Here’s my predictions for the 2019 Phillies:
Finish- NL East 2nd, first Wild Card, NL Champs
All-Stars- Aaron Nola, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura, Rhys Hoskins
Home Run Leader- Rhys Hoskins 42
Hits Leader- Jean Segura 212
OPS Leader- Bryce Harper .990
Runs Leader- Segura 118
Steals Leader- Odubel Herrera 27
RBI Leader- Hoskins 118
Wins Leader- Aaron Nola 17
ERA Leader- Nola 2.25
Strikeout Leader- Nick Pivetta 215
Innings Leader- Jake Arrieta 208
Saves Leader- Seranthony Dominguez 38
WAR Leader- J.T. Realmuto 6.5
It’s Opening Day! Well, technically the Seattle Mariners are already up a couple games on the Oakland A’s from last week’s Tokyo games, but for the rest of the league, today’s games mark the beginning. A few things stand out to me on this Opening Day.
- Not a single player on an active roster today was playing Major League Baseball in the 20th Century. This means that this season is the first season in which the “steroid era” is officially the past.
- Toronto Blue Jays Rule 5 pick Elvis Luciano will become the first player born in the year 2000. Fernando Tatis Jr. made the Padres and is all of 20. Obligatory mention of Acuna and Soto here. Youth is here around baseball.
- Bryce Harper’s era in Philadelphia begins today. So does J.T. Realmuto’s, Jean Segura’s, Andrew McCutchen’s, and David Robertson’s. Aaron Nola begins his four year extension. Rhys Hoskins moves back to first base. In short, after their “super team” off-season, the Phillies have their best team since 2011, and are back to contention.
- Despite the crazy money that was thrown around this off-season, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel don’t have teams yet. Keuchel who pitched game one of the 2017 World Series, and Kimbrel who was the closer for the 2018 World Series Champions. In a purely baseball world, both could improve literally any roster. But this is a business. We’re seeing that play out here.
- Excitement in San Diego! Manny Machado is their’s. Fernando Tatis Jr. is there. They still have the top minor league system in the game.
Despite the madness of the off-season, what changed in the American League? On paper, Boston and Houston are the best two teams in baseball, still. The New York Yankees line-up and the Cleveland Indians rotation are the best two challenges to those two. Oakland and Tampa Bay have two of the best low-budget squads that one can put together. Those six teams are likely to be the six teams to watch. The Angels could be relevant, and the Twins and White Sox can hope their young talent clicks, but all three are long shots. In Baltimore, Kansas City, Texas, Toronto, Detroit, and Seattle, it’s a rebuilding year at best.
The National League on the other hand is looking pretty wide open. The Dodgers get to enter as favorites, but had a less than inspiring off-season. Watch for the Rockies to give the Dodgers fits. The National League East is looking like a four wide race between Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia, and New York. The National League Central is a very compelling race that figures to feature the defending champion Brewers, the recent kingpin Cubs, the heavily improved Cardinals and Reds, and last year’s surprising young Pirates (yes, I’m giving every team in that division a shot). You can argue that every NL city has at least some reason for optimism today, which is rare.
So with that in mind, my predictions…
- Boston Red Sox 101-61*
- New York Yankees 97-65*
- Tampa Bay Rays 94-68*
- Toronto Blue Jays 70-92
- Baltimore Orioles 61-101
- Cleveland Indians 86-76*
- Chicago White Sox 76-86
- Minnesota Twins 74-88
- Detroit Tigers 64-98
- Kansas City Royals 60-102
- Houston Astros 100-62*
- Oakland A’s 88-74
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 82-80
- Texas Rangers 72-90
- Seattle Mariners 68-94
- Washington Nationals 94-68*
- Philadelphia Phillies 92-70*
- Atlanta Braves 88-74
- New York Mets 82-80
- Miami Marlins 60-102
- Milwaukee Brewers 92-70*
- St. Louis Cardinals 90-72
- Chicago Cubs 85-77
- Cincinnati Reds 78-84
- Pittsburgh Pirates 76-86
- Colorado Rockies 91-71*
- Los Angeles Dodgers 90-72*
- San Diego Padres 74-88
- San Francisco Giants 68-94
- Arizona Diamondbacks 64-98
Dodgers over the Cardinals in a one game playoff.
