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cat says goodbyeHappy Valentine’s Day, friends. Smooches.

Although I touched on some of the highlights from the introductory Spring press conference yesterday, I’ll have much more today on some of the interesting bits in their own post(s). For now, the other Bullets …

  • Here are some horrible optics for MLB: at the owner’s meetings last month, the owners voted to allow teams the ability to cut pensions for non-uniformed personnel, per a report from Adam Rubin. Although MLB protests and explains that the decision is really about giving teams the choice to provide different kinds of retirement benefits to their employees (401(k) plans, for example), and even though companies across America have been reducing or removing traditional pension plans for years now, this just looks bad. You’ve got a sport that is awash in revenue growth, predicated on the goodwill of the public – MLB is a business only because fans enjoy experiencing the product, and fan positivity about the product is a huge component – and operated by owners that are already perceived by many to be uber rich folks who care only about become even more uber rich. This reeks of penny pinching the line workers to line the pockets of already-wealthy owners. Is that a fair characterization? Well, you know how I fall on these things – there’s always an explanation and another side of the story. But, as I say, whatever the reality, this just looks very, very bad. That’s probably a part of the reason it wasn’t reported for almost a month – MLB wasn’t exactly sending out a press release on this one.
  • That all said, MLB merely gave teams the option of cutting pensions. Pro tip for teams that can afford it: keep the pensions for a while, at least. You will look like the better team for it, and that could have advantages when it comes to recruiting business/scouting talent.
  • If you analyzed the pitching prospects in the MLB top 100 by FIP in 2013, who would land on top? That would be Cubs pitching prospect C.J. Edwards by a healthy margin, thanks to his hilariously low 1.96 FIP. Pierce Johnson winds up in the top half, with his 3.15 (sandwiched between elite pitching prospects Robert Stephenson and Archie Bradley). While it’s, of course, swell to see, keep in mind: stats in the minors, even advanced ones, are only a part of the story. Everyone knows C.J. Edwards’ numbers last year were stupid good (like, Javier Baez good). The question comes from the scouting side of things: will his polished stuff play up quite as well when he’s facing more advanced bats? Will he be durable enough to stay in the rotation long-term?
  • Darwin Barney tells Cubs.com he got a little big last year (not necessarily fat, because he always looked strong), and he cut back this past offseason to try and be a little more agile. At the plate, maybe he ends up with a little less power, but an overall improved approach as a result?
  • Jason McLeod was on Sports Talk Live with Dave Kaplan, hitting on a handful of the usual talking points. He got into the draft a little bit, and noted the quality college pitching talent available right now, but cautioned that, at this time last year, everyone thought Sean Manaea was going in the top three and folks didn’t expect Kris Bryant to be up at the top.
  • A certain commenter will enjoy something Rick Renteria said at yesterday’s press conference (as logged by Cubs.com): “The reality is, nobody in that [clubhouse] will misconstrue my calmness and my patience for not having fire. I have plenty of fire in my belly. The only ones who need to understand it are those guys in there. I’m hoping that, because they do, what you guys see will be something pretty exciting.”
  • farmerjon

    Yay!!!!! Belly Fire ;-)

    • Fishin Phil

      LOL, Renteria for Manager of the Year!

    • jp3

      Wow, just wow. Can’t believe he said he has plenty of belly fire to go around…

  • Edwin

    I think Wendy Thurm also has an interesting story at fangraphs related to whether or not teams should be paying minimum wage. I always find these types of labor related stories facinated. I’ll be pretty disappointed if MLB teams start cutting pensions. It’s always annoying to see baseball revenue at an all time high, and then hear owner’s crying poor when it comes to benefits for their employees.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yeah, I should have linked that, too – I forgot it because we discussed that case in the Bullets earlier this week.

      • Edwin

        My bad then, I must have missed it.

    • aaronb

      Guaranteed the Cubs cut the pension of everyone who isn’t executive level. This is an ownership group who’s first move after the purchase was to cut scouts per diems 40%.

      • brainiac

        This also supports my persistent claims that the team’s “austerity measure” is a common but recent approach to business that’s now being conducting on a sports level for the first time.

        These guys just aren’t sports guys. They’re business drones who lack loyalty and heart.

