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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

2017 B Louisville Sluggers

The Louisville Sluggers are again participating in the World Series in the Original Bitnet Fantasy Baseball League.

I've participated in the OBFLB since 1991. It's a 24 team fantasy baseball online league that plays two seasons during each major league season. The second (half) season begins after the all star break and typically features 9 weeks of head-to-head competition by teams in three 8 team divisions. This year, however, we lost 2 owners at mid-season and didn't have sufficient time to find replacements. Thus, we had 2 divisions of 11 teams. There were not enough weeks to play a complete round robin, as we usually do.

In any case, the Sluggers won the Clarkson division with the best record in the league: 115-65. It was actually 110-60 with 10 ties. We have 10 categories and it is not uncommon to have ties in pitcher wins, saves, home runs, or stolen bases. Two other teams shared the best record, but the Sluggers held the tiebreaker based on better week-to-week performance against all the other teams in the league.

In this league, teams submit lineup cards to prioritize 9 hitters (at 8 defensive positions, plus DH), 5 starting pitchers (minimum 4), and 4 relief pitchers (minimum 2). Through the week, the teams compete in 10 categories, including the 4 mentioned above plus batting average, plate appearances, runs produced average ((R+RBI-HR)/ABs), innings pitched, ERA, and WHIP. We award 2 points per victory, with each team receiving 1 point for a tie.

The winners of the divisions play against a wild card team in an initial playoff round during the next-to-last week of the regular major league baseball season. Then, the winners of those head-to-head matchups play each other in the final week of the regular season to determine the World Series champion for the B season. The Sluggers beat the Arizona Young Guns 13-7 in last week's playoff. Arizona was managed by another long-time owner.

In the World Series, the Sluggers are matched up with the Southern Hemispheres, owned by an emeritus academic from western Australia.  We're both old-timers in the league and met in person once years ago when he was traveling across the States and stopped in Louisville. In fact, this is a rematch of  the 1996B, 1997A,  and 1998A World Series! Southern won the first of those prior matchups, the Sluggers won the next two.

The Sluggers are 8-2 in all prior World Series; Hemispheres are 4-5. Reminder: there have been over 50 World Series titles during the 26 years I have been in the league.

This is the lineup I'm using in the Series, with notes about acquisition of each player (the 8 players retained before the mid-season draft are in red):

C: Ianetta ARI (drafted round 27)
   Hedges SD  (round 19)

1B: Votto CIN 
     Olson OAK (free agent July 24)

2B: Merrifield KC (round 14)
    Escobar MIN (round 20)

3B: Arenado COL
    Escobar MIN
    Hernandez LAD (round 22)

SS: Escobar MIN
     Russell CHC 
     E. Hernandez LAD

OF: Benintendi BOS
OF: Buxton MIN
OF: Kiermaier TB (round 24)
    Phillips MIL (free agent September 25)
    Kepler MIN (round 16)
    Acuna ATL

DH: Olson OAK (injured and presumably won't play)
      Phillips MIL
      Kepler MIN

SP: Archer TB
SP: Bauer CLE (round 15)
SP: Greinke ARI (trade August 28)
SP: Duffy KC (round 9)
SP: Cobb TB  (round 11)
   Gonzalez TEX  (free agent July 17)
   Biagini TOR (free agent September 11)
   Foltynewicz ATL (round 12)
   Keller PIT (minors) (free agent August 28)
   Nelson MIL(mlb and OBFLB DL) (round 10)

RP: Bradley ARI (round 18)
RP: Greene DET (trade August 28)
RP: D. Hernandez ARI (round 26)
RP: Lorenzen CIN (round 23)

Players no longer with the team:

SP Pineda NYY dropped July 17 (Tommy John surgery)
Round 13 M Smith TB traded August 28 for Greinke
Round 17 Renfroe SDP traded August 28 for Greinke
Round 21 Buehler LAD traded August 28 for Greinke
Round 25 Duffey MIN traded August 28 for Greene
Round 28 Choi NYY dropped July 24

I'll post results in a few days. The stats we use include Monday September 25 through Sunday, October 1.


