Friday, December 25, 2015

We laugh at winter in Charlotte!

I wore shorts and a t-shirt to walk Simmie today. It was 71 and I think I got a little sunburn.

To escape this Dec. 25 heatwave, Robbie and I went to see The Big Short. It was quite an entertaining -- and sobering -- look at what caused the 2007-09 financial crisis.

The most sobering part was the warning that it could easily happen again. Time for me to sell everything, stick all the cash in a big pickle jar and bury it in somebody else's backyard.

(What? You think I want people digging up MY backyard?)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Mike's Hall Call: Griffey (obviously), but how 'bout Edmonds and Hoffman?

Seven of my 10 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot slots were easy to fill.

There are the six guys I voted for in the past who are still trying to join baseball's most exclusive club: Jeff Bagwell, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling and Alan Trammell. You can read the cases I made for them in previous years here and here.

There is this year's no-brainer newcomer: Ken Griffey Jr. He is such an obvious Hall of Famer that I won't waste my time and yours explaining why.

Beyond that, I had a lot to think about.

First, there are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Last year, I wrote this:

If a player likely was a steroid cheat but all available evidence showed that he had a Hall-worthy body of work before the juicing began (think Bonds and Clemens), I will consider him but only beginning with his fifth year on the ballot. I want to allow plenty of time before checking that box.

This is Year 4 for both and I actually considered voting for them after Bonds' obstruction of justice conviction was overturned. But I decided my heart wouldn't be broken if they had to wait one more year, and I'm sticking to my five-year rule.

So the two players whose candidacies are really rattling around in my mind are ballot newcomers Trevor Hoffman and Jim Edmonds.

Hoffman is an interesting case. The only thing he really has going for him is the save statistic -- he had 601, behind only Mariano Rivera -- and most of us know how flawed that stat is. You come into a 5-2 game with nobody on in the ninth inning and you get a save? Whoop-de-do.

Hoffman was a classic "stat-compiler." He pitched forever, so he had lots of saves. He racked up 119 saves during his final four seasons pitching not so great (3.51 ERA, 1.118 WHIP, 12-20 record) for lousy teams. Unlike truly dominant relievers such as Goose Gossage or Bruce Sutter or Rollie Fingers or Rivera, he rarely was asked to get more than three outs. Unlike Dennis Eckersley and John Smoltz, Hoffman couldn't hack it as a starter.

I have read articles that convincingly argue that Billy Wagner, another first-timer on the ballot, was the better reliever. And I'm not voting for Wagner, either. Hoffman is a borderline case, and he's not crossing my border this year.

Now let's go to Edmonds.

When a friend asked me a few weeks ago about Edmonds, my knee-jerk reaction was "no way." But then I remembered all of his amazing catches and I decided to look into his career more closely.

He ranks in the top 60 all-time in slugging percentage, OPS and HRs. He was a hard-nosed, valuable player for some outstanding Cardinals teams, including the 2006 champions. At age 38, he was still an extremely valuable player for the division-winning Cubs, driving in 49 runs in only 250 at-bats after they picked him up during the season.

I believe ballplayers deserve recognition for the long, outstanding stretches of their careers. For me, Edmonds gets plaudits for his 11-season stretch with the Angels and Cardinals in which his WAR was third in all of baseball behind only Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. And unlike Bonds and A-Rod, there were no serious steroid allegations. During those 11 seasons, Edmonds averaged 30 HRs, slugged .554 and won eight Gold Gloves.

Oh, and in 64 postseason games, Edmonds, had 13 HRs, 42 RBIs and a .513 slugging percentage.

And you can't talk about Edmonds without spending plenty of time talking about his all-out, life-or-limb defense at an important position. Did any center fielder who played in the '90s and '00s produce more highlight-reel catches? He was on SportsCenter more than Chris Berman was. Among CFs since 1954, he ranks in the top 20 in assists, putouts and double plays. His "Ultimate Zone Rating" was eighth all-time among CFs, and his arm was rated second-best ever at the position. But if you spent any time watching him, you didn't need all those new-fangled metrics to know you were watching an amazing outfielder.

If we can enshrine Ozzie Smith mostly because of his defensive prowess at shortstop, we can't give Edmonds serious props because of his defensive prowess in center field ... AND his 393 HRs AND his .527 slugging percentage and his .903 OPS?

Despite all of that, I have a feeling that Edmonds will not get much love among my BBWAA voting peers, and I simply think he was too good a player to be 1-and-done. So I feel doubly good about giving him my vote.

Here, then, are the eight players who received check marks next to their names on my 2016 Hall of Fame ballot:

Jeff Bagwell

Jim Edmonds

Ken Griffey Jr.

