Thursday, February 20, 2020

Manfred in a "Mountain" of an MLB Mess

Manfred in a “Mountain” of an MLB Mess
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
February 20, 2020

In 1921 the first commissioner of Major League Baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis - a real judge, appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt, took bold and brisk steps in banning from professional baseball, for life, eight members of the Chicago White Sox World Series team from 1919.

Bold, as the loss of eight members of a team decimated the White Sox - losing six players either in their prime or past their prime but with something left in the tank to ably contribute to the team. One player retired following the 1919 season, and one more played infrequently, riding the bench for the most part.

Brisk, for although the investigation into allegations the White Sox, received ill-gotten payments to throw the World Series to the underdog Cincinnati Reds, took 22 months, Landis’ decision came on the heels of a court ruling. A Chicago jury found the players, a.k.a. The Black Sox, not guilty, in spite of overwhelming evidence, in what had to have been a bigger fix than the series itself. In spite of that ruling, Landis said:

“Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ballgame, no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ballgame, no player that sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing games are planned and discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball. Baseball is entirely competent to protect itself against crooks, both inside and outside the game” said Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. [Famous-trials.com/blacksox] 

Nine commissioners and a century later, Major League Baseball is embroiled in a scandal just as significant, regarding another World Series - this one the 2017 Houston Astros v. the Los Angeles Dodgers. In a series that went the distance, the Astros defeated the Dodgers four games to three; or did they?

Accusations of cheating were made public last November when former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, a member of the 2017 team, spoke with The Athletic blew the whistle on his former team’s sign stealing via electronic means - signs that would indicate to the batter what kind of pitch would be forthcoming - information that could make a mediocre player good, a good player great, and a good team a World Series winner. In addition to the electronic sign stealing scheme, the Astros optioned additional signals to batters through the banging of trash can lids.

In conducting an investigation, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred opted for short cuts that are now making him a pariah in his own sport, and to others outside of baseball. Manfred, in the interest of expediency, and a bit of cajoling by the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) - their union, agreed to grant immunity to any players responding honestly during the investigation. This is a weak-kneed decision by Manfred, taking the easy way out and genuflecting to the players union. Major League Baseball suspended both Astros manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow for one full season, fined the team $5 million, and stripped the team of two future draft picks. Not a very strong punishment. Astros owner Jim Crane, within hours of the MLB decision, fired both Hinch and Luhnow. The five million is akin to lunch money for a team owner, $50 million would deliver a stronger message.

Granting immunity to admitted cheaters caused a firestorm around baseball. The Dodgers believe they were robbed of both the 2017 and 2018 World Series - losing in 2018 to the Boston Red Sox in seven games. The 2018 Red Sox were led by rookie manager Alex Cora, the bench coach for the Astros during the 2017 season. Cora is now unemployed. So too is Carlos Beltran, about to start his first season at the helm of the New York Mets. Beltran played on the 2017 Astros and a beneficiary of the sign stealing.

“Over my 20 years in the game, I’ve always taken pride in being a leader and doing things the right way… As a veteran player on the team, I should’ve recognized the severity of the issue and truly regret the actions that were taken,” said Beltran.

New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said to ESPN on February 14, the Astros “had a distinct advantage,”and that the illicit sign stealing was the difference maker. “I definitely think it had an effect on things, without question,” added Cashman regarding the Yankees loss to the Astros in the 2017 American League Playoffs.

Typically quiet Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout said he “lost respect for the Astros. They cheated… I don’t agree with the punishment. Going up to the plate knowing what’s coming… that would be a lot of fun. If you know what’s coming it’s definitely going to help you. Obviously the GM got fired and Hinch got fired, but the players getting nothing, that’s definitely not right, for sure,” said the three-time American League Most Valuable Player.

“The commissioner completely handled it the wrong way… he should be embarrassed,” said Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis. “Everything has been handled [in] a bad way… the players are scot free. Those guys still get to play. It’s bullsh*t,” said the usually low key Markakis, a 14-year veteran in the league.

Many other players are outspoken about how miserably Manfred botched this scandal, calling for both the Astros and Red Sox to be stripped of their respective World Series titles from 2017 and 2018. That is exactly what should happen, and I rooted for both the Astros and Red Sox in those two series. Cheating tarnishes the game with a permanent stain; a stain that can only be eradicated with extreme prejudice.

Adding insult to injury, responding to calls for the Astros to vacate their 2017 World Series, Manfred disparaged the very trophy on which his name, as commissioner, is etched. “The idea of an asterisk, or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act,” said Manfred about the World Series trophy in an interview with ESPN’s Karl Ravech.

“You need to fix this for the sake of sports,” tweeted NBA all-star LeBron James. I’m no fan of the Los Angeles Lakers player, but James is spot on. Problem is, a fix may be too late. Manfred has already demonstrated his weakness as a commissioner in both kowtowing to the players association in granting immunity, and for not extending the investigation and digging deep into the trenches before going the easy route.

It’s times like this that I know I can count on Abraham Lincoln. “By general law, life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life; but a life is never wisely given to save a limb,” is one of my favorite pearls of wisdom from our 16th president.

Manfred and perhaps a fair number of Astros players are those limbs and Major League Baseball is that life. A life that must be preserved, for as Kenesaw Mountain Landis said, “Baseball is something more than a game to an American boy. It is his training field for life work. Destroy his faith in its squareness and honesty and you have destroyed something more; you have planted suspicion of all things in his heart.”

