Posted tagged ‘baseball’

Stealing Signs?

January 22, 2020

With all the high drama bouncing around Washington DC, the public might be enough distracted that major league baseball’s revelations could escape detection.  MLB has determined that the Houston Astros used “technology” to crack the codes visiting teams were using for communications between their pitchers and catchers… and as a consequence, Houston’s batters were alerted that the next pitch might be a slider and not a fast ball.  Hmmm.

For as long as I can remember, television announcers have been “guessing” what the pitcher would throw next and sharing it with the TV audience.  During television broadcasts, camera frequently were trained upon the catcher in the act of giving his signs. One finger down, fast ball, two fingers down, a slider, three fingers down, a curve, and some shaking of the catchers fist, a change up.  Hmmm.

So why would MLB finally crack down on stealing signs and use a “red line” named “technology”?

 If one walks through any major league team’s training complexes what one would see is “technology”.  And, the whole wave of “analytics” which if followed allows one manager to position his players optimally.  Isn’t that the use of technology?

Is it possible that in the pursuit of ratings that MLB panicked when they sensed a threat to their credibility?  Is it possible that the pursuit of TV ratings will drive the organization to “make a stand” against cheating”?  Or is it possible that MLB already messes with game outcomes by one year supplying “juicy baseballs” which seem to fly out of the ballparks and now wants to stop the merry ground.  Hmmm.

Large organizations, especially those seeking strong growth, will often get caught in hypocritical situations and work strenuously to pander to investors while reassuring fans (customers) that their organization is “top-shelf”.  Hmmm.

When Life Goes Well

October 31, 2013

NBC released a new poll yesterday.  No surprise, releasing a poll is like printing money.  These poll’s message, however, was not a surprise although it gives reason for great concern.  Public confidence in Congress, Republicans, Democrats, and the President have all sunk to new lows.  So tell me something that is a surprise.

How about a new Snowdon revelation that NSA intelligence gatherers penetrated the Australian China Embassy in order to gather information on the Chinese while appearing to be Australians.  Pretty brave.  Pretty unethical and short term in NSA thinking.

Or, would you believe that Linday (yes I’m running for reelection) Graham is putting a Senate hold on all nominees including Janet Yellen for the next Federal Reserve chairwoman.  Why?  It seems Grahams clock is still stuck on Benghazi and until certain people testify before a Senate committee, Graham “holds” will stay in place, he says.

Dysfunction, mean spiritedness, and gross ignorance of what needs to be done, all describe the focus of the news we see and hear everyday.  Bummer.  Does anything go well?

Yes.  Last night in Boston, the Red Sox won baseball’s world series.

For sure it was only baseball but baseball has often been held up as a metaphor for the greatness of American life.  The Red Sox victory (from last to first, through controversy with dedication and hard work), for sure, could be seen as a metaphor what American life has been in the past, and more importantly, what life could be in the future… if America stopped shooting itself in the foot.

These low poll ratings are all deserved and all self inflicted.  The NSA intelligence gathering while necessary (given the world we live in), employed methods devoid of ethical and common sense considerations.  Ends do not justify means.  And, misapplying Senate rules meant to protect minority interests, damages both the nominees put on hold and makes the Senate a much smaller a deliberative body.

The Red Sox season and especially the World Series spoke to a different spirit and making possible what does not seem possible.

An American Life Lesson

September 15, 2013

When I was growing up it was said that baseball was not only America’s favorite sport, it was also a study of American culture.  Know baseball and you know America.  Hmmm.

Today, football has eclipsed baseball.  Football draws more fans per game, earns more television money, and seems to fill newspapers’ sport sections to a greater extent than any other sport.   Americans love football.

Some argue “pro football” is the best, while others will claim it is college or high school, or even pee wee league football that presents America at its best.

Yesterday the University of Alabama played Texas A & M in a game that featured many messages.  In football terms, it was a great game, thrilling, and a thing of beauty to watch.

Alabama’s team is often called a “pro team”.  The Alabama recruiting process has been so successful in attracting the best high school talent and its coaching program is just as successful in maturing this talent. 

Yet, in this game, Alabama had all it could handle in defeating a very good team.  The score, 49-42, made you wonder how many more points might have been added had the game gone longer.  A & M quarterback, Johnny Manziel accounted for 484 passing and another 98 rushing.  It was a truly outstanding individual performance, and one that normally is associated with a victory.  

So what is it we can learn from this (especially in view of events taking place in Syria)?

