One man's view of theology, sports, politics, and whatever else in life that happens to interest me. A little bit about me.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

How Hillary Could Have Won

It's been a couple of days since Election Day 2016. Personally I am not disappointed Hillary lost, but I think she lost for one particular reason: she failed to make the campaign about issues. Had Hillary focused her speeches, her debates and advertising war chest on the contrasts (or, more importantly, the lack thereof) between herself and Trump, she would have driven a wedge between Donald Trump and his conservative base and won easily. Instead she relentlessly attacked Trump's personality, which only fueled his base to get out and vote.

If you had your TV on at any time in the last three months, chances are you saw it: the ad with the children sitting in front of the TV watching as Donald Trump made one extreme remark after another. It probably won't go down in history alongside other memorable TV ads from past campaigns (mostly because Hillary lost and most people remember winners' ads), but it is definitely the most memorable of this campaign. This ad, for better and for worse, exemplifies Clinton's entire campaign strategy: pointing out what a nasty scoundrel Donald Trump is.

Hillary's campaign staff and her supporters in the press and popular media followed this strategy to the letter. Late night comedians constantly pointed out Trump's flubs and erratic behavior every night of the week. Democratic panelists on various news shows focused on the seedy characters Trump seemed to attract, from Milo Yiannopoulos to David Duke. Some went on to imply (and in some cases declare outright) that all or most of Trump's support came from extremists like them.

This was the wrong strategy to take because it only served to fuel Trump's base's rage against the political, media and entertainment elite. They knew Trump was and is a sorry human being. A large portion of his base (at least many from all over the country that I talked to personally and on social media) was reluctant in their support. Hillary failed to turn that reluctance into a decision to stay home.

Most conservatives (I say this as a conservative-leaning libertarian who grew up around conservatives and who lives in a very red state - Alabama) have a persecution complex. They are used to being marginalized, ignored and villainized by the movers and shakers of society, and they tend to identify with people who are the targets of attacks from the left. If you want an example, look no further than Sarah Palin. The more liberals made fun of her, the more conservatives loved her, bought her books and tuned in to her TV shows.

Trump understood this. He was willing to take the abuse and dish out some of his own, which only further stirred his base, many of whom felt that both Romney and McCain failed to attack Barack Obama. Romney in particular further alienated the Republican base by failing to take a strong stand on issues dear to conservatives.

Had Hillary commended Trump for his stance on LGBT issues,
how many conservative votes would Trump have lost?
Photo Credit: Colorado Log Cabin Republicans
Here's where 2016 was different from 2012: in the debates and with his stump speeches President Obama made Romney speak to these divisive issues. And when he did, millions of conservatives stayed home. Clinton by and large did not attack Trump on any specific issues. And she had wide-open opportunities to do so. Trump is not a dyed-in-the-wool conservative. Many of his positions, especially on social issues, are similar to Clinton's. In particular, look at Trump's embrace of LGBT rights. Many conservatives, particularly conservative Christians, would balk at such positions. They are the type who would stay home rather than vote for the "lesser of two evils." Clinton did not need to attack Trump in this regard. She could have praised him for having an openly gay man speak right before his acceptance speech at the GOP Convention. She could have made a big deal out of finding common ground with Trump.

But Clinton never brought this up. Maybe she was afraid if she found common ground with Trump that some of her support might go away. Maybe she was afraid of humanizing someone she was determined to treat with disdain. Whatever the reason, the ceaseless personal attacks continued, and with each one she dug herself into a deeper hole she ultimately could not climb out of.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Double (switch) or Nothing: How Baseball can Improve Mid-inning Pitching Changes

Pitching changes like this one that disrupt the flow of the game are one of the sources of frustration for fans who wish MLB games wouldn't last so late into the night. Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Most fans agree Major League Baseball needs to speed up its games, postseason and regular season. Part of the solution might be to require a double switch to change pitchers in the middle of an inning. Even if it doesn't shorten the game, it will make it more interesting.

This week will mark the conclusion of this year's World Series. It has been the most exciting, the most talked-about and the most watched Series in recent memory. But once again baseball fans are complaining about a topic that seems to come up every postseason: the games are too long, and go too late at night. Lots of people have said the late games are why baseball's national ratings have trended down over the last few years. The facts seem to say otherwise though. Ratings tend to go up the later the games go, according to the networks and the ratings services.

Nevertheless, I agree that the games go too long. The longer commercial breaks are a part of it, and that honestly can't be helped. You can't expect FOX (or any other network in their position) not to take advantage of a large national audience, especially given the large fees they pay the league to broadcast the games.

But another factor is constant pitching changes. It's not uncommon to see five or six pitchers pitch the last four innings of a game. The other night the FOX announcers quoted Cleveland manager Terry Francona as saying that posteason baseball is different: there is more pressure to do everything exactly right and that leads to more pitching changes based on matchups with batters. You do see this to some extent during the regular season as well, but it certainly seems worse in October. When teams carry four, sometimes only three, starters in the postseason and as many as eight or nine relievers on the roster, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: more relievers are available, therefore more get used.

Here is how my double-switch solution works: the starter can be taken out at any time with no penalty. If he runs out of gas with two outs in the sixth, is getting blown out in the third, or whatever the situation, the manager should be able to replace him at any time. However after the first reliever comes in, he can only be removed at the end (or beginning, depending on how you want to look at it) of an inning without a penalty. If the reliever comes off the mound with less than three outs, someone else has to come off the field as well. In American League play, a manager would have a choice of replacing the designated hitter instead of taking out a fielder. Either way though, someone else has to come out of the lineup. There would be a few obvious exceptions: injury to the pitcher, weather delays, etc. The umpires would have discretion in these scenarios.

What about extra innings? To that I ask how many times do you see mid-inning pitching changes in extra innings? They are rare, and even more rare the deeper the game goes into extras. So this will kind of take care of itself. There is no need to waive the rule for situations in which such pitching changes are not usually made.

Will this change bring back games of less than two hours? No, of course not. But it could make managers think twice about bringing in a pitcher to face one batter, resulting in two additional commercial breaks in one half-inning. It will bring a new layer of strategy to the game. If a team doesn't have any players on the bench, then the pitcher has to stay out there. It might make a team decide to add a sixth utility player instead of a ninth reliever to the roster.

Most importantly, it would be a fun change and give people something to talk about in the stands and at home. Instead of, "Oh no, a pitching change," it would be, "Ooh, who's coming out of the field? Or will he switch DH's?" Baseball fans love the intrigue, the way the lineup works. This would give them a reason to stay tuned during a pitching change instead of switching channels or going to the bathroom or shutting off the TV and going to bed. And fan engagement is why we love the games we love, isn't it?