Baseball Posts

So at this point you’ve probably noticed that I’m not writing about much other than baseball lately.  And the regular season doesn’t even start until April!  It may be a phase I’m going through, to be sure, but I’ve started writing elsewhere when I’m writing about baseball.  For now at least I’m calling it the Baseball Economist.

This will allow me to keep a different focus here that keeps with the themes of the blog.  I’ll occasionally post here (and you’ll see in my twitter feed) about what I’m talking about over there, but if you’re interested in baseball at all you’ll want to subscribe to that blog somehow too.  You may see this blog with not much appearing for periods of time when I’m only interested in writing about baseball.  I don’t think it’ll be my only interest for long, though.

 

 

How it Plays Out…

So I wrote earlier this week about Chris Carter still being an unsigned free agent after leading the National League in home runs last season.  I expected that someone would sign him before the season began, but it’s hard to know what was holding things up.  Was he looking for a multiple year contract?  Was he setting his salary sights too high?  I haven’t see what might be known about that, but as a reminder, I said in that post:

Additionally, a player like Carter, who is not a fantastic fielder or base runner has limited use in the major leagues.  Your “power hitter” can play limited positions in baseball, especially in the National League.  You’re limited to first base, left field, and the designated hitter (in the American League only).

An AL team did sign Carter…the New York Yankees.  The Yankees consistency have one of the highest payrolls in Major League so the money isn’t a major issue for them.  They signed Carter for a one year, $3.5M contract.

Carter earned $2.5 million with the Brewers in 2016 and he could provide some pop to a Yankee lineup that needs it, especially after losing Carlos Beltran (22 home runs) at the 2016 trade deadline and Brian McCann (20 home runs) to a trade with Houston this offseason.

Source: What Are The Yankees Getting In Chris Carter?

Economics are economics.  What the marketplace (in this case MLB teams) values gets more money, and what the marketplace has a lot of becomes less valuable.  Carter perhaps could have stayed in Milwaukee for a one year contract at $3.5M but by the time he and his agent were ready to go to that price/term the Brewers had moved on.  There may have been a broader market for the power hitter earlier as well, but the longer he waited the less valuable he became because fewer teams were in the market for a hitter with limited mobility.

I was talking with a co-worker today about one of the things I like about following baseball.  I get the “fix” on big negotiations and crazy deals and intelligent decision-making with zero responsibility.  Additionally I get to see the results in a fairly short time span, when most of the work decisions I make take months and years to work themselves into results.  Most of what happens in baseball, at least at the level I have been following, works out in hours or days, and at worst in a few months.  We know already what happened to Chris Carter and that he’ll be wearing Yankee Pinstripes and showing up at their Spring Training in Tampa in just a few days.  Likely he makes the big club and he’ll be playing against the Red Sox and Orioles in April..and may even get to hit a homer against the Brewers when they come to Yankee Stadium in July.  I’m sure that would be fun for him!

First Month Goals: #optimism update

So I told you about my extremely ambitious goals for the year.  I had set intermediate goals for the month of January, and hit most of them.  Sadly, the ones I missed are the big ones and we’ll have to do some catching up.

  • I wanted to get in 120,000 steps.  I made more than 146,000
  • Goal was 10 trips to the gym:  hit exactly, including one in a hotel room in DC
  • I wanted to get under 230 pounds.  Made it!  (goal for end of February is under 224)
  • Make 100 foul shots with each hand:  only made 85.  😦
  • Chin-ups exercise, machine, at 90 pounds.  Check.
  • Select and Italian program:  started Duolingo and have a 14 day streak already and have hit “9% fluent” so I’m pretty pumped about that one.  Only about 2 months until my big trip to Italy.
  • Write and publish 2 blog posts:  barely, but yes.
  • Run 0.2 miles consecutively in a walk/run mix:  made 0.25.
  • Finish one book.  NOPE.  😦
  • Books packed and plumbing done at the old house:  NO.  Double 😦
  • FW worship ramping up:  Big improvement but didn’t quite make the number I had set for the month.

So for February I have some improvement to make, and will look at adjusting the goals based on this month if necessary.  I’m pretty pumped with quite a few of these and their progress, but this month still needs some serious work.

