Wednesday, August 28, 2013

2013 Jackson Open - Part 1

“Wherever you go there you are” - Unknown but if Yogi Berra didn't say it he should have

  Last Friday I drove up to Jackson, Minnesota to play in the Jackson Open chess tournament and hang out with my friends Sam Smith, John Flores, Jodene Kruse, and Riaz Khan. The winner of the tournament has their name engraved on the Flores Cup. I had every reason to think I had a great chance to get my name on that cup and the $300 that goes with it because I have been on quite the chess roll lately. The week before I had finally captured the coveted blue ribbon from the Iowa State Fair speed chess tournament and also won my August time odds blitz tournament and I wasn't the top rated player in either tournament. It also didn’t hurt my chances that the Jackson Open was restricted to players rated less than 2000. On the other hand playing speed chess and blitz may not be the best preparation for a tournament where each three hour game will take longer than any tournament I competed in over the past year. I did feel sharp and rested since I took the week off from work to stay home with Daisy and Baxter while Kathy took Ben to his freshman orientation at the University of Idaho.

Two of my favorite scenes from two of my favorite movies!

  I spent the week walking the dogs, looking in on the 2013 Chess World Cup in Tromsø (Norway), working on a website idea I have, and just relaxing. I crossed an item off my bucket list by getting a foot long sub at Casey’s – a $5.99 turkey and cheese sub which had great bread and great toppings but not nearly enough meat. On Wednesday night I watched the classic chess movie ‘Searching for Bobby Fischer’ which is more about the definition and price of victory than chess and on Friday morning I watched another of my favorite movies ‘Rocky Balboa’ which while being pure fiction is an inspiring tale for those of us that are fighting the good fight against advancing age.

Welcome to Blue Earth, Minnesota - the beef stick center of the cosmos!

  No one took up on my offer to travel to travel to Jackson with me so at 11:30 I took Daisy and Baxter for one last walk before putting them in the kitchen to wait for Kathy to arrive home from Idaho later that night and started my 240 mile trek to Jackson alone. I gassed up at the Kum & Go and picked up a 79 cent 32 ounce ice cold Sprite for the trip. The Sprite lasted all the way from Route 30 to Interstate 35 to the last rest stop before the Iowa-Minnesota border. I kept on 35 North, made a left on Interstate 90 and decided to gas up again at a Blue Earth, Minnesota Shell station. Blue Earth is about 40 miles east of Jackson but it may well be the beef stick capital of the United States. Not only did this Shell station have a wide variety of beef stick products, there was a Jack Link’s (the preferred beef stick brand of Daisy and Baxter) super-sized trailer just outside the store.

  After getting some apple juice and a tuna fish sandwich in Blue Earth I arrived at the Jackson Super 8 Motel at 4:30, checked in, took a nap, and headed down the road to the tournament site at 6. Sam and John were there and I recognized most of the other players as they arrived. Riaz Khan came with Eric Bell (last year’s winner) and Dane Zagar (2012 Minnesota Amateur Champion). Destiny Jorenby and her brother Josiah were there. I played Destiny last year and we had a great battle (You can see it here). Okoboji Open organizer Jodene Kruse was arriving the next day.

  At 7, John posted the pairings. There were 16 players at this year’s tournament. I was ranked 6th and my first round opponent was Steve Heinisch. Steve is a 64 year old retired machinist from the Minneapolis area who came with his brother Mike and plays a four hour game each week at the Chess Castle. I didn’t know any of this when we sat down to the board but I did know that I out rated him by around 500 points and I remembered that Steve was the victim of the biggest upset at last year’s tournament so I decided that I would just play things close to the vest until Steve made the type of mistakes that allowed him to be the victim of last year’s upset prize.

pgn4web chessboards courtesy of

Steve Heinisch
“The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows...” - The prophet Rocky Balboa

  I haven’t given up a draw to a player that I was so highly rated against since 2010. Not only did Steve not make any noticeable errors, I totally missed his Ba6 idea and looking at the game a few days later it seems obvious that Steve outplayed me and I was lucky to find the draw.

