Czar's Blog #1 of 2018 - Are you ready for a little baseball?

Welcome to Czar’s blog #1 of 2018

Opening Day is this Thursday in LA

Opening day. You have only to say the words and you feel the shutters thrown wide, the room air out, the light pour in. In baseball, no other day is so pure with possibility. No scores yet, no losses, no blame or disappointment. No hangover, at least until the game's over.

The world is a strange and dangerous place these days, with chaos and storms on every horizon. Let’s put all that behind us and focus on real life – which is baseball.

The season is about to begin, the Czar is back for another year with updated blog technology and the first pitch is almost here.

The 2017 Giants – Requiem for a Season not meant to be

There is not much to say about 2017.  The G-Men finished 64 and 98, last in the NL West with their worst record in 32 years.  The year was marked by injuries, a motorcycle accident involving Bumgarner, meltdowns and injuries and generally bad karma.  Our consolation was three world series victories in the previous seven years (2010, 2012 and 2014) and the Dodgers going down to the Astros in the 2017 world series.

The Off-Season and Spring Training

The G-Men went against the conventional “go young” movement and instead opted for experienced offensive players who could bring power, runs and defense right away.  Evan Longoria from Tampa Bay was signed for third base (after losing Matt Duffy in Marlins trade last year), Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates came in to play right field and Austin Jackson From the Tribe will play Center Field.  McCutchen and Longoria were the veteran mainstays of the teams they left and are veterans with HOF credentials. Both are hitting the cover off the ball in spring training.  Both are, however, over 30 (which qualifies them for a wheelchair in baseball years). 

The test this year will be experience over youth (although the G-Men have young players). This team is built, offensively anyway, to win now. Think about it, there are potentially six HOF players on the team - - four on the field, Posey, Crawford (my HOF pick), Longoria and McCutchen, one more on the mound (Bumgarner) and one in the dugout (Bochy).

The Giants picked up pitchers Tony Watson (relief) from the Dodgers and Derek Holland (starter) from the White Sox.  Not a lot to say about that except that Holland will be starting and Watson is needed to shore up the bullpen until Will Smith (finally) returns from Tommy John. This spring has shown that Sam Dyson is reverting to his old “hit me” style, Strickland seems to have found another pitch to back up his blazing fastball and Law (thank God) is back in the minors.

The goal was to stay the course, add power and defense and look to compete in the very tough NL West (where the Dodgers sit at the top lording it over everyone else behind some guy called Kershaw) with healthy pitching behind Bumgarner, Cueto and the Shark,.

The plan included a lot of coaching changes: Rags is out at pitching coach, Wotus now resides at third base, and Meulens is now next to Bochy on the bench (maybe being groomed for bigger things).  Bochy is still the man though, even though the G-Men announced today they are adding Dusty Baker (much beloved) as a special advisor. Every Giants fan loves that move; Dusty is as much a part of the Giants family as Will Clark, Willy Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Barry Bonds and the other Giants greats.  He will bring stability and smarts. It’s a great move.

The original plan looked good based on spring training games - - until last week anyway.  The Giants are competitive and have good talent at almost all positions. 

Spring Training Disasters

Last week was not good. Samardjiza strained a pec muscle and is out for 3 to 4 weeks. Then Bum got hit on the hand deflecting a line drive, broke his pinky and is out until early June at the earliest.  The young guys must now pick up the slack.  Ty Blach starts the season against the Dodgers on Thursday (he is good against the Dodgers and won against Kershaw last year). Let’s see what a rotation of Blach, Cueto, Stratton and Holland looks like. 

Can the Giants compete in the division?  Most of MLB says no, the Giants are cooked because of the injuries.  I say not so fast.  The season hasn’t even started yet and I loved what Longoria said about the injuries “well, that just means we have to turn on the offense and out hit everyone.”  That is a good attitude from a player that make it happen!

