Catch me if you can

So I started writing a short story a few months ago, but after four chapters and about 15,000 words I stopped. I think it was originally inspired by Donald Trump winning the presidential election, wondering what the world might look like in 30 or 40 years. The United States took on this super dystopian vibe where it was the haves versus the have-nots, and the protagonist was — quite cliché, I should add — a spoiled rich kid with a heart of gold.

In the end, though, it was just a love story. That was all. But it was so cliché. Like, I think it just felt really interesting to do — to invent this world that blended facts from the present with future speculation. It was fun while it lasted.

What I didn’t take enough into account was just how bad Trump was going to be at actually getting shit done in real life. I just conceded that we were heading to the worst case scenario possible, where the Republicans (who were inevitably rebranded as “The Party of God” in my story) ended up passing all the horrible policies they have always wanted to implement. I foresaw no other outcome.

As is, though, Republicans can’t even agree on how bad their policies should be, so they are infighting. Never forget, the reason Trumpcare didn’t pass the first time was not because people called their representatives and the politicians had a change of heart… which was always sort of the media narrative. No, it was that certain GOP members weren’t happy that the bill didn’t go far enough. That is, there weren’t enough tax breaks for the rich, too much money was still going into Medicaid, etc. It was a lot like Obamacare in that respect — which, remember, is a right-wing healthcare plan — and only a half-measure to members of the Freedom Caucus.

I will never go so far as to say I am happy that Donald Trump is the president, but I am also not sweating it. I mean, I’ll simply leave these as open questions: How much has your life changed since he took office? How different are things, really?

I butt heads about politics all the time with my bosses and coworkers because, basically with the exception of one person, I think everyone I work with is wrong. One side, that probably represents about 70% of the people who pay attention¹, thinks Trump is usually always right and believes the media is conspiring against him. The other side, which probably represents about 25% of the people who pay attention², can’t stand anything Trump says or does and believes in all the Russia conspiracy stuff.

Those are the two teams of people, and there is rarely any overlap. It is as simple as what I just described.

¹ This is a kind way of saying these people are misinformed. They probably watch Fox News, and have a higher tendency of posting crackpot articles on Facebook from tiny right-wing sites. Like, I informed one of my coworkers that Trump was giving a $52 billion tax break to the Walton family, and she tried to question me about where I was getting my information from. The burden of proof is on you for believing everything Trump says. It’s not on me.

² These get their news from the MSNBC’s and CNN’s and New York Times’ and Washington Post’s, the places that hold water for the Democratic (Clinton) machine. Everything revolves around Russia, even though there has been no hard evidence in over eight months of investigating. So I try to tell them that Trump is a blessing in disguise, and they turn it as if I am one of his supporters. This isn’t true in all cases, but it’s strange how often it seems to play out that way. 

There is only one person that sees eye-to-eye with me… about 98% of the time. His name is Spencer. Spencer is a 40 year-old black dude from Minnesota, a fellow craps dealer, and one of my best friends at work. Like me, Spencer voted for Jill Stein last November, even though we agreed that it wasn’t because she was a decent candidate; it was because Hillary Clinton was on one team, Donald Trump was on the other team, and California is a blue state regardless of what we do.

So, as nonpartisan independents of the bullshit everyone else seems to be focused on, Spencer and I can both (a) engage with others to talk about the issues and (b) not really have to give a fuck worrying about Donald Trump. We don’t have to be Republicans and defend him. We don’t have to be Democrats and despise him. We are really in the best possible position.

And yet, I seem to find more common ground with the Trump apologists than I do the supposed “liberals,” because we share a bond that is greater than Trump Is A Terrible President:

It’s that Democratic leadership is awful.

Without having to tell his supporters that Donald Trump is the worst — I think that’s just implied coming from me, a 27 year-old socialist — I can admit the truth and say that Democrats are corrupt and don’t give a damn about the American people. I can then make the connection that the Republicans are the same way, only worse, which make the two parties virtually no different. Most Democratic leaders are basically just Republicans who are cool with gay people and abortions.

With most of the Democrats I work with, it’s like there’s a total shutdown of logic. They believe Donald Trump is the worst thing in the history of ever, and that everything was going just swell up until the day he became the guy. They don’t seem to care that the Party screwed over Bernie Sanders in the primary. They don’t seem to care that Hillary Clinton had no message and nothing to offer in her campaign. They seem fixated on Trump being the root of all evil and working backwards from there.

Don’t get me sideways, I am not drinking the Kool Aid in thinking Trump is a good guy or has my best interests in mind. He was what many people thought he was all along, which is just your run of the mill con-man. But I can also say that all the Russian fear mongering and war mongering being spewed by the corporate left is accomplishing absolutely nothing productive. If anything it’s turning Donald Trump into a sympathetic figure, further entrenching loyalty from his supporters. And it does that without having to address any of the real issues that cost Clinton the election last November.

Which, essentially, is why I have been writing the same thing over and over again for the last six months.

You can reach most Republicans when you talk about issues. You can’t really reach Democrats when you tell them that Trump isn’t the problem — he’s only a symptom of the problem. He didn’t arrive and upset the system; the system was already upset, which is what created him and put us in this predicament.

I had a great idea for a story. It was going really well. But then, for whatever reason, I wrote myself into a corner and couldn’t get out, and then when I looked back on it I realized I had fallen for the same fear tactics that I can now see through. It wasn’t my fault. I just didn’t know any better.

The world is not coming to an end now that Trump is running the country. It could, and it wouldn’t be all that shocking, but we seem so much further from that point now than it seemed like six months ago. I underestimated just how incompetent he could be, even with the might of all three chambers of congress at this disposal.

So I leave you now with what I have been grappling with over the last few months. Is it better that we have Trump, a total clown that is sloppy with almost every move he makes, a guy that has finally made America woke, who is the best recruiting tool for the Progressive Left in the history of the country? Or would it have been better to have Hillary in there to continue with the status quo that has left so many millions of people disenfranchised and poor and helpless?

These are just questions.

Anew

The truth is a big deal to me. Honesty is something I care a great deal about. This isn’t for your sake, or theirs; it’s for me. Even knowing that lying can be an effective tool I can’t bring myself to do it very often. I do have a conscience, and I suspect it is louder than most.

