"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
February 28, 2003
POLITICS/LAW: Dahlia Lithwick on Affirmative Action Jujitsu
Slate's Dahlia Lithwick, a supporter of affirmative action, on why the debate over the Miguel Estrada nomination, particularly the debate among Latino groups, is yet another example of Bush destroying his political adversaries by doing exactly what they ask for:
This, then, is what the discussion has come to: a battle about who is Hispanic enough to warrant the racial preferences that most Americans oppose in the first place. What the Hispanic groups on both sides don't seem to understand is that, with all this infighting, they are managing to dismantle every single argument for affirmative action and making the case that race should play no role at all in public life.
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[The attitude of Estrada's supporters who argue for him on the basis of his race regardless of his views] reflects several justifications for affirmative action: Break down racial barriers, remedy past discrimination, and create minority role models. All these arguments decline to look past skin color in the interest of getting the bodies onto the bench. But this argument has boomeranged badly in the past, not only because the Clarence Thomases have simply not been better for blacks than the David Souters, but because this kind of single-minded race-consciousness can only denigrate the minority in question. By ending the discussion at skin color, it sets up the implication that minorities succeed only because of preferences, that they couldn't have achieved such successes on their own merits. Could Miguel Estrada or any other minority candidate really sleep at night knowing that half his supporters would support a Honduran Hannibal Lecter as readily as they support him?
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[The argument of opponents who say that Estrada is not a 'real' Hispanic because he is a conservative] decimates the only other justification for affirmative action (and the only one that now counts as a matter of law)—the argument that racial preferences automatically generate "diversity" of experience. To his detractors, Estrada's principal failing is that his privileged upbringing in Honduras and beyond were too "white" somehow—too Columbia and Harvard Law and Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher. He was not born in squalor, nor did he rise from the barrio. As a result, he does not represent the "Latino experience." By making this argument, Estrada's detractors are merely proving that race is indeed not a proxy for diversity—and that if you really want to guarantee diversity of experience, favoring minority candidates over poor or rural ones is the absolute wrong way to go.
Meanwhile, another racially charged issue that I continue to follow, the Washington Times points to some anecdotal evidence that Southern African-American voters may not be willing to embrace Joe Lieberman, because Lieberman is Jewish, has questioned affirmative action, is a longtime member of the DLC and has said nice things about Strom Thurmond. Quote from Al Sharpton: "They don't call themselves the Dixiecrats now; they call themselves the DLC." I've said all along that, contrary to the media's popular wisdom, the people most likely to hold Lieberman's Judaism against him are Sharpton and his African-American supporters, not conservative white Southern Protestants. The interesting question is whether Sharptonism and its fellow-traveler, anti-Semitism, will sell in the South as well as it sells in urban areas in the Northeast and the West Coast; the WaTimes points to bitterness over Cynthia McKinney's ouster, but remember that it was her own African-American constituents who dumped McKinney, and the same for Earl Hilliard. The counter-argument also focuses on the resovoir of good will for Lieberman having gone to Mississippi as a young 'Freedom Rider' in the Sixties, when it was legitimately dangerous to do so. I'm still not sure how it will all shake out, but without a real regional base, Lieberman will need to do well among African-American voters in the South if he wants the nomination.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:59 PM | Law 2002-04 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: International Legitimacy
Mickey Kaus, teasing out the meaning from a characteristically inconclusive Michael Kinsley piece, suggests that respect for international institutions like the U.N. requires us to abide by their decisions even when we believe they are morally wrong. (Note that Kaus' blog has no permalinks because he works for such a low-tech outfit):
that's what the international rules mean -- that we sometimes have to do things that are worse for us, including things that increase the risks we face. That's the price of having an international structure of law -- a New World Order, someone once called it -- which will be a handy thing to have when we're combatting terrorism (which we'll be doing for the rest of our lives). . . . Democracy, which we hope to bring to the Middle East, is basically a bunch of formal procedural rules too, no? We don't ignore them when we don't like the outcome. [Insert cheap shot about Bush actually losing the election?--ed. No! He won by the rules, with the Supreme Court playing the role of France.]
Uh, well, no. First of all, the issue isn't abiding by international laws generally; the Administration is quite comfortable, as am I, that war here would not only be consistent with international law but is required to vindicate international law. The issue is, who gets to decide? I don't think, for example, that the U.S. routinely condemns other countries for making war without U.N. approval (France's intervention in the Ivory Coast being the most obvious example, or our own Kosovo campaign) -- we condemn them if we think the wars themselves violate international law. But "international law," like "natural law," is not a body of juridprudence constructed by a legitimate authority, so much as it is a set of principles and precepts, which various sovereigns by agreement have made workable in at least some particulars, for reasons of self-interest.
The contrast to the rules of democracy ought to be obvious: those rules are not just general precepts but are, by agreement, a nearly irrevocable commitment to allow certain issues to be decided by certain people, who are in turn selected in specific ways. The "who gets to decide" question might get sticky sometimes in separation of powers disputes, but in no case are a group of people (such as the American people) forced to submit to a final decision made by unelected foreign powers. Kaus treats the U.N. as if it actually wielded legitimate sovereignty, when it's more like just another alliance, which will go with us or not on a case-by-case basis but retains no sovereign authority to compel us to stop. Nor would it be consistent with any of our governing principles to give such powers to the U.N. that we denied to King George III. Such authority would be inherently illegitimate, not least for all the reasons you already know: because representation in the U.N. is neither proportional nor representative.
So, we respect international law, and endeavor to act within it -- but we do not respect the ability of an unrepresentative body to decide what that law is. I think that's quite consistent and defensible.
(For the record, the role of France in the recount was played by the Florida Supreme Court, which ignored or rejected the various rules, rulings and factfindings of the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Congress, the Florida Legislature, the Florida Secretary of State, and the trial court).
Click here for the third and final installment of my Projo column taking a decade-by-decade look at underappreciated teams (registration required). Click here for an Instapundit item (linking to a piece talking specifically about Projo) questioning registration-required sites.
BASEBALL: Baseball's Underappreciated Great Teams, 1970-99
Originally posted on Projo.com
The 1970s: 1974 Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodger infield of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Ron Cey became household names in 1974, but for me at least, the team was long identified with the squad that lost consecutive World Serieses to the Yankees -- Tommy Lasorda's team, with Reggie Smith and Dusty Baker in the outfield. But the 1974 team was the best Dodger team in the franchise's tenure in Los Angeles, and would probably be remembered as such if they hadn't lost to the Mustache Gang in the World Series.
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After a two-year collapse following the 1966 retirement of Sandy Koufax, the Dodgers of the late 60s and early 70s were mostly a good team; although perennially stuck behind the Big Red Machine, they finished second five times and third once between 1970 and 1976. The Dodgers tried a lot of different things -- for example, importing veteran sluggers Dick Allen and Frank Robinson. But at the core was the rebuilding of the infield. Garvey broke in as a third baseman, playing semiregularly after 1971, and moved to first base to make room for Cey (after Wes Parker's sudden retirement in 1972) in 1973. Russell replaced Maury Wills at short in 1972. In 1974, Garvey became an everyday fixture at first, moving Bill Buckner to the outfield and relegating Manny Mota to pinch hitting duties. The 1973 team was already a good one, winning 95 games. Garvey began a series of nearly identical productive seasons in 1974 -- .312 average, 21 HR, 111 RBI, 200 hits. He was named the NL MVP.
In addition, two acquisitions radically changed the face of the Dodgers in 1974, albeit only for a year. They traded long-time centerfielder Willie Davis to the Expos for workhorse reliever Mike Marshall, and brought in Jimmy Wynn from Houston to play center. The two acquisitions could hardly have worked better; in fact, they were probably the Dodgers' two best players, the MVP voters notwithstanding.
Marshall's season, netting him the Cy Young Award, was historic, and the records he set are among baseball's most impressive. I separate "impressive" records from "unbreakable" ones, since all the most unbreakable records are ones that were set under different playing conditions. Cy Young threw 751 complete games in his career, which at the modern league leader's pace would take 100 years; single-season records for starting pitchers, set by underhand throwers in the 1880s (when the mound was 50 feet and anywhere from 5 to 9 balls were needed for a walk) will never be approached. Marshall's records of throwing 106 games and 208.1 innings in relief in a season are likewise the product of vanished conditions, although we may will see a lefthanded specialist challenge the 100-games mark in the next decade or so, 1 or 2 batters at a time. But what makes the records impressive is how far they stand out even from his own time. There have been only seven 90-game seasons -- three by Marshall and three by Kent Tekulve -- and the nearest is 12 games off Marshall's pace. The innings record is more impressive - like Babe Ruth in 1920, Marshall not only shattered the previous record (179 innings), it was a record he himself had set the prior year. And he pitched well: a 2.42 ERA, just 9 home runs allowed in over 200 IP, an almost 3-to-1 K/BB ratio. (For good measure, Marshall added 12 appearances in the postseason, including 9 innings of relief in appearing in all 5 World Series games).
The impact of a quality reliever taking over such a gigantic workload -- the work of three men, really, at least by the standards of today's game -- is hard to measure comprehensively, given the number of ways this affects the pitching staff. But between Marshall and Charlie Hough (who tossed 96 innings in 49 relief appearances), the Dodgers were able to paper over some weak links in the rotation, notably Doug Rau, who posted a 3.72 ERA (a subpar performance in that pitcher's era and park) and completed just 3 of his 35 starts, averaging less than 6 innings a start -- an unheard-of ratio in those days. Sore-armed Tommy John also staggered to a 13-3 record in 22 starts before his season ended early, while finishing just 5 of them; John pitched well, but probably benefited from not finishing his own games. John's injury, of course, would make baseball history with the famous surgery; staff ace Andy Messersmith (20-6, 2.59 ERA in 1974) would make another kind of history when an arbitrator awarded him free agency following the 1975 season, and fifth starter Al Downing (later replaced in the rotation by Geoff Zahn) would enter the history books in April of 1974 when he surrendered Hank Aaron's 715th home run (if you look at the footage of the homer, you can see Dodger left fielder Bill Buckner, in one of the two most memorable moments of his career, scaling the fence to try to take it away).
As for Wynn, finally free of the Astrodome only to land in yet another pitcher's paradise, he proved to be the critical element of a truly fearsome offense. Looking at the numbers, they may not look like much by modern standards, but consider that the Dodgers outscored the average team in the league by 18%, and then factor in the fact that 25% fewer runs were scored in Dodger home games than Dodger road games in 1974; on the road, the Dodgers scored 5.47 runs/game, 31.8% above the league average. A typical league leading offense will outscore the league average by 15% or so; the 1927 Yankees outscored the average AL team by 28% (the 1976 Reds were over 30%). I don't really think the park was quite that hostile, but comparing this offense to some of the all-time great offensive teams is perfectly fair.
Wynn was the best of the bunch, hitting 32 homers and drawing 108 walks, leading to a .271/.497/.387 batting line and 108 RBI. Everyone in the lineup had an on base percentage of .334 or better (the league average was .325), including right fielder Willie Crawford at .376 and backup catcher Joe Ferguson at .380. Everyone but Russell also bested the league slugging average. Buckner, then young (24) and fleet-footed (his ankles hadn't given out yet) batted .314 and stole 31 bases in 44 tries; Lopes also added 59 steals.
The pennant race wasn't close for the season's first half; the Dodgers blasted out of the gate at a 37-14 (.725) clip, and led by 8 games on June 1. The Reds cut the margin to 2.5 games in mid-August, going 35-15 from July 7 to August 28, but dropped back a bit with an early September slump, including the Dodgers taking 2 of 3 in a series in Cincinnati in which Garvey went 6 for 13 with a double, homer and 3 RBI and Sutton pitched a key 3-1 victory. The Reds then won 7 of 8 to cut the lead to 1.5 games on September 14, including consecutive victories in LA, but Sutton pitched a six-hitter the next day, Garvey doubled and homered, and Wynn hit a grand slam off Pedro Borbon in the 7th (followed by Garvey's homer) to put the game away 7-1. A week later the Dodger lead was 4.5 games and the race was over.
The postseason started well enough, as the Dodgers rolled over the Pirates 3 games to 1, the sole loss the result of a 5-run first inning against Rau. Garvey batted .389 in the LCS, kicking off a career of spectacular postseason batting. But the World Series, with four 3-2 games and a 5-2 game in five matchups, just didn't break the Dodgers' way (except for the famous pickoff of A's pinch runner Herb Washington by Marshall). In the deciding Game 5, Joe Rudi homered off Marshall in the bottom of the 7th, and the series was effectively put to bed when Buckner, in a baserunning blunder that was much celebrated at the time, was thrown out at third base leading off the top of the 8th (the ball got past Bill North but was corralled by Reggie Jackson, who threw a strike to cutoff man Dick Green, who threw Buckner out at third). The Dodgers would be back a few years later after Walter Alston retired and Wynn and Marshall broke down, but this team never got the ultimate glory it deserved.
The 1980s: 1988 New York Mets
Like the 1974 Dodgers, these Mets are hardly forgotten, but rather have been persistently overshadowed -- overshadowed by the 1986 team, overshadowed in the regular season by the A's, overshadowed in the postseason and in the award voting by Hershiser's Dodgers. But this was a distinct team from the 1986 team, and a powerful one.
The Mets' rise from the obscurity of the 1977-83 period to the dominating force of the 1986 team needs no introduction. This was followed by 1987 . . . there's probably no season of baseball I remember better than the 1987 Mets; I was 15 and hanging on every single pitch. It was agony watching such a superior team have the same things continually unravel. To make a long story short, the Mets in 1987 had seven very good starting pitchers (Gooden, Darling, Fernandez, Ojeda, Aguilera, Cone and Leach), and it wasn't enough; they still wound up giving nearly 30 starts to pitchers who were ineffective, sometimes spectacularly so, and even tried to coax Tom Seaver out of retirement. The team scored a league-leading 5.08 R/G, a staggering figure for a team playing in Shea Stadium, and still they fell 3 games short of the division title.
The 1988 roster had turned over a good deal from 1986. World Series MVP Ray Knight was let go after 1986, giving Howard Johnson the full time third base job. The aging Jesse Orosco (so we thought at the time) was dealt to the Dodgers for prospects after 1987, handing over the lefthanded closer job to young fireballer Randy Myers. Kevin Mitchell was shipped to San Diego after 1986 for Kevin McReynolds. Weak-hitting shortstop Rafael Santana was let go, to be replaced in 1988 by rookie Kevin Elster. And in April 1987, the Mets traded two minor players -- backup catcher Ed Hearn and minor league veteran pitcher Rick Anderson -- to the Royals for a seven-year minor league vet named David Cone.
For the Mets, Cone's emergence was the biggest story of 1988. In 1987, Cone started 13 times, which included a visibly nervous Cone getting pounded in his first two outings (Davey Johnson then settled him down by starting Cone in the Jimmy Fund in-season exhibition against the Red Sox) and getting hammered again in his first start off the DL after getting his right pinky finger crushed against the bat by a pitch while bunting. In his other ten starts, Cone's ERA was below 3.00. In 1988, he lived up to that promise after sliding into the rotation when an April injury finished Rick Aguilera's season (the Mets would move Aguilera to the bullpen the following year before dealing him to Minnesota in the Frank Viola deal). At the time, I thought Cone had been robbed in the Cy Young voting by Hershiser, since Cone had a better W-L record (20-3 vs. 23-8) and a lower ERA (2.22 to 2.26), but Hershiser did throw 36 extra innings, had a lot less offensive support, and unlike Cone (who was tagged for 8 unearned runs in one inning that summer), and unlike Cone, Hershiser wasn't tagged for an unusual number of unearned runs (Cone allowed 10, including 5 in his last 3 starts while Hershiser was rolling up his consecutive shutout streak). It's still a close call, but the voters got it right.
