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A Titanic Disaster


On April 14, 1912 the SS Titanic ran into an iceberg. No biggie; the ship was advertised as unsinkable. A few hours later, the Titanic was on the bottom of the North Atlantic. The fates had been tempted and they struck with a vengeance.

On April 14, 2019 the New York Yankees lost a game to the White Sox. It marked the first time in 37 years the team had lost its first three home series. The team had been advertised as a “fully operational Death Star” by management during the preceding off-season. The fates had been tempted and they struck with a vengeance.

Yes, this team is missing a 11 players due to injury. But consider this: the combined record of the teams that the Yanks have played at home is 19-25. They have played one quality team so far, and were swept in rather ignominious fashion.

Yes, I realize five of the eight regulars are on the IL. But management, rather than open the checkbook and sign the three superstars on this past offseason’s free agent market (all of whom had expressed a desire to wear the pinstripes) decided to bulk up with “depth” signings. The idea was to be able to weather injuries. Well, ironically enough, the injuries are here and those depth signings aren’t exactly panning out.

They signed Troy Tulowitzki instead of Manny Machado. Tulo used to be a good player, but he didn’t even get through the first week of the season before getting hurt. Machado is playing every day, making highlight reel plays for San Diego and crushing homers.

Rather than sign Bryce Harper, another consensus top 10 talent, management gave a contract extension to the skilled but oft-injured Aaron Hicks. Guess what? Hicks is (once again) injured, with no timetable for a return, while Harper is playing every day with an OPS near 1.000 for the Phillies and has become a fan favorite.

Rather than sign Patrick Corbin, a legitimate ace pitcher, the Yankees traded for James Paxton and re-signed JA Happ. Corbin has a 2.84 ERA in 3 starts for Washington. Paxton and Happ have combined for an ugly 7.30 ERA and 4 losses.

The Yankees may well be fully operational Death Star. But the authors of this mess should remember the fate of the original Death Star. It’s designers thought they had built an indestructible machine that got taken out by hubris. The Yankees season looks like it’s headed for the same fate.


Now For A Word from The Surgeon’s Table


If you follow me on social media, or have read this blog for a while, then you know I have Crohn’s Disease. Well, today is the day I’ve been dreading since I was first diagnosed in April 1992.

It’s time to get something removed.

I had always made it a point of pride that I would leave this Earth with all of my parts more or less intact. But that’s not to be. My terminal ileum (that’s the end of the small intestine, the part that connects to the large intestine) is essentially dead and has been causing me all sorts of problems since October.

So, out it comes. The doctors also told me there is a good chance they’ll need to remove the ascending colon, as well. They just can’t tell from the CT scans, but will know better once they get in there and see.

Now, I’m not so worried about what they’re taking out (I’ve kind of resigned myself to the changes I’ll have to make), as simply waking up. One of the dastardly things Crohn’s has done is given me pulmonary embolisms and pulmonary hypertension. They refer to these as “extra-digestive manifestations.” That doesn’t change the fact that breathing isn’t as easy as it used to be, and general anesthesia is especially dangerous for me. As in, might not wake up dangerous.

I’ve placed myself in God’s hands. If he wants me home, there isn’t much you or I can do about it. I always figured that with all the times I’ve defied death until now that God had a reason for keeping me on this planet. It could be this surgery is that reason. My medical team almost sounds like a bad joke: “a Muslim, a Hindu, a Catholic and an atheist walk into a surgical theater…” It could be my surgery will do more for world peace than all the diplomats at the UN have managed in 75 years of talking.

Anyway, by now I’m on the table and the doctors are doing a thing. If you’re the praying type, I’d appreciate if you would lift up my medical team. Oh, and don’t let the big guy upstairs forget I am still needed down here.

Thanks everyone. See you on the other side!


The Art of Punching Down


I’ve been desperately hoping the President would get back to doing the things we expect Presidents to do. Negotiating trade deals, trying to work with Congress, yada yada. But Trump, being Trump, has now spent a week in full grievance mode, blasting everyone and everything. It is the type of behavior that anyone with any sense expects from a preschooler – not the President of the United States.

His visit to Ohio yesterday was the last straw. At what was a campaign event hidden inside a rally to celebrate a tank factory, he said this:

It’s worse than it was 19 years ago? 19 years ago, Al-Qaeda was in the middle of prepping for 9-11. 19 years ago, we were enforcing a no-fly zone while Saddam Hussein was gassing his citizens and giving both material and moral support to terrorists. You can take issue with how the war was conducted (I have) and the fact we never figured out what winning looked like (I have), but to definitively say the region is worse off because of the US is unconscionable. To even insinuate that the millions of US servicemen who volunteered and served in that theater made things worse is to trample on every single one of their legacies. For the President of the United States, the commander-in-chief, to make a statement like that is beyond the pale and should never be supported by anyone who considers themself a patriot.

The President’s most recent temper-tantrum began last week, as I mentioned. Among the long list of grievances he aired, this was the one that pretty much grabbed everyone’s attention:

Now here’s the thing: John McCain has been dead and buried for 7 months. Was McCain a saint? No. In fact, the McCain/Trump feud extends to well before Trump took the oath of office – in fact, it dates to the Clinton administration. Like Trump, McCain was a man who had a hard time letting grudges go. However, the man is dead and you triumphed. The persistent, continual attacks on him convey that you are nothing more than a spiteful, miserable little old man.