Nothing is wrong with playing with a chip on your shoulder, and the Giants have a big one this year.  If they get through April and May playing .500 ball or better and then get the senior starters back (especially Bum), this could be a really good year.  The fact the Dodgers and the Snakes are coming into AT&T thinking that the G-Men are pushovers may lead to some early season surprises (before the horses come back).

What does the line-up look like?

There are a lot of tough decisions still to be made.  If the G-men carry 13 pitchers (which will probably be the case because without Bum and Shark the bullpen will be very busy), that means 12 position players.

Locks are McCutchen, Jackson and Pence in the outfield, Belt, Panik, Crawford and Longoria in the infield and Posey and Hundley behind the dish.  That’s nine players.  Blanco (playing out of his mind this spring) and Duggar (the Giants best minor league prospect, who can play and should make the team if the world were fair) are the back-up outfielders and the Panda (who looks great, has lost weight and is being paid by the Red Sox) and Tomlinson are the back-ups at the infield positions.

I count 13 players for 12 positions.  Who will be the odd man out?  Probably Duggar but stranger things have happened.

Let’s play ball!! – last exhibition games this week and home opening day on April 3rd.  Meanwhile we open on the road against, who else, the Dodgers.  That is somehow right.

That’s it!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar

Snakes, Rockies and Padres, Oh My

Welcome to Czar’s blog #14 of 2017

The worst team in history?  Not really

I’d like to start today’s blog by highlighting the team that really was the worst in history:

Cleveland Spiders, 1899 (20-134, .130)
This is the holy grail of bad baseball. In 1899, the owners of the Spiders purchased the St. Louis Browns franchise. They didn't give up their controlling interest in the Spiders, however, and decided to leverage their newfound conflict of interest by trading Cleveland's best players—to themselves. They decimated the Spiders' roster, sending the best players (including Cy Young) to St. Louis and fielding a team that became the worst in baseball history. After a 10-1 Opening Day loss, the Cleveland Plain Dealer pronounced on its front page "The Farce Has Begun." Had it ever.
The Spiders won consecutive games once all season. Home games were so poorly attended that other teams refused to travel to Cleveland to play them. As a result, the team played only 42 home games and were forced to play 112 games on the road, losing 101 of them. The pitching staff gave up 1,254 runs (averaging 8.1 per game), batters hit 12 home runs all season, and the Spiders set numerous other records that no team would ever want to own. In the end, the National League performed a mercy killing, disbanding the Spiders and three other teams as the league contracted from 12 teams to eight.

This puts it in context. The Spiders are now the Cleveland Indians, with the longest modern era winning streak since the 1916 New York Giants.  Doesn’t that make you feel better?

The G-men are currently last in the NL West (and worst in baseball, behind even the Phillies) and the two goals for the remaining games of the season are first, not to lose 100 games, and second, to have an effect on the battle for wild card in the upcoming series against the Snakes and the Rockies. Of course, the first choice in the draft may not be so bad either.

Personnel Issues to address in the off-season, and maybe in September

Will the Panda come back?  The jury is out, although with a .178 BA he is clearly not even hitting his weight.  It’s a no-loss decision for the G-Men to invite him to Spring Training, but the competition at 3rd base next year (Arroyo and Ryder especially, and lots of FA hopefuls) will be intense.

Will the Bullpen Improve?  Well, it can’t get any worse than it’s been this year.  There are signs of hope if (1) Melancon heals completely and can return to the form that caused the G-Men to spend all that money on him, and (2) Will Smith’s Tommy John operation is successful and he comes back like he should.  Coupled with a reinvigorated Sam Dyson and a slew of young relievers the bullpen should come around.  The issue will be finding dependable slots for the young arms so that they know their roles. 

Speaking of bullpens, did you see the dugout meltdown the other night by Eli Whiteside, the 2010 back-up catcher, current bullpen catcher and coach and Crash Davis clone?  It was a thing of beauty.  That is the kind of attitude that the Giants need to prosper. That, and either trading Hunter Strickland for a bag of peanuts, enrolling him in an anger management course or teaching him a second pitch.

