Golf: U. S. Open Impressions

Yesterday, Jon Rahm won the U. S. Open in grand style, by birdieing the last two holes. He played a great round of golf, and was a very deserving winner. I watch some of every round in this U. S. Open, and the entire final round. This was one of the best Opens in a long time. The venue was set up perfectly and the weather co-operated by not having a lot of high winds. The leader board was crowded with some of the top players in the game, and some regular tour players, trying to make the big splash. In the middle of the final round, there were about 10 players within two shots of the lead. Everybody seemed to be going along just fine, when all hell broke loose on the back nine, and just about everybody fell apart, except Rahm and Lois Oosthuizen. It wasn’t until Oosthuizen took a very aggressive line on 17, and knocked his drive in the hazard, and barely missed a par saving putt, that you felt that Jon Rahm had the victory. I have to give Oosthuizen some credit, for taking the aggressive route, and really trying to make birdie on that hole, but unfortunately it did not work out. During the final round, there were many players, who had a chance to win, but none more so than Bryson DeChambeau. When he almost made the hole in one on No. 8 to take the outright lead, I thought we were going to have a repeat champion. Then after making a par on the par 4 10th hole, he decided to take 40 blows on the last 8 holes to fall all the way to 26th place. Bryson characterized his back nine as having bad breaks and just being “golf”. Let’s take a closer look, and also go back to Fridays round.

Bryson blamed a lot of his back nine on bad luck. I attribute his horrible back nine to some of the worse thinking I have ever seen by a top player. I am not talking about bad thinking on one particular hole, like Jean van de Velde did at the final hole of the 1999 British Open, where he made a triple bogey, when he only needed a double bogey to win the tournament. DeChambeau’s bad thinking, is an overall bad approach to the game. It showed up on Friday, when he tried to reach I believe the first par 5 on the back nine in two. He hit a great shot, but it was just short, and rolled back down the hill about 50 yards, into a sand filled divot. That was a very bad break. This was time to take your medicine, and hit a nice little lob wedge, right into the throat of the green, which would have put him about 30 to 40 feet, right of the pin, for a birdie putt. Instead, he tried to hit the ball directly at the pin, over a bunker. He chunked the shot, right into that bunker, and exploded the ball over the green, and was lucky to chip back, and make a bogey. Then, when he drove it into the rough on Sunday, on the same par 5, instead of trying to get the ball back in the fairway, where he probably could have gotten home in three, he continued to hit the ball down the rough and wound up making a double bogey 7. He has a philosophy, that he can hit any shot he pleases, and get away with it. He has done this, in other tournaments, as his whole game lacks any type of strategy. When things go wrong for Bryson, he calls it just golf, and really learns nothing. Unless this philosophy changes, I do not see him ever winning another major. Only time will tell, of course. One things for sure, it is not for the lack of a golf game.

My overall impressions of the tournament were many. These guys make a lot of putts and shots around the greens. One of the odd things about this Open, was the number of truly great shots from fairway bunkers. Many times, the player who hit from the fairway bunker got closer to the hole, than his playing partner did, from the middle of the fairway. I am not going into specific instances, but it was interesting to see, that all the rough was not created equal. There were some spots that were particularly thick and then other areas where it was not near as penal. I am not talking about areas that were trampled down by the fans, speaking of which, it was also interesting to see players, trying to hit in these areas on purpose, rather than the fairway. It shows you, even the best players in the world are affected by hazards, that are close in play. It seems like no matter who you are you are not immune from the pressure of the U. S. Open. You saw it all Sunday, drives out of bound, impossible lies in bunkers, shanks, and even balls stuck in trees. Now, that’s bad luck Bryson. There are many golfers who have been in contention over the years that just don’t seem to be able to seal the deal. You have to wonder are they really trying to do anything different or are they just looking for the answer, too. In the end Jon Rahm stood out as the best player of the week, and took home the greatest prize in golf, the United States Open.

Golf: Frustration

My last post was about frustration in general. This post is about what has frustrated me the most in my life, and that is golf. There is nothing, that even comes a close second. I have been playing golf since I was 8 years old, beginning in 1958. There were two years, 1964 and 1995, where I did not play at all. There have been years that I have played very little golf, due to other commitments. Since 1996 I have played regularly, at least 2 to 3 times per week. Since 2010, I have played at least 100 rounds every year. When I tell people this, they will comment that I should be able to play well, playing that often. If you are playing badly, it doesn’t make any difference how often you play, you are just playing badly often. The game has many ups and downs, which can be expected in any endeavor, but golf takes this to an extreme. What makes golf so frustrating? Let me count the ways.

