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Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Book and OODA Loop: A Worthy Read? OODA Loop in One's Life

A Decade in the Making

It has been a great while since I have posted here. As most long-time readers (probably less than five) know, I had been plugging away or finishing up my pièce de résistance, a baseball book, titled, Bringin' Gas and Dialin' 9: A Seven Score  Addiction to the National Pastime (1869-1949), Volume 1. Quite a mouthful, and well, I say a lot over 517 pages (with appendices). 

While I could give you a quick synopsis about all the topics, ranging from the faithful beginnings of the game to macrosabermetric analysis of top baseball prospects and their intrinsic value in the present day, I'd rather not. Instead, I want to say that while I accomplished something nearly a decade in the doing, I feel a severe let down in this moment.

Maybe it comes from the personal energies expended this summer to rewrite and edit together many working parts in the last section, in particular. Or the dissatisfaction I still have that I could have expounded more on the game, through its first century (the actual time frame is longer than the title suggests) of the game. Or even the much harder task of marketing the book - as I'm not all that keen to that proposition - even as I attend Valparaiso's MBA program and work on a Global Marketing class at the present. I should be really thrilled to apply lessons on branding, creating channels to the product, pitching it, finding markets, and otherwise, making people more aware of it through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Outbrain, and all the baseball websites in existence. (And create an outlet on Amazon - which is another story, tied to formatting.)

No, those things are in mix, to be sure, but don't quite nail down what is driving the undercurrent of the recent letdown.  I wish those loved the most dearly in life were alive to see the final outcome of the project: my mother atop that list. I acknowledged this here and here. I won't recount the story in this blog, but we all have reasons we do things and for people we admired and inspired us to just try. Just try. Give it the college try - as the cliche goes.

But motivation to carry on - that daily will to endeavor on something of greater significance - has been absent. Other priorities, namely, the pressing venture back to full-time employment and those unknowns (at the moment), seem hollow, and a bit underwhelming. If recent contacts and recruiters are of any indication to those prospects. (To a future employer: Look, if you are happy every single day with your career, family and daily tasking, I commend you. But I suspect that's not what is really going on. My realism on this subject is acknowledging a verity, for me, at least: I have a sinusoidal curve when it come to my emotions about things.)

 OODA Loop

 I guess to show I am making efforts to break this funk, I will include something of recent learning in my marketing class, which I have shared a few places online. The OODA loop, which like the DMAIC cycle and other ideas on learning, quick decision-making, or dramatic process improvement methods, has application towards creativity, breaking out of a rut, and acting based off all appropriate information and acknowledgement of internal biases versus an external world through feedback. Air Force Colonel John Boyd is given the most credit for creation of this concept. His thinking behind it significantly altered businesses, military strategy, and even, litigation methodology. 

Quote from Wikipedia:
Boyd’s diagram shows that all decisions are based on observations of the evolving situation tempered with implicit filtering of the problem being addressed. These observations are the raw information on which decisions and actions are based. The observed information must be processed to orient it for further making a decision. In notes from his talk “Organic Design for Command and Control”, Boyd said,
The second O, orientation – as the repository of our genetic heritage, cultural tradition, and previous experiences – is the most important part of the O-O-D-A loop since it shapes the way we observe, the way we decide, the way we act.
From Mindtools - the first two concepts break out into questions one should ask themselves.

Stage 1. Observe

At this initial point in the loop, you should be on the look-out for new information, and need to be aware of unfolding circumstances. The more information you can take in here, the more accurate your perception will be. Like an F-86 pilot with a wide field of vision, you want to capture as much incoming data as possible. The kind of questions you need to be asking are:
  • What's happening in the environment that directly affects me?
  • What's happening that indirectly affects me?
  • What's happening that may have residual affects later on?
  • Were my predictions accurate?
  • Are there any areas where prediction and reality differ significantly?

Stage 2. Orient

One of the main problems with decision-making comes at the Orient stage: we all view events in a way that's filtered through our own experiences and perceptions. Boyd identified five main influences:
  • Cultural traditions.
  • Genetic heritage.
  • The ability to analyze and synthesize.
  • Previous experience.
  • New information coming in.
Orientation is essentially how you interpret a situation. This then leads directly to your decision. 
Interpretation of events is analysis or synthesis part. Previous experiences (conformation bias) leads to all sorts of unfortunate "processing errors" (called Decisions cum Actions) once we move on into the decision and action phases of the OODA loop. Even with feedback - as we can readjust our observations or orientations in REAL TIME - many don't.

I have often failed at this.  As a flawed human being, I have more than my fair share of biases and erroneous observations that have resulted in bad conclusions. Guilty as charged.

