SocraticGadfly: 6/8/14 - 6/15/14

June 14, 2014

#LBJ and the Heat can do better than Melo

As I and six zillion other sports bloggers discussed a couple of days ago, the hottest NBA rumor is that the Knicks' free agent Carmelo Anthony would come to Miami on a max contract — IF the Big Three of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade would all exercise their contract opt-out rights and come back for less, and other players would adjust their contracts as needed.

But, if you look at Miami's roster, they've got other, more pressing, needs.

1. Chris Anderson, the Birdman, is 36 next year. Even allowing for centers running less, the NBA being a kick-out league, etc., still, there's not a whole lot of mileage on his odometer. And, you can't count on Greg Oden behind him, of course.

2. Udonis Haslem, long-time defensive lockdown player and scrapper, can't even off the bench. He'll be 34 next year.

3. Shane Battier, of course, is retiring.

So, they need either a SF/PF banger or a PF/C banger, like, uh, in the coming year for sure. And, especially if it's the SF/PF type, more than just "banger," an all-around defender type is desirable. (And, we know Michael Beasley is not the answer for any of this, since his middle initials are DNP.)

And, as I said, the other position is a combo guard. Someone to spell Wade more at SG, and also let him go to SF and spell James a bit more.

But, let's say Miami is looking offense first at that first slot. He's a stretch as a PF, but, hell, wouldn't Luol Deng be a better option to integrate into the team than Melo?  Rudy Gay might be pretty cheap. Hell, Paul Pierce might want to do one more run, but not in Brooklyn. Or, if the Heat want to look defense first, Shawn Marion might be an option. Or Andrei Kirilenko.

For a guard, there's also multiple options that might not be too expensive.

Greivis Vasquez is a tall PG who can also shoot.  Kirk Hinrich might also be available if the Bulls think he's too old. Either one lets you dump
Mario Chalmers and sometimes play one of them at SG while Norris Cole is your point.

So, you do a midrange contract at one slot, and a minimum or a bump above it at the other, depending on exactly what Miami has to offer. 

Or else chase Deng at a price of 65 cents on the Carmelo dollar, assuming that's about what the NBA free agent market says he's worth.

Anyway, Miami's got better, smarter options than signing Carmelo Anthony to fill serious needs. And, if LBJ isn't ready to believe that, then part of Pat Riley's job is to convince him of that.

That's even more true after Game 4 of the Finals, where Wade well earned his ESPN F grade. The Heat needs to replace a fair amount of his game within the next 24 months and also find out ways to upgrade elsewhere. Per Van Gundy, I don't think Miami is the second-best team in the league this year, not right now, at least.

Meanwhile, there's other chemistry considerations. Carmelo isn't coming to Miami to be the third offensive option. Deng or somebody lower might accept Wade nominally being the No. 2. Carmelo won't. And Riley wouldn't be paying Carmelo to be the No. 3 option.

If Serge Ibaka is healthy at the start of the Western Conference finals, that's your NBA title series right there.

And, per my friend's comment below, AK-47 would be great in San Antonio. But, you gotta resign Kawhi Leonard first. Then, at least make a serious effort at resigning Patty Mills. (You'll get some cap freedom back in 2015-16, assuming at least Manu retires after one more year, and possible Timmeh as well.) First things first.

What they do NOT need to do is listen to this knucklehead commenter on Sports on Earth who says their first need is a center. In my last response, I gave up trying to further reason with him, halfway through, and I said 29 other GMs and head coaches would applaud if Pat Riley decided to concentrate his attention, and his free money, on a center first.

June 13, 2014

Dear #Cardinals fans — sorry, but Mozeliak is not a magician

A number of Cardinals fans are grumbling over Oscar Taveras, namely, John Mozeliak sending him back down to Memphis with Matt Adams coming off the DL, meaning Allen Craig moves back to RF, except against left-handed hitters.

