Monday, October 29, 2012

Today's High 5: Frisco is Ex-Cubbie heaven!

5. Mike Fontenot and Mark DeRosa won World Series rings with the 2010 San Francisco Giants. Two years later, Ryan Theriot opened the 10th inning with a single and scored the championship-winning run.

If I'm Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney or any other Cubbie infielder, I want to be traded to the Giants pronto!

4. Jets players and coaches were ticked off that the home crowd was chanting for Tim Tebow to replace godawful Mark Sanchez during Sunday's lopsided loss to the Dolphins.

This is the price any team -- especially a New York team -- pays for acquiring the most popular backup quarterback in recent football history.

Never mind that Tebow has trouble completing routine passes. The circus is just beginning.

3. Three cheers for my Carolina Panthers, the best darn 1-6 team in football!

2. CEOs from more than 80 major U.S. corporations endorse raising taxes and reducing spending as part of a balanced deficit-reduction plan. In other words, they support the Simpson-Bowles commission's recommendation. (And psssst ... they ain't liberals!)

That support sets them apart from Barack Obama, who appointed the commission and then promptly rejected its findings. And it also sets them apart from Mitt Romney, who instead favors cutting taxes by trillions of dollars without detailing how our debt-crushed nation will pay for those cuts.

Is it too late to get a candidate do-over?

1. Just saw this headline: "Hurricane Sandy wreaks havoc on presidential race."

As somebody with two brothers living in Philly and lots of friends and relatives residing in the D.C.-to-Boston corridor, the absolute least of my concerns is how the storm will affect the campaign schedules of Obama and Romney.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Romney takes bayonet to his head, but will it matter? Also: The World Series

I kept waiting for Mitt Romney to lower the boom about the Obama Administration's seemingly clueless handling of the Benghazi terrorist attacks.

I kept waiting for Barack Obama to blast his opponent for using more than a dozen of Dubya's foreign policy advisers.

I kept waiting for the president to remind voters that Romney was caught on tape telling his rich constituents that it's not even worth trying for peace in the Middle East.

I'm still waiting.

The third and final debate has come and gone -- mercifully, many will say -- and there were few things voters could sink their teeth into.

In general, Romney was passive. Not as passive as Obama in Debate I, but mostly unwilling to engage for whatever reason. He pretty much let Obama get away with portraying him as lacking knowledge and experience in foreign-policy matters. When Obama tore into him for investing in companies that do business with China even as Romney was talking tough against China, Romney didn't deny the charge. Instead, he tried to portray the president as a bully who was "attacking" him. Romney also kept talking about all the ways he agreed with Obama on foreign policy.

Quite often, the subject turned back to the U.S. economy. Surprisingly, it was Obama who mentioned that first -- a strategic mistake that let Romney recite all the familiar unemployment, welfare and poverty numbers that do Obama no favors.

My lovely and observant wife, Roberta, called my attention to the sweat over Romney's upper lip later in the debate. She was right ... and it got worse as Obama nailed Romney on his willingness to abandon the U.S. automotive industry.

As for truly memorable moments, there was exactly one ... and it belonged to Obama: He said the out-of-touch Romney's insistence on increasing the deficit by buying ships the Navy no longer needs in the 21st century was akin to spending taxpayer money on "horses and bayonets." 

By my score, it was a solid win for the president. Still, most Americans care little about foreign affairs that don't involve British royalty.

Moreover, Obama's two debate victories -- even when coupled with Joe Biden's trashing of Paul Ryan in the VP debate -- probably didn't undo the damage done to the president in his pathetic performance in Debate I.

Obama probably could have clinched the election by performing as well in I as he did in II and III. Instead, it's a neck-and-neck race that will be decided by a few factory workers in Ohio, a handful of geezers in Florida and a carpool of soccer moms in Virginia.

Democracy at its finest.


Meanwhile, in sports ...

How 'bout the Giants dismantling the Cardinals in Games 5, 6 and 7 to set up what figures to be a Pitching Extravaganza of a World Series against the Tigers?

The Giants have homefield advantage because Melky Cabrera led the NL to victory in the All-Star Game. Weeks later, Cabrera was suspended for being a juicer.

So Bud Selig's folly -- making the All-Star exhibition "matter" -- looks even more ridiculous than ever.

Prediction: Tigers in 5, with Justin Verlander winning Games 1 and 5.

In other words, given my recent track record, bet the house on the Giants.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Panthers bite ... but it's sunny and 72!

This was supposed to be a big year for the NFL team in my adopted hometown, Charlotte. The Panthers improved from dregs of the league in 2010 to 6-10 last season, and looked especially good down the stretch. With young QB stud Cam Newton, a supposed genius of an offensive coordinator named Rob Chudzinski, a star receiver in Steve Smith and plenty of good (or at least decent) role players, 10 wins and a playoff berth seemed likely.