Update 10/1/17: Southern wins 12-8. Sluggers win steals, plate appearances, ERA and WHIP decisively. The team needed 3 more hits to win batting average.
     
 BAHRSBPARPINNERA
WHIP
W
S
Spheres
0.310
9
1
164
0.283
47
5.5532
1.5957
3
4
12-8
Sluggers
0.293
8
6
184
0.240
35.33
3.8208
1.3302
2
2
8-12


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Sunday, August 27, 2017

East Coast Vacation 2017

University of Louisville classes started last week and I already taught two sessions of my senior capstone seminar on "Politics of Climate Change."

Before summer slips away altogether, I'm posting a few pictures of our early August vacation trip -- to Baltimore first for a couple of days, then to the Delaware shore for about a week with extended family.

In Baltimore, an old friend snagged four tickets to the August 2 Orioles game against the Kansas City Royals. The O's won 6-0, unfortunately. We were seated very close to first base, so I snapped this photo of Eric Hosmer. The game was briefly delayed by rain in the early innings, but I still had a great time in terrific seats. Plus, the storm presaged the arrival of moderate August temperatures throughout our visit.

The following day, my spouse and I went to the Baltimore Museum of Art. It turns out they have a cast of Rodin's "The Thinker." The same statue has a prominent position in front of Grawemeyer Hall at UofL. In fact, the one at UofL used to be in Baltimore, but was sold when Baltimore acquired this one.

The BMA also has a number of Andy Warhol pieces, including a version of the "Last Supper." The city's artistic side is also revealed in its tribute to local native John Waters (pink flamingo, pictured below).

As beach preparation, I also bought six packs of local beers Duckpin Pale Ale (brewed by Union) and Penguin Pils (brewed by Brewer's Art). I loved the Duckpin, but found the Penguin Pils overly influenced by Belgian style. I prefer German or Czech pilsners.


During beach week, we visited the Dogfish brewpub in Rehobeth, toured the Seacrets Distillery in Ocean City, and ate our share of fresh crab -- including some caught by family members. The younger generation cousins used chicken necks and nets to catch a family-record number this year! The first one we caught is pictured below.

















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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Nuclear weapons radio interview

I was recently interviewed by Philosophy Professor Avery Kolers for his "Ethics Forward" local radio program (on WFMP-LP 106.5 FM). The show's topic "Fire and Fury" was about nuclear weapons, deterrence, and tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.

Now that it has been broadcast over the airwaves, you can listen to the broadcast online at Soundcloud:




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Monday, July 31, 2017

Radio interview

Louisville has a new community radio station, WFMP-LP 106.5 FM "Forward Radio." Today, I visited their station at 4th and Broadway to record a half hour program with host K.A. Owens called "On the Edge."

The topic? "Is terrorism an existential threat to the West?"

If you want to listen, the program will be broadcast locally this weekend -- at 2:30 pm Saturday and then again on noon Sunday. A complete schedule of programs can be found here. 

The station is searching for financial support. 

My friends from UofL Justin Mog ("Sustainability Now!") and Avery Kolers ("Ethics Forward") have their own programs. Justin is UofL's Sustainability Coordinator and Avery is a Philosophy professor who has previously blogged here.

Here's the broadcast range:



I'm actually out of broadcast range this weekend, so if anyone makes a recording, I'd appreciate a copy.

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Saturday, July 01, 2017

Foundation Forensic Audit

Have you been following the media coverage of the University of Louisville Foundation's Forensic Audit?  I've ended up reading some of the report, but haven't had an opportunity to go through all of it. However, I wanted to post this to serve as a place I can find media links easily. I meant to post about the audit a few weeks ago, but I've been sick, we traveled to Michigan, and time simply got away from me.

