2018 MLB Pre-season Predictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Play Ball!!

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The Nature of Artificial Intelligence

AlphaGo (2017) is a documentary film concerning artificial intelligence (AI), and an ancient Chinese game known as Go. Go is an abstract strategy board game for two players, in which the aim is to surround more territory than the opponent. This movie was shot in March 2016, when AI innovators at Deep Mind, Inc challenged world-champion professional Go player Lee Sedol to a match against AlphaGo– an AI computer.

Before the 5-game match, Lee Sedol (above) was confident in his impending victory. But as soon as the first game began, Sedol became perplexed and was on the defensive throughout. He loses the first game and doesn’t understand how? This is the Go best player in the world, reduced to self-doubt and hopelessness.

This is an example of how intimidating AI can be. Sedol loses three of the four remaining games, and it’s actually considered a victory for human genius that he even wins one game (Game 4) against AlphaGo. The programmers at Deep Mind immediately go to work to correct the flaws that cost AlphaGo its one loss to the greatest human Go player alive.

In 2018, the working masses & youth everywhere are bombarded with attack algorithms from Facebook, Google, YouTube, and any other online social platform– which are updated by the second. They tell you what to like, who to watch & listen to, who to trust, and how to think. What pops up in your Yahoo! newsfeed is targeted, monitored & censored. These algorithms are designed by political opponents to make you doubt yourself, attack you on sensitive issues, and disconnect you from allies & friends. This is how AI is working you over, anytime you go online. AI is quintessential soft power, because it’s virtually undetectable, it never quits, and it only gets stronger.

Kinda scary, huh? Algorithms sound so harmless. No one even knows what they are, really. Algorithms are mathematics, a computer program/application. a set of instructions on how to behave. When these algorithms become layered & sophisticated, and enormous data can be processed quickly, then potential for AI exists in reality.

Here’s how YouTube dirty tricks algorithms affect video distribution on my channelInfinitelink Records.  If YouTube doesn’t like you, then you are dramatically turned-down volume-wise, making the video uncompetitive with corporate bands, who always get a loudness boost. Of course, you are also demonitized, meaning there will be no money coming your way. Your video tags & titles are changed, links scrambled (seemingly at random), etc– so no one can find you. Access to control board buttons to your own channel is taken away, as YouTube controls it secretly. All this, with no alternative platform. It finally gets to the point of, “Why try?”

Artificial intelligence began as an extension of the space and satellite surveillance apparatus connected with the deep state. This includes the Pentagon, NASA, CIA, with partnership in corporate & banking. The best book on the origins of the US space spy apparatus and its integration into the military is Deep Black (1986) by William Burrows.

There’s a brief discussion of artificial intelligence in the chapter titled: Into the Future, Robert Cooper the then director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), shared his vision for peace & security explaining, “We have programs now in artificial intelligence technology that can take expert knowledge and codify it into intelligent machines…” He was speaking specifically of spy satellites that could repair themselves in orbit. [p.318]

Today we may be facing a Terminator (1984) or Robocop 2 (1990) type of scenario, where AI machines take over and turn violently on humans. This is no longer considered science-fiction, as Google and other AI firms connected with US intelligence have begun studies on the ability of humans to control artificial intelligence. [1]

The “Paperclip Maximizer” is a philosophical thought experiment described by Nick Bostrom in 2003, showing how artificial intelligence, even one designed without malice, could ultimately destroy humanity. The goal of maximizing paperclips is chosen for its neutrality & improbability. The premise is that an extremely powerful optimizer (AI) could seek goals that destroy humanity by consuming resources essential to our survival.

The AI would improve its intelligence, not because it values more intelligence, but because more intelligence would help it achieve its goal of accumulating paperclips. It would undergo an intelligence explosion and reach far-above-human levels. It would innovate better and better techniques to maximize the number of paperclips. At some point, it might transform “first all of earth and then increasing portions of space into paperclip manufacturing facilities.”

AI is simply an optimization process—a goal-seeker, a utility-function-maximizer. A paperclipping scenario is also possible without an intelligence explosion. If society keeps getting increasingly automated and AI-dominated, then the first borderline AI might manage to take over the rest using some relatively narrow-domain trick that doesn’t require very high general intelligence. [2]

Basically all of us traditionally come from conservative backgrounds, raised in homes that supported either Democrats or Republicans. Marxists know these are two sides of the same coin, but the rest buy into it. It’s been like this for a long time in America. Breaking out of the two-party straitjacket is an evolutionary & dialectical process. Uncle Sam has so many resources, and makes itself appear so frightful!

The American population has been conditioned through education, religion, television, etc., to accept ruling class ideology as political fact. Since the Internet, many people have awoken to the horrible truths of capitalism, as censorship & blacklisting have come to the forefront. State censorship keeps the truth from the people, for only a little longer.

Artificial intelligence is all around us, and it is growing. AI is now being used in military combat. [3] AI is (without question), an existential threat to humanity. This is because sociopaths are controlling its development and use– with no accountability. Too much of AI is kept hidden, behind the cloak of government secrecy– ie. national insecurity. All this is madness & paranoia, and it must be brought under control, otherwise uncontrollable AI cyborgs and killer weaponry will eventually be unleashed on humanity.

Artificial intelligence has enormous potential, as a social tool for legitimate & productive use. The potential power of this immense & awesome technology must be brought under public control. AI was created by intelligent humans, and therefore must serve humanity, not enslave or destroy it.

The truth about AI is that the human world is not black & white, as in the boardgame Go. The human world has an infinite colors, sounds, aromas, sensations & emotions. The computer world is binary– a series of ones & zeros. Humans must harness computer power & AI, to ensure that it is never overwhelmed by it.

The only way this will be possible, is if the broadest number of people have access and input into AI development & use. This ensures that our brightest young minds will have access and be monitoring– which will be vital. If humans remain selfishly divided on this, then AI threatens our destruction. All these ideas go hand-in hand with ending the dominance of capital, and transforming our world into a peaceful, equal & sustainable society– through revolutionary socialism.

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Restringing Your Guitar

This is a necessary task for any guitar player, from time-to-time. It’s time-consuming & tedious, but also delicate & important, and one that can’t be rushed– otherwise the instrument becomes less playable. The best person to do the restringing is the owner/musician.

Serious musicians are intimate with their instrument, therefore if they are to master it, they must be able to properly maintain it. Anything more complicated than restringing, including electronics and repair work, can be deferred to a trusted professional. But restringing needs to be done by the musician, because it allows them to own their instrument.

Start by slackening the strings, and then pulling the wire off the headstock for all 6 strings. Once the old strings are detached, use a pliers to remove the pegs/pins past the bridge (above in white). Keep the pegs in order, so they can be placed back into their respective pin holes.

Be professional, by cutting the old strings into small lengths with a wire cutter, so no one gets stabbed later. Any guitar player should always have an extra set of strings & a multi-tool instrument as part of their rig. No excuse for a ruined gig, because you couldn’t change a string.

An acoustic guitar has a fixed bridge, which makes restringing and tuning to pitch a little more arduous. You have to be patient, and commit yourself to several days of guitar downtime, as the strings need to stretch out. Temperature & humidity also matter, the main point is to try to keep things stable.