First, yes, Adams needs to platoon for the rest of this year. No argument there. Let him learn to hit lefties better in winter ball or other offseason work.

That said, is Taveras the best RF option when Craig moves to first? Uhh, no. And neither is the even worse-hitting Randal Grichuk.

To be honest, the best option in such cases, based on this year's performance to date, is Jon Jay in right and Peter Bourjos in center.

That brings up a larger point to people deriding Mozeliak.

I highly doubt that he expected, at the start of the year, every single outfielder, whether starter, reserve or call-up, would be playing at or below MLB average.

And, yet, every one is, going by Baseball-Reference's Wins Above Average. That includes Jay, even with his flukishly good performance this year. That includes Matt Holliday.

As for Mo's offseason moves?

Mark Ellis is a smaller-dollar gamble that is probably not going to pan out. But, it was smaller dollar, and an insurance play as much as anything. Jhonny Peralta’s been a definite overall improvement, even if not totally what was hoped for. Kolten Wong instead of DavidFreese, in essence, as I won’t include Matt Carpenter of this year vs. Carpenter of last year? Definitely worth it.

All in all, this year's infield is above last year's. For detractors of Adams, he's still an above-average first baseman. The changes at the other three IF positions improved overall defense as well as offense. Yadier Molina, while off from last year, is of course still well above average behind the plate.

Indeed, by runs saved, the Cards now have the best defense in baseball.

Trading Freese for Bourjos plus Grichuk? Unless Freese rides his current hot streak for the rest of the season, it’s a wash at minimum. And part of that defensive upgrade.

Unfortunately, this year's outfield has been poor overall, with Jay being a "meh" and Holliday continuing to decline, and everybody else being ... teh suck.

So, send Taveras back down rather than Grichuk, who's on his second call-up. See if he can't incorporate what he learned during his call-up and bring it back later this year.

At some point, if Grichuk shows no improvement, though, I would give Stephen Piscotty his shot. Bernie Miklasz makes an argument for bringing back Shane Robinson. I disagree, but note that the "more playing time' argument does apply for Grichuk at least as much as Taveras.

I can agree with his wondering whether this isn't in part a Super Two arbitration concern.

Barrels vs. butterflies — ugly death is all in a word

Think Progress has a decent piece on barrel bombs, which it also calls "flying IEDs," among other things.

That second phrase is apt. Basically, it's a barrel made out to be a large-scale version of the Tsarnaev brothers' backpack bombs at the Boston Marathon. They're cheap and easy to make. But, as the piece notes, they're indiscriminate in their killing, too.

However, it's all in a word. The Luftwaffe's WWII butterfly bomb was the forerunner of a host of US cluster bombs. And cluster bombs of various sorts have been known to kill civilians decades after having been dropped.

You know, just like mines are evil but the US has yet to sign the Ottawa Treaty to ban antipersonnel land mines.

June 12, 2014

#RickPerry hits new levels of cluelessness on both #gays and #fracking

I don't know if his pain meds are acting up again or what, but his comments out in California are idiotic in several ways.

A lot of people are talking about blogging about his latest comments about "teh gay," of course, namely that it's like being alcoholic. Well, given old rumors about Tricky Ricky, and old facts about Shrub, there's one way to solve this — a confab of idiotic Texas Republican governors.

It's idiotic in other ways, too. Except for the hard liners in the Orange County and San Diego parts of the Southland, most California Republicans aren't Texas mouth-breathers on gay rights, or lack thereof, as demonstrated by this year's Texas GOP confab. So, if Tricky Ricky actually wants to be successful in recruiting California businesses, he'd have brains enough to shut his yap as well as come in from the rain of teh stupidz.

But, he doesn't. And, with Tesla, the California business chickens are coming home, but likely NOT to Texas, to roost.

That said, comments on teh gay were probably overshadowed by something as stupid, and that was his Palinesque frack, baby, frack, which were in turn part of larger energy stupidity:
Perry said he believes Texas is leading the way in achieving energy independence by producing crude oil and electricity in many forms, including solar power.

