Monday, November 2, 2009

Who the Fuck is Wendy Williams?

So its late and I can't get to sleep and this awful show is on Channel 11 (the L.A. FOX O&O). It is a campy talk show hosted by a massive woman who looks like the child of a gigantic drag queen and Tyra Banks. Apparently she is a shock jock from New York, but why the fuck is she on TV? Her show is basically what Perez Hilton would do if he was photogenic enough to get a TV show.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dodger Arbitration Projections

Hi everybody. While the Dodgers' season is sadly over due to an uncharacteristic failure by Jonathan Broxton, who is still the best closer in the game, and a head on collision with a locked in Phillies team that is on its way to dismantling the not-as-good-as-advertised Yankees, the off-season is just beginning.

This article isn't going to look at what the Dodgers are going to do with their free agents, but rather their arbitration eligible players. For those who don't know, and you really should, the standard baseball contract includes provisions to essentially protect a player's initial organization from the market factors of free agency by allowing them to have some sort of cost control on contracts during the first 6-7 years of major league service time. A "year" of service time counts as 172 days on the 25 man roster or the major league disabled list. Essentially, that is a full season, minus about two weeks. Hence why you hear so much about cheap teams holding their best prospects back in the minors during the season they are ready to join the majors. Pretty fucked up, right? Essentially, you have to get six of those 172 day "years" to qualify for complete free agency.

Anyway, in the first three years of major league time, the team essentially gets to decide how much the player gets paid, so long as they pay him above the league minimum, which currently stands at $400,000. Usually, unless they are the Marlins or something, a team will throw a guy a little raise each year to make him feel special. Ryan Howard's $900,000 salary in his third (not quite, but we'll discuss that in a moment) year was a record, as the Phillies were trying to woo him into lessening his demands, which didn't happen and he set a record for a first year of arbitration. Another example is Tim Lincecum's $650,000 salary last year in his second year.

After these first three years, a player is eligible to go to salary arbitration in front of a panel of three arbitrators who decide how much the player will make. It is an interesting process, as no ranges are agreed to. The Player submits one figure and the team submits another. The arbitrators are given briefs and a hearing is held (funny point: the collective bargaining agreement states that the hearing has to be in L.A., Phoenix or Vegas I believe). These hearings are supposedly brutal cat fights and have caused more than one MLB player to start hating an organization that he once loved, but it just seems to be part of the game. Ironically, teams and players are rarely THAT far apart, so they usually settle on a mid-range number before going to the hearing.

Incidentally, there is a rule that allows players with less than 516 days (3x172) of service to go to arbitration. Aside from filing a grievance like Tony Abreu did over his hip injury, any player who has less than a full 3 years but is in the top 10% of service time for those with more than 2 full years can go to arbitration. Free agency will still be delayed a year, but players make substantially more in arbitration than in their first three years. For the Dodgers, they have two players who qualified for this "Super Two" status last year, Andre Ethier and Russell Martin. Ethier got screwed because his advisers didn't really look deeply enough at who was getting what, and Ethier settled for $3.1 million, while the vastly inferior Jeff Francoeur got $3.375 million. Martin got $3.9 million without getting to the number submitting phase, and most accounts say he negotiated that himself over dinner with the McCourts (when they still ate together) as he was between agents. Martin's deal was a record for a first year arbitration catcher, both because he was the team's best player for quite some time and because Joe Mauer signed a longer term deal before it got that far.

