New Years Thoughts; A Big Welcome to 2014

Friends, There are 10 hours of 2013 left here in Minnesota and 2014 dawns soon. After tumultuous times, I have discovered the great wisdom in the statement “When a window is closed, a door opens,” and “If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger,” (That Nietzsche fellow had a way with words.)  The door that is opening in 2014 promises to be very rewarding.

The benefits are numerous. In mid 2012,  I decided that Sima and I needed to play more tennis. I found the Reed Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis, a year round facility and we now play intensely in a league. We are actually getting better. Tennis is a superb conditioning activity so I don’t need the very boring (and expensive) gym. Pushups are the perfect exercise. We are playing in mixed doubles tournaments and leagues and loving it and, as I said, we are getting better.

In business, I am now pursuing pure business activities. I had a situation where I led a client to a team for the fourth time, and he couldn’t close, for the fourth time. I decided that was not what I wanted to do, so I stopped doing it. Now, partners and I are pursuing financial, sports equipment, league operation changes, arena/stadium operation improvements and related stuff. This is fun!!! The partners, curiously, found me, so I think the karma is right.

It is still hard to believe that it is 2014. My daughters, born in 1989 and 1992, are bemused by the fact I can speak of stuff that I saw in the 1940’s. That is until I figured out that my daughter Caroline, 21, has the same relationship with FDR that I had with James Garfield, who was shot in 1881. That was 24 presidents ago. (This is heading towards a celebration of age.) I think being older has great benefits, (not in tennis, by the way) but in the way you consider life and the obstacles that arise. Age teaches that you keep your head about you and the skies clear; the new dawn of 2014 smiles on all of us.

I am please to inform you that they, Sima, Clark III, Natalie and Caroline, are all smarter than I am, but that age allows me to continue to fool them from time to time. Some reference to the Korean War or the Truman administration, or some reference to how the South came within a few hours of winning the Civil War in 1862, usually is sufficient, or they are just being kind. Now that I think about it, that must be the case.

So, tomorrow starts 2014 and I can’t wait. Tonight, I will set the clocks ahead to Atlantic time and go to bed early. Sima and I will celebrate the evening with a lobster dinner. By the way, I made the mistake of allowing her to learn that I was a very good cook. I got that way by being my mother’s sou chef  (A sou chef actually has some authority; I had none, but I like the sound of it!) for years. (How many 12 year old boys do you know can make a meringue by hand?) So I now am the chef. As daughter Natalie told me Christmas eve, “Make dinner!!” so I produced a rack of lamb, broccoli and sweet potato fries in 25 minutes. I actually enjoy that especially now that the rule, “If you make it, you don’t clean up” which has been in force for some years and used against me for decades, is now my favorite rule. Bon Appetit!

So as I ramble through the last hours of 2013, wondering how it became 2014 so fast, and how far that is from where I started, I am blessed to be making this journey with wonderful people, and I thank God for that. 

Who is Masahiro Tanaka?

Masahiro Tanaka is a 6’2,” 205 pound right hand pitcher who won 24 and lost none for the Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japanese NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball, the MLB equivalent in Japan) league in 2013. His team has now posted his contract as available to the highest bidding Major League team. This new posting sysem allows the Japanese team to notify its Commissioner that it will “post” the contract of a player and set a price that is not more than $20,000,000. The Japanese Commissioner then notifies the MLB Commissioner who notifies his teams that anyone willing to pay the posting fee may negotiate with the player, without limit on the compensation paid. If a team is successful in signing the player, it is then obligated to pay, on an installment plan, the set posting fee. In the Tanaka case, that is the maximum of $20,000,000. So now the fun begins. All Major League teams can bid on this pitcher, who, at age 25, is probably going to improve with time. If you haven’t heard of Masahiro Tanaka until now, you will hear a lot more about him in the future.