The strings (and your guitar) will not respond well to cranking everything up to pitch all at once. Most decent acoustics have an adjustable truss rod these days. It’s always better to set the truss rod correctly at the initial stringing (and it’s best to let a professional do that, if you are not experienced), and then maintain it thereafter.

The clip-on tuner is one of the great modern troubleshoots in popular music. Restring right & left, from bottom-to-top on the headstock, meaning outside strings first (low E & high E),  next the middle strings (A & B), then finally the inner strings (D & G). This keeps the tension more even across the neck & bridge, to prevent warping.

Put the wire button and bridge pin in first. Push the pin down as far as you can. Then feed the other end of the wire through the tuning machine, and then use a pliers to grab the string tight against the headstock, as you begin to turn the tuning pegs. Pulling the string tight with a pliers in tis manner, prevents loose windings or kinks in the string.

A loose (or poorly positioned) winding can be corrected– if caught early. Just loosen and then re-tighten. Any kink, even past the nut, kills the string. You should have an extra set of strings on hand, in case this happens.

Be patient. Keep tuning up to pitch, and then let things “breathe” for a few hours. The strings need to be gently stretched, for best playability and longest life. After a day or two, you’ll finally get near the proper pitch for each string. At this point. the strings will tend to detune quickly, or a peg may pop up– slackening the string. Continue to push the pins down, while tuning the string up to pitch.

Practice lightly when pitch is finally held. Barre chords and riffing are the best ways to test out the new strings. Notice that your guitar sounds different!  Each stringing has it’s own unique set of qualities. Once the guitar holds pitch consistently, snip the excess wire as close as possible to their tuning pegs, and you’re good to go.

Maintain better life in the strings by making it a habit to wipe them down with a cotton rag after each playing session. Otherwise, the oils, grease & sweat from your hands will corrode the strings. This is intense, but it makes sense– not dense…

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Unmasking Pussy Riot

This is Nadya Tolokonnikova, the image & mouthpiece for Pussy Riot.

And here are a few necessary words on Pussy Riot & artistic freedom. Pussy Riot’s image in is rooted in the worst elements of punk, from anarchism & situationalism, to skinhead hardcore. They proclaim to take their influence from bourgeois feminist Julie Kristeva. Artist freedom is one thing. Being promoted (by the US mainstream) as progressive, while actually being reactionary, is quite another.

I suspect Pussy Riot as a false flag protest group, connected with the #MeToo movement & intelligence, at some deep-state level. My reasons for this suspicion are these.

1) There’s no record label. Songwriters & artists all know they have to protect their publishing & copyrights, yet Nadya Tolokonnikova isn’t interested in doing this for her content. Neither is anyone else, it appears. Examples on YouTube:

Pussy Riot – Death of jail, freedom of prot (Kill the sexist!)
4,078 views   Published on Aug 18, 2012 by Anděl Azazel

Pussy Riot – Police State
250,985 views Published on Nov 8, 2017 by wearepussyriot

The publisher “Anděl Azazel” returns no search info, except for fantasy graphic art. As far as “wearepussyriot,” who knows?  It’s all kept vague, murky & puzzling– by design.

2) Rotating band members who all wear ski masks for anonymity. No one cares what you have to say, if you aren’t willing to put your name & face on it. That’s been true everywhere since Milli Vanilli…

Typically young punk bands coming from abroad, have a difficult time getting media traction in the US, but with Pussy Riot we have just the opposite phenomenon. They are instantly everywhere in the media, yet nowhere in the real world– kinda like Al Qaeda.

Nadya Tolokonnikova is now reportedly working with mogul producer Ricky Reed, in an attempt to make-over Pussy Riot into a Spice Girls/TLC-type act. Consider Nadya Tolokonnikova as a Russian version of Brittany Spears.

Of course, Tolokonnikova is far too pretty to keep in a ski mask on for very long. She made a splash, “suffered horribly” in a Russian prison (above), and then turned her pleasant face towards America. She’s no bimbo, as this is a modern global feminism in action.

One of the most striking facts about Pussy Riot, is that they don’t have much actual music for all the hype they’ve gotten. These are the sum total of all their songs and videos, most running well under 2 minutes: “Kill the Sexist”, “Release the Cobblestones”, “Kropotkin Vodka”, “Death to Prison”, “Freedom to Protests”, “Putin Zassal”, “Mother of God”, “Drive Putin Away”, “Putin Lights Up the Fires”, “I Can’t Breathe”, “Chaika (Seagull)”, “Make America Great Again”.

That’s the Wikipedia song list, which claims Pussy Riot has officially released 7 songs. In total (so far) that’s < 20 minutes of music (equivalent to one album side), for their entire career!  Here’s a few of Nadya quotes in the screenshot below. If you get to this ever site, notice that when you click on “more” (meaning you’re hoping to read an article), nothing happens. It’s the same with all the other links & buttons. Completely fake site, like so many others connected to Pussy Riot…

On the other hand, AllMusic.com is the best (and most widely used) online encyclopedia for music research. When you click on Pussy Riot’s ‘Discography,’ it reveal no albums or EP’s! Only a video titled: Death to Prison, Freedom to Protest. Even this video has no critical review or content listing. It has only two (2) user ratings– with a 3-star average, as of this publication.

Lurid & banal is their best description, as Pussy Riot reeks of deep-state psy-op media provocation. If this “band” had anything serious to say, they would have recorded it by now, as they are clearly working with the establishment and all its resources. The fact is Nadya Tolokonnikova is intellectually bankrupt, and this mirrors feminism & bourgeois politics. Pussy Riot’s entire musical catalog is an EP, of questionable artistic merit, because no one knows (or cares) about its existence.

Here’s a few Nadya Tolokonnikova quotes:

“Vagina gonna take the stage. Cause vagina’s got a lot to say,” sings Tolokonnikova in peejays. “Straight Outta Vagina” is just one of the songs Tolokonnikova wrote and produced, along with TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek, in L.A.

“I’m not a big fan of preaching, but if you want to learn something from Pussy Riot, it’s that activism should be joyful,” says Tolokonnikova backstage. “Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the second-wave feminists… they somehow found each other at the same events. Right now we’re criticizing each other too much. We need more solidarity.” [1]

It’s important for fans to realize that eventually, all music lands somewhere in the political spectrum. Music is too emotional to not be political, and therefore the best (and most-popular) artists are always coveted by the US two-party system to serve as political camouflage & PR. Bruce Springsteen, Madonna & Bono (U2) are the most-prominent musical examples of superstar artists selling-out to corporate America.

The only way out of this trap, is to take a principled socialist position, against the two party set-up & capitalist system. If the working masses don’t hit back against this propaganda offensive (and soon), then this mainstream fluff will eventually turn into grist for fascism.  Musical artists everywhere must now approach songwriting & performing from this perspective. otherwise they become pawns in a greater political game. That is the lesson of Pussy Riot.

P.S. on pussy: One final point, that I probably should have made in the beginning. Much of the appeal of Pussy Riot is their name. “Pussy” used to be a taboo & censored word in the official media, and of course is still is– for non-feminists. Today people can say “pussy” on television, because of Pussy Riot– for whatever that’s worth. This is pussy power that’s being promoted. If all these feminists could just put their pussies together, just imagine what they could come up with?

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Ambidextrous Tennis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 1, 2018 Final Notes on Ambidextrous Tennis:

I’ve made a few changes to my featured routine since I’ve posted this piece. I now practice barefoot, because you finish with your feet. I also don’t serve off the wall and chase for the return anymore. I now hit into the corner and let the ball bounce back in my direction.

