Results tagged ‘ MLB ’

Dirty Dancing at the World Bank

In response to the twin shocks of the Great Depression and World War II, the allied powers decided to cooperate on a system that would hopefully prevent another catastrophic financial collapse.  The plan they came up with, the Bretton Woods system, created two of the most powerful financial institutions in the world today, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

By convention, the IMF is headed by a European and the World Bank by an American.  And since voting is by quota, not by a one vote per person system, it’s relatively easy for this practice to continue.  That doesn’t mean the unwritten policy is always appreciated, though.  For instance, the World Bank is in the process of electing a new president who is not the top choice of the African continent and most of the developing world, the constituencies most served by the Bank.  If you’re curious as to who this person might be, wait until about the two minute point in this video and you’ll see him:

Yes, he’s the former President of Dartmouth.  Yes, he’s a founder of Partner’s in Health which has ostensibly helped many poor people in Haiti access health care.  However, Mr. Jim Yong Kim is not a good dancer.  He also has no background in economics despite that being somewhat germane to the subject matter.  Actually, let’s really simplify this.  Bud Selig is more qualified to be MLB Commissioner than Kim is to be World Bank president.  Man, that statement even scares me.

-A

You, Robot

Robots do pretty much everything these days.  They build cars, they do the vacuuming.  Some of the more nefarious ones get sent back from the future to kill unsuspecting young men while others freakishly decapitate fiancees leading to epic quotes like, “That’s not your arm.  That’s my bitch’s arm.”

Ok, so maybe the last two aren’t real but robots have advanced by leaps and bounds.  In fact, there’s a good chance that someday soon one of those leaps or bounds could be by a robot chasing you down in the streets.  Don’t believe me?  Check this out.  If that doesn’t scare you, how about this little factoid?  Your grandkids are going to have sex with robots.

One thing you don’t have to worry about, though, is robots taking over baseball.

Yep, we’re safe for now.

-A

Great Scott! -or- Why I Support the Individual Mandate

The idea behind insurance is that you pay a premium and if things go pear-shaped, there’s a safety net there to catch you.  It may not pay everything but it will pay enough that you won’t be ruined.  This is true for vehicles, this is true for health care and this is true for the guy who got his crotch insured.

The thing about insurance is that it works best with larger economies of scale.  Sure, there are the one-off specialty policies for Bruce Springsteen’s voice or Tina Turner’s legs but the vast majority of insurance policies cover things like health care or vehicle damage.  The larger the pot, the lower your premium because the risk gets spread out.  That’s why Obama made the “individual mandate” the centerpiece of his health care legislation.

For me, this is the most frustrating aspect of the legal challenge to the legislation.  The main challenge lies in the interpretation of the Commerce clause of the Constitution but, like many clauses in the Constitution, this can and has been interpreted many different ways.  Pretty much it just depends on how the Court feels the day it votes. And if the court is feeling especially conservative the day it decides this portion of the case, the “individual mandate” disappears.

The problem with the mandate disappearing is that the young and the stupid who think that they are invincible no longer have any pressure to purchase insurance, shrinking the pot.  This has two effects.  Number one, the pot now contains a greater percentage of people with existing or possible health problems meaning the risk has gone up and the premiums along with it.  The second problem is that when one of these young and stupid people ends up in the hospital, the system is forced to eat the costs because they didn’t have insurance.  What that really means is that your premiums go up again because the cost of that hospital stay has to be payed by someone.

Like it or not, the law evolves.  Prohibition came and went.  The Dred Scott decision embarrassed the nation and then was rectified by the 14th Amendment.  The point is, it’s a living thing and has to be to cope with the realities of a new era.  Baseball did away with the dead ball era, expanded multiple times and even now finds ways to adapt to new conditions.  The law does the same as social mores change and our needs evolve.  Right now, we need a health insurance system that works and until you can show me a viable option, the individual mandate is the only realistic path.

The Court’s decision is still weeks away and the debate is not going to die out anytime soon.  I don’t expect the mandate to survive but as health care costs continue to spin out of control, that decision may end up coming back to haunt the Roberts’ Court like Dred Scott did Justice Taney.  Meanwhile, the rest of us might just have to check in with The Boss and see how we can go about insuring at least a body part or two.

