Sunday, 26 February 2012

So it begins

On Tuesday pitchers and catchers were required to report to Blue Jays spring training in Dunedin Florida. As a long time Jays fan, I have begun to apologize to my loved ones. This morning, as I threw my Jays T-Shirt on, I turned to my love and proclaimed, "Sorry - you're going to need to get used to this."

Being a sports fan is something that those who are not can rarely understand. As self-reflective as I may be, I can't exactly determine where this comes from. Google pointed me to this explanation, but no level of intellectualizing can properly convey exactly what it is to be a sports fan... in particular a Toronto sports fan.

The Curse Of The Torontonian 

Being born in Toronto, and raised to understand that The Leafs are "Gods team" creates an expectation of disappointment. This hockey season has played out like many:

  1. The Leafs start by winning more games than the fans expected
  2. Their fans/media expect the trend to continue, extrapolating the small sample size to continue throughout the year
  3. The Leafs fall back to where their talent should have them
  4. The fans/media freak out as their new found expectations aren't being met. A media circus ensues. 
  5. The Leafs fall even further back
  6. The fans/media proclaim that someone must be fired.
And this is just the horror of being a Leafs fan. Imagine being a Raptors fan! In existence for more than a decade, a good portion of their ticket/box holders are only doing so because they're required to for their Leafs obligations, American born players don't want to play in T.O. When it's all said and done, there's more players who have publicly asked to get out than there are play-off series won.

In fact, the only team in Toronto with any "recent" history of winning a championship is The Jays. This is only if your definition of "recent" is "within the last 20 years".

There are reasons for optimism in Blue Jay Land, however. Legitimate reasons, which is much more than we can say for fans of any other Toronto sports team. So without further adieu, I give you my thoughts on why the Blue Jays have a chance at making the post season.

Blue Jays 2012 Season 

As much as any fan over paying for internet/cellphones/cable with Rogers would like to think that the Blue Jays have unlimited resources, they do not. Rogers executives are looking to make money, and Paul Beeston (Jays President) has made it very clear that the payroll will only go up when revenues do.

This is why paying 8 million dollars for Jose Bautista instantly makes this team competitive. Jose was the AL Leader in:
  • Home Runs 
  • Slugging
  • Walks 
  •  On-Base + Slugging (In my opinion the most important stat in baseball) 
For 8 million dollars!!! That's 1/4 of what Alex Rodriguez is being paid. Not only that, but Jose is only in the second year of a 5 (team option 6) year contract. So whatever happens this year, there's a reason for long-term optimism. 

This isn't exactly breaking news, but the Jays year hinges on Bautista. Without him in the lineup, the middle of the order has no teeth. Pitchers can walk the lefties they don't want to face - and pounce on what is a weak collection of batters otherwise. With Bautista in the order, the 1/2 hitters will get pitches to hit since the starting pitcher sure as hell doesn't want to walk men on for Bautista to drive home. This will require some batters who aren't exactly free swingers at the top of the order for the team, which in itself may be a challenge. Even for Bautista, you could see as the year wore on and pitchers were less willing to give him a pitch to hit - he became somewhat more willing to go outside of the strike zone for a pitch to hit instead of just taking the walk that was handed to him. As Anthopolis noted in yesterday's Globe and Mail, Lawrie may also fall victim to this.

So I stated that this team has a chance to make a playoff run, but there was a reason I both bolded and italicized "chance". This requires so many things to go right that it can only be labelled as a chance, similar to that of hitting "00" in a roulette game.

JP Arencebia, Brett Lawrie, and (potentially) Eric Thames are all going to be sophomores this year. The Sophomore Curse is real, as close to 2/3's of rookie of the year winners regress in their second year. This means that two of these players should be expected to get worse, and potentially one could get better. Of course all three could excel, all three could regress, or any combination. However regression is the most likely outcome for each of these players. Add to this Kelly Johnson's striking out 26% of the time last year, and Adam Lind's strike out percentage nearing 20% - you start to wonder where the runs come from outside of Bautista.

