with this Colorado company that steps in and puts the operation in place– for a healthy piece of the action.  Rick Scott (with Trump below) and the Florida legislature provide political protection to the five ‘growers,’ while MJardin monopolizes the Florida marijuana market. [2]

Florida legislators have engineered regulations that shut out small businesses, and prohibit personal home cultivation.  In states like Colorado and California, where the industry was developed before legalization, the medical market was initially served by thousands of small farms. This allowed patients access to a more genetic diversity and a much wider range of product offerings, which led to the discovery of the medical utility of CBD in the first place. When home cultivation is banned and genetic diversity is not allowed to flourish, the true medical potential of marijuana remains hidden in favor of cartel profiteering.

The legislative debate over medical marijuana is an instructive example of capitalist politics overriding democracy and the will of the electorate. The original Florida House of Representatives measure banned smoking, eating, and vaporizing; which meant that despite a constitutional amendment, Floridians would have been banned from actually ingesting marijuana!

After public pressure, the House backed off and authorized vaping and edibles, but still banned smoking & home cultivation. The Senate haggled on their end, and then came back with more edits… back & forth until time ran out.  All this murk makes it difficult for most people to understand who’s to blame, much less what actually happened?

After the annual legislative session closed, pro-pot advocates began turning on each other, in an attempt to shift blame & avoid the political fallout.  Orlando-based trial attorney John Morgan is the one who bankrolled Amendment 2.  Morgan is a longtime Democrat, with ambitions for governor in 2018. He also has a bit of a drinking problem as revealed by his past DUI record, and this idiotic tweet (since deleted) late Friday (May 5) evening:

The next morning Morgan stated in a interview, “Ben Pollara fucked the patients. The first thing I am going to do is make sure the people who helped me pass Amendment 2 know not to give Ben Pollara another red nickel,” Morgan said.

Ben Pollara (above, left) was the campaign chairman for Amendment 2, and the political brains for the entire operation. Pollara told Sunshine State News, “The cartel’s position was unlimited dispensaries for themselves and their investors. Their lobbying team was very successful at holding that position. They got what they wanted and the bill died. My instructions to my lobbying team today were to get a bill – any bill – passed.”

Amendment 2 now moves to the Florida Department of Health, to implement without direction of the Florida Legislature. It has until July to put rules into place. However, the department is under Gov. Rick Scott’s control. Scott is anti-marijuana, so expect no further progress, and this whole mess likely ends up in court.

The silliness of all this is the fact that Florida has been growing some of the finest kinds of marijuana for generations, and yet it can’t legalize it due to bureaucratic ignorance & corporate greed.  The reason being legal marijuana is a major threat to distilleries, breweries, tobacco, and big pharma.

Those are major industries with serious political clout, which stand to lose billions in revenue, perhaps even threatening their very existence. Marijuana is a weed, which means you can grow it anywhere. In many ways it is the most ‘socialized’ plant, ubiquitously used– recreationally and medically.  In many ways, the fight for legal marijuana is a necessary attack on the entire capitalist healthcare system which favors monopolization, and that is why it is hated & feared by so many bourgeois politicians.

Thanks to Orlando Weekly for covering this issue intensely, as much was revealed in only their reporting.

See also: Medical & Recreational Marijuana

      1. Rolling Stoned - Ric Size

 

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Cheating in Sports

      1. Old Friends - Ric Size

 

ESPN/NASCAR 5-1-17: Joey Logano starts from the back and ends up front [1]

My posted comment: “I like Joey Logano, but I do have a question. What was the ‘unauthorized transmission adjustment’ that sent him to the back of the field to start? He went from last to race winner, so it definitely worked. Just seems unfair, at least until the fans know more.”
Like · Reply · May 1, 2017 11:21am

ESPN/NASCAR 5-4-17: Joey Logano’s win at Richmond won’t count toward playoffs [2]

NASCAR announces Logano’s car was ‘illegally modified’ and that his Richmond win is “encumbered,” meaning he doesn’t get the points or free pass in the Chase. Amazing that no one else in the media initially asked the question, huh?