  It was such a nice night after the game a lot of the players were sitting outside using the card tables and chairs Sam had set up to analyze games. Eric Bell’s game had finished and Steve and I were showing him our game. Eric immediately spotted Ne5 when I needed to play it. He wasn’t focused on the queen as much as taking over the c file. Josiah Jorenby thought that instead of playing Qc8 and forcing the draw I should have tried to play Ne5 with the idea that the threat to take on f7 may have spooked Steve into making a mistake. Since we each had 50 minutes left on our clock, I should have considered the idea but Steve didn’t panic the entire game and I doubt he would have gotten very panicky then either.

  After spending my last two tournaments having anywhere from two to five minutes for the entire game I was afraid I’d be blitzing out my moves in this game, but I was able to slow down and take 2 or 3 minutes on almost every move after the opening. I even spent 10 minutes combined on the two spots where Ne5 would have caused Steve some trouble and I considered the move both times but didn't appreciate its strength. This game reminds me a lot of my game at the 2009 US Open against Tom Byers. In both games I played well, got a good position, but made some bad choices at the moment of truth. Steven had a pretty good tournament and won the U1400 prize when he beat John in Round 2, not that it made me feel any better. I hung around until the last game finished (a titanic struggle between Sam and 3rd seed Dane Zagar which looked to be a draw until Sam made a subtle mistake in time pressure) and left for the Super 8, stopping for a cup of coffee at the Casey’s.

  Having the first round on Friday night allows Sam to have four games at longer time controls and I think it fits in with the traveling type of player the tournament attracts. I liked the idea a lot last year after I won my first round game and could bask in victory for a night, but this year I didn’t think much of having to sit around all night thinking about how I was the only one of the top seven players to not win their game. I plugged my game into my computer and it verified in all its silicone perfectness what Eric had seen with a glance - that slapping my knight on e5 was far superior to what I came up with. I put my on headphones to listen to music and tossed and turned seeing knights jumping to e5 in my sleep until it was Saturday morning and time to get ready for round 2.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Once a Year Chess Club

To quote President George W. Bush's May 1, 2003 speech - "Mission Accomplished"

  The Iowa State Fair was last week and on the Wednesday of the State Fair I went to play in the speed chess tournament for the fourth year in a row (and the seventh time overall) to try to win the elusive first place blue ribbon in the annual speed chess competition. I’ve written about my experiences at this tournament in each of the past three years (you can see them here) and spent much of my hour-long commutes back and forth to work the week before wondering if this year’s State Fair post would be one of triumph or tragedy.

  The State Fair speed chess tournament isn’t attended by many of the state’s top players but that doesn’t diminish its importance as a statewide chess event. When I discuss chess with non-chess players their eyes glaze over when I talk about competing in a CyChess tournament or heading to Minnesota for next week’s Jackson Open or directing the super strong Okoboji Open but when these same people saw my name on TV or in the paper as a second place finisher in last year’s state fair speed chess tournament they congratulated me and treated it like a big deal and treated me like a big-time chess player because while many people don’t get chess tournaments they do get the State Fair and the status winning a blue ribbon confers.

Blue ribbon students Alex and Drake!
  I left work at 3:00 and stopped at a QuickTrip for a 32 ounce Mountain Dew/Rooster Booster Energy drink mix and a bottle of 5 hour energy in case I felt tired. I got to the fairgrounds around 3:30, paid $10 to park in the fairgrounds parking lot and another $11 to enter the fairgrounds and then made my way past the hordes of people eating anything and everything that can be coated in grease and poked with a stick while guzzling carbonated beverages out of overprized souvenir cups to get to the Administration building where the tournament was going to be held.

  When I got to the Administration building the scholastic tournament was going on with a small crowd of players. Attendance at the fair has been down in general and with school starting in August and the economy requiring more parents to work more hours and inflation raging despite what the ‘official’ numbers say I think it is getting increasingly more difficult for parents to take a day off from work to bring their kids to play chess during the week.

