What is NASCAR?

That’s a complex question, and this article can only be considered the “Cliff’s Notes” version.  What needs to be understood from the outset is that NASCAR controls everything you see and hear about them, so this is one of the few subjective analyses of this particular sport & its business model.

The best online tool for following a race is NASCAR Live Leaderboard, which tracks each driver’s position continuously. If your favorite driver isn’t being discussed (or when they go to commercial), simply mute the broadcast and watch the drivers juggle around on the leaderboard, it’s actually more fascinating and tells the story much better than MRN or Fox1.

Also download this form on race day from Foxsports/NASCAR, which has what you need to know about the cars in the field:

For most people, NASCAR is about the teams & drivers, so here’s a quick look at every significant 2017 team (large & small) and their drivers.  The primary sponsor is important because it tells you how each driver is branding themselves, along with their ability to bring in money.  Note that some drivers don’t have sponsors, which means they won’t be around very long.  The column formatting is: car number–driver–sponsor, with each team listed alphabetically downwards until the end. A photo (or two) is included for each team, along with a few notes for context. (R) stands for rookie.

No.                       Driver                         Primary Sponsor

Chip Ganassi Racing

1                   Jamie McMurray              McDonald’s
42                 Kyle Larson                       Target

This is probably the best second-tier team in NASCAR, with the best young driver in Kyle Larsen.

Circle Sport/MSG

33                   Jeffrey Earnhardt                    Little Joes Autos/ Curtis Key Plumbing

Jeffrey Earnhardt is the nephew of Dale, Jr.

Germain Racing 

13                   Ty Dillon (R)                           Twisted Tea

Ty Dillon is the younger brother of fellow NASCAR driver Austin Dillon (discussed below). He is the son of former driver Mike Dillon and grandson of Richard Childress (discussed below). Germain Racing is in technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing.

Hendrick Motorsports

5                   Kasey Kahne                     Farmers Insurance
24                  Chase Elliott                      NAPA
48                  Jimmie Johnson               Lowes
88                  Dale Earnhardt Jr.            Axalta (DuPont rebranded)

This is NASCAR’s (Brian France’s) favorite team, because Dale Jr. is it’s biggest hero, and Jimmie Johnson it’s greatest champion.  Dale Jr. is the most influential driver in NASCAR, and I believe he should use that power to speak up (even more) on issues that affect the teams & drivers. Steve O’Donnell will listen to no one else.

JTG Daugherty Racing

37                  Chris Buescher                Bush’s Beans
47                  A. J. Allmendinger            Kroger

JTG Daugherty Racing is a lower-tier team owned by advertising executive Tad Geschickter and his wife Jodi, along with former NBA star Brad Daugherty.

Kroger’s ClickList is killing Whole Foods [1]. Kroger is a regional discount grocer that now carries organic products and offers home delivery.  Many upper-middle class snoots wouldn’t be caught dead in a Kroger’s, but they will have them home deliver at 15-20% savings over Whole Foods’ organics. This may put Whole Foods out of business, and it proves that smart advertising in racing pays off.

Leavine Family Racing

95                 Michael McDowell           K-Love

According to Wikipedia, “K-Love is a contemporary Christian music radio programming service in the United States operated by the Educational Media Foundation. As of March 2013, the network’s programming is simulcast on over 440 FM stations and translators in 47 states.”   I’ve said all I need to say about Michael McDowell as a driver– here.

Richard Childress Racing

3                   Austin Dillon                      DOW
27                 Paul Menard                     Menards
31                 Ryan Newman                 Caterpillar

IMO, this team is the most mid-range team in NASCAR. None of these drivers are considered elite, but none are consider poor either. One of these drivers may make the Chase in a given season (16 drivers do in the current format), but none are considered to be potential Chase finalists when NASCAR reaches Homestead. Admittedly, I kinda like Austin Dillon’s cowboy shtick (below).

Rick Ware Racing

51                 Timmy Hill                         Bubba Burger/Go-Parts.com

Not much sponsorship here.  It’s like when Scotty beams Kirk, Spock, Bones, and the other guy down; and there are only three transports back to the USS Enterprise. Take a wild guess on who won’t be around very long, unless he finds some money in a hurry?

Front Row Motorsports

34                 Landon Cassill            Love’s Travel Stops
38                 David Ragan               Camping World

Landon Cassill (above) on how drivers get paid: “You probably see drivers bring in anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of the team’s revenue, depending on the prize money and sponsorship they get. Honestly, every deal is different. There’s drivers in the Cup Series that make anywhere from five percent to 50 percent of the prize money. But the drivers who make 50 percent probably don’t have any type of salary. There are drivers who make five percent who have some sort of salary. It just depends on the deal.”

Go Fas Racing

32                Matt DiBenedetto                    Can-Am/Kappa

Matt DiBenedetto #32 (pictured below) made the switch from BK Racing to Go FAS for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. Can-Am/Kappa, Keen Parts, Visone RV, Really Cheap Floors & Cosmo Motors are all smallish sponsors, but DiBenedetto keeps picking up more & more, which proves he’s respected by racing fans & the business world. Switching to a better team really helps, as BK Racing is considered to be near or at the bottom of the NASCAR barrel.

Richard Petty Motorsports

43                     Aric Almirola                      Smithfield

In 2010, Medallion Financial Corp., a Wall Street investment group led by NYC taxi tycoon Andrew Murstein (with Petty above), became majority owner of Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM). Before the acquisition, RPM reportedly had debts of $90+ million and was on the brink of bankruptcy. Medallion purchased RPM for $12 million, after previous owner George Gillett spent $120 million in 2007.  Today Richard Petty Motorsports fields only the #43 car, driven by Aric Almerola. They own two NASCAR charters (explained below), but are leasing one out in 2017.  RPM remains in the lower-tier of competitive teams–  in terms of driver skill, speed under the hood, and ability to attract new sponsors.

Roush Fenway Racing

6                 Trevor Bayne                     Advocare
17               Ricky Stenhouse Jr.          Fastenal

John W. Henry (above) is one of three owners of this team, as well as primary owner of Boston Red Sox since 2003. Trevor Bayne (below) has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  His primary sponsor is Advocare– a pyramid scheme [2].

Stewart-Haas Racing

4                  Kevin Harvick                    Jimmy John’s
10                Danica Patrick                   Aspen Dental
14                Clint Bowyer                       N/A
41                Kurt Busch                         Monster Energy

Gene Haas (above) went to prison for tax evasion. This team let Nature’s Bakery slide on unpaid bills for too long, and now they are trying to collect in court. We all know how that goes. Currently half of the SHR drivers (#41 Kurt Busch– who won the Daytona 500, and #14 Clint Bowyer) don’t have consistent sponsorship.

The #10 car always has a sponsor. With all the empty seats and declining ratings for NASCAR, that’s what counts most.

Here is the average NASCAR attendance from 2007-2012, and as you can see it has steadily declined every year. Beginning in 2013, NASCAR stopped releasing its attendance figures.

Year     Average Attendance       Compared to Prior
2012             99051                        -0.55%
2011             99602                        -2.49%
2010            102149                       -9.50%
2009             112877                      -8.25%
2008             123029                      -5.58%
2007             130305                        N/A

Team Penske

2                  Brad Keselowski                Miller Lite
22                Joey Logano                      Shell-Pennzoil

Roger Penske (above) is one of the biggest names in racing & NASCAR. This is a tight outfit, and the best-run team in my opinion.  They have fast cars every year, with two elite drivers who work together and know how to win without wrecking others. Sponsorship is not an issue, as these are two of the most recognized & respected drivers in NASCAR.

Wood Brothers Racing

21                 Ryan Blaney                     Motorcraft

This is the oldest active team in NASCAR, having fielded cars since 1950, always Ford.

BK Racing

23                 Joey Gase/Gray Gaulding (R)     SunFrog.com
83                 Corey LaJoie                                 RMC Events

SunFrog is online t-shirt printing operation, established ~3 years ago. It looks similar to another famous .com giant, but is missing a few elements: like a global vision & an iconic spokesperson. RMC Events was established in 1999, and is an event staffing firm headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, with two additional regional offices in Charlottesville.

In 2013, Corey LaJoie (above) was placed on indefinite probation and instructed to attend sensitivity training by NASCAR, after tweeting that the TSA should perform a body cavity search on a man wearing a turban.  Apparently it didn’t help as LaJoie got into Reed Sorenson’s # 55 car, spinning him into the inside wall during qualifying for the Daytona 500 this past February.  LaJoie was unapologetic. “If that had been my mom, I probably would spin her out, too, to make the Daytona 500,” [3]

Furniture Row Racing

77                 Erik Jones (R)                    5-Hour Energy
78                 Martin Truex Jr.                  Bass Pro

Barney Visser (above w/ Martin Truex, Jr) is the owner, and this is the only NASCAR team based west of the Mississippi. They are in Denver, CO; where most others are based somewhere in North Carolina. They are in alliance with JGR, and are leasing a charter to accommodate rookie driver Erik Jones.

Joe Gibbs Racing

11                 Denny Hamlin                     Fed Ex
18                 Kyle Busch                          M&M’s
19                 Daniel Suárez (R)                Arris
20                 Matt Kenseth                       Dewalt

I respect Joe Gibbs who coached the Washington R-words to 3 Super Bowl titles with three different quarterbacks in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.  He is a genius at organizing a winning team. The problem is he goes too far in pushing the rules concerning the safety of his athletes and the other competitors around them. JGR was a major violator in the lug nut controversy that raged during the 2016 season, as only 3 or 4 were being screwed onto each tire to speed up pit stops.  In general this team has the most speed because their manufacturer (Toyota) and its engineers do the best job. As for these drivers, several are too aggressive, much too often; and always blame others (or deny responsibility) when they cause wrecks (Hamlin below).

TriStar Motorsports

72                 Cole Whitt                         Bad Boy Mowers

TriStar Motorsports is a lower-tier team that competes full time.  You would never know this by listening to MRN (photo below) or watching Fox1.  Anytime a Cole Whitt is being talked about in a good way, a nebulous NASCAR Black Hand throws static into the broadcast (which has a 7-second delay– minimum), and the commentary becomes inaudible to the listener. NASCAR wants money, before it talks any team up.

TriStar Motorsports owner is Mark Smith– no Wikipedia bio available.  Fun fact: Cole Whitt calls himself the Ginger Lion (photo below).  Unfortunately, the last Cole Whitt website update (as of this publication) was May 6, 2016 @ Talladega.

Premium Motorsports

15                 Michael Waltrip                                            N/A
55                 Reed Sorenson/Derrike Cope                     N/A

Premium Motorsports was formerly called (photoed above) Jay Robinson Racing.  This was their controversial sponsor last summer at Texas Motor Speedway:

Jay Robinson said, “We’ve got advertising space to sell. Our revenue stream is our NASCAR purse money and sponsorship money. (A couple sponsors) wanted to do it and we weren’t against it.”