There have now several very successful Japanese pitchers in the Major Leagues. Most recently, we watched Koji Uehara finish the World Series for the Red Sox. For the Yankees, Hiroki Kuroda (11-13, 3.31ERA, 201IP, 1.162WHIP) was their best pitcher. Seattle’s Hisashi Iwakuma (14-6, 2.66ERA 219.2,IP 1.01WHIP) was an All-Star and third in Cy Young balloting. The one Japanese pitcher that I love seeing is Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers 13-9, 2.83ERA, 209.2, 1.07WHIP). From what I have read, I think Tanaka is most like Darvish. That is he throws hard. One commentator talked about a splitter and another the fastball. This fellow, therefore, has two dominant pitches. He can also be expected to pitch 200 innings or more. A major league team needs to pitch 1450 ininngs a season and this will be done by about twenty pitchers, so one pitcher who pitches 14% of these and does so with a high probablity of winning the game is extremely vauable. How valuable is Tanaka and to whom is he most valuable-that is the question?

Clearly, there will be a bidding war for this fellow and I am guessing the usual prospects will be active. These are the Yankees, Red Sox, Mariners, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Cubs, and Rangers. (The Angels are out of this for reasons I will discuss later.) The Yankees want to out bid the Red Sox for everything, so if the Red Sox bid, look for the Yankees to try to out do them. Then the Dodgers may just want this player very badly and bid accordingly. The Diamond Backs may play at the game, but they’re not nuts, so probably will not mortgage the future for one pitcher. The Mariners just want to get better and have strong Japanese connections, but they have limits, market limits. That leaves the Cubs and Rangers.

I think either of these teams can make a deal that is around the Zack Greinke, six year $147M figure, my instinct, based merely on a hunch, is that the Cubs maybe the team to beat here. After making moves that promised but didn’t deliver results, this may be the chance to do something.

Now to why the Angels are out of it. This team signed Albert Pujols to a long term, $240M contract, that soaks up lots of salary space. More importantly, the Angels are facing the major challenge facing teams, the super star heading for free agency. In this case, that is Mike Trout. He is the best player (along with Miguel Cabrera) and must be signed soon. The Pujols contract sets the market for Trout in LA. Layering a Tanaka contract just under that would be very risky for the Angels. It is risky because Pujols may be finished, and Tanaka is a bright prospect, but not without risk as not every Japanese player has starred in the Majors, as shown by Kei Igawa, Hideki Irabu and the Twins collosal fail in Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Having half of the salary obligation in a few players is a disaster and a team needs 25 skilled players to win pennants.

We will know the outcome in a month, and Masahiro Tanaka will be very well known.

Two Curious Items on Christmas Eve

‘Tis the season to be jolly!!.

Early this morning, and it was -11 in Minneapolis, I noted that the LA TImes had decided that it would no longer print what it calls “denier” letters. This refers to “Climate Change Deniers,” of course. This is because the “alarmists,” those who embrace the climate change religion, are being defrocked by the facts of the real world. The simple fact is that there has been no warming for 17 years and there is evidence that we are moving the the opposite direction.

I am old enough to remember the debate about cooling and warming that raged in the 1970’s. The two sides in those days claimed either that polution and gases, (greenhouse gases were a new discovery) were causing the cooling of the earth because sun light was being blocked, or that the same polution and gases were causing warning because of the newly created “greenhouse” effect. The cooling crowd said that a new ice age may be upon us, but no one really cared because glaciers move at, well, glacial speed. So let’s not be too concerned if a glacier starts towards us that will not get here for 1000 years. However, the warmists figured out that if they could convince us that we were all going to burn up, well, they could make money on that, and make money, they have.

So how did the alarmists scare so many people? The simple answer is that they manufactured so called evidence and the media figured out it could get readers, watchers, and listeners, if they could scare people. (WCCO radio in Minnesota built its franchise on weather alerts during the Summer when it would interrupt programming with severe weather warnings. My Aunt Mildred, visiting from Massachusetts, was afraid to go outside most days.) The biggest lie was the Hockey Stick Graph that tried to show rapid, extreme temperature increases during the 20th century. I first encountered the Hockey Stick at a Dartmouth Alumni luncheon when a fellow alum and alarmist lawyer presented it to us. I was sitting in the back of the room, yet, I, and several of my pals all screamed when we saw it. We history majors screamed because the medieval warm period and Little Ice Age were missing, the economics majors screamed because the graph had a 1000 year X axis and a 1.5 degree Y axis, and the math majors screamed that the formula used would give an uptick no matter what data was used. This was my first indication that the entire global warming scheme was a fraud. More followed; fraudulent tree ring data, doctored temperature records and all the time billions of dollars flowing to those who espoused and embraced the warming littany.