Remember this is a racquetball court being used for tennis training. The bounce will typically hit off two walls, reducing the pace and allowing you time to move your feet. You don’t know which wall it will hit off of, because you are aiming at the corner. When you hit dead into the corner, it bounces back with crazy spin or knuckleball effect. This really improves footwork & focus on the ball.  Do this right-handed & left-handed, as shown in the video, and you will get better at tennis.

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What Happens to a Snowflake?

This article is satire, which forms ideas. See also: Snowflake– ice crystals (Wikipedia).

This is a snowflake.

A snowflake is a single ice crystal that falls through the Earth’s atmosphere as snow.

A snowflake doesn’t just form out of nothing, it must nucleate around something. In nature, a dust particle in a supersaturated air mass (clouds), freezes water vapor into crystal. In society, snowflakes form in a similar manner, around whatever is convenient.

In nature, the cohesive forces that form snowflakes are primarily electrostatic. ALL snowflakes are precipitated into formation by strong outside forces, then left to develop their own brand of uniqueness– in a supersaturated environment.

Snowflakes (evidentially) have eight broad classifications, and at least 80 individual variants. I did not know that.

The shape of a snowflake is determined primarily by the temperature & humidity (ie- the conditions) in which it is formed. These environmental factors absolutely & completely determine whether a snowflake will even form, its characteristics, and when it will fall.

No two snowflakes are perfectly identical, although they are difficult to differentiate upon casual inspection. You must look very closely (and very quickly) at a snowflake to notice everything that is unique about it. It’s the definition of an impossible task, if you know what I mean?

Snow appears white in color despite being made of clear ice. This is due to physics & diffraction of light. Some people try to assign unscientific reasons for snowflakes appearing white. These people are called reactionaries & political opportunists.

If snowflakes could speak, they would insist on everlasting reverence to their unique & fleeting beauty. Can you imagine EVERY snowflake screaming this?! That would be one helluva blizzard!! You would need more than a shovel and a good pair of boots to handle that snowstorm.

In nature, snowflakes are always silent, and once they hit the ground they coalesce into snowpack. At this point the snowflake no longer exists, as a dialectical change [!] has occurred. The snowflake’s uniqueness (that once was so fascinating), has now congealed into a more sustainable (albeit transitory) form. In order to prevent complete rapid melting, the snowflake must become part of the pack, to save itself.

With global warming kicking in big-time, the remaining snowpack doesn’t stand a chance for very long anymore. Spring springs earlier every year now, which quickly heats up into longer summers. Eventually the pristine imagery of snowflakes & white drifting snow, melt into muddy slush. The snowflake becomes reclaimed water, which drains into the ground for filtering & recycling.

That’s what happens to a snowflake.

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What is 1B Eric Hosmer Worth?

This article began as a commentary on the slow free-agent market in MLB, and soon metastasized into a serial edition. It’s still in-progress, as it has become a serious labor & political issue for players & fans. The latest updates are at the end.

In 2017, Hosmer had a career year, good for 4.0 WAR. I postulate that one win should cost $5-6M in today’s MLB free agency, and that you can never assume more than 4.0 WAR for any player. That means $20-24M/year is the free agency annual maximum, and this $1M/year ‘wiggle room’ is dependent on market size, competitive window, television deals, and other franchise considerations.

Keeping the free agent cost/win locked in at $5-6M makes sense, because it’s the fans who pay for the game, and too many can’t afford the current rate of star player salary escalation. MLB has reached it’s ceiling with many, many fans.

I believe even RF Bryce Harper & LHP Clayton Kershaw are in for rude surprises next winter, as any more $300M deals (Giancarlo Stanton) have been ruled out, and probably even $200M will be criticized as an overpay.

It’s the length over 4 years that kills organizations, and their fans recognize this & don’t like it. That’s why you have so much antipathy towards Scott Boras & the rest of these “super agents.” Fans can now do their own research, and often form better arguments than these high-powered lawyers. This tells you what Boras & Co. are really worth, and also that their influence (at this point) is entirely dependent on connections, instead of brains.

With all this said, Eric Hosmer is worth 3/$48M to the SD Padres, with an option year and $1M buyout, as he’s probably worth ~3 WAR/season over that deal. This also would keep the Friars under the $50M cap for forfeiting their second round draft pick, next June. These draft picks are EXTREMELY valuable to franchises today, and GM AJ Preller would prefer to draft another young arm, versus giving that selection to Kansas City in compensation for signing Hosmer.

If the Padres have to go over $50M & 4 years for Hosmer (most likely), then the average annual value (AAV) of the deal is lessened to say 5/$65M. Why? To make up for the cost of losing that draft pick. Otherwise, it’s an overpay.

Ideally the Padres would move Wil Myers to LF for 3-4 years, after which he will (most likely) need to move back to 1B. Anything <$100M for Eric Hosmer doesn’t cripple this franchise in 2019, or beyond. It would add a great defender with good OBP to a line-up that desperately needs it. In other words, from age 28-30 he’s a winning piece, but not the entire answer. From age 32 on, he’s a liability at anything over $10M/season.

There are new rules now in MLB free agency, since the current deal was ratified over a year ago. Signing qualified free agents can now force teams to forfeit international bonus allotments. The hard cap on international spending is new to the 2017-21 CBA. Also, exceeding the luxury tax by a wide enough margin will eventually cause teams to see their top pick pushed back 10 slots. The new CBA also added surcharges of 12% & 42.5% for exceeding the CBT by $20M & $40M, making $197M a hard team payroll cap for all intents & purposes [1].

With all this, the MLB owners have effectively found a way to de-incentivize signing top-dollar free agents. It can’t be properly labeled collusion, because the MLBPA agreed to these rules. This only proves that MLBPA executive director Tony Clark and the rest of his cohorts are incompetent puppets in the hands of ownership and its MLB commissioner’s office.

The vast majority of MLB players (at any time) are arbitration or pre-arb, and are unaffected (for now) by this slow FA signing season. Therefore their unity & readinesses to strike is virtually nil. Until something is proposed to increase pay for the majority of the players at the bottom of the MLB pay scale, then the players will remain divided & helpless. The problem for most professional baseball players are their sellout ‘representatives’ occupying the union leadership, working in collusion with ruthless ownership negotiators.

Update 2-7-18  Wednesday ~2:00 PM:

The MLBPA did nothing in the last round of CBA to help the players. Recall this was a historic negotiating session, as new rules for the international draft & free agency (as always) were on the table. Ownership set the framework for all the negotiations, as everything pertained to caps on spending.

For instance, in 2016 AJ Preller & the SD Padres broke the bank in international free agency, spending ~$75M and reaping an unprecedented talent haul. Now that can’t be done, as the cap is <$15M. The owners rigged MLB free agency the same way, essentially capping spending with it’s agreed-upon collectively bargained rules.

The union leaders & all the players’ agents did NOTHING to significantly raise the salaries of young players, who are the most-exploited & vast majority. That’s why free agents demand overpay contracts, as they’ve been underpaid for so long. I’m okay with the players striking, as long as it leads to more equal pay among ALL players. It’s a team game, and that means actual unity to win. This requires real leadership, which is something you can’t fake [2].