  Among the players in the scholastic section were 2 of my students, Alex and Drake. Alex’s mom is my chess camp nurse and in return for her help I gave Alex some lessons last summer and enjoyed it so much that we continued all year. He has steadily improved to the point that he has beaten me twice in our training games during these lessons. I donated some lessons to the Animal Rescue League for an auction in the spring and Drake’s parents bid on them and won. Drake is a super-talented 7 year old who tied for the state first grade championship last year and has won five of my beginner youth tournaments. He is a quick learner and when we played a training game in our last lesson, he outplayed me and should have won! Drake and Alex both received blue ribbons for winning their sections and I got to get some pictures of them, while making sure to tell them that winning the blue ribbon was a very big deal and also mentioning that I’ve been trying to get one for years.

  I had my second place ribbon hung up in my work cubicle where I could see it every day since last year’s fair (and my third place ribbon the year before that) to remind me how much I wanted to win the blue ribbon, but my preparations didn’t stop at hope. I did 25 puzzles from Tim Brennan’s Tactics Time database every morning (finishing all 10,001 last week!) after walking Daisy and Baxter and spent part of every lunch hour at work doing puzzles from my amazing iPod’s Tactics Trainer app. Mix in a liberal amount of blitz games on the Internet, time odds blitz games, and training games during lessons and I was as prepared to win the State Fair tournament as I ever was. But while being prepared is nice, you also have to play well on the day.

Ben Munson explaining the pool play
assignments to Life Master Tim Mc Entee
  While I was hanging out watching the scholastic players and chatting with the parents, the other speed chess players began to arrive. 3 time state champ Tim McEntee was there, but luckily for everyone who had designs on winning the tournament he was only there to hang out with the chess players and watch his student and defending champion Cub Noble compete. Joe Meyer from Waterloo (the winner of the 2012-2013 Marshalltown Blitz Series) arrived shortly after that and we caught up with a long chat. Then David Skaar, multiple-time State Fair winner and my state fair nemesis showed up. David only plays in this one tournament every year and while we were talking said that the State Fair tournament was his once a year chess club and he was right on the money. Many of us head to the Iowa State Fair this one Wednesday just to play in this chess tournament and hang out with each other for a couple of hours just like my Thursday Night chess club in Marshalltown. Steve Jacobs and Carl Peters were the other two tournament players I recognized that arrived before the 5:30 registration deadline.

  All told, there were fourteen players and tournament organizer and legendary Des Moines chess teacher Ben Munson divided us into four pools: two three player pools and two four player pools and told us that the winner of each pool would advance to the finals. I thought this was a curious decision since the players in the three player pool that didn’t advance would only get to play two games in the tournament. I think it would have been better to have two seven player pools with the top two or three advancing to the finals but it wasn’t my tournament and I was focused on playing chess. The pool assignments gave me a major break in that I was in a three player pool with two less experienced players while Cub and Joe had to play in the same pool and David and Dr. Peters were also matched up in the same pool so it was likely that some of my main competitors wouldn’t even get to the finals.

In the lead after a round
one bye in pool play

My pool play partners:
Dennis(left) and Adam
  I was in a pool with Adam and Dennis, who were playing in the first round while I had a bye. I hung out talking to Tim and watched Cub and Joe play their pool game which was won by Joe. Adam won against Dennis and I played Dennis next with the white pieces. After 5 moves, Dennis lost a piece and I went on to easily win and then Adam and I squared off to see who would advance to the finals from our pool. Adam was much better than Dennis and came up with a twist to my favorite Center Counter opening that I hadn’t seen before. I concentrated on getting a solid position and won a rook for a bishop when Adam went for an early queen exchange. I managed to open a line for my extra rook to attack Adam’s king and once my rooks crashed through the game was over and I was on to the finals. Joe was also in along with David and we were joined by Caden, who upset Steve Jacobs to win his pool. Caden was the only scholastic player to compete in last years speed chess tournament and he lost all his games. Last year we all tried to keep him from getting discouraged and were happy to see him have a big success this year by getting to the finals.