Sadly, many millions, and billions, do this also. Even those that proclaim what is right, and defend their ideas quite arrogantly - because, well - it behooves them to in order to maintain face, credentials as an "expert," their current control, or status in life. Or to keep things just the way they want it - heritage or tradition in the orientation - because who really wants to change anyways? We all want to feel we are good enough at present - even when we add more complexities or technologies or stuff into our lives?  (With an undergrad in "change" engineering, industrial, I found most workplaces saying all the right things, "we want things to improve, run better, cost less, be more competitive," but somehow this also meant, someone's job or career would invariably be altered, or cut out from the team or reduced in some way. As a result, creative destruction is apart of any such cycle. It's also called a dirty word: progress.)

The Synthesis of These Connections

Synthesis of these two topics together: I am feeling caught in orientation traps unable to DECIDE what is the best path ahead. I know it. My prior experiences say, "what gives now?" How do I take a route I haven't been on before? Because those have worked out so well - insanity doing the same.

Observe. The world is not getting easier to stomach as it is. The facility in this country to seek some version of the American Dream correlates to how adept one is/becomes with an accelerating technological path at home, or abroad. At 42, I don't feel that's my best use of my time: to dive head long in technology field. Namely, I am no coder; no app writer; and not one that's gonna make a mark writing code in whatever programming language is gonna be hot. Not saying it has to be "totally" about that - but you still have to find your place in that technology pie. And get on the inside somewhere.

Yet, I feel I can identify the useful mechanisms to improve myself, and more importantly: society.

So, at 42, I don't want to operate at all on a "should schedule" unless I get a whole new life experience from that.  By that, I mean, I don't want a 9-5 that (maybe) pays high XX,XXX dollars or devolves into me showing up at the same plant or factory for 2 years. Because that's the sheer limit of my patience - 2 years. I get restless very easy. And I can't afford to jump ship (probabilistically) anymore.

Orientation. Independence. I want that too. We are told erroneously we all have our bosses. Well, aside from God, I tend to feel I have to answer to no one. That means I deem society's rules just a mish-mash of current propensities to favor whatever is the most vocally expressed and the most convenient for a politician to vote on to keep the masses mildly contented, at best. And most superiors found at work are generally hypocritical and loyal only to themselves - if Ayn Rand had remotely a clue. (Not that I agree much at all with her dogmas.)

But, I think I can follow the minimal, 'big rules': don't kill, don't steal, covet a neighbor's wife, and don't bear false witness. Do unto others as you'd like them to do unto you. Honor a father and a mother. Well, 50% ain't that bad on that particular one. The other rules of 'humanity' are getting really tired and unfortunate in their concept and usages. And depending on where you are - and yes, culturally, the rules are starkly different if you have the slightest concept of the globalized world - the rules and values are pretty fungible. To succeed in one cultural arena likely means you are doing some wrong in another part of the world. Keep that straight for a while, and you'll find yourself doing what others want more than you want. (As the movie Road Trip taught us about cheating.)

At Valpo, they implored us to explore values-based leadership. Well a few of my values are: loyalty, honesty (bluntness), invested, and determination. Once you show I can depend on you, I am loyal to you, almost to a fault. Quite a few people in my life haven't understood this about me to their loss. (As they became undependable for support; or sadly, I gave them too much loyalty before they were dependable on too many occasions - such are the erroneous judgments that abound my life.)

I am damnably blunt - I don't think beating around the bush, or using PC language helps us understand the way the world works or addresses the crises very well at all. Invested in doing better, or time on something to get it better (not perfection), and locked on a path, a direction, of some redeemable nature. Determination - if persistence and perseverance can't win, well, nothing can aside from divine intervention can. So be determined to accomplish a good goal. Maybe God will too.

Decide: I look at it in this calculated way. We sleep or rest 1/3 of our life away.

As of now, if I live to 70 - 28 more years - I got about 18 plus years of wake time left to do something I think will survive me. 20 years, if I don't sleep in too much. If 80 years of age, that puts me at 25 plus years. So, should I do more than half of it working for some monolithic company, knowing, as I know, once I die, my efforts with them will be basically a blur, a forgotten, an unnoticed cog? (Maybe a retirement dinner - ha!)

Leaving me with less than 10 years of time to accomplish much else? (Mom, and both her parents, passed away at 59-64 years of age. So, I am being quite generous - OODA genetics and heritage, folks!)

I realize I could start a family. Well, she hasn't presented herself to me. I've looked, and I've waited too. Time's a wasting on that idea. I'd like to have a couple of kids. Teach baseball. Would even be a stay-at-home dad, if she desires to be the "career person," my ego will not be crushed. (This doesn't mean I am lazy...) I suppose she'd have to love me first. Applications are taken here.

