Sunday, November 29, 2015

Worst to First: How to Make the 2016 Tigers Winners

Danville, Kentucky -- Folks, the MLB offseason is now fully underway with the Detroit Tigers having signed ex-Washington National Jordan Zimmerman to a 5 year deal. I'm not usually a big fan of the strategy of trying to "buy a team" as Mike Ilitch and company have done in the past. Championship teams aren't bought; they are made. The bonds of camaraderie necessary to take a team to the promised land must be forged by blood, sweat, and tears. It's a process that takes years. The 2015 Royals have rendered an approach based on acquiring expensive high profile talent obsolete. The Tigers would be better served by emulating the Dayton Moore approach. Let players grow together on the farm system, à la Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, then plug roster holes with gritty veterans like Omar Infante, Alex Rios, Jeremy Guthrie, and Ryan Madson. Buying talent didn't work for the Nationals, and it didn't work for the Dodgers. There's no short-cuts to Autumnal glory. Saavy GMs must address the chemistry factor.

On the surface, signing Zimmerman is just another win-now, big-bucks move. However, there's a lot to like about the Zimmerman deal. Zimmerman is a Midwest man, born and raised across Lake Michigan in Wisconsin. Folks, there's no better way to motivate an athlete to succeed than coming home. Much work remains to be done if the Tigers wish to go from the AL Central's worst in 2015 to first in 2016. If new GM Al Avila wants his team to contend, he needs to double down on the strategy of coming home. Here's the players he should target and the moves he should make.

Sign Doug Fister

Folks, when I heard that Avila inked Zimmerman -- a 19-game winner in 2013 -- to a 5-year deal, the first thing I thought about wasn't his 3.5 projected WAR in 2016 or his 3.57 career xFIP. I immediately thought this was a great move for the Tigers if it increases the likelihood of a reunion of ex-Tiger and ex-National Doug Fister. Doug Fister was one of the crown jewels of the Dombrowski-era, a prime example of Dombrowski's ability to turn spare parts into winning pieces. As the team's 4th starter in 2013, Fister won 14 games. His arrival in 2011 helped turn the tide of the season. He could similarly turn the tide of 2016.

Folks, things can't always go back to the way they were. I learned this all too well at a recent high school reunion. There are some wounds even time can't heal. But the stars are aligning for Doug Fister to return to Detroit. The Tigers need a reliable innings-eater while the young arms of the future like Kyle Lobstein get primed for the big show. Doug Fister needs to rebuild his value after a surprising injury-riddled off year in 2015. Doug Fister and the Tigers need each other. Now, they just need to believe in one another. Fister was always a blue-collar hurler who pitched to contact instead of trying to strike everybody out like losers such as Corey Kluber. It didn't make sense for him to play under the spotlight of our nation's capitol in Washington, D.C. Dougie's democratic style of pitching is a much better fit for the rust-belt town of Detroit, where men unionize and support each other like brothers. The prospect of reuniting with his former teammates should make any offer very enticing to Mr. Fister. Bring him home, Avila.


Sign Brayan Pena

Alex Avila, because of what can only be attributed to massive daddy problems with the new GM, is now a Chicago White Sock. Alex Avila is frequently undervalued by nerds who decry his high strikeout rate, lackluster wRC+ and unexciting DRS. Folks, the nerds couldn't be more off-base. Alex brought a lot of things to the table that don't show up in a spreadsheet. He handled the ace-studded pitching staffs of 2011-2015 with poise and class. Building that kind of familiarity and rapport with the young James McCann won't happen overnight. On top of that, McCann struggles against right-handed pitching. There's no clear internal option for replacing Avila either -- Bryan Holaday generates all the enthusiasm of three-day-old Little Caesar's pizza that you drunkenly ordered and have been forced to eat by a nagging spouse.

To ease the transition to the McCann regime, Al Avila should bring the effervescent Brayan Pena back to the Motor City. After spending 2013 in Detroit, Brayan would be able to easily sync-up with his former teammates Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez (along with Doug Fister for that matter). There's no better player to mentor young James than Brayan, the nicest guy in the league.

As a Reds fan, losing Brayan would break my heart. But there's no smarter move if you're Al Avila. Sign Brayan Pena to a 2-year deal.

Unfortunately, it might already be too late. After noticing that Brayan followed the St. Louis Cardinals twitter account and consulting with my old bookie from Branson, Missouri, I became the first to break the news that Brayan had signed with the St. Louis Cardinals. Pena's agent has yet to confirm.
God forbid that the nicest man in baseball sign with the worst franchise in baseball.

