Happy Friday everyone. Thanks for stopping in to see us. If I could try and sell you on some things, we’ve got some new t-shirts that you can see linked in the sidebar. We also haven’t talked about Patreon lately, but without the support of our patrons this last year, this website might have gone under.1 I know we have ads here, but it doesn’t keep the lights on anymore. If you like the site, please consider supporting us in one of the available ways. And thanks — as always — to those who have already done so! You have no idea how much you’ve helped us.
Jimmy Haslam isn’t out of the woods…
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Jimmy Haslam wanted to sell Pilot Flying J to Warren Buffett. That’s exactly what happened early in October as Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway holding company acquired a 38.6 percent stake with plans to acquire more than 40 percent more by 2023 to control the Haslam family company. Jimmy Haslam took the company to its huge size in the 1980’s and 90’s, and his father started the company in 1958. It’s hard to imagine that the timing of the Buffett deal was incidental with Pilot Flying J employees starting trial at the end of October. Is it a sign that Jimmy Haslam had concerns about the value of the company on a forward-looking basis under his control? Is it a sign that Jimmy Haslam has concerns about his availability to run the company on a forward-looking basis because he could get caught up in the trial?
On Wednesday, the headlines were pretty ugly for Jimmy and I’m not just talking about the Cleveland Browns. A “star employee” from Pilot Flying J testified her opinions on what Jimmy Haslam knew about the illegal scheme designed to defraud less sophisticated customers.
Janet Welch, an inside account executive at the Knoxville headquarters who dealt directly with the outside reps carrying out the deceit, said, “I assume that Jimmy Haslam knew. He was at the sales meetings at times and he is a totally hands on manager. He knew the numbers.”
Houston attorney Rusty Hardin, who represents former Pilot CEO Mark Hazelwood, asked, “Are you aware of anything that was going on in that company that he (Haslam) was unaware of?” She replied, “No.”
She wasn’t finished there, saying “They were so close to the sales guys it is hard to have anything going on that they would not be aware of.”
That’s not a smoking gun, but it doesn’t sound good. It’s hinting at the kind of information that could be coming as the trial continues. It could be information that Jimmy Haslam also knew was coming when he decided just weeks before the trial began to sell the company that’s synonymous with his family’s legacy to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.
As always, we’ll wait and see and we’ll find out what this has to do with the Browns. Despite my #SellTheBrowns motto, I’ve got no rooting interest in this case. I don’t know if it will make me feel better about Jimmy Haslam if he ends up not getting caught up, but if he is caught up I’ll wonder what the NFL feels about it.
The Michael Brantley Extension…
In a vacuum, you can justify the Indians picking up Michael Brantley’s option for $12 million. One of the arguments that I’ve made about the Indians over the years is that the organization has trained fans to think a lot about finances. Throughout the Mark Shapiro years, it was always top of mind because of the exploding salaries and free agency arms races that would take place every off-season. The Indians made their bones trading away excellent players like C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee instead of just losing them as they did with Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome. If you want a cup of coffee at Starbucks, you have to be ready to pay far more per cup than if you brew it at home. We know this. MLB players have big contracts, especially in the free agent market. Again, we know this. From that generic perspective, a $12 million flyer on Michael Brantley isn’t that big of a deal. At least it shouldn’t be that big of a deal in Major League Baseball in 2017. Maybe it’s a hangover from the Shapiro years, but I just can’t help worrying about it.
The Indians might have already eliminated themselves from contention for keeping Carlos Santana based on conversations with his agent. The Tribe did make the qualifying offer of $17.4 million to Santana and Terry Pluto – who’s as plugged in as anyone – says the Indians would be delighted if he would accept it. If a market develops for Santana where there are three years of at least $17 million, it’s hard to imagine the Indians ponying up that amount for their 31-year-old. It’s hard to shake the feeling that it wouldn’t be much more likely to figure that out if they could also cover the first $12 million by allowing a beloved, but oft-injured Michael Brantley step away.
None of this is to mention Jay Bruce. There’s no need to dive into him as well, except to say that his potential return to the Tribe is another question that felt like it was answered by the Michael Brantley option. Maybe that’s not the case and the Indians still have some bullets left in the gun. You can hardly blame the fan base – even a year after they went all out for Edwin Encarnacion – for being a little bit wary and paranoid. It’s the training we received for the better part of the last 20 years.
New music from Mansions!
I’ve been a fan of Mansions for a number of years now. I once drove to Pittsburgh by myself on a Sunday night in December to see them play live after they released their album, Doom Loop. It’s a band that has dominated my ears as much or more than any other in the last four years. They just released a new six-song EP and I’ve already listened to it all the way through at least 10 times since it came out a week ago. I like the whole thing, but I think High Numbers is my favorite song. I love how Chris Browder’s vocals go way up in his range at the end of the chorus and also how they hit the chorus one last time toward the end of the song.
Check it out.
Podcasts! Listen up!
- Editor’s Note: Couldn’t agree more. Thank you. [↩]