Action. See, I do have many more thoughts, in book form. I'd rather do that instead - if for nothing else - to somehow leave a record on things I noticed: history, people, the journey, love and the mysterious sadness of it all too. Sadly too, the book market ain't gonna pay the bills. So, I asked myself: "what is the minimal amount of money I need to do what I want, but still survive?" Or: "What can I do that I can work 3-4-5 months and get enough out of, then spend 6 months writing and researching?" Or: "Should I get a PhD in Business? (4 years of school on a stipend with the dissertation to complete? Can I even get accepted? This delays the decision of what to really do too.)

I'd like feedback - from my outside environment, my peers, the external events that could lead to other choices.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Where Are They Now: Melana Scantlin of Average Joe v. Life Love

Melana Scantlin: Then on Average Joe
A little over 10 years have past, and the craze of reality TV has ramped up a bit from the days of Joe Millionaire, The Bachelor, Average Joe, and the "grand Puck" of the genre, The Real World. The Real Housewives, Jersey Shore, Survivor, and too many others have turned the genre into a whack-a-doodle, oh-no-she-didn't-uh integrity-less food fight for ratings and audacious behaviors. But back a decade, some limits and slight decorum existed. A social psychology experiment, if you will.

For instance, the premise of Average Joe was to get ordinary Joes dating and marrying "up" to extraordinary looking women. It pitted former beauty queens, Melanie Scantlin and Larissa Meek, versus a trove of ordinary guys that soon faced the ideal male: those that work on pecks and their tans well and guys who usually land these inherently, socially pretty women. 

In the inaugural season, Ms. Scantlin did not use her final selection wisely: if you were comparing the successes of Adam Mesh versus Jason Peoples. On one hand, Adam did not look the part of a successful trader and owner on The Street; whereas, Jason Peoples, looked awesome, but was not particularly well off, or successful in his life, then. Melana judged, or at least, picked a book by its cover. That cover selection turned out to never fulfilled her needs.

Meanwhile, Adam later published a book on trading, and still runs a website that is about investing.  Later, he got married in 2006. His turn on the show boded well enough.

Melana Scantlin has went on to be a host of the World Series of Blackjack, and works for E!TV/Hollywoodlife.com, as I found out just today in reviewing the Emmy Awards on Youtube. (This was why I wrote this post.)

In the world of 'Reality TV' this is the normal ending. The parties never stay together. If anything, its just a stepping stone to something else for them, or the 15 minutes of Warholian fame. The show too becomes part of the recycling bin of Hollywood where it will be revamped and hurled at the next generation. The where are they now? posts, like this one, usually end here.

But I am here to provide advice and a lesson demonstrated via the wits of academia and my own logic.

Scantlin is yet to tie the knot- and she's now in her mid-30s. While not a huge problem for her - she hosts exercise shows and blurbs and looks in good health - it seems ironic that the lead, is yet to find the right one. Scantlin, who according to Florida State professor and psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and Ohio State professor in psychology and communications Brad J. Bushman, "wanted to meet and marry a man with good inner qualities (324)," but has yet to do so. In their academic book on Social Psychology and Human Nature, the professors went into further detail on Melana's quirks of choosing:
"she had eliminated every man weighing over 200 pounds. Meanwhile, one man clearly regarded himself as better looking...and this narcissistic fellow engaged in a variety of bullying and putdowns that made most regard him as a jerk, but Melana went out of her way to convince herself that he was not a jerk...she was seen lying on the floor with the narcissistic fellow with arms around each other, kissing passionately."
The attraction of two people comes down to physical, emotional (or mood), and spiritual (philosophical) aspects. It is natural to find instant attraction with the eyes - many of us are visual-first creatures. Some though go further, and adapt better to those whose outward mood or spirit is lively or in sync with theirs, despite obvious physical disparities. Lastly, philosophical mirroring or acceptance takes a while to find out. Certainly longer and more in-depth than the Reality TV time frame. Additionally, social acceptance means people have come to like you, respect you, approve of you, and include them in their groups and relationships. While rejection means other(s) exclude you and will not form a social bond with you. Again, the reality show time frame make this a cruel game of excluding based on the lowest denominator of selection: that which we see through eyes only.

So what makes a person attractive for a mate?

As the professors intone, "Melana Scantlin may someday recognize, is that the traits that make someone attractive upon first meeting are not the same traits that make for a successful relationship."