Mike Mussina

Mike Piazza

Tim Raines

Curt Schilling

Alan Trammell


And speaking of the Hall of Fame ...

I agree wholeheartedly with MLB commissioner Rob Manfred's decision to keep Pete Rose out of the game. Rose gambled on baseball when he was the Reds' manager, lied about it for years and years, finally admitted to doing some of it but still lied about the depth of his gambling activity, and only begrudgingly admitted more about it after being caught in lies again.

For a long time, I believed that Rose should be kept out of baseball for his gambling as a manager but that he should be eligible for the Hall of Fame because there had been no credible evidence that he had gambled as a player.

Earlier this year, however, ESPN's Behind the Lines did produce credible evidence that Rose did bet on baseball during his playing days.

Given that I have every reason to believe the ESPN report and no reason to believe Rose -- a pathological liar and self-promoter -- I am very glad he has never eligible for enshrinement.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dad is "homeless," Marquette is back, Panthers are No. 1 ... and other interesting tidbits

This week's High Five ...


My father-in-law Frank is officially "homeless" after the sale of his suburban Chicago townhouse was completed Friday.

Robbie and I worked like dogs -- and I'm not talkin' about chihuahuas but more like border collies -- getting that place ready to sell, so it was nice to see it go so fast after hitting the market. In addition to making several trips from Charlotte to clean it out (look back at the July 6 TBT to remind yourself how crazy that experience was), we had to arrange for new carpet and paint, hire a realtor, arrange for a new garage door, etc., etc., etc. ... with the emphasis on the "etc."

All the while, Frank kept asking to go back to the place so he could sort through his things -- things that weren't there any more. (We kept him informed every step of the way, but being nearly 90, his short-term memory isn't what it used to be.) Now that it's sold, he has nothing to worry about, and that means less pressure on Robbie to deal with him worrying.

Frank is staying with his niece in Chicago through the New Year and then the plan is to make him an official North Carolina resident. Frankly, it's quite a relief.



1. I joined about 15 fellow Marquette alums at a Charlotte bar Saturday to watch our lads' impressive, exciting victory over one of the teams I especially love to hate, Wisconsin.

Marquette freshman sensation 
Henry Ellenson
drives past Bucky Badger

The game was in Madison -- the first true road test for our freshman-dominated squad -- and that historically has been a very difficult place to win. Marquette is 8-2, with seven straight victories since getting blown out at home by Iowa.

After a couple of downright depressing years to be a Warrior Eagle, it's nice to see the team going in the right direction again.



For nine straight months, every article I've written for Seeking Alpha has been an Editor's Pick. So while I'm not getting rich, I am getting recognition. Given that I have a typical writer's ego, that matters!

Here's the latest, which hit the site last week: Kinder Morgan: I Told Me So!



My Scholars Academy Eagles go into the Xmas break at 5-0, and our margins of victory so far have been 38, 30, 32, 13 and 24 points.

We actually didn't play very well on offense in the first half of our game Thursday -- we really seemed to play down to the level of the competition -- but we "won" the second half 22-2. And I later sent the girls this text:

"Hi Ladies. The more I think about it, the more I believe we played pretty well after our slow start. We shouldn't be so worried about 'style points' that we forget to enjoy working hard, competing enthusiastically and ultimately scoring a decisive victory. Have a great weekend. Go Eagles!"

Our famed and feared, "Fly, Fly, Fly Eagles"
cheer, which is reserved only for after victories.

I just wanted the girls to know that I appreciate how hard they play and that it's unrealistic to expect perfection. I also have to remind myself to enjoy the journey as much as (hopefully) the championship destination.

At this age, it should mostly be about getting better and having fun, anyway. But yes, they do keep score ... so we might as well finish each game with more points than the other team. We're pretty good at that, too.

I'm already looking forward to January and February!



I am getting so tired of idiots who think they know something about the NFL calling the Panthers "the worst undefeated team" -- whatever that means -- and criticizing Cam Newton.

Well, after absolutely humiliating the Falcons on Sunday, the Panthers are 13-0 and are racking up one impressive victory after another. Newton laughed at the SI cover jinx, throwing for 600 yards and 8 TDs the last two weeks; most informed national football commentators say he is the league MVP.

In Newton, Greg Olsen, Ryan Kalil, Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, K.K. Short and Josh Norman, the Panthers have seven players who rank at or near the very top of their positions, and they also have some great role players.

It's stunning how little respect the Panthers have gotten most of this season. But hey, if that's been part of their motivation, I should stop complaining about it and hope the disrespect continues well into February.

And for opponents who think Cam is too cocky and don't like his celebrations ... all they have to do is stop him.