Golf has many unique qualities, when compared with other sports, and I have written about them before. These unique qualities do contribute to some of the frustrations, but they are far from being the most frustrating thing about the game. The biggest frustration with golf, is how much your game changes from day to day. If I drove a car, like I play golf, I would have an accident, about every third trip. Right now I am going through a down time in my game, which has developed, into what I call, a full blown slump. About 10 days ago, I had, out of the blue, one my best rounds of the year, which enabled me to shoot my age of 71. In fact, I was going to write a blog about this accomplishment, going into fine detail about the round. However, I slowly, but surely, got back to my slump levels, which dampened my desire to write about the round, which now seemed like such a fluke. The next day I shot 76, and then the following day ballooned to an 86. Last week, due to some unforeseen circumstances, I was only able to play two rounds, and did not break 80, either round. Naturally, I was doing some certain swing feelings, when I shot the 71, and I thought wow, this could be what is going to lead me out of this slump. Wrong yip master. This happens all the time. The other frustrating thing about golf is just hitting horrible shots, that should be easy. Missing short putts is another wonderful facet of the game. Not being able to perform at your normal level, when the round is more important, is mystifying and frustrating. Playing well for about 14 holes and then shooting terrible for the last 4 is just another fun part of the game. It does not help, that you see all the same problems and issues at the highest level of the game.

So, how do I deal with the frustrations of my golf game? I have tossed wedges into the woods, never to be found. I have thrown at least 100 balls into various lakes and woods. Slamming a clubhead into the ground seems to relieve a lot of stress. Swearing seems like a nice senseless thing to do. Trying to put my foot trough the bottom of a golf cart, when I hit the accelerator, was another method, that seemed to have some merit. Frustration was a big part of the reason I did not play in 1995, and I almost quit in 2010. I just read my blog about frustration, and I don’t seem to recommend any of these methods. Maybe I am going to have to rewrite that blog. Anybody who plays golf at any level, goes through exactly what I have been describing. It is the nature of the game. If the frustrations of the game are just too hard to overcome, then getting away from it for awhile, or permanently, is a viable solution. Even though I wrote previously, that seeing the greatest players in the world go through the same thing, does not help, but there is some comfort in the fact, that you are not alone. My recommendation to avoid frustration with your golf game, is truly the only way to handle the problem. Other than quitting, how is that accomplished? It is not easy, but I believe there are a couple of things you can do. Have no expectation for any round of golf. When you have that unexpected great round, be happy, and then forget about it. Be ready for the surprises that can happen in any round of golf, good or bad. If you are ready for anything, then whatever happens is not a surprise. Remember, there is a solution out there, we just haven’t found it, yet.

Meditation: Frustration

Frustration is defined as the feeling of being upset or annoyed, especially because of inability to change or achieve something. That definition is pretty tame, when you consider the emotions that frustration can bring on. I put this topic under meditation but it could apply to any of the subjects I write about, which will be covered in future blogs. Frustration has been divided into two types. Internal frustration is where an individual faces challenges in fulfilling personal goals, desires, instinctual drives  and needs, or dealing with perceived deficiencies, such as a lack of confidence or fear  of social situations. External frustration  involves conditions outside an individual’s control, such as a physical roadblock, a difficult task, or the perception of wasting time. We all seem to go through periods of frustration, at some time in our lives and some individuals seem to be frustrated all the time. We are always frustrated with a lack of success. I am always fascinated by fan’s frustration over the performance of the their sports teams. People will get frustrated over what another person is doing or not doing. How many times have you heard some say, I can’t believe he, she, or they did that. Frustration is an emotion, that can lead directly to other emotions, that some people feel can be good and then, there are some not so good.

If you are getting frustrated with some aspect of you life, you can always do something about it. I do mean always. Many people look at a situation and do not see a solution. There is a solution to every problem or desire. The trick is in finding it. That doesn’t mean that you won’t still feel frustration over a situation. Once a solution is found, the next step is to execute it. Sometimes, that can be harder to do than anticipated. If you fail to execute the solution, then that can lead, right back to frustration. The external frustrations can even be more of a problem. Frustrations with other people, companies, government policies, retail services, and certain situations, can evoke strong emotions, that often times lead to no good. There is the added “benefit” of taking out your frustrations on someone or something else, rather than being frustrated with your self. This is where frustration will lead to anger and even violence. A lot of little frustrations, can lead to one major blow up. If you allow frustration to get the best of you, it will lead to regret and remorse. Is it better, to somehow, not ever get frustrated, or do you have to find a better way to handle the frustration, you are feeling?