There are a lot of outrageous findings in there, some of which I have previously discussed on the blog -- such as the salary of top administrators and compensation for athletics personnel. Even the Board of Trustees chair says the audit "paints a disturbing picture."

Some Foundation personnel authorized multimillion dollar loans to "assets" that were really subsidiaries of the Foundation that had no significant cash value. They used those funds to repay other loans and to pay secret salaries. This trick drained perhaps tens of millions of dollars from the Foundation, but the costs were hidden by the decision to list the "program" as an investment asset.

Decision makers initiated terrible real estate transactions (including the dubious purchase of a Golf Course) and invested in start-up projects that ended up losing big bucks. The University bought nearly $10 million in athletic tickets during the audit period, including $800,000 annually for football and men's basketball season tickets. Top personnel often made these decisions without fully informing the Board other than in a cursory way. Often, they exceeded discretion that had been granted to them. For example, they exceeded spending for particular projects.

Here is a rundown of some egregious personnel spending:

$   1.7 million additional (secret) compensation for joint Univ./Foundation employees
$ 21.8 million deferred compensation plan for top University officials (some also Fdtn)
$   4.9 million for salaries of Athletics Association personnel

That adds to over $28 million!

Athletics is disputing some parts of the audit.



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Friday, June 30, 2017

Lansing Lugnuts

While on vacation last week, my spouse and I managed to take in a baseball game in Lansing. We've been vacationing in Michigan for many years, but we have not attended a baseball game since 2004. We previously took our children to White Caps games in Grand Rapids -- and the kids received free caps!

There was not much of a crowd Monday, June 26, despite it being "Dog Days of Summer" night (dogs entered for free with their owners). It was a bit cool for late June baseball -- 66 degrees for the first pitch. In any case, we got to see two of Toronto's top hitting prospects. Both are sons of former major league players.

Bo Bichette (son of Dante) is a shortstop hitting about .400. In the picture below, he drove in the first run of the game in his first plate appearance. I'm glad I snapped quickly as he swung on the first pitch, which he also did in his next PA. Later in the game, he struck out and then was also called for interference -- a runner attempting to steal second base on his swing was also called out. Bichette has a quick bat, but did not seem to be a patient or controlled hitter.


Vlad Guerrero Jr. (son of Vlad) is listed as a third baseman (and played the hot corner in this game), but looks to be destined for the opposite corner given his build. He is also having a very good offensive season and some analysts believe he will be in the majors before he is 21. My spouse and I saw Guerrero's father play in Montreal in June 2001 when we were in that great city celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary during their annual jazz festival. Vlad Jr. would have been 2 at the time. Both he and Bichette are younger than our daughters who did not travel with us to either Montreal or Lansing.


A couple of other top Jays prospects were also in the game. Outfielders J.B. Woodman (2016 round 2 draft pick) and Joshua Palacios (2016 round 4 pick) were a combined 1-for-8 in the game with 3 strikeouts. Palacios led off with a hit in the first inning and scored the game's first run.

The game ended 4-3 for the home team as Guerrero led off the bottom of the 9th with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. A pinch runner moved to third on an infield out. Then, the Bowling Green Hot Rods elected to walk the next two batters intentionally. After a strikeout, a relatively new member of the Lugnuts, catcher Javier Hernandez ended the game with a walk-off single. He was mobbed by his teammates.

Tampa Rays infield prospect (playing 3B Monday) Adrian Rondon was 0-for-4 in the game with two strikeouts. Outfielder speedster and 2015 Rays #1 draft pick Garrett Whitley was 0-for-2 with a walk. The Rays #1 draft pick from 2016, infielder Josh Lowe, hit a 3-run homer in the 8th inning to tie a game that had been 3-0.