Cheating is endemic and part of the fabric of NASCAR. Certain teams are allowed to cheat more, depending on their favor with Brian France. For the serious Chase competitors it’s about pushing this envelope, and keeping good political relations with Steve O’Donnell & France. Power owners like Roger Penske, Joe Gibbs & Rick Hendricks get decisive edges for their teams.

Some drivers are more strictly censured than others. There are some whose best interest is NOT to cheat. For instance, Danica Patrick never gets busted for illegal modifications, failing laser inspections, loose lug nuts, etc. It’s not in her interest to cheat, because of how she markets herself to her fanbase of women & kids– as beautiful & fair-minded. That’s how she attracts major sponsorship, and notice that Aspen Dental is now the “official dentist of NASCAR.”  [3]

She consistently runs ~25th, and can never win a race because she isn’t trying (cheating), but with Dale Jr. retiring, Danica will easily become their most valuable commodity. That is the paradox of NASCAR, and it’s the reason she’s so loved & hated [4].

The landscape of women’s tennis has undergone a seismic shift recently. Serena Williams announced her pregnancy (congratulations!), and very likely is leaving professional tennis as quietly as possible. I don’t see a comeback at her age, with all she’s already accomplished. Motherhood will likely motivate her more.

The other bombshell is Maria Sharapova returning, in top form it appears. She’s definitely among the early favorites at Roland Garros, with plenty of motivation & support. Her May 16th official announcement for the French Open is being promoted, so what does that tell you the decision to let her play will be?

Any Sharapova vs. the WTA scandal-mongering in the media is flak designed to distract people from the political & controversial nature of her suspension from the start. Player gossip covers these hidden interests. Maria Sharapova is double-edged, as the tour needs her star power, but she is personally disliked by most players. Rafa Nadal (below) welcomed Marin Cilic back by saying, “Only thing that I can say is I am happy to see Marin back on tour. He’s a good guy and a great player.”

But Nadal didn’t advocate for Sharapova’s return as a wild card under similar circumstances. Sober tennis fans see what’s important here. Cilic is accepted by the players, while Sharapova (an even greater player in the women’s game) is not, due to her unpopular status in the locker room.

Maria Sharapova has won the career grand slam and the French open– twice. Of course she deserves a wild card, and her current situation is why they have such a thing. This entire affair has been a political vendetta, with Sharapova’s Russian nationality being at the heart of it [5].

Serena & Venus Williams were/are allowed to compete with therapeutic-use exemptions (Serena TUE below) for schedule II narcotics & banned steroids, without even a hint of media scrutiny or sanction from the US-backed ITF or WADA. This hypocrisy is staggering, and the response from most of the players is disappointing in it’s selfishness.

Racialist (definition): 1) One who insists that all differences in society are based on race, instead of class. 2) A form a racism.

Genie Bouchard (above) also spoke against Sharapova even being allowed to return [6]. Bouchard’s current situation is beyond bizarre & messed-up, as she is suing the USTA, while her game has fallen apart [7].  Background: in October 2015, Genie Bouchard slipped in the locker room at he US Open In NY, when she couldn’t find a light switch after a late-evening match.  She claims a “serious head injury” with lingering concussion issues [8].

The USTA has destroyed evidence (locker room video) and is at least partially at fault; but this ultimately falls on Bouchard herself.  She would win more support from everyone by becoming an advocate for better locker room conditions for all the athletes.  When you speak selfishly about others, they won’t stand with you when you need them.

As we can see, there is much cheating going on everywhere in sports; men & women, white, black, and any other skin pigment.  It’s inherent ugliness is why it’s hidden, until someone eventually reveals it to the rest of us. It’s motive is to selfishly put oneself ahead of others. Cheating diminishes our souls because it values trophies over character, and that understanding is its best deterrent.

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