Sports: Pirates, Just One More Month To Go, Thank God

The Pittsburgh Pirate 2021 season is winding down, with August not being very good to the new look Pirates. Yes, I know they have one more game this month, but I wanted to get this over with, and I have the time today. For the month of August, they are currently 8-19, and if they lose to the White Sox tonight, it will tie them for the worst month of the season. It could have been even worse, were it not, for some stirring comeback wins, along the way. The Pirate offense, literally hit rock bottom, as they are last in runs scored, slugging and OPS+. A great time to fire your batting coach, which the Pirates did. In all the other important stats in pitching and fielding, the Pirates are in the bottom 2/3’s of the league, with their Defensive Efficiency being the best at 22nd. They finally cut ties with Gregory Polanco. You can’t say that the Pirates didn’t give him every chance to succeed. He was fourth in plate appearances, and wound up with a negative war, most of which was do to atrocious defense. It did not help that his offensive slash line was .208/.354/.637, and it was only that good, because he had a pretty good last week. Most of the year his average hovered around .200. The fired batting coach made him a pet project in spring training. With those kind of results, that may have been enough to get him fired right there. The most concerning thing about this team, is the way so many players have seemed to digress. I will delve into this more, in the season wrap up blog.

There is a month to go in the season, so some of these players could make a late season surge to bring up some of their pathetic numbers. What do we have to look forward to, in this last month of the season? One thing, it does not look like the Pirates are going to break any records for games lost during a season. They would almost have to lose every game. They are going to play a big role in whether the Reds make the playoffs, since they are going to play them 9 more times, including the last 3 games of the season. It would be nice to see them ruin the Reds chances, after all the things that have happen in previous games and years. Will Bryan Reynolds continue on an MVP pace, or will he collapse in September, like he did in 2019? Can any starting pitcher go 6 innings, and look like he might belong in a big league rotation next year? Will Yoshi Tsutsugo and Michael Chavis, just be another, in a long list of flash in the pans? Could by any stretch of the imagination the Pirates have an above .500 month? If the pitching really stinks in the last month, will they fire the pitching coach? It can be tough being a Pirate fan, but how would you like to be following the Angels and the Padres, seeing them spend all that money, with the Angels not making the playoffs, and the Padres, fighting for their playoff lives. So much for the Padre-Dodger rivalry. After all the analysis and break downs, it all boils down to one thing, you are either in the post season or not. See you for the end of the year wrap up, and the beginning of the post season, where I will finally get to see Major League Baseball being played. Whoopee!

Meditation: Never

Never is a word, that you hear often, in everyday life. I am never coming back. I will never do that again. I will never eat there again. I will never make that mistake again. He will never succeed. Never means not at any time or not on any occasion. When you look up the definition of never, it is used in sentences like, I have never been to China. Never is used to describe something in the past. The sentences that I wrote using never, were all related to future events. When you use never about past events, then never is a constant, and is always true. If you have never been somewhere, whether it be a country, state, or place, that is not going to change, until you do go there. When you use never, regarding future events, it may not always be true. Sometimes, that can have negative effects on your well being, if it is something that you felt you would never do, and you wind up doing it again. The last sentence I used it in, was about what another persons chances of success were. That sentence stated, that this person had no chance at success. The best thing to say about never, when it is used to discuss future events, is to never use the word never. It does not help any particular situation, and will just magnify a bad situation. However, are there some things in life, that you should never do?

You should never judge your fellow man. This is the hardest never, to do in the real world. We inadvertently judge people everyday, even when we think we are not. Giving compliments to people is a way of being judgmental. But when judgments are negative or stereotypic, it can lead to impulses that can do bodily harm, and even lead to more general violence. Does this mean that we should never compliment people? No, but it should be done in a private way and not with a lot of flare. Negative comments should always be kept to one’s self. It is difficult to see what is going on in another person’s life. Until you walk in another person’s shoes, you have know way of knowing, how you would respond or act, in a similar situation. If we could all abide by this never, you would not see the anger on social media. We are different and have different viewpoints. No matter how much we disagree with those viewpoints, we need to have a certain amount of respect and appreciation for that individual. Making derogatory comments about people for their point of view, accomplishes nothing. Never judge your fellow man.

