Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pssst...hey buddy, can you spare $254 million?

At about 9:00 Central time this morning, there was a terrible disturbance in the force.  It was like a million St. Louis Cardinals fans cried out in agony all at once.  Then the news came across the wire:  Albert "El Hombre" Pujols signed a ten-year contract to play baseball for the Los Angeles (Anaheim?) Angels for $254 million.  Let that sink in for a moment.  That's a lot of cheese.  A quarter of a billion dollars.  Given the time value of money and inflation, it may only be worth about $230 million in the long run....but who's counting? 

Now before the Cardinal's fans look for a tall building to jump off, next year isn't looking terrible.  You get Wainwright back and have a pretty nasty rotation already.  And a potential line-up that looks like this:

1.  Rafael Furcal--SS
2.  John Jay--CF
3.  Matt Holliday--LF
4.  Lance Berkman--1B
5.  NL and World Series MVP David Freese--3B
6.  Allen Craig--RF
7.  Yadier Molina--C
8.  Greene/Schumacher/Descaslo--2B

Not too shabby. 

Sighs of relief could be heard from all across the National League, especially in the NL Central.  I think I heard five of my friends that are Chicago Cubs fans myself.  You know who you I tagged you for this article...Now the question for the Cardinals is...what do you do now that the $220 million you had offered El Hombre is suddenly freed up?  Prince Fielder?  Big Time pitcher?  Or do you continue to groom the home grown talent.  Shelby Miller tore up the minors last year and don't forget about former Arkansas Razorback Zack Cox.  He's can flat out hit.  2012 might not be a repeat of a World Series Crown...but a return to the playoffs wouldn't surprise me one bit. 

So the question comes from my non-sports friends/relatives/fans.  Isn't that too much money to give to someone to hit a baseball.  The gasp you heard from my sports fan friends fills the air....easy guys.  It will be ok.  Actually, its not too much money, IF its used the right way.  El Hombre, by all accounts, has done it the right way.  His Foundation donates countless hours and piles of money to multiple causes in the Saint Louis area and beyond.  He has been a tireless champion for Down's Syndrome, he has a child with it.  He sponsors youth baseball leagues and fields.  His foundation organizes mission trips to his home country of the Dominican Republic.  And on and on...some people make buckets of money by using their gifts and talents and its a blessing to people everywhere.  Does anyone think Bill Gates shouldn't have made as much money as he did?  Congratulations Albert.  I hope you have ten more amazing years in your career and break every record you possibly can.  Until we meet in the World Series, where I hope you go O'fer! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Common Sense Solution for the BCS and the Mythical National Championship!

We've all heard the criticisms of the BCS system for weeks and weeks.  Who is going to get left out?  Who deserves to play in the title game.  More recently the talk has been about fairness.  Is a rematch fair? Should the SEC automatically win by having two teams in?  Did Oklahoma State deserve a shot?  This year, we will never know as the system that is in place has put the two best teams in the country in the championship game.  Let that sink in for a moment.  The two best teams are playing for the title.  Isn't that how it's supposed to work?  Isn't this why the BCS was put together in the first place?  By all accounts, everyone should answer that question "yes."  But as people's favorite teams or conferences are left out or passed over, the complaints of bias and unfairness come out.  A key phrase in an article I read this morning jumped out at me.  The system will always have complaints and detractors as long as it has NO FLEXIBILITY.

That's the key.  A better system has to be flexible to allow for unusual circumstances to arise.  Who would have thought that as of the next to last week of the season, the top three teams in the country would be from the same DIVISION of the same CONFERENCE?  Is it fair the the Razorbacks have to stay home because a single conference can't have more than two teams in the BCS?  Maybe not, but its the rules as they stand.  And all we can do is play by the rules as they stand. 

A flexible +1 system would cause a lot of the complaints to go away.  The reason is simple, you would allow the best teams to compete for a chance to win it all.  The regular season would count as would scheduling quality games.  The following scenarios would have specific play off type match-ups:

1.  1 undefeated team.  The 2012 scenario.  LSU deserves to be in the national title game without a doubt.  Put them in the game and pat them on the back for having the best season of anyone else in the country.  That leaves five one loss teams to choose from for them to play.  Immediately cross off Boise St and Houston.  Sorry guys, this game is for the big boys.  If you aren't a big boy and don't play a schedule like the big boys play, then you have to go undefeated.  Go undefeated and you have a shot.  I promise.  Keep reading.  That leaves Stanford, Alabama and OK State.  Of the three, Alabama and OK State have a much higher BCS ranking than Stanford.  Sorry Stanford, but in the computer rankings, you are behind #6 Arkansas and #8 Kansas State.  Play a tougher schedule or don't lose.  That's how this is going to work.  Alabama plays Oklahoma State as the next to last game with the winner playing LSU in the +1.

2.  2 undefeated teams.  This seems to be the simplest of the scenarios.  One versus two in the + 1 game.  If you wanted to have a 3 vs 4 game, please be my guest. 

3.  3 undefeated teams.  Dicey.  See Auburn getting the shaft back in 2004.  Ok, there were two other undefeated teams that year, but most people agree that OU, USC and Auburn were the big three that year.  USC blew OU off the field, leaving plenty of room for Auburn fans to scream "What about us?"  Ironically USC ended up vacating that championship due to the Reggie Bush issue.  But I digress.  The BCS standings come into play here.  # 1 is #1 and gets the bye to the final.  Reward the team for the best schedule, the hardest road to get there.  Let the other two play after the bowls with the +1 to come a week later.  Both will have earned the right to play for the title. 