The ‘couple sponsors’ were none other than Jay Robinson and co-owner of Premium Motorsports–Michael Osbon .  No Wikipedia bio available for either, which again is typical for these murky NASCAR-affialited officials.

Reed Sorenson #55 runs weekly with no sponsor.

NASCAR was founded and owned entirely by “Big Bill” France, with his son Brian (above) inheriting it in 2003.  Brian France NASCAR CEO spoke at a Donald Trump campaign rally last summer, stating: “I’m here to tell you he wins with his family. Any of his children, you’d be proud to have them as part of your family. That’s how I judge a winner, how somebody manages their family, raises their family.”

NASCAR drivers Michael Waltrip, Ryan Newman, David Ragan, Chase Elliott, and retired driver (father) Bill Elliott also appeared at the same rally to endorse Trump.  This is the deep reactionary underbelly of NASCAR, which is seldom discussed in mass media.

Today NASCAR is Brian France and a band of good ‘ol boys who have struck it rich, and are being devoured by capitalism. The staged-race format, which was rolled out at Daytona for its annual crown jewel event, has proven a disaster from a driver & fan popularity standpoint, but it stays in effect because it’s what the sponsors are demanding. More TV timeouts are what the sponsors have called for, and the drivers & teams are compelled to keep quiet, or they face heavy NASCAR sanctions. NASCAR writers on Fox & ESPN.com are nothing more than well-greased promoters.

The drivers have been grumbling during their stage win interviews. They don’t like having to work their way up through the field again, since everyone pits on a caution flag which jumbles the field. That takes much of the shine off an early-stage win. The fact remains: the only win that matters is stage 3– traditionally known to racing fans as the checkered flag.

Forbes on NASCAR’s new staged-race format: “The new format will break races into segments, with points awarded to the top finishers of each stage in addition to the race winners. More opportunities to win points should certainly generate more aggressive racing. And if that means more crashes and subsequent driver feuds, then all the better, since that could turn some of the sport’s young up-and-comers into the sort of household names needed to fill the shoes left behind by retiring stars.”  [4]

Brian France has shown he is a Donald Trump admirer, and that fits because he’s much like the current president of the US in that he’s ignorant, racist, and can’t focus on anything serious.  Therefore he relies on key advisors to guide him clear of the rocks. Brian France’s consiglieres are Steve O’Donnell & Steve Phelps (above), who  were handed the keys to NASCAR back in 2014, and have since taken control [5].

Racing is a team sport, as engineers, mechanics, crew chief, spotter & pit crew all have to work together for a driver. It’s around $500,000 to $1+ million per week to field an elite car in it’s top Cup Series.  NASCAR’s longtime premiere series sponsor Sprint bailed, and in 2017 it’s now Monster Energy drink.

This is a major step down in money and prestige for NASCAR, as Sprint paid $50 million/season over 12 years, and Monster Energy is paying $20 million/season on a 2-year deal. This goes along with the empty stands and declining television ratings which have hit this sport hard since the Great Recession began in 2007-08. Merchandise sales in NASCAR fell from more than $2 billion in 2008 to $1 billion in 2010.

The Daytona & Talladega infield is working class, and they can’t afford to go to these spectacles as often anymore. They are also starting to care less, which is even more problematic.  Commentary from hardcore NASCAR fans on ESPN.com is illuminating, and often richer in content than their published articles, because you hear these realities in their posts.  NASCAR’s legion of apologists keep trying to paper all this over, but facts are stubborn..

NASCAR’s grid has been trimmed to 40, leaving only a four non-guaranteed starting positions open for non-charter teams at each race. This new charter system is the only ticket for gaining access to the tens-of-millions of dollars in NASCAR prize money. This has forced these 19 teams into partnership with NASCAR, and the specific terms aren’t to be made public.

Charters can be sold, and here are NASCAR’s 2017 charter teams. Team charters haven’t blown up in value like NASCAR expected, trading in the $2-$4 million range. NASCAR was hoping for $10+ million per charter.

International Speedway Corporation (ISC) is an entity whose business is the ownership and management of NASCAR and IndyCar race tracks. Founded by ‘Big Bill’ France, Sr. in 1953 for the construction of Daytona International Speedway (below), and in 1999 merged with Penske Motorsports.  Basically:  ISC = NASCAR = Brian France.

Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (SMI) owns and manages racing facilities that host NASCAR & IndyCar Series. Bruton Smith (photo below) began building SMI in the 1950s. The company’s headquarters are located at Charlotte Motor Speedway. SMI owns nine racing facilities and Performance Racing Network (PRN).

NASCAR has a ten-year, $8.2 billion TV package with Fox & NBC that runs through 2024. NASCAR distributes 65% of their television earnings to the tracks, over half of which Brian France directly owns.  Around 25% of the TV money is disbursed to the teams through purses, and 10% goes directly to NASCAR.  What this means is the drivers and their teams are having to split 25% of the total revenues (which they create) in order to pay themselves, while the owner(s) take 75%.

NASCAR continues to operate under the same 65-25-10 formula it developed when it consolidated TV rights in 1999.  The track split of 65% of the TV revenue is unequally tiered, based on the whims of (who else?) Brian France. The twelve tracks he owns under International Speedway Corporation get the largest cut of NASCAR television money.  Speedway Motorsports Inc. (Bruton Smith & son) owns nine tracks, but gets lower-tiered payments from NASCAR, which has become a bone of contention within the industry.

For teams & drivers to have any negotiating leverage against NASCAR, they need to form a labor union.  As illustrated already, the level of political consciousness among NASCAR participants is very low, and as far as NASCAR media goes– it’s a gaggle of idiots talking about nothing.  NASCAR regards its competitors as independent contractors and the drivers have no collective bargaining rights.  A point of history: in 1961, “Big Bill” France blacklisted Curtis Turner and Tim Flock (both cars below). These two drivers led a rank-and-file attempt to unionize NASCAR. [6].

2016 Top NASCAR driver incomes: includes salary, bonuses, prize money, endorsements and licensing:

Jimmie Johnson   $21.8 million
Dale Earnhardt, Jr   $21.1 million
Denny Hamlin   $15.2 million
Kyle Busch   $15.0 million
Kevin Harvick   $13.9 million
Carl Edwards   $12.3 million
Danica Patrick   $12.2 million
Tony Stewart   $12.0 million

Dale Earnhardt, Jr and Danica Patrick have the highest endorsement incomes in NASCAR. The top twelve drivers in the sport made $168 million in 2016. NASCAR’s top-12 earners all came from the four power teams (JGR, SHR, Hendrick & Penske) which have captured 12 straight Cup titles.

In conclusion, the future for NASCAR looks bleak, which only means it’s an accurate reflection of the U.S. & global economy as a whole. Income is down from its traditional source, as it’s fanbase can no longer afford it.  Therefore television becomes the predominant revenue stream, with all the corporate interest it brings.  Racing fans aren’t interested in mid-race driver & crew chief interviews, they simply want a fair race with traditional continuity.

As for labor, the drivers and their teammates need to come together and collectively bargain a better revenue sharing agreement, by making it a labor issue.  Most leagues are around a 50/50 split with ownership. NASCAR insists on secrecy, so it can bluff & blow-hard it’s way through every negotiation with the drivers. The team owners are all France family.  These caporegimes keep the drivers & crew in line, with most drivers (even stars) very content to just be racing in NASCAR, even while knowing they’re being ripped off [7].

As we can see, capitalism has ruined ‘stock car racing,’ and honestly this hasn’t been anything close to stock parts for a long time.  No, this is high-tech, corporate-controlled propaganda in-your-face for 36 weekends of the year.  NASCAR fans were once mesmerized by what they saw, because it was of their own.  Now they watch at home in frustration & anger, trying to figure all this out.  Better not tell them; it might start a revolution.

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Hard Lessons from the Other Side

When I published “Undiagnosed Hip Injuries & Stubborn Fat Loss” on 9-8-16, I was in the middle of my program. It was theoretical at the time, although I was sure I was correct. Now that I have achieved my goal of total rehabilitation & nearly all the stubborn fat loss, I can declare everything I outlined in that piece, and “Hip & Back Rehabilitation Protocol” to be valid. I will now add my concluding thoughts. Photo below by TomP on 3-2-17.

Actual full rehabilitation takes nearly a year. I have mentioned the importance of rehabbing at climate already, meaning no heat or A/C use. What I didn’t know is the body needs to go through the full cycle of seasons to completely re-adapt. Bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons & skin behave very differently in summer versus winter, no matter where you live. That means be patient, and adapt your workout regime accordingly. This is about the long haul.

A second discovery is that I had a lot more fat than I thought, which means you probably do too. Many times I thought I was near the end, when more seemed to appear on my belly. I originally estimated ~12 pounds of stubborn fat as typical, now that I’m at the end I can say it’s more like 15-18 pounds of fat loss, and only ~3 pounds of muscle gain. There’s just a lot more fat than you realize, and as it comes off you begin to understand that every pizza, beer, burger, soda, candy bar or other junk food item that you ever consumed, will be accounted for. If you don’t, then it just stays there until you die, perhaps even contributing to the cause-of-death. Your choice.

How much fat do you actually need to lose? The easy test is to put yourself in the plank position, completely extended out. Then look towards your feet and notice everything that’s hanging off. That’s how much fat you need to lose.

The belly is where fat is first stored, and last shed. Every time you think you’re about to lose that gut, more fat flows in from other areas of your body. The fat will melt away around the rest of your body, while a pooch gut remains. This is the REALLY stubborn fat, which requires a series of disciplined fasts to break down. The belly fat contains the major ‘fat plugs’ which are protecting the deepest injuries, and to repeat; this fat will not disappear until the corresponding muscle tears are healed & re-strengthened. This means the injury victim has to work out their deepest injuries while fasting, in order to lose their stubborn fat. There’s no other way.

At most only 2-3 pounds can be permanently cut per fast, as energy depletion finally sets in to the point where there are no more gains to be had,  you then have to eat. Note that this will also wipe you out for a day-or-two afterwards, depending on the length & severity of the fast. This means that having the actual time to go through all this, is another major factor considering the realities of our modern world.

My advice is to prepare yourself for these fasts, as they will get to the point where you are delusional & lightheaded. You will actually feel the fat being consumed, in an on-and-off stream of ‘tummy rumbling’ sounds from every part of your body. Burping becomes more frequent (even though you haven’t eaten), as the development and ripping of abdominal & back muscles squeezes the innards. Air is pushed out of the entire digestive tract. Some flatulence will also occur. This is disgusting stuff which overweight people need to get out. The actual fat is metabolized through your lungs.

Fat is full of toxins. As it is being rapidly burned off, these toxins will be released into your system– for you to enjoy one last time. There were points during a particularly cruel fast, where I was dry-heaving due to this, as their release during fat burn-off caused violent reactions in my body. I was very glad I didn’t have any food in my stomach, and I’m even happier those nasty chemicals now are all gone.