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

Monday, February 17, 2020

The Bloomberg Coefficient

The Bloomberg Coefficient
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
February 17, 2020

“Sixty billion dollars can buy a lot of advertising, but it can’t erase your record,” said erstwhile Democrat candidate Joe Biden (DE) about former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (R). Oh wait, Biden is still in the race, in spite of miserable showings in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Although to be fair, no one really knows what the hell happened in the Hawkeye State, belying its nickname. And to correct, Bloomberg is no longer the Republican he once was as New York City mayor. First he dropped the GOP label for that of an independent, now he wants people to believe he is a Democrat. By the way, Mr. Bloomberg, $60 billion will never buy class.

Apparently, traveling the country on your knees and in tears in an apology tour for virtually anything and everything that has occurred since time in memorium is how Bloomberg expects people to forget his past transgressions, both in word and deed. Oh, yeah, and there is also the advertising blitz which will have no end in sight until Bloomberg either has the nomination bought and paid for or drops out of the race. 

The Democrat Party establishment is hoping for the former, in its own hypocrisy, and is proving so by changing their party’s own rules regarding the upcoming debate in Nevada to allow Bloomberg, who is not accepting donations, to appear on the debate stage at the Paris hotel and casino in Las Vegas. Interesting how the DNC made no exceptions for Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), former HUD Secretary Julian Castro (D-TX), or US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI). Gabbard, by the way, has been the punching bag of the DNC and the liberal media simply because Gabbard, a veteran still on active duty, is willing to speak out against her own party when she feels necessary. Any bets on whether or not the caucus results will be available the same day as they are held? Figures - the Paris - they even chose a venue named for a socialist city. Seems the nomination is going to boil down to the socialist Bernie Sanders (VT) and the former Republican Bloomberg - neither a true member of the Democrat Party. The DNC, under incompetent Tom Perez, has such animus toward Sanders, they are willing to pull the rug out from under his and his acolyte’s feet - yet again.

For those who think boy wonder Mayor Buttigieg is a moderate, think again. He will “Peter” out as people learn how South Bend, IN is a cesspool outside of the environs of the campus at Notre Dame, the continuing problems he has with race issues, and that he is more toward the socialist wing of the party than the middle. Thinking Buttigieg is a moderate, is demonstrative of how far left the Democrat Party has launched itself. 

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is the closest candidate to a moderate, and she is still a solid liberal, and could find her way onto the ticket as the vice presidential nominee. She has surprised many with her performances in both Iowa and New Hampshire (not this writer who predicted a third place finish for her in the Granite State). She sounds like the voice of reason on the debate stage, is a midwesterner, a part of the country Democrats only recognize if it pertains to Chicago, Minneapolis, or St. Louis. Additionally, Klobuchar is infinitely less of a lightning rod than Hillary Clinton, yet, according to the Drudge Report, it is Hillary that Bloomberg is considering for the second spot on the ticket. A bit premature? How did that plan work out for President Ted Cruz and Vice President Carly Fiorina?

And now the party faces a genuine dilemma. Nominate an avowed socialist who will deleteriously impact the down-ballot candidates, or a multi-billionaire virtually every candidate has railed against. If Bloomberg is the nominee, where will the Bernie Bros. go? Will they hypocritically march in lock step and vote for the billionaire they loathe, or will they stay home on Election Day? Will Bernie demonstrate his level of hypocrisy and support the billionaire he has verbally harangued since day one?

Bloomberg will have to spend the bulk of the campaign explaining himself much more than looking toward the future and how he will govern, which may work for him, considering how he left New York City. Let’s legalize marijuana and decriminalize other drugs, but no one is allowed to drink a soda more than an ounce and a half. Keep explaining “Stop and Frisk,” Bloomy. Stop and frisk is a violation of a person’s Fourth Amendment right to not be searched without probable cause. The real name of the program was “Stop, Question, and Frisk,” which had a level of success worth bragging about at the time, except when Bloomberg talked about dispatching more officers to minority neighborhoods, “because that’s where all the crime is. Bloomberg has said mea culpa pretty much everywhere he campaigns - so often, he probably says it before going to bed at night.

Bloomberg also displayed an ignorance and racism, that if he were still a Republican, would be unforgivable, but now that he is a Democrat, a full prostration before the “right” people, and all is forgiven. From a 2011 PBS NewsHour, Bloomberg talked about black and Latino men ages 16-25, saying, they “don’t have jobs, don’t have any prospects, don’t know how to find jobs, don’t know what their skill sets are, don’t know how to behave in the workplace.”

In addition to alienating minorities, Bloomberg has no doubt antagonized American farmers, and thus so-called fly-over country. Speaking at Oxford University on America’s Veterans’ Day, November 11, 2016 Bloomberg diminished the nature of farmer’s work. Disparaging those who grow our food and feed millions upon millions of people the world over, Bloomberg attempted to simplify it: “I could teach anyone… you dig a hole, put seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, then the corn comes up.” Is this the 2020 version of Hillary’s “deplorables” comment? 

Reminds me of one of my favorite lines in the classic Mel Brooks film, Blazing Saddles. Jim, played by the late Gene Wilder, says to Bart, played by the late Cleavon Little following a racial epithet leveled at Bart: “You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land… You know… morons.” In this case it is Bloomberg who clearly is the moron.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) rightly took issue with Bloomberg’s myopic assertion about the vital farm community. Bloomberg’s statements are “incredibly insulting,” and “nothing but pompous ignorance,” said Noem, Tuesday on Fox & Friends. “Who does Mike Bloomberg think he is? Every single day farmers work long hours, but they don’t just have to deal with the labor side, they understand genetics and engineering, biology, chemistry. It is incredibly difficult for farmers every day to feed the world and I’m just so proud my entire family is farmers. I’ve been a farmer my entire life. His comment is so out of touch with every day Americans,” said Noem before issuing a challenge to Bloomberg.

