February 2013 Awards

Improbable sentence. “Ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman hung out Thursday with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un on the third day of his improbable journey with VICE to Pyongyang, watching the Harlem Globetrotters with the leader and later dining on sushi and drinking with him at his palace.

Personal finance vid of the month. Helaine Olen, author of “Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry“.

Apocalypse sign. CTA Digital’s iPotty with Activity Seat for iPad.

Noteworthy death. Mr. Matthew Crowley.

Weightroom t-shirt. “Gardening. It’s cheaper than therapy.”

Non-conformist. Photos.

Wasted talent. Professional sports division. My favorite excerpt, “Justify My Glove”.

Word—sequester.

Social media app—SnapChat. This news story gives it real cred. Maybe they’ll make a movie.

Consumer purchase, minimalist division.

IMG_0212

Nature pic—Holden Village (taken by La Fuerza)

Near Stehikin, WA

Near Stehikin, WA

Weekend get-away—Holden Village

Sitting in the bus I was flashing back to when I was a high school water polo legend traveling to away games.

Sitting in the bus I was reminiscing about when I was a SoCal high school water polo legend traveling to away games wit da’ boys. Lake Chelan water visibility, easily 25′.

Most widely read post. The Link Between Walking or Cycling to School and Concentration.

Sayonara Ichiro

On Monday afternoon Ichiro switched lockerrooms and traded his Mariners uni for pinstripes. Wins for losses. Unless you’re a Pacific Northwesterner or serious baseball fan, you probably don’t know that veteran Mariners don’t fade away, they just sign with the Damn Yankees.

I’ll never forget one of Ichiro’s first Mariner games when he threw a guy out at third from deep right. The “laser beam”. The best throw I’ve ever seen (at 3:52).

Despite having played 11.5 years in Seattle and being a future Hall of Famer, most Mariner fans have an “it’s about time, don’t let the door hit you on the way out” attitude towards the trade. When Griffey was traded to the Reds in 2000, M fans were crestfallen. Why the dramatic difference?

Here’s the alleged rap against Ichiro:

• he’s selfish as evidenced by his singleminded pursuit of a record number of hits at the expense of working counts, getting walked, and creating even more havoc on the bases

• he’s selfish as evidenced by his keeping to himself and providing zero clubhouse leadership despite being the team’s best player throughout most of his M career

• he was a diva—as his salary skyrocketed and his skills declined in recent years, coaches couldn’t move him in the batting order, rest him, or (until Monday) trade him because over the years, the team’s Japanese owners, his agent, and him yielded more power than the team’s shorter-tenure GM and coach

• he was duplicitous, speaking English in private while using a Japanese interpreter in public

To muddy the water even more, reporters that covered the team in the 90’s describe Griffey as difficult, surly, impersonal. Maybe the dramatic difference is the result of one, or a mix, of three possibilities.

Theory One. Griffey’s passionate style of play, his prodigious homeruns and willingness to run full speed into the centerfield wall to make a catch, more than compensated for his own interpersonal limitations. Also add into the mix the way he came up, starring immediately, with his dad in the lineup. The Kid.

Theory Two. Griffey was beloved in part because at least half the time his M’s won. The M’s lost for eleven of Ichiro’s twelve years. His popularity suffered as a result of management that wasn’t willing to spend enough to build a team that could compete. Just as Griffey benefited from positive winning vibes, Ichiro paid the price of mounting fan frustration.

Theory Three. Admittedly, far less flattering. Instead of seeing Ichiro as one, especially introverted person, many M fans didn’t understand or appreciate the cultural differences he had to deal with daily, and ultimately ended up resenting his foreignness. Given the stark contrast, I can’t help but wonder if the Grif-Ichi public sentiment chasm is at least partially explained by xenophobia.

Any of these resonate? Have another theory?

Before

After

Derek Jeter

From Buster Olney’s ESPN blog:

“The Yankees’ belief is that their current three-year, $45 million offer is fair, and that by offering arbitration to Jeter, they essentially would bail him out after a down year. The Yankees feel that in the past, Jeter has fairly negotiated from his standing in the marketplace — when he went to arbitration in 1999, when he negotiated a 10-year, $189 million deal in 2001. And now the Yankees feel these talks should reflect Jeter’s place in the market; they also believe that no other team would be willing to pay him what they have offered. Here’s one big factor working against Jeter in this negotiation: While the Yankees want him and are offering him above what his market value is, they operate in the knowledge that if Jeter doesn’t re-sign — if he actually walks away — then his departure would not be a mortal blow to their pennant hopes in 2011. If Jeter walked away in 2001, that would have been different; he was an exceptional player then. Now he is a good player, but far from irreplaceable.”

I’m concerned for DJ. He’s building the largest, most expensive home on the water in Tampa a few miles from my mom’s pad. How’s he supposed to finish it and furnish it with a best-case scenario pay cut of $3.9m/year ($15m versus $18.9)? Last time I cycled by his crib there was a Porsche Panamera parked out front. Next time I ride by it will probably be a Toyota Highlander.

Sports analysts refer to DJ’s value to the Yankees in terms of his personal brand and argue it contributes to the team’s brand. In essence, approximately half of the proposed contract is a bonus for distinguishing himself from the other knuckleheads in the same locker room. Don’t mistake this for Yankee bashing, it’s pro athlete bashing more generally. It’s a sign of the sorry state of pro sports that Jeter has separated himself from the vast majority of ball players by doing what should be the norm, chasing foul balls into the stands, passing on p.e.d.s, and living within the laws of the land. In short, be a good citizen and we’ll pay you extra.

What intrigues me the most about these negotiations is the relative discipline of the SOS’s, “Sons of Steinbrenner.” A lot of financial analysts that study the wealthy predict that the vast majority of young adults of extremely wealthy parents will blow through their inherited wealth given their sense of entitlement and anemic work ethic. My guess is Steinbrenner would have signed DJ by now for more than is on the table. Props to the sons for their surprising, relative fiscal discipline.

Here’s what DJ should do. Sign the contract and say, “I’m well aware that functional unemployment is 17%. That awareness makes me even more appreciative of this contract which enables me to continue making a very good living playing a child’s game for the best franchise in professional sports. This is not a ceremonial signing. I will continue to work hard day in and day out to bring Yankee fans more joy over the next three seasons.”

“I’ll figure out,” he might add once the microphones and cameras are flipped off, “how to cut some costs on the new spread.”

Yankees daring Jeter to look elsewhere?