Talladega Racin’ & Mass Insanity

I’m listening on MRN online, so I know I’m getting the best coverage.  This one’s gonna hurt, I just know.  Here’s some of what I’m hearing, with me in […]

Grand Marshall: Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey (above)
“Lady & gentlemen… start your engines.”   [Shit]

Dave Moody (above): “…and when necessary,  4 and 5-wide coming out of turn 2 [!] …..” [Critique: I like Dave Moody who calls turns 1 & 2 for most NASCAR Cup events– he knows & loves racing, and isn’t afraid to speak his mind– mostly. He gets a lot of airtime, and he deserves it, as he has lots of fans. He’s a big dude, so he fits right in there…]

Mike Bagley (below): “…drafting three-and-four-wide on the backstretch, if you bail out of the draft– you go to the back..”  [Critique: Mike Bagley calls turns 3 & 4, and is more cerebral (which I like), but still gets worked up as things begin to heat up– which I also like. Moody & Bagley work well together, and they are one of the best parts of the NASCAR race day experience]

The MRN pit reporters do a nice job explaining the essentials: 46 laps max on fuel, tire strategy isn’t in play at Talladega– with 6 sets on the ground, and one on the car to start. Everyone finishes with plenty of tires. [It’s finishing with plenty of car that’s tricky]. Avoiding a speeding penalty on pit road, is stressed; [but that really doesn’t matter either, as Dale, Jr gets his 8th pit-road speeding infraction of the season on lap 52, yet he still finishes 7th, and was in contention for the win at the end, simply because he was one of the few cars still on the track].

Every guys’ MRN-favorite is Kim Coon (below) in the pits, garage & care center– and also monitoring social media, which is very important to NASCAR & its fans. You can understand why?

Talladega is 188 laps, distancing 500 miles. The first two stages end at lap 55, and lap 110. Each lap is 2.66 miles, the longest anywhere. Talladega is notoriously the fastest and most-dangerous racetrack in the world.

Jamie McMurray, Jeffrey Earnhardt and Mark Thompson are involved in an early wreck. McMurray has major damage, as it seems you can’t cut across a faster car coming off turn-4 into pit road, especially at Talladega. [Who knew?]  That ends #1 McMurray’s play-off hopes, unless he wins at Kansas next week, which he won’t.

(Above) in the broadcast booth, Joe Moore stresses this is another of the big challenges at Talladega… [By this he means: any idiot can cause a major wreck at anytime, anywhere, and there’s nothing you can do to avoid it. That’s Talladega…]

Following online means checking the NASCAR update feed. Here it is [edited for clarity & correction] for Talladega on October 15, 2017:

Lap 29: After the McMurray wreck, and pit-road-closed penalties were issued to 6 drivers: 24, 88, 23, 27, 42, 95.

Lap 30: Drivers who didn’t pit during caution now on pit road: 20, 78, 19, 11, 18, 48, 6, 32, 5, 13.

Lap 38: Top-six cars are single file: 22, 2, 14, 21, 41, 19. Three-wide racing behind them.

Lap 51: Caution is out! Paul Menard #27 gets into the wall in Turn 3. Thinks he cut a left-front tire.

Lap 52: No takers as far as the leaders are concerned on pit road. Others pit: 18, 88, 42, 20, 34, 19, 78 among them.

Lap 52: Penalty for @DaleJr. Too fast on pit road. He’ll start from tail end of the longest line for restart. [8th time this season, most in NASCAR]

Lap 78: Matt Dibenedetto #32 now has a 21-second lead over second-place driver Stenhouse.  [This isn’t supposed to be happening. NASCAR will do something to ‘correct’ this]

Lap 81: Caution is out for debris. Denny Hamlin loose wheel onto pit road, [saved his race…. was running 31st– Suh-prize!]

Lap 81: Caution came out as @dennyhamlin pits for loose wheel. He beats the lead to the pit out line. Stays on lead lap

Lap 156: @keselowski is the only driver to come down pit road under caution. Attempting to fix radio issues. [He took the extra time to do it, and he ended up winning Talladega– racing is a team sport. Being in back helped #2 avoid the wrecks up front. Hard to believe that could be race strategy, but there you are.]

Lap 171: New leader! @Daniel_SuarezG takes the lead from @joeylogano.

Lap 171: Red flag is out. Cars involved in the Big One: 17, 78, 41, 18, 38, 95, 34, 20, 10, 3, 4, 75, 32, 95, 48… Officially, 16 cars involved in the multi-car wreck at @TalladegaSuperS. [SHIT– my driver wrecked again. I hate NASCAR]

Lap 177: Caution is out! Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Brendan Gaughan involved.

