Saturday Salary Arbitration

I don’t know if salary arbitration still works this way in baseball, but in my 20+ years in the game a player with three or more years of service (and certain players with more than two years but fewer than three) had the right to have his salary determined by an arbitrator. As you can imagine this right boosted the average salary of players in this service class relative to those who were not eligible for arbitration.

Contrary to what fans think, the agent doesn’t compare his client to Babe Ruth and the team doesn’t compare the player to a Triple-A reject. However, comparable players are at the heart of the process. The player’s agent will say that his client is comparable to players A, B and C. The team may acknowledge comparability to player C, but say the player is actually closer to players C, D and E where D and E have a lower salary than players A and B.

The team and player each submit a number and the arbitrator has to pick one or the other. The midpoint between the two has some importance, but I believe that historically teams have won 54%-56% of cases, which means the player seems to have a de facto burden of proof.

One of the most enjoyable moments I ever had in baseball was after an arbitration hearing in which the team I worked for ultimately lost the decision. Bill James was working for the player’s agent and spent much of the hearing trying to get me to laugh. He failed and later he expressed amazement at my stoicism. I told him I was simply following orders not to show any emotion.

After the hearing I went back to my hotel room where I received a call from Bill at about 8 PM. He asked if I was busy and if not if I wanted to head down to the hotel restaurant for a snack and a chat. Steve Mann, whom I also knew, was also working for the agent and he joined us as well.

The conversation was quite stimulating; well, to me anyway. Among other things we talked about the maturation of complex systems and its implications. The next thing we knew it was 3 AM. Bill and Steve had to prepare for another hearing later that day. As we got up from the table I said that we should write a book about the topics of our discussion. Bill then said, “Yeah, it would sell 12 copies.” To which Steve replied, “And three of those copies are right here.” We all howled with laughter.

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No, I have not completely recovered from my bug. In fact, yesterday I coughed so hard at times that I thought I was going to cough up a lung. The fact that I am in the third week of being ill is another sad example of my aging. As one ages the immune system simply doesn’t work as well.

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The number of 2016 Z06 Corvettes that meet my search criteria on CarGurus is dwindling rapidly, down to six when I checked this morning. (CarMax doesn’t have any this morning.) Here is one new listing:

It actually has 3LZ trim and is certified pre-owned. The wheels are dark, but do have a light metallic ring. The dealer is asking about $63,000 and the car has a little less than 13,000 miles. I hear you out there, “Sh*t or get off the pot already.” As I have written before I have grown indecisive as I get older in no small way due to the less than satisfactory state of my career for the last 8-9 years.

At this point I estimate the probability that I buy a 2016 Z06 Corvette at 90%. The probability that I buy something else out of left field is about 5% and the probability I buy nothing is about 5%. Ask me again tomorrow and I might give you a different answer.

 

#somanycarsjustonelife

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Frugal Friday: It’s March (!) Edition

First, before Frugal Friday (by the way, it’s snowing here on the first day of meteorological Spring)…

Something I like to say when I want to sound clever is to paraphrase/twist Shakespeare: There is nothing good or bad, but context makes it so. This relates to the fact that human beings seldom judge the world on the basis of objective reality, but based on expectations and the status quo.

Disaffected Musings views for February fell just a handful short of a nice round number, but exceeded those of January by 15% despite being, obviously, three days shorter. However, about ten percent of February views came in just one day (the 1st) AND January was a short month in terms of the number of posts.

Extending this pointless exercise even further, February views per day were about 4 percent below those for December and a whopping 45 percent below November. (Both of those months were “normal” in terms of the number of posts.) So, was February a good month for views? Like I keep saying, that depends on the context. I don’t know anything about seasonality in blog viewing on the WordPress platform, what the normal “uptake” or “stickiness” rates are for blogs, or any of a host of factors.

The current administration stated that if its fiscal policies were enacted that the annual growth rate for real GDP would be pushed to 3%+. Yesterday the Federal Government released its first estimate of 4th quarter GDP growth and, therefore, first estimate for overall growth for 2018. Did GDP growth reach 3%? Well, that depends on how you count.

For calendar year 2018, real GDP grew at 2.9% compared to calendar year 2017. So, it seems close, but not quite. However, some economists talk about year-over-year growth for the fourth quarter as a good measure. That figure was +3.1%. In any event, these numbers are usually revised.

As Bill James has written, statistics are not truth; they are an approximation of the truth. Even when we have computers implanted in our brains that can spit out the history of the universe at a billion words a second, there will be things about the world that matter but that cannot be measured precisely, if at all. Remember what Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.”

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Today’s listings for Frugal Friday come from Autotrader. As such, those listings are their property.

The criteria for today were convertibles and coupes for sale at US dealers for between $9,000 and $10,000, that are between five and ten years old and have fewer than 60,000 miles. The search unearthed 170 vehicles matching those criteria. Despite that number, not a single car had an 8-cylinder engine.

