Monday, February 11, 2019

Visiting Column #8 -- Revisiting Global Warming

Over four years back, when I was new to writing this column and dumping out on a daily basis some things I'd wanted to say for a long time, I did a column on global warming and the alarmists on the left

My point, then, was that we knew that the leftists who were trying to make global warming an excuse to socialize the nation were being disingenuous.  My premise was that if we were talking about climate change, there was no reason that every single outcome of it was a bad thing, yet you never once heard a lefty mention anything good that would befall the earth.

That, I wrote, was prima facie evidence that the left was just using fear of global warming for their insidious, socialist ends, rather than actually to do something positive for the planet.  And clearly, there are some good outcomes if the planet's temperature kicked up a degree or two.  I believe that I mentioned the fact that a bazillion square miles of land in Canada and Russia would become suitable for agriculture and ranching, a huge boon to those trying to feed the hungry.

There's no question about that, of course; it's just a matter of how much warmth would lead to how much increase in agricultural productivity, at least until the next Ice Age comes and hauls us back into a deep freeze, as it eventually will.  We would actually know the answer, of course, if universities weren't so rigidly leftist that no one is allowed to do a paper on the topic.  God forbid, you know, that climate change might be actually a good thing.

And that was my point.  Climate change is by definition "change."  Change is not, a priori, good or bad.  We should expect a reasonable balance of positive and negative outcomes, not the Hades on earth that the left would have you think.

What I didn't say was this.  The global climate is a complex thing, of course.  It is great in Hawaii, cold at the Poles.  The vast "temperate" areas on earth vary all over the place -- it's what we call "seasons."  Although I live in a sort of sub-tropical area, I spent nearly 40 years in northern Virginia, where the temperature could vary from near zero degrees (F) in February to 100 or so in July and August.

Without leaving home, I dealt with literally a 100-degree variance on an annual basis.  Now that, friends, was climate change!  But I stress the part where I said I "dealt with it."  I did, and a few million other northern Virginians did too.  We turned on the air in the summer, and hauled out the snowblowers and the ski jackets in winter.  Duh.  We dealt with it.

That's what I don't understand about the global warmist alarmists.  Do they not think that if the temperature slid up a couple degrees, we couldn't just deal with it?  Or that "dealing with it" would be a heck of a lot easier than socializing the entire economy?

Here's the thing.  To say that we need to fight climate change is to say that the current temperature norms are perfect; that they are exactly what our global temperature should be.  That the current flora and fauna habitats in February 2019 are ideal and must not be changed, even though the flora and fauna regularly have adapted to broad climate fluctuations for millions of years.

Does anyone believe that?  How does a huge population on earth regularly sustain 100-degree variances in the course of a normal year, but according to the left, if that 100-degree variance phase-shifted even a couple degrees up, the planet would suddenly be uninhabitable?  Moreover, that we need to kill our entire energy model to prevent that from happening?

You know how you never get a straight answer from a leftist if you ask what the highest rate that anyone should ever have to pay out of his income in taxes?  They won't tell you that, because then they can't try to get even more from you.

Well, the same applies here.  Has anyone asked a climate-change fanatic to describe what the perfect climate model is?  What, I would want to ask them, would constitute the actual goal of their movement, as expressed in a high and low temperature for every nation on earth?

You won't get it, of course, because the left never gives you an endpoint, lest once it is reached they no longer have an excuse for running your life.  But even if they did, there is Part Two of the question:


What, I would ask, is the reason that that particular temperature pattern is so in need of preservation exactly as it is, that it is worth overhauling the entire world economy and energy model in a doomed effort to keep it that way?

I would tell you that all the points in this column are precisely, collectively, why I will never subscribe to the notion that we should lift a finger to change, or prevent the change of, our planet's climate.

I encourage those of opposing views to answer me.

Copyright 2019 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There are over 1,000 posts from Bob at, and after four years of writing a new one daily, he still posts thoughts once in a while as "visiting columns", no longer the "prolific essayist" he was through 2018, but still around.  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Visiting Column #7 -- Declining Value of WAR

If you are a baseball fan -- and if you are, you already know this is to be a piece on baseball -- you have hear the term "WAR."  You may know what it means, or not, but you know it is something important.