Perry also suggested that deregulating electricity had started a boom for renewable energy in Texas, which he called the nation's leading developer of wind energy.

Perry said shale drilling techniques had doubled oil production in Texas, and he urged Californians to tap the full energy potential in its Monterey Shale.
Really? On solar?

Texas is a leader on windjamming electricity and everybody knows that. Please show me how Texas is a leader on solar electric, though.

As for the Monterey Shale, he's behind the curve.

Last month, the feds cut the estimated recoverable oil from there by 96 percent. Based on details of the updated estimate, oil would probably have to hit $200/bbl, in today's real dollars, for it to be worthwhile to drill there.


That said, given that Greg Abbott is using a private plane owned by anti-gay frackers, maybe there's a reason for Perry's twofer stupidity.

#BigThree in Miami to become a foursome? Why?

Well, that's the latest talk, as noted by ESPN and others. LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade would all exercise their contract opt-out rights, come back for less, and then Miami would sign Knicks free agent Carmelo Anthony to a max contract.

Color me skeptical.

First, the money ...

Yes, LeBron might come back for less on an opt-out, with all his other deals. Bosh, possibly. He seems to be that type of guy.

Wade? I doubt it.

Even then, doesn't this mean it's the likely end of the line for two of the following three: Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Udonis Haslem?

Haslem's been invisible, so no big deal at all there. Rashard, iffy. But, unless Allen wants to retire, that's a big move, if he has to be ditched to find money for Carmelo. ESPN notes that backup PG Norris Cole is technically the only Heat player under contract for next year, and that the Birdman, Chris Anderson, would have to eat money on his player option for this to happen. Maybe Mario Chalmers isn't resigned?

Or, given that Wade is almost three years older than James, and he knows his physical limitations, and he wonders if Pat Riley might lowball him, he opts in for next year on his current contract.

In short, this won't be as easy as Heat fans think.

Second, the new team chemistry.

Carmelo's not used to being the No. 2. True that Wade wasn't, either, but this might be a tougher adjustment.

Third, the new team.

First of all, I'm thinking that Carmelo isn't going to help ball movement, at least not without a makeover.

Yeah, James says he'd like to be playing less, and we know about Wade's knees.

But, is Carmelo Anthony the best way to do this? I don't think so. It also leaves you less contract flexibility than before. Look at the 2004 Lakers for a good example. (Or look ahead to the 2015 Lakers!)

Second? Melo's never been known for his defensive skill, or his defensive savvy, or his defensive determination and effort. Do you see that one changing?

And, if Haslem, with his limited playing time, is gone, and we know Shane Battier is retiring, that leaves this team without any "defensive stopper," or "grunge player," coming off the bench.

Finally, who benefits from such talk? Why, Carmelo and his agent, that's who.

June 11, 2014

Farewell #Cosmos, for the #NBAFinals — 3.5 stars overall (updated)

Yep, that's what it was for me on Sunday night.

I flipped the channel halfway through the final episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson's remake of Carl Sagan's Cosmos, to watch Game 2 of the NBA Finals. And, didn't regret it a second.

Telescopes similar to this, but without the Cosmos theme,
were available at 40 percent less than these at
Now, I'm jumping head-on into controversy, per the photo at right of a Cosmos-themed telescope with a ripoff price, along with other similar items offered for outrageous overcharges at

I've blogged several times about various issues with Cosmos. Let's start with the name of the host, and the huge commercialization of the program and said host. Yes, some of that happened in Sagan's version, but not as much.

Second, I don't know if I was alone or not in channel-flipping. I do know that ratings, after the opener, had a steady fall until the finale. So, despite the earnest and hardcore touting of the program, like this wrap-up by Donald Prothero, viewers largely disagreed. It's interesting, or "interesting," that Prothero never mentions this aspect. I tried commenting there, but it didn't post; I think I'm still on ban there.

