Friday, April 29, 2016

Alcides Escobar Must Bat Lead-Off

Danville, Kentucky -- Folks, it didn't take long, but the spreadsheet gazers of the world are already questioning the wisdom of World Series Champion™  Ned Yost. Overreacting to a couple of games of lukewarm offensive production in April, folks are calling for ALCS MVP Alcides Escobar to be demoted from the lead-off spot of the batting order. The calls are growing louder and louder.

The fine folks at Baseball Prospectus KC are demanding it. Some dude from Topeka is demanding it. Even Jesse Newell, a great man and lover of Kansas Football, has criticized Mr. Escobar. But they're wrong.

It's a bigger over-reaction than the Dodd-Frank legislation passed by Congress in the aftermath of the '08 financial crisis. Like Dodd-Frank, any rash decision to displace Esky from the top of the Royals' lineup would both stymie productivity and introduce massive uncertainty.

Let's look at the likely alternatives, for starters.


Folks, I love Jarrod. The man has speed. The man has swagger. He isn't afraid to bunt, steal, and stunt on fools; an all around nasty old-school player with an attitude that's hard to come by in the age of moneyball. However, putting Dyson in the lead-off spot makes no sense. Keeping Dyson's lefty bat in the #9 spot, Esky's righty bat in the #1 spot, and lefty Moose's bat in the #2 spot gives opposing managers headaches when it comes time to make late-game relief pitching changes based on righty/lefty match-ups. That's a huge edge for the boys in blue. Moreover, Dyson is right at home in the #9 spot -- it's like having a second lead-off hitter after the 1st inning. Dyson is putting up great numbers from the #9 spot this year, and looks very comfortable. It would be unwise to move Dyson away from a role where he is currently excelling.


Putting Alex Gordon in the #1 spot would be a real Terry Francona move. Francona recently promoted DH Carlos Santana to the lead-off spot, citing his ability to get on base via plate discipline and walks. Terry Francona's team, the Indians, are currently in 3rd place. There's a reason why Ned just won a World Series while Terry is most well-known for running the Indians into the ground for several straight seasons. Folks, I know Gordon has a shinier OBP than Esky. But leadoff hitters aren't supposed to chase walks and clog the bases. The top of the lineup needs to be quick, and put the ball in play. Do the Royals win Game 1 of the 2015 World Series if Esky draws a walk instead of hitting a first-pitch inside-the-park home run? I doubt it.

I love Mr. Gordon. But he Ks too much for the lead-off spot, and the Royals need Gordon's power bat lower in the lineup, where he can drive in runs. Don't move Gordon. OBP is overrated. Give me a quick guy who can put the ball in play any day.


Folks, I'd defend Omar to the death. He's got more World Series experience than just about any player in baseball not on the San Francisco Giants. But Omar is a doubles machine. The Royals need Omar's doubles later in the batting order, to cash in base-runners and score runs.


Being a baseball player is just like any other job: a man needs certainty. I once worked on an oil rig. I loved drilling black gold, and I was damn good at it. I had great hand-eye coordination and could implement the drilling plans our petroleum engineers drew up, no matter how complicated or risky. But if you had changed my role -- taken away my job as a driller, and made me a Service Unit Operator, for instance -- I'd have failed miserably. I just don't know how to read and interpret all those thermometers, gauges, and pressure indicators, folks. A baseball team is like an oil-rig: it's a finely-tuned machine. You can't go switching key parts of a machine willy-nilly, unless you're trying to cause Deepwater Horizon 2.0. You could inadvertently destroy the entire chemistry of the Royals lineup if you take Esky out of the lead-off spot.

Alcides Escobar is an MVP, an All-Star Game starting shortstop, and a fantastic lead-off man. You'd have to have a very short memory to flirt with removing Esky from a role he thrives in.

Do these people not remember Alcides' clutch single in the 8th inning of ALDS Game 4, which kept the line moving and ultimately led to a season-saving rally?

Have the critics forgotten about Escobar's RBI single in the 3rd inning of ALCS Game 1, which ended up being the only run the Royals needed in a 5-0 victory?