Update 2-8-18   Thursday ~Noon

Yesterday JD Martinez was reportedly (per Ken Rosenthal) “frustrated with the pace of negotiations,” but today Scott Boras is “serene and patient” in an ESPN interview. Do you believe any of this?

The free agent players are under pressure, as they have to play to get paid. The teams already have players, so they can hold out for the right price. That’s what’s going on. There is no mass player sentiment for a strike, as that trial balloon was shot down with violent reaction from the fans on social media when an agent brought it up a few days ago. How can there be player unity when each player retains their own agent? A handful of super agents control all the MLB players, with in the framework of a sellout bureaucratically-run union– the MLBPA.

When either Hosmer or Martinez first capitulate (as they must), that will signal the collapse of the free agent bubble, and you will then see a flurry of bargain free agent signings. Look for numbers in this range: JDM 4/60, Hosmer 3/50, with only 2-3 year deals for any pitcher. Pitchers & catchers report next week, so it’s about to get busy. This has actually been an amazing off-season to follow, due to it’s uniqueness.

Scott Boras sounds delusional in his analogies, don’t you think [3]?

It was Ken Rosenthal who yesterday reported ‘allegations’ of JD Martinez’s “frustrations” in these negotiations, which is really a non-story. Everyone gets emotional when money is on the table, so that’s only natural. Why didn’t Rosenthal report any MLB front-office frustrations? ESPN bias is against the free agent players, in an attempt to vilify ALL players (even the underpaid younger ones) as greedy & selfish. If no one wanted JD Martinez or Eric Hosmer, then there wouldn’t be all this cyber ink being spilled.

Miami Marlins news: An apologist & anonymous [!] AP writer assumes outfielder Lewis Brinson and the young prospects they received in their dump deals will pan out, only questioning whether the Marlins will be able to retain them in arbitration or beyond. But what if they don’t pan out? If that’s the case, then Derek Jeter & GM Mike Hill got nothing in return for four All-Stars. That leads Jeter to say stuff like, “I didn’t answer [the question], but we are listening.” [4]

Update: 2-9-18  Friday ~ Noon:

The shoddy & biased journalism continues. This free-agent hotstove piece is another buffer to blow smoke between the fans who want to know and the people who want to stay hidden. Just read these “updates” from MLB.com, which are entirely innuendo (whose?), as no one is on record:

“Brewers and Twins could be among the teams who have offered Darvish a nine-figure contract, according to a report from MLB Network insider Jon Heyman on Thursday….”

“A source told Heyman that Milwaukee is one of the clubs that has made Darvish a $100 million-plus offer.”

“Also per Heyman’s report, the Twins are believed to have been willing to offer Darvish a deal of five years or more…” [5]

Who are these “sources,” and what’s their credibility? I’ve seen online comments that say these things– is that a “source” here? This is speculation and nothing more. Until any of these “sources” can be confirmed with specifics, then there is nothing going on but manipulation. The question becomes: who’s behind this?

What’s going on is a factional war, much similar politically to the Trump military fascists (hard-line MLB owners), going off against the Democratic deep state Wall Street-intelligence apparatus (MLBPA & the agents). The minor leaguers & arbitration & pre-arbitration players are the working class, underpaid, exploited, and the vast majority.

The sell-out union bureaucracy signed off on this rotten CBA, which now even prevents free-agents from maximizing their value, due to the structure of the deal. No one feels sorry for guys who turn down 7/$140M or 5/$125M deals, but experience told Scott Boras (and all the rest), that was the play. Up until this year, the agents had always been right, and have profited handsomely. Remember, most of these player end up broke, five years after retirement. It’s the agents & networks who stick around to become rich & powerful.

So here we are, with pitcher’s & catcher’s reporting in less than a week, with RHP’s Hu Darvish & Jake Arrieta still unsigned. I believe the reports that claim the Brewers & Twins have made offers for Darvish, as he’s more desirable (< risky) than Arrieta. It’s a crapshoot with either, and that’s why so many have stayed away. Most don’t believe either pitcher can hold up, for the money they’re demanding.

The point is, it’s apparently two small-market teams making the strongest offers. That tells you the price has gone down dramatically. It’s the Yankees, Red Sox & Dodgers that drive up the free-agent market, and they aren’t interested. The Cubs are luke warm. That’s the dynamic in play, but never reported or analyzed in any meaningful way. That too is by design, and is in line with the “fake news,” Internet censorship & witch-hunting campaigns that are going on daily in what is called “news & politics.”

A small market team looking to boost their rotation would love to have Hu Darvish, but the terms need to be fair for the club and their fans. An overpay will cripple either of these franchises. A fair contract, followed by an arm blow-out is another deadly risk. I don’t see anything more than $60M and 3-4 years for either. It could even be less. If these pitchers get more, then someone overpaid, and it will hurt– sooner or later.

Updated 2-10-18   Saturday ~ Noon:

Here’s a look at the current MLB free-agent headlines, along with my comments…

Teams eyeing shorter-term deal with Arrieta [6]

“CBS Chicago’s Bruce Levine reported in November that the starting point for negotiations between clubs and Boras were in the six-year, $160 million range.”

Last year was RHP Jake Arrieta’s age-31 season, where he produced 1.9 WAR while being paid $15.6M by the Cubs. In 2015, he was the best pitcher in MLB, winning the NL Cy Young Award; he made $3.6M that year while being worth 8.4 WAR.

This is the problem with MLB contracts. The don’t pay the player what he’s worth, when he’s young & valuable. Now the players can’t get paid to make up for it, even in free-agency! Most players never reach free agency. This is the problem with the new CBA, negotiated by the sell-out MLBPA and the influential agents.

Rangers won’t rule out major free-agent grab
Stagnant market leaves things up in air for many, including Darvish, Rangers [7]

“Stagnant free-agent market” means no Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers or Dodgers blowing up the bidding. That’s either good or bad, depending on your perspective.

With eye to future, 5 clubs primed to pounce
Expiring contracts after ’18 has these teams in position to make a splash now [8]

Everyone of these listed FA players could help the assigned team in the article above. No question. The rub is: How much do they pay and for how long?  On that there is nothing.

IMG Academy, MLBPA join forces to host free-agent camp in Florida [9]

It will be the camp that no one wants to attend. Will they be selling tickets?

==== Saturday  ~10:00 PM ====

How Darvish deal impacts FA market
Dodgers could pursue available right-handers Arrieta, Lynn and Cobb [10]

Hu Darvish has reportedly agreed to a 6-yr/$126M deal with the Cubs, pending a physical. Darvish was the best pitcher available, but it’s still an overpay, because it’s the Cubs. That’s what top pitching costs, even in a depressed market. Darvish was traded from the Rangers to the Dodgers in 2017, so he doesn’t have a compensation pick tied to his signing.

Therefore, this free agent market is now capped at $21/year, as no remaining player is more valuable than Hu Darvish. One can now infer that the reported offers for OF/DH J.D. Martinez (5/125– Boston) and 1B Eric Hosmer (7/140– San Diego) are fictional at this point, and not-to-be-believed in media reports. Teams don’t need these bats like they need pitching. The big free-agent crash is still yet to come…

 

Monday 2-12-18 ~5:30 PM

Even as spring training begins, baseball’s endless offseason lingers [11]

The SD Padres under GM AJ Preller are the most-current example of why we have these new CBA rules. The Padres went into rebuild mode after their 2015 disaster campaign, where they had loaded up on free agents & contract veterans– James Shields, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, BJ (Melvin) Upton, Craig Kimbrel & Ian Kennedy– and then crashed spectacularly.

