Saturday, April 1, 2017

World Baseball Classic Needs Tweaking

By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

In case you missed it, this year's World Baseball Classic, the fourth edition, was simply the best ever. There were so many compelling games and stories.  It was a real classic in every sense of the word.

The games really had a sense of National Pride and a Post Season Feel.  If you tuned in, you would swear you were listening to the AL or NL Championship Series or The World Series in the Fall, yet this was at the end of winter and beginning of Spring.

Even though I was excited about the fact that the USA came through and won for the first time in four attempts and I got to see the Second Round (San Diego) and Championship Round (Los Angeles) in my backyard of Southern California, I still feel it needs a bit more tweaking to make it an even better event.

For the uninformed,  the World Baseball Classic is a tournament where theoretically the best  baseball players in the world, professional and amateur, are put on teams according to their nationality.

You would think that the United States would always romp in this setting, but the fact is in 2006 (the tournament is held every 3-4 years) that a team from Japan comprised of all members of the Japan Professional Baseball League and a few amateurs and Ichiro Suzuki won the whole thing over a team from Cuba.  Japan would repeat in 2009 and the Dominican Republic won the 2013 Classic.

The United States didn't even make it to the Semi-finals in 2006 thanks to a spirited and easily the most compelling game of the series when Team Mexico beat the USA to keep them from advancing.

One of the flaws of the Classic is that it is held in March. This is when baseball players are in spring training or supposed to be in spring training. So you don't see players at their very best.

Pitchers are on short pitch counts. Players are hesitant to run out ground balls or outfielders, as was the case with Ken Griffey Jr. in 2006, are out of shape and can't get to flyballs like they should.  As much as I love him, Junior really had no business playing centerfield that year for Team USA.

I like the fact that the series is held every 3-4 years.  Better than one year where it would become too commonplace and taken for granted.  The Classic should really be held in the Summer.  The professional leagues should shut down for a full week and let the Classic be played when players are at their optimum performing level which is the middle of the natural baseball season.

It should logically be played in place of the All-Star Game every 3-4 years.

One of the reasons that Japan has had to field a team of almost all Japan League Players is that Major League owners were not allowing members of their teams to participate or putting pressure on them not to participate. You can see the reason why.  They are protecting their investment.

The owners need to see the big picture here.  Baseball has a chance to promote itself on the international scene and attract more of an audience. So you let your player (who is heavily insured) go for a week to promote the game. The dividends in the long run will outweigh the risk of injury to that player. Besides that, the owners are allowing them to play against the best competition in the world. Your player is an advertisement for his pro team too. The benefits are  almost all good.

This year the finals were held in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium. Good for me. I get to go without too much expense since it's in my backyard. But bad for the rest of the world. I propose that the host country be the country that won it last.

This year it should have been The Dominican Republic and the previous years it would have been in Japan.  Both the Dominican Republic and Japan have a great fan base who love both the game of baseball and Major League Baseball and would pack out their venues every game of the Classic.  And of course the next one, under my proposed plan, would be held in the United States.

Which brings up yet another situation.  Why are the semi-finals and the finals always in Southern California to begin with? Again, I love the fact I can go.  It's a short train ride for me. But as long as those games are going to be played in the US, let's share the love and play the games in places like Seattle, Miami, or Milwaukee.  In other words, great ball parks with retractable roofs or permanent roofs where there would be no chance of a rainout or delay.  Of course, the venue options would also be better if they moved the Classic to the Summer.  Imagine the World Baseball Classic at Wrigley or Fenway or Camden Yards.

Another point of contention was the accessibility, or lack thereof, of being able to watch the WBC this year.  Unless you ponied up and paid for or had a paid subscription to ESPN Deportes and don't mind listening in Spanish, it was not easy to watch this year's games unless you went to the games in person.  It should really be much easier than that to watch the WBC.

I liked the tie breaker rule in the WBC and MLB really needs to consider it.  This is where, if the game is tied going to the 11th inning, the inning starts with runners on first and second, no outs. The fact is that it wasn't thought out very well.  In almost all situations the fielding team intentionally walks the first batter to set up the force out at any base and instead of just giving the runner the base they actually still throw four wide ones to the batter.  Why not just start the inning with the bases loaded?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

On John Glenn, Astronauts and Space Dreams

By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

When I was a kid I was absolutely enamored by the space program. I couldn't name the entire starting lineup for the hometown California Angels but I did know the names of all the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts.

I had large scrapbooks of newspaper clippings about anything related to my heroes and their amazing rockets and space capsules. I had my own imaginery space program with my brother. We named our own rockets, we sent all of our dogs and our friends dogs into space. (Laddie, my collie, the veteran, went twice), we would do imaginery space walks in my parents living room.

One time, my brother and I saved up our allowance and sent in for one of those cardboard submarines in the back of the comic books. We anxiously awaited for weeks for it's arrival. When we finally received it we turned it into our space capsule. We assembled and placed it in the living room. We were in there for days. Mom would come by every once in awhile and offer her freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and some milk but we were on a mission. "No thanks mom. We have Tang and a tube of food. Besides you can't talk to us unless you have a walkie talkie. We're in space." She played along. She would call us from dad's CB Radio. "Eagle, Eagle. This is Mission Control. Do you read me?"

