Anthony Varriano

Anthony Varriano

This is an opinion supported by scientific facts from reputable sources and does not necessarily represent the opinions of GCN Live. 

While I wish the best to all those affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, I also hope climate change deniers affected by the hurricanes realize their denial of climate change contributed to their current situation and will contribute to worse situations in the future.

Mother Earth is doing her best to convince climate denying Americans that global warming is no hoax and that people are responsible for the increasing instances and intensity of weather disasters. She started by flooding the Gulf Coast with category-three hurricane, Harvey, which AccuWeather predicts will cost America more than Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina combined.

But Hurricane Harvey was just the beginning of America’s hellish hurricane season of 2017. Floridians are now evacuating their homes as category-five hurricane, Irma, bears down on them after reportedly destroying 90 percent of buildings in Barbuda, leaving half the population homeless. The storm also left two-thirds of Puerto Ricans without power, and south Florida was placed on hurricane watch, as sea levels could rise anywhere from five to 10 feet.

If Hurricane Harvey is expected to cost more than Hurricane Sandy (a category-three storm) and Hurricane Katrina (a category-five storm) combined, then Irma will likely cost more than Harvey, Sandy and Katrina combined. But at least hurricanes Jose and Katia are expected to miss America, with Jose expected to further decimate the Caribbean and Katia headed for Veracruz.

Three hurricanes forming in the same ocean is unusual, but it’s been happening more often lately. It last happened in the Atlantic Ocean in 2010, when Hurricanes Igor, Julia and Karl followed almost the exact path of hurricanes Irma, Jose and Katia. And for the first time ever in 2015, two category-three hurricanes formed in the Pacific Ocean simultaneously, with a third category-two hurricane accompanying the storms.

Some God-fearing Americans might think intensifying hurricane seasons and increasing instances of destructive weather events is God’s way of punishing us for legalizing abortion or same-sex marriage. Or maybe God is punishing communities that have allowed themselves to be overrun with illegal immigrants, even though every hurricane inevitably punishes communities with large populations of immigrants because hurricanes, like immigrants, tend to reach their destination by sea.

But Hurricane Harvey hasn’t been discriminatory when it comes to the lives it’s claimed, and neither will Irma. If America’s hurricane season from hell is really a hurricane season from heaven, there’s no evidence that God is attempting another Great Flood. In fact, there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for the increased instances and intensities of these storms: man-made global warming.

Three-quarters of man-made, greenhouse gas emissions are a result of human energy consumption. Those greenhouse gases, most notably carbon dioxide and methane, are responsible for 82 percent of global warming. When Earth’s atmosphere warms, polar ice melts. When polar ice melts, sea levels rise, but it’s the extreme increase in polar temperatures that have and will continue to create more hurricanes and other destructive weather events.

Arctic temperatures up to 59 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average have not only left the size of the polar ice caps at an all-time low, but has exposed the dark depths of the Arctic sea to the sun, which further increases sea temperatures. That resulting increase in temperature narrows the difference between the Arctic sea temperature and that of southern seas. This weakens the 250-mile-per-hour winds of the jet stream that keep cold, Arctic air circulating the Arctic where it belongs. The slower jet stream winds allow cold, Arctic air to escape south, and warm, southern air to move north, resulting in more extreme weather at lower latitudes. Hence Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Jose and Hurricane Katia.

So the more we as a species emit carbon dioxide and methane from oil and natural gas drilling to then burn in our vehicles and appliances, the more hurricanes and destructive weather events we create. If there’s any good to come of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, I hope those climate deniers affected by the storms now have a reason to change their mind on global warming and change the way they live and vote.

One of the most common answers I get as to why people don’t do their part to limit man-made climate change is that the earth is going to die anyways, and they’re not going to be around to see it. These people are treating Earth like a possession instead of a living being. It’s as if climate deniers see Earth as a motel -- or better yet -- a prostitute. They think the transaction makes the person a possession, and since they pay Earth’s rent, they own Earth and can do whatever they want to her.

If Mother Earth is a prostitute, she’s a diseased, obese hag who’s been used up and abused too often, but that doesn’t stop people from paying for her services. Corporate executives fill her up with vibrating probes to entice her sexual secretions to the surface to be collected and sold. They run trains on her that spill toxic substances on and into her. Every trick she turns results in another ejaculation of carbon dioxide or methane into her atmosphere. As a mother, though, she has to put food on the table and pay the rent, so she has to take it lying down -- or whatever way the John wants to deliver it.

But all that abuse builds up and inevitably has to be released if Earth is to avoid suicide. So Earth unloads on the unsuspecting masses when properly triggered, discriminating against none, for no one is truly innocent. Even the recyclers and Greenpeace volunteers didn’t do enough to prevent her from resorting to prostitution. They should have been more adamant about treating Earth with respect and done more to persuade people that she’s indeed a person -- not just a prostitute. Society as a whole has failed Earth and will pay the price.

So think of Mother Earth as your own mother. Sure, she’s going to die just like Earth, but does that mean you treat her as if she’s already dead? Would you smoke around your mother knowing she struggles to breathe in her old age? Then don’t drive when you can walk, bike or take public transit. If you can afford it, buy an electric vehicle or outfit your house with renewable energy sources before the tax incentives end. You want your mother to be as comfortable as possible when she dies, so make Mother Earth as comfortable as possible when she dies. She too gave birth to you and continues to care for you even when you don’t care for her.

Denying the existence of man-made, global warming will only leave us in a cycle of perpetual rebuilding. We’ve gone and pissed off Mother Earth with our wasteful, selfish ways. It’s well past time we as Americans and as a species make up for it before it’s too late.

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The reeling Boston Red Sox are doing everything they can to hold off the New York Yankees in the American League East playoff race, including cheating. The Yankees have long suspected the Red Sox of stealing signs, and according to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Red Sox have finally been caught “red-handed,” or in this case, red-wristed.


 

This was originally published on FoulPlaybyPlay.com, a community for foul-mouthed, sports broadcasters and bloggers.


 

The Yankees suspect the Red Sox have been using an Apple watch to relay signs from the video room to the dugout. A member of the Red Sox organization reportedly watched video of opposing catchers flashing signals to pitchers. That person quickly decoded the sequence that signifies which pitch would be thrown. Then the information would be texted to Red Sox assistant trainer Jon Jochim’s Apple watch, who relayed the information to Red Sox batters. So with a runner on second, the Red Sox runner would look in at the catcher and relay to the batter what pitch was coming. The most common response on Twitter was the surprise that the Red Sox had found a use for the Apple watch, but the results are no laughing matter.

Keep in mind that the only thing making the Red Sox guilty is the use of technology to steal signs. Had the Red Sox successfully stolen signs without the Apple watch, they’d be revered in baseball circles. Instead, they could be facing a fine, the loss of a draft pick and possible suspension of their assistant trainer. That’s a paltry penance for a team who could win the pennant thanks to its cheating.