Sign Austin Jackson

The Tigers need another outfielder to platoon with Anthony Gose, who hits left-handed pitching as effectively as I salvage marriages. Austin should be on the radar of multiple teams. I've already said that Cleveland should be in on him. The Tigers might need him even more, and their need goes beyond requiring somebody to hit lefties. The Tigers suffered in 2014 in no small part because of Torii Hunter's absence. The organization has all but admitted this:
"Torii was my biggest asset in the clubhouse last season," Ausmus said. "That presence was missed in 2015."
If the Tigers are serious about contending, they need to fill that vacuum. Austin is the man to do that. Austin has no doubt gained a lot of perspective playing in Seattle and North Chicago this past season. He studied under Torii from 2013-2014. He's not the young rookie we met back in 2010; he's come into his own as a veteran and a leader. He ready. Make it happen, Al Avila.

Fernando Rodney

The Tiger's need bullpen help; that's no secret. Trading for proven closer Francisco Rodriguez was a big step in the right direction. But the Tigers relief corps is still light on proven arms, especially with the departure of proven closer Joe Nathan and proven closer Joakim Soria. Fernando could help here. He is a proven closer. His veteran presence of mind is being severely undervalued on the open market, as the sabermetric craze has caused GMs to value FIP more than on-the-job experience. Rodney is #6 on the active saves leaders list. A reunion with Rodney is a no-brainer, Al.

Fire Ausmus

The Tiger's manager situation is where truly bold leadership is required. The Brad Ausmus regime has been a failure. Young players brawl under his leadership. Players phone it in and don't give 100% on his watch. The team missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011 because of him. Folks, they don't teach you how to lead at Dartmouth. Ausmus lost the clubhouse; it's time to promote Omar Vizquel or experiment with Victor Martinez as player-manager. Go big, Mr. Avila, and whatever you do, don't hire another ivy-league nerd.


The Tigers can still contend in 2016, but it will require a change in approach. Throwing money at the problem won't do anything. A culture of friendship and belonging has to be created. By bringing in former Tigers and clubhouse leaders like Fister, Pena, Jackson and Rodney, Al Avila can help the Tigers franchise adapt to the reality of post-2015 Royals baseball. Give me a team full of friends over a team full of well-paid strangers any day.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

TWTW's 2015 Kansas State @ Kansas Football Preview

Danville, Kentucky - Not all college football rivalries can be as glamorous as Auburn v. Alabama or Ohio State v. Michigan. Not every senior gets a storybook, fairy tale ending to their football career. I certainly didn't.

I'm the type of man who will brag constantly about my no-hitter, and rightfully so. But there's one episode of my high school sports career I'm not as proud of. It was November of '71, with my Danville High Admirals vying for a shot at immortality in the finals of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Football Championship tournament. My admirals were down 7 and had the ball in the enemy's red-zone with seconds left to play, desperately seeking to force overtime. Both teams were assembled at the line of scrimmage for what I knew could be the last play of my illustrious career as a Fullback.

It was at that moment that I looked into the stands and saw the woman who would become Mrs. Will Hart #1. Distracted by her beauty, I missed a block, and our halfback was tackled for a loss. Our rivals from Boyle County began to celebrate and tear down the goal-posts. My high school football career was a failure, unconsummated by a championship. I've never forgiven myself. It's a dark moment of my life that I often replay in my head as I stare at the bottom of an empty Chili's margarita.

The seasons of the University of Kansas and Kansas State University are similarly about to end in failure. This game won't feature larger-than-life personalities like Jim Harbaugh or Urban Meyer, but will instead be played by good boys who will become good men, good fathers, good members of their communities, and good teammates at your weekly bar trivia night. Yet, the gridiron battles of these unsung heroes are also momentous in their own way. These type of showdowns don't attract attention from the national media or ESPN. Rivalries like this simmer faintly, like embers from a forgotten cigarette butt, tossed into an empty city street on a cold night in November as Autumn wanes and Winter waxes. Yet, sometimes even a stray spark can start a conflagration. The Midwestern campus towns of Lawrence and Manhattan are like a tinderbox of football fandom potential. But the fire won't start itself. The fans of these teams wait with bated breath for signs of the return of gridiron glory to their schools. On any given Saturday afternoon, you'll see these faithful fans of Jayhawk football stream into a nearly empty Memorial Stadium, looking for signs of life. Looking for a reason to believe.

