Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Back in 2013, I wrote about the Boy Scouts of America's decision to allow Gay boys to enter its ranks. 

As I said then, I was never a Boy Scout, and I have no stake one way or the other about its reputation or continued existence. But I questioned the advisability of, in effect, asking very young boys to consider and declare their sexuality, at an age when such questions should be regarded as premature at best, and potentially corrupting at worst. My argument then was about the jeopardy of participants, of a public organization devoted to moral integrity and conduct, being forced to facilitate an agenda whose mandate was directly opposed its founding principles. 

The Illustration from my May 24th, 2013 post

Today, the media is a-flurry with reports of a new wave of negative publicity and court filings against the Scouts, centered around the revelation in court of internal Scout documents detailing over twelve thousand victims of abuse by some 8000 scout leaders, dating back to 1944, which the organization has managed to keep from public knowledge and view. The Scouts apparently kept a so-called "perversion file" of deposed leaders, which it didn't release either. 

The wave of 300 court cases representing some 3000 abuse clients has now prompted the Boy Scouts to declare bankruptcy, in an effort to shield itself from the anticipated court judgments against it. Like the Roman Catholic Church, which evaded responsibility for the sexual abuse of boys by priests over the decades, the Boy Scouts now finds its very continued existence threatened. 


Founded in 1910, over the years the Boy Scouts of America has expanded to include up to 2.3 million youth, girls as well as boys, and is coordinated with the assistance of 900,000 adult volunteers. The Scouts were originally founded "to teach patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred values" to boys. However, changes have been made to the Scouts, starting with a new name, Scouts BSA, and its values and guidelines have been altered in the ensuing decades. In 2013 it lifted restriction on sexual orientation and in 2015 lifted its ban on allowing gay scoutmasters--despite the organization's history of sexual abuse--involuntarily, via litigation. 

The corrupting influences on this venerable old boys' club are like a bad dream come true. One can only imagine the sort of sex talks that might take place in today's scouting world, of gay (or lesbian?) scoutmasters informing young boys that all sexual behavior is morally neutral, and that expressing or believing in "homophobic" attitudes is wrong. Would this also mean that homosexual behavior by boys while in scouting ventures would be condoned? Or that sexual contact between homosexual scoutmasters and "willing" boy-partners would be tolerated, even encouraged? 

20 years ago, who would have been able to predict such eventualities, or to imagine that society would be persuaded to adopt them? 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Wait Until Next Year

The prospects for the San Francisco Giants in the coming year (2020) appear dismal.

General Manager Farhan Zaidi, hired prior to the 2019 season after stints with the Dodgers (4 years) and the Oakland A's (2 years), appears not to have a coherent plan to turn our ailing franchise around, after five years of frustration, following the three championship years (2010, 2012 and 2014).

There are various theories about how to build a competitive ball club. Before free agency, teams had much more control of their destinies, since players couldn't move freely among teams, weighing competing offers and situations with abandon. Nowadays, general managers have to juggle and improvise each season, moving players around, filling holes, placing bets on free agents while breeding new talent from the minors.  

There are basically only three ways to acquire new (or proven) talent: Through the farm system, developing players, usually hired out of college; through free agent signings; or through trades. The Giants once had one of the best farm systems in the majors, but over the years, it has had its ups and downs. The Giants system produced Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval, Tim Lincecum, Sergio Romo, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson, Brandon Belt, and Joe Panik. All these players contributed to the Giants three championship runs.

But that was six years ago. In the years since, the Giants haven't produced a single star player from their own farm system. In the last 10 years, however, they've signed a number of free agents, many of whom have made excellent contributions: Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez, Juan Uribe, Andres Torres, Edgar Renteria, Cody Ross, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Ryan Volgelsong, Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, Marco Scutaro, Angel Pagan, Tim Hudson, Johnny Cueto, Eduardo Nunez, Denard Span, Jeff Samardzija, Evan Longoria, Will Smith, Kevin Pillar, Stephen Vogt, Alex Dickerson.

There's always a risk in paying big cash for high-profile free agents, that they may have a career turn, become injured, or fail to fit into the team's "chemistry." Certainly, in retrospect, the Giants' investment in free agents was the key to their five year run of success.

The failure of the Giants farm system to produce more talent in the last five years suggests that trying to engineer a new contending team "from the inside" is probably not prudent.