Melana Scantlin may have learned this advice. But I suspect fear or inability to adapt towards a different trek may have taken place. (I don't know her; so she may be in a committed, if unannounced, relationship.)
But if she had, I suspect she would make it public enough. It did not stop her participation a decade ago in a very public display of both her and the men that sought an opportunity to date and build something with her.

Nevertheless, what we thought then is not necessarily what we think now, and so, it should be remembered: things change and we do change with them, if just in the march of time. And not all that glitters turns into gold.

Many times, it is pretty average.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street: A Fun Ride Up Until the End

Jordan Belfort's The Wolf of Wall Street book must be a scream. I remember browsing the title a few years ago, but got distracted by something else, probably not Margot Robbie, who plays Leonardo DeCaprio's trophy 2nd wife. Nope, I could never be this tone deaf and drug-addled as this Wall Street bucket shop story lead is throughout.

The premise is easy: man goes to Wall Street; guy learns bad habits on Wall Street from ; guy gets dumped off Wall Street; guy finds he can make it, on his own version of Wall Street with all the addictions and money to support his growing addictive habits. The legality of it, well, that's dependent on how long he can go on doing crazy and illegal shit, pumping and dumping, before the SEC or FBI nab him and his merry band of derelicts-make-good.

It's funny as hell, if your a man that lacks excitement in your life. Women, not exactly a PSA for marrying a stock jobber that is pressure-selling stocks for all those pricey commissions. These guys are Animal House, type-A with insecurities a magnificent mile long paved over with greenbacks and tons of blow. Even though a few ladies are working in this egomaniac-driven world, we don't get to see them search for crazier drugged out ways to spend obscene amounts of cash.

To get through a workday is all about the drugs you use and the quantities you pump them in to get the next deal done, or the next hooker off. Sometimes the separation is just an elevator ride between. Time is everything to these Masters of the Universe wannabes.

It feels like one criminal blur on screen - of very amoral decisions that keep on being rewarded until the Virginia farm boys (FBI) start a hounding. Then, Belfort takes to inviting them up to show off his lobsters and his women and his legal knowledge about bribery. FBI man (the once-too-nice-of-a-guy Kyle Chandler) plays along. Belfort, and his less than intellectually brilliant, but extremely codependent drug partner (fabulously played by Jonah Hill), just don't get it. 

They just play on. They go out of their way to do more crime. Make it international. Have really no compass - lost that back in the 1980s, if they had it then. And are willing to destroy all those around them, as the ugly truth hits hard at home for Belfort. Not even hot trophies want to go down with the ship of fools. They know the cash is out and the jig is up.

And so, the Wolf is finally at bay. He did some country club time; and came back to life akin to Michael Milken, as the successful motivational speaker. Yep, would you do 22 months for his wild life? 

If you asked 100 men without families, or great looking and morally supportive wives, you'd get 75 yeses. You'd be able to sell it - the stock life, and the pen (penitentiary), too. 

3 hours of DiCaprio looking the part of a sex, drugs, and money addicted conning genius that lost his way ---for 22 months. The Wolf howls.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Minor Model and the Chicago Cubs: It Still Comes Down to Money, Honey

The Minor Model and the Chicago Cubs: It Still All Comes Down Money, Honey

The Present and Past: The Minor Model to World Series Success

The model Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have sold the last two seasons to the faithful Cubs fan is one of small and varied investments and flipping short-term assets to achieve a top-notch minor league system. Every now, and again, mentioning the Cardinals, almost harkening the ghost of Branch Rickey, when he too built the Cardinals from a derelict franchise to the World Champions of the NL in 1926. Then Branch moved on to the Dodgers in 1942 – creating the Jackie Robinson-led Dodger way – and then, Pittsburgh and their rebirth in the late 1950s to league prominence with the likes of Mazeroski, Groat, and Clemente.
It took Branch approximately seven seasons to build the Cardinals to champions. After World War I ended in November 1918, he came back to the struggling and financially troubled National League team. First, he tried his hand at field management, primarily, to only middling success. But it was his destined role as a general manager that help the Cardinals the most as he bought out low level minor league teams and installed new methods (or revived old ones) to get more quality from that new found and harnessed quantity in farm systems. By 1939, his Cardinals had 28 affiliated teams. 1940: 30 teams. 1940 Cubs: 6 including the LA Angels and the Milwaukee Brewers (soon to be owned by William Veeck for $25,000.)
This model does have the long-term result of working. Others have tried this…some better than others, as at some point, money has to be employed, large trades, better scouting, and revenues increase to make a final push to the top of the league.

