Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Future Is Now

  In the 1970’s George Allen was hired to coach and manage the personnel for the Washington Redskins and immediately started trading his picks in future drafts for older, experienced players. The older players helped the Redskins to the Super Bowl in 1972 and to the playoffs in a number of other years (although the Allen coached Redskins never won a playoff game aside from the 1972 season). When asked about whether trading away draft picks was going to hurt the Redskins in the future, Allen sneered and said the ‘The Future is Now’, meaning the only championship the Redskins could win was the current years. Despite having leaving the Redskins with barely any draft picks when he left the team following the 1977 season. Allen may have had a point because the Redskins won half their games or more in 3 of the following 4 years and won the Super Bowl in 1982 after winning at least half their games in 3 of the 15 years before Allen became coach (season by season records here).

  The Washington Nationals baseball team faced a similar situation this year that the Redskins faced in the George Allen era. With the first overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft, the perennial loser Nationals drafted Stephen Strasburg, a 21 year old pitcher who was the top prospect in the draft. Strasburg gave every indication of being an intergenerational pitcher when he struck out 92 batters in 68 innings (including 14 strikeouts in his Nationals debut in 2010) and the Nationals won 8 of the 12 games he started. Unfortunately, Strasburg tore a ligament in his pitching elbow in his 12th start of 2010, had ligament replacement surgery and didn’t pitch again until September of 2011. In 2012, Strasburg picked up where he left off in 2010, striking out 197 batters in 159 innings en route to a 15-6 record with the Nationals winning 19 of his 28 starts and pitching a scoreless inning in the All-Star game.

  After 4 seasons of losing 89 or more games, the Nationals went 80-81 in 2011 and were expected to contend for a playoff spot in 2012. Before the season, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo imposed an innings limit on Strasburg for this year, believing that any more innings would put undue stress on his still-recently surgically repaired ligament. This seemed reasonable until the Nationals burst out of the gate with the best record in National League and gained a spot in the playoffs. Rizzo has stuck to his decision and the Nationals will participate in Washington’s first baseball postseason since 1933 (encompassing 3 teams) without their best pitcher.

  I don’t know whether Rizzo’s decision is right or not, but I do know that if the Nationals don’t win the World Series, he will be judged harshly by the Nationals fans and he will get no credit for his decision if Strasburg goes on to a long Hall of Fame career that doesn’t include a Washington Nationals championship. I will say that I believe Rizzo is doing what he thinks is right for the player and the team, but if it was me, I’d let Strasburg pitch because there is no guarantee that Strasburg won’t leave the Nationals as a free agent 4 or 5 years, there is no guarantee that the Nationals will ever be this close to a championship in the next 100 years, and the only championship that the Nationals can win is this years and their future is now.

  Another ‘game’ where the future is now is the game of presidential politics. Can you name the losers of presidential elections that ran for president again in your lifetime? There’s only been one in my lifetime which encompasses 13 elections including this one (Here is the answer). If you want to go back another 40 years you can find 1 more (right here). Once the chance to run for President is obtained, there will rarely be a second chance if the opportunity doesn’t result in the presidency. This has led Romney to make a number of statements he may not otherwise have made such as attacking the government’s initial response to the attacks on our embassies in the Middle East on the 9-11 anniversaries. Romney came under a lot of fire for his remarks, but if a more vicious attack or a concrete development in Iran’s quest to create nuclear weapons had followed his remarks, they may have resonated and caused the few undecided people to consider him as Presidential material more seriously. I don’t think it is a wise tactical maneuver to attack the foreign policy of the President who gets the credit for the killing of Osama Bin Laden, but there is no next year or next election for Romney so I can’t fault him for pulling out all the stops to get a job he so obviously covets.

  My only decision in this presidential election is not to decide which Harvard educated millionaire I’m going to vote for; I’m deciding whether I’ll be casting a write in ballot for Ron Paul or Lee Gordon Seebach . I’ve never voted for a Democrat or Republican in a presidential election, but I still find the process fascinating and consider myself a reasonably accurate prognosticator. I even have a polling method and according to it, President Obama is ahead by 5.9 points. My secret scientific research method has determined that as long as price of gas at the Git’N’Go in Bondurant, Iowa is below $4.19 a gallon, the President will win the election, but the challenger Romney will win is the price hits $4.20. The current price is $3.60, but just 2 weeks ago the price was $3.83 and the contest was well within the margin of error.

  This week the Romney campaign has been embarrassed by the release of a video at a (supposedly) private fund raising talk in which he said that 47 percent of the US population won’t vote for him because they are ‘who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it…These are people who pay no income tax. Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax.’.

  Romney has gotten hammered for these comments which many say show him as insensitive and out of touch with mainstream America, but when I read the full transcript of the video (which was filmed in May), much of what Romney said makes lots of sense. Romney says on the tape ‘Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn't connect.’ I agree 100% and why should this message connect? If I didn’t pay taxes, why would I be interested in someone who pays taxes paying less taxes? The Democrats seem to agree also. I’ve seen 4 ads this morning saying the Democrat plan is to have millionaires to pay ‘a little more in taxes’. Not being a millionaire, I have no objection but if I was a millionaire I might be OK with giving the millionaires a break and letting the billionaires pay a lot more in taxes. I’ve seen many Democratic ads showing Senior Citizens having to pay more in Medicare under Romney, students having to pay more in student loans under Romney, etc… Last month the President was in Iowa talking about the jobs that were created making turbines for wind farms and that these jobs were created in part by the tax credits that are offered for using wind energy. This week Siemens Energy announced that they will be laying off 400 workers at their wind-turbine factories in Iowa because of the uncertain future of the extension of the wind turbine tax credit. I’m sure that when oil subsidies are cut, Exxon and Shell are also laying people off in other states. Just as Romney understands that he won’t be getting votes from groups who don’t pay taxes when he is proposing tax cuts, The Democrats also understand that way to get votes from groups who are getting something is to either promise them more or tell them that the other party will be taking away what they are getting now.

  The other point on the Romney tape that I agree with almost completely is when he says ‘What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center that are independents that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not, what it looks like.’ This underscores something I’ve noticed long ago about this election. Everyone I know has already made up their mind. Romney says 5 to 10 percent, but I think the number is more like 2 or 3 percent. Who what will cause the 2 to 5 people out of a hundred in a few select states that will decide the presidential election to make up their minds? I don't think anyone knows, but the more things that Romney says, the better chance on finding the one thing that will turn those select few to (or against) him.

  I like the fact that Romney isn’t backing away from anything he has said about his video. The people who support him are being fairly quiet about it and the people who don’t support him are making the same comments they were making before only now sprinkling in quotes from the video. Romney would just look silly by trying to clarify what ‘he meant to say’ on the video and after a few days it all becomes old news anyway. He is much better off just to keep on attacking as if the whole incident never happened because for his campaign, the future really is now..

  The Romney campaign wasn’t the only victim of a leak this week. I was in the midst of some investigative reporting on the miniscule number of Peanut M & M’s that were being dispensed from the new vending machine at work. I had purchased a package of Peanut M & M’s and received 20 Peanut M & M’s for my 85 cents. On Friday, I took a video of the vending machine while I fed it a quarter, expecting to receive 3 or 4 Peanut M & M’s like last week only to get 6 of the chocolate covered treats. Obviously the vending machine owner was alerted to my planned exposé and altered the machine, but the source of the leak hasn’t been discovered yet..