Game Notes: When Hot Rod SS Lucius Fox batted, I tried making Batman references, but no one within ear shot seemed to know what I was talking about....I also tried pig Latin references when Mitch Nay batted, but....A local Michigan SABR member sat just behind us. He mentioned writing bios for the SABR bio project and traveling to various minor league parks (including Slugger Field). Unfortunately, we didn't talk long and I don't get his name....We had great seats right behind home plate, but probably could have sat about anywhere for less than the $12 per seat that we paid. The stadium was really empty....For a couple of innings, we sat in the leftfield restaurant Good Hops. The food was good and the tap list looked impressive, but I was not drinking beer thanks to meds I was taking for a summer illness....The ballpark is called Cooley Law School Stadium, which seemed strange. Any other parks named for units within a local University? We drove by the Cooley Law School downtown as we headed to our hotel.

Update July 9: Baseball America has released its midseason top 100 prospects and Rays outfielder Jesus Sanchez is #100. He was 2-for-4 in the game, both singles. He batted 6th in the Hot Rod order and played LF.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Athletics: Follow the Money

Two weeks ago, I blogged about "Papa" John Schnatter's widely publicized comment that "Until you fix athletics, you cannot fix this university." As I wrote, local journalists and University of Louisville leaders reacted to that remark as if they did not see any problems with Athletics -- and could not conceive of them.

For example, in today's Louisville Courier-Journal, Athletics Board member Bill Stone was quoted offering "praise and support for [Athletics Director Tom] Jurich's leadership and said that other areas of the university are what needs fixing."
'Oh my god, our athletic department is the envy of the country," Stone said. "... We need to put our effort into University Hospital and bring that health care facility back to where it was, where it was the place of choice. That's where we need to spend our attention, not on what works.'
Local radio personality Terry Meiners was also puzzled: “'His comments at the board meeting made zero sense to me,' Meiners said. 'And I mean zero-point-zero.... Everybody’s a little baffled with this one.... I grew up here,' Meiners said. 'I’ve seen the difference in the growth of the school starting Day 1 with Jurich. It’s as if he’s built an entire civilization that we were thirsting for in our community.'”

Despite the apparent bewilderment of local elites, my post referenced some potential areas of concern and linked to several of my previous posts on the topic. Additionally, in the interim between the first story and today's, reporter Tim Sullivan did some research:
Stephen Clark, a tenured professor who has spent 18 years at U of L, perceives Jurich not as “invisible” but “untouchable.” 
Athletics is truly untouchable at this university,” Clark said via e-mail. “It has a different set of rules than all the schools within the university. That goes for things such as ‘conflicts of interest’ particularly. 
“... While athletics means so much to a university, the athletic director and coaches should be under the control of the administration of the university and should operate under parallel guidelines. I don't think that's true at U of L.” 
Student Body President Aaron Vance, whose office entitles him to a seat on the Board of Trustees, seconded Schnatter’s vague statements in a post-meeting tweet: “Papa gets it,” Vance wrote. “Something we have all been thinking here for years.”  
...The U of L Athletics Association operates independently of the university’s general fund and boasts at least 15 straight years of balanced budgets, but its spending patterns could be seen as extravagant in those departments with tightening belts and by those students dealing with rising debt.  Monday, Vance's Twitter feed included a copy of a 2011-12 student government resolution urging U of L to abolish its $50-per-semester student athletics fee.
This week, Athletics is firing back. Yesterday, as the C-J reported, Associate athletics director Kevin Miller "presented an information sheet detailing the amount of money the athletics department provides to the university and vice versa." First, Athletics did recognize that some of their costs are borne by the rest of the University:
According to the document, the athletic department receives a total of $7.344 million in benefits from the university and U of L student fees. Those benefits are $3.263 million in expenses, mostly related to the costs of utilities at the sports facilities; $1.323 million in gender-equity funding; $829,900 in assistance to boost student-athlete academics; and $1.928 million in student fees ($50 per student per semester). 
What about the other side of the relationship?
In turn, athletics reportedly accounts for $30.6 million in tuition, room, board and books for the university due to the presence of student-athletes, managers, spirit groups and the pep band at the school, according to the information sheet.   
The athletic department also provided $4 million to the U of L general fund ($2 million in 2013-14 and $2 million in 2016-17), according to the document.
I have previously mentioned the relatively paltry sums (a few million dollars) that Athletics has provided during particularly difficult years for the University. In reality, those mostly offset the student fees they collect.