The current literature shows that there is no warming, and the IPCC and East Anglia data, shown to be a fraud, supports that idea. Faced by the prospect that the spigot of cash may be turned off, the alarmists have turned to what they know best-media management. This is why the LA TImes decided to stop publishing “denier” letters. The last hope they have of taking political control is to muzzle those who know the truth.

The ultimate goal of the alarmists is to pass legislation severly limiting co2 and then wait a few years and proclaiming that the earth has been saved by them. They are now desparate as the truth is now known and they can’t take the political power they so fervently seek. For more on this subject and the sun’s role in it go HERE.

The second issue that captured my interest is that smoking is being limited in lots of place, even your own living room, but smoking marijuana is being made legal in state after state. There are those who can hold both thoughts in their heads at the same time and say, “That makes sense. I’m glad marijuana smoking is legal and I’m also glad tobacco smoking is illegal.” Now these same people think that second-hand tobacco smoke may cause health issues in twenty years, but are oblivious that second-hand THC in the head of a stoned driver may kill them now. (Some say drivers accustomed to being high are effective drivers. Oh, my!)

What will totally blow their minds is when a emarijuana cigarette is produced that has THC in it and not nicotine. they are banning the ecigarette, but how can they ban the ejoint? What will they do then? There is a certain humor in this situation as there is no good answer. It seems that enhaling second-hand THC is infinitely more dangerous than nicotine. Of course, there are those who like to go through life stoned and they vote, and they even believe in “Climate Change.” I think being scared is important to them.

Barack Obama on the Bill of RIghts

This tweet caught my eye. “The Bill of Rights is the foundation of American liberty, securing our most fundamental rights.” —President Obama on Bill of Rights Day — Barack Obama (@BarackObama)

I found this tweet to be most interesting as the effort to eliminate the 2nd Amendment that secures the right to keep and bear arms is ongoing and the 4th Amendment whereby citizens are protected from illegal search and seizures of personal data has been eviscerated by the National Security Agency. This is especially ripe given the recent federal court decision that finds the NSA spying on all Americans to be an egregious violation of the 4th Amendment.

The plain words of the tweet and the plain words of the Bill of Rights are to be taken as shibboleth by all of us. I hope those in government, whose power is largely constrained by 10th Amendment of the Bill of RIghts, also pay attention.

Declining Solar Activity Leads to Global Cooling

In today’s Powerlineblog post here, John Hinderaker details the results of a Danish study on the climate, most precisely, the decline in solar activity that is approaching 200 year lows. Supporting this news is the recent record cold in Minnesota as reported in the MinneapolisStartribune. I live there and when one speaks of record cold in Minnesota, that is something to take note of.

Where the climate change alarmists can’t point  to any increase in “Global Warming” for the last fifteen years, this sort of information is certainly causing them concern.  The Star Tribune article mentions that International Falls set a record for cold on December 15 with -32 degrees, That’s below zero Farenheit.

The weakest solar max in 200 years was reported by the Royal Observatory of Belgium is shown grapically here. What must be noted that these are real facts not computer generated projections for the climate change delusionists who continue to hold on to the myth of man made climate change for their philosophical, economic and political purposes. Even at the worst, all those projections did was return us to the Medieval Maximum temperatures that were enjoyed during the Renaissance, a glorius and salubrious time in history. 

This article goes on to describe other factors as well that lead to the conclusion that "As time goes on a link between decreasing solar activity and the halt in global warming 17 years ago becomes harder and harder to deny."

