Jerry Springer for Senate! What more could a Republican ask for?...">
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
January 31, 2003
LAW: Mighty Brobeck Has Struck Out
Mighty Brobeck has struck out. I guess innovations like taking payment in the stocks of internet companies didn't turn out to be much of a financial plan. A friend who used to work there emailed me the poem "Ozymandias" ("'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!' Nothing beside remains."). An appropriate sentiment.
January 30, 2003
BASEBALL: Ted Wants Back
Matt Drudge is reporting that Ted Turner wants to buy the Braves back from AOLTimeWarnerBrothersCNNSI.
January 29, 2003
WAR: Not Good News
We are officially engaged now in an Afghan civil war. Under the circumstances, however, I prefer this to just letting the place go back to hell.
POLITICS/WAR: Fisking Gary Locke
Man, the Democrat who did the response was a weenie. I mean, the response to the State of the Union is always miserable - I've felt sorry in years past for the pitiable responses the Democrats do, and I was incensed during the Clinton years at the weakness of Republican responses. It's not a partisan thing; it's just impossible to compete with the president on his big night. But the Dems picked a small state governor who's in serious political hot water back home. The response itself is an awful mishmosh; let's walk through it, skipping a phrase here and there:
Good evening. I'm Gary Locke, the governor of Washington state. It's an honor to give the response to President Bush on behalf of my family, my state, my fellow Democratic governors and the Democratic Party.
Note who comes last on the list. ("Mr. President, the Locke family has a bone to pick with you!")
My grandfather came to this country from China nearly a century ago and worked as a servant. Now I serve as governor just one mile from where my grandfather worked. It took our family 100 years to travel that mile. It was a voyage we could only make in America.
Yup, still talking about the Locke family.
Many of the young Americans who fought in Afghanistan, and who tonight are still defending our freedom, were trained in Washington state.
If Rick Perry said something like this, it would come off as, "Texas can kick Afghanistan's ass all by itself." Coming from Locke, it adds to the overall impression that the speech is more about "hey look at me, ma!" than anything the rest of the country cares about. Joe Sixpack just got up to get a beer.
But the war against terror is not over. Al Qaida still targets Americans. Osama bin Laden is still at large. As we rise to the many challenges around the globe, let us never lose sight of who attacked our people here at home.
Meaning, presumably, NOT IRAQ. And since when do we know for a fact that bin Laden is at large, as opposed to MIA/KIA? Who knows? GARY LOCKE KNOWS!
We also support the president in working with our allies and the United Nations to eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il of North Korea. Make no mistake: Saddam Hussein is a ruthless tyrant, and he must give up his weapons of mass destruction.
Unless the French say we shouldn't do anything about it. Then, we would be making a mistake. But I get ahead of myself.
We support the president in the course he has followed so far: working with Congress, working with the United Nations, insisting on strong and unfettered inspections.
I suppose the "We" is now the Democrats, as opposed to the Locke family, but I could be wrong. Some of them sure didn't sound like they supported the course President Bush followed throughout 2002. But then, "yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone . . . "
Implied here, of course, is that when the going gets tough, "we" won't be so supportive.
We need allies today in 2003, just as much as we needed them in Desert Storm and just as we needed them on D-Day in 1944, when American soldiers, including my father, fought to vanquish the Nazi threat.
Back to the Locke family's need for international cooperation. As Jonah Goldberg has pointed out, the allies were a little more militarily important on D-Day than they are now.
He must convince the world that Saddam Hussein is not America's problem alone; he's the world's problem. And we urge President Bush to stay this course, for we are far stronger when we stand with other nations than when we stand alone.
"He," I guess, is the President (either that, or it's Locke's dad again). More seriously, it's amazing that the Democrats are still speaking in the future tense about this. The case has been made to the point of being a dead horse; granted, the president laid out some new allegations last night that will need to be backed by evidence before the Security Council, but anybody who's not listening by now is never going to. There's the same false dichotomy again between standing "with other nations" and "alone," ignoring the real possibility of standing with many nations but not all of them.
I have no doubt that together, we can meet these global challenges.
Except that we won't be behind you when the crap hits the fan, Georgie Boy. Then, you're on your own. Brave, brave Sir Gary!
Democrats have a positive, specific plan to turn our nation around.
To be fair, this is where I turned the radio off and read the rest this morning. If you read on, you will note that unlike the president's tax plan, the Democrats' is too "specific" to explain the specifics so the average American can understand what they actually plan to do. Just a general commitment to some undefined tax credits.
Some say it's a recovery, but for far too Americans, there's no recovery in our states and cities.
At this point, I get the sneaking suspicion he's talking about state and city governments.
There's no recovery for working Americans and for those searching for jobs to feed and clothe their families.
Ah, those "working Americans" again, as opposed to people who pay taxes on the income they make from . . . doing what?
States and cities now face our worst budget crises since World War II. We're being forced to cut vital services from police to fire to health care, and many are being forced to raise taxes.
Now, we've got the real gripe here, and the real reason they picked a governor. After all, when the Democrats in Congress vote to raise taxes, they can't well say that Bush is "forcing" them to do it. Of course, I assume that none of these states and cities spend money on anything less vital than police, fire and emergency health care.
Our plan provides over $100 billion in tax relief and investments, right now. Tax relief for middle class and working families immediately.
But we think that it's reckless for the president to ask for tax cuts to be accelerated. If the president's plan is too expensive, why boast about the size of your own? Me-too-ism stinks no matter which side of the aisle it comes from.
Substantial help for cities and states like yours and mine now. Extended unemployment benefits without delay for nearly a million American workers who have already exhausted their benefits.
More relief for governments! And we can't get the economy moving again if we've got a bunch of people around who want to work, can we?
President Bush has a very different plan. We think it's upside down economics; it does too little to stimulate the economy now and does too much to weaken our economic future. It will create huge, permanent deficits that will raise interest rates, stifle growth, hinder home ownership and cut off the avenues of opportunity that have let so many work themselves up from poverty.
Like the "permanent" deficits from the Reagan years, remember them?
We believe every American should get a tax cut.
Well, except that we're against any plans for tax cuts for some of those people, plus we were against the president's last plan to give everyone a tax cut. But other than that.
In 1999, an Al Qaida operative tried to enter my state with a trunk full of explosives. Thankfully, he was caught in time.
If only Gary Locke had been governor of New York, September 11 would never have happened!
Now, a year and a half after September 11th, America is still far too vulnerable. Last year Congress authorized $2.5 billion in vital new resources to protect our citizens: for equipment for firefighters and police, to protect ports, to guard against bioterrorism, to secure nuclear power plants and more. It's hard to believe, but President Bush actually refused to release the money. Republicans now say we can't afford it. The Democrats say: ``If we're serious about protecting our homeland, we can and we must.''
This sounds like a valid criticism, although there's more than this to many of the disputes over the routing of funds. But note that distributing some earmarked appropriations to Governors Like Gary Locke! is absolutely the only deficiency he identifies in our homeland security. Bold new ideas, this party has!
In my state we have raised test scores, cut class sizes, trained teachers, launched innovative reading programs, offered college scholarships, even as the federal government cut its aid to deserving students. Democrats worked with President Bush to pass a law that demands more of our students and invests more in our schools. But his budget fails to give communities the help they need to meet these new, high standards.
Same basic theme here: all would be peaches and cream, if only the president would send Gary Locke more money!
On this issue, the contrast is clear. Democrats insist on a Medicare prescription drug benefit for all seniors. President Bush says he supports a prescription drug benefit, but let's read the fine print. His plan only helps seniors who leave traditional Medicare. Our parents shouldn't be forced to give up their doctor or join an HMO to get the medicine they need. That wouldn't save Medicare; it would privatize it. And it would put too many seniors at too much risk just when they need the security of Medicare.
As usual, no proposal by Democrats to "save" Medicare, just load more freight on a sinking ship.
Environmental protection has been a tremendous bipartisan success story over three decades. Our air and water are cleaner.
Gee, now they tell us. Back in the Reagan years, there was nothing but bipartisan success on this issue! Says the Democratic Response! And they even admit that the sky is not falling!
But the administration is determined to roll back much of this progress.
[I]nstead of opening up Alaska's wilderness to oil drilling, we should be committed to a national policy to reduce our dependence on oil by promoting American technology and sustainability.
I guess he missed the stuff about hydrogen cars; to be fair, I've always hated the fact that the "response" by either party just ignores whatever the president just said. Lawyers have to wing it on some details their closing arguments; can't politicians add a few things off the cuff? Just turn off the teleprompter for 30 seconds and talk turkey?
We will fight to protect a woman's right to choose, and we will fight for affirmative action, equal opportunity and diversity in our schools and our workplaces. Above all, we will demand that this government advance our common purpose and not pander to narrow special interests.
Do I even need to point out the contradiction in those two sentences?
This is not an easy time. But I often think about my grandfather, arriving by steamship 100 years ago. He had no family here. He spoke no English. I can only imagine how he must have felt as he looked out at his new country. There are millions of families like mine, people whose ancestors dreamed the American dream and worked hard to make it come true. They transformed adversity into opportunity. Yes, these are challenging times, but the American family, the American dream, has prevailed before. That's the character of our people and the hallmark of our country. The lesson of our legacy is, if we work together and make the right choices, we will become a stronger, more united and more prosperous nation.
Besides finishing the speech back under the shade of the Locke Family Tree, this closing stinks because it contradicts the gloom-and-doom substance of the speech. Locke wasn't selling hope here, he was selling Hard Times. If he was going to be consistent, he could at least mention how the McKinley Administration helped out his grandfather by giving block grants to the governor of Washington . . .
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:46 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: Violence In Prime Time
If Bill Clinton's presidency was X-rated for explicit sexual content, last night's State of the Union Address had to be at least PG-13 for graphic violence:
The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages — leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind, or disfigured. Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained — by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape.
Sometimes, the truth hurts. I'm obviously familiar with all this, but for a good number of viewers at home, it must've been jarring stuff; it was good to hear it all laid out.
On Iraq, Bush made it very plain that -- unlike Ted Kennedy, who fatuously insisted in post-speech comments that inspections were working and should be given more time -- the inspections game is over, and no more stock need be put in it:
U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them — despite Iraq's recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them. . . . The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary; he is deceiving. From intelligence sources we know, for instance, that thousands of Iraqi security personnel are at work hiding documents and materials from the U.N. inspectors, sanitizing inspection sites and monitoring the inspectors themselves. Iraqi officials accompany the inspectors in order to intimidate witnesses. . . . Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say. Intelligence sources indicate that Saddam Hussein has ordered that scientists who cooperate with U.N. inspectors in disarming Iraq will be killed, along with their families.
Saddam might be given a little more time to have a "Scrooge on Christmas morning" type conversion between now and when the Security Council, following next week's meeting, comes to a resolution (I expect it will take 2-3 weeks). But Bush finally gave away his assumption that war is coming, despite his repeated recent protests that his mind wasn't made up yet:
[A]s we and our coalition partners are doing in Afghanistan, we will bring to the Iraqi people food and medicines and supplies — and freedom.
Granted, this is qualified by the prior sentence's "if war is forced upon us," but it sure sounded like the president knows this is coming now.
Other thoughts on the speech:
Read More Â»
+Bush's delivery (I was listening on the radio) was pretty flat until he got out of the country and started talking about AIDS in Africa, blackmail in North Korea, torture chambers in Iraq and missing drums of anthrax. I didn't sense the same level of intensity when we was talking about hydrogen cars and Healthy Forests. I think the main Dem tactic - apparent in the early press reaction - will be to paint him as George H.W. II, too wrapped up in foreign affairs. That may not work, given that foreign affairs aren't so foreign anymore, but I'd have to agree that the domestic parts of the speech were clear but not that strong.
+I'm all in favor of the goals of building non-oil-powered cars and fighting AIDS in Africa, but the traditional Democratic solutions on those issues tend to be either too expensive, too burdensome on business, or just a big corporate welfare boondoggle (sometimes all three at once). I'd like to hear more on the details, like how we ensure that R&D funds on electric cars don't just wind up as a subsidy to GM, how we fight AIDS without committing to solve every disease and every problem in Africa, and what we intend to do to protect the intellectual property of US drug companies who are the Arsenal of Modern Medicine.
+No new members in the Axis, but he did spend serious time on each of the three - the Iranians were not forgotten.
+The commentators should just shut their traps; immediately after the speech, the radio people on 1010 WINS were debating the furrowment of the president's brow. Give it up.
Â« Close It
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:41 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
January 28, 2003
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Dale Murphy
Mac Thomason at Braves Journal notes a report that Dale Murphy may be running for Governor of Utah as a Republican.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:45 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Dobby Putin
This sounds too wacky to be true; the London Evening Standard claims that the makers of the latest Harry Potter film may be sued in Russia -- presumably by Vladimir Putin -- on the theory that Dobby, the computer-generated self-flagellating house elf in the movie, bears too close a resemblance to Mr. Putin. I swear I am not making this up; judge for yourself. (Link via Drudge).
January 27, 2003
WAR: The UN and Mediation
So Bush may have to leave the UN behind, and go with a "coalition of the willing." Let's admit the obvious Texas analogy -"coalition of the willing" is basically another term for "posse." Jacques, Gerhard, the marshal's got six or seven armed men and a couple guys carrying provisions, and he's leavin' town with or without y'all.
Still, in spite of its many flaws, the UN continues to have its uses. When it does act collectively, however rare that may be, it adds an additional layer of legitimacy, like when the Senate votes unanimously on something. But the President doesn't stop governing when the Senate isn't unanimous. The UN also facilitates the habit of diplomacy and multilateral agreements, each of which have their uses.
It's like mediation. Any litigator will tell you that mediation is a useful tool in resolving some disputes. Mandatory mediation is a waste, because some disputes won't settle that way. And making mediation the only method of dispute resolution would be absurd, because sometimes you can't get agreement and often the lack of agreement works to benefit a wrongdoer, who is never held to account. Besides, mediation with no threat of litigation is toothless.
None of the presidential candidates should understand this better than John Edwards; what would he say if we told him that lawsuits were illegal, injured people have to just mediate. He'd blow his stack, that's what. The US should have the same view when people say that UN dispute resolution is the only way to go.
POLITICS: Gary Hart Soundbite
I saw Gary Hart on CSpan the other night; he was before some highbrow audience bemoaning the fact that debates reduce candidates' positions to slogans. It's true as far as it goes, to a point, but:
1. Not if done well - the 2000 debates were quite substantive.
So the Hated Yankees get former Met Juan Acevedo. Acevedo's no superstar; he had a great year last year because he was pitching in ideal conditions, as a closer for a bad team in a pitcher's park. But while Acevedo at a big contract might have been overpaid, Acevedo for a minor league contract is just the rich getting richer. Where are all the other teams???
POLITICS: The Springer Party
First Al Sharpton for President, now Jerry Springer for Senate! What more could a Republican ask for?
Nikolas Gvosdev of the National Interest argues, on NRO, that Saddam wants us to go to war with him now.