Another point to fasting is hydration. As you fast saliva flow becomes a problem, because the body sends signals it wants carbohydrates. This reflexively starts salivation. A spit cup become necessary at a certain point, as you don’t want this goopy fluid in your stomach, especially if you are about to go into the heaves. Spit frequently, and hydrate with sips of water as needed.

Here are a few final workout notes:

1) Always maintain a ‘Flex-T’ shoulder posture. This was discussed in “Pitching Motion Analysis,” but it applies to everyone. The Flex-T position protects the shoulder capsule, safely linking the arms to the torso.

2) Whenever upright, use a phasic knee-bent stance, with the knees always tracking the feet. Keep your core tight.

3) Switch eyes. This is an advanced concept I came up with, that directly relates to ambidexterity. The eyes are controlled by a group of muscles that run from the back and shoulder, up around the head. The eyes themselves are muscles too. This means they can (and should) be strengthened like any other muscle. There are major benefits to this including: A) These muscles are extremities, meaning head-to-toe really means eyes-to-toe. Switching eyes will improve strength & coordination from the head to every extremity. B) Switching eyes improves vision & depth perception. Everyone has a dominant eye. To determine eye dominance, point your finger at a distant object. Close one eye. Open it. Close the other eye. Evaluate when the finger moves, the eye you closed is dominant. The idea is to reduce dependence on the dominant eye, which is best-achieved by strengthening the non-dominant eye. C) Switching eyes improves mental focus. Use this tool for everything [!], and you’ll quickly understand these benefits. Simply close one eye and explore its full singular range-of-vision, then switch to the other.  Doing this constantly will also help with your breathing.

That’s it.  Now get to work, and see you on the other side!!

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The Celebrity-Fan Relationship

A strange event happened during the 2017 Oscar ceremony on Sunday evening (2-26), as a bus full of Hollywood tourists were allowed to briefly mingle with A-list celebrities, live on camera [1]. It was taken by most as a gag by host Jimmy Kimmel, but in all seriousness this spontaneity needs to happen more often– and from both sides.

The best actors/directors are artists who want to connect with their audiences, but are separated by an ultra-wealthy Hollywood milieu, which insists on idolizing & isolating its ‘stars,’ so they can be bought-off to serve as ruling class propaganda. The only way consistently better films will made, is when these artists reach into the working class and truly understand modern realities.

Why is this important? Because we now have a celebrity who became President of the United States. Donald Trump has been handed the keys to the White House by liberalism, and has installed fascists Stephen Bannon & Sean Spicer as his chief policy architect & spokesman. Joseph Goebbels was once quoted that when he heard the word “Art,” he always reached for his revolver. What this means is, there are no longer any US political institutions which will protect free speech or tolerate dissent from the working class. To these points, the push for fans & celebrities to reach a better mutual understanding becomes a critical task. The strength of the working class (which produces everything), needs a voice; and the best revolutionary possibility is from athletes/celebrities connecting with their fans. In turn, celebrities need their fans, and if they don’t unite with them, there won’t be any culture in the future to discuss.

A special subset in the discussion of celebrities, are professional athletes. This is because athletes (unlike Hollywood actors) often come from poverty, and most of the rest from middle-class means. When athletes become high-profile & well-paid professionals, they often reach back into their communities of origin.

With that said, most professional athletes today need to listen better, and step outside themselves more. That can be difficult for a young man/woman who suddenly is thrown into the celebrity spotlight, with ‘instant’ money & fame. They’re often told they’re now too cool for their old friends (by industry flatterers), and that they can do whatever they want– because they deserve it. They usually do so for awhile, only because it’s natural at that young age. The problem comes when spending (or whatever other addictive habit) gets out-of-control, and the career crisis hits; and there’s no back-up plan.

One easy (low cost) athletic retirement plan, is to be gracious & nice to the fans during your career. They will always love you for that, and find ways to take care of you. It’s the ‘star jerks’ who suffer most in retirement, because no one needs their used-up talent anymore. There’s a saying in Show Business that goes, “Be nice to people on the way up, because you’ll be seeing them on the way down.” The very best athletes understand that sports are an entertainment business, and are prepared for this. The way to maximize marketability during & after a sports career, is to: 1) win; and 2) be as attractive & pleasant as possible. I’m not sure in which order, but that’s what people want to watch and that’s what sells product.

Getting back to the athlete-fan relationship, with a ‘star’ career under control an athlete wields enormous clout. This power can be used to pile-up ever more money, but also it can be used to create real relationships with fans, who are part of the society we all live in. This happens when athletes and their fans make an honest attempt to better understand one another.

That’s why I’m a huge fan of the Players Tribune, launched‎ ‎October 1, 2014. This is an online venue for athletes only, to speak their minds. It is long overdue, as for too long ESPN & mass-media outlets have had 100% control over every sports narrative. I’ve been told the Internet has changed everything, and here it is again; with athletes finally representing themselves. Honestly, I don’t ever need to hear from Stephen A Smith, Buster Olney, Mike Lupica… and the rest– ever again. They don’t have anything positive or intelligent to say, so why bother with them?

The deeper issue here is: what’s causing all this hate? In the final analysis, it is the class separation between athletes/celebrities and their fans that is fueling this anger. It is erupting on the social media feeds of every celebrity, no matter how popular, every day. Why? It is because valid & rational concerns aren’t being listened to by their political representatives, and therefore celebrities often become the surrogate recipient of these frustrations. This is because high-profile athletes/celebrities have a level of wealth & access to power, which working people can only dream of. Sports, like money & politics, are very emotional subjects.

Celebrities are also widely seen by the public as the source of the problem, or at least strongly associated with it. The celebrity-fan relationship is not the same as the voter-politician relationship. Politicians really don’t care whether they’re liked, they just want votes when it counts, and most people today understand that. If they have an image problem, they usually prefer to throw money at it. The notable exception is Donald Trump, who prefers Twitter, which only proves he considers himself a celebrity first.

Celebrities NEED their popularity, and it has to come from them, because that’s all being a celebrity is. This hooks artists, athletes & entertainment professionals who achieve star-level status. They become ‘married’ to their fans, in a way that if the fans leave (divorce), their careers’ are often finished. This makes them more accountable to working people who vote, and it is actually a qualitative difference in terms of revolutionary potential.

Wrapping all this up where we began (at the Oscars), film goers can aid this revolutionary process by rejecting Hollywood trash (and the rest), with their criticisms & wallets. The truth is, famous artists (along with athletes & other celebrities) care intensely about their fans, and are subject to their influence– especially via social media. There are many serious artists who desire to make better films, but have been locked into commercialization. The problem is, these artists too often view their fans as some vague entity, and not enough as individuals with intelligent human concerns.

This is where Marxist art criticism plays a crucial role in revolutionary strategy. Building a foundation with more fan-celebrity interaction, provides the building blocks for a socialist cinema of the future. It will be one that represents the world more fairly, and lets artists express their creativity more freely. This is an all-important battleground, as control of the mass media (in the end) will be of decisive revolutionary importance.

As far as what socialism will mean politically, it means we tell everybody everything.  No more secrets & lies.  No more war & inequality. Criminals are humanely punished, and rehabilitated– if possible.  Everybody gets a home, food, education, medical, a career, retirement, etc… as the resources are now in place, they just don’t get fairly distributed under capitalism.  Celebrities & their fans everywhere would easily adapt to all this, but it requires leadership & action. The question becomes, who wants to lead?

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NASCAR Wrecks Daytona 500

The carnage, madness, metal & humanity are all back, and NASCAR decided to tinker with its race format– starting with it’s Super Bowl. Bad idea. I’m writing this piece as the race concludes. I don’t care who wins, and neither to most racing fans at this point.  When the race is still going, and many of the superstar drivers are personally feeding their social media, that ain’t good.

Facebook posted February 19 at 11:56am

NASCAR 2017 Monster Energy Cup Predictions:
1) The new staged-race format will not last into April, stupid idea.
2) The new rules on not being able to go into the garage and then back out on the track, etc… are great rules changes that will stick and lead to more safety improvements.
3) Danica Patrick will find another primary sponsor to compliment Aspen Dental/replace Nature’s Bakery, and she’ll get wrecked…

Kyle Busch #18 didn’t win the Daytona 500, after crashing out due to a Goodyear tire blowout. (Always mention the sponsors).  But he did win the first ‘stage’ and play-off point– so congratulations, I suppose? I wonder if he’ll take pride in it?

Nature’s Bakery bailed as Danica’s Patrick’s primary sponsor for the #10 car a few weeks before Daytona, and is now trying to stiff her team (SHR) in court for $32M owed. Turns out, NB’s food isn’t so healthy, and neither are their business practices. The most popular driver in NASCAR had to hustle for a new primary, and proved she is still fast on her feet, by getting Aspen Dental to extend their commitment to “double digit” races.

There are 36 races in the season, and Tax Act sponsors three for her. That leaves her with a sponsorship gap, which will need to be filled during the season. Her car looked faster at Daytona today, until she was caught up in the huge stage-3 wreck pictured above. I had wondered if actually paying the bills would put more speed in her car, and I think it might. Imagine that?

My final fan comments on NASCAR’s 3-stage race format is that I only care who wins the third stage, and same goes for everyone else. Too many re-starts leads to too many multi-car crashes, like the one that obliterated stage 3.  A race is supposed to have a rhythm to it, and this gimmick destroys it. NASCAR has mangled their Super Bowl.

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Top Post-Race Driver Comments [1]:

Kyle Busch (38th): “I don’t know if it was a left rear that went down or the right that went down but man, tore up three JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars in one hit and also Jr. (Dale Earnhardt Jr.). So I feel bad, horrible, for those guys, but man, nothing that we did wrong. You know obviously Goodyear tires just aren’t very good at holding air. It’s very frustrating when we have that down here every single year we’ve been here. Last year we had it as well too. … Thankfully we have I guess a segment point you know out of this day. That’s a positive. But man, you’re trying to win the Daytona 500 here you know. It’s just so disappointing.”

Joey Logano (6th): “I just couldn’t get anyone to go for it at the end. Everyone was so conservative and I don’t understand why. We kept trying to go to the bottom and make a run down there and no one would go with us. We had three cars that kind of wanted to do it, but it’s a matter of getting the right run and getting the right cars behind us and we didn’t have enough of them and couldn’t get up to the lead pack. I don’t know why everyone was so conservative today. … It was crazy to say the least. Right after the last segment it was like everyone turned up the wick a little bit and at the end it was like it burned out.”

Kevin Harvick (22nd): “We just got some cars up there that didn’t need to be up there and wound up doing more than their car could do. … We had, I felt, the fastest car in the field and right in contention for both segments and then it’s all tore up and it came to an end. What do you do? … I think that’s the fastest car I’ve ever had here, so it’s kind of disappointing.”