Baltimore Orioles: Paul Richards & Jim McLaughlin

The defunct Browns/new Baltimore Orioles succeeded with GM/field manager Paul Richards took the reins, but only after he built them up through various trades, better evaluation and a new stadium produced good attendance. From SABR Bioproject:
He traded the Orioles’ lone star, fireballer Bob Turley, to the Yankees in a seventeen-player deal that was the largest in big league history. The trade brought the Orioles an eventual all-star catcher in Gus Triandos, while Turley helped the Yankees win the 1955 pennant and won the first Cy Young Award three years later. When local sportswriters and fans complained that Richards had handed the Yankees another pennant, he responded, “What concern is it of mine who wins the pennant? I need to get the Orioles out of seventh place.”
It took him six years to lift the Orioles above .500, but he stuck to his plan: build through the farm system, concentrating on young pitchers. He kept the scouting and farm director he inherited, Jim McLaughlin. Although the two arrogant, stubborn men squabbled constantly, it was the best decision Richards ever made. McLaughlin believed in a scientific approach to appraising young players. He was one of the first to use cross-checkers to put a second pair of eyes on every prospect. One of his scouts, Jim Russo, said McLaughlin was “years ahead of his time.”
Richards moved on Houston before the Baby Birds flew; his prospects and bonus babies landed their 1st big league championship in 1966. From 1964-1983, the Orioles won 90+ games 16 times.


Montreal Expos: John McHale, Jim Fanning, Mel Didier

While Richards took over Bill Veeck’s first defeat in ownership, McHale came from the commissioner’s office to Canada as lead executive to billionaire Charles Bronfrom to build a franchise from scratch. Like Richards, McHale had to find money when and where available and make trades to go with likely the best decade of drafting seen at the outset of a franchise. Their first star, Rusty Staub, came to Montreal through a trade controversy that stirred around Donn Clendenon, who refused to report to New York Mets in what would be their championship year.
Thereafter, McHale, general manager Fanning and director of scouting Mel Didier found the likes of Steve Rogers, Gary Carter, Warren Cromartie, Andre Dawson, Tim Wallach, and Ellis Valentine, and Tim Raines to name the well known names of 1970s. With enormous stadium issues at the outset, and mediocre attendance due to those struggles and sterility, it took Montreal 11 seasons to crack into the top tier of the National League. And then, they fell short in 1981 in game five of the NLCS to the LA Dodgers.


Cubs Finances: Baseball LBO

Is the model for success a one-route only plan?
In the prior examples, all during very different financial times (Pre-free agency), making a successful team hinged on judicious use of resources, expert and differentiating scouting, and signing players more as prospects than ever as finished products. An incubation period of 5-7 years was a given; no matter how much a team wanted to win now, that could not happen. That said, the 2014
Cubs are not that destitute. Or at least, they should not be.
But when the ownership changed hands from Sam Zell to Tom Ricketts, and his family of board directors, a substantial debt load too was placed on the team, by  business reports $674 million in notes. In 2010, in their first season, as full owners, they reduced payroll by $10 million, overcame some bad press about their Dominican Republic facilities (and thus put a $7 million investment into that area), and then put together a future plan to succeed at baseball. Their private investors likely required that – due to their heavy backing of the team, which was just in the playoffs two straight seasons. (But likely no nothing of the game…)
From Crane’s Chicago Business, January 4, 2010, calling this Creative Debt:
Mr. Ricketts and his financial advisers brought in institutional investors — such as insurance companies, pension funds and banks — to refinance $250 million in short-term debt provided by three banks, according to a Ricketts family spokesman….
Documents related to the deal, reviewed by Crain’s, provide a glimpse into how Mr. Ricketts, an investment banker who specializes in debt markets, orchestrated the highly complex deal, creating an unusual structure at a time when credit markets were nearly inert.
So, to make this leverage work, the Chicago Cubs needed to follow a plan that maximized returns to the investors in their debt. In 2012 payroll paid dropped to $80.4M from $136M. In 2013, the amount dropped to $61.6M. Added up from the 2011 near peak: 56 + 75 = $131 million in saved monies to meet $175million term loan in October 2013. The plan revised further with Theo Epstein’s arrival to be:

The Steps (in no particular order):