A game in Boston on Aug. 18 could have been decided because of the transgressions of the Red Sox. During a pitching change, Red Sox catcher Christian Vasquez, who was at second base, reportedly received signs through Jochim that he relayed to the Red Sox batters. The Red Sox would go on to score four runs in a 9-6 comeback win over the Yankees at Fenway Park. The Yankees are just 3.5 games back in the AL East, and could be 2.5 games back or less had it not been for the Red Sox cheating.

Did the sign stealing work for the Red Sox in any other games? It’s difficult to determine, but judging from the numbers, it seems the Red Sox didn’t bother changing their ways while the investigation was ongoing.

Olney reported that the Yankees filed their complaint against the Red Sox all the way back on July 18. The Red Sox couldn’t hit anything with a runner on second base over the first nine games against the Yankees, going 2-for-43 through July 16. Overall through July 18, the Red Sox were actually worse (.381 OPS) at the plate with a runner on second base than without (.417 OPS). But after July 18, the Red Sox team OPS with a runner on second base was .463 compared to .389 when there wasn’t a runner on second. So the Red Sox could have very well won multiple games thanks to cheating.

The AL East could come down to that one game the Red Sox stole on Aug. 18, and if the Yankees and Red Sox finish the season separated by just one game or less, the Yankees should be allowed the option to replay the Aug. 18 game at Fenway Park. It will be a nice addition to the schedule since Major League Baseball didn’t think anyone would want to watch the Yankees and Red Sox play in September. The Yankees could end up winning the division and forcing Boston to play the Wild Card game. New York holds a 11-8 record against Boston this season, so an AL East tie would break the Yankees’ way.

Demanding the game be replayed could end up hurting the Yankees if they are indeed out of the AL East race and have to play a Wild Card game immediately after the replay game. So offering the option to replay the game is the best way to reward the slighted Yankees and punish the cheating Red Sox. If the Yankees decide against replaying the game, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred can still fine or suspend the Red Sox or take a draft pick or two. But an instance of cheating that could have decided multiple games deserves a more immediate punishment than the St. Louis Cardinals got for hacking the Houston Astros’ player database. That didn’t decide any ballgames or a pennant race.

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Labor Day is a holiday that appeals to a majority of Americans. Most Americans work for a living, and most laborers get Labor Day off from work. The recent holiday made me think of which holidays are recognized and celebrated by the most Americans.

Independence Day is likely the holiday celebrated by the most Americans. Each American recognizes and celebrates the Fourth of July in their own way, even if fireworks aren’t available. Memorial Day is also recognized and celebrated by many Americans because most Americans know someone who’s served in the military, and again, many people get the day off.

Upon a recent visit to the dollar store, though, I was excited to see Thanksgiving decorations being put on display. While Halloween is still nearly two months away, I feel Thanksgiving, like Independence Day, is one of those holidays that’s most recognized and celebrated due to its mass appeal -- something Christmas and Easter can’t offer.

Thanksgiving doesn’t get the respect Christmas and Easter get, but you too can make your family members rethink the relative importance of the holiday. While Christmas and Easter only appeal to Christians, Thanksgiving is a holiday for all Americans, regardless of religious preference. Even atheists can enjoy Thanksgiving, and I think it’s more important to recognize how thankful we are for the sacrifices of the locals who made America possible than to recognize the birth, murder and rebirth of a man perceived to be the son of God.

As an atheist, I don’t celebrate Christmas or Easter. While the holidays are unavoidably happening around me, I don’t allow myself (or sometimes anyone else) enjoy them. Don’t get me wrong, I give Christmas presents to my immediate family and closest friends, but I give my family and friends gifts regardless of season or reason. There need not be an occasion to give, and as a socialist, I believe that wholeheartedly.

Thanksgiving is a celebration of socialism. It’s the celebration of a bunch of helpless, lost explorers being saved by locals willing to share. Since Thanksgiving is a socialist holiday, every attendee of my Thanksgiving Extravaganza (A.T.E. for Anthony’s Thanksgiving Extravaganza) is encouraged to bring something -- anything -- to share. Whether you have something old you don’t need that someone else might, or a book you’ve read that you think someone would find helpful or entertaining, you can share it with someone at A.T.E. who needs it more than you. You can also bring food for the traditional Thanksgiving meal, of course.

It’s not just the sharing that I love about Thanksgiving. It’s the days spent cooking. I find cooking and baking very rewarding. Your time in the kitchen is an opportunity to be artistic and improvisational. You try new things and learn a trade that will come in handy the rest of your life. It’s even therapeutic. I spend most of my days off from work in the kitchen, and with football on in the background all day, I can spend 12 hours in a kitchen on Thanksgiving and hardly notice.

Losing football on Thanksgiving would be as detrimental to the holiday as losing Easter eggs on Easter or Christmas trees on Christmas. I’ve never experienced a Thanksgiving without football and never want to. Football will be forever linked with my celebration of Thanksgiving because during A.T.E.’s Thanksgiving Tailgate, the kids open Thanksgiving stockings stuffed with stocking stuffers. The stockings are football socks filled with candy and small gifts.

We do Thanksgiving baskets at A.T.E., too. They’re like Easter baskets but, again, themed Thanksgiving. You might find an Easter biscuit shaped like a turkey or a plastic Easter egg filled with coupons for services to be rendered. There is no exchange of cash at A.T.E., but there is a gift exchange. Each attendee is asked to bring a gift or gifts valued at no more than $16.21 (the year of the first Thanksgiving) to be given to the person or persons in attendance for whom they’re most thankful.

There is no Black Friday shopping that occurs at my celebration of Thanksgiving, either. The only money spent during A.T.E. goes to the locals who saved white lives only to be forced from their homes in return. A.T.E. concludes with a journey to the nearest Indian casino, so attendees can show how thankful they are for the locals saving their ancestors’ lives by losing some of what their ancestors stole back to the locals.

Here’s my itinerary for A.T.E. You can use it as a model for your own Thanksgiving celebration. Next year, I hope to have a fireworks display to make my Thanksgiving rival any American holiday.

Inaugural A.T.E. Itinerary

November 23, 2017

9:30 AM to 11 AM: Thanksgiving Tailgate/Thanksgiving Stockings and Baskets

A traditional football tailgate with a traditional tailgate breakfast -- burgers, brats, beers and a Bloody Mary bar. This will also be when we open Thanksgiving stockings and Thanksgiving baskets.

11 AM to 3 PM: Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions

We’ll watch the Vikings destroy the Lions on the big screen.

3 PM to 6 PM: Los Angeles Chargers @ Dallas Cowboys

We’ll watch the Cowboys destroy the Chargers, which shouldn’t take long.

6 PM to 7 PM: Thanksgiving Dinner

Your typical Thanksgiving dinner, with vegetarian options as well, and enough pumpkin pie to feed us for weeks.

7 PM to 7:30 PM: Thanksgiving Gift Exchange

We’ll give our gifts to those for whom we’re most thankful.

7:30 PM to 9:30 PM: New York Giants @ Washington Racial Slurs

We’ll watch the Giants destroy the Racial Slurs while rooting for the Racial Slurs, because it’s Thanksgiving. This will also be the time designated for tryptophan naps and games.

