Some in our society possess jaded views on success and the people that achieve it. Many believe no one attains it without underhanded tactics. The counterculture argument against the traditional notion that hard work, dedication, and perseverance pays off.

In many ways, this sentiment spills over into the sports world, as every achievement is scrutinized by the scandal s of the past. Every record is met with skepticism over the potential for PED use.

The Houston Astron helped fuel these jaded cynics by being the center the recent MLB scandal involving an elaborate scheme to steal pitching signs used by the opponents during their home games in 2017 and 2018.

Despite having a strong young talented nucleus, innovative coaching staff, and competent front office executives, Alex Cora, their bench coach, and many players decided necessary to attain additional advantages.

As a result, three coaches and a general manager lost their job with yearlong banishments handed down to AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow, who were immediately fired. MLB handed down a $5 million fine to the Astros organization.

Alex Cora, who went on to win another World Series the following year in Boston, was terminated by the Boston Red Sox, which are under investigation for its own sign stealing scandal. Thought to be less elaborate than what the Astros did.

The Mets also decided to part ways with their manager, Carlos Beltran, who served as the lead player in the scandal. No players were punished, but Beltran could not reasonably lead an organization.

In the end, the Astros will still remain the 2017 World Series champion. Many of the stars from that team still play prominent roles and escaped without any punishment. Some may consider that a reasonable cost for attaining a banner.

Obviously, the Astros owner, Jim Crane, did not feel that way and made the right decision to clean house. The players and bench coach were responsible. But, leadership did not foster a compliant environment and were far too passive.

Some may argue why is this a big deal. Stealing signs is nothing new to baseball. Cheating is not new either. Not that long ago, many in baseball looked the other way as PED dominated the game.

Stealing signs in baseball is usually achieved by a runner on second base relaying signals to the hitter. Not a camera relaying the catcher signal to the dugout and the banging on a trash can to notify the hitter of off-speed pitches.

Although baseball released the punishments on the day of the NCAA national football championship game, the sports worlds did eventually catch on and many have a strong opinion of the scandal and all the participants.

The punishments and reputational damage appear much more significant than scandals plaguing other sports. For instance, the NFL had many cheating scandal committed by its current gold standard organization, who appear to be somewhat repeat offenders.

The New England Patriots committed similar technology-based offenses, using technology to be able decipher play calls, which led to fines and loss of draft picks. Followed up by deflate-gate and another video controversy.

While some outside of Boston may feel anger towards the Patriots, most fans look past the scandals to recognize the organization’s continued greatness and prowess. Football is king in America. The scandals rarely separate fans from the love of the game.

Baseball fans are wired differently than most sports fans. Compared to other sports, baseball fans place a great value on the history of the game. Other sports fans focus more on entertainment value and the evolution of the sport.

The scandal attracts greater attention because it also impacts baseball teams located in our two largest media markets. Fans of the Dodgers and Yankees justifiably feel slighted. The Dodgers having a stronger case since both accused teams were World Series foes.

Baseball will begin its 2020 season in a couple of months and it will be interesting to see the responses the Astros get in away games, especially in New York. See how MLB steps up enforcement to ensure integrity is maintained.

Integrity and morality are not relics of the past. Rather a continuous staple of any society, especially in a sport that adores its history more so than any other league. Records and achievements are revered in baseball.

This scandal may counter the time-honored notion that cheaters never win. Sometimes, they do. But, their victories ring hollow compared to teams that won based on hard work and all the other desirable characteristics.

Some people find shortcuts to their success. But, the people that truly earn it, which the vast majority of successful people do, will actually find it not fleeting. They will not have to cower when looking others in the eye. Strive for success. Do not let the cheaters win.


The State of California took a controversial and questionable step in altering the employment relationship between many organizations and their independent contractors. California enacted legislation requiring companies to consider most classes of independent contractors as employees of the company. Proponents of the law praise access to many potential legal protections afforded to company employees. Opponents decry the potential negative impact it will have on businesses, especially ones that almost exclusively hire contract employees. As one can expect that other states will consider similar legislation, there is a need to better clarify what workers will be protected and provide clear exemptions for the obvious situations of true independent contract work.

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The economy is always a salient issue in every national election. The state of the economy directly impacts all people and serves as the foundation for all functions of society. Therefore, success in political campaigns requires that candidates have effective policy positions and overall visions for the future of our economy.

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Some people feel the only way to address organizations that enjoy a great deal of success and power in their industry is to break up them up. Despite operational efficiencies, monopolies are generally regarded as bad for an economy because of the lack of choice and competition makes products and services more expensive for consumers than in a competitive market.
An approach could be relaxing certain patent protections if a market player manipulates market conditions or restricts competition. Provide limited tax breaks to new firms entering non-competitive markets. While innovators should be allowed to recoup investments and earn early profits, consumer impact should be considered over the long-term.
A reality is that government action is not always needed in order to restore balance. Consider how dominant Sears Roebuck was in its heyday. Few would predict it would be a relic of the past in the current era. Same for Yahoo, AOL, and Kodak. Market leaders are not always able to maintain their market power and prestige.
Walmart skyrocketed to the top of retail and corporate earners, but faces stiff competition from Amazon. Profitability naturally attracts new market participants who find the ability to compete with the corporate giants by providing goods and services in more efficient and effective measures. Government does not always need to step in.
As governments obsess over Facebook, Google, and Amazon, policymakers should focus on identifying ways to prevent market manipulation or fraud, but breaking up these companies might just make more companies that perform the same questionable behaviors creating social angst. Foster competition rather than government bullying.


Investors Bet on More Pain for Retailers

Black Friday pulls in a record $7.4 billion in online sales, as many turn to mobile orders (CNN)

Black Friday is expected to provide retailers with historic revenue streams, reportedly exceeding $7.4 billion. Solid performance. But the question for many retail investors is where those revenues went. Online or in-store.

Retailers still do not provide shoppers with a reason to leave the comfort of their homes to make purchases in person. Long lines, poor customer service, and undesirable shopping environments are no substitute for click of a button purchases. The online channel continues to better serve consumer needs than in-store experience.

Site to store pickups are a good middle for some retailers. But, store staff may still make that channel less than desirable if there are noticeable glitches in the process. Misunderstandings by store associates can make it harder for shoppers to justify entering a store at all.

Not surprising investors are down on retailers whose primary channel is in-store. The future will favor online based retailers and retailers that effectively leverage both channels. Brick and mortar stores may employ a large number of people, but lack the efficiency to maximize returns on investment. As more shoppers head to the web, the issue will persist.