Friday, January 30, 2009

Time to Man Up?

"I speak with Manny every three days and he tells me, `Man, no one wants to sign me,' Pujols said Thursday during a news conference. "I'm not an agent or general manager, but I can't understand how Manny has not signed.''

There are a few reasons that no team has reached a deal with free agent Manny Ramirez:
  1. The Economy. Across the board, teams are spending less. Aside from the cream of the crop, players that would have received 3, 4 or 5 year deals in previous off-seasons are getting 1 or 2 year deals. Some, like Manny, are still waiting.
  2. Manny will be 37 next year. Signing him to the minimum 4-year deal that his agent, Scott Boras, is demanding potentially limits his suitors to those in the Junior Circuit, where they are cursed with the impurity of the Designated Hitter.
  3. Attitude. He's flaky. He's selfish. He plays when he wants to play. It's no secret that Manny pretty much faked injuries midway through the season, forcing Boston to trade him, which voided the 2 remaining option years on his contract and allowed he and Boras to seek a new multi-year deal.
There's a few reasons the Cardinals themselves shouldn't sign Manny:
  1. No Room. The Cardinals already have a glut of Outfielders. Super-prospect CF Colby Rasmus joins an already crowded group of Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick, Skip Schumaker and Chris Duncan.
  2. Bigger Needs. Even if the Cards could make some room in the OF via trades, most would argue that starting pitching and relief pitching are better holes to fill than another bat in the lineup.
  3. $$$$. At the beginning of the off-season, the Dodgers didn't bite on Boras' demands for a 5 or even 6 year deal. They offered 2 years, $45 million. Apparently Boras has yet to even dignify that with a response. Pujols posits that Manny may give the Cards a home team discount. I don't buy it. If the Cards were to show interest in Manny, Boras would most certainly use that as leverage to get offers from the Dodgers (or as rumored, the Giants) raised. If there's one thing we've learned about Scott Boras, he doesn't give discounts.

There's a couple reasons the Cards should sign Manny.
  1. Manny Still Rakes. He's probably one of the top 3 hitters in the last 12 years, and even at 36, after he was traded to the Dodgers he put up a .396/.489/.743 line in 222 PA. He has a career line of .314/.411/.593 (for comparison's sake, the 29(?) year old Pujols' career line is .334/.425/.624 ....... yeah... he's still really good..... ).
  2. This is the first time that I can remember Pujols suggesting the Cards go after a specific player. I've often wondered how the Cards' purse strings may affect their ability to sign the slugger when he becomes a FA before the 2012 season. Will he become frustrated if Cardinal ownership is content to spend just enough to keep the fans coming but not enough to be a real contender? I'm not suggesting that the musings of a superstar should dictate team policy; I just think it would be a shame for Pujols to sour on the team when it's pretty obvious that Cardinal ownership could afford to expand payroll.

So really, the question isn't do you think the Cards should the Cardinals sign Manny Ramirez, it's how much should the Cards spend on Manny? I'm not asking because I think they should; rather I want to know what you think Manny is worth to the Cards? You're the GM, what do you think?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

News Nits

"All the news that's fit to reprint."

Barack Hussein Obama, the icon, became Mr. President this passed week, officially, at noon on Tuesday, January 20th. That little technicality became worth noting after the oath of office turned into a dropped fly ball between two highly paid outfielders. Although strictly speaking unnecessary, the oath was administered again later that night "out of an abundance of caution."

[Editor's note: In celebration of our nation getting a new President, my girlfriend and I enjoyed an "Obama Roll" tonight at our favorite sushi restaurant in Minneapolis: Wasabi. We passed on the "Inauguration Roll", feeling it might come out slightly messy.]

In a final act as President, George W. Bush commuted the sentence of two border patrol guards -- Ignacio Ramos and Jorge Compean -- who were convicted of shooting a Mexican drug dealer in the trasero, as he fled a van load of weed across the Rio Grande, and then covering up the shooting. Mr. Bush did not pardon the gentlemen, as he reasoned they were convicted in a fair court but did commute their sentence (they already served 2 years time) agreeing it was too harsh.

[Editor's note: Our nation is facing trillion dollar deficits for years to come, and yet we are still so concerned about van loads of weed. Why not decriminalize it like alcohol, regulate it like alcohol, tax it like alcohol, wipe the "War on Drugs" off our books and turn it into a financial positive?]

In less political news, real estate is not the only industry with depressed prices. The printed news press is getting destroyed. In a move that smacks of desperation rather than strategy, the New York Times just handed over a large amount of its stock for a reported $250 million cash infusion from the second richest man in the world, Carlos Slim. Mr. Slim, not a Mexican hip-hop artist, made his fortune in telecom and was briefly the richest man in the world. It is nice to see the free market at work, although it makes me question the legitimacy of the American press when it might soon be controlled by a super rich Mexican.