What about Esky's sublime bunt single in the first inning of ALCS Game 4, setting the table for a Ben Zobrist 2-run bomb? That's prototypical lead-off man stylings, folks.

The first-pitch inside-the-park homer wasn't even Esky's finest offensive contribution in last year's World Series. Don't forget his RBI single and RBI triple in World Series Game 2. Or his RBI double -- a crucial insurance run -- in the decisive Game 5 of the 2015 World Series.

In the past two postseasons, Mr. Escobar has posted a .311 batting average, with 9 doubles, 3 triples, and 14 RBI. He's earned his spot as the lead-off hitter.

Fortunately, Ned is a man with patience. Ned knows that if Esky was good enough for the World Champion 2015 Royals, he'll be good enough for the 2016 Royals too. Just give him time. Don't mess with something that works. Batting Alcides Escobar at the top of the Royals lineup made Kansas City great. Those that want to make Kansas City great again should hope he stays there.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Two Against One Ain't Fair: Why Cruz and Kasich Are Sore Losers

Danville, Kentucky -- In Fifteenth Century Europe, good friends were hard to come by. The Teutonic Knights, a scrappy band of warrior-monks, found this out the hard way. After this gritty, young Catholic military-religious order got screwed in Papal Court, they tried to assert control of the Daugava River by force, launching an invasion of Poland in 1409. Thus began the Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War. It should’ve been a historic triumph for the Teutonic Order and its faithful adherents; but the treacherous Poles, with their backs against the wall, teamed up with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania – turning the tide of the battle. Defeated, and forced to pay war reparations to the Polish-Lithuanian usurpers, the Teutonic Knights never recovered their former glory and strength.

Jan Matejko, Bitwa pod Grunwaldem
In World War II, we saw a similar strategy at work. The Japanese, Nazis, and fascist Italians knew they couldn’t beat Uncle Sam by themselves. So they created an unholy alliance and plunged the globe into a Second World War.

It’s a tried and true strategy – it’s been deployed by Batman, Superman, and many other important historical figures. "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," they always say. It was most recently employed by LeBron James; when LeBron couldn’t win in his home city of Cleveland, he took his talents to Miami with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh – starting the NBA’s talent arms race, which is still distorting parity throughout the league.

The team-up strategy is especially dangerous when deployed in the democratic context – when Omar Infante of the 2015 World Champion Kansas City Royals™ was on the cusp of being democratically selected to represent the American League at Second Base, sabermetric nerds and opponents of egalitarianism across the nation pooled their votes to elect José Altuve instead. Democracy was subverted, and Omar was denied his rightful opportunity to play second base alongside the league’s finest. Folks, we can’t let what happened to Omar happen to Donald.

The common denominator: only losers team up when they can’t take down a winner by themselves. Lyin’ Canada Ted Cruz, he of JFK assassination fame, and Borin’ John Kasich, he of manufacturing job destruction fame, know that they don’t have the chops to beat Donald the old fashioned way. Neither one of them can get the required 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the GOP nomination. Yesterday, crybaby sore losers Cruz and Kasich officially announced they are teaming up to obstruct Donald.

I'm not opposed to teamwork or teaming up in the abstract. I team up with my nephew every Tuesday night, to vanquish mouth-watering appetizers and tantalizing entrees as a team. Nobody is a bigger fan of the Applebee's Two-For-Twenty than me. When I team up with my nephew at Applebee's, everybody wins.

Unfortunately for Cruz and Kasich, losers don’t win. Winners win. And Donald is a winner. Donald can’t be stopped – not by parliamentary tricks, contested conventions, liberal pundits, RINOs, or the Koch-Soros-Bush GOP establishment illuminati. Donald is unstoppable, with my internal polling projections predicting a landslide sweep of the remaining delegates, but the RINOs in Washington like Cruz and Kasich will stop at nothing to stop him. They don’t care if they destroy democracy and ignore the will of the people in the process. They can’t win, so now their sole mission -- democracy be damned -- is to stop Donald from winning. It’s a total loser move, folks. I know Ted Cruz’s dad was too busy trying to kill Kennedy to be a real father, but surely he taught his son that two against one isn’t fair? In the 2016 Republican primary, like 15th Century Europe, good friends are hard to come by.