However, being honest with myself has been a challenge at times. It’s kind of like how I am better at giving advice to others than using it on myself: I have always and will always be better at spending other people’s money. If I don’t have anything riding on the outcome, or the consequence, then my mind is as clear as it can possibly be.

I was running late for work a couple Saturdays ago. The freeway onramp nearest where I lived was closed, so I had to reroute about 10 minutes. I powered from first gear to second to third and hit a red light. Every second I waited felt like a month. Then I powered again from first gear to second to third and hit another red light. This went on about five times, like a goddamn conspiracy. I was going mad on city streets in Riverside, California.

When I finally made it to the freeway the math was simple. It was already 9:55 a.m. and I was a shade over an hour away from my work destination in Rancho Mirage. My clock-in time was 10:53, and I hadn’t even gotten dressed yet. (It’s only a white long-sleeve with a mandarin collar, a vest, and a black waistcoat, but the two minutes it takes can be critical if I’m behind on time.)

Needless to say, to make it to work in time to clock in I not only needed light traffic, but I also needed to shave solid chunks of minutes off the drive. The traffic that day was breezy, so driving 90-plus was well within my means. By the time I made it to Beaumont — which is the halfway point, of sorts — it was 10:20. At the rate I was going, making it to work would not have been a problem.

I was speeding eastbound on the 10 Freeway, near Casino Morongo, when I happened to look down at the temperature gauge. I drive a 2004 Subaru STi, and the way the gauge looks is how it appears on most that aren’t digital. There’s a top bar (which means the engine is very hot), there’s a middle-high (which is still hot), there’s a middle-middle (where the needle is supposed to fall a tad beneath), a low-middle, and a low.

The needle was just above middle-high, and it gradually rose as I continued driving.

Out of the sheer surprise of seeing it so hot, I panicked, quickly got over to the shoulder of the freeway and shut off my car. It was warm outside, about 95 degrees, and the wind was going nuts. Out of my hoodscoop poured a seemingly endless supply of smoke. That was the first sign that told me I was in trouble: my engine was fucking cooking.

So I got out and did what any typical jackoff would do. I popped the hood, thinking the car might cool down faster that way. There was a growing puddle of green antifreeze oozing out below the vehicle, which was the second sign that I knew I was fucked. I called my shift manager and told him my car was overheating. He told me to do what I could and try to make it in to work around 11:30. After 10 or so minutes I gave it the old college try, tried to get back on the freeway. That was pretty dumb I guess, because the same thing happened again 15 seconds later. So I pulled over for a second time.

I called my shift manager back and told him it wasn’t going to happen, that I wouldn’t make it in, and then I called a tow truck and waited a couple hours to drive 45 minutes in the direction I came from to drop it off at the shop.

It took a few days, but they diagnosed and fixed the problem I gave. I said there was a coolant issue, and so they fixed the coolant issue. In my mind I thought anything under a thousand dollars would be a win. It turned out to be $250, so I figured the universe was doing me a solid.

Problem was, whatever was wrong with my car was deeper than that. The next day I went to work, the car lost total power on the ride home. It was weird. One minute I was going 80 and not thinking about shit, the next I was steadily dipping, from 70… to 60… to 50… and then I got off on the shoulder and shut the damn thing off. When I tried to restart, it failed. It said the battery was dead.

So, again, I called AAA and got it towed to the shop. It was already well past closing time at this point, so I had to leave it overnight and return the morning after to let them know something else was wrong. The guys over there were super cool; I knew they wanted to help. And it’s the things I know the least about — in this case, cars — that always make me so grateful and appreciative to the people who do know what the fuck is going on.

Nonetheless, my car was there for a few days and they said they couldn’t fix it. Something about the car’s computer not being able to communicate with the turbo. Like I said, I know fuck all about cars. But something like that.

I worked Tuesday through Thursday and had a lone off day on Friday, so after getting my hair cut I called a tow truck and got it moved from the shop in Riverside to a Subaru dealership roughly 10 minutes away. That is where my car is right now, and I have still yet to hear the problem. Assuming it gets fixed, which is a fairly large assumption at this juncture in the game, my plan is to trade it in the day of for something else.

I bought this car back in October, 2014, just three months after I totaled the first STi I bought. In less than three years, driving back and forth from various cities of the Inland Empire to Rancho Mirage, I have put over 70,000 miles on it. This is about as counterproductive a way to utilize a performance car as there is, but I did it because I just happen to love it. There is a better chance than not that this is what inevitably did me in — putting extreme stress on a vehicle that wasn’t made to consistently drive through 110-plus degree heat four months out of every year.

If there is any sort of lesson that is to be learned from this, it is best for theory rather than practice. I am not all of a sudden going to get some economy car that is cheaper and gets better gas milage. I don’t see a scenario where I could bring myself something that I wouldn’t feel good about getting out of when I’m at the gas station, or wherever. Even with my socialist leanings I still see a materialistic person when I look at myself in the mirror. It is not a complicated position to be both of those things.

Yet, it’s moments like these when you tend to see things the most clear. I occasionally lament that the times I am most happy, or most financially secure, or both, are when I am most blind. Like I’ll just blow a thousand dollars at the casino playing blackjack or craps, or I’ll dump $300 or $400 at a strip club for no reason. Just to give myself some instant, fleeting high.

On the other side of that: it’s when I have nothing, or am feeling a little depressed, that I see everything with clarity. Instead of wasting my time and resources on temporary bullshit, I break it down to the very foundation. I seek long-term solutions, things I can build on that will move me up my own internal ladder.

It’s this mindset that has basically carried me from being a punk 19 year-old to a slightly-less-punk 27 year-old. Even though everyone (including me) wants the quick fix, the free ride, the easy way out, et. al, the only way I got into as decent a position I am in right now is from playing the long game. Like everybody else, I had to start somewhere. Some call it rock bottom, or whatever, but if it’s not there then it’s somewhere in the same zip code.

And from there, you kind of just take it one thing at a time… as cliche as that sounds. Maybe first you go to school. Then you get a job. You just move, basically. And from there you think, okay, this is where I am right now. So how can I do just a little bit better? Then you get a better job, something that pays more than the place before. And again you think, all right, this is where I am right now. So how can I do just a little bit better, still?