  • Better players make better teams
  • Teams beat individuals
  • Great teams can beat great player lead teams
  • Entertaining football, however, is not limited to just winning
  • Even in this defeat, Manziel can look forward to making a lot of money in the “pro’s”

There are additional lessons which are not as obvious.

  • Both schools invest millions in their football program and expect large returns on these investments.
  • Both schools make a mockery of the value of education.
  • Both schools demonstrate the business of college sports (mostly football and basketball) is as, or, more important than the business of education
  • Both schools participate in the charade of “amateur” athletics  (players are unpaid pros)
  • Both schools conspire with the NCAA to take advantage of their players
  • Most of both schools’ players will not make the pros (and therefore not make the big pay day)
  • Many of both schools’ players (especially those who do make the pros) will suffer life ruining dementia.  
  • Both schools in conjunction with the NCAA, the NFL, and the Media will praise the excitement and entertainment value while overlooking the above mentioned shortcomings.

Looking around the US today, one can see these lessons in action.  Banks were quite willing to sell pension funds mortgage back securities which the banks, with their own money, are betting against.  CEO (and top executive) pay continues to rise markedly while the average workers pay has remained stagnant.  And, many politicians are quite comfortable trying to return American healthcare to pre-ACA conditions where not all Americans were covered, many were uninsured due to “pre-existing conditions”, and where many others are one illness away from personal financial ruin.

Hmmm. I think the old baseball days were the best.  They offered a better image of fairness, of team sports and how success follows hard work. 

 

 

What One Sees

May 30, 2013

Yesterday I took the subway to South Philadelphia to see the Phillies-Red Sox game.  Safe, clean, and efficient.  Once in the stadium area, I had a beer at a “sports entertainment complex” directly across from the ball field.  At 6:45pm, I entered the Stadium and took my seat in section 423, row 7, seat 17.  Everything seemed in order.  Except…

I kept thinking what was unusual.  The game was a little long but well played with lots of home runs.  Sadly my Red Sox lost but it was just a game.  The beer and hot dogs were outrageously expensive (at least by my standards).  But the cost didn’t seem to be slowing anyone.  What was unusual?

Then it dawned on me.  Everyplace I had been, including in the Stadium during live action plays, all around me were people staring down at their cell phones, texting or reading emails or messages.  Some were facebooking but with everyone, two thumbs seemed to be flying.

I could sort of understand the subway.  What else is there to do?  The sports entertainment center (featuring well built young ladies dispensing beer) seemed totally incongruous with texting.  The world (people, and a million TV screens) was right in front of everyone, why play with the phone?

Cell phones in the ball park was even more mind blowing.  Everyone had paid good money for tickets.  The field was beautiful.  Win or lose the athletes were skilled and the action was fast.  Why do something else?

On my way home (again by subway), I thought about this.  I concluded that the social media found on these cell phones was in fact the”real world” for so many of our youth, young adults, and a growing number of adults.  These messages are what’s happening.  These bright screens confirm to their owner that they are alive.

I suspect, however, that too many cell phone users are kidding themselves.  They appear to think what they are doing is important.  Instant messaging requires no thought, no thinking.  Most messages are superficial if at all relevant.

With respect to the ball game, forget about anyone studying the managers strategy or guessing whether the pitcher will throw a change up or go with heat, low and outside.

For sure, there is no reason for anyone to study baseball (even though many have in the past).  But in this case, the baseball game is a metaphor for life.  Life is taking place right in from of 38,000 people and so many are not absorbed in the game but incessantly searching for some friend’s message.

No wonder so few people care about what politicians do or how our government functions.

Eternal Recognition

January 10, 2013

This year’s Baseball Hall of Fame election was announced yesterday.  No one was voted in.  It is a private organization, so the outcome is their business.  Let’s move on.

Wait.

The news about yesterday was really a larger comment.  The announcement did say that Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds did not make the 75% cut.  Their baseball records in comparison to other contemporaries would lead anyone to believe they were well qualified.  The sports writers saw it otherwise.

The wrap is these three have been connected with the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs.  Changes in their body appearance would tend to support this claim although Bonds and Clemens deny ever knowingly using PED. 

No one wants to support cheating.  Using PED while your competitors do not seems like cheating to me.  But is that the right perspective?  Did their consumption of PED turn them from a poor player into a great one?  Why did their alleged use of PED not be discovered during their playing careers? 

If you look back on Barry Bonds entire career, he was an outstanding player.  Even if PEDs helped him hit a few more home runs, Bonds would have hit a lot without any PED help.  Clemens was a great pitcher with a tireless work ethic.  He might not have won as many games or struck out as many batters, but it seems reasonable that he would have still be seen as Hall of Fame material with lesser numbers.