Teaming up never pays off if you're a loser. Poland and Lithuania won control of the Daugava River, but the Teutonic Knights will be remembered as one of the coolest quasi-religious militias that medieval Europe ever knew. Germany, Japan, and Italy started World War II, but Uncle Sam finished it. After teaming up with Bosh and Wade, LeBron left Miami with his tail between his legs and only two NBA championships. The unholy alliance of sabermetric nerds stopped Omar Infante from playing in the All Star Game, but they couldn't stop Kansas City from taking the crown. Nothing will stop Donald from taking the crown, either.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Bench Steph Curry

Danville, Kentucky - They told me I was about to have a slice of pizza that would change my life. I know that was possible. I remember the first time I had a pan pizza from Pizza Hut. The overwhelming crust paired with the  perfect pepperoni to change my belief that hope was not lost. It secured my unending belief that the best pizza in New York could not compare to the pizza one could find in literally any kind of mid-size town in America.

Papa Murphy's is a prelude to the fall of the West. I went to the Papa Murphy's and ordered a pepperoni pizza. A young jokster behind the register handed me a frozen pizza. Wholesome humor was alive in America, I thought. This restaurant could be even better than the Hut. Not since my support of Hubert Humphrey in 1968 was I so wrong.

Papa Murphy's does not cook their pizza. They hand you a slab of frozen pizza and expect you to go home and cook it. I felt embarrassed. Was I the only person without a pizza oven in America? Why was this location charging me the same price for a non-cooked pizza as any other pizza locale would to actually cook the pizza and pay for the cost of an oven? Would my children think me a fool for using so many rhetorical questions in a row? All evils created by Papa Murphy's. I left in anger. Hopeful for the respite of Chick Fil A, I quickly realized it was Sunday. Another night at the Chili's it was. Another night of great food guaranteed.

The 2016 Warriors are a lot like Papa Murphy's. They suck. Sure, the skeptics would say, "Will, have you had a few too many rounds of Chilis' delicious queso and tequila?" Yes, but that has nothing to with reason and everything to do with proper taste. Proper taste tells me the Warriors are not doing well. They've lost home games to the Celtics and have even lost to a Rockets team whose desperate prayers to end the season are met with a laugh from a God who has long ago forsaken them.

James Harden once again getting wrecked by the Based God
The Warriors have a choice to make: continue down the path of defeat or make the change they need. It's time to bench Steph Curry. Steph is a good man. He plays hard and is twice the father with a fourth the marriages I am.
[Andre Iguodala quoting noted conservative scholar Thomas Sowell]

Steph is too focused on winning the MVP award and getting his own shot. Other than his scores of assists a game and gaudy plus/minus numbers, he does little for his own teammates. Just look at game 4. They won without Steph. The Warriors shot what seems unsustainable against the Rockets, but the post-American era of World War II once seemed unsustainable in the face of defeat after defeat from the forces of Marxists. Yet, the hope was not lost. The fight was not over. America went on to win the Cold War because it focused on being the best America it could be. The Warriors need to focus on being the best Warriors they can be.

Steph has also politicized the Warriors. Mr. Curry now appears in ads with the Obama White House. The same White House that passed Obamacare. When conservatives like Andre Iguodala take the Court, they need a non-partisan leader. I mean, who has any clue what Shaun Livingston thinks about NAFTA? I do. I know a veteran blue collar player like Livingston understands we're losing jobs because of NAFTA. Livingston is the man to lead Golden State and right the lost chemistry of a once proud team. 