The world now does not seem as massive, or feel as drastic, as it did when I was 19. But in eight years I gradually picked myself up and executed a commitment, which doesn’t sound like much until you understand that I have spent much of my life coasting off lazy skill and possessing the attention span of a 15 year-old. I jump around all the time, from people to places to things. Being at the same job for three consecutive years, or talking to the same woman for three consecutive months, is generally surprising if not a small miracle altogether.

Being without my car — which was my dream car as a teenager — has sort of delivered me to one of those places where I need to reevaluate my entire situation. I can’t say it has made me unhappy, per se, and whether it costs $500 or $3,000, it isn’t going to break me. But if I can see things so clearly when I am broke or depressed, what is stopping me from seeing them now?

* * * * *

So, I’ve been borrowing my older brother’s car for the last week. On my way to work last Tuesday — which was my first work day without my own car — I realized he had Brand New’s Deja Entendu in his CD player. The first song that came on was “Play Crack The Sky,” the last on the album.

Like drugs, I was generally a hater of Brand New before I ever gave them a try. I remember the first reason I didn’t like them was for the simple fact that my older brother loved them when we were teenagers, and I couldn’t possibly live in a world where he and I listened to the same music. The second reason I didn’t like them, compounded on that, was because it was the favorite band of a girl I used to date. Usually you would think this would make me like them, or at least listen to them, but with me it had the opposite effect. Why? Because I am either the dumbest smart person, or the smartest dumb person, that you know or ever will know.

When I was 19 or so, back from a year going to school in Virginia, my older brother asked if he could play me a song one night. We had made amends by that point, so I agreed, and he put on Brand New’s “Limousine”. And from there I gave the band that I never wanted to give a shot, a shot.

There are certain bands and certain songs you hear that have a way of waking up the echoes of the past. I go through bouts every year where I listen to albums on Spotify, sort of welcoming this nostalgia. It’s like the only way to get it back into my system so I can then release it again, if that makes sense. It feels like spending time with old friends, except I can leave and return whenever I want.

Back to point of this block of text: this is about transitions. Right now I am at the conclusion of the long game process I started when I was 19, which is really only the beginning of an even longer process that will last for the remainder of my life. If you could connect the dots over these last eight years, my progression makes a lot of sense. The mystery is where the dots go from here, as a 27 year-old, to where I want to end up.

My most recent obsession is the stock market, a more adult form of what has been proven to be a love of mine: gambling. If blackjack and craps are the ultimate quick fix adrenaline rush, then the stock market is the long game version.

I did some minor research, and spoke to a handful of 40- and 50-somethings that I work with, and they all more or less told me the same thing. That at my age it makes the most sense to open a Roth IRA — basically a retirement savings account. Shit is pretty cool, and I recommend you check it out.

The main bullet points of how it works is a lot like a traditional IRA or 401K: the idea is you contribute money and it grows over time. So the earlier you start, the more cash you have in the pot when you retire.

What’s special about Roth IRA’s is the money you put in is pre-taxed, so you don’t have to pay taxes on it again when you take it out. The only taxes you pay are on your capital gains, the money you earn through interest or buying and trading stocks. And for a young person, the most aggressive way to grow your money is through the stock market.

There is obviously more risk involved going that route, but how does anyone ever get ahead without assuming some risk? The younger you are, the more shots you can take. The more shit you can throw against the wall to see what sticks. Maybe if I’m 35 and have a wife and two kids, I start thinking about the futures of others and go safer — buying bonds and letting my money sit and grow at a low interest rate.

But I’m here, now, and like I said before: I would love to take the easy way out. When I was 22 I found the table games industry at Southern California casinos — the only area of the country where dealers get to keep their own tips — to be the market inefficiency. Where else can you get paid $35 or $40 an hour with little more than a high school diploma and a few months of training?

As an aside, I have told probably three dozen people over the last few years to go to school and do what I do. Because it’s easy. Some of them work in a warehouse for Amazon, some are waiters at restaurants, many are from other departments at the casinos I have worked at. And no one has taken me up on it. Not even one. I try to tell people how easy it is, and how worth it it is, but it’s like they are comfortable with where they are. I still don’t understand it.

A couple weeks ago Trey and I drove home from a night playing basketball at a 24 Hour Fitness. I think we were talking about cars originally, but it turned into a conversation of who we are as people. I don’t remember exactly what was said, but the main point is that the grass is always greener on the other side. That we appreciate what we have now, but we expect so much more from ourselves.

I think I used the car as a metaphor, because Trey goes through a lot of cars. He buys one, gets bored with it, and buys another one. That process repeats itself.

What I said was how we want all these things, but that we’ve always wanted these things. Trey and I were having the same conversations — about where we are vs. where we expect to be — when we were 15 years old. It has been one giant conversation about money and expectations, and no matter where we’ve been it hasn’t been nearly close enough to where we want to be.

And the person we have always tried impress was never out in the audience. It was inside us, our internal critic. The guy who has been telling me it wasn’t good enough ever since I was old enough to remember my internal dialogue, who all the while pats me on the back after every joke that lands and every step up the ladder I have taken.

This is the person I have always been chasing, and trying to gain approval from. When I was 22 my giant leap was into dealing. At 27 I am looking in different directions. Maybe it turns out the stock market was my calling all along; perhaps Trey and I get into real estate and make it big from flipping houses; maybe it’s something none of us have thought of just yet.

This is the probably the least treacherous crossroads I’ve ever faced, but it’s still a crossroads. It’s still something I have put a lot of thought into lately. I need distractions, and few and far between are there distractions more interesting that money.

So perhaps I am lost in the grand scheme of things, the contradiction of a person who believes in social and economic equality in the same vein as he believes he will one day be a member the top one percent. And when I get there I will be more than happy to continue writing these blogs about how socialism is the future.

The demise of my STi is only a symbol of this transformation from here onward, just as it was once a transformation from working at a smaller casino and driving a Ford Ranger to working at a better paying casino. I fully expect this process to repeat itself another twenty or thirty times before it’s all said and done. But I’m here now. And I’m fine with my starting point.

Shohei Otani and Yu Darvish are a package deal, until I am proven otherwise

For the Texas Rangers the calculus is simple: re-sign Yu Darvish, and 22 year-old Japanese phenom Shohei Otani will follow him to Arlington.

I have no inside information. I am not friends with Otani or Darvish or either of their families. This is simply wishful thinking to the ultimate degree, but, to me, it makes too much sense not to have a grain of plausibility. So allow me to explain.