It may seem unrealistic, to keep from getting frustrated. I can see getting frustrated over getting frustrated. However, despite what people say about frustration leading to some positive emotions, like trying to do better, and having more resolve, for the most part, frustration is simply not a good thing. The easy frustration to avoid, is external frustration. I am literally having external frustration, as I write this blog, because I can not get through to a restaurant, that I am trying to make a Friday night reservation. I am not feeling any frustration at all. Remember, I golf, so I really know what frustration feels like. My only feeling, right at the moment, is that if I never get through, this restaurant is not going to get my business. For external frustrations, you can always have alternative good thoughts. If you are stuck in traffic, because of an accident, be grateful you are not in the accident. If you think you are not being treated fairly, and even have suffered some financial loss, you will know not to do business, with that individual, again. Take legal action if the money loss is severe. Never get frustrated with an individual you know. Accept whatever they are doing, or don’t have the relationship. Remember, when it comes to interactions, never do anything you really don’t want to do. Trying to avoid being frustrated with yourself, is much harder to do, but it can be done. Frustration is usually brought about by failure. Failure to lose weight, failure to perform up to your expectation, and failure to achieve, are just some to the things that can lead to internal frustration. I am not one to say that failure is to be embraced, but realize that the only way not to fail, is not to do. If you fail, accept it and move on. Look for the solution, and try again. Frustration is not to be handled, it is to be avoided at all cost. By the way, I made my reservation.

Sports: Pirates, Not Waiting Till June Too Take A Swoon

When we last took a look at the Pirates, they were 14-19, and were barely hanging on, to make something of the season. They nose dived, in more ways than one, to lose 14 of the next 20 games, gave up 20 runs in one game, and made one of the biggest bonehead plays, in the history of baseball. Two to the wins were walk offs, and one was in extra innings, or it could have been even worse. The collapse was a team effort, as all of their pitching, batting, and fielding stats fell dramatically. Their highest rank is FIP and Defensive Efficiency coming in at 19th and 20th, respectively. The rest of the pitching and batting stats are pretty pathetic with ERA+ and Runs scored coming in at 29th each. No one has hit less home runs than the Pirates. They have taken the deadening of the ball seriously. Even though I have called this a team “effort”, there have been players that have stood out by their extremely poor play. Some have not been surprising, but others had some better expectations.

Expected putrid players, that have lived down to their expectations, are Erik Gonzalez, Gregory Polanco, Wilmer Difo, Michael Perez, and 4 of the 5 in the starting rotation. The most disappointing players, who had higher expectations going into the season, are Kevin Newman and Phillip Evans. These players could be some of the worst players in Major League Baseball history. I am not going to waste my finger energy going over some of their pathetic slash lines. Some of their OPSes are not above the league leaders in slugging. As a group their plate discipline is terrible, with Erik Gonzalez being the worse, and they are all allergic to the walk. This group of players is the main reason the Pirates can not score runs. In the starting rotation there is only one pitcher, J.T. Brubaker, who has an ERA+ over the league average 100, at 107. OPS+ and ERA+ are statistics that compare player performances taking in ballparks and other conditions, with the league average being 100. Bryan Reynolds OPS+ is 143, and he has a WAR of 2.2. He is on his way to having an All Star season. Check out these OPS+: Gonzalez 50, Newman 40, Polanco 89, being paid 11 million this year, Perez 37, Difo 81, Evans 89. Now these ERA+: Keller 61, Kuhl 63, Cahill 59, Anderson 86, who if you listen to the Pirate announcers, you would think he is Sandy Koufax. Then, you had the Will Craig gaffe, with Javier Baez at first base, that cost the Pirates eventually 2 runs in a game they lost. I will say one thing in his defense. Why wasn’t someone on the field yelling at him, to tell him what to do. Both the radio and TV broadcast booths sure as hell were. Was it out of respect, or was the whole team dumbfounded speechless, on what they were seeing on the field. Perez could have taken one step, and tagged Baez, instead of trying to tag the runner. On one of the most bizarre plays in major league history, even though Craig took most of the heat, for the huge mistake, you could say, it was a team effort. Is there any hope for this team?

The short answer is no. I am always the optimist, however, and hopefully some good things could happen. Supposedly Hayes is going to be activated this week. That should move Gonzalez to the bench. Moran will come back this month I assume, and his bat, but not his glove, should be an improvement overall for the team. The sad thing about the rotation, is that the fill ins, have pitched better than the regular rotation. I see no hope for Chad Kuhl. The two, that I am hoping, will turn things around, are Newman and Keller. In 2019 Newman hit over .300 and I don’t mind typing this slash line, .309/353/.446, with an OPS+ of 109, and a solid WAR of 3. If he can approach those numbers anytime soon, it would be a huge lift for this team. Keller, who has become every other start Keller, needs to become every start Keller. Hopefully he can find some kind of consistency, and become a top of the rotation guy. I admit these last 20 games have been discouraging, in more ways than one, and I do not know what the schedule looks like this month, but if Hayes comes back, totally able to play, then maybe this team can have a competitive month. The rotation must improve, by finding some arms. If not, then sadly be ready for that 100 loss season. YUK!!!! I’ll next visit the Pirates, July 1.