Jimmie Johnson (34th): “That could have been avoided and it wasn’t called for. From the minute, I got off of Turn 2 on the entire back straightaway, I kept getting hit and the rear tires are off the ground. I know there is a lot of energy behind me in the pack, but I didn’t have a chance. I fought it the whole straightaway and finally got turned going into (Turn) 3. It’s very unfortunate. I hate it for Lowe’s. I hate it for Chevrolet. We’ll go to Atlanta next week and see what we can do there.”

Danica Patrick (33rd): “I don’t really know. I just know we were all three-wide and it looks like the 6 (Trevor Bayne) and 48 (Jimmie Johnson) had something happen. There was nowhere to go. They just kept coming and hitting me. … It was the funnest 500 I’ve ever had. Well, probably not 500, more like 300 or 250. It is a real shame. I feel like we could have been a contender at the end, for sure we could have been an influencer.”

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Final Day-After Commentary:

I actually believe I have understated how much NASCAR has de-valued their product & alienated their fanbase.  A MLB rules-change equivalent would be: instead of playing a nine-inning game for the win, they ‘improve’ it by making three-games-in-one: innings 1-3, 4-6, then the big finale 7-9.  Each segment would award ‘win shares’ and ‘play-off points.’  It would be SO interesting and surely embraced by fans everywhere.  Just watch this idea catch on, like ‘new’ Coke in the mid-1980’s.

Final NASCAR Notes 2-28-17:
NASCAR must fix this list to stop the hemorrhaging, and take advantage of the sport’s current growth potential. 1) Dump the segmented format, and go back to racin’. 2) Reduce the grid size to 30 maximum. There are simply too many drivers who aren’t good enough to be out there, trying to compete with top professionals. These minor-leaguers clog up the track, and create the majority of wrecks because they are in-over-their-heads, and at ~200 MPH– that’s some serious bleep. On a short-track such as Bristol, it’s impossible to have a decent race, because there’s just no room with only one good groove on the track and 40 cars jammed within 1/2 mile of each other at full speed. It reminisces your favorite interstate traffic jam at rush hour. 3) More road course races. This tests a broader range of driving skills and gives different teams competitive advantages, which is good for any sport. 4) Severe punishment for intentional wreckers. This means penalties that start with driver/team suspensions, up to banishment from the sport. Driver safety must be the priory, so NASCAR never has another Dale Earnhardt tragedy.

NASCAR is a private enterprise owned by the “Big Bill” France family. They take all revenue from NASCAR ticket sales, merchandising, concessions, television and other media. The drivers are paid purses & prize money from NASCAR, which doesn’t come close to paying the bills on a race car & its team. When it comes to the problems of NASCAR, the common denominator is always ownership. Until the fans & drivers unite against this monopoly of stupid self-interest, this sport will continue to wreck itself.

3-7-17: Atlanta Motor Speedway Wrap-up: The Monster Cup series points leader after two races is Kevin Harvick, who finished 22nd at Daytona and 9th at Atlanta. This points debacle is because of the new staged-race format. Racing fans are not intrigued by those battles for 8th, 9th & 10th at the end of stages 1 & 2, which now (too much) determine cup points. Adding false drama to a sport doesn’t make it better. Racing is about one winner, and then rewarding those who finished 2nd-on-down appropriately. The point is, you wait until the race is over to do it. So, where does the handing out a trophy for winning stage 1 (during the race!), rank in the all-time most-embarrassing NASCAR moments?

Final Danica Update: NASCAR is about being competitive on the 1.5-mile tracks, so Atlanta is the first true test of the season. Danica Patrick would have gotten lapped at the end of stage 1, if the race leader hadn’t been teammate Kevin Harvick, who eased off the gas and still cruised to the stage win. If a car doesn’t have the horsepower to stay on the lead lap on a 1.5 mile track, then it has no chance in ~30 of the 36 races. The only places a slower car can hang with the leaders are the super speedways (Daytona & Talladega– restrictor plate), and the two road-course races (Sonoma & Watkins Glen). This only means competing for a top-10, forget about winning.

Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) has four teams. Kurt Busch’s #41 won the Daytona 500. Kevin Harvick’s #4 should have won in Atlanta. Clint Boyer’s #14 (replacing retired Tony Stewart) started 6th at Daytona (but was wrecked), and finished 11th at Atlanta. Three of the 4 SHR cars have speed to win. The fourth doesn’t even have the horsepower to stay on the lead lap. This is (again) the problem for the driver of the #10 car, who possesses one of the best overall skill-sets in NASCAR.

Over & Out

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Carpe Diem: LF Ryan Braun to the Padres?

There are 5 years/$85M (through 2021) remaining on Brewers LF Ryan Braun contract. LF Alex Dickerson (or RF Hunter Renfroe), and a few middling prospects would likely make a deal– if Padres ownership is willing to take on the payroll. Prospect/MLB player value would be comparable to the C Jonathan Lucroy to Texas deal last summer, which wouldn’t hamper AJP’s rebuild. PED-stigma aside, Braun is a HOF-production bat as long as his back is healthy.

The Angels, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Marlins and Padres are the 6 teams the Brewers can deal him to, without asking him to waive his no-trade clause. This gives AJP tremendous leverage in possibly acquiring one of the best right-handed hitters of this era. HOF-ers (and ace pitching) are what win WS.
The best fit of those 6 teams is the Padres. In terms of prospects available to make the deal the Snakes, Halos & Fish are all discounted due to poor farm systems. They simply don’t have the prospects to make a deal.
Positional availability & payroll limitations take effect too, as the Dodgers have an outfield log-jam– with unloading Yasiel Puig as their current priority.
The Giants have out-of-options Jarrett Parker who is left-handed & cheap– which is what they need in LF.  Their bullpen set-up situation is their priority and GM Brian Sabean won’t waste money on something he doesn’t need, unless it falls to replacement level. That’s how you win 3 WS in 5 seasons.

Anyways, the point is: the Padres are the most-logical fit for Ryan Braun. I believe AJP is taking these few weeks in ST to evaluate all his rookie & minor-league talent, in order to determine who is untouchable and whom he is willing to package. Owner Ron Fowler may be “biting his lip for now,” but the headline a few days back read “We’re going to have some fun,” and the article quoted him saying Opening Day payroll would be ~$75M. Right now it’s just under $57M [1]. I forecast the Padres/Brewers are going to make this surprise blockbuster very soon. Shhh!!

Why? 1) Brewers need to move Braun, and the time has come. He’ll be the last piece to be sold off. 2) Braun is undervalued & talented, and AJP covets that. 3) AJP has leverage and Braun fits with SD. Really only the D-backs & Giants could conceivably compete for his services among the 6 listed teams, and they aren’t likely to do so, due to payroll restrictions. 4) Padres owner Ron Fowler has money, and he wants to spend it.

This is a think-outside-the-box situation, an incredible opportunity to move the Padres franchise forward in it’s winning curve. It’s too good for AJP and Fowler to resist, IMO. I know it sounds like I’m out in left-field here [!], but consider this not only as a possibility but as a distinct probability, and watch for any more signs.

More Signs

Yesterday’s Padres headlines [2]:

Padres set with current crop of players
GM Preller doesn’t expect any adds before start of regular season
AJP is quoted, “Then again, never say never.”

Trades aren’t adds.

If Ryan Braun is acquired by the Padres, then this is my piece. If not, then Play Ball!!!

Acquiring LF Ryan Braun solidifies this lineup as competitive with the Giants & Dodgers. Padres lineup: 1) Manny Margot/Travis Jankowski (platoon) CF, 2) switch-hitter 3B Yangervis Solarte, 3) LF righty-masher Ryan Braun, 4) righty franchise player 1B Wil Myers (or reverse 3-4), 5) lefty pop & OBP 2B Ryan Schimpf, 6) power with excellent defense RF Hunter Renfroe, 7) Elite defense, hopefully-he-hits-enough C Austin Hedges, 8) SS will be the last position to be filled, proving the curse of Ozzie Smith as the hardest for the Padres to exorcise; I like the Luis Sardinas & Allen Cordoba mix.

That’s turning over a lineup from Gyorko, Norris, Upton, Upton, Amarista & Kemp!!! Padres team base-running was tops in MLB last season, and it will likely stay there or near. Their defense improved vastly, and will get even better everywhere except LF, with BJ Upton being clearly better defensively than Braun. Braun if healthy is average-to-slightly-below in LF. What he brings to the plate is all the difference in winning by transforming a lineup.

The 2017 Padres starting pitching has been filled out with low-cost, high bounce-back-potential free agents, but is still two notches (at least) below the NL West elite. They need Luis Perdomo to become their #2 starter, then find/develop an ace. The Padres bullpen should be a strength with the Carter Capps fixing his delivery to become the closer, and Ryan Buchter & Brad Hand as dominant lefty set-up men. The bullpen question marks come in with the righty relief corps, and that’s what the AJP-pitcher-round-up this winter was partly about. The dugout brains is there in manager Andy Green, ace pitching coach Darren Balsley and the rest, so most fans are confident they’ll figure it out. There’s tons of pitching talent, deep in their minor-league system.

This now is a 3rd-place team in the NL West, vaulting past the Diamondbacks & Rockies, with an outside shot at being a wild card contender. The Padres competitive window which appeared to be opening around 2019 or so, is now here in 2017. Note that this doesn’t interfere with their organizational rebuild, as the talent pool has been well-stocked and the Preller pipeline is already bearing fruit with Margot, and the last of the Josh Byrnes prospects. There’s plenty more to come, with prospect depth and payroll commitment/flexibility to get the player(s) they’ll need– whenever they’re ready.

This is a hungry organization with a huge chip on its shoulder, because it has never won a WS since its inception in 1969, and has too often been a joke. The conventional baseball wisdom this winter was the teams that improved themselves the most were CWS, SEA, BOS, blah, blah… Now these MLB experts are going to have to rethink and (gasp!) rewrite their narratives & predictions because this changes many things.

To all those I say: find me another GM who can dominate the Rule 5 draft, sign the best low-cost free agent starting pitchers (4 for <$10M), lock up your two best young players in Myers & Solarte with team-friendly deals, then grab the best right-handed hitter in the NL who has 5 years of affordable team control, without blowing your budget? The Padres OD payroll is now ~ $75M. AJP is the best GM in MLB because he works most completely with his organization, from ownership all the way down to his scouts, coaches & players. He even listens to his fans. He sees the big picture (in English & Spanish) better than the rest, and therefore anticipates a situation in which the Padres are going to have maximum leverage to improve themselves, and then he seizes the day.

The Crafty Spider

A crafty spider had very little, so he began spinning a web. He took great care in spinning, making his ties strong and using only the best silk. His web was meager to start, only able to trap smaller prey, but it worked well and consistently nourished the crafty spider. As the crafty spider began to grow in size, it kept spinning more web. Other spiders would look on and remark, “Why do you need such a big fancy web, you’ll never catch anything that large!” The crafty spider ignored all this and quietly and went on spinning. Night & day; day & night. Spinning, spinning, spinning. All kinds of webs were spun; webs that hooked & snared, webs that linked & held stuff together, webs that were shiny & beautiful. Eventually these links not only provided structure & support for the crafty spider, but also became webs of enchantment & deception for others– filled with pitfalls, persuasions & slippery slopes.