“I would challenge Mike Bloomberg to come spend a day with a farmer… ride horses, rope steers,... drive GPS controlled tractors, computer program grain handling systems, and then internationally market your commodities to pay your bills and continue to do what they do best,” said Noem.

In addition to being a moron, he may also be on a fool’s errand. To date, Bloomberg has spent $417 million; Sanders $40 million; and Biden $12 million on this campaign. Bloomberg has yet to appear on a debate stage, has not been balloted in Iowa, New Hampshire, or Nevada. Bloomberg said he is willing to spend more than a billion of his own dollars to win a race that about a year ago he had no intention of entering.

Many Democrats simply want a candidate who can beat Trump, regardless of personality or politics. Seems counterintuitive to those people complaining about Trump’s personality vis a vis his obsession with Twitter. Yet, Bloomberg has the charisma of a warthog’s tuchus. He’s a guy who does not connect well with the people, but he cannot hide behind his advertising - he actually has to go face to face with the folks, something Sanders is reasonably adept at. Sanders, a socialist for sure, is not a phony - he lets people know what they are in for, he just doesn’t have a price tag - something he said in a recent interview. “Who knows?” he responded. Just what the people want to hear.

A parting thought on socialism, courtesy of Ayn Rand. “There is no difference between communism and socialism, except in the way of achieving the same goal: communism proposes to enslave men by force, socialism by voting. It’s the same difference between murder and suicide.” May G-d help preserve the Union.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Caucus Chaos Confounds and Confuses

Caucus Chaos Confounds and Confuses
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
February 4, 2020

One day following a marvelous Super Bowl LIV won by the Kansas City Chiefs, the State of Iowa Democrat Party fumbled the ball in their own endzone.

To paraphrase Dorothy, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas City anymore!” While the Chiefs played an almost flawless fourth quarter to overcome a 10 point deficit and handily defeat the San Francisco 49ers, the fourth quarter in Iowa resembled a clown convention. And let’s face it, the Democrats have more than their fair share of clowns to offer the United States in this election cycle.

After almost two years of literally dozens of presidential hopefuls, also-rans, and general wanna-bes barnstorming the Hawkeye State, the Iowa Caucuses held on Monday, February 3 ended with a giant thud, a veritable stink bomb reeking of incompetence and failure as nary a result could be discerned as of 5 PM on Tuesday, February 4. This just hours before President Donald Trump takes to the lectern in the House of Representatives to deliver what will undoubtedly be a State of the Union address complete with bravado and highlights of the myriad successes enjoyed by both his administration, and more importantly, the country - a complete juxtaposition of the Iowa dismal debacle.

While the losers are many, the winners are few - even before the results are announced. President Trump, to be sure, is a big winner, both in Iowa as well as nationally. He not only won his caucuses - yes, the GOP in Iowa held their own caucuses as per what is right, after all, quiet as it’s kept, he does have a couple of primary challengers. Joe Walsh - no not the singer - is a former Illinois Congressman, and Bill Weld, the former Massachusetts governor and 2016 Libertarian vice presidential candidate are taking on Trump in an almost impossible task - convincing fellow Republicans that Trump is doing a poor job. The Democrats can’t even do that. Trump won nationally as his campaign rallies continue to reach overflowing arenas from Wildwood, New Jersey, to Des Moines, Iowa on the eve of the Iowa caucus.

There is another winner, and that is someone who may not have set one foot in Iowa - Michael Bloomberg. The former mayor of New York City, who is self-funding his campaign, entered the race late, all but ignored Iowa and New Hampshire, and is banking on Super Tuesday. (How did that strategy work out for President Rudy Giuliani?) Bloomberg may also win in a way other former candidates could not. Seems the DNC is seriously considering changing their own rules to accommodate Bloomberg for the upcoming debate in Nevada. Because he is self-funding, Bloomberg is not able to comply with the number of contributors rule to reach the debate stage. Yet, the DNC, who snubbed former candidates Julian Castro, former HUD Secretary under Barack Obama, and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, is likely to change rules mid-race because there is a strong and growing fear that Socialist candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (NH) could very conceivably win the Democrat nomination without actually being a registered Democrat, although he caucuses with the Senate Democrats. Once again, as in 2016, the DNC is playing fast and loose with their own rules to screw over Sanders, knowing such an extremist would be beaten like a drum by Trump come November.

Aside from Booker and Castro, the other Iowa losers are, first and foremost, the voters themselves. They waited all day, hell, four years to cast their caucus votes, stayed in locked down church basements, school cafeterias, fire houses, etc. to do their civic duty, only to be told “We are experiencing technical difficulties, please stand by,” as we used to hear on television in the dark ages prior to cable. And stand by they have - through the dead of night, into the wee hours of the morning, through lunch, and still no results. Adding insult to injury, the Iowa Democrats announced that by 5 PM EST, they would announce partial results, dragging this facade on for what seems interminably. Twenty-four hours after the doors closed in 1,678 precincts, and 38 percent of the vote is still outstanding.

The Democrat Party is a huge loser, with not just egg on its collective faces, but a giant omelet. If they can’t run a simple caucus, one in which they had four years to prepare, how in the world can the American people expect the representatives of this beleaguered party to run the nation’s healthcare? The nation’s public school system, already a dismal failure? The nation’s border security and the illegal immigration crisis?

Another loser in the dumpster fire that is Iowa - the actual winner of the caucus. He or she will not have the caucus bounce achieved when giving the live, more or less, spontaneous victory speech. It will be akin to a team winning a championship in the dead of night when the audience consists of shut-ins and the families of the candidates. It completely loses its allure and level of excitement that it would achieve in prime time.