  Once the finalists were determined, Ben wrote down the schedule. I had Black against David in round one, Black against Caden in round two, and White against Joe in the final round. David and I sat down, shook hands, and squared off for our game. For the first time ever in our meetings, David opened with his king pawn and we entered a line of the Center Counter that led to a quick queen exchange. I managed to give him a weak pawn on d3 and spent most of the 5 minute game (with a 2 second delay) keeping him on the defensive but I was unable to win the weak pawn. I moved on to try to force another weakness and David managed to exchange all the pieces and we were each left with less than a minute on our clocks and a king and a pawn apiece. I managed to queen my pawn one move before David and this allowed me to check his king with my queen. In any other game, I would have offered a draw, but I really wanted to try to win this game so I gave four or five checks in the hopelessly drawn position and David made a disastrous move that cost him his queen and the game.

pgn4web chessboards courtesy of

Finalists Joe and David

Finalist Caden
  Two weeks ago I wrote how I offered a draw in the July Time Odds Blitz when I could have just run my opponent out of time and I said it didn’t mean I was a good sport – it just meant that winning or drawing the game didn’t mean very much to me. In this game my actions didn’t mean I was a bad sport – it just meant that winning this game was very important to me. I felt bad for David but I still was happy to get past the first hurdle. Joe beat Caden and when we went to the scoring table to write down our results I asked Ben if there was going to be a playoff for the blue ribbon in case of a tie. Ben said he had enough blue ribbons so there would be no playoff so I told Joe that when we played I would accept a draw at any time. Joe said we should worry about that later because we still had work to do. I sat down to play Caden and after 10 or so moves, he allowed a tactic that cost him a piece. I thought he would fall apart but Caden played extremely tough and made me push him back square by square, all the while setting little traps to give me ways to go wrong. I finally managed to trade off a lot of pieces and make an extra queen just before he ran out of time.

  Joe beat David a few minutes after my game was finished and while I was setting up the pieces for our game, Joe told Ben that we had agreed to a draw and a shared championship. I was willing to play for the ribbon if Joe insisted (After all, I wouldn’t have had a choice), but I was so thrilled to finally get the Iowa State Fair blue ribbon that I gave Joe a big hug and congratulated him and thanked him. Then Joe said that I wasn’t going to get off that easy and we still needed to play a game for the ‘unofficial’ championship. Joe knew all about my ‘Boris’ opening so I just played a standard setup against his Benoni but quickly got on the defensive when he managed to trade one of his queenside pawns for in return for my e4 pawn which was the key to my center position. I managed to hold on and open a file for my rooks and when Joe hastily took my other center pawn, it allowed me a tactic to win a piece and the game. Does this mean I would have won the blue ribbon if we had played for it? Hardly! I’ve only beaten Joe once in 14 rated tournament games although I have a much better record against him in casual games which means that Joe is a different player when there is something on the line or I’m a bit of a choke artist or (as is often the case) a little bit of both.

  I relayed this story of our zero move draw to a friend of mine the next day. She said that was no way to win a blue ribbon and I have to respectfully disagree. I know I got into the winners circle through the back door but it doesn’t matter whether you get in through the front door or the side door or the back door or even the doggie door – the goal is to get INDOORS. I finally have my blue ribbon, couldn’t ask for a better co-champion than Joe, and I still did have to win four games to get it. Was I lucky I had to play only four games and that David made a horrendous mistake? Sure!! But I’ve rarely seen a tournament where the eventual winner didn’t benefit from some lucky breaks along the way. I will say that I did a lot of the things that helped me take advantage of my good fortune like spending a lot of time on tactics puzzles, bringing a t-shirt to wear, apples to eat, and something to drink.

The Championship Dinner!

2012 Champ Cub Noble welcoming
me to the winner's circle
  After the tournament was over we all hung out for a while and talked and then I celebrated by sharing a late dinner with Cub and Tim. I had an $8.50 dinner of steak tips, mashed potatoes, and green beans from the nearby ‘Dawghouse’ stand and I can’t remember having a more satisfying meal. We chatted about the State Fair chess tournament and Cub’s upcoming chess tournaments in the Cedar Falls area (where he attends the University of Northern Iowa as a TRIPLE major) and then said our good byes and headed our separate ways.

