San Diego Padres: Bullpen Management & Draft Notes

The Padres have the most unique and effective bullpen in MLB, and it’s starting to turn heads. Padres manager Andy Green is as good as it gets in the dugout, and with the media. No one manages a bullpen or 25-man roster better. The Padres are currently 29th in OBP, 27th in SLG, 25th in runs scored, and 18th in total ERA. The only reason they are hanging around in the tough NL West (currently 34-38, 6.5 GB of ARZ) is because of Andy Green (below) and their unique bullpen. Let’s break it down.

On April 8, 2016 San Diego Padres GM AJ Preller claimed LHP Brad Hand off waivers from Miami Marlins (GM: Mike Hill). This happened just before Preller started trading his entire rotation, closer, and anything else he could dump. Brad Hand was available at the that trade deadline, and in 2017, but no fair offers came. Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make, as Brad Hand (1.78 ERA, 35.1 IP, 21 saves) is now a relief ace and premium closer– under a team-friendly contract with a club option through 2021. Any MLB GM will tell you that is a championship-winning piece to the puzzle. His value may never be higher, but there’s no reason to trade him.

Right-handed set-up man Craig Stammen (above) was acquired on December 23, 2016 as a minor-league free agent, and invited to spring training. He performed and made the 25-man roster, and has been one of Andy Green’s most valuable bullpen pieces in complementing Brad Hand. He’s age 34 with a 2.23 ERA in 32.1 IP so far in 2018. Craig Stammen in 2017 had a 3.14 ERA in 80.1 IP for the Padres. He’s paid $2.25M/yr for 2018 & 2019. He’s a huge bargain in high-leverage situations– exactly where you need it.

On April 26, 2017 the San Diego Padres claimed RHP Kirby Yates (above) off waivers from Los Angeles Angels. Padres fans LOVE this guy! So far in 2018: 3-0, 1.00 ERA, 27.0 IP, with 2 saves. He’s pre-Arb2, with a salary of $1M in 2018. Andy Green sometimes uses Brad Hand in the 8th inning of a tight game, because that’s the match-up advantage or whatever.

Making the closer slot fluid, increases competitiveness in the bullpen. “Closer by committee” is an old-school baseball phrase, but this is something different. The Padres aren’t rotating their closer because they don’t have a reliable finisher, it’s because they have multiple guys capable of closing. This is very similar to the Cincinnati Reds “Nasty Boys” bullpen that won them a World Series in 1990. Kirby Yates is age 31, yet another Padres Arb2 player making $1M in 2018, and can’t be a free agent until 2021– at the earliest.

Righty side-armer (above) Adam Cimber (2018: 3-2, 2.52 ERA, 35.2 IP) is a guy the Padres actually drafted back in 2013, before AJ Preller became GM. But Padres fans know that the previous regime would have gotten rid of this guy long ago, and he’d be helping another team win games. Luckily for the Padres, new management understands the value of a good bullpen in high-leverage situations. It’s the difference between winning & losing a lot of games. Adam Cimber turns age 28 on August 15, and is Arb1, making the league-minimum salary of $545,000.

Rookie LHP José Castillo was acquired as part of the blockbuster Wil Myers deal with the Rays & the Nationals on December 19, 2014. This was AJ Preller’s signature deal as a rookie GM of the San Diego Padres. The key guy Preller gave up was SS Trea Turner to the Nationals. José Castillo is age 22 with electric stuff. He’s just been added to the bullpen, and so far in 2018 he’s 1-0, 0.00 ERA in 6.0 IP (4 games) with 12 K’s. San Diego Padres also sent C Rene Rivera, RHP Burch Smith and 1B Jake Bauers to Tampa in that deal.

As the trading deadline loomed last summer, on July 24, 2017 the Padres traded Brandon Maurer, Ryan Buchter and RHP Trevor Cahill to the Kansas City Royals for cash, 2B Esteury Ruiz, LHP’s Matt Strahm and Travis Wood.  Matt Strahm (above) and Ruiz were considered the booty in the deal for the Padres, as Travis Wood was released; then he got hurt in Spring Training with the Tigers and is probably finished in MLB. Cahill was a Padres rental, and Mauer & Buchter were fungible.

LHP Matt Strahm (2018 so far: 1-2, 2.55 ERA, 17.2 IP) was envisioned as a potential starter, but he’s still working his way back from a knee injury that he sustained with the Royals. The Padres have used him effectively as a long reliever and their “bullpen starter.” The bullpen start has gotten a lot of notice, especially in Tampa Bay, where the Rays have been forced to start a reliever repeatedly.

The plan for Andy Green is typically to have LHP Matt Strahm go through the line-up once, then bring in a right-handed long reliever to bridge to the “real” bullpen. An advantage of a bullpen start is that it prevents the opposition from stacking their lineup for the righty/lefty match-up advantage.

The Padres have had to use “bullpen starts” because they don’t have enough reliable starters. Teams are supposed to have five starters for a rotation. Most teams today don’t have even four reliable starters, and the Padres are among them. They actually have only two: RHP Tyson Ross & LHP Clayton Richard.

The rest of their “starters” include rookie LHP Eric Lauer who is 3-4, 6.20 ERA in 45 IP in 10 starts with a 1.98 WHIP. Eric Lauer was the Padres top pick in 2016 (#25 overall) out of Kent State, and just turned age 23. He has been rushed up to the majors due to injuries & poor performances, including: RHP Dinelson Lamet (TJ surgery), RHP Luis Perdomo (ineffective, optioned to minors), LHP Joey Lucchesi (DL- hip injury), and RHP Colin Rea (TJ surgery recovery from his one start while with the Marlins in 2016).

Taking a closer look at these numbers reveals a secret behind Andy Green’s success in managing this staff. Eric Lauer (below) has 10 starts with only 45 IP, for a 6.20 ERA. Eric Lauer typically only pitches 4-5 innings, and gives up 3 runs. That’s not good, but it’s not a disaster either. It would be a disaster if Andy Green tried to push Lauer another inning or two. Then those games would get out-of-Hand [!], giving him no chance to use his effective relievers in a situation that matters. By pulling his struggling starters early, or going to a bullpen start; Andy Green keeps the damage to a minimum which gives his team a chance to rally. In baseball, this is called being an outstanding manager, with an excellent “feel” for his team.

On August 1, 2017 RHP Jordan Lyles was released by the Colorado Rockies, and a week later AJ Preller grabbed him. The Padres had priority on NL waivers claims at the time, due to their poor record in 2016. This is just another example of how AJ Preller acquires talent outside-the-box. The Padres have used Lyles in 2018 as a their fill-in 4th starter; so far 2-3, 4.83 ERA in 20 games, seven of them starts. He’s pitched 59.2 innings, which averages 3 innings per appearance. This is the same situation as Eric Lauer, in that Jordan Lyles eats innings, but gets pulled early. This is because winning baseball theory says, “If you leave a 5.00+ ERA pitcher in too long, you lose.”

LHP Robbie Erlin (above) is another organizational soldier who has recovered from Tommy John surgery. Erlin was originally acquired from the Texas Rangers back in 2011 for righty set-up man Mike Adams. Robbie Erlin bombed as a starter in his few opportunities he had earlier this year, but he has found a niche as a lefty longman out of Andy Green’s bullpen. Overall, Robbie Erlin in 2018 is 1-3, with a 4.05 ERA in 40.0 IP and a WHIP of 1.05. His 19 appearances include 2 disaster starts which ballooned his ERA. Robbie Erlin has been very valuable during the bullpen starts, and in long relief.

The only thing left on the current Padres pitching staff (above) are RHP’s Bryan Mitchell & Phil Hughes. On December 12, 2017 the New York Yankees traded 3B Chase Headley, RHP Bryan Mitchell and cash to San Diego Padres for RF Jabari Blash. Blash was quickly DFA’d by the Yankees. This deal was made because 1) the Yankees needed to get under the salary cap as they were about to acquire Giancarlo Stanton; and 2) Padres GM AJ Preller liked RHP Bryan Mitchell.

The Padres took an Chase Headley’s $13M contract for 2018, in the hopes they could squeeze a year out of him and gain a potential starter (Mitchell) in the process. Headley bombed and was DFA’d by the Padres after a slow start, and Bryan Mitchell appears to have serious mechanical issues that are limiting his effectiveness. So far in 2018 Bryan Mitchell is 0 -3, with a 7.08 ERA in 48.1 IP. If that isn’t corrected, then this deal will be a $13M bust for the Padres. This only proves that no one wins them all as a GM in MLB.

Phil Hughes was acquired from the Twins on May 27, 2018 for minor-league C Janigson Villalobos. Twins are paying all of Phil Hughes $13.2M salary in 2018. In 2019 Hughes earns $13,200,000, of which only $5.95M will be paid by San Diego Padres. This deal was made by AJ Preller so he could acquire the 74th pick in this year’s amateur draft, and extra pool money.

Compensation picks are now tradeable in MLB, which is new. Unsurprisingly, AJ Preller was the first to take advantage of this new development, and get an advantage for his franchise. The Padres used this pick from the Twins in the “Competitive Balance B” section of the draft to take OF Grant Little from Texas Tech, with the 74th overall selection. The Padres forfeited their 2nd Round pick to the Kansas City Royals for signing unrestricted free agent 1B Eric Hosmer, so this deal made up for that lost draft pick. Nothing is more valuable in MLB than young talent, and AJ Preller (below) knows it.  So far in 2018 with the Padres Phil Hughes is 0-0, 4.05 ERA in 6.2 IP.

DL Note: Phil Maton is a righty set-up guy the Padres drafted in 2015. His 2018 numbers are 0-0, 0.56 ERA in 16.0 IP, with 17 K’s. Maton is currently on the DL with a right lat strain, and pitching in AA (San Antonio) for rehabilitation. The Padres will get him back after the All Star break at the latest, probably sending Jose Castillo down, as Bryan Mitchell and Phil Hughes can’t be optioned.