I agree with most of what Gvosdev says: (1) inspections are bad PR for Saddam and (2) Saddam's natural instinct and the culture of Arab despotism is driving him in the direction of preferring war. I also think that preference is being accelerated as it becomes obvious that the alternative strategy of delay is a dead end.
But I disagree on Gvosdev's critical unstated assumptions: (1) what Saddam wants may still be what we want. If our national interest supports war, why care what Saddam wants? (2) Saddam's regime is built on fear, not respect; he lost the respect of his people when he lost the Gulf War, possibly earlier due to the Iran-Iraq war. The inspectors don't threaten Saddam's ability to inspire fear; the key thing that the inspectors did the other day to underline that was turn over a defector to Saddam's "authorities." Thus, prolonged
POLITICS: Howard The Dean
"Son of an affluent Long Island stockbroker (George W. Bush's grandmother was a bridesmaid at the wedding of Dean's grandmother), Dean attended private schools, then Yale, before moving to Vermont, a state whose most famous company is an ideological ice-cream maker (Ben & Jerry's) and whose one congressman, Bernie Sanders, is a New York-born socialist. Dean signed the law that made Vermont the first state to give legal standing to same-sex unions."
POP CULTURE: Heresy!
It may be heresy to say this, as a Bruce Springsteen fanatic, but I can't agree with the sentiment that Thunder Road is the greatest rock 'n roll record ever. First, I'd pick 'Born to Run' as Bruce's best, because it's so elemental, and second, my all time #1 rock song is still "Sympathy for the Devil," with its challenging lyrics and the great variety with which its tune can be adapted.
WAR: READ THIS
Trent Telenko has some serious doubts about the loyalty and effectiveness of the vaunted North Korean military, and Steven Den Beste argues that the North Koreans' aggressiveness is the by-product of desperation. President Bush, of course, has vowed to stay on top of this one.
Another old wives' tale proven: boys are more trouble in labor.
Jonathan Adler's able two-part defense of the SUV against attacks by Greg Easterbrook of the New Republic (part two is here) is persuasive on most points, but the central question is unanswered: is it right to have cars on the road that present, by their size, weight and high bumpers, such a high risk to others? Adler isn't really sure:
While shrinking SUV size might improve car safety, it is incontrovertible that increasing the weight of passenger cars by 100 pounds would almost certainly reduce highway fatalities by over 300 per year. These results are consistent with other studies, such as that by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety which concluded that "the high risks of occupants in light (and small) cars have more to do with the vulnerabiltiy of their own vehicles than with the aggressivity of other vehicles. "Traveling in a larger, heavier vehicle reduces your risk of being killed in a crash," notes Dr. Leonard Evans, president of the International Traffic Medicine Association. "There is no more firmly established conclusion in the vast body of traffic safety research." In other words, if the primary aim is to increase automotive safety, the Easterbrook's target should not be SUVs, but smaller, less-expensive cars. "Upsizing the car fleet may well be the most important step we could take toward improving safety," notes Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
To his credit, Easterbrook admits that federal studies make clear that "the most dangerous vehicles for their occupants are compact and sub-compact cars," not SUVs. He even suggests that the government should ban such "econo-boxes." Yet all this demonstrates is Easterbrook's willingness to tell other people what to drive. He evidently places little value on the ability of consumers to purchase the cars of their own choosing.
In other words, people driving smaller cars are risking their lives, but they should be able to make that choice. As a matter of theory that makes economic sense, and maybe I'm grouchy about this issue because I just had to buy a minivan after my car got totalled by a minor fender-bender with a high-riding SUV. But Adler doesn't really answer the question: assuming (as is the case) that many people drive small cars because that's all they can afford, shouldn't there be a greater burden placed on SUVs for the hazards they present to such drivers? (Granted, trucks present even greater risks, but trucks (1) serve a valuable economic purpose and (2) are subjected to stringent regulations, including a separate licensing regime). At a minimum -- and I don't know if this is true -- the auto insurance market should be made to internalize, for SUV drivers, the cost of accidents between SUVs and non-SUV vehicles.
In short, I'm sympathetic to Adler's individual-autonomy concerns, as well as to the more general sense in Easterbrook's pieces that people who drive SUVs in urban or heavily populated areas tend to be unreasonably aggressive drivers. There has to be a solution that lets people choose SUVs for their virtues while compelling them to bear the SUV's social costs.
There is MAJOR oil to be had in Africa. This could be a big plus in breaking the grip of the terror masters, particularly the Saudis, who depend heavily on the scarcity of oil to finance their radical agenda. As Fareed Zakaria points out, "if oil goes to $10 a barrel, the Saudi monarchy goes to Majorca."
This story from some months back still gives me the creeps.
POLITICS: Bad Acid Test
Noemie Emery of The Weekly Standard thinks that NARAL's latest litmus fest has harmed the Democratic candidates who swore fealty to its agenda last week. Meanwhile, Stuart Buck has had a lot of useful thoughts lately about the politics and justice of abortion.
BASEBALL: Shea The Future
Lyford, one of the posters on the ProJo boards, has a comprehensive study of 117 players who "debuted at age 24 or greater, debuted after 1919, and had at least one season with 400+ AB and an AB/BB ratio of 25+" -- in other words, a comparison group for Shea Hillenbrand. The results are not encouraging. (Link requires registration).
BUSINESS: Only The Vultures Got Fat
The incomparable Lileks on Monster.com's Super Bowl ad: "it reminds you of the year when every other ad was for an internet-bubble company. One has survived, and it’s the site aimed at the unemployed. There’s the latter nineties, in a nutshell."
WAR: After The Fall
Jonah Goldberg has some great points about how, after the U.S. liberates Iraq and reveals the full horror of life under Saddam, everyone will act like "the US did the only moral thing." And will get no credit, of course.
January 26, 2003
BASEBALL: Hall of Fame Outfielders, 1920s-1930s
There are many, many, too many outfielders in the Hall of Fame from the 1920s and 1930s. Just counting the white Major Leagues, there are 20 outfielders who are in the Hall of Fame largely or entirely for their play in those two decades, and four others who were active and in their primes for a substantial number of seasons in those years. 24 outfielders -- 12 who played mostly or entirely in the NL, 12 mostly or entirely in the AL -- at a time when there were but 16 Major League teams. Hit a fly ball in those years, and the chances were good that a future Hall of Famer would catch it, and the chances decent that to do so he'd call off another future member of the Cooperstown fraternity.
This, by any standard, is too many. Greatness should not be so commonplace; when it is, it's not greatness anymore. Careful inspection makes clear that no use of the term "great" can have meaning if it's stretched so far as to cover all 24.
So, which ones were the true greats? There are many ways to answer that question, but one simple way is to look at each season and figure out who the best in the business were. These guys were competing with each other to see who could help his team win more games. There were winners, and losers. In 1923 or 1937, who was the best in the business, and who was just another one of the guys?
The simplest credible way to measure value is Bill James' Win Shares system, with which many of you will no doubt be familiar. In a nutshell, James measures the number of runs a player is worth to his team offensively, and his share of the runs his team saves defensively, and computes a “share” of the team’s overall wins, with each share worth 1/3 of a win. There are two main sanity checks on the system: (1) most teams have a similar relationship between their runs scored and allowed and the number of games they win; and (2) a team’s total Win Shares are always equal to three times its wins, so the system can’t over- or under-value players by that much, since the total Win Shares on the roster have to add up to a real-world measurement of success.
For a general idea of standards, 20 Win Shares is a real good player, 30 (worth 10 wins a year) is a “major star” type season for an everyday player, 40+ is “superstar having a career year” territory, and 50 puts you with a handful of the best seasons ever. (Over 60 in a season is territory reserved exclusively for pitchers who threw 5-600 innings a year before they moved the mound back in 1893). 348 career Win Shares and above is almost all Hall of Famers, 291-347 is more Hall of Famers than not, 256-90 is still well-populated with Hall of Famers, and below that is mostly the rare player who’s been immortalized.
What I decided to do, besides just looking at career totals, was figure out the top 6 outfielders in each league, each season from 1913 to 1942, ranked by Win Shares. I then added up the total times a player finished in each position, and assigned a scoring system. The scoring was somewhat arbitrary, but I awarded 10 points for being the best outfielder in a league, 8 for second (the gap reflecting the value of being the best), 7 for third, 5 for fourth (another gap when we reach the second team), 4 for fifth, and 3 for sixth (I didn’t start at 1 because I didn’t want a 1st place finish worth 8 times that of sixth; just over 3 seemed fairer for these purposes). If two players tied for a rank, they each got full points. The goal was to measure, in essence, comparitive Peak Value. You can re-score the results yourself if you like, but I think this ranking at least tells us a little. Here we go:
1. Babe Ruth, 149 points, 756 career WS. Best in league: 13 times. Top 3: 15 times. Top 6: 16 times. (I’ll render this as 13-15-16 as I go).
I didn’t spend all those hours with the Win Shares book to prove that Babe Ruth belongs in the Hall; the main point with Ruth is that the scores of all the AL outfielders are lower because the Babe, cranking out 45 WS seasons like clockwork, never gave anyone else the chance to finish first as they might in the NL.
2. Mel Ott, 113 points, 528 WS, 6-12-13.
Not Ruth, but plenty dominant.
3. Tris Speaker, 100 points, 4-10-13
I’ve undervalued these guys because I started counting in the middle of their careers, but, again, there’s no controversy yet.
5. Paul Waner, 82 points, 423 WS, 3-8-12
Averill was the dominant outfielder in the AL for two years between Ruth and Joe D, and the second fiddle to those guys for 7 other seasons. This study confirmed for me that, despite the shortness of his career, Averill was the type of major star who belongs in Cooperstown.
7. George Burns, 66 points, 290 WS, 3-6-10
Yes, for all its profligacy, the Hall missed one. This was George Burns the Giants leadoff man, not the 1926 AL MVP. Burns, a prototypical leadoff guy, played for 3 pennant winners (1913, 1917, and 1921), and the Win Shares system ranks him as the best outfielder in the NL in 1914, 1917 and 1918, the best defensive outfielder in the league in 1922, and the best hitter in the entire league in 1914 and 1919. His career wasn’t that long, and the limited CS data available suggests that he was a terrible percentage base thief, but Burns would certainly not embarrass the Hall by his presence.
8. Al Simmons, 64 points, 375 WS, 2-5-10
I would have expected Simmons to do better, but he and Harry Heilmann suffered from the inability to lead the league in the presence of Ruth, and Simmons’ peak wasn’t really that long. We’re still in Cooperstown territory here, though; Simmons’ numbers are so titanic that you can let out a lot of air and he’s still a great player.
9. Joe DiMaggio, 63 points, 387 WS, 4-7-7
And this is just the first half; I stopped counting in 1942.
10. Zack Wheat, 62 points, 380 WS, 2-6-9
These six all hold up well to scrutiny; each spent about half a decade as one of his league’s first-team outfielders and another half in the second team, and most of them managed a year or two as the best in the circuit. I’m still skeptical of Roush, who never batted .360, hit 10 homers, drove in 90 runs, scored 100, stole 40 bases or drew 50 walks in a season. But the Win Shares system recognizes him as a defensive stud and a guy who had many of his best years before scoring got out of hand. Reluctantly, I guess I’d say he’s been properly enshrined.
16. Ross Youngs, 46 points, 206 WS, 1-4-7
Youngs almost stacks up with the group above in peak value, but he had his last star season at age 27 and died of a degenerative disease at age 30. He was generally the best player on a team that won 4 straight pennants and 2 World Championships. I can live with giving him the benefit of the doubt. But now we’ve got one Hall of Famer per each major league outfield for the two decades; let’s cut the line here.
17. Hack Wilson, 44 points, 224 WS, 2-5-5
I like Cuyler’s package of skills and find it hard to believe he wasn’t more valuable than Roush, but both Cuyler and Wilson had too many holes in their careers, in some cases self-inflicted, to give them the benefit of the doubt in a crowded field.
19. Shoeless Joe Jackson, 42 points, 294 WS, 1-5-6
We’re cutting off Jackson’s prime a bit here; he’d be in the Hall of Fame if he deserved a shot, and he would have been way high on the list if he hadn’t been banned after 1920.
20. Benny Kauff, 41 points, 175 WS, 2-4-5
Another guy who was banned; Kauff is overrated here because he gets credit for being the best player in the Federal League for two years, but he was still a star in the NL for a few more years.
21. Bobby Veach, 37 points, 265 WS, 0-3-7
No immortality for these numbers, although Williams was just 23 when I stopped counting; remember that when you look at the guys below him on the list.
25. Heine Manush, 30 points, 285 WS, 0-3-5
Two guys who got into Cooperstown on batting average and little else, Manush and Combs were stars in their day, but rarely among the real elite and not long enough in the next tier. Johnson, a player of similar value but for bad teams and with a broader package of skills, is today a completely forgotten man.
28. Chuck Klein, 23 points, 238 WS, 0-1-5
Leaving aside Slaughter, who went to war for 3 years and then had the rest of his career outside the scope of this study, you’ve got 3 guys -- Klein, Herman and Williams – who put up numbers that looked much more impressive before we saw with our own eyes what an extreme hitter-friendly context could do for a guy like Dante Bichette. Klein was indeed the best of the bunch, but it’s hard to reconcile the appearance of a high peak with a guy who but once (1933) belonged in the league’s best outfield. Keller, on the other hand, was 25 and just getting rolling in 1942, and would have had a serious Hall of Fame case had he stayed healthy and out of the military.
33. Sherry Magee, 19 points, 354 WS, 0-2-3
Is there no justice? Remember that Magee’s best years were before 1913; he was the best player in the National League in 1910. Waner was . . . well, a guy who hit some singles, occasionally a star-caliber player but often not a particularly good player at all.
35. Lefty O’Doul, 18 points, 144 WS, 1-2-2
I dunno, when I think “Hall of Fame,” I don’t genereally think “Ival Goodman.” Like O’Doul, Goodman was momentarily a major star, and the moment passed quickly, although in Goodman’s case it did get him to two World Serieses with the Reds. As you can see from the career totals, Harry Hooper was twice the player these guys were over the course of his career, and he might have scored a little higher if I’d gone back a few more years. But Hooper as a Hall of Famer is ridiculous; Hooper was an outstanding defensive outfielder and an all-around fundamentally sound player, and he was steady and durable for 17 years. But besides his glove and a knack for drawing walks, Hooper didn’t do anything outstandingly well, and he wasn’t a huge walks guy either (career high: 89). I dare you to explain how Hooper should be in the Hall of Fame while George Burns and Dwight Evans aren’t.
38. Sam Rice, 16 points, 327 WS, 0-0-5
Rice, like Hooper, was incredibly consistent and durable, and Rice has some added footnotes – he missed a year after being drafted into the Army in World War I and also got a late start in the majors because he’d joined the Navy at age 23 after his parents, wife and two children were killed by a tornado (Rice saw combat in the Navy, landing at Vera Cruz in 1914). When he did reach the majors, it was as a pitcher. Without those interruptions, Rice could easily have had 3700 hits in the major leagues, and maybe you’d have to consider him as a Don Sutton type candidate, a minor star of truly exceptional consistency over an exceptionally long time. But as far as peak value, Paskert and Vosmik, two truly unmemorable players, were among the many better than Sam Rice. I think I’d leave Rice out, although it does bother me that I’d basically be counting him out for years that he was wearing his country’s uniform.