  I was feeling so good about being a co-champion that I could have floated home, but instead I took my car, played ‘Cloud 9’ and ‘We are the Champions’ on my amazing iPod, and headed to the Bondurant Git’n’Go to gas up and get some coffee for the way home. Last year, I was recognized at the Git’n’Go for taking pictures to expose their scam of charging 40 cents for a 32 ounce fountain drink and $1.06 for a 20 ounce refill but given the constant churn of personnel at convenience stores in the 21st century I was able to enter the store unnoticed just 12 months later. I used the men’s room and was about to get the coffee when I noticed a sign on the ladies’ room that said ‘NO MEN’ (there was no corresponding sign on the men’s room). I was going to ask if this newly posted rule applied to state fair blue ribbon winners but I thought the better of it, paid my 74 cents for the coffee and headed home. At work the next day, I replaced the red ribbon at my cubicle at work with the blue one but on Friday I took the ribbon home and hung it on a nail with my 2 red, 2 white, and 2 yellow participant ribbons. In the years I didn’t win I wanted to keep the vision of what I wanted in front of me but now that I possess what I’ve coveted for so long I think reminding myself of that every day wouldn’t be productive to my new goal of getting a second blue ribbon!

Left: Co-champions Joe and I with tournament organizer Ben Munson. Right: Next club meeting - August 2014!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Falling Skies Final Exam - Burn Notice Midterm

  It was only two months ago that I wrote about the season premieres of ‘Falling Skies’ and ‘Burn Notice’ and during that span Falling Skies finished its season last week while Burn Notice has just 4 episodes left in its seven year run.

  Falling Skies had slightly lower ratings this year but was the top show on cable among the coveted 18-49 and 25-54 year old crowd and was renewed in July for a fourth season which will be 12 episodes instead of the ten episode runs of the first three seasons.

  Season 3 of Falling Skies saw the beleaguered band of survivors of the alien invasion set up camp in Charleston, South Carolina and in what I can only think of as a cost saving move had most of the episodes set in the confines of the city as the capital of the new United States of America. This season had a lot of drama and great subplots. Main character (freedom fighter and president) Tom Mason’s wife Anne gave birth to a baby that was part human and part alien while his oldest son Hal was taken over by an alien earworm and delivered his wife and child to the alien leadership. One of the cast regulars was also taken over by a colony of alien earworms and managed to convey enemy information, bomb the Charleston headquarters, and assassinate the real President of the United States.

  While the soap opera elements of the show were engrossing, there was very little actual alien combat in the season. The first five minutes of the season had a battle against the invading alien’s ‘Mega-Mech’, one episode showed Tom Mason and the renegade Pope battling some ‘skitters’ but except for those few scenes the crux of the alien-human conflict was reduced to alien espionage and the construction of the mega weapon by the human’s alien allies, the ‘Volm’. The eighth episode of the season, entitled ‘Strange Brew’ was an attempt by Karen (human turned alien leader) to get information from the captured Tom Mason by creating a reality in his mind where the alien attack had never happened. While this was the most interesting episode of the season, it also underscored the lack of action throughout this year’s edition.

  To go along with the non-action was a stunning glossing over of detail. The ‘Strange Brew’ episode takes place in the Boston headquarters of the alien encampment. After escaping from Karen and leaving Boston on foot at the end of the episode, the next episode begins with Tom sailing into Charleston on a small boat! Where did he get this boat and how did he make it down the Atlantic Ocean to Charleston undetected by the alien hordes? Amazing, but this was nothing compared to the next episodes season finale. We went from having the Volm weapon buried by the mole’s explosion at the end of the previous episode to seeing the weapon set on top of a giant frigate sailing into Boston Harbor while Captain Weaver leads a diversionary force hurtling to Chicago on a speeding locomotive! After spending two seasons scrambling for enough gas to fuel whatever vehicles the survivors could manage to salvage and taking to horseback for the third season, not only was a working locomotive and frigate found with enough fuel to make it to Chicago and Boston, but a train route from Charleston to Chicago was somehow left untouched by the invaders and the larger than a house Volm weapon was unearthed, brought to the Charleston seaport, and mounted to a frigate!