-A

Why I am Leaving MLB

The recent New York Times editorial/open letter from a former Goldman Sachs employee appears to have opened the floodgates to those seeking to leave behind a no longer fulfilling employment.  However, RSBS was still shocked when the following letter arrived in our inbox the other day signed simply, Bud S.

-A
________________

TODAY is my last day at MLB. After more than 40 years at the organization — first as a minority owner of the Milwaukee Braves, then in bringing the Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee and renaming them the Brewers, and now as commissioner — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.

To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the owners continue to be sidelined in the way the organization operates and thinks about making money. MLB is one of the world’s largest and most important sports leagues and it is too integral to global baseball to continue to act this way. The organization has veered so far from the place I created that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

But this was not always the case. For instance, over more than a decade I made sure that steroids not only entered the game but also redefined it.  By looking the other way while Sammy, Mark and Barry launched bomb after artificially powered bomb, I ensured that baseball once again excited the ordinary American that had been lured away by the corn syrup sweetness of NASCAR and the NFL.

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look players in the eye and tell them they could continue to juice.

How did we get here? The organization changed the way it thought about owners. Ownership used to be about overcharging fans, merchandising everything from jock straps to girly colored hats and looking the other way while players shot ‘roids in the locker room. Today, if you treat the team as your personal piggy bank (and use its assets to pay off the divorce settlement with your crazy ex-wife) you will lose the team and the money from its lucrative TV rights.

There used to be three quick ways to become a leader among owners: a) Execute on the organization’s “axes,” which is MLB-speak for persuading your fans to buy tickets or other products that we are trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt Elephants.” In English: get your fans — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t — to buy whatever will bring the biggest profit to MLB. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. I prefer to sell them at least three. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any washed-up, aging slugger for much more than he’s worth.  Adam Dunn, anyone?

Today, though, many owners display an MLB culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I attend postseason merchandising and ticket sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help owners or hose fans. It’s purely about how we can make this a “September to Remember.” If you were an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that an owners’ success or pocketbook was not part of the thought process at all.

When I was a minority owner I didn’t know where the bathroom was, or how to tie my shoelaces. I was taught to be concerned with learning the ropes, finding out how to charge more for cheaper hotdogs, understanding the process of selling the same volume of beer at three different (and increasingly more expensive) prices, getting to know our players and what motivated them while making sure they had a safe place and a helping hand when injecting steroids in their asses.

My proudest moments in life — owning a Brewers team that posted one of the worst winning percentages over a ten-year period in the history of baseball, joining other owners in colluding and then helping pay the $280 million settlement, overseeing the worst All-Star game in the history of baseball — have all come through focusing on profits and passing the prices on to the fans. MLB today has become too much “the fan experience” and not enough about soaking the suckers. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.

I hope this can be a wake-up call to the owners. Make your fellow owners the focal point of your business again. Without fans you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. But fans are simple-minded sheep who will do whatever you want so don’t worry about them. Get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons: steroids and making money for the owners. People who care only about making fans happy will not sustain this organization — or the trust of the owners — for very much longer.

Bud S.

Moonbases and Porn and Franchises, Oh My!

As electoral campaigns get rolling and as the candidates feel a need to distinguish themselves, the quotes become more and more interesting.  Sure, there is the obvious craziness of Newt Gingrich and his moonbases but that’s just a drop in the bucket.  You expect that sort of thing from a bipolar former Speaker of the House.

But what about Rick Santorum’s pledge to ban pornography in the United States?  Number one, anyone who feels this strongly about so many “vices” must have a real problem.  Has he even heard of Mark Foley or Ted Haggard?  Number two, the states that most support Santorum, the so-called “Red States” who revel in their religiosity, also happen to be the largest consumers of porn.  Are you really going to tell me that they’ll let Mr. Santorum take away their dirty little secret?

