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Bruce Dowbiggin

Punch Out: Time To Go Virtual On Balls And Strikes

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Former MLB catcher Gregg Zaun was a young player working behind the plate in a 1980s game umpired by the gruff Ken Kaiser (who moonlighted as a wrestler for a time). Zaun was trying to help his pitcher on the Baltimore Orioles by framing pitchers that Kaiser might like.

On a call that Zaun and his pitcher both wanted called a strike— but the veteran ump Kaiser called a ball— the budding catcher, without turning around, inquired, “Where was that pitch, Mr. Kaiser?”

Kaiser replied, “Son, I just call ‘em. I don’t describe ‘em.”

There is power in sports. And then there is umpire power. As we have seen in the 2021 postseason, the ability of a single umpire behind home to shape an outcome is tremendous. That authority comes from the century before hi-tech allowed TV broadcasters to show a virtual strike zone on screen.

If the ump called it a strike, it was a strike. Despite volcanic eruptions from mangers liker Earl Weaver and generations of players blowing off steam there was no recourse. Eventually players were forced to put their bat on their shoulder and walk back to the dugout. Or to the clubhouse, if their tantrum got them tossed from the game.

Rarely was an umpire publicly fired. Unless it was Dave Pallone who was apparently canned for being gay and upsetting Pete Rose in the days when Rose was an MLB big shot. Certainly none of them were held to any standard in terms of fitness.

Now, however, the fan can see the virtual strike zone. And can see that an umpire like Laz Diaz, who was behind home plate for the Astros 9-2 win over the Red Sox in Game 4 of the ALCS,  needs to be cashiered. This allows reporter/ author Jeff Passan to tweet:

@jeffpassan Home-plate umpire Laz Diaz has missed 21 ball-strike calls tonight, according to @ESPNStatsInfo. That is the most of any umpire this postseason. The green dot in the upper RH corner is the Eovaldi curveball that would’ve ended top of the ninth with the score 2-2.

The game was no exception for Diaz. As our friends at @umpscorecards show that Diaz missed almost ten percent of his ball/strike calls on average during the season (91.9%). One game he called only 87.6 percent of calls correctly.

Which is not to single out Diaz. For instance, Angel Hernandez missed 356 of the 4833 pitches he called this season for 92.6% accuracy. Brian O’Nora (91.8% accuracy), Jerry Meals (93%), Rob Drake (92.1%), CB Buckner (92.7%) Doug Eddings (92.6%), Larry Vanover (92.5%), Ron Kulpa (91.8%)  and the legend Joe West (92.2%) are among the many who leave something to be desired. (We highly recommend following this detailed site if you are a fan or a bettor.)

While the average ball/ strike accuracy in the wider echelon of umpires hovers in the 92-95 percent range, even the best umpires have single games where their accuracy is in the mid-to-high 80s. Were those games that decided playoff spots? Division titles? Pitchers/ batters getting bonuses? Why did MLB not enforce a higher standard?

Look, 92-95 percent for the human eye in a stressful situation where 50,000 people are screaming at you is an impressive stat. And the umpiring today is scrutinized heavily by MLB for patterns that might produce betting scandals. There’s no doubt that the ball/ strike calling is vastly improved from Kaiser’s day when there were “pitchers’ umps” and “hitters umps”.

(Aside: On a Blue Jays TV broadcast this season  former MLB catcher Buck Martinez and sidekick Pat Tabler, a former outfielder, seemed to pine for the days when umps’ expanded strike zones encouraged players to “get the bat swinging” and reduced hitters working counts.)

But the virtual stroke zone shows MLB can have 100 percent accuracy to a defined strike zone. Not to put @umpscorecards out of work, but with a virtual strike zone MLB has the power to remove doubt about the strike zone, end arguments and conspiracies about certain umps and make the games move faster.

One only need look at the Hawkeye system at work now in tennis for calling lines. The days of John McEnroe or Jimmy Connors going ballistic over a line call have magically ended as the computer unequivocally demonstrates that a ball is in or out. The sideshow of rage has now become a shrug of the shoulders as the affected player moves on to the next point, angry at themselves, not the chair umpire or line official.