Let’s begin with Yu Darvish, 30, who is in the final year of a six-year contract with the Rangers. Unless he signs an extension in the next three months, Yu will hit the free agent market as a 31 year-old and will likely command a 6 -to 7-year deal in the neighborhood of $30 million Average Annual Value. On the season Darvish has a 3.03 ERA (4.10 FIP) in 89 innings pitched, with a 93/35 K/BB ratio.

In other words, he has been very good.

Shohei Otani is currently a member of the Nippon Ham Fighters — Darvish’s old team — of the Japanese League. A two-way player, Otani is a lifetime .279/.351/.502 hitter with 42 home runs in roughly a thousand plate appearances; as a starting pitcher, where most (if not all) evaluators believe he will end up, Otani has a lifetime ERA of 2.49 and 595 strikeouts in just 517 IP.

In comparison, at the same age-18-to-21 timeframe in Japan, Darvish posted a 3.36 ERA with 585 punchouts in 452.1 IP. Essentially, Darvish was the better strikeout pitcher and Otani was better at preventing runners from scoring. I do write that sentence with the caveat that I am not at all familiar with the pitching or offensive climates in Japan, neither when Darvish was playing there nor now, and thus I am uncertain which was the better offensive era.

Regardless of that knowledge, it is clear that Otani is the best international talent in the world at present. He also intends on coming to the states to play baseball as early as next season, saying in an article written by Scott Miller on March 6th:

“Personally, the new CBA rules do not mean much to me, and it is not going to stop me from going over to the States,” Ohtani tells B/R. “The only thing that worries me is the other young players that might try to go overseas after me. I don’t want to set the bar too low for them and have to get underpaid because of my decision.”

In an attempt to drive down ownership’s cost of acquiring labor, the Collective Bargaining Agreement has undergone two changes over the last six years, and neither have been in favor of the talent.

Under the 2011 posting system, teams put in blind bids for exclusive negotiating rights with Japanese players. That year the Rangers outbid the field by about two-to-one if memory serves correctly, posting a massive $51 million to the Ham Fighters just to get a seat at the table with Yu Darvish. They then signed him to a 6-year, $56 million contract on top of that, making the total investment roughly $107 million.

By the time Masahiro Tanaka got posted, in 2013, the CBA changed. Under that system the total posting fee was capped at $20 million, so multiple teams put in the maximum offer. Out of those teams, Tanaka ended up signing with the Yankees for 7 years and $175 million ($25 million AAV), making the total investment around $200 million.

Now it’s Otani’s turn, though he is a victim of the latest CBA — which has further reduced the benefits for international free agents. Under the current system, every foreign-born amateur under age-25 is treated identically, meaning they can only be signed out of the allotted international bonus pool money teams spend on all overseas talent. That only amounts to, on the high end, about $8-$10 million per club.

Strangely, though, this may actually work to the Rangers’ benefit. If it’s understood that teams aren’t going to be able to spend very much money on Otani, and if Otani is okay with this (rather than just staying in Japan until he’s 25, or whatever, so he’d get a bigger payday), then it would suggest he is after a situation where he feels the most comfortable.

This is where Yu Darvish comes back into play, since by all accounts Darvish is both (a) Shohei’s workout partner during the offseason and (b) his favorite player/hero.

Even in spite of a mediocre Rangers season, with a roster filled with mostly prime- to post-prime players, there have been little birdies from other organizations who have told Michael Tepid that Darvish “doesn’t want to leave Texas,” a revelation that might mean something and might not mean anything at all. If it’s true, however, then Rangers President and General Manager Jon Daniels has some soul searching to do this summer.

On May 4th I wrote that the Rangers baseball season was already over, a reactionary but honest assessment of the state of the club moving forward. In it, I posited that Texas ought to just sell everything they could during the trade deadline, which naturally includes Yu Darvish, who is the most valuable commodity on the market, as the crown jewel.

But that was without information of Darvish perhaps wanting to stay, which would change everything.

I’ve written ad nauseam about Yu’s talent as a world class starting pitcher, though I think I’ve always been more concerned with what he symbolizes. As long as he remains on the roster the Rangers are going to contend for a World Series. It may not bear out in the standings each year — like this one, where the Astros are running away with the American League as a whole — but the front office will go into every season with the intention of winning. The decisions they make in free agency and in trades will be with the goal of contending. That is what Yu Darvish means.

His value is even more substantial if he were also to facilitate Shohei Otani to come to Texas. As a package deal, it would be a coup. Don’t tell me I’m not allowed to dream.

Since there are fairly draconian restrictions on how much money teams can spend on international amateurs, Otani will get only a fraction of what Darvish or Tanaka received under the old rules. Again, I have a hard time believing this doesn’t give the Rangers a bump over the other 29 teams in MLB. They literally have Darvish, a star who was once in the exact shoes Otani is currently in, who apparently likes it in Texas, who is in (close) contact with Shohei, and who would be the perfect ambassador for his transition to the States.

This, of course, operates under the assumption that Darvish actually wants to re-sign. It assumes that the Rangers have mutual interest in bringing back one of the ten-best pitchers in the game. It assumes that Otani even gives a shit about playing on the same team as his idol.

To assume everything here is a stretch, but I’m not exactly breaking my back to reach these conclusions. I’m more preparing for a light jog. If I am being absolutely clear, I anticipate good news on the Shohei Otani front, which would also suggest I anticipate good news regarding Yu Darvish.

I am a Rangers fan, so you have zero fucking reason to take this leap I’m making as anything beyond common wishful thinking. I am projecting that it won’t come down to dollars and cents, when in reality players generally go to the team who offers the most money about 99% of the time. I don’t blame the athletes for this because that would make me a hater, and we all know if any of us were in such a position we would do the exact same thing.

Nonetheless this will stand until I am proven otherwise, and I’m pretty excited to revisit it over the next 12-18 months to see how right (or dead wrong) I turn out to be. During down baseball years, where the Rangers aren’t doing so hot, I cling onto just about anything involving them besides the actual games themselves. And Shohei Otani is the most worthy distraction of 2017 as far as that goes.

Oregon State Baseball Coach Supports His Sex Offender Star Pitcher

The reason I am just some jagoff blogger with a WordPress rather than, I dunno, someone who would want to pursue a life as a professional journalist is mostly simple: money. There isn’t a lot of it out there to pay people to write. I understood this when I was 19, and going to college to study EPJ (Electronic and Print Journalism), the same as I understand it right now.

