Floyd a wife beater?

floydNow I have officially heard it all.

On various radio outlets, I’ve heard allegations that Floyd from Mayberry is alleged to have committed various acts of spousal abuse. Absolutely ridiculous allegations.

First of all, the actor who played Floyd Lawson the barber on The Andy Griffith Show, Howard McNear, died in 1969. Further, at the time of his death he was survived by his wife of 43 years, Helen McNear, and their marriage was never associated with any type of controversy. On the contrary, beginning with Mr. McNear’s enlistment in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 and his subsequent long radio, television [his credits also include Gunsmoke], and movie [Blue Hawaii] career, he always carried himself with a soft-spoken integrity which was seen as a testament to a life well led.

Howard McNear, RIP.

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Whispering sweet McDoubles

IMG_0075Thanks to Cesar Millan and the most bountiful food product that has ever existed in human history, I was able to build a relationship with my wife’s Maltese over the years. It did not start well.

After various failed attempts to play with the dog, my wife Nory patiently explained that it wasn’t that kind of dog. My reaction resembled that of Aunt Voula in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when informed that the groom was a vegetarian. “What do you mean not that kind of dog? What kind of a dog doesn’t play?”

As the newcomer to the household, I expected some resistance, but the dog? ‘I got his one,’ I figured. I figured wrong. A stalemate of sorts ensued. Over those first few years we circled each other with respect, but little trust. Then I came across an interesting character in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, What the Dog Saw, which led my wife and I to watch The Dog Whisperer program.

As with most recent converts, my enthusiasm may have had made to make up for my technique, but the results were real. I was on a mission to earn that dog’s trust. I won’t bore you with all the details, suffice to say that our ‘sessions’ typically began with me kneeling prostrate before the suddenly empowered dog, not unlike Spurs fans after game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. Laying there face down, I often wondered if he felt embarrassed for me given my obvious lack of pride, not unlike how Iranian negotiators might currently view the Obama White House. But I soldiered on, thinking, ‘what would Cesar do.’

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Ichiro facts and Western legends

liberty valanceA 1962 movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, was made by a trio of Hollywood legends, John Ford, John Wayne and James Stewart. The film is most often referenced because at its dramatic conclusion, came one of the greatest lines in movie history:

Ransom Stoddard [Stewart]: You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?
Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

At some point, the facts about Ichiro Suzuki may be zig-zaging into legend territory, but its hard to tell from my vantage point here in the deep South, aka Miami. I get to say that since I grew up around folks who pronounced it ‘My-Ama’ and had a neighbor who played a mean banjo.

A sampling of recent articles about Ichiro and the facts, or legends-to-be, they report:

Joe Trezza – Miami Herald – Unique training and preparation:

Like all players, Ichiro will stretch. But he starts earlier than most players and won’t really ever stop … one of the few major-leaguers who doesn’t lift weights. Instead he prefers a rigorous flexibility routine that requires specialized machines, targets often-overlooked joints and promotes improved blood circulation….

Ichiro has been placed on the disabled list just once in 14 seasons. He does the routine up to four times per day — when he wakes up, before team stretches at the ballpark, before the game and again at home after the game.

What separates Ichiro from other players isn’t his work ethic. Instead it’s a meticulousness that touches every aspect of his preparation.

“He’s the most interesting man in the world,” Marlins hitting coach Frank Menechino said.

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The at bats Ichiro needs for 4,257

IchiroSuzuki-620x400Two major milestones are on the horizon for Ichiro Suzuki. An additional 134 hits would tie him with Pete Rose at 4,256 professional base hits. If he gets 22 hits beyond that, he would then reach the 3,000 hit threshold in MLB. An incredible accomplishment given that he spent his first 9 seasons in Japan before coming to the Major Leagues in 2001.

As fans, when we think of hitting, we are used to thinking about at bats [AB’s], but plate appearances [PA’s] is the more precise way to measure, since it includes walks and sacrifices which don’t count as AB’s. Barry Jackson has reported that while Ichiro’s base contract with the Marlins is for $2 million, it could increase up to $4.8 million based on additional PA’s. The bonuses start kicking in at 300 PA’s in increments of 50 up to 600.

So barring a major injury, which Ichiro has avoided throughout his 23-year professional career, getting enough PA’s is all that stands between him and international professional baseball history happening in Little Havana. In my informal review of how local bloggers have weighed-in on the subject, Joe Frisaro and Michael Jong’s article as of March 2015, both estimated 340 PA’s. Interestingly, in a Jan 2015 article before the Ichiro signing, Jong was much more pessimistic about Ichiro’s expected PA’s.