From around the world, more news is coming in concerning the Congressional computer hacking invasion of 2006. Apparently the ladies and gentlemen who run our Congress do not hire high quality computer guys. Instead, they argue over the importance of invading Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan, by the way, has the world's largest standing army. But maybe they should spend a little more time protecting our nation's secrets from the only legitimate threat to the U.S. in the world right now: China.

From around the solar system, our pals at NASA found a huge chunk of subsurface pure water on Mars. This huge chunk is roughly 100 times the size of the great lakes. Tickets anyone? We'll be water skiing on Mars in no time. Which is good, because 650 global climate change scientists declared in December that the 12,000 year warming period we've been in is over and we are heading into a 100,000 year ice age, as would be consistent with the 450,000 year ice core samples known to science. Maybe we should start working on a Kyoto version for the U.N. to enforce on Mars.

"Very little is known of the Canadian country since it is rarely visited by anyone but the Queen and illiterate sport fishermen." -- P.J. O'Rourke

Thursday, January 22, 2009


History has been made in the United States. The 44th President of the United States of America has been sworn in and has handed a categorical victory to many of those people in our country who may still feel marginalized by things out of their control, like their skin color.

In fact, race and perception go hand and hand to many. The country is indeed in the first few days of a superficial makeover. As many of our citizens sober up and recover from the inaugural hangover, they will awake to find indeed, Barack Obama has wasted no time proving how serious he is about reform. Or is he serious about unifying the country? Can those be done at the same time?

At least the press is keeping a level head. As I watched the swearing in of the new President with about 50 other people on a large screen TV in the business school, I wondered how his utter butchering of the oath of office would be treated by the press. The audience I was with gave it a good-natured laugh. Ah, that's Barack being Barack!

However, I made a bet with myself that John Stewart wouldn't show it or mention it on The Daily Show that night -- what is supposed to be a comic review of news. I was right, but was completely out done by his judgment that it was funny to pick on Dick Cheney for being in a wheelchair, not once but twice. Although no one would mistake John Stewart for anything but a mildly funny schmuck, he does carry some sway in that a huge percentage of people in my demographic literally get their news from his jestering.

Is it unfair to imagine how a similar verbal gaffe from former President Bush would have been handled? Ah, whatever. Everyone is glad to see him go, although there were several comments in Mr. Obama's speech aimed directly at the former president. The classiness of those remarks has been called into question by some as being rare and inappropriate.

Some more about race and media. John Stewart also showed a video clip of a black preacher, Reverend Lowery, saying a "prayer" which turned into more of a scat: "...We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man,..." Stewart conveniently edited out the finale of that rap, "...and when white will embrace what is right." Wait a minute, I thought we had put those racial divides behind us? Is this really change or just a power shift? Obama was shown chuckling. Hmmm.

Let's not forget where Obama comes from. (Actually, that's not entirely clear either since his birth certificate from Hawaii has never been released or verified.) But, his political origins are in Chicago, the cesspool of big city, machine politics. As Joe Biden's wife let slip on Oprah, there are some powerful forces behind the Obama complex who are making sure to keep the radical on a short leash. Obama the Powerful, Obama the Benevolent might just be, Obama the Same-Old-Same-Old. We're all grateful he's not Bush, but what is he? I mean, the idealism that people speak of is certainly believed by the believers, but he's as much a product of a Karl Rove as Bush was. Dick Cheney endorsed his cabinet picks, which makes you wonder if Obama is truly the radical reformer his campaign advertised, because that would make Cheney as equally radical. Hmmmm. Business as usual? Well, not on the surface at least. Guantanamo is closing down. Talk about putting up new wallpaper, the prisoners won't be released, they just won't be held in Guantanamo. Reform.

But back to machine politics. Although Obama's campaign had a lot of grassroots elements to it, never before was there more big money behind a candidate than this election. Obama spent $7.39 per vote, John McCain $5.78 in the most extravagant election of all time. Methinks that $1 billion could have been better spent, but that's the idealist in me.

I found it remarkable that ~60 million people still voted for John McCain. It made me ask the question, how much of a uniter could Barack Obama be if so many people voted against him? How big was his victory anyway? Well, his victory, although decisive, was hardly a landslide. Here's a picture of the country by state for the 2008 election -- hardly a uniting of America. Here's a picture of a landslide election. Does the press call Reagan a "uniter"? In fact, George H.W. Bush gathered more electoral votes than Obama.

Well, those are just stats. There is clearly a different feeling in the air about this President. After eight years of suffering through the George W. Bush years, the nation is ready for something -- anything -- different. We've got that now in Barack Hussein Obama. It remains to be seen if he can tackle our biggest problems effectively, or if he becomes largely ineffectual like Clinton, or if he does a lot of damage like Bush. Time, and not the media, will tell.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

He is part Irish, you know . . .