A very quick explanation: WAR stands for "Wins Above Replacement", and is a fairly recent metric used to evaluate major-league players.  Essentially, it boils a whole bunch of evaluative factors -- hitting, base-running, defense -- into a single number that represents how many more wins a player's team achieved with that player on the field, vs. what the team would have had with a "replacement player", i.e., a player brought up from the minors.  There is also a version for pitchers, but let's ignore that for the moment.

WAR is cumulative; you can speak of the number of WAR earned during a season, or over a career.  So a player with skills exactly those of a rookie brought up from AAA would be rated at a 0.0 WAR, while a player with a 10-WAR season (or even more) has had a historically phenomenal year.  For example, two position players -- Mookie Betts (10.9) of the Red Sox and Mike Trout (10.2) of the Angels -- had WAR over 10 in 2018.

Finally, there are several versions of WAR out there, depending on which source's formula is used; primarily we use either bWAR or fWAR, named after the site that computes it.  They differ in minutiae regarding the value of things like base-running, but regardless, both use the currency of wins, boiling their analysis into number of wins a team earns vs. a replacement player in the position.

I bring all this up not for statistical purposes, but for a monetary one.

We of an analytic bent couldn't help but try to take WAR a step further.  Major league salaries are always an interesting topic, at least to me, since I write about them a great deal.  And as I write this, there is a fascinating dual case of two outstanding free agent players who are both excellent, young and, as the equipment trucks are already en route to Florida and Arizona for Spring Training, without a job.

We are talking, of course, about the shortstop Manny Machado, late of the Dodgers but mainly an Oriole throughout his career, and the outfielder Bryce Harper, a National through the expiration of his contract this past October.

Fans have been anticipating this offseason for several years, when it seemed that both would be free agents in the same season.  Machado toiled for the low-budget Orioles, who couldn't afford him, and Harper played for Washington, which could afford him and offered a huge contract while he was still a player there, but he is represented by Scott Boras, an agent who insists his players go to free agency.  So this was coming.

Needless to say, countless words have been written in the press about the gargantuan salaries each would get, and where they would fit into the small number of teams which could actually afford such numbers -- and had an actual opening.  And those numbers were huge -- multiple articles had forecast Harper getting $400 million over ten years, even though no player has ever gotten close to an average annual value of $40 million.  Machado was not far behind.

They had projected these numbers based on WAR, of course.  They used very common schemes that in recent years have put a dollar value on one point of an arbitration-eligible or free agent player's WAR -- four or five million or so, although I really can't tell you what the current analysts use.  I can't tell you because I really don't care; salaries to me are based on such varied criteria that I think such ratios are of no real value.

But they're out there, and they were used liberally by players, agents and teams.  More importantly, they are used constantly by the media to project ludicrously-high salaries -- and, as they say, "sell papers."

That, friends, is a mistake.

The mistake is that, even if you concede that a ratio could hold for players in the lower echelons (i.e., for whom all 30 teams could financially compete), it is not a linear relationship.  That is, once you are talking about a top-rank player in the $20 million/year or higher bracket, the parameters change.

There is a finite supply of those players, but the demand dips accordingly.  In the case, say, of Harper, more than half the teams simply can't afford him; they can't afford to tie up that high a percentage of their payroll in one player.  At least two of the big-money teams, the Yankees and Red Sox, have full outfields and simply don't need him. 

As I have written, it isn't whether (in this case) Harper is "worth" $40 million to such teams, but whether the upgrade over whichever outfielder would be replaced is worth the difference in salary, and in those cases, he simply is not.

From what can be believed in the latest press accounts, the actual salaries are going to be much less.  Machado has only 3-4 teams even negotiating with his agent, including the White Sox, Phillies and maybe the Padres, while Harper is talking with Washington, the Phillies and maybe the Dodgers.  But for now, it is just talk.

And the numbers we're hearing are nothing at all like the talk -- we hear that Machado was offered "only" $175 million over six years from the White Sox and may not even have another offer, while Washington appears to have confirmed that the ten-year, $300 million offer to Harper they made last year is still on the table -- or maybe not. 

The potentially 10.0-WAR players simply are not seeing the dollars-per-WAR curve apply to them -- and Machado has never had over 7.0 WAR in a season, while Harper hit 10.0 in 2015 but has not been not over 7.5 since.