Here is a rundown on my starting point to estimate Ichiro’s 2015 PA’s:

  • 385 – Ichiro’s 2014 PA’s with Yankees
  • 340 – Estimated PA’s for Ichiro by Joe Frisaro & Michael Jong [March]
  • 300 – PA’s at which contract bonus begins to kick in
  • 201 – Reed Johnson 2014 PA’s with Marlins / Jong [January]

But how did they get to 340 PA’s? While Jong is very detailed in his use of analytics, he did not not specify his assumptions on getting to 340. Frisaro added up the PA’s by the 6 Marlins bench players used as pinch-hitters or reserved outfielders last year. As such, Frisaro’s 340 strikes me as too generous, whereas January Jong too stingy in allowing that Ichiro might only match Reed Johnson.

There is a consensus that Ichiro will not be platooned and will not play first base. So his role will be as the first pinch-hitter off the bench and a typical 4th outfielder, playing in case of injury or spotting starters a day off.  Further, given that Yelich is a Gold Glove winner and Ozuna and Stanton are considered above-average defensively, it is unlikely that Ichiro will be used extensively as a defensive replacement.

Based on those factors, my search criteria for determining which MLB outfielders during 2014 best approximated Ichiro’s role in 2015, are as follows:

  • National League player – due to reprehensible DH
  • Started ≤50% games played – to avoid platoon players
  • Min 250 PA’s – below that level there is no chance for reaching records

Here are the 2014 National League outfielders who met that criteria:

  • Travis Snider [L] –       PIT — 140 GP — 70 GS — 359 PA’s
  • Chris Heisey [R]  –       CIN — 119 GP — 55 GS — 299 PA’s
  • Brandon Barnes [R] – COL — 132 GP — 55 GS — 313 PA’s

That’s it. Even Snider’s 359 PA’s are a bit of an outlier, since he began the year as a starting outfielder.

Ichiro is on a 2-year plan to get 156 hits, or 78 hits per year. Unless the Marlins outfielders have a major injury, Mike Redmond will be hard pressed to get Ichiro more than 300 PA’s. Here are the number of hits 300 PA’s would translate to:

  • 74 – based on .264 batting average [Ichiro’s average last year]
  • 78 – based on .280 batting average
  • 84 – based on .300 batting average

It will be that close. While Ichiro is a famously classy guy, I wouldn’t blame Christian, Marcell & Giancarlo for always walking behind him. As a sign of respect of course.

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Ichiro reminds us why we are fans

The only embargo being lifted in Miami in 2015 relates to an islands nation with a proud baseball tradition dating back to the 19th century, Japan.  As such;

I, generic Marlins fan of Hispanic background, being of some mind and impeccable Miami ethnicity — to wit, privileged to have stepped on or into the following; Orange Bowl, Miami Senior High, St John Bosco Catholic Church, Miami-Dade College, FIU, UM, McDonalds, Cuba, Bon-Bon Bakery, 5th Street YMCA, and the Aquarius Lounge — hereby declare the games of the MMXV Miami Marlins to be open and free of resentful fan embargoes, at least until the next treacherous personnel move.

Why now you ask? Is it because of the Stanton signing? Sure that helps, but that signing’s most significant value to angry fans is the realistic timetable it provides as to the end of Loria’s ownership. No the main reason to move past our resentments is the arrival of the great Ichiro Suzuki to play on hallowed Orange Bowl grounds within our Little Havana neighborhood.

To go from being represented by Ozzie Guillen to Ichiro Suzuki, is to go from the relentlessly profane to the height of professionalism. Ichiro is a worthy successor to Mariano Rivera as the best combination of sustained excellence and class MLB has to offer. Baseball royalty resides in Little Havana for 2015.

A bridge too bizarre. Such journeys can’t happen all at once. You need a Mike Redmond buffer. Unlike the Corleone’s, the attention-starved Marlins management only lately have recognized their need of buffers or class.

The profaneness about the Miami Marlins was not limited to their manager in 2012. The team owner, playing the proverbial geek desperately trying to curry favor with the cool kid, happily informed Guillen of how many F-bombs he had used in his initial address to the team in front of Showtime cameras. Never wanting to be left out, the team president also dropped an F-bomb in a choreographed pep talk to Marlins office personnel. If loving Ozzie was wrong, these jock-sniffers didn’t wanna be right.

