Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
December 31, 2003
BLOG: Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you and yours - drive safely out there. I appreciate every one of this blog's readers, and hope to see you back in 2004 (with more baseball goodies on the way, I promise!)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:38 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Inspector General

Good to see that Ashcroft has recused himself and put a professional prosecutor at the head of the Valerie Plame leak investigation. I don't personally know Patrick Fitzgerald, the US Attorney for Chicago, but I know him by reputation and know people who know him; he's a career prosecutor who made his name with the first World Trade Center bombing cases (among other things, I believe he was the lead prosecutor on the trial of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman); I'm sure he'll be thorough and dogged, but unlike outside prosecutors (i.e., Independent Counsels), he has other things to do and won't spin this into an endless investigation if more pressing matters need the resources. A good call.

I still maintain that the best way to handle politically charged investigations would be to create a separate department of an Inspector General. Such a department could be built around the current Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice, which has a perenially full caseload with corruption in state and local governments, contracting, police corruption, etc., and thus would not be like an Independent Counsel, tempted to blow one investigation out of proportion. But the head of the department could be someone less political than the Attorney General (whose role in law enforcement, Supreme Court litigation and sometimes judicial selection makes him or her an inevitably controversial figure) and selected specifically for the trait of bipartisan respect. Once selected and nominated, an IG would be nearly impossible to fire over a single investigation in the absence of obvious abuse. And you could also consolidate the civil IG offices of various executive departments, which can be prone to the same problems as IC offices, thus avoiding the usual trap of new departments that duplicate existing ones.

And pay for the savings by abolishing the Commerce Department. Everyone wins!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:35 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL/WAR: Tillman

Punch the Bag shares some thoughts on Pat Tillman, late of the Arizona Cardinals and currently serving as an Army Ranger.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:55 PM | Football • | War 2002-03 | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Recruiting for Wall Street Lawyers

Via Ernie the Attorney, for all my colleagues who are at the office today as I wind down my much-needed vacation: let's just say that recruiting for Wall Street lawyers has changed a lot between this letter (opens as a PDF file) and today.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:53 PM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: No Hillary in 2004

You know, Josh Marshall's column on this subject from January 5, 2001 stands up awfully well almost three years later, although it may be less prescient as it applies to 2008.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:48 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Plastic Corks

A timely thought: MSNBC has a look at those annoying rubberized wine corks. (I find them annoying because it takes me a while to get through a bottle of wine and the corks often won't go back in the bottle).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:33 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASKETBALL: Blocked Out, Part II

Further to my point of yesterday about blocked shots, there's some debate about their value. Doug Turnbull assesses the value of a block at a full 2 points per block - thus, he values a man who scores 10 points per game and blocks 4 shots per game the same as an 18-a-game scorer. John Hollinger, in the Basketball Prospectus, values a block as about the same as the negative value of a missed field goal, which he values at around 0.72 points (the figure varies by certain measurements pegged to league averages).

Who's right? Well, sophisticated analysis of basketball statistics is still in its adolescence, if not its infancy. Wait and see.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:27 PM | Basketball | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Celeb of the Day

You know him - I know you know him. Who is Steven Zirnkilton?

Take your best guess and click here to find out.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:18 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Dave Barry's 2003

As usual, you owe it to yourself to read Dave Barry's year in review.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:43 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 30, 2003
BASKETBALL: Blocked Out

One of my recent interests has been simulated basketball on WhatIfSports.com, a site Bill Simmons got me interested in (on the baseball side) in its infancy some two years ago (my username is crank, for those of you who are denizens of the site). In typically backwards fashion, renewing my interest in basketball's statistical past has revived my interest to some extent in the current game, but that's a topic for another post.

One of the great imponderables in NBA history - with which the "WIS" site has to struggle, since it includes players going back to the Fifties - is the tabulation of blocked shots prior to 1973-74, when the league started counting them. There are few more frustrating unknown statistics in professional sports than Bill Russell's blocked shots; Russell's statistics (despite adequate scoring and assists averages and great rebounding numbers) are otherwise not really impressive enough to equal his reputation, but if we had shot-blocking numbers, there would be something closer to a quantifiable way to measure his defensive greatness. WIS pegs him around 5-6 blocked shots per game; I've heard people who saw him play quote figures as high as 10. That's probably Old Fogeyism talking, but then, there were an awful lot of missed shots in those days, and Russell was on the court for 44-46 minutes a night.

Anyway, one thing I noticed that was unique and repeated in several sources without an explanation of where it came from was the ABA's single season blocked shots record: 422 by Artis Gilmore in his rookie season in Kentucky in 1971-72, an average of just over 5 a game -- one of only two seasons of 400 blocks (the other is the NBA record of 456 by Mark Eaton in 1984-85) in the recorded history of professional basketball and almost 150 above Gilmore's next highest total. What's unusual is that basketball-reference.com has nearly no record for anybody else's blocked shots but Gilmore's for 1971-72. Yet, the NBA's official website cites the figure in Gilmore's bio; so does Gilmore's own personal website; so does ESPN.com.

If anyone knows the true story of how they came up with this figure, I'd love to hear it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:00 PM | Basketball | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/LAW: From The Department of Not Moving On

Another one you might have missed, that I noticed I never got around to blogging: in August, the D.C. Circuit rejected most of Bill and Hillary Clinton's request for reimbursement for their attorneys' fees incurred in the course of the Whitewater and related investigations (although President Clinton did not seek reimbursement for the Lewinsky investigation, as per his agreement with Robert Ray resolving the charges arising from that case). The Clintons argued that they were statutorily entitled to reimbursement on the theory that the fees "would not have been incurred but for the requirements of" the Independent Counsel statute (the Ethics in Goverment Act) -- i.e., that "1) if not for the Act, the case could have been disposed of at an early stage of the investigation; and 2) they were investigated under the Act where private citizens would not have been investigated."

These arguments, of course, echoed the defense of the Clintons from the beginning: nothing to see here, old news, we were cleared by Arkansas regulators, nobody but Ken Starr would have investigated this stuff, yada yada yada.

The key passage:

Two years before the appointment of Independent Counsel Starr, a criminal referral was submitted by the Resolution Trust Corporation to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas alleging illegal activities involving Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan Association, and naming the McDougals as suspects and the Clintons as witnesses. When in early 1994 the Attorney General appointed Robert Fiske as regulatory independent counsel, she gave him broad authority to investigate the Clintons' relationship with, inter alia, Madison Guaranty and the Whitewater Development Corporation. And when we appointed Kenneth Starr as statutory independent counsel in the summer of 1994, at the request of the Attorney General we granted him investigatory authority almost identical to Fiske's. The IC's final report on the Whitewater matter states that "[t]he breadth of the criminality already uncovered by the Fiske investigation in part contributed to the length of time necessary for the statutory Independent Counsel to complete his work." See Robert W. Ray, Final Report of the Independent Counsel, In Re: Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan Association, Vol. I, 21 (2001). Taking all of the above into consideration, we harbor no doubt that in the absence of the independent counsel statute the allegations surrounding the Clintons, Madison Guaranty, and Whitewater would have been similarly investigated and prosecuted by the Department of Justice.

The Clintons nevertheless argue that the DOJ would have conducted a substantially lesser investigation than that of the IC. The facts would not appear to substantiate this argument. Another independent counsel, albeit regulatory, had been appointed to investigate the matter, and in the short period he was in office he conducted an extensive investigation spending several hundred thousand dollars.

Indeed.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:32 PM | Law 2002-04 • | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/RELIGION: Random Thought

From a friend, who asks: why is there so much overlap between (a) those Americans who criticize our foreign policy for being too "unilateral" and (b) those Americans who feel that American branches of world religions need to ignore, if necessary, criticisms from their overseas branches when pressing for changes in doctrine (e.g., relating to abortion, ordination of women, homosexuality, etc.)?

But then, "unilateral" means "in opposition to Continental Europe," whereas criticism from Third World Christians generally gets discounted; they apparently are supposed to be seen, not heard.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:27 PM | Politics 2002-03 • | Religion | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Changing the Subject

The Weekly Standard had an interesting and sympathetic profile of Dick Gephardt some weeks ago, including some good Dean-bashing. I tend to like Gephardt when I'm just reading about him - on paper, you can make him sound like Harry Truman - but every time I see the guy he's just so full to the brim with idiotic cliched soundbites that lack even a semblance of logic or coherent thought that I have to turn off the TV. He probably is a decent guy, but listening to him drives me up the wall. The problem is one that's endemic to many Democratic politicians (Howard Dean is actually a rare exception): he talks down to his audience like he's speaking to a bunch of grade school students.

