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.

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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.

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Why We Loathe Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch drives the #18 car in NASCAR’s Monster Energy Cup series. His team is Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), one of the top title contenders year-after-year. Through their manufacturer Toyota, JGR consistently fields some of the fastest cars on the grid, including (below) Kyle Busch’s #18.

Kyle Busch won the (then) Sprint Cup title in 2015, and is one of the winningest drivers remaining on the circuit. And yet so many racing fans dislike this guy and here is why?

These screenshots are all from 8-6-17 at Watkins Glen, NY– which is a road course.  In the first shot below, we have an aerial view of #18 Kyle Busch and #2 Brad Keselowski spinning off the course.

 

There are only two road-course races per season in NASCAR Cup competition, and they are considered ‘wild card’ races, which means they get more heated than usual, as more drivers feel they can actually win this race.

Above is Kyle Busch screaming into his radio, blaming (and threatening) another driver after he himself caused the spin-out, by trying to pass where he shouldn’t have. Drivers can’t pass around the ‘bus stop’ at Watkins Glen, and everyone except Kyle Busch accepts this. But instead of being contrite, Kyle is mad.

Sidenote: The last time Kyle Busch tried to ‘kill’ a Penske driver after a race was here, a few months ago:

In this video (which is hilarious) Kyle Busch was again driving way too aggressively in the corners, pinning a competitor too far down until he spun out. Kyle Busch gets REALLY mad when the wreck he causes spins into him, and causes him to wreck instead!

Professionally, that looks really bad so immediately he flips into spin mode. Whenever he’s yelling at whomever on his radio, it’s all a bleep-show for ScanAll & NASCAR America. Kyle Busch is mad, get out of his way– he owns the road!!

Kyle Busch is actually the worst form of driver, and there are far too many of his imitators out on our public roadways. Joey Logano handled himself beautifully, and I honestly became a bit of a fan for #22 at his “None on me” comment. Also gotta love the ninja skills in action.

Back to Watkins Glen:  Here is the dialogue between Kyle Busch and his crew chief (Adam Stevens), after the caution flag (which he caused) came out:

And here is Kyle Busch’s response:

Then the #18 spotter (Tony Hirschman) tries to settle his driver down, but Kyle Busch isn’t listening. As you can see below, the #18 is already into the #10 car on the re-start, as this conversation is happening…

…and there she goes again!!

If this was a serious racing series, the #18 car would be black-flagged as the race continues under green. Not a chance in NASCAR. In the earlier incident between Busch & Keselowski, the yellow flag was immediately thrown, even though both cars were able to get safely back onto the track. This is because both drivers are NASCAR favorites, and they can’t be allowed to lose valuable track position. There is no such concern for Danica Patrick as far as NASCAR goes, so it stays green as the field zooms by:

Here’s #10 car driver Danica Patrick’s initial response on the radio:

Then a more measured one:

Video is definitive evidence in NASCAR. Here’s the Fox Sports video from which these screenshots were taken.

Final thoughts: What’s the point of running against overgrown babies like Kyle Busch, who have superior cars and the freedom to wreck others? Kyle Busch insists on using dirty tactics whenever it suits him, then denies & blames others, knowing there will never be any serious repercussions from NASCAR. In fact it’s just the opposite, Kyle Busch is constantly promoted as one of NASCAR’s biggest stars.

Honestly, he’s just another reason to tune out.

 

      1. Haters, Step Aside - Ric Size

 

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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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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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Kansas: Danica Violently Wrecked; Aric Almirola Hospitalized

Does NASCAR want this?

Absolutely! Otherwise it’s a boring race and the sponsors get itchy.

Just read the tags on the address links:

http://www.foxsports.com/nascar/story/danica-patrick-joey-logano-aric-almirola-violent-fiery-crash-kansas-speedway-nascar-051317

http://www.espn.com/racing/nascar/cup/story/_/id/19377982/danica-patrick-aric-almirola-joey-logano-fiery-crash-kansas-speedway

Makes you want to view it, huh?!

EVERYONE sent well wishes & concerns to Aric Almirola, who plowed into Joey Logano after his front-right ‘mechanical’ failure. Logano should have turned himself into the SAFER barrier, instead of right-rearing Danica Patrick into the wall at nearly full speed–  the most dangerous type of oval crash. It is a driver’s first responsibility when feeling the blowout, to not wreck (endanger) others; you deal with this wreck on your own as much as possible.

It is also up to other drivers to slow down when there is a fireball ahead. Almirola was going WAY too fast (completely out of control); he had time to veer from the wreck, but instead slammed into the pile. Since he’s so badly hurt (fractured T-5), no one mentions that.