41. Pete Reiser, 15 points, 125 WS, 1-1-2
(Zwilling only scores for his Federal League years).
There you have it: Chick Hafey, Hall of Famer, the 44th most dominant outfielder of his era. It must have been the durability he showed over his, er, 13-year career, in which he appeared in more than 138 games twice, both when past his prime. In 1928, Hafey’s best season (138 games, .337, 27 homers, 111 RBI), he finished 12th in the NL MVP voting; teammate Rabbit Maranville got more votes as a 36-year-old, .240-hitting shortstop who batted just 366 times. Hafey was a lesser player by far than Pedro Guerrero, Gary Sheffield, or Fred Lynn. He’s the last Hall of Famer on this list, so I’ll stop here.
24 Hall of Famers; for opposite reasons, I’d maybe keep Sam Rice and Ross Youngs, and I’d maybe put in George Burns. But the guys who clearly just don’t cut it: Hack Wilson, Kiki Cuyler, Heine Manush, Earle Combs, Chuck Klein, Lloyd Waner, and Harry Hooper, and Chick Hafey. They were good, very good; but they were never close to the best of their generation. The Hall of Fame should demand that.
January 23, 2003
BASEBALL: New Projo Column
I've been busy . . . but here's a new Projo piece, on some less-than-well-remembered teams from each decade of the 20th century.
BASEBALL: Baseball's Underappreciated Great Teams, 1900-1949
Originally posted on Projo.com
Starting this week: a three-part history column. Let's take a look back at successful teams from each decade of the 20th century that have fallen away a bit from popular memory or haven't been given their due:
The 1900s: The 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates
103-36 (.741), First place by 27.5 games, no postseason, 5.58 R/G (runs scored per game), 3.17 RA/G (runs allowed per game), league average 3.98/G.
Histories of the game tend to leave off 19th century baseball with the 1897 pennant race and pick up 20th century baseball with Christy Mathewson throwing three shutouts in five days in the 1905 World Series, filling the interregnum with accounts of the crises and interlocking ownerships that led to the contraction of the National League from 12 teams to 8 after the 1899 season, the founding of the American League in 1901, the jumping of players like Nap Lajoie to the AL and the litigation that sprang up in their path, the refusal of John McGraw's Giants to play in a World Series in 1904, and the ultimate peace between the leagues under which the 1905 Series kicked off the new era. The game on the field underwent a number of dramatic changes in this era, with several developments, most notably the foul strike rule (in the 19th century, a foul ball was not a strike) leading the transition from baseball's highest-scoring era in the 1890s to its lowest in the following decade. Mathewson's throttling of Connie Mack's A's signaled the arrival of that era as well.
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But if the game was in transition, there was still some darn good baseball being played. The Hall of Fame recognized this a few years back when it inducted one of the biggest stars of the era, George Davis. The dominant team, led by the game's biggest star in the 1898-1904 era, was the Pirates, and perhaps their best team was the 1902 squad that finished 103-36, winning their second of three straight pennants by 27.5 games, the largest margin of victory in baseball history. They buried the competition early and never let up: the Pirates roared out of the gate to the tune of a 25-4 record and an 8 game lead on May 20. They were trashing their opponents, scoring 6.69 runs/game while allowing just 2.79 runs/game, a ridiculous margin; an 1890s offense with 1900s pitching. By June 13 they were 11 games out in front. They kept at it as well, adding 12 games to their lead after August 1, and outscoring their opponents 5.58 runs/game to 3.17 runs/game on the season. Nearly the entire roster was players in their prime, ages 24-30, with players heavily concentrated in the 27-29 bracket; the only exceptions were two grizzled veterans among the team's three catchers.
The Pirates had three Hall of Famers -- Honus Wagner, age 28, who hit .330 and led the league in (among other things) slugging, runs scored, RBI, steals and doubles; outfielder and manager Fred Clarke, age 29, who hit .316 and finished second to Wagner in runs and third in slugging; and pitcher Jack Chesbro, age 28, a bogus Hall of Famer but a great pitcher at his peak (he would jump to the AL the following year and go on to win an AL-record 41 games for the Yankees in 1904), who went 28-6 with a 2.17 ERA. The Pirates' rotation featured four pitchers who won between 189 and 198 games and won at least 60% of their decisions in their careers (Chesbro, Sam Leever, Deacon Phillippe and Jesse Tannehill), all between the ages of 27 and 30 and with ERAs between 1.95 and 2.39, plus a spot starter who went 16-4. Pinpoint control artists Leever, Phillippe and Tannehill walked just 82 batters in 725 innings; the Pirates didn't lose a game Leever started until July 5. The lineup added outfielder Ginger Beaumont, age 25, a lifetime .311 hitter who had a career year, winning the batting title (.357) and finished third in the league in runs scored, and 24-year-old third baseman Tommy Leach, a versatile star who would play 19 years in the majors; Leach finished fourth in the league in runs, second in RBI, and led the league in triples and home runs.
The really interesting and important development on this team was Fred Clarke's decision, at some point in 1902 or the beginning of 1903, to make Wagner -- now 28, a 6-year veteran and already the best player in the league -- into a shortstop. To this point in his career, Wagner had been a sort of everyday utility player, playing anywhere from 25 to 75 games a year at first, third, shortstop and the outfield. The exception was in 1900, his first on arriving in Pittsburgh with Clarke, Leach and Phillippe when the Louisville franchise was contracted; that season, he played almost exclusively in the outfield, hit a career-high .381, and led the league in nearly everything. I don't have the box scores, and Wagner's 44 games at short in 1902 may well have been scattered throughout the season. But when 1903 opened, Wagner was Pittsburgh's regular shortstop, appearing in 111 games at a position he would not relinquish until he was 43 years old. Wagner would go on to have his best seasons as a shortstop, including his best year at age 34. For many years, in fact, Wagner held the career record for games played at short.
Wagner is what would have made this team so interesting to watch - he was then at the peak of his powers, the best hitter for average in baseball, the best hitter for power in baseball, the game's best base thief, tough as nails and unafraid of anyone, and the nicest guy in the game to boot. The decision to take this superstar and enhance his value even further by planting him at the game's key defensive position was a visionary move, and Wagner's willingness to make the move speaks well of his own character.
Rob Neyer and Eddie Epstein, in their book Baseball Dynasties, discount the 1902 Pirates for the fact that the American League had apparently made a deliberate strategic decision to wreck the National League pennant race by raiding all the teams other than the Pirates. That may be true -- though, as I have noted, the team's winningest pitcher jumped to the AL after the season -- but the collection of talented players in the prime of long and successful careers on this team make it truly memorable as one of the monumental teams of the 20th century.
The 1910s: The 1918 Chicago Cubs
Baseball in the teens had a lot of problems, one of which was the imbalance of talent between the two leagues. Young players who reached stardom in the AL between 1910 and 1915 included Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Frank Baker, Smokey Joe Wood, and Shoeless Joe Jackson. A's, Red Sox and White Sox dynasties combined to make the World Series a joke; with the exception of a shocking sweep by the "Miracle Braves" in 1914, the overmatched NL representatives won just 13 World Series games between 1910 and 1918. With the collapse of the Giants in 1914, the NL pennant rotated among a series of 1-year wonders from six different franchises between 1914 and 1919, which didn't earn them a lot of respect at the time -- there's a reason the 1919 Reds were such underdogs in the World Series despite having a great regular season record -- and hasn't helped their memory since then. On top of that, the decade was riven by a third major league (the 1914-15 Federal League), a world war that intruded on the game in 1918, and of course the eventual fixing of the World Series in 1919.
I've already written about the 1916-17 Giants (see here and here), and much more could be said about the contestants in the 1915 World Series, which matched a "changing of the guard" Red Sox team featuring Speaker, Wood and Ruth (among many other famous and talented players) against a Phillies team that mixed a hitter (Gavvy Cravath) who swatted 24 home runs with a pitcher (Grover Alexander) who allowed just 3 longballs in 376 innings. But I'd like to add a few words here about one of the most obscure pennant winning teams of all time, the 1918 Cubs.
The Cubs of 1917 were not an impressive team; they finished 24 games out of first place and six games under .500. They even had a losing record at home, and finished the season in an 18-27 funk. The team's only star was Jim "Hippo" Vaughn, one of the NL's best pitchers at 23-13 with a 2.01 ERA. So you can imagine the excitement when the team announced, in the spring, the acquisition of Alexander, by far and away the dominant player in the National League the prior three seasons, in which he'd won more than 30 games with an ERA in the ones each year, leading the league in numerous key categories, usually by large margins. But there was a catch: although the Phillies, contenders in each of those three seasons, were in the midst of a fire sale that would leave the team with a losing record each of the next 13 straight seasons and 29 of the next 30 seasons, Alexander was available on the cheap only because he had a high number in the draft, and was likely to be sent to war. And so he was: Alexander was 2-1 with a 1.73 ERA in three complete game starts for the Cubs when he was shipped out to the front lines in France.
Yet, while the Alexander acquisition got them nowhere, other offseason moves paid off better. 30-year-old Larry Doyle, the team's RBI leader in 1917 (with 61) but a leaden glove at second base, was dealt to the Braves with 31-year-old catcher Art Wilson, who had hit .213 the previous year (the Braves then moved Doyle back to the Giants, where he'd starred earlier) in exchange for 28-year-old starter Lefty Tyler, one of the heroes of the 1914 Miracle; Tyler responded with his best season, going 19-8 with a 2.00 ERA.
In 1917, the Cubs had scored 3.58 runs/game and allowed 3.68 against a league average of 3.53, so as you can see, their improvement was substantial on both offense and defense, although more heavily in the pitching department. The 1918 team lead the NL in both runs scored and runs allowed. How? Partly, they just got good years from incumbent veterans like Vaughn (at 22-10, 1.74 ERA the NL's best pitcher), Fred Merkle (still just 29 a decade after his famous flub, Merkle batted .297 on the way to his fifth pennant with three franchises), and 28-year-old right fielder Max Flack, who improved from .248 to .257 and cut his strikeouts in half. Veteran acquisitions also helped: besides Tyler, the Cubs brought in 36-year-old center fielder Dode Paskert from the Phillies, and Paskert's .362 OBP was second on the team. Near season's end, 30-year-old Charlie Pick replaced light-hitting Charlie Deal as the everyday third baseman; Pick batted .326 with a .417 OBP in 29 games
The crucial element, however, was the maturation of two young hitters, 24-year-old left fielder Les Mann, who finally lived up to his Federal League form of four years earlier by hitting .288, boosting his on base percentage by 30 points and staying healthy all year, and most critically, 22-year-old rookie shortstop Charlie Hollocher, who batted .316, good for second in the league in OBP and first in total bases. Hollocher had a 20-game hitting streak as the Cubs stretched their lead from 3 games to 8 in late July and early August; they clinched the pennant a week later.
Hollocher was an error-prone fielder even by the standards of the day - 53 errors - and despite being ideally suited to the high-average 1920s, his career would fall apart when he abruptly left the Cubs on his way to his second straight .340 season in 1923 at age 27, complaining of a recurrent illness. (Hollocher killed himself with a shotgun at age 44; read his obituary here).
In the World Series, of course, the Cubs would be throttled by the brilliant pitching of Babe Ruth and Carl Mays, despite some equally brilliant work by Vaughn and Tyler. Pick (.389), Merkle and Flack continued to hit well in the Series, but Hollocher and Paskert both batted .190, and the Red Sox added yet another championship banner to what looked, at the time, like an endless succession.
Of course, the war-shortened 1918 schedule helped the Cubs - they played 74 home games and just 57 road games, although they were 35-20 (2 ties) on the road. And they may have benefited as well from some depletion of talent around the league. The following season, Paskert and Pick hit the wall, Tyler missed most of the season, Mann spent half the year in a .227 funk and was traded, and Hollocher and Merkle fell off; even with Vaughn repeating his success and Alexander winning the ERA title, the Cubs wouldn't finish within 12 games of first place again until 1926, when the last link to the 1918 team - Alexander - was released in mid-season. Still, in 1918 the Cubs had by far the best team in the National League, and if the best player in the league (Alexander) had been available to them, who knows how many more games they would have won -- assuming they would have acquired him at all, that is. Another example of a team for which, despite a big loss early on, almost everything went right for just one season.
The baseball history books of my youth, when they discussed the Pirates of the 1920s, focused on the Waner brothers and the 1927 team they anchored, which was squashed in the World Series by the legendary Ruth/Gehrig Yankees. But before the Waners hit town, there was the mercurial Hazen Shirley "Kiki" Cuyler. This was his team, and a fearsome team it was.
I'm tempted to say that the Pirates of 1925 -- team batting average .307, a starting lineup featuring five .320 hitters, two other .300 hitters and a .298 hitter -- prove that, at least in the high-average, low-walk, low-strikeout, relatively low-HR 1920s National League, you can, too, win championships by building around high-average hitters. But the fact is, except for the home run ball, this team -- in the image of Cuyler, its biggest star -- did it all. The Pirates led the league in batting average, slugging, OBP, doubles, triples, walks, steals, and stolen base percentage, in many cases by huge margins (the Pirates were fifth in the league in homers, with only Cuyler and shortstop Glenn Wright in double figures at 18 apiece, but homers were rare; Gabby Hartnett was second in the league with 24). For good measure, the Pirates allowed the league's third-fewest runs on the second-best team ERA.
Cuyler is sometimes thought of as a borderline Hall of Famer, and maybe given the brevity and inconsistency of his career (he was benched for half of the 1927 season for not hustling) that's a fair characterization. But at his best, he was a major impact player, Ichiro with twice the power. Inserted in the Pittsburgh lineup partway through the 1924 season at age 25, he batted .354 with speed and power; he finished 8th in the NL MVP voting while playing in just 117 games, on the way to the Pirates' third straight third place finish behind the dominant Giants. In 1925, Cuyler had a real MVP-type season, although he (justly) finished second in the balloting to Rogers Hornsby, who batted .403, led the league in HR by 15, and drove in 152 runs. Cuyler just did it all: hit .357, slugged .598, a .423 OBP, 18 homers, 43 doubles, 26 triples (!!), a more-than-respectable 58 walks (remember, walks were scarce; the league leader had 86, and 66 was good for fourth place), and 41 steals in just 54 attempts (a 75.9% success rate compared to 56.5% for the league). He was even hit by 13 pitches, and had 21 assists in right field. By the end of the year, Cuyler's career averages were a .352 average, .562 slugging and .410 OBP.
Around Cuyler were a battery of other hard-hitting athletic types. The two Hall of Famers in the lineup had fine years: 25 year old Pie Traynor, at third, had emerged as a star in 1923; in 1925 he batted .320 with 39 doubles and 14 triples. 35 year old center fielder Max Carey batted .343, was fourth in the league in walks, and stole 46 bases in 57 tries. Wright drove in 121 runs and added 60 more extra base hits of his own. Many of the hitters were young (6 regulars between 24 and 26); the only over-30 hitters were Carey and backup first baseman Stuffy McInnis, who hit .368.