Counter-Intuitive Moves

I mentioned in a post last week that I’ve been really getting into baseball.  One of the things that scratches an itch for me in baseball enjoyment is that I’m not just interested in how the game itself is played, but the machinations and decisions in the front office.

As I was talking Friday with a friend about baseball I mentioned offhandedly that the home-run leader from the National League (co-leader I later was reminded when researching this post), Chris Carter, remains an unsigned free agent with Spring Training only a couple of weeks away.  Carter had 41 homers last year and 94 RBIs while playing first base for the Milwaukee Brewers.  He was playing out a 1 year contract at $2.5M, and granted free agency at the end of the season.

41 home runs and 94 RBIs is nothing to sneeze at.  So why has no one signed him?  And what did the Brewers do instead of keeping him?  Here’s an article that deals with the logic of Carter (and several other heavy hitters) still waiting for a team in February, and to the point where Carter (age 30) is considering going to Japan to play:

“A run is a run is a run.””What you’re looking for now is good players,” said that exec, who requested anonymity because his organization prefers to have its GM talk publicly about topics like this. “And a good player is a guy who puts runs on the scoreboard or keeps them off. It doesn’t matter how.”

Source: Does baseball still dig the long ball?

Now here’s where I try to write without getting all baseball-geeky (especially since I’m new to the baseball nerd thing, and I still am grappling with understanding things quite frequently).  Note in the article linked above that:

“…not only is the ability to hit 40 home runs now officially overrated, according to modern baseball thinking, it’s now so overrated that it enabled Carter to make history — by becoming the first home run champ in the free-agent era to get non-tendered.

Professional baseball, as you’d imagine, is extremely competitive.  While (especially big market) teams have quite a bit of money to spend, like with any business the people who own/run the team want to get value for what they’re spending.  If they think they can contend for the playoffs, which sells more tickets, they’ll spend more if they have it, generally speaking.  But as Billy Beane is “quoted” in Moneyball:

There are rich teams and there are poor teams.  Then there’s 50 feet of [fecal matter] and then there’s us [the Oakland A’s].  It’s an unfair game.

It’s not a level playing field because cities like Milwaukee and Oakland have a smaller fan base than teams in cities like Chicago, New York, Dallas, Houston or Philadelphia.  And because baseball has yet to enact a salary cap that exists in the NBA and the NFL, teams can spend more if they have more.  And a smaller payroll means teams have to compete in other ways than paying the most for players.  The Yankees will always have more money to spend than the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Additionally, a player like Carter, who is not a fantastic fielder or base runner has limited use in the major leagues.  Your “power hitter” can play limited positions in baseball, especially in the National League.  You’re limited to first base, left field, and the designated hitter (in the American League only).  And even the left fielder and the first baseman need to have some decent mobility.

And so the Brewers chose to go another direction.  I don’t think it’ll be certain until April how they’ll handle first base and the batting order, but Chris Carter wasn’t what their GM wanted to spend money on.  And no other team has an obvious need for him in a way that caused him to be snapped up.  I don’t know what he’ll be worth in Japan, but currently his agent hasn’t found a matching salary with any MLB team.  At age 30 he’s probably desiring a longer than 1 year contract, and if he’s willing to take something around $1M/year he may find it.  If he’s drawing a line at 4 years and $15M (average $3.75M/year) then nobody is willing to pay that.  And only the GMs they’ve talked to, the agent, and Carter himself know what offers are being thrown out and turned down and what their bottom line is.

So while it’s seemingly counter-intuitive to find out that the guy who hit more home runs than anyone else in the National League last year isn’t currently invited to Spring Training anywhere, it’s explainable when we look at what most teams value and have need of in a player.  If you, like the Cubs, have an established gold-glove first baseman and no need of a designated hitter, Chris Carter isn’t attractive at all.

A Growing Interest

(NOTE:  This post is longer than I usually write, but I thought it important to not cut the story short)

Over the past few years, my interest in baseball has grown.  I was into sports (as a consumer mostly) for a large part of my life, and around the time I got married I stopped following professional sports for the most part.  Sure I’d follow things, and if someone asked I had a favorite team in most sports groupings, but I rarely knew more than a little of what was going on.  Even when I followed it, football was my favorite sport and rarely would choose to watch baseball unless it was the post-season.

