|July 22, 2013||Hal Steinbrenner Does Not Fit This Team||no comments|
|June 26, 2013||A Word On Baseball Injuries (501 Words, Really) Anthony Stasi||no comments|
|February 08, 2012||Take Back the (South) Park!||no comments|
|April 28, 2011||Why Michael Scott Trumps Homer Simpson||no comments|
|April 15, 2011||Quick, Protect The Environment From The Environmental Organizations||no comments|
|April 12, 2011||How Institutions Change; What We Might Learn From Buck Showalter||no comments|
|April 02, 2011||Reagan’s Assassination Attempt – 30 Years Later||no comments|
|March 05, 2011||A Response to Westboro||no comments|
|February 25, 2011||American Catholics and Wisconsin||no comments|
|February 22, 2011||What Mitt Romney Owes Barack Obama||no comments|
Does Anyone Have $3 Billion That I Can Borrow?
Actions (or the lack thereof) speak louder than words. Hal Steinbrenner can say that he is not interested in selling the New York Yankees, but history may tell us differently. In the 1980s and early 1990s, George Steinbrenner wanted to hand this team over to his son Hal. Hal shadowed the old man, and it soon became clear that the young man did not have the chops, or perhaps the interest, in taking over the team in the future. George then went to Plan B…he planned to hand the team’s operations over to son-in-law Steve Swindal. Swindal then got divorced from Steinbrenner’s daughter, leaving another hole in future Yankee ownership. So, here we are…back with Hal. And it is turning out to be what we might have expected.
Hal has no interest in this team. He says that the team can win with a self imposed salary cap of $189 million. He might be right, but to impose that in a year when your team is so banged up is simply nuts. Although it is not nuts if the plan is to sell this team. Hal has denied wanting to sell the team, but remember that the Dodgers were sold for north of $2 billion. The Yankees could fetch at least $3 billion.
Even if the Yankees endure two seasons of par performance, the Yankee brand is what is worth all of that money. There is no reason to make this a competitive team when the value is in the brand and not the performance. Steinbrenner may be a decent man, but he is not a baseball man. His dad was not a baseball guy either. George did not even understand the simple rules of the game early on, such as not knowing that a run scored when a third out is made on a force play does not count. But George wanted to know this game. He wanted to win. He wanted to build. Hal has been dragged to this post. Most Americans would love to have this problem, but he does not want this team.
If Hal Steinbrenner can watch Reid Brignac, Luis Cruz, and Ben Francisco start for this team and not feel uncomfortable, he is not for this profession. He can fix this by giving General Manager Brian Cashman more liberty to spend in the short term. The frustrations that Cashman has dealt with (most likely because of Hal) has become obvious. Cashman has been angry, not so much about the losses on the field, as the inability to address the losses. Girardi and Cashman are doing yeoman’s work with an owner that is out to lunch.
Give George Steinbrenner credit for one thing. He attended games. He sat there when fans gave him grief for the bad years. He sucked it up because he wanted to own this team. He endured a suspension. He loved owning this team. Hal does not, and that is not good for the Yankee nation. If Hal is going to sell this club, he should do it immediately…that would be the honorable thing to do.
A Word On Baseball Injuries
At the risk of playing on emotions, every American should see the documentary film Restrepo, which came out three years ago. It chronicles these great American soldiers bogged down in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan. Great men doing right by America. The only time they do not show up for work is when it is impossible to do so. No matter your politics, remember to see this film.
At some point after a lesson like this, we drift back to everyday life, which includes our love – as New Yorkers – for professional sports. Mark Teixeira has been on the disabled list for all but eight games this year. He got hurt hitting a ball off of a tee. In other words, the ball was not even moving. The injury did not require another person to be present. He earns $22.5 million a year. That is 2.8 million dollars for each game he has played in 2013, where he has batted .151.
The market decides what a man gets as far as salary, and as a fan, I was okay with these figures when the man was at first base every day. He is a great player when he plays every day. I understand the salary, and I would be hard pressed to turn that down if someone was willing to pay me that amount. But I would also feel somewhat undignified in accepting such a salary if I did not play for it.
If players are not on a rehab assignment, they should have to travel with the club. Even if they cannot be in the dugout because of some roster regulation, they should be in their street civvies and sitting behind the dugout. This is how it’s done in the minor leagues. A team should not be paying for guys to sit in their private hot tubs. I am growing to dislike a lot of players, and not because of their financial successes. There is just something that seems wrong with making all of that money in a non-contact sport, and then being out for an entire year.
Players should be able to move to the right for a groundball and not break a leg indefinitely. They should be able to hit a ball off of a tee and not damage their wrist sheath for months. They should get hit by a pitch and head to first base, not to their home entertainment center. This Yankee team has been surprisingly good despite the injuries. But knowing what other Americans do on a day to day basis for so little, I am no longer looking forward to seeing these Faberge Egg players come back. In fact, the honorable thing would be to donate the remainder of their gluttonous salaries to men who actually go to work every day to protect us. That would be the honorable thing. If this seems ridiculous, it only shows how far we have drifted from reality…but that film will bring you back.
