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Saturday, October 04, 2014

 

October Baseball

Though baseball is best played and watched in summer weather, the post season has always been an October phenomenon, even in the days when we went directly from the pennant race to the World Series.  With the modern multiple rounds of playoffs, the post season now stretches pretty much across all of October, and if northern teams survive, weather is an issue.  No matter though, the added intensity and pressure of playoff baseball makes for truly watchable and memorable games.  Already we have had several.  For one, the play-in game between Kansas City and Oakland was a classic.  Then we had the two extra inning thrillers also won by KC over the Angels.   Yesterday's Dodger Cardinal slugfest was continually entertaining (especially with Ron Darling and Cal Ripken Jr. providing color commentary), and the Oriole come from behind win in game 2 versus the Tigers provided great fodder for the second guessers (why did Ausmus remove Sanchez and how could they send Cabrera home with nobody out?).  And this is just the beginning.  I know people love football and it gets the big ratings, but I still say a lot of that is driven by gambling.  For my money, I would much rather watch playoff baseball.

But football goes on despite the Ray Rice and other incidents.  People shouldn't be surprised.  If you've got a bet down or a fantasy team (and who doesn't have either or both). you will be watching the game, no matter who's playing.  The Rice thing I don't really get.  Why does the NFL Commissioner have the responsibility to dispense justice?  It seems to me this is either a criminal matter or a civil matter, and if a case is to be pursued, it will need Mrs. Rice to press charges or to sue.  If she doesn't, then as a football matter, I'm not even sure that a suspension is appropriate, even though our sensibilities are highly offended.  Meanwhile, the abused spouse is probably steaming that her husband's considerable salary is not being earned and paid.  The effect is to punish HER!     

As long as we're talking sports, let's stop the useless chest pounding about the US performance in the Ryder Cup.   The Euro Tour is just about as good as ours and whoever the home team is in the Cup should be the favorite.  Our guys did what they could but really, how many points do you still expect old Phil to get at this point, or Jim Furyk for that matter.  As for the excuses that we don't play foursomes and that's why we always lose in that format, who does play foursomes?  No one I know of, and certainly not European pros.  For something that happens for one weekend every other year, an awful lot of ink is wasted on the Ryder Cup, in my opinion.
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On the other hand, unless you read the Wall Street Journal, there has not been nearly enough written about the horrendous tenure of Eric Holder as Attorney General, now mercifully ending.  He continued and even expanded on the recent unfortunate tendency of AG's to politicize the office that began with John Mitchell but was cemented by the awful Janet Reno during the Clinton years.  There are so many positions and cases where Holder and his team abused the legal system, due process and the Constitution, but the most offensive of all could be the current lawsuit in Louisiana where the US AG is actually contending that charter schools disrupt the character of (de facto segregated) public schools by allowing minority children to attend using vouchers.  Somehow, this is supposed to be violative of integration efforts?  Seriously?  The political calculus is such that the administration is so determined to go to bat for its teachers union supporters (and fearful of the success of vouchering programs) that it is willing to sacrifice the education of poor Black kids.

Even Holder's resignation has been timed to allow Obama to rush and steamroll his replacement during the lame duck session should the GOP win control of the Senate, as now seems possible.  Or maybe, the President will simply make another unconstitutional recess appointment.   When it comes to abuse of power, I wouldn't put anything past these guys.  Just look at how they've handled the IRS scandal and cover up.  If A Republican Treasury had ever held up progressive groups' filings for tax free status, you would have had a special prosecutor named so fast, it would have made our heads spin. 

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Speaking of the Senate, I was getting pretty concerned that the GOP would be unable to pick up the 6 seats they need to take control, especially after the Kansas (of all places) race turned sour.  That's where the GOP candidate is an octogenarian incumbent (Roberts) and had both an independent and a Democrat opponent until the Dems succeeded in removing their hapless candidate from the ballot.  In a two way race, this will be close, and, showing real character and conviction, the independent candidate says he will caucus with whichever party is in the majority.  Some I know consider Roberts on the way to defeat, but I detect a swing in his direction, similar to what is going on in a number of the hotly contested races.  Things are looking better in Iowa, Colorado, Kentucky (all but done), and even New Hampshire where Scott Brown seems to have caught up to Shaheen in recent polls.   In Louisiana, they are headed for a run off where anything could happen since money will be pured in by both sides if that race actually determines the majority.  However, recent polls show Cassidy leading Landrieu in the prospective two way race.  In Georgia, Nunn has lost her mojo and there is some hope the GOP can win that one without a run off.  On the other hand Michigan's a goner, Minnesotans are going to hold their noses and vote for Franken again (why?), and there are several other races too close to call.  But my guess is that at worst, the GOP will emerge with 50 seats on election night to 48 for the Dems, with Louisiana and possibly Georgia headed to run offs.