9:30 PM - ???: Voyage to the Native(’s) Land

We’ll go to the casino, where we have rooms reserved. If you’d like to reserve a room for yourself and your party, you can do so by letting your host know.

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Traditionalists had The Beatles. Baby Boomers got the best of Pink Floyd. Generation X was all about Michael Jackson. And with the recent release of Villains, rockers Queens of the Stone Age have become the best band of the Millennial generation.

I remember where I was when I first heard Songs for the Deaf, and that sort of Proustian precision is usually reserved for traumatic events like 9/11 or the Oklahoma City Bombing, or major achievements in sports, like the Minnesota Twins winning the 1991 World Series.

The deep red color and clever design of the CD caught my eye while flipping through a friend’s CD case during a high school tennis meet. I thought the sperm entering the egg forming a “Q” was a pretty cool logo and asked my friend and occasional doubles partner what kind of music it was. “You should just listen to it,” he said. So I did, over and over again, all the way home, until my friend had to remind me to give him the disc back when our bus pulled up to the high school.

I remember thinking after a second time through Songs for the Deaf that it was the best and most complete rock album I had heard since Van Halen’s 1984, and the first good concept album since Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I bought a copy for myself that very day and listened to it almost exclusively throughout the summer of 2003.

I might have been late to the party since Songs for the Deaf was released in August of 2002, but better late than never. Since then, QOTSA has helped me through my parents’ divorce (Songs for the Deaf), homesickness and the general depression that results from a school year in Seattle (Lullabies to Paralyze), a serious motorcycle accident that nearly took my leg (Era Vulgaris), losing the love of my life (...Like Clockwork), and now, entering the twilight of my youth. Villains makes me feel young again, and might feature two of QOTSA’s best ever songs.

The record opens with the catchy single “Feet Don’t Fail Me,” and the sound shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s ever heard QOTSA before. It’s reminiscent of the stoner rock sound that propelled QOTSA’s popularity through the number-one, U.S. modern rock track “No One Knows.” With the exception of an 1980s, synth-sounding keyboard, “Feet Don’t Fail Me” sounds like a song from Songs for the Deaf, but that doesn’t mean QOTSA didn’t attempt to progress rock ‘n roll by blending genres.

“The Way You Used To Do” is the crowning achievement of Villains and, perhaps, Joshua Homme’s career as a musician. From Desert Sessions to Kyuss to QOTSA to Eagles of Death Metal to Them Crooked Vultures, you’d struggle to find a song comparable to “The Way You Used To Do.”

Who knew blending swing and rock would work so well? Only Homme. The big band, swing song wrapped in rock ’n roll is one of the best songs QOTSA has ever cut and one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. My best friend from high school said it “feels like somebody strapped a rocket to my ass.” I saw my first QOTSA show with him, so every time they release a new record, we invariably rave about it for a month through text messages.

Side A of Villains concludes with another solid, trademark QOTSA song with a fat bass line. “Domesticated Animals” features the eerie guitar and vocals reminiscent of Era Vulgaris’s “I’m Designer,” but the funky guitar fills and synth keyboard adds an element that contributes to the song’s overall danceability -- which was something for which Homme and the band was striving with Villains, and achieved more often than not. Side A of Villains was the only thing that spun on my turntable over a 24-hour period. It might be one of the best A-sides ever.

“Fortress” kicks off Side B and is the only Villians song I could do without. “Head Like a Haunted House” picks up right where “Domesticated Animals” left off, though, providing another dance track thanks to some synth keyboard fills and old-fashioned, rock ‘n roll tempo.

QOTSA lets the new synth sound take center stage with “Un-Reborn Again” while preserving the traditional, bluesy sound of QOTSA’s past. Even some violins make their way onto the track. “Hideaway” continues the throwback, ’80s sound that’s so popular right now, and is the Villains song that best utilizes Homme’s voice.

Side C of Villains features “The Evil Has Landed,” where you won’t find any synth keyboard. It’s just old-fashioned QOTSA -- deep, fast bass and perfectly eerie electric guitar carrying the song to a crescendo to which you can’t help but dance. “The Evil Has Landed” is rock ‘n roll deep down to its core and does much to remind people that rock ‘n roll is a dance party genre -- impending death be damned. The music sounds like what the lyrics say: “Going on a living spree / Plenty wanna come with me / You don't wanna miss your chance / Near-life experience / Faces making noise / Say, be good girls and boys / It ain't half empty or full / You can break the glass, or drink it all / Dig it.”

Finally, “Villains Of Circumstance” brings Villains to a close in epic fashion. The lovely, six-minute love song is a fitting, semi-slow-dance ending to an album built on high-tempo, dance tracks with clap lines. It’s no “Another Love Song,” but that’s because QOTSA has evolved since 2002.

As far as ranking Villains amongst QOTSA’s prior releases, I’d say it’s no Songs for the Deaf or Era Vulgaris when it comes to completeness, but probably better than ...Like Clockwork and Lullabies to Paralyze. When it comes to the hits, though, only Songs for the Deaf compares.

Here are my personal top 10 favorite QOTSA songs to provide further explanation as to why they are the best band of my generation, and why Villains is an indication that QOTSA is only getting better with age.

  1. “The Way You Used To Do” (2017)
  2. “No One Knows” (2002)
  3. “3’s and 7’s” (2008)
  4. “Go With The Flow” (2002)
  5. “Feet Don’t Fail Me” (2017)
  6. “If Only” (1998)
  7. “In the Fade” (2000)
  8. “I’m Designer” (2008)
  9. “In My Head” (2005)
  10. “I Appear Missing” (2013)

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With his last three swings in Toronto on Sunday, Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton likely erased any doubts of his ability to hit Major League pitching -- the final step in securing his place amongst the stars of Major League Baseball. New Twins’ president Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine have little reason to worry about signing Buxton to a long-term deal as early as this offseason, and that’s not an overreaction to Sunday’s three swings.


 

This was originally published at FoulPlaybyPlay.com, a community for foul-mouthed sports fans and bloggers.


 

The Three Swings

Falvey and Levine can probably stop worrying about Buxton’s bat. Baseball Prospectus editor Aaron Gleeman’s “life is devoted to posting positive Byron Buxton stats,” and he couldn’t keep up with Buxton on Sunday.

You don’t need stats to see that Buxton has “turned a corner” as they say. Even ignoring those last three swings you can find an at-bat that proves Buxton’s progress. His first plate appearance of the game came with two outs in the first inning with runners on first and second. Resisting his younger self, he didn’t try to pull a fastball that was on the outer half of the strike zone despite it being elevated. Instead, he drove a hot grounder up the middle for a single that scored the first run -- the perfect approach given the situation and pitch. That might say more about his progression at the plate than the three swings.

In the top of the fourth, though, again with two outs and a runner on third, Buxton banged a hanging breaking ball into the Toronto bullpen in left center, reminiscent of Kirby Puckett.