As for the why of the ratings slump, I think that's in part because Tyson and the production team never settled on a core audience.

If it was adults, those cheesy cartoon graphics never should have been part of the program. If it were for children, even pre-teen to teen older "youth," it should have had a different educational and didactic focus.

Back to Prothero, who compares Cosmos, on Fox, to Neil Shubin's "Inner Fish" three-parter on PBS. Tis true that is might not have had the same ratings. But, as I noted, it was MUCH better produced, better organized, and threw down the gauntlet of evolutionary challenge to creationists in a much better way. And, that was without the commercial money Tyson et al had to blow, which makes the Cosmos reboot sadder yet.

Related to that, as I note here and here, Cosmos had some "framing" errors, too, like its display of Robert Hooke as a cartoonish villain. There was a bigger one than that, though.

Tis true that Sagan, in the original, got the Library of Alexandria destruction wrong. In general, though, Sagan, like Steve Gould, believed in the idea of NOMA, or non-overlapping magisteria, between science and religion.

And, I think with things like Giordano Bruno, and his finale talking about "faith in science," Tyson has a different take.

I am in the middle. First, evolution by natural selection talks only about the development of life. It's different, to be technical, than the origins of life, which on naturalistic views, are some sort of abiogenesis.

So, can the neo-Darwinian synthesis be compatible with religious viewpoints? Yes. Is it an easy compatibility? No. Is it a likely or probably compatibility? No.

That said, one can still recognize that science, tentatively, specifically shuts down some metaphysical issues. I've blogged myself about chimeric births undercutting the idea of a metaphysical soul.

But, one can state that without deliberately looking for opportunities to take shots, especially when, in the Bruno case, they're not just mildly wrong, but hugely wrong.

And, on Bruno ... isn't science supposed to be about empirical research? Neil, there was plenty of stuff to tell you that you and your staff had Bruno wrong. It's this "framing" attitude that almost led me to down-star this half a point.

And, if you're evangelizing for science, why would you risk pissing off part of your target audience, too? No, not fundamentalists.

But, I see as what should have been the target audience as being 35-54 adults, moderately conservative both politically and religiously, but not stuck in ruts. Republican-leaning self-identified independents politically. Living in a large town, small city or suburb in the Midwest or more advanced portions of the South. Members of a mainline Protestant denomination like the United Methodist Church,  that trends moderately liberal nationally, but leans moderately conservative, but not hardcase, in the geographic areas I mention. And the bitch-slap of religion via Bruno wouldn't help you reach them.

Back to the ratings issue, though. Prothero unfairly compares the two Cosmos. First, PBS wasn't part of Nielsen ratings back then. Second, Prothero elsewhere in the piece semi-disparagingly compares PBS to commercial TV, so it's almost like he's setting up a straw man. Third, we may not have Neilsens, but Cosmos was the most watched PBS series, Wiki says, before Ken Burns' "Civil War" set. As for "Inner Fish," it's almost impossible to find full top-to-bottom Nielsen ratings of previous weeks online, including at Nielsen's own website, so I don't know what audience it had, just that it was a damn site better than Cosmos.

And, those sliding ratings are why I think Fox bumped up the sale date of Cosmos DVDs by two weeks. It wanted to sell, sell, sell before people forgot, forgot, forgot.

Was Cosmos nice in a reboot? Yes, but also "nice."

Three and a half stars, or a B-minus. Production values, editing, coherence all dragged this baby down like a lead anchor versus what it could have been. And, I don't need to participate in a quasi-tribalist rah-rah for it out of Tyson being a "scientific skepticism" hero or whatever. And, yes, I think there are bits of tribalism behind some of the blinder touting of the Cosmos remake.

Tyson himself reinforces this idea, and my thoughts of the reboot being less than ideal, when he talks about science as a "trending" issue. Really? I had no idea that "science" was something we had to monitor for SEO keyword usage, Twitter hashtags, etc.