And finally… Carter Capps was the Marlins wipe-out closer in 2015, until his elbow snapped, necessitating Tommy John surgery. He was dealt to the Padres during his recovery in the controversial “Cashout” deal. On July 29, 2016 the San Diego Padres traded RHP’s Andrew Cashner & Colin Rea, with RHP-prospect Tayron Guerrero and cash to Miami Marlins for RHP Jarred Cosart, RHP Carter Capps, RHP Luis Castillo and 1B Josh Naylor. This deal has been discussed & analyzed in detail here.

Anyways the prize of the deal for the Padres was Carter Capps, whom they expected to return to form in 2017 as an elite closer after rehabbing his reconstructed right elbow. The problem was (and now forever is) that his delivery to home was an illegal motion. He was hopping off the mound, then replanting his back foot before firing home. This made him unhittable, as his ERA in 2015 was 1.16 in 31.0 IP before he got hurt.

MLB (finally) ruled in Spring Training of 2017, that Carter Capps’ delivery was illegal. Much of this can be seen as extended punishment of AJ Preller by the Eastern Establishment. That aside, the Padres have tried everything to change Capps’ delivery while keeping him effective, but nothing has worked. He’s about to turn age 28, and he’s still getting rocked in the minors. He’s making ~ $1.3M this year, with one more year of arbitration before free agency.

The blame for all this lies with the Miami Marlins, who allowed this pitcher to come through their system with an illegal motion. The Atlanta Braves correctly challenged his delivery in a game, shortly before his was disabled, but were rebuked by the umpires. MLB never acted upon any of this nonsense, until the Padres acquired him. Then it was pronounced illegal. Talk about nullifying a deal by judicial fiat?!!

PADRES 2018 DRAFT SIGNEES (as of this publication)

3 | SS Owen Miller (Illinois St.)
4 | RHP Dylan Coleman (Missouri St.)
5 | OF Dwanya Williams-Sutton (East Carolina)
7 | OF Jawuan Harris (Rutgers)
8 | RHP Steven Wilson (Santa Clara)
9 | 2B Luke Becker (Kentucky)
11 | C Nick Gatewood (Georgia St.)
14 | RHP Erik Sabrowski (Cloud County CC)
16 | C Michael Curry (Georgia)
20 | RHP Reiss Kneher (Fordham)
21 | OF Mason Fox (Gardner-Webb)
22 | RHP Payton Smith (Strom Thurmond HS, S.C.)
25 | 2B Lee Solomon (Lipscomb)
26 | LHP Tyler Mortensen (Davis HS, Calif.)
27 | RHP Gabe Mosser (Shippensburg)
31 | RHP Jake Sims (Saint Leo)
32 | LHP Cody Tyler (Wichita St.)
33 | C Rainier Aguilar (Redlands)
39 | RHP Seth Mayberry (Dinwiddie County HS, Va.)

Draft Notes: Padres forfeited their 2nd Round pick in compensation for signing free agent Eric Hosmer. The Kansas City Royals used this 34th overall pick on Daniel Lynch, a LHP from the University of Virginia whose suggested slot value is $2,066,700.

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The worst free-agent signing of the off-season was Alex Cobb (4/$57M) to the Orioles, inked at the end of spring training (March 21, 2018). Alex Cobb was the last “big-name” starting pitcher on the market, and the O’s were desperate. So far for Cobb: 2-8, 7.23 ERA, 56.0 IP.

The Orioles also forfeited their 2nd-round pick to the Rays in this deal. The Rays then selected #31 overall, and took LHP Shane McClanahan out of South Florida, whose slot value is $2,224,400. In a free agent market that had completely collapsed for all but the very best players, this was about as bad a deal as a franchise could make. Unfortunately for Orioles fans, the owner can’t be fired. He needs to be forced to sell.

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The Padres have signed 19 of their 2018 draft picks, including six of their top 11 selections. They have until July 6 to sign these remaining selections:

1st Round: #7 overall Ryan Weathers LHP from Loretto (TN) HS, whose slot value is $5,226,500. Money isn’t a problem for this organization anymore, as this signing is imminent. Ryan is the son of former MLB pitcher David Weathers.

Competitive Balance A: #38 overall Xavier Edwards SS North Broward Prep (FL) HS

Competitive Balance B: #74 overall (acquired from Twins) Grant Little, OF from Texas Tech

6th Round: #171 overall Alexuan Vega, LHP, Leonides Morales Rodriguez HS, San German, Puerto Rico

10th Round: #291 overall Jose Quezada, RHP, Texas Tech; this selection was a gamble as he’s a fourth-year senior with a lot of tools. Padres are trying to be creative with their bonus money to sign him. He’s a teammate of the Padres Competitive B selection, Grant Little, discussed above.

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MLB Umpiring Notes: It’s difficult enough for a last-place, west coast team to go on a 10-games-in-10-days east coast road-trip, and beat a 1st-place team. It becomes nearly impossible, when the umpiring is fixed.

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San Diego Padres In -Season Report

These were the top free-agent pitchers available last winter and who actually won.

Hu Darvish: signed with Cubs 6yr/$126M, so far: 1-3, 4.95 ERA, 40 IP; currently on the DL with right triceps tendinitis with no timetable for his return.

Jake Arrieta: signed with the Phillies 3yr/$75M. so far: 5-4, 2.95 ERA, 69.2 IP; he’s been the best performer of all the free-agent pitchers. He’s still an injury risk.

Lance Lynn: signed with the Twins 1yr/$12M, so far: 4-4, 5.08 ERA, 62.0 IP; wasted money for the Twins, but not a disaster deal.

Alex Cobb: signed with the Orioles on March 21 [!] for 4yr/$57M, so far: 2-7, 6.19 ERA, 52.1 IP; this was an inexplicable waste of money as everyone stayed away from him, but that’s Peter Angelos– see also Chris Davis.

Sidenote: Orioles should release 1B/DH Chris Davis (.152/.232/.232), which would be addition by subtraction. He’s age-32 and a sunk cost, so “hoping” for things to turn around is futile. It’s hard to eat over $100M, but that’s the best thing the Orioles can do, if they are concerned about making themselves better, and they should be. This is the worst team in MLB, by far. The Chris Davis contract compares to the Pujols (Angels) & A-Rod (Yankees) albatrosses, and is probably actually worse. His best season under this 7-year deal at ($23M/per) was 2016: .221/.332/.459 in 665 PA. This is all on owner Peter Angelos, of course.

On December 27, 2017 Padres GM AJ Preller inked RHP Tyson Ross (above) to a 1yr/$1.75M deal, so far: 5-3, 3.43 ERA, 76 IP; this was the best free-agent pitcher signing of the off-season. Jake Arrieta has been better, but he costs 15x more money. For GM’s it’s about finding value and properly allocating resources. You can’t do better than what the Padres got here, and they really needed it.

Padres also signed 1B Eric Hosmer 8yr/$144M, who has been an invaluable addition. Without Hosmer, the Padres are at least 10 GB, instead of the 5.5 they currently sit. It’s the leadership he brings with the performance, as Padres fans now understand why Royals fans hated to see him go. This guy is a winner, and was the best position player available last winter in free-agency.

The fact that the Padres are still in last place despite these helpful additions, only proves how far back they actually were. This organization has been rebuilt from the ground, since the in-season sell-off of 2016. People are starting to see how this could be a dangerous team, as they have the best farm system in baseball, with a few interesting pieces at the MLB level.

Media rumors about the upcoming trade deadline (7/31) have again floated Padres closer Brad Hand (above) as an acquisition target for a championship contender. This is the same situation as last year, and the year before– actually. If a team is serious about upgrading their bullpen, then it’s Brad Hand. No one else is even close to his value. So far, no one has been willing to pay the Padres what he’s worth.

In 2018: 32.1 IP, 1.95 ERA, 50 K’s, 1.021 WHIP, with 18 saves. This is your basic wipe-out lefty, who gets stronger as the season progresses. Everyone covets that. Salary: $4M in 2018, then $7M, $7.6M; and the option for 2021 is $10M, with $1M buyout. This was yet another great move by AJ Preller this past winter, and he will sell only if the price is right. Until then, Brad Hand will continue to make manager Andy Green’s job easier, and the Padres look better than they really are. I believe Brad Hand is staying in San Diego.

The Padres have one of the best bullpens in MLB, and a manager who knows how to use it. That’s why they’ve been able to hang around in the NL West. Bullpens are really important, and still underrated & misunderstood by most. Today, most games are won or lost by the bullpens. Starting pitching is valuable when it performs and rests the bullpen. There aren’t a whole lot of those starters left, hence this bullpen revolution in MLB.

No one expects the Padres to seriously compete in 2018, but their dugout and front office haven’t given up on the season either. What’s going on is a constant evaluation process in which management is trying to figure out who their best young players are, and which ones they can trade. Roster management and protecting from the Rule 5 Draft are now issues for the Padres. GM AJ Preller thinks way ahead of everybody on these things, so expect him to make to deals before the deadline.

AJ Preller and company have assembled plenty of talent, so the focus is now on player development & injury management. The Padres drafted another LHP in the 1st Round of the June amateur draft, selecting Ryan Weathers a high-schooler, and the son of David Weathers former MLB pitcher. The Padres have more premium pitching talent than any farm system in baseball, and just added to it. If it is kept healthy and develops on track, then the Padres will be a force in the NL West by 2019, 2020 at the latest.

Meanwhile, this is a (mostly) young team that makes lots of mistakes, but doesn’t quit. They aren’t a good team, but they aren’t a joke either, and that’s an improvement. The energy is there, the brains are there, and the talent is coming. Padres fans are excited in ways they’ve never been before, and we’re talking about a franchise with a 50-year history.

They actually have a farm system and a plan to succeed long-term, based on home-grown talent. This never existed before AJ Preller was hired in 2014, and it’s all the difference in the world. Fans don’t mind watching a young scrappy last-place team, that they believe will get better over time. But fans won’t tolerate an old, overpaid team tanking into oblivion, with no hope for next year– see the 2018 Orioles.