The path of the present does not lock us into the future of failure. The Warriors and America can do better. Honestly, if America would just stop eating at Papa Murphy's, I wouldn't give a damn if Steph Curry played or not. But since this country will continue to eat at Papa Murphy's, let's just hope the Warriors play a veteran. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Why Cruz Must Lose: The Real Story of Rafael Cruz's Involvement in the JFK Killing that the Media Doesn't Want You to Know

Danville, Kentucky -- The election of 2016 represents a turning point for our nation. America can reject business as usual corrupt politicking by voting in Donald -- or America can continue electing and re-electing the same politicians who have been destroying our country for years.

No politician better fits this description than Lyin' Canada Ted Cruz. I was criticizing Cruz way before the lamestream media realized the depth of his lies and deceit. Mr. Cruz talks a big game about being anti-establishment, but his credentials are dubious. Cruz is one of the architects of the globalist job-killing Obamatrade, NAFTA, and TPP agenda. Ted, who has deep connections to the political establishment, is also an honorary member of the Bush family, the folks who lied their way into two Iraq wars.

Folks, these examples don't even scratch the surface of the crimes committed by the Cruz family. Setting the aside the question of whether or not Canadian-born Ted Cruz is constitutionally eligible to be President, Ted and his father Rafael are implicated in perhaps the greatest crime of the past half-century: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

I'm not a Kennedy apologist, though I admire his prowess with ladies like Marilyn Monroe. JFK wasn't a perfect president. He helped bring us LBJ's Great Society nanny state. I will never forgive him for that. But he was a good man, and his father knew how to make fantastic moonshine. Unlike Ted Cruz and Obama, Jack Kennedy patriotically served his country in the Pacific theater of World War II aboard the PT-109. Jack also had the steely fortitude necessary to guide our country through the Cuban Missile Crisis. If only the same could be said for Lyin' Canada Ted.

Not only does Lyin' Canada Ted pale in comparison to past presidents, his family is actively responsible for the loss of America's Arthurian commander-in-chief, JFK.

Three places hold the key to understanding why Ted and his Cuban father Rafael were complicit in the CIA's murder of JFK: Cuba, New Orleans, and Dallas.

I'll lay out the case via this timeline of the events leading up to the murder of Kennedy.

1939 - Cuba

Canada Ted's father, Rafael Cruz is born in Cuba. As a young man, Rafael joins the Cuban Revolution that ultimately empowers the Castro family. He joins Fidel's guerrilla army and espouses a violent revolutionary Marxist-communist ideology.

APRIL, 1961 - Cuba

Jack Kennedy, in a valiant effort to liberate oppressed Cubans from the iron deathgrip of communism, attempts a regime change operation in Cuba known as the Bay of Pigs invasion. With this act, Kennedy demonstrates his strong anti-communism credentials, horrifying socialists like Rafael Cruz and Lee Harvard Oswald in the process.

1963 - New Orleans

Rafael Cruz moves from Texas to New Orleans. The Cruz family is so bad at doing legal paperwork (see: the legal debate over whether Ted is eligible to be POTUS) that we're not sure the precise date when Rafael arrives.

APRIL 24TH, 1963 - New Orleans

After moving to Dallas, Texas, Lee Harvey Oswald arrives in New Orleans on April 24th, 1963, where Canada Ted's father is waiting to meet him. PBS once said:
"If there was a plot to kill President Kennedy, then it was probably hatched in New Orleans. It was here that Lee Oswald may have crossed paths with men that hated Kennedy and wanted him eliminated." [source:]
Folks, you know PBS would not lie. They are a government funded television station devoted to the left. Obamatelevision's knowledge of socialists is beyond reproach.

At this time, Rafael and Lee Harvey Oswald share a mutual admiration for Fidel Castro, who they view as a hero willing to challenge Western imperialism and capitalism. During Oswald's stay in New Orleans from April 24th to September 25th of 1963, Pappa Cruz and Oswald bond while distributing anti-American/pro-Castro pamphlets in downtown New Orleans. The Warren Commission never identifies the mystery men standing next to Pappa Cruz in the images below.