AL Wild Card- Yankees over the Rays
NL Wild Card- Phillies over the Dodgers
ALDS- Yankees over the Red Sox 3-2, Astros over the Indians 3-2
NLDS- Phillies over the Nationals 3-1, Brewers over the Rockies 3-2
ALCS- Astros over the Yankees 4-2
NLCS- Phillies over the Brewers 4-3
WORLD SERIES- Astros over the Phillies 4-2
AL MVP- Aaron Judge
NL MVP- Nolan Arrenado
AL Cy Young- Chris Sale
NL Cy Young- Max Scherzer
AL Rookie of the Year- Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
NL Rookie of the Year- Fernando Tatis Jr.
AL Manager of the Year- Aaron Boone
NL Manager of the Year- Dave Martinez
Donald Trump and his campaign will not be charged with conspiracy to collude with Russia to interfere in our 2016 Election. While the Mueller report makes no final recommendation on charging Trump with obstructing justice, Attorney General Barr will not charge him. Mueller and the Department of Justice have found that Russia did interfere in our election.
Those are the official legal findings as the Mueller investigation ends.
In pure legal terms, Mueller does not believe there was a legal conspiracy between Trump or his campaign, defined as a two-sided agreement, to interfere in our last election. He is not saying Russia didn’t interfere at all. He is rather saying the Trump campaign and candidate weren’t a part of that interference. This may seem odd, since Don Jr. met with Russians about Hillary dirt, and Paul Manafort shared polling data with Russians. Mueller seems to be saying neither had any actual part in the Russian interference though. Perhaps because they were inept, or perhaps because Russia never wanted their help, but they seem to be but a footnote in what he alleges happened.
There is the question of obstruction, which remains more murky and incomplete than it may seem right now. Mueller did not charge Donald Trump or exonerate him on this question, in part because Trump used legitimate Presidential powers to seemingly stonewall the investigation, as well as vague and not-so-vague attacks to intimidate witnesses. With the question left to Barr, who is both a believer in executive power and an appointee of the President. He was never going to charge him, if left with an open question. That’s not the end of the story though.
I tend to believe in and accept Bob Mueller’s findings. With that said, there are still some important questions. Why did Trump associates keep lying about Russia? Did Russian interference determine the outcome in 2016? Did finding out about Russian interference later change Trump’s behavior or policies towards Russia? These aren’t all Mueller’s questions to answer, but they still remain today.
A lot of people on the left seem despondent, and even willing to engage in crazy conspiracy theories over this. It’s important to understand that those conspiracy theories aren’t grounded in any reality. After indicting 37 people, Bob Mueller is certainly not going to cover for anyone. Rod Rosenstein put him in place and supervised him, and doesn’t seem to be a figure who would cover for the Administration. While there are questions about Attorney General Barr, it’s worth noting the obvious here- Congress can subpoena all of these men. Mueller can talk about his report. Barr won’t be afforded cover to lie to Congress. Neither would Rosenstein. The room for anybody to be lying right now is non-existent. The potential exposure is too great.
Which all leads back to where this began- Mueller was never going to indict Trump, nor would Trump’s Department of Justice allow it. The only body with legal oversight of the President’s activities is the Congress. The House Judiciary Committee should call all of these men in to testify about their findings. Mueller can tell us what he found in the first person. I suspect the real question here will be on the judgment of Mueller to not recommend either way on obstruction of justice, and of Barr to say he will not charge the President for it. If the House reaches a different conclusion, after hearing the evidence, then they should act. Even if crimes were found, that committee would have been charged with deciding this then.
Like most people in December of 2016, I wasn’t happy Donald Trump was going to be President, and hoped somehow it wouldn’t happen. Of course, a month later he was President, and over time I’ve come to realize that was pretty much the only outcome that could happen. Sure, he’s awful in every way, but he was declared the winner under the system of elections that we have in our country. As painful as it was, and for as much damage as Trump will probably do, the best hope for maintaining any legitimacy in our democracy is a resounding 2020 defeat that sends Donald Trump home to Trump Tower, or Mar-a-Lago, or wherever the hell he wants to call home. Rooting for some other outcome is essentially hoping to delegitimize our process in the eyes of some group of voters, which never goes away easily. What’s to stop Trump voters from seeking the same outcome for a future Democratic President over whatever crazy grievances they have?