Last and least, to the Democrat candidates: to Senator Michael Bennet (CO), Vice President Joe Biden (DE), Mayor Pete Buttigieg (IN), US Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI), Senator Amy Klobuchar (MN), Senator Bernie Sanders (VT), Tom Steyer (CA), Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA), and Andrew Yang (NY). To them go the useless Participation Trophies - which seems fitting as theirs is the party of such beliefs. On to New Hampshire for more of the same?

Here is a February 6 update: The results still are not complete - about 90 percent. Now it seems DNC Chair Tom Perez wants a virtual do-over - he's hearing Bernie's footsteps! When you get in bed with Socialists...

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. He has been politically active for 40 years.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Say it Ain't so Jose!

Say it Ain’t so Jose!
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
January 28, 2020

Is Jose Altuve the reincarnation of “Shoeless”Joe Jackson? Both vastly popular baseball players embroiled in damning scandals gripping our national pastime by the throat, a full century apart.

Major League Baseball determined Monday, January 13 that the 2017 Houston Astros, winners of that year’s World Series cheated, via electronic means, by stealing signs of their opponents. So-called traditional sign stealing has long been accepted, but the use of electronics has been strictly prohibited since 2018, and the Astros used cameras in their home ballpark of Minute Maid Park to capture signs opposing catchers would set down for their pitchers. Some have even suggested this sign stealing scandal ranks up with baseball’s most infamous of all scandals, the 1919 fix of the World Series by the Chicago White Sox, a.k.a., the “Black Sox.”

Jackson (1887-1951), one of the eight infamous Black Sox supposedly guilty of throwing the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds, along with two other Hall of Fame caliber teammates and five additional White Sox, although found not guilty by a Chicago jury, received lifetime bans from the game they supposedly loved and tarnished. Major League Baseball’s first commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis (1866-1944) issued that ban in 1921.

As Jackson denied playing in a manner befitting someone part of a game fixing scheme until his last breath, Altuve has categorically denied wearing a buzzer beneath his jersey during the 2017 World Series, during which his Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games. While no empirical evidence has been unearthed regarding the use of buzzers, the Astros have been determined to have cheated.

Part of the mythology surrounding Jackson was that after the grand jury retired, as Jackson left the courthouse two young fans in disbelief called out to their hero, “Say it ain’t so, Joe.” Myth indeed, as this was pure fiction, yet has stuck for decades.

Current Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred handed down punishments of a one year suspension of Astros Manager A.J. Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow, as well as a $5 million fine and loss of draft picks this year and in 2021. Astros owner and CEO Jim Crane wasted no time in firing both Hinch and Luhnow an hour following the MLB ruling. By the way, with baseball salaries what they are in this day and age, a $5 million fine is lunch money to Crane. A $50 million fine might garner some attention.

“Neither one of them started this, but neither one of them did anything about it, and that’s how we came to the conclusion,” said Crane. “I have higher standards for the city and the franchise and I’m going above and beyond MLB’s penalty,” Crane added.

Yet none of the current players have suffered a penalty. A deal, in an effort to quickly slam the lid on the sign stealing scandal has granted multiple players immunity in exchange for honest testimony. Was such a deal premature? Should an investigation that lasted but two months, continued longer in an effort to positively identify the miscreant players?

The scandal, which, following the electronic stealing of signs, included signaling the batters, via the banging of trash cans, has had far-reaching tentacles. The fallout has reached Boston as the 2018 World Series champion Red Sox and manager Alex Cora have mutually agreed to part company on Tuesday, January 14. Cora served as the Astros bench coach on that 2017 World Series team and 2018 was his first foray into Major League managing. His link to both the Astros and Red Sox could prove deleterious to all, regarding his involvement in the sign stealing scandal in Houston and whether or not it carried over to Boston under Cora’s leadership. The Red Sox are being investigated for using their video replay room to relay signals to players on the field, explained Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. The stink also reached New York, as the Mets hired Carlos Beltran as the team’s new manager this past November. Beltran, an outfielder who played on that 2017 Astros team, has been implicated in the sign stealing, and also mutually agreed to step down just days later as the Mets manager prior to managing even a single exhibition game in spring training. 

Already compared to the Black Sox scandal of 1919, the question regarding punishing the involved players continues to loom overhead a la the Sword of Damocles. After all, eight White Sox players were permanently banned a century ago, why not the current crop of cheaters? 

There are continuing debates over whether or not the 2017 World Series championship of the Astros should be vacated. “Baseball does not want to rewrite history,” said Rosenthal, indicating his belief there will be no vacating of the 2017 World Series by the Astros.

If also found to be tainted by sign stealing, both the Red Sox and Astros should vacate their 2018 and 2017 World Series titles respectively. The record books should simply indicate that the two seven-game series had been played, results given, championships invalidated for cause.

This scandal is a microcosm of society. Has cheating become the norm, and thereby acceptable? The college admissions scandal, cheating on the SAT, cheating in high school - either academically or athletically - in order to gain admission into a prestigious college, cheating in college to get into graduate, law, or medical school, cheating on boards or bar exams, cheating in politics as a cable news network contributor fed debate questions to a candidate seeking high office. Think of the messages these “sterling” examples are setting for future generations watching carefully, and in many instances, mimicking the behavior of their peers or elders.

Former Astros hurler Roy Oswalt added some perspective to the ruling as the severity of the “crime,” by his former team, in a Tweet. “So let me get this right. You steal signs and get fired, but you do steroids and get millions of dollars in contracts and inducted into the Hall of Fame? #makesnosense.”

I absolutely agree with Oswalt. Sign stealing is, of course, wrong, but don’t reward steroid users - also cheaters - with a plaque in Cooperstown. The only way steroid/HGH-addled balloteers should be admitted to the Hall of Fame is with a paid ticket for admission to the museum. The after effects of steroid-laden ballplayers is still being felt as far down as the middle school level, in some cases with deadly results.