Golf: Stories, The 90’s

In the 90’s, I went full circle, when it came to golf. I played a lot for the first 4 years, then hardly played at all for 19 months, and finally, went full bore at the end of the decade, as I played on my first professional tour. My years at Rolling Hills will be included in the 90’s stories, even though I joined Rolling Hills Country Club in September of 1986. I went to putting left handed in the the 90’s. During this time, my veterinary practice had its greatest years, that would continue into the 2000’s, until I sold it, in 2004. I would not record a hole in one during the decade, which would mark the only decade that I did not have a spectacular shot. Even though I did not record a hole and one in the 2010’s, I did get an albatross, in 2017. I did hit a lot of good shots during my years at Rolling Hills.

I spent 7 full golf seasons at Rolling Hills. The odd thing about my play there, is that I holed out more shots from the fairway during those years, than I did anytime before or since in my entire golfing life. I did not make a hole in one but I eagled every other hole there, with exception of the long par 4 17th hole. Some of the hole outs were fairly long shots. A 3 iron,(remember that club), from 200 yards out on number 9. Various wedges on numbers 1,2,4,6,10,11,12,16, and 18. Short irons on 5,8,13, and 15. During the 7 seasons, I had 20 hole outs of 50 yards or longer. I saw many odd shots at Rolling Hills. Once one of my playing companions hit a high pulled iron into a tree to the left of the 8th green, we saw two things drop from the tree. I thought it was just some leaves on a branch. When we got up to the green, we saw his ball and a dead squirrel. Knowing my profession, he wanted to know if I could revive it. I saw many shots that were hit to the left of the 18th green, hit a retaining wall, or the clubhouse balcony, and bounce onto the green. This tee shot on the first hole, however, tops them all. There was an electrical tower, just to the left of the first tee. Odd isn’t it. In one of the club events, this player started his round, by lining a low left hard hit heeler. The ball hit a brick, that surrounded a flower bed, just to the left of the first tee. It flew straight up into the air, to the top of the electrical tower, and noisily rattled around. It flew out of the tower even further to the left, then it hit the awning of the pro shop, and bounced across the practice putting green, where people had to scatter, and wound up about 25 yards to left and behind where he had teed up. Since this was an event, the putting green had to be cleared so he could hit his second shot. Even though I enjoyed my years at Rolling Hills, golf was becoming something, that I was not enjoying, so I decided to take a hiatus from the game. I remember when I made the decision. I was sitting in the men’s grill, on a rainy Sunday morning, waiting to see, if we would get to play, and suddenly, it was like I was the only one in the room. Everybody was talking to other people, and for once, I was not talking. It just hit me right then, that I was going to quit. About 2 weeks before we had just qualified to go to Orlando for the National Oldsmobile Scramble, in late September, early October. I knew that would be my last golf, for awhile. Everybody was shocked, that I was going to quit playing golf. Some thought I joined some kind of cult, and had to give up something to belong. Some thought I was devastated by my 4 runner up finishes in the club championship.

Why did I give up the game for awhile? Like most decisions, there were a lot of little things that just added up. I had hit a wall in playing the game and was getting frustrated as hell. There were many other reasons, some not even related to golf, but I knew I just had to get away from the game. First, I always knew that I would take it back up, in fact I continued to hit balls, and I did play in various scrambles, and did get a chance to play Scioto Country Club. I played about 6 rounds of golf over that 19 month period of time. I really did not miss the game at all. I ran 5K and 10K races every weekend, and I had lots of other things to do to keep me busy. In fact looking back on it, the only mistake I made was coming back too soon. I should have waited until the spring of 97, to start playing again. Once I came back, I was still having the same problems I had, when I left the game. It was then, I decided to putt left handed, and that started a nice turn around. I have lefty in me, as I throw left handed and my left eye is my dominant eye. I turned 48 in 98, and many senior tours allowed you to start playing on them, at the age of 48. I played on what was called the Tornado Tour, beginning in the spring of 98. It was in the eastern part of Ohio and it played the events on Wednesday or Thursday. I played on that tour for 4 years until it went belly up and actually won one event. I still don’t know how I did that, but it had no carry over affect in future competitive endeavors.