Position player roulette?  The problem isn’t that we don’t have good position players, it’s that they aren’t playing well together.  The team has been out of sync all season. Belt is out with concussions, Hunter Pence is streaky, Span is fine when healthy but is slowing up and has a weak arm.  Add to that the fact that left field is a black hole and every rookie that has come up has gone back down injured (see: Parker, Arroyo, Slater) and you have a last place team made up of good players.  Crawford, Panik and Tomlinson (super sub) are not going anywhere, and Buster’s legend grows game by game.

The Pitching Staff, all that bad?  I don’t think that Bum is fully healthy. That is something to be addressed in the off-season. Cueto is apparently coming back and when he doesn’t have blisters he’s good.  Samardjiza is a flame thrower but Matt Moore (who cost us Duffy) is a lost cause.  There are also great young arms ready to break out – Stratton and Blach being on top of the list.  The bottom line is that the talent is there but is not performing.  Again, the team is out of sync.

The Coaching staff and the Front Office – is it their fault?  I do think that this is where the blame lies.  Bochy is a hall of fame manager but seems grouchier than usual this season (losing does that to you I suppose) and the front office hasn’t made any moves to really shake things up – like trading Bumgarner for Stanton (just kidding, but maybe not).  There will be a lot of questions to discuss before spring training 2018 rolls around.

The Snakes and Rockies – Battle for the Wild Card, or the Division!

This is why the remaining games of the season (until we get to the Padres, which will be baseball games played for pride and to prevent 100 losses) are important.

The Rockies are chasing the Snakes for the wild card, along with the Pirates and the Cardinals.  It is conceivable that three NL West teams could be in the playoffs and it’s up to the Giants to play well enough to see that doesn’t happen.  The Dodgers have clinched at least a wild card (and seem to be falling apart – did someone take Joba’s rum?) but these last series are critical, and the G-Men have a real role to play. 

Let’s see if the Gigantes can suck it up and make a statement.

That’s it!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar

Giants v. Cardinals

Welcome to Czar’s blog #13 of 2017

It’s time to enjoy baseball like you did when you were little

Tonight, I watched the G-Men give it up (once again) to the “rebuilding” Padres (5 and 10 in 15 games against the Friars this year), with some truly epic errors, including two on one play that had the ball bounce off Tomlinson at third, go to Crawford playing deep short, who threw it in the stands in a “Nuke La Loosh” moment.  The boys left something like 12 men on base, and were blanked 5 – 0. This road trip against the Snakes (swept in Arizona) and the Padres ended up 1 and 5. That was not a good follow up to the 4 and 3 home stand against the Brewers and the Phillies last week.

I thought to myself, “why do I watch this game?”  I answered myself (the G-Men often leave one talking to oneself): because its baseball, it’s pure, the rules are exactly the same for both sides, you never know what will happen in any moment and it’s fair competition.  I’ve loved the game since Little League and always will.  I know that the Giants currently are really down but that will not last and every game offers a shot at redemption. This is a team with a lot of pride.

Approaching the game that way we can always look out for the moment when it all comes together for a team, or a player – the pitcher that hits a home run, the rookie that gets his first hit, the sparkling defensive play to save a game, the perfect Jon Miller story.

We are little once again enjoying a pure child’s game in a world dominated by strange adults. Let’s enjoy it that way for the next month, keep speculating on the moves that management is looking to make and then gear up for the playoffs (where I expect to be rooting for Dusty and the Nationals – he deserves it).

I for one am looking forward to Friday night when rosters expand and the kids from Sacramento arrive eager to prove themselves in the big leagues.

The Rumor Mill continues on Stanton

Right now most of MLB thinks that the Giants are the team best situated to make a run at Stanton, presuming that the Derek Jeter owned Marlins want to dump salary and pick up a boat load of players. I don’t think that any player (except Bum and Buster perhaps) is off the table in a trade, and having a draft pick in the top three won’t hurt either if that’s what is needed to make a trade. I am well aware that we are talking about next year but we have to; the Gigantes were officially eliminated from the playoffs last week. 40 games back will do that to you.