It hasn't happened yet in 2015.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Thanksgiving's over, but there's always room for the Turkey of the Year countdown

For 17 years now, I've used the Thanksgiving holiday as an occasion to lob a few grenades at each sports year’s chumps, losers, lunkheads, criminals and clods. Because I was traveling last week, this Turkey of the Year countdown is, for the first time, being presented after we’ve all consumed our turkey, stuffing and pie. I’m looking at it as a heaping helping of luscious leftovers!

Previous "winners" (and by that, I mean "losers"):

Mike McCaskey (1998); Jerry Krause (1999); Bobby Knight(2000); David Wells and Frank Thomas (2001); Dick Jauron(2002); Sammy Sosa (2003 and 2004); Andy MacPhail, Jim Hendry and Dusty Baker (2005); Aramis Ramirez (2006);Charlie Weis (2007); Choking Cubbies (2008); Milton Bradley (2009); Mark McGwire (2010); Joe Paterno and the Penn State Enablers (2011); U.S. Ryder Cup Team (2012); Alex Rodriguez (2013); Roger Goodell and Ray Rice (2014).

Sharp-eyed readers will notice that up until 2010, each of those Turkeys did their gobbling in Chicago or the Midwest. That's because I columnized for the Copley newspaper group in Chicago, where the annual countdown got its start under my predecessor and friend, the late, great Gene Seymour. Since moving to North Carolina, I've expanded my Turkey-choosing horizons. Still, as always, I dedicate this in memory of Gene.

So grab (yet another) hunk of pie and enjoy ...

12. BO RYAN ... Bo knows winning -- and whining. After masterfully coaching his Wisconsin Badgers into the NCAA title game, he couldn’t resist taking shots at Duke, Kentucky and other programs that use "rent-a-players." He forgot to mention that he went hard after Kevon Looney -- a freshman at UCLA last year whom everybody knew would be 1-and-done -- as well as two of this season’s top frosh, Marquette’s Henry Ellenson and Maryland’s Diamond Stone. So what Ryan really meant was that he didn’t like the fact that Coach K and Coach Cal were able to land the kind of 1-and-dones who apparently want nothing to do with Coach Bo. Hypocrites make wonderful turkeys!

11. TED LILLY ... The former Cubs, Dodgers, Yankees, A’s and Blue Jays pitcher took out an insurance policy on his RV and then crashed it four days later, claiming $4,600 in damage. Routine stuff, right? Yeah, except the crash actually happened five days BEFORE he took out the policy. Once nabbed, he faced three felony charges of insurance fraud. He took a plea bargain to avoid jail time and received only a small fine, community service and probation. I can see why Lilly would try to get away with a $4,600 scam, given that he only made $80 million during his 15-year career. Of course, I’ll always remember Lilly for the way he slammed down his glove – Bad News Bears style – after giving up a home run in Game 2 of the 2007 NL playoffs. 

10. BRANDON BOSTICK ... As part of Green Bay’s “hands” unit in last season’s NFC title game, he had one job: Block for Jordy Nelson so that the Packers’ No. 1 receiver could catch the football if Seattle sent an onside kick in their direction. Instead, Green Bay’s third-string tight end tried to make the catch himself. The ball went off of his hands and helmet and was recovered by the Seahawks, who promptly drove for the winning touchdown. (As bad as that was, he didn’t deserve the death threats that came his way. What the hell is wrong with people?)

9. CLEVELAND FIREWORKS GUY & JASON PIERRE-PAUL ... Fireworks are fun, right? Pity the poor sap in charge of setting off fireworks after Indians home runs; he accidentally hit the button after Kansas City’s Alex Rios went yard and was last seen burying his head in his hands. And really pity Pierre-Paul, the Giants defensive end who damn near blew off his hand on the Fourth of July. Mom was right about not playing with matches!

8. PATRICIA DRISCOLL & ANNA HANSEN ... You can be forgiven if your reaction to both names is, “Who?” Well, Driscoll is the ex-wife of auto racer Kurt Busch, who testified in court that Driscoll is a trained assassin who has been dispatched on covert missions around the globe. And Hansen is the long-time girlfriend of Lance Armstrong; she claimed to have been driving the car when a drunk Armstrong drove into two parked cars after a party and then fled the scene. Armstrong, one of the most infamous pathological liars in history, let Hansen take the fall. You can’t make up stuff like this.