I will go on record saying that of all the animated series on television in the last ten to fifteen years, South Park gets life’s unexplainables right more than any other (sorry Family Guy fans). In fact, the story lines are real enough for me to have thought – if only for a moment – that Eric Cartman (the ornery chubby character on South Park) had purchased the Washington Nationals baseball team.
Last week, the ownership of the Washington Nationals rolled out a “Take Back The Park” campaign aimed directly at Philadelphia Phillies fans. The idea is that for the two teams’ first meeting in May of this year, single game tickets are only being sold to people with addresses in Virginia, Maryland, or Washington, DC. This is an effort to keep the stadium from filling up with Phillies fans, and embarrassing the Nationals.
In a past episode of South Park, Eric Cartman comes into some money that he inherits and purchases a theme park. His disdain for other kids makes him keep all other would-be visitors out. He allows only a few people in so he can keep the park open. Ultimately, this reverse strategy creates great buzz and the park thrives with more and more people coming in, while angry Cartman is upset that other kids are having fun at his park.
And then we have the Washington Nationals. They do not want Philadelphia fans clogging up their stadium, even though they fail to draw very many of their own fans. This will make for a big story, and already Phillies fans are finding loopholes to get into the park.
As fans, this is something we have all wanted to do. Yankees fans would love to keep Boston fans out of Yankee Stadium. Boston fans would gladly keep New York fans out of their city entirely. But to go to these lengths and mandate such a change, is going to make for some great baseball fun in May. Here’s hoping the red team wins.
This may not be the last episode of The Office, but it really is the last episode. Looking back, after the show finally retires after next season, people will only remember Steve Carell’s departure as the defining last moment for the show. Carell hitting his stride a little later in life has made him more likeable, and probably a little smarter. He knows the time is right to leave the show. In fact, there has been a considerable drop off of viewers that think the show has gone on too long already. The last few episodes have big audiences because of his departure, but that will dissipate when the show officially ‘jumps the shark’ without Carell.
What The Office is doing with Michael Scott is what we all wish The Simpsons would have done, which is to say goodbye. Homer Simpson was at one point the funniest character ever created for sitcom television, and this includes Archie Bunker, George Jefferson, and Hawkeye Peirce. Homer Simpson was the entire show, until the show’s creators made him so unrealistically silly that The Simpsons’ smarter viewers left for funnier pastures like Family Guy, eventually making Seth MacFarlane a rich man.
Steve Carell may or may not become a success in comedy films, but he knows The Office is over…and soon so will the show’s producers. Carell avoided turning his Michael Scott into Homer Simpson, and that is what makes him the mature entertainer that he is. Those first six seasons of The Simpsons are still some of the cleverest television ever produced, but the last 14 years were invisible.
The Michael Scott’s character was getting a little hard to believe after the season when he refuses to move to New Hampshire with the love of his life, Holly Flax. It made no sense that he would not make the move, but the show still had a couple of years left with Carell and tonight is when he departs.
The Office was a great show, and I proudly take the unpopular stance and say that the American version was funnier than the British version. Thanks for the memories, Michael Scott…(that's what she said.)
The debate over environmental policy was always between those who did not think pollution was a priority and those saw it as a threat. I use the word pollution because had we continued to call it such (instead of these esoteric phrases like ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’) we would have moved the ball much further down field already. But today some (not all) environmental groups are actually stalling the progress they have helped bring about.
It was thirty years ago last week that John Hinckley, Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan following a speech Reagan delivered to the AFL-CIO leadership in Washington DC. Even as a child during that time, it was not hard to notice that Reagan came to the presidency with great fanfare. He entered during a hostage crisis that became the first daily reported non-war event…today with 24 hour news services there are many on-going stories. There might be a difference between the attempt on Reagan’s life and the tragic attempts on public officials since (such as the shooting involving Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords). Are all would-be assassins mentally detached? Or are some just evil?
When Reagan was shot, even amid his bold political ideology, the story was all about Hinckley. Hinckley, it was reported over and over, was a deranged Travis Bickle-type of character that was less concerned with Reagan’s policies and more concerned with impressing actress Jodie Foster (talk about barking up the wrong tree). Reagan’s supply-side economics and anti-communist rhetoric had a few detractors, but his assassination attempt was not reported as a symptom of those policies.
Today, however, the news goes beyond describing the violent offender, and looks to attach the victim’s politics (or the surrounding political dialogue) to the tragedy. They ask questions like, ‘Was the shooter on the other side of the political spectrum?’ ‘Was this a revenge plot because of policy?’ All deranged people have reasons, but by focusing on their reasoning as though it could make any sense, the reporting delineates the severity of what really matters…which is how unhinged this person had to be to carry out such an act. Maybe we are looking for politics where there is none.
“What happened to just being crazy?” asked comedian Chris Rock after the media tried to explain the shootings at Columbine High School. Right…why is that no longer enough for us? Hinckley, Mark David Chapman, Jared Lee Loughner…none of them had reasons worthy of a 24 hour news cycle. To give their reasoning that much attention is almost giving them a voice. We want to find out how it happened and how to avoid it in the future, but Loughner was no victim of harsh political discourse between two opposing parties. Watch his self-produced, completely incoherent, video of how he hated his school. None of these guys were society’s fault, they were their fault.