The 4-Game series against the Cardinals

The Cards are in third place in the NL Central (6 games back behind the Cubs and the Brewers), and playing .500 ball. Realistically, they are out of the playoffs.  However these are two of the original baseball franchises, and are both proud teams.  This will be a hard fought series. Tomorrow night is Bumgarner (2.33 ERA) versus Wacha (4.33).  Friday the rosters expand and the Cards are bringing up their phnom from the minors (Flaherty, a 21 year old fireballer with a 2.13 ERA in the minors).  It will be a fun four game series!

That’s it!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar

The Phillies and the Brew Crew starting on Thursday night

Welcome to Czar’s Blog #12 of 2017

The Big News- Giancarlo Stanton cleared waivers!!!

OK, that’s no guarantee that the G-Men would pick up his $325 million contract (which is why he cleared waivers) but would he look good in the Orange and Black, or what?  That would be a move equal to the 1993 move that got Barry Bonds from the Pirates and rejuvenated the entire franchise (and kept them in San Francisco).  Stanton is a pure stud hitter and he has a legitimate shot at Bonds record.  When I saw him hit at AT&T I was blown away AND he hits right handed, which is the shortest porch at AT&T. He would protect Buster, probably start in left field and eventually move to right when Pence retires or moves on.

Enough of the dreams…

Where are the Giants right now?

Last place is not a good place to be but the Giants are playing good ball, and are enjoyable to watch.  They took three straight 2 to 1 series at home (from the A’s, the Snakes and the Cubs) and lost two series on the road 1 and 2 to the Nationals and the Marlins. Yes, that is the definition of a .500 ballclub but at this point in the season it is what it is (and it is better than six weeks ago).

However, it is ALWAYS worth it see a Buster Posey AB or throw from behind the plate.  Without Buster’s stabilizing influence who knows where we would be.  It’s fun to watch Buster get the Barry Bonds treatment (intentional passes in clutch situations).

The pitching is coming around.  Bum is back, Blach and Stratton look like starters in the future, Melancon is off the DL, Dyson was a steal (thank you Rags) and Samardjiza continues to pitch like a Notre Dame wide receiver.  Clearly the coaching staff is setting up for next year; and that’s what they should be doing.

At some point this year we will have to say good-bye to Matt Cain.  He’s been a stalwart Giant for 10 years, has earned three rings and pitched a perfect game.  He goes out with his head held high. I will miss him.

The DL – the bane of this Season but time to let the players heal, and the kids learn

Belt, Morse and Panik (all concussions), Cueto (blisters), Slater (Groin strain), Gomez (inflammation) and Smith (Tommy John) are all out and there is no good reason to rush them back. Let the Sacramento River Cats, San Jose Giants and the Richmond Flying squirrels see what they can do in the show. 

I like what the brain trust is doing.  Management is methodically testing every potential star in the system to see who rises above – Jarret Parker looks good, Ryder Jones looks adequate. Gomez is an interesting prospect but I’m not too sure that those behind them are ready.

The Panda experiment – working better than expected

Pablo came back appropriately chagrined and apologetic.  He was accepted in the clubhouse and he brings energy to the field.    He’s not hitting his weight yet but maybe that will come. Myquestion is whether or not he is keeping the hot corner warm for Arroyo, or if he may be a trade chip for Stanton.

The Series – the Phillies and the Brew Crew

The Phillies are in a rebuilding year, to put it mildly. They are the only team with a worse record than the Giants and their sole goal appears to be to get the number one draft choice in the spring draft.  Rebuilding year is being kind. They are being torn down to the ground.  They are coming off being swept in San Diego, losing a series to the Mets 1 and 3, and losing series to the Angels and Rockies in August.  The probable Giants pitchers for the 4 game series are Samardjiza on Thursday. Moore on Friday (when I’m going), Blach on Saturday and Bum on Sunday.