Myers was another revelation, putting permanently aside his minor league reputation as a guy who couldn't find the plate. Myers' numbers look impressive enough -- 1.72 ERA, 69K and 62 baserunners in 68 IP. But during the season they looked even better; at the end of September, Myers' ERA was 1.35 and he had been taken deep only twice all year, but he got tagged for a pair of home runs in the next to last game of the season. Randall K would go on to an illustrious career in places like Cincinnati, Chicago and Baltimore, saving 347 major league games, although ironically enough, the two older pitchers he replaced in his first two stops -- Orosco and John Franco -- are still pitching five years after Myers threw his last pitch. Beyond Myers, the bullpen was as solid as the rotation, with Roger McDowell and Terry Leach combining with Myers to carry nearly the entire relief load and posting ERAs below 2.70. Leach, a 34-year-old minor league veteran submariner who'd been known to throw complete game shutouts for the Mets in games started on a half hour's notice, went 7-2 (all in relief this time), raising his record to 18-3 over a two year period and 24-9 for his career.
On offense, 1988 saw a changing of the guard. Gary Carter had cracked 20 home runs and driven in 83 runs in 1987, but it was his first real off year in a decade; in 1988, at age 34, Carter started hot in April to get to 299 career homers, then went homerless for three months waiting for number 300. He finished at .242/.358/301, a non-factor in the offense, and was mercifully removed from the cleanup slot as the season progressed. Keith Hernandez, also 34, also began an abrupt decline, missing almost 70 games with hamstring problems and dropping him to .276 with a .333 OBP. Like Carter, Hernandez would never regain the form that made him an MVP candidate just two years earlier. 25-year-old Lenny Dykstra had an off year, and 29-year-old platoon second baseman Tim Teufel came back to earth after slugging .545 in the lively ball air of 1987. Elster hit no better than Santana, batting .214. Pinch hitter Lee Mazzilli hit .147.
None of it mattered. The unquestioned star of this team was Darryl Strawberry, and Darryl had probably his best season in 1988 at age 26, scoring and driving in 101 runs apiece, slamming 39 homers, and finishing at .269/.545/.366, stealing 29 bases while grounding into just 6 double plays for good measure. The Straw Man led the league in homers by 9 and was one of just three NL players (along with Will Clark and Andy Van Slyke) to both drive in and score 100 runs. In Strawberry's case, it's obvious that he was robbed in the MVP voting; Kirk Gibson's 25 homers and 76 RBI don't stack up. Granted, Gibson was a better percentage base thief (4 CS to Straw's 14) and had a slightly higher OBP (.377 to .369), but Strawberry's 62-point advantage in slugging easily overcomes that, and if Strawberry was an underachieving fielder, at least he could throw, which Gibson couldn't.
Instead, the MVP voters focused on Gibson's intense emotional leadership -- notably a celebrated spring training incident when he blew up at Orosco for playing the kind of practical joke that had been common in the looser Mets clubhouse -- and probably held against Strawberry the perception that the Mets had sleepwalked through the summer, since Darryl was always the poster boy for sleepy ballplayers. The Mets buried the competition early, and then coasted for much of the summer. The Mets started 30-11 (.731); Gooden was 8-0 already, Cone was 6-0. By June 6, they stood 38-17 (.690), 7 games ahead of the revived Pirates and 8.5 ahead of the defending champion Cardinals. But from May 23 to August 21, this was a .500 team, 41-41. The Cardinals fell by the wayside, but the Pirates closed to just 3.5 games back. The Mets had backed their way into a close pennant race. Gooden had gone 6-6 in the interim, and Cone had also won just 6 games in the intervening 82. The two lefthanders, Ojeda and Fernandez, stood 15-22 through August 22.
Then they woke up, and proceeded to tear the division to ribbons with a 29-8 surge in which they allowed just 2.78 runs/game (while scoring 5 a game). Cone won his last 8 starts to improbably finish 20-3. Fernandez went 5-0 down the stretch, and Gooden won 4 straight decisions before dropping his last two starts (at the time I was indignant that Davey Johnson started a lineup full of scrubs behind Gooden on September 23, with Dr. K needing 2 wins in 2 starts for his second 20-win season; Johnson benched Strawberry, McReynolds, Hernandez and Carter and let Gooden lose a 2-1 complete game defeat).
Besides Darryl, the Mets got a big year from McReynolds, who set a record (since broken) by stealing 21 bases without being caught once, and slugged .496 on the way to 99 RBI; McReynolds (like Hernandez and Carter in 1986 and Gooden and Carter in 1985) split much of the MVP vote with Strawberry (there's a reason no Met has ever won the award). 25-year-old Dave Magadan stepped in seamlessly for Hernandez, posting his customary .393 on base percentage. And 32-year-old Mookie Wilson, the last holdover (other than the returning Mazzilli) from the dark days of the Joe Torre years, had his best season, batting .296/.431/.345 in a part-time role. Wally Backman also played well, to the tune of a .388 OBP.
Two events of September overshadowed the rest of the team. One was Bob Ojeda's accident. Ojeda has had an incredible array of freak accidents and injuries, ranging from a rare blood disease in his Red Sox years that caused fainting spells to head injuries suffered in the fatal 1993 boat crash that claimed the lives of Indians teammates Steve Olin and Tim Crews. In 1988, it was a gardening mishap; through September 11, Ojeda was pitching exceptionally well -- a 2.88 ERA and a 133-33 K/BB ratio, allowing about a baserunner an inning while surrendering just 6 home runs in nearly 200 innings, and having thrown shutouts in two of his last three starts -- when he cut the tip off the middle finger of his pitching hand with a hedge trimmer. Ojeda had recovered from arm trouble that limited him to 10 appearances in 1987, but the hedge trimming accident finished his season, and while he would pitch effectively again he never regained his pinpoint control.
The other September sensation was 20-year-old Gregg Jefferies. Jefferies had been Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year -- a highly prestigious award that usually led to major league stardom -- two years running as a teenager in 1986 and 1987, batting around .360 with power as a switch-hitting, base-stealing shortstop blessed with a compact, textbook-perfect swing from both sides of the plate. He was known for his father's extensive grooming efforts -- Jefferies had his own training regimen, which famously included swinging a bat underwater -- and his arrogance, such as his boast that he would break Pete Rose's hit record (he ultimately fell some 2,500 hits short).
Jefferies hit Shea in late August like a bomb going off. Arriving August 28, a week into the hot streak that would put paid to the division, Jefferies was immediately inserted in the starting lineup, batting second and playing third base (which forced Howard Johnson, now an established star after his 30/30 season in 1987, to play out of position at shortstop) with Dwight Gooden on the mound. Jefferies singled and doubled as the Mets lost 7-4. The next day, Davey Johnson asked Cone to take the mound with an appalling defensive infield of Jefferies at second, HoJo at short and Magadan at third; Cone somehow managed to toss a 1-hit shutout, and Jefferies doubled, tripled and homered. (Johnson wasn't totally oblivious to defense; two days later he pulled Jefferies for a defensive sub after Leach replaced no-ground-balls Sid Fernandez in the second inning). After a 4-hit game on September 12, Jefferies' line for his first 13 games on the roster looked like this: 12 games, 48 at bats, 24 hits, 7 doubles, 2 triples, 5 home runs, 13 runs, 10 RBI, one steal, .500 batting average, 1.042 slugging, .520 OBP. Jefferies cooled off after that, but finished at .321/.596/.364 in over 100 at bats.
Given the threat Jefferies posed to the team's incumbent infielders, particularly Backman, Teufel and Johnson, Jefferies' veteran teammates decided to alternately torture and ignore him, including repeatedly sawing his custom-made bats in half; the result was not good for team 'chemistry,' whatever the importance of that may be. Jefferies, like Jeff Kent after him, was uptight and humorless, and responded poorly to these slights and gags, and unlike Kirk Gibson, nobody gave him an award for the response. I do hold the Mets organization partly responsible for Jefferies' ultimate failure to develop as a hitter, though less due to the hazing than due to the failure to fix a position for him.
In the short run, sticking a 20-year-old rookie with a gigantic ego into the lineup had other problems. Davey asked him to bunt in one LCS game, only to discover -- on national television -- that a guy who had been his team's best hitter his entire life had no idea how to lay a bunt down (Johnson had made the same mistake with Strawberry in the heat of the pennant race three years earlier and gave up on asking him to bunt after that). Still, the Mets had manhandled the Dodgers in the regular season, winning 10 of 11 matchups, and after Carter broke Hershiser's scoreless innings streak in Game One of the LCS -- leading to a 3-run ninth and a thrilling 3-2 victory reminiscent of where the team had left off in the postseason two years earlier -- it looked like it would be easy.
Unfortunately, the Mets couldn't keep their mouths shut. Cone wrote a boastful piece in the NY papers and promptly got shelled in Game Two; Strawberry started griping about his contract; McReynolds said that if the Mets won, he'd go to the World Series and if they lost, he'd be back in Arkansas in time for duck hunting season, so as far as he was concerned he would win either way. The Mets won a rain-soaked Game Three 8-4; as in Game One, they'd bested Hershiser by tearing up Dodgers' closer Jay Howell. Gibson pulled up lame, and was hobbled for the rest of the LCS, although he'd hit two more home runs in the series.
Then, two things happened to turn the series. One was that Gooden, leading 4-2 in the ninth inning of Game 4 at home -- a situation where no manager, today, would have his starter on the mound, but it was a different era then -- was tagged by Mike Scioscia for a game-tying two-run homer. Second, Howell got suspended for putting pine tar on the brim of his cap, leading to suspicions of doctoring the ball. The Mets had been torturing Howell, but Tommy Lasorda now went to Hershiser to close out Game 4 (his third appearance in five days). The Dodgers won Game Five, Cone rebounded to shut them down in Game 6, and then in Game Seven the wheels came off: Ron Darling, the team's money pitcher the prior three years, came out with nothing, and errors by Backman and Jefferies contributed to a 6-0 hole after two. Gooden, Leach and Aguilera held the line valiantly after that -- both Leach and Myers were unscored-upon in that series -- but with Hershiser staked to a 6 run lead, it was over.
The Mets' fall, like their rise, is too long a tale for this column, but 1988 was the last time that a championship was this close for this team, and the promised showdown with the 104-win A's never materialized. (Oakland found the first of its own postseason nightmares against those Dodgers). You can pick a number of dates when the worm turned against the Mets, but most fans would pick 1988 NLCS Game Four and Scioscia's home run.
The 1990s: 1998 Houston Astros
It's hard for any team from five years ago to be forgotten yet -- the two biggest stars of this Astros team are still in Houston, as are the team's ace pitcher and its closer -- but the 1998 Astros are certainly not likely to be mentioned in any history books.
A consistently solid also-ran under Art Howe and Terry Collins, the Astros won their first division title in more than a decade when Larry Dierker took over the helm in 1997, led by a spectacular breakout season by Darryl Kile. Kile left as a free agent for an ill-fated tour in Colorado after the season, but the 1998 Astros would be the best of Dierker's four division champs in Houston.
Like the two teams above, this team was an offensive monster stuck in a pitcher's park. One of the oddities, for the slow-moving 1990s, was that everybody in the starting lineup had double figures in stolen bases, highlighted by 50 steals for Craig Biggio. Jeff Bagwell, then 30 and the team's best hitter, had his usual Bagwell season, .304/.557/.424, scoring 124 runs and driving in 111. Biggio, age 32, had one of his best years, batting .325/.503/.403; with 50 steals and 51 doubles, Biggio was constantly in scoring position (to day nothing of 20 home runs). Yet, with all that baserunning and over 740 plate appearances, Biggio grounded into just 10 double plays and was caught stealing only 8 times. The third of the "Killer Bs" had his third and final star-quality season at age 29; Derrek Bell scored 111 runs and drove in 108, loading a .314 batting average with 41 doubles and 22 home runs. All up and down the lineup, this team hit gobs and gobs of doubles, with 5 players hitting 33 or more, plus the Bill Spiers/Sean Berry platoon at third combining for 44 and fourth outfielder Richard Hidalgo -- a deadly hitter crowded out of the lineup -- chipping in 15. Besides Bell, Hidalgo was blocked by Moises Alou, fresh from the fire sales in Montreal and Florida, who had a career year, .312/.582/.399, with 38 homers and 124 RBI; and newly-arrived Carl Everett, taking a brief break from controversy to hit .296 with power. Of the ten Astros to bat more than 200 times, only shortstop Ricky Guitierrez (.337) had an on base percentage below .355. Besides Hidalgo, mashers like Mitch Meluskey and Daryle Ward were likewise unable to crack this lineup.
The pitching staff, until late July, was solid; with the departure of Kile, Shane Reynolds was surrounded with a maturing Mike Hampton, 25, and new arrivals Jose Lima (25) and Sean Bergman (28). Only fifth starter Pete Schourek, at 29 still trying to recapture his 18-7 season of three years earlier (the one time he lived up to his minor league promise), was a weak link. Billy Wagner and Doug Henry anchored a dependable (until the postseason) bullpen.
So the Astros went for broke at the trading deadline, dealing blue-chip prospects Freddy Garcia, John Halama and Carlos Guillen for a few months' rental of a struggling Randy Johnson, 9-10 with a 4.33 ERA while brooding over his contract in Seattle. It was a classic now-or-never move; the price was steep, as became clear when Garcia emerged as a star and the others became productive contributors in Seattle. And the benefit was short-lived, as Johnson packed his bags for Arizona after the season.
In one sense, the move paid off: Johnson pitched as well as a human being can pitch, 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA in 11 starts, striking out 116 while allowing just 57 hits and 4 home runs. In another sense, it didn't: the Astros were never really threatened in the regular season anyway, and Johnson lost both his starts (albeit well-pitched ones) in the NLDS against the Padres, in which nearly everything possible went wrong: Kevin Brown started a hot streak that carried into the World Series, Bagwell, Biggio and Billy Wagner continued their career-long futility in the postseason . . . it all fell apart.
But if there's one common theme in the history of all the teams I've looked at, it's this: those shots at the brass ring can fade awfully fast. I'd make the Johnson deal again.
Â« Close It
February 27, 2003
WAR: Threat Levels
MEMRI translates a threat, apparently from an Al Qaeda-linked group, of a terror attack within the next week or so. (It says "ten days or less," and was posted February 24, so the threat would extend to about March 6) The website cited by MEMRI is registered to an address in Paris, France. (Link via NRO's James Robbins). Is it serious? This is always unknowable until it's too late. Meanwhile, the Department of Easily Mocked Initiatives has lowered the threat level from 'Orange' to 'Yellow'; presumably, DEMI has decided that this particular threat is not worth losing sleep over.
POP CULTURE: Goodbye, Neighbor
I wasn't going to blog today, but this demands comment: Mister Rogers has died.