        • aaronb

          Certainly appears that way.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          Hey, have a heart! This general business tactic is very loyal to shareholders like me! I worked really hard to inherit all of that money, after all….

      • gocatsgo2003

        I thought it was pretty widely reported that they reversed on the per diem after it went public? I’m pretty sure scouts can get by on $50/day for food…

    • Pat

      Keep in mind that pensions aren’t the only way to give benefits to employees, as Brett notes in the article. In fact, there are ways it is detrimental to the employee (fulfill the vesting period or get absolutely nothing). As long as they are providing the same cost in retirement benefits the ability to transfer accrued benefits to a different position is hugely beneficial to both the employee (freedom of movement) and the employer (you don’t necessarily have people just playing out the string to hit their vesting).

      • MattM

        Pat come on! We all know that 401k has been a sham since the rich sob from whatever company he inherited payed politicians to offer it! How many 401k plans have been ruined BC of lousy investors seeking to make a quick Buck? Sooner or later the public will get smart and realize its a joke and pensions will be brought back! Look at Germany they are doing extremely well! That’s because of unions and pension plans! Last I checked German cars are among the best in the world!

        • bbmoney

          I don’t know that.

          • MattM

            You are hilarious on everything! You’re probably the funniest poster on this site. Here is a good read….http://billmoyers.com/2013/09/25/how-401ks-rewarded-the-rich-and-turned-the-rest-of-us-into-big-losers/.

            Here is a good read…..http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/07/retirement-accounts-have_n_132737.html

            Here is a good read….http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/perfi/columnist/moneywatch/story/2012-05-25/making-your-retirement-money-last/55208768/1
            The last one is very interesting because the advisor is advising to “subtract the amount of social security.” In essence he is saying that for the woman to ensure that her 401k lasts until she dies she has to depend on social security. I’m pretty sure they are going after social security as well no? Also, if everyone had pensions than social security would be WAY LESS IMPORTANT! No one would have to depend on it to make their retirement last until they died! DUH!!!!!!

            Here is another one….http://neatoday.org/2012/03/23/why-a-401k-is-no-replacement-for-a-pension/

            Basically bbmoney what I’m telling you is that I find your ignorance on this topic hilarious! We passed a law 30 years ago that put Millions of Americans’ retirements in the hands of greedy ass people. So if you don’t know that why don’t you lift a lazy lip and ask someone you know who is depending on a 401k after the crash of 2009 how well it works!

            Of course your name has the word money in it, so maybe you are just a “money manager,” or as those who referred to Madoff would say “a money MIS-manager.”

            • mjhurdle

              “The last one is very interesting because the advisor is advising to “subtract the amount of social security.” ”

              I actually found the last one interesting because it didn’t actually address whether 401ks were better/worse than pensions, or even whether 401ks were good or bad. In fact, the only mention of a 401k is as the source of the question asker’s retirement fund. after that it is ignored (as in, it is literally mentioned in the first sentence, and never again)

              That is interesting to me because it seems to be the result of someone googling ’401k’ and randomly selecting articles for links…

              • MattM

                Ah so that is the only thing you see in that article? That is a financial advisor BTW, advising someone to count on Social Security to make sure her 401k lasts until she dies!

                That doesn’t seem to be a little scary to you? Or how about what happens to Social Security then? What will that advisor be telling people on 401k plans after the teapublicans finally get their way and end it? What’s the advise then? Um go back to work at 75?

                Your priorities are seriously screwed up!

                Here is an article about Madoff ruining retirements!

                http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303560204579248221657387860

                And yes there are millions of those articles on google. I didn’t know that was a big problem. But you keep on arguing nothing there pal. It makes you seem real smart!

                • mjhurdle

                  “That is a financial advisor BTW, advising someone to count on Social Security to make sure her 401k lasts until she dies!”

                  ahh, i thought the problem was that you didn’t actually read the article. Now i see it was that you read it, but didn’t understand it.

                  The adviser did not tell the person to count on SS. The adviser was telling the person to do the math to figure out what her expenses are.
                  Living Expenses – (Whatever you get from SS whether 0 or 1000000) = the amount you need to make each year to live out retirement.
                  That doesn’t change whether your retirement plan is a pension, 401k, cash in a mattress, or lottery tickets.