Anyway, with that primer in mind, here are the arbitration eligible Dodgers, their 2009 salary and a projection for this year:

Russell Martin - $3.9m - Projection - $4.8m

Andre Ethier - $3.1m - Projection - $6m

Matt Kemp - $467,000 - Projection - $4m

James Loney - $465,000 - Projection - $1.9m

Chad Billingsley - $475,000 - Projection - $4m

Jason Repko (yes, really) - $500,000 - Projection - Non-Tender (I Hope)

George Sherrill - $2.75m - Projection - $4m (He's getting expensive)

Jonathan Broxton - $1.85m - Projection - $6m (there is precedent for this)

Hong-Chih Kuo - $437,000 - Projection - $1.2m

Interesting numbers there. Why would Billingsley get so much in his first year of arb? Starting Pitchers are generally valued very highly, especially ones with his history. His late season issues factored in, because he likely would have gotten $6 million or so if he had duplicated 2008. Why would Broxton, a guy who pitches one inning most of the time, get so much? Take a look at what some other first year arbitration elite closers got. Jonathan Papelbon got $6.25m. Bobby Jenks, of all people, got $5.6m. Broxton is actually in his second year of arbitration. His number was low because he spent most of 2008 as a set up man for Takashi Saito, but he established himself as an elite closer this year.

If Kemp's agent is any good (or if he hires me ;-)) they will know that Kemp presents much more value than Ethier did. Premium position, more speed numbers, higher batting average and similar power numbers. That equates to a big pay day. Ethier shouldn't be upset, because his 30-100 season should translate to a big raise. He will certainly leapfrog Martin, who had a disappointing year with the bat despite still excellent defense. I just have my doubts over how good the people at CAA's sports division are after the way Ethier's arbitration was mishandled last year. Kim Ng is good, but even she couldn't convince an arbitration panel that Ethier should be paid less than a swing happy rock head like Francoeur.

One interesting guy is Sherrill. I advocated for his acquisition over at Memories of Kevin Malone, but he is in line for a decent sized jump in salary, despite the fact that he turned into a pumpkin against the Phillies. That he could conceivably make more than Jonathan Broxton, though he shouldn't for reasons I mentioned above, is ridiculous. Hell, Kuo is significantly better than him (and just about anybody when healthy), but his injury history will hurt him in negotiations.

One thing I will say is that all the money the Dodgers are saving by no longer having Jason Schmidt on the books and part of Andruw Jones is getting swallowed up here, with my estimated total of $18,460,000 in raises (Kemp, Broxton and Billingsley are especially big jumps). Those who think the Blue have a chance at a guy like John Lackey, especially given the McCourt divorce issues, are probably off, even if the team can afford him. What a big signing like that would mean is that the Dodgers would have to otherwise go for scrap heap stuff and hope for Blake DeWitt to recapture the magic that was the first and last part of the 2008 season, this time at second base. Then again, if Andre Ethier's BABIP goes up 10 points, Matt Kemp further progresses and Russell Martin bounces back, who really gives a shit?

The conclusion? The Kids are hardly making kid money anymore.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

More Frequent Posts are Coming Damnit.

To all one or two of my faithful readers, more frequent posts are forthcoming. After Kensai's link up with ESPN, I won't be over there anymore officially, though I am willing to bet you see some of my content over there. Also, my trial schedule should be letting up soon, so I will have marginally less to do in the real world. Hence, I will grace the interwebs with more of my stuff. Besides, both the Dodgers and Angels swept their way to the ALCS this weekend, so lots of fodder on that end. And that is without mentioning the 4-0 Saints.

In order to get me writing more, however, I need some inspiration. That means I want comments, comments and more comments. Hell, I'd just take one.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Like We All Didn't Expect This From a Football Team?

Courtesy of our Yankee/Red Sox/Patriots/Cowboys loving fans in Bristol, we get this.

I feel really, really bad for David Givins. He was a pretty good third receiver who parlayed time with New England into a nice little contract with the Tennessee Titans. Turns out, he had a major defect that formed in his knee and needed to be fixed, but it wasn't. So in the end, he blew it out so bad, that he has no chance at ever returning to the No Fun League.

So of course, because this is the NFL where contracts are only contracts as long as the owners say they are, he has lost most of the money he would have earned over the course of his contract with the Titans, as well as any further contracts he would have signed.

