Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Yankees Must Not Sell

Danville, Kentucky -- I've always been stingy. This stinginess has cost me several marriages. It has been said that frugality is the mother of all virtues; though virtue is not a word I'd use in this situation. I'm a man who loves to enjoy the fruits of my labors. I take pride in being able to provide for my family. I've never had a high paying job, but I always make sure to keep my fridge stocked with lavish and delicious delicacies like Tostitos brand queso dip, and rich, creamy gourmet Hellmann's mayonnaise. I always make sure we get the best for our money, and that we get our money's worth. Getting our money's worth means not being wasteful; squeezing every last drop of ketchup out of the bottle, finishing our leftovers, being resourceful with the ingredients we are given.

Now, my frugality has always put me on a collision course with my family. My first wife wasn't raised like me. My father grew up in the Great Depression. He was a man hardened by his experiences back then, standing in line for cold soup, rationing, and huddling around dim fires for warmth. He instilled within my family a sense of responsibility, thrift, and prudence. My first wife, on the hand, had younger parents. They were raised in the times of prosperity, of Eisenhower, of white picket fences, of milkshakes and french fries. She had no similar sense of prudence or thrift.

The New York Yankees have similarly lacked any sense of frugality. They've inked massive contract after massive contract. Many of those players are now entering the twilight of their careers. Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, CC Sabathia: they ain't as good as they once was; they have a few years on them now. But they're still as good once as they ever was. CC is having a renaissance, and has had stretches of flat-out dominance throughout 2016. A-Rod is still chasing history and knocking out milestones. Carlos Beltran is building an AL MVP case while padding his Hall of Fame case, with 20 homers and 61 RBIs already. 

Despite these success stories for the 2016 Yankees, the nerds are calling for a fire-sale. A sell-off. A blow-up of the team. The spreadsheet gazers at Fangraphs have labeled the Yankees "sellers" and roster-bated about a complete reboot of the team. In spite of the fact that the Yankees are only 4.5 games out of the 2nd Wild Card spot. 

Folks, a 4.5 game deficit can be overcome in the span of a week. It can be erased quicker than your savings account if you let a woman use your credit card at a Sephora makeup store. All it takes is a hot streak, and the Yankees are a team primed for a hot streak. The Yankees have an elite bullpen, featuring Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman. Their lineup is stacked with Hall of Famers. CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka are anchors in the rotation. This is a team built to win in 2008, but also built to win now. Any team with this many high-performing veterans has no business selling. The Yankees must keep this core intact for as long as possible. 

I once fought with my wife over an old jar of mayonnaise. It culminated in a divorce. I took a stand, and didn't waver. The mayo was past its expiration date, yet my family hadn't finished it. I was not in the habit of throwing out condiments when there was still value to be had. My wife insisted that we throw out the mayo, and I insisted that there was still about three-and-a-half servings of mayo remaining in the jar. I was not going to stand by and let the fruits of my labor -- the mayonnaise purchased with my hard-earned wages that I earned toiling on the assembly line -- go to waste. Similarly, the Yankees should not blow up their finely-constructed team, even though several of the players are past their expiration date. Even expired mayonnaise can enhance a carefully-built sandwich if it is applied with tenderness and care. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Hey Joe: Why Nathan Will Save the Cubs

Danville, Kentucky -- In 1970s rural Kentucky, a man took what work he could get. Sometimes that meant swallowing one's pride and logging hours performing rote tasks that more affluent men would deem too base or too dirty. My father was one of many American men unafraid of getting dirt under his fingernails, even in the midst of a Jimmy Carter-induced energy crisis and attendant economic recession. When the Ford plant near my childhood Kentucky home packed up and moved overseas thanks to the soaring energy prices of the Carter era, my father didn't wallow in self-pity or ask for government assistance. At age fifty-five, my father re-entered the job market, knowing that the alternative was selling priceless family heirlooms at local pawnshops and cash-for-gold stores to pay our bills and buy groceries. To keep food on the table, my father went to work as a shelf-stocker at a supermarket when luckier men his age might've been retiring to a cushy cabin on Lake Michigan. My dad wasn't proud of it; he found no dignity in hauling heavy crates of watermelons and canned vegetables, unlike his previous job on the Ford assembly line. He'd tell me that he often entertained the idea of sticking up the the store, making off with some cash, and starting a new life out West. But my father wasn't a coward. With his back pressed up against the wall, he'd wipe the sweat from his brow, put his head down, and go to work.