                  • MattM

                    Again, since you lack comprehension! She asked how to make her money last until she dies. He is telling her to subtract ss from what she should live on. So suppose she gets something like 900 a month for SS. What happens when Social Security ends? Either she is going to have raise what her 401k gives her by 900 bucks a month OR she is going to have to take that 900 dollar hit every month. That’s a BIG hit for most non rich people.

                    Maybe you are a trust fund baby and don’t understand I guess.

                    BTW with a pension she is getting her money regardless and doesn’t have to worry about it “lasting.” Obviously there is a big difference there!

                    Oh and if you know anything about history, which it seems you don’t, the 401k program was created to SUPPLEMENT pensions! It was never intended to take their place entirely!

                    Most companies that offer pensions still also offer a deferred comp program so if that woman worked I one of those companies and she invested in the deferred comp as well while still get a pension she really wouldn’t have to rely on getting Social Security. That’s what you don’t grasp apparently!

                    • mjhurdle

                      “Subtract your Social Security benefit payments from your annual retirement expenses to see how much money you will need.”

                    • MattM

                      “Most companies that offer pensions still also offer a deferred comp program so if that woman worked I one of those companies and she invested in the deferred comp as well while still get a pension she really wouldn’t have to rely on getting Social Security. That’s what you don’t grasp apparently!”

                      Right back at you buddy!

                  • MattM

                    MJHURDLE, since you only want to look at that one article what did you see in the others? Are you going to check those out and argue those points?

                    • mjhurdle

                      nope. The one you mentioned as interesting told me all i needed to know about the merits of your argument.
                      No need to waste anymore time one it.

                    • MattM

                      AH I see. Very funny you are. Ok since you like it when I say that it’s interesting why don’t you check out this one….

                      http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303560204579248221657387860

                      Those are real people…… Why don’t you argue with them…

                      Nope that’s ok with you. They are doing now what I was implying “and was said” in the article that you looked at. They are DEPENDING on Social Security now. Congrats!

                      Keep arguing a losing point! Again you as well I hope that you sir invest your entire retirement plan in with a greedy pig like Madoff! If you think that 401ks are the saving grace and so much better than pensions.

                      The funny argument used against pensions is the “too expensive” one used. Germany is doing extremely well as I mentioned early specifically BECAUSE of pension plans and unions! I’m sure you are a fascist though and do not agree and only subscribe to the laissez fair argument!

              • MattM

                Just to point something further out to you since you can’t grasp what is actually being said! That guy is benefiting from people using 401ks so he is NOT going to bad mouth them. That article wasn’t about how bad or good the 401k is for that woman but it is about how she can count on her retirement money.

                His advise is to count on Social Security to save her retirement! That is extremely bad!!!! Why should anyone who has worked for 30 years have to count on Social Security to ensure their retirement money lasts? If you think that is ok then I hope you turn in to one of those people and when Social Security has ended you have to get a full time job at 80! Have fun waiting tables!

            • bbmoney

              Thanks, I always strive to be the best.

              • MattM

                Good for you, and I do hope that whatever lousy company you work for decides to invest with Madoff types! Good luck to your retirement!

                • bbmoney

                  I’m just glad you can be reasonable enough to have a disagreement with someone and not wish them harm.

                  Good for you. Personally I hope you’re very successful and would hate to see you come to financial harm.

                  Although I’ll note that I was still right about not knowing what you so easily proclaimed “we all know”. I think your reply post just proves that you now realize we don’t all know that or there would have been no reason to post something trying to prove what you believe is true.

                  • MattM

                    If you don’t know how shitty it has been then read! Your responses TO EVERYONE are always one sentence answers saying exactly the opposite of someone else! Case in point below!

                    You really didn’t realize there was a lack of interest? Eric Wedge? Come on! Seriously! You always ALWAYS post crap like that!

                    • TWC

                      “Your responses TO EVERYONE are always one sentence answers saying exactly the opposite of someone else!”

                      And your responses go on and on and on and on and on, posted multiple times across the site, alternating between blustering, spluttering, all caps indignation and whiny victimhood.