  • Cut payroll – and stop large investments in top-tier FA contracts as debt service was needed first
  • Find the right baseball man to rebuild the team (Theo Epstein & Jed Hoyer)
  • Draft in top 5-10 for several seasons. This after making only half-hearted attempts to win
  • Secure low-risk FAs that could be traded mid-season
  • Trade away any high priced assets for younger controllable talent
  • Renovate Wrigley Field for $300-500M- amenities to ballpark functionality for ballplayers once revenues are in place
  • Renegotiate local TV contracts on the level of the Rangers, Dodgers, Angels deals
  • Remove obstacles to revenues – Rooftop ownerships cutting into their business
  • Add new revenue streams – advertising, signage, hotel operations
  • Build up minor league scouting and development system
  • Build up front office staffing well versed in business analytical techniques and sabermetrics
  • Install a field manager that operates well with the leadership at the top
  • Never pay out long-term deals (4+ years) to free agents over 30
  • Sign young talent (22-24) to longer-term deals (5-7 years) once they are proven capable
  • Draft top bats – less risk; add quantity of pitching in drafting
  • Trade for top-tier pitching when timing suits the plan
A big chunk of that debt came due in October 2013, $175 million. It is likely was paid down via sinking funds to retire debt in short order. $13.65 million of payroll savings in 2013 season made its way back to the Cubs as they did a massive sell off mid-season when they were no worse record wise than the National West champion Dodgers in just early June.
The Sun-Times quoted Andrew Zimbalist, an expert on baseball economics:
“He’s behaving like he’s a mid-market team,” famed sports economist Andrew Zimbalist said of Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, whose family owns the most profitable team in the majors in the third-largest market in the country.
In terms of their timeline to be competitive, the Cubs could have a problem because their mid-market behavior appears to be caused as much by the debt left from the Ricketts’ highly leveraged purchase of the team as any premeditated rebuilding process.
Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., cautions against using baseball spending levels as a basis for criticizing ownership, pointing out the light correlation between performance and payroll and what might be nothing more than a function of a longer-range business plan.


A Minor Setback: FO Change of Managerial Direction

So, after two completely disastrous seasons of 197 defeats, resulting in the firing manager Dale Sveum, one can expect that new manager Rick Renteria will have at least two more seasons before their substantially promoted crop of minor talent comes to change the 106-107 year old curse.  Renteria’s seemingly first duty is to reverse the regressions of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro from their quite disappointing 2013 seasons for Cubs faithful. He will have also set out to install a winning approach, with a team lacking vets, aside from Jeff Samardzija, the lone holdover from the 2008 97-win Cubs, or Edwin Jackson, coming off a sabermetrically decent, but traditionally bad season.  The new manager may find Samardzija gone, as the Notre Dame grad wants to a pricier extension, and to cash in on his first 200-IP season at two years before free agency. His demands may drive him out of a Chicago job; or the front office might find prospects more appealing than keeping a nearing thirty #2 pitcher with #1 velocity.  Even Jackson’s 4yr-$52 million FA contract has resulted in some backtracking too from the GM Jed Hoyer, saying, “we got a bit ahead of ourselves.” At the end of the day, newbie manager Renteria has his work cut out for him.
Yet, these installers of this Minor Model want to keep Cubs fans interested and thinking they will be competitive going forward. This after losing about 650,000 fans in 2013 from their peak at 3.3 million in 2008. At $50 per head, this is $32.5 million in revenues lost. But, never fear, the new MLB TV deal(s) will add over $25-75 million (depending on source of income) to the coffers starting in 2014. But then, the Cubs still kick in approximately $39 million to revenue sharing. And then more importantly, only insiders know the actual size of debt repayments (installments) and if the ghost of Sam Zell is floating around in the books too.
Sidetracking the critics, are reports of interest in uber pitching free agent Masahiro Tanaka, at least a 100-plus million dollar investment in just ONE arm, seem overblown, given the cost structures in place. Jacoby Ellsbury, a Theo draftee, would be another high price add, that the checking account is unlikely to pry open so wide that Scott Boras and Ellsbury are ever seen in Wrigley proper. But “interest” can be had at the low price of free. And it keeps fans hoping one day will be today.


The 7-Year Wait: Adds to the 106 Year Old Cubs Tradition

Cubs DebtSo, what should be next? From history, it takes 5-7 years, at minimum, to reach critical mass for a successful baseball build. The 1962 Mets did it in seven seasons; the Toronto Blue Jays reach playoffs in nine seasons, World Series, 15. Florida Marlins only five, then a massive sell off of assets. The Montreal Expos were a decade plus, but had Olympic Stadium and Canadian monetary issues to boot. Tampa Bay Rays made it to a World Series in a decade. Baltimore took a decade. Rickey, the absolute master, took five years with a team that had just visited the World Series in Brooklyn (1941). (But he had the misfortune of trying to usurp his former employer.)
So, Cubs faithful, this Minor Model will require much more sacrifice. Much more time. 2017 is, at best, the first window. The revenues will come on line. Financing will be redone again by the expert investment banker. The prospects named Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora, and C.J. Edwards will make their presence felt. Maybe a couple of trades in late 2013/early 2014 will land catcher Kevin Plawecki, RHP Rafael Montero, LHP Tyler Skaggs, or RHP Archie Bradley, or RHP Kyler Zimmer. Or some other interesting names in the top 50 of Baseball America’s ranking.
No one outside the minor plan in place can estimate who else is available for trade exodus – but the Cubs team is leaned out because the finances are at the very heart of it. So, patience is a virtue Cubs faithful. It has to be.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Turkey Day 3-Way Deal: Cubs meet the Mets and Arizona