It's this type of thinking that's behind the dumbing down of Discover, Scientific American, etc.

June 10, 2014

#Cantor — out of Congress; Democratic chance?

Boy, if this isn't a shocker. (Note: this post has been edited extensively, as I try to figure out the official, and unofficial Democratic candidates.)

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who is to the right of Speaker John Boehner, just got Teabagged.

That said, I don't know who the Democrats have running but the district, while it leans Republican, per Wikipedia, isn't bloody red, either. Mitt Romney took less than 60 percent of the vote in the 2012 presidential election. Cantor's sometimes run below 60 percent himself.

Per his vita at Randolph Macon, upset? winner Dave Brat's got the "right" stuff. B.A. from Hope College, a conservative Calvinist school. M.Div. from Princeton, so he appeals to the Religious Right.

Update: I misread Ballotpedia for the district.

The regular Democrat, Jack Trammel, who is a colleague of Brat, may have a chance ... but, the guy who I originally identified as the unofficial Democrat, Mike Dickinson, is running as a write-in, not officially certified by Virginia Democrats.

And, there's good reason for that. In short, he comes off as a serious-acting version of semi-joking edgy Alan Greyson on steroids.  Unfortunately, because of this the answer to  my rhetorical question may be no.

There's other concern. While Trammell seems like the better, and suaver, candidate, a nominee for Congress by one of the two major parties who doesn't even have his own website, just a Facebook page? Uhh, not a good sign.

OK, scratch that. Trammell does have a website, but it did NOT show up in a Google search of his name; I only found it via Democratic Underground. That is is "not good" enough, to have your website not show up on the first page of Google search when you're running for Congress.

Update, June 11: It gets worse yet. Trammell has an entirely new website, more glitzy than the old one. But, it has no "issues" page. Don't worry; here's the cached version of his issues page from the old website.

And, interestingly, he went to Grove City College, touchstone of a bit of Reaganism, losing a federal suit over Title IX funding? He says he was a Dem when he went there, but that's still interesting. He also says he worked for Dukakis and both Clinton campaigns. As for his other positions on issues, what I can discern? He's a neoliberal technocrat, and probably a pretty boring one, from what I read. Education is a nice neoliberal issue. Special education is a nice personal issue that has zero political traction. Click that cached "Issues" link ... apparently he's already been seeing criticism like this.

And, per Think Progress, which gave me the heads up on Trammell scrubbing his old website, he only got in the race last week.

So, I don't know what's up in Virginia-7 on the Democratic side. Other than it's not going to produce a new Dem in the House.

Other than the Twitter rants, I can't tell much of anything about Dickinson.

And, while there is an official Democratic candidate, based on all of the above, I stand by what I originally said when I thought Dickinson was the only challenger from the left. This sounds like it could be a blown opportunity. 

If Dickinson stays in the race, Dems have ZERO chance, if he draws any votes at all.

Folks, Congressional general elections are "first past the pole." Period. There's no way a Dem wins this race if two are running.

And, as for the two that are in? One disliked, and the other, bland as oatmeal, recruited because of that?

This is why you never assume that you shouldn't have a legitimate challenger for an election.


 There's been speculation that short-term Congresscritter Cooter Jones of "Dukes of Hazard" fame, one-time opponent of Cantor, did a Democratic version of Rush Limbaugh's Operation Chaos from 2008.

First, if so, it had little effect, at least according to political pros.

Second, if so, it was a dumb race to do it in, per the relative Democratic disarray I note above.

Third, and kind of related, if the dominoes all fall right, or wrong, Texas may have its first Speaker of the House since Jim Wright. Rumor has been, for some time, that John Boehner didn't want the seat again. Cantor, of course, was next in line. (That said, when Cantor didn't challenge Boehner in 2012, I figured he was lacking some huevos and would be susceptible to a challenge himself.)

And, with Cantor out, Texas' Jeb Hensarling is a current favorite to replace Boehner. 