The $30.6 million is a more interesting question. Does Athletics subsidize education for all of those students, or does this figure include funds paid by students enrolled in the University? I suspect the latter since the 2014 and 2015 Athletics audit posted online revealed only about $13 million in total athletic scholarships.

So what is missing from the figures Athletics provided yesterday?

First, if the discussion is going to consider revenues collected by one institution thanks to the spending of the other institution's students, then UofL should receive credit for ticket sales to students (and alumni). I haven't seen a breakdown focusing only on students and alums, but UofL athletics collected about $27 million in ticket sales in 2015. For 2016, media reports placed those revenues at just under $30 million.

Not all students or alumni attend games, of course, but many watch those events on television or listen on radio. UofL Athletics has been collecting significant sums from direct TV deals and shared payments from the Atlantic Coast Conference: about $13 million in media rights fees and $7 million from the ACC. That's $20 million more thanks to students, alumni and other fans of the University's teams.

UofL Athletics also collects about $29 million in contributions from donors. As I've blogged previously, some academic research suggests that those donors might otherwise give to the University if Athletics was not asking them for cash.

Finally, there is the matter of the University of Louisville name. When individual UofL athletes depart the campus, a few become stars in the NBA or NFL and help their franchises collect big profits. Presumably, the players are rewarded with lucrative salaries.

However, the largest portion of former UofL basketball players (which is UofL's most lucrative sport) toil in relative anonymity in development leagues or foreign leagues. The players are presumably more skilled and experienced once they leave campus, but they no longer generate nearly the same revenues for their new programs. UofL fans cheer these players, and pay for tickets, sweatshirts, and TV ads, precisely because they wear the cardinal red of the local sports team and perform their feats on local courts and fields.

Does UofL Athletics pay the University for this association? No. Instead, Athletics collected $23 million in licensing and royalties in 2013.

Literally, Athletics rakes in tens of millions of dollars annually thanks to its affiliation with the University.


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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Notice something odd in the recent news?

Yesterday, former New England Patriot football player Aaron Hernandez apparently committed suicide in prison. His family and their lawyer have already called for an investigation because they do not believe Hernandez would have killed himself. After all, a few days ago, he was acquitted of some serious charges. And they presumably knew him best. On the other hand, Hernandez was serving life in prison without parole and his ex-teammates visited the Trump White House yesterday.

This news seemed especially unusual to me because a number of other prominent -- even notorious -- convicted killers and sex offenders have been found dead in prison in recent days and weeks. Locally, an 86-year old ex-priest convicted of sexually abusing 29 children died in prison in early March. 

That death seemed like natural causes given the age, but a series of recently reported prison deaths seems weird...perhaps statistically improbable:

Remember the Washington (state) mall shooter? He died earlier this week. April 17, BBC:
A man accused of killing five people at a shopping mall in Washington state has been found hanging inside his prison cell, say officials. 
Arcan Cetin, 20, who had been awaiting trial for the mass shooting in 2016, was found dead in the Snohomish County Jail on Sunday night.
Remember that Utah doctor who killed his wife, the former beauty queen? Washington Post, April 10:
61-year-old MacNeill was found unresponsive and declared dead at the Olympus Facility at the Utah State Prison in Draper, where he was doing time for his 2014 conviction of first-degree murder, second-degree obstruction of justice and second-degree forcible sex abuse. 
Prison officials said in a statement that MacNeill’s death is being investigated, though there were “no obvious signs of foul play.” 
This next case did not involve prominent killers or offenders, but it did involve multiple deaths. Thus, it made the national news less than two weeks ago. CNN, April 7:
Four inmates were found dead at a South Carolina prison, a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections said. 
Guards found the four men at 10:35 a.m. in a dorm at Kirkland Correctional Institution, a state maximum security site outside Columbia that holds approximately 15,000 offenders, said Sommer Sharpe.... 
The deaths "don't appear to be natural," Richland County Coroner Gary Watts told CNN affiliate WIS.
Three weeks ago, the locally-notorious "Angel of Death" serial killer (March 30):
A former nurse's aide dubbed the "Angel of Death" after he admitted killing three dozen hospital patients in Ohio and Kentucky died Thursday, two days after he was attacked and beaten in his prison cell. 
Donald Harvey, who was serving multiple life sentences, was found injured in his cell Tuesday afternoon at the state prison in Toledo, officials said. A patrol report said the 64-year-old was beaten when an unnamed person entered his cell.
Trying to recall the details of these recent incidents, I searched on Google and found a surprisingly long list of prison deaths. I'm not going to link to more of them.