While that is a fairly large concession to make, inasmuch as some admission that I didn’t believe enough in myself to continue pursuing such a dream — I’m realistic, after all — there were other factors. For one, writing about sports (which is most or all of the value I would be able to offer) only requires about an 8th-grade level. People who generally read about sports ain’t exactly looking for deep thought.

Secondly, with very few exceptions almost everything is access journalism. If you want to continue receiving interviews with the General Manager, or Manager, or star athletes, there is an understanding that you will not soberly criticize them in the paper (or online), even if it’s honest and warranted.

These are sacrifices I wouldn’t be able to make, because it’s impossible to be objective when you have relationships with the people you are paid to cover. This is the problem with American media in general, particularly with regard to the relationships news anchors have with politicians and corporate lobbyists, so it comes as no real shock that it’s the same with sports.

All that said: I buried the lead.

Recently ESPN came out with an article with an interesting headline. It went like this:

Oregon State ace Luke Heimlich asks to be excused from playing. Fairly innocuous, no? Still, I clicked on it, anyway. I can’t help myself. Why would an ace excuse himself from playing during the most important part of the college baseball season?

Then the article started.

Oregon State’s top pitcher, who had been identified as a registered sex offender by The Oregonian, released a statement Friday saying he has asked to be excused from playing.

And then:

Heimlich was in uniform and was cheered by fans when he was introduced along with the rest of Oregon State’s players before the game.

And then:

“He’s a team guy and in his statement he said that he didn’t want to be a distraction,” [Heimlich’s manager] said. “I can just tell you that he is a fine young man, and every second that he’s been on this campus, on and off the field, he’s been a first-class individual, one that his family should be proud of, your community should be proud of, our team is proud of. I believe in Luke.”

So this is great. Heimlich, who is rated as the #43 overall prospect by Baseball America, and who was ranked number 76 overall by ESPN’s Keith Law — before being removed after the molestation charge came to light — is supported by both his manager and the crowd. A registered sex offender, who took a plea deal for touching a 6 year-old family member, repeatedly, over a two-year span, is already working on a redemption story.

According to Heimlich:

“I understand that many people now see me differently, but I hope that I can eventually be judged for the person I am today. I’m so proud of our team’s accomplishment and don’t want to be a distraction. Therefore, I’ve respectfully requested to be excused from playing at this time.”

Woof.

I don’t believe in heaven or hell, but sometimes I wish there was a special place reserved for those people who molest children. Some things are simply irredeemable, and this is perhaps the most egregious offense. I make a lot of noise about domestic violence, and how billionaire owners turn a blind to it so long as the player can generate value on the field. But, really, it pales in comparison to the permanent damage inflicted on innocent children.

This is why people who mess around with kids are always the first to go in prison settings. Even behind bars, where there are murderers and rapists and all other manner of criminals, it’s those who cross the line with the most powerless who are at the bottom of the barrel. They are the ones who receive box cutters beneath their doors, usually attached to ultimatums that read some form of: if you don’t do it yourself, we’ll get you when you’re on the outside.

Stories like this are why I could never be a real journalist. There should be no other way to mention Heimlich’s name — not as “ace,” not as “star pitcher” — that doesn’t attach him to being a registered sex offender, preferably written in bold letters, or italics, or all caps, or all of the above.

I’m not saying I wish any ill-will on Heimlich from here on out, and I’m not trying to suggest playing baseball is some sort of privilege that needs purist safeguarding from people like me.

I’m saying being part of society in any capacity should be considered a privilege for this scumbag.

And yet, thanks to capitalism there will very likely be an owner who gives the go-ahead to his GM to draft this guy. Men lie; women lie; but numbers don’t lie. Heimlich is a 3rd-round talent, a starting pitcher, and he’s fucking left-handed for christ’s sake. Now that his draft stock has taken a significant hit, I’m sure there are still many teams willing to take a shot at him in the 10th or 15th round, and at a reduced price than if he was taken in the 3rd round, for instance.

This is basic math, but it is far from moral. Forgive me for punishing a crime that an MLB team has not yet committed, but it’s going to say something about them — and that something is not good. Not good at all. Casual fans should not be forced into a position where they are rooting for wins more than the athletes who are producing those wins; it’s supposed to go in the opposite direction.

I’m not holier than thou and I’ve never claimed to be (despite how some of my closest allies might argue), but the values I want from my sports heroes do not include (1) hitting women or (2) inappropriately touching children. Apologies for having a standard, but those are deal-breakers.

Seriously, drug problems, DUI’s, accepting money from boosters, getting into fights during games… these are all things I can forgive. They don’t automatically make someone a bad person.

Touching kids automatically makes you a bad person. Choking your wife and throwing her through a glass door, or beating up your girlfriend over your pile of guns, or beating up your pregnant girlfriend until she loses the baby… that automatically makes you a bad person. I won’t root for you.

Unfortunately, news outlets like ESPN give cover to the Ray Rice-types, and the Ray Lewis-types, and they will absolutely start writing the redemption stories for this Heimlich guy if he ever does anything at the major league level. It’s unfortunate, and to the maximum degree, that it benefits both the team — for having more palatable players — and the news organizations — for attracting clicks and views — to see this criminal succeed.

The losers, as in most or all situations, are the everyday folks who don’t know any better. They pay to go to the ballpark, and spend real money to support the same teams who support the wife beaters and sexual offenders, and it is their children who are brought up like this is all totally normal.

Here Is What We Know

I am a millennial. Every so often on this blog, I write about millennials. This will be one of those articles.

A couple days ago I was at work, and on days like that I generally miss out on much of the day’s news. At the casino where I work about 90% of the non-sports they put on the televisions is Fox News, which sort of makes sense given the demographic of people who typically gamble. That is, old(er) people. But if you’ve read anything on this blog then you probably know what I think of Fox, so I won’t spend any real time criticizing it.

When I got home I went through my normal routine. I hopped on the treadmill for 20 minutes or so; I showered; I heated up some dinner and turned on ESPN to watch Scott Van Pelt’s show. Then, since I was doing only two things at once, I figured I would get on Twitter and see all the stuff I missed out on during the day.