4.  4 undefeated teams or more.  Unlikely, but it has happened.  Back to the BCS standings and a four team play off.  #1 vs #4 and #2 vs #3.  Winners meet for the crystal trophy.

5.  0 undefeated teams.  Interesting scenario and probably the most needing a +1 solution.  No clear cut winner.  Take the top four rated teams in the BCS standings and play them out as in scenario 4.

All four of these have one thing in common.  The best team in the country will have earned their championship on the field.  The teams from outside the major conferences can earn their way in by winning.  The teams that play better schedules will still have their chance as well.  You have to win though.  The bowls stay in place and the fat cats get to preen and hob knob with the beautiful people.  Coffers get filled and universities get to keep their alumni on donation alerts.  Then when the smoke clears, one champion will remain.  Simple?  Common sense?  Absolutely.  Will it happen in the foreseeable future?  Probably not.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Can't we all get along?

Maybe Rodney King was right.  Can't we all just get along?  You've heard it a thousand times.  People not watching the news or reading a newspaper because of all the bad news.  War, famine, drought, Justin Bieber...wait, that's another blog altogether.  Or maybe he is one of the Seven Signs....hmmmm. I'll ponder on that.

Our country has been in a down economy for a while.  I don't care what the economists call it, recession, recovery, it a doughnut for all I care.  People are struggling.  I work in the staffing business and I see it every day.  It's harder to make ends meet out here in the real world.  The world has changed and I don't think its going back from whence it came.  Gone are the days of working twenty or thirty years at one company and retiring with a gold watch and a fully funded pension.  Gone are the days of companies providing cars and stock and company-paid insurance benefits that covered virtually everything.  My generation as a whole is the first that is having to foot the bill for everything.  Retirement?  Better start saving...yesterday!  Unemployment is high, prices keep going up, and real wages are stagnant at best.  And everyone with a mouth to yell will tell you that they know how to fix it.  And they point the finger at the other guys saying, "They messed it up.  If we had the chance, we could fix it."  Well, as a member of neither the "1 percent" or the "99 percent," let's see it.  Republicans point at Obama.  Democrats point at Congress.  The far left is protesting...well, whatever.  The far left is always protesting something.  The Tea Party/far right is mad too.  Everyone seems mad about something.  And so they get louder.  And they yell some more.  They yell at the other guys and try to shout them down in some kind of verbal game of chicken.  They yell with their own guys and make themselves feel better about being "right."  But no one is talking...I mean really talking. 

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am more of a conservative than a liberal.  I have conservative economic views mixed with moderate to sometimes liberal social philosophies.  I would like to think I educate myself on the candidates and/or the issues before I vote.  In the past, I have done a decent job of this and have been able to support my vote with a logical argument at the very least.  Right now, I wouldn't give a plug nickel for any of the candidates that is out there talking.  For the Dems, Obama just doesn't have it.  He's a great speaker and he was probably a great deal maker back in Chicago and in Congress.  But he doesn't have the ability to lead against/along with the opposition.  Say what you want to about either Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, but they LED.  And if you read your history, they LED with the majority Congress not of their party.  On the Republican side....really?  That's all I have to say....really?  You want to roll out Cain, Gingrich, Bachman, and Romney and you want me to actually support one of them.  Cain and Bachmann have new voices...but nothing good to say.  Gingrich and long have they been around?  Note to either party....put someone out there that is real and has something to say and can get something accomplished and I will back them.  Cut through the BS and let's get to work. 

If both sides of the political spectrum are saying that government is broken and needs fixing, you would have to think they can find common ground somewhere.  The issues are plenty and they are complicated.  I would like to raise my family in safety and with the opportunity to pursue whatever dreams they choose.  We should all be allowed to work hard to earn what it is that we want to and not have it taken away by a government we don't trust or believe in.  I shouldn't be working funding government program after government program in order that more and more people don't have to do the same thing.  There is a huge difference between the noble ideas of entitlement programs and the reality in how they are operated/misused.  One thing I agree with the misguided Occupiers on...ours is a government of, by, and for the people.  I think government in general has lost sight of that and operates much like business does, in its own self-interest.  Where do you think the term baseline budgeting comes from? 

Two moderate Democrats from Arkansas lost elections last year.  They didn't necessarily follow the Democratic Party line and tended to lean more moderate/conservative on some issues.  Because of that, they didn't get the backing from their party that other lefter leaning candidates got.  Republicans saw them as vulnerable and they were.  They lost.  It seems the only way to get support from your own party is to pander to the far side away from the middle. 

I have a thought here.  Shocking, I know!  Until both the Democrats and the Republicans stop moving farther away from the center, our political system will always be influenced unduly by special interest groups.  Each with their own agenda...and most with an agenda that conflicts with the interests of John or Jane Q. Citizen.  Do I have the answer for fixing this?  Sadly, no.  It's going to take a whole lot more people than one or a hundred or a hundred thousand to stand up and say, "Enough!"  It will take people, not a bunch of career lawyer/politicians, to fix what is broken and return the focus of our government to where it should be:  on people.   Can we all stop yelling first?