Let’s be clear here, I am not categorically against impeachment, provided Robert Mueller or another prosecutor accuses Trump of a crime, nor do I disagree with the sentiment of wanting Trump gone. I simply believe we shouldn’t give the appearance of simply wanting to overturn election results that we don’t like. Removing an elected leader because you don’t like them should be the job of elections, in so much as possible. Now to be clear, there is some moral hazard in this position on Trump- our Republican friends spent eight years trying to de-legitimize President Obama as a Kenyan-born “Muslim,” and the last two years ignoring Donald Trump’s failings, which is also behavior that threatens to de-legitimize our democracy. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, and all other attempts to game our electoral system also de-legitimize our democracy. So we’re not dealing with rational, adult actors across the table of American politics from us. If we match their behavior though, the sad truth is that they’ll only go lower, and we’ll continue to chase. At some point, the hellscape we’ll create won’t even be worth saving.
I get that some people don’t care, and I get it- who wants to be the one bringing a knife to a gun fight? This is not purely an American problem, it’s becoming a problem across Western democracies. In the United Kingdom, anti-Brexit forces in Parliament seem fine with no Brexit deal to leave the EU, calling for either a new vote or to just let the carnage hurt every piece of society, if they can’t have their way. Leftists in France are calling for the resignation of popularly elected President Macron, and the implementation of their policy platform- even though the French-left’s candidate lost to Macron in 2017. Right-wing Americans want to send American forces into Venezuela to remove the winner of their last election, and left-wing Americans want us to ostracize Brazil’s new President and his right-wing extremism. Essentially, democracy is only cool if it yields the results we want, otherwise we need to remove the winner.
It is worth noting that many of these elections had irregularities and maybe even outright interference that casts doubt on the outcome. That is a serious problem. If it can be absolutely proven that an election was stolen (as seems clear in NC-09’s Congressional race), an election like that should not be recognized. Short of that, we should make it our mission to insure the fairness of future elections. Invest in ballot security. Break down barriers to citizens voting. Insure that our elections are free and fair, and that all votes count. Trying to overturn elections in the absence of absolute and indisputable proof will only insure Russia’s election of making Americans, and the west in general, doubt our electoral systems. We’d be much better off campaigning in the next election on safeguarding our electoral system for everyone. Basically, I stand with Speaker Pelosi on how we should move forward.
You win some, you lose some. If we dispute every election we don’t win, and try to overturn all of those results, we will do as much to damage the strength of our democracies as anything Vladimir Putin could ever try to do.
Mike Trout did a smart thing yesterday- he signed a ten year contract extension that will guarantee him $426.5 million over the next twelve years. While I certainly wanted him to reach free agency and come home to Philadelphia, I cannot make a economic argument that opposes taking $426.5 million in guaranteed cash for a 27 year-old.
There are plenty of hot takes about who won and lost here. The Phillies, Bryce Harper, and every team that waited this Winter on signing a superstar have been declared losers. The Angels and Trout have been declared winners. I think most of these takes are basically wrong.
I’m not sure how the Phillies “lost” here. They had an off-season for the ages. Yes, they landed a generational talent in Bryce Harper, and universally are considered to have done so at a team friendly price. They landed a multi-time All-Star shortstop in Jean Segura, who gives you 200 hits and a huge improvement at a position where they stunk last year. They got arguably baseball’s best catcher in J.T. Realmuto, and like Segura got him on more than a one year rental. Lost in the shuffle of those guys is former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, who provides a veteran bat and wildly improved left-field defense to upgrade this team. In David Robertson, the Phillies signed one of the most consistent late-inning relievers in baseball over the past decade. They extended Aaron Nola for four years. They did all of this with prospects and payroll to spare. While they won’t get their shot at Trout, I guess that shows you the wisdom in going big with Harper now. They still have payroll space to lock in some of their other core players. They’re in very good shape to contend for the playoffs now.