Barring a catastrophe in the war on terror or a major economic reversal, I still can't see Gephardt going anywhere, or the Democrats winning in November, unless something happens that forces the candidates to change the subject from war and taxes. Dean is Bush's ideal matchup -- and the one the true believers on the Left want -- because they both want to run on war & taxes, and the two are diametrically opposed on both questions. Other than Gephard't's trade-war talk, none of the other Dems have been able to change that definition of the agenda. And as we know, he who sets the agenda usually wins.

One thing I've been kicking around is whether the cultural issues will matter. A friend suggested that culture issues are bigger now than they were in 1992, but I don't really buy it; if anything, the cultural fissures were more pronounced that election year. 1992 saw Buchanan's "culture war" speech - the battles of that era seem tame only because we've gone so much further down the slippery slope. 1992 was "the year of the woman." Dan Quayle v. Murphy Brown. It was 1992 that the Supreme Court upheld Roe v Wade (or, as Scalia pointed out, completely rewrote Roe under the guise of being bound by precedent). The LA riots were in April 1992. And, of course, Bill Clinton was one big walking cultural issue.

Culture is a big subtext, particularly if Dean wins. But the main topics will still be taxes and war.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:25 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: "Blacks"

This NY Times article on programs to keep African-American men enrolled in college has an interesting sidebar on the Times' site: the "Times News Tracker" says you would receive an email about the article if you had chosen one of the following four topics as one of your alerts:

Teachers and School Employees
Blacks
Equal Educational Opportunities
Education and Schools

Now, I'm really no expert on political correctness, so maybe this is just me, but isn't it considered bad form these days to use the term "Blacks" as opposed to "African-Americans" or, failing that, "black people"? Just has a ring of Strom Thurmond about it, as in, "I'd like to get the news about the Blacks."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:14 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: %!^$!^& Comment Spammers

Got hit with a battery of them last night. Add 217.26.244.11 to your banned IP list, if you're keeping score at home.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:42 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 29, 2003
BASEBALL: Calderon Gone

Sad news with the death of Ivan Calderon, who was murdered Saturday in what sounds like a gangland-style killing. Calderon had his ups and downs, but was the best player on his team in 1987 (when he batted .293 and smacked 28 home runs for the White Sox) and 1991 (when he batted .300 and stole 31 bases for the Expos). His career was derailed by injuries at the age of 30 (or so), and he last appeared in the majors at age 31 in 1993.

Calderon, on why he preferred playing in Montreal: "The games go quicker, and you can get back to the clubhouse and eat."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:38 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Split Deck of Cards

Was there a team in baseball with more dramatic platoon splits up and down the lineup in 2003 than Tony LaRussa's Cardinals? I doubt it. You'd be sorely tempted to throw nothing but lefthanders against the Redbirds if you saw these splits:

Avg vs RHPSlg vs RHPOBP vs RHPPLAYERAvg vs LHPSlg vs LHPOBP vs LHP
.292.631.405Jim Edmonds.225.577.320
.306.534.390JD Drew.218.418.306
.281.446.358Tino Martinez.235.346.323
.271.414.326Fernando Vina.163.245.236
.290.378.358Orlando Palmeiro.182.200.224

But then, you'd want to re-consider when you look at the other side of the ledger:

Avg vs RHPSlg vs RHPOBP vs RHPPLAYERAvg vs LHPSlg vs LHPOBP vs LHP
.350.646.434Albert Pujols.387.732.458
.316.434.364Edgar Renteria.391.670.503
.287.516.370Scott Rolen.283.575.427
.226.320.302Mike Matheny.340.480.384
.238.351.295Eduardo Perez.353.667.459
.267.379.306Bo Hart.300.433.344

If the Cards think they are 'solving' a problem with lefthanded pitching by dumping Drew and Tino, they may be mistaken; those guys were actually doing a good job of inducing teams to throw lefthanders at the rest of the lineup. It's harder to project what this means going forward, since some of these splits (e.g., Renteria and Matheny) are unlikely to remain as dramatic in the future.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:29 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 27, 2003
BLOG: New Categories

Those of you who prefer to skip to the baseball content, or who want to check the category archives, may have noticed that three of the categories here (Baseball, Politics and War, my three main areas of interest) load very slowly due to the huge number of entries since the blog started in August 2002 (as well as a few oddball archived emails from before that date). To remedy the problem for the new year, I've renamed the old categories ("Baseball 2002-03," etc.) and created a new set of categories ("Baseball 2004," etc.) to hold this year's entries. I've also changed the link at the top of the page so it goes to the Baseball 2004 category, and I'm notifying the few sites that link to my baseball category page rather than the main page to fix their URLs.

If you're looking for baseball entries from 2003 and earlier, click here for the Baseball 2002-03 category.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:52 PM | Baseball 2004 • | Blog 2002-05 • | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 26, 2003
BLOG: Horrors!

Bathroom fixture company American Standard is holding an "America's Ugliest Bathroom" contest. Check out the seven finalists between now and the end of January for a true parade of horrible decor (A brown mosaic-tiled bathtub! A lime green tub laid in pink plush carpeting!) as well as an object lesson on why the Fifties, the Sixties, and the Seventies should never return.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:42 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Hero Miles

Al Bethke relates a reader email about a soldier returning from Iraq and points us to Operation Hero Miles, a program for donating frequent flyer miles to soldiers flying home on R&R from Iraq and Afghanistan. Check it out.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:35 PM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 23, 2003
BASEBALL: It's Not Just The Defense

Josh Heit, trying to find a silver lining in Aaron Heilman's disastrous debut season, looks at David Pinto's new defensive metrics and suggests of Heilman:

The conventional wisdom is that he sucks and needs to go back to AAA. However, he did lose 8.6 outs (137 expected) to his defense (Iíd probably blame, in order: Roger Cedeno, Robbie Alomar, and Joe McEwing. The Mets do keep showing up near the bottom of Davidís studies, if you look at some of the other data sets). He may have just suffered a string of bad defense.

I'd like to believe that's the core of the problem too, but . . . well, I don't doubt that Josh is right that Heilman suffered from bad defense (although it's a bit unfair to blame Alomar, given that he was traded on July 1 and Heilman threw most of his innings after that). But Heilman's problems ran a good deal deeper than defense. The real problem is that Heilman allowed 41 walks and 13 home runs in 65.1 innings of work, an unsustainable rate (5.65 walks and 1.8 HR/9 innings, if you're keeping score at home).

On the other hand, Heilman struck out just over 7 men per 9 innings, so he must have been fooling someone. I thought I'd take a look, via Aaron Haspel's search engine, to see how many other pitchers have had a season like Heilman's and see if (1) any of them managed to pitch effectively despite the walks and dingers or (2) any of them ever developed into good pitchers. I ran the search for pitchers who issued 40 or more walks and allowed 10 or more homers in a season of less than 70 innings.

Unsurprisingly, the results were ugly. Only 5 of the 17 pitchers had ERAs below 5.60, and only one (Bill Scherrer at 4.36 in 1985) had an ERA below 4.70. Let's review the list, from best ERA to worst:

1. Bill Scherrer, age 27. 1-3 with a 5.98 ERA the rest of his career, all in relief.

2. Brian Oelkers, age 25. Never pitched in the majors again.

3. Dave Campbell, age 26. Never pitched in the majors again; went into broadcasting.

4. Bob Gibson, age 27. No, not that Bob Gibson. 6-7 with 11 saves and a 3.90 ERA the following year in 92.1 innings, but basically washed out of the majors after that.

5. Jose Mesa, age 33. Mesa got worse the following year (5.36 ERA) before recovering to save 97 games with an ERA of 2.76 his first two years in Philadelphia. Has to be considered a modest success.

6. Mike Mohler, age 24. Had a little success in the majors, with a decent year and a half as a middle reliever at ages 26-27 after being returned to the minors. Career high in wins: 6. Career record: 14-27, 4.99 ERA.

7. Steve Barr, age 24. Never pitched in the majors again.

8. Matt Karchner, age 29. Notched 15 saves and a 2.91 ERA the following year, then regressed and appears to have left the game after three seasons of struggles.