Strong messages must be sent that cheating is wrong and immoral. It defines a lack of character and oftentimes is a gateway to additional bad behavior. Getting away with cheating on a quiz was easy. How about a test or final exam? How about cheating on one’s spouse or partner? How about cheating on one’s taxes or other people’s finances leading to Ponzi schemes to the tune of millions of dollars being bilked from retirees with nothing left on which to live? Where does it end?

Or does it end as society is now accepting theft as newly elected district attorneys in Philadelphia and San Francisco are social justice warriors already announcing to their beleaguered constituents that theft and other quality of life crimes, such as public urination, will no longer be chargeable offenses. That in and of itself is truly offensive. If the people see no recourse against such crimes, and are left to protect themselves, eventually chaos and anarchy will morph into a real life version of The Hunger Games, making sports scandals a mere distraction and a walk in the park.

Like “Shoeless” Joe, and perhaps pitchers Eddie Cicotte (1884-1969) and Claude “Lefty” Williams (1893-1959), the first, a surefire Hall of Famer, and his two teammates on track for Cooperstown, should potential Hall of Famers Altuve and his teammate Alex Bregman be denied that same opportunity, as they and other players possibly implicated in the sign stealing scandal, be banned from the sport they supposedly love and sullied? If complicit, the sad, but necessary answer should be yes. The eight White Sox players enjoyed a high level of popularity, as do many of the Astros - certainly, the diminutive, yet powerful Altuve, who plays with a level of ebullience on the field and the same off-field personality to match. His dismissal from Major League Baseball, along with other popular players like Bregman, would, and should, resonate with all people, not just sports fans, that cheating at any level, in any walk of life, is unacceptable, and there is a price to pay - perhaps a severe one - based upon the choices made by people with free will and presumably a conscience. 

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. He has been a Patron-level member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame since 2007.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Jeter Tops Short List Heading to Cooperstown

Jeter Tops Short List Heading to Cooperstown
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
January 14, 2020

Baseball’s Hot Stove season is designed to provide warm memories of the season past, while cold temperatures remind us that aside from a few trades, baseball is on the back burner, save for the important announcement due to come on Tuesday, January 21. However, this year, revealing the names of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2020 is already being overshadowed by the Houston Astros’ sign stealing scandal.

Major League Baseball determined Monday, January 13 that the 2017 Houston Astros, winners of that year’s World Series cheated, via electronic means, by stealing signs of their opponents. So-called traditional sign stealing has long been accepted, but the use of electronics has been strictly prohibited since 2018, and the Astros used cameras in their home ballpark of Minute Maid Park to capture signs opposing catchers would set down for their pitchers. Some have even suggested this sign stealing scandal ranks up with baseball’s most infamous of all scandals the 1919 fix of the World Series by the Chicago White Sox, a.k.a., the “Black Sox.”

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred handed down punishments of a one year suspension of Astros Manager A.J. Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow, as well as a $5 million fine and loss of draft picks this year and in 2021. Astros owner and CEO Jim Crane wasted no time in firing both Hinch and Luhnow an hour following the MLB ruling. By the way, with baseball salaries what they are in this day and age, a $5 million fine is lunch money to Crane. A $50 million fine might garner some attention.

“Neither one of them started this, but neither one of them did anything about it, and that’s how we came to the conclusion,” said Crane. “I have higher standards for the city and the franchise and I’m going above and beyond MLB’s penalty,” Crane added.

There are continuing debates over whether or not the 2017 World Series championship of the Astros should be vacated. “Baseball does not want to rewrite history,” said Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, indicating his belief there will be no vacating of the 2017 World Series by the Astros. And the fallout has reached Boston as the 2018 World Series champion Red Sox and manager Alex Cora have mutually agreed to part company on Tuesday, January 14. Cora served as the Astros bench coach on that 2017 World Series team. His link to both the Astros and Red Sox could prove deleterious to all, regarding his potential involvement in the sign stealing scandal in Houston and whether or not it carried over to Boston under Cora’s leadership. The Red Sox are being investigated for using their video replay room to relay signals through players on the field, explained Rosenthal. The far-reaching tentacles could also reach New York, as the Mets hired Carlos Beltran to be the team’s new manager this off-season. Beltran played on that 2017 Astros team and may very well be implicated in the sign stealing.

Former Astros hurler Roy Oswalt added some perspective to the ruling as the severity of the “crime,” by his former team, in a Tweet. “So let me get this right. You steal signs and get fired, but you do steroids and get millions of dollars in contracts and inducted into the Hall of Fame? #makesnosense.”

I absolutely agree with Oswalt. Sign stealing is, of course, wrong, but don’t reward steroid users - also cheaters - with a plaque in Cooperstown. The only way steroid/HGH-addled balloteers should be admitted to the Hall of Fame is with a paid ticket for admission to the museum.

“We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here,” wrote Hall of Famer Joe Morgan in a November 2017 letter to the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), hoping to influence their Hall votes in 2018. I hope Morgan’s letter continues to resonate in 2020 as cheaters such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens inch closer to the magic number of 75 percent - enough to grant one admission to the Hall.

The cloud of controversy has been dark and heavy, while initially eliminating some from Hall of Fame contention. Yet in the cases of Bonds and Clemens, the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) voters’ support of Bonds rose from 56.4 percent in 2018 to 59.1 percent in 2019, and Clemens’ totals jumped from 57.3 in 2018 to 59.5 percent in 2019. Fortunately, remaining in low numbers are Sammy Sosa and Manny Ramirez. Sosa’s support moved from 7.8 percent in 2018 to 8.5 percent in 2019, while voting for Ramirez moved from 22 percent in 2018 to 22.8 percent, his third year on the ballot. Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa are on the ballot for the eighth year, and hopefully they will not reach the vaunted 75 percent by 2021.