The pitching staff was older and less glamorous, even for a team with a five-man rotation in a hitters' park in a hitters' era. Vic Aldridge was a power pitcher -- top 5 in the league in most walks, most strikeouts, and fewest hits/IP -- but his numbers look like those you would expect today from a 40-year-old finesse pitcher: 213.1 IP, 218 hits, 74 walks, 88 K. Ray Kremer had a brilliant career, 143-85 record including averaging a 19-8 record and 2.99 ERA from 1924 to 1927, but at age 32 he was only in his second season. The best-known pitcher on the staff was Babe Adams, the hero of the 1909 World Series, but Adams was 43 and finished, to the tune of a 5.42 ERA in mostly long relief work.
Although they were forced to rely on their pitching while the team was twice handcuffed by a 37-year-old Walter Johnson in the World Series, the Pirates' knack for hitting the ball with authority finally paid off handsomely in one of the wildest Game 7s in World Series history, played in a torrential downpour at Forbes Field without the benefit of lights. The Pirates mauled Johnson, battering out 15 hits, including 8 doubles and two triples (the 25 total bases absorbed by Johnson in going the distance is a World Series record unlikely to be broken), including the game-winner, a 2-run ground rule double by Cuyler into the darkness in right field with two outs in the bottom of the eighth (Goose Goslin said later that he never even saw where the ball went).
The 1930s: The 1934 Detroit Tigers
The media story of the 1934 season - the one passed down in the books - was the "Gashouse Gang" Cardinals, a voluble and mischievous group led by a brash 24-year-old 30-game winner, Dizzy Dean, and a feisty veteran player-manager, Frankie Frisch. The Gashouse Gang had just everything that media darlings would want: Dean, the lovable hick and pitching superstar; a brother act (Dean and brother 'Daffy'); Frisch, a veteran New Yorker who had been in many World Serieses; goofy nicknames (Ripper, Pepper, Ducky Wucky). You name it. Several members of the team stayed in baseball forever (Frisch hung on as a manager, broadcaster and the dominant force on the Hall of Fame Veterans committee; Dean became a broadcaster; shortstop Leo Durocher managed into the 1970s). And, they won the Series.
But the Gashouse Gang was just a very good team, not a great one and not the beginning, nor really the end, of a dynasty. Their opponents in the World Series were another story. Because the 1934 Detroit Tigers were a juggernaut, and when they came back to win the World Series the next year, they looked for all the world like the coming power in the American League. The fact that many of the Tigers' stars were quiet men like Charlie Gehringer and Hank Greenberg -- and the team's unraveling in a disastrous Game 7 rout in the World Series -- shouldn't let the team's memory slip from view.
Like the 1918 Cubs and the 1925 Pirates, these Tigers arose rapidly from a team that had not been a serious contender the pervious year; the 1933 team finished 25 games behind the first place Senators, with a losing record and a subpar offense. With the exception of the emergence of 23-year-old submariner Eldon Auker, who stepped up to replace fading star Firpo Marberry, the pitching staff didn't change much from the prior year; the team's other second year pitcher, 24-year-old Schoolboy Rowe, went 24-8, but he wasn't markedly more effective than in 1933, just in more innings. The other star, curveball specialist Tommy Bridges, had a better year in 1933. The Tigers improved from third in the league to second in ERA.
Offensively, though, they became a monster overnight, scoring 235 more runs than in 1933 and posting one of the highest run totals of the 20th century. Fiery catcher Mickey Cochrane, as good in his prime as any catcher in major league history, arrived from Connie Mack's fire sale in Philadelphia, took over as manager, and posted his usual .428 on base percentage; he was named the league's MVP. Hank Greenberg, a 22-year-old rookie who played 117 games in 1933, became a fixture at first, cracking 63 doubles, 7 triples and 26 home runs. The Tigers learned an important lesson from the prior year's champs: get Goose Goslin. Over Goslin's 18-year career in the American League, the Yankees won 10 pennants and Mack's A's won three; the other five were won by teams with Goose Goslin in the outfield. Arriving from Washington in exchange for John Stone, six years his junior (the Senators had overloaded themselves with veterans the prior year), Goslin churned out his usual 100-RBI season, whacking 38 doubles along the way. In fact, 7 Tigers hit more than 30 doubles in 1934, and the two outfielders who spilt playing time in center field hit 38 between them. Charlie Gehringer, a star second baseman in his twenties, took his game to a new level in 1934 at age 31, batting .356 with 50 doubles, 99 walks, 134 runs and 127 RBI; he would continue to improve throughout his thirties. Gehringer was the one real surprise; the rest of the lineup was either the newly arrived veteran stars or young players coming into their own.
As was much heralded at the time, the Tigers' starting infield drove in 462 runs in 1934; they also scored 445 runs. Even near the pinnacle of a hitters' era, these were eye-popping numbers. The team had more good young players on the way in 20-year-old masher Rudy York and Luke "Hot Potato" Hamlin, who would later win 20 games for Durocher's Dodgers. But a few things went wrong. First, after a bitter and hard-fought World Series featuring some surprisingly low-scoring games, the Tigers unraveled in Game 7, as 3 errors contributed to an 11-0 thrashing highlighted by a 7-run Cardinals third inning and Dean tossing a 6-hit shutout. Auker, Bridges and Rowe were among the six Tiger pitchers that day, the first five of them horribly ineffective. The team basically reprised its dominance in 1935, with nearly everyone having another good year (Greenberg started pulling those doubles over the fence and wound up driving in 170 runs), and this time they finished off the Cubs in October.
The Tigers couldn't stay longer than that, though. Greenberg went down for the season after driving in 16 runs in 12 games. Cochrane was beaned in early 1936, nearly dying and effectively ending his playing and managing career while at the top of his game. Auker and Rowe had bad years, and the entire rest of the staff beyond them and Bridges went to pieces. Joe DiMaggio arrived in the Bronx, and the Yankees started a run of 409 wins in 4 seasons. In 1937, Goslin got old pretty much overnight and Rowe blew his arm out, although he would recover by 1940. Besides York, who made only a token appearance in 1934, the 1940 pennant winners featured only Greenberg, Gehringer, Bridges, Rowe, and outfielder Pete Fox from the 1934 team.
But for two years, this was one of the all-time great teams.
The 1940s: The 1948 Cleveland Indians
Few teams have been more storied, at the time, than the 1948 Indians, baseball's first integrated World Champions and the last Cleveland team to win it all, and their memory was bandied about again in 2001 when shortstop and manager Lou Boudreau, the man completely identified with this team, died at age 84. But Boudreau was only one part of a most memorable team, and if you don't hear about these guys as much anymore, you should.
The Indians won just 80 games in 1947, 17 behind the first place Yankees, with an apparently mediocre offense (actually, Cleveland Stadium in those days was a pretty severe pitchers' park) and only one pitcher (Bob Feller) winning more than 11 games or throwing more than 200 innings, and only second baseman Joe Gordon driving in or scoring more than 79 runs. Partly they were just unlucky, winning 8 fewer games than you would project (by Bill James' Pythagorean theory) for a team with their runs scored and allowed.
The Indians' great leap forward in 1948 was a combination of new arrivals and career years. The returning veterans first (and in 1948, the veterans were also Veterans, with the exception of Boudreau, who'd managed the Indians without interruption since he was 24 in 1942). The Indians, like the 1934 Tigers, had a great infield; some said the greatest ever, although Bill James, ranking the best infields with his Win Shares system, found the Indians' to be far off the pace of the best ever because Eddie Robinson was a weak link at first base. Boudreau had a career year at age 30, hitting .355; he drew 98 walks and struck out just 9 times all season and went 4-4 with a pair of home runs in the 1-game playoff that sent Cleveland to the World Series for the first time in 28 years. Third baseman Ken Keltner, 31, best known for two diving stops that ended Joe D's 1941 hitting streak, had a year even further out of line with his career, smacking 31 homers (compared to 11 in 1947) and driving in 119 runs. Second baseman Joe Gordon, had his best year since he stole Ted Williams' MVP award in 1942; Gordon hit 32 homers and drove in 124 runs. All three were fine defensive players as well. 26-year-old left fielder Dale Mitchell was Boudreau's equal in making contact (17 whiffs that season and a career high of 21 in 7 seasons as a regular, although he is most famous for striking out looking in his last major league at bat to end Don Larsen's perfect game in 1956); Mitchell hit .336. On the pitching side, Feller had his first real off-year -- just 28, he was never the same pitcher after 1948, having given nearly half his prime years to the war -- but Bob Lemon, age 27, entered the rotation full-time for the first time and responded with a 2.82 ERA and the first of seven 20-win seasons in 9 years on his way to Cooperstown. Veteran Steve Gromek also stepped forward to lead a deep bullpen.
Then there were the new arrivals. One of those signaled the new era: 24-year-old centerfielder and future Hall of Famer Larry Doby, who'd played briefly the previous year to become the American League's first black player. Doby was an instant star, hitting .301 with patience and line-drive power. One was a living reminder of the old era: Satchel Paige. Satchel Paige was, I have no doubt, one of the handful of the greatest pitchers ever; we'll never know, but he may have been the best. Paige may have been 41 or 43 in 1948, nobody seems to know for sure. He certainly had many miles on his legs and many innings on his arm, but Paige could still pitch; not only did he post a 2.48 ERA in 72.2 innings and throw two shutouts in 7 starts, but Paige even struck out 5.57 batters per 9 innings compared to a league average of 3.53. However old he was, in other words, Paige entered major league baseball as a power pitcher. (His strikeout rate would go even higher as he approached 50). The other sensational newcomer was the ERA champ (at 2.43), 27-year-old rookie knuckleballer Gene Bearden. Bearden finished 8th in the MVP voting, although behind teammates Boudreau (the MVP), Lemon and Gordon; he went 20-7, including a complete game victory over Denny Galehouse and the Red Sox in the decisive playoff game. Other acquisitions also contributed: left field was an effective platoon of Allie Clark and Thurman Tucker, newly arrived from the Yankees and White Sox, and relief ace Russ Christopher was picked up from the A's.
The pennant race that season was scalding; on August 1, the Indians, Red Sox (the 1946 pennant winners) and Hated Yankees were all tied. For second place. In first, a game ahead, was the surprising Philadelphia A's, skippered by 85-year-old Connie Mack. The Mackmen were 65-43 (.601) and tied for first place as late as August 11 before collapsing down the stretch. The Indians' pitching was the hottest when it counted, 44-20 after the first of August, allowing just 3.03 R/G in that stretch. They leaned even more heavily on their staff as they moved to the other side of Boston in October, as the team batted .199 against the "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain" Braves and Feller got clocked in two starts. Bearden and Lemon came through in the clutch, though, 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA and a seventh game save (Bearden relieving Lemon) between them.
Bearden and Keltner never had another good year; Gordon and Boudreau were done after 1949 (Boudreau stepped down as manager after 1950), and Paige left town after that season as well, and the Indians wound up finishing second to the Yankees nearly every year for the next decade, with the exception of another magical year in 1954.
Glory, on a team level, is fleeting.
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January 22, 2003
WAR: "[T]his looks like a rerun of a bad movie and I'm not interested in watching it."
Call me an optimist, but I've been surprised that the conservative commentariat and the blogosphere have not had more to say about President Bush's press conference yesterday, at which he gave the clearest signals yet that he is out of patience with the inspections farce and is ready to go to war to "disarm" Iraq:
Q Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. The French are saying they would block a U.N. resolution authorizing force on Iraq. Are you frustrated by these comments? Can you still reach a consensus?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Adam, first of all, it's important for the American citizens and the citizens around the world to understand that Saddam Hussein possesses some of the world's deadliest weapons. He poses a serious threat to America and our friends and allies. The world came together, including the French, to say he must disarm. He's not disarming. As a matter of fact, it appears to be a rerun of a bad movie. He is delaying, he is deceiving, he is asking for time. He's playing hide-and-seek with inspectors.
One thing is for certain, he's not disarming. So the United States of America, in the name of peace, will continue to insist he does disarm, and we will keep the pressure on Saddam Hussein.
Q Mr. President, when do you intend to make a decision about whether or not the inspection process is -- actually has any hope of really disarming Saddam?
THE PRESIDENT: It's clear to me now that he is not disarming. And, surely, our friends have learned lessons from the past. Surely we have learned how this man deceives and delays. He's giving people the run-around. And as many of my advisors said on TV this week, time is running out. I believe in the name of peace he must disarm. And we will lead a coalition of willing nations to disarm him. Make no mistake about that, he will be disarmed.
Q When -- how do you decide when that moment comes that you need to make a judgment?
THE PRESIDENT: I will let you know when the moment has come. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. President, who is in that coalition of the willing now? Are France, Germany out?
THE PRESIDENT: You will find out who is in the coalition of the willing. It is very much like what happened prior to our getting a resolution out of the United Nations. Many of the punditry -- of course, not you -- (laughter) -- but other punditry were quick to say, no one is going to follow the United States of America. And we got a unanimous resolution out of the United Nations.
The United States has made it clear our intention, and our intention is to work with the world for Saddam to disarm. He's been given ample time to disarm. We have had ample time now to see that the tricks of the past -- he's employing the tricks of the past today. He's giving people the run-around. He wants to play hide-and-seek. He's got a vast country.
He wants to focus the attention of the world on inspectors. This is not about inspectors; this is about a disarmed Iraq. He has weapons of mass destruction -- the world's deadliest weapons -- which pose a direct threat to the United States, our citizens and our friends and allies. He has been told to disarm for 11 long years. He's not disarming.
This business about, you know, more time -- you know, how much time do we need to see clearly that he's not disarming? As I said, this looks like a rerun of a bad movie and I'm not interested in watching it.
BASEBALL: Changing Sox
If Tom Gordon is healthy - big if - he should be better for the White Sox than Antonio Osuna. Why, again, did the Yankees part with El Duque for Osuna? The Red Sox are also busy accumulating cheap bats, which spells ill for Brian Daubach. The downside of having both Jeremy Giambi and David Ortiz is that they are both DHs (Dave Nilsson, at least, can catch and play first). I suppose they are counting on the frequency with which Giambi and Ortiz get hurt (a la the Giambi/Saenz platoon in Oakland). The Sox will also need to work on getting Ortiz' plate discipline back; he hit well last year but his walks and OBP dropped off.
POLITICS: I Have A Holiday
I actually rather like this proposal to relocate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday to August, to commemorate the March on Washington and the "I Have A Dream" speech.
POLITICS: Hired Gun
If you wondered, as I have, who the mean candidate will be in the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries, here's one early indication: Al Gore/Gray Davis hatchet man Chris Lehane signs on with John Kerry. Lehane was one of the people who, to me, symbolized the mindlessly partisan, tactics-oriented, soulless mean-spritedness of the Gore campaign. I mean, I'm all for negative campaigns, if it means holding the other side accountable for its follies, and every politician has weaknesses that can and should be exploited. But there's a certain breed of politico that instinctively goes for the cheapest shot possible, for the smear that takes 10 seconds to launch and works precisely because it takes more than one news cycle to get the truth out in return. The Republicans have some of those guys, to be sure - the worst example I can think of was Al D'Amato's 1998 campaign against Chuck Schumer, where D'Amato focused on preposterous attacks on the workaholic Schumer's attendance record in the House - but they seem to have gravitated heavily to the Democrats in recent years, and both Gore and Davis have hired nothing but these types of people, entirely eschewing anything that would resemble a positive, optimitsic message, a constructive solution, or an intellectually honest position.