                      Please feel free to write another dozen followups. Your keyboard could probably use the workout.

                    • Jason P

                      +1

  • Fastball

    I hate seeing people lose pensions. I believe that if you were in a traditional Pension Plan a company should grandfather you in and pay those that entered it. I can also see have cut off date where you will not provide that pension plan to new hires. Pension Plans kill profitability of an organization. I retired from AT&T I get my Pension at 62. I also had a great 401K that invested heavily into. Working on my second pension now. I think companies at a minimum with 25 employees or more should have to provide a 401K with matching funds up to 6%. It’s a tax write off for the company and gets employees who wouldn’t save to do so. I can see how MLB wants to get rid of the standard pension. People just don’t pass on like they did in the old days. The actuaries kind of poked the pooch on the forecast planning for pensions and companies can’t afford them anymore. Example: last year AT&T had to borrow $3B to fund it’s pension plan which is running of money because retired folks are just living too long. When you have over 350M people drawing a pension with full healthcare benefits etc. And you only have about 280M active employees, and a continuous write down revenue stream it’s difficult to maintain these programs and still do all the things required to grow your business.

    • Brocktoon

      People who double dip pensions certainly aren’t helping matters

      • Edwin

        small potatoes.

      • Fastball

        I retired at 50 after working for AT&T for 25 years. I started a new career because I have to work until I am 62 to really retire. I don’t work for AT&T any longer. When I retire at 62 I will get another pension from my current employer. How is that double dipping? Would you rather I sit on my ass and collect enemployment or be a syphon on our system for years? I don’t think so. I worked very hard at my first career and earned every penny. Doing the same now. How does that make me a double dipper? I also get a disability pension from the VA having been injured and have a purple heart. Does that make me a double dipper? I suppose when I retire and collect my Social Security that will make a quadruple dipper. So I am must be a real menace to society. Thankfully I am a very smart investor because only a fool would rely on a pension to be there when he reaches retirement age. I have earned all of these and then some. Am I missing something? Should I be giving my money back to someone? I don’t think so!

        • Edwin

          You could consider donating your money to The Human Fund.

    • Edwin

      A lot of companies are trying to change the way they fund 401K plans. They want to keep the contribution amount the same, but pay it out only once per year, in a lump sum amount. It’s a subtle way for a company to claim it’s offering the same benefit, but in actuality cut their costs.

  • itzscott

    I’m really trying to get on board with this guy and it’s probably just me, but I’m not having a whole bunch of confidence in Renteria and see him as the next Cub manager sacrificial lamb.

    • aaronb

      That has more or less been my opinion as well. The overall lack of interest in the job league wide probably points to that being the common perception.

      • bbmoney

        I didn’t realize there had been a lack of interest in the Cubs managerial job.

        • aaronb

          Girardi’s name was floated out there in the media. But he showed no real interest. The rest of the candidates were lower tier failures elsewhere or untested.

          • bbmoney

            I see, lack of Girardi agreeing to manage the Cubs instead of the Yankees and the Cubs not bringing in candidates you approve of = “overall lack in interest in the job league wide”.

            Got it. Thanks for clearing that up for me.

            • aaronb

              When the pool of candidates are Renteria, AJ Hinch, Dave Martinez and Torey Luvullo. I think it’s safe to say that there is a lack of interest in your job league wide.

              The Cleveland Browns aren’t pondering hiring Greg Schiano because Jon Gruden and Bill Cower keep calling about the job…They are pondering that hire because they can’t do better.

              • bbmoney

                I don’t think that’s safe to say that at all.

      • CubChymyst

        Lack of interest is likely impossible. There are only 30 such spots in the MLB and only a few are open each year. Unless your suggesting that the players who want to manage were willing to pass on the opportunity then, your likely incorrect.

        • aaronb

          There is always SOME interest in any MLB managerial job. The difference is the level of candidate you can attract.

          • CubChymyst

            Can you give an example of the level of candidate you think would of been attracted if the job had more interested, and explain why the Cubs could not of gotten them by giving a contract worth a couple of millions.

          • ced landrum

            Which candidates out there do you think should have been interested but weren’t?