Still baseball purists insist that the game is to be played on an even field and without the use of PEDs.  The logic is inescapable once you account for there having been no proof yet about Clemens (allegations yes, proof no).  So for purists, Bonds and maybe Clemens do not deserve to be recognized.

But what about Pete Rose?  Rose admitted having bet on baseball games but says he never bet on his own team.  Rose was banned from baseball, and the game lost its best modern day example of a real 150% player.  Rose gave it all when he was on the field.  Those who saw him play have already made their decision.  Rose is as good as any Hall  of Fame member.  Unfortunately, Rose has not been voted in either.

It may be that Bonds, Clemens, and Rose will have to wait until they die before the public demands sports writers admit these outstanding athletes.   Then, they will gain their “eternal recognition”.   

 

Sometimes Stars Don’t Shine

June 19, 2012

I am a late comer to viewing the HBO series “The Wire”.  Like so many others, I am hooked.  The first year series moves quickly, seems to present “real” people, and keeps ones interest from episode to episode.  It is the depiction, however, of the rotten under belly of bureaucracy, the sad and pathetic misuse of the public’s trust, and the frequent hopelessly misguided application of State power that makes the bell really ring.  “I’ve seen someone just like that….”

The news yesterday that former big league pitcher, Roger Clemens, was found innocent of all charges that he lied to Congress was another wake up call.  How many will we need?

Clemens like John Edwards should never have been charged and never should have been the target of these high cost, high profile trials.  Both were undoubtably responsible for what they were charged (although the juries did not find the case that way), the greater issue is “so what”.

With zillion of dollars flowing like Niagara Fall into both the Obama and the Romney campaigns, Edwards non-coordinated use of gifts from two very wealthy donors to keep his mistress out of the public’s eye pales in comparison.  On top of that, the actual charge under campaign finance rules was a first time application and was viewed as a real stretch.  (Two former FEC chairmen said they would never have charged Edwards.)

Clemens, on the other hand, is a baseball player.  His charge of lying to Congress was a joke to begin with.  (Remember it takes a lair to know one.)  Steroid use in baseball is well documented and takes anyone but a blind person to recognize it on the playing field.  So why is Congress involved in the first place?

Congress seems unable to pass sensible legislation stimulating the economy or slimming the deficit, or for that matter a wide range of other subjects.  Why did they wish to spend time and money with baseball?

The “Wire” would suggest that Edwards and Clemens were selected for prosecution because they were “highly” visible people, and would provide department political currency to the careers of those involved.  These two would bring more attention to the prosecutors than your run of the mill murderer, securities theft artist, or polluter.

These cases were most likely initiated more for the potential limelight that would be shown on the prosecutors, his/her supervision, and his/her department than for any law enforcement value.

Considers former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens where the Federal charges were serious but the prosecutorial methods were quite lacking, one can see another high visibility attempted prosecution that ended poorly.  The Prosecutors did not play by the rules.

Now these three recent cases could be just exception.  They could just be aberrations with no ties to a trend.  Or maybe not.

Building strong, purposeful and apolitical departments, such as Justice, Defense, or Education is more important than any agenda the party in power may have.  Clemens and Edwards makes one wonder whether President Obama and Attorney General Holder need to look more closer at how our civil servants are rewarded for performing their jobs.

Is Evidence Needed?

June 14, 2012

The US Anti-Doping Agency yesterday tried to out shine the US Government in its case against Roger Clemens.   The USADA target was Lance Armstrong.  Their charge, doping.

The public issue, like with Clemens, is not whether Armstrong or Clemens ever took performance enhancing drugs, but rather who cares about it today?

Armstrong won 7 Tour D’France races and in the process of his career participated in about 500 (he reports) substance detection tests with no positive findings.  Plain and simply, what’s new and why now?

The USADA said in a letter to Armstrong that in 2009 and 2010 blood samples were consistent with the presence of EPO and/or blood transfusions.  This wording sounds suspicious.  Why not just say, “… and EPO was found”.  (Remember, no charges were ever brought against Armstrong and a two year US District Court Grand Jury investigation on Armstrong ended recently with no charges.)

The answer must be that EPO was not found but possible increased levels of something else which while not banned may have been unusual to find.  The USADA apparently considers their tests findings “smoke” as in “the smoke from a smoking gun”.

Both Clemens and Armstrong are athletes who set the standards for hard work and conditioning.  They out hustled and out worked their peers and contemporaries.

It is also hard to believe that sometime during their careers they might not have used banned substances either to recover from injury or to prepare for competition.  Remember, “everybody else was doing it”.