Folks, unless you're already among the faithful, there's not much reason to believe in either Kansas State (4-6) or the University of Kansas (0-11) football teams, the bottom-feeders of the Big 12. It's been a season full of disappointment for both. But there's a unique poignancy to the utter failure of Kansas football this season: a school only a few years removed from a triumphant Orange Bowl victory is now on the cusp of a Detroit Lions-esque winless season, for the 1st time in Big 12 history; a school where the basketball team is expected to compete for championships whereas the football team competes just to be paid attention to by a student body that doesn't love or care for it anymore. In Lawrence, doubters are greeted with the endless refrain of "Trust the Process," a sickly echo of Sam Hinkie and the also winless Philadelphia 76ers. Folks, this town doesn't want process. These folks remember the glory days of Todd Reesing and Aqib Talib. They want wins. The University of Kansas chose not to win by bringing on David Beaty, snubbing Lawrence native and hometown hero Clint Bowen. The people deserve better.

Football isn't for everyone. It's not for the type of folks (graduate students, namely) that buy $20 Kansas basketball jerseys at Target so they can fit-in at inter-departmental social events. Football is not a sport played for the droves of people who can only appreciate a team when times are good. Football is a sport played for the season ticket holders who loyally attend every game of a double-digit loss season. It's played for the folks who scrounge together 50 bucks doing things they aren't proud of, just for a shot to see their favorite team pull off an upset win. It's played for the hard-working friends who numb the pain of each successive loss with the bitter medicine of Svedka; the type of fans who stand by their team in the bad times, because the joy of victory is that much sweeter when you have known the bitter pain of defeat.

So if you're the type of fan who wants to brown-nose with the townies and chat about whatever the big SEC game of the weekend is, Kansas State v. Kansas isn't for you. It's for folks like me, who wake up on gameday and sneak Jim Beam Fire into Denny's, so we can wash our All-Star Slam® (pictured below) down with something to take the edge off. The type of men who chug mini-Fireballs in the parking lot before going into a game that's nearly certain to result in a blowout loss. For the droves of uneducated fair-weather fans trying to tweet about the trending game of the moment, there's a host of other games to distract yourself with.

The Breakfast of Champions
Today is not for those who change the channel or leave the stadium early during a blowout loss; it's for the folks who wouldn't even think of leaving before the final whistle blows. For those of us who still believe, today is our day.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

TWTW's 2015 Ohio State (8) @ Michigan (12) Preview

Danville, Kentucky -- China and Japan.

France and Germany. 

Israel and Palestine. 

Kansas and Missouri. 

Michigan and Ohio.

Rivalries between neighbors, written in blood. 

Folks, as a North Kentucky man intimately familiar with both Ohio and Michigan, don't let anyone tell you that the Michigan-Ohio rivalry is just petty squabbling over college football. This is a clash of civilizations. A contest between irreconcilable value systems. Good men died defending their respective states in the Toledo Border War of 1835-1836. The border created by the Ordinance Line of of 1787 remains hotly contested. Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes fought a 10-years war for the sake of these great states.

Memory runs deep on both sides of Lake Erie. Nobody in Michigan has forgotten the stabbing of Monroe County Deputy Sheriff Joseph Wood in 1835. Nor have they forgotten when King James and his Cavaliers ended the run of the Goin' to Work Pistons. The pain of Ohio State's 86-0 loss to Michigan in 1902 is burned deep into the mind of every Ohioan. Both sides remember the pain, and the humiliation, of the hollowing of America's industrial heartland after NAFTA. 

This Saturday's marquee match-up between the University of Michigan and the Ohio State University will mark the latest salvo in this battle of blue-collar states. It's been called the best rivalry in college football. A playoff berth might be on the line. The Big 10 title could be on the line. Pride is on the line. 

But there's even more on the line than that. Folks, Jim Harbaugh might be the best coach in any sport right now. He came home. He loves his school. He loves loyalty. He respects and reveres the tradition of football at the University of Michigan. He paid a solemn visit to the grave of Schembechler to perform a sacred rite, to commemorate that man's proud legacy.
Thanks to Harbaugh, Michigan's previously pitiful football program has now restored a modicum of its former glory. He may yet lead the boys in maize and blue to the hallowed heights of the Bo era. Harbaugh is a Michigan man, through thick and thin. Urban Meyer is a mercenary man, whose head is thick and ethics are thin. Harbaugh fights for the love of his homeland. Urban knows no homeland. He flits from school to school, with no loyalty, leaving disorder, scandals, and corruption in his wake. Urban won't even discipline Ezekiel Elliot, who openly proclaimed his non-commitment to Ohio State football. Harbaugh has saved Michigan's football team. Urban destroyed Florida's. Harbaugh's boys play with reverence and respect for their institution and team. Urban's boys play to improve their draft stock with no respect for anybody.