Update on that: Cantor is stepping down as majority leader effective July 31. It means little in terms of House business as Congress will be focused on electioneering after that, but it may have impact on that electioneering.

June 09, 2014

Hey, lady, I just sell newspapers, not nostalgia

I put in a fair amount of work last Saturday due to a large community event. I was in the office about mid-afternoon, alternating between editing photos and writing a story.

Normally, I don't answer the phone at the office if I'm there on a Saturday. We're a small community paper, not a daily, and things can't be that important. But, because of the event weekend, I thought it might be someone wanting information, so I picked up the receiver.

A woman was on the other end, probably my age to 10 years older. She was calling from nearby, in the nearest metropolitan area. And, her request was a bit strange, or at the least, "interesting."

"I'm looking for tomatoes branded as being from Community X," she said. "If there isn't such a thing (available), can you tell me if there are any commercial businesses in Community X?"

"Community X" is an unincorporated community in this county. It's a wide spot on a farm-to-market road. I initially ventured that it would have a population of 100 within a 1-mile radius of what would be considered its "center," but maybe 300-500 cattle. It was listed, with a link, on the Wikipedia page for this county, and I found out I was on the high side; Wiki said 90.

Having driven through it on taking the backroads route between the two largest incorporated communities in this small county, I already knew the answer to that. Nope. It has probably been 20 years since it had a 7-Eleven sized "general store" still open.

Anyway, I politely told her that I wasn't aware of any such tomatoes and that I was pretty sure there was no commercial business any more in this community and then exchanged goodbyes.

After I got off the phone, I thought, she's looking for nostalgia as much as anything. That reinforces the perception that she's somewhere in her 50s, which in turn reinforces the nostalgia perception.

I ventured in my mind that, 30-40 years ago, maybe such tomatoes did exist. Given that the county had almost 10,000 more people then, and the "community" of Community X probably had 200, maybe 250, rather than 90, a few farmers probably hit farmers markets in the two closest small metro areas to this county, and sold "Community X tomatoes" to "expatriates" from this county.

In other words, lady, you were buying nostalgia back then.

I then hit teh Google.

I found just a couple of dozen hits for "Community X tomatoes," even when I clicked the link to "allow near duplicate results."

Except for one 2010 post on what appears to have been a blog by a Dallas radio personality, a page now defunct, the latest listing was from the early 1980s, and every other listing was in a newspaper ad.

So, lady? I just sell newspapers, not nostalgia.

I can tell you one secret, though.

The value of nostalgia doesn't come from those tomatoes.

I can also tell you one fact.

The "good old days" aren't. And they surely weren't, in Cedar Springs.

Fifty years ago, nobody had central air there and just about nobody even had a window unit. Most white folks there who farmed rather than ranching were raising cotton, not corn, and doing it on worn-out land with a small tractor if they were lucky and worn-out mules if they weren't.

And that's just the white folks.

Go to a farmer's market in your metropolitan area; you'll find a tomato about as good without any name on it. Or any fakery. Or, I hope, without much taint.

Who will win this year's #USOpen?

Well, we know Tiger Woods won't.

And, I'll guesstimate that Phil Mickelson will find a new way to lose. Probably something involving one of the sandy "collection areas at Pinehurst No. 2.

Speaking of, I'm looking forward to this year's Open, and the set-up that's been compared a bit to a British Open.

And, per the first link, if Johnny Miller hates it, then it must be good. That said, I am pretty sure I'll miss him as part of NBC's coverage team, as this is the last hurrah at the Open for the Peacock. And, Joe Buck on golf? Well, let's see. Greg Norman as his analyst could be good. 

I do NOT want NFL yardage marker type yellow lines superimposed on holes, or any other high-tech crap, which, unfortunately, may be part of why a "new USGA cadre" chose Fox over NBC for a new contract.

Meanwhile, back to Pinehurst.