On the very next pitch he saw to lead off the top of the seventh, Buxton attacked a changeup left up that started outside and tailed back over the outer half of the strike zone. His timing was perfect because he’s no longer worried about being late on a fastball. In fact, he wants to be late on a fastball because it puts him in a better position to punish offspeed mistakes, which are harder for pitchers to locate. So instead of fouling the ball down the third baseline, he deposited the changeup into the second deck of left field seats.

And on the very next pitch he saw, Buxton bent his knees to reach a 91-mile-per-hour fastball at the bottom of the inside corner and drove a line drive home run down the third baseline. The swing actually reminded me of Reggie Jackson, who is the only other MLB player of which I know who’s homered with three consecutive swings.

Buxton’s final swing on the fastball down and in was the swing of an evolved hitter. It didn’t look like Buxton was looking fastball all the way. It looked like he reacted to the fastball and trusted the quickness of his hands. It’s another hole Buxton seems to have closed in his swing, so if pitchers are going to pitch him inside, they’re going to have to get him swinging at pitches off the plate inside.

In three swings baseball fans got a glimpse of a star being born. It took the nebula that is “The Twins Way” more than 850 MLB plate appearances, multiple swing alterations, injuries and demotions to produce Buxton the star, but Buxton’s explosion was blinding and so beautiful it probably brought grown men to tears.

Mr. September?

This isn’t the first time Buxton’s offered a glimpse of his potential at the plate. The kid figured out big-league pitching at the end of last season, too, posting a .936 OPS in September of 2016. Trout’s OPS over the same stretch was .962.

If Buxton repeats his success from last September, the Twins will make the playoffs. They’ve gained some ground on the Angels and Mariners, sitting alone in the second Wild Card spot with a 1.5-game cushion and have two fewer losses than the four teams chasing them. And while the Twins have relied on a slew of young players (Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco) to remain in the driver’s seat, it’s been Buxton who’s contributed the most over the course of the year, and it’s not even close.

Buxton’s WAA (wins above average) of 3.0 is 1.8 better than Brian Dozier’s and 2.1 wins better than Miguel Sano’s. The second most valuable Twins player this season has been Ervin Santana, worth 2.3 wins above average. So Buxton should at the very least be Falvey and Levine’s top priority whenever they do decide to start offering contract extensions. But waiting until after next season would be a mistake for more than one reason.

Why Not Wait?

Falvey and Levine could end up paying Buxton a little more than a half million dollars next season, but fear of Buxton competing for the Most Valuable Player Award next year should be taken pretty seriously. What little money the Twins might save in 2018 won’t be more than what can be saved by signing an employee to a long-term contract in an industry that only sees salaries increase.

Last year was the 14th consecutive season of revenue growth for MLB -- a record of nearly $10 billion. Those long, slow games have really cut into the bottom line, eh Commissioner Manfred? Despite those long, slow games and people cutting cable at record rates, MLB seems to be doing just fine thanks to the live streaming market. I’m pretty sure MLB was the first major sports league to debut live streaming in 2002, which has allowed them to work out the many kinks that were present even when I watched my first game on MLB.TV in 2006. The streaming service is so valuable that Disney bought a majority stake in it to include with ESPN’s streaming service expected to launch sometime next year.

So the biggest reason to sign Buxton long-term this offseason is because it’s unlikely he’s less valuable next year. If he stays on the field, he can only improve, and even if he doesn’t improve, arbitrated salaries most certainly will improve for players -- every year -- until Manfred ruins the game by starting extra innings with a runner on base. At this point, it would be more of a surprise for Buxton to regress than progress.

Joe Mauer was also in Buxton’s boat. If you ask just a few Twins fans the biggest mistake the organization has ever made, it won’t take long for you to hear someone complain about Mauer’s eight-year, $184 million contract. But the mistake in signing Mauer long-term when the Twins did was not a failure to predict injury. You can’t predict that one too many foul tips to the head will alter your best hitter’s vision and force him to change positions.

You can predict a player’s prime, though, and Terry Ryan didn’t do Bill Smith any favors by extending Mauer for four years prior to the 2007 season. Mauer was coming off his first All-Star appearance at age 23 -- just his second full season after the knee injury. While Ryan bought out Mauer’s arbitration years for $33 million, why he didn’t sign Mauer through his prime is mind-boggling. Sure he’s a catcher that’s had a knee injury, but he caught over 1,000 innings the previous season and won the batting title -- as a catcher!

Mauer’s monstrous contract isn’t Bill Smith’s fault; it’s Ryan’s. That 2007 extension should have been for at least six years, making Mauer a candidate for an extension in 2011, an injury-plagued season, or a free agent after a rebound season in 2012 that saw him finish 19th in the MVP voting. Instead, Smith was forced to act after Mauer’s MVP season in 2009 to avoid losing the league’s best player to free agency after the 2010 season. That would have been a hell of a trade chip, though, huh?

Waiting for an up-and-coming player to prove his worth always costs more because you’re paying for past success instead of potential success. Offering arbitration to an All-Star-caliber player is like writing an IOU that changes in value but always comes due, and generally at a higher rate than the original figure.

What if Buxton Gets Hurt?

That’s the big worry isn’t it? There’s nothing worse than signing a player to a long-term contract only to see said player get hurt and get paid the same amount to be a lesser version of the man who earned the contract.

Buxton’s injury probability is likely higher than average due to his propensity to go all-out all the time. But only injury history, not injury probability, should influence contract negotiations, and Buxton’s injury history isn’t worrisome.

Remember that collision that left him concussed in 2014? Twins fans everywhere gasped in collective fear and concern for their top prospect. Twins fans know better than most what blows to the head can do to careers. But Buxton came back two months later and collected 15 hits in 13 games of Arizona Fall League action. And while the next concussion will be invariably worse, it’s not as though Buxton is running into outfield walls at the rate Joe Mauer was taking foul tips off the head. Besides, Buxton’s legs are his most valuable asset to the Twins, and those have managed to stay out of harm’s way for the most part (knock on wood).

What’s Buxton Worth?

If Buxton ends up carrying the Twins into the playoffs he will have earned a long-term contract, especially if Sano can only provide designated hitting services the rest of the season due to his shin injury. Buxton wasn’t an All-Star this year, and while Sano was, the Minnesota Twins center fielder has been more valuable than the slugging third baseman, and any other Twin for that matter.

Buxton has been flying under the radar because of his well-documented struggles finding his swing. Given Sunday’s three swings, that won’t be the case much longer. Buxton is probably going to win the American League Gold Glove in center field this year and maybe for the next 10 years. Even before he was hitting, Buxton was contributing more than the slugging Sano thanks to his speed and defense. His 23 defensive runs saved so far is best amongst fielders let alone center fielders. But now he’s starting to figure it out at the plate, culminating in the first two- and three-homer game of his young career on Sunday.

Buxton’s 3.8 WAR was fifth amongst all MLB center fielders entering Sunday’s game and more than a win better than Sano’s 2.5 WAR thus far. After Sunday, Buxton’s WAR improved by half a win (4.3) -- third amongst MLB center fielders, behind Charlie Blackmon (4.8) and Mike Trout (5.4).