9. Doug Bochtler, age 27. Pitched just 21 more innings in the majors.

10. George Susce, age 24. Susce pitched in Fenway in the late 50s, a tough place to pitch. Had a 3.67 ERA his first year away from the Fens, but wound up with a short, unsuccessful career.

11. Dave Boswell, age 25. A 20-game winner the previous year, Boswell threw just 29 more major league innings. I believe he had injuries.

12. Jon Garland, age 20. The youngest of the bunch and still a work in progress; Garland managed a 3.69 ERA in 117 innings the following year and has been just below a league-average starter since then.

13. Heath Murray, age 28. Has pitched just 12 major league innings since.

14. Clint Hartung, age 27. Never pitched again and was converted to an outfielder.

15. Bob Welch, age 37. Retired immediately thereafter.

16. Dick Starr, age 30. Never pitched in the majors again.

17. Roy Halladay, age 23. Had a 10.64 ERA in 2000, arguably the worst season a pitcher ever had in that many innings. Was returned to the low minors but returned a completely reworked pitcher the following year (2001), with a much higher strikeout rate. Won 19 games in 2002 and AL Cy Young in 2003.

This is a fairly grim list, although not completely hopeless. Heilman's 24 and had no prior major league success, so the best comps include some of the most successful ones, like Garland and Halladay, but still includes plenty of disasters. Of course, Halladay's stuff was electric before his blowout in 2000, and Garland also has physical gifts that Heilman lacks. Heilman also struck out more batters than any of these guys but Gibson, although the higher-K members of the group aren't a hopeful bunch.

Heilman was just plain bad in 2003, defense or no defense, and history suggests only an outside chance that he'll ever be an effective major league pitcher.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:49 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASKETBALL: Ruination

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:56 AM | Basketball | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: An Orange Christmas

So, we took the kids up to the top of the Empire State Building yesterday, Orange Alert or no Orange Alert. Naturally, they were thrilled to be in the tallest building in NY (we still haven't told them about the World Trade Center, and I think by now they've forgotten I worked there).

You know, I'll never carry a rifle in this war, never go to a foreign combat zone, and I don't confuse my part in this with those who do. But there is a role to play for the rest of us back home, particularly New York, the City with the Big Bullseye, and that's just to hold our ground and not let our daily business be affected by threats. It's the least we can do.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:48 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 22, 2003
POP CULTURE: Christmas Songs

OK, in the spirit of list-making, I've drawn up a list of my favorite popular music performances of Christmas songs. Not necessarily favorite songs, as much as favorite recorded performances. Thus, for example, I haven't included "Joy to the World" here, even though it's just about my favorite Christmas hymn, because I have yet to hear any one artist put to record a version of the song that can match a church choir raining down the hymn as you process out of Mass on Christmas morning, an experience that's about as close to God as man gets on this earth. A few others missed the cut as well because I couldn't think of one definitive performance, like "Let it Snow! Let it Snow!," and I left off the songs from one of my favorite Christmas movies, "Scrooge," starring Albert Finney, since on their own they aren't really that Christmasy. I wound up with 17 tunes that made the cut.

Here we go:

17. Bing Crosby - Adeste Fidelis (O Come All Ye Faithful) - Crosby does the Latin version of this, interspersed with the modern hymn in English, in a way that perfectly captures the virtues of the old Catholic Church.

16. Bruce Springsteen - Merry Christmas Baby - An excellent tune, albeit a bit less Christmasy than some of the others on the list. Clarence Clemons' sax carries this one.

15. Elvis Presley - Blue Christmas - Elvis wouldn't seem to go with Christmas, but he gets it right with "Blue Christmas."

14. Various Artists - Do They Know It's Christmas? - Yes, it combines 80s cheesiness with liberal condescension, but the impulse - giving to the less fortunate at the holidays - has its heart in the right place, and this is a fun song.

13. John Lennon/Yoko Ono - Merry Xmas (War is Over) - See #14; Lennon's wacky peacenikery strikes the right note for a Christmas aspiration, even if it was foolish politics at the time (after all, the Vietnam War didn't really end until one side was overrun and enslaved by the other).

12. Burl Ives - Holly Jolly Christmas - I left off the list songs that were truly inseparable from TV specials, like the themes for the Grinch and the Heat Miser, but this tune (always identified with Rudolph) makes the cut. Ives' voice is like a warm fireplace and a cup of hot chocolate all by itself.

11. Johnny Mathis - Winter Wonderland - One of the oddities of Christmas music is that people will listen to artists from genres they wouldn't listen to normally; you wound't catch me listening to Johnny Mathis any other time of year. But at Christmas time, he's one of the ones who makes his annual reappearance.

10. Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song - You know, the "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" song, Cole's signature tune.

9. Mariah Carey - All I Want for Christmas is You - I'm not much of a Mariah Carey fan, but there's some decent stuff on her Christmas album, and this old-time Motown-style tune is really good; if she did a whole album like it, she could revive her career in very short order.

8. Bing Crosby - White Christmas - The all-time classic.

7. Darlene Love - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - I first came to know this one through the U2 version, which is quite good, but Love's voice gave this song just a little extra emotion. I'm very partial to "A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector," which remains the greatest Christmas record ever made (in spite of Spector himself being a psychopath); besides the two songs listed here, many others were close runnerups to other versions.

6. Gene Autry - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - Autry's gentle, genial version still tops what's come after it.

5. Leon Redbone/Dr. John - Frosty the Snowman - Thumpity thump thump, thumpity thump thump . . . Redbone and Dr. John complement each other perfectly.

4. Harry Connick jr. - (It Mus've Been Ol') Santa Claus - It's very hard to write a new Christmas song that stands up to the classics, but this one, from Connnick's Christmas album from about 10 years ago, is as close as it gets, with just the right mix of humor and Christmas magic.

3. The Ronettes - Sleigh Ride - Another Phil Spector production.

2. Bruce Springsteen - Santa Claus is Comin' to Town - Bruce just owns this tune. I saw him perform it live in 1992, complete with a dancing Christmas tree onstage, albeit without Clarence Clemons. Brought the house down.

1. Bing Crosby - I'll Be Home For Christmas - Well, that's what we all want - home for Christmas. Of course, this song had its heydey when millions of Americans could only listen to it on Armed Forces Radio somewhere in the South Pacific, or in Europe or anywhere else but home.

Honorable Mentions: "Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You," by Billy Squier; and "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," which barely elicits a chuckle today but which I thought was the funniest thing I ever heard when I was about 8 years old.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:45 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (4) | TrackBack (1)
December 20, 2003
POLITICS: It Gets Late Early Around Here

For a little perspective on the Democratic primaries -- or, perhaps, perspective on how they've changed in 12 short years -- check out at least one national poll for the Democrats in December 1991 (source: Daily Kos), which in theory should be the same point in the process as we're at today:

Mario Cuomo - 33%

Jerry Brown - 15

Douglas Wilder - 9

Bob Kerrey - 8

Tom Harkin - 7

Bill Clinton - 6

Paul Tsongas - 4

Undecided/Others - 18

Of course, #1 never entered the race, which is much like the current polls would look if they were still listing Hillary! in every poll. It may be harder for anyone today to roar from the back of the pack this late in the game, especially where Howard Dean has already pulled the same trick.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:02 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Speaking Seuss

We've had my son (age 6) reading to us every night to develop his reading skills, and he often picks Dr. Seuss books. These are good enough for his reading level, but what strikes me in particular is that Dr. Seuss' books are especially good training for public speaking, because their natural rythms and obvious stresses give the reader clear cues to modulate his or her voice. I've been wondering if Dr. Seuss' books might be good training, even for teaching older kids to speak in public, kids as old as 11-15 or so. I've dealt a bit with kids that age in mock trial programs, as well as remembering what they can be like from my own high school days, and you can see that, when called on to speal in public, most of them -- even the smart ones -- give off a dull, mumbling monotone. I would think that a good way to break that habit would be to give them something simple to read that forces them to be more expressive, and perhaps the more advanced Dr. Seuss books - the Horton books, Thidwick, Solla Sollew, etc. -- are just the trick.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:34 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 19, 2003
WAR: Red Dawn

Last entry for today, I promise. After Tim Noah and others complained about the US military naming the operation that captured Saddam Hussein after the cheesy 80s movie "Red Dawn" (about a ragtag band of Americans resisting a Soviet invasion), Eugene Volokh observed that the title probably was just picked by some soldiers who liked the movie without thought for the wider propaganda value, and Eugene and Sasha Volokh marshalled the evidence on the film's popularity with soldiers.

