February 09, 2018

#Cardinals OK with standing pat; P-D largely gives Mo a pass

Cardinal with the eyeball
This year's Cardinals will draw stares
as much as they return them.
First, a friendly reminder to John Mozeliak that the Cardinals did not finish second in the NL Central last year.

They were THIRD — also behind the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Birds made a good move this offseason with trading for Marcell Ozuna (with a decent give-back to Miami of Sandy AlcantaraMagneuris SierraZac Gallen and Daniel Castano).

The Brewers countered by acquiring Christian Yelich (who I preferred) while sending a good package of prospects, Lewis BrinsonMonte HarrisonIsan Diaz and Jordan Yamamoto back to Miami.

Then, later in the same day, they signed Lorenzo Cain as a free agent. While some folks at places like MLBTradeRumors and other folks like St. Louis Post-Dispatch Hall of Fame columnist Rick Hummel are wondering if it's an overpay, I don't think so. While it does take the team one year deeper into Cain's age than the Cardinals' similar contract with Dexter Fowler a year ago, it's for a bit less money, has only a partial no-trade at the end of it —

And Cain is a better player.

Hummel, who generally continues to fall lower in my estimate of P-D writers, claims the Brewers' pitching problems will keep them behind the Cards. This is even while admitting Mo is standing pat on a staff in flux in St. Louis. He then claims Cain and Fowler are "similar players." Cain has three 5-WAR years; Fowler has none. And, while Cain showed some decline in center field last year, he's still a plus defender, and Miller Field, being smaller than Kaufman, will help him extend his career there. Also, if one values consistency, he's wrong about Ozuna being better than Yelich.

Hummel then goes on to claim the Cards have the best pitcher in the division. Yes, Carlos Martinez may have better stuff than Jon Lester or Kyle Hendricks, but he hasn't translated that into results yet. And, on the mental side, he now faces the baggage of being a defendant in a personal-injury lawsuit. (OTOH, Derrick Goold, reading between his lines, seems to indicate it's little more than a shakedown suit.)

It's not just Hummel on Official.Cardinals.Media.™, aka the Post-Dispatch, drinking the John Mozeliak Kool-Aid. Indeed, in Slide 12 of this slideshow, Jose de Jesus Ortiz claims that with Yelich, but not yet with Cain, the Cards of 2018 were still better than the Brew. I wouldn't have totally bought that then. Post-Cain, I don't buy it at all.

Ortize goes on to let John Mozeliak's flunky, Michael Girsch, add to the "we're good" mantra.

Goold, while not specifically saying the Cards are looking up at the Brewers, says at best they're a second wild card. That means he ranks one of three of the Brewers, Dbacks and Rockies ahead of the Cardinals at minimum. (Nobody else from last year qualifies as having moved ahead of the Cardinals.) Seeing how the two western teams have made no major additions or subtractions, I put both ahead of the Cards, barring some major player regression. And, I still put the Brewers ahead.

Well, since I started writing this, Ben Frederickson, whom I consider the most honest of the paper's writers on the Cards' current situation, has weighed in and said, no the rotation is built on hope more than anything else, and even wonders if Lance Lynn might be available for a call-back. Hell, I'd pay Lynn 2/$36 instead of the Mets' alleged 3/$36. Might also exempt the Cards from being a target of a potential collusion lawsuit. I asked Goold in his Monday chat if he agreed and my Q never got out of moderation or whatever. (Maybe the next labor agreement will move at least somewhat in the direction of other leagues' caps, along with more revenue sharing, AND minimums on team spending that right now are toothless.)

So, let's look for other analysis.

Bernie Miklasz, while thinking the Crew overpaid somewhat for Yelich, also indicates he thinks the Cards may now be looking up again.

One of Bernie Miklasz's ESPN Radio compadres, Kevin Wheeler, agrees with Bernie even more strongly.

Let's look at the Milwaukee picture.