A Charlotte newspaper columnist who picked the Panthers to go 8-8 was ripped for being too negative. One of the team's best players, center Ryan Kalil, took out a full-page newspaper advertisement to all but guarantee the team would win the Super Bowl.

As Rick Perry would say ...


Or as Emily Litella (Google her, kids) would say:

Never mind.

The Panthers are a mess. They are 1-5. They have found painful, last-minute ways to lose their last three games. Their young QB stud and genius offensive coordinator have been considerably less studly and geniusly this season. In each of the aforementioned three losses, they failed to pick up 1 yard at a key juncture, pretty amazing in that they have the best running QB in the league, two tailbacks with eight-figure contracts and a guy who was the most sought-after fullback on the free-agent market.

And as if all that isn't bad enough, Kalil is injured and done for the season.

On a positive note, today was another in a long string of absolutely beautiful autumn days in North Carolina, and this week is supposed to be filled with sunny, 70-something weather.

Take that, Chicago!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sandbagging Obama finally scores some birdies

In golf, the term is "sandbagging."

That's what Barack Obama must have been doing in the first debate. I mean, there's no way he could have been that bad unless he was trying to be that bad, right?

So yeah, that's the ticket. He sandbagged. He carded double-bogeys, couldn't get out of bunkers, chunked chips and got a terrible case of the shanks. He got Mitt Romney overconfident, gave the Republicans hope and lowered expectations on himself.

Then, just when people were starting to bet on the other guy, though, President Obama showed up for Mitt vs. Barack II and started raining birdies.

Nice strategy, chief!

This time, Obama wouldn't let Romney get away with blatant lies. Obama got the last, best word on oil production, on the auto bailout, on tax policy and on Libya. Not that politicians even seem to care anymore, but the fact-checkers generally confirmed that Romney had less truthiness (how's that for a word?) than Obama.

And the president brilliantly used his closing statement to condemn Romney for his infamous 47 percent of the country is not worthy comments, thereby preventing Romney from defending himself. The challenger didn't have the chance to blame everybody else for the true feelings he had shared with his audience of gazillionaires.

One final birdie in the heart of the cup for the sandbagger.

Had this Jack Nicklaus Obama showed up for the first debate -- instead of Judge Smails Obama -- the election already would be over. But he didn't and it isn't.

The temptation now is to say that the debate score is 1-1. Or maybe that the Obama ticket is even slightly ahead when factoring in Joe Biden's takedown of Paul Ryan in the VP debate. That, however, is not the case.

Obama's victory last night was not nearly as lopsided as Romney's was last time. Plus, by mopping the floor with the president in the first debate, Romney was able to get out from under having called nearly half the country victims, leeches and losers.

Romney completely stole the momentum during No. 1. Obama merely stemmed the tide in No. 2, showing America he was willing to fight.

I'm already looking forward to No. 3. It's been pretty darn good television theater.


In much more important news, Blue Thunder, our geezer-league softball team, reached a new high last night. We won 30-5 in a game that was even more decisive than the score might suggest.

In an effort to prevent runaways, the league has a rule that caps scoring in any one inning at 5 runs.  Well, we had six offensive innings last night. And in each of those innings, we scored 5 runs. Our opponent wasn't very good and gave us extra chances, but the fact is that we were smacking line drive after line drive after line drive.

Our leadoff guy, Wheels, went 5-for-5 with four singles and a double -- every time delivering a clean hit, as if he were some kind of line-drive machine. Several players had four hits. I went 3-for-3 with a walk, including my first triple of the season.

All of this happened after one of our core players, our pitcher Pat, got bloodied in the first inning when hit in the face by a hard shot. Pat had to go to the hospital to get a few stitches, but the good news is that he is fine and should be back next week -- when we'll be trying to wrap up a perfect 9-0 regular season!


If you are going to ever read one of my personal finance articles at the Seeking Alpha web site, make it  my most recent entry about Roth IRAs. Everybody who can have a Roth should have one, and I give the hows and whys in this article.

Plus, I get paid per page-view. So hey, everybody who clicks can help me fund my own Roth!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A-Rod sits, Ibanez hits, and sports remains the best reality TV

Impressed with Joe Girardi, who had the guts to pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez.

Impressed with A-Rod, who at least outwardly cheered on his teammate.

And really, really, really impressed with Raul Ibanez, who took A-Rod's place, delivered the game-tying homer in the ninth and followed with the winning shot in the 12th as the Yankees beat the Orioles to take control of their AL playoff series.

It couldn't have been an easy decision for Girardi, who had stuck by the struggling A-Rod through thin and thinner.