How did Bryce Harper lose here either? His career earnings will end up in the $400 million range, thanks to his $330 million deal with the Phillies, enough money to live on. He signed with a franchise committed to winning and spending money. He signed a big contract, but one that offers the club room to continue to improve. He’ll play in a hitters ballpark, one that he has succeeded in previously, and one that should help his career numbers. He signed with a team who’s core players are basically in his age range. He signed in one of the biggest markets in the country, which has a lot to offer.
I think Mike Trout did great here, but let’s not pretend his decision is totally beyond reproach. Staying with the Angels basically is co-signing to continue his relative anonymity as a superstar. He’s played three playoff games in his career so far, despite his multiple MVPs and All-Star Games. His club is still saddled with bad contracts, like Albert Pujols’ deal, for a while. Shohei Otani already has major injury issues. They lack pitching. Their minor league system has continuously been bottom tier since Trout’s arrival. How do the Angels improve their system or payroll situation by throwing a record-breaking contract at Trout now? Trout has not managed to outshine the crosstown Dodgers so far in his career, so how does his extension change their status as the “B team” in LA? The deal is long enough for them to work in, and I don’t think it’s an overpay, so I won’t rip the Angels here. It also does give them certainty on keeping their star, and at what cost they’ll pay him, but it doesn’t change who they are either. Signing Harper probably did more for the Phillies long-term trajectory than this extension does on it’s own for the Angels. With all of this said, Trout and the Angels both do win here. There was no trade of Trout that would make baseball or PR sense, and losing him to free agency would have been crippling. And he’s crazy wealthy now.
The real losers here? All the teams that didn’t go out and get themselves a star this off-season. The Phillies, Angels, and Padres should take a victory lap for getting their centerpieces. The Dodgers lost the last two World Series, but did nothing to get over the top here. The Cubs window to win with their current group is growing older. The Yankees didn’t do anything huge in their quest to catch Boston and Houston with their current 100 win roster. You could mostly say the same for Cleveland. The Mets didn’t try to keep up as the Phillies transformed their line-up and the Nationals assembled possibly baseball’s best rotation, and even worse, haven’t extended either of their ace pitchers yet. Meanwhile players like Bregman and Arrenado signed extensions that take them off the free agency market for future seasons. The chances to land a major free agent and change the direction of a team are slimming. Premium talent will only get more expensive on the free agency market.
So for what it’s worth, I don’t agree with most of the hot-take commentary around Trout’s contract. While I’m sad the Phillies won’t get a shot at him, I can’t say Trout, the Angels, or the Phillies lost here. The losers are the teams who stood pat.
You often hear more lefty types bemoan the influence of money in our politics. They complain about “PAC money,” typically of the corporate type, and conservatives deride “interest groups” spending in elections. The idea is that some sort of big-money boogeyman is buying off our politicians, and forcing them to take positions “against the people.” I think they’re onto something with their critiques of money in politics, but not at all in the way they believe.
Campaign donors, including myself, are more motivated partisans. Increasingly, they’re also more ideological than the rest of society. People who will write over a chunk of their money to a political campaign are generally more extreme in their policy views. Moderate people, no matter how rich, are not as likely to write a check to a candidate, unless they find a candidate personally appealing for some reason. So the donor pool is more right or left than the country is as a whole, by a dramatic margin.
Why does it matter so much what the donors think? Well, for one thing, campaigns are getting more and more expensive. Due to some of the USPS problems in recent years, the price of bulk mail has went higher. The price of printing the mail, or “palm cards” that you hand out, door-to-door, have also increased. Television has not been getting cheaper either, between the production and the cost-per-point valuation on a spot. While some people think digital is the “great cheaper hope,” that is increasingly untrue. Running a campaign is getting more expensive every year, and that’s not even taking into account the cost of hiring good staff, which isn’t getting cheaper, particularly with Democratic campaigns trying to provide health care, and the equivalent of $15 an hour, not to mention unionization happening as we speak.