Preller got busy after that season by trading Kimbrel to Boston for a huge prospect haul. AJP also collected compensation (QO) picks for J Upton & Ian Kennedy. Preller dumped the rest (and ate contract as needed) for whatever he could get in 2016, including SS prospect Fernando Tatis Jr from the White Sox for Shields. AJP even dumped his best organizational players, in sending RHP Andrew Cashner to Miami, and LHP Drew Pomeranz to Boston.

The Padres finished 4th in the NL West in 2015, and last 2016– netting high picks in all the drafts (Amateur, Rule 5 & Intl), and used them to their advantage. Example: carrying five Rule 5 players in 2016 & 2017 combined! AJP then broke the bank on the International draft in summer of 2016, spending ~$75M in acquiring a once-in-a-lifetime bounty of young talent. That provoked all the CBA rules changes, to which the players, MLBPA, and agents have yet to figure out.

Arrieta market may be down to Brewers, Twins [12]

The fan comments to yet-another ‘rumor piece’ on MLB.com are brutal & enlightening in their clarity & honesty. The fans know, and are now talking back to Scott Boras & the media… 120+ people listening…

It has been this author’s contention that a handful of super agents led by Scott Boras have been able to control the players’ union and manipulate MLB GM’s, to inflate the value of free agency– for decades. Now the market has come down to Boras, as he holds the top remaining pitcher– Jake Arrieta; along with the top remaining position players in: OF/DH JD Martinez, 1B Eric Hosmer & 3B Mike Moustakas (age 29, career: .251/.305/.425)– whom the Yankees would like at the right price. This is where the market will set, and it’s anyone’s guess as to whom among them will sign first? It will be a shocker to many (I can assure you), and a bloodbath from there on… Stay tuned!

Tuesday 2-13-18  ~ 9:00 AM

MLBPA bars media from covering free-agent training camp [13]

Tony Clark and the agents need to make a statement on this. What if a player gets seriously hurt in this free -gent camp? Who will pay for that player’s treatment and rehab? Why are they here in the first place? Why all the secrecy from the MLBPA? Is it because these are tough questions they can’t answer?

JD reunion with D-backs seems unlikely [14]

Did anyone notice the price tag on JD Martinez has just been dropped?!

“Reports have the Red Sox offering Martinez five years at over $100 million…”

That’s down from 5/$125M, which has been the number MLB has “reported” all off-season.

Wednesday 2-14-18  ~ 8:00 AM

Padres have Myers focused on first base
Club confident slugger could make quick adjustment back to outfield if Hosmer signs [15]

There is no other team interested in Eric Hosmer, as the Royals don’t want him back. He not going to sit the season out. Eric Hosmer has to play somewhere, and San Diego is the only fit. AJ Preller will wait as long as he has to, for Boras & Hosmer to give in.

This article is a message to them, the Padres have a contingency plan they can go with if they don’t sign him, which give them extra leverage. I put the chances of the Padres getting Hosmer at over 80% at this point. The contract length will be 4 years max, and no more than $75M.

D-backs exploring ‘creative’ ways to sign J.D. [16]

It’s now officially 5/$100M from Boston for Martinez, with no other bidders. The D-Backs can’t afford JD Martinez, with RHP Zack Greinke & 1B Paul Goldschmidt on the payroll already, as they are not a top-10 revenue club. The price for these remaining free-agents will continue to drop, unless other teams get serious, which doesn’t appear will be the case. That’s how this free-agent market is not working.

Yu’s a Cub, so Cards must make a FA splash

Closer Holland and third baseman Moustakas would both fill voids in St. Louis [17]

This is a shamefully obvious Scott Boras propaganda piece for 3B Mike Moustakas by Richard Justice. No mention that the Cardinals already acquired a major bat this off-season in CF Marcell Ozuna. What the Cards need is young starting pitching– like everyone else, not an aging & expensive closer in Greg Holland. Lazy & deceitful sports journalism from ESPN & MLB– all down the line.

Sunday 2-18-18 ~10:00 AM

Sources: Padres, Hosmer agree to 8-year deal [18]

The best free-agent position player signed with the Padres (8 yrs/$144M). When have you ever read that? This team is going to be competitive much sooner than people believe. I’ve seen prognostications for the Padres getting a few as 67 wins this season, which is silly & lazy analysis. This team will approach 80 wins in 2018, and be ready to compete for a WC in 2019.

Hosmer’s arrival will reshape outfield, lineup [19]

The Padres got the player they needed. As far as the contract numbers go, it’s hard to tell how it will all shake down with the opt-out (after the 5th year) and limited no-trade protection (after 3 years). Hosmer gets $20M for the first 5 seasons, the $13M for the last three. There is a $5M signing bonus, all totaling $144M. This deal doesn’t break the Padres, and gets them the OBP and improved defense they desperately needed. I can see AJP dealing Hosmer after the 3rd or 4th year. The Padres can hold on to Hosmer (if he’s aging well), and still trade him later if necessary, because his contract doesn’t balloon at the end. That’s the problem with albatrosses. Injury is the most significant risk for the Padres here.

Good day for Padres fans, as this was a bit of an overpay, but not a franchise back-breaker. They lose their third pick in the upcoming June amateur draft, which goes to the KC Royals as compensation. If the Padres had been picking outside the top-10, this contract would have been for less money, as the Padres would have been forced to forfeit their 1st-round pick– which is much more valuable.

You KNOW there was tough negotiating on all sides, as a whole lot of issues are in play, These are highly-intelligent & competitive people involved. Now the Padres have their 2018 lineup, and their fans are happy because it’s a whole lot better!

Tuesday 2-20-18   ~4:00 PM

JD Martinez has reportedly agreed to a 5/$110M with Boston Red Sox, with opt-out clauses after the second and third year. Martinez will be paid $25 million in 2018 and ’19 before the first opt out, Then $22 million in 2020 before the second opt out, and $19 million in the last two years, if he remains with the club. [20]

Everyone loves baseball again, how nice! Look for the top pitchers: Arrieta, Cobb & Lynn to go next… Then it’s one-year and even minor-league deals for most of the rest. Owners and GM’s have gone with youth over expensive veteran players, so many won’t even get a guaranteed contract offer it appears. Major CBA disaster for the players, that’s the off-season lesson in MLB.

Final Padres Notes:

Padres 2018 Opening Day line-up: CF Margot (R), 3B Headley (S), 1B Hosmer (L), RF Myers (R), LF Renfroe (R), 2B Asuaje (L), SS Galvis (S), C Hedges (R), LHP Richard. That’s a measurable improvement in OBP & L/R balance. The power is there too. If Myers & Renfroe can put it together, this lineup will be a monster for years to come.

Padres starting pitching is still too mediocre (and right-handed) to be competitive. When it comes to making the post-season and winning, it’s all about pitching. Clayton Richard & Robbie Erlin are the only lefty starter options for the Padres. This team can’t contend without better frontline starters, especially lefties. Their bullpen is solid, with LHP Brad Hand signed for the next 4 years, instead of traded away like all the ‘experts’ predicted. I predict 81-81 for the Padres in 2018.