Of course, Trump is not content with just punching down at dead people. One of his principal aides is Kellyanne Conway, who’s husband is a long-time Democratic operative. Outside of political circles, George Conway isn’t well-known. His comments on the President’s behavior haven’t received much airplay, aside from ten-second blurbs as Kellyanne is interviewed. Still, that doesn’t stop President Trump:

Now, I don’t know what exactly that’s supposed to do other than cause all kinds of trouble in the Conway’s marriage. I’m not sure what the President think it does for him, except get what should have been a “meh” moment off his chest.

There are talking heads pronouncing the President’s mental health in decline. I disagree with that assessment. This is the worst of Trump, the Page Six Trump, the man who has never been able to handle losing very well. And let’s face it, he’s been losing “bigly” since November. His signature issue – the border wall – was soundly rejected by Congress. The GOP abandoned him again on the issue just last week. His grand bargain with North Korea ended in a very public disaster. His promised trade deal with China is not only hanging by a thread, but the Chinese premier told Trump to stay out of it and let Robert Lighthizer handle the negotiations.

Oh, and let’s not forget the number one issue in the districts lost to the GOP as the Democrats resumed control of the House was the President’s demeanor. Now, add in that the Democrats have begun really to put the screws to not only the President but the the President’s business empire, and his rage is predictable.

As has been his lifelong pattern, when pressured, he lashes out at everyone and everything. The raging temper-tantrums (and that’s what they are), once cute when he was Donald Trump, billionaire playboy, are beyond unseemly for the man who holds the most powerful position in the world. They remind us of the 8 year old whose parents never told “no” picking on the kindergartners during recess because the teacher gave him an F on his homework.

Well Mr. President, I’m giving you the same advice I give those petulant 8 year olds. Do your homework and stop punching down.


Let’s Change Some Rules!


Photo courtesy ESPN

You may have missed this last week (it didn’t get as much play as you might think). MLB and the independent Atlantic League have agreed to test some rule changes during the Atlantic League’s 2019 season. The commissioner’s office is trying to figure out two things here: how to reduce the amount of dead time (which is to say, the amount of time with absolutely nothing going on) and how to get more balls into play. Some of the proposed rule changes are minor tweaks, some are dramatic changes in the way the game is played. Here is a breakdown of each, along with my take and a ballpark guesstimate of the chance it becomes an actual MLB rule when the new CBA is negotiated.

Implement computerized ball/strike calls:

This proposed rule change is a bit more nuanced than it might sound at first. There would still be a home plate umpire, and he would still be responsible for calling any pitches that bounce, for calling foul tips, for allowing catcher’s challenges on check swings and other ball/strike duties. But make no mistake, the vast majority of balls and strikes would be called by the computer, similar to the Trackman system currently used to evaluate umpires. There would be several improvements to the game that would come from this, not the least of which would be standardization of the strike zone (as much as we all want to believe the umpires all pretty much call strikes the same, the reality is they don’t). Who would be hurt by this? Pitchers who rely on spotting everything on the edges; quite a few of their pitches that a good catcher can “steal” for them will suddenly become balls. Catchers, as well, who have come to rely on the “pitch framing” metric as a bargaining tool.

Odds of rule being implemented: Better than even, call it 3:1. Yes, catchers, pitchers and agents will be unhappy. But it checks off all the reasons baseball is experimenting, and we’ve already seen technology take over all the controversial plays, anyway.

Change from an 15-inch base to 18 inches:

Nobody I’ve talked to can quite figure out the reasoning behind this proposed change. My personal take is it will mess with the intricate timing of the infield more than perhaps the Lords of Baseball realize. Think about how many plays there are over the course of the season where the batter is out by perhaps an inch at first, or where a runner is thrown out at second by an eyelash. Maybe baseball is trying to get away from needing so many replays, but it seems to me there will be a lot more safe calls as a result. If anything, I might be able to live with a larger bag at second, now that runners are forced to slide through the bag and fielders are required to stay on it until they’ve thrown the ball, thereby giving middle infielders a bit more protection. But there’s no reason to change the base size at first or third.

Odds of rule being implemented: Since nobody knows what MLB is hoping to achieve, this is a difficult to gauge. Call it 50/50.

No mound visits except for injuries or pitching changes:

Look, I understand the casual fan doesn’t understand why a tubby 55 year old dude is jogging out to the mound to talk to the pitcher. I can see them being confused by having the catcher run out to talk to a pitcher, and then the shortstop, and then the first baseman, and so forth. You know what? That’s fine. But there are occasions where having a pitching coach pay a kid on the mound a visit is absolutely necessary (like, say, his mechanics are all messed up and he’s about to throw his arm out). There are legitimate reasons a catcher might have a word with the pitcher (like, changing signs). And yes, sometimes, it’s pure gamesmanship. But that’s baseball. I get MLB is trying to cut down on dead time. But pitching visits aren’t actually dead time, and only people who haven’t ever played the game think it is.

Odds of rule being implemented: Of all the proposed rule changes, this one is the second most certain to become a rule. Baseball has already limited teams to 6 mound visits per game. I also suspect this one will become a former rule quickly – probably in the amount of time it takes some kid to pop an elbow on the mound and his manager to blast the commissioner’s office.

All pitchers must face a minimum of 3 batters, or pitch to the end of an inning, before being replaced:

This one isn’t hard to understand. I’ve certainly railed against the number of pitching changes, LOOGY’s, ROOGY’s, 6th inning specialists, and so forth. But to me, this is going about things the wrong way. If you want to cut down on the number of pitching changes, a far simpler way without messing with basic strategy would be to limit the number of pitchers each team can have on their 25- and 40-man rosters. No more than 10 pitchers on the 25-man, and no more than 16 on the 40-man, roster means managers would have to be more judicious in making pitching changes. Starters would be forced to go deeper, and teams wouldn’t be able to utilize a AAA shuttle to stash relievers.