All these memories came back to me this week when I got the news of the passing of Astronaut  and Senator John Glenn at the age of 95.  Glenn was always at the top of my All-time Heroes List.

He was the one that allowed the little boys in the story above and countless other little boys and girls to dream about space exploration.  More importantly,  Glenn inspired many to actually pick up the baton in the next generations to carry on his work.

Not sure at what point I decided not to be an astronaut. Probably at the same time I really discovered baseball. Then I wanted to be the centerfielder for the California Angels. But the point is my fascination with space travel kind of waned over the years.

I was recently listening to 60 Minutes (linked from Bosco Radio...shameless plug here) and they were updating a story about how NASA and Elon Musk's company Spacex is gearing up to return to space travel, going to Mars and beyond. My reaction was the same one I got when I was a kid. I got really excited and suddenly fascinated all over again.

The thing is though when I was a kid I didn't know the magnitude of the other things that really need our attention. When I travel across this country by rail, along with the natural beauty of much of the United States, I also witness Urban blight and poverty. These are the types of things that need to be addressed first. We have such a huge deficit we, as a country, owe now that it's not even funny.

If there was solid evidence that space exploration would help the national defense then maybe we do this on the nation's taxpayers dime. But if it's just taking an intergallactic roadtrip with a "Because It's There" attitude then lets totally fund this privately with corporate money.

I want the fascination and the spirit of exploration as much of the next person but let's take care of our other problems first or let private industry fund this.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

It's Christmas Time In The City

By Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

One thing I have to say about my neighbor Steve Weisman, well there are two things. He loves Christmas and he gets a little crazy at this time of the year.

First of all, the sheer fact that we live on Bedford Drive (You know, like “It’s A Wonderful Life” Bedford Falls ) indicates how far he takes this obsession with Christmas. In other words, I don’t think that it is a coincidence that he lives on Bedford Drive. And I doubt it is a coincidence his name is Weisman (as in Wiseman)

Steve, his two children and lovely wife start decorating their home for Christmas in the summer. Ok, it just seems that way. Actually he starts on December 26 (as in December 26, 2015) for the 2016 display.

Steve is always looking for deals on Christmas decorations. He hits the Estate Sale and garage sale circuit pretty good looking for the perfect Christmas decorations for his yard.

His yard at Christmas is like the Who’s Who of Christmas Ornaments. You name it, he’s got it. Except for those inflatable Homer Simpsons and Santa Claus and Frosty the Snow men. Steve doesn’t go in for the inflatables apparently. Which leads me to digress a little bit.

When you are doing a Christmas presentation on your front lawn, and this is just a suggestion, go with either the religious motif or the “fun” motif.

This is what I don’t want to see on any lawn in America: Jesus in a manger, the three Wisemen, A cross on top of your house AND a 20 foot inflatable Homer Simpson in a Santa Outfit. You either have to go one way or the other.

Steve primarily understands this.  He goes for the fun in Christmas primarily.

Steve could go religious. He’s a devoted Lutheran and he sent his two kids to wonderful Lutheran schools but he decided to go the fun route.

So a survey of Steve’s lawn will find a penguin in a tophat, lit candy cains, and my personal favorite a working Ferris wheel full of winter creatures like penguins or maybe it’s a big mouse dressed like a penguin (I’m not sure), a train on the roof, assorted lit reindeers, snowmen, and American Flag draped over his fence. 4 large Evergreens covered with lights. Well you get the idea. 

Steve single-handily keeps the White Cotton bunting industry going. The local fabric store in Fullerton here sees him coming and they know that they will meet their profit margin for the year. He rolls yards of that stuff onto his yard so that it looks like snow and he basically sacrifices his lawn for the Christmas display. Nothing can grow after he puts all that bunting down.

Steve isn’t the only one on my street that gets into the Christmas spirit on Bedford Drive. In fact it’s like peer pressure to not only have a Christmas display.  You have to give 100% efffort. You have to bring your “A” game when you are doing Christmas decorations on Bedford Drive.

A couple of years ago, I startled everybody on my street. They thought I had converted to Judaism, which would have been cool with my neighbors, because they are cool and embrace religious diversity, but that would also have meant I would have been the only one on the block without Christmas decorations.

It was a series of events that made it appear I had in fact become one of the Chosen. First of all, I accidentally bought Hannakuh wrap from Steve’s daughter Stephanie for the school. I meant to buy the snowman ensemble but somehow I marked the code for the Hannakuh wrap on the order sheet. It’s beautiful in silver and blue metallic, but not Christmassy.

Then, the former owner of my home, Jay, left me boxes of old colorful Christmas lights. One thing about me is that I like the white Icicle lights and simple elegance of the aforementioned so I don’t use the color lights. So, I went to Steve and simply said, “I won’t be needing these anymore” and he gave me a concerned “Come back to the flock” look.