What Would Buxton Cost?

While Buxton is looking like a player who can carry the Twins into the playoffs, he’s still not Trout, but he deserves the same treatment when it comes to his contract. If the Twins were to sign Buxton to a six-year deal like the Angels did Trout, Buxton would hit free agency for the first time at 29. Trout will be just 28 when he hits free agency for the first time.

Buxton’s arbitration years aren’t going to be cheap and will only get more expensive with every season that passes. He’ll likely enter arbitration after next season as the most valuable arbitration-eligible player on the field -- physically and fiscally. When considering what Buxton could earn in 2018, Marcell Ozuna is Buxton’s most comparable contemporary (5.0 WAR this year). The two-time All-Star is making $3.5 million in this his first year of arbitration, which is probably a bit less than Buxton would demand.

So if Buxton makes the same Ozuna made in his final year of team control ($.57 million) and the same Ozuna’s making in his first arbitration year, that’s $4.07 million over the next two years. Call it $5 million just for sake of inflation. In Buxton’s second year of arbitration eligibility, he could be making Charlie Blackmon money ($7.3 million). In his final arbitration year, Lorenzo Cain’s $11 million salary doesn’t seem unreasonable, but Cain’s not being paid via arbitration.

Bryce Harper is making $13.625 million in what would have been his second season of arbitration eligibility, which is also a problematic comparison since the Nationals bought out his remaining arbitration years. Still, if Buxton is better than Cain (and he is), it’s not unfeasible that in his third season of arbitration eligibility, Buxton could get what Harper got in his second year. Add it all up and it’s nearly $26 million to buyout Buxton’s arbitration years. He would be 27 years old -- right in the middle of his prime -- with another one or two years of peak performance left. So what would Buxton’s prime years cost the Twins?

To give you an idea of how much contracts for baseball players have increased in just the last 15 years or so (and how little the dollar’s value has increased), Torii Hunter signed his four-year, $32 million contract with the Twins after the 2002 season. He had just won his second Gold Glove and finished sixth in the MVP voting. That’s not out of Buxton’s realm of potential. In 2017 dollars, Hunter’s contract is worth just just over $37 million over four years. So despite Hunter being the most obvious Buxton comparison, the massive increase in MLB revenues via television and live streaming deals makes a more contemporary example necessary.

Christian Yelich got seven years and nearly $50 million from Miami before the 2015 season. Buxton will get more.

Enter Trout -- arguably the best all-around player of all time, so far. In no way am I implying that Buxton is the next best all-around player of all time, but Trout is the best example of a player who shares Buxton’s diverse skill set playing a position of scarcity, and the average salary from Trout’s six-year, $144.5 million deal signed in 2014 is probably close to what Buxton can expect over his prime given inflation. That’s roughly $24 million annually, or $1 million more per year than Mauer makes -- at least through next year.

Falvey and Levine have all or part of Mauer’s contract coming off the books after next season, and they’ll need at least half of it to pay Buxton. A potential six-year deal for Buxton comes to $74 million, or $12.33 million per year. Adding another year or option likely lifts the contract over $100 million in total. Falvey and Levine will likely load most of the money on the back end of the contract to allow more flexibility in free agency the next few seasons.

There will be plenty of money left over for Sano with Ervin Santana’s contract expiring after next season (assuming the Twins don’t pick up his 2019 club option), and Glen Perkins likely entering free agency or retirement after this season. Brian Dozier could even free up a few million dollars for Falvey and Levine, which they’ll likely need to retain Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario.

Why Buxton Deserves to be Paid

Despite being rushed to the majors, and despite starting his career 2-for-22, and despite the changes to his swing, the demotions and the injuries, Buxton’s weathered the storm rather impressively for being just 23 years old. While Buxton didn’t take to the big leagues like Trout, Harper or even Mauer, he’ll be even better for it. All the failures of his young career culminated in the superstar we saw born on Sunday. Those three swings wouldn’t have been possible without the many failures experienced along the way.

When Buxton was truly struggling to make contact at the plate, I never saw a look of despair in him, and that’s what it takes to be a superstar in the big leagues. All the tools in the world can’t help the player who’s discouraged by a seemingly endless streak of failure. Buxton deserves to be paid because he’s paid the price to become his team’s best player and proven his dedication to his craft.

The way Buxton has dealt with failure should earn him the respect of his teammates and better allow him to lead his team. He’s shown the ability to lift his team with his speed, his glove, his emotion and now his bat. He has become the new face of the Twins and should be paid like the new face of the Twins.

At some point Congressional Democrats have to start wondering if things could have turned out any better for them had they won the 2016 Presidential Election. I’ve already said once that it couldn’t be worse for Republicans, and except for the hundreds of judges Donald Trump is appointing all over the country, things are really going Democrats’ way. Congressional Democrats will reap the benefits of Trump’s record low approval rating and compulsive terrorizing of his own party members come the 2018 midterm elections.

When Trump said he would “drain the swamp,” I didn’t think he was talking about members of his own party. If that was his goal, it’s the only thing he’s done really well. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s approval rating in Kentucky is 18 percent. He won’t be back, but a Democrat won’t take his seat either. That’s okay as long as Democrats preserve their seats most likely to switch parties (there are eight) and pick up at least three seats. The seats most likely to be within reach are in Nevada, Arizona or Texas.

The Democrats are going to gain seats in the House. Congressional minorities pick up seats when their opposition occupies the White House. 270ToWin has 14 seats as tossups, and every tossup Democrats win after the first will be a House seat gained.

While Democrats winning the 24 seats to take a House majority is a longshot, FiveThirtyEight says House Democrats have a “historically strong position.” Despite Republicans holding the incumbency advantage by holding more House seats, FiveThirtyEight pits Democrats’ chance at taking back the House majority at 50/50.

The prediction is based on the House generic ballot, where voters are asked for which party they’d vote in a House election. Democrats lead that generic ballot by seven percentage points. In 2008, when they led the generic ballot by nine points, Democrats picked up 23 House seats. When they led by 11.5 points in 2006, Democrats picked up 30 House seats.

So House Democrats have to hope Trump’s approval rating keeps decreasing, which would result in an increased margin on the generic ballot and more Democratic Representatives elected in 2018. And it’s not crazy to think Trump’s approval rating could reach the record low of 22 percent set by Harry Truman before the 2018 midterm elections.

Only George W. Bush managed to raise his net approval rating going into his first midterm election, and it took 9/11 for that to happen. The other eight newly elected Presidents of the Presidential approval rating era lost at least 17 points before their first midterm elections. So barring a terrorist attack unifying the country behind a war, Trump’s approval rating will likely continue it’s downward trend.

Trump has been shedding .038 percentage points per day since starting his Presidency with a record low 45 percent approval rating. As of this writing, there are 437 days until the 2018 midterm elections. At Trump’s current rate, his approval rating would be at least 16 points lower than his current 37 percent approval rating, setting a new record low at 21 percent.