When I look at Joe Nathan, former proven closer for the Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers, and Detroit Tigers, I see a similar American work ethic and grit. At age forty one, Joe is no spring chicken. Lesser athletes like Calvin Johnson would've hung up the cleats many years ago. In an era of super bullpens -- where flame-throwing pitchers regularly burst onto the MLB scene throwing 96+ miles per hour and then spend years rehabbing because of elbow-blowouts and Tommy John surgery -- Joe Nathan has aged like the bright yellow, melted Wisconsin cheddar on my Steak n Shake Triple Steakburger™. Gracefully, but not effortlessly.

Joe got where he is now -- on the cusp of breaking back in to the majors with the World Series-bound Chicago Cubs -- by the grace of the same hard-working spirit that motivated my own father to get out of bed in the morning to perform menial tasks.

Mr. Nathan is poised to make an invaluable contribution to the Cubbies' seemingly inevitable World Series campaign, as a promotion to the major leagues is now all but imminent following a successful rehab start. No single aspect of the Cubs' roster stands out as an Achilles heel; it is a very well-balanced club, though if I were building it I'd put a few more proven veterans like Ben Zobrist on the roster and a few less green-in-the-gills rookies like Albert Almora. That being said, the bullpen stands out as an obvious area in need of improvement for the Cubs; it's 16th in the MLB in ERA, and gives up a ton of walks. The only ball clubs walking more batters per 9 innings than the Cubs are the Padres, Brewers, Marlins, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Braves, and Reds; not good company for a team with pennant aspirations. Fortunately, Joe is capable of solving the Cubs' veteran leadership deficit and bullpen struggles in one fell swoop.

Joe has 377 career saves; second only to Francisco Rodriguez among active pitchers and 8th all-time. He's also had two Tommy John surgeries. That's a ratio of 188.5 saves per Tommy John surgery, for you nerdy spreadsheet gazers back home. Unlike many of Chicago's current relievers, he's stingy with walks and attacks hitters in the strikezone like Hillary Clinton attacks Libyan dictators and our ambassadors. He throws a darting fastball that sits at 92-93 miles per hour, and a splitter nastier than a truckstop Arby's restroom. He's been through it all: dead-arm, surgery, postseason success and heartbreak. This is the type of cagey, chiseled veteran you want in your bullpen.

Less educated and younger Cubs fan may not be as excited about Joe Nathan's return to baseball as I am. They'll fret over his velocity. They'll label him an old man or nickname him "Sloppy Joe." They'll agonize over trusting late innings to a man old enough to be their father. They'll call him washed up, done, or finito. Fortunately, work ethic and determination never ages. Joe Nathan got where he is by working a lot harder and being a lot smarter, like millions of industrious men across this good nation. Jimmy Carter's horrific energy crisis couldn't extinguish the spirit of my selfless father. Tommy John surgery won't extinguish Joe Nathan's burning drive for glory either. That bodes well for the Chicago Cubs in their attempt to break a century-old curse.

Prospects of Future Past: Jacob Turner Returns

Danville, Kentucky -- It was not supposed to happen like this, Jacob Turner thought to himself, after giving up 8 runs in 4 innings in his White Sox debut last Sunday. A former top prospect and first round draft pick, young Jacob had all the trappings of an arm-of-destiny: a solid bet to anchor the Detroit Tigers rotation for years to come.

Yet, things do not always go as planned. Sometimes you have to quit your job on the basis of principle when the boss won't let you take your kid to work. Sometimes Gingrich doesn't get the VP nod like you predicted. Sometimes the wife wins that custody battle even though your lawyer said it was a slam dunk. Sometimes Lyin' Ted isn't forthcoming with that party-uniting endorsement. Sometimes corrupt politicians suffer no consequences for breaking the law and emailing on the job. Sometimes the overworked and sleep-deprived drive-through guy ruins your night by giving you Fire sauce instead of Diablo.

Sometimes, if you're Jacob Turner, the team that drafted you trades you in a patented Dombrowski deadline deal for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez. For Jacob Turner, it was a slow and painful descent into near-irrelevance; traded from the Miami Marlins to the Chicago Cubs for spare parts and sliding down top-prospects lists before being claimed off the waiver-wire by the team from Chicago's south side.