Despite some of the most incredible stats in history, Rodriguez probably isn't going to be a Hall of Famer because the majority of voters simply won't check the box next to the name of any juicer. Already fighting a reputation as a choker, it had to be tough to be lifted for a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning of a playoff game. A-Rod no doubt sees himself as an all-time great, but let me tell you ... nobody ever pinch-hit for DiMaggio, Gehrig, Ruth or Mantle in a postseason game.

Oh well, he'll have to make do with his $275 million consolation prize.

As for Ibanez ... he sure made Girardi look like a genius, didn't he? Those were the most impressive hits for an over-the-hill bald guy since, well, since my last softball game.

Actually, I wasn't much of a hitting stud in Tuesday's game. But I didn't embarrass myself much as the mighty Blue Thunder won again.

We're now 7-0, everybody contributes every game, we like each other and it's great fun.

The only downer: I failed to accomplish my main goal of getting through the entire season without any medical issues. Going from first to third on a teammate's hit, I tweaked my right hamstring. Though I stayed in the game, I was hobbled. 

But don't worry, everybody. Seriously, DO NOT WORRY. I mean it. Stop worrying, will ya?

A few Advil later, I'm doing much better. I even spent about an hour at the driving range today and didn't card a single bogey.


For those interested in personal finance or my writing -- in other words, for those who are really bored -- check out my latest article at Seeking Alpha: READ IT.

I get dough for each page view, so help me raise money to aid Jewish nuns.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

One of these years, I'll wisen up and stop picking against the Cardinals! (And stop picking the Braves, period.)

Both of my wonderful wild-card predictions were wonderfully wrong. The Orioles are even more mystifying than the Cards ... but we do have to thank them for guaranteeing we won't have to watch the Rangers lose the World Series again. As for the Rangers, what an epic fold down the stretch. In order, they frittered away the AL's best overall record, the West lead and their one playoff game.

At least I'm up in both division series. The Tigers, however, simply had to win. They lose Game 1 at home with Justin Verlander on the mound and they're toast. They have to consider it a positive sign to have won despite getting zip from Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

The Reds were more impressive, overcoming the early departure of Johnny Cueto to win in San Fran. Revenge of Dusty!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

With Albert Pujols pressing and failing early on, the zillion-dollar Angels were going nowhere. Then they called up Mike Trout and -- WOW! His hitting and running and energy almost carried the Angels into the playoffs.

The fact that he's a superb fielder at a difficult positon (CF) also should count for something in the AL MVP voting. His only real competition, Miguel Cabrera, is pretty much a hack at 3B for the Tigers.

But ...

Come on.

Cabrera won the freakin' Triple Crown, something that only 14 other players in the history of baseball have done. He led his league in batting and home runs and RBIs while striking out fewer than 100 times, which in today's baseball is almost miraculous. He hit all those HRs despite playing in one of the majors' most pitcher-friendly ballparks; Prince Fielder, as powerful as he is, managed only 18 HRs at Comerica Park. Think about that.

Oh, and unlike Trout's Angels, Cabrera's Tigers won their division, rallying from a 3-game deficit with two weeks to go.

So while some of the sabermetricians might be rattling their sabres on Trout's behalf, bringing up statistics both great and silly, I don't know how any voter can choose any guy who didn't become the first Triple Crown winner in nearly half a century.

Meanwhile, in the NL ...

There seem to be more guys who could make a legitimate MVP claim.

Ryan Braun, the controversial winner over L.A.'s Matt Kemp last year, actually had better stats for the Brewers this season. And you know what? He won't (and shouldn't) be MVP for the same reason Kemp wasn't (and shouldn't have been) last year. Even with their late-season rally, the Brewers were never really serious contenders, just as Kemp's Dodgers didn't contend in 2011. That means something.

Andrew McCutchen had a breakout season for the Pirates, but he wasn't great in September as Pittsburgh limped home to a 20th straight losing campaign.

For me, it comes down to one of two catchers, San Fran's Buster Posey or St. Louie's Yadier Molina.

Should Posey get the award, good for him, he's very worthy. He hit for power, drove in 100+ runs and carried the Giants offensively to the NL West title after Melky Cabrera got suspended for juicing.

Having said that, I'd vote for Molina. The best defensive catcher since Pudge Rodriguez's heyday -- and nobody else is really even in the picture, folks -- how many runs does he save over the course of a season? I'd guess dozens. He also guided an injury-filled pitching staff to a season that led to a playoff berth. And now he can really hit, as his .315 - 22 - 76 line demonstrates.

Yes, Posey has better offensive numbers across the board. As I said, he'd be a great choice. I fully admit my vote would be kind of a Career Achievement Award.


AL Cy Young: David Price, Rays. The whole package.