Odds of rule being implemented: I don’t rate this one as having a very good chance of getting in. Maybe a 1 in 5 chance, since I can’t think of any MLB stakeholder who is going to like it. The players won’t. The union won’t. Managers and GM’s won’t.

Two infielders must be on each side of second base at all times, and no infielder may position himself with either foot in the outfield at any time prior to a pitch being delivered:

The idea here is to get rid of some of more drastic infield shifts (and 4 and 5 man outfield alignments) we’ve seen managers employ recently. I’m not a fan of the idea of eliminating the shift entirely. After all, if the hitters were smart, they would start taking the ball the other way more often. But this is a rule change that’s been discussed a lot over the past couple of seasons, so I suppose we’ll see how it plays out in real life.

Odds of rule being implemented: I think this proposed change, more than any others, depends entirely on how the test plays out. If .240 hitters suddenly turn into .300 hitters, baseball is going to race to put it in. If, as the current data suggests, it only yields one more hit a week league wide, then this will die before ever seeing the light of day.

Reduce the amount of time between half innings and pitching changes by 20 seconds:

About the only people who will complain about reducing the amount of time between half innings will be beer advertisers and hot dog vendors. Reducing the amount of time during a pitching change could pose some problems for pitchers, though – especially if they aren’t given ample time to warm up in the bullpen first, which is a very real possibility without the benefit of mound visits.

Odds of rule being implemented: This one is a virtual lock.

Move the pitcher’s rubber from 60 feet, 6 inches to 62 feet, 6 inches from home plate:

I think this is the rule that got everyone’s attention and has also been almost universally panned. We get it, ok? Pitchers are throwing harder than ever and their breaking pitches are also nastier than ever. The idea here is to allow the hitter more reaction time, thereby increasing the chance they’ll put the ball in play. But of all the ways to accomplish that goal, this is probably the dumbest and whichever nerd in the commissioner’s office came up with this needs to be fired and never let anywhere near a baseball field again. It would mean every pitcher would need to learn how to pitch all over again, because every angle on every pitch would be completely changed – or never be a strike again. Look, you want to even the deck between pitchers and hitters? Lower the strike zone, or lower the mound, or increase the size of the ball. Or even some combination of all three. But not this.

Odds of rule being implemented: What’s a number smaller than zero? Because that’s what the odds are. I think this is being tossed out there as a bargaining chip by MLB, something they know will never happen that hopefully will get some small concession back from the players in the CBA negotiations.


How Ilhan Omar Exposed the Democrats for What They Are


Ilhan Omar, the virulently anti-Semitic congresswoman from Minnesota, has drawn fire for her outlandish statements. But what she hasn’t done is drawn any condemnation from her own party. Unlike the Republicans, who have publicly rebuked the racist Steve King and removed him from all of his committee assignments, the Democrat leaders in the House have proven their own anti-Semitism by refusing to even so much as chastise the congresswoman. Incredibly, this personification of hate still has a seat on the House Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, giving her an outsized voice on American foreign policy.

But none of that should come as a surprise. So far in 2019, the Democrat party has also come out in favor of infanticide. The governor of New York, the scion of the most powerful Democrat family in the state, has taken to publicly applauding his state’s passage of a law that guarantees infanticide. In response to his public statements, Timothy Cardinal Dolan has said this:

“Any thinking human being that would want a baby, allow a baby, to be aborted right up to the moment of birth…anybody who thinks that a baby who survives a gruesome abortion procedure and that a doctor is no longer required to attempt to save that baby’s life – you don’t have to be a Catholic to abhor those types of things.”

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/gov.-cuomo-justifies-legalizing-abortions-up-to-birth-im-not-here-to-repres

Then there’s the governor of Virginia, who said this:


“If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/31/politics/ralph-northam-third-trimester-abortion/index.html

Of course, Ralph Northam has run into other problems as governor of the Old Dominion. He’s also been exposed as being a clueless racist for wearing blackface and then trying to moonwalk during a news conference he called to explain why he’s a racist. Initially, Democrats asked him to resign. A state legislator introduced a resolution to remove him. That all went away and Northam is still governor, and just like Ilhan, has increased his political capital because of his racism.

As sickening as the Democrats turn towards racism, anti-Semitism and infanticide is, that is hardly the end of their radical turn to the hard left. When the party’s darling, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) introduced her “Green New Deal,” it was roundly panned by everyone for what it truly is: full socialism, implemented under the guise of saving the climate. Then something amazing happened: the party’s leading contenders for their presidential nomination in 2020 not only took the GND as a plan but began talking about ways to implement it once they became President. Yes, that’s right: the Democrat’s leaders are openly embracing socialism as the future of a nation founded expressly on freedom.

So, Democrats are now on record as advocating racism, anti-Semitism, infanticide, eugenics and socialism. Maybe it’s time they changed the party logo to something truly representative of their views:

After all, the political party that first used this symbol also stood for the same things.


It’s Time For Ray’s Awful, Terrible Baseball Predictions (AL Edition)


Yesterday, I published my picks for the National League. While I’m writing this a couple of days in advance, I just want to let all you Cubs, Mets and Phillies fans know to keep the hate mail coming (my crystal ball works for more than baseball). Today, I’m turning my crystal ball to the American League, where I’m sure I’ll upset some other fan base. So let’s begin this on the left coast, shall we?