There are other pluses. Frankly who is also not happy to forgo the site of middle-aged tennis officials at Wimbledon or Roland Garros stuffed into tight pants and clingy blouses like sausage rolls, looming over the court like people waiting for the kettle to boil. Other than an ad for Weight Watchers it’s a sight we can consign to the past.

So why doesn’t MLB use the tech they’ve got? Some suggest they’re leery of upsetting the influential umpires union who guard their privilege zealously, even in the face of some completely useless colleagues. Other still hold with the dinosaurs who say the virtual strike zone is inaccurate or can move unexpectedly.

This just in: Even if the virtual strike zone is off an inch or two it’s the same standard for both pitchers and all hitters. There’s also no need to put people out of work. The home-plate ump can still make calls on foul tips, swinging strikes, plays at the plate and the running of the game. Enough already.

While MLB is at it, use the Hawkeye system for foul lines, foul poles and outfield fences, too. The technology is there. Forget the 19th century nostalgia.

Addendum: The Atlanta Braves toppling of the mighty Dodgers is genuine MLB karma for Atlanta. You may remember that commissioner Rob Manfred acquiesced to the Woke mob this summer when Georgia instituted stricter laws for voter authenticity that require photo ID. In a panic to seem progressive he took the All Star Game away from Atlanta and awarded it to Denver.

Mostly is it was another Hate Trump ploy to curry favour with the Media Party that broadcasts his games. Now Atlanta gets the World Series. Hope they remind the precious people everyday what those bastards did to them and rub it in mercilessly. Hope Manfred gets asked for his ID everywhere he goes. Other than that, we’re fine with it.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). The best-selling author of Cap In Hand is also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, his new book with his son Evan is called InExact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History is now available on http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

BRUCE DOWBIGGIN Award-winning Author and Broadcaster Bruce Dowbiggin's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience . He is currently the editor and publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster website and is also a contributor to SiriusXM Canada Talks. His new book Cap In Hand was released in the fall of 2018. Bruce's career has included successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster for his work with CBC-TV, Mr. Dowbiggin is also the best-selling author of "Money Players" (finalist for the 2004 National Business Book Award) and two new books-- Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever for Greystone Press and Grant Fuhr: Portrait of a Champion for Random House. His ground-breaking investigations into the life and times of Alan Eagleson led to his selection as the winner of the Gemini for Canada's top sportscaster in 1993 and again in 1996. This work earned him the reputation as one of Canada's top investigative journalists in any field. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013) where his incisive style and wit on sports media and business won him many readers.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

We’re Listening: How Unhappiness Went Big Time

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“For all practical purposes, a revolution has occurred in the private lives of Americans, who increasingly find themselves depressed and alone.”— Ronald W. Dworkin 2021

The unquantifiable in Covid madness is the psychological impact from its lockdowns, masks and social isolation. The stress on the population— especially the young— created by the harsh medicine of governments and health authorities has only been suggested at for most of the disaster.

But the hints of stress are there. “@EWoodhouse7 Covid-19 did not increase the normal respiratory disease morality burden for teens age 13-18 in 2020. But alcohol- & drug-induced deaths nearly DOUBLED. A 50% increase in this age group, w/this kind of death, is a massive indictment of lockdown & school closure policies.”

Domestic assaults and murders are other byproducts of isolation and fear. According to the CDC the U.S. murder rate is up 30 percent during the pandemic, the highest one-year rise ever. In a recent poll 23 percent of those polled describe themselves as unhappy— the highest such reading since 1972.

Society clearly rests on a knife’s edge as the traditional bonds of friend and family are eliminated by pandemic panic. Coping mechanisms have disappeared. People quake in fear of an impending truck armada from the West. Whom to trust?

Hence the vulnerability and hopelessness in so much of pop culture. And the stigmatizing of traditional strength and self confidence. “Thank you for your service” to military and health workers is a compliment but also a recognition how far much of society has drifted from the notion of personal risk and sacrifice.