Finally, how would you even go about doing away with porn?  Are you going to start censoring the internet and blocking sites that you consider “morally reprehensible”?  The only place I’ve ever visited where they’ve been even moderately successful with this approach is Saudi Arabia.  I don’t exactly see that as a model for the US.  Besides, you’re going to have about as much luck banning porn in the US as MLB has had in banning PEDs from baseball.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and as long as boys and ballplayers are around, there will always be a will to access porn and PEDs.

Luckily it’s not just Mr. Santorum who’s divorced from reality.  In an effort to prove that he, too, is just a regular guy, Mitt Romney recently let us know that he loves sports just like us.  In fact, he has “good friends” who own NASCAR and NFL teams.  Now, I don’t know if Mr. Romney enjoys car racing or football but there’s a pretty major difference between enjoying sports and being friends with people who own the teams.  If you can’t make that distinction, you probably ought to go back and audit Running for Office 101.

I realize that I’m being pretty hard on the Republicans here.  But, since they’re the ones in the middle of a heated primary fight, they tend to also be the ones making the ridiculous statements.  I’m sure Obama will come out with some of his own once the general election gets underway but for now, he can just sit back and let the other side say what they want.  Sounds like a plan to me.  Moonbases and porn and franchises, oh my!

-A

A Very Graphic Graphic

If you ask most baseball players if it’s justified for a pitcher to hit them with a pitch, I’m going to guess they’ll most likely say no.  Likewise, if you ask most NFL receivers if it’s OK for a defender to spear them while they’re stretched out for a pass, they’ll probably say no.  In general, it’s pretty hard to imagine someone thinking that it’s all right for someone else to hit them.

Well, unless you’re a Jordanian woman:

Graph via The Economist

We’re a week late for International Women’s Day but that doesn’t mean the topic is no longer germane.  Remember, you probably wouldn’t purposely throw a ball at someone during a baseball or softball game so you probably shouldn’t be punching your wife or girlfriend either.

-A

Intangibility

If you were to build the ideal baseball player, you probably wouldn’t come up with Dustin Pedroia.  He’s too small and he just doesn’t look like how a ballplayer should look.  Likewise, you probably wouldn’t come up with CC Sabathia either.  Dude has a huge gut and looks like a whale.

Most likely, if you were constructing the ideal baseball player, you’d come up with someone like Kyle Farnsworth, all six-and-a-half worthless feet of him.  Of course, you’d also then be saddled with his contract and seemingly uncanny ability to melt down in important games.

So why is it that Farnsworth is an object of ridicule (at least here at RSBS) while Pedroia is a former MVP and Sabathia is one of the most consistently good pitchers in baseball?  Well, it’s the same reason that Jeremy Lin happened in the US of A and could never happen in China.  It’s the intangibles that make athletes great and if there’s one thing that we do well in America, it’s the intangibles.

You can have your Yao Mings and your Kyle Farnsworths.  Me, I’ll take my Cecil Fielders and David Wells.  And I bet you ten yuan I’ll win.

-A

Don’t Blame Braun

I feel a little sick to my stomach when I hear about someone getting off on a technicality.  Illegal search, improper handling, failure of the arresting officer to read the suspect their rights.  The list of possible screw-ups is endless.

But you know what’s even worse than seeing someone get off on a technicality?  Watching someone get convicted for a crime they truly didn’t commit.

I’ll be honest, just like all of you, I have no idea whether or not Ryan Braun is guilty.  He claims he’s innocent, MLB implies he’s guilty and the fan is left to wonder what the real story is.  But whether he’s an innocent charged with a crime he didn’t commit or a ne’er-do-well who got off on a technicality, the fact of the matter is that Braun has been cleared and this story never should have been in the press in the first place.  More than that, if Braun was guilty of using PEDs, MLB has no one to blame but itself for his exoneration.

The reason courts and commissions have procedures is so that at the end of the process, you can be absolutely sure that the person was dealt with fairly and deserved the consequences of their actions.  Even though it makes me sick when a criminal goes free because a DNA sample was mishandled, you can’t put that on the criminal.  It’s the fault of the lab or the officers who did the mishandling.

Same goes for Braun.  This isn’t a story about him using PEDs.  No, this is a story about MLB screwing up a procedure that was set in place to assure fairness and impartiality inthe judgement.  MLB has no right to disagree with the arbitration panel’s findings.  If the organization had done their job correctly we’d either just now be finding out that Braun was a cheater or we’d have never heard anything at all.