Urban Meyer: can't control his players.
Urban's abdication of responsibility is made all the worse by abdicating to the wrong men. J.T. Barrett was too busy getting D.U.I.'s to beat Michigan State. Yet, Urban named him the starter over Cardale "I've never lost a game I started, including the National Championship" Jones, and two time Big 1G player of the year, Braxton Miller. Abandoning your duties for your men is one thing. Abandoning your men for the wrong man is treason.

This isn't just a football game. It's a battle to determine if virtue can beat vanity. A contest to see if one good man and his khakis can save a team and defend a state. Some say it would be a cold day in hell if Urban Meyer beat a man of class like Jim Harbaugh. That can't happen until next year when the game is played in Columbus.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Ban the 76ers and Free Pete Rose

Danville, Kentucky - Pathetic. Embarrassing. A national disgrace. These words have been used against me as I fight an uphill battle with the corporate interests at Applebee's to overturn a ban long on injustice and short on hope of winning. Those words could more aptly describe the modern Philadelphia 76ers.

The 76ers were once a proud franchise. It all started with the Doctor. Dr. Julius Erving was a star. I preferred the ABA to the NBA. In the ABA the players used a red, white and blue ball to honor the greatest country on earth. The NBA preferred to use an orange ball, the same color ball that would be used in the 1972 Olympics as the Soviets stole their only victory in the Cold War. Dr. J. embodied the ABA and he became the 76ers.

Then there was Moses. In an era where Larry Bird and Magic Johnson ran wild on the NBA, somehow Moses and Dr. J won a title in the 1980's. They made the tough decision to try and win. And they did.

Now, the 76ers are 0-15. They think the best way to win is by not winning. Folks, you win by winning. It's simple. Yet, to the nerds with the 76ers, their statistical model tells them if they loose for 5 years, they might be good for 1 year. May God have mercy on us all.

The 76ers have no hope of winning soon. Sadly, Mr. Jahlil O. will start showing flashes of brilliance. As soon as he does, the 76ers will trade him for 8 second round picks. Mr. Hinke will convince himself that the expected value of those picks slightly outweighs a superstar. Then, the 76ers will tank to add more picks, and the vicious cycle will continue. They will never be good again with Mr. Hinke.

The NBA is committing a grave injustice every day by allowing a team to take the floor and lose each night. The fine, cold, and angry fans of Philly drive their children to the arena. After a week of scraping cars and avoiding the fear their company will move to a warmer climate, or just a climate where people don't boo Santa Claus, the parents end up taking their children to watch a guaranteed loser. The people of Philly can't go on like this. The world cannot go on like this.

This can be fixed. Injustice can only be fixed with justice. One man is facing the greatest injustice we've ever known. They call him: Pete Rose. Pete Rose sin was wanting to win so badly he not only figuratively bet on his guys each night, he literally bet on his guys every night. Pete Rose went to the ball club and gave everything he had, and what later turned out to be everything his creditors foolishly had to win. The 76ers give everything they have to lose.

"For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." A test question I never understood in a physics class they let me pass anyway to play football now makes sense. When we punish winners and those that fight to win, we reward losing. We never had tank-artists like Sam Hinke in the 70's and 80's. We had Pete Rose. It's time to take a stand. It's time to trade one ban for another. It's time to ban the 76ers and free Pete Rose.

Thanksgiving with the Harts: TWTW's Eagles @ Lions Preview

Danville, Kentucky - Thanksgiving is a time of tradition. Each family has their own unique way of giving thanks, when the fourth Thursday of November comes rolling around. Since my last divorce, I've celebrated Thanksgiving with only myself, my basset hound Barry Goldwater, some canned cranberry sauce, a turkey TV dinner (Banquet® brand), and lots of  my patented Fireball & Apple Cider punch.

Thanksgiving with the Harts.
But it wasn't always this way. In the Hart family, Thanksgiving was once a time of jubilee. My Uncle Bert from Flint, Michigan used to host a merry little celebration. I remember the long car-rides through the Midwest, sitting in the backseat of my father's old Ford truck, pining for the delicious fixings my Uncle Bert so lovingly prepared. The contrast between the warmth of my Uncle's fireplace and the barren winter landscape of America's northern wastes was poignant to me.

In Uncle Bert's native Michigan, families come together every year to watch their irrelevant, out-of-contention team get beaten handily. The Thanksgiving day game is one of the few things that hasn't been taken away from Detroit. Manufacturing jobs and bailout money are fleeting, transient things. But the Autumnal tradition of gathering around the mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce to watch Barry Sanders or Calvin Johnson waste their potential on a perennial loser team is forever. They've been called "the most disappointing team in the NFL," but until it's cheaper for the NFL to outsource the franchise to Japan or South Korea, the Thanksgiving day game belongs to the pitiful Detroit Lions.