We can all remember, warmly, the TV personalities of our childhood; as we grow older and outgrow them, we lose our innocence and move into a harder world. Yet, the loss of innocence that accompanes adulthood makes it all the more admirable to see a grown man who so efortlessly, for so many decades, produced the sort of kind, gentle entertainment that connected instantly with generations of preschoolers. Even with our own children, it can be hard to have that connection, to put aside all the trappings of adulthood. And everyone who knew Fred Rogers testified to the fact that he was really like that -- soft-spoken, patient, understanding, deeply religious (he was a Presbyterian minister) and committed to an old-fashioned, small-town sort of decency.
You could've been my neighbor any day, Mister Rogers. Rest in Peace.
February 26, 2003
BASEBALL: Bernie October
I'm sure you've seen this breakdown on Bernie Williams before:
ALDS/ALCS, 1995-2002 (61 games): .316/.575/.424; Averages per 162 games: 45 2B, 37 HR, 135 R, 125 RBI, 114 BB, 112 K
The samples are still small enough that this could just be luck, exacerbated by the fact that (1) the World Series means better pitching, specifically more Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Schilling, Randy Johnson and Kevin Brown, whereas (2) the ALDS/ALCS means three series against the Rangers and two against the Indians. But Bernie is also a guy who started a little slow in his career and has shown broad development, as well as a guy who's a slow starter in-season . . . I thought I'd check, via the splits on ESPN.com, how Bernie has done in interleague play the past 3 years:
vs. AL (1693 PA): .315/.525/.400; Averages per 648 PA: 36 2B, 26 HR, 105 R, 106 RBI, 75 BB, 79 K
Conclusion: At a minimum, no sign of the same effect, although the pattern of more walks and strikeouts against NL pitching does persist. (It's also true that Bernie's done quite well against the Mets, who he now sees every year, but then he batted .111 in the 2000 World Series, which also suggests that the pattern is random). The sample size still isn't big enough to draw a lot of conclusions. I'd still be interested, to see a study of how Bernie fares against a pitcher the first vs. later times to get to the bottom of the issue, but it appears that the more likely explanation for his World Series struggles is the simpler one -- that the Yankees have seen a lot of good pitching, and Bernie has hit in bad luck.
BASEBALL: Veterans Committee Vote
So it looks like the new Veterans Committee wants to wait until Marvin Miller is dead to enshrine him (he's 86 and they won't vote on him again for 4 years). I'm no fan of Miller but he does deserve enshrinement, as does Ron Santo.
Click here, meanwhile (and scroll up from the comments), to see an exceptionally thorough attack on your truly by the volatile and always interesting Don Malcolm, on the subject of Dick Allen's Hall of Fame case (I'm still on the fence on that one -- I've said my piece against Allen from conclusions I reached while researching my attempt to support his candidacy, but Malcolm has his points too, albeit stated in his usually over-the-top fashion, like comparing me to Al Qaeda (hint: Don, don't use the comparison on a guy who Al Qaeda tried to kill; just don't go there). You can go here to the Malcolm post that started it all, and here to my Projo column on the subject.
WAR/POLITICS: Grab Bag
Lord knows I'm no Noam Chomsky fan, but it still shocked me to read Chomsky's visceral contempt for Vaclav Havel and his gratitude to America at the collapse of the tyranny that ran Havel's country. (link via Instapundit)
Joshua Micah Marshall has an interesting argument on why he thinks Dick Cheney is incompetent.
A great Goldberg File today, in defense of McCarthyism, then and now.
The Economist sums it up for all those who are reluctant supporters of war with Iraq:
"it would be wise [for the United States] to secure support for its threat through the UN, both to make the war less risky and to make the post-war peace more likely to be durable. But, in the end, the reality remains: if Mr Hussein refuses to disarm, it would be right to go to war. Saddamned, perhaps, if you do; but Saddamned, also, if you don't."
Count the uses of "I" by Bill Clinton in this item. Clinton even manages to make the death of Richard Nixon's press secretary about himself, saying that Ron Zeigler was "wise in the ways of Washington, and battle-scarred as I am."
Why am I not surprised that the mere existence in office of Jennifer Granholm has already pushed liberal writers to stump for abolishing the constitutional prohibition on foreign-born presidents?
Andrew Sullivan carries a reminder (second item) that it was also France who killed the League of Nations, in part by refusing to respect an oil embargo against Italy.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:23 PM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Mean John
I asked here and here, in handicapping the Democratic presidential candidates, who would be the Mean Candidate. I think Mickey Kaus is right that John Kerry's addition of both Bob Shrum and Chris Lehane to his campaign team gives Kerry exactly the combination of advisers and temperament that produces the Gore-like candidate: mean, divisive, completely incapable of nuance or intellectual honesty, unwilling to concede even the possibility that the opponent and his supporters are anything but an eeeevil conspiracy. A successful candidate has to be tough and unsentimental about cutting the other guy's legs out from under him, to be sure, and this approach has had its successes in congressional and gubernatorial races. But a campaign like this is totally unsuited to attracting the broad middle in a presidential campaign. Why?
1. Presidential candidates have to look, well, presidential. The public knows a rabbit-puncher when they see one, and sometimes appreciates sending such people to Congress ("I'll fight for YOU to get money for OUR state and not send it to those big cities back East!"), but do people who think Bush isn't diplomatic enough really want our leader to be a Manichean populist?
2. The Shrum divide & conquer campaign style requires picking out the fissures in the electorate and living with the consequences of completely alienating everybody on one side of several of them. It's a lot easier to predict the consequences of that and wind up on the right side of the splits when you are dealing with a state or district; applied nationally, there are just too many ways to bet the wrong horse (think of Gore's alienation of gun owners and coal miners), and its logical conclusion is the candidate who wins landslides in culturally liberal precincts on the coasts but winds up getting screwed in the electoral college because he couldn't build a critical mass of support in any state that lacked a large urban African-American population (the one group that, for better or worse, will avoid being splintered by divisions on multiple wedge issues). Sound familiar?
Some time when I've got more time to blog, I intend to look more closely at the related issues of civility, intellectual honesty and mean-spiritedness in politics, media, punditry and blogging. But for now, I'll just say that adding Shrum gives Kerry the inside track at the nomination just as it pushes him further from electability by solidifying precisely the weaknesses that did in Gore. I can almost hear Kerry sighing already . . .
POLITICS: It's Everyone Else Who's Crazy
Ratings flop Phil Donahue accuses the American viewing public of being part of a right-wing cabal!
Well, actually he accused MSNBC of trying to imitate FOX by sacking him to hire more right-leaning talk show hosts, but Donahue apparently ignores the little matter of his flatlining ratings. Donahue's call for more patient management might ring truer if it were not for two facts:
1. His ratings weren't going anywhere. Donahue compares his situation to the time it took FOX to overtake CNN, but FOX was a whole new channel (people gotta find it on the dial) and it was trending sharply upward for a long time. Phil's show was stuck in the cellar with no prospect of improving.
2. I don't have figures, but you have to assume that Donahue's name recognition is still tremendous. Everyone knows who he is and that his show was out there; people just didn't want to watch it. No amount of time will change that. Sure, NBC gave a little-known show called "Seinfeld" time to build name recognition -- but there was no need to do that for, say, the Chevy Chase late night show; if it didn't start well, it wasn't going to get any better. Like Chase, Donahue just couldn't recapture the magic of the mid-seventies. He should have had the grace to just admit that. But in Donahue's world, it's always somebody else's fault.
Big Oil, maybe?
POLITICS/WAR: Buchanan on The Sick Bear
Pat Buchanan, who is nothing if not a believer in demographics as destiny, has some provocative insights about the toll of abortion on Russia's population.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:27 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 25, 2003
BASEBALL: BREAK OUT THE HOMER HANKIES
February 24, 2003
POP CULTURE: Rock Is Dead, They Say
I'm not sure if it says more about the state of the Grammys or the state of rock music today that Bruce Springsteen's awards for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Album were not even featured on the telecast, but presented off the air with the polka awards and the Grammy for "best liner notes."
BASEBALL: Signs of the Season
Nothing says springtime's right around the corner like Frank Thomas bellyaching and feuding with teammates, stories starting with "Ken Griffey is an unhappy camper", optimism over the health of the Yankees' 8th starting pitcher, one-liners about Mo Vaughn's weight, and a stupid Pete Rose controversy.
All we're missing is a "new, mature" Darryl Strawberry. Give it a few weeks.
February 22, 2003
POLITICS/SCIENCE: A RESPONSE TO DOUG TURNBULL
Doug Turnbull has set out, at some length, a thoughtful explanation of why he thinks that the case for a space program is just as grounded in impractical romanticism as much of modern environmentalism:
Can anyone come up with an argument for manned space flight that couldn't, with a few changed words, also be used to support a ban on ANWR drilling, or almost any pro-environmental position, for that matter? Both seem to rest on a fundamental romanticism--in the one case of space, in the other of wilderness and wildlife here on earth. Both involve large economic costs to pursue this romantic goal, with either no economic payoff, or a highly questionable economic payoff in the distant future.
* * *
I'm more sympathetic to the environmental arguments, since the costs there (such as species extinction and habitat loss) are much clearer and more obvious than the supposed benefits of space flight, which seem to mainly focus on intangibles like the human spirit of conquest and exploration.
I've seen others make this point, and it's a fair criticism. Certainly much of the terms in which the space program is described by its admirers is explicitly aimed at our imagination rather than any hard grip on the day-to-day world the rest of us inhabit. Charles Krauthammer's stirring call to Mars is one of the best exemplars of this phenomenon.
In the end, though, I think that a fair distinction can be made between the two. Let's count the ways (albeit with a lot of overlap between my arguments):
1. The Costs of The Space Program Are More Explicit. The space program costs money, a lot of money; Turnbull pinpoints the cost of the Space Shuttle and International Space Station at $5.5 billion/year. But we can see that cost, and publicly debate it. The big problem conservatives have with environmentalism isn't the EPA's budget, which I suspect (without checking) is a good deal larger than NASA's. The problem is with all sorts of costs imposed by regulations on businesses, which impede economic growth in ways that are hard to measure and thus far less immediately subject to public scrutiny than NASA's budget.
2. The Costs of The Space Program Are Far Smaller. As I noted above, the cost of the space program as a whole is unlikely, in the near future, to exceed the very low 11 digits. Now, $10 billion may be a lot of money, but that's peanuts compared to the costs that would be imposed if we ever had to follow, say, the Kyoto Treaty.
3. The Space Program Places No Limits On Human Liberty. Costs aren't only measured in dollars. The space program costs us nothing but taxpayer money, and while I don't underestimate the cost of taxpayer money, environmental regulations impose other serious costs -- restrictions on businesses, impositions on communities and their livelihoods, barriers on the aspirations of working people who want to be self-sufficient.
4. We Don't Force Poor Countries To Have Space Programs. The environmental movement is forever trying to get the United States to insist on environmental restrictions on foreign countries, where people are trying to escape subsistence economies and raise standards of living to points that we take for granted in terms of our health and longetivity. The space program asks nothing of farmers in Zambia or the Amazon jungles, just the people who pay federal income taxes -- and we know who they are.
5. A Private Sector Space Program Would Be Even Better. Most conservative thinkers about space would gladly see a larger role for the private sector in the space program -- maybe not an exclusive role, but a larger one. Come to think of it, they're the same people who think that voluntary private sector efforts on the environment can be good for the economy. (Krauthammer, by the way, is quite explicit in explaining that he thinks government is just better at things like the space program that involve linear goal-driven projects rather than ham-handed attempts to screw with incentives in private conduct).
6. The Space Program Does Not Harm Our Sovereignty Or Infringe On Democratic Self-Government. Again, I get back to things like the Kyoto Treaty -- the environmental movement has made many efforts to get us to accept the dictates of international bodies our people did not elect. The space program makes no such demands, and instead proudly flies the American flag, even planting it on the moon (sorry, got a little emotional at the end there).
7. Space Has Military Applications. Now let's talk turkey -- as John Miller of the National Review noted (actually, I think he was quoting someone but I lost the article), space is "the ultimate high ground" -- by pushing our space program further, we can develop more military applications that have enormous usefulness in dangerous times. Miller's latest piece, on the use of Global Positioning Systems to improve the accuracy of our aerial bombardment and coordinate troop movements, underscores this.
8. Our Space Program Is Awe-Inspiring. I'm talking about the kind of awe that has practical uses: fear in the hearts of our enemies, respect of our friends. You can't buy the kind of propaganda, in the backward and dysfunctional societies where we must now seek to win hearts and minds and strike terror in those who wish to do so to us, than being the only nation ever to put a man on the moon. What that says to people who can't even get decent plumbing . . . it's incalculable. Mars? They can barely even see Mars.
But we can go there. And it will cost us much less than capping our smokestacks and reining in our standard of living.
POLITICS: California and New York
There are few hardier perennials in the world of conservative journals of opinion than the article assuring us that, really, this time, Republicans are gonna start winning in California. It's right up there with "any day now, African-American voters are gonna wake up and realize that the Democrats take them for granted!" (The Wall Street Journal's John Fund is a master at both of these genres). Hugh Hewitt had a recent species of this in the Weekly Standard: Barbara Boxer's a loony leftist! Bush is gonna win the state! Hey, Cubs fans find a way to have hope each spring, so I guess California Republicans can too. Me, I'll believe it when I see it.
Here in heavily Democractic New York, though, I think Bush really can make inroads in 2004. My reasoning is simple:
1. Upstate New York has traditionally been good territory for the GOP, and Republicans have also proven competitive in the suburbs and on Long Island. In short, if Bush can neutralize Democrats' huge advantages in the City (in 2000, he lost Manhattan by more than a million votes), he's definitely in the game.
2. Voters in New York City have proven their willingness to vote for Republicans -- albeit more liberal ones than Bush -- when they feel their physical safety is at stake. Hence, we've had Republican mayors for the past decade.
3. Nobody cares more about progress in the War on Terror than New Yorkers. We're the City With The Big Bullseye, and everybody knows it. We were the opening battleground of this war. If Bush can convince people that he has made real progress on ths front by the fall of 2004 -- no major domestic terror strikes, Saddam gone, perhaps a new regime in Iran, maybe Osama's head on a spike -- he can be very competitive in the City, and maybe win the state.
It will all turn on the war -- but then, if the war is seen as going badly, Bush will be packing his bags in 2004 rather than counting electoral votes anyway.
POLITICS: The Note
ABC News' The Note has a fascinatingly detailed rundown on the Democratic presidential hopefuls in "The Invisible Primary".
LAW: Injustice Douglas
From reading his opinions on matters I'm familiar with, I've long suspected that Justice William O. Douglas was a sloppy, careless, agenda-driven judge. To give an obvious example about which I've written at more length in an article in the Securities Regulation Law Journal ("The 'In Connection With' Requirement of Rule 10b-5 as an Expectation Standard," 26 Sec. Reg. L.J. 1), Douglas authored a unanimous opinion for the Court in Superintendant of Insurance of New York v. Bankers Life & Cas. Co., 404 U.S. 6 (1971), the first Supreme Court case to recognize the implied private right of action under section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. Naturally, the opinion -- a brusque 7-0 opinion (the Court was short-handed) delivered less than a month after the case was argued -- gives no analysis to support the existence of such an implied right of action, but that's not the problem. The problem is that the Court found that the alleged fraud in the case was properly considered to be fraud "in connection with the purchase or sale of any security" within the meaning of the statute, on the theory that the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Casualty Company was deceived into selling $5 million worth of Treasury bonds in exchange for a certificate of deposit based upon the representation that the CD was worth $5 million, when in fact it was worthless. See id. at 8-10 & n.1. If this were true, the case would be rather uncomplicated, which is how the Court treated it -- but the Second Circuit Court of Appeals had rejected precisely the same theory below on the grounds that it was neither alleged in the complaint nor supported by any record evidence adduced after six years of discovery. See Superintendant of Insurance of New York v. Bankers Life & Cas. Co., 430 F.2d 357, 360 & n.3 (2d Cir. 1970), rev'd, 404 U.S. 6 (1971).