AL West

  1. Houston Astros
  2. Los Angelos Angels of Anaheim
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Texas Rangers
  5. Oakland Athletics

Look, as much as we may not want to admit it, Houston may be even better than last year and they’re playing in what is arguably baseball’s worst division. It is entirely plausible that not only will the Astros surpass 100 wins, but win the AL West by 20+ games. Yes, the rotation lost Dallas Keuchel, but free agent signee Wade Miley is almost a clone. The bullpen should be better with a full season of Roberto Osuna in place of Ken Giles. As for the offense, losing Marwin Gonzales and Brian McCann will hurt some, but a full season of Tyler White and the addition of Michael Brantley will more than offset those players.

The Angels hopes rest on the fragile arms of their starting rotation, which hasn’t combined for even 90 starts in the last three seasons. But baseball’s consensus best player, center fielder Mike Trout, a top five left fielder in Justin Upton and a much-improved defense, led by our generation’s “Wizard”, shortstop Justin Upton, will keep the Angels around .500 this year.

The Mariners traded away almost their entire team this winter. The rebuild is on. If you live in Seattle, you do have right fielder Mitch Haniger and the latest Japanese phenom, Yusei Kukuchi. Other than that, it’s going to be a long season.

But not as long as it will be in Arlington. The Rangers are still in the midst of a rebuild seemingly designed around strikeouts. Unfortunately, those strikeouts are coming from their young hitters and not their pitchers. Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Rougnod Odor and Elvis Andrus may combine for 500 strikeouts this year. Yes, they’ll hit some moonshots in Texas. But the offense’s propensity for leaving men on, combined with a jello pitching staff of never were’s and never will be’s could well mean a 100 loss season.

Oakland was a feel-good story last year. This year, reality will come crashing back on the green and gold. The A’s are going to try and piece together a starting rotation from a bunch of retreads and castoffs, similar to last year, but last year every roll of the dice worked and they had Sean Manea to head things up. This year, no such luck. It’s also hard to believe closer Blake Treinen will replicate an ERA below 1 again. Yes, they have possibly the two best corner infielders in the league in Matt Chapman and Matt Olson, and Khris Davis will likely hit 40 bombs again. But the rest of the team is pretty meh. Last year’s team shocked the world and won 97 games. This year’s version will shock the world again, but by losing 90+ games.

AL Central

  1. Minnesota Twins
  2. Cleveland Indians (WC)
  3. Chicago White Sox
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Detroit Tigers

Yes, I’m going out on a limb and picking the Twins to unseat Cleveland in the Central. But I like every move Minnesota made this offseason. They rebuilt their infield, adding Jonathon Schoop, CJ Cron, and Marwin Gonzalez. They added an ageless hitting machine in Nelson Cruz to be their primary DH. The starting rotation features young aces Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson, and perhaps the most quality depth in the junior circuit. The biggest area of concern will be their bullpen, but this is a team with the depth to make a move at the deadline if they need a reliever or two. 90+ wins for this team is a distinct possibility, although in this weak division 85 might get the job done.

No team had a worse winter than the Indians. They went into November needing outfield help and maybe a second baseman. They arrived in March needing outfielders, a second baseman, a starting catcher, a first baseman, and middle relief help. Yes, the 1-2-3-4 punch of Kluber-Bauer-Carrasco-Clevinger in the starting rotation is the best in the league. But outside of Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, there really isn’t much on hand. Hall of Fame candidate and manager Terry Francona is going to be hard pressed to keep the Tribe from finishing under .500 this year.

The rest of the division is kind of a toss-up, but I’m going with the White Sox simply because some of their young talent looks ready for the major leagues. Finishing with a winning record is probably beyond their ability, but watching Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, Yolmer Sanchez and Adam Engel will at least make the ChiSox exciting to watch.

Kansas City will lead the league in stolen bases. GM Dayton Moore has stockpiled a team full of speedsters, led by possibly the best second baseman in the game, Whit Merrifield. He’ll have plenty of competition for the stolen base crown from teammates Adelberto Mondesi, Billy Hamilton and Brett Phillips, provided that trio can actually get on base.

Detroit is waiting on trading right fielder Nick Castellanos and watching first baseman Miguel Cabrera add to his Hall of Fame resume. Other than that, the Tigers will battle Baltimore for the worst record in the league.

AL East

  1. New York Yankees
  2. Boston Red Sox (WC)
  3. Toronto Blue Jays (WC)
  4. Tampa Bay Rays
  5. Baltimore Orioles

The division last year featured two 100 win teams, in the Yankees and Red Sox. This year, the Yankees set about improving their weaknesses while Boston suffered some big player losses. Those two factors will give the Bronx Bombers a slight edge for the division title this year. New York added starting pitcher James Paxton, re-signed JA Happ to be the fourth starter and brought back CC Sabathia for one final go-round in his Hall of Fame career. An offense that set the major league record with 269 home runs last season has a legitimate shot at topping 300 dingers, with full seasons from Aaron Judge, Greg Bird and Gleyber Torres, valuable additions Troy Tulowitzki and Luke Voit, and bounce back years from Gary Sanchez and Clint Frazier. But the key to New York’s season will be their bullpen, possibly the most dominant in history with All-Stars Dellin Betances, Adam Ottavino and Zack Britton setting up closer Aroldis Chapman.