I don’t like the Braun case.  Whether he juiced or not, this story taints him, taints MLB and taints the game.  However, instead of attacking Braun, the mob should be pointing their fingers at the only known guilty party, an organization that again and again fails to deal appropriately with the issues it faces.  Don’t blame Braun.  Blame Bud.

-A

__________________________

After a grueling off-season training regimen, the Filibuster comes back even bigger and badder then ever next Sunday.  Maybe you want to know what the RSBS crew thinks about divisional realignment.  Perhaps you’d like to make Allen see red by asking his feelings on pink team caps.  Or maybe you’re just wondering why asking Jeff the question “Boxers or briefs” leads him to respond “Depends.”  No matter what the query, send it to RSBSBlog@gmail.com and we’ll let you know what we think.

How the Play-in Will Play Out

I couldn’t be more excited that the NCAA seems to be extricating its head from its nether regions to finally consider instituting a college football playoff.  The only thing better than the thought of the classic matches to come is salivating over the classic matches that could have been.  Sure, I know that Michigan wouldn’t have had a chance against Florida in that 2006 matchup but most people thought Ohio State was going to plow the Gators under so you never know.  That’s the thing about football and a one-game playoff system.  It sucks when you’re on the losing end but it’s great when you win.

But baseball is different.  Sure, there’s a thrill to ending the season on a one-game intra-division playoff and some of those games have become instant classics.  However, despite being the baseball progressive half of the RSBS duo, I find myself wondering about the MLB expanded playoffs.  A play-in wildcard game?  Sure, it’s great for ratings.  And obviously it means a lot more than something like the NCAA basketball play-in game.  But I’m just not sold on it.

On the money side I get it.  A one-off play-in is bound to be a huge financial bonus.  Last year it would have meant keeping the Red Sox and their fans around for one extra game and MLB loves those ratings bonanzas.  But the beautiful thing about baseball is that its also about playing consistently.  You have to play well over a 162-game grind, which only gives you the chance to do it all again in grueling 5 and 7 game series.  The extended series in baseball are like life while football’s one-and-done playoff model feels more like the movies.

I’m sure I’ll come around.  MLB has finally taken care of the uneven league issue and and with even divisions, teams now have more incentive than ever before to win their division.  The play-in is great for strong divisions where a couple good teams trapped behind a spectacular team will finally get a chance to make the playoffs.  But, do we really need to have 3 NL East and 3 AL East teams in the playoffs every year, even if one of them falls out during the play-in?

-A

Feeling Less Than Equal

America has become an unequal place.  Yes, there’s the enforced salary cap equality of sports like football that has led to a more competitive game.  But in general, the haves and the have-nots of baseball more accurately reflect what’s really happening in our society.  Sure, money doesn’t always ensure that you’ll win it all but there’s a reason why the New York Yankees are the winningest team in MLB history while teams like Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Oakland and Denver have flourished in the NFL.

Inequality in sports is bad enough but the inequality between people matters even more.  What does it say about a country when a Congressional committee hearing on contraception has exactly zero female invitees?  I think it’s safe to say that even Kenny Powers respects women more than Darrell Issa.

Inequality also appears to be rearing its ugly head among the Republican presidential contenders, although at least one of them doesn’t necessarily see that as a bad thing.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that Santorum was trying to throw the race by saying the most patently offensive things possible.  And yet, he’s not only still in the running, he’s also somehow leading Mitt Romney in polling for upcoming important contests.  This continued surge of Santorum (…ahem) seems to prove not only that a portion of the country supports his worldview, it also shows us that quite a few Americans really are batshit insane.

Inequality tends to right itself eventually.  The conspicuous consumption of the 1920’s and the ensuing Depression led to a recalibration in the 30’s and 40’s.  Today, a similar series of events has left a recession that seems to tenaciously hold back growth outside of a fraction of the population, while a small-scale revolt against income equality has risen up in areas of the country.  Are we seeing another recalibration?  Me, I’d say there’s hope because there’s one place where we are all still equal.

-A

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