HISTORY: The Civil War Is Over
The job of balancing the federal budget got a little easier this weekend, when the last remaining Civil War widow died, taking her $70/month VA pension with her.
WAR: France and Germany are Together
This "France and Germany are Together" headline gave me the creeps, but I guess the Axis of Weenie was inevitable, like two blind old coots in a nursing home swapping stories about how they gouged each other's eyes out, back in the day.
POLITICS: Mosely Braun's Friends
Maybe it's just me, but it seems that if Democratic operatives, including Terry McAuliffe and Donna Brazile, are encouraging Carol Mosely Braun to run for president, their goal must either be to (1) undercut Al Sharpton or (2) generally fracture the African-American vote in a way that reduces its influence in the primaries. The former, at least, is a laudable goal. It's also possible that they are just eager to get the former senator out of the race against Peter Fitzgerald - their best bet for capturing a GOP Senate seat in 2004 - and afraid of the bad press in the black community if they just tell her to go take a hike.
January 20, 2003
POP CULTURE: Kangaroo Jack
Now, I haven't seen the movie, although I did sit through what I believe was the longest trailer I've ever endured in a theater. But 'Kangaroo Jack' looks like the stupidest kangaroo movie since 'Mathilda the Boxing Kangaroo.' Which would be saying quite a lot, except that I can't think of any other movies starring a kangaroo. I guess there's a reason for that. On the other hand, unlike Mathilda, at least Kangaroo Jack doesn't feature a guy in a kangaroo suit that looks like it was rented from a Halloween costume store ("Quick, Elliott, we've got to finish this scene in time to get the security deposit on the kangaroo suit back!")
WAR: Finally, People Oliver Stone Trusts!
Idiotarian, thy name is Oliver Stone. Stone is apparently planning films glossing over the innumerable crimes and human rights abuses perpetrated by Fidel Castro and Yasser Arafat. (Link via Drudge.)
January 19, 2003
WAR: Ritter Compromised
Turns out that former UN inspector Scott Ritter, a formerly tough critic of Saddam who performed an abrupt about-face a few years ago to become an apologist for the Iraqi regime, was busted by upstate New York police in June 2001 for "ha[ving] a sexual discussion on the Internet with an undercover investigator he thought was an underage girl." This explains volumes. Has Ritter been blackmailed by the Iraqis? Have his own sins made him squeamish about judging even mass murderers, or eager to be reassured of his own moral refinement by declaring himself a Man of Peace?
POLITICS: Public School Madness
I just have to recommend this City Journal Piece "How I Joined Teach For America -- and Got Sued For $20 million." A better illustration of the insanity of big city school districts, you could not invent.
January 16, 2003
The shameful Bartolo Colon trade: Strictly from the Hated Yankees end, this does not look great. I've been a fan of Osuna in the past, but in recent years he has been neither healthy nor outstandingly effective (1.36 baserunners/IP last season, which is uuuuugly). The Yanks could probably use 6 or 7 starters this year, given the age of the staff (granted they have 8, but Hitchcock stinks). I don't know much about the prospect. Then again, the Yankees achieved their top objective, which was keeping Colon out of Fenway.
The Expos got totally raped here. Liefer's a decent lefthanded bat, although his career numbers are not that great, and Biddle has a good arm, but this isn't close to equal value, and there's no high-upside prospect to give a fig leaf of this being anything but a salary dump. El Duque is old, injury-prone, and was never a #1 starter; I think he can still pitch, but he's thrown 200 innings just once for the Yanks. If he started 26 games, 155 IP with a 3.60 ERA for the Yanks, he'd probably go 11-6; with Montreal, that will be worth 6 or 7 wins. Colon, by contrast, is a horse; he averaged nearly 110 pitches a start and threw 130 pitches in a game twice last season. He's worth something to the Yankees, who have depth and will clearly be a contender this year. Montreal, without Colon, will not. He's of little more use to them than Irabu and Yoshii were.
For the White Sox, Christmas came late - trade one half-decent reliever, one half-decent young pitcher, and one corner infielder who's 28 and never had an everyday job, and get one of baseball's best pitchers in return.
POLITICS: 2004 Notes
Bob Novak's Saturday column had some good notes, including John Edwards ducking Tim Russert. Joe Lieberman was on Conan last night; I guess he's warming up for Leno and Letterman, who must shake their heads when they think of how their shows have become important stops for any aspiring Leader of the Free World. Want your finger on the nuclear trigger? First you have to sit down with this guy from Indiana who made his name wearing a suit of Alka-Seltzer and dropping bowling balls and watermelons off a tower . . .
WAR: The Gulag
MSNBC has a chilling take on a North Korean gulag - and even calls it one! The North Korean regime is so bad that nobody even tries to put a happy face on it.
WAR: Lileks Fisks LeCarre
Some days, Lileks is preoccupied with his toddler daughter or some piece of pop culture. I enjoy those columns. But he's always at his can't-miss best when some fool decides to spew the whole tired litany of anti-American agitprop, in this case an op-ed piece in the London Times, by the spy novel writer who uses the pseudonym "John LeCarre," which is helpfully titled -- for the subtlety-impaired - "The United States of America has gone mad." As usual, Lileks v. LeCarre is such a lopsided battle it isn't even fair, but it is funny.
SCIENCE: Bad Weather We're Having
Tim Blair had a link the other day to this piece noting that the Mayan Empire may have been done in by climate change. So much for Native Americans' vaunted harmony with nature. As Blair put it, "IF ONLY those ancient Mayans had listened to the global warming scaremongers and stopped driving SUVs …"
POLITICS: Steyn on Ted K
How many changed lives justify leaving Miss Kopechne struggling for breath for hours pressed up against the window in a small, shrinking air pocket in Teddy's car? If the Senator had managed to change the lives of even more Americans, would it have been okay to leave a couple more broads down there? Such a comparison doesn't automatically make its writer an a------, but it certainly gives one a commanding lead in the preliminary qualifying round.
But among the orthodox left the Clymer/Pierce view is the standard line: You can't make an omelette without breaking chicks. This is subtly different from arguing that a man's personal failings are outweighed by his public successes. Rather, they're saying that a man's personal flaws are trumped by his ideological purity, regardless of whether or not it works.
January 15, 2003
LAW: Brief of the Day
President Bush has asked administration lawyers to present him with a brief arguing that the University of Michigan's programs for using race in admission decisions go too far, officials said today. The officials said Mr. Bush was prepared to have the government file the papers with the Supreme Court on Thursday, a move that would inject the administration into one of the largest affirmative action cases in a generation. But the White House said Mr. Bush had not yet given the final approval to move ahead. And it was unclear how sweeping a stand the administration would take on the fundamental question of whether race may ever be used as a factor in higher-education admissions decisions.
Leaving aside for the moment the politics of the issue, what I find hilarious is the suggestion that Bush decides, on Tuesday, that he wants the Solicitor General's office to prepare a Supreme Court brief on a constitutional issue of colossal importance. As if legal briefs of this nature grow on trees, rather than being wrung in blood from a staff of lawyers over a period of weeks or months (yes, I've written briefs in a day, but not for an appellate court and certainly not on an issue that I expect the U.S. Supreme Court to settle for all time). The article later says that "[o]fficials have been wrestling over the wording of the brief," which hints at reality. The truth is that the bulk of the brief needs to have been written by now, unless they've actually gone to the extraordinary, although I'm sure not unprecedented, step of writing more than one version of the brief.
January 14, 2003
WAR: Why Not North Korea?
I'm not exactly breaking news here, since Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan have already linked to this, but Orson Scott Card's analysis of the North Korea situation is the best I've seen. If you want three reasons why we're not at war with North Korea, they would be, in order:
Card nails the China question. John McCain also has a fine piece in the Weekly Standard, with less emphasis on China and calling for some of the more aggressive moves that Card seems skeptical of. McCain is right that negotiating with the North Koreans is nonsense, but he doesn't really address the issue of whether we should be negotiating with China.
HISTORY: Did The Chinese Discover America?
CNN has an interesting report on a new book claiming that the Chinese discovered America more than 70 years before Columbus. It's hard to tell if this is legit, but hopefully the book will provoke serious scholarly debate that will give the rest of us a better fix on the answer.
WAR: The Korea Trap
As has been often remarked, Bush's genius the past year and a half has been in maneuvering his critics into calling for precisely what he intends to do. Is he up to the same tricks in North Korea? Listen to the peace crowd -- they're suddenly all hawkish on Korea, albeit only because they think they can score points in the Iraq debate by showing how Bush is using a double standard that shows that his motives in Iraq are related to (1) the oil bidness, (2) anti-Arab bias, or (3) a personal vendetta inherited from Dad. The case for confrontation with Korea is stronger, they argue. Why isn't the Bush Administration taking a tougher line?
But their focus, as always, is only on today. Is Bush a step ahead of them again? Because when the war with Iraq is over, and Bush announces that he is taking a tougher line with Korea and that the case for confrontation with Korea is stronger even than with Iraq, what will they say?
POP CULTURE/RELIGION: MY DREAMS, THEY AREN'T AS EMPTY AS MY CONSCIENCE SEEMS TO BE
Much as I'd like to ignore the story, the Pete Townsend thing is hard to avoid, when the man has been such a foundational figure in modern rock. It ain't exactly a secret that Townsend's lyrics are full of stuff that's hardly G-rated. He sang about homosexuality in "Rough Boys," to say nothing of the lyrics to "5:15" Heck, his most prominent work thirty years ago was about a boy who withdraws from the world after being sexually abused by an older male relative. At the time, people thought of this as a metaphor.
Nonetheless, even if it turns out - as it appears - that Townsend has been consuming child porn, regardless of the purpose, we can still enjoy his music. In fact, one of the benefits, for political conservatives, of the idiot leftism of so many actors, musicians, etc. is that we learn early to distinguish between the artist and the art.
Thus, when Robert George on NRO comments that "Pete Townshend['s] arrest on child-porn charges must cause CBS and the producers of CSI a little discomfort (Its theme song is, "Who Are You")," I say: No, it shouldn't. Say what you will about the man, the song "Who Are You" is not just great rock & roll, it is, in fact, a song about man's search for God - an angry expression of that search ("tell me who the f__k are you?"), to be sure, but the lyrics include a description of Jesus' love for sinners that most Christian rockers would give their right arm to write:
I know there's a place you walked
I spit out like a sewer hole
LAW: FIAT IN ILLINOIS
I go back and forth on the death penalty. I'm 100% certain that it's morally appropriate to put terrorists to death; that's really no different in my mind from killing soldiers as they invade your shores. The nature of terrorism, moreover, is such that a terrorist remains a threat even in prison: a threat of becoming a cause celebre. a threat of indoctrinating others, etc. Plus, terrorists are notoriously hard to deter; any weapon at hand must be considered. There may be cases where it's more prudent not to execute terrorists, but as long as we are agreed that the only question is what is prudent in our own best interests, we're on the same page.
Beyond terrorism, I have my doubts, mostly about the point at which it becomes impossible to reconcile being pro-death penalty and being a pro-life Catholic. And clearly, the situation in Illinois suggests that the criminal justice system there may have had more than its fair share of flaws. But one thing remains true: the more I see and hear from opponents of the death penalty, the more I tend to support its continuation.
Outgoing Illinois Governor George Ryan has commuted the sentences of everyone on death row, more than 160 people, mostly murderers. I haven't followed the individual cases, but apparently Governor Ryan hasn't either; he just decided that the Illinois justice system was so broken that no death sentence could be trusted. Convictions, yes; not death sentences. Many of those spared were people about whom there was no doubt as to their guilt; if there were some cases of wrongful convictions, however, their bids for release from life in prison fell on deaf ears.
There are a lot of arguments out there, but I can't get past this one question: if George Ryan really didn't have the time or the moral courage to face up to the individual cases and decide between those that deserved clemency and those that should go the way the jury sent them, he had a simple option: just focus on the most obvious abuses, and let his democratically elected successor - Rod Blagojeoveohcihsch - handle the rest. Executions aren't being carried out; there was no urgency to the matter. The people elected a new governor, and one from the party that is traditionally more skeptical of the death penalty. Why could the people's choice not be trusted with this duty?
BASEBALL: Shinjo Returns
I have no real problem with the Mets re-signing Tusyoshi Shinjo, who should help the outfield defense. He can't hit enough to play every day, but he's a useful fourth outfielder. I stand by my initial assessment of Shinjo as a Japanese Darryl Boston, an athletic and fundamentally sound outfielder who could play every day if he was a more disciplined hitter and made more consistent contact.
January 13, 2003
WAR: Department of Fiskings
Columnist Matt Welch proposes that the United States of America start acting like a blogger -- or a litigator or a sabermetrician, for that matter -- and have people on the government payroll around the world start pointing out the web of lies that emanates daily from anti-American idiotarians the world over. (Link via Tim Blair). Somebody tell the Bear!
BASEBALL: 27 days Until Pitchers and Catchers
27 days until pitchers and catchers! David Pinto has the link to the story.
WAR: Out, Out, Damn Oil
Andrew Sullivan notes the cover of the latest issue of the German magazine Der Spiegel. I don't read German, but you don't need to to get this point. Here's a question: why is it that the people in Europe who love to yak on about "blood for oil" when Americans take on murderous dictators of oil-rich countries are the same people who will argue, often explicitly, that it is foolish to take sides with Israel for fear of offending . . . murderous dictators of oil-rich countries? I mean, who's really trading blood for oil here? If the Saudis, the Iraqis and the Iranians decided to re-enact the Holocaust -- and they mostly lack the means rather than the will to do so -- most of Europe would look the other way and keep on buying their oil. Hey, what's that on your hands? "Just oil, really, . . . but it won't come out, out, damn oil!"
January 12, 2003
POP CULTURE: TV Movies
We are being treated, this week, to a TV movie about JFK junior and a TV movie (about Benedict Arnold) in which Kelsey Grammer plays George Washington. Egads. The idea of a movie about JKF Jr. . . . I mean, the guy was "intriguing" in the "People Magazine" sense when he was alive, mostly because people wanted to know what he might accomplish with his famous name, good looks, wealth, and ease in the limelight. While seems to have been a decent enough fellow despite being a Kennedy, the answer was always "wait 'til next year." Then he died, the job unfinished, the interesting parts of the story unwritten. Why put that on film?
WAR: What Won't Work
Zev Chafets explains why neither you nor he needs to know much about North Korea to know that more of the Clinton-era policies won't work.
POLITICS: GOP in NYC
Liberal NY Daily News columnist Lenore Skenazy has some good lines in a piece on how New York will welcome the GOP convention in 2004 ("Starbucks introduces special convention drink: Trent Lattes. They're all-milk!")