As last night's rain-shortened duel between Mike Pelfrey and James Shields established, this will be a tightly contested series between the White Sox and Tigers. Today, the arm of Detroit's yesterday will face the arm of Detroit's tomorrow. Jacob Turner will compete against the indomitable Michael Fulmer, another centerpiece of a Dombrowski deadline deal.

Jacob, sporting a 90-94 mph fastball and a plummeting curveball, will face his former team with a workmanlike stoicism, gaining no extra spark of motivation or chutzpah from anger at the organization that wantonly dealt him to the Marlins. Jacob Turner isn't a man to hold a grudge, just like the biblical figure Jacob ultimately forgave his sons Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin for their fratricidal plot against their own brother, Joseph. Michael Fulmer approaches the art of pitching with a similar quiet and bulldog-like determination, having never been one to be fazed by tall buildings and bright lights. It's a trait that will serve both pitchers well as they attempt to stake out their place in MLB history.

Jacob Turner's future has not yet been written; he may still blossom into a sturdy major league arm under the instruction of veteran leaders like Big Game James and Chris Sale. Yet, time is running out for both Jacob Turner and the White Sox. The White Sox front office has declared it will not pursue short-term rental players and has even hinted at the possibility of a deadline fire-sale. It was not supposed to happen like this, yet events have taken unanticipated twists and turns since General Manager Rick Hahn proclaimed Chicago's window of contention open several years ago. Starting Jacob Turner in crucial July games was Hahn's 'Plan D', a "break glass in case of emergency" option to be explored only after Mat Latos, John Danks, and other alternatives had been exhausted. Yet past is past and only the future remains, an infinite horizon of possibility. To make the most of Chicago's shrinking window of opportunity, the prospect of future past will have to defeat the arm of today's tomorrow.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Newt's A Hoot: Gingrich for V.P.

Danville, Kentucky - Folks, the 2016 presidential race is nearing a turning point. I, Will Hart, am ready to announce that Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and long-time representative from Georgia, has been chosen to be Donald Trump's running mate. I have received confirmation of this from a trusted source in Pooler, Georgia who has deep links the Georgia Republican Party and the Gingrich family. The mainstream Obamedia is afraid to break this story -- it might be a few weeks before CNN wake up to smell the McDonald's-brand coffee, but I'm ready to declare what the rest of the world will soon know to be true: Newt Gingrich will be the next Vice President of the United States.

Why has Trump chosen Gingrich? My trusted source was kind enough to fill me in on Donald's thought process. Here is Donald's rationale for selecting Newt to be the VP:

Newt Can Beat the Clintons

The nineties were a hell of a time to be alive, at least before they got ruined by grunge music and NAFTA. The awesomeness of the 1990s owed alot to Mr. Gingrich and his ability to score victory after victory against the nefarious Clinton administration. Newt's Contract with America was one of America's greatest victories in the late 20th century. Thanks to Newt and his Republican allies in Congress, federal overreach was stopped not one, not two, but three times, via multiple government shutdowns.

Newt is the Only Man Who Can Stop NAFTA

The NAFTA signing
Donald is riding a wave of protectionist, anti-globalist, anti-free trade sentiment straight to DC, and Newt is about to hop along for the ride. In fact, Newt is the only man available who can help Donald stop the globalists and protect American workers from the evils of NAFTA and TPP. Folks, Gingrich approved and voted for NAFTA. Newt understands the grimy details and inner-workings of this monstrous trade deal. He helped get it passed in Congress. Now, Newt, with his political saavy and legendary arm-twisting abilities, can help abolish NAFTA once and for all. The continued survival of our republic demands no less.

Newt and Donald Are Kindred Spirits

Newt is the perfect complement to Donald; the ranch dressing to Donald's buffalo wing. Like Donald and myself, Newt isn't afraid to hold out for true love: he's been divorced twice and married three times. Like Donald, Newt isn't afraid to be politically incorrect: he once called Obama "the food stamp President" and also called Spanish the "the language of living in a ghetto." Folks, Trump's campaign is all about dominating the 24-hour media cycle. That's why he's always saying outrageous things about federal judges and Megyn Kelly. With Newt Gingrich's loose lips on his side, Donald will ensure continued dominance in media coverage.