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Beauty, Athletics & Revolution

Introduction: This piece was intended as a one-off, but turned into a serial– due to circumstances. Once again, I injected myself into the narrative, and dominated discussion through persuasive & convincing analysis of the facts. In the end it got ugly, as it’s the money that turns beauty into disgrace.

There is a shift in how retiring from professional sports is viewed, and the reason is women. That’s exciting in itself, because there is no better reason. There are now female athletes who are international superstars, and that never existed in numbers before. What began in US Women’s Soccer during World Cup 1999, was the beginning of a cultural change in sports. More young girls play sports, and play seriously- which I know is an oxymoron.

The point is women now command a place in televised sports, and they certainly have owned social media since its inception. This is a powerful coalescence of nature & technology. Glamorous superstars such as Danica Patrick, Maria Sharapova, Serena & Venus Williams have marketing power that will endure long after they leave their sports.

Take Maria Sharapova, who two years ago was banned from professional tennis for taking meldonium, which had just been quietly outlawed by the WTA & WADA. She lost all her sponsors overnight, and was vilified in the media for months.

Until her return over a year-and-a half later at the US Open in 2017, where she was the lead story of the tournament. Few remember that Sloane Stephens actually won the tournament on the women’s side, because it’s all about marketing power & appeal for the women. We ask women athletes to always be ravishing, smiling, gracious & victorious– in that order. That’s all we ask.

Staying with women’s tennis, the French Open has advanced to the second round as of this publication. The story of this tournament is the return of Serena Williams, after a year-and-a-half absence– due to giving birth and ensuing medical complications. The expectations for her are different now at age 36, as even she realizes winning the tournament is probably not possible, and motherhood is her priority.

But she’s a great champion, and that mentality says as long as you can stand on two legs and hold a racket, then compete in the Majors until retiring. So it’s a situation where she’s no longer the overwhelming favorite to win, but instead the fan favorite. Women have options available to them, that men don’t, simply due to biology. This is revolutionary in that it’s changing the rules for the athletes transitioning into retirement & their new lives. Male athletes will eventually adapt and catch up, due to their competitive nature.

Danica Patrick is a most-recent example of this phenomena of which I speak. The racing icon crashed out of the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend, which was her final race. Her last several seasons in NASCAR were painful for her and her fans. She was repeatedly, intentionally & viciously wrecked. But does her lack of winning results on the track affect her popularity or appeal? Not in the least. This woman will be in demand for a long time. Consider what I posted 5-29-18 on Facebook, concerning Danica Patrick and this phenomena:

I am being blocked, censored & blacklisted by the government-military-intelligence-corporate complex; yet “Why Does Danica Patrick Wreck So Often In NASCAR?” went viral- again. Everyone is looking for perspective now that she is retired, and this piece hits the mark. I don’t bother to edit it, even though some of the YouTube videos have been taken down. In its own way, that is confirmation on the points I made, as the haters who own the videos don’t want it used against their Danica-hating agenda.

I wrote this piece because I didn’t want to see her get killed. I believe this went a long ways towards educating fans on what was going on, which protected her from the haters who were having their way for the longest time. ESPN was clueless on Danica Patrick’s NASCAR run, until this was published. This piece resonates because people get emotional about beautiful women. People (myself included) get very angry at haters who have no respect.

I can only thank Danica Patrick (whom I’ve never met), for exposing me to so many people!

I’ve said this before, and I’ll repeat it again, as it is really important to understand: beautiful women rule the world. Everyone wants love, so beautiful women own all the straight men & the lesbians. The gay men must follow, because these women capture all the men. The less beautiful & older women are always jealous, but follow just the same. There is nothing else.

So women are figuring out new ways to leave their athletic careers, and still be relevant in the world. I see this leading into exciting new directions in the post-career health of professional athletes. For too long, sports has been solely the domain of men, who left their games crippled & concussed. Thus they were discarded, because they no longer had use value.

Men will have to learn to temper their competitive instincts better, especially in the second-halves of their careers, to reap these benefits that women are claiming. Fans can usually forgive transgressions of youth, but they expect champions (in particular), to learn how to behave and be gracious in victory, as well as defeat.

Fans also are tired of the doping, and the lying & manipulations that allow them to get away with it– for a time. These obsessive & unhealthy practices never endear athletes to sports fans. PED use always ends in shame & injuries, with ensuing medical complications; yet there is still a group of holdout jocks that insist they are correct. They always hide their illicit immorality, and that’s why their dangerous myths must be exposed.

Today, more than ever, the fan/celebrity relationship is an interactive one. When fans & athletes are correctly understanding all these issues, sports becomes more watchable & less cynical. The reporting & commenting becomes more nuanced & informative. Everyone has more fun.

We as a society value women differently, for better & worse. The better part is they have the power to move in their own direction and make everyone follow. If it’s a good direction, then everyone (men included) benefit from their gains. That is the revolutionary power & potential of women is sports today. We choose to move in this direction when we give these pioneers our support.

Postscript– 2018 French Open, 3rd & 4th Round:

Posted June 3, 2018 on Fakebook:

Venus & Serena Williams lost their doubles match today at Roland-Garros 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-0. After Serena won her 3rd-Round match yesterday, she could have bailed on doubles to save herself for Maria Sharapova on Monday– but she didn’t. Serena Williams played because you don’t leave your sister (and fans) hanging, and that marks a great champion with integrity.

Posted June 4, 2018:

Update June 5, 2018 (11:30 AM ET):

Serena Williams is getting an MRI on her torn chest muscles today. The mismanagement of Serena’s health post-partum, has been scandalous from a fan perspective. When she lost badly on the hard-courts earlier this year, Serena and her camp were forced to admit that she had “tried to come back too soon.” Now she tears her pectoral muscle after a last-minute decision to play in the French Open, but no one will step-up and admit she came back too soon– again!

Serena Williams’ “comeback” has been aborted by short-sighted ignorance in sports medicine. It’s time for everyone involved here, to wake up & look at reality with an objective eye. Serena’s drop in serve velocity from 110 MPH to 80 MPH was the most damning red flag that was ignored.

As Serena’s coach, Patrick Mouratoglou has a responsibility to protect her from abuse. The serve in tennis is the same motion as pitching a baseball. Dodgers ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw just went on the DL after pitching in a game where his fastball dropped nearly 5% from its normal velocity. Serena Williams’ serve dropped nearly 30%, yet she was left in her doubles match, with tape [!] over her torn pectoral muscle.

It was Mouratoglou who was pushing this French Open return for Serena from the start, when she was nowhere near ready. Whether she could have made a real comeback later will be debated among sports fans, you can bet.

Injuries are now stacking up on Serena Williams, and all their “plans” have only made things worse. There are entirely too many people in the Williams’ camp that are vicariously living their dreams of sports glory through her. What a shame.

If this is the end for Serena Williams’ professional career, then she at least died a warrior’s death. The greatest women’s tennis player had to retire to Maria Sharapova. Isn’t it ironic…?

Since I’m covering the French Open, here are my thoughts on the men’s side, and how champions separate themselves. First, I predict Rafa Nadal will win his 11th French Open title [!] this week.That is an unbreakable record to which he keeps adding. It is the story every year at Roland-Garros. Only injuries (& Novak Djokovic’s brilliant run) interrupted his accumulation of French Open titles. Simply amazing.

Secondly, tennis fans may have noticed that Roger Federer isn’t in this tournament. Why? Because he knows he can’t win it, and trying to only hurts his chances at Wimbledon, which is a tournament he can win.

The grind of winning the French Open at his advanced age pretty much takes Rafa Nadal out of contention at Wimbledon, so in essence they concede these Majors to each other, and play the hard-courts straight up, where Federer is the better player. This intelligence of Roger Federer in managing his career on the back-end is what separates him from the rest of the champions– IMO.

Update June 6, 2018 ~8:00 PM (ET):

On Monday (6/4), upon finding out just before her long-anticipated match with Serena Williams that she had withdrawn due to injury, Maria Sharapova released this statement: “I was looking forward to my match against Serena today and am disappointed that she had to withdraw. I wish her a speedy recovery and hope she returns to the tour soon.”

Earlier today (6/6) Maria Sharapova looked lethargic & out-of-rhythm, as she lost badly in her quarterfinal match to Garbine Muguruza 6-2, 6-1. In her press conference afterwards she was asked by ESPN press to respond to Serena Williams’ claims that her autobiography Unstoppable (2017) was “100% hearsay”. Sharapova replied, “I think it would be strange for me not to include someone that I have competed against for so many years … I think we played many matches. Some of those matches were very defining for me. It would be very strange, I think, if I didn’t write anything about her … When you’re writing an autobiography, I don’t think there is any reason to write anything that’s not true.”

Still no news on the results of Serena Williams’ MRI, despite her words to concerned fans on Tuesday (6/5) for continuous updates. ESPN ‘reporters’ Peter Bodo & Bonnie D. Ford keep writing hatchet pieces on Sharapova, while covering for Serena. This “Great Comeback” which they had been hyping has collapsed before everyone’s eyes, as this turned out to be the end. No one saw this coming, as even I was surprised when it happened. I have called it frame-by-frame, and am (again) hated for it– by corporate-propaganda interests.

Serena Williams is tied not only to the American sports machinery, but also to the reactionary Black Lives Matter & #MeToo campaigns. I’ve exposed their selfishness, corruption & lack of transparency. Therefore, I’m censored. Bitch factor has definitely been turned up. You didn’t think it just went away, did you?

I don’t expect a significant announcement on Serena’s medical condition anytime soon. She’s been allowed to play this game of lies & deception in the media for so long, why stop now? Her fans are pawns to be manipulated in her view. This is also unprofessional & disrespectful to her colleagues, who are being overshadowed on-the-court by all of Serena’s retirement drama. She can’t let go, and selfishly only considers her perspective. The fans have been educated here, and she’s losing much of her clout. That’s what happens when you lie to me.