The person who stood out, of my grand total of 33 people that I am follow, was Adam J. Morris — who is both a lawyer and runs the Texas Rangers blog for SB Nation. As far as Rangers-centric content I don’t think there is anyone better right now. What Adam wrote on Twitter was more interesting than anything else going on, particularly since the Rangers have been playing like shit of recent.

In some vague order, this was the line he was on:

Just so we’re clear on the definition of a millennial, it is generally a loose-fitting demographic. According to Tech Target, “the earliest proposed birthdate for Millennials is 1976 and the latest 2004.” So that ranges from people who are currently as young as 12, or as old as 41.

I think when most people are talking about millennials as a voting block, those who leaned heavily towards Bernie Sanders during the primary last year, it’s people between the ages of 18-35. This is presumably the group Adam is hinting at.

Since there is no serious direction to this post, I’ll just address some of his points in number sequence. I hear people like lists:

  1. I don’t disagree that, in many ways, millennials are ridiculous. But they are also right quite a bit of the time.
  2. It’s always amazing when 40-somethings or 50-somethings shit on young people for caring about climate change, or about the future of the economy. These are things that are affecting millennials right now, which, I’m sorry, is a big deal to them.
  3. The reason this problem is legitimate is two-fold: the price of college has ballooned in the last 25 years, and there aren’t nearly enough good-paying jobs available. Per Business Insider, the median income for a millennial male is $35,000 a year, while females average $30,000.
  4. In the end this dynamic actively hurts the economy. Millennials are going to school for four years and accruing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt, and then are rewarded with shit jobs where they struggle to pay back their loans — let alone pump much other cash into the economy.
  5. I feel for Adam about porn. I can’t even imagine how much I would have been writing if I was of age during the Cold War.
  6. I take it the comment about Generation X being superior to Baby Boomers and Millennials is mostly tongue-in-cheek. I hope so, anyway. Because a majority of Gen X-ers voted for Donald Trump during the general election. They aren’t a beacon of light or anything.
  7. I don’t see how it’s exclusive to Gen X-ers that they are both (a) paying into Social Security and (b) subsidizing student loans. I mean, this is affecting millennials more than any other group. After all, the general We are contributing to a Social Security system that won’t even be around by the time we are in our 60’s, and student loan debt affects us directly.
  8. Back to millennials bitching about our economic and environmental future: so what if it’s been going on for a long time? There is some insinuation there that it isn’t a worthwhile cause, since no one has done anything about it. By this logic, it’s better to not even try.
  9. Adam is right about millennials needing to appreciate their smart phones. I would argue that we are the only block using it effectively, because, after all, we were the most informed voters during the last election. We voted against corruption, and against corporate money influencing our politicians, and against the big banks, and against the major fossil fuel corporations. But the mainstream media will go ahead and blame us.
  10. We, of course, didn’t win. But that hardly makes us wrong.
  11. Again we are faced with simple questions. Would it be better to try, even if it only improves the climate by 2%, or the economy by 2%, or would it be better to just take what we are given and stop complaining? Would you rather us be aware of the problem, or would you rather we just keep our heads in the sand?

Part of the reason millennials receive so much flack, I think, is because Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers are jealous of what we had and have. We have all of the information of the world literally at our fingertips, and for the most part we have had it ever since we were old enough to access a computer.

So, yes, to that extent we have an entitlement problem. We just so happened to arrive at a time in human history when technology exploded, and in many ways we were the guinea pigs to show what comes of an entire generation with a dependency on technology. The older groups bitch since it seems like we are wasting a good thing, as if they would have been more responsible with its power. But I argue that people are people, no matter their age. There are stupid people, and there are smart people. There are inquisitive people, and there are people who don’t really care to know things.

This is true for all generations. It is not exclusive to young people simply because they were born with all the shortcuts at their disposal.

I submit that the results of this experiment are a mixed bag. Social media outlets like Facebook and YouTube and Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat have reduced our discourse to a cesspool that doesn’t resemble America, or at least what it should stand for.

On the other hand, millennials are right about the main issues. We are the most colorblind when it comes to race, we are the most tolerant of people with different sexual orientations, we overwhelmingly believe climate change is manmade, and we value equality and civility over the old guard of patriotism and tradition. We also lean towards Atheism more than any other generation, which is by far the fastest growing minority in the United States. Baked into this idea that all types and ethnicities are equal, and that an overhaul in economic justice is necessary for the future of America, comes the rise of something that more closely resembles Socialism. We’re all in this together.

Both major political parties and the mainstream media — from CNN to MSNBC to Fox News — are currently fighting against this. Their number one agenda is to squash the interests of the working class, which include a $15 minimum wage, free healthcare, free college, and expanding Social Security. They use Socialism as the scare word, because if they told you everything you would get in return for paying a few more dollars in taxes, you might just like it. And liking popular ideas that are good for the working class, and middle class, are dangerous to the institutions who profit off of keeping people either uninformed or misinformed.

That is why individuals like me do not and will not get a seat at Fox News, or MSNBC, or CNN. They get their corporate lapdogs to shout dumbass questions like “Who is going to pay for it?” or “Does that mean it will be a complete government takeover?” whenever talking about Progressive ideas. It isn’t educational. It doesn’t provide you any news. It’s just said to scare you. They want to scare you into voting for more of the status quo, because they are riding the gravy train so long as the status quo is maintained. Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes, two supposed liberals, are making $30,000 per show on MSNBC. How Progressive can you really be when you are making that much money? How much do you think they care about what people making $15,000 or $20,000 a year want?

Do they ever ask you “Who is going to pay for it?” when they are building bombs or manufacturing drones? Of course they don’t. They don’t tell you that 60 cents out of every tax dollar you pay the government goes to the military to build unnecessary weapons. They build them because they are in bed with defense contractors. They need to build shit with all the money they have in their war chest.

If that isn’t Socialism, I don’t know what is.

Then again, everything is upside-down.

Millennials are not perfect, but they care about changing this broken system more than any other generation. I presume Adam either (a) doesn’t understand this or (b) that he does, but he gave up and left his idealism behind a long time ago. Not sure which is worse.

Usually millennials are presented as unrealistic thinkers and dreamers, not to be taken seriously by the more seasoned Generation X and Baby Boom. This is a failing strategy that has already bitten the Democratic Party in the butt, because millennials weren’t inspired to come out and vote for Hillary Clinton. I certainly didn’t, but I definitely voted. I believe we should absolutely be taken more seriously, as the fate of the country rides on us.