Within this larger house, was another spider who possessed one of the juiciest specimens [!] in the entire domain. This delightful morsel contained enough nutritive value to satisfy even the most ravenous appetite, but it came with a limited no-trade clause. This selected against the fiercest competitors within the species, including the dreaded Yankee spider and the hated Red Sox spider– most-toxic & desperately in search of a new Papi. These predators could only watch through the window with snapping jaws, as hunger pangs gnawed at their bellies, as only six lucky spiders would have the opportunity to wrap their legs around this bountiful feast.

The day came when the possessing spider realized that much of his web needed rebuilding. The section of his web with Ryan Braun was strong, but too much of the remaining structure was incomplete & weak. It had also become a luxury which was too costly to maintain. This spider needed fresh raw materials to build a better web, but where would he find them? He visited the webs of five available spiders, but found them to be in a state of disrepair and mostly barren. Some even looked pitifully worse that his own, while the remaining webs simply didn’t have enough space available for such a catch. Until the day finally came when the possessing spider had to bring his prize into the crafty spider’s web, at which point they were immediately caught.

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Dialectical Processes

A website is always evolving– an indisputable fact of the Internet. Even if a site immediately goes stale, forgotten by its creator (like most), it’s even decaying beyond that– at a rate the Internet is advancing. Therefore, any website is either evolving or devolving.

When I began this site (with all technical assistance from friend/webmaster TomP), I had no idea what I was doing or where it was going? What this site has become is a guide-to-better-living, with much of what-you-need-to-know for understanding this crazy world we all inhabit, contained and/or linked here. This site is about taking care of yourself, while always thinking of others. That means a global scope, with respect for everything in it & beyond.

This site is dialectically materialist in philosophy, rejecting any notion of god as a universal creator (as a failed hypothesis), relying instead on actual data & rational science. This has allowed a transformative creativity in some particularly reactionary fields of modern journalism, the best example here being the sports writings. Starting from a sound political & philosophical foundation makes this possible, and it’s the only way to remove the emotional element from sportswriting, which is a major issue, even (especially) in the professional ranks.

Sports bring out the passion (good & bad) in people, which makes them a volatile subject. Most writers can’t separate their fanhood from their responsibility as journalists. These schleps love sports so much, they will say & do anything to maintain their precious access to their heroes. This is the condition of the modern American sportswriter. The amount of hackwork they collectively produce in covering the NFL, NBA & MLB is staggering. What is perhaps even more astounding, is how little of it holds up over time; as it’s mostly speculation, rumor mongering, hidden agendas, etc… with very little research, much less hard analysis.

All these people do is watch sports, so how can they be so obtuse?  In the end, it’s always a matter of perspective and class forces. Whether it’s an individual team or league in trouble, notice how it’s problems are always pinned on an individual– usually the head coach or a star player. Scapegoats are useful in all fields, and the business of sports is no different. When rabid sports fans are whipped into a lather regarding a lackluster performance, a scapegoat is singled out and moved in front of the cameras to answer impossible questions for irate fans. No one ever questions the fairness or rationality of this media browbeating, it’s just how business is conducted.

For example, why don’t these writers discuss why the Orlando Magic fail year-after-year? The reason is because if they did, eventually they would come to the root of the problem, which is failed ownership & incompetent management. That makes powerful people look bad, which is not allowed under capitalism. At least not until the Internet and a Marxist (with time & love for the game), actually does the work [1]. The result becomes their franchise history, which still holds up better than anything anyone has ever written (or filmed) on the Orlando Magic, because it speaks the truth from top to bottom.

The point has been reached in these writings where less becomes more, and further commentary becomes redundant. Therefore, the stream of new content will henceforth be less frequent, and mostly confined to pressing world political events and Marxist revolutionary theory. As for the social, cultural & artistic spheres; I believe I’ve already adequately & articulately spoken on music, film, art, sports, health, beauty, fashion, and the rest. I hope these writings will inspire others to take these ideas further.

As for health, fitness & art pieces posted here in the future, it will be mostly my own going forward. At a certain juncture, these fields become more personal in their importance; as surviving and maintaining a healthy body & mind into & through adulthood are more important than becoming a celebrity or professional athlete. I’ve already spoken enough on its power to inspire, as well as the hypocrisy & corruption.

What homo sapiens must do is come together as a species and problem-solve– in the interests of everybody & everything on Earth. If you aren’t acting, thinking, and living the way I’m describing, then you need to connect with this site and re-humanize yourself. Physical & mental health are one, they can’t be separated. If you think rudely, with hostility & ignorance, then you can’t be healthy in body. At some point this bad mind, which is full of short-cuts, justifications and excuses will undermine any attempt at physical health. Whether it’s cancer, senility, arthritis, heart disease or stroke; whatever your greatest risk exposure is, it will become the crux of your undoing if you don’t live correctly with respect for others.

This site will remain online for as long as the Internet is allowed to be globally shared. Today the Internet is a battleground. This site has been jammed, and even hacked a few times over the years. I expect it to get worse, before it gets better for people like us. RS.com is an essential tool in fighting fascism. Today’s revolutionaries need to understand Trotskyist Marxism, as well as being physically healthy, in order to command. Leaders will need this mental & physical fitness, and will be asked to prove themselves in the heat-of-battle over & over, in order to win the support of the masses.

This is what actually impresses & influences people, much more than money or any other trappings of power. Why? Because it’s on an instinctive level that people are trusting. That cuts through the hype, in a way capitalism can never do, due to its worship of money at the expense of everything else. The truth is, the best leaders are not the richest individuals. The wealthiest portfolios are actually the sickest people, and therefore need to be removed from power and any other important decision-making, due to mental illness. This is only possible in a society transformed by revolutionary socialism.

Discover & use the knowledge here to better yourself, while enjoying & sharing the music!!

If I Could Be Reincarnated

As an animal:

As a plant:

As an organism:  a virus

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Moneyball & Organized Labor

Analyzing players & pitchers in MLB requires knowledge in many areas. A scout’s eye and natural athleticism help, but are no longer required. Any position player can be cross-sectioned as a hitter by (1) knowing if they bat R/L/S, and (2) their AVG/OBP/SLG line. Defensive is now scrutinized & measured with video analysis, computers and advanced metrics to gain a better understanding of its true value in baseball. The bottom line to old-school dinosaurs– it’s been severely underrated. Defense is an individual & team skill, and can vary widely from season-to-season. All players are in decline defensively by age 30. Generally speaking, veteran players get injured less, but take longer to recover. Health is a skill, but is also influenced by playing surface, teammates, coaching, and luck.

Pitchers are best measured by IP, ERA and WHIP, reflecting how any competent manager values pitching. Preventing injuries & blowouts are a manager’s and pitching coach’s primary responsibility at any level– including MLB. Understanding pitcher abuse as a concept (and reality) is the first step towards reducing Tommy John & shoulder surgeries. Recognizing fatigue and immediately removing that pitcher is the most-necessary correction, because once a pitcher hits the wall– he’s done.  Any pitches thrown afterwards will be maximum effort with failing mechanics [1]. Pitching through fatigue ruins more young pitchers with correct form (Mark Prior), than anything else. Skippers at all levels need to seriously improve at recognizing early signs of fatigue. This will lead to improvements in bullpen management, and end much of the up-and-down-in-the-pen nonsense, which is endemic at all levels.

Pitchers need to understand their body’s better, and be more honest with themselves and their coaches. A young athlete must find good coaches (not easy), and be willing to listen to them in order to improve. Expert advice & focused work can make all the difference for a motivated young individual. This path helps the athlete gain a better understanding of their body. Improving mechanics, conditioning, strength & flexibility all become more natural through this approach. Injury prevention science will become the next revolution in baseball metrics. The cost investment to acquire elite pitching prospects is already high and rising, while most teams are scrambling for pitching. This has created an urgency for a market that had never existed before in injury prevention & health care for pitchers. Organizations can no longer afford to have their top young pitchers go down with arm problems, wiping out a season, or even a team’s competitive window depending on the depth of investment.

Player-age and their contract status are modern baseball facts. It wasn’t always considered this way. A brief labor history of MLB payrolls starts with the reserve clause, which was a founding owner’s agreement that bound players to their teams through perpetual one-year contracts.  This was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1922, when it ruled in MLB’s favor granting it anti-trust exemption. The was no union or labor organizing, so players had little leverage under this system of indentured servitude, which remained largely unquestioned in MLB until the 1960’s. At this point, most good ballplayers were paid $20K-$50K per season, an improvement over pre-war, depression-era salaries [2].

Labor attorney Marvin Miller (1917-2012) began the MLB player’s revolution towards collectively bargained players rights in the late 1960’s. This led to MLB free agency in 1976, which has benefited every player since, but particularly the veterans.  It also paved the way for free agency in the other major sports. That victory for labor in MLB earned Miller the eternal enmity of old-guard ownership, which controls the HOF voting process.  That is why reviled owner/commissioner Bud Selig gets the nod, while Marvin Miller is left out in the cold– even in death.

Generally it takes a drafted baseball player at least 9-10 years before he becomes a free agent, if he’s fortunate enough to make it that far.  A top prospect drafted out of a premier college will need 2-3 years to navigate the Rookie leagues, A-ball (possibly at an advanced affiliate, otherwise low-A), then AA, and finally some seasoning at AAA before being MLB-ready. High school and Latin American prospects are younger, so they generally take even longer.  A first-year professional ballplayer makes just over $1,000 a month.  In AA, the monthly salary is $1700 and it goes up $100 per month for subsequent years. For AAA, the monthly salary is $2150 per month and it goes up to $2400 the second year and $2700 the third year. If a player becomes a minor-league free agent, higher salaries can be negotiated [3]. These are wages of poverty, and they are only paid through the season.  There are ~ 7,500 players in Minor League Baseball at any time, and the vast majority will never make it to the majors.

Clubs have exclusive rights to their players for the first six years of MLB service time. These are complex rule-systems, meant to keep labor costs fixed for MLB owners. Unless a rookie player was able to negotiate a ‘super-prospect’ deal when he initially signed, he makes league minimum which has now been raised to $535,000 in 2017. Second-year players get approximately double that. The following off-season begins the arbitration process for 3-4 years before the player has the right to shop his talents on the open market. Arbitration is when the team and the player exchange salary figures, and (if necessary) an arbitrator will choose the ‘fairest’ offer. Most teams negotiate a deal before this hearing. Old-school owners and their front offices tend to be the toughest negotiators in arbitration, which often embitters the player who already knows he’s underpaid. LF Barry Bonds with the Pirates was a perfect example of this mistreatment. Owners have argued throughout baseball history that  (1) they never have enough pitching, and (2) they have never made money. One of those is truth, and the other fiction– you figure it out.