A close-up reveals the mystery man next to Oswald is none other than Pappa Cruz.
SEPTEMBER 25TH, 1963 - Cuba

With the plan to murder Kennedy now fully in motion, Oswald disappears from New Orleans. The Warren Commission pretends as though he vanishes into thin air, but according to recently de-classified CIA documents, he heads straight to Cuba, Rafael and Ted Cruz's fatherland. What he does here, we can only guess -- a rendezvous with Rafael's communist handlers, or perhaps rogue CIA elements. 

NOVEMBER 22ND, 1963 - Dallas

Oswald, with the assistance of pro-Castro factions of the CIA and Rafael Cruz, murders Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. Rafael Cruz now works as a pastor in Dallas, Texas. Coincidence? I doubt it. 

Cruz and Oswald succeed in taking down JFK, staunch enemy of their hero Fidel Castro, and opponent of LBJ's globalist agenda. The CIA summarily executes Oswald to prevent him from divulging state secrets during prosecution. Rafael Cruz and the CIA get away with the crime of the century.


The report of the Warren Commission is released, killing any hopes that the truth of the matter would be made known to the good people of America. Dwight Eisenhower, a war hero and noble President, once called the appointment of Earl Warren his greatest mistake. Warren was no conservative. He was a communist sympathizer in disguise who tried desperately to conceal the truth about Kennedy to protect his globalist ally, Rafael Cruz. 


The liberal media does not want you to know this story. Megyn Kelly won't talk about it. Rachel Maddow won't talk about it. Skip Bayless won't either. But the evidence is clear, convincing, and proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Rafael Cruz had a hand in killing Kennedy. How Canada Ted and his father have managed to elude prosecution is beyond me, but then again, our government won't even indict Hillary. The fix is in. The Cruz family and Oswald have deep ties to the Castros, Cuba, New Orleans, and Dallas. The Warren Commission doesn't even mention Rafael Cruz, because the Warren Commission is crock invented by panicked liberals to turn the page on a national tragedy. It's time that America turned the page on Ted Cruz. A conspirator in one of the greatest crimes in American history is not fit to serve as President. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

TWTW's Pistons v. Cavaliers Preview

Danville, Kentucky -- There's no better feeling than picking up your first pay stub at a new job. The nineties were not kind to me. NAFTA battered and bruised me -- I was more crestfallen and defeated than Grant Hill's ankles. In 2005, after a few years of aimlessly bouncing around dead-end jobs, I had a gut feeling that the housing market was the place to be. I got myself an online degree in real estate, and hit the mean streets of Danville to sell houses, eager like I was fired from a cannon. It was beautiful, folks. And there was no feeling more rewarding than spending my hard-earned wages on the best appetizers and bourbon a Danville man can buy. The most important part of my successful real estate venture was that it proved hard work pays off. When faced with unemployment and bankruptcy, I did what all true Americans do: I went back to work.

The Detroit Pistons of 2000-2009 were a team that was all about going to work. They didn't have the flash or the star power of teams like Kobe's Lakers, but they wore opponents down with hard-nosed defense and their grinder mentality. Seven years ago, an aging Pistons team's reign of dominance came to an end when King James unceremoniously dethroned them in the first round of the playoffs. After many seasons of irrelevance, the Pistons are finally back in the playoffs. Seven years later, LeBron must suppress an upstart young Pistons team if he hopes to advance out of the Eastern Conference and vie for one more rematch vs. the San Antonio Spurs or nerd-darlings Golden State Warriors.

Lots of folks these days love to rave about the quality of the Western Conference while disparaging the East. The Western Conference may have a better TS%, shiner PER numbers, more VORP, and Steph Curry, but for all their glitz and glamour, they lack the tenacious grit of the East. Folks, it's good to see two blue collar towns like Cleveland and Detroit squaring off in the playoffs. Here are the key factors that will determine the winner of the series:


Folks, the Pistons have all the momentum in this match-up. Fresh off a 112-110 victory over the Cavaliers in the last game of the regular season, they've already set the tone for the series. In addition, the Pistons won the season series 3-1. The city of Detroit is united behind the Pistons, thrilled to see their team back in contention. The city of Cleveland is not united behind the Cavaliers: folks from the mistake on the lake are more preoccupied with the looming threat of political violence as the 2016 Republican National Convention nears. The Cavaliers have limped into the playoffs, reeling from humiliating losses to the Brooklyn Nets, Memphis Grizzlies, and pitiful Chicago Bulls recently. Not to mention, the team is in disarray: at the moment when LeBron needs to lead the team, he won't even follow the Cavaliers on twitter. LeBron wants OUT of Cleveland again, which may put the Pistons back IN to the Conference Semi-Finals. Advantage: Pistons.