Marlins managment were committed to Ozzie all the way through Spring Training. Then came April 2012, then came the long con, as Jeff Passan might say. But our sports hatred of Loria is no long-term reason not to follow and support Miami’s MLB team based in Little Havana.

My next Marlins blog post will discuss a possible target date for Ichiro reaching 4,257 career hits. He is 134 away and we need to explore how Redmond can find the needed AB’s over the next, hopefully, 2 years.

Sorry Garcia, Ichiro’s coming for your boy.

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Another one bites the Embargo’s dust?

C.S. Lewis in the The Great Divorce:

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.

Don’t worry, he’ll have visitors. Huber Matos, Reinaldo Arenas and Oswaldo Payá promised to pop in, they really can’t stay.

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Wired like Sgt. Carver about the Cuban embargo

There is more than a little Ellis Carver, part of Baltimore’s fictional finest in The Wire, in me about the recent Obama administration changes to U.S. policy towards Cuba. In a memorable rant atop an unmarked police car, [then] Sgt. Carver announced to teenage drug dealing trainees that were hiding from him, “you do not get to win, shitbird.”

Sgt. Carver wasn’t wrong that day, just ineffective. He would eventually adjust his tactics. Which is not to say that he then experienced success. What he eventually experienced was the satisfaction of acting in the most defensible manner possible and better able to live with the ambiguous results.

Similarly, for those of us born in Cuba, raised in el norte and on the right of the political spectrum, winning ‘Twitter-feed cycles’ or any other snippet arguments, has never been in the cards on the subject of the embargo, i.e., what U.S. foreign policy should be towards the government of Cuba. The reason is that the anti-embargo argument frequently comes attached with an irrefutable ace in the hole, knowledge as to the will of the Cuban people.

I have taken in recent years to attempt to see if the reading of wills phenomena extended to other populations, for example the will of those living in poverty in Appalachia. Perhaps there the insight from the reading of wills can prove to be more actionable, but no luck to date.

In my case, my thoughts on the embargo are moderated by the conversation[s] I expect to have at some point with people with whom I am related, including a half-brother, and whose parents enthusiastically remained, at least initially. I have never had substantive contact with them, in effect respecting the initial choice of the two sisters who remained regarding the two brothers who left.

You will assume that I was not heart-broken to hear of their regrets many years later, and you would be correct. But don’t assume too much. Those type of feelings did not survive the realization over time that my country address was a result of parental sacrifices made for me, not of my doing. John Bradford’s reflection, ‘there but for the grace of God go I,’ does not feel like a cliche.

We are soon to be bombarded with polls showing that a majority of Americans support the lifting of the Cuban embargo. Further, that even a majority of Hispanics in South Florida, especially those under the age of … pick a number, also support lifting the embargo.

Regarding my views on how Iowans [to select a generic Mid-America state] view the embargo, all I will ever have to say is thank you for your past generosity towards this immigrant turned grateful citizen and his tribe. But as to young South Florida Hispanics, that’s a crowd I was once a part of and have gotten to observe up close for many years. It is regarding their opinions on the subject of Cuba that I am spectacularly unmoved.

The reason is that I believe that their views on the subject reflect something other than an opinion regarding a U.S. foreign policy position. It would be hard to overstate the level of resentment towards ‘la guardia vieja,’ which I define as the Cuban exiles which began immigrating in the 1960’s.

If other parts of the U.S. have long been tired of the Cuba subject, imagine the feeling among young Hispanics whose families aren’t from Cuba, in effect being lectured about how the ‘greatest Hispanic generation’ paved the way for the opportunities they now experience. If you think a majority of them accept that formulation and are outwardly grateful, you would be mistaken.

Closer to home, consider those Cubans who immigrated beginning with Mariel and after. While it may seem a minor distinction from the outside, the divide is real here. Recent Cuban immigrants are consistently apolitical, and who can blame them, it’s the sorest of subjects. When you factor in that many of those post-1980 immigrants had parents who may have initially supported the revolution, or at least not sufficiently alarmed to upend their lives, the resentments get really complicated.

So when I hear about the polling results of young South Florida Hispanics, I have two reactions:

  1. For a majority of those polled, the actual verbal exchange during the polling constituted their longest conversation on the subject in years.
  2. Whatever they were asked, here’s what I believe they heard; “Tell us whether you agree with the U.S. foreign policy stance which is most important to the Cuban-American establishment?