As the nineties came to a conclusion, I was firing on all cylinders in every aspect of my life. I was keeping a brutal pace for someone just about to turn 50. I admit I was loving every minute of it, but in the end, I really could not get it together on the golf course. By the end of the next decade I was ready to quit the game again, and this time for good. Instead I decided to start blogging in 2010 and have kept playing every since. I felt there was some kind of unknown quality about the game, and there was a better and easier way to play the game. I am still looking.

Meditation: Obsessed With the Future

It use to be people would be told, you shouldn’t dwell on the past. Other than hopefully learning from mistakes, you do not want to be overly critical of some of the missteps, that were taken in the past. You want to try to remain in the present, and be aware of what is going on, right now. However, dwelling on the past, has been replaced in society today, by being obsessed with the future. This obsession with the future is seen everywhere. It is the new way to avoid being in the present moment. Going to the ESPN web site, anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of the posts are about something in the future. I am not talking about the near future, either. Who is going to be the top college recruits in football in 2023. When the NFL draft ended, it was less than a week, and there was a post, about who would be drafted in 2022. Power ratings for hockey teams, for the 2021-22 season. Who is going to win this fight? Newscasts, take up almost as much time, telling you what they are going to show, than the time spent, on the stories themselves. There are previews of movies, new cars, new TV shows, and when something is going to open. Again, these previews may not be in the near future. In some cases, that may mean 6 to 8 months, before something is going to happen. Dexter is coming to Showtime, this fall. There is no question, that this constant obsession of thinking, and talking about the future, is the new way, to avoid the present situation. It’s thinking, that the future looks better, than what’s going on now. It can never really be that way, unless you start taking care of the present.

Are we ever right about the future? There are many instances in life, where there is a situation , that we may be dreading. It could be a visit to the dentist, an engagement with the in laws, a job interview, going to a party where you know very few people, or having some work related assignment. You may worry or fret about this for even weeks in advance. Once the situation has happened and is over, you realized that it was not near as bad as you thought it was going to be. This, in reverse, is what the main problem is with being obsessed about the future. Most of the thinking, is about how much better the future will be, when compared with the present. My team will make a really good draft choice next time. My favorite college team will have a great recruiting class, next year. We will win the game. I will have a better job. I will have a better relationship. I will have more money and time on my hands, to do the things I want. I could go on and on, about how people think about the future. The reality is, the future is never as good, as we project it to be. So how should we look at the future?

First, let’s look at how we should deal with the past. The past can be a great place to fondly look back on some of the good and wonderful things that have happened. Everybody has made mistakes and at times have behaved badly. As I wrote before, we must learn from these mistakes, and take responsibility, not blame, for our actions. The future should be looked at, as way to plan, for what we want to with our lives. That is the key words, our lives. We should not really care what are sports teams are going to do, to get more players. We should not care about future events, other than those that are close to home, so you can attend, if you would like. We should not care who is going to win what game. We need to learn how to enjoy the moment, even when the moment, may not be all that enjoyable. Enjoy seeing you team play, regardless of the outcome. Enjoy the food you are eating right now. Enjoy every moment that you are healthy and feeling good, with no issues. Staying in the present means knowing what is going on around you right now. We can all strive to be better in every way. The way to be better is to increase your level of awareness, of what is going on inside, and outside of you body, at the present moment. You can not do this, if you are thinking of what will happen to other people, other teams, or other countries over the next 12 to 24 months. You have got to stop caring about that aspect of the future. The future of what someone else is doing. You must stay present, and plan for your future, to get back in the game of life.

Golf: A Very Interesting Video.

I watch a golf instructional video the other day, in fact it was probably about 3 to 4 weeks ago. I can’t find the site that I watched the video. I think I get e mails telling me when this site posts something, but I can’t find it on my Word Press site, which doesn’t surprise me. Anyhow, this was a golf instructional video about putting. It was done by a couple of pros from England, and they were in the US, shooting this with a pro, who had invented this putting aid. It was a flat piece of material with one side wide and the other side just wide enough that if you put 2 tees at the end of it, on either side, it left just enough room for a ball to pass in between. I assume there was some kind of an alignment aid at the end you struck the putt. The idea is to strike the putt between the tees which looked to be about 3 inches ahead of the ball. One of the English pros used the aid. He read a putt of about 7 feet. He read the putt to break about 3 inches to the right. Everything was set up, so that the device was aim at his projected target. He struck the first putt and hit the left tee, and of course, the ball caromed off, and stop way short. The pro made the adjustment and consistently put the ball between the tees at a good speed. However, his read was bad, and he missed all the putts low, by about 2 to 3 inches. He hit about 3 putts, so it was very obvious the read was wrong. The putting instructor reset everything to play more break. This time, when the pro took his first putt, he hit the right tee barely, and it threw the ball off line. He made the adjustment again and started to put the ball through the tees consistently. This time, although the putts were better, with what I call perfect speed, he was burning the left edge of the cup. When he hit one putt with dying speed, the ball fell into the hole. This device was to give a golfer proper feedback and groove a perfect stroke. This was not what I found interesting about the video. I am sure this device is great and it did what it is supposed to do very well. Here is what makes this video interesting, and extremely fascinating.