POP CULTURE: Don't Read This
I'm pretending this story never happened. I can do that, right?
BASEBALL: Mr. February
The Reds, patron saints of reclaiming lost arms, sign Mr. February himself, Paul Wilson. "Paul has the ability to pitch 180 to 200 innings a year,'' [Reds GM Jim] Bowden said. "We felt it was important to add another proven starter to join Ryan Dempster, Jimmy Haynes and Danny Graves in the rotation.''
Say what you will about Wilson, I would hardly cite his durability as an asset. He's another guy who, having proven that (1) he can pitch and (2) he can't hold up for a full season, ought to be in the bullpen. He's basically a poor man's Steve Karsay.
January 10, 2003
WAR: VDH on NK
I'd explain why North Korea is different from Iraq, but I can't possibly hope to do better than this pure, undiluted stream of common sense from Victor Davis Hanson. Better yet, John Derbyshire reports that "I am very reliably informed (judging from the sender's e-mail address) that someone in the Administration does indeed read" Hanson's columns.
Our North Korea policy, or lack thereof, deserves re-examination; I get the sense that the Bush Administration is mostly stalling while trying to decide what to do next. I nonetheless agree wholeheartedly with Hanson's overarching theme, in support of the Administration's current approach, that it makes sense to be done with Iraq first before we devote our full attentions to the North Koreans. I just hope that, in explaining the difference between the two, the Administration doesn't unduly downplay our willingness to take a very hard line with Pyongyang, thus painting us into a rhetorical corner if we later need to marshall public and international support for such an initiative.
The paradox: at the end of the day, the North Koreans are only a threat to their neighbors if we confront them and they do something crazy, which is very possible. But if we do nothing, they are a huge threat to us. Why? North Korea has shown little appetite, unlike Saddam, for regional wars and territorial expansion; the regime seems content to asphixyate the people already subject to its stark tyranny. So nukes in their hands are not so dangerous, for now. The bigger threat is nukes passing from their hands into the hands of terrorists who are even harder to deter and who are explicitly aggressive and suicidal in their intentions. And under present circumstances, it seems impossible to prevent the latter as long as the regime (1) retains its present character and (2) shares a long border with China over which we have no control and a seacoast that we have not blockaded.
BASEBALL: The Latest
New Projo column on the Hall of Fame due up later today. Meanwhile, the collapse of the latest attempt to screw the Expos out of Bartolo Colon has to be good news for baseball.
BASEBALL: 2003 Hall of Fame Ballot
Originally posted on Projo.com
The 2003 Hall of Fame ballot included 16 returning candidates and 17 new candidates; only two (Eddie Murray and Gary Carter) were elected. Let's look at the guys who went in and the leading candidates who missed. 8 players garnered at least 40% of the vote; 75% is needed for election.
1. EDDIE MURRAY (85.3% of the vote)
Murray, really, was a no-brainer. The easiest summary of his credentials is the fact that he's one of just 3 players (with Mays and Aaron) to get 3000 hits and 500 homers. Since that club will likely have some crashing in the future, it's useful to look beyond that. But anywhere you look, Murray is an easy guy to vote for. Top 5 in the MVP voting six times, including five in a row, plus 6th and 8th place finishes. Murray was MVP runnerup in back-to-back seasons. He drove in 84 or more runs 16 times in 17 years, the exception being the 1981 strike season when he led the league with 78 RBI in 99 games. Murray is 8th all time in total bases and RBI.
Baseball-reference.com measures OPS+, a measure of how a player's on base plus slugging compares to a park-adjusted measure of the league. By that yardstick, Murray was at least 30 percent better than the average hitter in the league on 12 occasions, and at least 20% better his first 12 straight years in the league. "Steady Eddie" wasn't just a none-too-clever rhyme; Murray missed more than 11 games in a season only once in his first 18 seasons in the league, and that one time he still managed 578 plate appearances. He even managed to lead the major leagues in batting while playing in Dodger Stadium in 1990 (at age 34), although he was robbed of the batting title by a quirk of the rules: Murray hit .330 to Willie McGee's .324, but McGee was hitting .335 in over 500 at bats when he was traded from St. Louis to Oakland, so .335 got the title.
The only blemish on Eddie's resume is his chilly relationship with writers, the guys who do the voting. But his numbers were too big for any but the most determined grudges to overcome. Murray deserved to be elected in a walk.
Read More Â»
2. GARY CARTER (78%)
Name ten better catchers than Gary Carter, and we've got an argument. But unless you count the Negro Leagues (Josh Gibson), you've really got to stretch to get there. I'll give you Bench, Berra, Cochrane, Campanella, and Dickey, and you can make a pretty convincing argument on Piazza (despite his defense) and Hartnett. That's 7. Fisk gets you 8, although the two are awfully close, and as I'll explain in more detail another day, I'd take Carter in their primes. To get 9 you need Pudge Rodriguez, and that's a big stretch give his durability and Carter's longer career in a much lower-scoring era, or Ted Simmons, who was a similar hitter to Carter but an inferior glove man. After that, you're left with short careers (Buck Ewing, Roger Bresnahan), guys who never got on base (Lance Parrish), guys who made Carter look like Vince Coleman (Ernie Lombardi, also no model of durability) . . . the next best guy is probably Bill Freehan.
From 1977 to 1986, Carter was the best or second-best catcher in baseball every year, catching 140 or more games 7 times (plus 100 of 108 games in 1981), and churning out outstanding offensive numbers (for the era) every year while playing in pitchers' parks. He's one of very few catchers to lead the league in RBI, and drove in 97 or more runs 5 times in 7 seasons. As Bill James pointed out several years ago, only Yogi can match Carter's offensive and defensive consistency at the position; guys like Bench and Campanella had a habit of hitting .207 every couple of years. Carter was a tremendous defensive catcher in his prime.
The main knock on Carter is that his career percentage stats aren't pretty, in large part because he stank for the last six seasons of his career, including the four-month drought between his 299th and 300th homers in 1988 and his .183 season in 1989 (although he did rouse himself at the end of the 1988 season to hit a game-winning RBI single in Game 1 of the NLCS, snapping Orel Hershiser's scoreless innings streak in the process). If Carter had retired after the 1987 season, he would have been a first-ballot selection; because he hung around years after he was any good, everyone forgot how he was among the best players in the league every year for a decade. I still maintain that the main test of immortality is how good a player is in the stretch of seasons where he plays at or near his peak level - if a man plays himself into the Hall of Fame, he can't play himself out later on when he's just hanging on for a paycheck. Making Carter wait six years for this was an injustice.
3. BRUCE SUTTER (53.6%)
Sutter's case, I've addressed before; he wouldn't be a terrible selection, given his awe-inspiring performances from 1976-82 and 1984 and his revolutionary use of the split-finger fastball. But I remain skeptical; those 8 years were the only effective seasons of Sutter's career, and it's hard to put a relief pitcher in the Hall for such a short career, when relievers already appear for such a small portion of their team's innings (this was true of workhorses like Sutter and is doubly so today).
Rice, whom I've addressed in several prior columns, is the classic guy on the bubble - I used to think of him as an obvious Hall of Famer given his 12-year string of averaging around .300-30-100, but there are too many "buts" - but he didn't field well, but he benefited hugely from Fenway, but he hit into a ton of double plays.
A good starting off point for Dawson is to compare him with his contemporaries Rice, Dave Parker, Dwight Evans, and Dale Murphy. I'll throw in Murray for comparison, since Murray's a similar offensive player to this group and is obviously over the threshold. Rice, Parker and Murphy are still on the ballot; Evans got no support and fell off it. Last season, Rice got 55.08% of the vote, Dawson 45.34%, Murphy 14.83% and Parker 13.98%, so Dawson's stock is rising while Rice, Murphy (11.7%) and Parker (10.3%) are dropping. Start with the raw career totals and Avg/Slg/OBP:
Dawson has a superficial advantage in HR and RBI over everyone but Murray, but some of that just consists of sticking around longer; Rice could have matched Dawson if he'd played 5 more years and averaged 28 RBI a year. Rey Ordonez drives in more runs than that in a season. Both Rice and Parker get the nod in that category. All six players are about even in slugging, with much of Rice's advantage coming mostly because he didn't stick around those extra 5 years.
It is at least worth mentioning that every eligible player with 1500 RBI is in the Hall besides Dawson, but also that there are some guys ahead of him (ahem, Harold Baines) who are not going to come close to the Hall.
But look at the OBP and Runs columns, and you will see why Dawson and Parker just don't stack up; Dawson's career OBP of .323 isn't just unspectacular, it's poor. In fact, only one Hall of Fame outfielder has a career on base percentage below .353, and that's Lou Brock (.343), who played in the offense-starved 1960s, as did the only two other non-shortstops in the Hall with a career OBP below .340, Brooks Robinson (.322) and Bill Mazeroski (.299), both of whom were also legendary glovemen. (The only two until Gary Carter, that is; Carter's was dragged down at the end to .335). The only Hall of Famers below .350 who got in without playing a key defensive position and playing it well are first basemen Tony Perez (.344) and George Kelly (.342); I've argued before that Perez was a mistake, and Kelly is the Hall's single most indefensible selection.
The low OBP means a lack of runs; Dawson played 21 years at a slugger's position and wound up 78th on the career runs scored list, and 100 runs behind Dwight Evans. Parker is another 100 runs behind Dawson. Together with the high RBI count, we come to a basic fact: there's only one other player really like Andre Dawson. Only one other player with an OBP below .330 had driven in within 200 runs of Dawson (Joe Carter); only two others are within 50 homers (Carter and Dave Kingman). Looked at the other way, only 1 other player with 300 homers and 1500 RBI has a career OBP within 17 points of Dawson's, and that's a shortstop (Ernie Banks). It's simply unprecedented, outside of Joe Carter, to see a guy who was such a big slugger for so long but never got on base. Dawson's OBP was above the league average only six times.
(If you are guessing, by this point, that I think Dwight Evans -- the best defensive player of this group by a fair margin -- got shafted, you're right, but that's another day's argument as well).
Then there's the external factors: The AL in the 80s was higher-scoring than the NL. Murray and Dawson benefited by lasting into the high-flying scoring years that kicked off in 1994, while Rice, Evans and Parker all cut their teeth in the low-scoring pre-1977 era. Rice and Evans played in Fenway, which was at its peak then as a hitters' haven; Murphy benefited tremendously from Fulton County Stadium, while Parker and Murray were largely unaffected by their home fields (Murray played mostly in Baltimore, a neutral park, but also in pitchers' parks in Shea and Dodger Stadium and a few years at the Jake, a good place to hit). Dawson is an odd case: he was a much better player as a fleet-footed center fielder in his Montreal years than as a creaky right fielder with a good arm in his Cubs years, but he was hurt tremendously by Montreal and helped a lot by Wrigley, so the numbers in his later years look better.
How about the peak years? I've long argued that the core of the real Hall of Fame test should be to take the good part of a player's career, and ask two questions: how good was he, and how long did he stay that good? Let's compare Dawson just to Rice, Murphy and Parker, to save time:
* - Rice's numbers are for 1975-86, Murphy for 1980-87, Parker for 1975-80, and Dawson for 1980-91. 1981 counts as 2/3 of a season, since most teams played approximately 108 games that year. I included Parker's less than stellar
Anyway, you can easily see that Dawson's productivity, even taking account of the park and differences between the AL and NL, is nowhere near Murphy and Parker and doesn't stack up to Rice, the one guy with a peak of similar duration. Even hitting behind Tim Raines for half his prime, he wasn't the RBI force that Rice was, and his runs scored and on base percentages just aren't characteristic of a great player.
Let's look at the rest of Dawson's record. A major feather in Dawson's cap is his MVP award. I can't hope to replicate here Bill James' detailed demolition of this absurd award, but a few points are in order. Dawson's on base percentage that season was .328; the National League's OBP (including pitchers) was .327. Dawson scored 14 fewer runs in 1987 than Ozzie Smith did, and Ozzie didn't hit a home run all year. I guess Dawson beat out Ozzie for the award based on his defense and leadership (Ozzie's team won the pennant). Dawson in 1987 hit almost 90 points higher at Wrigley than on the road, and hit 27 of his 49 homers at home. It was a hot, hot summer in Chicago; Cub rookies Greg Maddux and Jamie Moyer had ERAs of 5.61 and 5.10, respectively, while Jerry Mumphery, Manny Trillo and Bob Dernier posted slugging percentages of .534, .444 and .497, respectively. Mumphery and Trillo were out of baseball by the middle of the following year. (Fun fact: the last place Cubs of that year had five players who will get serious Hall of Fame attention in Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Maddux and Rafael Palmiero, plus they had long-time stars Moyer and Rick Sutcliffe).
In fact, Dawson's Cubs teams never won much in part because they got few baserunners and the young players on the team (except Mark Grace) followed Dawson's lead in swinging at anything. Coincidence?
Dawson's Expos teams consistently missed the playoffs despite the presence of an outstanding cast around him, including Gary Carter, Tim Raines and Steve Rogers. Coincidence?
The Cubs finished last with Dawson winning the MVP in the middle of their order. Coincidence?
The year the Cubs did win the division, 1989, Dawson missed 44 games. Coincidence?
The last two franchises Dawson played for were a combined 9 games under .500 in his last season on the roster, and each won the division the next year. Coincidence?
There are a lot of great players who have not been blessed with winning teams. But all that losing, all those close calls - it doesn't exactly give the man an entitlement to the benefit of the doubt for "leadership" and the like where the numbers themselves come up short in making the case for his accomplishments.
What about Dawson's record in the postseason? The postseason should be a big thing for a guy thought of as an inspirational leader. But Andre Dawson in October was hideous, .128 with no homers in two losing efforts in the NLCS. (Dawson hit .300 in the divisional series in 1981, but with no homers and no RBI). In 1981, when Dawson was at his peak - runner-up for the MVP award - the Expos lost an NLCS decided by one run in the last inning of the deciding game. Where was Andre? He didn't drive in a single run the whole series.
Dawson was a good player, for a long time, but not an immortal.
6. RYNE SANDBERG (49.2%)
Sandberg is yet another agonizing choice, and I'll admit that, at this stage, my view is still somewhat impressionistic; I've looked hard at the numbers, but haven't really stacked them up every possible way. Let's start with a few points:
Ten best second basemen of all time? In no particular order, the list has to include Hornsby, Eddie Collins, Joe Morgan, Gehringer, Jackie Robinson, Frisch, and Lajoie (that's 7; I don't count Carew, who's sort of a 2-position guy, while I include Robinson because I give him credit for the fact that the war and the color line kept him from breaking into the majors until he was 28). It'll also have to include Roberto Alomar (I'm not even sure I count Alomar as "active" anymore - I saw a lot of Met games last summer and hardly noticed he was there). That leaves two spots, and a handful of contenders; you could argue for Billy Herman or Bobby Doerr, and I've even had the argument about how Sandberg stacks up to Jeff Kent (answer: Sandberg played about 600 more games than Kent has, and scored 500 more runs under much tougher offensive conditions, plus he never hit behind a guy with a .570 on base percentage, plus he was Ryne Sandberg with the glove, not Jeff Kent), but to me those two spots belong to three players: Craig Biggio, Ryne Sandberg, and Lou Whitaker. Even if you leave Sandberg on the short end of that crowd - as I think I would - that still leaves him just a hair shy of the top ten ever at his position. In most cases, this is a sign of a sure Hall of Famer, although it wasn't even enough to keep Whitaker on the ballot.