When Tim Tebow got picked up by the Denver Broncos, having been an avid Broncos fan, I got drawn back in a little.  I started having conversations with other friends who were much more avid fans of sports and interacting when I’d travel about local sports, particularly SEC Football in frequent trips to Memphis.  And then I started interacting with some friends who had a deep interest in baseball and started to appreciate the nuances of the game.  I started to watch a little more and pick up more of what was going on with pinch hitting, pitcher changes, pitch selection and more.  It became interesting to me, much more mentally engaging when I watched it.

When the movie Moneyball came out I found another intriguing side of baseball I’d missed:  the mechanisms of the front office.  Trading, contracts, drafts and lineups began to have even deeper interest for me.  (I’ve seen Moneyball multiple times and I think I’ll watch it again before the season starts.)

Still I only had a passing interest in the game.  Then Ben Zobrist got traded to the Kansas City Royals in 2015.  I had a friend who was a huge Royals fan and he also happened to be related to the Zobrists (Ben is from central Illinois where I live) and I found myself glued to the TV during the post season watching both the Cubs (I adopted them as my “favorite” team when I moved to Illinois because I love an underdog) and the Royals progress, unsure of who I’d root for in the World Series if both made it.  The Royals won the series and I was now hooked on baseball.

And then Ben, now a free agent, signed with the Cubs.  For the first time in my adult life I was watching regular season baseball and arguing on Twitter about whether they were going to choke or not (they’re the Cubs…they have to right?).  And then they had the dream season, winning 103 games and then the obligatory 11 to walk off the last game of the season as the winner.  The icing on the cake was Zobrist winning the MVP title at the series.

And now I’m a baseball fan.  I’m following the off-season trades and signings for the Cubbies.  I’m familiar with the names of their top prospects and the location of their minor league teams.  I’m hooked.  I can debate the pros and cons of the various players on the “bubble” who may or may not be on the 25 man roster when they open the season on the road against the Cardinals.  And I’m flying out to Phoenix to visit my parents to attend 2 Spring Training games in March.

It was somewhat gradual over the last two years, but now it is my most time consuming hobby.  It engages my brain in ways I want it to with absolutely no reminders of my day job.  It scratches an itch I needed for a leisure activity and I’ve been trying to interest my kids a bit more, and have at least one avid fan in the group.

The level of insanity has gotten this far:  I’m following 2-3 baseball blogs (mostly Cub centered) and I came upon the following post:

Ownership.

Ownership is what makes sports worth arguing over. It makes it worth looking a fool if you ask a dumb question.(There are dumb questions. I’ve asked plenty of them.)

For Draft Prep to work, and for this series to continue, some of you need to make this a worthwhile segment. Al already knows this. I want you (the person reading this) to take a college baseball team.

Source: 2017 MLB Draft Prep And An Assignment – Bleed Cubbie Blue

The author is trying to garner interest in the baseball draft in June and got readers to volunteer to research a team and keep up with that college team during the season.  Being insane, I picked two teams:  the Villanova Wildcats and the Bradley Braves.  Bradley is here in Peoria (and my alma mater) and I usually root for Nova in the NCAA tournament every year (they’re defending the title this March/April).

My first assignment:  coach, opening game, and pre-season all conference notes.  Here it is:

Villanova Wildcats (Big East, college home of Cubbie Matt Szczur)

  • Head Coach: Kevin Mulvey
  • Opening game: February 17 @ Norfolk State
  • Pre-Season All-conference: (Big East): I could not find this year’s pre-season list…last year’s came out on 1/28 so it may be too early.

Bradley Braves (Missouri Valley Conference)

  • * Head coach: Elvis Dominguez
  • Opening game: February 17 @ Texas A&M-Corpus
  • Pre-Season All-conference: (MV) (no returning all-conference from last year, and I could not find a preseason document)

I’ll probably write more about baseball as the season goes on, but for right now, I’m counting down the days until the spring games start.

2017: An Exercise in #Optimism

So no one reads my blog so you haven’t noticed this:  I haven’t posted in a while.  I keep thinking “I should write more” and then I don’t write.