Seventh Circuit Chief Judge Richard Posner thinks the same about Justice Douglas as a judge, and more, in his review of a new book that sheds light on Douglas as:
one of the most unwholesome figures in modern American political history, a field with many contenders. . . a liar to rival Baron Munchausen . . . Apart from being a flagrant liar, Douglas was a compulsive womanizer, a heavy drinker, a terrible husband to each of his four wives, a terrible father to his two children, and a bored, distracted, uncollegial, irresponsible, and at times unethical Supreme Court justice who regularly left the Court for his summer vacation weeks before the term ended. Rude, ice-cold, hot-tempered, ungrateful, foul-mouthed, self-absorbed, and devoured by ambition, he was also financially reckless--at once a big spender, a tightwad, and a sponge--who, while he was serving as a justice, received a substantial salary from a foundation established and controlled by a shady Las Vegas businessman.
Posner also thinks Douglas would have been a good president, which probably says more about Posner's view of elective officials . . .
WAR: Al Qaeda's Choices
Newsweek has a fascinating profile of the malfunctioning of an overly complicated plot by Al Qaeda to blow up a U.S. warship on September 11. I'm convinced that these guys would be much more effective at spreading fear and chaos and economic disruption if they weren't so ambitious -- but then, that assumes that they really do, as advertised, have thousands of operatives. Their disinterest in staging a large-scale campaign of the type of attacks that we see in Israel suggests that they are much shorter on manpower than we think.
SCIENCE: From the Department of DUH
This article, headlined "Coffee consumption 'can increase stillbirth risk,'" sounds like a legitimate health piece on the risks of pregnant women drinking coffee. But read the opening line:
Pregnant women who drink more than eight cups of coffee a day increase their risk of having a stillborn baby compared with non-coffee drinkers, a new study has found.
(Emphasis added). Did we really need to research this? I mean, eight cups of coffee a day is bad for anyone, let alone a developing child scarcely larger than a mug of java him or herself.
BLOG: Important Message
WAR: Iraq and Al Qaeda
POLITICS: The Pie-Eyed Pipers
The New Republic's Noam Scheiber has a great article (registration required) on the inside-the-Beltway pollsters and consultants who dictate the Democratic Party's message, and why Republicans' ideology prevents them from falling into the same trap.
WAR: Same Old Song and Dance
Vodkapundit says it all about the news rut we're in right now, with everyone just saying the same $^%!$# thing over and over . . .
February 21, 2003
BASEBALL: Fisking Phil Rogers
WAR/POLITICS: Grab Bag
As if I even have to tell you, don't miss Mark Steyn on that unilateralist cowboy Jacques Chirac, Jonah Goldberg on why liberal talk radio can't be funny, and James Lileks on sword-wielding Iraqi imams and the idiotarians who love them ("When [Tony] Blair shows up in the pulpit cleaving the air with a scimitar, let me know. . . It takes a particularly rarified variety of idiot to look at a Jew-hating fascist with a small mustache - and decide that his opponent is the Nazi.").
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:10 PM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Mets sign Tony Clark
Mets sign Tony Clark to a minor league deal. I loved the Clark pickup by the Red Sox last year, and I could not have been more wrong: if the Sox had given Clark's at bats to a merely average first baseman, they might have closed at least a game or two of the six-game gap that cost them the wild card. (Granted, Clark had just 275 at bats, but when you hit .207/.291/.265, you can do a lot of hurt in a little time). And given his injury history, Clark is a good deal less than a 50/50 shot to ever hit well again. But for the Mets -- who have high-risk players at nearly every position, an injury-prone first baseman, and are only committing to a minor league contract rather than the millions the Sox paid Clark -- there's nothing but upside in even the outside chance that Clark's bad back might relent long enough to give back some of the form that made Clark a consistently above-average hitting first baseman for five years entering 2002. The guy is only 30, after all.
I'd rather give him a minor league deal than what the Braves are paying Mike Hampton.
In other news, the same ESPN report notes that El Guapo has retired at the age of "31."
February 20, 2003
WAR: The Belly of the Eagle
The Weekly Standard carries a scary analysis of the latest bin Laden audiotape, asking (on the assumption that it's actually bin Laden, which is at least open to debate), where and how he means to strike when he refers to the "belly of the Eagle." Perhaps this is undermined by the argument that bin Laden would target harbors, but let's assume that the message is a coded order. Picture the typical icon of the American Eagle superimposed on a map of the continental 48 states, and ask where the belly is. I'd say somewhere in Texas, no? A symbolic place to target, given the Texan who has scattered bin Laden and his organization to the four winds.
BASKETBALL: Where Have You Gone, Rick Pitino?
If you ask Bill Simmons, it's never too late to bash Rick Pitino.
BASEBALL: 2002 DIPS
The 2002 Defense Independent Pitching Stats are here!
WAR: Chicken Doves
Which way is the wind blowing? When even Colin Powell is basically calling the French cowards, you know that the rift with France has gotten pretty bad. Of course, like Chirac, Powell's motive here may be mostly a feeling of personal betrayal.
WAR/POLITICS: 10% Solution
When a federal program finds that some 90% of applications are fraudulent, that's usually a sign that it was not well thought-out, no?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:56 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Poor Kim Jong Il
LAW/POLITICS: Who Speaks For Michigan?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:54 AM | Law 2002-04 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Reality Bites
Mark Steyn had a great column the other day comparing the anti-war crowd to Hitler, and not entirely unfairly: his point (read the whole thing!) was that Hitler was consumed by the delusions required to sustain his world view, and wound up believing his own BS, like that Churchill was just a pawn of the International Zionist Conspiracy. We see examples of this all the time among the people who insist that Bush is worse than Saddam, or that the UN losing face would be worse than a WMD attack (see yesterday's Lileks on that one), and it's even become all too common among people who ought to know better, like Jimmy Carter saying that American policy depends entirely on "'white skin or oil [being] involved,'" or Carl Levin insisting that Saddam's noncompliance with inspections is the fault of sabotage by the all-powerful CIA, or, worst of all, Paul Krugman claiming that Fox News has essentially brainwashed the American people into agitating for war. Krugman talks about TV news in general, but even he can't believe that CBS News is a Bush Administration propaganda outlet, which leaves him relying on the sliver of Americans who get news from Fox and CNN but not from the print media or the internet. Of course, by explicitly excluding the print media, Krugman is again able to write a column on media bias without mentioning his own newspaper, which is the 800-pound gorilla of any examination of media bias. David Adesnik of Oxblog summed up this rant the best: "If I hadn't spent two minutes reading his column, I could've re-brushed my teeth instead."
BASKETBALL: Team Defense
John Hollinger of Sports Illustrated has an incisive analysis of a problem that has bugged me for a while: how to measure, statistically, good team defense in the NBA. I'm not sure his solution is 100% successful, but it's a decided improvement on the existing alternatives.
WAR: True New York
I'm still partial to this World Trade Center redesign.
WAR: The Next Logical Step
Asking "Why Iraq?" and "Why not somewhere else?" is like asking "Why France?" and "Why not somewhere else?" in 1944. Lots of reasons, and meanwhile: be patient. They'll get there. Basically, Iraq is the next big step that makes the most sense.
(Link via Instapundit)
POLITICS: SO MUCH FOR LEGISLATIVE INTENT
I just love our elected officials sometimes -- Reason magazine points out that many in Congress have been shocked to discover the draconian provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill -- even though they voted for it! (Link via NRO and Instapundit)
WAR: Can This Dictator Be Deterred?
Eugene Volokh has a post dissecting the claim that Saddam is a rational guy and therefore subject to deterrence even if he has or obtains weapons of mass destruction. He doesn't cover every possible argument -- like the possibility that Saddam could believe that he could get away with using terrorists to deliver WMD because he wouldn't get tied to the attack -- but the professor has the basic point that Saddam's goals may not necessarily be all about sheer survival, and that a WMD attack might at some point play into a desire for historic glory on his part. Also, remember that Saddam is not a young man; if he grows sick or weak, he may see going down in a blaze of glory as preferable to steadily losing his grip and being removed quietly.
POLITICS: Oxley Gored
The Washington Post's allegation that GOP congressman Michael Oxley is using the threat of congressional investigations of the mutal fund industry to pressure the Investment Company Institute to hire Republicans as lobbyists does not reflect well on Oxley, to say the least.
WAR: Logical Disconnect
Daniel Pipes uses opinion polls to argue that the Palestinians can't be negotiated with because the Palestinian people want Israel destroyed, not relations normalized. But one of his suggested solutions, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, doesn't solve the problem he identifies. While I'm sympathetic to the idea on an emotional level, I don't see the benefit of moving the embassy to Jerusalem. Pipes' own analysis suggests that the issue is Israel, not the West Bank -- and an embassy in Tel Aviv is plenty to support a permanent Israel, while an embassy in Jerusalem would align us more closely with Israel's claims to disputed areas of the West Bank, and be seen on the Palestinian side as support for Israel holding title to all of what is now Israel and the PA territory.
POLITICS: Dick Is In
Dick Gephardt formally announces that he's running for president (I was surprised to discover he hadn't announced yet), promising to raise taxes and create a massive new federal health care entitlement. Presumably, an endorsement from Walter Mondale is in the offing. Gephardt does stick by the president on Iraq, though, despite some silly carping about "the president's go-it-alone rhetoric."
In a not-unrelated story, Canada has basically admitted that the costs of its program of socialized medicine (just the costs, leaving aside the crummy services you get for all this money) will spin out of control over the next decade.
BUSINESS: Ireland's Bane
Ireland's roaring economy has sputtered, and this New York Times profile blames the euro.
BASEBALL: Less Mo
Well, looks like Mo Vaughn has reported to camp in about the best shape you could reasonably have hped for -- judge for yourself. Of course, Mo is continually surprised that he can't hit .300 in his thirties at Shea the way he did in his twenties at Fenway.
February 19, 2003
POLITICS: 2004 Illinois Senate Race
WAR: Not Another Panama
Oxblog reminds us that the New York Times even predicted a Vietnam-style quagmire when the United States invaded Panama.
WAR: Plane Crash in Iran
Should I file this under WAR? The plane crash in Iran, which apparently killed between 250 and 300 people, gets curiouser and curiouser, inasmuch as many on board were apparently "members of the elite Revolutionary Guards," the jackboot on the throats of the Iranian people. I sympathize, as always, with the families of those who died, but the Revolutionary Guards are hardly innocents in the brutality of the Iranian police state. Coming at a time of internal unrest in Iran and just on the heels of Iranian-backed Shia rebels entering Iraq (see below), you have to wonder if there is more to this story, and if the truth will ever come out.
WAR: READY OR NOT
Expect an announcement tomorrow of a new "READY Campaign" from the Department of Homeland Survivalism, advising Americans "to make supply kits that include flashlights, batteries, water and other necessities." I'm half expecting Tom Ridge to hold a press conference from a basement bomb shelter stocked with canned goods.
BASEBALL: Bechler Autopsy
An autopsy fingers ephedrine as a major culprit in the death of Steve Bechler. Another cautionary tale.
WAR: Iranian-Backed Shia Rebels
Heavily armed Iranian-backed Shia rebel troops have crossed the border from Iran into Iraq, in what can only be the prelude to armed conflict in the very near future. This bears watching. (Link via Drudge)
February 18, 2003
BLOG: Light Blogging This Week
Light blogging this week, for the most banal of reasons: I need all the free time I can get to shovel snow.
February 17, 2003
BLOG: GLOBAL WARMING ALERT!
Mmmmmmm . . . snow day, just like being a kid. Of course, it's only a snow day because it's already a national holiday; otherwise I'd have had to slog through the maelstrom to get to the Long Island Rail Road, and Lord knows if that's even running. Instead, home watching movies with the kids. Check the news; no war, nothing else is worth worrying about.
Still, there's Orioles rookie pitcher Steve Bechler, who died this morning at age 23 of as yet undetermined causes after feeling lightheaded at a workout yesterday. So much for the innocent glow of spring training. Prayers for his family, please.
February 16, 2003
BASEBALL: Projo Column
It went up late, but as I noted Friday, my latest Projo column is posted.
WAR: Cross-Blog Iraq Debate
N.Z. Bear is hosting a Cross-Blog Iraq Debate; he's got 5 questions for pro-war bloggers and 5 for anti-war bloggers. As I'm in the "pro" camp, I thought I'd take on the challenge. If you're new to the site, full disclosure: I'm not a military veteran or a national security expert; I'm a lawyer. But I was there on the front lines when this war started, a few blocks from my office in the World Trade Center. It's an experience I hope not to re-live.
I've put my answers out of order, but they're numbered as the Bear has them numbered:
4. As a basis for war, the Bush Administration accuses Iraq of trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, nuclear), supporting terrorism, and brutalizing their own people. Since Iraq is not the only country engaged in these actions, under what circumstances should the US go to war with other such nations, in addition to going to war with Iraq?
This is the main question at hand. I think the question has, in one sense, too many parts, and too few. But to give you the short answer of "where does this take us?," I think there are a number of other states we may need to go to war with, but none others that clearly demand war yet as Iraq does.
The test for whether we should seek regime change should be whether a regime has (1) the desire to attack civilian targets outside the context of an openly declared war and (2) has or is working on the means to do so, or to give aid and comfort to those who do so. Number (1) is the key, and it’s not always susceptible to hard proof, but the best evidence of a regime’s desire to attack American or other civilians is the level of anti-American vitriol in its official statements. It amazes me that people debating the merits of these things always tell us to ignore what the other guy says. Evidence of past complicity in terrorism, or past aggressive wars by the same basic regime (by which I mean the guy in power or predecessors in the same unelected junta, not ancient history) are also key. Try a little common sense, and it's not hard to figure out who our enemies really are. There are a million little ways that a regime shows itself to be unwilling to abide by the basic norms of international behavior (by which I mean standards other nations actually live by, not pie-in-the-sky ideals like Kyoto), and when you add them up it's easy to discern the difference between countries with weapons of mass destruction ("WMD") that merely disdain us but would never do violence to us (i.e., France) and places like Iraq and North Korea and Cuba and Syria and Iran that don't respect the rights of their own people or anyone else's in the day-to-day commerce of nations. Look for countries that don't allow free foreign press, just as a sample.
The fact that a country brutalizes its own people is obviously one of the measuring sticks, and it always adds weight to the scales in judging the morality of force. But it's not an essential factor.
But that doesn't answer the core question: once we've committed to a policy of regime change -- which to me means at a minimum the removal of the heads of state and either democratic elections or some reckoning with past sins by the regime -- we have to ask whether (1) war is likely to accomplish our goals, (2) at a price we can bear compared to the harm we seek to avoid, and (3) we have a reasonable prospect of getting what we need by other means. Iraq satisfies all three: we can easily overpower Saddam's conventional military (don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise, although I recognize that "easily" can still include substantial American/Allied casualties), the risk of WMD attacks is easier to deal with now while we're at a hightened state of alert and dictating our own timetables, and there's no realistic chance that Saddam will step down, be forced out by diplomacy with his neighbors, or be overthrown internally. The calculations in the case of, say, North Korea or Iran or Saudi Arabia is different -- the Iranians and Saudis may be vulnerable from within, and our options with North Korea are limited by its nuclear capacity, its quick-strike ability to hit Seoul, and most of all by China, the 1 billion pound gorilla in the North Korean situation that has to have a role in any diplomatic resolution.