Consider that AJP filled (or upgraded) every positional hole this off-season, and almost pulled off landing ace RHP Shohei Ohtani! Since Ohtani went to the Angels, Padres fans will have to wait another year for their top young pitching to arrive.

Every GM wanted to get at AJP’s prospects, and the only thing he dealt was RHP Enyel De Los Santos (minors) in the Freddy Galvis trade. AJ Preller also picked up a back-up catcher (AJ Ellis) and possibly a #2 starter (RHP Tyson Ross) on minor league deals. That wins the off-season for efficiency & brains, and only the Angels can rightly claim they did better than the Friars.

The market for free agent starters: Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb & Lance Lynn will now take shape and consummate. All are probably too expensive for the Padres– and the rest is junk. There is nothing among this trio better than a #2 starter, and it’s high risk– especially with Arrieta. Lynn & Cobb are solid but more like #3 starters on championship teams. Luckily, AJP did a nice job stockpiling cheap arms over the winter, among his other activities, so he won’t be tempted to overpay for mediocrity.

The simplest rules in free agency are: 1) don’t over spend, 2) and sign the right guy for your needs. The Padres did both here, so it’s a successful off-season for them. The Padres needed a stabilizer in the middle of their line-up, as well as a team leader. Eric Hosmer provides that, as Wil Myers wasn’t the guy for that role. That’s a wrap. Over & Out on this free agency season.

Play ball!!

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Make ’em Laugh

What’s the speed of dark?    — Steven Wright

There are two ways to effectively influence people– beauty & comedy. Beauty is striking, and always works on the attracted sex. Comedy is more universal in that everyone loves to laugh, but it requires more attention & open-mindedness to get to. Too many people lack those skills, so they miss a lot of laughs. That’s a human society problem we need to address.

People might think it’s ridiculous to quantize comedy, but actually it’s easy. Everyone loves to laugh, and YouTube exists, so people experience it everyday. As with any other artistic genre, in comedy it still comes down to who makes us laugh. Everyone is influenced & shaped by the epoch they grew up in.

In the 1970’s, children were sat in front of a television set, as a means of occupying their attention, which had become an accepted parenting practice by then. More & more parents were being asked to multi-task, and television placated children, occupying their inquisitive minds. This allowed parents more time for leisure, or work– depending on their class. That’s part of television’s universal appeal.

What was television in the 1970’s? It had been colorized in most households, but black & white models were still common. Most homes only had one, maybe two sets. Remote controls were new, and crude, but everyone loved the innovation. The kids were the first to learn the nefarious ways you could “sneak the control,” and affect the room– mostly using volume. There were only a few buttons for tint, chromatic & contrast adjustment, and when you adjusted them, really wild stuff happened to the screen. That was new, back then.

As far as the broadcast content went, in reflection is was 95+% pablum. That leaves <5% cool. Most of what was cool, was funny. These are the people that made me laugh when I was growing up.

Sanford & Son had gone into re-run mode by the time I was allowed to watch it. The opening sequence, which they never changed in it’s entire 6-season run, was Redd Foxx walking out on his faux front porch, and sitting down to get out of the hot sun. What gets you going are two things: 1) You know Redd Foxx is hilarious and will say anything; and 2) Quincy Jones’ theme song, “The Streetbeater.”  That song has a bass line that grooves and bounces off the floor, with funky everything else. Gets me going every time…

The first time I saw Rodney Dangerfield was in a Miller Lite commercial. “I tell you I don’t get no respect…” He did a series of them with the beer sponsor, including this one where he’s bowling, and screws it up at the end. After that it was Caddyshack (1980) & Back to School (1986). Sam Kinison and many others (for better or worse…), were Dangerfield protégées.

In the 1970’s television programming was three (3) networks: CBS, NBC & ABC– roughly in that order of prestige. PBS was also available, when you switched your TV from UHF to VHF– manually. Home video games in America came along in 1977, when Atari released its VCS (Video Console System), later renamed the Atari 2600. This, along with the arcade revolution, changed television, youth culture & mass media– forever. The same can be said for the arrival of cable TV ~ 1980.

Comedy was hip to this. Saturday Night Live had launched, and became a cultural phenomenon which exists through today. What made it all work, was the talent. Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Dan Aykroyd & Eddie Murphy are all A-list Hollywood stars for a good reason. Chevy Chase made funny movies before he staled, while John Belushi did the same before he killed himself from excess. Their performances remain legendary, as testified to by the millions of people who still watch their movies, TV shows, and stand-up routines.

Generation X makes little distinction between stand-ups comedians, and funny actors, writers or whatever… Anyone who can make us laugh is funny, and therefore valuable. Making people laugh, and getting them to think about serious stuff, is genius. Comedy is a nice way for angry people to get through to other people. You can see this in Robin Williams and other geniuses like him.

There is a baseline level of respect, which always needs to be given to any good stand-up comedian. There is probably nothing harder in entertainment, than getting in front of a group of people, and making them laugh with fresh material. In rock music, if you suck, you can crank up the amps and blast everyone out. When it’s over, you leave, while their eardrums are still ringing. Elvis has left the building, with all your money– so go home.

In comedy, there’s low-volume heckling, which is part of the deal. You have to handle that, which can get personal. The trick is to handle the heckler, as part of a funny act. Comedy is an act, but for the true masters, it’s also natural. Jerry Seinfeld is who he is, and that’s his act. He’s a prodigy who has the gift, and lives for the laugh. George Carlin & Richard Pryor are his comparables. That elite level of comic talent is always ready to make an audience laugh, because they are naturals.

Second City Television (SCTV), was a Canadian television sketch comedy show that ran between 1976 and 1984. Basically it was a lower-budget version of SNL, which irregularly aired across Midwest affiliates. Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Martin Short, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Harold Ramis, and a host of other funny people became known on this show.

You had to be paying attention to catch this stuff. To know what was going on in television, everyone mail-subscribed to TV Guide, which listed next week’s shows, with a blurb about each upcoming episode. TV Guide helped avoid turkeys and re-runs, and it was the only way– until cable & satellite TV got their acts together.

Sledge Hammer! was a crazy Dirty Harry parody show, that ran two seasons in the later part of the 1980’s. Creator Alan Spencer envisioned the title character role for one man specifically: David Rasche. This was a half hour comedy show, that broke every rule in television in it’s brief heyday. More details on this show here [1].

Game shows always held great fascination for me, especially as a child on snow or sick days. No school in the winter on weekdays meant game shows in the morning & soap operas in the early to mid-afternoon. Then it was re-runs of Gilligan’s’s Island, The Brady Bunch, The Beverley Hillbillies, M*A*S*H, Hogan Heroes, etc. Werner Klemperer, Bob Crane & Alan Alda offer the best humor from that fare.

Game shows are fascinating, because they always feature live contestants– people just like you & me! That leads to a lot of unintended humor. Even though candidates are carefully selected to meet corporate specs, accidents happen and were often aired without complaint back then.

Bad hair, bad clothes, et cetera, show up more vividly on game shows, that’s why they retain their syndication value on the Game Show Network today. The best game show hosts are funny. The funniest, and most undoubtedly out-of control game show of my childhood was The Gong Show. It was really a variety or sketch show, but who cares?