That said, the crux of this story isn't so much the tragedy of Givins' injury, but the way he is alleging it happened. Apparently, there was a memo circulated among the training and coaching staffs that told of Givins' knee issue and that the best course would be to shut him down and fix the knee. What happened instead is that the information was withheld from Givins and now he has lost his livelihood and the ability to play the sport he has a passion for.

Honestly, I am getting pretty sick of all this "win at all costs" bullshit that pervades the Gridiron more than any sport I can think of. Look, I want warriors out there on my teams just as much as the next guy, but not at the cost of their future. Even from the purely selfish point of view, doesn't it make more sense to make sure the guy can heal up and play 3-4 more years for your team as opposed to playing right now and then being useless after 3-4 games? I am sure the Dodgers' Hong-Chih Kuo can pitch through a few games of his elbow turning blue, but I seriously doubt he will pitch for as long.

Then again, I suppose this shouldn't be a surprise with American Football. After all, we have kids dying in brutal high school practices, where millions and even billions aren't at stake. We seriously need to change our mentality here, because this kind of treatment is unacceptable.

For the record, this lawyer hopes Givins not only gets his contract paid out, but also the constitutional limit for punitive damages.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Can Anyone Act Rationally Anymore?

So, I turned AIM on and that annoying AOL pop-up page opened in Firefox. As I was about to click it closed, I saw an article and was roped in. Basically, it is an article about how the egg industry (well actually, the industry that produces chickens for egg production) has been so completely disintegrated from the chicken meat industry that, while hatched females are sold to egg producers, male chicks are thrown into grinders to die just after hatching.

Look, I'm not a vegetarian. Nowhere close. I stopped eating commercial mammals (beef, pork, lamb) 11 years ago, first to maintain a healthy weight and then because I learned just how unhealthy and unnatural these animals have become. I do, however, still eat fowl, fish and mammals in or close to their wild state (Bison, Ostrich, Wild Boar, etc.). Even after having lots of vegetarian and vegan friends, I never even considered a switch to a completely meatless diet because it is just as unnatural as those cows pumped up with hormones and antibiotics and fed corn by the trough-full. Human beings are built to be omnivores, just like our dear old friend the Dog, and completely unlike our other favorite pet, the obligate carnivore known as the domestic cat.

That said, this kind of thing always bugs the shit out of me. It is not just about the cruel nature of how these birds are dying, which probably looks a lot more cruel than it is in the grand scheme of ways to kill a 1 day old chick, but it is about that insane amount of waste that goes on in this country. Seriously, I realize that the commercial chicken industry has created this crazy Cornish Cross meat bird at the expense of all others, but how the hell is it a better economic policy to just kill 200 million chickens a year? Why not sell them off to become everything from pets to become meat chickens anyway? In fact, why don't the hatcheries grow them as food? Even if they can't beat the other guys on price, I am sure they can cover all the costs that they would have incurred by killing these things.

Indeed, I take umbrage with a lot of the article, in that it basically suggests that we need to forget about getting "cheap" food and make the hard transition toward a less meat-intensive life. While I agree with this to a point, Americans in particular eat WAY too much of the wrong kinds of meat, there is no real reason to bite the bullet here. You know why Americans love chicken more than any other group of people on this planet? Because it is the meat of the masses. Much like people in coastal regions (including my home state of California) love fish, the chicken and the United States as a whole go together as well as anything. Unlike cows, chickens are really well suited to the consumption of grain and we can grow a ton of that in the middle of this country where harsh weather keeps other choices limited. As such, chicken was always the cheapest thing people could buy, and we developed a taste for it. In fact, chicken was insanely cheap until the early-1980s, before the demand for the fitness niche caught on. Since then, chicken prices have shot up, not coincidentally as factory farming and market disintegration has become commonplace. No longer are the roosters raised for meat and the hens for eggs. Instead, you have one breed for meat then another set of chickens, females only, for eggs. How fucking stupid is that? I don't give a shit what economist for Tyson or Purdue came up with this idea, but I will never be convinced that such a wasteful practice actually works to lower production costs.