1. Attacking Iraq has been publicly called a "pre-emption" of a threat from Saddam Hussein's regime, whose sins include launching regional wars of aggression. Do you think there is a clear and reliable difference between pre-emptive and aggressive warfare, and if so, what is it?
Clear and reliable, yes; easy to summarize in a pithy slogan that can be chanted in the streets, no. Ultimately, much of the difference depends on whether or not you believe the attacking party’s argument. Which is part of the problem: people keep demanding that we reduce the rules of international law to maxims that even dope-addled peaceniks can understand, and – more importantly – that can be evaluated at face value by “the international community” without any attempt to figure out who is right and who is wrong, or to distinguish between democratic regimes that are bound domestically by the rule of law and respect for basic human rights, and those that rule their own people unilaterally and by force. The real distinction requires actually making sense of the facts of individual situations.
The core of the difference is that a preemptive war is premised upon the assumption that, sooner or later, the other guy intends to attack you. In Saddam’s case, we know he has the motive – he hates us and sees us as the prime obstacle to his ambitions – we know he has been pursuing the means, the types of weapons of mass destruction that are our sole true vulnerability – and we know that the existence of international terrorists who would have no qualms about using such weapons gives him the opportunity. We don’t have to see where the threat is coming from to know it’s coming. (You could even say, we don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind is blowing).
3. How successful do you think the military operations and "regime change" in Afghanistan have been in achieving their stated objectives? Does this example affect your feelings about war in Iraq in any way?
The prime objectives of the operations in Afghanistan were to (1) destroy the infrastructure of Al Qaeda staging grounds; (2) kill as many America-hating terrorists as possible; (3) make an example of the Taliban regime for its support of America-hating terrorists; and (4) deny safe haven in Afghanistan for terrorists in the foreseeable future. We have accomplished all of these. In addition, we exposed the fraud that is Islamist theocracy, by showing the joy of its subjects when loosed from its grasp. We also obtained lots of useful intelligence by getting in on the ground to places where terror attacks had been planned and terror networks coordinated.
Long-term, we would like to establish a secure government in Afghanistan that will consolidate the victory over theocracy and prevent re-establishment of havens for terror. But if we fail in that aim, as we still may, the war will no more be a failure than it is a failure to weed your garden in spring and, the following year, discover new weeds. The task is never done so long as the hatred that breeds our foes is loose in the world.
Does this influence my view of war with Iraq? Yes. War with Iraq will likewise break the back of the threat, and (at worst) long delay its reemergence. And, of critical importance, it will again make an example of how we treat our enemies, and why it is wise not to choose to become one.
2. What do you feel are the prospects that an invasion of Iraq will succeed in a) maintaining it as a stable entity and b) in turning it into a democracy? Are there any precedents in the past 50 years that influence your answer?
Hmm, “past 50 years” seems designed to take Japan and Germany out of the picture, no? I think the most useful lessons will be those of Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, the Philippines, and Nicaragua, with the former Soviet and South-Eastern European states – longest under tyranny and with the least tradition of self-rule – as the best models. The record in each of those places is mixed – but in all but a few cases, obviously better for our own interests than the aggressive despotism that preceded it.
Democracy? It’s worth trying, as long as we’re not expecting it to look like New Hampshire overnight. The upside of establishing a state like Poland or Russia or Albania in Iraq would be huge, and an American presence in the country ought to help in that project. But the odds on success . . . well, the jury’s still out on democracy in Russia, too, isn’t it? I’d at least say there’s a very substantial chance of failure.
Stability? Not a prayer, in the short run – there will be huge dislocations, which is why we need the U.S. military around. The forces of democracy may well tear the country into shreds, but maybe that’s as it should be. But what I don’t foresee is a descent into the Balkans. On the other hand, I wouldn't want to be from Tikrit when Saddam's regime is gone.
5. The Bush Administration has issued numerous allegations about the threat represented by Iraq, many of which have been criticized in some quarters as hearsay, speculation or misstatements. Which of the Administration's allegations do you feel stand up best to those criticisms?
First of all, I’m a litigator, so I see an awful lot of hearsay and speculation, and I’ve got some idea of the difference. Hearsay is a rule of evidence that gets bent, misshapen and disregarded all the time, most notably in the area of conspiracy, which is mostly what we’re talking about here. But it would be foolish to treat this dispute as a court case subject to rules of evidence, some of which, after all, are prophylactic rules (i.e., designed to prevent future misconduct in gathering evidence) that have little to do with the search for truth.
Speculation, similarly, is suspect in the court system because we do not wish it to be too easy to impose criminal or civil liability without hard evidence. The social cost is that wrongdoers sometimes go free.
Here, the stakes are much higher; if we have good reason to believe, as I’ve set out above, that Saddam wishes ill of us and has the motive and means to carry out attacks that can’t easily be traced to him, then we ought to deal with him now.
That said, let’s look at just a few of the facts that are hard to argue with:
(A) Saddam is working on weapons of mass destruction. I find the evidence of this to be fairly overwhelming; we have the testimony of defectors and other intelligence to show that Saddam has pursued these avenues.
(B) Saddam has not revealed everything about his WMD programs to the UN inspectors. Again, I find the evidence of this overwhelming. Just look at the discrepancies noted in the State of the Union Address, between large known stocks of weapons developed in the past and the paltry disclosures he’s provided of what happened to them.
(C) Saddam supports terrorism. Let’s start with the obvious: Saddam supports terrorism against Israel. I know some people think that’s different – it’s “only” Jews, y’know – but it shows the willingness to advance his objectives through groups that share membership, tactics and ideology with anti-American terrorists and are often the same groups.
(D) Saddam hates us. Q.E.D.
(E) Saddam has violated innumerable U.N. resolutions and the terms of the cease-fire that ended the last war. I won't quote chapter and verse on the public record, but he still shoots at our planes, doesn't he?
(F) Saddam is not subject to conventional deterrence. I buy this argument because conventional deterrence assumes that we can prove who attacked us. Saddam won't launch ICBMs at our cities -- but the anthrax investigation shoulbe be proof enough for anyone that a terror campaign can remain unsolved, and unavenged, for a very long time.
Is Saddam connected to Al Qaeda? Here, I'd agree that the evidence remains speculative. But we are at war with an enemy whose ideology is fiercely anti-American, as is Saddam's. With an enemy unafraid to use weapons and methods that most civilized nations have abjured, as is Saddam. Saddam cheers on our enemies, and they cheer on him.
Here's the bottom line: We are at war with an enemy, and that enemy was created by and prospers in a region of the world where tyranny breeds desperate men, where states oppress their own people, breed hatred, suspicion and paranoia, and can not be trusted to cooperate in the international law enforcement apparatus that is needed to make terrorism just a law enforcement problem. To the contrary, they use terror as an instrument of policy, and glorify it in their culture, and state sponsorship is necessary for terror networks to thrive as they have. The result is a nest of hornets who will continue to target us. We can't stand back on our heels forever, wrapping our houses in Hefty bags. Before we can again be safe, and can again make free people safe the world over, we must go on the offensive, undermining and if necessary forcibly removing the regimes that create these conditions. Iraq is the logical place to start for many reasons, some of them related to unfinished business from other conflicts.
Does that mean I support removing another nation's government for reasons of American national interest, rather than in satisfaction of some transnational legal rule that would apply equally to the foreign policy of Zambia or Luxembourg as it does to America? You bet I do. We do play by our own rules; we must. Might may not make right, but it makes responsibility. We alone have the power to drain this swamp, to the short-term benefit of ourselves and the civilized world and the long-term benefit of its inhabitants, which -- like our allies in Eastern Europe -- will someday be happy to join that world. Woe betide us if we fail.
February 14, 2003
BASEBALL: Baseball's Underappreciated Great Teams, 1950-69
Originally posted on Projo.com
1950s: The 1954 Chicago White Sox
There's a bit of a shortage of interesting teams in the 1950s, with the Hated Yankees sucking all the oxygen out of the decade (if I wanted to write about Yankee teams of that era I'd probably go with the 1958 World Champs, with Mickey and Whitey in their primes, Bob Turley winning the Cy Young Award and Ryne Duren in the bullpen). One good team that has disappeared entirely from memory is the 1950 Tigers, with George Kell, Jerry Priddy, and a dynamite outfield of Vic Wertz, Hoot Evers and Johnny Groth batting a combined .312/.511/.408 with 311 RBI.
Another is the White Sox of 1951-54, of which this team was the last installment. What initially drew my attention to this team was an anomaly: this team had nine men named to the All-Star team, six of whom played in the game: starters Minnie Minoso in left field and Chico Carrasquel at short were apparently voted onto the team, second baseman Nellie Fox was used as a substitute, and three White Sox pitchers appeared - Sandy Consuegra, Virgil Trucks and Bob Keegan. The other three were catcher Sherm Lollar (Yogi played the whole game), first baseman Ferris Fain, and well-traveled third baseman George Kell.
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The White Sox of the late 1940s were a weak team, losing 101 games in 1948 and 94 in 1950. But 1951, under rookie manager Paul Richards, saw the Sox vault to their first pennant contention in years; the team went 26-4 from May 4 through June 7, and stood 53-35 (.602) as late as July 19, just percentage points from a tie with the first-place Red Sox and a game and a half ahead of the Indians and the 2-time defending World Champion Yankees. Two young players blossoming overnight were key: Nellie Fox (age 23) and pitching ace Billy Pierce, age 24. The team also had 30-year-old first baseman Eddie Robinson - productive in part of the 1950 season after coming from the Senators - for a full season, and Richards managed to squeeze an ERA title out of 27-year-old journeyman Saul Rogovin, who posted a 2.48 mark after coming from the Tigers in late May. But the biggest impact of all was the arrival of the 28-year-old Minoso a few weeks into the season.
Until I read the Bill James New Historical Baseball Abstract in 2001, I'd never thought of Minoso as a Hall of Fame candidate, but James' argument on this score was very persuasive. Minoso's career in the majors basically starts in 1951, by which time he was already 28, and his production the rest of the way is equal to or better than many, many Hall of Famers; what kept his numbers low was the color line (Minoso played in the Negro Leagues until 1950). In his prime years, Minoso did it all: hit well over .300, draw walks, get hit by a ton of pitches (leading the league 10 times in 11 years), hit for power and rarely strike out . . . Minoso drove in 100 runs 4 times, scored 100 runs 4 times, led the league in steals his first three years in the league, led in doubles once and triples three times, and averaged 16 home runs a year from 1951 to 1961. Late in his career they started giving Gold Gloves, and he won 3 of them. He was an All-Star 7 times. In 1951, he was already in his prime, and had perhaps his best season in the majors as a rookie, batting .326/.500/.422, stealing 31 bases (Dom DiMaggio had led the league the year before with 15) and scoring 112 runs in 146 games.
Anyway, the 1951 team collapsed down the stretch - the offense cratered (dropping from 5.16 runs/game to 3.86) and, besides Pierce and Rogovin, the rest of the pitching staff went in the tank. They ended with just 81 victories. This would set a pattern for Paul Richards' teams in Chicago. Two years later, in 1953, the Sox stood 75-48 (.609) on August 23, still 8 1/2 games behind the Yankees but on their way to a very strong second-place finish. They went 14-17 down the stretch, dropping off to third place. This time the offense and defense were about equally at fault.
1954 was the best of these teams, although the outcome would be more of the same. The Yankees started the season looking for their sixth consecutive World Championship (please tell me you wouldn't call this a "sex-peat"), but staggered to a 6-7 record in April; the White Sox grabbed the early lead, which they would hold into mid-June. The pennant race would slip away from both teams as the Indians went into overdrive, eventually winning 111 games, still the record for an AL team in a non-expansion year [ed. - d'oh! forgot the 2001 Mariners!], and the Yankees' 103 wins - the best by a Casey Stengel team - would net them second place. As late as August 28, the White Sox were in the same league with those two titans, with a record of 85-46 (.648), scoring 4.77 R/G and allowing 3.22, both figures better than the Indians to that point (the Yanks were a higher-scoring team with less impressive pitching that season). Once again, though, September would bring misery: the offense went into a deep freeze (3.24 R/G), the team went 11-14, and Richards didn't even stick around for the finale, quitting in mid-September to take over the Orioles. For the fourth year in a row, the White Sox would underachieve; from 1951-54, they won 9 fewer games than they should have, given their runs scored and allowed. Richards, a brilliant manager in some ways, had never managed to build a team that could win the close ones or hold up down the stretch run.
The other weakness of this team was an ill-timed off-year from Pierce, one of the top starting pitchers of the Fifties. Excluding the 1954 season, Pierce's average record from 1951 to 1962 was 16-11, but he picked 1954 to go 9-10 with a 3.48 ERA. In a year when 111 wins were needed to take the pennant, that was bad timing (ironically, Pierce would go 14-15 when the Sox finally won the pennant in 1959). Ferris Fain also appears to have been injured, although veteran Phil Cavarretta filled his place nicely.
Still, this was a powerful team. Minoso batted .320, cracked 66 extra base hits, scored 119 runs and drove in 116. Fox batted .319, struck out only 12 times all year and formed a top double play combination with Carrasquel. Sandy Consuegra, another journeyman who'd had little success before arriving in Chicago in 1953 and would have less after leaving town following 1955, went 16-3 and finished second in the ERA race. 37-year-old Virgil Trucks headed a staff of little-known pitchers (including a deep bullpen) on the way to a 3.05 team ERA.
Neither Richards nor Minoso would ever win a pennant; both were gone when the White Sox took advantage of the Yankees' off-year to win the 1959 AL flag.
The 1960s: 1964 Chicago White Sox
The obvious candidate from the 1960s would be the 1961 Tigers, who won 101 games and scored more runs than the Maris-Mantle Yankees, when Norm Cash turned into Lou Gehrig for a year. But others have written about those Tigers. There's also the 1962 Reds, a team that won 98 games behind Frank Robinson's best season (he hit .342). One of the great pennant races of the 1960s was the 1964 AL race, which unfortunately was won by the Hated Yankees behind spectacular performances by Mickey and Whitey and rookie manager Yogi, thus burying the season in the long march of Yankee pennants that would come to an abrupt halt after this one, to say nothing of the spectacular and more notorious end to the NL race that season. Indeed, the Yankees got the glory then, too -- five Yankees were selected to the All-Star Game in 1964, as many as the Orioles and White Sox sent put together.
It was a race of spurts. Few games were played in April in 1964; the season didn't open until April 13. I'm not sure why, but this may have had something to do with the availability of the new ballparks in Houston and Flushing (the World's Fair opened on April 22). Anyway, the Indians, of all teams, battered their way to the early lead, scoring 4.8 runs/game to start off 11-5, while everyone else but the White Sox languished around .500 or worse. Cleveland's hitters were mostly good players about to reach a premature end to their productive years (Leon Wagner, Dick Howser, Tito Francona), and the Indians would wind up with a losing record for the season, but that team was memorable for another reason: young (or at least unproven) pitching. 21-year-old "Sudden Sam" McDowell, ineffective in a limited role for 2 years, went 11-6 with a 2.70 ERA, and rookies Luis Tiant, Tommy John and Sonny Seibert all established themselves. Few, if any, teams have come up with four new pitchers that good in one year.