Remember, this was a PGA professional, who was doing the putting. He read the putt, and until he putted the first ball, we did not know that he had under read the left to right breaking putt. This type of putt is always more difficult, it seems for a right handed putter. His first putt hit the left tee, which means he had pulled his putt. However, this combination, of under read and pulled putt may have found the hole. By watching all three putts miss on the low side, the instructor moved the aim point about another 2 inches to the left. Naturally, there was a break in the action. When the pro hit the first putt with the new line, he wound up hitting the right tee, and again the ball was taken off line. He barely grazed it. He got right on track with the second putt, but his first couple, just grazed the left side of the cup. He died one in on the third putt. There it was on video, the famous disconnect, that I have seen all my life. Even with an experienced pro, something inside of him, which he did not realize, told him the putt was going to break more than he read. Even though he was trying to put the ball between the tees he pulled the putt on what most likely was the proper line, and didn’t even know it. Even with more knowledge, and a better, but not perfect line, he pushed the putt, on what would have been the line to take for the putt to go in with perfect speed. How does some part of us know this, but we can not communicate it, to what I call the conscious being? I have no clue to what the answer is, to that scenario. What happens to me a lot of times, in that situation, when my read is wrong, I will simply hit a weak putt. Nine times out of ten, the putt will wind up short, and drifts off in the opposite direction that I thought it was going to go. Is our subconscious that good at reading putts, and we don’t even know it. This is one conclusion that I have drawn from this. Is there a way to tap into such brilliance. Maybe Jack and Tiger already have, but just aren’t telling us. I don’t really think so, because they spent a lot of time reading putts. The purpose of the device, and the video was to show that the pros get feedback, so they know what they are doing. That may be true, but it showed a phenomenon that may be the key to finding great success on the greens.

Sports: Pirates, They Made It, Barely

The Pirates were 5 and 8, and heading into what I called a tough stretch of games, where they would play 15 of the next 20 games on the road. I wrote if they wanted this season to remain viable, they would need to be somewhere between 3 and 5 games below .500, at this point. After a promising 6 and 3 road trip, they really hit the skids, but managed to win yesterday, and are at 14 wins and 19 losses, 5 games below .500. The offense became putrid, which was the main reason for the slide. The OBP dropped to 21st from 8th. Their OPS+, which was 11th in the league at the 13 game mark, fell all the way to 29th. This team could not score runs when they were hitting, so naturally their run production went from 17th to 27th. Their fielding and pitching improved, which allowed them to go 9-11 during this 20 game stretch. The Defensive Efficiency Rating rose to 14th from 22nd, which is one of their highest rankings in about 6 years. Interestingly, their strike out rate took a big drop, to 25th from 11th. All the other pitching stats moved up significantly. Whip was 13th, ERA+ 18th, and FIP 14th, all up, from the mid to high 20’s after 13 games. The most disappointing stretch of games, were the 5 homes games, where they lost 4 out of 5 to the Royals and the Cardinals. The other disappointment, during this stretch, was the continuation of bone head plays. Come on guys, this is the Majors. The loss of Colin Moran will hurt an already struggling offense. Despite what Bob Walk says, Moran does not play 1st base all that well, and who knows, maybe if Todd Frazier gets some steady playing time, he may start to hit. He certainly fields the position better. All in All, the Pirates held it together, barely

I thought some things would have to happen for the Pirates to have success during this 20 game stretch. Most of them, did not happen, and yet the Pirates went a respectable 9-11 during this time. Ke’ Bryan Hayes did not come back, and now appears he won’t be back until at least June 1. This loss just keeps getting bigger and bigger, especially when you consider who is playing third base, but more on that, later. I felt that Polanco may start to contribute, but that did not happen. I guess you could say, he is missing in action, and really, it is no big loss. The K twins got better because one of them is not pitching and hopefully Keller finds a way to have two good starts in a row. Right now, he is on an every other start run, which I suppose is better than nothing. They did get rid of the strike out happy centerfielders, and got more production out of the position, but it was almost impossible to get any less. The starters seem to be going deeper, with Anderson going 8 innings yesterday. I think the bullpen was in such shock, that they almost blew the game. Until yesterday, the Pirates have not really had any good luck. Things were particularly bad in San Diego. They hit a lot of liners right at people, and San Diego just seemed to be able to find the hole, when needed. Yesterday, the Pirates did put on a bloop hit show to score 6 runs, so maybe that will turn this team’s luck around.