7. GREG ABBOTT ... After the Astros scored three runs in the seventh inning to take a 6-2 lead in Game 4 of the ALDS, the Texas governor sent out a tweet congratulating the ‘Stros for advancing to the ALCS. Problem was, the Royals came back with five runs in the eighth. They won that game and then took Game 5 two days later to capture the series. Oops! But hey, at least this Texas governor didn’t take the national debate stage and forget which federal agencies he’d eliminate. Nor did he proclaim “Mission Accomplished” a few months into an unnecessary, unfunded, decade-long war. In other words, there’s still plenty of time to REALLY embarrass yourself, Gov. Abbott!

6. ROGER GOODELL ... It was another tough year for the NFL commissioner, our 2014 Turkey of the Year. Tom Brady got away with cheating. Greg Hardy got away with beating the crap out of his girlfriend. Goodell’s nemesis, the Patriots, won the Super Bowl and he spinelessly skipped their banner-raising celebration. Goodell also got caught lying in the aftermath of the Ray Rice fiasco. And so on and so on. Why do NFL owners put up with him? (Hell, they don’t just put up with him, they pay him tens of millions of dollars annually!) Well, because he is good at making the league money, especially TV money. So maybe it wasn’t that bad a year after all for Goodell, who can count his bounty while he ignores his critics.
5. PETE CARROLL ... The Seahawks coach has taken endless grief for his decision to try to win the Super Bowl by having Russell Wilson attempt a second-down pass from the 1-yard line -- a pass that was intercepted by the Patriots’ Malcolm Butler. Some have labeled it the worst play call in NFL history. Most felt Carroll should have run Marshawn Lynch up the middle. Frankly, I don’t think passing in that situation was such a bad idea, but I’d have preferred Carroll give Wilson a run-pass option to the outside, a play that would have let Wilson easily throw the ball away if nobody was open and there was no running lane. Regardless of what one thinks of Carroll’s decision, though, there’s no question it began what has turned out to be a trying 2015 for him and his team.

4. DUKE-MIAMI GAME OFFICIALS ... I don’t know why anybody should be critical of
referee Jerry Magallanes and his crew. After all, t
hey only blew FOUR calls during the Hurricanes’ last-second, 8-lateral desperation play – a play that resulted in a ridiculous Miami touchdown that cost Duke the game. Miami finished 8-4 to Duke’s 7-5 and probably will get to play in a more lucrative bowl game, too. The sitaution was so bad that the ACC actually suspended the crew for two weeks -- and conferences HATE acknowledging officiating errors. While this boo-boo was especially amazing because the officials didn’t correctly use a replay system that was put in place to avoid just this kind of outcome, it was merely this season’s most egregious screw-up by college and pro football refs. Pass interference especially seems like just a “best guess” for these clowns. 

3.  LARRY BROWN & SMU ADMINISTRATION ... I understand the allure of Brown, who wins wherever he coaches. But he should stick to the pros, where he doesn’t have to cheat to win. Brown’s SMU hoops team was barred from the postseason and hit with other major sanctions after Brown was found guilty of academic fraud and unethical conduct. Brown, whose Hall of Fame career includes a long history of NBA success, has coached at three universities. All three – Kansas, UCLA and SMU – ended up getting punished for major violations under Brown. SMU, the only school ever to be hit with the “death penalty” for football violations a couple decades back, should have known better. But I guess Brown is just too darn irresistible.

2. CHASE UTLEY ... The dirty Dodger’s sinful slide in the NLCS ended the season of Mets SS Ruben Tejada. It was gratifying that the incident ended up fueling the passion that soon helped the Mets end the Dodgers’ season. Utley used to be a great player, but he has been declining for years -- and apparently this kind of douchebaggery is all he has left. Sorry, but those who argue it was just a guy “playing hard” are turkeys, too.

And now, for the 2015 Turkey of the Year, it's nice to return the "honor" to its Chicago roots ...


After missing two-thirds of his team's games over the previous four seasons, what was the major topic the Bulls star wanted to discuss as the team opened training camp this year? His health? His excitement about getting back with his teammates? His desire to return to MVP form and lead the Bulls to the NBA title? Not quite. 

"This whole summer I had tunnel vision. My mindset was I was working out every day and spending as much time as possible with my son, making sure my family is financially stable. As far as you see all the money they're passing out in this league -- just telling the truth -- and knowing my day will be coming up soon. It's not for me. It's for P.J. and his future. So that's what I'm thinking about right now." 

It's important to note that Rose had been asked a question about an entirely different subject. Unsolicited, he brought up being a free agent -- something that's still two years away for him.

A reporter asked a follow-up question just to make sure that really was Rose’s main focus.

“Yeah … I’m preparing for it.” 

Hey Derrick, you know what really will help you make even more money than the $100 million-plus your current contract is paying you? 

How about playing most of your team’s games and, you know, actually accomplishing something in the postseason?!?!