Never be in a hurry. Every time you rush things, there are mistakes made. This never is hard to do, especially when you are late for an appointment or a plane departure. The key to accomplishing this never is to plan ahead very well, and make sure you have lots of time to arrive or do what you have to do. Being in a hurry is what causes most accidents. Trying to get somewhere faster, leads to taking risks, that sometimes can be deadly. If you are in a situation where you are running behind, just accept the consequences, and hope that you will make the appointment or departure on time. If you don’t, things can be rescheduled, and there are other flights. Nothing is worth causing injury, or making mistakes, that could lead to other problems, just because you are in a hurry.

The final never, as far as I am concerned, is that you should never do anything, strictly for money. Money is a necessity of life. We see, everyday, people who have lots and lots of money. There are more millionaires and billionaires, today, than ever before. With everyone’s access to social media, and cable TV, we see what everyone is doing, and the lifestyles of the rich and famous are right there in front of us everyday. Money can be a wonderful thing, but it is obvious, that these same people, that seem to have more money than anyone would know what to do with, are also, many times, not very happy. You need to be happy in your everyday endeavors, and that includes what you do to make a living. When making a living is so much a part of your life, then you better love, not like, what you are doing. If you are not loving what you do, to obtain money, then bite the bullet, and find something else, that you love to do. Your relationship with money, is one of the most important things, that you will have in your life. It is probably a good subject for a future blog. For now, let’s just say you never want money to be your sole focus in life. If you allow that to happen, you will miss a lot what life has to offer, and you may never find the life’s work, that will make your life complete and fulfilled.

Sports: Baseball’s Economic System Is Just Fine.

When Major League Baseball proposed some changes to teams payroll structure by lowering the luxury tax ceiling about 30 million and raising what the minimum payroll could be to 100 million, there were many complaints, that this was not enough to save a broken system. This was particularly true, here in Pittsburgh, where the “unfairness” of the system has kept the Pirates from competing. The only thing that has kept the Pirates from competing is an owner, who has refused to spend money, and some horrible decisions by the Neal Huntington regime. It is amazing, how everyone is for free enterprise, and the American way, until there is this perceived unfairness of the situation. In this case, the large market teams have an unfair advantage, because they have much more revenues, and therefore can spend more money. The salary cap has always been presented as the solution to the problem, since the other three professional leagues have one. Salary caps are basically an abomination, that causes teams to make hard decisions on getting rid of good to great players, to stay under the cap. Fans are always complaining, about how free agency causes players to move around, and not stay on one team. The salary cap forces them to move on, when they may have many more productive years for that team. There is no proof that this helps improve competition. In the other three sports, the teams that make bad decisions, continue to be bad, and the teams that are better at evaluating, and developing talent continue to play well. So let’s take a look at the current payrolls of all the Major League teams, and, at least according to Fangraphs, their chances of making the playoffs. These are the payrolls when they started the season.

Los Angeles Dodgers 267 mil. 100%

Chicago White Sox 141 mil. 100%

Milwaukee Brewers 98 mil. 99.5%

San Francisco Giants 160 mil. 99.0%

Houston Astros 192 mil. 94.3%

Tampa Bay Rays 70 mil. 94.2%

New York Yankees 204 mil. 81.1%

Atlanta Braves 148 mil. 73.5%

Boston Red Sox 182 mil. 72.4%

Cincinnati Reds 126 mil. 44.9%

San Diego Padres 176 mil. 41.5%

Oakland A’s 89 mil. 37.7%

Philadelphia Phillies 184 mil. 22.5%

The rest of the teams have a less than 20% chance of making the playoffs. Here they are in descending order to make the playoffs, with the last 12 having no chance of making the playoffs. Toronto Blue Jays 151 mil. New York Mets 198 mil. St. Louis Cardinals 169 mil. Seattle Mariners 81.4 mil. Los Angeles Angels 181 mil. Baltimore Orioles 57.4 mil. Texas Rangers 95 mil. Cleveland Indians 47.9 mil. Detroit Tigers 85 mil. Kansas City Royals 85 mil. Minnesota Twins 117 mil. Miami Marlins 58 mil. Washington Nationals 149 mil. Chicago Cubs 141 mil. Arizona Diamondbacks 90 mil. Colorado Rockies 114 mil. Then there is our beloved Pittsburgh Pirates, with the second smallest payroll at 55 million dollars, with 11 million of that going to one, Gregory Polanco. I will say one thing for the Pirates, they are making him earn the money, by playing him as much as possible, which can be the only reason, he is getting so much playing time.