Update June 9 (Saturday) ~ Noon ET– French Open Wrap-up:

Top-seeded Simona Halep from Romania, defeated Sloane Stephens in the finals: 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. Halep was the dominant player on the women’s side this year at Roland-Garros. She beat Angelique Kerber in the quarterfinals, and Garbine Muguguza (handily) in the semis. It’s Simona Halep’s 1st Grand Slam title, and it was impressive. Halep is age 26, and Stephens age 25; which means both are near their peak. The next great women’s tennis player in the “post-Williams’ sisters” era is still an unknown teenager.

Rafa Nadal will face 24-year old Austrian Dominic Theim on Sunday. Nadal has won 16 Grand Slam titles already, going for his 11th French Open title. Theim has none. Everyone expects Nadal to win in straight sets, four at the most.

Final notes:

Still no injury update from Serena Williams. I called that. At this point she can’t say anything, as the finals are in progress, and it’s really bad form to call a press conference now. Eventually she’ll have to do just that, as Wimbledon is just around the corner– July 2-15 in London, UK. Serena Williams has won there 7 times, and as recently as 2016, so surely she will get a wild-card entry. The problem is she went from ~ 50-60% entering the French Open; to 0% now. If she continues to delay the inevitable retirement announcement, her fans will just move on without her. That’s how the world works. Fans would love to see her & Venus retire together, and it’s time. Venus turns 38 on June 17, and (IMO) doesn’t get enough love, so Happy Birthday Venus!!

Thoughts on Wimbledon: The location of this tournament should give pause for all of us to reflect on (and speak in behalf of) a man who has been incarcerated in the Ecuadorian embassy for the past seven-and-a-half years. It’s a lot more important than what happens on any tennis court.

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Finishing with the Feet

When I began writing about hip & back injuries, I had a good start on my personal rehabilitation. From this came my theory on healing deep-core injuries, and a natural program for stubborn fat loss. Being an ambidextrous athlete is also part of this program, as it activates both sides of the body, developing total coordination with increased power.

What I didn’t know (when I began writing), was the endpoint. There are so many gains, followed by long plateaus in hip & back rehabilitation, that it feels like the goalposts are constantly being moved. This is a mountain you are climbing, so how do you know you are near/at the summit?

The answer, I have found is in the feet. For many people age-40 & older, their feet are a total wreck, and it’s why they have pooch guts and saggy butts. Here’s a review of the most common foot maladies in bold, with their practical applications to my methods, so we’re all speaking & understanding the same language.

Bursitis is the inflammation of the small bursae sacs which contain synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is equivalent to motor oil in an engine; keeping muscles, tendons & bones gliding past each other without friction. When bursae sacs become inflamed from repetitive overuse or trauma, friction ensues as movement becomes more painful & joint stiffness sets in. This is the cause of “sore arches” in high-heels wearers.

Calcific bursitis refers to calcium deposits within the bursae, which occur after injury. This natural mechanism creates the stiffness which immobilizes the injured area, so healing can occur. If the injury isn’t properly diagnosed & rehabilitated (or given insufficient time to heal properly), then a secondary healing occurs– where further calcifications are made around the afflicted area, so no more damage can occur.

Presuming it’s an athletic injury, the typical time-line in such a case includes resuming activity too soon, with diminishing results. There may be little/no pain, because the injured area has been splinted with calcifications, but the athlete notices reduced performance & endurance. Attempts to break past this without proper rehabilitation only lead to further pain, injury & frustration for the athlete.

So many athletes (and ex-athletes) have unreconciled stubbed-toes, torn ligaments, tweaked ankles, etc, (above). Taking the extra time & effort to fully heal even these seemingly minor injuries, pays huge dividends over time. There is simply no way to regain your previous athleticism, without all the healthy muscles you once had working in harmony.

Since gravity pulls us towards the center of the Earth, our feet are at the bottom of who we are. Our feet root us to the ground, and everything that flows through our body tends to want to settle in our feet during the day. This is why bunions and all other forms of calcifications occur in the feet. If we need to be immobilized, due to injury, the feet will first be cut off by inflammation, then calcium deposits. Once the joints are fossilized, these calcifications are difficult & painful to remove. What I describe below is my method for foot/feet rehabilitation.

Go barefoot as much as possible. This allows your foot to impact the ground, with you feeling the full force– precisely. Thick-bottomed sports shoes give the athlete a false sense of security. Yes, the pounding on your feet is reduced, but much of that is simply transferred to the knees, hips & back. Improper mechanics are being reinforced with sport-specialized orthopedic footwear. This only leads to further breakdowns in the kinetic chain.

Focus on your feet. I’m talking about entire workouts that break-up these calcifications, and start to re-establish muscle fibers in the feet. Barefoot exercise followed by this type of rehabilitation is the fastest way to full body recovery of hip & back injuries. Read that last sentence again, because it’s the essence of everything here. The feet are the end-point. Once the feet can flex & extend in all directions with power, control & sustain; then everything in the body can heal, and stubborn fat can finally disappear. This only happens when all the calcifications are broken away.

Unfixed feet are the nemesis. The reason for this is that every joint in the body is connected to the rest. The big toe connects to the hip, through the ankle & knee; then the hip connects to the hyoid bone in the neck, through the ribs, sternum & clavicle. The hyoid bone (Adam’s apple) is the only bone in the human body that is not directly connected to another bone. It “floats” in the middle of the neck, lashed there by muscles from the hip below, and the face above. When you see someone with a “double chin” or a “turkey neck,” then you know the muscles connected to their hyoid bone have atrophied. Those muscles connect all the way down to the feet.

Calcium deposits in injured joints act as an “internal cast,” limiting range & energy of movement. Again, it’s joints– plural; as everything in the body connects to something else. What this means is that a localized injury, especially in critical joints (hips & back), will eventually spread calcifications & muscle atrophy to the head, hands & toes. If you try to move beyond calcified parameters, pain immediately sets in. This is what people commonly refer to as “getting old.” It’s a misnomer, it sucks, and I recommend avoiding it.

A bunion (above) is a gradual, but painful deformity of the joint which connects the big toe to the foot. Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term, autoimmune disorder that affects joints. Arthritis causes inflammation, which can become painful & debilitating. Plantar fasciitis is a similar-type disorder of the insertion site of the ligament on the bone– characterized by micro tears, breakdown of collagen, and scarring. Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of calcaneal spurs (below).

A calcaneal spur (or heel spur) is a bony exostosis from the heel bone. When a foot is exposed to constant stress, calcium deposits build up on the bottom of the heel bone.

Metatarsalgia is when what I’ve described affects the ball of the foot. The metatarsals are bones that connect the toes to the ankles. All these foot disorders exacerbate a condition known as ankylosing spondylitis, which is a long-term arthritic inflammation of the joints in the spine. Back pain is a characteristic symptom, but anything from eye & ear, to bowel & urinary problems may occur. Stiffness of the affected joints generally worsens over time.

Conclusion: If I could do my rehabilitation over again (and I would never want to), I would focus more on my feet to start. I didn’t know what I was doing when I began, and had to work my way towards this answer. I kept stretching and working my abs & lower back, beyond the point of getting any results, when it was my feet that were failing me all along.

So much of what we do depends on our feet, and we tend to ignore, even abuse them. Foot pain affects every step you take, every move you make. To avoid being the “King of Pain,” you need to get active with what I’ve outline above. This pain is inside most of us, and it is making us miserable. That’s a painful truth in itself. It is up to us to face it and work it out, to make things better for ourselves & everyone else. We must use this (and any other) knowledge & heal thyself.

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Derek Jeter & Disrespect

The initial indicator that Derek Jeter was going to be a bonehead executive for the Marlins was when he first floated RF Giancarlo Stanton, without getting approval to waive his full no-trade clause. A competent MLB executive would have approached Stanton and said something like, “Look, the franchise needs a new direction, etc.” Veteran players understand that, and Stanton possibly would have acquiesced with a list of teams, which helps with leverage. Instead newly-minted executive Derek Jeter, and hold-over GM Hill, negotiated deals with the Giants & Cardinals, without Stanton’s approval.

Try to envision scenes like this, in Marlins’ team discussions back in December 2017:

Jeter/Hill: We’ve worked out a great deal with the Cardinals! They’re a superb organization, with a winning tradition, and a full crowd every night! Plus, they’ve offered us the best package in money & prospects. We think you’re gonna love your new team! Whaddya say?

Stanton: I’m not going to St. Louis.

Jeter/Hill: [blank stares]

Stanton: I’ll only go to the Yankees.

At that point, Jeter should have kept Stanton, but he had already decided to trade him– at any cost. The Giancarlo Stanton contract needed to be factored into the cost of purchasing the franchise, instead of being viewed of as a liability– to be dumped by ownership. Thus, Jeter’s former boss Brian Cashman, schooled his protoge in the fine art of dropping-the-hammer on someone who is clueless & desperate to dump salary. Jeter & Hill had to take expensive mess 2B Starlin Castro in return, and got no significant prospects for their franchise player & MVP. Perhaps this may explain why Derek Jeter can’t show up at Yankee Stadium when the Marlins are playing there?

It would have been much wiser for ownership (Jeter & majority owner Bruce Sherman) to evaluate the situation in Miami for at least a season before making any major moves. There are so many issues with this franchise that needed to be understood in their complexity. Instead Jeter came into town, full of arrogance, which betrayed impatience & ignorance. He’s clearly not cut out to run a MLB franchise, and was only given this opportunity because of his name & money.

It’s the Christian Yelich deal that deserves the most scrutiny, as he was the prize asset everyone was in on last winter, and should have gotten the Marlins a nice return. GM Mike Hill went with the Brewers’ package which centered around age-24 CF Lewis Brinson (.171/.221/.293), who looks more like a track athlete than a ballplayer. The Braves & Padres both wanted Yelich and had better prospects. It appears that GM Mike Hill cared more about running a multi-continental marathon event, than making a good deal for Christian Yelich.

All this damage occurred since new ownership took over last summer, which teaches a lesson: no matter how bad current ownership is (and Jeffery Loria was the bottom), there’s always something greedy & nefarious ready to pose as a savior and take it’s place. New ownership over-paid, and now has to cut everything to the bone to extract profits. The Marlins will be big recipients in revenue sharing money, which is nothing new in Miami.