What is Zaidi's strategy to return the club to contention? He let Kevin Pillar (their best-hitting outfielder), Will Smith (their All Star closer), Stephen Vogt (their excellent hitting 2nd string catcher), and Madison Bumgarner (their ace starter) depart through free agency, refusing to offer competing offers for any of them. Ordinarily, this would suggest that he has a longer-term strategy, that there are players waiting in the wings from the minors, ready to move up and take the places of the departed or declining veterans. But the Giants recent rookie arrivistes haven't convinced anyone that there is a "secret" pool of young talent to draw upon.

The Giants signed Pence and Sandoval, two players from the glory years, both now, without much argument, past their prime, and useful only as platoon players or pinch-hitters. The addition of Wilmer Flores--much touted in the media this week--seems a pathetic gesture towards the fan-base. The Dodgers, meanwhile, went out and acquired Mookie Betts, whose hot bat, power and speed is sure to pump up LA's already potent line-up.

The passive reaction to the departure of Bumgarner seems the most troubling. In previous posts, I've predicted great things for the big raw-boned Deep South Lefty, whose two years of injury-plagued performance have not dimmed my enthusiasm for his potentials. In an earlier era, he would certainly have followed a pattern similar to Warren Spahn's, whose durability produced Hall of Fame numbers.  It's hard to imagine a more counter-productive and short-sighted decision, than to have let him go, given his likely future. It will turn out to be one of the great tragic bad transactions in history. I predict MadBum will win 100 games for the Diamondbacks.

This week, posted an article about the "Top 100 Players" in major league baseball. Not one of this 100 was a Giant. Not Posey, not anyone. 30 teams, 100 players--an average of 3 players per team. Would Bumgarner have qualified if he hadn't signed with Arizona? 

Zaidi's big moves in the offseason? Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, Zack Cozart, Will Wilson, and . . . Wilmer Flores! But perhaps the biggest move was forcing Bruce Bochy out--the same manager who engineered the team's three world championships. Presumably, Zaidi had something in mind there, but what?

Do the Giants presently have any player who could conceivably qualify for the All Star Team this season? Their rotation will be "led by Jeff Samardzija." Jeff Samardzija? The Jeff Samardzija who has one (one!) winning season in 14? Who led the league in losses in 2017 with 15? 

Johnny Cueto will returning from Tommy John surgery this year, so he'll be in the mix, but who knows whether he'll ever completely recover. He's nothing but a question-mark now. 

The Giants "power vacuum"--which has persisted every year since Bonds retired--is as much a concern as ever. So bad, in fact, that the team finally decided to move the right field wall in several feet. Year after year, the team fails to find a right-handed power hitter. Evan Longoria was presumably brought in to do that, but he's only a shadow of the slugger he once was. 

Posey, Belt, Crawford, Longoria--each seems to have settled into the "journeyman's" mediocrity, just good enough to start, but not to win. 

This team looks to be in trouble, and management seems to be without answers. If Zaidi's planning to build from the farm system, he might have to start with the farm system itself, which hasn't produced a star pitcher or hitter in a decade. Aside from late-comer Mike Yastrzemski, there hasn't been a new bright light on this team for several years. 

Zaidi's tenure as Giants GM is beginning to look very peculiar. Almost as if those funky rumors about his being a spy for the Dodgers might actually be true. 

In the age of homers and strike-outs, the Giants are regressing, looking very much like a team which is trying to save money by fielding a cheap product. Could a team actually end up last in homers, runs scored, RBI's, stolen bases, and ERA in the same year? 

This team might very well do it.   

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

An Opportune Reflection

The complete text of the "You have meddled with the primal forces of nature" speech from the movie Network [1976]. Was there ever a more pertinent summary of the world economy than this one?

"You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mr. Beale, and I won't have it! Is that clear?! Do you think you've merely stopped a business deal? That is not the case. The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back! It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity! It is ecological balance! You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. That is the atomic and sub-atomic and galactic structure of things today! And you have meddled with the primal forces of nature, and You Will Atone

Am I getting through to you, Mr. Beale? You get up on your little twenty-one inch screen and howl about America and democracy. There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state - Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable by-laws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel. (Beale: "Why me?") Because you're on television, dummy. Sixty million people watch you every night of the week, Monday through Friday. (Beale: "I have seen the face of God.") You just might be right, Mr. Beale."