Ryan Braun still has a decent bat and is available to the Brew Crew for three more years plus a team option at $15M. In short, the Brew know what they've got out there for years to come and can build elsewhere. Or — and with his willingness — Braun can move to first base. That presumably means Eric Thames, with a relatively low contract, gets moved, presumably for pitching. Of course, that presumes Keon Broxton will improve that much in the outfield. Kevin Wheeler says that this now leaves Domingo Santana free for trading. He'd fit great in the AL, where he could DH more, given his limited range. The AL is home of the Tampa Bay Rays and pitcher Chris Archer, who reportedly continues to draw Rays interest. If they land Archer, signed through 2021, including team options, boom. (That said, it will take at least one and probably two prospects as well as Santana to land Archer for that reason. And Archer is not an "ace," just an upgrade.)

If this trade happens, contra Hummel again, the Brewers' pitching staff moves ahead of the Cardinals for sure. Or, even if BenFred's scenario pans out, Brewers + Archer are probably about even with Cardinals + Lynn on starting rotation.

One final note? Brewers manager Craig Counsell has not been under too much of a spotlight yet, but the team hasn't significantly underperformed its Pythag under him. On the other hand, Cardinals fans know just how much Mike Matheny does NOT bring.

February 08, 2018

Wall Street vs. Main Street, and also
economic robustness vs. fragility

First, a, 1,000-point drop, as in Monday's, on the Dow Jones isn't THAT big. Yeah, 4 percent.

But, I"m old enough to remember the 1987 plunge, and plunge it was. The 508-point drop on the biggest day, as a percentage of the Dow, was far larger. That drop, of 22.61 percent, was also far bigger than any single day's drop during the 2008 financial crisis, though not part of the same type of trend. See Wiki for more, including that Monday's drop didn't even make the top 20 for worst one-day declines. I suspect it doesn't even make the top 40. In fact, the whole set of drops from late last week through Mondy

Second, the market is overheated. This is the reverse of gold going through the roof shortly after Obama took office and anybody with a brain knows that.

Third, Wall Street is not Main Street. Unfortunately, all Republicans, including small-town Main Street ones, I think think that it is. So do a majority of national level Democrats.

This is doubly true when trading is all computer-driven.

Fourth, job quit rates hit a 17-year high last month. Wall Street got butt-hurt over possibly having to pay employees more money.

Fifth, I've said for more than a year now that I expect a recession, probably by the end of this year. And, it may not be bad, but it doesn't have to be bad to be bad.

Despite Republicans, and perhaps grudgingly, perhaps not, centrist as well as conservative economists touting the current economic robustness, it ain't.

Nine years after the big crash and we're just now getting the "upward pressure on wages" that Wall Street purportedly hates.

The current drop is indeed just a correction, not a bear market. But that doesn't mean the Dow will stay here. One thing that will result from the Fed moving interest rates up is that the Dow will naturally fall further as other investments gain attractiveness. Whether Dow doublers-down make the Dow's longer, larger readjustment into a recession cause celebre I don't know. If they do, it's their fault. To riff on Chris Tomlinson, traders and companies have gotten drunk on cheap money.

But, I think a recession is still headed here for other reasons. And, even if it's not bad, per two paragraphs above, we don't have a robust economy. Even a mild recession will hurt hard, given continued growth in income inequality that happened under Obama's watch.

February 07, 2018

Texas progressive groups like herding cats on #txpolitics

In recent days, we've seen the Texas AFL-CIO officially endorse the person who is NOT the best gubernatorial candidate in the Democratic primary. And no, state AFL-CIO, Loopy Lupe Valdez is NOT as labor-friendly as Tom Wakely. You're just doing a personality endorsement between her and Andrew White.

We've then seen IT bitch over the Emily's List endorsement in the Seventh Congressional District. More here.

And next, we have other people saying that Houston's official LGBTQ endorsers have backed less than the optimal state House candidate in one district, per Brains' Twitter.

Besides Hispanics not turning out to vote, is this possibly another issue in the larger picture of Texas Democrats not winning more often?

You bet your boots it is, IMO.

I don't know what the answer is, but I know it's problematic.

I do know that Emily's List has become more and more a Clintonista List on which, and which types, of candidates it endorses. I suspect that Houston LGBTQ folks have become the same way in some form or fashion.