Even with his current approval rating, Trump would hold the record low for a net approval rating of nearly -20 percent (37.1 approval rating minus 56.9 disapproval rating). The three Presidents who went into their first midterm elections with disapproval ratings at least as high as their approval ratings ended up losing the most House seats, but none of them even touch the travesty that is Trump’s net approval rating.

Barack Obama’s House Democrats lost 63 seats when his net approval rating was just -2 percent. Bill Clinton’s House Democrats lost 54 seats when Bill Clinton’s net approval rating was zero. Ronald Reagan’s House Republicans lost 27 seats when his net approval rating was -4 percent.

So while there isn’t a direct correlation between negative net approval ratings of the President and the number of House seats lost, negative net approval ratings certainly result in House seats lost. And with 60 to 80 Republican-held House seats that could be competitive in 2018, and 209 Democratic challengers for House seats raising at least $5,000 by June 30 this year compared to the 28 Republicans who did so, Democrats are in position to surprise us like Trump did in 2016. The only thing that might stop them, according to history, is a terrorist attack.

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U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled that Texas’s new voter I.D. law is invalid and made it sound like any similar voter I.D. law would be ruled the same. It’s the fifth time a voter I.D. law has been ruled invalid, and it’s because the laws were created with “discriminatory intent.” Since this law’s predecessor was created with discriminatory intent, all reincarnations of said law would also be created with the intent of taking voting rights from people without access to photo I.D. services. Judge Ramos has basically said for a third time, “These are not anti-voter fraud laws. These are anti-voter laws.”

You might wonder why someone wouldn’t have a photo I.D, but in a lot of places they’re prohibitively expensive. In Texas, acquiring a photo I.D. can cost between $78 and $390 (“The High Cost of ‘Free’ Photo Voter Identification Cards,” p. 54). How? Even if the photo I.D. is free, the trip to the DMV isn’t. Some people have to take a bus or cab to visit the nearest grocery store, and the closest DMV is likely further from home than food. If they don’t have a birth certificate, that’s another document they have to pay to get. If they can’t find their marriage certificate and took their partner’s name, they’ll need to acquire that document, too.

Judge Ramos went so far as to suggest Texas elections be subjected to Department of Justice oversight, which hasn’t been the case since 2013, when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. So if there are judges with the same sense as Ramos in other states that have adopted voter I.D. laws (there are 32 of them), they could use Ramos’s decision as precedent to bring back DOJ regulation of elections that was specifically part of the Voting Rights Act to make sure this type of discrimination didn’t happen. Instead, states have adopted Jim Crow laws and passed them off as a defense against voter fraud. If you were wondering what the possible voter fraud was in Texas, it was .000038 percent in 2012.

So this is all a big win for voters, right? Well, if you haven’t noticed, Jeff Sessions isn’t exactly fond of brown people voting. When the Voting Rights Act was gutted of sections designed to protect the minority or impoverished voter, Sessions called it “Good news...for the South.” His home state of Alabama tried to close 31 DMVs, mostly in majority-black neighborhoods, right after passing laws that required a photo I.D. to vote.

Even if Texas, or any other Southern state, was again subject to elections with DOJ oversight, what kind of oversight do you think Sessions would provide? By controlling the ballot to elections in the world’s most powerful country, Sessions would become more powerful than the President, because he will have been responsible for electing the President. That makes him the most powerful man in the world.

But will Sessions be the attorney general in power when all this goes down? Given the fracturing of the Republican Party by Donald Trump and his record-low approval rating for a President this far into his first term, it’s highly unlikely Sessions and Trump remain in office after 2020. But if the Texas appeal is heard before the 2018 midterm elections, Sessions could keep minorities and impoverished voters from the polls to preserve a Republican majority in Congress. Saving Trump might be too tall a task for even the most powerful man in the world, though.

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Democrats and Republicans agree on something. Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton defended current first son Barron Trump, who was bullied by the Conservative publisher The Daily Caller, for wearing a T-shirt and jean shorts aboard Air Force One. Melania Trump, whose big First Lady focus is to put an end to bullying, thanked Clinton for defending her son on Twitter.

Why a publisher bullying a minor is wrong

First of all, a media outlet, and a Conservative one at that, publishing anything about any of the President’s children is not just in bad taste; it’s wrong -- and not because they’re the Conservative President’s children. Historically, the President’s children have been off limits to the media, but the only minors who should be targets of the media are high school athletes and high school achievers.

The only time a minor warrants a published word is when said minor has done some good for her community. No one wants to read about how poorly the home team played or which minors were caught in possession of drugs the day before the game. You can still publish that athletes were held out of lineup as punishment for poor behavior, but a sports reporter’s focus should stay on the field or court and with the kids who did show up to represent their high school that day.

People want to read about how the kids hung in there despite overwhelming odds, and how much money the volleyball team raised for local cancer survivors, or how well the Mathletes did at State. It’s the “good news” in the newspaper that helps small newspapers survive. More than anything, parents want to read about their child’s accomplishments and feel proud. They want to clip their kids’ pictures out of the paper and hang them on the fridge. The last thing they want to see is their child’s name in the paper for doing something wrong. That’s when they don’t even bother putting on clothes and just rush out the house to the newspaper office to rip into the editor about how their child’s a minor and her name shouldn’t be in print or on lips.

Minors get the benefit of the doubt from both journalists and the judicial system because they’re minors. They don’t have the experience to know what they ought and ought not do, so society cuts them some slack so they can figure it out. The Daily Caller cut Barron Trump no slack for his lack of slacks. They thought it was “High Time Barron Trump Starts Dressing Like He’s In the White House.” Barron probably wishes his father would act like he’s in the White House. See, now that’s proper bullying.

Bullying the President is protected by the Constitution

The Daily Caller or any other publisher or person in this country can bully the President all they want thanks to the First Amendment. While attaining his “experience,” Donald Trump made plenty of mistakes, and he still does things that warrant a published word or billion. He’s not afforded the societal benefit of the doubt because he’s 71.

Trump’s 11-year-old son doesn’t have to dress like he’s in the White House because he’s 11 years old. His only focus should be being 11, and 11-year-olds wear jeans and T-shirts everyday. If your crazy old man was the most powerful old man in the world you’d want to be comfortable, too. Also, imagine graduating high school when your dad’s 78? How difficult it must be for Barron to connect with his father. There’s a multigenerational gap there.

End bullying for good

There’s no gap between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to bullying. It’s decidedly bad, and cyber bullying has exacerbated the problem. Victims of cyber bullying are more likely to be depressed than victims of traditional bullying. According to a 2010 Archives of Suicide Research study, “Youth who experienced traditional bullying or cyber bullying, as either an offender or a victim, had more suicidal thoughts and were more likely to attempt suicide than those who had not experienced such forms of peer aggression.” While suicidal thoughts and behaviors were more strongly related to those bullied, the bullies themselves also suffer, and the act of bullying is a coping mechanism.

Cyberbullying is like traditional bullying, except the bully is always there. Now that every parent issues mobile phones to their kids as a means to keep tabs on them, bullies can keep tabs on them, too. Back in my day, there weren’t mobile devices in high school, so all the bullying was done in the traditional manner. Now kids get bullied in school and at home, with no refuge in sight.

