I’m in awe of the two greatest women I’ve ever known.
It’s sometimes hard to believe that this will be the 28th Mother’s Day without my Mom. 28 years since she passed, 28 years without her sage advice (like ”Don’t follow your heart. Follow your mind and just let the heart make suggestions” and “If you only worry about making the good stuff happen, you don’t have time to worry about the other stuff”). There’s not a day goes by that I don’t miss you terribly. You never lived to see me marry, to find the career success you knew would come my way (even when I doubted myself), to see your grandsons.
Which let’s me seque to the other totally amazing woman in my life. For over 20 years, she’s been not only my rock, but the woman who provides our sons a shoulder to cry on or a swift kick in the ass. She’s mended scraped knees and broken hearts, packed lunches along with a wicked wit and despite being badly outnumbered in a testosterone fueled home, kept all of us in line.
So Happy Mother’s Day, Linda!
And Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
There’s been a slowly stirring undercurrent in the world of social media for some time – the outright banning of some people, or the even more insidious “shadow bans’ others have experienced. This received even more attention last week when Facebook announced it was removing several prominent accounts. The reason those accounts were removed wasn’t for any reason other than the things they posted offended the politically correct zeitgeist.
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.Martin Niemoeller
“Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
“Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
I have nothing in common with Louis Farrakhan, Paul Joseph Watson or Alex Jones. Farrakhan is a virulent anti-semite, Jones a crackpot conspiracy theorist and Watson a social media muckraker. The views of Farrakhan and Jones are abhorrent to me. As for Watson, I doubt the man has ever had an original thought. His principle thought crime seems to be that he amplifies some of the most ridiculous and salacious content to be found on the internet.
But even if you disagree with Farrakhan’s contention that Jews are the root of all evil, with Jones belief that Sandy Hook was a government plot, or with Watson’s desire to monetize the PizzaGate nonsense, you should still be concerned with Silicon Valley’s determination that somehow their opinions are less deserving to be aired than say, Alyssa Milano’s endless screeds about the world ending unless we adopt full-blown SJW socialism. Why? See the quote referenced above.
I doubt there are few beliefs that are more ingrained into our collective soul as the belief in the freedom of speech. Notice I did not say freedom of the press, which today seems to be some pundits preferred alternative to allowing the rabble to speak their minds. The first amendment of our Constitution places freedom of speech ahead of freedom of the press. We’ve accepted (somewhat begrudgingly) that there are some very limited restrictions on that freedom. You can’t run into a crowded theater and yell “Fire” if there isn’t a fire. You can’t knowingly disparage a private citizen in public, seeking to to ruin their lives, without facing potential civil and criminal charges. But that’s about it. Otherwise, our society says if you feel the need to say something, you get to say something.
Throughout our history, our nation has gone to extreme lengths to ensure we can say what we want, when we want. This protection has extended to all forms of speech. Be it Nazi’s marching in Skokie, IL or artists defacing religious symbols, we’ve let speech that offended our collective sensibilities stand. We let these things be, because we understood taking away one man’s (or group’s) freedom of speech is taking it away from all of us.
I fully understand the hesitation in enforcing these standards on the social media giants. I realize they are private companies and under current law, exempt from regulation over what content they carry and to whom they transmit that content. The libertarian in me wishes that this could remain the case.
Early on in American life, the concept of the “soapbox” was created. This was the ability of any person to grab a literal soapbox, head down to the town square, stand atop said soapbox and shout their fool head off about whatever subject prompted them to want to shout their fool head off. We don’t have town squares anymore, at least not in the sense of a public space that we all pass through at least once a day, and maybe stop for a while to chat with friends, do some window shopping, read the news, and so on.
But do you know what we’ve created as the modern equivalent of a public space that we all pass through at least once a day, and maybe stop for a while to chat with friends, do some window shopping, read the news, and so on? Yep. Social media.
From early on in American life, a person with a message they considered important enough to get out into the public sphere could pay a printer to print up a few thousand copies of a pamphlet. If one printer wouldn’t do it, there were others who would. Some of the greatest political treatises of the young country were created in this way. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense may be the famous of these, but right through the late 20th century the political pamphlet was an essential method of getting your views widely distributed. (I still have a copy of one I had researched for an old college paper, entitled “How to Get Rich! Written for Poor Men, and Young Beginners of Life, by their Affectionate Friend Uncle Ben, Who Was Once in Both These Conditions, but is Now in Neither” that was written in 1871).
Today, while that method might still be available, it has neither the immediacy nor reach of social media.
As mentioned, I understand the reluctance of conservatives to change the nature of social media companies to prevent them from censoring content. Were they, in fact, truly content independent information funnels I would agree with that assessment. But anyone who’s observed their censorious actions over the past 36 months has to have realized by now that they are neither independent nor true information pipes. Their political biases show strongly in their actions. Not that I have a problem with political bias in publication. After all, there is a reason I read both the Daily Beast and the Daily Caller: I know before I ever open either site, the stories I read will have a certain political slant. But if the social media platforms we all use only have one political slant, isn’t that a dangerous form of censorship? Is that not unlike our forebears deciding only certain views could be aired from atop that soapbox?