This first round match-up also presents an intriguing coaching showdown: the veteran Stan Van Gundy versus the unproven Tyronn Lue. SVG has the Pistons united around a single purpose: winning. In Cleveland's Game of Thrones, Lue is just King James' puppet. SVG has tons of playoff experience and once coached the Orlando Magic to the NBA finals; what Lue knows about coaching in the playoffs, SVG could fit into his eyes with little to no discomfort. Advantage: Pistons.


Kyrie Irving is the most overrated thing to come out of Cleveland since the Indians. He cares more about his scoring numbers than making his teammates better. Meanwhile, Reggie Jackson is one of the game's clutchest. Advantage: Pistons.


While the Pistons have more heart than the quarreling, in-fighting Cavs, they are greener in the gills. They could be mentally unprepared for the challenge that awaits. LeBron alone has played more minutes in the playoffs than the entire Pistons roster. The Pistons might not be ready for the spotlight. Advantage: Cavaliers. 


The Pistons bench is depleted like my finances after a trip to the Casino. There will be no cavalry or reinforcements off the bench: just the rotting corpse of Steve Blake. Advantage: Cavaliers.


The Pistons have a lot going in their favor. They're young, scrappy, and hungry. Andre Drummond vacuums up rebounds like I vacuum up mini corn dogs at Buffalo Wild Wings.

Yet, the Cavaliers have rings. They also have LeBron James, who in my opinion, is still the game's premier talent -- jacking up threes doesn't impress me, Steph. Kevin Love is a great player, though these days he seems to care more about making bad State Farm commercials than refining his game. I predict the Cavaliers will win in 5 games.

Even in defeat, 2016 is a victory for the Pistons. They have climbed the mountain. They have righted the ship. They have returned to the playoffs. They have gone back to work.

My return to work was short-lived. My time in the real-estate sector was great while it lasted, but like my time at the GM plant and my time on the oil rigs, it wasn't meant to last. Intrusive government regulation and the welfare state eventually brought us the 2008 housing market collapse and the Obama presidency. But with the Obama presidency in its waning days, things are looking up again in America. For the Pistons and millions of other job-seeking Americans across this country, it's time to go to work.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Free Billy Butler

Danville, Kentucky - Blockbuster Video stores are an artifact of a different America from an era long gone. An America where good manners, family-friendly entertainment, and face-to-face interaction were still valued. A man could take his son out for ice cream, then stop by the old neighborhood Blockbuster to rent a Nintendo 64 game and a VHS or two. Over the course of a summer, the underpaid teens working behind the counter became like family. They'd learn your favorite actors, your genre preferences, and stylistic tastes, offering you movie recommendations far more helpful than a Netflix algorithm. Best of all, Blockbuster was a truly communal experience. It gave me a feeling in my heart warmer than any fireball shot when I popped a VHS into my cassette player: if the previous renter had rewound the tape, it was a small gesture of brotherhood that made the whole rental process worthwhile. Folks didn't have to rewind the VHS -- they could free-ride and just pay a fee or something -- but taking the time to actually do so was an act of good Blockbuster citizenship that gave me faith in the American dream.

For these reasons and more, I used to love Blockbuster. Until one summer day in the late 90s. It was a July day like any other. I had just hopped into my '69 Ford with my youngest son, and taken him to Blockbuster. He returned a rental copy of Ken Griffey, Jr.'s Slugfest, a fantastic Nintendo 64 game. I told my son to pick out another video game, and proceeded to mull over my own viewing options. It was a familiar situation: internally debating whether to rent My Dog Skip or For Love of the Game. Unemployed and divorced, I was in the mood for a good cry, and knew one of these two movies would get the job done.