In the blue-collar expanses of post-industrial Southeastern Michigan, watching talented, hard-working men like Megatron squander their God-given gifts on a bottom-feeder franchise teaches a young man a thing or two about life. No matter how hard a man works, or how many hours he puts in on the assembly line, decisions made by his incompetent superiors may ultimately render his self-sacrifice meaningless. Such is the lesson learned by supreme talents like Sanders and Johnson -- who have achieved remarkable individual feats while a Super Bowl victory has eluded them -- due to generations of mismanagement by the Lions ownership. Such is the lesson learned by lifelong employees of Ford and GM plants, who lost their jobs due to generations of mismanaged trade policy starting with Reagan's horrific Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations in 1986, and culminating in Clinton's NAFTA, the death blow to all working-class aspiration in America.

This Thursday's Thanksgiving day match-up between the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles will follow a plot arc familiar to anybody who has celebrated this wonderful holiday. The game will begin with a feeling of hope and nervous anticipation of a feast-to-come. The Lions offense will appear initially competent, putting 10 points on the board early, while the defense gives a sturdy performance reminiscent of the days when psychopath Ndamukong Suh called Detroit home. As the euphoria of a Thanksgiving day feast gives way to the lethargy of a mid-afternoon food coma, a series of Matt Stafford-induced turnovers will allow the Eagles to sail to a comfortable lead. The defense will spend too much time on the field, overcooked like poultry left in the oven too long. Lions fans across the state will be rudely awoken from food-naps only to find that their team has disappointed them once again. The spirit of the Lions will crack like a drumstick, crudely jostled from the torso of a golden-brown turkey. It is an outcome as predictable as the serving of pumpkin pie at the day's conclusion. Mark Sanchez will inexplicably win Madden's Turkey Leg award. Life will go on, much as it always has.

I last celebrated Thanksgiving with Uncle Bert in November of 1996. The Lions lost that game in heartbreaking fashion to the Kansas City Chiefs. Bert was a generous man, but hosting the Hart family's annual feast quickly became too much to ask of a man whose livelihood was taken from him by the forces of globalization. Thanks to NAFTA, there was no trip to Michigan for Uncle Bert's feast in 1997; just a TV dinner and the broken promises of Bill Clinton.

Not even the miserable winter of '97 could prepare me for the betrayal of '99. At the behest of my brother-in-law, I finally watched the Godfather Part III. Folks, Godfather I & II are very near and dear to my heart. I consider them the finest pieces of American cinema I am ever likely to see, besides the Rocky series. There may be a time and a place for Godfather III; but it was not Danville in the winter of 1999, in the aftermath of the financial ruin of the Hart family. I cringed as the spiraling ruins of this once proud series hit its nadir when Michael Corleone was asked by his ex-wife to accept his daughter's love of his brother's daughter. As I averted my eyes from the travesty unfolding before me, I glimpsed a page on my (third) wife's beeper. It was a number I'll never forget. (434) 791-4803. A number I had dialed so many times before, when I needed a man to confide in. The number of my best friend Rhett. 3rd baseman for Danville High during my '72 no-hitter. Cuckolded once again, the betrayal was complete. Thanks to Rhett and NAFTA, my family was more dysfunctional and broken than even the Corleones. Thanksgiving was never the same.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Breaking Cleveland: How to Make the 2016 Indians Contenders

Danville, Kentucky -- Sometimes, a man falls short. Sometimes, the entrepreneurial genius behind moonshine bubbles isn’t recognized. Sometimes a worthy companion is left alone at an Olive Garden with a warm bottle of Andre, stirring a cold bowl of Chicken & Gnocchi soup. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our best isn’t good enough. The feeling of failure weighs heavily on the city of Cleveland, and it’s perennially under-performing baseball team, the Indians. Nerds thought 2015 was their year, but 2015 will come and go with Cleveland having won nothing but the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Yet, I look at this Cleveland Indians roster and see the makings of a team that could do more than distract depressed Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Browns fans. If I’m Indians GM Mike Chernoff, here are the moves I’m proposing to the Dolans:

Re-Sign Ryan Raburn

Raburn was used in mainly a platoon role last year, but he was one of the few Indians that wasn’t afraid to hit bombs and score runs. Losing him will blow a hole in the Cleveland outfield more gaping than the holes in the US-Mexican border after 8 years of Obama. Not to mention, he has locked down a role as Cleveland's emergency position-player pitcher during routine Trevor Bauer meltdowns. Give him 5 years and $80 million dollars.