Of the 13 teams that are still fighting for a playoff spot, according to Fangraphs, 3 of the teams are in the bottom half of payroll expenditures. Six teams that have little of no chance of making the playoffs are in the top 15 in total payroll. The Phillies who are fifth in payroll, most likely will not make the playoffs. The Mets, 3rd in payroll, are fading fast, with their chances rated at about 10%. There are lots of things that baseball needs to fix, pace of play being the no. 1, but the way players are paid, is not one of them. Teams spending money is not a guarantee for success, not even close. Everyone deserves to make what the market will bear. Baseball does a good job of spreading the wealth around to the small market teams. When good baseball decisions are made, and players are properly developed, a baseball team will thrive, and contend for championships. One of the final arguments for making change in the economic structure of baseball is, yes, small market teams have great regular seasons, and will make the playoffs, but they will never win a World Series. Looking back over the World Series of this century, the small market teams have had their moments, but there is no question, the big boys win most of the World Series titles. Some of that, may be due to the fact, that the smaller market teams are reluctant to spend the money on late season rentals, that can make a big difference in a short series. Even giving some credence to the World Series argument, it is not enough to change a system, that works quite nicely, in the long run, and gets players the money they deserve, with the exception of Gregory Polanco, of course.

Meditation: Religion

Religion is defined as, well, nobody seems to know what the definition of religion is. First, lets see what the dictionary has to say concerning religion. Merriam-Webster says religion is the belief in a god or in a group of gods. : an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods. Dictionary.com states that religion is  a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. Wow, now there’s a sentence for you. The opening in Wikipedia reads, religion is a socialcultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, beliefs, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethic, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, and spiritual elements; however, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion. In other words, scholars, whoever the hell they are, have failed to agree on a definition of religion. In fact you could write a blog just about what religion is, without any kind of commentary or opinion. There are estimated to be over 4000 religions worldwide. Despite the problems of defining religion, everybody does seem to think they know what a religion is. Most people can easily name about 10 to 20 well known religions. Religion is often associated with a church. However, for the first time since the 1930’s, over half of the American population say they do not belong to a church. In the mid 90’s, 70% of Americans said they belonged to a church. In a nutshell, it seems that people still believe in God, but not so much in organized religion.

Of course, the church has seen a lot of bad publicity in recent years, especially concerning priests. That, and the overall decline of the middle class, has lead to the church seeing a decline in revenues and attendance. If you are a very religious person do you really need a church. How about a club, much like a book club? Why can’t people meet in smaller groups and practice the religion of their choice? Do we really need the large congregation and a leader of a church? Doesn’t the church just seem to make you want to feel guilty of some of the things, that you do, that in reality are really doing no harm to anyone, including yourself? Why does the meeting have to be on Sunday? How about Tuesday night. After all, we don’t want to compete with Monday night football. Can you really get 100 to 200 people to agree on anything, let alone on what their religious beliefs are? However 10 to 20 people can gather, and have like religious views, and they do not have to pass a plate around. The small religious gathering could be the thing of the future. It could be called, the Name of the Religion Club. An example would be the Hindu Club, meeting every Tuesday night at 8. Where they meet can be rotated around the 15 or so member’s homes.

Meditation is certainly associated with Eastern Religions, like Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism, just to name a few. Meditation does not seem to be a big part of Christianity. That’s not to say that Christians do not meditate, but it has not had the same importance, as it does in Eastern Religions. The reason I think this is, is that meditation is a way to freedom and independence of thought. The Church has always seemed to discourage independent thinking. The church is the perfect example of an organization, that wants to suppress their members, so they can justify their existence. The church wants members to feel, that they will always need the church, to get through the process of day to day living. The church does not follow the true mentor-student relationship, where the student leaves the mentor, because the mentor is no longer needed. Meeting in a group, to discuss spiritual and religious beliefs, can be a wonderful nurturing experience. It can be done without any kind of vast organizational behemoth. People need to meditate. They need to have open discussions, about their spiritual views. They need comfort and support, through hard times. What they don’t need is a church, which has failed miserably in providing the necessary tools, to accomplish those religious needs.

Meditation: Decisions

There are many decisions we make in life. There are many videos and websites dedicated to helping people make decisions. Some people have high anxiety over making decisions, which can lead to unhappiness and depression. Decision is defined as a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration. I feel, when applied to everyday life, that decision should be defined, as to choose something to do, or not to do. That is really what it boils down to. Decisions can be divided into two categories, little decisions and big decisions. The little decisions are the ones that we make every day. What time do you get up, where and what are your going to eat, things that you do at work, and what you might do after work. Then there are the big decisions, that can shape your life forever. Where will you go to college, career choices, who you might choose as a life partner and whether to have children. As stated before, there are volumes of material that can be found on how to go about making these decisions. The information at these various websites seems to be sound and very helpful. They pretty much tell you what to do, and not to do, when it comes to making those life changing decisions. What is not discussed, is some of the after affects of those decisions, and how they affect future decisions.