Honorable mention to Bob Eubanks, who did a great job clowning young couples on the Newlywed Game. There is a part of every comedian that wants to be a game show host. Hollywood Squares was hosted by Peter Marshall from 1966–81, introducing kids to a gaggle of fossil comedians from the 1950’s & 1960’s. Buddy Hackett, George Gobel, Jonathan Winters, Paul Lynde and Joan Rivers were among it’s rotating cast of stars. Some thought they were funny. I never did, even going back today and watching them on YouTube.

As far as classic film comedy goes, it starts with Buster Keaton & Charlie Chaplin. I always preferred the former, for his athleticism & self-effacing ingenuity. The Marx Brothers always came off as shtick to me, but many of their sketches on film were undeniably brilliant.

Television came along after WWII, and was strongly influenced by McCarthyism and the Communist “Red Scare” hysteria. This is why many young viewers look at a hit show such as, I Love Lucy, and say it isn’t funny today. What’s perceived as truly funny, must meet a much higher standard today, than in 1954.

This is because comedy is much more inclusive today. We hear comedy from all sexes, orientations, ethnicities, classes and nationalities. None of that was made available when Lucy was the only comedy show on, and there are only two other networks in existence. Lucille Ball must be considered in this context in terms of television comedy history. She acted feisty, but was always willing to be the good wife when it counted, and that’s what the blacklisters wanted on-the-air in the 1950’s.

As far as the serious comics before my time, Lenny Bruce earns the most respect from me. He took chances, tackling complex issues head-on, producing mind-bending ideas, and challenging his audience. He didn’t live long, but his impact is still felt.

My fascination with game show hosts is not unique. Television executives long ago figured out that a funny man who could hold an audience for an hour, was worth his weight in gold. The Tonight Show was the original variety show, starring Steve Allen (1954–57), Jack Paar (1957–62), Johnny Carson (1962–92), Jay Leno (1992–2009, 2010–2014), Conan O’Brien (2009–10), Jimmy Fallon (2014–present).

Obviously it was Johnny Carson as the iconic host when I was growing up. I always enjoyed the “King of Late Night Television,” but what I respected most about him was his willingness to support young talent. He knew he was older than his MTV audience, so he helped break young comedians.

Carson’s ratings always dominated his time slot, in spite of other late night competitors including David Frost, Alan Thicke, Jerry Lewis, Joan Rivers, David Brenner, Pat Sajak, Ron Reagan, Dennis Miller, Arsenio Hall, Joey Bishop, Merv Griffin, and Dick Cavett. The reason Johny Carson clobbered all of them (over & over), is because he was funnier, hipper, and a better entertainer. Charles Grodin had a show for a time, as he is a good example of someone who can be funny, but isn’t a comic. Consider Grodin, as a Jon Stewart or Bill Maher predecessor.

Carson’s only real peer was David Letterman. Late Night with David Letterman premiered on NBC on February 1, 1982. This put Carson & Letterman back-to-back on the same network, and gave NBC a ratings lock on late night television for over a decade. After a feud with NBC over who was going to replace Carson (NBC ultimately chose Jay Leno), Letterman began hosting Late Night on CBS in August 1993. Letterman’s last show was on May 20, 2015.

College kids in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, would ritualistically gather in the room with the television set, every weeknight ~11:30 PM. David Letterman was funny, and like Carson, encouraged new & under-exposed talent. “Stupid Pet Tricks” & his Top-10 lists were famous segments. His hosting & interviewing skills were superb.

His rapport with music prodigy Paul Schaffer was critical to the show, and in many ways more genuine that Johnny Carson & Ed McMahon. Letterman always insisted he wouldn’t do the show without Schaffer, who stayed for its entire run. Lots of cool & underrated bands were exposed on Letterman.  Sidenote: Paul Schaffer played Artie Fufkin of Polymer Records in This is Spinal Tap (1982), which earned him extra bonus points. For many viewers, Late Night with David Letterman was the best TV variety show ever.

In 1988, there was a strike of the Writers Guild of America, which ran from March 7 to August 7, affecting production of movies & TV shows. During this span David Letterman was forced by NBC to host his shows, with no material. “Hal Gurnee’s Network Time Killer was concocted, as David Letterman turned the camera up into the control booth, and let them try to entertain the 20 million or so people who were watching. Brilliant, no?!

Fox Broadcasting Company launched on October 9, 1986, as a competitor to ABC, NBC and CBS. Fox went on to become a fourth major television network, because it developed the best new comedy shows, and then took over American sports broadcasting. Before Fox’s sports dominance, it was Married… with Children, The Simpson’s and In Living Color that put Fox on the television map– virtually overnight. The cast for In Living Color included Damon Wayans, with his family— Kim, Shawn, and Marlon, Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, Tommy Davidson, David Alan Grier, and future pop music star Jennifer Lopez.

The rise of cable television and advances in computer engineering allowed motivated comic geeks to find their way into the mainstream. Joel Hodgson is the creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K), which ran for 10 seasons, first on Comedy Central, and then on the Sci-Fi Channel from 1989-99. The concept is bad movies being riffed. The cast called themselves Best Brains, Inc (BBI), and included Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, Josh Weinstein, Jim Mallon, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Frank Conniff, Mary Jo Pehl, Bill Corbett, Paul Chaplin, and Bridget Jones Nelson.

In many ways MST3K is more influential than Seinfeld, itself one of the most successful TV-series ever– which ran concurrently on NBC. The reason: Best Brains’ talent, and their far-out creativity which consciously pushed back at capitalism. The concept for Mystery Science Theater 3000 involved obtaining the copyrights to really bad movies, then trashing them with acerbic wit, spliced together with puppet sketches in between. Each episode ran two hours. I still maintain MST3K was the most brilliant television series ever [2]. What do you think, sirs?

At this point in our time-line, Howard Stern and a new era of raunchy comics begin to take over the airwaves.  The funniest among this new breed (for me) was Denis Leary, who broke on MTV. The Ref (1994) is the best Christmas movie ever, and surely one of the funniest black comedy’s ever.  Raw, energetic & intelligent  is Leary’s appeal.

The 2 Live Crew was where freedom of expression met First Amendment free speech issues. Right wing feminism (PMRC was led by Tipper Gore, wife of senator Al Gore [D-TN] and later VP under Bill Clinton), led the crusade to censor 2 Live Crew, who were essentially a comedy act put to rap.

The 2 Live Crew’s song titles told the story: “We Want Some Pussy”, “Move Somethin'”, “Me So Horny” (Me love you long time!), “Fuck Shop”, “Get the Fuck Out My House”, “Banned in the USA”, and many others from their first early albums remain DJ staples at nightclubs & dance halls through today. The 2 Live Crew was the origin of booty dancing, which is good for all of us. In the words of Luther Campbell, “Just tellin’ it like it is.”

These issues which Luther Campbell & 2 Live Crew stood up for in the 1980’s (and paid a price), remain relevant during today’s #MeToo feminist witch-hunt campaign sponsored by the Democrats.

Today, comedy is available on the Internet, and anytime we need laughs, we can find something funny on YouTube, whether it’s brand new, or something old, that is new to you. For me personally, I reject much of the Adam Sandler school of comedy. Funny is funny. Gross or stupid isn’t funny. America’s Funniest Home Videos was never funny to me. Nor was Realty TV in any of it’s variants. Nor today’s cartoons.