Newt is also unafraid to take on the media. Before a South Carolina debate on the Clinton News Network, or what the media calls CNN, Gingrich was asked if he wanted to comment on having an open marriage. Newt refused. The people of South Carolina gave him a big win. Newt refused to talk about irrelevant things, Hillary was busy emailing about irrelevant things, or at least I have to assume so, she deleted her emails.

A Needed Historian

This is a time where we cannot forgot our history. While Clinton tries to rewrite her tenure to exclude Whitewater, Newt cared so little about tenure he didn't even receive it at West Georgia University. But the decision of a liberal school didn't stop Newt. He went on to be a noted historian at Fannie Mac. Sure, the economy collapsed and Fannie has a role, but Benghazi collapsed and Clinton was the role. I can forgive Newt for working for Fannie Mae, I can't forgive Hillary for not working for Ambassador Stevens.


Newt and Don are a match made in heaven, like my first wife and I or the new Strawberry-Siracha wings at Buffalo Wild Wings.

It is my pleasure to formally announce that Newt has been selected to be Donald's running mate. With any luck, America will be great again. Have a wonderful 4th of July, folks.

Replacing the Irreplaceable: Why Bud Norris Is A Hero

Danville, Kentucky - How does one replace that which is irreplaceable? It is a question, by nature rhetorical, that has been screamed into the void by many disciples and foot-soldiers following the departure of a respected leader. It is a question that the irascible New Englander and former Vice President John Adams asked himself upon succeeding George Washington as the young American republic's President in 1796. George Washington, the father of this great country, shepherded the nascent nation through many trials and tribulations. General Washington was a larger than life figure, who steadfastly guided America through both bitter defeat at the Battle of Long Island and joyous triumphs at Saratoga and Yorktown. The General's steely resolve and cool demeanor secured the Jay Treaty of 1974; he was truly "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."

The General
Enter John Adams - the man tasked with replacing the young nation's quasi-divine paternal figure. Washington stood tall and proud, a decorated military hero; Adams was Danny DeVito-like in stature and temperament. How could any man hope to succeed General Washington? How does one replace that which is irreplaceable?

Adams and Bud Norris: Kindred Spirits
It is a question that Bud Norris, a former member of the Atlanta Braves recently acquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers, will ask himself this holiday weekend. Bud was acquired by a pitching-starved Dodgers organization reeling from the news that superhuman ace Clayton Kershaw would be heading to the disabled list. The Dodgers rotation is a shadow of its former glory without Clayton, the only winner of 10 or more games on the staff this season. Kenta Maeda has been a revelation, but remains fragile and injury-prone. Scott Kazmir sports a 7-5 win/loss record but has failed to eat innings, having gone more than 6 innings only twice so far this season. Alex Wood is on the disabled list as well. Young Julio Urias may yet be the salvation of the Dodgers franchise, but at age 19, he cannot be asked to anchor the rotation, just as it was irresponsible of John Adams Sr. to send 14 year old John Quincy Adams on a diplomatic envoy to St. Petersburg.

Young John Quincy
As Bud Norris prepares to take the mound against the Baltimore Orioles - one of his former teams - this Wednesday, he will privately acknowledge that he cannot hope to replace Kershaw; a Cy Young winner and lock for 20+ wins every season. Nobody expects Bud to replace the irreplaceable Clayton Kershaw. Surely Bud is aware of how little faith in him the Dodger fanbase has.

John Adams was hailed with a similar hail of insults when he assumed the office of Presidency. In October of 1800, Treasure Secretary Alexander Hamilton wrote a public letter slamming President Adams as egotistical, jealous, vane, and unfit to represent the Federalist Party. Bud will react as President Adams did to these insults; by putting his head down and doing his job.

I rarely agree with roster moves made by Andrew Fraudman, sabermetric saboteur of the Tampa Bay Rays and now the Los Angeles Dodgers. But the acquisition of Bud Norris must be applauded. Bud is a winner, having guided the Orioles to postseason success in 2014. The triumphant return of Clayton Kershaw remains pivotal to the World Series hopes of the Dodgers. Yet, every winning team requires role-players to complement the talents of other-worldly heroes like General Washington. Kershaw and Washington are both fearless and indispensable leaders. Just as America learned to survive in the absence of President Washington's steady leadership, the Dodgers must learn to win without their ace. On this 4th of July, let us not forget the irreplaceable contributions of unsung heroes like John Adams and Bud Norris.