NY Times on Attention Deficit Disorder diagnosis; “A National Disaster”

This mornings NY Times carries an article entitled “The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder” can be read here. The essence here is that although 5% of children may have the syndrome called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD, as many as 15% are give stimulants upon a diagnosis " of scant symptoms." Dr. Keith Conners says that the rise in diagnosis from 600,000 in 1990 to 3.5 million in 2013 is a "national disaster of dangerous proportion."  

It seems that in a case of actual ADHD, the administration of Adderall or Concerta actually has a calming effect. However,when those same drugs are administered to someone who doesn’t have ADHD, the drugs act as the stimulants they are. This is why professional athletes  are seeking therapeutic use exemptions that allow such use. As shown here; MLB has granted such exemptions to, curiously, 15% of its players. As has been written here as well, the drive to excel and use drugs to do so is prevalent in sports and the use of the therapeutic use exemption is simply one more method by which players mask their use of drugs, this time hiding in the open.  

All You Need To Know About The New MLB Replay System

“My Take on MLB Replay”  is written by Mike Port. He has been and may be a GM again and ran the Umpiring operation for MLB for several years . In this article that appeared in Referee Magazine, he offers his insight into the new MLB replay system that will be in place in 2014/

In August 2013, MLB announced plans to implement “Expanded Instant Replay” for the 2014 season.  As a former general manager and overseer of MLB’s umpires, I ask myself with frequency: “Do I favor more replay in MLB or oppose such a concept?” I am back and forth. However, as I worked my way through the matter,.let’s explore some of the aspects and questions attendant to MLB’s plans. 

First, the traditionalist’s point of view. Some years ago, Gene Mauch, manager of the California Angels, told me “There is no rule against scoring 15 runs.” His point was that baseball is a game of mistakes and the team that is able to minimize and
overcome them by scoring the most runs winds up as the winner. 

Shortstop misses a ground ball allowing two runs to score? Umpire makes an incorrect call? Best hitter strikes out with the bases loaded? Score enough runs and none of that matters. Moreover, Mauch believed that if a team was performing properly, an incorrect call would rarely cost a team a game. Incorrect call in the second inning? You’ve got seven more innings to score enough runs to overcome. Incorrect call on the last play of the game during which the winning run scores? Shame on you for not having scored enough runs so that call did not matter. Winning includes striving to overcome any and all adversities. There are certainly those who feel that is the basic nature of the game.

Granted, MLB has ventured into the arena of replay with its implementation of replay for “boundary calls” – questionable home runs, fan interference, etc. However, to be clear: Boundary replay was not instituted because of umpire inadequacy, but rather because of the MLB stadiums. Gone are the days when it was easy to rule on a home run. Today’s umpires must deal with fan proximity to walls and fences, increasing the chances for interference. In some places, there are lines on walls. A ball hitting above the line is a home run, but below the line, the ball is in play. Confusing, indeed. 

Should that be the extent of MLB’s foray in replay? To preserve the tradition and sanctity of the game,  there are certainly those who believe so. I am “occasionally” among them. 

But more to the matter at hand – expanded replay.

MLB’s replay announcement introduced a challenge system by managers in which “not all plays are reviewable” and that “all replays will be viewed by umpires (emphasis added) at MLB’s Advanced Media state-of-the-art facilities in New York,
with technicians available to provide the necessary video.” 

Let’s break it down and try to fathom some attendant questions: 

1, A “challenge system,” With due respect, that is not my favorite concept. If the aspiration of replay is to get calls correct, wouldn’t it be prudent to have a system to get
as many calls correct as is possible? Especially when, as noted by Atlanta Braves President ]ohn Schuerholz, there is (on average) only one incorrect call every five games?
Why should the system be to add another “guessing element” to the game for managers? Moreover, will clubs find ways to delay while they get a read from those viewing in the tunnel whether to challenge the call? In my opinion, bet on it. Managers are already formulating plans for communications with their video rooms (if not clubhouse) and tactics to delay the game until they can get a read on whether or not to challenge a call. Will MLB institute time limits to prevent delays, thus complicating an already (potentially) complicated situation?