Anyway, the White Sox had some youngsters of their own, notably third baseman Pete Ward (.282, 23 HR, 94 RBI in a run-starved environment -- a better year with the bat, under the circumstances, than your average Derek Jeter season) and 27-year-old rookie second baseman Don Buford, who would go on to be the left fielder for the Orioles juggernaut of the early 1970s. And they got hot, and then hotter, with the bats in May, scoring 4.7 runs/game through May 31, at which point the Sox were 24-11 (.685), a 111-win pace but just a half game ahead of the Orioles, who had played 7 more games already.
Then, it was Baltimore's turn. The O's had the race by the horns after a 37-16 surge from May 8 to June 29 that put them 4.5 games ahead of the surging Yankees and 6 ahead of Chicago. Seven Baltimore pitchers had won between 4 and 7 games to this point, including 9 wins from two relievers, Dick Hall and Stu Miller; the team was playing at a 104-win pace. Then, the Yankees: a 42-20 run from June 3 to August 2. Jim Bouton won 7 games between June 30 and August 2, three of them shutouts; opposing teams scored just 16 runs in his 8 starts in that stretch. After Bouton's second victory in four games (both shutouts) on August 2, the Yankees had the lead by percentage points:
Yankees (63-38) .623
Unfortunately for the Yanks, they then dropped 2 of 3 to the lowly Kansas City A's going into a stretch of 15 games with Baltimore and Chicago in 14 days. It went badly, a 5-10 record, followed by consecutive losses to the Red Sox. The Yankees lost 6 of 7 games started by veterans Whitey Ford and Ralph Terry during this 20-game swoon, and 3 of 4 started by Bouton. Plus, the back end of the rotation was in dire shape: through August 14, they'd lost their last 5 games started by Rollie Sheldon and Stan Williams. At the close of play on August 22 (the Yanks won the nightcap against the Red Sox in the 13th of 14 doubleheaders between June 10 and August 29), the standings looked like this:
Orioles (76-47) .617
Each of the three teams had now played 124 games (Baltimore tied one). Check out their runs scored and allowed through August 22:
Orioles: 4.20 R/G--3.48 RA/G
And the rest of the way:
Orioles: 4.05 R/G--3.46 RA/G
All three teams' pitchers stepped up down the stretch run, the Yankees most of all, thanks to the gutsy decision to throw 22-year-old rookie Mel Stottlemyre out to face the White Sox on August 12; Stottlemyre went 9-3 with a 2.06 ERA the rest of the way. But the real story was that the Yankee hitters went to town in September, while the regulars on the other two teams ran out of gas. Why? Well, they had 7 games head-to-head in late August (Baltimore won 5), and Baltimore's best hitter, Boog Powell, fractured his wrist August 20 and missed 14 games. I'm also guessing here that Mantle and Maris were finally healthy in September; Mantle had been injured at the All-Star break. Mantle and Powell were by far the two most productive hitters in the AL that season. Otherwise, there's no obvious explanation other than the fact that the Yankees had more pennant race experience; none of the three teams had an unusual number of guys who didn't take any days off. The Yankees put the race away by going 22-6 in September, holding a 4-game lead on the White Sox in the loss column (and five on Baltimore) with 4 to play at the end of September. The final standings narrowed after that, but it was over.
Books aplenty have been written about those Yankee teams; let's look at their worthy adversaries. The 1964-65 White Sox (the Sox won 95 games the following year) were the pinnacle of another generation of "Hitless Wonder" Chisox, although they may have been a better offensive team than they looked; Comiskey was fairly pitcher-friendly in those years. I asked in my latest Hall of Fame column who the best American League pitcher of the 1960s was, and I thought I'd check what Bill James' Win Shares system said. The answer: Hoyt Wilhelm, who by the mid-60s was past 40 and regularly pitching over 100 innings a year with an ERA in the ones. In 1964, the 40-year-old Wilhelm threw 131.1 innings (while allowing just 94 hits) over 73 games, posting a 1.99 ERA; he finished 12-9 with 27 saves, and was clearly the team's most valuable player.
The rest of the staff was impressive as well: Gary Peters and Joe Horlen, both of whom emerged in 1963, would anchor the White Sox staff throughout the Sixties. In 1964, Peters, age 27, went 20-8 with a 2.50 ERA, while Horlen, age 26, was 13-9 with a 1.88 ERA. 27-year-old Juan Pizarro was also effective, 19-9 with a 2.56 ERA, although this would be Pizarro's last full, healthy year as a rotation starter. The bullpen was deep, with Eddie Fisher and veteran Don Mossi; Fisher would be pressed into the rotation the following year.
The offense is less memorable, and some of the starters -- like JC Martin, Al Weis and Don Buford -- are better known for their roles on other teams (Martin and Weis were among the unlikeliest heroes of the 1969 Miracle Mets). The batting stars, as I mentioned above, were Ward, 26-year-old shortstop Ron Hansen (.261/.419/.347; Hansen would later win renown for turning an unassisted triple play), 28-year-old outfielder Floyd Robinson (.301/.408/.388 and two years removed from a 109-RBI fluke season), and midseason acquisition Moose Skowron (.293/.399/.337), who took over at first base. Al Lopez, the team's manager from 1957 to 1965, was retooling on the fly; Robinson had to be moved to left field when Dave Nicholson, who had swatted 22 homers the prior year while setting what was then the single season strikeout record (175 whiffs) proved completely incapable of making contact, striking out a staggering 126 times in 294 at bats. 41-year-old Minnie Minoso was also back for a return trip, but was basically out of gas; Minoso hit .226 as a pinch hitter, albeit with a .351 on base percentage. This was also a staggeringly effective defensive team. By my rough calculation -- (H-HR)/((IP)*3)+H-HR-K) -- the average of balls in play that became hits in the AL in 1964 was .263. The Yankees and Orioles were both very good defensive teams, with averages of .251 and .253, respectively. The White Sox? .241. Hoyt Wilhelm had something to do with that; traditionally, knuckleballers are the one group that has a pronounced tendency to buck the usual trend by which most pitchers allow a similar percentage of balls in play to become hits (the average against Wilhelm was .225). But the defense was solid and deep; center fielder Jim Landis won his fourth consecutive Gold Glove, keeping defensive wiz Ken Berry on the bench.
The 1964 Orioles, skippered by another ex-Yankee (Hank Bauer, in his first year on the job after two seasons "managing" the Kansas City A's) must have been a fun team to watch. The team featured an acrobatic left side of the infield, with Brooks Robinson at third base and Luis Aparicio at short. Aparicio, age 30, had a fairly typical season, combining league-average hitting with 57 stolen bases and spectacular defense, while Robinson, at 27, had the best year of his career with the bat and won the MVP award. Robinson hit .317/.521/.368 and drove in 118 runs, which would be about the equivalent, in 2002 terms, of batting .343/.578/.386, with 140 RBI while being Brooks Robinson with the glove. First baseman Norm Siebern -- yet another ex-Yankee -- arrived from Kansas City with his ex-teammate Bauer, and while he came down fairly far from his outstanding 1962 season, Siebern's league-leading 106 walks gave him a .379 OBP, good for sixth in the league. In right field was a promising youngster, 25-year-old rookie Sam Bowens, who hit .263 with 22 homers and slugged .453 (unfortunately, Bowens would crash to .163 the next year and hit above .200 only once again in his career).
The team's real hitting sensation was Boog Powell. Boog, only 22, was already in his third season, although by 1965 he would already have to be moved from left field to first base. You think Robinson's offensive numbers were impressive? Powell's .290/.606/.399, very big numbers even today, would translate into .310/.673/.418 -- Jim Thome numbers. Powell's injury may have cost the Orioles the pennant. And more young talent debuted for this team as well - a pair of 20-year-olds named Paul Blair and Lou Piniella each got a cup of coffee in 1964. Also on the bench was a future hitting guru, Charlie Lau.
The pitching staff was a study in contrasts. Robin Roberts, at 37, was the resident veteran in the rotation; Roberts had been baseball's dominant pitcher from 1950-55, with an average season of 23-13 with a 2.93 ERA in 323 innings. While those numbers sound impressive enough, remember that he was pitching in a fairly good hitter's era, for teams that finished higher than fourth only once in that span, and that only three other major league pitchers -- Vern Bickford in 1950, Warren Spahn in 1951, and Bob Lemon in 1952 -- threw as many as 300 innings in a season over the six-year span when Roberts did it every year from age 23 to 28. From 1952-55 he led the league in innings, usually over Spahn, by 40, 81 (!), 53.1 and 48 innings, one of the most dominating workhorse performances in the game's history. And by baseball-reference.com's league/park adjusted "ERA+" measure, his ERAs, if translated into, say, the conditions Catfish Hunter pitched in at his peak, would be 2.12, 2.25, 2.02, 1.87, 2.10, and 2.36.
But even Roberts, unsurprisingly, crashed and burned after 1955, posting an ERA below 4.00 only once between 1956 and 1961, culminating in a humiliating 1-10, 5.85 performance in 1961 that finally persuaded the Phillies to cut him (Roberts quipped at the time that NL hitters wept when they heard the news). The Orioles took a chance on him, though, and he returned to form, with ERAs of 2.78, 3.33 and 2.91 from '62-'64, by featuring his legendary control while cutting back on his penchant for the longball. There were other veterans in the bullpen: 38-year-old Harvey Haddix had been rescued from the Pirates after breaking down as a starting pitcher; relief ace Stu Miller, 36, was coming off a great 1963 season; and 33-year-old Dick Hall, a failed starter in Pittsburgh and Kansas City, had found his calling in the Baltimore bullpen in 1962 (Hall would also feature in Earl Weaver's pens in later years). All three had good years in 1964.
Alongside Roberts, the rotation was young and younger: Steve Barber and Milt Pappas were veterans at 25; Barber had a poor year in 1964 and would be effectively finished after 1966, while Pappas, 16-7 with a 2.97 ERA, was the rotation's anchor. Dave McNally, in his second season at age 21, was a year away from stardom. But stardom was at hand -- fleetingly -- for 19-year-old Wally Bunker, who finished 19-5 with a 2.69 ERA. Of course, Bunker, like Barber, burned out swiftly; McNally, a major star until age 28, would do little thereafter; Jim Palmer would throw a shutout in the World Series at 20, hurt his arm and go unclaimed in the expansion draft three years later. It took the Orioles a while to learn not to overwork very young pitchers.
The moment of glory arrived for Hank Bauer's Orioles in 1966, when Frank Robinson and Palmer would join the team and go all the way.
COMING UP IN PART 3: THE 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
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BASEBALL: New Crank Column
WAR: No Nukes is Good Nukes
Did you ever think it would be seen as good news that the US was "unlikely" to use nuclear weapons in the next month or two??
WAR: IT'S ALL ABOUT THE DUCT TAPE!
Heard on the radio this morning: duct tape is manufactured by a company based in . . . Germany.
POP CULTURE: Bull Flipping
Quote of the day, from David Letterman: "France wants more evidence. The last time France wanted more evidence, it rolled right through France with a German flag."
POP CULTURE: UCR Alert
According to this UPI wire report:
The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network Thursday announced a last-minute agreement with PepsiCo Inc. in New York averting a boycott of the company's products. The organization had said earlier in the day that it would call an immediate boycott over what it called Pepsi's "cultural disrespect" of hip-hop. HSAN Chairman Russell Simmons first called for a boycott last week, accusing the company of applying a double standard for hip-hop in its national TV advertising. Simmons said the company demonstrated disrespect for hip-hop culture by dropping an ad campaign for Pepsi-Cola featuring rapper Ludacris because of public protests over the sexually explicit context of his lyrics -- then featuring foul-mouthed metal rocker Ozzy Osbourne in ads for one of its soft drinks. Simmons said Tuesday that HSAN had reached a "multi-million dollar, multi-year agreement" with the company and the Ludacris Foundation. He told United Press International Thursday that he decided to renew the call for a boycott because the company had not yet signed on to a formal agreement. . . Simmons said Pepsi accepted a formal agreement Thursday, calling for the company to contribute "millions of dollars" to the Ludacris Foundation -- a non-profit organization founded by the rapper.
A few thoughts:
1. "Disrespect for hip-hop culture" is an awfully serious charge, and should not be thrown around lightly in a mere commercial dispute.
2. I bet you didn't know there was such a thing as "the Ludacris Foundation." Do they give college scholarships? ("I've got the Ludacris scholarship to go to Stanford!") Endow scientific research? ("Here at Ludacris Laboratories, we're working on cheap, renewable sources of energy.")
3. Would litigation have focused on comparing and contrasting the vices of Ludacris and Ozzy? Man, that would have been an entertaining case.
4. I have to respect Simmons' candor in this quote:
When HSAN first raised the threat of a boycott last week, the organization demanded that Pepsi not only donate $5 million to the foundation, but also issue a public apology to Ludacris and reinstate his ad. Asked Thursday whether the company had issued a public apology, Simmons said, "The millions of dollars is pretty much the same thing."
February 13, 2003
POP CULTURE: Imply It Long, Imply It Loud?
John Podhoretz, writing for NRO, refers to "Tom Cruise (whose last name is well-chosen, but I can't say any more about why)." I'm not 100% sure I get this, but I suspect that Podhoretz is making a reference to Cruise being gay (a subject that has launched lawsuits by Cruise in the past). Whatever he means, if Podhoretz can't say it, he shouldn't imply it.
Japan says it may launch a preemptive strike against North Korea if it feels sufficiently threatened. The Japanese, of course, have done this sort of thing before (and, it should be noted, they have a firm grasp of the risks involved). Is it wise or moral of them to launch such an attack? That will depend on the circumstances. But it's good to see someone else acting like adults and recognizing that there could be situations where a preemptive attack could be necessary.
Repeat after me, fellow New Yorkers: a zero degree day keeps the chem/bio attacks away. Seriously, I think the extreme cold may help put off the day of reckoning when somebody tries it. This article, which Rod Dreher linked to at The Corner, is reassuring.
WAR: Real World Powers
More and more people are questioning why the French deserve a permanent seat and veto on the UN Security Council and the world's largest democracy, nuclear-armed India, doesn't. Thomas Friedman made this point in his Sunday column in the NY Times.
Frankly, an honest accounting targeted at dividing between the real major powers and the lesser ones would throw the Brits off as well, and make it a Permanent Four, at least for now. (The next century could tell us whether places like Brazil or Indonesia will ever grow into their populations, or Australia or Canada into their land masses, or whether the EU swallows up the whole continent, but none of these things seems likely in the near future). Only the reasonableness of the British keeps Americans from questioning them as a major power.
On the other hand, is permanent Security Council membership about the strength of a country as a regional power -- or its willingness to act globally? I suppose both Britain and France are among the few nations with at least some military capacity to project force (by which I mean troops and substantial air power, not just missiles) outside their immediate region and the willingness to use it. The Germans can't do it, and in fact the Indians and Chinese have never tried (I assume the Chinese have the capability), while you still see the British and French going to places like the Ivory Coast and the Falklands. Other small fry who have done so (like Cuba) either travelled on the backs of bigger powers or went only with UN contingents. Maybe Australia qualifies under this definition as well, I'm not sure. It's at least a question worth asking if we're trying to figure out who really counts as a "world" power.