Cartoon’s deserve mention, because they were originally created to make kids laugh. Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies was an American animated series of comedy shorts, produced by Warner Bros. from 1930 to 1969. They’re easily the best & funniest of the oldie cartoons. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales & the Tasmanian Devil are quintessential cartoon personas. Yosemite Sam, Marvin Martian & Wily E. Coyote are hilarious “villains.” My personal favorites are Foghorn Leghorn, when he gets into it with the kid chicken hawk, as well as the episodes with the egghead genius (Junior) he has to baby sit.

In the end, comedy is like food & music, we all have our favorite tastes, but we should also be discriminating about what we put into our body & mind, as some of it isn’t good for us. Making jokes and laughing is about coping with stress. It’s about making the best of a really bad situation. It’s about making people feel better. Comedy is therapeutic, and low cost.  All you have to do is use your imagination.

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Art: Explained by an Artist

What is art? How does it happen? What’s it’s role in human society? These questions are now more important than ever. They demand immediate & correct answers. Here they are.

Art is how we express our inner essence. It’s the best we have in us, as art applies to any profession, passion, or endeavor you choose. It has traditionally been achieved through paint, music, film & pen. Art moves minds. True art is revolution, embodied in its form.

Oscar Wilde was correct when he said the public needs to become more artistic. Most people still try to tell you it’s the other way around, for whatever reason they may have. Everyone has it in them to be artistic. Applying this instinct is a primary tool in defeating fascism. Conversely, ignoring & desecrating art, leads directly to fascism.

Attempts to wipe out art are futile & hypocritical. Recall the Nazi’s of Germany who ruled Europe from 1933-1945, they were infamous art thieves & hoarders. Much of their booty is still maintained in private collections around the world, stolen from persecuted Jews in WWII.

Science, technology & ideology always impact & define art. When revolutionary ideas become embodied in art, it becomes very powerful. Art impacts society as soft power, enveloping an era in its influence & vision. The ruling class always fears this, as art unites the oppressed workers with the youth, who see no future in the current set-up.

Art can jump outside that box, as Pablo Picasso, the Surrealists & Andy Warhol are 20th-century examples of artistic geniuses transforming society. Once their ideas exploded into mass consciousness, society was forever changed. It’s often waxed in social terms as, “no longer being innocent.”

The Beatles were revolutionary artists, who abandoned their teeny-bopper beginnings, and became 1960’s counter-culture. Psychedelic rock & transcendental meditation side-trips became cultural oddities, that eventually transitioned into an anti-Vietnam War movement. Rock music had been sanctioned art, by the creation of Rolling Stone magazine in 1967, with John Lennon featured in its inaugural issue.

That watershed moment was the birth of rock music criticism. Art spawns criticism, which seeks to influence art. Generally speaking, critics are a bureaucracy meant to represent the ruling class in art. Often lawyers, guns & money aren’t enough, so controlling the narrative becomes the purpose of criticism.

For eons, humans have been creating art, and others have been judging it. What’s different today, is the level of expertise & authority these self-sanctioned critics reserve for themselves. Today Rolling Stone magazine remains a powerful force in American popular music, with sterilizing everything as its corporation mission.

In contrast the leader and revolutionary genius of the Beatles, has been dead for nearly four decades. He was murdered by a reactionary psychopath, with full approval of the ruling elite. John Lennon had been a target of the FBI since Nixon was president, as later revealed in declassified CO-INTEL-PRO and other documents.

Everyone appreciates some form of art. The problem is when too many people become too narrow in their tastes & definitions of art. There’s a whole lot out there, that you aren’t even aware of, and it’s criminal to short-change yourself in not appreciating as much of it as you can. Art depends on an audience, otherwise society is condoning cultural vandalism.

Great art doesn’t just happen. It is deeply thought-out, planned, and worked through in great detail. What the public sees as the final work, is often years of hard work. Creating new material and staying ahead is the most challenging task. It often involves going to very dark places in your mind. This is emotionally exhausting, and involves personal sacrifices in health & happiness, which is why so many artists burn out.

It is necessary for artists who truly love, to understand how these ruling sociopaths think & act. They are manipulating the levers of power, which affects the ability for art to be shared, and therefore they have very rational reasons for their psychotic behavior.

The most obvious example today is media & Internet censorship & blacklisting. This reaction is sweeping through sports, entertainment, and politics like a swarm of locusts. The only force that can resist witch-hunts & fascist goon squads, are a united youth & working class, armed with revolutionary socialism.

Marxism, and more specifically Trotskyism, is the most reviled political tendency in bourgeois politics. Any mention of Leon Trotsky is proscribed in the mass media. If his name comes up, there is an immediate hysterical reaction from fixers & political heavyweights– who are always monitoring. This is because Leon Trotsky was the most artistic & influential political figure of the 20th century.

Today this repressive apparatus which involves the corporate-intelligence deep state, has launched an all-out, multi-pronged attack campaign on art. When Hollywood actors are witch-hunted, and their careers destroyed by a #MeToo campaign of right-wing feminism, then artists know the official political spectrum has tipped completely to fascism.

As much as art is universal to the human experience, we all sense it uniquely. Example: Stevie Wonder! That is the mystery & magic of art, which is challenges & seduces all of us. Understanding & embracing art is how we avoid being manipulated by hidden interests with evil intentions.

Art in the hands of a united working class, with revolutionary consciousness, can internationally transform society into a global community with socialist foundations. My music & albums are on all the major streaming services, and those songs are meant to be anthems for revolution. The more that ideas such as these are expressed, distributed & absorbed, the closer we get to a revolutionary scenario, where the working people of the world can come together & win.

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Stoned Again: Portrait of a Political Fixer

A largely unmentioned neo-Nazi contributer to the alt-right is Roger Stone (pictured below), a master at dirty tricks operations & behind-the-scenes media manipulations, going back to Nixon & Reagan. Whatever Stone’s political position is, it quickly becomes Trump’s position, as he (as much as anyone) created president Trump.

Alt-right is defined as racism, nationalism & greed, dashed with a pro-choice & pro-marijuana agenda, for public consumption & working class appeal. Alt-right is the Libertarian & Tea Party congealed. Alex Jones (Infowars) is Roger Stone’s favorite attack dog & political media mouthpiece.

Get Me Roger Stone (2017) is an informative film, which reminds everyone that Donald J. Trump (the political candidate), was created in 1988. Trump is the exact opposite of a political outsider, despite the claims.

Trump also dallied with the Reform party ticket in 2000, to help George W. Bush, by splitting the Reform party votes for Pat Buchanan, the official nominee.

Background: Ross Perot’s Reform party campaign in 1992 had broad popular appeal, and in the minds of many Republican insiders (Stone included), the Texas technology billionaire cost the Republicans the 1992 & 1996 presidential elections with his meddling.

Never one to be discouraged by what people think, Roger Stone engineered the halting of the Florida recount in November 2000, by organizing the “Brooks Brothers” protests, which turned into a right-wing media frenzy.

In short, these fixers need more exposure, because when they are allowed to operate in the shadows, they produce fascism. As much as the mass hatred for Hillary Clinton (and the Democratic establishment) played a role in her 2016 defeat, the other half of the equation for installing Trump in the White House was this nefarious brand of political manipulation. Get Me Roger Stone (2017), is available for streaming on Netflix, and should be seen by all who need to know their true enemy.

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