This team had a championship lineup, no question. Unfortunately, the cataclysmic event for the Marlins was the Jose Fernandez tragedy. You can’t replace a 24-year old true ace, who is also the heart & soul of a franchise. This franchise was on a World Series trajectory, before his boating accident. All they needed was one more starting pitcher and some bullpen help. Everything changed for the Marlins on September 25, 2016, as he was irreplaceable.

On top of everything, there was a criminal owner (Loria) who pumped & dumped the franchise, leaving the taxpayers of Miami to pay the $1.3B bill on their new stadium– which no one wanted. The purchase cost of the franchise for Jeter & Sherman was $1.3B, which tells you that the only asset the Marlins really have is their taxpayer-funded stadium. The Marlins’ organization has been gutted, and is basically worthless at this point. Their players stink, and they have no fans.

Does anyone believe that Derek Jeter has the brainpower to make it valuable again? He certainly doesn’t have the money. It starts with respect, and Derek Jeter forgot about that long ago. The fans never entered into any of his crude equations.

This complex & highly-emotional situation surrounding the sale of the Marlins has become a political issue. The fans of Miami have said “Enough!” Attendance has no chance of improving, despite having a brand-new retractable-roof stadium with all the bells & whistles, paid for by the citizens of Miami.

Most didn’t ask for this, in fact many fought Loria tooth & nail, against all these back-room maneuverings; until (inevitably) enough politicians were bribed to get the new stadium deal passed. The “deal” with the fans was there would be an investment in the franchise to win. That’s why Dee Gordon and others were signed. Then after the 2017 season where the Marlins finished 77-85, it was all torn apart.

Derek Jeter’s “Project Wolverine” was of course disclosed to MLB during the transfer-of-sale process, but not revealed to the fans or people of Miami who were paying for the Marlins’ ballpark. When confronted by ESPN reporter Dan LeBatard in a phone interview, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred evaded & denied everything, claiming he didn’t know what Jeter/Sherman’s plan was for the Marlins after acquisition. LeBatard correctly called this “unbelievable,” and basically everyone who saw the interview agreed. Judge for yourself:

Conclusion: It’s not that Derek Jeter traded away his best players, it’s the crap he got in return than burns with the fans. Also, a bunch of GM’s around MLB feel jerked-around by his incompetence & miscommunication. These colleagues are seriously competitive people who value their time above all else, and when you disrespect them, you’ve become a liability to the franchise you own.

Derek Jeter put himself in a position where he had to make deals because he is short on money, which hurt his return. Mike Hill (and the rest of this inept front office) should have been fired when new ownership took over, which only proves a lack of brains all-around.

This is why the Marlins are going to draw <10,000 fans per game this season– and into perpetuity. They won’t do anything to boost the oppositions’ gate either. This is a franchise that (unless something truly dramatic happens) will lose 100+ games for (at least) the next three seasons. It will likely be 5-6 years before a winning season is possible again. They already need new ownership, which seems inconceivable, but it’s true.

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NASCAR’s “Danica Gap”

Jimmie Johnson is NASCAR’s greatest active legend– a 7-time series champion. His career sponsor Lowe’s is canceling its iconic affiliation with the #48 car after this season. What is not discussed is the unthinkable, which is Jimmie Johnson being forced into retirement, much like Danica Patrick, due to lack of sponsorship in NASCAR.

Note that Jimmie Johnson can’t even begin to court new sponsors until the season is over, because he has to fulfill his obligations to Lowe’s. All while he is running with Chevrolet, who are clearly inferior to Ford & Toyota in 2018. Jimmie Johnson mentioned this manufacturing disadvantage last fall, so it’s no surprise to those who follow.

His drop-off in performance isn’t because he suddenly stinks, as Jimmie Johnson is a serious athlete who keeps himself in top condition; biking, running, skiing, etc. He has managed to dominate his sport because he out-works and out-thinks everyone else. Plus he’s a great driver, who respects his competition.

When NASCAR is diddling around with Goldman Sachs trying to figure out if it should sell out, this creates instability in the market. This makes it HARDER for Jimmie Johnson (and everyone else) to find sponsorship. It’s pretty simple, when the bosses are completely selfish & blind, then there’s nothing you can do.

Jimmie Johnson is taking most of this with professional ease, as he’s been through the wars. He knows which battles you can’t win, and when to move on. This may be the end for Jimmie Johnson, yet no one wants to say this is the end. Brian France immediately denied they were exploring a sale of NASCAR, by sending a memo to all employees. Fans wondered if Goldman Sach’s got a memo?

Most NASCAR faithful want Brian France & family out, so the question becomes: what is NASCAR worth? A lot of what NASCAR is worth depends on who you ask. I don’t see a whole lot of assets (beyond the TV deal), so France may refuse if he feels the price is too low. On the other hand he may just want to dump this expensive mess, because eventually (2024) the TV money will dry up, with only a fraction of that will replace it. That’s the gun being held to Brian France’s head by corporate America.

Corporate may be offering 2 cents on the dollar, which of course is an insult France must refuse. The problem is: all the leverage is with corporate, and they are going to be nasty about going to even two-and-a-half cents…

Another problem for France & family is their “Danica gap.” Danica Patrick is an icon who brought tens-of-millions of kids into NASCAR, something no other driver could possibly do. What those kids saw (over & over) was her being sabotaged by her own team, and wrecked by her competition– all sanctioned by NASCAR. It was a big joke to those haters and could never control their hard-ons.

The ‘Danica gap” immediately revealed itself when she left the sport (which showed her no love), and all her fans went with her. That’s what happened after Daytona, three months ago. All her fans care about now is her final run at the Indianapolis 500, while NASCAR is begging for a respectable buyout offer. The sponsors & corporate America see Brian France as a sitting duck, waist-deep in his own excrement and rising…

NASCAR is holding their annual All Star race this fortnight in Charlotte, NC which has been their real headquarters for awhile now. Matt Kenseth, who just came out of retirement last week [!] is in the race. That’s NASCAR for you.

The qualifying race has no interest because Danica Patrick isn’t in it this year. She always should have been in the main event on fan voting, as she had more fan popularity than the entire field combined, but that ballot was always rigged. For instance, last year (2017) Chase Elliott was given the nod on the fan vote, immediately after he failed to win a stage in the qualifier. Just another example of how NASCAR shot itself in the foot.

The confluence of all these disasters & maneuverings leads to the question of questions for all you racing guys. Which would you rather have: NASCAR or Danica Patrick?

On rain-out policy & taking care of the fans:

Many long-time NASCAR fans have exclaimed the need for this sport to scale back, and regionalize itself again in the Southeast. They are correct. This would reduce travel expenses and allow NASCAR to reconnect with its roots. If NASCAR held 3-4 races per season at 6-8 regional tracks, then rain-outs could easily be accommodated.

Running a race on Monday when everyone has left to get back to reality, dismisses the investment fans make to attend a race. A washout ticket should get you free entry to the next race held at that track. THAT would get race fans excited, while protecting their investment in a ticket & advanced travel expenses. This should roll over to the next season if the final race at that site is a rain-out, or apply to any other regional track if that is more convenient for the fan.

NASCAR has to get real and start taking care of its fans, or else it’s going to be lights out. I don’t believe the sponsors & networks are willing to cooperate or be reasonable. Instead they want full control. Brian France & family are apparently too greedy & ignorant to care. This power struggle is tearing NASCAR apart, which sucks for the fans.

On NASCAR backroom politics:

What’s going on here is a behind-the-scenes power struggle. On one side is NASCAR, with all it’s good ‘ol boys on the family payroll. On the other side is (Yankee) corporate, represented by NBC, Fox, and all the sponsors, who demand accountability & profits. Who is going to manage & control this sport? Brian France & his entire NASCAR organization is being called into question by big money. This will be a fight to the death.

The issue that isn’t being brought up is organizing driver representation. If there is to be any progress, then drivers & pit crew grievances & issues must be brought to the bargaining table in an organized & unified manner– with full fan support. Fans want to support their drivers & teammates, but certain “stars” (who really ain’t shit) need to come back to Earth and join their underpaid brethren competitors, otherwise there will be no future for NASCAR.

This is the scorecard fans hold up when it is announced that the France family is exploring the sale of NASCAR. Selling depends on value, and all sides must agree. otherwise it’s an impasse. The sides that are never consulted are the fans & drivers.

The chatter from corporate on an impeding takeover is their salivation over obtaining “360 deals” with the drivers. For those not understanding this meaning, 360-deals are an entertainment industry contract term, which gives corporate all rights over every aspect of the star’s life.

Any private ventures, book deals, etc., fall under corporate ownership & control. They are called “360-deals,” because like 360 degrees in a circle, they encompass every aspect of your life. Corporate makes lots of money off that, while sucking the performer dry. This is corporate America’s vision for NASCAR’s future, complete enslavement of the drivers to maximize their profits. That’s capitalism, baby!

On BK Racing’s bankruptcy hearings:

This could be an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard. Ron Devine (Boss Hogg) shedding crocodile years for his team which he has repeatedly ripped off. Subplot: Can Gray Gaulding (Coy/Vance) keep his professional racing dreams alive, while Daisy is off running the Indy 500? Tune in next week!

Misc Notes:

For people new to NASCAR, here’s a cheat sheet. The modern era of this sport began after Dale Earnhardt was killed at Daytona Super-speedway on February 18, 2001. The greatest champion of the old timers was Richard Petty, who doesn’t even own his team anymore. Of the current era (which is now coming to close); Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart & Jimmie Johnson are it’s greatest champions. Dale Earnhardt, Jr & Danica Patrick have been it’s greatest ambassadors. One was adored & endlessly glorified, while the other was hated, wrecked & dumped upon.

On PED’s in NASCAR:

Adderall is in the amphetamine class of drugs, a central nervous system stimulant. Adderall is medically prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Adderall has been banned in the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NCAA. In a podcast interview last fall, Denny Hamlin estimated ~70% of NASCAR drivers use Adderall.