WAR: Passing The Buck
Here's what burns me up about the French and the Germans: they know we're going to war. They know their help isn't needed. What they're doing is, they're trying to make sure we look like the bad guys here. And that will have real repercussions, in terms of helping our enemies build hatred of us. They may be on our side, in the law enforcement part of the war, but this is also a war of ideas, and they are not on our side in that fight.
WAR: Chicken Argument
We still hear it . . . From the people who blather about 'chickenhawks' (i.e., those who advocate war but have not served in the military and do not intend to) being somehow cowards and hypocrites, I've still never heard an answer to the question: if you've never been a fireman but you call the fire department when your house is on fire . . . doesn't that equally make you a coward and a hypocrite? If you don't own a gun, and you expect the cops to fight crime . . . doesn't that equally make you a coward and a hypocrite?
WAR: Fischer's Rap Sheet
February 12, 2003
I mentioned, earlier this week, the CIA officer killed in Afghanistan. The leftists over at SF Indymedia are celebrating his death. That just says it all about them, doesn't it?
WAR/POLITICS: Sullivan on Bin Laden & Alterman
Andrew Sullivan thinks Osama's trash talking is giving the U.S. military some good locker-room material before the big game (second item).
He's also got a quote from Eric Alterman wishing Rush Limbaugh had gone deaf, as well as a link to Rush's justifiably smug response. Put aside the politics and the radio here: Alterman is a big music buff (specifically, a Springsteen fanatic, which as far as I know is Alterman's only redeeming quality), and if he's ever actually listened to Limbaugh he'd know that Rush is a big music lover himself. And he wishes that Rush would have lost that joy forever in his life?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: GREAT MOMENTS IN LOCAL BUREAUCRACY
A NY Daily News investigation finds New York City school system educrats giving false information and browbeating parents who call a hotline for information about transferring their kids out of failing schools under the federal "No Child Left Behind Act."
POP CULTURE: OSCAR PREDICTION
I saw a bit of the Golden Globes, and Nicole Kidman won best actress for the movie where she plays a sad lesbian with a big nose. OK, there's more to it than that, but I'd wager that about a third of the Oscar voters don't know much more than that either (it's just scandalous that they let people vote on movies they haven't seen). Anyway, Kidman's speech was all about how this award is a triumph over Hollywood's failure to give women good roles.
I bet she and "The Hours" win -- precisely because the film is campaigning on a feminist platform that says that a vote against this movie is a vote against good roles for women. The merits got nuthin' to do with it.
1.5 million Americans may have celiac disease. What's that? I'd never heard of it either. Click on the story to find out.
BASEBALL: Raines Watch
I'm really rooting for Rickey Henderson to get to play again in 2003, if only because it would mean that Tim Raines would be nearly alone among quality first-timers on the 2008 Hall of Fame ballot.
I don't really have a problem with the Mets signing Jay Bell, who steps into the John Valentin role; if anything, signing Bell is an indication that Ty Wigginton will really get a shot at the 3B job, since Bell is only a barely credible alternative. Signing a broken-down veteran backup is usually a sign that you've stopped shopping for a first-stringer.
WAR: Mark Steyn: The Right Wing News Interview
Right Wing News has an interview with Mark Steyn. (Link from Instapundit) Steyn on bin Laden still being dead:
It's also clear that the Bush Administration is in no great hurry to pronounce bin Laden dead: true, the Dems keep teasing them about the fact that he's still running around out there, but that's less of a problem than declaring him deceased and having Chirac, Schroder and the rest of the gang saying, "Congratulations, you got your man. War's over. Everybody go home."
To those cynical Europeans who say, "Oh, it's absurd to think Arabs can ever be functioning members of a democrat state", I'd say, in that case why are you allowing virtually unrestricted Muslim immigration into your own countries?
WAR: Dell of a Guy
Lileks reminds us that the "Dude, you're getting a Dell" guy -- recently busted for possession of marijuana (as Bill Simmons would say, WATFO?) -- was one of the many lesser-sung heroes in Manhattan on September 11.
POLITICS/WAR: GREAT MOMENTS IN FEDERAL BUREAUCRACY
Two INS employees in California have been indicted on charges that they "shredded as many as 90,000 applications in an effort to reduce the backlog of pending cases" last spring.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:11 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 11, 2003
WAR: The Iran Contacts Story
Here's the Washington Post article that broke the story I addressed yesterday: the Administration's contacts with Iran. The Post piece doesn't sound quite as bad -- we did give 'humanitarian assistance' to the Taliban before we started fighting back against them -- and I understand that keeping channels open to de facto governments can be useful, even when they are evil and on our hit list. I still don't like the idea of making them any promises, though.
WAR: Tootsie On War
So, if I read this right, Dustin Hoffman is qualified to talk about war because he was in 'Wag the Dog'?
Look, if celebrities have something interesting and intelligent to say, let them say it. But if they get up on a soapbox with nothing but stupid canned slogans and ill-thought-out preconceived notions, they should expect particular scorn from pundits who have much more to say and much less ability to be heard.
POLITICS: Democrats' Petards
Democratic presidential candidates are hoist by their own petard in trying to campaign in a state they claim to be boycotting. Meanwhile, Peter Beinart says they will live to regret not confronting Al Sharpton. I still think Sharpton has major potential to have a falling out with the Democratic front-runner, especially if it's Lieberman (given Sharpton's long history of animosity with Jewish Democrats) and wind up killing the party in November. Even if Bush is looking to win in a walk, that could be disastrous for down-ticket Democrats, since Sharpton's supporters are more likely to stay home than to vote for Bush.
WAR: Reap As Ye Sow
I just love the fact that Gerhardt Schroder's plan to have the UN gum up the plans for war in Iraq by sending in more inspectors could cause Schroder's government to topple -- on charges that he's being too hawkish!
POLITICS: Peter And The Oppressed Creature
I still think this story, about Bill Clinton and Gorbachev recording a retelling of Peter and the Wolf that will "tell the story from the point of view of the wolf, faced with the encroachments of urbanisation on his dwindling forest habitat" has got to be a hoax. This is just beyond satire.
WAR: Lileks on the UN
I very much liked this Lileks Newhouse column on the UN - a useful antidote to the mental house of mirrors we keep being cast into by the Europeans and the media.
LAW: Supreme Potential
MSNBC takes a closer look at California Supreme Court justice Janice Rogers Brown, one of Bush's possible Supreme Court picks.
POLITICS/LAW: Race at Princeton
This story, about Princeton University cancelling a summer program for minority students over concerns that it might be illegal, actually disturbed me; I know the program is a benefit of sorts and its admission criteria are race-conscious, but this type of outreach falls on the side of the affirmative action line that we ought to be encouraging. (Either that, or this is the university equivalent of the 'Washington Monument strategy' - Princeton is trying to suggest that a ruling against the University of Michigan will kill all programs of this nature, which is just not so).
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:52 PM | Law 2002-04 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASKETBALL: Jack McCallum's Ideas
POLITICS: Not Like Clinton
David Frum, one of the Bush Administration insiders who's often cited by those who think this Administration is too political, explains why the use of polls by the Bush team isn't in the same league with the Clintons. His example of the stem-cell controversy is a good one.
POLITICS: Ted K
Ramesh Ponuru notes that Ted Kennedy got caught in a racial stereotype about Latinos.
WAR: McCain's Clarity
Read John McCain's masterful speech to a European audience on the recent shenanigans of France and Germany. McCain warms 'em up with the kind of stuff an audience of European intellectuals wants to hear: quotes from Hegel and paens to multilateralism. But then he goes in for the kill, attacking "Obstacles of prejudice, ethnic stereotype, and bureaucratic gamesmanship that block Turkey's path to Europe." He reminds the audience that the former Soviet Republics in Europe include a dangerous tyranny (Belarus) and a state in great crisis (Ukraine):
Sixty million people in Belarus and Ukraine press against six EU and NATO allies and demarcate a new, hard border across Europe stretching from Odessa to Kaliningrad. Soviet-style dictatorship in Belarus and weak institutions in Ukraine raise the prospect of millions of political and economic refugees on the borders of the European Union should these states collapse or Russia seek their integration.
Next, he accuses the French and Germans of "sneering" and "calulated self-interest," and diagnoses the choice at hand:
Western civilization in the modern era, cannot have a future worthy of its past if such threats are seen as things to be managed with an eye to process rather than confronted with a determination to meet evil at its source; and if Alliance decision-making on matters of war and peace is determined more by narrow calculations of domestic and European politics than by transcendent security interests of trans-Atlantic partners.
This warms up to the guts of the speech:
Those who deign to speak for Europe, notwithstanding the objections of elected governments across Europe, confuse consensus with effectiveness and appear to give priority to achieving a lowest-common-denominator result that preserves the illusion of unity at the expense of action to protect our security. Many Americans who support the historic project of European integration worry that rather than enhancing Europe's power in the world, the rush to integrate, and a cynical desire to define differences with America rather than meet common challenges together, reduces Europe's influence by turning the attention of European leaders inward, away from grave challenges to European security itself, and channeling their hostility toward the United States rather than our common enemies.
Foreign Minister Fischer recently warned against "primitive anti-Americanism." I thank and commend him for his statement. But I am concerned, we should all be concerned, not only with the "primitive" anti-Americanism of the street that resents America's successes, exults in our misfortunes, and ascribes to us motives that one must be a fool or delusional to believe. We should also be concerned with the "sophisticated" anti-Americanism, or perhaps more aptly, the "cynical" anti-Americanism of political leaders who exploit for their own ends the disinformed, "primitive" hostility to America voiced in some quarters of their societies; to further their ambitions to govern or to inflate perceptions of their international influence.
Just as some Arab governments fuel anti-American sentiment among their people to divert them from problems at home, so a distinct minority of Western European leaders appears to engage in America-bashing to rally their people and other European elites to the call of European unity. Some European politicians speak of pressure from their "street" for peaceful solutions to international conflict and for resisting American power regardless of its purpose. But statements emanating from Europe that seem to endorse pacifism in the face of evil, and anti-Semitic recidivism in some quarters, provoke an equal and opposite reaction in America.
There is an American "street," too, and it strongly supports disarming Iraq, accepts the necessity of an expansive American role in the world to ensure we never wake up to another September 11th, is perplexed that nations with whom we have long enjoyed common cause do not share our urgency and sense of threat in time of war, and that considers reflexive hostility toward Israel as the root of all problems in the Middle East as irrational as it is morally offensive.
I loved the stuff about the 'American street', and his comparison of the French & Germans to Arab dictators. I voted for McCain in the 2000 primaries; I wouldn't today, because he's really left the conservative movement entirely. But on foreign affairs, he's still a powerful voice. McCain, today, is in many ways the true heir to the party of Truman and JFK, a guy who believes that the federal government of the United States can do noble things at home and abroad. It's more a sad comment on the Democrats' longstanding aversion to serious foreign policy than an indictment of McCain that he's still a Republican.
Yeah, I know, not much baseball content here lately. My mind has been on the war. I've also been bogged down trying to finish Part 2 of the latest Projo piece.
February 10, 2003
POP CULTURE: Clooney Tunes
You can always count on American celebrities, when in Europe, to bash some aspect of the United States. Interviewers over there eat this stuff up. But what's ironic about George Clooney ripping reality television is that, at least from this Washington Post report, it appears that he has no inkling that nearly all the concepts in American reality TV are taken from shows that first debuted in Europe.
WAR: Helge Boes, American Hero
Helge Boes, a CIA officer who was a year behind me in law school, was killed last week in Afghanistan in a live fire training mishap. I didn't know Boes but knew others who did. He died in a noble cause, in service to his country; say a prayer for him.
WAR: Are We In Bed With The Mullahs?
This article suggests that the Bush Administration is offering aid to the Iranian mullahs to buy, at best, neutrality in the war with Iraq. Now, I can see threatening these guys to keep them sidelined, and I can't speak to the accuracy of the report. But if this isn't the apogee of "multilateral" lunacy, I don't know what is -- these are precisely the guys we should be targeting for destruction, along with Saddam, not trying to shoehorn them into a coalition. In fact, recent intelligence connects the Iranians directly to Al Qaeda, and now they are plotting to go nuclear (as with Iraq and North Korea, there is no economic reason why Iran would be interested in nuclear power). Any commitments made to get them to sit still while the world's most powerful military zeroes in on Iraq would be both unnecessary and incredibly short-sighted, as well as contrary to the stated policies of this administration in supporting the aspirations of the Iranian people to live in freedom.
BASEBALL: The Rich Get . . .
Of course, the Hated Yankees won the rights to yet another Japanese pitcher.
February 7, 2003
REMEMBER WHEN A CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT IN 2000 DISENFRANCHISED VOTERS through an intentional campaign to interfere with their ability to get to polling places? Lots of people think they do; this is part of the regular litany of the 'black helicopter' crowd on the Left. But the New York Sun reports that one candidate actually did try to keep his adversary's voters from reaching the polls.
POP CULTURE: Eat Bugs for Money
If, like me, you read a lot of Dave Barry columns, you probably reacted to the latest spate of gross-out TV reality shows by wondering when they would air Barry's long-touted "Eat Bugs for Money" show. Turns out that Dave himself has been wondering the same thing. Here's the column that launched the idea.
Next up: Hello, and welcome to Saw Your Head Off!
February 6, 2003
WAR: Steyn on the UN
Mark Steyn has a typically incisive and entertaining column on the follies of the UN, where "one man one vote" remains the rule - one vote for Saddam, one for Fidel, one for Qaddafi . . . I just can't figure out, though, whether the conclusion to this column recommends sending the UN into outer space or incinerating it in a ball of fire over Texas . . .
BASEBALL/WAR/POLITICS: Bill James, Sabermetrics, Conservatives, and Bloggers
Dr. Manhattan has a great post - with links aplenty -- discussing the influence of Bill James on the thinking of 'warbloggers' including yours truly. I can't agree more - when I first read the 1983 Abstract (I was 11), James taught me how to think critically, a skill I regularly employ in my baseball columns, my blogging on war and politics, and my day job as a litigator. No one outside my immediate family has had a more profound impact on my life.
1. Dr. Manhattan argues that "When you consider his methodology and the amount of BS he hacked through, Bill James has a valid claim to be the first “anti-idiotarian.”" I'd agree that he fits the profile, but no way is James the first - while it depends how far back you want to go in your intellectual histories, George Orwell would fit that description to a T, and would probably also be cited as a direct inspiration by many in the blogosphere, most notably Andrew Sullivan. Not only did Orwell take a buzzsaw to cant of all types, but he often used the 'Fisking' modus operandi, quoting and methodically demolishing the foolish notions of even the highest and mightiest (read his assault on Leo Tolstoy's pamphlet on Shakespeare, where he starts off picking apart Tolstoy's reading of King Lear and winds up indicting Tolstoy's entire life).
2. I've long wanted to expand on the parallels between sabermetric baseball analysts and political conservative media:
+Both distrust and despise mainstream media, especially the NY Times and network talking heads and their tendencies to echo each others' smug assumptions.
+Both often refer derisively to "conventional wisdom".
+Both took to the Web early, seeking to connect with like-minded people alienated by the mainstream media.
+Both have a near-unshakeable faith in logic, a suspicion of emotional decisionmaking, and a belief that their ideas will ultimately triumph.