If you thought bullying would end as soon as some kid died as a result, it not only didn’t, but more kids are dying. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those between 10 and 24 years old. A study done in Great Britain found at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying. Wikipedia even has a wiki dedicated to some of the most notable suicides attributed to bullying. Most recently, 12-year-old Katelyn Davis hanged herself from a tree in her backyard while live streaming it on Live.Me.

With bullying, the First Lady chose an honorable challenge despite the irony that engulfed its announcement while her husband was bullying Hillary Clinton, quite literally. You can’t go wrong attempting to save the children, but what can really be done about bullying?

Anyone who has ever been a victim or offender of bullying knows how to put an end to it. You must stand up to the bully but do so without resorting to violence. Experts say a violent response is not advised. So you don’t even have to be successful in the fight. You just have to show you have fight.

I grew up in the only state without anti-bullying laws (Montana), and I was bullied in middle school for one day. I decided that was the first and last time anyone would bully me. I didn’t throw one punch, didn’t attempt one kick. I just told the bully to hit me. He never did, but he did drive my nose into a metal railing at the top of a stairwell, and while bloodied, it wasn’t broken. I just kept repeating, “I’m still standing” until my mother arrived on the scene. (She was a teacher at the school, and her classroom was furthest from the action if that gives you an idea of how little teachers are doing about bullying.)

I didn’t have a problem with that bully or any other after that day, and I didn’t have to win the fight. I just had to prove I would be a frightful pain in the ass and not worth the bully’s time. The same tactic will work for cyber bullying as well.

Putting an end to cyber bullying takes a bit more dedication than getting the traditional bully off your back, but the principle’s the same. Stand up to the bully every time. Sure you could ignore the bully or block them, but then they just move on to another victim. Don’t let a Facebook comment or Tweet fall through the cracks. You must respond and respond quickly to all attacks on your character and that of others, but you must do so in a manner that reveals to the bully her reason for bullying without actually calling the bully insecure. You must be a social media psychologist.

How to be a social media psychologist

The most important thing to do as a social media psychologist is listen, which you can’t do if you block the bullies. In the case of cyber bullying, read deeply into every word your bully writes and calmly respond -- so calmly that the bully could never read malice into your response. They should be surprised by your lack of emotion and somewhat bored by it. Don’t try to be too smart or you’ll risk your cyberbully turning into a bully bully. While confidence is key, it’s more important to convey that you don’t care what your bully thinks.

Sometimes seeking out common ground can help. Instead of waiting for the next attack, be proactive and respond to something the bully posts on social media that you both like. If the bully knows you like some of the same things she does, it can go a long way in humanizing her thought of you. You might even end up friends.

For persistent bullies it might take the assistance of some friends to put an end to the bullying. The more people who stand by the bullied and speak on the bullied’s behalf, the more likely the bully is to stop bullying. So don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t hesitate to help others who are bullied. If all the bullies and all the bullied teamed up for war, the bullied would win the day. Remember that episode of The Simpsons when Bart unites all of Springfield’s bullied against Nelson? There's a lot of truth to that.

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A few months ago I wrote about how sports fans can save more than 50 percent on their cable and internet bills without missing their favorite teams’ games. Much of the savings came in the form of cutting cable and switching to online streaming services like MLB.TV and NHL.TV -- both operated by BAMTech.

Well, Disney is now the majority owner of BAMTech. So instead of enticing cable-cutting sports fans to re-enter the cable fray, ESPN will rely upon a stand-alone streaming service it intends to launch early in 2018.

The move to streaming is a big one for the “worldwide leader in sports,” as ESPN has long depended on cable subscribers paying $9 per month for its four channels -- ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the SEC Network. But the network has lost 10 million subscribers to cable-cutting since 2010. That’s over $1 billion in lost revenue, which resulted in the termination of around 100 online journalists and television personalities.

ESPN executives hope to maximize revenue by meeting the needs of both cable-subscribing and cable-cutting sports fans, and apparently they know who’s who.

ESPN’s acquisition of majority ownership in BAMTech gives them access to the cable-cutting sports fans it’s lost, who are generally fans of sports not often televised nationally. ESPN will now get 75 percent of revenues from MLB.TV, NHL.TV and MLS Live, the Major League Soccer streaming service.

Also available via the ESPN streaming service will be the typical collegiate games available on the WatchESPN app, but not those televised on cable channels. Grand Slam tennis matches will also be streaming live.

Monday Night Football will still require a cable subscription, though. But if you live in the market of your favorite NFL team, a $25 digital antenna will get you most of their games in HD. Watching the NBA will also require either a cable subscription or NBA League Pass.

So what does this all mean for cable-cutting sports fans? Nothing really. It just means the majority of their money is going to ESPN rather than BAMTech. And while ESPN could roll MLB.TV, NHL.TV and MLS Live into its one streaming service and require customers to pay for all three streaming services, that’s likely a recipe to lose even more subscribers.

The real potential of the streaming services to ESPN is the advertising potential. If you’ve ever watched a game on MLB.TV, NHL.TV or MLS Live, you’re likely familiar with the “Commercial break is in progress” screen. This screen will likely appear less and less given Disney’s fat Rolodex of advertisers.

So not only will ESPN take back some of the 10 million cable-cutting sports fans it’s lost since 2010 via streaming services, it will also profit from filling the plethora of commercial breaks that have gone unfilled since the advent of sports streaming services. It should be a big win for Disney, and shouldn’t cost cable-cutting sports fans a penny more -- unless they see something advertised they just have to have.

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During Saturday’s wild game between the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers, Fox Sports North color commentator Torii Hunter revealed that if he got three hits in a game he’d wear the same dirty underwear in the following game. That probably doesn’t surprise most baseball fans given the long-standing superstitions associated with the game and its players.


 

This was originally published at FoulPlaybyPlay.com, a community for foul-mouthed, sports broadcasters and bloggers.


Buster Olney discovered that former Minnesota Twin Justin Morneau visited the same Jimmy John’s restaurant on Grand Avenue in Saint Paul, Minn. and ordered the Turkey Tom with no sprouts before every home game, washing it down with a red or orange slurpee mixed in equal parts with Mountain Dew. Pregame meal rituals hardly scratch the surface of superstition in baseball, though.

Some baseball superstitions are practiced by just about every player of the game, whether it be in little league or the Major Leagues, for no reason and with no reasonable explanation offered. Why baseball players avoid stepping on the baselines when taking the field is inexplicable. There’s no story of its origination. It’s such an old superstition it’s prehistoric in baseball years.

A reasonable explanation for not stepping on the baselines would be so you can see them, so there are no questions as to whether a ball is fair or foul, or whether a runner is inside the baseline. Preservation of the game’s playing field and its beauty is a logical reason for avoiding the baselines, much like replacing divots and raking sand traps on a golf course. But there’s no reason required for superstition to arise, except that acknowledging and engaging in the superstition resulted in a desired outcome.