Then the Brewers come into town for a three game series.  The Brew Crew may be fading a bit but they are in a death match against the Cubs and the Cards for the NL Central crown (the three teams are a game and half apart). They will be in Denver before coming to AT&T.  They have strong hitters (Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw, Pina and Santana, among others), decent pitching and they are motivated.  This will be a good series.  Expect the G-Men to look for redemption by knocking a contending team out of the playoffs.  That will also be the theme through the end of August and through September.

That’s it!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar



From the Lair with Love - A's and Snakes

Welcome to Czar’s blog #11 of 2017


This is a very short blog because I am up in the mountains with the slowest possible internet connection. However baseball stops for no man.

Where are we heading into this week?

Last place says it all. We did split the last homestand 5 and 5, but followed that with three straight one run losses (including tonight in extra innings) to the team that resides in LA and does the wave. You can’t say that the G-Men aren’t trying.  They have more extra-inning games than any other team in baseball but the injuries and the bad karma have taken their toll. It is time for prayers and maybe a human sacrifice or two. Let’s take a vote on the sacrifice, shall we?

Extra Czar’s credit for the most creative choice.

That’s it!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar

  2. Alcohol and Cannabis Ventures: Top 5 Legal Considerations
  3. ATF and TTB: Is Another Divorce on the Horizon? What’s Going on with the Agency?
  5. TTB Temporarily Fixes Problem with Fulfillment Warehouse Tax Credits - an “Alternate Procedure” for Paying Taxes & Reporting
  7. The Renaissance of Federal Unfair Trade Practices - Current Issues and Strategies
  8. ‘Twas the week before New Year’s and the ABC is out in Force – Alerts for the Last Week of 2017, including the Limits on Free Rides
  9. Big Bottles, Caviar and a CA Wine Strong Silent Auction for the Holidays!
  10. The FDA and the Wine and Spirits Industry – Surprise inspections anyone?
  13. Soon to come to your Local Supermarket– Instant Redeemable Coupons of the digital age!
  14. The License Piggyback Dilemma – If it Sounds Too Good to be True, it Probably is
  15. A timely message from our Florida colleagues on the tied house laws, the three-tier system and the need for reform
  16. ABC Declaratory Rulings – A Modest Proposal Whose Time has Come
  17. More on FDA Inspections - Breweries, Distilleries and Questions
  19. Senate Bill 378—The Proposed Demise of Due Process for Alcohol Licensees
  20. ABC Enforcement - Trends and Predictions
  21. The Corruption Chronicles – Volume One: A New Hope
  22. New Alcohol Delivery Oversight on the Horizon
  23. Michigan: Canary in the DtC Coal Mine?
  24. California ABC and Federal Credit Laws – Active Enforcement and Lots of Questions!
  25. Big Bottles For The Holidays - The Highest Calling Of The Winemaker's Art
  28. New TTB Labeling Requirement Regulations: Out-of-State Bottling Is Not Created Equal and Consumers Right to Know Where the Grapes in their Wine Come from is Compromised
  29. Isn't A Written Agreement With A Distributor Worthless In A Franchise State?
  30. Crowd Funding for Alcohol Producers and Retailers – Down the Rabbit Hole with the Tied House laws
  31. Everything you ever wanted to know about the BPA Warning Statement but were afraid to ask
  32. AB 2082 - A Hunting License for Police and a Lethal Weapon for Politicians that Deprives Licensees of Currently Available Due Process Rights
  33. “Better Late Than Never”-- Judge in Illinois Dismisses 201 Sales Tax Cases against Retailers