The curious question in both cases is why the charges, and why now?

We can speculate but rest assured it is not about the game of baseball or cycling.  More likely it is about sending a message to others still competing, or even more likely, defending the wounded ego of agencies these athletes outwitted.

Egos, especially among bureaucrats, is something to protect and fight about.

Evidence is evidence.  You either have it or you don’t.  In both cases, the USADA and the US Justice Department do not have direct evidence.  Both seem content in smearing these athletes’ reputation since both are no longer competing.  This is pretty petty stuff.

The Peculiar Case of Roger Clemens

May 19, 2012

Federal District Court in Washington, DC is home to a peculiar criminal case.  The Federal Government is prosecuting former Major League pitcher Roger Clemens for lying to Congress.  What a hoot.  How is it possible to lie to Congress?

Apparently Congress, which cannot balance the budget or even agree on how to pay for what the Country has already borrowed, somehow finds the arena of baseball as more appropriate territory for Congressional debate and advice.  Federal prosecutors charge that Clemens lied to Congress by saying he had never taken steroids.

The facts of the case are almost irrelevant.  Clemens was a great pitcher who was successful years longer than most all other competitors.  Clemens is today a beefy man and certainly looks like he might have taken steroids.  But so what if he did?

The “so what” is really about the broken hearts of all sorts of kids who idolized Clemens in Boston, Toronto, and New York.  Clemens worked hard, threw hard, and fought hard on the mound.  In most respects, Clemens was a role model for hard work.   He was not a warm, fuzzy, likable type of player.  Clemens was in your face.

Steroid use is about Clemens and the memories baseball fans will keep.  If he took steroids and won games because of that, people will cast their own hall of fame vote.

The real travesty here is the government’s prosecution.  Congress where lying (saying something knowingly that is not true, but claiming truth because it cannot be proven false) is an art form, is the last organization who should be pointing a finger.

Like most situations you wished were not taking place, the roots sometimes get forgotten.  Steroids in baseball (or any professional sport) is not a matter for Congress.  If it were, simply passing legislation limiting use would be sufficient.  As in past laws, Congress would have also most likely included exceptions to any bill prohibiting steroids use.  Since steroidal medicines are widely used, the bill would need to be larger than medical text books to adequately carve out all the medical necessary uses.  As you can see, this is not an worthwhile area for Congressional “big spenders”.

It is hard to say what the jury will decide.  Should the jury convict Clemens, I would expect an appeal which focused on exactly what purpose of Congress’s did Clemens testimony hinder?  Congress has passed no steroid regulations which would impact baseball to date, and are highly unlikely to in the future.

This trial, however, might actually be a symbolic shot across the bow for any future person who testifies before Congress.  “Tell the truth or else”.  I bet that will have defense industry and banking executives quaking in their shoes.

Summer Duldrums

July 6, 2011

Today is a typical hot, humid summer day.  It is especially difficult to get excited about anything.  Never the less strange things are happening.

President Obama has invited the top eight Congressional leaders to the White House.  He wants to discuss with them a compromise to raise the debt ceiling.  The President has also asked these distinguished leaders to leave their politics at the door.  You are left to wonder why he hadn’t asked for that before.  On a “scratch your head” level, how are these leaders going to reach a compromise now after having dug themselves (both sides) into such a rhetorical hole?

In an attempt to top that, government officials announced that a Somali citizen was being flown to the US and would face trial in civilian court in New York City.  The charges will be some form of terroristic activity.  Haven’t we been there and done that?

Why would the Obama administration open that can of worms again.  While it is far superior to try suspected terrorists in civilian courts rather than at Guantanamo or other military tribunals, trying this person at all does not make sense.  Our prisons are already full enough.  Why doesn’t the rest of the world prosecute these people if they are so bad?

The show stopper, however, begins today.  Roger Clemens goes on trial for having lied to Congress.  Think about that.  A body that contains all sorts of people who have lapses in saying the truth has pushed charges against someone else.

Of course these charges were never leveled against any banking executive nor is Clemons a suspected terrorist.  Rather, Congress didn’t like his answer to their question about whether he took performance enhancing drugs during his baseball career.

Is your blood moving faster now?

Imagine, with all the problems ranging from jobs to the housing and banking scandals to the deficit and debt, Congress found time to ask a baseball player, who was employed in private enterprise, whether he took performance enhancing drugs.  What a hoot.

Well, maybe I am looking at these events wrong.  Maybe I should be seeing the humor instead of trying to find a thread of commonsense.