  The end of the third season didn’t have a cliffhanger – Karen the evil alien was executed, Anne and baby Alexis (who was born in the season premiere and is now six years old with alien powers) are recovered, and the 2nd Mass is back on the move after refusing the Volm’s offer to be relocated to Brazil to wait out the end of the war. A new producer will be taking over next year and with 12 episodes to work with instead of 10, hopefully next season won’t contain as many gaps in logic. The show still remains one of my favorites with excellent acting and a fun premise, but the storytelling was well below par this season.

  Two months ago I complained about how Burn Notice had lost its sense of humor somewhere around the time main character (ex-CIA spy) Michael Westen, returned to the CIA and the seasons long quest to find his brother’s killer left no time for the ‘con-man’ side jobs I enjoyed so much. This current season has Michael working for the CIA in return for his freedom and that of his friends and family in deep cover infiltrating the terrorist network of a rougue Black Ops soldier named James. The mission has led Michael from the Dominican Republic to Cuba, where he freed a Russian terrorist, and back to Miami where his friends have been recruited into the terrorist network.

  Even though this final season is darker than any of the past ones, I am enjoying the show more than I have in quite some time. The side jobs have been removed from the show which was a good move since there wasn’t enough time to devote to them since the main plot lines shifted to CIA work. Except for a few annoyingly obligatory minutes spent each week with Westen’s mother and nephew, his CIA undercover operation has taken center stage and this season’s episodes have become much more focused on the current mission.

  It’s a shame that Burn Notice has successfully reinvented itself only in time for its last season. The series will end on September 12th and there hasn’t been any clue as to how the characters will end up. Terrorist James appeared to be a likeable character who had been displaying himself as a Robin Hood sort of figure by going after the sort of evil characters that the CIA in the show habitually finds itself allied with as the ‘lesser of two evils’. I thought Westen was going to split from the CIA and join James at seasons end until James killed one of his operatives in cold blood in front of the team for a disappointing performance on a mission. Now I’m thinking that Westen will find a way to have his team, family, the terrorists, and the CIA convinced he is dead and make a new life with the Russian operative he rescued at the beginning of the series. There is no way to know how the series will end but having recaptured my interest, I’ll be glued to my TV for the last 4 episodes.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Not even good at cheating

  I haven’t written much about the Yankees this year and for good reason: there just hasn’t been much to write about. Despite a 200 MILLION DOLLAR payroll, the Yankees have limped along at a mediocre .500 pace for much of the year. It was expected that the team would struggle with $84 million dollars in payroll starting the year on the disabled list (Jeter – $17M, Alex Rodriguez - $29M, Teixeria - $23M, Granderson - $15M), but the team managed to get off to a good start and was in first place in mid-May with a 25-14 record thanks to the hot starts of GM Brian Cashman’s acquisitions of unwanted veterans Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay, Kevin Youkillis, and Vernon Wells. Unfortunately this quartet showed in May, June, and July why they were unwanted in the first place when their home run production all but disappeared and the Yankees have scored more runs than only 5 other major league teams.

  The relief pitching has outstanding with the ageless Mariano Rivera and David Rovertson, but the starting pitching has been spotty at best. Kuroda has been worth every penny of his 15 MILLION dollar salary, but CC Sabathia's 23 MILLION dollar salary has produced the performance worthy of a has-been pitcher and while 41 year old Any Pettitte has pitched well for a 41 year old pitcher he is still 41 years old and he has not pitched well in absolute terms.