            • aaronb

              Guys who have previous track records would be an indication. And there was no public interest from any of those guys. Terry Francona was out there last offseason. Joe Torre is out there. Jim Leyland was out there. Ryne Sandberg has been available. Joe Girardi was a possibility.

              For whatever reason the Cubs have chosen to go a different route.

              • CubChymyst

                Joe was still under contract with the Yankees when he got an extension, and said his family wanted to stay in NY. He was likely never as strong of a possiblity as the media made him out to be. Joe Torre is retired (much like the NFL examples you used above). Jim Leylan had just retired from the tigers. I think you need to reexamine your idea of who was available.

                Not sure why you consider Ryne Sandberg on a different level then Renteria since both have little manager experience.

                • MattM

                  And yet another bbmoney clone. Wasn’t Pinella “retired” when he took the Cubs job? Come on man! Have a little more creativity than that!

    • brainiac

      no doubt he’s fired after 2 years, but he’ll be compensated too and hopefully he’ll do a good job with the prospects. the real question is when will jed be fired for gross incompetence?

  • arta

    sounds kinda like Q.

  • Fastball

    I am not worried about Renteria dealing with players. I think that will be a significant improvement over the Quade, Sveum era’s. Lou was different but you had a different roster make up than what we have and will have. My concerns are his game management and decision making skills. Does he ride the same horses everyday, go with a hot reliever too long, leave starters in 1 or 2 batters too long thus blowing a game open. Does he have that gut instinct and knowledge that says it’s time to do something right now. Then actually act upon it. I saw stupid ass Sveum sit there and let shit blow up and do nothing or he was a day late and a dollar short 90% of the time.

    I hope he knows that being a manager isn’t being a friend. I think he gets that. You can’t be both. My perception of sports managers is that when they get into managing they never get any real management training. Send a guy to Harvard Business School for some classes on how to manage and brief them up on proven tactics. They apply to all management scenarios. I am hoping he is quite smart and has a lot of nerve.

  • okiecubhawk

    Pensions are outdated. I’d much rather have a 401k with company match. The company I work for matches dollar for dollar up to 6%. Plus they do another lump sum once per year in lieu of a pension. So depending on how long you’ve been with the company you could be getting an extra 10 percent of your salary in your 401k in top of the 6% match per pay check. Plus with a 401k I get to choose how to invest the money. Also, a lot of companies that have gotten rid of their pensions have allowed employees to roll their part of the pension into a 401k.

    • MattM

      And you would much rather have your retirement savings stolen by some greedy ass pig like Madoff too. Good luck with that. For you I hope your company decides to invest with folks like that. It will take another massive catastrophe for America to wake up about this, but when it does happen I hope it happens to people like you who “love them,” and not to people like me who know better….

      • Pat

        Yeah, because pensions never make bad investments (including with Madoff).

      • okiecubhawk

        I’d rather not have my pension that I’ve been relying on for thirty years suddenly become worthless because the company went belly up

        • MattM

          But you would rather rely on some greedy pig to invest your money wisely? Take a look at exactly what they do with your money some time. I’ve seen companies take someone’s investment that was in a good mutual fund making money and turn around and invest it in one of their packages that was losing money to try to boost up their return, and then charge that person “management fees” on top of the “maintenance fees” they charge yearly anyway!

          Does your company invest in index funds or do they try to beat their returns? Take a look at that some time. While your at it why don’t you ask your company if they have a “fiduciary responsibility” to your well being.

          • okiecubhawk

            The point of the 401k is that I invest the money. Not the company. They have no say in what funds I choose to put my money. In fact I can even have a self directed brokerage account through my 401k and invest in stocks if I so choose.

            Again: 401k = my money my choices
            Pension = I am at the mercy of the companies choices for my retirement

            All business men aren’t greedy pigs as you put it. Most of us work for those “greedy pigs” and our success or failure is tied to theirs. Sure Madoff was a scam artist but when a union forces a company into a pension plan that is not sustainable how is that beneficial to anyone. In my opinion both are equally bad.

        • MattM

          BTW I know of two people who had their companies go belly up and who had pensions. They absolutely did not lose those pensions out of the fund they filed suit in a class action and got every penny that was guaranteed to them.