Many of these deaths are first reported as suicide and some happened to older men, who seemingly died of natural causes. However, at least a few of the deaths seem suspicious, involving murder or under-explained violence in prison. Examining this string of deaths seems like (a) a potentially interesting question for a social scientist or student; (b) an important question for public policy makers responsible for securing prisons; and/or (c) the makings of a conspiracy-laden movie.

I should note that some investigative reporters have been down this road.

For anyone interested, here are other prominent examples I found in a quick search:

In 2015, an infamous California prisoner was killed after being moved into the general prison population.

Also in 2015: an Olympics gymnastics coach accused of child porn and molestation was found dead in prison.

In 2013, the Cleveland man who infamously held multiple women hostage for years in his home was found dead in prison.


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Friday, April 14, 2017

Fix UofL Athletics?

At a University of Louisville Board of Trustees meeting earlier this week, Board member John Schnatter -- of Papa John's Pizza fame -- said the following in an open session (link includes live video from the open part of the Board meeting):
“The athletics thing scares me … Until you fix athletics, you cannot fix this university,” Schnatter said.... 
[Interim University President] Postel, in an unrelated presentation during the meeting, said the university has an urgent need for operating cash in case of an emergency. 
Schnatter interjected, linking the university’s cash needs to the ongoing expansion of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, where the Cards play football. 
“We’re doing this by the skin of our teeth. We’re going to put $60 million in a stadium – by the way, it’s my stadium,” Schnatter said, laughing. “And we’re $5 million over budget and we’ve got 10 days cash on hand.** That’s crazy.”
Much of the reporting about Schnatter's remarks made it seem as if no one understands what he was talking about: "Pressed for plausible explanations of Schnatter’s statements, insiders have spent a lot of time scratching their heads and studying possible scenarios."

In his column in today's sports page, Tim Sullivan speculated about several angles that parallel my own thinking and writing about this topic:
This much, though, is plain: with revenues rising at the top tier of college athletics (by $304 million for the 50 power conference schools in 2015), the quasi-amateur sports arms race strikes more and more observers as obscene. Dollars devoted to attracting recruits and rewarding coaches with ever-glitzier facilities and ever-sweeter pay packages are inconsistent with the experiences of other students and staff and only available because of an athletic program’s affiliation with a specific school
Too often, though, administrators at those schools have little say over whether those dollars might serve some higher purpose somewhere else on campus. Those athletic departments that retain nearly all of the money they generate, often while appropriating student fees and off-loading certain expenses on the university’s general fund, essentially operate in a parallel universe that can be a burden on the rest of the university
If that’s what Papa John is talking about, that’s a subject worth discussing, and one that applies to many major schools. 
University of Louisville, confronting a $48 million budget cut, needs to have this conversation immediately.


** Officials said at the meeting that the University actually now has 35 days of cash on hand -- thanks apparently to a recent hiring freeze accompanied by increased scrutiny on unit spending. Here's a November 2016 press release from Moody's explaining about why this number is important.

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