Then there are the politically motivated assassination attempts, such as was the case with former Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin. Should politically motivated murderers be denied the description of mentally delusional, and instead just classified as evil? Rabin’s killer was politically motivated as he later explained that the Oslo Peace Accords were why he murdered Rabin. But we might be looking too far into a person’s politics in many other cases as a means to define a tragedy.
The decision regarding free speech in the Snyder v. Phelps case, better known as the Westboro Baptist Church case, was expected by constitutional scholars. Political speech, regardless of how hurtful, has the most protections of any form of speech. But it is for this reason that there are responses to what Westboro does that are appropriate.
Westboro Baptist Church claims to be expressing religious beliefs, yet their speech is protected as political speech. With members of Westboro under the illusion that God looks favorably on their protests at military funerals, there should be a public response from the major religions. While many people of faith agree with the general public about the offensiveness of the protests, the members of Westboro should hear loud and clear from people of faith that they are on their own with this bigotry.
The United Conference of Catholic Bishops should openly express its distaste for this type of hate. Muslims in America might want to use this as an opportunity to lend a like-minded voice on this matter. Perhaps a public letter in major newspapers joined by the major faiths and the Anti-Defamation League (which has already voiced its opinion on this) would at least tell the members of this “church” that other people of faith are outraged.
Members of Westboro have their speech understandably protected, but it is also well within the rights of other faiths in America to express their opinions. Religious orders do not have fewer First Amendment rights than lay citizens. Westboro should know that they have no allies that are simply keeping quiet. They are alone in their harmful mission.
The controversy in the Wisconsin legislature is a heated debate between labor interests and the governor. Because of this economic climate, this is the only time a state government could introduce new bargaining rules like this. If the Wisconsin economy was doing better, there is a good possibility that this would not be happening. The Catholic Church has had a strong opinion on organized labor since Pope Leo XIII’s written response on the exploitation of workers. “Rerum Novarum” was Pope Leo XIII’s titled open letter to all bishops explaining that the Church supports collective bargaining rights.
Wisconsin, like New York and New Jersey, has a large population of Catholics. But Catholics appear relatively divided on this issue. Not all Catholics are on the same page with this protest. Some questions that might be worth asking are:
1. 1. Are American Catholics today as sympathetic to organized labor as they may have been a generation or two ago?
2. 2. Did the Catholic Church have political contributions in mind when it issued Rerum Novarum? Maybe it did, but it does not go into detail on the matter. Edict #40 reads, “The working man, too, has interests in which he should be protected by the State.” Rerum Novarum is 120 years old this year.
3. 3. Do other trade union members, such as the carpenters, electricians, and steamfitters, have sympathy for the teacher’s union efforts in Wisconsin?
Mitt Romney is going to run for president, because he would be crazy not to do so. He has been preparing for this his entire life. He has lots of money. He is a good looking guy, and has the mannerisms for the job. Romney dropped out of the primary race with John McCain because Romney was being a good sport. He may have lost to McCain anyway, but Romney’s campaign was not petering out. He had money to burn. Romney dropped out to give the GOP what it almost always chooses – the patriarchal figure over the political figure (George W. Bush being the exception.)
Romney would have a huge uphill climb ahead. Obama is still very popular, and he has gotten to the point where House Republicans are angrier at other Democrats than they are with the president. This is where Clinton was in 1995, when the GOP was more concerned with trouncing Democrats nationally than they were with unseating Clinton. Obama is in a good position to be re-elected. Romney, however, can give the Republican Party something it has not had in a very long time, the intellectual candidate.
Even in big Republican years, the GOP has gone with the more inspiring (Reagan) candidate, the more trusted (Eisenhower) candidate, and the more likable (George W. Bush) candidate. The party almost never runs the now-popular ‘policy wonk- intellectual’ candidate. Romney, however, is an intellectual. Like him or not, Romney would not be a deer in the headlights when someone mentions overseas markets or the Internet.
Romney has some baggage, however. He flipped on the abortion issue. He lost friends in what is a growing gay Republican community. He probably offended some McCain followers prior to dropping out. And then there is the whole Mormon thing, and that was big…but is not anymore, thanks to Barack Obama.
All of Romney’s past stumbles are relatively fixable. He can mend fences with gay conservatives. He can maintain his current stance on abortion and say he had an epiphany. He can find a way to separate his Romney-Care health insurance policy from Obama-Care. And thanks the man in the White House, being slightly less traditional than previous presidents - in this case Mormon - is now okay.
Romney would never – EVER – have been elected if Barack Obama had not been elected first. Obama did not simply break a racial barrier, he broke the “non-traditional” barrier, and Romney now has a chance to get elected president.
The issues facing Romney are still health care, abortion, whether the conservatives can trust him, whether the moderates can trust him, getting enough Hispanic support, and the fact that the Republican Party has its supporters and its detractors – all of whom he inherits should he be the nominee. But he will only have to talk about being Mormon for a short while because Americans have shown they can think (and vote) past that kind of thing.