On Talladega:

On Sunday, April 29, 2018 the winner was Joey Logano.  There was no “Big One” this year at spring Talladega, (photo above is 2017). This was NASCAR’s first “post-Danica” restrictor plate race. Without her on the track, there’s no reason for these rednecks to wreck each other.

NASCAR update 5-20-17:

Rob Kauffman says RTA’s new executive hired to help owners align   Bob Pockrass ESPN.com

This is the latest development in the sale of NASCAR. The team owners feel the need for legal representation, if there is indeed going to be a sell-out to corporate by Brian France & family. Rob Kauffman loves the charter system, so owner & NASCAR interests are covered.

What’s missing is legal representation for the drivers & crew. As we’ve seen in the BK Racing bankruptcy court transcripts, owners don’t always pay the help, so they better organize their own leadership which bargains collectively. Otherwise the drivers & crew members will get eaten up. That’s the economic game behind-the-scenes, and the drivers are asleep-at-the-wheel on it.

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Padres 2018 Outlook in 3 Games

Padres start 0-3, and it’s how they’ve lost that tells their story. The season opener against the Milwaukee Brewers was played in San Diego, of course. Great start by Padres LHP Clayton Richard, but Brewers rotation ace Chase Anderson was better. Padres tied the game at 1-1 in the 9th with a single by new-addition SS Freddie Galvis, but the Brewers won in 12 innings. No run supports by the Friars, mostly due to poor AB’s with RISP, and good bullpen work by the Brewers.

The Padres bats show up in game two, but closer Brad Hand blows it, by giving up 5 runs in the 9th. The dagger was a two-out, 3-run shot by 1B Ryan Braun. Padres snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I’ve been speculating the Padres could use Ryan Braun for a long time, and I’ll keep at it.

The pressure was on for RHP Luis Perdomo to deliver in the series finale on Saturday, at the team let him know it. He had pitched poorly in spring training, and barely made the rotation. He laid another egg by getting bombed in his 4 innings of struggle, giving up 5 runs.

When I watch Luis Perdomo, I am reminded of when I was a Devil Rays fan watching a young Edwin Jackson. Edwin Jackson actually pitched with Perdomo in 2016. Then Edwin Jackson moved on, as he always does. Padres fans would love to see Luis Perdomo move on for the same reasons. He has tantalizing potential, but just isn’t interested in maximizing his abilities.

Those are the early returns on the 2018 SD Padres, and this is what they are, and once again it hurts for their fans. This will be yet another rebuilding (sub .500) season. The off-season moves made by GM AJ Preller were correct, but there are still too many holes to fill in the rotation, and in the OF. The additions of SS Freddie Galvis and 1B Eric Hosmer are huge pluses, and they will keep the Padres from being really bad in 2018.

Manager Andy Green is one of the best, and they have plenty of young talent with their farm system depth, so this will be a call-up year, which in fact has already begun. Expect 3B Chase Headley & RF Hunter Renfroe to be traded, along with Perdomo and a bunch of other AJP fungibles including: 2B/3B Cory Spangenberg, OF Travis Jankowski, OF Matt Szczur, etc…

Young LHP Joey Lucchesi has already been called up, taking injured RHP Dinelson Lamet’s spot in the rotation. Lucchesi pitched 4.2 innings, giving up 3 runs in game two against the Brewers. LHP Robbie Erlin, back from Tommy John surgery: 3.2 IP, 2 R. This is what these guys are, which isn’t much.

The best Padres pitching is at AA (San Antonio) & AAA (El Paso), or still recovering from TJ surgery (Anderson Espinoza & Chris Paddock). The object for manager Andy Green will be to get through yet another season without enough starting pitching. This is his 3rd season, and he’s used to this by now. Nothing will be as bad as 2016, when GM AJ Preller traded his entire rotation & closer by the deadline (James Shields, Drew Pomeranz, Andrew Cashner, Colin Rea & Fernando Rodney).

Andy Green has Daren Balsley, one of the best pitching coaches helping him, but their biggest issue is with injury prevention. Too many of their arms are getting hurt. That’s the biggest danger to their prospects, many of whom have high ceilings. Also of interest, RF Will Myers who put on 20 pounds of muscle in the off-season, has been having lingering back tightness for two weeks. [1]

Injury prevention can only be called medicine when it follows a rational & scientific method. In MLB, as in all other professional sports, injury prevention is poorly understood. There is too much old-school (lack of) ethics in its brain trust, and therefore it falls into all the old traps.

Pitchers don’t need to get hurt, but they almost always do. There’s no reason for this continuing to happen, outside of arrogance & contempt for the truth. People who are in charge simply can’t admit they are wrong. Once exposed, they will lose power, and that can’t be allowed to happen because sports is a business. It’s always been this way.

Fans can root for this stuff, but that doesn’t mean being naive. For me, it gets more painful to watch this carnage every year. I’ve become more of an analyst than a fan anymore. Already, every DL in MLB is piling up with arm injuries, because coaches & training staff don’t want to understand biomechanics & medical science.

They gotta keep pushing for that extra edge, using all the self-regimented, old-school ways (PED’s) that are proven to get you injured & shamed. It’s ignorance & arrogance that’s killing our pastime.

It’s the home run era again, in case you haven’t noticed. With Giancarlo Stanton in pinstripes, we’re gonna get blitzed with long ball hype this year. We’re talkin’ military parades down Pennsylvania Avenue, and maybe even another war…

I have reported here on the Padres since late- 2015, as they have been a fascinating case study in sports franchise management. This organization has been turned around by a brilliant young GM, who in the process has been sanctioned by MLB old guard (Red Sox, White Sox, ESPN, MLB commissioners office) for taking advantage of the rules and making dupes of their GM’s in trades & International free-agent spending.

That talent AJ Preller acquired in 2016 is about to hit the beach in San Diego. When Preller trades a veteran or young player this season, he will be replacing them from within, while looking for prospects in return. As for 2018, look for more rotation struggles, as their depth is thinning fast, due to lack of effectiveness and/or injury. Look for SS/3B Fernando Tatis & 2B Luis Urias sooner, rather than later. The same with their stud pitching prospects. Wil Myers may be hopeless, and if he is deemed so by the Padres, they will look to move him.

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World Cup 2018, Politics & US Soccer

The fact is that MLS really stands for Minor League Soccer in the eyes of the world. The MLS level of play isn’t close to world class, yet they seem to believe that they belong in that discussion. Yet, on the pitch nothing has been proven. The US has failed to qualify for the World Cup (WC) for the first time since 1986, so clearly it is moving backwards in it’s “progression.”

On October 10, 2017, all the USMNT had to do was draw against Trinidad & Tobago’s “C” Team in their final WC qualifying match. Instead, they lost 2-1 on an own goal, and failed to qualify for Russia 2018, as Panama will go instead. That was a watershed moment for US soccer. [1]

Now the US media propaganda against WC 2018 in Russia begins, which smacks of sour grapes. For all the money the US puts into youth & MLS soccer ($1B+/year), the results are an embarrassment, and no amount politicking can cover that up. As Claudio Reyna said after that elimination loss, “We’re far too arrogant.” [2]

Let’s evaluate what has happened to the US Men’s National Team since 1986, which was the last time it failed to qualify. The 1986 World Cup was held in Mexico, and was won by Argentina on Diego Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” goal.

In 1990, the WC was held in Italy, and the US qualified as one of two CONCACAF teams, with Costa Rica the other. Teams qualify by geographical region. The CONCACAF region is North America, Central America and Caribbean; giving the United States a huge competitive advantage in qualifying, as most of these nations are third-world countries which have been devastated by US imperialism.

In Italy 1990, the USMNT went 0-3 in group play, and finished 23rd out of the 24 teams in the tournament. The USMNT goal differential (GD) was -6, and only the United Arab Emirates finished worse (-9 GD).

In 1994, the US hosted the World Cup for the first time. That was a big deal. The host country automatically qualifies, and this was to be the launching pad for a future professional league (and springboard for youth soccer in North America), as the MLS was actually founded on December 17, 1993, and began play in 1996.

The USMNT did well in their 1994 tournament, surprisingly making it out of their group and into the Round of 16. This was the best result the USMNT could have hoped for, as they were eliminated by eventual champion Brazil in the first game of the knockout round, 1-0.

But their success was a chimera, as their advance out of group play was aided by a surprise 3-1 victory over then-world soccer power Colombia. The Colombian national team had some of the best football players in the world, but their country was also being ravaged by George H.W. Bush’s “Plan Colombia,” (now directed by Bill Clinton), a US military and covert war against the country in the name of the “War on Drugs.”

Colombian National Team players were threatened by drug lords and other criminal types. Perhaps the ugliest incident in the history of the World Cup came as a result of this Colombian loss, when defender Andrés Escobar scored an own goal, putting the game out of reach. Nicknamed “The Gentleman,” he was well-known for his clean style of play and calmness on the pitch.

On the evening of July 1, 1994, five days after the elimination of Colombia from the World Cup, Andrés Escobar went to a bar in the El Poblado neighborhood in Medellín. At 3:00 AM, when Escobar was alone in a parking lot in his car, three men approached and began arguing with him. Two of the men took out handguns and Escobar was shot six times. It was reported that the killer shouted “¡Goal!” after every shot. Escobar was rushed to the hospital where he died 45 minutes later. Those are the sordid facts surrounding the USMNT founding success at the World Cup in 1994.

World Cup 1998 was held in France. Zinedine Zidane & the French national team owned the tournament, embarrassing Brazil 3-0 in the final. The US was in Group F that tournament, with powerhouses Germany and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia– who survived and advanced. The United States exited the World Cup suffering a devastating defeat against Iran. The USMNT in WC 1998 went 0-3, with a GD of -4, as they finished last among the 24 teams that qualified.

The 2002 FIFA World Cup was held in South Korea & Japan, the first to be held in Asia. This was the last World Cup to use the golden goal rule. Brazil won the tournament for a record fifth time, winning the final against Germany 2–0.