In the early 1970’s (still pre-free agency), top stars like Pete Rose (Reds) & Reggie Jackson (A’s) made hundreds-of-thousands of dollars. By the end of that decade, Rose (Phillies) & Jackson (Yankees) were making millions. A MLB player’s strike in 1981 split the regular season and ended in a stalemate. Afterwards, the owners covertly resorted to collusion to break free agency. Collusion was a tacit agreement by every MLB owner, GM & team executive to NOT sign any free agents from ~1984-87. It was an owner’s agreement to not improve your team, led by old-guard ownership (mainly Jerry Reinsdorf– CWS), who hated George Steinbrenner, Ray Kroc (Padres), etc… for spending on their teams. To these ancient ‘caretakers of the game,’ baseball has always been a business first, and this was payroll. All this was finally settled in the courts (in the late 1980’s) when the MLBPA sued MLB, and won over $300M in damages to stars such as RHP Jack Morris, RF Andre Dawson & newly-minted HOF-er LF Tim Raines.

Losing legally on collusion only redoubled the resolve of the most-hardened opponents of labor. As ESPN took off with their regular coverage of MLB games, highlights on SportsCenter, expanded post-season coverage, etc…the really BIG $$ started rolling in. Owners once again couldn’t control their spending & greed, which led to the MLB labor stoppage of 1994, costing the fans a season, post-season and World Series. The owners provoked a strike with the players by threatening to unilaterally impose a hard salary cap, a condition the MLBPA would never accept. The players walked out after they had been paid the major portion of their 1994 season’s salary, while denying owners their annual post-season revenue bonanza. When everything was settled between the millionaires & billionaires in the spring of 1995, new revenue streams from regional sports networks and ultimately the Internet, would bring unprecedented sums into the game. This inflationary bubble has continued up to today, with free-agent pitchers and sluggers now commanding $20-$30M/season multi-year deals.

These blockbuster television deals have made MLB owners money at a much faster rate than every group of baseball players, outside of veteran free agents, while minor-leaguers and pre-free agency major-leaguers have their labor value suppressed.

Marxists define money as congealed human labor. The commodity ballplayers produce is the game we love, and they deserve to be paid fair value for their work. Profit is the difference between what labor is worth, and what he/she is actually paid, with the capitalist pocketing this surplus value.  MLB & the MLBPA work together (like all other corporate/union arrangements) to enrich themselves and an elite clique (veteran players), at the expense of everyone else.  This inequality is no longer sustainable with the obscene amounts of money flowing into today’s game. The level of awareness is increasing [4], and soon large-scale demands for revolutionary change in baseball will come from below.

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MLB GM’s & Annual Farm-System Rankings

Keith Law’s 2017 MLB Farm System Rankings were just released at ESPN.com [1]. This is a cause for much discussion among baseball fans, as Law is a recognized prospect guru and farm systems are what sustain current success stories, while sowing future championships for others. The health of any MLB organization can be measured by (1) W/L record, (2) post-season success, (3) payroll obligations, and (4) the strength of the farm system.

The general manager (GM) is directly responsible for all of this, and the first three criteria listed above are easy enough to measure, it’s a team’s minor-league system which is trickiest to quantify. It’s necessary to do this because the minors are brimming with valuable prospects, which hold the most value in today’s (and tomorrow’s) game. The best GM’s build through their farm system, then deal from strength to fill in needs during a competitive window. They lock up organizational talent early, at a fair rate, and rarely indulge in free agency splashes. Young, cost-controlled talent is king, and pitching is always primary.

With that explained, this piece is a comparison of what the 30 MLB GM’s have done for their organizations in terms of planning & value this winter. It will take Keith Law’s farm- system rankings as generally correct, and weigh the factors mentioned above to appraise chances in 2017, and beyond. Law mentions in his preface that any of the top-three teams could be switched around, depending on scouting preferences. This means the Braves, Yankees & Padres are clearly the best farm systems, a cut above the rest.  Obviously, Opening Day rosters are still not set, meaning payroll is still in flux for most teams. Cot’s Contracts is used as the reference [2].

The 2016 farm rankings are listed in parenthesis, and any rise or drop must be understood in its total context. At what point is this team in it’s competitive cycle? Are they competing for a WS? Are they in decline? Are they rebuilding?  Sometimes a team will drop in the farm rankings for all the right reasons, such as the Cubs here: they fell from 4th to 18th, because their prospects became championship players, and other pieces were also dealt in order to win it. Teams that fall in the rankings AND have a poor W/L records (Angels, D-backs) are scouting & spending poorly. They have the worst 25-man rosters & prospects, and therefore are furthest from competing. If these teams don’t have new GM’s, then their current one should be on the hot seat.

1. Atlanta Braves (1st in 2016); GM John Coppolella has amassed some nice talent from trades (Shelby Miller), and in the 2017-18 J2 draft.  But some fans still wonder why he took on RF Matt Kemp with his hefty contract and low OBP/poor defense?  Off-season pitching acquisitions include: 1/$12.5M for age-44 RHP Bartolo Colon, 1/$8M for age-42 righty knuckleball R.A. Dickey, and $12M (and 3 prospects to STL) for age-30 LHP Jaime Garcia– before he becomes a FA. They will eat innings, but aren’t likely to be very effective. Braves are wasting money all over the place, while they await fruition from their farm system. There is plenty of upside here, but also organizational flaws, which may prevent future success.

2. New York Yankees (13th in 2016); GM Brian Cashman was finally given free reign last summer, and he immediately dealt premier closer Aroldis Chapman and set-up man Andrew Miller for huge hauls. They also went in big on an earlier J2 draft, which is about to pay off in the Bronx. The Yankees signed Chapman to a 5-year deal, and the Evil Empire will be back by 2018 for sure, when A-Rod & CC Sabathia are off-the-books. They still have a propensity to waste money; Ellsbury, Headley… but now have a solid cache of prospects to compliment them.

3. San Diego Padres (20th in 2016); GM AJ Preller is currently the best GM in MLB [3]. He grabbed the top-3 selection in the Rule 5 Draft; including the back-up C and utility SS he was seeking. The rest has been pitching this winter. RHP Trevor Cahill, RHP Jhoulys Chacin ($1.75M) & LHP Clayton Richard ($1.75-2.5M) are all 1-year deals which fill 3/5 of the Padres 2017 rotation. This winter AJ Preller also acquired: age-22 RHP Miguel Diaz from MIL (top Rule 5 selection), age-24 RHP Tyrell Jenkins claimed on waivers from ATL, and age-25 RHP Zach Lee claimed on waivers from SEA; all of whom are pre-Arb, with upside. This money was spent to protect assets Luis Perdomo, Christian Friedrich, Ryan Buchter, Brad Hand, etc… and keep this franchise respectable until the waves of pitching talent start arriving from the minors by 2018. What smart teams understand is that it’s always about pitching, having enough of it and having the best of it. The Padres can’t afford to pay for the best, so they’ve done the next best thing which is acquire depth on their 40-man roster (at a bargain), through hard work & brains. Maintaining payroll & roster flexibility are also critical, which is what AJP has accomplished with the 3B Yangervis Solarte (4/$13M) & 1B Wil Myers (6/$83M) extensions. This organization will be a force to be reckoned with by 2018.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates (8th in 2016); GM Neal Huntington has built this team, but he’s now on the hot seat. The have the stud in CF Andrew McCutchen, but were shopping him (??) this winter, after winning only 78 games in 2017. McCutchen, LF Starling Marte, 3B Jung Ho Kang are a good nucleus, but they need their farm system to come through again. Pirates need to develop a closer, after trading Mark Melancon at the deadline. They also need another starter or two to support their young RHP’s Gerrit Cole & Jameson Tailon. Huntington’s FA splash was 3/$26M for age-30 RHP Ivan Nova, who represents a significant risk with limited upside for the penny-pinching Pirates. Possible fire sale in the Pirate’s future if they tank.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers (2nd in 2016); GM Andrew Friedman since leaving the cost-cutting Rays, has had the highest payroll in MLB. Cot’s Contracts currently has their 2017 payroll commitment to be $222+M, and they still don’t have a second baseman as of this writing. Their farm system is starting to slip for the right reasons, meaning prospects have developed in regulars and All-Stars. Unfortunately it’s still not enough, and this team relies too much on ace LHP Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers basically re-signed everybody they lost to free agency, which significantly raises payroll. Friedman is putting everything on his farm system being the boost that gets them past the Cubs.  I’m skeptical.

6. Milwaukee Brewers (5th in 2016); GM David Stearns traded away franchise favorite C Jonathan Lucroy, and the players that develop from that deal (Lewis Brinson, Luis Ortiz and Ryan Cordell) will likely be his legacy, along with trading RF Ryan Braun.  Young SS Jonathan Villar is currently their best player to build around. There is no pitching for skipper Craig Counsell to manage, because these are the Brewers.

7. New York Mets (16th in 2016); RF Jay Bruce will be age-30 next season and make $13M with a batting line around .240/.300/.420 in Citi Field. Recall when the Mets withdrew prospect Brandon Nimmo on 8-1-16, and the Reds still made the deal; making it clear to everyone they were dumping Bruce’s contract. What makes Mets GM Sandy Alderson think anyone else would be interested in dealing for that?  Mets will have to eat ~$8-10M to move Jay Bruce, and they NEED to move him. This 25-man roster is thin beyond CF Yoenis Cespedes, and their brilliant young pitching which is starting to breakdown.

8. Cincinnati Reds (12th in 2016); The GM situation here is Dick Williams, with Walt Jocketty as the consiglierie. Old-school at work here, and it really hurt when they got raped by the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman deal. What Yankees GM Brian Cashman received (above the Reds) in flipping Chapman to the Cubs proves how much dinosaurs like Jocketty are hurting their organizations. When opportunities like that are squandered, the Reds end up on the short end and are stuck with 2B Brandon Phillips & SS Zack Cosart, who are viewed as assets by their outdated brain-trust, when they are simply bad contracts to everyone else. This team can’t rebuild until it recognizes sunk costs and moves on.

9. Colorado Rockies (7th in 2016); GM Jeff Bridich signed age-31 Ian Desmond at 5/$70M (career .267/.316/.427) to play 1B. This happened less than a year after no one would give Desmond a multi-year deal at SS. The Rockies finished 2016 with a payroll of $120+M– a team record.  Around $22M went to SS Jose Reyes, who was released and is being paid another $21M by Colorado this season. RF Carlos Gonzalez at $20.4M is an albatross that the Rockies front-office (and their fans) too-much view as a bargain. There’s even been talk of extending him, meaning they must have some really nice bud in the Mile High city. Every dollar this organization spends on bats is a complete waste for the Rockies, who desperately need to acquire & develop pitching. This has been a leitmotif of their existence.