Frankly, I like the Mike Davis ideas of graduated rough, especially when combined with the risk-reward factor that multiple tee boxes offer. If you're Jim Furyk, you need to open, or focus, your mind a bit more for a potential 100-yard difference on a tee shot. 

And, maybe, since they're trying Pinehurst the "original way," and Chambers Bay is next year's venue, and Erin Hills in 2017 Whistling Straits might be considered for a US Open, after multiple PGA titles. In fact, the second course there, the Irish Course, might be an interesting alternative to the main course for such an event.

And, again, back to Pinehurst. 

My horse for the course is Rory McIlroy. My sleeper is Lee Westwood.

And, my wild hair.

Victor Dubuisson becomes the first Frenchman to win a golf major in modern times.

The future of Ben Zobrist — and the value of #MLB infielders in shift systems

As the Tampa Bay Rays are officially toast, per not only Craig Calcaterra but millions of baseball fans with objective eyeballs, it's rebuilding time, right?

Rebuilding trade prospect No. 1 is, of course, lefty ace David Price. I've already blogged about wanting the Cardinals to make a move for him.

No. 2 is second baseman Ben Zobrist, who has a $7.5 million option, with $500K team buyout, for next year.

I said, on Craig's thread, that, were I Tampa (not the league as a whole, but small-market Tampa) that I'd work for a rollover at, say, 2/$12. I said he could get, say, 3/$30 league-wide, but I don't think more than that.

His range and bat are both declining, and he'd be 36 in the final year of any three-year deal.

One commenter thinks he's worth more than Price. To both that, and the age issue at second base, I note:
If you think Zobrist will produce more ultimate value than Price, I’m sure there are a few GMs who will gladly disagree.

Now, back to Zobrist’s future contracts. A three-year deal would run through age 36.

Looking at relatively recent history? Robbie Alomar’s last season was at 36. Lou Whitaker’s last full season was at 36. Bobby Grich’s last full season was at 36. Second base has a pretty rapid aging curve on the far side of 35.
Those are some serious concerns. Yes, Zobrist has also played SS and OF. Would he be a full-timer in the OF in three years? Absolutely not. At SS? Maybe.

Said commenter also mentioned Omar Infante's 4-year, $30M deal with the Royals. False comparison. Taking Infante at the start of this year vs. Zobrist at the start of next year, which is the proper age comparison, Infante is 20 months younger. Second base doesn't have a good aging curve. Ryne Sandberg is another good example. In a few years, in Seattle, Robinson Cano will probably show us the same. Chase Utley may turn out to be a rare exception; on the other hand, the amount of time he's already missed over the years due to injury actually illustrates the point I'm making. (That doesn't mean that the Phillies won't overpay to keep him in the future, at least as long as Ruben Amaro is GM.) And, don't cite Craig Biggio as an exception; he was a below-average fielder in his late-career return to second.

Plus, with any Tampa infielder, on the defensive side, and a player's rating, there's another issue.

Other teams have been catching up more and more with Rays manager Joe Maddon on using defensive shifts. In fact, the Rays are only seventh in MLB in shifts this year, at half of the Astros. A more detailed look at where MLB is at right now on shifts is in this good piece.

Given that dWAR is a comparison issue, that means that old dWARs for Tampa infielders vs. "the spread" are partially apples-to-oranges in the past. But, they're becoming more apples-to-apples now. Partial proof of this may be seen in Evan Longoria ranking a negative on dWAR this year. Zobrist's comparative worth as a defensive second baseman will take a hit down the road, beyond the age issue.

Let's say I'm a solid mid-market team. Like the Cardinals! And I have a Pete Kozma-sized hole, but at 2B, not short. I'd pay 3/$30 for Zobrist, but no more.

June 08, 2014

Cesar Chavez, hugely flawed hero

The Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A BiographyThe Crusades of Cesar Chavez: A Biography by Miriam Pawel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Addendum, outside the review, and expansion of it, itself. Noting the one retweet of this, despite Chavez' numerous flaws, I reject the idea that organizing farmworkers was bad, and I also reject the idea that Chavez' later Hispanic political empowerment, even at the expense of farmworker neglect, was all bad. So, to anybody dedicated to following the ideas of Hayek, or beyond, or other doctrinaire conservativism, no soap from me, and I'm putting that right up front.)