Lap 179: Lineup for the restart with just 8 laps to go: 19, 24, 88, 42, 2, 11, 31, 5, 13, 42, 83, 27, 38, 37.

Lap 182: Caution is out! @chaseelliott tags @Daniel_SuarezG and they wreck.

Lap 182: Red flag is out at @TalladegaSuperS once again. Cars involved: 19, 24, 42, 37.

Lap 183: Still under a red flag. Leaderboard: 2, 31, 88, 11, 13, 5, 43, 6, 83, 38. [Everyone else is wrecked]

There is no way NASCAR can race 40 of today’s cars at Talladega, and not end up with a wreck-fest. Twenty is probably too many. NASCAR needs to get this track under control, for the safety of it’s drivers. To say this race is a joke, only minimizes how dangerous Talladega is. Luck is primary in avoiding the two or three BIG ONES at Talladega.

Martin Truex, Jr #78 needs to know you can’t bump another car in the draft going into the corner at Talladega. That frequently causes a BIG ONE.  Chase Elliott #24 needs to know that you must stay behind the lane leader (#19– Daniel Suarez) and stay in the draft, instead of trying for 3-wide in the corner at Talladega– as that will cause a BIG ONE. Fans know this. Why don’t these “professionals” understand this?

These are supposedly the top drivers. F1 and Indycar must look at NASCAR as a joke, which it is. That spectacle on Sunday was possibly the worst race ever held at a major venue– a complete disgrace to sports. The Talladega infield faithful  & the rest who cheered at every crash are reactionary idiots. Why do NASCAR and its sponsors continue to cater to them? Answer: To dumb fans down to their level.

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National Anthem Protocol for Revolutionists

There has been much talk about behavior during the playing of the National Anthem at sporting events. Notice how it’s always the behavior of the players (workers), that is the focus of discussion. The owners & fascist fans can do whatever they want, but the players must be strictly controlled & censured. Each league has now re-iterated and/or clarified it’s policy during the National Anthem performance [1].

Of course, few ever bother to ask the most-important question, “Why is this song even played before sporting events?” That question is not allowed to be asked, and if you do, you are blacklisted by the “legitimate” media & political world. Americans are divided over the National Anthem on class lines. This fact is always concealed by ESPN & the rest of the corporate fake media.

One of the silver linings to being blacklisted is that you can do whatever you want, because it doesn’t matter– as you are permanently shut out of the mainstream. You will never see ideas such as these expressed in corporate-controlled mass media.  In that spirit, these are my suggestions on how to approach this hot-button topic. I encourage others who feel similarly, to express yourself in a way that makes you feel comfortable, while staying true. By the way, all this also applies to “God Bless America,” (or anything else that shouldn’t be played) during the 7th-inning stretch, etc.

For many like me, the National Anthem is a convenient bathroom break, so as a rule I never kneel for it, although I sometimes squat. I’m not alone, as the bathroom is usually crowded while the Anthem is being performed. No one takes their hat off, or stops mid-piss in the john. These are just personal observations from 40+ years of attending virtually every type of sporting event in the United States.

Professionally speaking, I don’t think “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a very good song. I was never all that moved by it, even as a child. But I will admit that I’ve sung it a lot, as it’s a useful song. By this I mean, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a very difficult song to sing well. Therefore it is an excellent vocal-training tool. I’ve never sung it before an audience.

When the lyrics hit, “… and the rockets’ red glare,” is when most amateurs lose it. Often the Anthem performance is painful to watch/hear, especially when done by kids, but you are never allowed to be critical of that– after all this is AMERICA! We won’t allow our kids (who are trying their best) to be “bullied.”  So to be fair, here instead is one of the most infamous adult examples of Francis Scott [off]Key:

Beyond being a voice training tool, I don’t see much else of value here. It’s primary function (of course) is its nefarious use by the ruling class to whip up nationalism & militarism among under-educated workers & the rest. Why do team owners & their leagues fear these protests so much? To ask the question is to answer it, as it indicates how class divided we are as a society. This fact must be concealed at all costs, by the haves.

Free speech means you have the right to say whatever someone else deems as “most offensive,” just as long as you don’t threaten, libel, or cause a panic. It’s also free speech to stand like a zombie when the Anthem plays & the flag waves. We all make choices and live with them. Colin Kaepernick (SF 49ers), Bruce Maxwell (Oakland A’s), and every other athlete have this right, and those of us fighting fascism encourage every athlete to exercise it. As they have pointed out– too many don’t have a voice, so professional athletes are now behooved to stand up for them.