The only driver who mentioned Danica Patrick in their ‘tweets of concern’ was 7-time champion Jimmie Johnson (above).

So the driver who made no mistake here (and was nearly killed) is ignored, and shouted down as “selfish” by the haters. My advice to Danica: skip the All-Star race (for which you have to run qualifiers!), and save yourself the headaches.

What Drivers Said after Kansas Cup race

Danica Patrick — Finished 36th: “We were having a really good race and having fun out there and had a lot of speed. I kinda felt like Wonder Woman for a little while. All I know is that I all of a sudden crashed. I definitely had a feeling it was the 22 and I am sure that the doctors in the medical center checking my neurological abilities are glad to know I was right that it was Joey. When he said he had a failure I can’t say it made me feel that much better in the moment. I am just frustrated for the lack of breaks I get. It seems like every time things are going better and something happens I get crashed or am in a crash. Especially a place like this, a brake rotor, when we are using 200-300 pounds of pressure seems odd. Unfortunately there were two of us that got collected and while I am okay, one of these times one of these really big accidents someone is not going to be okay. Aric (Almirola) is not okay and his car looked the best of everybody. You never know when it is going to be the wrong hit. I have a team that works hard and put another car on the track and I hope we are saving up for a really good run of good luck.”

This was Danica Patrick post-race last week, after getting caught up in the ‘Big One’ at Talladega (again):

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr (above) looks pretty happy with his girlfriend standing beside him– like she should.  That begs the question: what does Ricky have to say about his girlfriend getting violently wrecked more than any other driver in NASCAR?

      1. Haters, Step Aside - Ric Size

 

Last notes to NASCAR faithful: since Kansas is a boring oval, make it a road-coarse race.

Why do so many NASCAR die-hards hate Danica? The reason the haters go off (as best I can tell) is because they are ugly, and she would never look at them in real life. It’s a vitriolic cry for attention, which they rationalize with selective nonsense. Shout them down!

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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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What is meant by “fake economy?”

Over seven billion humans currently live on this planet. Human civilization has mostly operated (for several hundred years) under an economic system called capitalism, which is predicated on individual profit & loss. By 2017, in order to maintain extreme levels of social inequality, illusions have had to be constructed & sustained. This is where our fake economy comes in.

Under feudalism (and before that, slavery in antiquity) illusions also had to be maintained, as all human societies have been ruled by class forces. The Romans gave their plebeian class “bread & circuses,” until they were overrun by barbaric hordes. Medieval royalty ruled their domain with their knighted class, and the mysticism of organized religion in the Catholic Church. The Crusades were about conquest & power, but peddled as a “Holy War” against Islam. We can therefore see that ‘fake news’ and manipulation of public opinion are not new phenomena. Only the tools & techniques change, as their purpose & interest always remain the same, which is to railroad public opinion towards war.

Fake jobs & industries under capitalism include: sales, business, investing, consulting, management & politics. Education is a crucial area for ideology, as corrupt ivory tower academia provide ‘proofs’ for every absurd irrationally of the profit system and all its malignancies.  It’s easier to manipulate fake people, as zombies don’t know how to think for themselves. Here in the United States, children are taught how to think & act at a very young age, with a consistent propaganda message. That message is to consume things that give instant pleasure. Sugar is the most addicting substance to man, and children are bombarded with targeted advertising in all media programming for unhealthy food from infancy onward.

Now people have fake bodies which aren’t healthy, so they need fake cures. “Selling sickness” is a nefarious industry secret in medicine, dentistry & pharmaceuticals. People are susceptible to this pressure because they have become so insecure about themselves. Any salesperson recognizing this can target weaknesses and close in. When a body is ugly with fat, one has a hard time socializing. One smells bad, so one needs more deodorant, and so on…

      1. Money Bug - Ric Size

 

After a while, many obese people give up on themselves and don’t go out anymore. Luckily there is the Internet and social media, when one can project whatever one pleases. While the Internet & social media are real technology, there is a large element of distortion and inherent falseness in most social media posting over time. We tend to project what we want other people to see, and filter out the rest. It’s much harder to do that in real life, with real people.

The news on the Internet is virtually all fake, outside of the WSWS.org. Capitalism runs every publication, which employs Madison Avenue advertisers to tell everyday people what’s important. This includes the entertainment industry (music, film & TV), sports & fashion. All of these are fake economies, endlessly generating useless content 24/7 for mindless consumers who must be kept entertained in order to distract them from world-significant events happening all around them.