Boston returns much of the same team from last year, but is missing two key members of that team’s bullpen: setup man Joe Kelly is now a Dodger and closer Craig Kimbrel is (unbelievably) still a free agent. Boston hopes to fill their spots from within. Otherwise, they’ll continue to a rely on well above starting pitching, paced by Chris Sale and David Price and abundant offense, led by the game’s best right fielder, Mookie Betts and DH JD Martinez. The Red Sox and Yankees will be in a dogfight until the last week of the season, and the possibility of both teams eclipsing 100 wins again remains a real possibility.

The Blue Jays were one of last year’s most disappointing teams, but will be one of this year’s pleasant surprises. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr may start the season at AAA, but by May he’ll be in Toronto, solidifying a deep lineup that includes Lourdes Gurriel at short, All-Star first baseman Justin Smoak, Brandon Drury at second and Randall Grichuk in right field. But the biggest improvement will be in the pitching, with Marcus Stroman reclaiming his spot among the games best, Aaron Sanchez finally over his blister problems and Matt Shoemaker leaving the injures that largely sidelined him the past two years in California. Volatile closer Ken Giles may cost this Jays team a couple of wins, but they should still be good enough to sneak into the second Wild Card slot.

Tampa Bay surprised everyone last year by winning 90 games. They’ll still be decent, but not 90 wins decent. No team relied less on their starters last year than the Rays, as they sprang the concept of the “opener” on the baseball world. Despite that, Ian Snell won the AL Cy Young, turning in one of the best seasons by a starting pitcher in recent memory. Additions Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow will lend support, but Tampa looks primed to use an opener and their deep, if unproven, bullpen two to three times a week. The offense will be anchored by left fielder Tommy Pham and catcher Mike Zunino, while a cast of youngsters (Austin Meadows, Brett Duffy, Yandy Diaz and Willy Adames being the most prominent) tries to acclimate themselves to the major league game.

Baltimore lost 110 games last year. It’s possible this year’s team will be even worse. The most exciting thing will be to see if former All-Star first baseman Chris Davis descent into being the worst player in the major leagues continues. Beyond that, buy a scorecard if you go to an Orioles game, because otherwise you won’t know the players.


It’s Time for Ray’s Awful, Terrible Baseball Predictions


We’re less than a month away from meaningful baseball games beginning and that can only mean one thing. Yes friends, it is time once again for my predictions. Last year, I picked 3 of 6 divisions correctly. But the Braves were a shocker to almost everyone, I didn’t miss on the Brewers by much (I had them in the Wild Card game), and the Red Sox were much better than pretty much anyone expected last Spring. Anyway, here’s this year’s picks, beginning with what should be baseball’s most interesting division.

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals
  2. Philadelphia Phillies (WC)
  3. Atlanta Braves
  4. New York Mets
  5. Florida Marlins

This division should be a dogfight until the last game of the season, but I’m picking the Nationals for one reason: their pitching staff should be the best in the division, if not all of MLB. Yes, they lost Bryce Harper to the division rival Phillies, but if healthy, Adam Eaton will add more athleticism in right field, while Victor Robles in center will be a contender for Rookie of the Year. There are still plenty of big bats, led by Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, and Juan Soto to make for a top-notch lineup.

The Phillies made multiple significant additions besides Harper. Catcher JT Realmuto and shortstop Jean Segura are a pair of All-Star caliber players obtained in shrewd trades, and veteran free agent Andrew McCutcheon was an equally shrewd signing. They added another proven veteran to their bullpen in David Robertson. In fact, the Phillies could have a really good bullpen, if second-year man Seranthony Dominguez can replicate last season’s success and old pros Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek can stay off the injured list. Combined with what should be one of the league’s best offenses, that will be enough to contend for a Wild Card berth. The one thing holding this team back is their starting rotation, which right now is Aaron Nola, a declining Jake Arrietta and a cast of hundreds.

The Braves added third baseman Josh Donaldson, who will want to prove he has more left in the tank. Added to perennial MVP candidate Freddie Freeman and last year’s Rookie of the Year, left fielder Ronald Acuna and super-utilityman Johann Camargo, Atlanta will be another high scoring team that will only go as far as their pitching can take them. The Braves are relying on a bunch of unproven kids, led by All-Star Mike Foltynewicz. That bodes well for 2020, but not so much for 2019.

The Mets are another team that has made wholesale changes. New GM Brodie van Wagenen brought in the ageless Robinson Cano to play second base, Jed Lowrie to play everywhere, All-Star Wilson Ramos to catch and last year’s best closer in Edwin Diaz. However, age and injuries will once again be the New Yorker’s biggest problem and will end their season by mid-August. Still, the Mets have two intriguing rookies in first basemen Peter Alonso and Dominic Smith. Look for one of them to be traded at the deadline for a nice return.

Finally, the Marlins, whose best player is either Starlin Castro or Neil Walker. Yep, enough said.

NL Central

  1. St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Milwaukee Brewers
  3. Pittsburgh Pirates
  4. Chicago Cubs
  5. Cincinnati Reds

The Cardinals quietly had one of the better offseasons of any team in baseball. They added first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, which automatically improved their defense and offense. That shifted Matt Carpenter back to third. The offense, led by Goldschmidt, Carpenter, left fielder Marcell Ozuna and shortstop Paul DeJong, will be among the league’s best. The Cards have been done in by bullpen woes the past couple of seasons, but the addition of Andrew Miller will help settle that unit down, and only the Dodgers have a deeper rotation.

Still, St. Louis isn’t going to run away with the division. The defending division champion Brewers return the bulk of their team from last season, including MVP right fielder Christian Yellich and Mike Moustakas trying to make the switch to second base. And like last year, the Milwaukee will try to ride a mix-and-match rotation and dominant bullpen to another division crown. Unlike last year, that rotation instability will leave them just short of both first place and a Wild Card berth.