The voting results are due to be released on Tuesday, January 21. What is not released are the ballots of the voting members of the BBWAA. I think they should be disclosed to the public. Let the BBWAA voters defend their votes as I defend mine, even if not as a member of the BBWAA.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame has a so-called character clause. “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contribution to the team(s) on which the player played.” So-called because it has existed since 1945 and more than a fair share of miscreants have found their way to Cooperstown. (https://baseballhall.org/hall-of-famers/bbwaa-rules-for-election)

With voting in mind, were I a privileged member of the BBWAA charged with the task of electing the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2020, only four former major leaguers would earn my votes - all four, holdovers. Of those four, maybe one will be enshrined on July 26, along with one other for whom I would not vote, but deserves induction. Candidates must receive at least five percent of the vote in order to remain on the ballot should they not attain 75 percent the previous year.

Of the four holdovers from 2019 for whom I would vote, three of them would have earned my vote last year and one I am giving a fresh look. Curt Schilling could finally reach 75 percent in this, his eighth year on the ballot. Schilling’s stock rose more than nine points to 60.9 percent in 2019, up from 51.2 percent in 2018.

Schilling, bloody sock and all, is a six-time All Star who pitched 20 seasons in the big leagues – three with the Orioles, one with the Astros, eight-plus with the Phillies, three-plus with the Arizona Diamondbacks, then calling it a career with the Boston Red Sox. Schilling tossed 83 complete games, appeared in three World Series, and had three 20-plus win seasons within a four year span at ages 36, 38, and 39. Schilling should have his ticket stamped this summer – was my mistaken prediction the last seven years, and while I believe some members of the BBWAA are holding his politics against him, Schilling still belongs among those earning a plaque in Cooperstown.

Omar Vizquel, was the quintessential shortstop of a generation, having won 11 Gold Glove awards during his 24 year career, second most at that position all time. Vizquel was also the oldest shortstop to win a Gold Glove, having done so at age 39 in 2006. After five years with the Seattle Mariners, Vizquel took his talents to Cleveland continuing to be the defensive gem that will vault him into Cooperstown.

Vizquel was three times an All Star, overshadowed by Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees, who will no doubt be elected to Cooperstown in a near-unanimous vote next week. On the field, Vizquel led the league in Fielding Percentage six times as a shortstop and is the all time leader in Fielding Percentage at .985. Vizquel shares the season record with Cal Ripken, Jr. for committing the fewest errors by a shortstop playing in at least 150 games with a paltry three. Additionally, Vizquel is first all time in double plays turned by a shortstop, third all time in assists at shortstop, and 11th all time in putouts made by a shortstop.

At bat, Vizquel compares rather favorably to Hall of Fame shortstops Ozzie Smith, Luis Aparicio, and Luke Appling. Vizquel hit more home runs than Smith and Appling, trailing Aparicio by only three. Vizquel drove in more runs than Smith and Aparicio, stole more bases than Appling, hit for a higher batting average than Smith and Aparicio, while collecting more hits than all three. This is the third year in the ballot for Vizquel, having earned 42.8 percent of the vote in 2019.

In his tenth, and final year on the ballot, there is Canadian native, Larry Walker. Having not considered him until his ninth year on the ballot, his numbers demonstrate a level of excellence and consistency on the field and at bat that should award him his plaque in Cooperstown.

Walker played 17 years for the Montreal Expos, Colorado Rockies, and St. Louis Cardinals. During that time, his career batting average was an exemplary .313, having won three batting titles, and batted .366 in 1997 while not winning the batting title. Walker slugged 383 home runs, drove in 1,311 runs, while stealing 230 bases - a solid combination of hitting, slugging, and some speed. Walker batted over .320 seven times, and won seven Gold Glove awards. Walker compares more than favorably with his contemporaries, and more so when examining Hall of Famers from prior generations. Having soared more than 20 points from 34.1 percent of the votes in 2018 to 54.6 percent in 2019, it is possible that Walker could see a trip to Cooperstown this summer. (If not, perhaps the Today’s Game Committee will be an avenue for Walker further down the road.)

In just his second year on the ballot, Todd Helton has earned my support. The 17-year MLB veteran played his entire career with the Colorado Rockies (1997-2013) batting .316 in 2,247 games with 2,519 hits, 369 home runs, scoring 1,401 runs, and driving in 1,406 runs. The Knoxville native finished second in the 1998 Rookie of the Year balloting, earned five All Star game selections in consecutive years, from 2000 through 2004. Appearing on MVP ballots in six years, Helton’s breakout season was in 2000, leading the National League in hits with 216 and all of MLB with 59 doubles, 147 RBI and a .372 batting average, yet could only manage a fifth place finish in the MVP race that season. Only earning 16.5 percent of the votes in 2019, Helton will more than likely not be inducted this summer.

On the other hand, the one candidate I expect to gain induction, but for whom I would not vote is, of course, the aforementioned Derek Jeter. 

The answer to how does one vote against Jeter, is simple - pinstripes - the same reason I gave last year when not supporting the first unanimous inductee, Mariano Rivera. Both absolutely belong in Cooperstown. Jeter played 20 seasons, from 1995 through 2014, all in pinstripes. He won the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1996, named to 14 All Star teams, won five World Series while a member of the Yankees, and won five Gold Gloves. Jeter appeared in 2,747 games hitting .310. His 3,465 hits not only is a Yankees record, but ranks sixth all time. The New Jersey native also drove in 1,311 runs, and scored 1,923 runs - seventh all time. Just as impressive in the postseason, Jeter played in 158 games stroking 200 hits and batting .308 - keeping with his regular season numbers, not often the case, as not all players rise to the occasion in the postseason, as “Mr. November” did. A unanimous first balloteer? Probably not, but should be darned close.