Miriam Pawel, author of a previous book on farmworkers, offers us an in-depth, totally honest must-read, based on thousands of hours of audiotapes, notes and more.

Pawel, in the first "critical" biography of Chavez, gives us the good, the bad, and the ugly in the life of the man who gave California's farmworkers their first union, then, due to stubbornness, wrongly-directed singlemindedness and authoritarian leadership, essentially wrecked that same union, to the point that farmworkers today are little better off, in a number of ways, than they were before Chavez founded the United Farm Workers.

Where to start? Here: Pawel quotes Chavez talking about that "singlemindedness." That was part of his genius in getting the United Farm Workers started. So, too, was his recognition that, because agricultural workers were largely uncovered by US labor law, there were few rules to play "outside of." Related to that, he was an outside-the-box thinker in early tactical and strategic moves.

If only we could end his life, or freeze it, in the early 1970s, then the Chavez of myth — a myth largely perpetuated by Hollywood-type liberals, which in turn adds to the degree of truth in generalizations about that subculture — would closely match that of reality. But, we don't end there.

Pawel shows that recognition as a union, especially on larger contracts, meant that the UFW was no longer "outside the system." That became even more true in the mid-70s, after California passed into law the bill creating the Agricultural Labor Relations Board.

It was at this point that, as Pawel shows, Chavez essentially went off the rails. He decided the UFW needed to be a social movement, not a union. He decided his single-mindedness needed to be more authoritarian. And, to bring this all together, he decided to borrow some "control" tools from the notorious 1970s cult, Synanon, even working with its founder. The result? Longtime Chavez supporters were accused of being traitors to the cause, Communists, or whatever, and booted out. Besides Synanon, Chavez also borrowed ideas from Mao and the Cultural Revolution.

All of this was new to me, the stuff related to Synanon, Chavez turning UFW headquarters into something akin to a cult, and his refusal to focus on union development issues because that would force him to delegate authority.

Meanwhile, because he wasn't a good administrator, but was too much of a "controller" to delegate administrative tasks, maintaining and renegotiating contracts fell by the wayside. Expanding the union outside of California did the same, with Chavez even crushing independent organizing efforts. (Austin having a "Cesar Chavez Boulevard" could be considered a bit laughable for this reason.) And, the UFW wound up owing a bunch of back taxes.

At the same time, Chavez began intervening a lot more in California politics, an idea he once rejected. He also began marketing the UFW as a brand, especially to the likes of those Hollywood-type liberals, even as more and more contracts with growers were lost and the union was shrinking.

This isn't to deny that things like pesticide use in the fields weren't important issues. It is to say that things like that were secondary to renewing efforts at organization of union locals, getting new contracts signed with growers, etc. It is also to say that many of them were "pitched" at appealing to those Hollywood-type liberals. And, as Chavez because more and more of a national political star and icon, that, the elbow grease work of maintaining a union, appealed to him even less as the 1970s moved into the 1980s.

However, as a result, he was able to expand the political power of "la raza." And, to do so somewhat outside of California. So, Austin's commemoration of him isn't totally wrong, either.

Given that the farm workers' movement really started in my pre-school days, that the slide of the union and Chavez' move to becoming a cult leader happened before the end of my high school days, growing up in a politically quite conservative household, and that his next move to political icon and final abandonment of original unionization efforts happened before I had started escaping that background, let alone gone beyond more stereotypical versions of liberalism, I never had understood what had happened to the farm workers' movement. And now I know — Cesar Chavez happened to it — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

This just catches the tip of the iceberg of a must-read book. And, should lead a reader asking, was the expansion of political power worth it for the price that Chavez eventually left farmworkers to pay?

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