That a majority, like the German barbarians response to Maximus, ‘say no,’ is predictable and uninstructive.

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The Cuban Embargo’s other purposes

People happy about the Obama administration’s change in policy towards Cuba had a remarkably consistent theme in their comments during the day, ‘the Cuban Embargo has failed.’

You won’t be surprised to learn that the actual current legislation — Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996 — offers only the following platitude in the introduction to the bill:

“… to plan for support of a transition government leading to a democratically elected government in Cuba, and for other purposes.”

Clearly part A has not occurred, but part B, “other purposes,” now that has been off the charts.

That’s why I don’t believe that the legislation’s one supposed intended effect is the reason for the change in policy. To believe that requires us to assume that this administration puts great stock in the precise language of legislation. Try and remember that when we read about the next Obamacare exemption.

But better to let the Washington Post’s editorial make the case about “other purposes”:

Mr. Obama argued that his sweeping change of policy was overdue because the strategy of isolating the Communist regime “has had little effect.” In fact, Cuba has been marginalized in the Americas for decades, and the regime has been deprived of financial resources it could have used to spread its malignant influence in the region, as Venezuela has done. That the embargo has not succeeded in destroying communism does not explain why all sanctions should be lifted without any meaningful political concessions by Cuba.

“Cuba has been marginalized in the Americas for decades,” … let the significance of that seep in.

If the Cuban Embargo legislation was a company, “other purposes” would be going public. If the Cuban Embargo legislation was an athlete, opponents would be begging for drug testing. If it wasn’t an incredibly effective piece of legislation, opponents wouldn’t be exalting 50 years later over cosmetic changes to a policy which cannot touch the heart of the legislation, which is to isolate a repressive regime.

Exiled Cuban-Americans vs communist sympathizers on the island … game, set, mismatch all along.

The Washington Post editorial is copied in full at end of post. Continue reading

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What to do when God appears to say no?

cslewisHow do we react when God does not seem to respond to our petitions? Do we become Morris Albert groupies?

A WSJ article by Gregory Cootsona gives us a glimpse into how the great C.S. Lewis navigated the issue:

Finally, Lewis took on crises that no human being can avoid—suffering, death and what one might call “the crisis of feeling.” The latter is that problem everyone faces when emotions simply don’t lead us to contentment. If life is supposed to feel good, what happens when it doesn’t? Feelings—particularly the emotional rush of life—remain for many the final arbiter of truth.

Yet Lewis found his own wisdom hard to take when his wife died. Not only had he lost a cherished spouse, but he saw his own life replayed—Joy had two young sons whom she left behind at almost the same age as Lewis and his brother at their mother’s death. His searing honesty remains the most arresting feature of “A Grief Observed,” the book he wrote after Joy’s death: “Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him.”

But later in the book he resolved that even God does not respond to every inquiry: “When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of ‘No answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.’ ” Accepting that not every question receives an answer brought Lewis the resolution and peace that lie beyond human understanding.

Article is copied in full at end of post.

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The God Particle to Miami Marlins fans

Up with Carl Loria

Up with Carl Loria

Gary Nelson’s question to Jeffrey Loria properly identified what truly binds [aka ¹God Particle] Miami Marlins fans, he asked:

Your organization and you are, quite frankly, much despised among many in this community…. Can a deal like this wash that much bad blood away?

Nelson’s point was deliciously undeniable. Jeffrey Loria is [sports] despised by an overwhelming majority of Miami Marlins fans. It is an enmity earned by repeated lies and obfuscation. It will not go away until he goes away. It binds us.

Two great things have happened for us Miami Marlins fans as a result of the Stanton signing. First, given the way the contract is structured, heavily back-loaded after the first 3 years, we can now see the light at the end of the Loria ownership tunnel. Second, we get to have Giancarlo Stanton on our team for the next 6 years. In that order.

So for us Marlins fans, Nelson’s question during the televised press conference carried the emotional equivalent of D’Angelo Barksdale asking Stringer Bell, “where Wallace at?”

Like Stringer, who must have assumed he could con D’Angelo one more time, so too Loria must have thought that the Stanton signing would at least provide a temporary respite from the enmity. While listening to the question, and no doubt noting the mortified straight-ahead gazes of his employees, the unlikelihood of any PR rehabilitation must have registered deep in an area other humans refer to as a soul.

Yo Jeffrey, where Miggy at?

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