Now if you’re wealthy enough to fund your campaign out of your pocket, this may not effect you. If you’re not, you have to get out and raise a lot of money. That’s not as easy in many places as it used to be, both because of formal and informal rules. Federal campaigns are limited to roughly $2,700 a donation from an individual. Unions are under far more limitations than they used to be. You can’t take corporate checks federally, or in most states. With less ability to collect the giant checks to fund a campaign, candidates have to go out to the masses and seek funds they didn’t have to before. Do you think that moderates and swing voters are writing over their money to fund these campaigns? It’s not likely. In other words, candidates have to appeal to the more wealthy and affluent voters in their base, who tend to have views further from the political middle.
There is another way, but it isn’t going to drive candidates more towards the middle of the electorate- get someone to fund a “Super PAC” or an independent expenditure for you. Chances are, you’re going to have to appeal to rich people, single-issue groups, and interest groups in your political party. For instance, maybe a labor union or the Koch Brothers can fund an independent expenditure for you, but that means you’re going to be 100% in agreement with them. In other words, someone else will spend big on your behalf, provided that you are taking the position of their group or organization. There aren’t many “centrist” examples of groups like this.
Basically the need for campaign funds is driving our political parties more and more towards their ideological poles, because that’s where they find campaign financing. As campaigns get more expensive, and funding a campaign doesn’t get any easier, this will continue. My solution to this would be to loosen the rules on how you can fundraise as a candidate, but tighten the rules on reporting and make things more transparent. Given the Supreme Court’s precedent on money in politics, and the inability to make media give out “free” advertising to candidates, this is the only way to weaken the stranglehold that the political extremes have on the issues we are debating right now. Otherwise, we’re stuck in perpetual political war, as is.
I wish I could say that I was shocked that NYU students Leen Dweik and Rose Asaf cornered and berated Chelsea Clinton at a vigil for the Muslim victims of the terrorist shooting in New Zealand that killed 50 people, but I’m not. I wish I could say these two young people had a point, but they don’t. I wish I could say that I’m glad to see young people engaging the political process, but I’m not. About the only thing I take from this unhinged and unfair behavior is that I told you so.
Chelsea Clinton is not a public official. She has never run for public office. Despite popular opinion, she is not actually her mother or her father. By the way, her former President father isn’t running for office ever again. Her former Secretary of State and Senator mother is also not a candidate for office either. Strange as this is for many supporters of Bernie Sanders, Chelsea Clinton is just a pregnant woman in New York with her own career and a famous last name. You’re not really “speaking truth to power” when you corner her at a public event to attack her views, you’re just using her fame to get yourself attention.
Here’s the real kicker though- Dweik and Asaf are wrong about Chelsea Clinton, and Clinton is right on her criticisms of Ilhan Omar that angered them so much. Now I’ve given my opinion of the good and the bad on Omar already, but here’s the simple fact- Omar has repeatedly used anti-semitic and over the top language in her criticisms. One doesn’t need to say Israel hypnotizes it’s supporters, or that it’s “All About the Benjamins” to allude to Israel buying support, when making the very plausible case that the Netanyahu Israeli Government is ineffective, opposes peace, and is bad for both U.S. and Israeli interests. It is a point that can be made without slurring a whole religion or nation. It is a point that can be made without old-line anti-semitism accusing “the Jews” of using money to control the world. Omar is a smart enough woman to know what her words mean, to choose the words she wants to use, and to understand context. She chose not to. She deserved every condemnation she got for that. Perhaps these young ladies are drawn to defend her though because she aligns with their views- one of them has actually called for Israel to be demolished. I am not a supporter of Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu, but these are radical views that should not be given credence.
Let’s be clear here, the American far-left is radical. It is not just fighting a war against Trump extremism, but against anyone who doesn’t accept their “revolution.” I’ve personally been put on their hit-lists, but worse yet, I’ve seen them bully people in public, like in this case. It doesn’t matter if you are Chelsea Clinton or some private citizen living in Southwest DC, these folks are ready to attack you, and even cause your career harm. Behavior like these NYU students displayed is not an exception, or something to be treated as an isolated incident. This is the norm. This is how they wish to conduct politics. This is what they want the American left to be.
I see no pathway to peace between the Democratic Party and the Bernie-inspired far-left. I’m sick and tired of hearing Democrats say we all need to “unite,” and “be positive” with these folks. It’s not going to happen. They’re never coming to the table to unite. Stop pretending that it can happen when only one side is interested in it. These people wish to destroy the Democratic Party, not work with it.