Let me add my own experience. Each summer, the US Military Academy at West Point offers an "Invitational Academic Workshop." You spend a week at the Point, get an overview of what the school has to offer academically and militarily, and generally get to see the life of the cadets up close but without too many of the hard parts. At the time, at least, I believe the main criteria for attending was a high PSAT score, which wasn't really a great predictor of interest in a career in the military, but the workshop was good propaganda for West Point (an important consideration for any public institution, especially with a population of academic high achievers who could go on to other influential positions in life), and it was a good recruiting tool for those who were so inclined. (The program still exists today, although it looks like they've changed the criteria a little).

Anyway, I attended in a brutally hot week in June 1988, the summer before my senior year of high school. It was a fun week, we had a little taste of the 'gung ho' with being roused from bed around 6am with a loudspeaker blaring, in succession, the opening monologue from Patton and the song "Danger Zone" from Top Gun. We didn't get to do too many of the outdoor activities - it was 104 degrees out, and they wouldn't even let the cadets exercise - which was fine by me, since I was about 5'9" and 110 pounds at the time and almost as nearsighted as I am today.

Getting at long last to the point here, one highlight of the week was a showing of Red Dawn. Remember, this is 1988, the last summer before the Soviet bloc unraveled, and the cadets were mostly kids who chose a military career during the Reagan years. Let me tell you: you have not seen Red Dawn until you've seen it with an audience of West Point cadets during the Cold War. There was much rejoicing at numerous points in the film when the Rooskies got their comeuppance and the homeland was defended. And who knows? Probably a few of those cadets are officers in Iraq now, probably a good ways up the chain of command by this point.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:27 PM | War 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
SCIENCE: Apes and Ebola

This MSNBC report has a disturbingly grim analysis of the future of the great apes, noting specifically that the ape population in Africa has been decimated by ebola epidemics. I'm certainly nobody's idea of an environmentalist, but this is clearly something we need to do something about -- the great apes are our nearest relatives in the animal kingdom, and would represent a particularly egregious loss. Unfortunately, the article suggests that people working to address the issue don't even have a good idea of a solution to implement in the Magical Land of Unlimited Resources, let alone in the world we live in.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:55 PM | Science | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: Quotes of the Week

Saddam Hussein, on the American GI: "Why didn't you fight?" one Governing Council member asked Hussein as their meeting ended. Hussein gestured toward the U.S. soldiers guarding him and asked his own question: "Would you fight them?"

A US official, on Saddam's capture: "We can now determine," he said, "if he is the mastermind of everything or not." The official elaborated: "Have we actually cut the head of the snake or is he just an idiot hiding in a hole?"

And two from last week:

Tom Maguire, on Howard Dean: "[W]ill centrists peer in confusion at their television screens and wonder, who is this little man yelling at me, and why is his face so red?"

Tom Burka, with a little humor: "Gore To Claim He Invented Dean, Says GOP"

(Read the whole thing; link via Plum Crazy)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:49 PM | Politics 2002-03 • | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Block Head

As you can see, I've discovered a new code for block quotes, and I'm going back and forth between the quote-in-a-box look and just doing italics. I'd still prefer to find a way to indent quotes without the box surrounding them, plus the box appears to interfere with the line breaks inside the block. Useful suggestions are appreciated.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:46 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: Dean Doctrine

Howard Dean's major foreign policy address on Monday was probably a mixed bag politically; while Dean's anti-war crusade was yet again upstaged by reality, he once again succeeded in framing the public debate as Dean vs. Bush, and in the primaries, that's what you need.

On the substance? Well, Dean argued that he wouldn't abandon the idea of pre-emption, but (1) would stage a preemptive attack only where an "imminent" threat existed and (2) doesn't think Iraq met that test. It's a politically clever tactic, since it wouldn't necessarily tie down his own freedom of action as President in another case as dramatically as if he rejected preemption entirely, although it does call into question his judgment and does indicate a return to pre-September 11 policy (i.e., Operation Desert Fox vs. Gulf War II as the logical response to Saddam). Of course, I disagree completely with Dean on this.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:41 PM | Politics 2002-03 • | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL/WAR: Worse Than We Thought

I'm sure you saw this linked in many places, but if you didn't: this is just beyond the pale.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:14 PM | Baseball 2002-03 • | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Low Status

So, according to Bob Raissman, Brian Cashman's office is set up so people have to walk through it on the way to the men's room?

Real morale-builder, that Steinbrenner. Of course, Page Two reminds us that there are many worse jobs than Cashman's; this job description was particularly unappealing:

In the track-and-field world, there are certain young men who are summoned to perform a peculiar task. Prior to a sprint, the starting blocks must be held in place. The job consists of sitting on the ground, placing a foot behind each block, and gently applying pressure. The hazards may be few, but they are specific. Should one allow the blocks to slip, wobble or (gasp) make a distracting noise, it could lead to a false start, or even disqualification.

Bear in mind, this is the world of the sprinter Ė perhaps the most tightly wound, highly insecure of all competitive athletes. Should something go wrong, and that athlete is disqualified, you think part of his ire won't rain down on the poor youngster crouching in paralyzed fear behind the starting line?

The other hazard is one of proximity. A sprint is nothing more than an extended explosion. When hamstring muscles flex, quadriceps tighten and glutes tense, a certain unplanned action may take place. And when there's an explosion ó of the flatulent variety ó there are surely better places to be. Such are the hazards of a job where one man's ass is only inches from another man's face.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:12 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Threat of the Day

Michele has to go and remind me that New York is on a heightened terror watch at the moment. (Scroll up from that entry for more on the story).

Merry Christmas!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:05 PM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Ruben the Cat

Kevin Drum linked last Friday to a page on the White House site about India, the Bushes' cat. I, too, had been unaware that the Bush family had a cat, but more amusing is this tidbit:

Named for former Texas Ranger baseball player, Ruben Sierra, who was called "El Indio"

Just cracked me up that the President of the United States has a cat named after Ruben Sierra.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:58 PM | Baseball 2002-03 • | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Quiet Company

Stuart Buck links to an interview with leading Supreme Court advocate Carter Phillips, who observes that Clarence Thomas is hardly unusual, even by the standards of recent history, in rarely asking questions at oral argument:

When I argued in 1981, you could pretty much bet you weren't going to get any questions from Justice [William] Brennan [Jr.], and you might get one question from Justice [Thurgood] Marshall. Justice Blackmun would ask a question that you weren't always sure you were quite ready for because you could never quite understand necessarily what the purpose of the question was, although I think he usually had one. And my old boss, Chief Justice Burger, very rarely asked one. I don't think he ever asked me a question at all in the years that I argued there.

Of course, Thomas' detractors, who use his silences to paint him as a stupid man, are generally huge fans of people like Brennan and Marshall.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:45 PM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Holiday!

As you can tell from the fact that I've been blogging during the business day, I'm home today, and will be off from work with a much-needed vacation until the new year. There will still be some days when I'm too busy to blog with holiday commitments, but I'll try to keep things going around here, plus I've got a few major baseball projects (the first of which was the Alexander vs. Gibson column) in the pipeline that I'll be getting ready behind the scenes.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:35 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Union Don'ts, Part II

Brian Gunn at Redbird Nation points us to this statement by Harvard Law prof Paul Weiler - a labor law expert who teaches a seminar on sports law at HLS and had written a textbook on the subject - on the A-Rod mess:

It's a basic feature of collective bargaining that's to stop the bosses from insisting that one of the workers take less money in order to keep a job, . . . The difference is, he's not a nurse making $22,000 a year, he's making 22 million bucks a year. But it is that basic principle that they want to adhere to.

Professor Weiler either misses several key points or at least is quoted in a way that obscures them; the difference here is a lot more significant than the money:

1. Unlike your typical employee working under a collective bargaining agreement, A-Rod has a guaranteed contract. Thus, the Rangers may threaten his ability to keep his job, but they can't take away his $25 million salary.

2. A-Rod didn't agree to less money to keep his job; he agreed to it to take a better job, with a winning team in a big market.

If accepting less money to play for a winner was good enough for Michael Jordan, why can't Rodriguez be allowed to do the same thing? Frankly, the idea that this will lead teams to screw their players out of contracts isn't persuasive; few teams can afford to just punitively bench a guy who is a good player making millions a year, and if they cut him, he can sign elsewhere and keep the money. The parade of horribles presented by the union just bears no relationship to the real world of Major League Baseball.