Sign Austin Jackson

With known-liberal and wimp Michael Brantley set to spend Opening Day on his couch with a tub of hummus (or an equivalently nutritious snack as opposed to savory American fare like Applebee’s new Crispy Brewhouse Chicken), the Tribe need offensive and defensive production from the crucial center-field position, unless they want to relive the Aviles nightmare of 2015.

Applebee's Finest.

[video: the Aviles nightmare of 2015]

Austin will also bring a healthy dose of veteran leadership and playoff experience to the green-under-the-gills Cleveland clubhouse. And better yet, the Indians will get a leg-up over their division rivals, the Detroit Tigers, who desperately need a return of Austin Jackson if they wish to restore the glory of their 2011-2014 reign atop the AL Central throne. It’s the type of heartless, “baseball is business” move that Cleveland is usually on the receiving end of. Sign Austin Jackson to a 2 year deal.

Re-sign Scott Atchison.

Scott Atchison is a valuable player, for a lot of reasons. Born in 1976, Scott remembers the days before instant replay and the days before Clinton killed the livelihood of so many Americans with his agenda of hyper-privatization, de-regulation and outsourcing. A 39 year old who looks like he’s 59, Scott has been around the block a few times. He has been there for the Cleveland Indians franchise in times good and times bad. Aside from his on-the-field contributions, every time he takes the mound offers a valuable teachable moment for the younger viewers about why you’re never too old to play a kid’s game. His chiseled jawline and 5-o’clock shadow are a reminder of the sacrifices that working men everywhere make. If the Indians cannot take care of Scott Atchison, how could any player sign with this franchise in good faith? Take care of your own, Cleveland.

Trade Carlos Santana.
Santana, doing what he does best.
This is a no-brainer for me. While the singer-songwriter Carlos Santana is responsible for the greatest song of the 90s, his baseball counterpart is one of the worst in the business. It feels like Carlos hasn’t made contact with a pitch since 2013. Every at-bat is like watching a poor man’s Joey Votto: Santana stares blankly as hittable pitch after hittable pitch finds its way into the catcher’s glove in a vain attempt to draw a walk rather than taking the bat off his shoulder and trying to make something happen. Carlos Santana’s style of hitting has been disproven and discredited. Trying to win the 2016 World Series with players who can only K and BB is like bringing an Elvish knife forged in Gondolin during the first-age to a lightsaber fight. The 2015 Royals didn’t win it all trying to clog the bases with walks and HBPs; they put the ball in play and ran the bases. The OBP-model of roster construction is more outdated than Obama, Neville Chamberlain and Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy mantra of “peace through appeasement.” You could probably get the nerds in Oakland or Tampa to eat the Santana contract, but don’t expect much in return. Santana’s shiny OPS+ isn’t worth much anymore in the aftermath of Kansas City’s triumph over Moneyball and sabermetrics. No GM can afford to ignore the lesson of the World-Champion Royals, who eschewed Billy Beane’s “can he got on base?” dogma in favor of clubhouse chemistry, groundball singles, and clutch sequencing. Trade Santana, take what you need, and be on your way.

Trade Corey Kluber straight up for Matt Kemp.

GM Mike Chernoff needs to get A.J. Preller on the phone right now and make this happen. It might take more than Kluber to get Preller to part with a premier-talent like Kemp; if so, throw in Cody Allen or Danny Salazar as well if necessary. Cleveland needs offense. The 2015 Indians couldn’t drive in runs to save their lives, coming up short like it was their job with runners in scoring position, as if they were trying to confirm the stereotype that Cleveland is a city that always falls just short of achieving glory. Tribesmen were routinely stranded at second and third-base like globalization has left all workers stranded and alienated from the products of their labor.

When folks like Santana weren’t killing rallies by trying to draw walks, the other Indians were pressing things too hard and swinging out of frustration and desperation. The Cleveland Indians don’t need Kluber and his xFIP and K%. They certainly don’t need the Kluber who posted a 9-16 W/L record in 2015. They need runs, and men to drive in those runs. They need a proven RBI guy. They need Matt Kemp, who posted 100 RBI in 2015 and is only 5 years removed from an MVP-quality campaign. Folks, not a single Cleveland Indian drove in 100 RBIs in 2015. Don't let the nerds tell you that RBIs don't matter. How can you expect to succeed with a roster that cares more about fielding-independent metrics than actually trying to score runs? The 2015 Royals showed that being clutch matters. The 2015 Indians would’ve been dead in the water when down by 3+ runs in the late-innings of a playoff game. The Royals knew they were just 7 consecutive singles and an error away from spraying each other with champagne in the clubhouse. The Indians need a clutch RBI man. They need Matt Kemp.