The Texas AFL-CIO? Just a few months after the national org pledged to be more open in its candidate endorsements to the point of saying it wouldn't automatically wed itself to the Democratic Party, the state branch does this.

So, we have two cases of tribalism plus labor's intellectual laziness.

No way to run a political railroad.

RG Ratcliffe has some related thoughts on a lot of orgs, including the Houston folks above, also endorsing White for gov. (The Snooze doing that is no surprise, per my post of earlier this week.)

February 06, 2018

Texas Progressives talk pre-primary #txpolitics

The Texas Progressives remind you that it’s just two weeks until early voting starts in this year’s primaries, and also reminds you that if you want to sign a Green Party ballot access petition, you can’t vote in either one of the primaries. (The GP state convention is April 14-15.)

The Houston Chronicle reports that 175,000 voters in Harris County have been marked "in suspense", many due to having their homes destroyed by Harvey.  The good news?  They can still vote.  From Democratic activist Jerry Wald, via Facebook ...
To clear up misinformation regarding Harris County residents displaced by Hurricane Harvey being taken off the voter rolls: 
Voters on the Harris County Voter Registrar's "Suspense List" are ELIGIBLE TO VOTE. If your voting status is in suspense, you will need to update your address information by filling out a "Statement of Residence" form at the polling location when you go to vote. 
Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Ann Harris-Bennett wants every eligible voter in Harris County to be able to exercise their right to vote. She is here to help take the suspense and myths out of the voter registration process. She's proud to say that Voter Registrar Division have registered more voters, and trained more volunteer deputy voter registrars than any other in the history of this office. 
Please help get this message out to others by sharing this email with your family, friends, and neighbors. Contact the tax office at voters@hctx.net or 713-274-8387 so they can help!
Here's the rest of the roundup, below.

Socratic Gadfly says that Beto O'Rourke appears to be a ConservaDem or something halfway close.

David Collins at DBC Green had lunch with Harris County Judge candidate Lina Hidalgo, and came away impressed.

This evening in Clear Lake, CD-36 candidate Dayna Steele has a fundraiser hosted by two friends from her 'Rock Goddess' days: Melissa Etheridge and David Crosby.

Texas Leftist published a candidate questionnaire from SD-17 candidate Fran Watson.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston re-enters the fray with a handful of snarky campaign finance report postings.  They follow the same tired cliche' that the establishment believes is canon: whoever raises the most money wins, or should win, or should at least be considered the front-runner (irrespective of their political stances on any issue), and the ones who raise the least money should drop out.  This is no way to run a democracy, but far too many Democrats just don't get it.

The Dallas Observer has news of the grand opening of the first cannabis oil dispensary in the state.

The AP, via the Beaumont Enterprise, is following the case of four Texas youth prison guards who were arrested after they choked a 19-year-old unconscious and badly beat another.  In the past year, at least nine officers of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department have been arrested on abuse or misconduct charges, and another was convicted of having sex with a youth in custody.  The still-unfolding crisis has so far prompted Governor Greg Abbott to replace the agency's top officials and launch yet another investigation.

The Texas Standard wants to know how gerrymandering might be solved, and has news on a group of mathematicians who gathered in Austin over the weekend to work on the problem.

jobsanger sees Trump's deregulation as a war on workers.

Brains and Eggs offers his Sunday funnies roundup on the Nunes Nothingburger.

Free Press Houston notices that the attorneys representing roadside megastore retailer Buc-ees are an aggressive and litigious bunch when it comes to "protecting" their logo. 

February 05, 2018

The Dallas Morning News slouches further toward Gomorrah

Three specific ways in which the last remnant of the mighty Belo empire continues toward new levels of craptacularness.

That's even as it claims to be the flagship newspaper of A.H. Belo. Well, yea, if you have only two print products, and the other's a Spanish-language tab, that's going to be you by default.

First, the Snooze, between Austin bureau writers like Bob Garrett and political analyst Gromer Jeffers, seem hell bent for high water to make the Democratic gubernatorial primary a two-person race only, despite Tom Wakely having run for Congress before and having entered the gubernatorial race before Andrew "Maybe we won't fry them" White and Loopy Lupe Valdez. They know what they're doing, too. Garrett did it again at the state AFL-CIO rally.