The owners have been in the wrong on many occasions in baseball, but this isn't one of them.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:23 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Now 81% Pro-Bush!

So I took this online quiz to see who I support for president (duh!), and here's what I got:

Your Results:

1. Your ideal theoretical candidate. (100%)
2. Bush, President George W. - Republican (81%)
3. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (51%)
4. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat (48%)
5. Lieberman, Senator Joe, CT - Democrat (46%)
6. Gephardt, Rep. Dick, MO - Democrat (45%)
7. Libertarian Candidate (42%)
8. Kucinich, Rep. Dennis, OH - Democrat (35%)
9. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat (29%)
10. Clark, Retired General Wesley K., AR - Democrat (24%)
11. Phillips, Howard - Constitution (24%)
12. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. - Democrat (17%)
13. Socialist Candidate (16%)
14. Green Party Candidate (14%)
15. Sharpton, Reverend Al - Democrat (14%)
16. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol, IL - Democrat (9%)

(Link via Tung Yin)

No surprise at the top, although I'd have thought it was closer to 90%. Can it really be that I agree with John Kerry more often than not? I mean, I know Kerry's been all over the map on a number of issues, but I've been listening to Kerry for years (particularly when I was in school in Massachusetts for seven years), and I can't ever remember him saying anything I agreed with, whereas I can think of several issues on which I've agreed with Lieberman, from war to capital gains tax cuts. It's also interesting to note that for all his "electability" talk, Clark is even further away from my side of the political spectrum than Dean is, which I take as a sign that unlike Dean, Clark hasn't been thinking seriously about politics long enough to dissent from his party's line on anything.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:47 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Captain Euro Goes to Mordor

A must-read, from Mac Thomason. Here's the first installment.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:50 AM | Pop Culture | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Union Don'ts

So, the Player's Union has (for now) killed the Red Sox' deal for A-Rod because they refuse to let a player renegotiate his contract for less money than he signed for. There's apparently a rule in the Collective Bargaining Agreement on this (David Pinto has more; start here and scroll down).

Leaving aside the language of the rule, I think the Players' Union's position is stupid and bad for the players. First, if the goal of the union is to get big contracts for the players, this is an incredibly stupid way to go about it. Look at this from the perspective of the Rangers: one of the biggest fears owners have in signing big contracts is that the team's needs will change and they won't ever be able to get rid of the guy. By telling the Rangers they can't trade A-Rod if the deal is contingent on a restructuring he himself accepts, you are forcing them to keep stewing in their own juices with a player they'd rather trade, and all because Tom Hicks signed A-Rod to a big contract. Think: what effect will this have on Hicks' willingness, or the willingness of other owners, to sign such megabucks deals in the future?

If I'm the union, I want to do everything I can to make teams think of top-of-the-market free agent contracts as the thing to have. Every team wishes they'd signed Barry Bonds or Greg Maddux in 1993, or Reggie in 1977.

A-Rod is -- other than the aging Bonds -- the best player in baseball today. He just won an MVP Award; the year before, he set the all-time single-season home run record for a shortstop. He's stayed healthy, busted his butt for the Rangers and done everything you could ask him to. And yet, as things stand today, most teams are thanking their lucky stars they didn't sign A-Rod; the owners think of his contract as a disaster for the Rangers. The Boston deal could change that, and help show that a player with the game's biggest price tag can be part of a positive story; keeping Rodriguez bolted in place will just underline the folly of the contract, and deepen the resolve of individual owners - even without collusion - never to give anybody that kind of money again. Why on earth would the union want to do that?

Joe Sheehan argues that critics of the union's position are using a double standard:

There's a reason why Tom Hicks and John Henry have the net worths that they do, and I'd imagine that both would laugh you out of the room if you ever suggested that there were touchy-feely reasons for leaving forty million bucks on the table. Why they get to be businessmen, while Alex Rodriguez gets held to a different standard, passes understanding.

Gene Orza from the Players Union makes a similar point in an email to David Pinto:

Why should A-Rod be held to a different standard then the owners with whom he's negotiating? He's being asked to forfeit something like 50 million dollars; you think Tom Hicks and John Henry got to where they are today by walking away from that kind of money? A-Rod shouldn't be allowed to tear up his contract in the same way that Tom Hicks shouldn't be allowed to.

These guys are the ones with a double standard. Isn't Hicks allowed to tear up the contract if A-Rod holds out for more money? Is Orza really saying that if a player wants to renegotiate -- or just wants to sign a long-term deal before his current contract is up -- the owners have to say, "I'm sorry, I can't tear up the contract and give you more money, come back when you've played out the end of the deal"? If that's the rule, it's news to me. In fact, owners do this every day. A-Rod just wants the same rights that Tom Hicks has: the right to put more of his own money on the table if that's what it takes to win. Shame on the union for telling him otherwise.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:37 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 17, 2003
BASEBALL: Gibson and Alexander

This is a column I started three years ago, and just recently wrapped up.

Gibson and Alexander, Alexander and Gibson. Let's hit the books and take a look back . . .

Who was a better pitcher Ė who did more to help his teams win Ė Pack Robert "Bob" Gibson, or Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander? In the popular imagination, the answer is easy. Gibson was voted to the All-Century team. Lefty Grove, Christy Mathewson and Alexander were the only three 20th Century pitchers to win 300 games and win more than 64% of their decisions (Roger Clemens has since joined them); in the balloting, Gibson (with 251 career wins and a .591 career winning percentage) drew more votes than all three combined. Itís not just the public at large; when the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) named its top 100 players of the century, Gibson was 17th, Alexander 25th. What got me thinking particularly about the comparison between the two was Sports Illustrated; SIís state-by-state list of the top athletes of the 20th Century placed Gibson directly above Alexander among athletes from Nebraska.

Besides both being from Nebraska, both men were late bloomers; Gibson arrived in the majors at age 23, but struggled with his control and didn't have his first good year until age 26, and didnít really blossom until they expanded the strike zone the following year. Alexander didn't even enter professional baseball until age 22 (in 1909) and had his career set back when he was nearly killed after being struck in the head by a thrown ball while running the bases in July of 1909. When he did arrive in the majors two years later he immediately led the league in wins and set a rookie strikeout record that lasted 73 years.

Stylistically, they were complete opposites. Gibson was a classic power pitcher, with a high leg kick and over-the-top delivery; his favorite pitches were High and Inside, Higher and Further Inside, and Right Down Your Throat. Alexander was a sidearmer who threw so many tailing sinkers that he was known as "Old Low and Away."

Incidentally, it was probably the sidearm delivery that allowed both Alexander and Walter Johnson to throw so many more innings than their contemporaries. Many pitchers, like Christy Mathewson, threw straight overhand by the early 1900s; Alexander and Johnson were among the exceptions. (Johnson once complained that his shoulder hurt just watching Smokey Joe Woodís overhand delivery).

There are more than a few reasons to narrow the statistical gap between the two; but as I discuss below, I can't shake the feeling that Gibson's higher standing is mostly a matter of good press notices. But Alexander was the better pitcher.

Let's look at the record:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:14 AM | Baseball Columns | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
December 16, 2003
BASEBALL: Um, We Got Him, Too

Aaron Gleeman has the rundown on why Mike Cameron should hit a little better at Shea than he did at Safeco, where he had just horrendous home/road splits. I have mixed feelings about the Cameron move, since I generally believe in the notion that a rebuilding team should focus its energies on rebuilding, and signing a 31-year-old outfielder whose primary asset is his legs seems a little too Vince Coleman-ish to me. Then again, like Matsui (at least by reputation), Cameron is a spectacular defensive player and not terribly overpriced; this is more like the acquisition of Cliff Floyd than like the catastrophic acquisitions of Mo Vaughn and Tom Glavine. He'll definitely help in the short run, and in particular the Cameron/Matsui/Reyes combination up the middle should do wonders for the Mets' pitching staff. On the downside, Cameron's low batting average and high strikeouts will make him a prime target for the boo birds when the team inevitably slides well below .500.

Also of note: Cameron's steals dropped off to 17 last year from 34 and 31 the prior two years, and steals are something that usually doesn't come back. Despite their speed, neither Cameron nor Matsui should be expected to run much. But the team will look far different on the basepaths than in the era of Olerud, Ventura, Zeile, and Vaughn.