Here's another yardstick: I generally assume that each decade will produce at least one player at each position in each league who goes to the Hall of Fame. It's hardly an ironclad rule. Sometimes a position has a wealth of talent, like when 3 of the AL's 8 first basemen were Gehrig, Foxx and Greenberg; sometimes a position is short, as with the NL's best shortstop in the 70s (Dave Concepcion; a team with Concepcion as its best player would finish fifth), or even AL starting pitchers in the 60s (you've got Whitey Ford, really a 50s guy, and Jim Palmer, a 70s guy, but quick, name who was the best AL starter of the 60s? Denny McLain? Sam McDowell? Jim Kaat?). Still, it's a useful way from separating borderline candidates who have a plausible claim (Bid McPhee is the Hall's only 19th century second baseman, for example) and those who don't (you could easily name a first and second team of NL outfielders in the 20s and 30s without mentioning Lloyd Waner or Chick Hafey, and probably without Edd Roush). Who was the second baseman of the 80s? It's gotta be Whitaker in the AL, Sandberg in the NL. Nobody else is close. The scent of Cooperstown grows stronger.
Sandberg has some of the same drawbacks as Jim Rice (benefited from his park, didn't walk much) and Dave Parker and Dale Murphy (a shortage of great seasons - he was really only clearly a Hall of Fame caliber player in six seasons, 1984-85 and 1989-92, and didn't compensate, as Whitaker did, by fantastical consistency and durability). The latter point is my biggest doubt - I always like to ask how many years a guy was a great player, and Sandberg's short on that count. But the standard at his position is not so demanding; counting Carew and Red Schoendienst, there are 16 second basemen in the Hall (from more than 120 years of Major League Baseball), and that group includes 5 guys who didn't play 2100 games in the major leagues (Robinson, Doerr, Johnny Evers, Tony Lazzeri, and Bill Mazeroski), and five who were, at best, barely above-average hitters, with career slugging averages below .400 and on base percentages below .360 (Evers, Mazeroski, Schoendienst, McPhee and Nellie Fox). Sandberg was a wonderful defensive player, and won two division titles as a Cub; he was clearly more than just a bat, and he was a better bat than about half of the players at his position who are now in the Hall. Sure, some of those are lousy selections, but they can't all be that bad. I'd put in Ryno now, and use him to argue in Whitaker later.
Do you want to see John Franco in the Hall of Fame? I sure don't, not after watching him on a regular basis for more than a decade. That's enough to make anyone skeptical of career saves as a window to the Hall. Of course, Lee Smith owns the saves record by a mile; he was a remarkably consistent and durable closer, so I'm not ready to say 100% certain that he doesn't belong. But face it: if someone else breaks the record, Smith's credentials don't have much left to them. He just wasn't a huge workhorse (100+ innings three times, one of which produced a 3.65 ERA), and was never unhittable. Given the size of the closer's role, that's not enough.
Goose, I'd elect. In his heyday, he was a totally dominating figure, throwing between 133 and 141.2 innings with an ERA between 1.62 and 2.01 in 1975, 1977 and 1978. Leaving aside his disastrous 1976 foray into starting, when you combine 1975 with 1977-85 he threw at least 79 innings with an ERA below 2.30 seven times in 10 years, and with an ERA below 3.00 eight times. Gossage threw in an 0.77 ERA in 46.2 innings in 1981; the only off year was 1979, when he was his usual self but pitched just 58.1 innings because he broke his hand in a clubhouse fight with Cliff Johnson. And he was better than his ERAs indicate because he was so unhittable entering games with men on base.
The Goose was a classic "fireman" rather than a modern "closer," sometimes riding the bench during easy "save situations" but often entering close games in the seventh or eighth innings with men on base. Twice he averaged more than two innings per game for an entire season (1975 and 1978), and he averaged over 1.5 innings per game in nine of his ten "peak" seasons. He made nine All-Star teams. True, Gossage stuck around too long, but even after 1985 he had ERAs below 3.00 twice plus a 3.12 mark in hitter-happy 1987; he also pitched well in 1993 (at age 41) but had his season ERA ruined (from 3.45 to 4.53) by one horrific outing where LaRussa left him in during a blowout to give up 6 runs in 2/3 of an inning to save the younger arms in the pen.
In short, while Gossage's declining years and early struggles as a starter don't help his reputation, they certainly don't detract from his towering peak. For example, he had a 3.01 ERA in 1809.1 innings, but it was 2.55 in 1366.1 innings if you throw out those four early seasons where they screwed around with him as a starter and 2.93 in 1714.1 innings if you remove his last two seasons.
One little useful fact: from 1977 to 1984, an 8-year span, the Goose's teams exceeded their "Pythagorean Projections" - the number of games they'd be expected to win based on their runs scored and allowed - by 21 games, almost 3 full games a year. The biggest effects came, generally, in some of the seasons when the Goose pitched the most - 1977, 1980, 1984. (Dan Quisenberry has a similar, even more impressive record: for the six seasons of his prime, from 1980 to 1985, the Royals exceeded their Pythagorean record by 20 games.) Bruce Sutter's teams exceeded their Pythagorean records by 19 games over 9 years (1976-84), although the biggest damage (+7) was done when he was a rookie setup man; the numbers break down to +16 for his first three seasons and +3 for the next 6 years when he was mostly used in save situations, albeit with a much heavier workload than the modern closer. Does this prove anything? Logically, you expect teams with great bullpens to win the close ones. It's noteworthy in Gossage's case that the biggest seasons were the ones when he was paired with other good relievers (Kent Tekulve, Ron Davis). I think some studies have shown a slight overall effect for teams with good bullpens (witness the Braves this year), but at a minimum, it's an extra feather in a guy's cap if his team won an unusual number of close games when he owned the 8th and 9th innings.
I'm stopping here; next on the list was Bert Blyleven, but with just 29% of the vote he's going to wind up waiting on the Veterans Committee (well, except that his numbers look better every year and in a few more years, Tommy John and Jim Kaat will be gone from the ballot; this was Kaat's last year). (See here for my take on Blyleven, Kaat and John). What you see above is the serious candidates. By my count, I'd have voted in four of them: Eddie Murray, Gary Carter, Ryne Sandberg and Rich Gossage.
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BASEBALL: Franco Is Still Not Dead
Note the picture; don't adjust your monitor. John Franco, pitching. Yesterday. In other news, the Mets admit that their players need professional help.
FOOTBALL: RIP Will McDonough
RIP Will McDonough. He died of a heart attack while, fittingly enough, watching SportsCenter. Dave Barry, from his 2002 year-end review: "In sports, the New England Patriots win the Super Bowl, thus using up all the sports luck that New England has been accumulating for decades, and thereby guaranteeing that the Red Sox will not win the World Series for another 150 years." The dean of Boston football writers got to see it. I wasn't always the biggest McDonough fan, especially when he wrote about baseball, but may he Rest in Peace.
POLITICS: What Do All The People Know?
Ryan Lizza at the New Republic blows the whistle on the scandalous truth about the Bush Administration's proposal to cut the dividend tax: turns out that it's all motivated by politics, because the Administration wants to help its chances for re-election by having a better economy in 2004! Where's an independent counsel when you need one? (Link via Andrew Sullivan)
Sullivan also cites a letter from a reader noting that Bob Graham will never win the Democratic nomination because he stands for Jim Crow, starving poor people, women in burkas and nuking cities for entertainment. OK, not literally, but he endorsed Reagan over Mondale in 1984, and for a big chunk of Democratic primary voters, it's the same thing (remember Al Gore torching Bill Bradley for some of his pro-Reagan votes in 1981?).
Of course, that's not the only old news from the 80s that may make a comeback. Remember Willie Horton, the convicted rapist who raped again while on a "furlough" from prison under the Dukakis administration? The furlough policy was one of such colossal idiocy that even Democrats (led by Al Gore, of course) used it against Dukakis in the primaries. Today, that whole story has been boiled down to "the Republicans were racist for mentioning the furlough issue because Horton was black," but it's still a legitimate issue -- and if memory serves correctly, Dukakis' lieutenant governor at the time was John Kerry.
WAR: Throw Me In The Briar Patch!
Martin Kramer has the hilarious tale of a mediocre academic who has falsely claimed to be "one of the main targets of Campus Watch," Daniel Pipes' website devoted to exposing anti-American and anti-Israel propaganda masquerading as scholarship, apparently in the hopes of boosting his profile. I also wonder why this guy is smoking a cigarette in his official campus photo. There are two possibilities: (1) he's such a nicotine addict he couldn't be bothered to put his smoke down long enough to be photographed or (2) there's some radical chic thing going on with showing him having a smoke against the backdrop of a concrete wall, like he's about to face a firing squad.
POP CULTURE: Dave Barry 2002 in Review
I should add, by the way, that if you haven't read Dave Barry's entire 2002 year in review, you missed a classic. (One of my favorites: "In entertainment news, the surprise hit TV ''reality show'' of the spring is India and Pakistan Threaten to Start a Nuclear War. But after a few weeks of waiting for something to happen, viewers become bored and go back to watching the perennial ratings favorite, Amateur Video of Police Officers Beating Up a Motorist.")
WAR: Go Read Lileks
Lileks rips Martin Scorsese a new one over his comments on Iraq. Too many good lines to excerpt.
January 8, 2003
POLITICS: Keep On Kicking
Even though he's out of the race and the article is on another topic, Democratic insiders just can't stop bashing Al Gore:
Another source, noting that Lieberman gathered a lot of chits in 2000, added, "Most importantly, everybody remembers Joe brought life to a campaign that had none."
Another source contrasted Lieberman's post-2000 behavior to that of Gore. "Gore went to his house and shut the door for two years. Joe sent out thank-you notes to everyone and continued to raise money."
I may also be wrong about Lieberman's ability to connect with African-American voters:
A new CNN-USA Today Gallup Poll showed support for Lieberman among African-American voters, a key Democratic constituency. Lieberman even outpolled civil rights activist Al Sharpton. Lieberman spent a lot of time rallying support in black churches during the 2000 campaign. Said one long-time activist, "Lieberman went to Mississippi during the height of the civil rights movement. People remember things like that."
Al Sharpton is a grizzled veteran in playing the anti-Semitism card, and he skillfully eviscerated the past campaigns of Bob Abrams (1992, Senate) and Mark Green (2001, NYS mayor). But maybe I'm being too pessimistic about whether that will fly. There's certainly evidence that African-American voters in the South aren't buying that particular brand of snake oil anymore; witness the primary defeats of Cynthia McKinney and Earl Hilliard, both of whom played the "J-E-W-S" card (as McKinney's father put it) with reckless abandon against their (black) opponents.
POLITICS: Daschle Stands Down
Well, I can take some satisfaction in having predicted that Tom Daschle wouldn't run for president. NRO noted that South Dakota law would have prevented him from running for re-election to the Senate in 2004 if he'd run. I think the bigger motivator was the fact that he'd have to give up the Senate minority leadership for a long-shot bid. The fact that he considers that a big loss suggests that he's in no danger of a mutiny in his own ranks (which is unsurprising; his number 2 is a colorless loyaltist, Harry Reid, and except for Chris Dodd, most of the potential challengers are looking to the White House). Meanwhile, Dick Gephardt is leaving the House after 2004; that was inevitable once he left his leadership post, and if he's not elected president this is as good a time as any to leave the arena and go make some money for a few years.
WAR: Who Hate Who?
So, let me get this straight; saying that you don't lose much sleep over collateral damage when Israel is forced to retaliate for terrorist attacks is hate speech (If so, this devastating essay by Lileks, making essentially the same point with more style, is too). Mocking people who were murdered on September 11 is just entertainment. War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery.
BASEBALL: Robert Fick to the Braves
Robert Fick to the Braves. At $1 million, Fick's cheap, and the Braves obviously couldn't depend on 90-year-old Julio Franco and light-hitting pinch hitter Matt Franco to reprise their 2002 success. Fick doesn't really hit enough to be a regular 1B, although he's better than putting Vinny Castilla there. I hadn't realized he'd had 21 assists in the outfield, which is a very impressive figure.
BASEBALL: The Essential Ingredient
I was satisfied, of course, to see Gary Carter finally get his due from Cooperstown. More on that later. Here are some numbers to chew on, when Paul Molitor comes up for the Hall of Fame:
Milwaukee Brewers' record before 1978 arrival of Paul Molitor: 614-836 (.423), no winning seasons (includes 1969 Seattle Pilots)
Milwaukee Brewers' record, 1978-92, with Paul Molitor in the lineup: 1004-851 (.541), 10 winning seasons in 15 years
And here we've got Brewer fans saying it's the logo.
POLITICS: 1787 in Brussels
I still think that this whole EU consititutional convention is an underreported story. The ultimate structure and allocation of powers in the new Europe could have a profound effect on the freedom and prosperity of what remains one of the world's most important regions, with millions of people and a huge economy. Plus, it's a deliberate experiment in political philosophy to rival that of 1787 in our own country. I suppose there will eventually be a massive debate on the whole project in Europe, but why don't we hear more today?
If you missed it, the Wall Street Journal had a great piece on Kwanzaa over the holidays, and unlike, say, Ann Coulter, the Journal took the holiday and its guiding principles seriously and refrained from just piling scorn on it as a novel or artificial holiday. But the critique of Kwanzaa's separatist appeals and Tanzanian economics is all the more devastating for being a sober and respectful analysis.
POLITICS: Capital Comments
The Washingtonian's Capital Comments had loads of interesting items this month, including continuing rumors about Orrin Hatch as a Supreme Court candidate, a rundown on the potential First Lady candidates among the Democratic wives (I hadn't known much about Elizabeth Edwards, for example), and Grover Norquist's quest to name stuff after Reagan ("Norquist keeps a list of geographic sites with names, such as Squaw Valley, that Native American organizations object to: “We talk to the tribes and tell them, ’Hey, it’s no problem. We have a substitute name ready.’").
This comment about Daschle's wife from some meathead lobbyist irritated me no end: “Rush [Limbaugh] and his ilk can’t stand the fact that she’s a good-looking woman with a brain.” This is typical Dem-speak; criticize a man for the fact that his wife is a lobbyist for Big Bidness, and it must be because you are somehow threatened by intelligent women. Nothing conservatives say can possibly be taken at face value, while women in the Democratic party must at all times be insulated from the scrutiny that attends everyone else. Ask yourself: does Rush get offended by good-looking women with brains who are conservative Republicans (Condoleazza Rice is the most obvious example)? Does he heap scorn on Republicans with active or outspoken wives (Dick Cheney, Mitch McConnell, Phil Gramm)? If not, isn't it possible that his real concern is ideology, not gender? Nah, couldn't be that. It's not possible that anyone would dislike Hillary Clinton because of her politics, for example. Who could disagree with her?