The third thing that happened was that I could not make Steve’s annual Neighborhood Holiday bash at his home due to another commitment which totally looked like I was snubbing my Christian bretheren. And to top everything else, since I was gone for most of December that year…I literally didn’t put up any ornaments until December 24. But on December 24 everybody knew I was still a Christian.  A lazy, procrastinating Christian mind you, but one still the same.

So I wish all of my neighbors (and everybody else for that matter) a wonderful and safe Holiday season. And if you experience a spike in your electric bill this month because of your Christmas lights and decorations and you wonder if it is all worth the money and time and effort just think of Steve Weisman and realize that some youngster is probably visiting Bedford Drive right now with his parents and staring with awe at the Weisman’s beautiful and wonderful Christmas decorations.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hillary Clinton Loses by Role Reversal

Presidential Debate Analysis 
By Doug Vehle
For the Daily Bosco

So it's been one of my big gags for the election saying that after all she has done, some people are still ready to look the other way and vote for Hillary Clinton. But bring up Donald Trump who basically has no skeletons in the closet that compare to those of his rival, then listen to the horror of Hillary supporters as they gasp: 'Trump! He has a. . . a BIG MOUTH!' Yeah, I could see where a big mouth would outweigh scoffing at national security and then madly destroying the evidence AFTER she's been caught. (This is where I'd put the eye roll emotioncon if I was into those.) But now Hillary supporters, you have reason to express even greater shock at your candidate than at The Donald: Hillary has unleashed the biggest loudmouth moment of the election inspiring jokes, tshirts, maybe even lost the first debate before it started.

You see it all through the debate, though less and less as the horror of losing began to show in her face. But that smug, elitist smile, backed up by contemptuous comments, even her supporters are admitting they're having a little trouble with it. Harder still to realize it's a further confirmation that Hillary, not The Donald, has had the biggest single foot in mouth moment in the campaign.In her great desire to point the finger, it was Hillary who roved most deplorable.

If you didn't see it a few weeks ago, just picture that smug, 'I'm better than you all' smirk that came out so often in the earlier part of the debate, when she could still believe she was doing well enough. She was already leaving the stage after that speech a few weeks ago when she apparently was overwhelmed by the ease of preaching to the choir. Then she came back.

I've always said that some of the most important things a person ever says are suddenly blurted out in an unthinking moment. Years of guarded performances don't outweigh that moment when Toto pulls away the curtain hiding the Wizard of Oz. Don't waste your time saying pay no attention, I'm gonna go see what the dog saw.

In one of the smuggest moments Hillary Clinton has ever allowed herself to reveal, she reveled in the power of leading the self absorbed. 'WE can do no wrong. WE are better than anyone who is not us. WE don't have to care about anyone but ourselves.' This was her message when she called Trump supporters ". . . .A basket of DEPLORABLES."

She has since wavered, acknowledging she shouldn't have said it one moment but trying to 'Gracefully' contend she's right in most others. The candidate some call the most out of touch in history doesn't bother to notice the polls that can top 80% saying the government isn't interested in representing us and never stops to think about that. Instead she clings to the opinion of that truly deplorable article in 'The National Review,' with the thesis 'Pay no attention to Mike in Garbutt, New York.' An article that says anyone who thinks the country is going to hell in a handbasket deserves to go there. Hillary Clinton wants to dismiss them as a handbasket of deplorables. And she does.

Which continued to show in her face in the debate, as she wore the same expression with which she revealed her inner feelings. Until she started realizing she was losing. Can't say I thought showing panic in her face during a debate was particularly presidential. I'd say she had a Nixon type outing in this debate, her supporters were probably much more comfortable listening to her on the radio than watching the reveals in her face on television.

So could there be anyone more strident than a convert? Such as a onetime Hillary supporter who now sees through her? Right about now I'm not ready to see any good in her, there's so much bad showing through that's new to me. You're going to need a bigger basket, Hillary, those you deplore greatly outnumber those you don't. I wonder just how many of your supporters don't realize how much you deplore THEM.

At some point, all those Democratic spindoctors are going to have to admit they've already dislocated all their shoulders madly patting themselves on the back trying to pretend they're not out of touch. They'll have to realize that everyone is laughing at them as they spend the day trying to pretend they won. Aren't they? I don't think I've ever seen such a moment of people considering themselves the intellectual superior openly telling people they have to be the unthinking sheep and follow, with so many accepting that. Such as polls where more than half of registered Democrats support repealing First Amendment and banning free speech.

Maybe they'll at least catch on that this whole 'Must play the ultimate politician' game of theirs is not some rule they get to force on others. No, you don't get to demand others enforce YOUR PERSONAL RULES. No, nobody has to think you wrote the rulebook and let your candidate win because that's how YOU want it. It seems so trademark that the party I've been a member of my entire adult is no longer the party I joined but a party of whiners and pouters putting on a delusional campaign, hoping there'll be enough similarly delusional voters to follow them. Listening to the callers offering backhanded support to Hillary Clinton on the radio today is just as revealing for the struggle as was Hillary's struggle.

But wake up to this: How many Americans would be proud to say "I was delusional when delusional wasn't cool?" Versus "I was DEPLORABLE when deplorable wasn't cool?" Or are you too out of touch to get it?