I was just about to make a decision, when my third wife and her new boyfriend entered Blockbuster to return a movie of their own. Feeling alienated and bashful, I hit the floor like it was a "stop, drop, and roll" fire drill, trying to avoid being seen. As I laid on the floor of the Danville Blockbuster, in the middle of the action/thriller isle, the coarse carpeting began to irritate my skin. Yet, nothing would irritate me more than what I overheard next. The friendly neighborhood kid working behind the counter asked my third wife and her boyfriend if they re-wound their copy of Notting Hill.

My third wife's new boyfriend said no. He broke the unwritten rules of Blockbuster; the social contract that was the connective glue of this fragile community of movie-lovers, united only by the mantra: Be Kind, Rewind.

Billy Butler is a man who wants to rewind. A man who wants a second chance. A man on the short list of great ballplayers who should be considered honorary members of the 2015 World Champion Kansas City Royals™. Like Big Game James Shields, Brandon Finnegan, Raul Ibanez, and the elusive Josh Willingham, Country Breakfast helped guide the Royals to greatness in 2014 but didn't get to share in the glory of their 2015 World Series win. Billy could only watch from afar as the organization he grew up in won it all without him.

Billy Butler should've been there in Queens on that November night, popping champagne and hoisting the championship trophy. As if being denied this catharsis wasn't enough pain for one lifetime, Billy Beane is now conspiring to rob Billy Butler of his one joy in life: hitting baseballs.

Demoted to a mere platoon bat -- only to be used against left handed pitching -- the Oakland Athletics have broken Country Breakfast's soul and spirit, reducing him to a lifeless shell of himself, like Jesse Pinkman in Nazi Todd's bare-life meth dungeon. Few things hurt more than knowing your ex-wife is dating a man not kind enough to rewind, but being denied at-bats by a fanatically sabermetric franchise is surely one of them.

Oakland Athletics, it's time to free Billy Butler. A man like him deserves to spend the twilight years of his career doing what he loves: hitting baseballs. Maybe Billy Beane doesn't appreciate a man born to knock in runs and rack up RBIs, but many teams still do. The hapless Cleveland Indians are still in need of a proven run-producer. Mr. Beane, give Mike Chernoff a call. Don't let a once-proud DH, who swatted 29 bombs and drove in 107 runs in 2012, spend the rest of his career withering on the bench. Don't let Billy go the way of Blockbuster: a desolate ruin of a once great dream.

Monday, April 4, 2016

TWTW's Opening Day Preview: Detroit Tigers @ Miami Marlins

Danville, Kentucky -- Time: its passage is as inexorable as it is cruel. With each tick of the clock, time passes like rain on the mountain, like wind in the meadow, like Chile con queso slips between a man's fingers if he's bold enough to thrust a hand into the skillet and lay claim to the cheesy goodness for himself. Time passes, but memories of simpler times and younger days do not.

Memory can be a refuge of comfort, nostalgia, and consolation, but memory can also pierce, sear, and sting like a hot needle in an amateur do-it-yourself ear piercing operation. Baseball is a game of memory. The game honors its golden-era forebears, and judges each new generation of players using these heroes as a benchmark.

For Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers, their season-opener vs. the Miami Marlins will arouse a variety of memories --- mostly negative. Justin Verlander will face Wei-Yin Chen, Taiwan's finest son. This game is not considered a marquee match-up in 2016, a year of statistical inundation and sabermetric besiegement. Yet, for Verlander, this is the match-up of a lifetime.