While it is important to not sully the Baseball Hall of Fame with the likes of Bonds, Clemens, Ramirez, and Sosa, the focus must be on the greats who will be enshrined this July and how they will continue to be the true ambassadors to the community as so many before them have been. 

Ambassadors such as Frank Robinson who died February 7, 2019. Robinson, born August 31, 1935, won the Rookie of the Year award in 1956, in a career that spanned from 1956 through 1976, retiring as player-manager, having been named the first black manager in Major League Baseball history in 1975 for the Cleveland Indians. The 14 time All Star was voted to 15 MVP ballots, winning that award in 1961 with the Reds and in 1966 with the Orioles - still the only player to win the MVP in both leagues. On June 26, 1970 Robinson hit two grand slams in a game for the Orioles. In total, Robinson’s 586 home runs ranks him 10th all time, his 1,829 runs scored rank 16th all time, and his 1,812 RBI ranks him 21st all time. Robinson was the last manager in the history of the Montreal Expos and the first skipper of the Washington Nationals. In 1989 Robinson was named Manager of the Year.

While not a hall of famer, Don Larsen etched his name into Cooperstown with a hall of fame accomplishment. While having a mostly inauspicious MLB career, (81-91; 3.78) Larsen remains the only pitcher in postseason history to orchestrate a perfect game. On Monday, October 8, 1956, in Game Five of the World Series at Yankee Stadium, Larsen tossed his masterpiece in two hours and six minutes, blanking the Brooklyn Dodgers 2-0, striking out seven, including fanning Dale Mitchell looking to end the gem. The Dodgers lineup that day included Hall of Famers Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, and Roy Campanella. Larsen earned the MVP award for the series. Born August 7, 1929, Larsen died on New Year’s Day 2020 at age 90. May their memories be for a Blessing.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. He has been a Patron-level member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame since 2007.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Trump Continues Fighting Anti-Semitism

Trump Continues Fighting Anti-Semitism
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
December 11, 2019

On the heels of yet another act of anti-Semitic violence, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order on Wednesday, December 11 before a group of bi-partisan supporters of that order, in the White House, that protects against “anti-Semitic discrimination based on race, color, or national origin.”

The Executive Order pertaining to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes potential recriminations against colleges and universities that receive federal funding. Those colleges and universities not protecting students, faculty, and staff on campus subjected to anti-Semitism risk losing that federal funding.

In recent years there has been growing support on myriad campuses for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement as well as illogically referring to Israel as an apartheid state. While this growing support for the BDS Movement is creating a toxic atmosphere on numerous campuses, Congress for the most part, opposes BDS on a bi-partisan basis.

However, 16 Democrats in Congress voted in favor of legislation supporting the BDS Movement, going so far to ignorantly, and with more than a modicum of chutzpah, compared support for Israel to support for Nazi Germany. Those Democrats are:

Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon
Rep. Andre Carson of Indiana
Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan
Rep. Jesús G. "Chuy" García of Illinois
Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona
Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington
Rep. Barbara Lee of California
Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota
Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York
Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota
Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine
Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin
Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois
Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey

“The vile, hate-filled poison of anti-Semitism must be condemned and confronted everywhere and anywhere it appears,” said Trump.

Anti-Semitism has been on a sharp incline throughout this decade, particularly on college campuses. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) tracks acts of anti-Semitism on college campuses among other venues. In 2017, there were 204 reported acts of anti-Semitism on campuses, and 201 in 2018.

The Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service has facilitated 17 forums since September 2018 focused on protecting houses of worship and preventing hate crimes. One such forum was held at my synagogue, the site of an anti-Semitic crime. Fortunately, no one suffered any physical injuries, unlike the recent spate of synagogue shootings in the last 14 months. On October 27, 2018 at the Tree of Life - Or L’Simcha Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh an attack during Shabbat services saw 11 congregants murdered in the worst anti-Semitic attack in United States history. Of the six others injured, four were police officers. Six months later, to the day, on April 27, 2019, the last day of Passover, also on Shabbat, one congregant was murdered, and three others injured at the Chabad of Poway, CA, north of San Diego.

Hopefully the Executive Order which pertains to venues both on and off campus, will help stem the tide of anti-Semitic crimes. This Executive Order received praise from the ADL, American Jewish Committee, World Jewish Congress, and the Zionist Organization of America - running the gamut from left to right.

The anti-Semitic violence referenced above, occured one day prior to the already scheduled Executive Order signed by President Trump. Four people were murdered in Jersey City - three at the JC Kosher Supermarket on Martin Luther King Drive, and near a cemetery in Jersey City, a police detective, Joseph Seals, 40, a 15 year veteran of the force, and the married father of five children.

With the winter holiday season of Chanukah and Christmas right around the corner, perhaps some good cheer, good wishes, and good will to all mankind are absolutely in order.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Daily Northwestern Apologizes for Accuracy

Daily Northwestern Apologizes for Accuracy
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
November 13, 2019

If journalism has been dying a slow and painful death over the past couple decades, the student newspaper at Northwestern University just slammed the last nail into the coffin. Apparently the most egregious act The Daily Northwestern committed in recent days was to apologize for doing its job - and doing it well.

Former United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered a speech on the Northwestern campus in Evanston, IL on Tuesday, November 5 at the behest of the College Republicans. Met by both students interested in hearing what Sessions had to say as well as those whose presence was only an attempt to prevent the speech from occurring, the student-run campus newspaper certainly had plenty about which to report. 