We’re here to fuck shit up and clean up the mess that has been made over the last 75 years.

Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers had their own struggles to navigate through, and I’m not here to diminish any of those. But those troubles were long ago, and the people they voted in and put in place have led the country to this darkened state. They can be cynical all they want, but they were responsible. This is not on us, guys.

I’m not really here to play the blame game, because I criticize millennials as much as the next guy. I, too, think we are wasting a lot of our collective potential. But if we are comparing ourselves pound-for-pound with past generations, I’ll like my chances every day of the week. This is a war of attrition, and we are going to have to play the long game. That always has and always will be the one clear advantage young people have over the field.

Sam Dyson: The Closer of an era that never was

The Texas Rangers DFA’d reliever Sam Dyson yesterday. It was less than three months ago that Dyson starred for Team USA during the World Baseball Classic.

To say a lot has changed between then and where we are presently is obvious. In only 16.2 innings pitched — roughly one-fifth of the annual workload for a typical high-leverage reliever — Dyson generated one of the worst pitching seasons in history according to Win Percentage Added. Per Joey Matches, Dyson was worth -3.45 wins according to WPA. Essentially, out of 17 total appearances, Sam Dyson cost the Rangers 3.5 wins. That is almost impossible to do over such a small sample size.

In 16.2 IP Dyson surrendered 31 hits (including 6 home runs) and 12 walks. His ERA was a whopping 10.80, with a FIP not so much better at 9.04. These results more closely resemble what you would expect of a pitcher who jumped all the way from Single-A to the big leagues, not like the All Star Dyson was as recently as last season.

To understand what makes Sam Dyson such a baseball tragedy, at least relative to his expected performance, let’s take a look at how he got here.

It was less than two years ago when the Rangers acquired Dyson from the Marlins. It was a low-key trade by most deadline standards; Texas gave up two non-prospects in catcher Tomas Telis and RHP Cody Ege. (Telis has amassed a putrid .223/.254/.264 in 127 career MLB plate appearances, while Ege has thrown 11.2 career innings.) Dyson, on the other hand, would ascend into Texas’s most dominant relief pitcher down the stretch, and then assume the role of closer the following season.

During the remainder of the 2015 campaign, where the Rangers made up a 9.5-game deficit in the AL West to win the division on the last day of the regular season, Dyson pitched light’s out. He struck out a quarter of the batters he faced (25.2%) and walked next to no one (3.4%), all while inducing a ridiculous 75.9% ground ball rate. His ERA in that time was a minuscule 1.15, while his FIP was an also-tiny 2.11.

The trade that got all the press that summer was when the Rangers acquired Cole Hamels and Jake Diekman from Philadelphia. But based on the strength of Texas’s bullpen down the stretch, which was arguably the biggest factor that propelled them to a division crown, it can be said that without the lesser-known Sam Dyson the Rangers would not have accomplished such a feat.

What most people remember Sam Dyson for wouldn’t come until the playoffs, at the end of a grueling 5-game series against the Blue Jays. Texas quickly went on to a 2-0 series lead before losing the final three games, and it was in a crazy Game 5 where Dyson allowed the series-winning three-run homer to Toronto slugger Jose Bautista. Just because I’m a glutton for pain, here is how that went down:

I didn’t appreciate Dyson’s reaction to the blast, not even while despising Bautista as a baseball player and having to deal with the torment of another failed playoff stint. The roller coaster 2015 season left me exhausted in that moment, where there was nothing left to do other than accept that the other team got the best of my guys. The time for fighting passed when that homer went deep into the night. It was beneath Dyson to be such a poor sport.

From my end, I didn’t have a problem with how any of it played out. Except for the final result, obviously. Sam Dyson was the Rangers best relief pitcher, and if I had to have someone on the mound in that moment it would have been him.

People like to say baseball is like chess, but it really isn’t. Chess is about positioning pieces and suffocating the opponent’s king; in baseball you can position all the pieces in perfect order, and the opposition can still get a knight or a bishop to perform like a queen over any one at bat. But one way or another, the 2015 season had to come to an end. It just so happened that Sam Dyson was responsible for throwing the fateful pitch.

In 2016, Dyson was back to his normal, above-average self. He took over as the Rangers primary closer fairly early in the season — in place of Shawn Tolleson, who was in the midst of his own odyssey with the organization — and finished the year with 38 saves in 43 chances (88.4%). While his ERA was a very respectable 2.43, his peripherals dipped in a slight but meaningful way. His strikeout rate dropped from 25% to 19%, his walk rate went from 3.4% to 8.1%, and his GB rate went from 75% to 65% (which is still really fucking strong). In other words: he was still very good, just not a star like the season before.

After another failed trip to the postseason, where Texas got swept by the Blue Jays, the least of Texas’s concerns heading into its most recent offseason had to do with their bullpen. After all they had Dyson established, Matt Bush, Jeremy Jeffress, Keone Kela, Jake Diekman, Tony Barnette, Alex Claudio, Tanner Scheppers, and I could go on and on.

Amazingly, that good-to-plus collection of arms has undergone a fantastic bit of bad fortune over the last six months.

  • Jake Diekman had surgery on his colon and hasn’t pitched in 2017;
  • Keone Kela got sent to the minor leagues for discipline;
  • Scheppers got out-righted from the 40-man roster and has been in Triple-A all year;
  • Matt Bush got promoted to the closer’s role after the Dyson mess;
  • Jeremy Jeffress’s results have been awful (5.73 ERA in 22 IP);
  • Tony Barnette’s have been even worse (6.10 ERA in 20.1 IP);
  • Alex Claudio has become one of the most reliable of the bunch (2.92 ERA in 24.2 IP).

After allowing 3 runs in the top of the 10th inning against the Rays the other night — in the game that would turn into Dyson’s last with the club — I was kind of under the impression that that would be it for him in Texas. He was very, historically, bad in 2017, and it has cost the Rangers dearly. I am a Rangers fan, so you’d think that would upset me. Like I’d be pissed off at Sam Dyson or something.

But that wasn’t it. The first thing I thought about was how bad I felt for him, because it’s not like he wasn’t trying. It’s not like his goal was to pitch like shit and let down the other 24 players in the locker room. No professional signs up for that.