The Clinton-Sanders primary has been over for more than 2.5 years. Like Japanese troops who didn’t know World War II was over and continued to fight, these students are in the ranks that haven’t stopped fighting yesterday’s war. You can’t make peace with these people.
Let’s be clear, none of this is normal. The President of the United States spent his Sunday taking to Twitter to attack dead Senators, special prosecutors, and television personalities. He called for government sanctions against “Saturday Night Live” for making fun of him. Last week Donald Trump said it would be “very bad, very bad” if his supporters are unhappy. Again, this isn’t normal.
I don’t so much fear what an avowed moron can do within the limits of the Presidency, but I do fear the future he is making possible. Many of the limits on Presidential power are created by adherence to norms. They are based on respect for the process and the rule of law. This man doesn’t accept any of that. Fortunately he’s largely incompetent. That will not always be the case.
The bigger fear is the creation of a “generation Trump.” Would a successor, whether it is Don Jr., Pence, or something even worse, find both motivation in Trump, and increased competence in themselves? Could we find his erosion of norms and our government processes becomes a long term problem?
Donald Trump may lose in 2020 on the strength of pure opposition to all he stands for. The only way for his ideology to be defeated and sent to the scrap heap of history is for conservative Americans to reject his unhinged behavior. I hold out little hope that he loses the Republican nomination in 2020, but I do hope that 20 or 30% of Republicans will choose to vote for someone, anyone else in 2020. It’s the only way to destroy this dangerous ideology.
I like Beto O’Rourke. Sure, I have questions and doubts about him, but that shouldn’t be construed as opposition. If he’s nominated by the Democrats, I’ll vote for him. I’ll even give him a look while I’m considering my primary candidate right now. He’s an impressively talented campaigner, he’s got some charisma, and he’s motivating some people.
There’s something rather Bernie-esque though about his support. No, I’m not just talking about the $6.1 million he raised in his first day in the race either. I’ve heard people compare him to RFK, and even say he’s a better speaker than Obama. Commentators have said he creates “the greatest contrast” with Trump. I’ve had friends tell me he’s “the only way” to move the country forward. Hell, even Beto has pronounced that he was “born to run.” There’s some heavy destiny talk happening here. The only other candidate I hear talked about like that by his people? Bernie Sanders.
Let me pour a little cold water on all of this- as great as Beto is, he did lose the 2018 U.S. Senate race in Texas to a deeply unpopular Ted Cruz (over 10% under-water approval), in the greatest Democratic year since Watergate. Sure, Abraham Lincoln lost the 1858 Senate race in Illinois, so I’ll give Beto a singular pass there, even though I’m not totally buying the Lincoln comparison with anyone. Part of Beto’s appeal is his normalcy, which I like, but it means he comes with a checkered past- like any real person. I do like what I hear from him too, but he needs a lot more substance yet to keep up with this field. He’s a talented candidate, but he ran a very unorthodox campaign in 2018, and came up short. Perhaps he would have won if he done some of the more traditional “blocking and tackling” of a campaign. Again, he’s very talented, but not perfect.
Now look, I’m a white, straight, Catholic male, and I’m willing to vote for a white guy for any office (if I agree with them), but I do think it’s fair to ask the question- why is it only white dudes getting the “Messiah” treatment from their supporters right now? I’m not saying it’s always limited to white guys (This happened at times with President Obama in 2008, although to be fair, he lived up to more of the hype than I then expected), but it seems to be that way a lot. Berners think he’s politics version of Luke Skywalker despite his many flaws that prohibit him from winning over many of us. I’m hearing some of the same sounds from Betotes now.
This is far less a criticism of Beto himself, who I’m generally more favorable than not about, and more of a commentary on white liberals and progressives and their hero worship. In 17 years in politics, I have never met or seen a perfect politician. Bill Clinton had his infidelity, Barack Obama his naivety on Republican opposition, and Hillary had her campaign’s strategic mistakes. I supported all three of them, and would again, but I don’t argue their infallibility. For some though, they think their “great white hope” is the savior we need. It’s just weird to me. You’re electing a person, not a God. These guys ain’t Gods.