  Granderson and Jeter have recently returned from the disabled list and even though Jeter has had to be disabled twice since his return there may be hope for a late season resurgence to sneak into the expanded playoffs. Even with the injuries it is pathetic to see the Yankees trailing teams like the Athletics, Royals, and Indians who spend less than a third of what the Yankees do on players. The injury filled season has given a glimpse into the Yankee minor league farm system and from all appearances the cupboard is bare. Of all the position players brought up, only Zoilo Almonte has shown the ability to be a hitter at the major league level. While the high payroll teams have to pay a ‘luxury tax’ for every dollar over the threshold, there is no limit on how much a team can pay to develop minor league talent and it is a telling indictment of the Yankees that they have no minor league help available and have to get high priced has-been talent to fill gaps while teams like the Athletics and Pirates can have winning teams without big name talent and the other mega payroll team (the LA Dodgers) had their season rescued from the brink of disaster by the arrival of the relatively low-priced Cuban defector ($42 million over seven years) Yasiel Puig from their minor league system.

  Alex Rodriguez has been due to return to the Yankees for over a month but the Yankees have been in no hurry to have the former slugger join the team even as desperate as they are for offense. 2 weeks ago, while the Yankee team physician diagnosed A-Rod with a strained quad, his personal physician denied there was an injury of any sort. He did make his season debut on Monday and singled in the Yankees 8-1 loss to the White Sox, which was a costly victory beyond the standings. If A-Rod could have been held out of the entire season due to injury, the Yankees insurance policy would pay his hefty salary. Once he took the field the Yankees were responsible for this years $29 million. Given his declining regular season production (34 home runs combined in 221 games in 2011-12 after 12 straight seasons of 30+ homers) and consistently pathetic postseason efforts (hitting less than .200 with zero home runs in the Yankees last 4 postseason series over 3 years) the Yankees would probably feel lucky if A-Rod retired due to his injuries and let the insurance company pay the remaining $114 MILLION on his contract.

  The Yankees may be off the hook for much of A-Rod’s salary anyway since he has become the central figure in the ‘Biogenesis’ scandal in which the Florida based business’ clinic records were revealed showing the company was involved in the business of selling Human Growth Hormone to at least 20 major league baseball players. 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun had his 2012 suspension for excessive testosterone levels set aside when the corier stored his samples in his home refrigerator for a weekend. At the time, Braun loudly proclaimed his innocence (“This is all B.S. I am completely innocent.”), but after he was linked to the Biogenesis company he was suspended for 65 games he now said ‘I realize now that I have made some mistakes’, foremost among those mistakes getting caught.

  Rodriguez’s infractions are even more serious. In 2009, he admitted to using steroids from 2001 to 2003 and was largely forgiven, so these new allegations that he’s used steroids every year since 2009 have led to calls for his punishment to be harsher. But on top of merely ingesting illegal substances there are also allegations that he tried to impede the investigation by attempting to purchase evidence that would be used against him. Rodriguez’s representatives have gone from threatening to sue MLB if they suspend A-Rod to negotiating the length of the suspension. The Yankees will save around $300,000 for every game that Rodriguez is suspended and I think they are secretly hoping for a lifetime ban, especially since he seems through as a player.

  The Yankees are well represented on the list of players linked to the Biogenesis scandal. Bartolo Colon resurrected his career with the Yankees in 2011 after missing the entire 2010 season. Jesus Montero was the jewel of the Yankee farm system before being traded to Seattle last year for Michael Pineda (who has yet to wear the pinstripes). Francisco Cervelli hit .298 as a backup catcher for the 2009 championship team. Melky Cabrera was a regular on the 2009 championship team who was subsequently played for 5 teams in 5 years and was leading the National League in hitting in 2012 before being suspended for using performance enhancing drugs. Is it a coincidence that so many players linked to the Biogenesis scandal have associations with the Yankees? Probably not. After all Roger Clemens was an accused steroid user when he was with the Yankees and Andy Pettitte admitted to using HGH as Clemens’s teammate with the Astros in 2004.

  I would have hoped that with all these cheating going on around the Yankees would have led to more than one world championship in the past 12 years, but this is indicative of their deep seated organizational problems. While the Yankees are great at spending more money than any other team for players for their stars and their band-aid replacements like Wells ($24 million) and Youkilis ($12 million) with luxury tax penalties on top of their payroll, they can’t find a way to efficiently spend money on a farm system to provide adequate replacements or even help their players discreetly take their HGH and PEDs without getting caught in order to remain top performers.