Pittsburgh remains a team that seemingly will never spend on players. Despite that, they’ll still be in contention when the calendar turns to September, led by a young and excellent rotation, headed by Chris Archer and Jamison Taillon. A middling offense, paced by Cory Dickerson and my candidate for this year’s breakout player, Colin Moran, will score just enough runs to power the Bucs to a winning record and respectable third place finish.

Is there any team with more internal turmoil than the Cubs? While that formula worked for the Yankees of the late 70s, it usually spells doom. So it will be for the North Siders this year. The talent is certainly there to contend, with an offense led by Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ. But the rotation is far from settled, with Yu Darvish and Tyler Chatwood looking to make good on their untradeable contracts, an aging Jon Lester and Jose Quintana wondering if he should have stayed on the South Side. The bullpen may be a strength – or a weakness if last year’s injury woes repeat. Add in the drama around shortstop Addison Russell and manager Joe Maddon’s contract status, and Chicago looks set up for a fourth place finish and their first losing season since 2015.

Cincinnati made a lot of moves this offseason and definitely improved their team. They still have first baseman Joey Votto and second baseman Scooter Gennett, and imported outfielders Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig along with pitchers Sonny Gray, Alex Wood, and Tanner Roark. The Reds won’t be dreadful and if they catch a few breaks could even finish above .500. But they are in the wrong division to have dreams of competing.

NL West

  1. Los Angelos Dodgers
  2. Colorado Rockies (WC)
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. San Diego Padres
  5. San Francisco Giants

The Dodgers biggest addition will be the return of young shortstop Cory Seager, who should cement their offense. Free agent center fielder AJ Pollock has some serious injury history, but LA’s habit of mix-and-matching players should keep him rested enough to avoid those. As always, everything in Tinseltown begins and ends with their starting rotation, which goes ten deep with quality options. That rotation is backed by a top-five bullpen, still headlined by Kenley Jansen.

The Rockies may play in a hitter’s paradise, but their team didn’t really take advantage of it last year. This year, with the addition of Daniel Murphy (who will slide from second to first base), the promotion of promising rookie Ryan McMahon and David Dahl getting a full-time slot in right field, that looks to change. Provided young starters Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, and Tyler Anderson continue to give the team quality innings, a 90 win season and Wild Card berth is likely.

Arizona is a team that can’t quite transition to rebuild mode, so long as ace Zack Greinke and his $34 million salary are in the desert. They traded away perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt and slid Jake Lamb over from third to man his spot. They also lost AJ Pollock. In short, the Snake’s offense and defense will be dramatically worse than last season. While getting to .500 will be a struggle for team, this division is so weak that a third place finish is likely.

San Diego has Manny Machado and some of the best young talent in baseball. Those storylines alone will make the Padres one of the more interesting teams to follow, but the Friars are still a couple of years away from contending.

The Giants have Buster Posey, Madison Bumgardner and the memories of championships past. They also have a cold, foggy baseball stadium, which will be a fitting venue for one of baseball’s dreariest teams this year. 100 losses is a distinct possibility for this historic franchise.

Tomorrow, I’ll turn my sights on the American League.


Jussie Journalism


Unless you live under a rock, you know that actor Jussie Smollett is in the center of a firestorm of his own making. To wit: in January, he claimed he was attacked at 2am by two masked men wearing “MAGA” hats, a noose was placed around his neck and he was doused with bleach while they screamed racial and anti-gay epithets at him, finishing with “This MAGA country!”.

Now, anyone with more than two active brain cells immediately noticed some oddities with his story. First, it seemed rather strange that two whack jobs of this type would just be hanging out at 2am on any January night in Chicago, never mind the coldest one in 30 years, looking for a B list actor. It also seemed weird that despite the violence of that attack, the actor’s sandwich remained undisturbed. It was equally odd that he still had that noose around his neck, even while at the hospital. Finally, the attack happened to take place in one of the most liberal neighborhoods in Chicago, an area that favorably compares to Greenwich Village or Haight-Ashbury in terms of gay acceptance, one that is peppered with surveillance cameras – yet, the attackers knew exactly where a camera was turned the wrong way to catch them in the act.

None of what’s written above is in dispute. The possibility that the entire thing was staged was there from the beginning. There were enough red flags in the initial story that nobody should have assumed the actor was not acting. Yet – and this is the most disturbing part of the story – the media jumped to accept it as gospel truth.

Indeed, even at this late date, when the Chicago PD no longer considers Smollett a victim, when a grand jury is being convened, when the “attackers” (a pair of Nigerian brothers) have admitted to being paid by Smollett and rehearsing the “attack”, there are still those in mass media who refuse to admit the entire story is a hoax. Why would these “reporters” still have blinders on regarding the story?

The reason is simple: journalism is no longer about reporting facts and letting the reader decide for themselves the import of a story. It is about advocacy, almost always in favor of the most extreme liberal positions. This change in journalistic standards is what has led to the rise of what we deride as “fake news” but perhaps should actually call “false advocacy.” The merging of the long-standing liberal op-ed sections with the reporting division of a news organization means that Americans no longer get straight news, but a very slanted, often inaccurate, version of the news.

Look, it isn’t like the Smollett story happened in a vacuum. Since the 2016 campaign, there has been a concerted effort by the media to define the typical Trump supporter as a racist, homophobic, misogynist with a propensity of violence towards minorities. The Daily Caller has published a list of reported “hate crimes” that turned out to be hoaxes, so has Hot Air. The only thing that should be surprising at this point is if we go a month without one of these hoaxes being perpetrated on us.