This coincides with the radical left pushing to replace police officers with members of the care industry as first responders. While the practicality of sending untrained counsellors on domestic calls— facing deadly weapons— is fraught with danger there are city councils moving in this direction in a number of large urban areas.

The outcome of this policy is still uncertain, but the fact that it is even being considered is testament to inroads the caring industry has made in society. This week’s extensive Let’s Talk campaign on depression and mental illness underlines how the caring industry has largely overtaken the traditional family and friends— inaccessible in the lockdowns— who used to form a support group. It is ubiquitous.

Aiding in this transformation was the 2010 U.S. Affordable Care Act which established parity between mental and physical health in the insurance-reimbursement context. So everyone from credentialed psychologists down to life coaches is now a paid part of the health industry.

Young people today might believe that the caring industry has long been in society. Not so. As Ronald W. Dworkin notes in The Politicization of Unhappiness , “Although the general population of the United States has only doubled since the mid-20th century, this industry has already increased 100-fold… With the old authority figures belittled and real friends and family spread thin or even non-existent, the only people left who can fill the void — and who have the prestige to compel others to follow them down a new road — are caring professionals.

“This industry has emerged as the post-revolutionary successor to our broken social system. As is typical of a revolutionary political party, the caring industry’s components have replaced those of the old order: Its organization has replaced the previous social system, its ideology has replaced traditional culture, and its professionals have taken the place of real friends, relatives, and authority figures.”

As the Let’s Talk policy emphasizes, confessing anxiety or depression to total strangers is now seen as positive. So is acting as a freelance caregiver. Gone is the trusted family member or friend in a private setting. Often the afflicted’s confession is delivered in a group setting where the person must unburden themselves before a cohort indoctrinated in the catechism of caring.

Individuals may respond, writes Dworkin, “but not as individuals, or even as individuals with unique titles, as much as representatives of professional caring, each having been trained in roughly the same way to talk a person through a problem.”

In short, the caring industry has become a political movement with its own orthodoxy and loyalty. With a vested stake in perpetuating itself and its patients’ distress— a process jet-fuelled by the media’s Covid paranoia campaign. Does it help people? In the short term, absolutely. Long term? The jury is still out.

This confessional model has been carried into the political realm through diversity seminars. “Group therapy for addiction — an old caring-professional technique — has become the format for today’s “struggle sessions” and diversity seminars in corporate settings.” White privilege and gender bias must be shed to make progress to “happiness”.

But don’t dare question its purity. Propaganda is crucial to reinforcing the brand, says Dworkin. “Because everyone knows in advance that self-help books are written in conformity with existing prescriptions and rarely contain a single fresh idea, people who seek out these books often buy many of them, and they keep consuming them — not to learn anything new, but to bolster their conviction to act.”

In the end the message is that traditional sources of compassion— family, friends, the church— have failed. You are right to feel alone. And the caring industry— the collective of rehearsed people— is the only thing there to rescue you.

Like the movement to divert students’ education from parents and toward the public education gulag, the end game is a social revolution, one tried with lamentable effect in socialist nations in the past. As Vladimir Putin noted last year, “This is something we saw in Russia. It happened in our country before the 1917 revolution; the Bolsheviks followed the dogmas of Marx and Engels. And they also declared that they would go in to change the traditional lifestyle, the political, the economic lifestyle, as well as the very notion of morality, the basic principles for a healthy society.

“It is with puzzlement that we see the practices Russia used to have and that we left behind in distant past.”

So yes, let us commend the outreach of the caring industry. Let’s Talk has noble goals. But let us also hope people separated from loved ones and friends the last two years rediscover that the greatest unit of strength and nurturing is still the personal one of family and friends.

 

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). The best-selling author was nominated for the BBN Business Book award of 2020 for Personal Account with Tony Comper. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book with his son Evan Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History is now available on http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Corporate Capture & Youth Checkout: The Covid Scorecard

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The decade past has witnessed a Great Realignment. (Mind we said realignment, not reset.) The election of Barack Obama through Donald Trump and Covid-19 has seen a tectonic shift in the plates beneath society. Alliances have been broken. Power has shifted. Loyalties have disappeared.

