Sunday, June 3, 2012

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

  On Friday, Johan Santana pitched the first no-hitter in the 51 year history of the New York Mets in a 8-0 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. The Mets franchise had gone the longest without a no-hitter, the closest coming in their miracle 1969 season when Tom Seaver lost a perfect game against the Cubs with one out in the ninth inning when he gave up a base hit to journeyman Jimmy Qualls (1 of only 32 in his career). Seaver dubbed the effort his ‘Imperfect Game’ and this game always came up whenever a Met pitcher came close to a no-hitter to highlight the beginnings of the Met no-hitter 'jinx'.

  I’m happy that the Mets now have a no-hitter to their credit and have left the San Diego Padres (est. 1969) as the only major league team without a no-hitter, but I have to question manager Terry Collins letting a pitcher who missed all of last season with shoulder surgery throw the most pitches he has ever pitched in a major league game with a 8-0 lead, no-hitter or not. I understand that Collins would have been pilloried by the fans and media for taking Santana out (especially if the Cardinals had gotten a hit), but Santana is guaranteed $50 million dollars over the next 2 years and that kind of investment should trump the glory of a no–hitter. When asked about his decision, Collins said "But if, in five days, his arm his bothering him, I'm not going to feel very good. … I just couldn't take him out. I just couldn't do it. So, we'll wait five days and see how it is."

  Hall of Fame Pitcher and Texas Ranger President Nolan Ryan thinks if his pitchers are better conditioned they’ll be able to throw more pitches and more innings, but I’ve seen enough pitchers throw large number of pitches in some early season game only to see their arms go dead later in the year to think that the more pitches in a game brings about more of a risk to the pitchers health. Maybe since the Mets haven’t won a championship in 25 years, having a no-hitter is more important than keeping a $25 million dollar pitching arm healthy for playoff games that the Mets may never earn the right to compete in. I hope for the Mets and Santana’s sake that they weren’t penny wise and pound foolish risking their ace pitcher’s arm for a week of newspaper stories.

  Speaking of being penny-wise and pound foolish, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called for a ban on ‘large-size sugary drinks’. New York has already banned smoking in bars and public places as well as artificial trans-fats in restaurant foods. But this new ban isn’t targeting sugary drinks; it’s just banning large size sugary drinks. The proposal would limit sales of drinks that have 25 calories per 8 ounces sold at movie theatre, sporting venues, restaurants, and other food service establishments to be sold in amounts of 16 ounces or less. Diet sodas and milk or milk substitute products could be sold in any amounts.

  I can see banning smoking in public places in order to spare non-smokers the effects of second hand smoke, but I don’t understand banning cigarettes and trans-fats from bars and restaurants. The choice of allowing smoking or serving up trans-fats should be up to the business owner. The consumers will make it known quickly enough if changes to the smoking policy or menu are needed. This partial sugary drink ban doesn’t make any sense to me. Banning 20 ounce sodas, but allowing the sale of 16 ounce sodas may keep someone form sucking down an extra 4 ounces of soda or it may convince them to buy 2 16 ounce sodas and increase their sugar intake by 60 percent. And then what has been accomplished?

  New York officials say a 2006 study shows that sugary drinks are the largest driver of calorie consumption and obesity, and that is their rationale for trying to enforce the ban. In his weekly radio show, Boomberg said ‘Nobody is taking away any of your rights…This way, we're just telling you 'That's a lot of soda.'". I never thought of 32 ounces as a lot of soda, but even if it is, what makes 20 ounces a lot of soda? Does Mayor Bloomberg own a stake in the companies that will have to be hired to retrofit the 20 ounce soda bottle vending machines to 16 ounces or the company that manufactures 16 ounce cups? Left unanswered by the proposal is how it will impact the free refill policy at fast food restaurants. I think having a free 16 ounce refill (or 2 or 5) will certainly be against the spirit if not the letter of the new law, but it is certainly a grey area that should be addressed.

  I was talking to a guy I knew and he was telling me he’d put on 30 pounds since switching from a job where he worked from home to one downtown where he’s been going out to eat every lunch. I gave him a couple of suggestions that maybe Mayor Bloomberg could use to help the citizens of New York with their weight problems. One of the things I mentioned to my friend was that a lot of thin people stay that way making themselves throw up after meals. If the Mayor could encourage this behavior by providing ‘vomit stations’, It could render the caloric intake from 32 ounce sodas irrelevant. My other suggestion to my friend was that he could become a heroin addict, since I’ve never seen an overweight heroin addict. There must be plenty of heroin in New York that Mayor Bloomberg could commandeer and instead of making a law outlawing the sale of 20 ounce sodas, he can merely mandate a dose of heroin corresponding to the size of beverage. And if New York happened to run out of heroin, we could import some from our friends in Afghanistan and help support their economy. These ideas may be too liberal even for New Yorkers so maybe he can compromise by allowing the sale of oversized sugary drinks but only to customers wearing the ‘Tummy Tuck Belt’, an amazing new product that can be seen on TV that gradually causes fat loss with no lifestyle or exercise change on the part of the wearer!

  I think that trying to stamp out obesity is admirable and since New York is considering these sort of drastic measures, I can only assume that educating New Yorkers about healthy habits hasn’t worked very well. 2 years ago I was labeled as obese and only recently swapped out all my sugary drinks (cranberry juice and green citrus tea) for tomato juice and water. I’ve never have been too much of a soda drinker anyway so this law wouldn’t affect me very much, but if I was a skinny New Yorker that liked my Big Gulp or even a marathon runner who wants a 32 oz. Gatorade (50 calories per 8 ounces) and now is limited to a 16 ounce drink, I’d be seeing my lawyer.