Folks, I don’t expect Chernoff to actually pursue this strategy. He’s long since proven he’s the type of man who’d rather order sweet potato fries than Chili’s Texas Cheese Fries. Old habits die hard. Cleveland sports may very well be doomed to perpetual disappointment; always trying their hardest to kick the football before Lucy callously yanks it just out of reach. Even if Cleveland made these moves, they might not win it all anyway. I think the window shut for Cleveland when Giambi departed after 2013. It might be time to pull the plug on this iteration of the franchise and enter re-build mode. The dominance of the Royals shows no sign of abating, and the palace-storming insurgent Minnesota Twins are younger, better, and more clutch. It’s not always easy to know when it’s time to fold. But in Cleveland, the Andre is looking warm and the Gnocchi is looking cold. It’s time.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Ban McDonald's: All Day Breakfast Lie

Danville, Kentucky- A man's word used to mean something. Well, at least mine did. I haven't had the best last quarter-century. My jobs have come and gone. Relationships that had promise sadly either ended before the Olive Garden stage, or in a blistering run of depression as unused Andre could only delay the melting or ice and my heart for so long.

My word was set to mean something to my nephew. After a string of job losses and failed opportunities to give him a new Aunt, I made him a promise. I promised him a breakfast that would make up for all my past faults.

Last Friday I screwed up again. I had a few too many bottles of Jim Beam fire and started spouting off about moonshine bubbles. Those circumstances left me unable to wake up in time to take my nephew to breakfast before school. I knew I had to keep my word though, so I sent him a text and prepared a way to rectify my wrong.

McDonald's was the answer. The wonderful franchise of the hamburger, double hamburger, McDouble and double quarter pounder had made the wisest move since Pat Buchanan fought against NAFTA. McDonald's announced all day breakfast.

I picked up my nephew during his lunch hour and told him we'd be getting breakfast. My nephew was overjoyed. I was set to keep my word. I drove past the pawn shops, rundown payday loan shops and somehow still open Blockbuster and pulled into the McDonald's.

My nephew's joy was quickly overtaken by the agony of defeat. My nephew began the order I've heard him make so many times, "I'll take 3 sausage biscuits." Then, the follies of American capitalism taught my nephew about the unrelenting despair life brings. "We don't offer that all day." Suddenly, I found out "all day breakfast," meant "screw you, Will Hart." My nephew wouldn't eat and watched with an empty look in his eyes as I ate my 20 count Chicken McNugget in silence.

Betrayal happens at moments we least expect. I should have known McDonald's would do this after they became a convenient excuse for my love to leave me. I should have known the fast food conglomerate that ran out mom and pop diners would run me out as a liar. I should have known they'd lie to the entire country by saying they'd have all day breakfast. But I keep going. Hope is not lost. The fight against Chipotle continues. The fight against McDonald's has just begun.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Alabama is #1

Danville, Kentucky- Alabama was the greatest band of the 20th century; that much I can guarantee. They had hits. They described life in the early 20th Century, and the hopes of the 21st. They wore their hair right and kept their jeans tight. I was proud to listen to them.

By the 90's, they weren't the band they had been, or so the left was saying. I constantly tried to defend them. I just needed one thing to grasp onto to remind the world they were the best. Then came a song so great, I couldn't believe it.

 Christmas Shoes. A song so complicated it becomes simple. A boy and his shoes. Death and childhood. Concepts that are universal and somehow were reinvented one night in the SEC. I heard that song and there was no doubt. The greatest band of the 20th century was still the greatest.

Alabama football followed a similar path, or so the left was saying. Saban was washed up. The gimmicks of the spread and the Big 12 were ready to overtake the country. Defense was as irrelevant as belonging to a union. People complained the Tide lost at home to Ole Miss all the while ignoring Alabama lost to a team that beat Alabama.

Then came last night and Alabama's win over LSU. That's right, the State University of Louisiana. They have the best running back in America, or so the left was saying. Then Derrick Henry ran. At the end of the night Alabama walked away with the lead in the race for the SEC.