Group D was South Korea, Poland, United States and Portugal. The US shocked world-power Portugal in it’s opener, and made in into the knockout round, with co-host South Korea. The USMNT then defeated Mexico (2-0) in the Round of 16, before losing to eventual runners-up Germany 1-0, in the Round of 8. This would be the USMNT high-water mark in international competition.

The 2006 FIFA World Cup was held in Germany. The US was in Group E: with Italy, Ghana, the Czech Republic. The US finished 0-2-1 in group play, with a draw against Italy, and didn’t make it into the knockout round. Only Costa Rica, Serbia & Montenegro, Japan, Togo, and Saudi Arabia finished with less points and a worse goal differential.

The 2006 tournament marked a qualitative degeneration of the sport, as players received a record-breaking 345 yellow cards and 28 red cards. The low point came in the the Italy-France finale, when all-world midfielder Zinedine Zidane head-butted an opponent, after being repeated baited, and was subsequently ejected from the match. Italy won in penalty kicks.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup took place in South Africa. In a bidding process that was open only to African nations, FIFA selected South Africa over Egypt and Morocco to become the first African nation to host the World Cup. The 2015 FIFA corruption case reported that high-ranking officials from the South African bid committee had secured the right to host the World Cup by paying US $10 million in bribes to then-FIFA Vice President Jack Warner and to other FIFA Executive Committee members.

In June 2015, FIFA executive Chuck Blazer, having co-operated with the FBI and the Swiss authorities, confirmed that he and the other members of FIFA’s executive committee were bribed. Blazer stated, “I and others on the FIFA executive committee agreed to accept bribes in conjunction with the selection of South Africa as the host nation for the 2010 World Cup.” In June 2015, The Daily Telegraph reported that Morocco had actually won the vote, but South Africa was awarded the tournament instead.

On the field in WC 2010, Group C was: England, United States, Algeria, and Slovenia. The United States and England finished tied at the top of the group with five points each, in this lackluster pool. Their goal differences were also level at +1, but the United States won the group having scored more goals than England in their three games. As group winners, the United States advanced to face Group D runners-up, Ghana, and were immediately bounced out 2-1, in the round of 16. Spain would win the tournament for their 1st World Cup title.

2014 FIFA World Cup was held in Brazil, with Germany winning its 4th title. It was a huge disappointment for Brazil, who was expected to win on their home field. Group G was the “Group of Death” this time around, as it included Germany & Portugal, with the US and Ghana rounding it out.

The USMNT surprisingly beat Ghana in their opener, then played to a draw against Portugal, and advanced to the round of 16 based on Goal Differential, with Portugal being eliminated. Brilliant goalkeeping by Tim Howard kept things close against Belgium in the knockout stage, but the US lost in extra time 2-1.

Results: Without going into details concerning specific players, coaches and events that have transpired over the past 25 years or so in US soccer, a few general statements can be made with surety. Soccer in the US really hasn’t progressed much, since it hosted the World Cup in 1994. The coaching at all levels is still poor quality, and is marred by egos & monied interests.

Young talent isn’t recognized & nurtured, while billions of dollars are spent promoting garbage. There are no impact playmakers on the US Men’s National Team, and there never has been. The only position the US consistently excels at is goalie (Kasey Keller & Tim Howard).

The US players simply aren’t that skilled. They may get paid to play MLS, but many perform (& behave) like bush-leaguers. This isn’t because of lack of talent, it’s due to lack of organization. The Men’s National team is a coaching carousel, which continues to recycle the same losers.

This filters all the way down to the youth levels, which has become Pay to Play. Basically, disadvantaged kids with talent are being priced out of competitive youth soccer. “Without a doubt, soccer has become a rich kid’s sport,” said longtime coach Shane Kennedy of Mill Valley, CA.  [3] 

When you can’t win, you are left with talking trash. That’s what all this money has added up to, in youth & professional soccer in the United States. America will be outside looking in this summer, as Russia hosts World Cup 2018, while the US Men’s National team continues to play Minor League Soccer.

For players there are half a dozen or so who should stay, with everyone else finished for the US National Team. The entire coaching staff and player development hierarchy needs to be cleaned out, and re-conceived before being re-staffed. The current model doesn’t work, and American soccer need fresh ideas & leadership with a global perspective. This goes all the way down to the youth level.

The problem is that most of the US professional players are spoiled whiners, who never step up to accept accountability for themselves or others. Basically no leadership. It’s just a hot mess. That’s why there’s no team identity, no recognizable US-style.  All this is why the results in US soccer have never significantly improved.

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2018 MLB Pre-season Predictions

This analysis only covers the regular season. The MLB post-season can’t be predicted until the season (and trade deadlines) play out, as injuries and other factors are impossible to know. My methodology incorporates these factors: 1) last season’s W-L record, 2) off-season moves, 3) team payroll & flexibility, 4) farm system, and 5) front office & ownership brains.

As of this publication, the only significant remaining free agent is RHP Alex Cobb (above). I anticipate him signing for 1/$12M (or 2/$20M) as a mid-rotation starter for a small or mid-market team. He’s an injury risk, with his TJ history. He also comes with draft pick compensation, which diminishes his market value. Nothing else remains in free agency but scrap heap players, therefore we can now handicap each division and expect to be in the ballpark.

AL East
Contenders: Yankees, Red Sox (WC)
Pretenders: Blue Jays, Rays, Orioles

The Yankees are everyone’s favorite after acquiring DH Giancarlo Stanton this past winter. Have no illusions, this helps the Yankees win now, but it will be an albatross contract after a few seasons, and it runs through 2027. They have plenty of starting & relief pitching, with a balanced line-up that is young with upside, as well as experienced. Their farm system is still strong (top 5-ish), and they’ve cleared payroll room for additions in July.

The Red Sox will be right there too, but I see them as slipping. They now have (by far) the highest payroll in MLB. Trades have eroded their farm system, and there are already more than a few regrets, with more to come. Red Sox fans would surely prefer CF Manny Margot (Padres) to Jackie Bradley Jr. for instance. JD Martinez (age 31) seems like a redundancy at DH, as 1B Eric Hosmer (age 27) made more sense for the Red Sox this past winter. Instead they’re going with Mitch Moreland/Hanley Ramirez at 1B, which hurts.

The Blue Jays could possible make some noise if their top prospects (3B Vlad Guerrero Jr & SS Bo Bichette) make an impact. They are already having injury issues with their rotation (RHP Marcus Stroman), and this has been a problem for them in the past. More than any other AL team, the Blue Jays could go either way.

The Rays are experimenting with a 4-man rotation, with the 5th day being a “bullpen start.” This is completely insane, and promises to fail miserably. The Rays have already lost two young arms to TJ surgery this spring: RHP’s Brent Honeywell & Jose de Leon. Expect RHP Chris Archer to be traded by the deadline.

The Orioles are a complete joke. No international drafting presence and poor scouting has doomed this franchise to the basement for any foreseeable future. Their starting rotation for 2018 is awful, as their pitching staff will be the worst in MLB by a wide margin. This franchise desperately needs a new owner.

Late entry 3-21-18: Just announced, the Orioles & RHP Alex Cobb have reached an agreement on a 4/$60M deal. Because the Orioles receive revenue sharing, they will lose their third-highest pick in the Amateur Draft as a result of this deal — the No. 51 pick overall. No team need starting pitching more than the O’s, so this is a good deal for them. Unfortunately it’s way too little, too late to be much help.

AL Central
Contenders: Indians, Twins (WC)
Pretenders: Royals, White Sox, Tigers

The Indians are still a heavyweight WS contender, with enough system depth to aid in another championship run. Their pitching is elite. Losing Carlos Santana could hurt some.

The Twins made some of the best off-season improvements this winter. They added two helpful starters in Jake Odorizzi & Lance Lynn who can provide 300+ above-average innings to their rotation, which is huge. Throw in bargain-signing Logan Morrison at DH, and the Twins have a mashing heart-of-the-order. They’re still a notch (or two) below the AL heavyweights, but dangerous nonetheless.

The Royals have gone into rebuild mode after losing ace RHP Yordano Ventura to tragedy, and 1B Eric Hosmer & CF Lorenzo Cain to free agency. They re-signed 3B Mike Moustakas because no one else wanted him. Moustakas is an example of how much of a disaster this new CBA is for the players, as a Scott Boras client who initially refused the Royals qualifying offer of $17.4M, then eventually inked for $6.5M plus incentives. This organization is now in no-man’s-land after winning it all in 2015.

The White Sox committed to their rebuild by trading their best players last year and reaping a bevy of top prospects. This is now one of the best farm systems in baseball (with the Braves & Padres), but a mess at the MLB level. RHP James Shields personifies this 25-man roster disaster better than any other White Sox player.

The Tigers finally threw in the towel last July, and it will be a long time before they are relevant again, as their farm system still stinks. Their 25-man roster has a two albatrosses in 1B Miguel Cabrera & RHP Jordan Zimmerman.

AL West
Contender: Astros
Pretenders: Angels, Mariners, A’s, Rangers

This division is really bad outside of the defending World Series champion Astros. For the Astros, it’s all about being able to win in October. This is a smart organization, that is set up for a nice run.

The Angels made some nice additions this off-season, but are still a long way from having a competitive 25-man roster. They’ve got a smart young GM in Billy Eppler, who makes things happen. He needs to find some more pitching for the Angels to take the next step.

The Mariners aren’t going anywhere, despite the flurry of deals GM Jerry Dipoto has made in the last two years. There’s no financial flexibility due to payroll obligations. Spring training has been a rash of leg injuries, including: DH Nelson Cruz, SS Jean Segura & OF Ichiro. This roster is thin on depth to start, and can’t afford significant injuries to any key players.

The Rangers are also spinning their wheels, and will probably be trading ace LHP Cole Hamels at the 7/31 deadline. A point that needs to be made concerning the Rangers’ front office, is that the juggernaut of homegrown talent they had ~ 10 years ago was the work not of GM Jon Daniels, but of then-scouting director A.J. Preller. When Preller left to become GM of the Padres, the young talent stopped coming to Arlington.