As an aside, who else has gotten really tired of these mainstream message boards (I say this as I ask people to comment on mine)? It really seems like as more and more people have found these things exist, you get more and more trolls trying to tell other people how to live their lives. On the board for this article, at least half the comments seemed to be either 1) people comparing the culling of live chicks to a woman's right to choose an abortion or 2) people screaming at others to go vegetarian or vegan. Honestly, a big fuck you to both of them. The veggies and vegans get so annoying, for the specific reason that they completely twist around scientific research to their own liking and don't get that "plant-based diet" means "eat more plants, but don't forget the protein." Even people who do eat meat, like Michael Bittman, bug the shit out of me because they live in this box where the USRDA is all they look at. Sure, the RDA for protein in a 2000 calorie diet is only 60 grams. Does anyone ever pay attention to the fact that the RDAs are near to the minimum humans need to survive? If you exercise at all, your requirements go up. If you exercise like a person should, they go even higher. They are just as bad as the low-carb people who thought that pissing away water and drastically lower calories meant that carbs were evil.

On the first one, come on people. Simply because people care about animals means they have to live your religious fundamentalist life? Listen, I know many women who have had abortions and many men who have supported them through the process (and some who are fucking deadbeats about the whole thing). I have been smart, and probably a bit lucky, enough to not end up in this situation, but what a hell of a situation. Who the hell are you to tell others what to do with their own bodies? This whole back and forth about whether a fetus is a living creature gets old. Its not a child. A fetus is a mass of stem cells that can't live outside the mother for at least 3 months. Even then, you are talking about something that has to basically be cared for in an environment meant to replicate the uterus until it actually becomes a viable human life. I realize this is harsh, but its the truth.

Further still, I really don't get how the anti-choice types get off preaching their message, then turning around and justifying their omnivoric existence. The commandment says "thou shalt not kill" not "thou shalt not kill human beings." If they are so adamant about that position, why keep eating meat? They should be the first ones railing against these practices, and should stay as far away from their local BBQ joint as possible.

Long story short, I am disgusted with the food industry too, just not because I care all that much about the animals themselves. Don't get me wrong, it is reprehensible to treat animals cruelly. In fact, I put it right up there with child abuse, because you have a similarly less developed body and brain. That said, I don't really see all that much difference between killing a chicken at a few months old for its meat and killing it at a day old in a grinder. One just looks a hell of a lot worse. My problem with Big Food is that they have turned things that are healthy and necessary into unrecognizable mutations, and that they rely on false economies to do so. Why not raise these things the natural way? They taste better, they create less down line costs (borne by the taxpayers, thank you) and you don't waste anything. Seriously, even if those 200 million male chicks grew to only 3 pounds (not likely, because I am sure they could fatten them), you are talking about SIX HUNDRED MILLION pounds of chicken. That's 300,000 tons. Food wouldn't be more expensive, it would be cheaper. Sure, some of these big factory types would lose some money, but they would have to just become more efficient. By, you know, not wasting half their potential product.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Why I Miss Ted Kennedy

I know faithful readers, well, whom ever has actually seen this little strand of the internet, it has been a long time. It isn't that I have had nothing to talk about, it is that I have been incredibly busy. Still, not an excuse for not keeping the world updated.

Anyway, I have had many ideas for a new article, but I figured this would be the best to lead off with. So much has been said about the legendary Senator over the past week or so since his death, I figured I would add a little of my own prospective.