One again, the Tide are the best team in America, as they have been so often in a country I declare my favorite despite disliking its President, its healthcare, its corporations, and a majority of its people on both of the coasts. They have a win over Arkansas. Sure, Arkansas got blown out at home by Texas Tech, a .500 Big 12 team. But that ignores that every week Alabama gets their opponents best shot. Players don't even try against Texas Tech. Or Toledo. I mean, look at Auburn. They barely beat Jacksonville State. Or Check out Ole Miss. They lost to Memphis. Are we just supposed to believe the SEC isn't good? Of course not. The SEC has the best team, Alabama. It must be a good conference.

Seasons come and go. For me, one song makes it always Christmas. "I never forgot the look on his face when he said momma's gonna look so great." I'll never forgot listening to one of the greatest songs of all-time. That's what we do, we remember the greatest of all-time. Don't sleep on Alabama. They're #1.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Chipotle: Genetically Modify its Death

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Danville, Kentucky - We all make investments. That's what we have to remember. At 33 I inherited a decent fortune. I felt confident. Richard Nixon was leading this country to victory after the Soviets stole Gold from us in the Olympics. As we set our clocks back an hour and braced for a return to the plight of winter, I invested that decent fortune in a business idea sure to send me to Wall Street.

Moonshine bubbles. The concept was simple. The user would dabble his or her wand in the elixir and await the delicious treat. Folks would gather around the room and blow a range of 190 proof alcohol at their friends in bubble form. The party guests were in for a treat. They had to catch as many bubbles as possible before they popped and lost out.

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Unfortunately, Moonshine bubbles were an idea behind its time. I have no doubt Moonshine bubbles would have made me the non-evil version of Steve Jobs if I were fortunate enough to live in the 1950's. Sadly, fortune is as random as the odds Nate Silver is wrong or embarrassingly wrong. The world had gone soft. Carter had taken over after Nixon was forced to resign, not because he emailed while at work like Hillary Clinton, but because the world was not yet privy to the liberal bias of the Washington Post. A bankruptcy, a divorce, 2 marriages, and 4 kids later, Moonshine bubbles was not the investment I hoped.

If only Chipotle were an idea for no time. The burrito giant has no food identity. Users enter and are greeted with a menu that proclaims 3 options: bowl, burrito or tacos. The doobie lovers from Denver that created Chipotle don't let the people know they have other options. Hipsters - or what one calls the kids that drag their parents credit card to Chipotle - often order the salad. This is not a salad lovers of great salad locales like Chili's or Golden Corral will recognize. The salad has no ranch. Its croutons are replaced with the torturous dread of black beans mixed with the agony of corn.

There are more options at Chipotle and all of them are a reminder the American era may be ending. Whenever one tries to order a quesadilla the young liberal arts major working the grill scoffs, acting like the insensitivity shown by your wanting them to throw cheese on a tortilla and hold up the line for two minutes isn't somehow counteracted by the additional time it takes them to ask every customer if they would prefer to add brown rice with less taste than the daytime Emmy's for snubbing the Young and the Restless.

Chipotle also refuses to add queso. Folks, I know Chipotle's queso would never compare to the hard work and everyday American focus groups it took to perfect the cheesy treat at Chili's. Sometimes you just want people to try. Qdoba no doubt makes a queso so terrible that even Donald Trump will apologize to Mexico on day 1 for the horror we've commited against its people. But Qdoba, like me looking for the 6th and final Mrs. Will Hart after a few jumbo Corona-Margaritas and shots of fireball at Chili's, is out there trying.

Then there's the anti-GMO crowd. Folks, I know farmers. My granddaddy was a farmer. My buddy Bill ended up working on a farm. Farming is hard work. Farmers use GMO's much like the best baseball players use steroids. It makes the product better. Even Obama's government says its just as healthy. Not healthy enough for Chipotle, I guess. They've banned the practice and raised the price of their burritos. The hardworking construction worker told by his boss that he must eat at Chipotle with his coworkers, or what my Nephew calls the squad, must pay more because Chipotle plays less with farming.

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Now Chipotle may be killing people. This week a bunch of people - I don't know the number because I added "Chipotle" as a search term to block on Bing - have e-coli. Folks, I hate that it took people getting a severe illness for us to finally understand how dangerous Chipotle is, but it's time to end it. The Obama administration has ended healthcare in America with Obamacare, its time to end Chipotle. Stop the madness of bad menus and fights against GMO's. Stop the illness Americans face. Stop a company that stops the sale of queso.

Investments are important. With the loss of my fortune, I went back to life as it was. Occasionally I wondered what might have been with Moonshine bubbles. However, I'm not a man that can look back and wonder. I'm a man that must look forward and fight. The fight against Chipotle will be fought in many different parts, much like their music manages to annoy people in many different parts of their stores, but we must keep fighting. Only then can we truly genetically modify Chipotle to death.