Another of the arguments I’ve heard is that since these are free services, we are not paying customers and therefore have no say over how they run their businesses. This is about as poorly informed an argument as you could make. As has come to light ever since the Cambridge Analytica fiasco was exposed a year ago is that while we may not pay a monthly fee to the social media juggernauts, that is only because they have something far more valuable of ours. They have the ability to sell our information, our likes, our dislikes, our friends, where we’ve traveled, even our entertainment preferences, to the highest bidder. Or to multiple bidders, if they choose. It’s all right there in those EULA’s nobody ever reads before clicking “ok.” I would tell anyone who says they don’t pay a social media company any sort of fee they’re not only wrong – they paid them tens of thousands of dollars before they created their first post. In fact, you could say I pay several publishers (social media) to print and distribute my modern pamphlet (this blog).
Finally, there is the argument that we do not regulate any other media company in such a manner. The Washington Post, for instance, is free to only air virulent anti-Trump opinions. But therein lies the rub: are companies like Facebook and Twitter only media content companies, existing to compete with other media content companies? Or are they more like akin to media distribution companies, which are prohibited from excluding content (with certain narrow exceptions)?
First, let’s examine the real-world business of social media. Yes, there are competitors to Facebook and Twitter. But those two companies account for over 80% of global traffic. After all, the key to being a “social” media company is the social part. The entire business is predicated on being a near monopoly. You go there because your friends, acquaintances and family are there. Sure, I could get together with a couple of friends, raise a few billion dollars and try to start my own social media company. But unless I could compel people to move en masse from Facebook or Twitter to my platform, I would either be out of business (or if I had developed enough “cool” features, swallowed by one of them).
Next, let’s look at their own mission statements. Facebook aims to, “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” What Twitter wants “is to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers.” Remember our Town Square analogy? It looks as though both social media giants are fully on board with that concept, in word if not in deed.
And that, my friends, should be enough to nail this down. By their own mission statements, these are not media creation companies. They are media distribution companies. Therefore, they should be classified as such – and their censorship should end immediately.
The alternative is wonder which of us will be the socialist, the unionist and the Jew to some future philosopher.
Sorry for disappearing for so long. For those who aren’t aware, on March 28th I had an ileostomy performed. As I’ve been recovering since then, I’ve had neither the energy to write nor the physical ability to sit up long enough to do so.
Of course, there were post-operative complications. My lungs, badly damaged by the chemicals at Camp Lejeune during my time there, nearly failed during surgery. To assist with breathing, I was on an interesting machine called a “bipap” for part of my recovery time. I not only had to recover from the surgery to abdomen, but also from the pneumonia I developed on the operating table. Because not being able to breathe isn’t enough of a complication, the part of my intestine that now forms my ostomy developed an annoying habit of expanding 5 to 6 inches from my skin. But that seems to be resolving itself with time; the doctors assured me that while not common it also isn’t unheard of and it isn’t particularly dangerous. Unless, of course, I run into something stomach first while that’s happening. I would prefer not to think of how messy that would be.
Still, as the saying goes, all’s well that ends well. So far, my recovery is on schedule and it’s time to get back to as much of my regular life as I can manage. I won’t be able to lift anything heavier than a milk jug for a few more weeks and I’m still adjusting to not being able to sleep on my right side. I’m not supposed to bend, twist or otherwise torque my midsection until June. On a positive note, this has been a terrific weight loss program. I’m down almost 30 pounds since the surgery.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to pause and thank the wonderful doctors and nurses at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. In particular, I want to thank Dr. Najia Mahmoud, Chief of Colorectal Surgery and her amazing team for their compassion and expertise. I also need to thank the nurses of the SICU, who managed to keep me comfortable and goad my recovery while also keeping my frightened family reassured and informed.
So anyway, get ready for a blizzard of posts. One of the things that happens when you spend so much time lying around is you think. A lot. Now it’s time to put those thoughts into something more substantial than a Twitter post.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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?
- Houston Astros
- Los Angelos Angels of Anaheim
- Seattle Mariners
- Texas Rangers
- 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.
- Minnesota Twins
- Cleveland Indians (WC)
- Chicago White Sox
- Kansas City Royals
- 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.
- New York Yankees
- Boston Red Sox (WC)
- Toronto Blue Jays (WC)
- Tampa Bay Rays
- 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.
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.
- Washington Nationals
- Philadelphia Phillies (WC)
- Atlanta Braves
- New York Mets
- 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.
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Chicago Cubs
- 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.
- Los Angelos Dodgers
- Colorado Rockies (WC)
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- San Diego Padres
- 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.