  34. The Day the Music Almost Died: The Story of the BottleRock ABC Accusations, the ABC Appeals Board and a Victory for a Common Sense Interpretation of the Tied House Laws
  35. The Arsenic in Wine Class Action Dismissal – what it means
  36. Counterfeit or Artisanal Mexican Spirits? Pick your Poison, or your lime wedge
  37. Warning - CA ABC enforcement teams are on the prowl this weekend!
  39. The TTB Speaks on Category Management or, be Careful What you Ask for Because you might Get it!
  40. Hinman & Carmichael LLP Announces the Addition of Jeremy Siegel to its team of top beverage law lawyers
  45. Hinman & Carmichael LLP is Hiring!
  46. John Hinman Presents NBI Webinar on Basics of Alcohol Beverage Law
  48. Speakeasies are still with us, and proliferating!
  49. The War for the Soul of Sonoma County – the Winery Working Group Battle
  50. Santa Claus isn’t the only one coming to town this Christmas!
  51. Arizona's Direct to Consumer Shipping Rules - An Exercise in Complexity
  52. AB 780 - Social Media and the ABC: The California Legislative “Fix” that Fails
  53. Illinois Finally Offers Certainty and Relief for Victims of Sales Tax Lawsuits, but Prompt Action is Required in Pending Cases
  54. A Modest Proposal – Adopt the federal rule on Tied-House liability in California
  55. The Grapes Escaped - Why the First Amendment Matters
  56. Appellate Court Ruling Strikes Blow Against State’s Arbitrary Beer Label Ban
  57. Illinois Attorney General's Office Announces Intention to Dismiss False Claims Act Against Liquor Retailers
  58. Commercial Speech And Alcoholic Beverages - Part III
  59. Commercial Speech And Alcoholic Beverages - Part II
  60. Craft Beverages: Social Media Marketing the Effective and Compliant Way
  61. Commercial Speech And Alcoholic Beverages - Part I
  63. The Biggest Retailer in the World vs. the TABC
  64. Rebecca Stamey-White presents Emerging Issues in Wine Law
  65. Top Beverage Alcohol Law Firm Adds and Elevates Partners
  66. Illinois Qui Tam Lawsuits—Private Enforcement Of a State Claim: A Bonanza For A Plaintiff’s Lawyer And A Rip-Off Of Retailers
  67. BOOZE RULES OF SOCIAL MEDIA: The Retailer Right to Pay Exception
  69. AB 2004: Brewer's Incremental Parity with Wine Makers
  70. Expanding, Proud Of It, and Wanting to Tell the World
  71. DC Weighs in Strongly on Third Party Marketer Delivery Services
  72. “Visual Links” between Beer, Wine and Spirits Labels and Retailers Ruled Unlawful in California — the tied house laws run amok
  73. Hard Cider Legislative Update
  74. New Marketing Model for New York – Lot 18 and the NYSLA
  75. Sweeping Changes in Proposed NYSLA Bill Include Expansion for Craft
  76. Minimum Resale Price Policies - How to Control Price-Cutters
  77. AB 2130 – Gloves Off?
  78. “Gluten-Free” Labels for Wine, Beer and Distilled Spirits. We’re Still Waiting.
  79. AB 1252: Sanitation Overkill?
  80. Growlers: Not Just for Beer Anymore
  81. California Legislative Roundup 2014
  82. Build It and They Will Come: Craft Products Get New Privileges in CA and TX
  83. AB 1128: Veto of the “Serve a Minor” Felony Penalty Bill, or How to Lose a Winery in One Sale
  84. California Grocers Association v. ABC, Part 2: California Appeals Court Vacates ABC’s Adoption of a Trade Advisory That Correctly Guided Licensee Conduct
  85. California Grocers Association v. ABC, Part 1: California Appeals Court Prohibits Alcohol Sales at Self-Check Out Stands
  86. AB 1128: The “Serve a Minor” Felony Penalty Bill, or How to Lose a Winery in One Sale
  87. The New York SLA and Online Wine Sales: A Work in Progress
  88. California SB 635: What the 4am Bill Really Means for California Communities
  89. Electronic Invoices in California: Welcome to the 19th Century
  90. The History of Amazon and Wine: What Has Changed?
  91. Third Party Marketing Checklist
  93. Washington State: Down the Rabbit Hole of the Tied-House Laws