Baseball has a tough enough time now with Pace- and time-of-game issues. Also, reasonable people can disagree. A manager who believes he has a “slam dunk” on a call in the second inning might find out that a reviewer several thousand miles away sees the play differently. Thus, per the plan MLB owners have approved, that manager has lost one of his two challenges for the remainder of the game.

2, Not all plays are reviewable.
That is most understandable to those who have officiated or studied the art. According to the release, the list of reviewable plays “hasn’t been finalized pending further talks with the unions.” Even once a list is established, should we expect substantial confusion/disagreement on some plays even between umpires and the MLB person reviewing the play (given that the MLB Rule Book and Umpire Manual can rival the U.S. Tax Code in complexity)?

The mention of the unions presents another interesting dynamic’ While MLB stated the umpires are on board with the proposal, the release said the system still needs to be negotiated with both the players and umpires unions. While MLB ownership has unanimously approved the concept and funding, the rules won’t be final until early 2014. Will it all come together in time for Opening Day? We’ll see.

3. All replays will be reviewed by umpires at MLB’s Advanced Media State-of -the-art facilities” 
In actuality, the “replay center” at Advanced Media in New York is already in existence. It is utilized for purposes of boundary replay. However, in the past, no one in New York (such as an umpire supervisor) could assist on-field umpires. Will that change regarding boundary replay as well? As of this writing, MLB’s release says, “Boundary calls on home runs have been grandfathered. The on-site umpires will retail the right to submit the plays for relief or not.” A reasonable question becomes “Why not make boundary replay calls subject to challenge (given the proposed MLB system) as well? In practice, a manager “challenging” a boundary call has (more often than not) been the motivating factor for umpires to review such calls. Why have “unlimited challenges” on boundary calls and limited challenges other otherwise?

That must be straightened out. Also, boundary-replay review monitors are located off the field (even in the umpires’ dressing room in some parks) where umpires have direct communications with the Advanced Media center. The announced concept indicates that in the event of a challenge, the plate umpire or crew chief will go somewhere on the field and pick up a phone. Does that mean different replay systems for different types of plays? 

4. Will it be active umpires who man the replay assignments?

If so, will there be a need for an additional MLB umpiring crew (so that one crew will rotate through New York and take a turn at replay duty)? Is it a concern that there will be occasions where a replay challenge decision might be made by a AAA umpire (who might be on a regular crew by virtue of umpire vacation, injury or illness)? Does MLB have any concerns about staff dynamics (whereby a replay decision, made by a more junior member of the staff over rules a call by a more senior member)? That might not be a concern in other sports, but let’s just say umpires have a history of being a little more strong minded in certain circumstances than some of their officiating brethren.

No doubt MLB is wrestling with all of the above as this is being read and hopefully are reaching conclusions that will result in a smooth and efficient replay system. Although hoping for the best, I remain skeptical about the successful pplication of expanded replay as I am mindful that “men create their own demons.”

Will problems and questions occasioned by the system outweigh the benefits? Only time will tell. Certainly a fair question is: How critical is the need for more replay when, by MLB’s own admission, its umpires average accuracy of more than 95 percent when calling balls and strikes and but one incorrect call every five games (and not all of those impact the game).”

MLB will be wise to heed Schuerholz’s words at the time of the announcement: “This is a Phasing plan. At the end of ’14 we’ll go back ind look at what we’ve done well -what’s worked, what hasn’t worked -and make adjustments, and then we’ll
improve it in the next Phase …”

Words well spoken. MLB’s only salvation with this project will be to have the flexibility to act and react in line with Schuerholz’s words. Expanded replay in MLB should certainly be helpful in correcting calls that are obviously incorrect. However, such expanded replay will not be a cure to the extent that some might expect. All would be well-served to remember that the word “inconclusive” remains in the dictionary and that MLB’s accomplished umpires get far more close calls correct than incorrect.


 This article appeared in REFEREE for January 2014 and was authored by Mike Port.

Hometown: Gilbert, Arizona.
Vice President; Umplring for MLB from 2005-11, General Manager:- California Angels, 1984-1991 : General manager:Boston Red Sox. 2002.
REFEREE January 2014