Further on the downside is this: Cameron's comps at baseball-reference.com are as follows:

Similar Batters through Age 30 Ruppert Jones (946) Dave Henderson (939) Tom Tresh (938) Tommie Agee (936) Cory Snyder (934) Dwayne Murphy (930) Johnny Briggs (929) Darrell Evans (928) Larry Hisle (926) Ray Lankford (921)

This list is worrisomely similar to the one I noted at the time for Matt Lawton when he arrived in NY; everyone on the list but Evans (who's not really a similar player) and Lankford was washed up or close to it by age 31.

I'm much more opposed to the Mets' rumored interest in Brian Jordan, who's exactly the type of player that got them where they are today, and who would seal off the outfield; I'd much rather start the season with an opening to audition young players alongside Cameron and Floyd than with a set-in-stone veteran lineup.

Or, of course, Vladimir Guerrero; the great ones, when still young, are always worth it. If the Mets signed Guerrero, it would overnight begin to make sense to gear up to win now.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: From The Department of, "They Never Learn"

Hey, Phillies phans: if you liked Jose Mesa and Ricky Bottalico, you'll love Roberto Hernandez! This about says it all:

Hernandez, 39, will serve as a middle innings reliever with the Phillies. With Atlanta last season, Hernandez went 5-3 with a 4.35 ERA in 66 games. He allowed 104 base runners in 60 innings, while striking out 45.

(On the upside, at least they're only giving him a 1-year, $750,000 deal, so maybe Ed Wade has learned a little something).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:18 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Carl Everett?

I mean . . . Carl Everett?

Then again, since Major League Baseball owns the Expos, I guess they figure they can recapture most of his salary in fines . . .

So, Guerrero is gone, to where yet we don't know. Vazquez is gone. Even Michael Barrett is gone, to Oakland . . . the Expos still have a few young guys who can play some ball (Nick Johnson, Jose Vidro), but overall, this team is a disgrace. At least a contraction draft would have assured a fair distribution of the Expos' players.

Last month, MLB.com asked the rhetorical question, "How much does Frank Robinson love managing?" I guess we're going to find out.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:13 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG/WAR: Manning The Post

I've signed on as a contributor to The Command Post; you can see my first entry here. Given my already busy schedule, I don't expect to be a regular contributor, least of all during times like this when the more regular contributors are posting breaking news at a frantic pace, but it made sense to get posting privileges over there for those times when I do see something noteworthy that hasn't been posted, especially during the slower periods in what still promises to be a very long war against terrorism and the tyrannies that support it. It's not a big part, but I'll do my bit.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:08 AM | Blog 2002-05 • | War 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
December 15, 2003
RELIGION: Sympathy for the Tyrant

Jason Steffens reminds us to pray for Saddam rather than exulting in his humilaition, which is a more Christian impulse than I've been able to muster . . . it's very good advice, although I'd point out two things:

1. Saddam's abject humiliation may be a good thing even for Saddam, and is certainly a good thing for the rest of us, because it presents the only practical hope for triggering some remorse on his part. Yes, we believe that the Lord can soften the hearts of the worst sinners, but our faith also tells us not to rely too heavily on miraculous intervention. I've always thought that the most important moment in law enforcement -- and this applies as well to international affairs -- is the point at which either (a) the defendant finally admits that he did what he's accused of, it was wrong and he's rightly punished for it, or failing that (b) the point at which society makes him stand and accept that judgment. Saddam needs to be brought to that point and broken of his defiance, and abject humiliation is a good way to do it.

2. This is a different point, since it relates less to Saddam's humiliation than to the appearance of the same, but of course we need to publicly humble Saddam not only as vindication and relief to his former subjects but as an object lesson to other dictators and tyrants. Taking joy in that lesson is, as well, a positive good.

UPDATE: These guys would agree.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:34 AM | Religion | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Atta-Nidal-Saddam Link

Looks like that Telegraph report is getting lots of attention in the blogosphere and even some attention in the mainstream media. I'm still skeptical, but this is too important a story to let pass without investigating it thoroughly.

UPDATE 12/18: More on this to come, but Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball have done some digging and think the memo is probably, as suspected, some sort of forgery. Their evidence isn't ironclad, particularly since they haven't seen the document or investigated its provenance, but they cite FBI records showing that Atta's movements are mostly accounted for in the spring and summer of 2001 - making it unlikely, though not impossible, that he could have slipped off to Baghdad for three days - and they note that the Telegraph reporter simply says he got it from "a 'senior' member of the Iraqi Governing Council who insisted it was 'genuine,'" and the Iraqi National Congress thinks the document is bunk.

Good leg work on this by Isikoff and Hosenball; this story needed to be checked out, and it looks like they scooped everyone else in doing so. Stay tuned to see if there's anything else to this story.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:23 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: KazMat's Record

This Baseball Prospectus analysis from two years ago is still the only thing I've seen trying to give a systematic review of significant Japanese hitters and how their numbers would translate in the U.S. Clay Davenport estimates Kazuo Matsui's 1997-2001 numbers as averaging out to .283/.543/.374 with 41 homers, 79 walks, and 119 strikeouts (interestingly, KazMat doesn't steal bases despite a reputation for blinding speed).

Davenport's translations seem to overproject Ichiro and Hideki Matsui, specifically their home run power (Tsuyoshi Shinjo comes in closer to his Japanese numbers). I'd expect the same from the new Matsui - maybe a .280 hitter with 20 homers instead of 40, especially at Shea.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:14 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: More on Sir Mick

Looks like Mick Jagger gets his good looks from his father.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:00 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: State of the Blog

Well, I'm starting to come out of my work-related crisis, and hopefully will be back to having a bit of time each day to blog again some time very soon. As you can see below, I did my share of warblogging this weekend. But there's been baseball news galore as well, and I'll be turning my attention to the battery of recent moves soon, as well as some larger baseball-related projects still in the pipeline.

As always, thanks for dropping by.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:05 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 14, 2003
POLITICS: Not Even An Issue?

Atrios and a bunch of other far-out Lefty bloggers accuse John Kerry of "the Willie Horton campaign tactic of linking Howard Dean to Osama Bin Laden" for an ad (follow the link) that does nothing but show bin Laden's picture while (1) stating that America has evil enemies who plot against it (incontestibly true, no?) and (2) questioning Dean's inexperience in foreign affairs (a legitimate issue in any campaign, if a sometimes overstated one).

This is batty. Nothing in the ad accuses Dean of being soft on Al Qaeda, or even mentions any of Dean's policies. This is awfully tame stuff, in fact. By arguing that you shouldn't be able to raise the issue of whether a presidential candidate is equipped to deal with international terrorists like bin Laden, isn't Atrios effectively arguing for taking the issue of terrorism off the table entirely? Leaving aside the tactical insanity here -- the prison furlough issue worked precisely because the Democrats had spent years arguing that crime was a subject beneath discussion -- how can anyone believe that a candidate's ability to deal with the leading national security issue of the day shouldn't be an issue?

Or are Atrios and friends just saying that you can say that argument, but you can't dramatize it by referring directly to bin Laden?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:58 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Roundup

I couldn't even hope to keep up with the barrage of news and commentary today, but Instapundit and The Command Post both had links galore. Just make sure you don't miss the Mohammed Atta memo story I linked to last night, which may have a terribly hard time drawing the scrutiny it deserves in the tidal wave of Saddamarama.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:43 PM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Lead-In

Interesting now to look back on this article from Friday's NY Times, which was good news in itself in Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno talking about breaking up the "cycle of financing" for the insurgency in Iraq; Odierno, who's today's man of the hour, added this:

Capturing or killing Mr. Hussein would provide a huge lift toward that goal. "It's psychological," General Odierno said. "I don't think he's really directing any of the operations, but I think he has a psychological effect. They fear him. They absolutely fear him. And there's a fear he might come back and suppress them."

An elite team of Special Operations Forces and Central Intelligence Agency operatives, called Task Force 121, is leading the hunt for Mr. Hussein and other top former Iraqi officials. General Odierno said American forces believe they had at least two close calls with the former Iraqi dictator in recent months. In a raid on a safehouse in the Tikrit area this past summer, American forces said they had learned from Iraqis they detained that Mr. Hussein had been there just eight hours earlier.

"Do I think he's operating in this area? Probably," General Odierno said. "Do I know if he's in this area? I don't. What I do know are his tribal connections here and his family connections here. The tribal and family connections are binding, and it's very tough to get inside them. But one day we will."