A more likely explanation for the baseline avoidance superstition is that a player used it to explain his uncharacteristic or sudden success to his teammates, either jokingly or seriously. The player might not have known why he was hitting. If he hasn’t made any adjustments, the failures of opposing pitchers could be entirely responsible for his success. But you can’t tell your teammates the reason you’re hitting is because opposing pitchers -- those same opposing pitchers your teammates see -- aren’t any good. So you say, “I haven’t been stepping on the baselines when I take the field. Maybe that’s it.”

Eventually, a desperate teammate sinking into a slump will think, “It can’t hurt, right? Hell, it’s not even going out of my way. It’s not like I have to bunny hop over the baseline. Nobody has to know.” Since all baseball players go through periods of desperation, other teammates adopt the superstition in the same way, having told no one until their fortunes improve, and they’re asked to explain their success. Before the game is over everyone on the team is hopping over the baseline in unison as they take the field.

Why So Superstitious?

Superstitions provide an illusion of certainty in a most uncertain game. How uncertain? There are 18 symbols used to describe the outcome of a plate appearance when keeping score of a baseball game. Even without considering the nearly 300 pitches thrown in a nine-inning, Major League Baseball game and the possible outcomes of each pitch, the number of possible outcomes for every plate appearance is indicative of the immense uncertainty of baseball and why so many of its players adopt superstitions.

The average number of plate appearances per baseball game ranges from three to five per player, so if nine players from each team get four plate appearances each, that’s 72 opportunities for any one of 18 things to happen. So the total number of possible outcomes for every plate appearance in a nine-inning baseball game is somewhere between octovigintillion and novemvigintillion -- or 2.397 with the decimal point moved 90 digits to the right.

Thinking of sports as video games further explains baseball’s uncertainty and the penchant for players to adopt superstitions. If we were to consider the code used to write a basketball video game, the user’s input to pass to a teammate would trigger a question or series of questions the computer answers with either true or false. That question might simply be, “Is teammate X open to receive a pass?” If the teammate is open, the answer is true, and the pass is completed. On a shot, if the user doesn’t execute the input properly, the answer from the computer to whether the shot is true or false will be false, and the shot missed.

A baseball video game is also dependent on the user’s ability to amass “true” answers, but the degree to which those answers are true determines which of the 18 possible outcomes occurs during each plate appearance. The questions answered by the computer that would result in a home run, for instance, might be: “Swing timing? Truest. Swing location? Truest? Point of contact? Truest. Swing result? Home run.” For a ground ball to the second baseman by a left handed hitter, the questions and answers might read: “Swing timing? Early. Swing location? High. Point of contact? Out in front. Swing result? 4-3.

You can make or miss a pass or shot in basketball, soccer and hockey. You can swing and miss in baseball, or swing and hit the ball in or out of play, for an out or a hit, or an extra-base hit, or a home run. Or you can do nothing at all and still end up on first base. And that’s just considering what you can do when you’re at-bat. There are even more opportunities for inexplicable outcomes while in the field.

Pitchers are the most susceptible to inexplicable outcomes, though, which is why they tend to be the most superstitious of all athletes. Mark “The Bird” Fidrych had to throw to the same catcher every time he pitched -- a superstition that’s now a common tactic taken by MLB teams. Turk Wendell is probably the most superstitious athlete of all time. He ate black licorice during games, performed a kangaroo hop when he completed an inning, brushed his teeth between innings, wore number 99 in honor of Charlie Sheen’s Major League character Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, and demanded his salary ended in 99. A contemporary example would be Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Ervin Santana, who smells the baseball deeply before towing the rubber.

Pitchers are more likely to adopt superstitions because having an unreasonable explanation for inexplicable outcomes can be healthier than searching for a reasonable explanation. Flares, seeing-eye singles and the dreaded broken-bat blooper can turn a well-executed pitch into an inexplicable outcome. There’s likely nothing more frustrating for players and fans than a pitcher making a good pitch and getting the desired result only to see the ball land softly between three defenders for a hit. You and he are probably thinking the same thing: “Shake it off. That’s just dumb luck. Throw another one just like that.”

But there’s rarely just one inexplicable outcome with which a pitcher has to deal per game. So when the pitcher breaks another bat that results in another hit, and then soft contact results in another hit, and another, he’ll eventually attempt to explain the inexplicable outcomes in an effort to stop them -- unless he already knows the reason for the outcomes -- however ridiculous that reason might be.

“If you believe you're playing well because you're getting laid, or because you're not getting laid, or because you wear women's underwear, then you are!” -- Crash Davis, Bull Durham

Likely the most famous, fictitious instance of baseball superstition, Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh starts wearing garters and begins pitching like a big leaguer. In his first start sporting the lingerie, he’s more worried about whether he’s queer for enjoying the “sexy” feel of the underwear than he is about his pitching. It’s a perfect example of how superstition plays a pivotal role in getting a player’s mind off the game so he can resort to more basic instincts and the athletic ability that got him to the big leagues in the first place. “Don’t think, just throw.”

Fan Superstitions

Athletes aren’t the only ones looking for answers to explain inexplicable outcomes. Fans want answers, too, and generally go looking for them in the same manner as athletes who don’t subscribe to superstition. They blame themselves.

It’s all rather vain. We sports fans want to feel important. We want to feel like we’re part of the game and play a role in its outcome, even from the couch in our living room. So when the team loses it’s because we did something wrong as spectators. We wore the wrong clothes, sat in the wrong seat, ate the wrong food, drank the wrong drink or watched with the wrong crowd. The same superstitions players employ in an effort to get through the game are the same ones adopted by fans to do the same. If fans didn’t take sports so seriously, there’d be less superstition. But fans are fanatical.

As a fan, I subscribe to multiple superstitions. If my team wins, I wear the same hat until they lose, and then I change it. When football season starts, I’ll pull out my Minnesota Vikings Randy Moss jersey and wear it during the game. If the Vikings win, the jersey remains unwashed, hanging in the closet awaiting the next game when it will be donned again. The jersey doesn’t get washed until a Vikings loss occurs, which also requires me to don the Daunte Culpepper jersey. A losing streak forces me to break out my favorite Warren Moon t-shirt, and if the Vikings lose three in a row, the oversized, reversible Cris Carter jersey gets some air. Another loss and I flip the jersey inside out for next week. During March Madness, I wear the same jersey/t-shirt combination for every Duke game and don’t wash either until the Blue Devils are eliminated. So in 2015 and 2010 the ensemble was worn for six games before seeing the washing machine. I do make a point of taking off those clothes as soon after the game as possible to preserve some semblance of cleanliness.

There’s a new superstition I’m considering. On Sunday, Aug. 6 (published Monday), I pitched five trades my Minnesota Twins could have made in June to save their July. The Twins didn’t lose again until Saturday, Aug. 12, when I made the mistake of tweeting that watching the Twins was like watching that montage of the winning streak in Little Big League. They had erased a 5-0 first-inning deficit only to lose 12-11 via a walkoff home run by Justin Upton. Naturally, I blamed myself.

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