10. Chicago White Sox (22nd in 2016); GM Rick Hahn did what he had to do and dealt ace LHP Chris Sale to the Red Sox for a bounty of top prospects. This and the Adam Eaton deal to Washington are what elevates this farm system and gives their fans some hope for the future. There’s still a lot of work left here, including dealing young lefty Jose Quintana, 1B Jose Abreau, and RHP James Shields– which will require eating contract. That was a really bad trade, giving up 3B prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr to the Padres for a broken-down veteran starter, and it will delay their rebuilding significantly.

11. Minnesota Twins (3rd in 2016); New GM Thad Levine takes over after Terry Ryan was finally fired. Levine inherits one of the worst organizations in MLB as far as ownership commitment and overall talent in the majors & minors. This organization has a reputation for holding their prospects back, and developing pitchers that ‘pitch to contact’ instead of missing bats. Their pitching stinks and age-29 2B Brian Dozier is their best player, with age-23 DH Miguel Sano their sole wild-card. Manager Paul Molitor has a few more 100-loss seasons ahead of him (if he stays), until new management can draft and figure out a new direction. New ownership would help a lot.

12. Houston Astros (17th in 2016); GM Jeff Luhnow & manager AJ Hinch work well together, and are a model for new-school thinking. In today’s game, teams need their dugout manager to listen to the front office, who are supplying the talent. That means managers must understand sabermetrics, as all front offices use this in their decision-making. Payroll matters, and value means production/dollar. Astros 2017 payroll is currently at $104+M, which means they have the flexibility to get what they need at the deadline, and the prospects to make the deal. This is a young exciting team, and Carlos Beltran at DH is a significant upgrade.

13. St. Louis Cardinals (19th in 2016); GM John Mozeliak & manager Mike Matheny are another nice tandem. Unfortunately this team has gotten old, and now their second HOF-er (first Albert Pujols, then Matt Holliday) has left.  C Yadier Molina & 3B Matt Carpenter are still studs, and there’s some young talent to fill in, but no impact players on the foreseeable horizon. Their rotation is still above-average, with depth; but lacks a true ace. Cardinals won 86 games in 2016, but fell short of the post-season. I see one or two more championship runs with this core, but they’ll need some major luck to succeed. They’re capable, and (like the Giants) are always dangerous.

14. Philadelphia Phillies (6th in 2016); GM Matt Klentak saw their system graduate prospects to the big club in 2016, accounting for the drop in their farm rankings. Unfortunately they only won 71 games, so they still need a lot more help and have predictably gone the Andy MacPhail splash route this off-season in acquiring RHP Clay Bucholtz ($12M + prospects), righty set-up man Joaquin Benoit ($7.5M), OF Michael Saunders ($9M) and 2B Howie Kendrick (2/$22M). That gets the Phillies to ~75 wins in 2017, now what?

15. Texas Rangers (9th in 2016); GM Jon Daniels keeps plunging, dealing prospects for the missing link that will win them a WS. Last year it was C Jonathan Lucroy, which was a fantastic deal. This winter it’s ex-Padres RHP’s Andrew Cashner ($10M) and Tyson Ross ($6M), which forebodes disaster. The Rangers have another year or two, before their competitive window collapses from too much payroll and not enough young talent. It’s clear now that much of the scouting & organizational brains left Texas when AJ Preller went to San Diego.

16. Boston Red Sox (10th in 2016); GM Dave Dombrowski (and Orioles GM Dan Duquette) built the Montreal Expos dynasty in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, and the 1994 Expos stand as MLB’s greatest forgotten team [4]. Dombrowski built winners in Florida, Detroit and has now been on the job for over a year in Boston. The early returns in beantown aren’t good, as the Sox were swept in the Divisional round by Cleveland last fall, and HoF DH David Ortiz has retired. Young talent will need to step in and sustain this machine, but Dombrowski has traded much of it away. Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz & Chris Sale are valuable commodities; but Manny Margot, Anderson Espinoza and Yoan Mocanda are all blue-chip prospects in whom the Red Sox had invested tens-of-millions of dollars. This talent will now yield surplus value for the Padres & White Sox instead. If the Red Sox don’t win a WS with the players Dombrowski has acquired, then these trades are busts. That’s how high the stakes are in Boston. Note: the Red Sox were given the chance to reverse the Drew Pomeranz-for-Anderson Espinoza deal with the Padres, due to “undisclosed anti-inflammatories.” The Red Sox declined [5].

17. Cleveland Indians (11th in 2016); GM Mike Chernoff & manager Terry Francona are another winning combination. The LHP Andrew Miller deal was a difference-maker for Cleveland last fall. Recall the Indians almost had Jonathan Lucroy also, who used his no-trade clause to nix the deal. He was then traded to Texas the next day. Young talent in the rotation, bullpen, and on the field make Cleveland a sustainable success story. Their current $111+M 2017 payroll gives them some flexibility, which they’ll need to make another run.

18. Chicago Cubs (4th in 2016); GM Jed Hoyer got busy early this off-season nabbing CF Jon Jay at a bargain (1/$8M), and the arms he needed– including closer Wade Davis from KCR for young OF Jorge Soler. When management drafts & develops talent, it can sustain itself on a budget. The Cubs are a textbook example of this, making them WS favs again in 2017.

19. Tampa Bay Rays (14th in 2016); GM Matt Silverman has overseen the gutting of a once-competitive franchise. Wil Myers and Matt Moore have been dealt with little to show in return. LHP Drew Smyly (the centerpiece of the David Price deal) was just flipped; and coveted starters Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, and Alex Cobb are next. GM’s around MLB are salivating at the thought of stealing one of these valuable arms from this directionless franchise. This organization needs new ownership as much as any MLB franchise.

20. San Francisco Giants (21st in 2016); GM Brian Sabean acquired LHP Matt Moore from the Rays for busted 3B-prospect Matt Duffy and some other junk. The Giants already had aces in Madison Bumgarner & Johnny Cueto, and have now added Mark Melancon to close. This is a championship roster for several more seasons, barring major injuries.

21. Toronto Blue Jays (25th in 2016); GM Ross Atkins is in a tight spot, with a payroll-heavy roster constructed under a previous regime, that probably isn’t good enough to win it. RF Jose Bautista was a tough negotiation for both sides this off-season, as his early 2016 negotiating stance about “knowing his value” definitely soured his market. He’s age-36, and his AVG, SLG and defense have slipped significantly, while becoming injury-prone. In the end the Jays need Joey Bats, and vise versa, so 1/$18M is about right. This winter revealed the Blue Jays have reached their payroll limit. Combine that with a lack of prospects, and I see the AL East in 2017 as Boston & NYY, with Toronto & Baltimore slipping back.

22. Washington Nationals (15th in 2016); GM Mike Rizzo hired Dusty Baker to manage, after Bud Black declined a low-ball contract offer last off-season. The Nationals are currently at $144+M according to Cots Contracts. They made deals this winter with the Padres (C Derek Norris) and White Sox (CF Adam Eaton) to shore up their roster, by dealing prospects. Young phenom Trea Turner moves from part-time CF to full-time SS, as the Nats make another run at a WS. This team may have the most talent in MLB, yet still hasn’t won a play-off series. Someday someone in Washington may point their finger at a manager who doesn’t know how to construct a line-up, or manage a pitching staff.

23. Oakland Athletics (18th in 2016); Moneyball GM Billy Beane (now kicked upstairs) deserves the HOF, but with that said, he had fallen hopelessly behind in his profession. The truth is GM Beane never recovered from the 3B Eric Chavez extension: 6/$66M (2005-10), which blew up with a bad back and financially crippled the franchise. David Forst has taken over as new GM, and he currently has a roster with a payroll at $66+M, which is mostly comprised of fungible position players & fragile arms. This is another team that needs new ownership to have any chance at competing.

24. Detroit Tigers (26th in 2016); GM Al Avila has continued the Dave Dombrowski playbook in Detroit, with predictable results. The LF Justin Upton (6/$132M) splash last winter was predictably a bust, and now it’s time to face the music. Their competitive window is closing, and there’s only one or two more runs before it’s time to rebuild. There are assets here, but also a lot of contracts that will need to be eaten when this happens.

25. Baltimore Orioles (27th in 2016); GM Dan Duquette takes his orders from owner Peter Angelos. That’s how things work in Baltimore. Last off-season it was all about signing 1B Chris Davis for 7/$161M, and giving up a 1st-round draft pick to sign RHP Yovani Gallardo. That didn’t work, so this winter Duquette dealt Gallardo ($13M) to the Mariners for veteran RF Seth Smith ($7M) as a form of salary dump, then re-signed RF/DH Mark Trumbo (3/$37M). This team desperately needs starting pitching, and yet has done nothing this off-season to acquire any. There’s obviously nothing coming from the minors, as evidenced by this farm-system ranking, so no one knows what they are doing to fill their most basic need? Spring Training is less than a month away.

26. Kansas City Royals (23rd in 2016); GM Dayton Moore extended breakout starter age-28 LHP Danny Duffy at 5/$65M which is a win-win deal. I always like GM’s who make those deals, as they lock down talent and build team chemistry, without busting an organization’s budget. I’m just not sold that it will work here. This team could win it all again, or it could bust again. The smart GM has to play for the former, while making contingencies for the latter. After winning the WS in 2015, this franchise is now at a crossroads. Update: Within hours of this publication came the news of age-25 RHP Yordano Ventura dying in a car crash in his homeland of the Dominican Republic. MLB and all fans mourn his passing.

27. Los Angeles Angels (30th in 2016); GM Billy Eppler & manager Mike Scioscia are in no-man’s land, with huge payroll bloat around the best player in the game, CF Mike Trout. They have no effective pitching, starting or bullpen. With ~$150M already committed in 2017, for a second-division team with no prospects, this may be the worst organization in MLB.

28. Seattle Mariners (28th in 2016); GM Jerry Dipoto has made the biggest overall splash this winter, and is the current fashionable GM. His dealings look more like reshuffling chairs on the decks of the Titanic, than actual improvement, as the 2017 Mariners look suspiciously like the 2016 Diamondbacks or 2015 Padres to this observer. There’s not enough pitching to compete with Texas or Houston, much less for a WS. This looks like one last gamble with a veteran core that has never come close to putting it together. Whatever the result, the Mariners are a story in 2017.

29. Miami Marlins (29th in 2016); GM Mike Hill has been criticized for his recent deal-making, and the RHP Dan Straily trade is his latest head-scratcher. Hill already inked RHP Edinson Volquez to a 2/$22M deal earlier this winter, which seemed like an overpay. The Marlins needed another arm, so #2 organizational prospect RHP Luis Castillo (the trade-back in the Colin Rea fiasco with the Padres last July/August) was shipped with 2 others to Cincinnati.  Castillo throws ~ 100 MPH and has a closer profile, but is a long ways away. All that is probably more valuable than a 5th starter whom the Reds picked up on waivers last April. In addition, the Marlins have multiple back-loaded contracts (such as Giancarlo Stanton’s), which are about to balloon. If things go south in 2017, the Marlins are going to have another fire sale, and there’s a significant chance they will. The Marlins can’t possibly replace heart-and-soul inspiration, and ace RHP Jose Fernandez– RIP.