The next 20 games will get us through the month of May. The Pirates will play 13 of the next 20 at home, which despite the last home stand, should be a plus. This is what I would like to see happen, with the personal, over this stretch of games. Erik Gonzalez needs to sit. In 110 plate appearances, he has walked twice. This has been his MO his entire baseball career, and it is not going to change. For what ever reason, he looks pretty good until he gets 3 balls on him, and then he swings at anything. The worse plate discipline I have seen in a long time. Try somebody else at third base. I don’t care who, there are numerous candidates. Gonzalez can always be used as a defensive replacement late in games. His OPS+ of 54 is horrific, with the league average being 100. He is good defensively, but not that good, to warrant him in the lineup, on a team that can not score. We are not talking about Javier Baez here. If and when Chad Kuhl gets healthy, he should be moved to the bullpen. He might fare better there, and I feel the rotation is better without him. Phillip Evans needs to get out of his slump. At least he walks, but his OPS+ is down to 88. This will be one of the keys during this 20 game stretch. If he continues to slide, then he needs to sit next to Gonzalez. Adam Frazier and Bryan Reynolds seem to have recovered from their 2020 hitting slumps, but Kevin Newman has not. It would be nice if he can start to hit. Finally, I do not understand what the Pirates see in Clay Holmes. Hopefully, they are right, and I am wrong. I think the Pirates have better talent on their roster, than him. If he proves me wrong, then these 20 games may be alright, because the Pirates use him a lot. Only Sam Howard, has appeared in more games this year. The Pirates have to play at least .500 ball through this stretch, if they are going stay competitive in the division. In order to reach this goal, this team has got to find a way to score runs. We will revisit the Pirates June 1.

Golf: Unusual Injury and a Feel Good Story.

I have haven’t written about my own game lately, which usually means that I am basically stinking out the joint, and this is no exception this time. I am having my usual putting problems, and short game blues. My ball striking as been ok, particularly my driving, and my iron game has been up and down. There have been two interesting things happen this year, that I think warrants some blogging. First, I had this very unusual injury related to playing golf. I have been playing this game for a long time, since 1958, and I thought I would never do this to myself, by swinging a golf club. On March 17, I was playing, on a fairly pleasant day, in other words no extreme conditions. I took a swing with an iron, and felt this pain on the inside of my forearm. It wasn’t excruciating, but I noticed it all the same. It was only on that shot. It never recurred the rest of the round, and I really never gave it another thought. Then due to the weather, I did not play for 3 days. The next time I played, I started out fine, but I felt the same pain in my forearm around the 3rd hole, like a small knot in the forearm. This time, it did not go away entirely. Then on the 7th hole, I hit a Gap wedge fat, and the forearm became very painful. I could feel a distinct knot on the inside of the forearm. Naturally, I played out the round, but I protected the arm, and although it was painful, I massaged it, which seemed to make it feel better. I left the course right away, went home, put some ice on it and massage it some more. When I woke up the next morning it felt a little better, but when I looked in the mirror, this is what I saw.

Holy shit!!! The only good news, is that it didn’t feel all that bad. I guess you would call that a severe contusion. As you can see, it goes from the top of the wrist to just below the elbow. I did have some elbow pain. When I hurt it with the fat wedge shot, the pain was only isolated in the inner part of my right forearm. I never expected to see anything like that, the next day. Believe it or not I played golf that day, but did protect the arm. When I showed this picture to my daughter, she thought I fell out of the golf cart. I played 3 of the next four days, with a little different swing, because the weather was just too damn gorgeous, not to play. I only had pain when I did not move my wrist for awhile, and it would wake me up at night, because of way I was positioned at times. I never really did anything for it, and it just slowly went away. I have not had any problems since, and it has been 5 weeks, since I did it. I admit, I have made some permanent changes in my swing, which I hope will avoid doing the same thing. I don’t know if this is necessary, but I do not want to go through this again.