The lure of PED’s in athletics is a form of ‘fake health.’ It plays on competitors’ deepest doubts & insecurities, leading into a chemical morass. Eventually male users need Cialis to get an erection, which begs the question: if you’re so hard, why do you need help there? Steroid use makes no sense when thought out rationally, but our society has taught people to ignore consequences for perceived short-term gains. The problem is the gains aren’t real, and they are more than offset by the detrimental side effects.

The healthiest way to interact is to listen & learn from others, while being influential (in a positive way) where appropriate. Don’t go for popularity because:

1) It’s shallow and accomplishes nothing for anyone else
2) Everyone else is doing it, which means it’s old already

The only way humans can be truly happy is when they are allowed to express themselves freely, without repercussions & without hurting others. That is impossible under our current fake economy. We need to starting getting real with everything, in order to replace these illusions with something real, as nothing else works.

      2. Problem Solved - Ric Size

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Celebrity: To Be or Not To Be

Everyone wants to be famous, right? Then you are well-known and everyone listens to what you have to say, so you can make a difference! That’s what most people believe. Celebrity reality (an oxymoron) is much different.

People naively believe that if you work hard and are amazing at what you do, then you will (somehow?) become a celebrity. Wrong!  You become a ‘star’ when the ruling class selects you to be one of their representatives. That’s where the big money comes from to pay these superstar contracts. Celebrities are spokespersons for capitalism, whether they are movie stars, rock stars or famous athletes– they are all sponsored by finance capital. These are the circuses which decadent capitalists enjoy, but primarily serve as a distraction (fake economy) for the underprivileged working masses.

The deal you make when you become a celebrity is that you NEVER speak badly about the sponsors, ie. capitalism. Since they are paying for your enhanced status, they expect full cooperation across the board. This definitely reaches into celebrities’ private lives, as they are simply no longer allowed to mingle with non-celebrities, unless there is complete control of the setting. This celebrity insecurity is a lonely disease. That fact that nearly every Hollywood/celebrity marriage ends in divorce substantiates this thesis. This leads to the ever-constant celebrity fascination with sex, probably because they aren’t getting any, or if they are it is of poor quality.

The fact that the vicarious public knows every detail of these figures & figurines demonstrates that they are allowed no privacy themselves; as famous lives are endlessly analyzed, dissected and discussed everywhere in the corporate news & social media. Any slip of the tongue on a bad day can be ruin.  This is the tightrope the glamorous & famous must gracefully walk every day.  If that sounds like an impossible amount of work, that’s because it is. Eventually every celebrity is wrecked or quietly taken down, and this entire fake economy lurches forward with new ‘stars.’ The bankers & corporate heads that control everything remain the same, and stay hidden.

As a celebrity, what you get to say for yourself hardly matters. Big capital owns the important parts of your brain which determine ethics & character. The rest is basic functions, fluff & bragging backed by lots of money.  Working people aren’t stupid, they’re just overworked– so they are a little slower in seeing all this. Many have already ‘cut the cord’ and that trend will accelerate as working people can no longer afford these spectacles, which are increasingly being recognized as fake.

The cult of celebrity is a major hurdle for the working class to clear on its way to a successful socialist revolution. The role of modern finance capital in creating a privileged ‘buffer layer’ to insulate the ruling 1% from the working masses has been an effective innovation. This ~10%  buffer includes celebrities, who mesmerize many working people.

      1. RIDICULOUS - Ric Size

 

This is because workers are trained to believe their own lives don’t matter, because it’s only money & fame that count. This is not only wrong, it is exactly the opposite of the truth– a Big Lie technique. It is the workers who are real, as they are the ones who produce the material value for society. Celebrities are part of this vast fake economy which is crumbling all around us– daily. In spite of this reality, these charlatans must continue to dance to the music, no matter how banal & vapid it is.

It is correct to say that artists should be rewarded no more than any other worker, under socialism. Under capitalism things are unequal, and therefore artists hold the highest rank of importance in bourgeois society. Without Pablo Picasso, Orson Welles, Mile Davis, Stanley Kubrick, Andy Warhol, John Lennon, etc., there is no culture and no beacon for truth. True artists are of precious value, because they can be taken away in one act of violence by a ruling class that will stop at nothing to preserve its privilege and avoid being exposed.

Marxism uses the dialectical method to analyze society historically & materially. Dialectics means that everything is always moving & changing, so it is critical to understand the process in order to project the future. At one point most celebrities had noble aspirations. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux is attributed with the proverb, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” Even this noble saint had progressive thoughts, but when it lacks Marxist discipline & critical dialectical thinking, it inevitably becomes an idealist morass, which always funnels back to god & bourgeois capitalism in the dead-end form of the Democratic party in the US.

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