The possibility that all three teams get needs filled are remote. As usually one team feels screwed, and therefore, would never do the deal at all.

The AZ-Met-Cub Potential Trade Idea -

Mets Receive:

2B/SS Chris Owings (from AZ)  - Rookie year. Good prospect. Hit throughout minors. Could be a decent SS, or at least 2B. 6 more years of control Sandy Alderson.
OF Cody Ross (from AZ) - Remaining MLB contract of 19M for 2 years with 1M buyout. Platoon Split against LHP of 1.012 OPS in 2013.
RF Nate Schierholtz - Arbitration eligible, likely well under 5M. RHP Platoon split of .799 with a .499 slugging percentage in 2013.
RHP Jake Arrieta - Not arb eligible until 2015, likely 1M+. RHP Starter. Throws in the mid-90s. Durable so far. 5th starter material, potentially, a mid-rotation starter.
Plus 5M in cash from the Cubs for Schierholtz and Arrieta's expected salaries.
Plus 5M in cash from Arizona for Ross's contract.

Mets DFA or Release: Omar Quintanilla and Andrew Brown to put Schierholtz, Ross, and Arrieta on roster. Steven Matz moved to Cubs removes the need for a 3rd roster move. May need another to get Owings there. But he has options left...

Strengths: Why? Mets need another RF that can drive in runs. They are cash strapped. So, Cubs and Arizona give them a platoon option for cheap, paying 50% of Cody Ross's salary. Arrieta subs for Matt Harvey. Well, he fills the rotation spot for 2014. He more Harvey, the rabbit, that disappears, than a Matt Harvey. Arrieta could be a quality pickup. Mets, while having pitching, must either trade for a OF Bat or buy it. The get a young prospect SS that can hit so far in the MLB. .290/.360OBP was his line in limited action.

Weaknesses: They will give up 2 arms (a top 150 prospect in Steven Matz; no real biggie there from a FO standpoint. He completed A ball with aplomb though.) But they have to part with Noah Syndergaard (or if scout approved, Rafael Montero), to get those 3 usable bats, and actually, a proven MLB 5th starter. That is fair, if they want to compete at all in 2014, as Atlanta is down without McCann or vet Hudson.

Arizona Receive:

SP Jeff Samardzija - 1st Year Arb - 6M. Good TOR option. Not far from a #1 option.
LF/CF Junior Lake - Non-Arb eligible. Good power. Nice splits in 1st year against LHP (.956 OPS) - replaces what Cody Ross was at 1/20 the price.
2B Darwin Barney - 1st year Arbitration. Great glove and makes contact. No power. Very weak hitter. Could rebound though..not yet 30.
Plus 8M in cash from the Cubs for Barney's, Lake's, and Samardzija's expected contract.

Notes: No Roster moves as Skaggs, Owings, and Ross were on 40-man roster.

Strengths: 2 years of a solid #2 arm to compete with the Dodgers. Lake, a young, aggressive, if raw, and possibly flawed talent goes to Arizona to fill for Ross, who did the same killing of RHP at a much higher cost. This helps Arizona get help elsewhere before the prices get high.

Arizona gets rid of some payroll in Ross and gets some relief from the Cubs too.

Weakness: They give up on a LHP in Skaggs, who did improve statistically, but loss velocity, in 2013. But AZ has LHPs Corbin and Miley. And they keep Archie Bradley, as much as I think the Cubs want Bradley, Kevin Towers would be strung up for the parting. They part early with Chris Owings, who goes to the Mets. He got a quick cup of coffee last year and did well enough. But they have Didi; and Barney can play some SS if an emergency happened. Lastly, they do eat Darwin Barney for the Cubs. He could be released, if the D-Backs don't want him.  

Cubs Receive:

Strengths: Holmberg could just go into the rotation in 2014, placing Skaggs in AAA.  Both pitched on the MLB Diamondbacks roster. Both are in the 22-23 year old range. In essence more advance that many of the Cubs top pitching prospects currently.