Yet the media continues to push these hoaxes as if they were actual newsworthy events. It’s as if they intentionally want to beclown themselves. 2019 is not even 7 weeks old and already the national media has fallen prey to two massive hoaxes: Smollett, and the Covington Catholic students. In each instance, the national media whipped a frenzy of outrage against the supposed perpetrators and natures of the “crimes,” but then was forced to eat crow when the truth came out. The alleged victims have been thoroughly disgraced, largely because the media attention lavished on them led to a backlash once their complicity in the hoaxes became apparent.

The media loves to lament how Americans no longer trust the news that is being reported. But they fail to recognize how their own actions in creating false narratives around the stories they’re reporting led to that distrust. Their insistence on editorializing, rather than reporting, created a climate in which everything that is reported has to be taken with a grain of salt.

If the media wants to regain the public’s trust, the answer is staring them in the face. Instead of following in the footsteps of Dan Rather and Brian Williams, they need to return to the journalistic practices of Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow. Instead of Brian Stelter defending the lack of integrity in journalism, they need Brian Stelter to call out the journalistic malpractice that leads to stories like the Smollett hoax being given credibility.

Will they? Probably not anytime soon. The pronouncements of media malfeasance from Lara Logan and Cheryl Atkinsson are so much shouting into the wind at this point, The vast majority of media types are focused on their advocacy to the point that they no longer care about accurate reporting, only ensuring the stories they report fit their preferred narrative.

In the meantime, learn from the Smollett story. Do not believe the media narrative. Dig deeper, find the facts (which means multisourcing every story of interest) and come to your own conclusions – and hold those opinions to yourself until you’re certain all the facts are available.


Reality Check: Trump Derangement Syndrome


President Donald J. Trump

I found the following on Facebook. The original author seems to be lost in the mists of the internet, so sadly I cannot give proper attribution. But while I may not know the person who wrote this, I cannot help but think this is exactly what the leftists that think they run things still fail to comprehend. Read on if you dare. The words may not be mine, but the sentiment certainly is.

“After 2 years no collusion! To all the people who let this election break up families and friends let this sink in I think the last civil conversations we had occurred just days before November 8, 2016. You were supremely confident Hillary Clinton would win the presidential election; you voted for her with glee.

As a lifelong Republican, I bit down hard and cast my vote for Donald Trump. Then the unimaginable happened. He won.

And you lost your freaking minds.

I knew you would take the loss hard—and personally—since all of you were super jacked-up to elect the first woman president. But I did not imagine you would become totally deranged, attacking anyone who voted for Trump or supported his presidency as a racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic Nazi-sympathizer.

The weirdness started on social media late on Election Night, as it became clear Hillary was going to lose. A few of you actually admitted that you were cradling your sleeping children, weeping, wondering what to tell your kindergartner the next morning about Trump’s victory. It continued over the next several days. Some of you seriously expressed fear about modern-day concentration camps. Despite living a privileged lifestyle, you were suddenly a casualty of the white patriarchy. Your daughters were future victims; your sons were predators-in-waiting. You threatened to leave Facebook because you could no longer enjoy the family photos or vacation posts from people who, once friends, became Literal Hitlers to you on November 8 because they voted for Donald Trump.

I admit I was a little hurt at first. The attacks by the media and you against us Trump voters were so personal and so vicious that I did not think it could be sustained. I thought maybe you would regain your sanity after some turkey and egg nog.

But you did not. You got worse. And I went from sad to angry to where I am today: Amused.

As the whole charade you have been suckered into over the last 24 months starts to fall apart—that Trump would not survive his presidency; he would be betrayed by his own staff, family, and/or political party; he would destroy the Republican Party; he would be declared mentally ill and removed from office; he would be handcuffed and dragged out of the White House by Robert Mueller for “colluding” with Russia—let me remind you what complete fools you have made of yourselves! Not to mention how you’ve been fooled by the media, and the Democratic Party.

On November 9, you awoke from a self-induced, eight-year-long political coma to find that White House press secretaries shade the truth and top presidential advisors run political cover for their boss. You were shocked to discover that presidents exaggerate, even lie, on occasion. You became interested for the first time about the travel accommodations, office expenses, and lobbyist pals of administration officials. You started counting how many rounds of golf the president played. You suddenly thought it was fine to disrespected women and mock the first lady now that she wasn’t Michelle Obama.
Once you removed your pussy hat after attending the Women’s March, you made fun of Kellyanne Conway’s hair, Sarah Sanders’ weight, Melania Trump’s shoes, Hope Hicks’ death stare; you helped fuel a rumor started by a bottom-feeding author that U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley slept with Donald Trump.
You thought it was A-OK that Betsy DeVos was nearly physically assaulted and routinely heckled. You glorified a woman who was a stripper and who has sex on camera for a paycheck.

You have learned all kinds of new things that those of us who didn’t willfully ignore politics for the past eight years already knew. For example, we already knew that illegal immigrants for years were being deported and families were being separated.

Some of your behavior has been kinda cute. It was endearing to watch you become experts on the Logan Act, the Hatch Act, the Second Amendment, the 25th Amendment, and the Emoluments Clause. You developed a new crush on Mitt Romney after calling him a “sexist” for having “binders full of women.”
You longed for a redux of the presidency of George W. Bush, a man you once wanted imprisoned for war crimes. Ditto for John McCain. You embraced people like Bill Kristol and David Frum without knowing anything about their histories of shotgunning the Iraq War.