Had I seen this picture 2 years ago, I would have quit my job and campaigned for this guy.

Full story is here at But in short, he met the Lawn Rangers, a lawn mowing drill team, and held up this plunger, which they use as batons.

They will be part of "Mow-bama's" Inauguration parade today.

God Bless America.

Friday, January 16, 2009

News Nits

"All the news that's fit to reprint."

Lots has been going on in the news this week. A plane crashed into the Hudson river, but all 150 people on board were rescued. A rare nit of bad news turned good. I wonder if anyone used their flotation devices? I thought those things were just a joke. Talk about a bailout, the captain of the plane is already being hailed as a hero. Quite an incredible story.

Where are you right now? I can tell you where I am. I am inside. Just after lunch, here in the Twin Cities, it's finally gotten up to -3. It was -18 when I got into school this morning. These are not wind chill readings, these are temperatures. It has been like this all week, and it's insane. Even the DJ's at MPR's the Current are getting more sarcastic and snarky than normal. My administrative assistant who grew up in Fargo assured me that it's no big deal, -20 is when you start to worry about frostbite in under 10 minutes. Hmmm. Tell Canada they can have their air back. I need to go get some more coffee, be right back, or as the kids these days IM, "brb"...

Speaking of coffee, it appears that moderate amounts of coffee are good for your brizzain. This is excellent news, as I was planning on continuing drinking coffee even if that Canadian swimsuit chick begged me not to. Perhaps if she is really nice, I will not drink more than 3 cups a day. If a hallucination convinces you to stop doing the stuff that's causing you to hallucinate, is that like a paradox? Sounds like Marty McFly and Doc need to explain this to me. But until they do, here are some other good articles about foods you should be eating and ways you can protect your heart
(physically, not emotionally). Also, this device will not only improve your posture, but it will make you look more Swedish.

No matter how many pretty speeches O'Bama gives or how big the stimulus packages talk gets, the economy is still a real thing, and it has bitten off a huge chunk of poisonous food that it is now trying to digest and purge from its system anyway possible. Except no one wants to take the hit in that process. Circuit City is liquidating itself, sorry if that sounds disgusting. The financial sector is also taking additional hits as Bank of America and Citigroup stick their chubby little hands out for more money after posting bigger losses. I'm trying not to inject my personal comment here other than for entertainment's sake, but why do these guys deserve a bailout, but not Circuit City or Detroit? Or you and me?

If things get too bad in the economy, we can always sell whatever we've got left, put on our favorite jumpsuit and move here. Just zoom out one click at a time to get a good sense for where it is. I'm sure they've got DSL there, so your subscription and dependence on The Loop and the Lou would not be interrupted.

But News Nits wouldn't leave you high and dry like that before the weekend. So here's a rare reco from TLATL, if you haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire, go on and treat the lady to a really entertaining movie and story. (Don't worry, it's in English.)

"I don't have an English accent because this is what English sounds like when spoken properly." -- James Carr

[Update: Heard about this new Windows Worm -- known as Conficker, Downaddup, or Kido -- over the weekend and it's now popping up in my RSS feeds. Practice safe computing, America!]

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Put Your Money Where Your Mouse Is

I like poker. I like playing poker with my friends every few months. I like playing online. I like watching poker on TV (you gotta check that one out). I like listening to poker podcasts. I just like poker.

But I'm not a real player. I play with pretend money online, and no more than maybe 3 times a month. The games with my friends are small stakes (as they should be with friends). Truth is, I like the money I have. I don't have one ounce of the disregard for money that a person needs to play for real.

Tom Dwan does. Tom (or "durrrr" as he is known online) is 22. He's been playing poker seriously for about 5 years (mostly online until he was 21). In those five years he's risen to the play in the highest cash games you can find (this usually No-Limit Texas Hold'em or Pot-Limit Omaha with blinds something like $400-$800). Durrrr reportedly won over $6.5 million online in 2008 alone - this despite losing over $700,000 on ONE HAND a couple months ago. He is not as common a name as Brunson, Ivey, Hellmuth or Negreanu, but he sits at their tables.

And apparently, he thinks he has an edge on them.

He recently issued an open challenge, where he will put up $1.5 million against an opponent's $500,000. They will play 50,000 hands online, playing no less than 4 tables at one time. At the end of the 50,000 hands, the winner (whoever is ahead) will get the other player's "entry fee" (if durrrr wins, he gets $500,000, if his opponent wins, he gets durrrr's 1.5 mill), PLUS whatever money he won over the course of the 50,000 hands.