The result is a new coalition, a cult alliance of tech, knowledge-based industry, culture and corporatism. Under cover of social unrest and virus paranoia these former antagonists found common cause in punishing the middle and lower classes of society for not acknowledging their elevated, superior status. (Translation: they voted for Trump.)

These woke apostles are unapologetic. Through censorship, cancel culture and financial, leverage they’ve created an oligopoly unabashed in bare-knuckled self-interest. And to constantly remind you that they’re in charge.

To understand how revolutionary this alliance is one need only recall the dirigiste fervour of the 1960s. While it seemed to everyone at the time that society might tip in the maelstrom of riot and protest, the corporate side never blinked. They viewed the Weathermen and the Red Brigade as fringe outfits that would never see power. They held to the status quo (or privilege in today’s CRT newspeak.)

That has changed, because of writers such as French socialist economist Thomas Piketty. Thanks to him Corporate America is now obsessed with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), not shareholder value. It is dominated by HR departments deeply committed to radical notions of social justice and racial equity. Inspired by the example of Michelle Obama, they’ve made Wall Street into Woke Street.

As we wrote in February of 2021 “the New Left now ruthlessly employs Big Tech, Wall Street and the media against its idealogical enemies— including some of its former allies… the Democratic Party of 2021 has morphed from brave to slave, dedicated to intellectual conformity, not contrary opinions. Gone are the civil libertarians like (William) Kunstler. In their place are AOC and her brigades of SJWs purveying hate-speech laws and attacking deniers of the “true climate religion”. First amendment rights have been replaced by cancel-culture indictments.”

Jordan B. Peterson, who recently resigned his tenured position at University of Toronto, describes the corporate submission: “What in the world is wrong with you? Can’t you see that the ideologues who push such appalling nonsense are driven by an agenda that is not only absolutely antithetical to your free-market enterprise, as such, but precisely targeted at the freedoms that made your success possible?

“Can’t you see that by going along, sheep-like (just as the professors are doing; just as the artists and writers are doing) that you are generating a veritable fifth column within your businesses? Are you really so blind, cowed and cowardly?”

While this corporate surrender has transpired, another schism has developed under cover of the Covid-19 pandemic panic. Its effect could be just as enduring. This one is based on age.

The group in society most vulnerable to the ravages of the pandemic is the 55+ cohort, the aging Boomers— the same one orchestrating the reaction to the virus. They are also the most afraid of its impact on them personally. It would be no exaggeration to say those health concerns have been reflected in the overbearing lockdown, mask, distancing and detention policies used against the virus. The generation that once worshipped free speech was quick to abandon civil liberties in its panic to save its own hide.

But younger generations who are far less vulnerable to the virus are tired of being participants in the psycho-dramas of aging the Boomers and their death phobia. And they’ve reached their end. They now flock to clubs, arenas and stadiums to see their friends. They know some of them will get sick, but 99.99 percent of them will be fine even if infected.

They are dismissive of the political shell game of their elders and the autocrats of Big Health. And, as we can see from one of the major sports, they’re headed in a new direction.

NHL players, God bless ‘em, have recognized that old people’s worries are not their worries. For months the league has gone with the Covid catechism to please politicians. Players were ordered to be vaccinated. Anyone testing positive from the wonky PCR test was sidelined. Even asymptomatic players. Games were played with undermanned rosters.

With 100 percent vaccinated, the league still saw 70 percent of players test positive. So the NHL now says “No more”. Only players who show symptoms will be removed from play. Excellent athletes are not 81-year-old U.S. senators shaking in their Depends.

With the accepted narrative now collapsing— Britain has abandoned the mask and lockdown mandates— more jurisdictions will do contrition for overshooting the mark. Dottering Joe Biden can talk about belatedly sending out 400 million masks, but he’s lost the room. Under 50s have moved on.

The only question is how long the ESG folks propping him up will wait before he’s sent overboard. While health is important, everything is second to their power.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster (http://www.notthepublicbroadcaster.com). The best-selling author was nominated for the BBN Business Book award of 2020 for Personal Account with Tony Comper. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s also a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. His new book with his son Evan Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History is now available on http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

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