Now for a feel good story. On March 30, we had an 11:16 tee time at Scenic Valley, but because of a frost delay we were pushed back to 11:45. The place was packed, because it was developing into a beautiful day. I was there with my buddy Pete, and we were joined with another twosome, which was fine with us. We went down to the putting green, to kill some time, and when we came back, we found out, that the twosome we were supposed to play with, got joined with another twosome, who were ahead of us. We were joined by a single, by the name of Alli, who is 85 years old and had only been playing golf for about 10 years. Both Pete and he played from the senior tees and Alli moved the ball pretty well with a homemade swing. Number 6 is the first par 3 at Scenic, and from the senior tees it is about 140 yards. Yep, you guessed it. Alli took a mighty swing with his driver, and hit a very nice looking shot, that landed about 20 yards short of the green, took some nice hops toward the pin, and went right in the hole for an ace. Naturally, it was his first ace, in his brief 10 year golf career. Alli bought the beers and the course bought the hot dogs, and it was just a grand day. I looked at Pete and said ” Look what we would have missed, if we had gone out with who we were originally paired with”. Golf is one great game.

Meditation: Fortune and Fame

As with most blogs of this type, let’s begin with some definitions. Fortune is defined as a large amount of money or assets. We are not talking about the luck definition. Fame is defined as the condition of being known or talked about by many people, especially on account of notable achievements. I don’t know if everybody that becomes famous, has what is known as achievements, but I will accept the definition, just to move along. Some people become famous for breaking the law, and others become famous, simply by making an extreme amount of money. That can certainly be considered an achievement, but it is not the same as an athletic, or scientific achievement. Fortune and fame do not always go hand in hand. There are lots of wealthy people, who are not famous. By the same token there are famous people, who are not wealthy. Fame can have it’s obvious drawbacks. The worst thing about being famous, is that everything you do, is seen under a microscope and everybody seems to know about it. I think what it all boils down to is, there is a price to pay for being well known. When the famous develop problems of addiction, depression, run ins with the law, and general bad behavior, although not excusable, it can be understood, why these things can happen. The solution can be simple. Just stop doing what made you, and is making you famous. It is a sacrifice, and it may seem unfair, but it is a solution to the problem. It seems even the wealthy and not so famous are not all that happy, and some can be pretty miserable. When we hear about this, we often wonder, how somebody with all that money, can have so many problems, and be that unhappy. All the wealthy are not like this, but there are enough, that there are many articles in many journals written about this subject. Here is a short review on the general consensus, of why the wealthy are unhappy.

First, here are some quick stats. There are close to 800 billionaires in the United States. Here are the top 4. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, all have a net worth between 105 and 188 billion dollars. Sweden’s richest man, Stefan Persson, is worth 18 billion which would just slip him in to the top 25 in the United States. Millionaires are a totally different story. There are well over 18 million of them and just over 75% of them are white. Apparently being a millionaire is not really all that great. Even the titles of some of the articles are ominous. The dark reasons so many rich people are miserable human beings. Then the article goes on to discuss people that are making a little over 100,000 dollars a year. That’s not rich, when compared to the millionaires and billionaires. There is an article, simply titled, why aren’t millionaires happier. That article talks about people knowing, that material things can not buy them happiness. It’s also hard to stop buying, once you start, but people with lesser incomes, seem to have that problem, also. Millionaires do not seem to be immune to having fairly high suicide rates, compared to other sectors of society. When compared with the other wealthy countries, it seems one of the wealthiest, the United States is also the leader in suicide rates. Reading these articles, even though they create a certain amount of sadness, do not give a good reason, why there is so much despair among the wealthy. I have my own theory.

It really boils down to not knowing, what to do with all that money. A lot of billionaires and multi millionaires do a lot of philanthropic work, and help a lot of people. They are all set up through some foundation, so even though a wealthy or famous person’s name is attached to it, it is the foundation doing the work, with a lot of people volunteering, and donating money. I think what the very rich need to do, to end all their misery, is to help people on a 1 to 1 basis. The 800 or so billionaires could give away 1 billion dollars each, in increments of 100,000 thousand dollars, to the poor and needy, directly. They could go down to the border right now, and give that amount to everyone crossing the border. They could walk into homeless shelters, and give each person there, 100,000 thousand dollars. There is approximately 5000 Americans with a net worth of over 100 million dollars. All of those Americans could give 1 million dollars each, in increments of 100,000 directly to the needy and poor. Just get the money, make a bank check made out to cash, and start passing them out directly. Don’t worry about tax breaks, and write offs, just go out and start giving that money away. You have plenty of it. If you have a foundation, it will be fine and will continue the good work that it is doing. For those of you under the 100 million mark, give what you can, but give it directly to the person. In order to be a happy billionaire, or multi-millionaire, you have to have that feeling of the one on one gift. It makes everyone feel good, and you get to do it many times. So just do it, all you millionaires and billionaires, and you are not going to feel miserable any more. It will give you a whole new feeling.