But IF Rasmus gets his act together, the sophomores don't have a huge regression, and Bautista continues to produce - the offence could lead this team to the playoffs.

None of this even begins to address pitching, and I fear to dive into that subject as everything beyond Ricky Romero seems like a complete gamble. The only bright side to the off season was the aquisition of Santos, and even that feels like a gamble considering his youth. If that kid is the real deal, fixing some part of the 25 blown saves from 2011 would make a huge influence on the Jays playoff chances.

There's really only one thing that matters though:

How Many Games Do We Win? 

Vegas has the over/under at 80.5. With a gun to my head, I'd say under. However it's entirely possible that it could be ten games over, especially with an early acquisition of another big bat to protect Bautista.

Who Wins The Ring?

We will see many prognostications in this regard in the coming month, and none of them matter. There's a reason there's 162 games in a baseball season, and it's because the outcome of seven game series have too many values that could be attributed to luck. Forced to make a decision, I'd gamble on the Red Sox. The psychology of their slow start and finish last year set aside makes them prime candidates for a redemption tour.

Before I go, I need to get this off my chest...

Dear Pittsburgh Pirates:

Are you out of your freaking minds? AJ Burnett is a 500 pitcher, which he has been his entire career, and he's made millions of dollars on the expectation that eventually he'll be able to put it all together. Many teams have tried to get this guys head right, and many teams have failed. Why you would bring a cancer like that into your dressing room is beyond me, and why you would put him in a leadership position with all those young players seems even crazier. Whatever lack of success your team has this year I will attribute to AJ. Is that fair? Nope. Neither is what this man has been paid for his horrific consistency over the years. AJ is doomed to failure, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy every time he failed.

Monday, 20 February 2012

An Open Letter To Stephen Harper

Dear Mr.Harper, 

21st century politics seem to be your government's specialty. I'm a Canadian, an extremely proud Canadian. I've been to seven provinces, met many Canadians, and I have a great deal of trouble identifying how exactly your government is promoting Canadian values. 

First, your government accused anyone who opposed a bill that would mandate ISPs monitor all online activity of siding with child pornographers. Now, you're threatening the EU  for labeling the oil sands as polluting. One man's science is another man's inconvenient truth I guess. I also know that the economy is your top priority. This really does create a picture of what your Canada looks like. 

Is it the Canadian way to disregard the science and instead try to protect corporate oil interests? I understand that it's also an attempt to protect Canadian jobs, but at what point would the factual environmental impact of those jobs have an impact on your decision making? For example, if we knew that the world would end in 50 years if we continued production in the oil sands would you continue to protect economic interests? What if we knew that 30% of Albertans would die if we continued production, would the economy continue to take priority or would the health and safety of our countrymen take priority then? Does the answer to the previous question change if it's Quebecers dying? What if it was Africans dying? Would killing foreigners make your economic priority more reasonable? 

Of course, I'm not suggesting that when it comes to the oil sands you don't care about the health and safety of foreigners. Your view on abestos exports has already made it clear that you value the economy over the health and safety of foreigners.  

In regards to your "child pornography" bill - I've yet to see one piece of evidence come from this government outlining  previous cases that this bill would have facilitated the capture of child pornographers. It's my belief that until you are able to provide such evidence, you don't have a valid reason to force ISPs to create an infrastructure that will monitor everything every Canadian does online. Frankly, even if you could do so - Orwellian style laws like this don't jive with what I consider Canadian values. 

I'd note that it's some pretty slick politicking though. Bring out a bill that calls warrant-less surveillance "lawful access" and claim to be on the side of "lawful access". It's quite the political score to stand up in the house of commons in an outrage that the opposition is against lawful access in the pursuit of child pornographers. I also have no doubt that there will be a couple of changes made so your government can claim to have listened to the will of the people, but the fact that our ISPs are mandated to monitor everything we do online and provide warrant-less access to you will stay. I guess these are Conservative values, the kind that you try to claim are Canadian values. 