As far as Trump demanding respect for the flag goes, respect is a two-way street. Evidentially in order for 2016 NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson to get a White House invite, he has to hail Trump, while declaring his unabiding loyalty. Otherwise, no invitation. Jimmie Johnson has already said he supports everyone’s right to make their own decision, while personally standing for the flag & anthem [2]. That’s just not good enough, for everyone from Donald Trump to the liberal-Democrat McCarthyists who have censored the Internet and blacklisted all political opposition.

Do you know who the least likely people to stand and pay attention for “The Star-Spangled Banner” are?” Answer: The rich folks in the box seats. Check for yourself next time, if you don’t believe that. No one tunes in, or pays for a ticket to see the National Anthem performed, in any sport. Tell anyone who gives you flak on this, to get real with their hypocritical indignity, and then look for the class interest behind their attacks. The National Anthem (and the flag) are used as tools for class control. Working people must be made to bow before them, because it symbolizes the rule of wealth under capitalism.

 

      1. Land of the Free

 

The truth of truths here is that taking a knee, while courageous at first, still isn’t enough. Sports don’t unite us, they divide us– daily, in so many ways. That’s why front-row seats cost so much more. It’s a different game when you’re watching from the nose-bleed seats, isn’t it!? Within all this, the athletes themselves are divided, because their salaries are so varied. Rookies are generally underpaid, while veterans are overpaid. There are only a few superstars in each sport, and they usually get all the ink, especially when labor issues arise.

Taking a knee, now gives ANY athlete an opportunity to express themselves. Most still don’t, out of fear of being blacklisted. Colin Kaepernick is most-definitely blacklisted by the NFL, as he’s easily a top-10 QB– which ~20 teams need. Winning on the field is important to most owners, but protecting their wealth is EVERYTHING. Sports are owned by billionaires, who provide a vehicle for the rulers of capitalism (Wall Street & Madison Avenue) to exercise mind-control class warfare on the population.

In the end, we watch sports because we love them. These athletes do things we can’t, and it’s fun (and sometimes amazing) to watch them work. Most fans are with the athletes in all this, as they (at least) can feel things being manipulated, even if they don’t fully understand it. Many others already know, and their numbers are increasing daily.

This is what the ruling class fears above all else: a movement from the working people that gets out of their control. Modern sports, combined with social media and the Internet, now provide global links for discussions that can create worker solidarity across all fields.  That is the power which fans & athletes must harness into a revolution, in order to stop this unending cycle of capitalist violence.

If this isn’t done, be forewarned that fascism is preparing itself for a hostile takeover. It’s political base is still weak, and they can still be contained & defeated, but only through conscious revolutionary action. Anything less is an empty gesture.

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US Open Tennis & Bitch Factor

Bitch factor (noun): Something to never ignore or underrate. If you do, it will emasculate you– viciously.

Men’s tennis needs Federer-Nadal in the semis (and we all hope it happens), but it’s just to keep pace with Maria Sharapova taking on the rest of the women– which is now the ONLY story at the 2017 US Open. For the record, I’m a tennis fan, so unless they are match fixing or behaving Nick Kyrgios-bad, I cut them some slack & love them all– really. But this following fact must be pointed out, and fully understood by ALL sports fans: Venus & Serena Williams have therapeutic use exemptions (TUE’s) for prednisolone– a steroid, and oxycodone– a narcotic pain-reliever [1]. A TUE is a medical permission slip to use banned substances.

Is it fair they were/are allowed to compete against others, with that chemical advantage? Why doesn’t anyone at ESPN (or anywhere else) ask them about it?  Last I saw, over 100 players (ATP & WTA) are competing with TUE’s.  Meldonium is a caffeine pill compared to that, and yet Maria Sharapova (alone) is to be made the poster-girl for doping in tennis. It’s so obviously political at WADA, ITF, IOC, etc– and your position on it betrays your interests. That’s what a lightning rod like Maria Sharapova does to people, and that’s why she’s jealously hated by her colleagues. Lot’s of bitch factor here, which has raised everyone’s interest about 1000%!

More people should respect (and let themselves be amazed by) the interest Sharapova instantly delivers, as that’s a true force of nature. In a word: mesmerizing. That has major value. She is giving everyone a chance to express themselves, and if she had been denied the wild card for this US Open, then none of this passionate dialogue would exist. No story, because there’s no real interest. You must respect that, even if you don’t like her game on the court. If you can’t do (at least) that, then you’re a hypocritical hater.