There are a couple of interesting governor's races to watch.  In blue Illinois, it looks like the Dems are in real trouble, and in even bluer Massachusetts, the air is again going out of the Coakley balloon, which is always fun to watch.  If any candidate deserves to lose any race for any position anywhere, it's Martha.
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We have written in this space many times about climate change and skepticism concerning the models purporting to prove that humans are warming the planet, and it's perhaps my least popular subject as far as readers are concerned.  So rather than continue to abuse your sensibilities on this subject, I will merely refer interested readers to an entertaining website I have discovered which covers the subject much better than I anyway: wattsupwiththat.com
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We saw Billy Joel's monthly concert at MSG Friday night, and it was great fun.  The Garden is just an exciting venue, no matter its acoustical challenges.  Joel will continue to perform monthly as long as he is able and they continue to sell out.  November and December are already sold out, so it looks like a second year is in the offing.  You can get tickets on Stub Hub but it will cost.
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One of the oldest market axioms is "Sell them on Rosh Ha Shana, and buy them back on Yom Kippur."  In fact that simple advice would have been very profitable for most shareholders this year, particularly if you started nibbling on Friday.  The market has been especially difficult on small company shareholders and gold bugs, and I've got significant holdings of both in the Redwave portfolio.  Luckily, I always take the long view, and see no reason for panic, though the Fed continues to do a stinky job and there's trouble all over the world, thanks to the incompetence of political leaders everywhere, not just here.  You've got to have your money somewhere, and though inflation seems low now, it's not as low as being reported (fracking and other energy sources are keeping energy input prices artificially low) and you can be sure that mattress money will be inflated away in the long run.  So we are really not making changes in the investment formula we have discussed here, and only minor changes to the buy./hold list.  We added Xylem (XYL) and Align Technology (ALGN), and will be fully subtracting BOLT thanks to a takeover offer.  Here are the transactions since our last post:

Purchases
Date          Symbol        Shares       Price            Comments
8/13            PQ             400            5.69            Tulane portfolio stock
8/22           TAI             100           20.78       Running out of Preferreds, this is an income fund   
8/22           LNN            50            77.82       Irrigation and Water play
8/29           EXPD          50            41.39       Careful on this one, it's heyday may be over
8/29           TIP              20            115.24      Inflation will rise again
9/3             CNRD        100            38           Big winner from Tulane
9/4             XYL           100             37.89     Accumulating position
9/10           BK.PR.C     100            23.13
9/12           KN             100             30.62     Formula buys it back - too soon
9/15           ALGN         50              54.91      Dental is outside of ACA
9/16          WFC.PR.P  100             22.52     
9/26          GIFI             200            17.87       Tulane Portfolio
9/26          ALGN           50             52.97      Accumulating
9/26          GLD            20              117.02     Averaging down
9/29          MAN           50               70.98      Employment play Value Buy
9/30          XYL            100              36.18      Accumulating position
10/2          TAI              100             20.29
10/03         B                 100             30.04       Value Buy

Sales
Date          Symbol       Shares      Price        Date Purchased  Price       Comments       
8/13           HZO           200          17.51        11/10/08         1.54      Love them 11 timers
8/13           NEM          100          27.10        11/22/06         45.29   A judicious loss
                                                                        3/26/07         43.78
8/20           NVEC          50          69.27         12/2/09          37.50
8/22           TMO            25         121.49        1/13/03          19.88   6 timers are good too
8/26           ADM            50           49.50        8/3/12            25.48   Ethanol profits         
8/27           KN              100          33.59        3/11/14          28.02    Nice company, timely sale
9/2            LNN              50           77.69        3/5/01             20      Didn't I just buy this?  Formula quirk
9/5            KNX             100          25.73       1/10/00            3.33     Gains take time
9/8            AWCMY      400            5.88       3/22/10             6.05   Lightening up on aluminum 
                                                                      5/5/10               5.40
9/11          BYD             200            11.42      8/6/14               9.52
9/17         LOW              50             53.71      6/27/05            28.30  
9/19         HIG                100           38           6/13/11              26.44
                                                                       8/5/11                24.61
9/25        BOLT              400           21.9864   1/26/09              6.96       Takeover offer at 22
                                                                        6/1/10               8.62

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