NL Cy Young: R.A. Dickey, Mets. Back to back 1-hitters part of an amazing, knuckleballing story.

AL Rookie: Mike Trout, Angels. Duh!

NL Rookie: Todd Frazier, Reds. More RBIs, higher OPS than Bryce Harper.

AL Manager: Bob Melvin, A's. With all due respect to Buck Showalter, at least I could have named three Baltimore players before the season began.

NL Manager: Davey Johnson, Nationals. Young team arrived at least a year earlier than most expected.

Special Award For Handling Young Pitcher Coming Off Tommy John Surgery: Atlanta Braves. Because they let Kris Medlen spend the first half of the season in the bullpen, the Braves are going to have their young ace (10-1, 1.57 ERA) available for the playoffs. The Nationals, meanwhile, burned out Stephen Strasburg, and go into the postseason without their stud.

Special Commissioner's Award For Keeping Lots Of Baseball Towns Excited All Season: Bud Selig. Yes, the commissioner's award goes to the Commish himself for the excitement that the second wild-card team brought. It also made winning a division title hugely important. I admit I was skeptical at first, but if I'm going to bash him when he does something silly, gotta give him credit for a great idea.


AL Wild Card

Rangers over Orioles. Purely a choice of Yu Darvish over Joe Saunders. Joe Saunders? Really, Buck?

NL Wild Card

Braves over Cardinals. Going with Medlen in great matchup vs. Kyle Lohse. Call it payback for the way last year's regular season ended.

AL Divisional

Yankees over Rangers. Should be a slugfest, with the Yankees having the final slug thanks to homefield advantage.

Tigers over A's. Not saying I don't believe in the A's, but I don't believe in Justin Verlander letting the Tigers lose to the A's.

NL Divisional

Reds over Giants. I at first wrote Giants over Reds. That's how close I think this series will be. Reds have edge in offense and bullpen, and I think that will be enough.

Braves over Nationals. Sure would be nice to have one more arm, Nats. Chipper isn't ready for career to end.

AL Championship

Yankees over Tigers. Because Verlander can't pitch 3 times and the Yankees have a much more balanced lineup.

NL Championship

Reds over Braves. One more crack at the title for Dusty Baker.


Yankees over Reds. It's not 1976 anymore, and the Reds don't have Johnny Bench. But Yankee fans shouldn't get too excited because I can't remember the last time I got the World Series winner right!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Romney 1, Obama 0

Insomuch as presidential debates have winners and losers, the challenger prevailed in Mitt vs. Barack I.

I kept waiting for Barack Obama to throw Mitt Romney's words about the 47 percent right back in Mitt's face. I kept waiting for the president to remind Romney that his own party-mates, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, ripped Mitt for being a "vulture capitalist" during his time at Bain Capital. I kept waiting for Obama to remind Romney of the many stances he changed in kowtowing to the far right, signs that Mitt isn't his own man but a puppet of the extreme GOP fringe.

But no.

A subdued Obama seemed content to defend his own record and take mostly small pokes at Romney's  policies (or lack thereof). Incredibly, in a 90-minute debate about the U.S. economy, Bain never was mentioned. Romney sure was smart to not bring it up.

It was Romney who made the best points of the night, wondering why the president used so much political capital on Obamacare when jobs clearly should have been the main focus in the first two years in office. After Obama called for more teachers to be hired, it was Romney who very cleverly said that Obama could have hired 2 million more teachers with the money he used on green energy projects, many of which failed. Romney simply appeared sharper.

Immediately after the debate, I told my wife Roberta that it was as if it had been the first quarter of a football game and Obama wanted to save the best part of his game-plan for later.

After thinking about it a little more, though, Obama actually reminded me of a football coach who thought his lead was so safe that he decided to play prevent defense.

As most fans know, however, a coach who plays prevent defense often prevents his team from winning.

If I saw all of that, I'm guessing that most media mopes did. And that will be reflected in the polls, where Romney no doubt will get a bump, perhaps even a significant one.

Two new articles and one old winner

Are you better off than you were four years ago? Roberta and I are, and I tell why in my latest article for the investing Web site, Seeking Alpha. I guess it struck a nerve with lots of people; as of this moment, it has received more than 200 comments. READ IT!

In a far less provocative piece, here is a feature story I wrote for the American Heart Association site: READ IT!

And in totally unrelated news ...

Another big win for Blue Thunder, our old dude's softball team. We beat one of the better teams in our 45-and-over league and did so with authority: 25-9.

We are 6-0 and just thumping the ball. Even yours truly, who has had a few nice games in a row after snapping out of a month-long slump.

We're playing so well that some of my teammates are worried about overconfidence. In the realm of worries, that's my favorite one to have!