FOOTBALL/POLITICS: Searching For A Black Parcells
I got quite a laugh out of Rich Lowry's column on how the Dallas Cowboys are catching heat for hiring Bill Parcells without interviewing African-American candidates. I mean, could the proponents of race-counsciousness in the hiring of coaches pick a worse battle? This sounds like something PETA would do. There are only a handful of other coaches with similar qualifications to Parcells, and most of them (like Don Shula) are old and retired. None are black. Dennis Green? Green's got a decent resume - a lot of playoff appearances despite a perennial revolving door at QB, but also a lot of playoff failures. Parcells, he's not, any more than Randall Cunningham was John Elway.
At any rate, if people are serious about affirmative action in the NFL, their campaign should focus on getting more African-Americans considered for posts as offensive and defensive coordinators, which is the key stepping-stone job into the head-coach network, plus there are twice as many of those jobs and they open up more frequently. (Also, you can't fairly compare a guy with head coaching experience, whatever it may be, to a guy without any; the decision to hire an experienced coach is common in risk-averse organizations, and makes sense in some situations.)
RELIGION: The Grail
The Brothers Judd noted a story on a search now underway for the Holy Grail. I kid you not.
January 6, 2003
POLITICS: Early Predictions On The 2004 Democratic Race
The New Republic, desperate for a fresh New Democrat voice, thinks Florida Senator Bob Graham will be a strong presidential candidate in 2004. I have to say, his argument that we shouldn't limit the fight to Iraq makes a heck of a lot of sense. TNR makes a few good points in his favor.
Graham at least has a rationale for running ("Floridian serious about foreign affairs"), as do Lieberman ("centrist hawk"), Edwards ("champion of Regular People"), Sharpton (I don't have to explain this one), Dean (pure leftism, undistilled), and to some extent Kerry ("He'll Keep Us Out Of Vietnam - war veteran who speaks as voice of multilateral diplomatism"). The guys who don't are Daschle, Gephardt, and some of the darker horses like Biden. It's what killed Bob Dole; the leaders of the party in congress have to keep their lips simultaneously planted on so many behinds, and spend so much time immersed in procedural tangles, that it's impossible to distinguish themselves as unique spokesmen for any point of view.
Graham running would pull votes about equally from Edwards, as the electable southernor, Kerry, as the Master of Gravitas, and Lieberman, as the hawk, and most of all would destroy the dark horse Gary Hart and Wesley Clark ideas.
OK, it's time for the pundits, amateur and professional, to start handicapping the Democratic primary race. At the end of the day, the winner will need to be at or near the top in (1) raising money, (2) winning over the the African-American vote; (3) endorsements from AFSCME, and (4) endorsements from the teacher's unions. If one candidate takes all four, they win automatically, no matter their electability, charisma or press notices (See Mondale, Walter).
Here's my power ranking:
1. Edwards. The Kennedy/Clinton youth/electability thing, the populism. Needs to avoid the Big Gaffe and prove he can raise the big dollar, although he should do well raising money from the plaintiffs' bar. Left-wing voting record will reassure the unions.
2. Kerry. Fairly well embodies the party line. Deeeep pockets. Looks presidential. Kwise Mfume of the NAACP thinks Kerry will get the nod.
3. Gephardt. Has run before, knows the ropes. Many people owe him, will raise money effortlessly, and nobody has stronger ties to labor. Not to be underestimated for his lack of charisma, but pro-Bush Iraq vote was seen as treason by party faithful and undercut many of the Senate Democrats who wanted to tie the issue up in procedural knots.
4. Graham. Boring, neurotic, no name recognition, and Democratic primary voters won't go for the guy who sounds like a unilateral hawk. But he can win South Carolina and everyone knows he'll be competitive in Florida, which would give him serious momentum.
5. Dean. Governors still have some advantages, especially when the base thinks the DC establishment has sold them out, and the whole establishment is running. New Hampshirites know him and love quirky guys. Prepare for the Goldwater/McGovern/Mondale comparisons: Dean would strip the party down to the base. A Dean candidacy would be the worst outcome for Hillary '08, since it would create a backlash against northeastern liberals and pressure to try a Southern centrist.
6. Lieberman. Technically the front-runner, I guess, but urban African-Americans just won't go for him, and neither will the tye-dye Leftist types who think he's a puppet of Generalissimo Bush. Sharpton will kill him, because he will go after Lieberman relentlessly if he looks like he's going to pull ahead.
7. Field (includes the total chances of Hart, Biden and numerous others, including a draft-Hillary movement, a Gore reversal, Wesley Clark, Chris Dodd, Gray Davis, Jerry Brown (he's more likely due to run again in 2008), Tom Vilsack, Evan Bayh, and Lord knows who else). Hey, you never know.
8. Daschle. I still don't think he'll run; he's everyone's favorite scapegoat, and he doesn't stand for anything or anyone in particular. Gephardt will KO him in Iowa if he runs.
9. Sharpton. Will create havoc and will win a primary somewhere with 27% of the vote, I suspect, but the Democrats aren't this stupid.
FOOTBALL: NFL Rules
Rich Lowry on NRO reprints a fascinating point from a reader email on the last play of the Giants' implosion yesterday:
"Immediately [after the game ended] Chris Collinsworth gets after Matt Allen, the Giants holder, for not immediately spiking the ball. Collinsworth exclaimed that this would have stopped the clock and allowed for another field goal attempt. . . . under NFL rules Allen spiking the ball would have induced an intentional grounding penalty with a ten second runoff, thus ending the game. Only a quarterback taking a hand-to-hand exchange from the center, then immediately throwing the ball forward to the ground, constitutes a legal spike. Anything else is intentional grounding which results in not only loss of yardage and down, but a ten second runoff to boot."
I wasn't sure if this was correct, so I went to the rules; I didn't have time to scour the rulebook, but the grounding rule itself doesn't say anything about the passer taking a handoff rather than a long snap as a predicate to a proper spike:
Intentional Grounding of Forward Pass
3. Intentional grounding will not be called when a passer, while out of the pocket and facing an imminent loss of yardage, throws a pass that lands at or beyond the line of scrimmage, even if no offensive player(s) have a realistic chance to catch the ball (including if the ball lands out of bounds over the sideline or end line).
However, Jerry Seeman, the NFL's director of officiating, addressed just this point in a Q&A on the NFL's website two years ago:
Brian Chan, B.C. Canada: If the holder for a field-goal unit has trouble handling the snap, can he legally spike the ball to stop the clock without being called for intentional grounding?
Jerry Seeman: If the holder spiked the ball, it would be intentional grounding. The only player that can legally spike the ball to stop the clock, is a T-quarterback.
That looks like the answer to that - Collinsworth was wrong.
January 3, 2003
BASEBALL: Robert Johnson's Expos
Billionaire BET founder Robert Johnson's rumored bid to buy the Expos and move them to DC is nothing but good news for baseball. Granted, DC may not be the best market, but anything is better than the current charade in Montreal. Hopefully, Johnson is putting the word out NOW that he doesn't want the Expos dismembered; there's just no reason the team should be looking to dump stud starting pitchers Bartolo Colon and Javier Vazquez. I don't know enough about Johnson to know whether he's a Steinbrenner/Mark Cuban win-at-all-costs owner, a Pohlad/Lindner type cheapskate, or something in between. But if he's choosing the market he'll be hard-pressed to cry poverty if it doesn't support his team.
POLITICS: Working Families vs. Regular People
Andrew Sullivan notes that John Edwards' repetitions of the phrase "regular people" indicates that he's moving away from the phrase "working families," a Democratic staple the last few years. The term, when tied solely to the lower tax brackets, always galled me - the Democrats seem to think that people who work 40 hours a week are "working people," but people who work 80 hours a week aren't. But aside from that, I wonder if the new term suggests that the new Democratic linguistic orthodoxy is moving away entirely from the term "family," in light of Al Gore's book-length argument for a new conception of the term?
One of the hallmarks of a good politician is consistency of message, which includes using consistent terminology. But always beware of people who refuse to call a thing by any but one chosen name - this is often a sign of the use of language as a shield against the encroachment of free and open debate.
POLITICS: Pretty Boy Edwards
Instapundit, among others, has been running an extensive list of links lately on John Edwards; check them out. One I would highlight is this New Republic item noting that Edwards may be running now, rather than waiting until he's more seasoned, because he's in danger of not being re-elected in North Carolina, a conservative state where he won with 53% of the vote in 1998, a Democrat-friendly year and one when the ballot was not headed by a popular Republican president running against (assuming Edwards doesn't get the nod) what is likely to be a liberal northeasterner. Edwards' voting record is very liberal himself; he's seen as a moderate mostly because he's from North Carolina. On the other hand, if Edwards runs a decent campaign but loses the nomination - like Gore in 1988, for example - he could announce that he's not running for re-election, and plot for a later moment to run for Governor if he wants to build his White House resume. Or he could just be an arrogant SOB who thinks nobody can say no to his charm. Lawyers have been know to fall for their own BS before.
Like most Republicans, I fear Edwards more than any of the other Democratic candidates - he's pretty, he's a Southerner, and he's awfully slippery. (The guy I fear the least, other than Al Sharpton or a nonentity like Howard Dean, is John Kerry, an able campaigner with a good biography and a deep war chest but a guy who will be incredibly easy to pigeonhole as an elitist Massachusetts liberal). On the other hand, don't forget that no sitting member of the House or Senate has been elected President in living memory, though many have tried. If you count Bob Dole, who resigned after locking up the nomination, the last three to get the nomination are him, McGovern, and Goldwater - not the best track record (throw in John Anderson if you're counting major third party runs). The last southern congressman to run in November was Strom Thurmond. Comparisons to Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are off-base, because they ran as governors; Edwards is in a Senate minority jammed with presidential contenders; his fellow Democrats won't bend over backwards to help him (word is, as the junior Dem he may be shoved off the Judiciary Committee, which will lose him the chance to grill Supreme Court nominees on national television), while Republicans in the Senate are sure to look for opportunities to put Edwards, Kerry, Daschle, Biden, Graham, Lieberman, Hillary!, Dodd, and anybody else who comes to mind on the record as often as possible with politically uncomfortable votes on taxes, partial-birth abortion, etc. Bet your buttons that Edwards' record on tort reform issues will be closely watched.
We also, except for Gephardt, Sharpton (a veteran instigator of internecine warfare) and super-longshot maybe-candidate Gary Hart, haven't seen how any of the Democratic contenders will fare under 'friendly' fire in a presidential primary, or how they will dish it out. Who will show a glass jaw, like Bill Bradley, Ed Muskie and Bob Kerrey in campaigns past? (My bet's on Daschle). Who will show a Gore-like thirst for the jugular? (Kerry's nasty but not really a street fighter; Edwards may prove meaner than we think). Who will drop out gracefully in the early going (I bet on Daschle again - I think he won't run), and who will stay in the race after he's dead, throwing bombs (Sharpton will, but will someone else fill Jerry Brown's 1992 role?). One reason for Dems not to get too high too early on Edwards is that unlike Clinton, he has to climb over a mountain of prominent party veterans; say what you will, except for Hillary and Gore we are likely to see the best the Democrats have to offer in this campaign.
Hillary, of course, is another reason why Edwards may be in a hurry. The 2004 field may be crowded, but she's made it quite clear that she's running in 2008 and not before. That gives everybody else a tremendous motive to get out of her way, given her fundraising network, her tremendous popularity with party faithful, and the fear of being branded a he-man-woman-hater if you criticize her.
WAR: Krauthammer on NK
Charles Krauthammer's column on North Korea ruined my day. If you're having a good day, wait until you are having a bad one, then read this. Krauthammer outlines well our problem in North Korea, and offers only a relatively unconvincing solution (giving nuclear weapons to the Japanese, assuming they would want them). Bush is right to downplay this crisis for the moment; this is another reason we need to get the war on Iraq done with, so we aren't hamstrung in dealing with the North Koreans by the need to placate 'allies' in the anti-Saddam coalition. Iraq is a more urgent problem only because we've already laid the groundwork to finish off Saddam's regime, and we should collect the payoff for that groundwork now, and turn to the next problem.
The core of the North Korea problem is China; there's little doubt that none of this would have happened if the Chinese were dead-set against it happening, and as in Iran in 1980, we are limited in how we respond to a rogue nation that borders on a hostile superpower.
January 2, 2003
BASEBALL: Rey's On Third?
Yes, I'm sure Rey Sanchez can play third base. But if you are going to play him there, why pay anybody on the team $10-15 million a year? The Mets can finish last for a lot less money.
FOOTBALL: A Syllogism
WAR: No Absence of Blood For Oil
I just noticed this early-December post by Bill "Daily Pundit' Quick, who theorizes that the absence of war is all about oil. (Link via the Bear of Considerable Brain).
BLOG: Collision Course
Ernie the Attorney answers the question: how can a helicopter collide with a submarine?
BASEBALL: Derek Zumsteg, Capitalist Pig
Derek Zumsteg over at Baseball Prospectus is openly cheering for the Hated Yankees to spend everyone else into the dust. I love a lot of BP's stuff - despite the loss of Joe Sheehan and Keith Law, two of the more interesting writers - but the Yankee boosterism and out and out gloating over the Yanks' financial advantages wears thin at times.
BLOG: d6auygd gytqu 71ggh baseballcrank
I'm really baffled by the increasing amount of nonsense spam I get lately. I mean, all the silly and stupid sales pitches and get-rich-quick schemes, the nasty porn, the Nigerian scams - those I can understand. Someone is trying to sell something, and hoping that somebody on the other end is buying. But I'm increasinly getting spammed emails full of gibberish, things you just know from one look not to open, no matter what you're hoping to find in your inbox. Who spends their time creating this stuff, and why?
POLITICS: Not it!
At this point, it's more newsworthy when Democratic Senators announce they're not running for president. The candidates should form their own caucus; by now, they've got more members than the CBC.
National Review Online today had a useful note of caution: don't fail to take John Edwards seriously.
WAR: Gulf War II
BLOG: CHRISTMAS IN MANHATTAN
Weekend before Christmas, my wife and I took the kids in to Manhattan to see Santa at Macy's, and the Rockefeller Center tree. I know, we're idiots, but we had planned to go the prior weekend and got scared away by the thought that too many people would be rushing in to town to beat the transit strike.
Anyway, after a day of sheer bedlam fighting high-density crowds, we decided to head downtown and catch dinner at a restaurant at the South Street Seaport (OK, Pizzaria Uno; you go with the familiar and dependable chain when you have kids). It was like a different city; the Seaport is beautiful that time of year, lights strung everywhere, broad stone boulevards to wander with nearly nobody around. There place has nice shops, too (leaving aisde the smell of fish). I wound up wondering why we went to midtown at all - but also, wondering whether the Seaport was different before.
New Year's resolution is to figure out how to balance this blog with the Projo column, work, family and other obligations. Lately, the Projo column has been suffering as a result. There are two ways to go with the blog - fewer, longer entries, or more quick links. Quick-link entries may be more expendable - there's a million sites you can go to - but they're also faster and easier to do. I'll keep you posted. So to speak.