"I think he's moving around," General Odierno said. "Look at the quality of his tapes. Any one of my soldiers could make a better tape than he does right now."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:38 PM | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Tomorrow's Headline Today

SOLDIERS FIND ASS IN HOLE IN THE GROUND

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:41 PM | War 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
WAR: "Ladies and gentlemen, we got him"

Saddam has been captured:

Say Aah.jpg

He was found, fittingly enough, hiding in a hole in a cellar in Tikrit. Unlike so many of his victims, however, Saddam emerged from the hole alive.

The president will do a jig on national television address the nation at noon.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:05 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Great Dodger

Since I noted this for Andy Pettitte, let's check in on the record Kevin Brown left behind in LA: not so shabby, for all the griping about his contract. Yes, Brown lost 2002 and half of 2001 to injuries, a risk everyone knew the Dodgers were taking when they signed a 34-year-old pitcher to a 7-year contract. But consider his place on the club's all-time list: Brown leaves LA with a 2.83 ERA, just shy of the top 10 in Dodger history; his .644 winning percentage ranks him 9th in club history. In fewest baserunners/inning, even pitching in a more hitter-friendly Dodger Stadium than in years past and in as great a hitter's era as the National League has seen since the Depression, Brown ranks first at 9.90 (a 1.1 WHIP, for you rotoheads), ahead of Koufax and Drysdale and Sutton and Dazzy Vance and Rube Marquard. Then, go down to ERA+ (ERA adjusted for league and park context), and Brown's first again, by a long shot, at 149 (49% better than the league) to 132 for Ron Perranoski and 131 for Koufax, with Andy Messersmith and Vance close behind.

Yes, it's tough to compare 872.2 innings of Brown to 2324.1 of Koufax, 2757.2 of Vance, 3432 of Drysdale or 3816.1 of Sutton. But that's not the point. The point is, when you even have to explain why a guy wasn't the best pitcher you ever had on a franchise over a century old, it's hard to say he didn't live up to his end of the bargain.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:09 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Smoking Gun - Or Flaming Lie?

The London Telegraph is reporting an improbably damning find -- a memo to Saddam Hussein himself demonstrating that Mohammed Atta was training in Baghdad under Abu Nidal in the summer of 2001, and tossing in claims about uranium from Niger to boot:

Details of Atta's visit to the Iraqi capital in the summer of 2001, just weeks before he launched the most devastating terrorist attack in US history, are contained in a top secret memo written to Saddam Hussein, the then Iraqi president, by Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.

The handwritten memo, a copy of which has been obtained exclusively by the Telegraph, is dated July 1, 2001 and provides a short resume of a three-day "work programme" Atta had undertaken at Abu Nidal's base in Baghdad.

In the memo, Habbush reports that Atta "displayed extraordinary effort" and demonstrated his ability to lead the team that would be "responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy".

The second part of the memo, which is headed "Niger Shipment", contains a report about an unspecified shipment - believed to be uranium - that it says has been transported to Iraq via Libya and Syria.

Although Iraqi officials refused to disclose how and where they had obtained the document, Dr Ayad Allawi, a member of Iraq's ruling seven-man Presidential Committee, said the document was genuine.

"We are uncovering evidence all the time of Saddam's involvement with al-Qaeda," he said. "But this is the most compelling piece of evidence that we have found so far. It shows that not only did Saddam have contacts with al-Qaeda, he had contact with those responsible for the September 11 attacks."

(Link via The Corner)

This is a huge story if it has even a grain of truth to it, and a significant story (i.e, big-time fabrication) if it doesn't. Frankly, this almost seems too convenient -- it's entirely possible that all this happened, but finding a memo addressed to the dictator himself and including both the Al Qaeda connection in its strongest form (i.e., contemporaneous support of September 11) and the Niger story in the same breath makes me rather suspicious. I'm sure if there's anything bad to be known about Dr Ayad Allawi, we'll be hearing it very soon from the usual suspects (Josh Marshall, call your office). Certainly, it's not improbable that the Iraqi provisional government includes some people who are desperate to suck up to the Bush Administration and not too subtle about doing so.

The article doesn't say whether Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti is in US custody, and a cursory web search indicates he may still be at large (although I may have missed something; the best list a Google search turned up was this BBC list from October).

Either way, it's a story we need to hear more about.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:53 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
December 12, 2003
BASEBALL: Thought For The Day #2

The Dodgers better hurry up and finalize the sale of the team. Sure, you can argue some sense for letting Quantrill walk, or cutting loose Kevin Brown, and it undoubtedly made sense to get rid of Brian Jordan and Andy Ashby. But the overall impression is a team desperate to dump salary, afraid to take it on (I still thought they should have jumped at Manny Ramirez, and they may miss a chance to bid on Nomar as well), and generally frozen in place, probably until some time in January or later. Not good news, if you expect this team to contend in what should still be a competitive division next year.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:06 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Thought for the Day #1

Watching the Kerry, Lieberman, Edwards, Graham and Mosely-Braun campaigns dissolve in various levels of disarray and ignominy, I'm reminded yet again: Senators are the presidential primary equivalents of the guys in red shirts on Star Trek. You know how, when they'd beam Kirk, Spock, McCoy and two unnamed guys in red shirts down to a planet -- you could always tell which ones were there just to get frozen in mid-air or fed to brain-eating plants or whatever. Somebody has to bite the dust to show what peril the named characters were in.

Consider the campaigns by US Senators since the early 70s or so (many of whom flirted with running more than once): besides the five named above, we've got McCain (2000), Hart (1984, 1988), Glenn (1984), Bradley (2000), Dole (1980, 1988, 1996), Muskie (1972), McGovern (1972, 1976, 1984), Gore (1988), Tsongas (1992), Harkin (1992), Kerrey (1992), Hollings (1984), Hatch (2000), Bob Smith (2000), Cranston (1984), Simon (1988), Kennedy (1980), Gramm (1996), Lugar (1996), Biden (1988), Howard Baker (1980), Birch Bayh (1976), Byrd (yes, Robert Byrd ran in 1976), Bentsen (1976), Scoop Jackson (1976), Church (1976), . . . and I'm probably missing a few. Add in sitting or former Senators who'd also been Vice President and you can toss in Quayle (2000) and Humphrey (1972 and 1976).

Lotta red shirts. We'd better be more careful here, Bones.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:55 AM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)
December 11, 2003
BASEBALL: Yankee Go Home

Unlike Dr. Manhattan and Michele, I'm not a Yankee fan and (for the most part) have no problem discussing Andy Pettitte's departure rationally. Then again, I've been pretty well swamped at work lately, so I don't have the luxury of time to go in depth here . . .

1. This is the first time I can ever really remember the Yankees going through what every other team's fans have suffered through repeatedly, a significant player walking away despite the team's ardent efforts to keep him (they didn't really bust a gut trying to keep Wetteland). Granted, the "going home" aspect makes this more like John Olerud's departure from Queens . . . which I still maintain was the beginning of the end for the Mets.

2. Although baseball-reference.com identifies the most-similar pitcher through age 31 as Mike Mussina, I think the best comps for Pettitte are Chuck Finley and Tom Glavine, both of whom pitched effectively well into their thirties. I suspect that Pettitte might have arm trouble, but that's an irrational superstition on my part that has trouble thinking the Yankees really, truly wanted to keep him. In fact, Pettitte cut his walks dramatically (and apparently permanently) when they expanded the height of the strike zone in 2001, and he set a career high in Ks in 2003, so his numbers show no sign of slowing down.

3. On the other hand, I won't exactly be signing him up for an NL rotisserie team now that he's in Minute Maid Field.

4. Bringing in Kevin Brown, as rumored, is a mixed bag. Brown was actually a good deal better than Pettitte this season -- he even pitched more innings and struck out more batters, besides having a 2.39 ERA -- and has a decent chance to be better next year. But he's a bigger durability question, expensive as sin and not a good investment for that seventh year of his contract in 2005. You get Brown this year, you'll need to be going out for more pitching help next year as well. (On the other hand, I'd rather be the guy who replaces Pettitte with Brown than the guy who replaces Brown with Jeff Weaver).

Greg Maddux is still useful if he's cheap, but he won't be cheap and he's unlikely to get any better than he was this season. If I'm the Yanks, I'd rather try to see if Randy Johnson's available (More on the goings on in Arizona when I've got time to blog again).