One of your first questions, besides are these people insane, may be "How long does it take to play 50,000 hands?". In a recent conversation between Barry Greenstein and Phil Ivey, Barry guessed that it would be something like 4-5 hours a day for a month. Ivey also noted that he, David Benyamine and Patrick Antonius have all accepted the challenge.


In 1980, Stu Ungar won the first of his 3 WSOP Main Event championships. Upon winning the tournament, he was asked at a press conference what he was going to do with the prize money ($385,000). "Lose it," he muttered under his breath. When asked what he said, he straitened up and lied, "Put it in the bank and give it to my kids - waddaya think?!?"

Like a lot of the things we find entertaining, this type of money could go to much better use than being thrown away on games (like getting Rye, Coovo and I matching TLATL jumpsuits). But I can't help it - it's just fun to watch.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

News Nits

"All the news that's fit to reprint."

Well, the Chameleon-Elect is delivering on his promise of change. We can be thankful for years and years to come of trillion dollar deficits. With next year's projected $1.6 trillion deficit, I think I could do with a little less change and a little more spare change. Mr. Obama's colors seem to be showing a little bit more now. He seems to believe that if the massive federal government is just run by slightly smarter people, it will work really well. That certainly is one form of audacity.

Since when is it the federal government's job to create jobs? Speaking of Jobs, Steve has seen better days. This guy's health is causing the stock market to fluctuate. Maybe he should find some distance from Apple like Bill Gates did from Microsoft.

What else is in the news? Oh yeah, there appears to be a little disagreement in Israel over some land and some water. Maybe we should get involved. Yellowstone National Park is also apparently at risk. A bunch of little quakes and such are suggesting that maybe or maybe not a giant volcanic eruption may be around the corner.

I did notice that the helmet laws recently instituted in Nigeria have been mostly rejected by the people. Whether it's unfounded fear, lack of money or the fact that most folks don't like being told what to do by strangers, many motorcyclists are apparently resorting to hollowed-out fruit shells to trick the cops.

IL isn't the only state with one U.S. Senator. In a reversal of fortune (as is currently measured by lust for power), Norm Coleman has found the short side of the margin of error. They used to say it's not over until the fat lady sings. Now, it's not over until the lawyers collect their fees. I'd say the people of MN couldn't care less -- over 450,000 voted for a no name Independent just because both Coleman and Franken ran nasty, despicable campaigns. We'll get a schmuck in the Senate either way.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Spin City Reruns

Greetings TLATL nation. I'm back from my four month sabbatical in the Arctic where I continued the ongoing search for my dignity. I tried to grow a mustache to disguise myself, but no luck.

My most recent travels took me to my roots, The Loop, to ring in the new year. Many thanks to loyal reader Austin and his roommate(s) for opening up their apartment to celebrate another new year. Can you believe it? It's 2009. I don't know karate but I know Caaaarazy!.

Every year we gear up for that big moment. The clock is getting ready to strike 12 and the new year is just around the corner. Ok, let's go live to, I mean, let's role that tape of the Apple thing falling. I'm not sure why this year as opposed to all the others I had a sudden resentment towards a tape delayed new years. Particularly because I had an opportunity this summer to go to New York for the first time ever and I came away amazed. It is truly a great city.

But so is Chicago. And so is St. Louis. And on and on. So why are we watching a tape delayed celebration of New York? Certainly Dick Clark and the tradition of Times Square have a lot to do with it. But now it's Seacrest, Carson Daly and Anderson Cooper. Ahh, not so much.

I think it's time for a Central Time Zone celebration. This is not to try to lessen the impact of New York, but an attempt to celebrate a love new year for maybe the first time ever. In the past couple days, I've floated several ideas ideas in conversation and now I'd like to bring them to the blogging universe.

My first instinct was a Vienna hot dog fall into a poppyseed bun the way the apple falls in New York. I'm ready to roll with this idea, however, this might be seen as too Chicago-centric for our Midwestern friends. How about a piece of pizza finding its way to someone's mouth? Everyone likes pizza right? This would mix Chicago tradition with the Midwest's love of all things pizza. It could be a horizontal progress as opposed to the Apple's vertical. And if the budget isn't sufficient to be in lights atop some building, we'll just order Lou Malnati's and film the slice going into my mouth.

But I think where New York might have us is their ability to pack Times Square with people despite frigid temperatures. Are there enough lunatics in Chicago to do this? I know there are in New York. Our only chance may be to tell Cub fans that they're having a special New Years eve game at 11pm. I'm not sure why they'd come but they will. They (we) always have and always will.

My proposal, stated here on the Loop and the Lou, January 5th, 2009, is too have a New Year's celebration in Chicago next year, with some sort of live televised countdown to take the place of the Apple. Roller, make it happen.