Remember, Mr.Harper - less than 40% of Canadians voted for you. To claim some kind of moral high ground on these issues would be silly. I'm happy that for the most part you do not. In fact, you've made it quite clear that the Economy is what you value most. 

Canadians value much more than profit, though. We value fairness, equity, sophistication in world view, and have an inherent desire to do the right thing. Thusfar, as much as you may like to claim otherwise, the values your government demonstrates are certainly not Canadian values. 


A Canadian With Very Different Values Than You

Saturday, 4 February 2012

London's Disappearing Middle Class

The London ON Catapilliar plant is now closing down. This after the union workers refused to take a 50% pay cut to continue on behalf of the multi-national corporation Caterpillar who earned record profits last year

The Global Economy

There's speculation that these jobs will be sent to Indiana where the people are willing to work for less. Regardless of where the jobs go, one would assume they're going somewhere because Caterpillar hasn't announced that they don't actually need these parts anymore, but instead that they're managing costs. These jobs and the wages that go with it aren't viewed as people with families and mortgages or even the backbone of a company as many multi-nationals like to claim, no these are a cost that can be reduced on a balance sheet.

Apple is a prime example of this. 13 Billion in profit on 46 Billion in sales. So about 28 percent of the sticker price of your shiny new apple product is straight profit... but Apple isn't interested in imrpoving the working conditions of the people making these products, nor are we interested in discontinuing to purchase them. People have literally died so that you and I can have an iPhone and a Macbook and so "investors" (See: The 1%) can get their 13 Billion dollars in profit.

"The Global Economy" often referenced by our political leaders and elder statesmen as the cornerstone of the new world we live in, is essentially legalized slave labor. So much of what we purchase is made in China or Indonesia but we don't have any reason to discontinue doing so since in many cases it's the only way anyone here could have anything. If your only job is working 40 hours a week at Walmart, how can you afford to buy anything anywhere BUT Walmart?  I'd suggest going back to my OWS post in November (specifically the "Ignorance" and "The System" sections for further elaboration on this)

The Liar Economy 

What exactly would happen to our economy if we started to enforce monopoly laws, and made things like "up to 50% off" illegal?  I believe in a free market economy where people want or need different things, and make deals where everyone wins. I get what I want, you get my money. I'm nothing short of disgusted by our economy where we advertise deceptively - and so long as it just stays barely within the law, you're good. At a certain point, an organization can completely forgo marketing their product - and instead just start trying to get you to buy emotions. Coke doesn't sell their product anymore. They create advertisements that illicit an emotion. Ideally, a positive one. "Awwwww those polar bears really love each other" - drop a Coke logo over top of it and voila. Coke doesn't need advertising to sell their product - but they market heavily to stop anyone else from getting in this game.

Right now you drink Coke? Good. Coke is happiness. Continue to drink it. Please don't actually start to pay attention to what you're thinking or feeling, we have pills for those emotions. All you need to know is that this "happy" thing they've told you about in story books as a child can be easily acquired with a purchase of a Coke. 

Giving me the illusion of happiness for my money isn't the same thing.

Some want to call it persuasion - but at some point we can just start calling it bullshit. "Talking Points" are standard practice in politics and corporate communications. What does it say about our society that a standard practice of two of the most influential societal structures of our time has found great success in not answering questions, but instead shifting to these points regardless of the question that's asked.

Our friends at Caterpillar aren't leaving because they can't afford to have a plant here. They're moving because there's a bunch of people that you and I will never meet who have a shit ton of money, and want more, regardless of the true costs. The Conservatives will tell these people to move west, where there's a whole other group of rich people ready to exploit them. My suggestion: Start your own business. Learn a trade, find some other small business in town that needs help, clean bathrooms, work on a farm - do ANYTHING but work for a multi-national. Sure, you might get a middle class wage for now - but when they can find someone in China to do it cheaper, they will... and soon enough there will be no middle class.