30. Arizona Diamondbacks (24th in 2016); New GM Mike Hazen is a Dombrowski protoge, and he replaces Dave Stewart, which is a relief to D-back fans. Age-33 RHP Zack Greinke (5/$172.5M remaining) may be the biggest current albatross contract in MLB, and the Shelby Miller deal with the Braves last winter was a complete disaster, which is why this farm system is ranked dead last. It’s going to be a long rebuild in Arizona with Grienke, RHP Taijuan Walker, 1B Paul Goldschmidt, and CF AJ Pollock as their only real assets.

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Pitching Motion Analysis

Pitchers get injured. That is no news flash as throwing a baseball at 90-100 MPH is an unnatural act which stresses the body to its physical limits and sometimes its breaking point.  With that understood, there are ways to prevent injuries to pitchers, and it all comes down to physics & bio-mechanics.

A MLB pitcher must have correct mechanics to maintain a healthy and sustained career.  This is true for relievers as well as starters.  In this article, the proper motion for pitching a baseball will be illustrated & described.  Anyone with an interest can learn and apply these correct techniques to their own motion. Pitching coaches must know everything described below, or else their efforts with kids are of no value, or even worse– destructive.

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Let’s start with proper mechanics. The most critical position for a pitcher to maintain throughout the loading part of his wind-up is the “Flex-T” position.  Both shoulders need to be locked into this straight-line posture, in order to avoid excessive strain on the shoulder capsule and the elbow.  From there both forearms are flexed, which minimizes strain throughout the kinetic chain. Below is Nolan Ryan, one of the greatest & most durable power pitchers of all-time (late in his career), locked into the Flex-T:

nolan-ryan-at-flex-t-position

Fatigue is the enemy that cripples pitchers with correct mechanics. The photo below is an illustration of the most common mechanical flaw in pitching, which is over-rotation of the upper arm/shoulder. This is the proverbial, “reaching back for something extra” doesn’t really help, in fact it’s damaging.  If the shoulders are not held into a straight-line posture, the excessive strain will lead to shoulder/elbow breakdown, unless immediately corrected with a strong Flex-T posture:

Analyzing a pitching motion can be difficult, as many things are happening in the <2 seconds it takes a hurler to deliver the ball to home plate. While reviewing video, it is helpful to pause and scroll it forward manually– frame by frame. Using this method, we will evaluate some of the best pitching motions in the game, as well as some problematic ones.

The hardest thrower in MLB is Aroldis Chapman, who just signed a 5-year/$86M deal with the NY Yankees.  Focus your attention at 21-22 seconds into the video, which is the best view of his motion in this clip:

Aroldis Chapman has fluid & flawless mechanics, which is what creates all his power. He over-rotates his hip turn, but still holds everything together throughout his motion because he’s such a great athlete. This reduces his injury risk considerably (although not absolutely), which is what Yankee GM Brian Cashman needs on a 5-year deal for a power pitcher. The key to longevity will be for Chapman to remain strong & flexible in the hips & core.  Here’s more science on what make Chapman so extraordinary:

Chapman disagrees with how Cubs used him in postseason  12-16-16  [1]
If I was Aroldis Chapman, I’d be upset with Joe Maddon too, as he was abused– by any rational definition of pitcher handling. No one appreciates being abused. Yes, it won the Cubs a WS, and yes he’s well-paid, and that’s why they play em’, and flags fly forever, etc…, but Chapman (at least) should have been informed by his manager that he was planning on using him extensively in both games 6 & 7– and clearly he’s saying he wasn’t. It’s his career (and a lot of $$) at risk, pitching fatigued, so he had a few parting words out the door. Anyone who can’t understand that is a hypocrite and/or has never competed. I would love to hear Joe Maddon’s thoughts on all this.
BTW, Yankee fans should be ecstatic, as Brian Cashman has done the impossible which is to replace Mariano Rivera.

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One of the most durable and effective starting pitchers of this era is Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers.  Not surprisingly his motion is extremely compact & efficient.  Note the beautiful balance throughout his delivery:

Not heeding the principles of sound mechanics & thermodynamics has catastrophic consequences for pitchers, as well as teams trying to build & maintain a staff.  Here’s Tyson Ross, whom the San Diego Padres just released, despite being one of the best pitchers in the NL from 2013-15. Ross over-rotates his shoulders, and doesn’t use enough hips in his delivery, which has led to his shoulder problems:

Below is Steven Strasburg, the celebrated #1 overall pick by the Nationals in 2009, whose MLB career has been one injury issue after another. It’s not hard to see why, as the right shoulder severely flies out, creating all kinds of stress on the rotator cuff & ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). This is the game which he was taken out of last season, before being shut down. Note that Strasburg has pitched 200+ innings only once in his 7-season career:

Below is a really poor motion, that deserves scrutiny.  RHP Zach Lee is from Texas, listed as 6’4″, 227 lbs– age 25.  Scouts would project this kid to be sitting at 95-96 MPH and touching 98 with his fastball, with a 92-93 MPH wipe-out slider. The slider in the video rolls in at 88 MPH, and is a “hanger.”   The Seattle Mariners just released him for fear of what Mike Trout does to pitches like that.  Everything describes hereafter happens at 3-4 seconds:

Look for Lee’s forearm being nearly vertical as he starts his rotation towards home plate. This leads to the eventual “forearm fly-out,” seen clearly at mid-rotation. This severely stress the UCL, causing velocity/control loss and eventually leads to TJ surgery. Lee also doesn’t pronate at the finish, another major mechanical flaw which leads to velocity loss and eventually soft-tissue breakdown of the elbow and/or shoulder.  Lastly, his drive-line ends up towards the lefty batter’s box, instead of straight home.  His push-off the rubber could also be improved, and his hips are sluggish– which is really the root of all his problems.

The most likely reason Zack Lee stinks is because he’s hurt– due to faulty mechanics.  The Padres just claimed Lee off waivers, and if he is ever going to pitch effectively for them, he needs an immediate MRI of the right elbow & shoulder along with both hips– as there is major damage in there.

Injuries must be evaluated & diagnosed first, followed by a treatment plan for full recovery & rehabilitation. Next, the pitching mechanics must be corrected. It needs to be a total commitment by everyone from the player, to the coaching & medical staff, or else it fails. It’s a lot of science, but it’s also that simple.

Addendum 1-4-17: The San Diego Padres are considering a 6-man rotation in 2017. The traditional & sabermetric argument against 5-man rotations (vs. 4-man rotations) is that the ace gets less starts. The Padres don’t really have that problem, as they don’t have a true ace. Luis Perdomo is probably their opening day starter, and the Padres have high hopes for him, but no one claims he can match up consistently with Clayton Kershaw or Madison Bumgarner– who are true aces. The issue the Padres have is keeping their arms healthy, which means limiting their innings. A 5-man rotation asks for 32.4 starts per pitcher, meaning #1 & #2 get 33 starts over 162 games. A 6-man rotation asks for 27 starts per pitcher. Since the drop-off in quality isn’t as much of an issue as limiting fatigue and preventing elbow & shoulder blowouts, the benefits are clear in this case. Even with an injury, the fall-back is #7 starter, or a 5-man rotation until the pitcher has healed. This is a good year for the Padres to experiment, as they have nothing to lose on the field.

One last point on a 6-man rotation is that it doesn’t limit innings on a pitcher who is effective and can handle the workload. If a starter averages 7 IP in 27 starts, then he will pitch 189 innings. 7.1 IP/start is 198 innings, etc… It’s about economizing and going deeper into games, when they’re ready. A 6-man set-up will allow teams the flexibility to stretch some guys out, while protecting others.

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MLB ‘Steroid Commissioner’ Gets HoF Nod

MLB’s 16-member Today’s Game Era Committee is an offshoot of the old Veterans Committee. It nominates non-playing personnel and players who were passed over during Baseball Writers Association of America election period.

Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Mark McGwire, Lou Piniella, John Schuerholz, Bud Selig and George Steinbrenner were the candidates considered by this committee for the 2017 Hall of Fame class.

These are the 16 people who make up that committee, which voted Bud Selig into the MLB HoF, against the expressed will of baseball fans everywhere. At least 12 of them voted for him:

Hall of Famers: Johnny Bench, Whitey Herzog, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Tony Pérez, Frank Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Ozzie Smith

Executives: Bill Giles, David Glass, Andy MacPhail, Jerry Reinsdorf

Media: Bob Elliott, Tim Kurkjian, Ross Newhan, Tom Verducci

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Bud Selig will be inducted, along with Atlanta Braves GM John Schuerholz and any players elected by the BBWAA (announced January 18) at Cooperstown, N.Y. on July 30– which also will be Selig’s 83rd birthday.

One can only see this for what it is– political horse-trading & backroom deal making. A straw poll on Bud Selig’s popularity among baseball fans would run 90+% negative. This is well-deserved for:

1.) Being the Steroid Commissioner
2.) Cancelling a season & World Series in 1994
3.) Attempting to contract the Montreal Expos & Minnesota Twins
4.) Bankrupting the Montreal Expos, then MLB’s subsequent gutting of the franchise from 2003-05 [1]
5.) The 2002 All-Star game hosted in Milwaukee, which was to be his triumphant farewell to a Brewers franchise he owned & mismanaged for over 20 years, which turned into a fiasco by going extra innings [!] with both managers running out of pitchers. Selig intervened by stopping the game, which ended in a tie & a hail of boos for the commissioner from the hometown crowd
6.) Refusing to be at the game when Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s career HR record, proving more his own gutlessness & lack of leadership than anything else

That’s just off the top of my head.

Selling MLB to Fox hasn’t helped the game in any way either; outside of enriching owners, management, and star veteran players. More exploding graphics, late starts, soaring prices and Joe Buck in our faces isn’t good for baseball. This is why many fans have turned to free advanced media to get around as much of the hype & commercialization as possible. It isn’t easy.

bud-selig-on-fox

What Selig did best was make money for the owners, and the owners are the ones who control the game– including the HoF committees. That’s how Selig breezes in on his 1st ballot, when an entire generation of all-time great players are shut out. [2]

This hypocrisy is simply class struggle, as this is a labor/ownership issue, with management & the media co-opted as tools to control & scapegoat the players. The message sent in the Selig (& Schuerholz) HoF selection is, ownership & management take no responsibility for the PED era– it’s all on the players. That position is irrational, contrary to the facts, and insulting to the intelligence of baseball fans everywhere. When bootlicks like Richard Justice apologize for this garbage, they need to be shouted down. [3]

Baseball fans everywhere are disgusted by this selection, and the only way towards improvement is for fans to start speaking their minds, and more importantly with the wallets.  These institutions need to be ruthlessly exposed for their corruption, no longer deserving of fan support. That is the only message the people running the game will understand. It is the only path towards the betterment of the game.

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