CoCo Vandeweghe believes Maria Sharapova’s wild card could’ve been used on American player

Bitch factor went up early, when CoCo Vandeweghe (below) was asked about Maria Sharapova getting a wild card, which she needed in order to play in the event. CoCo has a right to her opinion. And once she expresses it publicly, fans then have the right to criticize CoCo for her nationalist chauvinism, and inability to see the bigger picture.

In the last 6 months or so, Maria Sharapova has been featured on the cover of People, Vanity Fair, etc… She lives in the US, and is as “American” as anyone on the WTA. CoCo’s prejudiced comments betray a hidden agenda, that is ugly & all-too-common. Does anyone believe ESPN has the guts to investigate further, seek clarification, etc… or would that cut across their narratives?

Putting Maria Sharapova on center court ‘doesn’t set a good example,’ Caroline Wozniacki says

After Caroline Wozniacki went down in the second round, she dragged Sharapova though the mud (again) in her post-match comments to the media, essentially blaming Sharapova (at least in part) for her loss to another opponent, as well as the court assignments.  Being a bitchy sore loser doesn’t set a good example, I say.

To all those venting on Maria Sharapova, consider this. The most-commented-upon ESPN tennis articles this US Open are the ones featuring her. Even Roger Federer and Venus Williams don’t provoke the reactions Sharapova does. Serena Williams gets some love [!] for having her baby, but then it’s right back to Sharapova. Women do get jealous on that, a FYI for you young boys & clueless guys.

Maria Sharapova advances, returns shot at Caroline Wozniacki

Maria Sharapova’s response to Caroline Wozniacki criticisms, after winning her third-round match:

“That’s not what matters to me. All that matters to me is I’m in the fourth round. I’m not sure where she is. With regards to scheduling, as you know, I don’t make the schedule. I’m a pretty big competitor. If you put me out in a parking lot of Queens in New York City, I’m happy to play there.”

Let’s add it up. Five-time Grand Slam champion, stunning beauty, and quotable. Yeah, that belongs on Center Court.

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Is Danica Patrick Retiring?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Budget $149 million
Box office $806.8 million

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

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

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

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

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

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San Diego Keeping Andy Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Padres Injury Notes & Up-Coming Roster Decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why We Loathe Kyle Busch

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here is Kyle Busch’s response:

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

…and there she goes again!!

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

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

Then a more measured one:

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

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

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

Bristol Update (race held 8-19-17): Fans understand how much it helps Xfinity & their truck series to have star drivers like Kyle Busch competing in their races, they just aren’t THAT impressed when he clearly has the fastest car in the Cup event on Saturday night. “Crazy fast” was how another Cup team identified the #18 car on ScanAll/Radioactive. So how could minor-league drivers have a ghost of a chance against that package? Great sweep for him, but we’re just not as impressed as NASCAR die-hards & Kyle Busch. Brad Keselowski was right, JGR has been sandbagging. We’re 2 races from the Chase, and it’s showing up for real now.

As far as who NASCAR should hitch their wagon to for the next 10 years or so, it’s age-25 Kyle Larson. Kyle Busch is age 32. NASCAR is getting younger, and Kyle Busch will start seeing more competition from “teammates” Erik Jones & Daniel Suarez, as JGR commits to youth in 2018. If Busch can’t help develop these youngsters into elite drivers (because he’s only concerned with his results), then he quickly becomes a liability to JGR. Slippage will start to show soon at his age, since NASCAR is now becoming more of a sport.

Those who “hate losing more than they love winning” are the biggest jerks, sucking the joy out of everything [1]. It’s what makes them the biggest losers in the end, and it’s why so many loathe Kyle Busch. Yes, he can drive, and he’s active at all levels which is good for NASCAR, I guess? We just don’t understand him taking bows after winning truck-series races, against up-and-coming drivers who know they can’t compete with his far superior equipment & driving experience. It’s shooting fish in a barrel, and sportsmen (& women) don’t respect that so much.

 

      1. Haters, Step Aside - Ric Size

 

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Trade Deadline Results & NL Round-Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NL Round-Up:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Padres Update:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dodgers & Nationals:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Autographs & the Memorabilia Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NASCAR Notes & SHR Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous ‘Monster Mile’ Notes:

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

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

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

Final Dover update 6-8-17:

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

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Kansas: Danica Violently Wrecked; Aric Almirola Hospitalized

Does NASCAR want this?

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

Just read the tags on the address links:

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

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

Makes you want to view it, huh?!

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

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

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

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

What Drivers Said after Kansas Cup race

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

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

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

      1. Haters, Step Aside - Ric Size

 

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

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

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