But Syndergaard/Montero is the linchpin of this trade. Due to the quantity of players moved make it important to hit on 2 guys for future MLB production at a decent level (2 WAR). The Cubs get at least 1 top 30-50 prospect. 2 top 100 prospects. And 2 top 200 prospects.

Snydergaard is most coveted because of size, stuff, and performance at very young age of 20. Yet, Sandy Alderson & Co. probably have the same untouchable tag as Archie Bradley has on him. Thus, while the Cubs may actually want him bar nothing, taking a shot at their next best, if Montero passes scouting muster, might be a decent and fruitful exercise. (See graphic above which compares 2 potential guys acquired.)

So we turn instead to Rafael Montero, ranked in the top 50 by some prospect hounds:
“As far as we know, nobody, aside from Cuban-born players, has ever gone quicker from the Dominican Summer League to Triple-A than Montero, who basically did it in the course of about 24 months. [He] pounds the zone with a plus fastball, does it easy, not a lot of effort to the delivery. There’s a little bit of Mariano Rivera deception to his delivery because it looks so easy and it jumps on hitters the last 10 feet. The same thing with the slider, he’s got excellent command of the slider, he can change the shape of it and the location of it.” 
 From Scouting Book:
"Another product of the Mets' Latin American prospecting machine, Dominican righthander Rafael Montero is yet another hard thrower coming up fast through the minor league system. Montero has a lean and mean mound presence, not unlike the young Pedro Martinez, and he has the electric stuff to live up to that comp. Montero brings a mid-90's fastball that's solid and accurate, but it's the advanced nature of his secondary pitches (especially the wicked slider and sometimes-plus change) that frustrates hitters"
C Kevin Plawecki is AA bound, is said to have:“He’s a guy, who even in college, always had a good strike zone and always had low strikeout totals. He puts the ball in play but puts the ball in play with some authority.” From Metsprospects.com:
"Kevin Plawecki struck out a mere 77 times in his professional career while Nimmo struck out 131 times alone in in 2013. While Nimmo had 71 walks (ridiculous), Plawecki had about 30 more hits than Nimmo. Plate discipline is about patience, but it also comes with a higher propensity of striking out, as Nimmo displayed. Plawecki also only struck out 29 times in three seasons at Purdue. That’s serious strike-zone judgment."
Plawecki also had a .390OBP in A/A+ ball, while striking out less than 10% of the time. He calls his own games. Weakish arm, but that's not the hold back test. The AA test will make him either untouchable, or expose flaws. I am betting against that. 

 LHP Steven Matz. 
"You'd be forgiven for not knowing much about this 2009 second-round pick. Matz entered 2013 having played in six professional games following 2010 Tommy John surgery. The 22-year-old had a stellar season, posting a 2.62 ERA while fanning 122 batters over 106 1/3 innings for the Sand Gnats. He was just as good in the postseason, not yielding a run in two starts. "I think we were just so happy for Steven," DePodesta said. "He's put in so much work and so much time and all the rehab ... and had gotten to a point where he could pitch a full season. He had a terrific year, his ERA was great and he struck out a ton of a guys. He has a plus changeup to go with his fastball.
More from the Mets Minor League blog
The best left-handed pitching prospect in the New York Mets system. Matz was very effective for Savannah in 2013 putting up a 2.62 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 38 walks in 106.1 innings. He struck out 28% of opposing batters and walked 8.9%. He was up to 97 mph with his fastball, and regularly 92-95 with his heat. There just are not enough left-handed pitchers with this kind of velocity to leave Matz unprotected.
I thought at the time, his changeup flashed as a plus Major League pitch with arm speed and sink. As I wrote in September, “there was a time early in the year when Matz and Savannah Pitching Coach Frank Viola were trying to make this breaking ball a slider, but by the second half of the South Atlantic League season, they had abandoned that effort to focus on his curveball, which was his primary breaking ball in high school and early professional career. The pitch indeed shows promise with, when it’s right, good depth and late movement.

So both of these are quantity with upside.  A catcher that could remind of Paul Lo Duca or A.J Pierzynski.
A lefty with velocity - that dominated righties more than lefties. Matz has overcome a lot. So, that tells of good makeup.

While the Cubs will blow up their pitching staff up, they get back 30 years of controlled value; two top arms and three-mid tier prospects, at present. (As they could raise their stock.)

Weaknesses: Total rebuild mode. No OF, but for Sweeney and their current 40-man. Costs the 13M saved last year to acquire 2 potentially top pitching prospects, a catching prospect, and two potential usable arms down the road.

It is total prospect mode. 2014 Cubs will not be winning many ballgames.

which includes Noah SyndergaardNoah