I’ve done a bit of a reboot this year after we had a productive family strategy meeting on based January 2nd.  And it’s been going much better, but not as well as I’d like.  I did, though, set some specific goals around writing this year.  Sixty blog posts, in fact, including at least two in January.

And this is my first.

Here’s the rest of my goals so I can feel more pressure of accountability:

  • Run a 5k (repeat of a failed goal last year)
  • Be below 210 pounds or 35″ waist by the end of the year (I weighed in at a nearly obese 241# on January 1st)
  • Walk 2,000,000 steps (that’s 2 million)
  • Do 2 full body-weight chin-ups (I haven’t done one since the 80s)
  • Make 2,500 foul shots with each hand (5,000 total)
  • Finish renovating our old house so it can be rented or sold
  • Renovate 1 bathroom in our current house
  • learn basic Italian (before April 11)
  • Write 60 blog posts
  • Record 6 public speaking videos
  • Record 6 videos on other topics
  • Unplug on my next vacation for 12 consecutive days (no work email, etc.)
  • By end of March work 2 evenings or less (get the work done at the office!)
  • Visit Six Flags with the older kids at least 7 times (we have season passes!)
  • Read through the entire Bible
  • Improved consistency at Family Worship (by EOY averaging at least 5x/week)
  • Read 10 books (including no more than 4 I’ve already started reading)
  • Have 3 social events in our home with multiple families
  • Have 8 families over for dinner
  • Visit two previously unvisited MLB parks for a game

Based on recent years some of those easier looking ones are a big stretch.  I lose consistency at reading quickly (easily distracted with other things).  We’ve had health issues with the planners and cooks that make having social events harder from time to time.

I’ve already made some good progress and set intermediary goals for each month so that I can know whether I’m on track.  I may fail, but this year I’m failing forward.  Check back for results and more interesting posts than this one.

I’m Batman!

Your Lying Tongue Shakes Things Up

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him:

  1. haughty eyes,
  2. a lying tongue, and
  3. hands that shed innocent blood,
  4. a heart that devises wicked plans,
  5. feet that make haste to run to evil,
  6. a false witness who breathes out lies, and
  7. one who sows discord among brothers.

Source: Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV – Bible Gateway

This is post three in the Hating what God Hates series.  First and second post can be found here and here.

A lying tongue is the second of the seven things here that God hates.  This one is pretty straightforward, right?  We all know what lying is, don’t we?

Let’s start with remembering what hating what God hates includes:  loving what God loves.  Those who want to follow God will be lovers of the truth.  Because the lying tongue, lying dormant and silent, is still what it is:  a lying tongue.

In contrast, listen to Psalm 15 (emphasis mine):

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
    Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
    and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue
    and does no evil to his neighbor,
    nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
    but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
who does not put out his money at interest
    and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.

The second bolded phrase, “does not slander with his tongue” is the obvious one, right?  It uses the word “tongue” so it jumps out.  It’s about the “do not” part of what God hates…but there’s always a “put on” to go with the “put off,” a “do” to go with the “do not.”

More than that even, it starts with what’s going on in your heart more than what’s on your lips.  Putting off a lying tongue means speaking the truth, first and foremost, in your heart.  This is the kind of person God invites over for tea (see Ps. 15:1 above)…one who speaks truth even in his heart.  It’s easy to lie to yourself, or worse yet to rationalize what you’re saying as OK even when you know it’s not true.  Or not quite true.

And that brings us to the last bolded phrase:  “who swears to his own hurt and does not change.”  Sometimes telling the truth will get you in trouble.  It’ll make your life more difficult, at least in the short run.  Hating the lying tongue means telling the truth even when it appears to be in your best interest (like avoiding pain) to lie.  Doing what God wants, even when it looks uncomfortable in the near future, is the character He loves.   If you’re going to hate the lying tongue, you need to tell the truth even when it’s going to make your life more difficult.

The truth, though, is a bedrock in your life.  God says here “he who does these things shall never be moved” or as the NASB says, “can never be shaken.”

So hate the lying tongue.  Even the silent one.  And tell the truth even to your own hurt, and you will dwell in God’s tents and never be shaken.