The way I know he cares is evident. He cared that Jose Bautista showed him up in the playoffs. He cared that he was responsible for Texas’s loss, and exit from the postseason. He gave a shit. Take away all the money and fame from my favorite players on my favorite teams, and just let me know that they give a damn. Call me old-fashioned.

According to the blog of Texas Rangers outfielder and now-former teammate of Sam Dyson, Shin-Soo Choo, Dyson packed his stuff in tears after the loss to the Rays. I knew that was going to be it for him. Choo knew that was going to be it for him. But most importantly, and perhaps most poignantly, Sam Dyson knew that was going to be it for him. He cared.

Maybe in a parallel universe, somewhere out there, Dyson throws a different pitch to Bautista in 2015. Maybe Dyson gets out of the inning without allowing the runner from 3rd to score, and maybe the Rangers go on to win that game and series against Toronto. Maybe they go on to beat the Kansas City Royals in the American League Championship Series. Maybe they go on and win the Rangers first World Series.

Things could have played out so much differently is what I’m saying. Sam Dyson was brought in as a nobody in 2015 and quickly became the ace of Texas’s bullpen. By the end of 2016 Rangers’ fans were probably more excited about Matt Bush and Keone Kela, but Dyson was nothing to sneeze at. He was somebody worth trusting.

And that is ultimately what makes his fall such a surprise — the fact that Dyson couldn’t be trusted — but it offers a necessary lesson to anyone who falls too in love with relief pitchers. In the overwhelming majority of cases, from a year-to-year basis even the best relievers can look extremely human. For every freak like Andrew Miller or Craig Kimbrel lies a burial ground of pitchers exactly like Sam Dyson, who one year can be among the league’s elite, and be on the waiver wire the next.

Sam Dyson will catch on somewhere, and since he can still throw 95 I presume some pitching coach will fix him and he’ll turn into a late-inning guy again. The only thing we know for sure is that won’t be with the Rangers, the team that rescued him from oblivion with the Marlins and were rewarded with championship-caliber pitching for the better part of a season-and-a-half.

Ironically, the one position Texas had real strength in heading into the offseason has turned into perhaps its biggest flaw. Sam Dyson only pitched in 17 games, but the Rangers will have to wear his early-season struggles for what figures to be a trying remainder of the season. At current Texas is 14.0 games behind the Houston Astros in the American League West.

Sam Dyson never meant very much to me as a Ranger, which is more to say I didn’t spend a lot of time talking about him or thinking about him because he did his job. Usually the only time I talk about relief pitching is when they aren’t doing their job, when they are giving up runs, or costing their team wins.

Hense this article.

Cornel West and Bill Maher argue about Hillary Clinton

Although I have the courage of my convictions, I won’t deny that there are times, maybe once or twice a month, where I wonder to myself if I am actually getting it all wrong. Like I am living inside my own bubble, and my bubble is wrong. This would be rich for someone like me who accuses both Republicans and Democrats — normal people who buy into the talking points of whichever political team they are on — of generally being guilty of the same thing.

Like, right now, if you are a mainstream Democrat you probably hate Trump and blame Russia for everything. If you are a mainstream Republican, you probably think Trump isn’t getting a fair shake from the “fake” news. Maybe both of these things are true, maybe neither are true, but what I’ve been saying is that neither matter.

All I care about are the issues, and the policies, and the future policies. That’s why I consider myself whatever the fuck you want to call it. Some say Progressive, others say Berniecrat, or Democratic-Socialist, or just plain Socialist. I don’t really give a shit to be perfectly honest, because the label is a lot less important than the fact that it’s not a Democrat and not a Republican.

All that aside, the people who share my point of view are not represented — not in the corporate media and not, with a handful of exceptions, in the government. This is a problem.

One of the people who does represent us is Professor Cornel West, who was a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday. Most of the show was the typical Trump-bashing and so on. Since he came back on the air in January, Maher has dedicated a shit-ton of his show to blaming everything on Russia and taking advantage of the low-hanging fruit that Trump provides. To that end his show isn’t a lot different than what you might see on CNN or MSNBC on a given night.

Towards the end, West and Maher had a heated back and forth. Since you already know what side I’m on here, I’ll simply transcript the juice after the video below:

West: Rule of law comes down hard on the poor and the well-to-do get off, or the police get off because they’re protecting the property.

Maher: But Hillary’s first speech was about mass incarceration.

West: Hillary gave speeches about all kinds of stuff, but it didn’t have a whole lot of integrity in it though, brother.

Maher: That is such bullshit.

West: That’s not bullshit at all. Look how they treated Bernie Sanders, man. They’re concerned about the Russians, but look how they treated Bernie Sanders. Bernie would’ve won if he had a chance. He would’ve won if he had a chance. Don’t defend Hillary. Hillary can’t even take responsibility for the fact that she lost the election… Don’t trot Hillary out on me now, brother.

Maher: He’s so wrong. He’s so wrong.

West: She’s better than Trump but don’t lie about the sister.

Maher: She’s better than Trump, that’s all I’m saying. A lot better than Trump. In so many ways.

West: That doesn’t take too much. Who isn’t better than Trump?

Maher: That’s not an answer. It’s glib. It’s beneath you. For someone who is such an intellectual that answer is beneath you.

Again we have the adults coming in to tell us what is right and what is wrong. Again we have millionaire comedians wagging their finger at us to fall back, get in line, and take the less-shitty of two totally shitty options. These people should be asking for our advice, because they were the ones who got it all totally fucking wrong.

This might sound crazy, but it is possible to both (a) say that Hillary Clinton is awful and (b) that she would have been better than Donald Trump. Admitting (a) does not automatically assume that everyone is all fine and dandy with Trump in office. That was never the argument we were making.

The argument was and is very simple: what made Clinton worthy of our vote? Was it so she could frack the hell out of the world? Was it so she could do nothing to reign in the greed of Wall Street? Was it so she could continue accepting huge sums of money from Pharma and insurance agencies? Was it so she could expand on the seven wars America is currently engaged in?

What exactly makes her terribly different than any mainstream Republican?

Donald Trump is an embarrassment to the fullest degree, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Democratic Party wasn’t willing to offer anything new to the American people. Bernie Sanders was the only left-side candidate who had a vision for the future, with policies that would actually help people, and he wasn’t even a Democrat. The first priority of the Democrats is to squash the interests of the working class, or labor. Defeating Republicans comes a distant second.