Garrett and Jeffers are technically skilled enough, and have a contact list of state politicos enough that they could do better. Either they're doing this on their own or else editorial higher-ups are making this call. In either case, it's deliberate, as I see it.

I'm not sure if the state's other big dailies are engaged in the same. I do know the Stateless mentioned Wakely by name at the San Angelo party forum.

(That said, while Wakely is depending entirely on small donations, so far, judging by his last financial statement, it's been microdonations, not just small donations. Especially given that he had announced several months ago, that's not good.)

Second is the naming of Brendan Miniter to replace Keven Ann Willey as editorial page editor, or as the snooty Snooze says, "editor of editorials." (The story later says the new title is to emphasize the Snooze's push to be digital first. This from the company that was a sucker for the CueCat then rolled out not one but two clusterfucked attempts at paywalls.)

The Snooze is known for its "one Democrat a year" general election endorsements. Hiring someone who is a Wall Street Journal editorial page alum is bad enough. That tenure includes:
From 2000 to 2010, Miniter was an assistant editorial page editor at the Wall Street Journal, which included writing a column and crafting political analysis for its "Political Diary" newsletter. He also collaborated with Republican strategist Karl Rove on two books, and with Republican Mitch Daniels, former governor of Indiana, on another.
But wait, that's not all!

He then worked at Shrub Bush's presidential library!
Miniter moved to North Texas in 2011 and worked for three years with the George W. Bush Presidential Center, where he was director of scholarship and editorial content.  There, he led a team of more than 50 that created a 14,000-square-foot permanent exhibit about the Bush presidency, including 35 films and interactives and four audio tours.
Editor Mike Wilson said this does not represent a "shift to the right." Publisher Jim Monroney said he's sure that Miniter will continue to uphold the Snooze being "progressive on social issues."

Yea, like Shrub hating gay marriage or even civil unions? Like Shrub as governor doing the Karla Faye Tucker imitation cackle?

I've not read much out of Wilson's pen, but I've seen Monroney turd-polish the Snooze and Belo for years. This is nothing new, either on the idea that Miniter will be progressive on social issues or that the Snooze has been progressive on them in the past.

(Bill McKenzie calls him a "compassionate conservative" who "cares about ... neighborhoods." Oh, yeah? Cops following the "crack in the sidewalk" model of policing "care about neighborhoods." Crack dealers not wanting competition "care about neighborhoods.")

Besides, getting below national, or even state, issues, Miniter probably will be a hack on editorials and columns about Dallas, Dallas County, Dallas ISD and other Metroplex governance.

I hope Jim Schutze kicks his ass at first opportunity.

But, that's only two of three. 

The third?

The Snooze's ad sales continue to decline.

On Thursdays during the Thankgiving-Christmas shopping season, even then, its adhole was barely above 25 percent. This doesn't count any house ads, and deducts for part of PR space on things like classys and auto liner listings, but does count obits inches as paid ad space. 

Thursdays in general are supposed to be a fairly solid ad day, in part to prime people for shopping and buying over the weekend.

It's worse since then. I know January is a slow month, but SIXTEEN PERCENT on an adhole for Thursday, Jan. 18? Cut the page if you have to.

Seriously, that would be meh on a Monday, bad on a Tuesday, in my book. Horrible on a Thursday. Period.

The paper has been at 15 percent the two Mondays since, and under 25 percent on both Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Of course, their seniors section on Wednesdays is entirely canned content now. Other lifestyles stuff is moving that way. Maybe Monroney and Wilson need to look only at that alleged behemoth of Belo's separate digital marketing company as, not as salvation, but as a life raft.

I don't take glories in the struggles of newspapers, and wouldn't even if that weren't my seemingly stuck-for-life career path. Plus, I know people who work at the Snooze. But when a particular outlet repeatedly shoots itself in the foot while maintaining a pretentious smile at the corporate level?

To mix metaphors, don't keep peeing on the rearranged Titanic deck chairs and pretend it's just raining.