Looking at little decisions first, the results are fairly black and white. If we decide to try a new restaurant for dinner, and the entire experience is terrible, then we know that we are not going back to that establishment. We move on from that experience, and it does not deter us, from trying another new restaurant. If you choose to go see a movie, and it is disappointing, you still go, and see other movies. The result of the decision is straight forward. It was a good decision and a great experience, or it was a bad decision, and a not so great experience. Either way, we seem to move on, and continue to make those everyday decisions. However, when it comes to the big decisions in life, this type of attitude is harder to cultivate. This could be due to the way we look at the results of these big decisions. We need to look at the results of our big decisions, in a more gray like mode, instead of black or white. We can all make a bad decision, when it comes to choosing a life partner, a job, and buying house or car. If we take a closer look at the results of these decisions, we should see that there is always some good that comes out of these situations. All of these life choices should result in a very good learning experience. No situation is totally bad or utopic. It is being super critical of your choices, that can lead to being reluctant to make decisions in the future. It will always boil down to either doing something or not doing something and every decision will result in some kind of consequence. Whatever the result, you have to look at it from all sides, move on, and get ready to make your next big decision.

Making decisions is as much a part of life as breathing. To stop or avoid making decisions is simply to stop breathing, something that you really can not do. Remember, avoiding making decisions, is a decision. It really boils down to plunging ahead in life, and finding the best in every situation. Always continue the learning process, and never give in to the idea, that it can not be done. If a situation is unbearable then do something about it. Remember, every problem has a solution, you just have not found it yet.

Sports: Pirates, A Brand New Team

Before we get to the new look Pirates, let’s quickly, and I do mean quickly, review the month of July. They were 11 and 14 for the month, with a couple of those wins by the new look Pirates, and it was their second best month of the season. The month was “highlighted” by the Pirates coming back from a 6 run deficit and winning 9 to 7, only to score 6 runs in the first inning the next day, and then lose 7 to 6 to the same New York Mets. The first time in the history of the National League, that a team came back from a 6 run deficit, and then blew a 6 run lead to the same team the next day. Another feather in the Pirates cap. It was amazing, that the Pirates managed to play only 3 games below .500, because statistically the bottom fell out. Even their defensive efficiency rating fell down to 21st in baseball. They hit rock bottom 30th in scoring runs. They are 24th in the league in preventing runs. Pitching ERA+ they are 28th. OPS+, they are the same, 28th, in the league. In the art of getting on base, they are 22nd. This team pretty much stinks. It’s hard to say this, but to be 11 and 14 is nothing short of a miracle. But that team is done for the season, and we practically have a whole new ball team, for the last two months of the season. Of course, they were slaughtered today, but one day does not a month make.

The Pirates have acquired 24 players, or prospects, or what ever you want to call them, since the beginning of the year. Everyone is touting the draft. The Pirate farm system is ranked right around the top 5 by most of the baseball media outlets. There will be more dead wood going out the door at the end of the season, and we pretty much know, who they are going to be. I was not surprised at all, by any of the moves, that the Pirates made this past week, as the trade deadline came and went. The only player the Pirates did not move, who I thought, they could get some value for, was Jacob Stallings. At 31, I don’t think he will be much of a factor, if and when, the Pirates become competitive. In this very weak era of catchers, where J. T. Realmuto is considered the best catcher in the game, I thought there would be more interest in a league average hitting catcher, who is an excellent defender. Apparently, there was not. The trade that amazed me the most was getting two players for Clay Holmes. Getting a pair of shoes for Clay Holmes, would have surprised me, let alone two players. Did the Yankee GM owe Cherrington a huge favor. The same thing could be said for the Red Sox trade, but at least the Pirates only got one player in return for another one of their stiffs. Only time will tell if this boat load of trade returns, and draftees of the last 2 years, are going to make the Pirates competitive in the near future. At least from a fans point of view, these next 2 months should be interesting and entertaining, to see if some of the new players on the team, can be long term contributors, or just are flashes in the pan. My final thought is that I am so glad, that according to the Pirate announcers, Gregory Polanco is seeing the ball better. He still can’t hit, but at least his vision is better. Will revisit the new Pirates on September 1.