The A’s are once again the young Moneyball up-&-comers (as they should be), but it will take another year or two for their system to bear fruit. They could surprise sooner if their prospects hit. If they ever committed to a respectable payroll, they could actually do something.

NL East
Contender: Nationals
Pretenders: Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins

Not much of a race here, as the Nationals are a NL heavyweight. Expect them to win this division by double digit games again in 2018. It’s all about their performance in October anymore, and winning a division series for a change. This is their last run with RF Bryce Harper, and they are doing it with a rookie manager. Believe it or not, that’s a dugout upgrade in Washington.

As for the rest, the Braves have the best farm system, followed by the Phillies. Both of these franchises mark 2018 as critical development years. The Phillies have gambled by signing 1B Carlos Santana (3/$60M) & RHP Jake Arrieta (3/$75M*) in a push to accelerate their window of contention. I see it as too much, too soon, and don’t see this turning out well. The Phillies needed to be patient for at least one more year before making such splashes. If this backfires, they’ve screwed themselves; and they did it for a long-shot.

The Braves have had a top-rated farm system for ~3 years now, with meager results at the MLB level. They need young outfielder Ronald Acuna, SS Dansby Swanson, and their pitching prospects to deliver soon, otherwise it was too much hype. I’m talking mostly to Keith Law and the rest at Fangraphs.

The Mets are already having injury issues (again), with RHP Jacob deGrom the latest pitching casualty. 3B David Wright will probably be permanently inactivated sometime this season, due to his ailing back. RF Yoenis Cespedes and LF Michael Comforto are also having early tweaks, and at some point someone in the Mets organization needs to be held accountable for all this, otherwise they’ve wasted their chances in this window and learned nothing from it.

The Marlins put Derek Jeter’s “Project Wolverine” into action this winter, and dumped four (4) All-Stars– for not-nearly-enough in return. They are going to stink for a LONG time, and no one will care.

NL Central
Contender: Cubs, Cardinals (WC)
Pretenders: Brewers, Reds, Pirates

The Cubs still have plenty enough to cruise to another division title. The issue comes in October, in how they will match-up against the Dodgers & Nationals. RHP Hu Darvish feels like a last plunge in this window. RF Jason Heyward’s contract is an albatross that limits their flexibility.

The Cardinals are my iffiest NL post-season prediction, as they may be too old. I never count this organization out, as they always have depth and a plan. If they crash, look for the Brewers, Braves, or Padres to sneak into the 2nd Wild Card. CF Marcell Ozuna was an off-season steal.

The Brewers have gotten a lot of press this winter for the moves they’ve made. They acquired LF Christian Yelich (below) & CF Lorenzo Cain (5/$80M), but the problem is they now have no position for LF Ryan Braun– who is untradeable. He’s not a 1B, and besides they already have Eric Thames there.  There’s not enough pitching in their rotation behind Chase Anderson either. Their payroll is maxed, with their farm system depleted, and they still come up way short.

The Reds have built their farm system back into respectability, or so we are told. I’m not convinced, as this organization never seems to produce enough pitching. Or when it does, it gets hurt.  Projected starters Anthony DeSclafani’s oblique injury, and Brandon Finnegan’s biceps strain in spring training already point towards that same trend again in 2018.

The Pirates went into rebuild mode again this off-season, when they traded CF Andrew McCutchen & RHP Gerrit Cole. Their farm system isn’t much these days, and their 25-man roster is below average. Cheapskate ownership really hurts here.

NL West
Contenders: Dodgers, Diamondbacks (WC)
Pretenders: Padres, Rockies, Giants

This is the best division in the NL, and only the AL East can claim to be tougher. Top-to bottom the NL West is probably better, as the Rays & O’s are basically hopeless in 2018. The Dodgers still have the best roster, with the best pitching, and a top-10 farm system. Money is never an object in LA, so expect them to be there in October again.

The D-backs will probably regress some in 2018 without J.D. Martinez, but they still have a play-off rotation. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt is their franchise player, but 3B Jake Lamb & particularly RF Steven Souza Jr. are the keys to their 2018 line-up.

The Padres have the best farm system in baseball by a wide margin. It’s become clear in spring training to many scouts & prospect experts, that the Padres system is actually underrated. This team is about to be good for a long time. Additions of 1B Eric Hosmer, SS Freddie Galvis, 3B Chase Headley, and RHP’s Bryan Mitchell & Tyson Ross add at least 10 wins to a team that went 71-91 in 2017. The waves of talent to come, make the Padres the organization to watch in 2018. Andy Green may be the best manager in MLB, and Darren Balsley is probably the best pitching coach.

The Rockies graduated most of their top talent in the last few years, and it netted them a WC (and immediate bounce out) in 2017. I see that as the Rockies ceiling with this current group. Their starting pitching is solid (mediocre), with little upside. Their line-up is still potent, but aging, with some bad contracts. Most likely their defense won’t be very good. Expect regression in Colorado.

The Giants have doubled down on their expensive veteran roster by adding RF Andrew McCutchen & 3B Evan Longoria to get some power into their line-up. It’s still not enough, and besides it’s pitching that’s now become suspect in San Francisco. RHP’s Johnny Cueto & Jeff Samardzija, along with closer Mark Melancon, are all albatrosses. Win or lose in 2018, Giants GM Brian Sabean will be blowing this aging team up in the near future.

My final thoughts on this past winter and the upcoming season are that these predictions aren’t hard to make. It’s going to be the same teams competing in October again. That’s why so many organizations declined to participate in free agency this winter. Splashes don’t make sense when you have no shot to start, and that’s about half the teams overall.

The name of the game today is acquiring young talent. Young players throw harder, run faster, cover more ground, and (most importantly) cost less than veteran players. Signing qualifying-offered free-agents costs an organization valuable draft picks & international spending money, which are the two quickest pipelines to a competitive roster.

This is why I’m so down on the Phillies in 2018. Santana & Arrieta probably aren’t enough, and they lose future talent by surrendering compensation picks, when they still should be in young talent acquisition mode.

Analytics and a scouting eye can tell us a lot, and help fans make better projections, but in the end it’s a random game and no one really know what will happen.

Play Ball!!

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Ambidextrous Tennis

Two forehands beats one. That’s the philosophy behind ambidextrous tennis. This means eliminating the backhand, and hitting with a right-handed AND left-handed forehand– depending on the situation. Nothing in the game of tennis has as much revolutionary potential as this style.

Firstly, why take up ambidextrous tennis? For me it was a right elbow injury that caused me to put down the racket. Like most athletes, I couldn’t sit still, so I decided to try the racket in my left hand. I quickly discovered that I had more power on my left side than my right! That really got me thinking… and now here we are.

In this video below I demonstrate the basics (& a few nuances) of ambidextrous tennis. The advantages to hitting this way are multi-fold. Ambidextrous tennis provides: 1) More power & higher spin rates; 2) Better court coverage with less effort; 3) Better attack angles while closing off windows-of-vulnerability. 4) Numerous openings to close in on the net, and finish.

I predict (in the future) that ambidextrous tennis will outlast everything else, and become the dominant style among top professionals. The advantages of this style are too apparent, and eventually some ambitious young boy (or girl) is going to master these concepts and win a lot of tennis majors. Why? Because two forehands beats one.

Does this mean that I can now beat Roger Federer? Of course, not. I’m too old, and don’t have his ability. What the ambidextrous style will do is raise the level of anyone’s game, just by becoming more aware of the other half of one’s body. As a footnote: I wouldn’t even want to imagine Roger Federer with two forehands [!], he’s good enough already.

The point is, few of us have anywhere close to Roger Federer’s ability. Imitating his style can help to an extent, but you aren’t going to get better than him by copying him. He’s the best. If young tennis players want to consistently break through Federer-Nadal and the rest on the men’s side (and Serena Williams on the women’s side), then they are going to have to be extraordinarily talented– and still think outside-the-box. The top players are the best for a reason, because they have the talent & dedication, and it takes a lot to get past them.

Ambidextrous tennis (when mastered) gives anyone the tools they need to attack & defend against the best players. Most tennis player’s are taught to attack an opponent’s backhand. In ambidextrous tennis there is no backhand, thus most opponent’s strategy is foiled before they even step onto the court. This is a frustrating style to match up against, and many people I’ve hit with, have disappeared over the years. People generally like to hit against people they can beat, so many of your ‘tennis friends’ will bail on you, once you get good at this style.

Final tips: It’s what your body is doing during pronation that counts in tennis. If you don’t pronate, while maintaining vision & balance– then you’ve got nothing. Consider the racket as a sword, and the tennis ball as a bullet. You are always protecting your head & body while being ready to move in any direction, for any required shot. Ambidextrous tennis allows quick & efficient movements, combined with controlled power.

Light feet skate. Keep everything in-line– from eyes to toes. Stay low and get lower as you approach the net. Stay down until the point is over. Ambidextrous tennis conserves energy, which makes all this easier. The best reason for playing (and mastering) ambidextrous tennis, is that you will have no weaknesses.

Wednesday  2-28-18—  P.S on endorsements:  I’m going on the record in saying, I would love to have a shoe deal. I would obviously need a manufacturer as a partner. Today, most athletic footwear sold in stores, is junk. It only enriches the corporate manufacturers, and the handful of celebrity athletes endorsing their signature series. Poor materials, bad design, and shoddy construction are major issues with athletic shoes– especially considering their price tag.

Since most shoes are sports specific, and already have top-athlete spokesmen/women, I would propose to design a shoe that works for serious amateur athletes. That’s a big demographic, hungry for innovation. Tennis is a good model, because you can wear any kind of footwear you choose, as opposed to other sports, which have restrictions on style & design of the shoes.

If I wasn’t blacklisted, I would surely have been contacted by now, after posting “Ambidextrous Tennis.” This only proves (once again) that there is now no room for outside-the-box re-thinking, anywhere in the capitalist market. Censorship bites everybody.

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