To me, Teddy was the greatest product of that legendary family. Probably less famous than his two middle brothers because of their assassinations and the stage they used, the youngest of the four Kennedy brothers did more for this country than maybe anyone in history. While the Kennedy's have always been symbols of the American Left, none embraced quite what that means like the youngest brother. Teddy was pro-choice, anti-death penalty, anti-war and, more than anything, a champion of the poor and the minority. In reality, he embraced the idea of constitutionalism, freedom and equality better than any leader this country has ever had. There was always a catch with other leaders. FDR tried to pack the Supreme Court, Ted's brother Jack was a hawkish interventionist, but Teddy was true to all these causes. That doesn't mean he didn't work well with others, as his now well documented relationship with arch-conservative Orin Hatch shows, he just stuck to his guns and never wavered from his caring for people.

Actually, Kennedy's relationship with Hatch brings up a really good point. Both Teddy and Orin are great examples of patriotic Americans who have given their lives to the service of both their country and their constituents. Now, despite what the election of Mitt Romney as governor suggests, Massachusetts and Utah are as far apart ideologically as states can get. Yet how far apart are we really? Most Americans I know want a few things: freedom, equality with others and as little government intervention in their lives as possible. The differences start when it comes to how we view other people. Whether or not we want other people to have those same three things we want for ourselves. That is why Ted Kennedy was such a great man. He had everything. He was a straight, white, rich, Christian (don't go into all that Catholic v. Christian stuff, Catholics are Christians and are not treated as second class citizens at all anymore) male. He could have taken the position that others shouldn't have the same rights as him, simply because he was never at any risk of losing those rights. Yet he championed exactly the opposite. Progressive taxation, poverty eradication, absolute equality (not a new concept, the 14th Amendment is obvious in its wording) and getting the government out of people's private lives.

That is why Ted Kennedy was so great. He championed positions not out of necessity, but out of a belief that they were right.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Another Reason to Stop With the "PED" Leaks

I don't really want to belabor this point, but I saw something interesting about the 2003 baseball study that has resulted in a serious breach of contract and trust by baseball players on the use of alleged performance enhancing drugs. I had been under the impression that the study was focused on traditional anabolic steroids, as used by bodybuilders and weight lifters, and perhaps some of the "designer" steroids like THG (better known as "The Clear") from now infamous BALCO Labs.

Turns out baseball's survey testing was also looking for the stinky, evil Performance "Enhancing" substance 4-Androstenedione, infamously known as "ANDRO". Remember the bottle of pills some reporter found in Mark McGwire's locker during 1998? Yeah, that. Well, it turns out that a lot of baseball players were using Androstenedione back then because they thought it would help give them an edge and it was completely legal and not banned by Major League Baseball. In fact, middle-to-back of the rotation junk baller Bronson Arroyo, who is most famous for having Alex Rodriguez slap his arm at first base, stated that he took both Androstenedione as well as some unnamed "amphetamines" back before they were banned and that he likely came up positive in survey testing.

So why does this matter? Well, if androstenedione is the reason some or most of these guys tested positive (A-Rod admits to using Primabolan, which is an actual anabolic steroid and was a favorite of the worst governor in California history during his days as the greatest bodybuilder ever), what is the big deal? First, all these "pro-hormone" supplements were legal until 2004. They weren't banned by baseball either. Further, the only reason they ended up getting banned was because 1) the media hyped the hell out of it, and 2) supplement companies started making "pro-hormones" that were really just steroids masquerading as something else. The reality is, however, that baseball players were not getting any benefits from androstenedione because, while it is a dangerous androgen that gives you all the bad side effects of steroids, it has little if any anabolic activity. If anything, a guy like McGwire who was 34 when he hit 70 home runs in 1998 (saving baseball in the process) was getting more benefit from the DHEA that was often "stacked" with the androstenedione back then. DHEA is something the body produces in abundance until around age 30 and then production falls off a cliff. In fact, this is probably something that not only lengthened McGwire's career, but his life.

The reality is that healthy, young baseball players were likely getting zero or close to zero benefit from the dreaded ANDRO. They were more likely getting help from completely legal, good for you, food supplement creatine monohydrate, which acts by helping the body "recycle" ADP into ATP more efficiently.

The conclusion to all of this? Knock this shit off and just enjoy your baseball game.