Classified emails shared by Hillary Clinton? Who cares! Devin Nunes wanting to declassify crucial information of the public interest? Traitor!

But your newfound admiration and fealty to law enforcement really has been a fascinating transformation. Wasn’t it just last fall that I saw you loudly supporting professional athletes who were protesting police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem? Remember how you fanboyed a mediocre quarterback for wearing socks that depicted cops as pigs?

But now you sound like paid spokesmen for the Fraternal Order of Police. You insist that any legitimate criticism of the misconduct and possible criminality that occurred at the Justice Department and FBI is an “attack on law enforcement.” While you once opposed the Patriot Act because it might have allowed the federal government to spy on terrorists who were using the local library to learn how to make suitcase bombs, you now fully support the unchecked power of a secret court to look into the phone calls, text messages and emails of an American citizen because he volunteered for the Trump campaign for a few months.

Spying on terrorists, circa 2002: Bad. Spying on Carter Page, circa 2017: The highest form of patriotism.

And that white, male patriarchy that you were convinced would strip away basic rights and silence any opposition after Trump won? That fear has apparently been washed away as you hang on every word uttered by white male James Comey, John Brennan, and James Clapper. This triumvirate is exhibit “A” of the old-boy network, and represents how the insularity, arrogance, and cover-your-tracks mentality of the white-male power structure still prevails. Yet, instead of rising up against it, you are buying their books, retweeting their Twitter rants and blasting anyone who dares to question their testicular authority. Your pussy hat must be very sad.

But your daily meltdowns about Trump-Russia election collusion have been the most entertaining to observe. After Robert Mueller was appointed as Special Counsel, you were absolutely convinced it would result in Trump’s arrest and/or impeachment. Some of you insisted that Trump wouldn’t last beyond 2017. You quickly swallowed any chum tossed at you by the Trump-hating media on MSNBC, the New York Times and the Washington Post about who was going down next, or who would flip on the president.

For the past 2 years, I have watched you obsess over a rotating cast of characters: Paul Manafort, Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Carter Page, Reince Priebus, Jeff Sessions, Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, Sam Nunberg, and Hope Hicks are just a few of the people you thought would turn on Trump or hasten his political demise. But when those fantasies didn’t come true, you turned to Michael Avenatti and Stormy Daniels for hope and inspiration. It will always be your low point.

Well, I think it will be. Each time I believe you’ve hit bottom, you come up with a new baseline. Perhaps defending the unprecedented use of federal power to spy on political foes then lie about it will the next nail in your credibility coffin.

The next several weeks will be tough for you. I think Americans will learn some very hard truths about what happened in the previous administration and how we purposely have been misled by powerful leaders and the news media. I wish I could see you as a victim here, but you are not. I know you chose to support this insurgency blindly, following anything the democrat propaganda agents (media) lies about, with your eyes closed.”


The Great Cave In


Yay! The government shutdown is over. So what was gained by the political games over the past five weeks?

Well, nothing if you’re a fan of the President. Even less if you’re a small government conservative. To wit: the President shut down the government for better than a month in order to secure funding for a wall on the southern border. Then he changed that to steel slats. Then he changed it again to a down payment on steel slats. Finally, he agreed to a continuing resolution in exchange for revisiting the entire thing on February 15. However, the Democrat’s leader has already made clear she will not allow any funding for a wall, or steel slats, or any other sort of border barrier.

In other words, Donald Trump got rolled like a drunk in Hell’s Kitchen.

Now he can try to go around Congress come February 15 and declare an emergency on the border in order to build his wall (or steel slats, or… you get the idea). By midnight on the 16th, the courts will enjoin him from carrying out that order. It will make its way through the court system, eventually winding up before SCOTUS. The likely result? SCOTUS will affirm the lower court order, as there is nothing in the Constitution that allows the President to bypass Congress.

The shame of all this is, the shutdown could have been much more instructive if handled better. The President could have moved to privatize both the ATC and TSA. He could have pushed for funding the IRS and Border Patrol separately. (To their credit, some House Republicans did offer bills to do just those things). He could have activated the Coast Guard into the Navy, thereby funding them. The shutdown could have been used to showcase how little the federal government does that positively affects the everyday lives of ordinary Americans.

But since Trump is, at heart, a big government guy, such a tactic never even occurred to him. Think about it: a Republican president shut down the government because a Democrat-controlled House wouldn’t give him more money. I can’t recall any other time in our history such a thing has happened. He can’t be said to have abandoned the most fundamental policy of conservatism since he never embraced it. But it was that lack of understanding that ultimately led to his defeat.

The question is what Trump does next. The main thing those die-hard Trump supporters believe in is his infallibility in negotiations and his ability to turn losses into wins. However, unlike his failures in the private sector, there is no Deutsche Bank ready to ride in with loans to save his businesses. There is no Carl Icahn showing up with a bailout. There is no Jeffrey Zucker willing to be complicit in an identity makeover. He is on his own, against a foe who’s implacable in her opposition and much better versed at holding a political party together.

This isn’t to say some sort of compromise isn’t available. They can fudge on the wording allowing everyone to declare a victory. The President has already demonstrated that he’s willing to call a bunch of steel slats shoved into the desert sand “a big, powerful wall”, even though nobody with a functioning brain cell thinks it is. But in order to get that, he’ll need to be gracious enough to allow the Democrats to say they aren’t funding a border wall. It’s a trait that is not part of Donald Trump’s character.