+Both tend to rely heavily on principles of basic economics and statistics, with a little Social Darwinism (not the racial type, but the basic idea that better ideas will invariably prevail) thrown in.
+Both are heavily populated by males age 25-40, who were heavily influenced by ideas that have a long pedigree (ask John McGraw or Bill Buckley) but that came of age in the 1980s.
+Both rely heavily on sarcasm, wit and other sometimes impolitic but entertaining methods common to 'outsiders,' due in part to a lack of connections with those on the 'inside.'
+Both are often denounced by the 'mainstream' on charges of being disconnected from reality.
+The ideas of either are rarely confronted on the merits by mainstream analysts who take them seriously.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:45 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Blog 2002-05 | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (2)
WAR: Case Closed, Again
I said this when Bush went to the UN in September but . . . case closed. Secretary Powell's closing argument was entirely compelling. It's still possible, for some, to continue to oppose the war on principle, if your principles put little or no value on the UN, the Iraqi people, or anything but the shortest-term interests of the United States and Iraq's neighbors, or if you just don't believe in war ever against anyone. But I don't see how anyone can possibly still say that the Administration "hasn't made the case," if they mean that a case could ever be made.
Powell's public turn from dove to hawk on this issue should give cover to any Democrats who want to play it safe and support the war now, while maintaining that they didn't roll over easily for Bush. The ones who are running for president and still want to sound grumpy about war to impress the peaceniks or to position themselves in case our nation stumbles (ahem, John Kerry) are in much bigger trouble -- Powell's a tough guy to take on, and the evidence is hard to argue with.
Turns out that Justice William Douglas' World War I record was a fraud.
POLITICS: Daft Gore
Believe it or not, there are people out there looking to draft Al Gore in 2004! Maybe they're still hoping he'll resolve this unanswered question. Well, except that nobody asks Democrats about that stuff.
Harry Potter eat your heart out - it's a real invisibility cloak! (Jonah Goldberg had the link in the Corner).
February 3, 2003
SCIENCE: Whither The Shuttle?
I'm no expert on the subject, but Gregg Easterbrook's assault on the space shuttle program seems eminently reasonable to me, as does Rand Simberg's call to rethink NASA's mission. Thankfully, the loss of the Columbia won't deter us from continuing the space program - the thought of a manned flight to Mars is still a thrilling one, and only a fool would ignore the military possibilities -- but hopefully, it will involve a reexamination of the program, its aims, and the available technology. Just think of what cars, computers and telephones looked like when Columbia was designed and built in the late 1970s.
BASEBALL: The Flushing Flash
BASEBALL: Reaching The Limits
I could not agree more with David Pinto that reducing the size of divisions is far superior to adding more wild cards to the playoffs. But I would also caution that the baseball playoffs are already about as long and unpredictable as they can get. Adding another round would devalue the regular season even if it didn't involve wild cards.
More playoffs also means more stress on pitchers' arms and shorter careers for pitchers on good teams.
From the statistical-analytical perspective, of course, more playoffs also means that more of a player's career - especially for pitchers if they get rested more in anticipation of a long October/November -- occurs in the postseason, in conditions that are hard to compare between players. That makes the job of evaluating players fairly much harder.
LAW: Tough Bagels
Howard Bashman on a lawsuit against McDonald's over a "tough" bagel: "So let's get this straight -- many have recently sued McDonald's because its food has allegedly caused them to become obese. And now McDonald's is being sued because its food is allegedly inedible. The company simply can't win, it seems."
Instaman spotted this entry noting a hilarious mangling of history by John Kerry.
LAW: More Brobeck
Slate had more Friday on the demise of Brobeck. Brobeck took a lot of chances, many of them unwise, in breaking out of the conservative mold of traditional law firm management. It will be some time -- or at least, until the next big boom -- before that model is seriously questioned again.
POLITICS: TIME For Tax Cuts
This TIME magazine column suggests that Bush should abolish double federal income taxation of Social Security and Medicare taxes. It's a very persuasive argument, although like many of the arguments favoring sanctions and inspections in Iraq, it's funny how liberal writers only get enamored of this type of tax cut when they're trying to come up with an alternative to Bush's more vigorous proposals. Bush is looking for an economic shot in the arm, which - along with the argument that it will improve corporate disclosures - is why he's targeting the dividend tax. This proposal certainly belongs in the basket for the next round of tax cuts. Maybe this will go in the 2004 platform . . .
WAR: THE TURKS ARE COMING
Speaking of the Agonist, he also had this revealing map of our support in Europe for war in Iraq. It's mostly spot-on, although the Irish seem to be leaning towards support. Also, the Turks should be purple - they're not neutral, just unwilling to support war until they are certain it's almost here, for pragmatic reasons that are far more sympathetic than those of, say, the Belgians. Not only will they eventually support us, but unlike the French & Germans, their help will be militarily crucial. And reports Friday indicate that their support is coming out in the open now that we are clearly going to war.
WAR: MEDIA BIAS ALERT
The normally reliable UPI runs what amounts to a CAIR press release, describing Daniel Pipes as "a right-wing commentator who many American Muslims regard as the nation's leading Islamophobe."
BLOG: Dave Barry's Blog
WAR: Marine at Ground Zero
If you missed it, Slate had a fascinating account last fall of the Marine who rushed down from Connecticut to Ground Zero on September 11. The story even shows that there can, in some circumstances, be very good reasons to own a Porsche.
WAR: All One War
If you're wondering (1) what goes on in the narrow mind of an Islamofascist terrorist and (2) why Judge Young was so harsh in his words for Richard Reid at his sentencing, check out this Washington Post report from last Tuesday about Reid's defense:
Richard Reid's lawyers said Tuesday he didn't try to blow up a jetliner with explosives in his shoes because he hated the United States, but instead was trying to defend Islam from U.S. aggression. . . When he pleaded guilty in October, Reid said he was a member of the terrorist group al-Qaida and declared his hatred for the United States. But in their sentencing memo, Reid's lawyers say he did not do it to wage war against America. They say he "took no pleasure" in trying to blow up the plane, but did it to defend Islam, which he believes has been under attack by the United States. Reid, a British citizen who converted to Islam, claims in letters he wrote from prison that the United States, through sanctions on Iraq, is responsible for the deaths of 2 million Iraqi children.
What was that, again, about Saddam and the war on terror being two different things?
POLITICS/LAW: Boddie on Preferences
On Thursday, Slate ran a piece by Elise Boddie, a former Harvard Law classmate of mine, attacking President Bush's position on affirmative action. There are a few decent points here, but also several crucial fallacies. Let's walk through:
Bush still professes to favor racial diversity, but he opposes the use of race to create it. Sort of like saying that you like meatloaf but prefer preparing it without hamburger.
This does capture the mealy-mouthed nature of Bush's support for racial "diversity" as a permissible goal of a taxpayer-supported insitutions.
Bush claims there is another way, under his "colorblind" "affirmative access" proposal. This refers to the law adopted by Texas in the aftermath of the 1996 court ruling in Hopwood v. Texas abolishing race-conscious admissions at the University of Texas. Similar versions have been enacted by California and Florida. The Texas law mandates the admission to university of all high-school seniors graduating in the top 10 percent of their class; California and Florida give a boost to the top 4 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
Many commentators have already pointed out the glaring problems with these percentage plans—not the least of which is that their success in creating racially diverse student bodies at the college level depends in significant part on the continued racial segregation of the state's high schools. They also don't affect admissions in private universities or in graduate or professional schools; and, in California, there is no guarantee of admission to the state's flagship institutions. There is some indication that minority first-year admissions at Texas universities have increased under the percentage plan, following the post-Hopwood plunge. But such admissions have yet to reach the heights achieved in the years prior to Hopwood, and at least some of the increase is due to a rising college-age black and Latino population in Texas.
First of all, arguments that assume that the sole end goal of admissions policies should be to increase the proportion of students "of color" -- on a zero-sum basis -- are deeply problematic. Boddie then goes on to say that preferences aren't so bad because the number of white students who lose out isn't that high, although, presumably, it would rise in the near future "due to a rising college-age black and Latino population" in places like Texas.
Second, to object to the public university plans on the grounds that they assume large racial disproportion in high schools . . . well, yes. Racial disproportion -- segregation, if you want to call it that, although it's principally caused by housing patterns - is precisely what supports the argument that there's any need for affirmative action in the 21st century at all. African-American students who attend top high schools are hardly the oppressed and downtrodden in need of a hand, after all. The "percentage plans" are a Band-Aid aimed directly at the problem of students trapped in bad schools, and are designed to ensure that the best students from those schools get preferential treatment. It's still open to fair question whether this is in their best interests -- whether some students are getting promoted beyond what they've been academically prepared for -- but it's at least a solution that's designed to be proportionate to the problem.
[W]hile most of the public scrutiny concerning affirmative action has been on the qualifications of African-American and Latino students admitted to Michigan, it is scarcely mentioned that other white students are also admitted with SAT scores or GPAs lower than those of the plaintiffs (and lower than those of rejected minority applicants). Nor is much attention paid to the other racialized dimensions of Michigan's admissions policy that favor whites. The preference given to the children of alumni (including, incidentally, Patrick Hamacher, one of the plaintiffs challenging Michigan) disproportionately benefits whites, as does the enhancement given for candidates from Michigan's predominantly white Upper Peninsula, and the points awarded based on the quality of the candidate's high school and curriculum.
Well, the Upper Peninsula plan seems to be basically another form of the percentage plans, and it's presumably driven by in-state politics, which is a hazard of any public university. I would tend to agree that alumni preferences should be eliminated in public universities, however; they don't serve any academic purpose and they do institutionalize the past racial and other makeup of the student body. The main justification for such preferences in private colleges -- and I'm somewhat skeptical there as well -- is that alumni preferences help build loyalties that are essential to fundraising. Even if you buy that argument, it loses support when the college is financed by the state.
Opponents of affirmative action have spent the past two weeks repeating what seems to be their main, patronizing argument: that race-neutral admissions are better for racial minorities because affirmative action stigmatizes its beneficiaries as inferior (while at the same time denying their own agency in perpetuating such stereotypes). But the "stigma" is one-sided. It isn't applied to legacy admits; and it isn't applied to white Anglo Saxon Protestant men admitted to universities before the 1970s. Until affirmative action kicked in, these groups had a virtual lock on admissions at selective institutions because white women, blacks, Asians, and Latinos were either excluded from selective institutions altogether or were admitted in token numbers. Yet one never hears that this de facto affirmative action has "stigmatized" white males.
A funny thing about this argument is that it ignores the scorn usually heaped on George W. Bush for being a guy who would never have gotten into Yale without alumni preferences (see this Michael Kinsley article for a sample); conservatives tend to hurl the same stuff at Ted Kennedy. Of course, it may be unfair, but the main reason the stigma isn't more prominent is that you can't tell someone is a child of alumni just by looking at them. Still, I think most people knew some people in college who were clearly there just because their parents got them in. Also, go to any Ivy League campus and try to talk up a classical education in the Western canon and tell me there's no stigma attached to the writers for being dead white males . . .
In any event, this is a classic example of the false dichotomy set up by proponents of preferences -- between rich old-money WASPs and poor African-Americans. Meanwhile, your typical middle-class/working-class white kids, whose parents and grandparents got shut out of the old order, get told "meet the new privileges, same as the old privileges." And Jews and Asians need not apply.
Studies repeatedly document the continued pervasiveness of discrimination in housing, employment, health care, and in the criminal justice system, and the persistence of racial segregation in elementary and secondary education. President Bush and others who oppose affirmative action may well preach "colorblindness," but really they are just willfully blind to the continuing relevance of race.
Well, so make the case that "the continuing relevance of race" in those other areas is a bad thing - don't celebrate it as an excuse to give upper-middle-class African-American kids a leg up in admission to elite colleges.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:38 AM | Law 2002-04 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: Lame Duck Norman
Bob Novak reports that President Bush would have fired Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta - the Cabinet's token Democrat - months ago, except that Mineta has been ill and essentially left management of the department to underlings.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:36 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/BUSINESS: Charles Schwab Steps Down
Charles Schwab stepped down as CEO of his firm Friday, while remaining on as chairman. This looks like just a sensible combination of corporate governance reform (Schwab's explanation) and the 65-year-old Schwab beginning the transition to the next generation of leadership for his company. But you do have to wonder, his denials to the contrary, if Schwab would be a candidate for public office. I assume from some of his public positions that he's a Republican, although whether a moderate or a conservative, I've no idea. But he's got huge name recognition and deep pockets.
In the end, probably the biggest hurdle is that he'll be 69 when Gray Davis' term ends. Guys like Schwab are generally better suited to be governors than senators. Still, in a California GOP desperate for winners, he'd be a guy worth talking to.
It's periodically helpful to remind us all of the costs of war, but one thing I take very serious issue with is the sense that we all blog in safety, far from violence and danger. I was four blocks from my office in the World Trade Center when I saw the second plane hit; I could easily have been inside, with my co-workers who escaped death by minutes. Everyone in New York saw more horrors than we care to recall. My city is still in the bullseye of every fanatic with access to chem/bio/nuke WMD. I want war now because I want peace later, and I want me and my children to live to see it. And I'm greatful for those who volunteer to the front lines.
Are we hypocrites, we who call for a war we will not fight? No more than we who call 911 but decline to wear the uniforms of the police and firefighters who rush to danger to save us. No more than we who send money (or vote to send others' tax money) to overseas charities, but decline to live in squalor and disease to tend to the neediest, or who attend churches but decline to live the calling of the religious, or who drive over bridges men died to build.
Nobody ever says the mayor can't tell the firefighters to run into burning buildings because he never did so himself. Some people take on more of life's risks than others; it's not fair, but it's the way of the world.
WAR/BLOG: Good News From Israel
It's the Good News From Israel blog!
POLITICS: To The Vanquished Go Some Spoils
Bush's budget includes money for school choice in Washington DC. Yet again, a Republican president with no hope of ever winning votes from African-Americans is doing, for the predominantly black population of the District, what no Democrat ever would.
I was riveted last night by MSNBC's special on the Challenger disaster, which I hadn't thought about in some years -- specifically, I hadn't realized that the astronauts had apparently survived the explosion and one of them even had the presence of mind to pull a lever starting oxygen tanks they would need to survive the fall. The conclusion seemed to be that they had probably blacked out somewhere in the plunge of their compartment towards the ocean and been killed by the impact with the water at upwards of 200 mph. Wow.
SCIENCE: Bad Ideas
New research confirms that driving while talking on a cell phone -- even a handsfree model -- is a bad combination. DUH!
February 1, 2003
SCIENCE: Where I Was
You'll see below that I had posted a batch of links stored up from the week early this morning. Then I closed the blog to head out to a nephew's birthday party, and clicked quickly over to Instapundit.
I found this post, still fresh. It's been updated repeatedly, with some wondrous stuff, including a moving speech written by William Safire for Nixon to give in the event that the Appollo 11 astronauts couldn't get back from the moon. Also, don't fail to check out Rand Simberg, the leading spaceblogger and an often insightful all-around commentator. He and Reynolds are the guys to read on this story.
WAR: Mark Steyn on the French
Mark Steyn explains why the French are crafty SOBs, not cowards.
WAR: BLIX POWER!
WAR: The Jihad Song
BASEBALL: New Fenway
Gerry Callahan eulogizes the new Fenway that is not to be any time soon.