A lot of these cars were either a Fiat 500, a Smart Car or a Kia Forte. One that was not was this car:

Used 2009 Pontiac Solstice Convertible Columbus, IN 47201 - 505578202 - 16

This is a 2009 Pontiac Solstice. I have written about this car and its cousin, the Saturn Sky, before as I am a fan of them. This car is not the GXP turbo version, but is powered by the normally aspirated 2.4 liter, inline 4-cylinder engine that was rated at 173 HP/167 LB-FT of torque. This car has a 5-speed manual transmission and has about 47,000 miles. The list price is $9,998. (Don’t you love those cute retail prices? Not…)

My wonderful wife and I test drove the Solstice and the Sky years ago. Of course both have been out of production a long time (since 2010). Even the naturally aspirated cars are quick and they handle well, but not exceptionally well. However, the interiors feel REALLY small and cheap, to be honest. As I have written before, I believe GM made a big mistake in not upgrading the Solstice/Sky and letting Buick sell it as a halo car.

 

Used 2009 Volvo C70 T5 Convertible Raleigh, NC 27604 - 508046007 - 9

This is a 2009 Volvo C70 T5 convertible (duh!). It has an automatic transmission (5-speed), is front-wheel drive and has the turbo 5-cylinder, 2.5-liter/154 cubic-inch (you’re welcome, Bill Stephens) engine. The engine is rated at 227 HP/236 LB-FT. This car has 53,000 miles and the seller is asking, wait for it, $9,995.

While I’ve always thought the name Volvo (Latin for “I roll” or “I rotate”) was a little weird for a car, Volvo began its life as a manufacturer of ball bearings so the name is probably only weird to me. The make has a reputation for quality and reliability.

Have a good weekend…

 

#FrugalFriday

#somanycarsjustonelife

#disaffectedmusings

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Here is part of the GDP report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA):

2018 GDP Real GDP increased 2.9 percent in 2018 (from the 2017 annual level to the 2018 annual level), compared with an increase of 2.2 percent in 2017 [emphasis mine]. The increase in real GDP in 2018 primarily reflected positive contributions from PCE, nonresidential fixed investment, exports, federal government spending, private inventory investment, and state and local government spending that were slightly offset by a small negative contribution from residential fixed investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased. The acceleration in real GDP from 2017 to 2018 primarily reflected accelerations in nonresidential fixed investment, private inventory investment, federal government spending, exports, and PCE, and an upturn in state and local government spending that were partly offset by a downturn in residential investment.

During 2018 (measured from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the fourth quarter of 2018), real GDP increased 3.1 percent, [emphasis mine] compared with an increase of 2.5 percent during 2017. The price index for gross domestic purchases increased 2.1 percent during 2018, compared with an increase of 1.9 percent during 2017.”

Both GDP growth measures I cited were on the same page in the same report.

 

 

100

OK, this number is almost exclusively under my control, but this is the 100th post on this blog. I don’t have any profound thoughts (do I ever?) so what do I write? Well, 100 years ago today the US Postal Service began the first regular airmail service; the route was between New York City and Washington, DC.

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Bill James and I have been friends for more than 30 years. Bill is the pioneer of the modern age of baseball analysis and, as such, has indirectly played a key role in the use of big data and analytics in all business. I asked him for his response to the Supreme Court decision that, basically, legalized sports gambling in the US. Part of his response was: “What 99% of people have not figured out yet is that it’s a far-reaching, sweeping decision, and ultimately people will forget that it had anything to do with gambling because of the other implications of the ruling.  The Supreme Court used THIS issue to say directly and forcefully that the Federal Government cannot force states to pass legislation or not pass legislation–a huge win for the Conservative faction of the court.” I replied: “All I was going to write was this: ‘The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.'” That, of course, is the 10th Amendment to the US Constitution.

Many people seem to forget that we live in a federal republic, not a unitary one. No state, or group of states, should be able to use the federal government to impose its will on other states.

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OK, what would a Disaffected Musings post be without some car photos? I still think it’s too early in the evolution of this blog to post my Ultimate Garage (please start thinking about yours and feel free to post comments with your list), but here are the two cars that would probably head my list:

See the source image

See the source image

From expertautoappraisals.com a picture of a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette (top) and from racem.org a picture of a De Tomaso Longchamp (bottom). If my wonderful wife and I ever won a huge lottery jackpot (we do buy tickets from time to time), I think I could limit my car purchases to these two if need be. Of course, I would restomod the hell out of both cars. 🙂

By the way, I do not expect to win the lottery, which has been described as a tax on people who are bad at math. I am not bad at math, but if I don’t play the lottery my chances of winning are zero. If I do play my chances asymptotically approach zero.