October 3rd, 2014. Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series between the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers. A cold and salty Autumn breeze was blowing in from the nearby harbor. With Max Scherzer having failed to silence the bombastic Orioles offense the night before, Mr. Verlander was tasked with playing stopper. His opponent was Baltimore's Taiwanese lefty, Wei-Yin Chen. A game 2 win would tie the series and give the Tigers a chance to take a series lead on their home-field with David Price on the mound. In years past, Justin had been the man to single-handedly keep the Tigers' playoff hopes alive. He put the team on his back and delivered wins in games 1 and 5 of the 2012 ALDS and game 3 of the 2012 ALCS. In 2013 he once again delivered a game 5 win in the ALDS, while allowing 1 run the entire postseason.

In game 2 of the 2014 ALDS, that Verlander was nowhere to be found. Justin, the man who only a postseason ago was a complete game-throwing strikeout machine, went 5 innings --- putting the game in the hands of a bullpen less trustworthy than Megyn Kelly. The results were predictable. Though the voracious right-handed slugging Tigers lineup had pounded Wei-Yin Chen like mainland China might one day decimate Wei-Yin's native Taiwan in a hypothetical cross-Strait war, Joba Chamberlain and Joakim Soria's entry into the game was rightfully greeted with cheers from the Baltimore audience as they conspired to squander a winnable game. The Orioles took a 2-0 lead in the series before winning game 3 in Detroit to complete the sweep. The Detroit Tigers have not played playoff baseball since.

Tomorrow's Tigers-Marlins match-up is not considered particularly sexy by the fangraphs crowd. Both teams project to be middle-of-the-pack in their respective divisions, if you are foolish enough to believe projections. Other opening day showdowns have more compelling story-lines; take the re-match between the World Champion Kansas City Royals™ and the runner-up New York Mets, for instance. I planned to write a preview of last night's Matt Harvey v. Edinson Volquez face-off, but I've been in a spiraling haze of depressive alcoholism for the past few days as polling data shows Ted Cruz leads Donald Trump in Wisconsin.

Casual baseball fans could be forgiven for not caring about this Tigers-Marlins match-up. But for Justin Verlander, this game means the world. Longing for redemption, he has a chance to help the team get off to a good start as the Tigers take on the Marlins in Miami. To do so, he'll have to do what he couldn't do in 2014: beat Wei-Yin Chen, ex-Oriole and key free agent signing by Miami. Justin, restored to his rightful role as opening day starter after temporarily yielding the position to Max Scherzer in 2014 and David Price in 2015, knows what must be done. A time will come for reflection on his disappointing 2014 and quiet, unheralded brilliance down the stretch in 2015, but it is not this day. On this opening day, Justin will take the mound with a steely eyed-determination. Metrics don't respect the Marlins, but Justin will. Giancarlo Stanton is the baseball equivalent of a B-52 bomber. Dee Gordon and Ichiro are better at slap-hitting than my ex-wives. Opening day will be a test, but Justin is ready for it.

After his opening day start, Justin Verlander will take the most well-known Upton in the Tigers organization out to a secluded spot on the beach and sip a tropical beverage adorned with a colorful little umbrella. As he gazes wistfully at the Atlantic Ocean, illuminated by the mingling orange, pink, and golden hues of the Miami sunset, Justin will accept that he cannot undo the failures of 2014 and 2015.

the sun sets in Miami, but not upon Verlander.
The agonizing memories of Nelson Cruz and Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy celebrating their berth to the ALCS on the Tigers' home turf cannot be un-etched from Justin's psyche. Yet, each new baseball season offers the possibility of absolution from the sins of yesterday. Justin will slowly sip on his cocktail, feeling inner serenity and tranquility.

Time passes and players come and go, but Justin draws strength from his status as the immovable pillar of the Tigers' franchise since debuting with the team in 2006. The script for 2016 is largely the same as 2015, albeit with some new cast-members like Jordan Zimmerman, Justin Upton, and Mike Pelfrey. Justin, Detroit's Once and Future Ace, has to find a way to defy time and deliver his team to the October Classic. Justin is not a man who excels in a Best Supporting Actor role, playing sidekick to Scherzer or Price. He is a man who relishes the spotlight and all its attendant pressures and expectations. Justin has restored himself as Detroit's unquestioned leader. He must now restore baseball in Detroit.