And then there were two. The Chicago White Sox, 46 years removed from their last World Series appearance, and fresh off their first playoff victories since 1917, will meet the Houston Astros. Formerly the Houston Colt 45s, the Astros waited 45 (minus one) years to make their maiden voyage to the World Series. Clearly, these two franchises embody the idea of "being in it for the long run."
The pitching, which was supposed to dominate, has been as shaky as this stock market, but it is early. Both clubs have tremendous starting pitching, complemented with outstanding bullpens. As always, there are many interesting story lines, but more about that below.
First, here are my picks for the week.
World Series Champ!
Cabot Oil & Gas
is a leading oil and gas producer, engaged in the acquisition, exploration, development, exploitation, production and marketing of properties primarily in North America, with an expansion effort beyond West Canada. It has substantial interests in the Gulf Coast, including Texas and Louisiana, the Rocky Mountains and Mid-Continent.
During the third quarter, in the East alone, Cabot participated in 10 wells, with nine being successful. Additionally, Cabot has five rigs currently drilling. Production grew 10% for the nine months of 2005 vs. the first nine months of 2004.
In a mid-October update, Chairman and CEO Dan Dinges had this to say about Cabot's outlook: "In each of our regions, we have new and exciting opportunities that are consistent with our strategic direction. Our drilling, acquisitions, and leasing efforts are focused on building an asset profile that balances our reserve and production portfolios."
It gets better, as Dinges went on to say: "With a larger program planned to exploit our
1 million acres
for next year, some R&D opportunities in front of us, we anticipate greater expansion in Cabot's reserves and production."
With Cabot scheduled to announce earnings this week, I predict a "blowout" number. With a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 10.16, a return on equity at 23.40% and minuscule debt, this company should have no problem trading back up to its 50-day moving average at just under $45.
That is my conservative opinion. What I envision is this company blowing right through its 50-day, and testing that $53 level where there is some resistance. If the market wasn't in the "flip a coin" mode, I would have even more confidence in this stock.
I would like to thank one of my teammates at
, William Gabrielski, for bringing Cabot to my attention. When a talented, young, up-and-coming star like Gabrielski recommends something, I "will" listen.
But there is one thing you can count on: I will never throw a teammate "under the bus." If I am right and the stock goes up, then Will deserves the credit. But if the reverse occurs -- and in this "Benihana" choppy market, anything can happen -- I take full responsibility for picking Cabot.
Righting the (Toy) Ship
Can you say "annihilated?" I will take the liberty and assume you can, because that is what describes onetime "toy behemoth,"
Although it looks financially strong, with a forward P/E of 13.09, an ROE at 18.64% and free cash flow at over $315 million, this company, headquartered minutes from the Pacific Ocean in El Segundo, Calif., is a sinking ship! Pretty soon it's going to be one of Will's
Stock's Under $10.
But I like the stock down here for a trade, and just like a "skipper" on a baseball team, I can keep them afloat -- if they make some nice off-season acquisitions.
Here is how: Mattel needs to immediately buy
. After it acquires Leapfrog, Mattel should then target
( RCRC), which possesses a pristine balance sheet.
Both these two companies would be an excellent fit for Mattel. Unlike Mattel, Leapfrog and RC2 have come into the 21st century and developed technology-based, interactive learning systems, along with many other new and exciting products. Nothing against Barbie, but this is exactly what Mattel needs.
Why? Mattel has a lot of great "classic" toys, including Barbie, Hot Wheels and all the Milton Bradley board games like Candy Land. But the operative words are "classic" and "bored." The company needs to get with the times and Leapfrog, combined with RC2, is the perfect way to do it.
If Mattel does acquire Leapfrog and/or RC2 -- and Lego or Binney & Smith as well -- then, all of the sudden ... that sinking ship is now a yacht!
Such bold action by Mattel -- the operatives word being "bold" and "action" -- would force
to consider coming back to the negotiating table.
Forget the antitrust stuff that stopped this deal in 1996 -- everybody wishes Mattel would buy Hasbro. In 1996, those two were the only games in town. With all of the new technology-based toys that have come to market since, these companies would now "only" have approximately 30% of the $21 billion toy industry. It's better to work together instead of both companies drowning -- the only difference is, one would drown in the Pacific Ocean and the other, Hasbro, in the Atlantic Ocean.
Can you say "merger?"
Now, a quick word about two stocks mentioned in
I sold all of my
calls at a profit as the stock rallied following its strong quarterly results. On the flip side of trying to "buy low and sell high," I bought some
March $17.50 calls as the stock fell last week amid concerns about its diabetes drug Pargluva.
Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell have waited 18 and 15 years, respectively, to get to the World Series. Moreover, they have spent their entire careers with one organization, the Houston Astros. They play the game the right way: scrappy, smart, aggressive and with respect; these are qualities that I greatly appreciate. Qualities that I utilize with my investment strategy. Do your homework. Be prepared. Use your smarts to choose when you can be aggressive. Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, respect the market.
Biggio and Bagwell represent the last vestiges of a species threatened with extinction, players who spend their entire careers with one organization. Undeniably, in this era of free agency and luxury taxes, players invariably opt to ply their trade for another organization, because "business is business!" Both Biggio and Bagwell have had opportunities to change uniforms; however, they both opted to stay with the Astros. I salute their perseverance and loyalty.
The greatest story in sports last year was the Boston Red Sox, who won their first World Series since 1916, thereby finally shattering the "Curse of the Bambino," which resulted from the sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1920. Could this year's greatest story in sports be Sox of a different color? How's this for coincidence and irony? The Chicago White Sox last won the World Series in 1917, the year after the Red Sox won their last World Series, prior to last year. In 1919, Chicago 's White Sox were blackened tremendously when eight players -- including Shoeless Joe Jackson -- were accused of throwing the series against the Cincinnati Reds and later banished from baseball. If Chicago wins this World Series, it would help remove the stain of that long-ago scandal and help makes those White Sox clean again.
Two teams, vying for the biggest prize in baseball with a history virtually devoid of post-season success. The Astros are virgins when it comes to World Series appearances, as this represents their first trip to baseball's ultimate stage in their 44-year history. The White Sox are only slightly better, in that this will be their fourth world series appearance in 88 years, the last one 46 years ago. Hence, a new World Series champion will be crowned this year. Brand new, the Astros, or almost brand new, the White Sox, is the only question that remains to be answered.
How does this all relate to the investment world? Well, sometimes the market goes into a prolonged slump, and it seems like you will never win. That is when you must dig deep and plow forward, just like these two teams, just like Biggio and Bagwell. If good things do truly come to those who wait, then both of these teams are long overdue.
Who will it be, the Astros or the White Sox? After Sunday's wild game, Chicago is halfway to the Promised Land, but regardless of who emerges victorious, remember:
Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride!
At the time of publication, Dykstra was long Bristol-Meyers Squibb calls, although holdings can change at any time.
Nicknamed "Nails" for his tough style of play during his Major League Baseball career, Lenny Dykstra was an integral member of the powerful Mets of the mid-1980s and the Phillies of the early 1990s, including the world champion 1986 Mets squad.
Today, Dykstra manages his own stock portfolio and serves as president of several of his privately held companies, including car washes; a partnership with Castrol in "Team Dykstra" Quick Lube Centers; a state-of-the-art ConocoPhillips fueling facility; a real estate development company; and a new venture to develop several "I Sold It on eBay" stores throughout high-demographic areas of Southern California.