Amazingly, Northwestern University reporter Daisy Conant did just that - she reported what she saw and heard that evening. Sessions did, in fact, speak, at Lutkin Hall - “The Real Meaning of the Trump Agenda,” the title of his prepared remarks. Conant noted the content of Sessions’ speech, the vulgarities spewed at Sessions by the protesters attempting to gain access to Lutkin Hall, which had security to prevent any out of hand and illegal behavior. Conant did her job rather well in covering the event, compete with quotes from several students who attended Sessions’ speech and subsequent question and answer session.

Medill School of Journalism freshman Margaret Fleming attended the event with an open mind. “It’s hard because the people who I hold the same political views with are the ones protesting,” said Fleming. She added that a speaking event held by the College Democrats earlier in the semester did not produce the same belligerence and bellicosity. That is typically the case, as conservatives support the First Amendment, while far too many liberals and progressives are on record in a number of recent polls calling for the First Amendment to be rewritten limiting free speech - a dangerous road to travel.

After an accurate article appeared in The Daily Northwestern, complete with photographs of the event both inside and outside of Lutkin Hall, is when the snowflake brigade became apoplectic and outraged - not by any inaccuracies in the article, but because the article and photos were accurate. Apparently the truth hurts. So much so, the student newspaper actually apologized.

Apologized for what? For doing its job? For writing accurate copy? For publishing pictures depicting the events as they actually happened during the Sessions visit? This genuinely seems like the tail wagging the dog.

“Nothing is more important than ensuring that our fellow students feel safe… we failed to do that last week, and we could not be more sorry,” wrote the editors of the paper in their apology delivered from their knees. That is not the responsibility of a newspaper - protecting its subjects, instead the job is to reveal the actions and the words of those subjects - informing the greater public of events to which they themselves were not personally privy. The apology editorial called the Sessions visit a “traumatic event.” Who was traumatized? And how?

A myriad protesters objected to their pictures being in the newspaper; calling it an invasion of their privacy. Theirs was a public protest, where there is no expectation of privacy whatsoever. The protesters must bear responsibility for their own actions. Other protesters objected to reporters using the Northwestern student directory to contact them and interview them about the event and their role in it. That is the job of a reporter.

“Some protesters found photos posted to reporters’ Twitter accounts retraumatizing and invasive. Photos have been taken down,” continued the apology editorial. The paper continued its genuflecting apology for using the student directory “to obtain phone numbers for students, texted them to ask if they’d be willing to be interviewed. We recognize being contacted like this is an invasion of privacy, and we’ve spoken to those reporters - along with our entire staff - and about the correct way to reach out to students for stories.” 

Take the word of a veteran newspaper reporter/journalist: the way those Northwestern students tackled their task of garnering comments for their article was spot on. Nothing wrong with their methods. Not one student was forced to consent to an interview, nor are they required to do so at any time. Once again, and this must be stressed, with their contact information in the student directory, students in no way should have any level of an expectation of privacy.

The apology issued by the editors of The Daily Northwestern should never have been written or published.  If anything, the editors should have doubled-down and defended its reporters.This weak-kneed admission of guilt or some sense of seeking absolution from the student body had no place in theirs, or any other newspaper. If this is the direction of the future of “journalism,” may G-d help the United States. Readers will never again be able to trust what they read for the reporters may be protecting someone’s delicate sensibilities.

If reporters and journalists are going to be censored in what they can and cannot write and print based upon a level of hurt feelings, or whether or not their language is incendiary to even one potential reader, the profession cannot survive. Additionally, a petition signed by roughly 650 students condemning The Daily Northwestern, “for choosing to put our students in jeopardy.” How exactly did a newspaper article and photos of a public event put anyone in jeopardy?

Northwestern is not the only campus with a student body possessing a collective weak stomach for attempts at truthful reporting. Harvard’s Student Government Association took umbrage with, and condemned its own student newspaper, for simply attempting to elicit a comment from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) on a story. Unbelievable, a reporter actually doing his or her due diligence. The condemnation came just for the attempt to contact. No endorsement of ICE appeared in the newspaper.

Furthermore, half of millennials believe so-called “hate speech” should be criminalized and punishable. Let’s contemplate that chilling notion. Who will determine what hate speech is? If person A decides what person B says is hateful, should person B be hauled away and jailed with the possibility of losing one’s livelihood? And what happens the next day when person C decides what person A said is hateful. Will he or she end up sharing a cell with person B? Where does it end? The answer to hate speech is not less speech, but more speech.

In a most dangerous possibility, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), and one of the cast of thousands seeking the Democrat nomination for president, called “hate speech a threat to our democracy,” and has demanded that President Donald Trump be banned from Twitter and his account suspended. Regardless of who one supports for president in 2020 or any other year, that is a frightening notion coming from someone who wants to be president. People of all political persuasions must stand up and loudly shout NO to Harris. She attempted to cajole Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to join her on a recent debate stage in calling for Trump’s suspension from Twitter, but Warren refused to take the bait. Harris’ idea is the true threat to our democracy.

“The freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by a despotic government.” - Thomas Jefferson

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” - Thomas Jefferson

“The philosophy of the classroom today, will be the government of tomorrow.” - Abraham Lincoln.

With the horrifying levels of indoctrination on college campuses, the safe spaces, the free speech zones, and the abject political correctness that, for one, will eventually destroy women’s sports as it is known today, a level headed individual not afraid to speak out for fear of retribution or a lost job is vital as this nation goes to the polls to elect a president in less than a year.

Couple the above and Lincoln’s genius with that of Ronald Reagan. “Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.