Monday, November 25, 2013

Jonathan Martin and NFL Bullying

What is, at first blush, puzzling about the whole Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito "bullying" issue is that, if there was really bullying going on, why do almost all  the Miami Dolphin players support Incognito? And most say the two were actually best friends. This is confirmed by the friendly text message Martin sent to Incognito after his decision to leave the team.

Some careful thought reveals the most likely scenario about how this whole mess came about. Consider this scenario: Martin reveals to his agent that he is thinking about leaving the Dolphins, because he  is fed up with the NFL football scene. His agent says, "Wait a minute, Jonathan; if you leave you will have to repay a good portion of your signing bonus." (Just like Barry Sanders had to return a pro-rated portion of his signing bonus when he left the Detroit Lions in the middle of his long-term contract.)

So, the two of them hatched a scheme whereby Martin would claim he was forced to leave by incessant "bullying". If he was forced to leave by a hostile workplace, then, the agent's theory goes, Martin would not have to repay the signing bonus because he was not leaving of his own volition.

The fact that the NFL investigator is planning to meet a second time with Martin indicates that there are serious discrepancies between the version of events related by Martin and by his teammates. The investigator has interviewed every single Dolphins player, and I am confident that the truth will come out, and Martin will be revealed for the charlatan he obviously is.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Jerry Sandusky's Victim Number 9

Victim number 9 has rejected the settlement offer from Penn State University and filed suit against the university. While the details of the individual settlements with the other victims have not been made public, the overall figures which have been made public show the average settlement is in excess of two million dollars. Since victim #9's abuse made up 6 of the 45 charges on which Sandusky was convicted, it is safe to say that his offer was in excess of the average.

Rejecting such a settlement offer is one of the big blunders plaintiffs often make. I have seen figures showing that as much as 60% of torts cases which go to trial result in verdicts for the defendants. In this case, there is no assurance that Penn State will be found liable. The alleged abuse took place at Sandusky's home, years after his employment with the university had been terminated. While the plaintiff clearly has damages, any effort to collect punitive damages will probably fail, and he will be stuck with at most his compensatory damages, after a long and arduous process to get the matter to trial and then to go through the expense and emotional stress and strain of a trial.

Victim number 9 is either getting some horrible advice, or he is rejecting his attorney's advice. He should accept the university's offer and get on with his healing process, rather than remaining bogged down in the past.

The Michael Skakel Case

Lay people often imagine that there are different standards of justice for the rich and the poor. I think this is true, but not in the sense people usually think. Often, the rich are singled out for especially harsh treatment, usually due to overly aggressive prosecutors who are trying to make a name for themselves.

The Michael Skakel case is an example. The judge's 136-page opinion documents in great detail how Skakel's representation was totally inadequate. For example, five eyewitnesses placed the defendant 11 miles away at the time of the murder, but his lawyer called none of them. Many other examples abound showing the inadequate representation by celebrity lawyer Mickey Sherman. The fact Sherman was even involved shows how people tend to hire high-profile attorneys instead of competent ones. In Wichita I talked to many people who had hired lawyers who advertise extensively, and they would then come to me with their tales of woe at the lack of adequate representation these phonies provided.

The news media buys into this rich/poor delusion. They repeatedly refer to Skakel as a "Kennedy cousin", even though this is blatantly false. He is not a Kennedy cousin, he is a cousin of Ethel Kennedy's family.

Now that Skakel has adequate representation, it remains to be seen whether the authorities will bother to try him again, or decide to let the witch hunt cease.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The 2013 World Series in Historical Perspective

The 2013 World Series promised to be an exciting one, given that in the Cardinals and the Red Sox we had two of the most storied and beloved franchises in major league history doing battle.

And it wasn't just that their respective histories were noteworthy, but the 2013 versions of each team were noteworthy as well. The Cards were noteworthy for having 20 of the 25 players on their post-season roster being home-grown talent. This is unheard of in this day and age of free agency, with its frequent player movement from team to team. But it was appropriate for the Cards, as it was the Cardinals, under the leadership of Branch Rickey, who pioneered the concept of the farm system staarting in 1921.

The Red Sox were noteworthy for finishing first after having finished last in 2012. They got rid of the mercurial Bobby Valentine and brought in the steady John Farrell as manager. They also got rid of a bunch of over-priced malcontents, via a big trade with the Dodgers during the 2012 season. With the money thus saved, the Sox brought in some veterans who were good team players, and their clubhouse this year was improved dramatically with the addition of the likes of Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes. (It used to be said that when the Red Sox went back to their hotel from the ballpark, they went in 25 different cabs, so bad was their team chemistry.)

This "addition by subtraction" has occurred with many teams during the past 20 years or so. One thinks most famously of the Mariners, who set an MLB record for wins after getting rid of Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, and Ken Griffey, Jr., 3 mega-stars.

The "Curse of the Bambino" now seems a distant memory. After going 86 years without a championship, the Sox have now won 3 in the last 10 years. With all the talk for so many years about the long drought, it is easy to forget that the Sox have been one of the most successful franchises in MLB history. They now rank 4th with 8 championships. They won 5 of the first 15 World Series between 1903 and 1918, then the 86-year drought, and now 3 in 10 years.

And they made it to 4 World Series during the drought, losing each in exciting 7-game struggles. And 3 of these were among the most memorable Series ever: 1946, with the famous Pesky "held ball", allowing Enos Slaughter's "mad dash" around the bases to score the Series-winning run; 1975, with the famous Carlton Fisk homer which ended game 6, still felt by many to be the greatest game ever played; and then of course 1986, when the Mets came back after being within one out of losing in game 6.

This year's version of the World Series was noteworthy for the interesting fielding plays, especially the odd obstruction call which ended game 3. (MLB has already announced that the obstruction rule will be reviewed in the offseason.) Although it went "only" 6 games, this was one of the the better World Series in recent times. Since 2002, there has been only one 7-game series, in 2011 between the Cards and the Rangers. There have been four 4-0 sweeps, with only two others, before this year, going to 6 games.

The Sox turnaround in the past 10 years can be traced to the hiring of sabermetrician Theo Epstein in the early 2000's. The movie "Moneyball" depicts the new Sox owner John Henry making a huge offer of $12,500,00 to try to lure Billy Beane away from Oakland, but Beane decided to stay with the Athletics. Epstein was ultimately hired for the job at the tender age of 28. Also hired was Bill James, the father of sabermetrics. It is safe to say that the way the Sox have embraced the sabermetric  world has contributed greatly to their success in the past 10 years.