5. Pettitte's 149 wins rank him 9th on the Yankees' all-time list, but his .656 winning percentage doesn't make the top 10.

6. This season's outstanding performances in the playoffs give Pettitte a solid career record in the postseason with the Yankees, albeit not an outstanding one:

CareerW-LIPERAH/9BB/9K/9
ALDS/ALCS10-4126.24.129.172.425.40
World Series3-4603.909.902.706.30
Postseason13-8186.24.059.402.515.69
Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:58 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: These Are Not The Allies You Are Looking For

Rich Lowry was blogging the Democrats' most recent debate, and came up with this, on a statement from Howard Dean:

Dean also seems to have boned up on his Iraq policy, although he is still not making much sense. He calls for foreign troops from Iraq's neighbors to come into the country, apparently not noticing that that is exactly what the Iraqi's don't want. That's why there are no Turkish troops in Iraq now...

I was aghast at this; who are Iraq's neighbors besides Turkey?

Iran
Saudi Arabia
Syria
Jordan
Kuwait

I could be wrong, but I suspect that the Kuwaiti armed forces aren't particularly useful. And we sure as hell don't want Saudis, Syrians and Iranians patrolling the country if we're hoping to make it safe for democracy. Besides their other flaws - like the fact that none of them is really on our side in the war on terror, to put it mildly - they all have their own regional agendas. That leaves Jordan, which ain't much of a coalition if your alternative is scoffing at allies like Britian and Australia.

But I thought I'd check out the transcript, and Lowry doesn't seem to have precisely captured Dean's statement:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:13 AM | War 2002-03 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
December 7, 2003
HISTORY: Infamy

We remember.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:05 PM | History | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: JV

For Yankee fans wondering what you're getting in your new starting pitcher, consider this comparison for the years 2001-2003:

PitcherIP/YearERAH/9HR/9BB/9K/9ERA+
Mike Mussina219.23.528.220.931.788.07127
Javier Vazquez228.13.528.391.051.978.26131

Answer: if you're not getting Mike Mussina, you're getting as close a facsimile as you could possibly ask for without violating Mussina's copyright, except 8 years younger and -- for now at least -- a whole lot cheaper. In fact, the ERA+ and Innings Pitched figures suggest he may actually have been more valuable the past three years. Like Moose, his main problem is the gopher ball. Will he win in New York? Well . . .

ERA of NL starting pitchers in 2003: 4.41
ERA of AL starting pitchers in 2003: 4.66
Difference: 5.67%

Vazquez 2003 ERA + 5.67% = 3.42

Clemens/Pettitte/Wells/Mussina 2003 ERA: 3.84
Clemens/Pettitte/Wells/Mussina 2003 W-L: 70-32

Yeah, I think he can win a few games with the support the Yankees can give him. Vazquez' health is a bit of a question mark -- as with any pitcher, really -- but unless Nick Johnson can put together a full, healthy season some day, he's a steal.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:37 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)
POLITICS: Another Milestone

Way back some years ago -- all right, in August of 2002 -- Lileks predicted that

Once vulgar words are commonplace in the papers and the television, thereís no going back - and public life just gets cruder and cruder. I know itís a losing battle. Fifty years down the road a presidential candidate will say ďMy opponent says Iím soft on the military, and to him and all his advisors, I can honestly say: f**k you.Ē Heíll be celebrated in some corners for connecting with the genuine people, with those not bound by musty conventions. The authentic people! The ones who really f**kiní live!

(Expletives deleted). As with most dire predictions about society going to Hell in a handbasket, this one was inaccurate only because he overestimated how long it would take us to land at the bottom of that slippery slope; we're there now.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:20 PM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
December 5, 2003
BLOG: Snowed Under

Apologies for the minimal baseball blogging around here -- I'm still up to my eyeballs in work. Hopefully, I'll get to my rundown on the various moves around the majors some time in the next week or so. For now, I'm just thankful that the Yankees have taken the Braves' best hitter and the Expos' best pitcher out of the NL East.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:52 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Self-Parody Watch

I'm sure by now you've seen the "Turkeygate" story (see here for the essentials of the story, and see here for some perspective from someone who was there), but this post from Democrats.org . . . well, the P.S. just says it all about the depth of the obsessions of the president's critics, doesn't it?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:23 AM | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Neither Snow, Nor . . .

Congratulations to lawblogger Denise Howell, who gave birth to a baby boy over Thanksgiving; fellow bloggers, next time you are considering slacking off, recall that Denise was still blogging after she went into labor.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:03 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 3, 2003
BLOG: Wednesday Night Links

Al Bethke (start here and keep on scrollin') is all over the Richie Sexson trade. Mark Steyn has the must-read list of regimes that must go, but forgets to include Arafatistan. WaPo columnist Courtland Milloy has an uncharacteristically sage column about PCP and the Cincinnati incident. Reason has a bizarrely eclectic but thought-provoking list of its "35 Heroes of Freedom." (Hat tip to Robert Tagorda). Doctor Weevil explains why "if babies are being born with [Jimmy] Carter's initials preprinted on their cheeks, he must be the AntiChrist. " And Gregg Easterbrook gets it precisely right in explaining why The Reagans deserved to be canceled:

[A]ll docudramas should be cancelled. News programs are good and pure fiction is fine; docudramas are the enemy of thought, history, fact, and public understanding. When a viewer sees something in a docudrama, he or she has no way of knowing, not the slightest clue, whether what's being presented is real or fabricated. . . . The networks, whose news divisions are profit centers, of all actors ought to resist anything that inclines viewers not to believe what they see on the tube.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:36 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 2, 2003
LAW: Gunning For Interstate Commerce

As I noted two weeks ago, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in Ileto v. Glock, Inc., No. 01-09762 (9th Cir. Nov. 20, 2003), an opinion written by Judge Richard Paez with a dissent from Judge Cynthia Holcomb Hall, that the alleged "oversupply" of guns by Glock and other gun makers -- including legal sales of guns in states with lax gun laws, allegedly with the knowledge that they would make their way to states with more restrictive gun laws, such as California -- could subject the gun manufacturers and distributors to liability under the common law of negligence and public nuisance in California. Now, I'm not a huge gun-rights guy, but this decision strikes me as an obvious affront to the limits of state power laid down by the Commerce Clause.

The case arises from the notorious shootings of several children and the murder of a postal worker in California as part of a shooting rampage by neo-Nazi Buford Furrow; the plaintiffs are the shooting victims and the mother of the postal worker. The plaintiffs allege, among other things, that by selling "more firearms than the legitimate market demands," the gun companies facilitate the creation of a secondary market in guns that enables purchases by people like Furrow, who should not have been able to buy guns due to a pending felony indictment and a prior commitment to a mental hospital. The Ninth Circuit stated that the complaint alleges that

Glock knows that by over-saturating the market with guns, the guns will go to the secondary markets that serve illegal gun purchasers.

(Slip opinion at 16444). Note that it is not alleged that any of Glock's sales are themselves illegal (as Eugene Volokh notes, the ATF "warnings" cited in the opinion refer to gun dealers whose licenses ATF had made no moves to revoke), nor that the secondary markets are illegal (see footnote 9 of the decision, at page 16449); only that the secondary market for guns has fewer safeguards, and that in the absence of those safeguards, sellers in the secondary markets have been known to sell guns to people like Furrow.

Significantly, the guns sold to Furrow had been sold by Glock and the other defendants in Washington state, leading to the most problematic part of the plaintiffs' theory:

Glock allegedly targets states like Washington, where the gun laws are less strict than in California, in order to increase sales to all buyers, including illegal purchasers, who will take their guns into neighboring California.

(Slip opinion, at 16458).

Under these circumstances -- sales of a non-defective product, legal where made, with at least an element of liability premised upon the tendency of the sales to lead to resales in a legal secondary market -- extending state common law liability to Glock's sales made outside California seems to me to transgress as many as three distinct constitutional limitations on state power:

1. The prohibition, arising principally from the Commerce Clause, on states enacting extraterritorial legislation that exports their own domestic public policy to legal commercial activities in other states;

2. The prohibition, also arising under the Commerce Clause, on state regulation on the means and instrumentalities of interstate commerce itself; and, possibly,

3. Washington State's right, under the Second Amendment, to regulate the rights of its citizens to bear arms so as to constitute a well-regulated militia.

Let's examine each of these in a bit of detail:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:07 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)