          Let me ask you….do you think those people who had a 401k plan were able to do the same with Madoff? Um no. Do you know why? Because it’s the “your on your own” mentality that the government has towards investors! You NEVER get that kind of protection!

          • okiecubhawk

            That kind of protection only comes from the government holding a gun to the taxpayers heads and is immoral IMO.

          • okiecubhawk

            How are all the people who had an Enron pension doing?

  • Dales Fired Ear

    Valentine’s Day? Business Cat? Belly Fire? This post has Darth meme written all over it.. Is it weird that I’m excited? Rhetorical question, of course it’s weird.

    • DarthHater

      [img]http://cdnl.complex.com/mp/620/400/80/0/bb/1/ffffff/04fbb5e1f0ea82a757e6994370d7d0bf/images_/assets/CHANNEL_IMAGES/ART/2013/07/30-best-grumpy-cat-memes-you-can-respond-with/sikbh_valentinesday_665703.png[/img]

      • mjhurdle

        [img]http://s28.postimg.org/immaa3sb1/bellyfire_cat.jpg[/img]

        my at work attempt at the Belly Fire Valentine Business cat.

        i’ll see myself out…

      • Dales Fired Ear

        HAHAHA YES!!!!

  • Spoda17

    When you stop a pension plan, that doesn’t mean you don’t provide a retirement plan. Pensions are not “retirement.” Baseball is doing what every other business has done… pensions have been stopped for many years now, and even the biggest and most profitable companies have stopped giving “pension plans” long ago. A retirement plan is actually better for an employe than a defined benefit plan (pension plan).

    • Edwin

      I guess it depends what kind of retirement plan they replace it with.

    • MattM

      How Spoda? Please explain? How is it possible that having your entire savings wiped out by a market crash and ruining your retirement is so good for an employee?

      Let me ask you this Spoda if everyone thought the way you do then why was it that ALL of American came out against Bush’s stupid plan to privatize Social Security? I mean if that’s such a great thing and all.

      Does that mean you are just smarter than the rest of America?

      • Pat

        Nobody had their “entire savings” wiped out in the market crash (unless they were insanely foolish and had it all in one or two stocks – to which….Darwin). The market has more than rebounded in the last couple of years. Here’s some advice on investments – you have never, ever, either made or lost money until you have sold them, or no longer have the option of selling them.

        To your second point, social security and 401k’s are completely different animals. One relys on future contributions to fund it, the other does not. That said, hardly everyone was against it. What they were against was the ability of people to use that money in non-diversified portfolios.

        Only 99% of them.

  • josh ruiter

    Good write up by Brett…but sort of inconsequential to me. Not really a baseball issue per say, so do what’s best for the organization long term. With job availability decreasing, good people will still fill those roles. Play ball.

    • Edwin

      Maybe not an on-field issue, but it’s still a baseball issue.

  • DarthHater

    As long as every dollar that’s extracted from the pension of some underpaid office worker is invested in signing high-priced free agents, I’m fine with it. :-P

  • blublud

    Pensions are bankrupting America’s company’s. It is not a company’s responsibility to make sure you are OK once you stop working for them. That’s the workers responsibility. The companies job is to compensate you for work you are doing. In fact, I would prefer you pay me more per hour/year and let me make sure I have insurance, retirement, etc. Good for the Owners.

  • Baseball_Writes

    Interesting note about Darwin Barney and his body type. Didn’t Ryan Theriot experience the same kind of thing one year? He gained a little muscle to add some power and it just didn’t work for him, so he decided to try to slim down again?

  • CubFan Paul

    “At the plate, maybe he ends up with a little less power”

    LESS power?? That’s effn impossible.

    • ssckelley

      I was thinking the same thing. So Barney had power last year?

  • Cizzle

    The day of the pension is over. In the past, pensions were given away like candy because companies and governments weren’t required to show the future obligations as deferred liabilities; essentially they were off the books until they had to actually start paying out on the commitments (now). However, in the past 5 years or so, the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board have mandated annual estimates of these future obligations. So instead of making the books look good, pensions destroy an organization’s financial credibility. 401k’s, on the other hand, only show up as a 1 year expenditure for an organization. Obviously, this is in addition to the fact that employer’s matching the employee contribution can usually be terminated at any time by the employer.

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