I believe that is because the ratio, so touted by the people who create it and swear by it, is not a linear but an asymptotic one, that is, it flattens as salaries approach the ridiculous levels.  It has to, since the demand factors that are maximized when we're talking about an "average" or "good" player, are minimized when only a few teams can participate.

WAR, from whichever source, is an excellent way to ascribe value to players, both seasonally and over a career, expressed as wins added.  But salaries are simply not proportional, and while arguably they should be, or at least should approximately be, absent a salary cap and present enormous greed (and a hyperactive media), they simply won't be what people think they are.

Owners learn, too.

Copyright 2019 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There are over 1,000 posts from Bob at, and after four years of writing a new one daily, he still posts thoughts once in a while as "visiting columns", no longer the "prolific essayist" he was through 2018, but still around.  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton

Monday, February 4, 2019

Visiting Column #6 -- No Room for Daddy?

As I write this, Virginia's governor, Ralph Northam, is calling an emergency meeting of his staff to try to decide whether to step down in the wake of the discovery of a racially-charged picture on his page of the Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook.

To be kind, Northam did not have a good week.  But whether or not he actually was one of the two individuals in the yearbook -- one in blackface and the other a Klansman in a hood and robe -- is of no concern to me.  Of course, I'm 100% certain that if the lieutenant governor had been a Republican, the chorus of screams for his resignation would be far quieter, hypocrites that the left can be.

But I digress.

Northam's bad week started when he went on a radio show in Washington and, to the horror (I assume) of the interviewer and most of the listeners, described a bill that had been proposed in the Legislature up there to deregulate abortions.  Specifically, it would literally allow an abortion up to (and I quote him) dilation, meaning within hours or minutes of an actual delivery -- as "late term" as humanly, or I guess, inhumanly, possible.

But that wasn't enough.  Northam went on to clarify even more, and here is where I got pretty steamed.  He described the timing of when an unborn child could be killed, and added that it included after birth.  That decision, he stated, would be "up to the woman and her physician."  Yes, he was very clear that a baby could be killed right after birth if the woman and her doctor okayed it.

I'm on record, as you who are regular readers know, as being far from passionate about the abortion issue.  It has mercifully never affected me personally.  I suppose that as a Christian, with sympathy for all, that I am offended by what we could call "abortion for convenience", while not being offended in cases of rape, incest, severe genetic abnormality.  The law will never sort that out, and I don't expect it to.

Moreover, because it is a moral issue, it needs to be up to the States and not to the Federal government to decide what is legal, according to the moral leanings of the people of that State.

But let's set that aside and return to Northam's comment on air.  I'm going to paraphrase here, but he did say this, whatever words were used: According to the proposed law, supported by Gov. Northam, a living baby can be legally killed, after it is born, if the mother and her doctor say it is OK.

The mother.  The doctor.  Isn't someone missing?

Even if you are to concede the weird leftist argument that a fetus is "part of the mother" and therefore all decisions about its life belong solely to her, once a baby is born alive, the rules change.

Once a baby is born, it is not the exclusive province of the mother to decide its fate.  Now (and, in my judgment, during pregnancy as well, but so be it), there are two parents and any decision about what happens to that child belongs to the father equally with the mother, whether or not he is a present figure in the life of the mother.

I have not heard a single word about this point of view, although perhaps there would have been more people to think about it had the networks actually paid any attention to Northam's radio interview -- outside of Fox, barely a minute of network and cable news even mentioned it -- NBC, ABC, CNN and NBC totally ignored the story.

But I didn't.  And I will scream from the rooftops that once a baby is born, there are two parents who both need to be involved in any decision to terminate the life of a living, born child.  I will scream from the same rooftops that if the father is not in the picture, it is still vital that he be found and brought into the decision before such a drastic step is taken.

Because at that point we're talking about a baby, not a body part.  And as it takes two to create it, it needs to take two to decide its fate.

How uncivilized would any decision to the contrary be.

Copyright 2019 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There are over 1,000 posts from Bob at, and after four years of writing a new one daily, he still posts thoughts once in a while as "visiting columns", no longer the "prolific essayist" he was through 2018, but still around.  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton