Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
February 29, 2004
BLOG: Bissextile Pride Day

Happy birthday to Eugene Volokh and his fellow bissextiles.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:53 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Graphic

David Pinto links to a cool chart developed by Colby Cosh graphically illustrating a number of major league starters' relative averages of walks, strikeouts and homers allowed per inning.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:52 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 28, 2004
BASEBALL: Coste

I'm a little late to this one, but Al Bethke had an interesting interview (second item down) with minor league veteran Chris Coste, now with the Brewers organization.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:10 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Whose Chalabi?

One of the more tangled webs of the pre-war planning and intelligence in Iraq was the US government's controversial relationship with Iraqi opposition leader Ahmed Chalabi. I never knew quite what to make of Chalabi, who was often lionized by the conservative press and vilified by those who preferred to leave Saddam in power. But a report a few weeks ago by StratFor (available by email to subscribers) raises some interesting questions - to wit, whether Chalabi, a Shi'ite, has long had some allegiance or connection to the Iranian mullahs.

The mullahs, of course, have a wide variety of interests in Iraq, some of which have been threatened by our invasion but others of which have been helped; their long-term goal, presumably, would be to see a weak Iraq controlled by an easily manipulable Shi'ite government. While it doesn't necessarily demean Chalabi's usefulness to us if he has - rationally - worked with the mullahs just as he worked with us to obtain his objective of a Saddam-free Iraq, any connection to the Iranian regime should set off alarm bells as to his trustworthiness.

One thing StratFor noted about Chalabi's background is that an Iranian connection could help explain much about the collapse of the bank he ran in Jordan until the late 1980s, which ended with a bank fraud conviction (of dubious validity) being entered against Chalabi in a Jordanian court. If Chalabi's bank was used as a conduit for Iranian funds during the Iran-Iraq War, this would explain why the Jordanians were suddenly interested in shutting it down as soon as the war ended (lest that come to light), as well as why they didn't treat Chalabi as a criminal so much as persona non grata, with the Crown Prince of Jordan personally escorting him out of the country.

A related question I've wondered about is how much of Chalabi's Iranian connections have been known to some of the fiercer opponents of the Iranian regime who have also been big cheerleaders of Chalabi, such as Michael Ledeen (see here and here for examples of Ledeen saying glowing things about Chalabi). I could be wrong, but I thought I had read somewhere that Ledeen's source on his charge that the Iranians were buying uranium in Iraq was a Chalabi contact . . . the plot, as always in that part of the world, is undoubtedly a thick one, and one that may never fully be known.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:06 PM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BUSINESS: The Lou Dobbs Rogue Fund

Jim Glassman has some fun figuring out that if you invested your money in firms Lou Dobbs has blasted for 'offshoring' jobs, you would have made a 72% return on your investment last year.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:23 AM | Business | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Liberalest Senator

The nonpartisan National Journal has released its rankings for 2003, and John Kerry (when he bothered to vote, that is) was rated the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate. That's gonna leave a mark. Being #1 makes it real easy for Bush's team to write the campaign commercial . . .

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:18 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: But Everybody Does It

Jeff Kent tries lamely to justify the possible prevalence of steroids in today's game:

“Babe Ruth didn’t do steroids?” Kent was quoted as saying. “How do you know? ... People are saying Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth — how do you know those guys didn’t do steroids? So all of a sudden, you’ve got guys doing steroids now in the 20th century, 21st century? Come on.

“Keep going backward. Pete Rose? Who knows? ... How do we know those guys were clean? Did they test those guys?”

Um, has Kent ever seen a picture of Ruth in the 30s or Pete Rose in the 70s? Maybe there was somebody out there experimenting with the stuff, but it's a well-known fact you can document just by looking at photographs that before the late 80s it was largely believed (with a few exceptions like Honus Wagner and Stan Musial) that strength training was bad for ballplayers. I doubt much of anybody took steroids in baseball before around 1987-88 or so, when you began to see the first signs of guys lifting weights.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:14 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
February 27, 2004
WAR: It's Never Good News

Only the NY Times could spin Iraqi Shi'ite leader Ayatollah Sistani backing down on his demand for elections before June 30 as "increas[ing] pressure" on the US.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:51 PM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: Get Unserious

I found it very revealing when Matt Yglesias suggested a few weeks ago that John Kerry should "really commit himself" to "build[ing] a viable democratic state in Iraq" . . . but that until the nomination was salted away he shouldn't do so because it would "be unpopular with the primary electorate and possibly lead to a Dean-resurgence."

Of course, with Dean out of the way, I'm still not holding my breath for Kerry to get serious. But it's more than a little scary to hear from a commited Democrat the idea that the Democratic primary voters aren't prepared to hear a serious, adult discussion about America's role in the world or its strategy for winning the war on terror.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:50 PM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: A Known What?

Gossipist Liz Smith calls America's first Arab-American presidential candidate "a known terrorist."

(Link via the newest indispensable blogger, Wonkette).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:04 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
SCIENCE: An Ounce of . . .

I don't care how much you want to avoid getting colon cancer, I'm not recommending this as as preventative measure.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:01 PM | Science | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Another Take on the AL by Win Shares

Andrew Koch runs his own Win Shares-driven AL standings analysis, although he departs from my Established Win Shares Levels analysis (see here, here and here) in two ways, only one of which is an improvement:

1. He uses only 2003 WS, rather than a 2- or 3-year Established Performance Level. I prefer my approach, since a longer sample gives you a better look at a player's abilities. Randy Johnson's 2001 and 2002 are highly relevant to projecting him in 2004, for example, notwithstanding the injuries that wrecked his 2003. This also creates a second problem associated with the other adjustment.

2. He adjusts for the fact that a team's players will wind up with a fixed number of plate appearances and innings pitched, and thus projects various players' time upwards or downwards and adjusts them. In some ways this is an improvement, since my EWSL system doesn't adjust down when a team picks up everyday players to ride the bench or, like the Indians, gives everyday jobs to a bunch of guys who didn't play full seasons last year. In others, it's not so good, because he has to make rough estimates about players who were hurt last season.

It's a useful and interesting exercise, anyway, and I found it an interesting contrast, although his projected standings came out pretty close to mine anyway - both of us project the Yanks, Royals and Mariners to take the divisions, with the Red Sox winning the wild card as with 100+ wins but not finishing a particularly close second to the Yankees and with the AL Central as a whole having a lousy year.

Neither of us really has a formal adjustment for player age, of course (which is why I think the Angels should be favored above the Mariners and why I'm somewhat optimistic about the Twins), although Koch is certainly cognizant of the issue. Go check it out.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:58 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Ain't No Crime

Judge Cedarbaum's opinion in United States v. Stewart, 03 Cr. 717 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 27, 2004), dismissing the securities fraud charge against Martha Stewart, is now available online in PDF form. (You can read a news account of the decision here). The case provides an interesting look at the difficulty of proving intent in criminal securities fraud cases, especially in situations such as this one, where the alleged misrepresentations did not relate directly to the business of the issuer.

The securities fraud charge was always somewhat novel, in that it accused Stewart of fraud in connection with the purchase and sale of stock in her own company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO), by misrepresentations during the investigation of her sales of ImClone stock in which she [1] "described the [alleged standing order] agreement to sell ImClone at a predetermined price, [2] stated that her trade was proper and [3] denied trading on nonpublic information." Slip op. at 5. For purposes of the analysis of the Rule 29 motion on the sufficiency of the evidence, the court assumed the falsity of these statements. Id. at 7 n.1. The court found sufficient evidence that Stewart, who owned 60% of MSLO stock in addition to being CEO, closely tracked the stock's price (including the impact on that price of insider sales, as evidenced by an informal company policy restricting insider sales), and was aware of the importance of her personal reputation to the company, as well as evidence that MSLO stock began dropping on news of disclosure of the investigation into Stewart's sale of ImClone stock.

The court's dismissal was based on the finding that the jury would need to rely entirely on "speculation and surmise" to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Stewart's statements were made with the intent to affect the price of MSLO stock, and that the issue could not be permitted to go to the jury where "the competing intentions appear to be nearly in equipoise." Id. at 16, 20. As the court concluded, in light of the fact that Stewart had made no statements indicating a concern about the response of MSLO's stock price to the ImClone controversy (and, apparently, had made no suspicious sales of MSLO stock):

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:01 PM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Why Is John Kerry Questioning A Vietnam Vet's Patriotism?

John Kerry has been fond of claiming recently that the Bush Administration has broken faith with military veterans by cutting veterans' benefits. As Bill Hobbs explains, this is fiction. But I have another question: as Hobbs notes, Kerry's not only challenging Bush, he's challenging Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi. What's Principi's background?

A combat-decorated Vietnam veteran, . . . Mr. Principi is a 1967 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., and first saw active duty aboard the destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy. He later commanded a River Patrol Unit in Vietnam's Mekong Delta.

How dare Kerry question the commitment to our veterans of a decorated Vietnam veteran?

Of course, I'm being somewhat facetious here - Kerry's claim that his own Vietnam service immunizes his national security record from criticism, like his other main blathering points about "special interests" and outsourcing, is so flimsy it doesn't hold up under even the most minimal logical scrutiny. (As one of Tim Blair's readers put it, "I think I finally understand why Kerry underwent the botox treatments. It's so he could say all the things he does with a straight face. "). But it's still fun applying the scrutiny.

Wonkette's readers had some good ones as well:

* "Vote Kerry: He Led America To Victory In Vietnam!"
* "John Kerry: Pretending To Fight Against Special Interests Since Very Recently"
* "John Kerry Won't Just Take A Stand On The Tough Issues - He'll Take Two Or Three Of Them"
* "Kerry: Not in the pocket of most special interests."

On the other hand, if you want an example of someone actually questioning Kerry's patriotism, check out this, from NRO:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:54 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/POLITICS: Over The Edge on Gay Marriage, Part II

Following up on yesterday's argument . . . as I think you can tell, I'm hardly a bitter-ender on the substance of the gay marriage question. I don't necessarily think that the world would spin off its axis if we had gay marriage . . . frankly, I hadn't really thought about "gay rights" issues until maybe my senior year of college, and I've made a real effort since then to take in all sides of the issues. And while I don't have the patience to read as much on these issues as Andrew Sullivan puts out, I do try to read his stuff on this. But what I do take very seriously is the Left's concerted effort to impose radical social changes without ever getting the sanction of democratically elected representatives or explicit authority in the Constitution or statutes, and then turn around and call conservatives the radical ones.

Now, we've got yet another local official threatening to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, this time the mayor of New Paltz, New York (this is what you get for electing a 26-year-old Green Party mayor). As in California, this will suddenly put both the Governor and the state Attorney General in a very awkward position.

Tom Maguire, who's been all over this issue, points us to Ramesh Ponnuru's article on NRO essentially endorsing the same solution that Maguire, I and James Taranto would all prefer: an amendment that would do nothing more than leave exclusively to each state's legislature the question of what kind of marriages or civil unions to approve. Indeed, the WSJ comes out with an editorial today endorsing precisely this position:

Now, even some who support a constitutional remedy wonder about the language. There is debate about whether the amendment's language would bar states from endorsing civil unions, which Mr. Bush says they should be free to do. We think this entire issue should be decided in the states, by the people through their elected legislators. And if the voters want to alter the definition of marriage as a new social consensus develops, that should be their democratic right.

This is a popular position. Indeed, even Sullivan says "I will support a federal constitutional amendment that would solely say that no state is required to recognize a civil marriage from another state," although he contends that we should first wait for the courts to bulldoze all the existing legislation on the matter - at which point, I do question whether he'd argue that it's a "divisive" attempt to "roll back" the facts on the ground . . .

Given that the votes clearly will not be there for a more sweeping amendment - something such noted weak-kneed moderates as Tom DeLay seem to have already appreciated - those pushing for an amendment need to take what they can get. I agree with Taranto that the more modest solution would put John Kerry in even more of a terrible box than he's already in (as opposed to his current position, in which he (1) says that opposing gay marriage is bigoted and divisive and (2) says that he opposes gay marriage), since the GOP could honestly portray its effort as one that preserves the status quo without casting it in stone. Kerry would then be forced to bet his chips on the losing hand of opposing his own position - or face the wrath of the Left within his own party.

Turning briefly to the merits of gay marriage, a few non-comprehensive thoughts:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:48 AM | Law 2002-04 • | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (2)
February 26, 2004
BASEBALL: Rite of Spring

Yes, now it's official. Spring training isn't officially underway until the year's first story about the new, mature Darryl Strawberry.

(Stay tuned for the other signs of spring).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:47 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/POLITICS: Over The Edge on Gay Marriage, Part I

Well, looks like it's time for me to talk about gay marriage. . . I didn't choose the time or the terms of this debate, but then, neither did President Bush. Keep that in mind.

You see, like any controversy over the intersection of law with the culture, the gay marriage debate has both a substantive aspect (what the right outcome for society should be) and a procedural aspect (how we get there, who legitimizes the decision, how it's enforced). And in this fight, the procedural issue is, in my view, a lot more troubling even than the substance.

On the merits, I first looked at this issue ten years ago, when I was in my first year of law school, and I came down in support of some form of civil union solution; I haven't seen anything to change my mind since then. More on the substantive merits another day (this post is already too long) . . . but I can recall having a debate in my property class with a lesbian woman who thought it highly unrealistic to await a democratic resolution of the issue. She wanted it to come from the courts.

From sources around the blogosphere too numerous to link here, we've tended to see five basic lines of attack against the president's decision to come down in favor of a constitutional amendment on the topic:

1. Ask why anybody cares who else is married.
2. Call the president and other opponents of gay marriage bigots.
3. Ask whether the president doesn't have better things to do than worry about this issue.
4. Argue that we shouldn't go amending the Constitution over this issue.
5. Suggest that this is all politically motivated.

These are deeply misguided arguments, and notwithstanding the fact that many of them are coming from people I otherwise respect and agree with on many other issues, they buy into the thuggish and dishonest tactics of the cultural Left, tactics that have been repeated so many times that those of us who consider ourselves social conservatives know exactly where this is going.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:45 AM | Law 2002-04 • | Politics 2004 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: This Is Breaking News?

So, the other day I registered with Washingtonpost.com, so I could continue to read their articles online, and in the process I checked the box to receive breaking news alerts. I figured, yeah, I get a lot of email, but signing up for alerts on the real 'hot news' stories can't hurt. So yesterday, I get my first one:

Spelman to Step Down
National Zoo director Lucy H. Spelman is planning to quit at the end of the year after a study found failings in animal care, a spokeswoman said today.

Now, I'm not saying that this isn't a story worth reporting in the newspaper . . . but breaking news? This couldn't wait until the morning paper?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:08 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
February 25, 2004
LAW: [sic]

We litigators have all been on the other end of lawyers like this . . . my favorite is the part where the guy wrote to the court to defend all the typos in his work, and he misspelled the judge's name.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:47 PM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: TOP THIRTY SIGNS YOU'RE TURNING THIRTY

I wrote this one up two three years ago, when my friends and I were turning 30. Obviously, not all of these apply to me ;) and #7 is rather dated now. But I thought I'd share:

TOP THIRTY SIGNS YOU'RE TURNING THIRTY

1. You refer to college students as "kids."
2. You remember all the things that happened "twenty years ago this day."
3. You're the boss.
4. Athletes your age have started retiring.
5. They don't write 'em like that anymore.
6. You realize your children won't remember the 20th century.
7. You watched the Super Bowl halftime show and realized you were listening to Aerosmith when Britney Spears was in diapers.
8. Your mortgage is bigger than your student loans.
9. The first girl you kissed had a crush on Doug Flutie at the time.
10. You stop and listen when the TV news runs a story on Viagara.
11. You now have more hair on your arms than on your head.
12. You think they should do something about fake IDs.
13. "Relaxed fit" pants.
14. You remember when we wanted to party like it's 1999.
15. You still get excited at hearing "Do you believe in miracles?"
16. There used to be lots of things you didn't do because you had no money; now there are lots of things you don't do because you have no time.
17. You pay someone to mow your lawn.
18. You look at the stock tables before the box scores.
19. You spend a lot of time on the Internet reading things written by people younger than you are.
20. You can't believe Pete Rose is turning sixty.
21. You have fond memories . . . of reunions.
22. You don't go to that bar anymore, you can't even hear yourself think.
23. You just don't get Eminem.
24. You remember when people said "space age" the way they now say "internet age."
25. You've seen all four "Star Wars" films in the theater - the first time around.
26. In most photos of your childhood, you are wearing plaid pants.
27. Your first new car died.
28. Your year starts in January, not September.
29. You actually bothered to vote this time.
30. You know . . . whatsisname . . .

UPDATE: Yeah, when I wrote this I forgot how many years ago it was. Bad sign.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:44 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: AL Central Established Win Shares Level Report

Moving on to the AL Central . . . you may have wondered, watching as the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels grew stronger while other teams East and West held their ground, who was going to lose all those games that other teams plan to win . . . look no further. This is one ugly division. There are only three players in the whole division with an EWSL of 20 or greater, which is one fewer than the Yankees have just in their infield (counting Posada).

This is the fourth in my series on Established Win Shares Levels; see here for an explanation of the EWSL method and ranking of the top 25 players, here for an explanation of the team-by-team method in the post on the AL West, and here for my AL East analysis (in which I noted a downgrade of the arbitrary rating of rookie starting pitchers from 7 Win Shares to 5). (I haven't yet gone back and re-adjusted the AL East and West numbers after the Rodriguez-Soriano trade).

As I and others have noted before, EWSL isn't a perfect tool for evaluating team rosters; again, what it measures is how much established major league talent is on each roster. A quick reminder on notations: players marked # are evaluated on their last 2 seasons rather than last 3; players marked * are evaluated only on 2003; and players marked + are rookies assigned an arbitrary WS total.

The AL Central:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:25 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: All One Problem, Part II

George Tenet has his problems, but his testimony yesterday indicates that he gets one key point: the war on terror is less and less about Al Qaeda per se, and more and more about smaller or harder to track groups that share the same fundamental anti-American political ideology.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:23 AM | War 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/BASEBALL: One's A Convicted Pardoned Liar

In case you missed it, from late last week: did you know that the YES Network (presumably at the urging of George Steinbrenner, who was once convicted of making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon), was a major donor to the group (also including such distinguished John Kerry supporters as Bob Torricelli) that ran particularly pointed anti-Howard Dean ads in Iowa (the ads that showed Osama bin Laden and questioned whether Dean had the experience to deal with him)?

One wonders whether YES' anti-Dean position had anything to do with his threat to regulate the media.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:01 AM | Baseball 2004 • | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: How Many Times?

Meryl Yourish notes that since September 2000, Israel has seen more than 7,000 people killed or injured in terrorist attacks of its population of 5.4 million Jews . . . she asks how many September 11ths that adds up to, proportional to the U.S. population. Of course, when you check the link to the IDF statistics, it's 928 killed and the rest wounded, including soldiers; the actual number of civilians killed is 653. If you just compare the 7,000 to the 3,000 or so killed on September 11, it's more than 100 times our loss; if you compare the 653 number, it's more like ten September 11ths. But no matter how you splice the numbers, it's a heck of a lot of blood spilled in four years. It's something to chew on, before condemning the Israelis for anything.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:32 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 24, 2004
BASEBALL: The $46 Million Man

Damien at Shea Daily (now jedikaos.net) notes that if you average out the portions of A-Rod's contract that the Rangers actually paid against the three years he played in Arlington, you get an average annual salary of $46,666,666.67. Even I can't justify that as a good deal.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:59 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: I Taunt You

On that purported Al Qaeda tape that the Mad Hibernian links to below, I thought there were two interesting things:

1. The Islamists accusing the French of "Crusader envy." So much for the superiority of the French approach to the "simplistic" and "arrogant" American tack in getting a break from these nutballs.

2. There was something rather pathetic in the efforts to taunt Bush:

"Bush, fortify your targets, tighten your defense, intensify your security measures," the tape recording warned, "because the fighting Islamic community — which sent you New York and Washington battalions — has decided to send you one battalion after the other, carrying death and seeking heaven."

Sure, they could pull something off at any time . . . but until they do, this stuff sounds like bluster that wouldn't be necessary if their operations weren't severely crimped. Or, put another way:

I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries. . . now go away before I taunt you a second time.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:57 PM | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Halls of Relief

Not much blogging this morning, as I'm finishing up my Established Win Shares analysis of the AL Central, which is on deck for tomorrow morning (early preview: the Central stinks). In the meantime, if you haven't already, head on over and check out the conclusion of Mike Carminti's seemingly interminable but fascinating "Halls of Relief" series (I've only had time to read parts of it myself), in which he wraps up his history of relief pitching by stacking up the greatest bullpens of all time (there's also links to the rest of the series). Nobody goes off on a tangent quite like Mike Carminti; he's practically got enough material there for a book.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:02 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Buckley on Kerry, 1971

Well, you can't say that the National Review is a latecomer to bashing John Kerry on his 1971 testimony to Congress.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:58 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 23, 2004
POLITICS: 2000 Trivia

Answer: New Mexico, Oregon, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Question: In what four states in 2000 was Al Gore's margin of victory over Bush smaller than the number of votes cast for Pat Buchanan?

In only two states - albeit enough to swing the election - did Nader outpoll Bush's margin of victory: Florida and New Hampshire. If a third of New Hampshire's 22,188 Nader voters had pulled the lever for Gore, he'd be president now.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:32 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Map

I've added a direct link in the Reference Desk to the Electoral College Map (provided by Edwardsforprez) that's featured over at Daily Kos; it's a wonderful resource. But I ran the numbers with Bush holding all his 2000 states except New Hampshire and Nevada, and I came up with . . . a 269-269 tie. Is that possible? I'll have to check the math.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:56 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/WAR: This Time, It's Personal

Darren Kaplan notes that Solicitor General Ted Olson will personally argue the government's case before the Supreme Court in Rumsfeld v. Padilla, the case addressing the government's ability to detain "dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla. As you may remember, Olson's wife was killed on September 11.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:30 PM | Law 2002-04 • | War 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Loaded

Jurgen at the uniquely-named Some Calzone for Derek looks at established performance levels for Runs Created for the 2004 Yankees lineup. Check it out.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:23 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
February 22, 2004
POLITICS: Outsourcing History?

Jonah Goldberg picks up an amusing example of overseas outsourcing by someone John Kerry won't call "Benedict Arnold." Meanwhile, the Daily News defends NY-based companies that outsource tasks overseas, while arguing that John Edwards should be criticizing companies that close plants in Queens to relocate to South Carolina.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave . . .

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:06 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Then Again, Don't Bring It On

John Kerry hasn't even sewn up the Democratic nomination, and already he's complaining that he can't handle criticism from President Bush and Republicans on his national security record and his actions after Vietnam. Of course, the hypocrisy of Kerry wanting to take Vietnam off the table after making it part of his answer to nearly every question is mind-bending, like if Howard Dean had suddenly claimed that the Iraq war shouldn't be a political issue. So much for "BRING IT ON!"

Me, I prefer Jonah Goldberg's approach. And come to think of it, so did Kerry's surrogates not so long ago.

UPDATE: Kaus catches an even more egregious attempt by Kerry to bully his opponents into silence:

Kerry responds:``I don't know what it is about what these Republicans who didn't serve in any war have against those of us who are Democrats who did."
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:29 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
February 21, 2004
BASEBALL: Pump It Up!

John Perricone at Only Baseball Matters has been on a bit of a crusade to dial down the anti-steroids speculation and rhetoric around the game. He links here to this Reason Magazine article in which Dayn Perry argues that the adverse health risks of steroids haven't been scientifically proven, and here he makes an essentially libertarian argument against regulating steroids, at least until there's better science on the issue.

I've agreed before with the point Perricone makes repeatedly (see here and here for examples) that the media has been way too quick to point fingers at specific players (or, for that matter, quote generalized percentages of players) without any evidence. On the other hand, the lack of evidence is no excuse for giving up on the story; the answer is to keep digging.

I haven't really digested Perry's piece yet . . . I'm sympathetic to anti-junk-science arguments, but I'm not sure I buy the "there's nothing wrong with being on steroids" argument, which sometimes tends to sound a bit too much like the tobacco executives for even my right-wing tastes. But it's a perspective worth taking seriously.

I don't doubt that there's a lot of players out there who are clean, and that a lot of guys are bulking up with the help of supplements and the like that are perfectly legit but just way beyond what was available until recently. Still, I do wonder: I was a diligent 5-6-days-a-week weightlifter myself for about 4 years in college and law school, at an age when it's a lot easier to build muscle mass than it is in your thirties. I started out weighing around 120 (I'm just under 5'10"), which was way underweight and down from where I'd been when I started college, and got up to about 140 in a year or so, but never got past that; I came away with a real appreciation of how hard it is to keep bulking up (then again, as you can guess from the numbers, my frame isn't really designed for being Arnold Schwarzenegger).

Anyway, go follow the links; there's a lot to chew on there.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:41 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Required Reading

I can't say enough about the Mark Steyn piece the Mad Hibernian links to below . . . but another can't-miss bit of political humor is today's Dave Barry column, which is just packed with gags in the classic Barry style. One sample:

Yes, voters, I trust you, because I am one of you. I even talk like you. For example, when I'm campaignin' in the South, I leave the "g" off the ends of words and I use old country expressions that express the homespun wisdom acquired by rural people over years of drinkin' contaminated ground water, such as: "Don't light a match till you know which end of the dog is barkin'." As your President, I will govern the nation, or at least the South, in accordance with those words, whatever they may mean.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:12 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL: Screwing the NFL?

Gregg Easterbrook takes severe issue with Judge Shira Scheindlin's ruling, in Maurice Clarett's case, striking down the NFL's minimum age rule. I'm not sure if I agree with all his points, but Easterbrook certainly makes the case that the league has a valid interest in preserving a high quality of play and in keeping college football's free publicity machine for future NFL stars going.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:21 AM | Football | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/HISTORY: Poll Watching

Tim Blair offers some amusing historical perspective on presidential polls.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:16 AM | History • | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Last Call for Dean-Bashing

It appears for the moment that we've seen the last of Howard Dean as a candidate for national office for quite some time. Although he may be keeping his powder dry for 2008, I suspect that Dean's 2004 problem - people think he's nuts - is a hard one to overcome; ask Dan Quayle how hard it is to change an image that casts you as unpresidential.

Anyway, this makes it time to dump out the rest of my research on Dean, for future reference or just for the sheer malicious glee of kicking a man when he's down:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:13 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)
February 20, 2004
POLITICS: Too Good to Check

Kaus has a quote so good I hate to mention that it was apparently tongue in cheek, being made by Jon Corzine at the Washington Press Club Foundation Dinner:

Frankly, sharing a media market with Chuck Schumer is like sharing a banana with a monkey. Take a little bite of it, and he will throw his own feces at you.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:44 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
RELIGION/FOOTBALL: Who 3:16?

One observant viewer of the Super Bowl points out that CBS appears to have blotted out the contents of posters behind the end zone, and speculates that CBS may have been concealing "John 3:16" banners.* (Link via Stuart Buck).

*For the uninitiated, John 3:16 is the one sentence of the Bible that many Christians feel captures the essence of Christianity; I can still recite it from memory, as our sophmore theology teacher in high school made us memorize it for every weekly test: "For God loved the world so much that He gave us His only Son, so that all who believe in Him may not die, but have eternal life."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:25 PM | Football • | Religion | TrackBack (0)
SCIENCE: Planetoid

Scientists have announced what they believe to be the discovery of "a frozen object 4.4 billion miles from Earth that appears to be more than half the size of Pluto and larger than the planet's moon," the largest discovery within our solar system since Pluto itself in 1930. The "planetoid," "dubbed 2004 DW [they'll need a better name], lies at the outer fringes of the Kuiper Belt, a swarm of frozen rock and ice beyond the orbit of Neptune."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:53 PM | Science | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Gathering Storm

A friend recently sent me an email about an event where a prominent baseball writer spoke freely about, among other things, the view that a certain well-known player is on steroids and another recently stopped taking them and has slimmed down dramatically . . . I won't reprint the charges, since (1) they're third-hand at best, (2) they weren't really intended for public distribution, and (3) it's not my place to smear the names of prominent players without any personal knowledge of the facts.

But face it: the fact that a well-known insider would make casual remarks about this stuff to strangers . . . what that says to me, really, is that the insiders know that the truth is coming out soon, and respecting a code of silence about it all doesn't really serve much purpose anymore. (David Pinto has noted one prominent crack in the wall). I really, really don't want to learn that one of my favorite players has been using steroids; chances are, you don't either. It's going to be unpleasant and distasteful all around. But as I noted in May of 2002, the truth is coming sooner or later. To me, it smells like sooner.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:39 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (2)
POLITICS: Principled Positions

Tim Noah, like Jonah Goldberg, thinks Howard Dean's problem as a candidate was that he was a phony who didn't really believe in his own left-wing campaign rhetoric. Both of them cite his more (comparitively) moderate record as Vermont governor. The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, argues that Dean's undistilled leftism and confrontational style made him "the most consequential loser since Barry Goldwater."

I think the Journal is closer to the truth, and there's an important point here about politicians and their convictions. The charge against Dean sometimes focuses on the idea that his strong anti-war and tax-hiking stands were calculated postures based on his assessment of the mood of the Democratic electorate in 2003. Kevin Drum has repeatedly made the same charge against Bush. Now, it's fair game to point to inconsistencies in a man's record and ask whether he really believes what he says. But in a representative democracy, it's not necessarily fatal to hire leaders who echo what we want them to say, rather than what they'd do if they had their druthers. Many of our individual druthers, after all, aren't so well thought-out.

No, what matters more than anything is not a politician's fealty to his own internal principles but his ability to take a principled position and stick to it, whether he believes in it or not. Regardless of its sincerity, Howard Dean's positions on Iraq and on the Bush tax cuts were principled positions: he made sure everyone knew precisely where he stood, he made all the arguments for those positions as forcefully as he could, and he left himself no wiggle room to back away if those positions were rejected by the voters or if (as happened with the capture of Saddam) his principled position was discredited by subsequent events. What we look for in leaders, especially presidents, is that ability: the willingness to say, "here I stand," let the voters judge the merits of that stand, and keep faith with your promises, even when the going gets rough.

That doesn't mean that you can never compromise; even a principled advocate can judge when to settle for the best deal that's going to come. Think of John McCain's approach to campaign finance reform or Ted Kennedy's approach to universal government-provided health insurance, both clear examples of principled positions where (like the results or not) a legislator staked out a position and made things happen by tireless advocacy and leadership.

Part of what made Bill Clinton so frustrating to deal with was his allergy to principled positions, the difficulty of pinning him down on issues. But even Clinton took principled stands on occasion -- sometimes by using his popular mandate to enact campaign promises like the Family and Medical Leave Act, sometimes by bucking his own party for the good of the economy (as with NAFTA and GATT), and, in the case of HillaryCare, pushing a principled stand far beyond the point where prudence counseled compromise.

Love him or hate him, President Bush has similarly taken a series of principled positions, albeit with exceptions (as where he abandoned many of his principles on the education bill and threw them overboard on McCain-Feingiold). In dealing with the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, Bush was unyielding in pursuit of our objectives, even in the face of many objections and obstacles along the way. On tax cuts, Bush has consistently staked out clearly understood objectives -- there's no question that Bush's campaign got out in front of public demand for tax cuts and that the public identifies Bush with that position -- and pushed for as much of his proposed cuts as he could get. Bush's positions on Social Security, the Medicare prescription drug bill, judicial nominees, the faith-based initiative -- you can fault his objectives or the degree of his follow-through, but you can't doubt where Bush stands and that he's been willing to weather criticism from many corners without changing course.

Which brings us to the core of the problem with John Kerry. As Will Saletan has put it:

Kerry's more fundamental problem is his tendency to try to have everything both ways, chiefly by rigging his answers with caveats. He approaches political questions the way soldiers approach urban warfare: He never walks into a sentence without leaving himself a way out.

This is Kerry's core problem. Try to cite back part of Kerry's voting record, and he'll cite votes going the other way. War with Iraq? Voted against the first one but said some good things about it, voted for the second one and campaigned against it, voted in between for the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. Voted for the Patriot Act and No Child Left Behind and NAFTA, campaigned against all three. Campaigned strenuously for Kyoto, but voted for the anti-Kyoto resolution in the Senate. Opposes drilling in ANWR, but wants the unions to know he's OK with it. Opposes gay marriage, but voted against the Defense of Marriage Act. . . . you get the picture. It's not that Kerry doesn't necessarily have principles; clearly, his instincts are quite liberal, as he's often shown and as his voting record tilts. But there's never been any point in John Kerry's career when, as many another legislator has done, he took an issue, made it his own, and declared to all the world: here I stand, come with me. Dean's not the only loser who got his way; in recent memory, Steve Forbes and Ross Perot also did much to shape the public agenda by taking stands on issues and forcing other candidates to deal with their ideas. But even if John Kerry wins, for what has he ever shown he would fight without backing down, come whatever grief may come his way?

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:31 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)
February 19, 2004
POLITICS: Called It

This site's third co-blogger, who blogs under the pseudonym Kiner's Korner, has gotten out of the blog groove the last several months. But I have to give him credit here for an email he sent me January 30, after the New Hampshire primary:

Prediction:

Dean doesn't actually win a single primary

I doubted him, but that's exactly what happened.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:52 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Dean Delusion

As Howard Dean exits stage left, it's worth looking back at Clay Shirky's widely-linked analysis of what went wrong:

[T]he hard thing to explain is not how the Dean campaign blew such a huge lead, but rather why we ever thought that lead actually existed. Dean's campaign didn't just fail, it dissolved on contact with reality.

The answer, I think, is that we talked ourselves, but not the voters, into believing. And I think the way the campaign was organized helped inflate and sustain that bubble of belief, right up to the moment that the voters arrived.

* * *

The moment for me, and I think for many of us, when we realized that Dean was sunk was on Wednesday after New Hampshire, when the press reported that he'd spent most of his $45 million war chest already. The obvious question, "How did he think he could do the rest of the campaign on a few million dollars?" has an obvious answer: "He thought he'd raise more, when Iowa and New Hampshire anointed him frontrunner."

This was a fatal flaw in the campaign - they believed their own press. Dean was so out of touch that he had not prepared a concession speech in Iowa, a state where his third place finish was so bad that if he'd gotten every single Gephardt vote as well, he would still have been in third place, and would still have been double digits behind Kerry.

This is the question within the question. Out here, we had an excuse (albeit a flimsy one) for believing Dean was the frontrunner: it's what we read in the papers. But campaigns don't just use the pollsters, their field operations also keep their own numbers. And for Dean to blow all his cash and then not even prepare for anything other than victory means their internal numbers predicted certain victory as well.

The irony here is rich: Dean spent much of his campaign blasting Bush for relying on faulty intelligence to make decisions and for failing to plan ahead for postwar Iraq. Moreover, his party has hung a lot of importance on corporate scandals and the burst of the tech bubble, both of which were grounded in some way in wildly optimistic overestimates of profitability. And after all that, it turns out that Dean himself was the one who was guilty of the very things he charged the president with: he fell for bad information and didn't have a contingency plan in place if things went badly.

Of course, there's a counter to all this: that Dean's implosion was all about Dean's own statements piling up against him, while events outside his control (i.e., the capture of Saddam) worked to undercut the thrust of his case. And you can argue that, given what a longshot Dean was to start with, it made eminent sense for Dean to pursue a high-risk, no-fallback-position strategy aimed at crushing the opposition in the first two contests (in fact, John Kerry has succeeded by pursuing the same strategy). But the fact is, Dean believed his own BS, and he paid for it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:47 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Calendar

There's been some griping from Democrats about the GOP having its convention in New York so close to the anniversary of September 11, when the incumbent party's conventions are normally in mid-August, but a look at the calendar (thanks to The Note) explains why the Republicans are staging the convention so late:

July 26, 2004: Target start date for the 108th Congress' August recess

July 26-29, 2004: Democratic National Convention, Boston

Aug. 14-29, 2004: Summer Olympic Games, Athens, Greece

Aug. 30-Sept. 2, 2004: Republican National Convention, New York City

Sept. 6, 2004: Labor Day

Sept. 7, 2004: Target end date for the 108th Congress' August recess

As Bill Clinton might have told himself: it's the Olympics, stupid.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:40 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Alabama Song

John Derbyshire has a typically politically incorrect poem that I couldn't help but laugh at:

Laurie Lee done fell in love; She planned to marry Joe. She was so happy 'bout it all She told her Pappy so.

Pappy told her, "Laurie gal,
You'll have to find another.
I'd just as soon yer Ma don't know,
But Joe is yer half brother"

So Laurie put aside her Joe
And planned to marry Will.
But after telling Pappy this,
He said, "There's trouble still...

You cannot marry Will, my gal.,
And please don't tell yer Mother,
But Will and Joe and several mo'
I know is yer half brother"

But Mama knew and said, "My child,
Just do what makes you happy.
Marry Will or marry Joe.
You ain't no kin to Pappy.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:30 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Man of the People

After Ted Barlow accused Jonah Goldberg of printing made-up stories of John Kerry pulling rank on ordinary citizens (often with the question, "Do you know who I am?," which Jonah now abbreviates as "DYKWIA"), Howie Carr stoked the fire with a NY Post column detailing how his callers have been lighting up the phone lines for years with stories like this. (For those of you unfamiliar with his work, Carr is a Boston Herald columnist and radio show host who's somewhere between the slightly over-the-top Limbaugh and Hannity and the way-over-the-top likes of Ann Coulter or Bob Grant). Now, Barlow does have a point about using anonymous letter-writers and callers to slam public figures, but I strongly suspect that some serious reportage would uncover a heck of a lot of people willing to repeat this type of thing on the record.

Now, Goldberg points us to an amusing catch by brand-new blogger Donald Crankshaw, who noticed a DYKWIA-type story about Kerry from none other than Dave Barry:

In conclusion, I want to extend my sincere best wishes to all of my opponents, Republican and Democrat, and to state that, in the unlikely event I am not elected, I will support whoever is, even if it is Sen. John Kerry, who once came, with his entourage, into a ski-rental shop in Ketchum, Idaho, where I was waiting patiently with my family to rent snowboards, and Sen. Kerry used one of his lackeys to flagrantly barge in line ahead of us and everybody else, as if he had some urgent senatorial need for a snowboard, like there was about to be an emergency meeting, out on the slopes, of the Joint Halfpipe Committee. I say it's time for us, as a nation, to put this unpleasant incident behind us. I know that I, for one, have forgotten all about it. That is how fair and balanced I am.

You can check out Barry's whole column here. While it's Barry's usual tongue-in-cheek style, Crankshaw says he emailed Barry's "Research Department" and Barry insists that he's not making this one up.

Meanwhile, the Onion perfectly captures Kerry's true colors (link via Andrew Sullivan).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:22 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: It's All One Problem

Tacitus has a great series of posts here, here and here on why we should wake up and realize that Hezbollah and other non-Al Qaeda jihadist terror groups are also at war with us. This is very close to the core of what I believe Bush understands, and his critics willfully misunderstand, about the war on terror, and why the fissures over Iraq are so deep. (Among other things, Saddam's open support for suicide bombers in Israel and his known support for other terror groups - together with his invocation of the jihadist ideology in his public pronouncements - was, in my mind, a huge factor in why we were right to go to war with him). We simply can no longer tolerate the existence of groups like this. It's all one problem, and there's really no way to keep suicidal jihadist fanatics from following their anti-American creed to its logical conclusion.

While you're over at Tacitus' place, by the way, don't miss his two-part series here and here on the history and aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, including some first-hand reporting from Tacitus' trip to Rwanda late last year. It's a heart-rending account of a story that I, for one, have never entirely gotten my mind around (the French don't come off too well, although nobody else in the West does either), and is some of the best writing you are likely to see on any blog on any subject.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:02 AM | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
February 18, 2004
POLITICS: The Health of the State

Josh Marshall makes a revealing blunder all too typical of Beltway Democrats:

Bush told a crowd in Florida that "Democrats would endanger America's fiscal health by raising taxes." . . . When the president came into office the budget surplus was over $200 billion. Now the deficit is over $500 billion.

Even my frail grasp of mathematics tells me that's a deterioration in the nation's fiscal health of roughly three-quarters of a trillion dollars in the three years he's been in office. And for almost all of that time the president's party controlled both houses of congress.

And he says the Democrats are a danger to the nation's fiscal health?

Note that Marshall equates "the nation's fiscal health" with the Federal Government's budget. Now, maybe he's deliberately turning Bush's use of the word "fiscal" against him, but the bottom line here is that Marshall completely ignores the existence of an economy outside of the government. Balanced budgets alone are not the health of the state.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:06 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Source

Cartoonist Tom Oliphant comes to the obvious conclusion about the sudden descent of the 2004 campaign into mudslinging about Bush's National Guard service and unproven charges about a sex scandal involving John Kerry: the man most responsible for driving both charges to the front page is Wesley Clark, the master of the unproven assertion.

Maybe it's just coincidence that this kind of stuff is coming from the Clintons' favorite candidate (just like it's a coincidence that all those high-paid players happen to be on the Yankees) . . . or maybe Jonah Goldberg was right in 2002 that ""Like some perverse "Where's Waldo" drawing, wherever large groups of Democrats congregate, you know if you can find Bill Clinton in the picture they will behave like jackasses."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:00 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: No AWOL Here

More reactions from military sources to the "AWOL Bush" nonsense. From Bush's visit yesterday with a National Guard unit in Louisiana:

In interviews, soldiers brushed off the flap about Bush's record. Staff Sgt. Jim Lee, an Arkansas National Guardsman, said, "I think he did his duty. We're certainly supportive of the president. We're all Guardsmen, so we know what happens when you transfer from one state to another. The records get convoluted."

Pfc. Allen Harmon, also from Arkansas, said, "In a sense you've got to look at people's past. But right now, he's doing a good job."

First Lt. Jason Cannon, a soldier of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment who was wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq, said, "I think it was a really long time ago. The press gets focused on things that aren't that important. I don't think he was AWOL. I've been in the Guard. He switched states. It looks like he was looking for a place to drill."

Pfc Willie Wade, a guardsmen majoring in education at Grambling State University, said, "I wondered (about Bush's Guard flap) when I first saw it. I take it he fulfilled his duty. They showed the papers."

Then there's Phil Carter, who strains to find a reason why the controversy should continue, but admits up front that

The issue has never been whether he was guilty of desertion or being AWOL--two slanderous charges leveled without regard for the facts. The real issue has always been the character of his service, and whether it was good enough to set the example for America's 1.4 million citizens in uniform.

As an initial matter, it should be clear that Bush did volunteer to serve as a fighter pilot when he was under no compulsion to do so. President Bush could have avoided the draft through other means that were far safer than flying the F-102--an aircraft sometimes called the "widowmaker" for its propensity to crash. Despite efforts by some pundits to create one, there is no real analogy between the president's military service and the efforts by former President Bill Clinton to avoid military service, except that both happened within the larger context of the Vietnam War.

This should come as a surprise to those commenters who cite Carter as an authority on the "AWOL" charge, but Carter is out in front of where the goalposts have been moved by Democrats desperate to keep the issue alive.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:55 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Glory of His Time

David Pinto alerts us to the death of Lawrence Ritter at age 81. The Mad Hibernian and I paid tribute here and here to The Glory of Their Times.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:47 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: A Fitting Tribute

Check out this story on a statue paying tribute to members of the 4th Infantry Division who have died in Iraq. (From LT Smash). I love the fact that the statue was done by an Iraqi sculptor and was cast from metal from melted-down statues of Saddam. A fitting tribute to that for which they gave their lives.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:41 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Rummy Attacks!

From Tim Blair, the Fighting Styles of Don Rumsfeld. Hilarious.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:37 AM | Blog 2002-05 | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Time Warp

Matt Welch and the Primates tear into this turgid muck of a column by know-nothing LA Times sportswriter Bill Plaschke, ripping into the Dodgers for hiring the young, stat-oriented Paul DePodesta as GM (unsurprisingly, I like the move, as does Pinto). From what I've seen online, the LAT is something of a West Coast version of the Boston Globe -- the same dull, biased newswriting, the same dreary, don't-read-me layout, the same fatuous editorials and idiot left-leaning op-ed columnists, and the same bitter, flat-earth troglodytes on the sports page. In short, a newspaper where nothing has changed and nothing has been learned since 1975. Anyway, Welch has more patience than I usually do for plowing through this stuff, and promises to start a "Moneyboner of the Day" feature mocking this kind of anti-knowledge baseball writing. Good luck.

I did get one useful thing from this, though; the Clutch Hits thread had a link to this proto-sabermetric LIFE Magazine article by Branch Rickey, reprinted at Jim Fraser's homepage (I've added it here as the link by the Rickey quote as well), in which Rickey lauded on base percentage, a combined OBP/Slugging % metric and ERA and its components as the keys to evaluating players. As Rickey noted at the time:

It is the hardest thing in the world to get big league baseball to change anything—even spikes on a pair of shoes. But they will accept this new interpretation of baseball statistics eventually. They are bound to.

An optimist, Rickey was; and an incredibly forward-thinking guy, for a man whose playing career began in 1905.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:32 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 17, 2004
WAR: Man of Straw

Tim Blair catches an Australian critic of Bush and the Iraq war fabricating quotes about WMD, including altering passages from the State of the Union.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:37 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Maddux For Sale

While he's apparently still in talks with the Cubs, ESPN reports on rumors that Greg Maddux could be close to signing with the Yankees. The rich get richer? Brian Cashman denies that he's talking to Maddux. Maddux is ideally suited for a team like the Yanks or Cubs, that can put him at the back of the rotation; he's basically a league-average starter at this stage, which is still a useful commodity as long as you don't expect him to have an ERA around 3.00 or lower.

(Warning: ESPN link opens a popup that's very hard to close).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:26 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
February 15, 2004
BASEBALL: An A-Rod Primer

Here's some internal links to give you my take on the Yankees' apparent acquisition of Alex Rodriguez:

*Links here, here and here on my Win Shares analysis of the Yankees, Rangers, Rodriguez and Soriano.

*A look here (and an update here) on the historic nature of Rodriguez' productivity.

*My take here and here on the Players Union sabotaging the Red Sox' attempt to get A-Rod.

*My thoughts on A-Rod's MVP award.

*Here's where I ran the numbers last fall on the Yankees' financial dominance, before they brought in Rodriguez, Sheffield, Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez. What's scary is that they've moved on to snagging players the other rich teams can't afford.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:01 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Dated, Dean, Married Kerry . . . Then What?

Looks like the "did John Kerry cheat on his wife?" story isn't going anywhere at the moment, after peaking with cover stories in the NY tabloids on Saturday. . . which is as it should be; sure, Kerry could be lying to us, but he's now unequivocally denied the story (such as it is), and all the "evidence" is unsourced hearsay speculation. The man's entitled to the benefit of the doubt. I'm not ready to declare the story an unsubstantiated smear until we see if Drudge comes up with anything else, but until he does, we should presume that Kerry has been faithful to his second wife.

Which is not to say that the picture of Kerry's family life is entirely flattering. Remember all the howls of derision from the Left at Newt Gingrich having served divorce papers on his wife while she lay sick in the hospital? NewsMax commented on this last spring (based on reporting done in this Joe Klein article in the New Yorker):

[T]he press has been far kinder to Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry, who, according to published accounts going back more than a decade, began extricating himself from his first marriage to Philadelphia heiress Julia Thorne at the same time she was battling a case of depression so debilitating that it drove her to the brink of suicide.

In an attempt to explain why he decided not to let his wife's precarious mental state derail his 1982 bid to become Michael Dukakis' lieutenant governor, Kerry told the New Yorker magazine last December, "When I get focused and set out to do something, I'm pretty good at staying focused."

"You don't want to let yourself down, you know what I'm saying?" added the ambitious Democrat without a hint of irony.

NewsMax notes that Kerry wrote to the New Yorker to complain about the article, although it doesn't address whether he actually disputed any of the facts in Klein's article . . . again, the picture of a man's character is broader than any one incident, and there have been good presidents before who had pretty ugly personal lives. But it's something to consider. Anyway, don't hold your breath waiting for the people who mocked Gingrich to come down hard on Kerry.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:47 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: James Carroll

One of the very worst columnists in the business has to be James Carroll of the Boston Globe, a guy who will buy into any anti-American cliche, no matter how attenuated its relationship to the facts. Anyway, I hadn't fully grasped the roots of Carroll's problems until I stumbled accross this book review on Amazon:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 PM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Money Talks

So here I am minding my own business last night, and I check my Blackberry, and what should be there but an email message from Dr. Manhattan saying that the Yankees have all but finalized a deal with the Rangers to send Alex Rodriguez to New York for Alfonso Soriano. Lest there be any doubt what this deal was about:

"It's about flexibility," Rangers GM John Hart said last night. "We're trading the best player in the game and we're getting tremendous financial flexibility."

Sources said Texas had agreed to assume about $67 million of the $179 million left on Rodriguez's $252 million contract. The AL MVP also has agreed to defer some money by five more years - pushing the last payment back to 2025 - and at a reduced interest rate, one of the sources said.

Now, Soriano (who's young and makes very little money) is a real good player, although I remain skeptical as always about his ability to sustain a high level of offensive productivity unless he learns some plate discipline. But this leaves the Rangers with two second basemen and no shortstop; I wonder if Soriano will be moved back to short, where he played in the minors. As for the Yanks, it appears that they intend to move A-Rod to third, rather than Jeter, despite A-Rod being a far superior defensive player, and go looking for someone to play second. It won't matter; this team will be so loaded that the infield defense will be an afterthought.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:44 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 14, 2004
WAR: A Fifth Column?

Either FBI supervisor Mike Feghali ought to be fired instantly (and investigated to see if he should be prosecuted), or he has one heck of a libel suit . . . check out this potential bombshell article from FrontPage Magazine, charging that Feghali, a naturalized Arab-American, led his unit (translators who are a critical link in our homeland security apparatus) in celebrating the September 11 attacks, and added to that the Washington vice of deliberately slowing down work at his unit to show a need for more budget. (Link via Roger Simon).

But take the whole story, especially the more sensational parts, with a grain of salt, at least for now. The allegations seem to come entirely from one Sibel Dinez Edmonds, a disgruntled former employee who was fired by the FBI, and it's hardly unheard-of for disgruntled former employees to make up sensational charges. Still, the Senate Judiciary Committee, to whom Edmonds has complained, ought to make some efforts to ascertain the credibility of these charges.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:03 AM | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
POP CULTURE: The Real Conspiracy Revealed!

It's all here; I particularly liked the diagram (Via Slings and Arrows).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:31 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: A Meme Goes Under

Well, I've certainly kicked the beehive with the last few days' posts on the AWOL stuff, but it looks like Bush's critics, having made a mountain out of something that scarcely amounted to a molehill, are mostly looking for a graceful exit. Josh Marshall is consoling himself with the thought that Bush was pretty immature as a young man. (This is news?) Kevin Drum is preparing to concede defeat and even making light of the story, as if he was an innocent bystander. Honestly, I generally enjoy Kevin's site; maybe this explains it all. Hopefully he'll regain the even temper that had made him one of the few left-side bloggers who's genuinely consistently worth reading.

On TV tonight, Bill Maher was busy convincing himself that he's right to hate Bush; Maher simply ceased to be interesting after he became a bitter lefty following the backlash against his comments after September 11. And Charles Rangel was on NY1 . . . I swear I am not making this up . . . arguing that Bush shouldn't have worn the flight suit on the aircraft carrier because after missing his flight physical in 1973, he was no longer a licensed pilot.

Meanwhile, Chris Lawrence has expanded on something he wrote in my comments section, explaining why reports from the Memphis Flyer can't really be trusted.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:27 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (3)
February 13, 2004
POLITICS: Drum Punts, Kleiman Dodges, Willis Whiffs

So, yesterday I had 14 questions for Kevin Drum to answer if he expects us to continue taking him seriously on the "Bush was AWOL!!!!!!" charge. I also mentioned Mark Kleiman as one of the prominent bloggers flogging this story (and emailed him the link), and threw in Oliver Willis as well. Let's track the responses:

*Kleiman, to his credit, emailed back his response quickly and then posted it on his blog. However, his response basically dodges all of my questions and instead focuses on things we don't know. You can go there and judge for yourself. My response: Yes, I'm aware of Phil Carter, but he hasn't dealt with a lot of these points either. An obvious answer on the "why nobody remembers" thing is that Bush was just marking time, and most likely wasn't doing much to attract attention. If I'd become the most famous man in America by now, it's still unlikely that the people in my bar review class 8 years ago would remember me, notwithstanding the fact that there were only about 6 of us.

As for the flight physical, I take Sparkey's point (and others') seriously about the flight physical not being much of a requirement if Bush had no reason to remain qualified to fly. If he was away from his regular doctor - or even just the AF doctor Bush had been to before - it's not surprising that he wasn't really interested in going to a new doctor for a pointless physical. As for Bush's book . . . well, OK, that's not accurate. But it was 30 years ago, and he'd logged a lot of hours in the air. It's not unusual at all if that seemed like a longer time than it was, and I assume that when he proofed the book, he was doing so from memory, rather than cross-referencing it with fragmentary pay stubs. Kleiman also begs the question; elsewhere, he points to a Texas statute that reads as follows:

§ 432.131. Absence Without Leave

A person subject to this chapter shall be punished as a court-martial directs if the person without authority:

(1) fails to go to his appointed place of duty at the time prescribed;

(2) goes from that place; or

(3) absents himself or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty at which he is required to be at the time prescribed.

The problem is, Kleiman never gives any explanation of why he believes Bush was "required to be" in any particular place at any particular "time prescribed." It's also pretty lame that Kleiman attacks my criticisms on his blog without providing a link; that's just bad form. Blogs are supposed to be open to a give-and-take that presumes you have enough confidence in your position to let your readers hear the other side and respond. (Kleiman also insisted that his site's failure to accept trackbacks from my site and some other conservative sites is due to a technical problem he hasn't been able to fix . . . I take him at his word, but a better trackback feature might hold him a bit more accountable for his writings).

*Maybe Drum will address the questions later, but his initial response was to issue a non-denial denial, basically admitting that there's nothing to this story but arguing that Bush should nonetheless be compelled to keep answering questions about it. Um, remind me not to listen to Kevin complain about anything that was done to Clinton . . . on my Question #2, about eyewitness testimony, Drum provides a mixed answer: on the one hand, he's still pushing the statement by Col. Turnipseed even after he's come right out and said that he was misquoted and not in a position to comment. That's just sleazy. On the other hand, Drum points to a new report about some guys who do appear to have a basis for saying they expected to work with Bush in Alabama and never saw him. This is the first thing I've seen that looks like halfway decent evidence, although I'll have to digest this a bit before I pass judgment on their credibility. But bear in mind that these guys are talking about events more than 30 years ago, and they didn't come forward 4 years ago when this story broke. Like I said, we shall see.

*Willis just ignores me. Par for the course.

UPDATE: Oliver Willis, in comments, says I've overstated his interest in this story and that he didn't even notice my trackback.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:33 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (2)
February 12, 2004
POLITICS: FOURTEEN QUESTIONS FOR KEVIN DRUM

I usually respect Kevin Drum, but he's really gone off the rails on the Bush National Guard story (See here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here - and that's just the last three days!). Now, I don't usually like making demands that other bloggers write about things, but Kevin has been monomaniacal on this story, he's using his big soapbox to drive the story, and he obviously has plenty of time on his hands to delve into this stuff (he's even conducting interviews and begging readers to dive into microfilm in Alabama!). So I have a few questions -- honest questions -- I really would like to hear him answer, because as far as I can tell, he has yet to deal with any of these points:

1. As I noted previously here, Sparkey at Sgt. Stryker contends (see the comments section) that "[b]ecause [Bush] had so many days of active duty, he had exceeded the requirements set forth in his enlistment contract" by 1972 and thus was not obligated to do anything, and could not be punished, for example, for missing a physical (Baldilocks has more here). I have no idea if Sparkey is right, but he obviously knows a heck of a lot more about the military than I do, and various sources seem to confirm that Bush had, in fact, well exceeded his required days of service. (See here and here) To me, if he's right about this, this controversy is over: game, set, match. Do you disagree with Sparkey's reading of the relevant requirements, and if not, is there any basis for arguing that Bush failed to meet his obligations to the Texas Air National Guard?

2. The original "Was Bush AWOL?" story rested heavily on Colonel (later Brigadier General) William Turnipseed of the Alabama National Guard's statement to the effect that he would have remembered seeing Bush on the base if he'd been there. It now turns out that Turnipseed says he was misquoted and admits that he himself can't recall if he was on the base that much (See also here). Others in the same unit have the same reaction: they have no reason to believe that they would remember a guy who was just showing up to do a few drills (More on that here, and compare this statement by someone who does remember). Do you still contend that Turnipseed or anyone else with the National Guard at the time provides any eyewtness evidence that Bush failed to attend to his obligations with the Guard?

3. Another key and frequently cited piece of evidence cited by Bush's critics is an evaluation stating that Bush was "not observed." Again, people with a lot more military experience than I have seem to believe that this isn't really all that uncommon, and that "not observed" is basically a military term of art for "I'm not in position to evaluate" rather than "he wasn't here." (See here) Do you have any basis for disputing this characterization?

4. A number of individuals with military experience have described your characterization of the ARF unit as "disciplinary" as being laughably misinformed(see here and here and here). Do you still stand by the notion that there is evidence that Bush was at any times placed in a "disciplinary" unit or on any other "disciplinary" status?

5. Do you dispute that paperwork errors and incomplete records were fairly common in the Guard in the early 1970s? (See here and here and here and here).

6. Come to think of it - do you have any experience whatsoever serving in the military or reviewing military records? That's not a criticism -- I don't either -- but given that most of the military bloggers and commenters who have weighed in on this seem to think that this is an idiotic controversy, while nearly none of the prominent Bush critics (other than people like John Kerry and Wesley Clark who have studiously avoided knowing any of the relevant facts) appears to have any clue how to make sense of military records, military jargon and military service obligations, it's a fair question.

7. Similarly, commentators with military experience have indicated that you have misread the one document you have been citing, stating that "There is ONLY one way to get TWO POINTS PER DAY. That is DRILL ATTENDANCE." (See also here ). Now that this point has been raised, do you have any basis to dispute this?

8. It is not that rare for people in the military to miss a physical (see here and here) or to have records of their physical lost. (See here re: the notion that Bush had received any sort of disciplinary "warning", and here as well). Do you contend that Bush having missed a physical is a serious infraction that justifies characterizing him as "AWOL"?

9. It appears that by 1972, Bush's airplane, the F-102, was being phased out, and for other reasons (including the winding down of the American presence in Vietnam) the Guard was facing a surplus of manpower in general and pilots in particular (See the comment here and here (scroll down)). In other words, the tasks for which Bush had trained and served from 1968 through 1971 were no longer of much use to his country, and keeping his flight physical current in particular was largely superfluous (see here). Do you contend that Bush failed to perform any service to the National Guard in 1972-73 that would have served any useful purpose?

10. It has also been suggested that it was fairly common practice at the time for the Guard to excuse members from certain obligations due to other employment, such as Bush working on a Senate campaign in Alabama. (See also here), as well as to allow a good deal of flexibility in making up missed time. Do you have any reason to question the propriety of this, in the context of how the Guard operated at the time?

11. It has been reported that, at the time Bush enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard, the unit he joined (the 147th Fighter-Interceptor Group at Ellington Air Force Base, Houston) was actually flying combat missions in Vietnam (See here, and also more generally here and here and here). Do you dispute this?

12. Bush put his life at substantial risk by training on and flying the F-102; it was all too common for pilots in the Guard to be killed while flying this aircraft, as well as others. (See here and here on the risks). In fact, pilots in the National Guard get hazard pay for their duty. Do you deny this?

13. In fact, at one point, Bush volunteered for a program that was sending pilots to Vietnam (see here and here and here). Do you dispute this?

14. Isn't it true that the principal source of this story is a nutjob conspiracy theorist from Democrats.com?

Look: Some of the sources I'm citing here may not be authoritative. And yes, Bush didn't volunteer to go to Vietnam as John Kerry did. But the way I see it, the record currently shows that Bush (1) signed up for hazardous duty that was well more than the bare minimum of service to get out of Vietnam, (2) fulfilled every requirement - and then some - that his country asked of him to merit an honorable discharge. The burden of proof here is on those who claim otherwise. I'd love to hear Kevin or Oliver Willis or Mark Kleiman or some of the other critics try to act like responsible adults here and go point-by-point through these questions and show me the evidence why they disagree with these two conclusions.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:00 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (25) | TrackBack (10)
BASEBALL: Brewers Ramblings, Mets Photos

Still not much doing over here on the baseball front (other than continuing work on the Established Win Shares Levels project). In the meantime, Al Bethke has a roundtable on the Brewers (really!), and Kyle Rosenkrans has news and pictures to make you think of springtime for the Mets (Newsday has more on the scientific approach of new Mets pitching coach and former A's pitching guru Rick Peterson).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:08 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 10, 2004
POLITICS/WAR: Bush Meets The Press

Adding my two cents here . . . I watched Bush's interview on CNBC Sunday night at 10. I thought Russert was noticeably more deferential to Bush than to his usual guests, although he asked plenty of tough questions; the difference was more in the followup.

My take on Bush: obviously, this isn't his best format, but we knew that already. On Iraq, at least, I thought he was great. He stayed relentlessly on message (Bush's ability to not say things is a hugely underestimated skill), but once he got rolling he was also fiesty and impassioned on the importance of Iraq to the larger situation. On the connection between Iraq and the larger war on terror, you couldn't help but be impressed by his depth of conviction.

He had definitely prepared extensively for this. After each question, he'd pause and say "sure" or "OK" and then launch into his prepared answer, which made clear that he was there to stake out his positions rather than to engage in genuine back-and-forth conversation. Which is frustrating, but it also shows an un-Dean-like appreciation of the gravity of every word that comes from the President.

He was weaker on the other stuff. He was too defensive on the economy, didn't stress enough how things have improved lately, but then, he doesn't want to seem unconcerned to people who haven't tasted the recovery yet. I also thought when he started talking about how the market started dropping in March 2000 and the recession began a year later, he could have tossed in a dig about how when he proposed his tax cuts in 2001, the Democrats were saying he was overstating the country's economic problems (remember "talking down the economy"?). Maybe by debate time, the opposition research people will have dug up Kerry saying that.

Like Andrew Sullivan, I don't know what planet Bush gets his budget numbers from. But then, I don't put much stock in anybody's budget numbers.

On the AWOL issue, Bust could have said more but he doesn't want to dignify the issue; what the Democrats have been stupid about is giving him an opening to rip them for lumping in Guard service with desertion or fleeing to Canada.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:38 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Bonus

The SciFi Channel reports on bonus footage that will be included in the DVD version of Return of the King:

Among the excised scenes: a humorous bit between Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) having a drinking competition. "I really quite liked [it]," Jackson said. "But we felt [it was too comedic] at a point when we wanted to set up the tension of the story. And there's a sequence of Sam [Sean Astin] and Frodo [Elijah Wood] disguised as orcs, where they end up in the orc army for a while."

Personally, I'll be very disappointed if even the DVD version doesn't have the scene with the Mouth of Sauron. I think I had read somewhere that the parley with Saruman was also filmed, but maybe not; that would make a good scene.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:26 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: Dishonor

From the NY Daily News:

A new Time/CNN poll . . . found that 60% of voters deem Kerry did proper service in Vietnam, but only 39% deem Bush did.

So . . . 40% of survey respondents think that Kerry piloting his boat through firefights isn't enough? What would satisfy these people? Do the other 40% think he (1) should have died there, or (2) should have refused to serve?

On the other hand, Charles Johnson points out that this is dishonorable:

Al Gore . . . was a featured speaker at the Arab League’s lunatic “think tank” known as the Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-up . . . what should we call lending the prestige of the US Vice Presidency to a blatantly insane anti-America, antisemitic Arab hate group in the Persian Gulf—after September 11? And taking their money—no doubt quite a lot of it?

Johnson also links to an example of the kind of stuff the Zayed Centre has featured from other speakers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:18 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Cracking Down

Another campus controversy at my alma mater; the Boston Herald reports that Holy Cross has imposed a 5-year ban on the school's rugby team, due to hazing rituals involving heavy drinking. I can remember my freshman year, when one of my roommates was on the rugby team and would be awakened at 4 or 5 am to go drink.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:09 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
February 9, 2004
BASEBALL: AL East Established Win Shares Level Report

Time to continue my division-by-division look at team rosters by Established Win Shares Levels. EWSLs are explained in my post raking the top 25 players in baseball by EWSL, and the team-by-team method is explained in the post on the AL West. One small change in the methodology: I downgraded rookie starting pitchers from 7 Win Shares to 5, given that rookie pitchers often struggle and given how many pitchers with a track record have less than 7 EWSL. As I and others have noted before, EWSL isn't a perfect tool for evaluating team rosters, and I'll note some of the flaws in the system as I go on; just bear in mind that what it measures is how much established major league talent is on each roster. EWSL can't and doesn't predict future progress; it just gives a sober assessment of what each player has proven in the last three seasons. A quick reminder on notations, for those of you who read the prior posts: players marked # are evaluated on their last 2 seasons rather than last 3; players marked * are evaluated only on 2003; and players marked + are rookies assigned an arbitrary WS total. On to the AL East . . .

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:55 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (2)
February 8, 2004
BASEBALL: Talking Baseball With Robin Roberts

Joe Posnanski of the KC Star had an interview a few weeks back with Robin Roberts, baseball's best pitcher in the early 1950s and, relative to the standards of his time, one of the two or three greatest workhorses ever to take the mound in his prime. I've been reading Roberts' autobiography, My Life in Baseball (I read books a few bites at a time, and I'm generally in the middle of several at any given time); Roberts has some interesting stories (nearly everything he tells Posnanski here is almost verbatim of how he relates the same stories in the book). Roberts is 77 now, but apparently still sharp as a tack. I had the good fortune of meeting him at an autograph event a year ago; he looks kind of like Don Rumsfeld these days, a square-jawed, broad-shouldered man in his 70s.

One amazing detail that Posnanski catches that also struck me in reading Roberts' book: Roberts once threw 28 consecutive complete games. Descriptions of Roberts' tools as a pitcher often make him sound like Mariano Rivera: a guy who was able to get away with throwing nearly all fastballs due to a combination of pinpoint control, outstanding velocity and remarkably nasty movement on his heater. Roberts' vulnerability to the gopher ball made him less effective than Rivera, but imagine Mariano Rivera throwing 340 innings a year, and you've got a heck of a pitcher. (Oddly, Roberts reports that the consistent velocity and movement just came to him one day in 1947 while pitching in a summer college league; his mechanics had just clicked).

That workload -- or perhaps just an idiot manager -- caught up with him near the end of the 1955 season, though. Roberts notes in the book that he threw a complete game victory on August 19 of that year (his 20th win for the sixth straight season), and his manager, Mayo Smith, called him in the next night to relieve. He retired one batter to end the game without incident, but his arm wouldn't straighten out after his next start, and he was never the same pitcher, going 2-5 the rest of the year and seeing his ERA balloon to 4.45 the following year. Smith -- who would later lose ace Denny McLain, a similar pitcher, to arm trouble in Detroit -- had been trying to get the Phillies to .500; they finished the season 77-77, 21.5 games out of first place.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:40 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 7, 2004
HISTORY: And What About A Plaque For KITT?

Via Daniel Drezner, I swear I'm not making this up:

Baywatch star David Hasselhoff is griping that his role in reuniting East and West Germany has been overlooked....

Barely a month after the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, the city that had been divided by politics for more than 40 years was united in song.

And leading the chorus of several hundred thousand voices was a man hitherto known to the rest of the world for driving a talking car....

Speaking to Germany's TV Spielfilm magazine, the 51-year-old carped about how his pivotal role in harmonising relations between the two sides of the divide had been overlooked.

"I find it a bit sad that there is no photo of me hanging on the walls in the Berlin Museum at Checkpoint Charlie," he told the magazine.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:15 PM | History | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Watching the Watchers

Aaron Schatz' report that the Super Bowl halftime show was "the most-searched event in the history of the Internet" gets picked up by CNN.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:04 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 6, 2004
WAR: It's Not All Good

Josh Chafetz reminds us that the troubles Gerhard Schroeder is having in Germany may actually be bad news, to the extent that his political problems have less to do with his antiwar stance and more to do with his support for tax cuts, reform of Germany's bloated welfare state and other needed reforms, and given that his replacement could be even worse.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:56 PM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: You Say He's Just A Friend

By the way, I gotta say, it warmed my heart to hear Biz Markie in one of the Super Bowl ads. I gotta figure ol' Biz could use the royalty money.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:53 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: On Bringing It On

Ed from Late Final, on the difference between Bush and Kerry on the war:

Kerry: When he says, "Bring it on," he refers to President Bush, the RNC and Karl Rove.

Bush: When he said, "Bring it on," he referred to terrorists seeking to disrupt the transformation of Iraq to a free, democratic state.

(Link via Note-It Posts). Of course, when Bush said, "Bring it on," what was Kerry's response?

"The President’s comment yesterday regarding the continued attacks on American troops in Iraq was unwise, unworthy of the office and his role as commander in chief, and unhelpful to American soldiers under fire. The deteriorating situation in Iraq requires less swagger and more thoughtfulness and statesmanship," Kerry said in a statement.

Oh.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:51 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Clark Minor

Looks like the loose cannon doesn't fall too far from the tree.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:50 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Hail To The Chief

President Bush, at yesterday's National Prayer Breakfast, specifically cited the good work of Chief Wiggles in establishing Operation Give:

A guardsman from Utah named Paul Holton has described seeing an Iraqi girl crying and decided then and there to help that child and others like her. By enlisting aid through the Internet, Chief Warrant Officer Holton had arranged the shipment of more than 1,600 aid packages from overseas. Here's how this man defines his own mission: "It is part of our heritage that the benefits of being free, enjoyed by all Americans, were set up by God, intended for all people. Bondage is not of God, and it is not right that any man should be in bondage at any time, in any way."

Think about this, from the perspective of the blogosphere's development and maturation: the President of the United States has cited something that started on a blog. We've had news events before where blogs were influential, like the fall of Trent Lott and the rise of Howard Dean. But the Lott story is typical of such events: it was an ordinary political event covered by traditional media. All the blogs did was fan the flames. Here, though, it was a comment on the Chief's blog that catalyzed the actions of other bloggers and got the ball rolling, and much of the organizational work of Operation Give was done over the internet. A lot of children have been helped, and a little corner of history has been made.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:50 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: What Intelligence?

Stuart Buck points us to a quote from GOP Senator Charles Grassley that provides a rather different perspective than George Tenet's:

“I think it’s legitimate for me to question all of our intelligence information because that I never learned anything from those briefings that I hadn’t learned in the newspapers. If they don’t know anything more than they’re telling us, what’s the use of having an intelligence agency, and why bother to brief us?”
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:41 AM | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
SCIENCE: For The Birds

This MSNBC report speculates that the 1918 influenza epidemic was caused by a strain of flu similar to the bird-borne virus currently erupting in Asia:

So far this year only 16 people have been killed, but there is some evidence it may have begun spreading from person to person. If that happens, experts fear the virus has the potential to be as bad as the 1918 epidemic.

Given that the 1918 epidemic killed more people than World War I, that's not a comforting thought.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:36 AM | Science | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
February 5, 2004
POLITICS: The AWOL Smear Keeps Crumbling

Tom Maguire notes a significant fact about the whole "Bush AWOL" nonsense. If you recall, there are three principal pieces of evidence relied on to push this story:

1. Bush's National Guard commander in Alabama, William Turnipseed, says he would have remembered seeing Bush if he'd been there, but doesn't.

2. Bush missed a physical.

3. Bush hasn't produced Guard records showing he wasn't AWOL.

The third, of course, isn't evidence so much as an absence of evidence, and it's unsurprising that the Guard's paperwork from that period isn't in great order. Now Maguire notes that the first point has been badly undermined by the Washington Post:

Reached in Montgomery yesterday, Turnipseed stood by his contention that Bush never reported to him. But Turnipseed added that he could not recall if he, himself, was on the base much at that time.

In other words, if Bush was doing what he said he did - just showing up for meetings to play out the last two years of his commitment after exceeding his contractual commitment of hours of service in his first four years of service - it's not surprising in the least that he never interacted with Turnipseed, who isn't so sure he was around much himself. Bogus.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:34 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Charting The Battleground States

Let's have some fun with numbers . . . as primary season winds down and we look ahead to the likely Bush-Kerry matchup, it's important to bear in mind a lesson that the 2000 election drove home: presidential elections are won and lost in the Electoral College. (Which is, among other things, why national polls are of limited usefulness; it's the individual states that matter). So I thought I'd look at which states are likely to be "in play."

There are two variables: how many electoral votes a state has to offer, and how likely it is that the state could go to either candidate. The first is a fixed number; we know it in advance. (Daily Kos, which has some of the best horse-race coverage around, has a great calculator that lets you compute the electoral numbers by coloring various states red and blue). For the second, a good starting point is the 2000 election results.

I decided to take a whack at combining the two. I started by dividing a state's electoral votes by the percentage point difference between Bush and Gore, but that gave too much weight to the larger states, so I settled on dividing the electoral votes by the percentage point difference squared. (For ease of comprehension, I multiplied the percentages by 10 - thus, a 12-point difference was rendered as 1.2 before squaring it, a six-point difference as .6). This isn't a scientific sample, just a way of quantifying what we already intuitively know. Here's my ranking of the most-hotly-contested states (Under "Margin," I listed a negative margin for states won by Gore):

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:55 AM | Politics 2004 • | Poll Analysis | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
February 4, 2004
BASEBALL: Trivia Question of the Day

Here's a fun trivia quiz for you: there have been ten 150-RBI seasons (by nine different players) since World War II. Name them.

THE ANSWERS HERE:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:18 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Why War In Iraq?

I made this comment over at Roger Simon's site, but it bears repeating here because this issue keeps coming up. In the course of addressing a broader point, Simon said

"there were always two major arguments for War in Iraq-the moral one (Saddam was a mass murdering dictator) and the "practical" one (the "imminent"... or not) WMD threat."

This is a common formulation, but it's a false choice, and one that liberals enamored of the humanitarian argument are too quick to point to. There were, in fact, several other arguments. To name five: (1) Strategic: replacing tyranny with democracy in Iraq puts pressure on other Arab & Muslim states to reform. (2) Tactical: taking out Saddam removes a country where we couldn't track the flow of terrorists and weapons, thus increasing our ability to use our law enforcement and intelligence apparatuses, and also puts our troops on the borders of other notorious offenders. (3) Making an Example: Knocking off our most prominent enemy, a guy whose media celebrated Sept. 11, sent a powerful message that we are dead serious about not taking this crap anymore. (4) Legal: Saddam violated UN resolutions that were the conditions of ceasefire. (5) Combatting terror: the strongest argument of all, if controversial on the evidence, looked at Saddam's open support for Palestinian terror, his connections to Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas, and the evidence linking him to Al Qaeda and other groups. Don't let the WMD thing distract you from the fact that supporting terrorism is bad whether you have WMD or not.

For just a sampling of commentary on this point, see my pre-war comments here and here and see Steven den Beste, Armed Liberal, Jonah Goldberg, Mark Steyn, Qando, and NZ Bear's pre-war roundup.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:09 AM | War 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
February 3, 2004
BASEBALL: On The Lamb

The Newberg Report, always a great source on the Texas Rangers, has some thoughts on Mike Lamb's departure from Arlington. Personally, I still think Lamb has a good year or two with the bat in him, but his horrendous fielding record (.914 career fielding percentage at 3B) will make it difficult to find work, and it wouldn't be the first time a guy who struggled in the field let it affect his hitting as well.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:04 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: The Boob Tube

I missed the now-notorious peep show at halftime at the Super Bowl; I only caught a little of halftime before changing the channel in disgust and disinterest. My wife's reaction to a glimpse of the show even before Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction": "don't they know that children watch the Super Bowl"?

The Corner had the two best reactions. From Jonah Goldberg:

LOOK AT IT THIS WAY.... Your daughter comes home crying, driven home by a boy you never liked in the first place. Before you can ask what happened she runs up to her room. You ask the boy what happened. He says, "Mr. Goldberg it's not my fault. She had a wardrobe malfunction!"

From John Miller:

"Dad, why are they doing that?" asked my son, age 6, just before his bedtime. What was I to say? "Some people call it dancing," was my lame reply. I should have told him that maybe all the dancers forgot to go potty before they went on stage.

Also, it occurred to me afterwards that Justin Timberlake has done things like this before.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:58 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Preferences

Howard Bashman linked to this, and Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan have picked up on it by now, but I'll still add that you should check out Stuart Taylor's National Journal column arguing that, to Ted Kennedy's proposal for forcing colleges to disclose the kind of alumni preferences that get nitwits like Ted Kennedy into Harvard (and George W. into Yale, for that matter), we should add required disclosures for all other kinds of non-academic preferences in admission, racial and otherwise. Here's his proposed questionnaire:

Please provide data showing:

1. Any preferences in admissions or financial aid based on family relationships with alumni, alumnae, or donors; status as a recruited athlete; state or region of residence; economic status; or membership in any racial group, disaggregated into specific groups.

2. For each preferred category, and for each racial group of applicants, (including unpreferred racial groups): all written and unwritten policies as to the weight given to the preferred characteristic; the median high school grade point average and SAT (or ACT) score; and the percentage admitted.

3. For each preferred category and each racial group of admitted applicants: the percentage receiving financial aid, median amount received, and median family income, to the extent available; the numbers of Caucasians, Asians, Hispanics, African-Americans, and Native Americans; the median high school GPA and median SAT (or ACT) score; the median college GPA of enrolled students; and the percentage who graduate within six years.

This goes back to why I was skeptical of the Racial Privacy Initiative, which was soundly defeated in the California special election. Sunshine is a good thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:48 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
HISTORY: Silent Cal

Liberal writer Jack Beatty had an interesting article in The Atlantic online about Calvin Coolidge, noting that Coolidge was never really the same after his son died from a freak infection in the summer of 1924. I'm not sure I buy all of Beatty's animosity towards Coolidge's record, but it's an argument worth reading.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:36 AM | History | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Sabotaging Bush?

Mac Thomason called this one first, and now The Wall Street Journal's John Fund is speculating about deposed Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore making a third-party challenge to President Bush from the right. (Link via Howard Bashman). I'm skeptical that that would happen, or that Moore would find sources of financing for such a run; Bush has been pretty strong on social issues.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:31 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
POLITICS: Campaign Links 2/3/04

*Edwards finally goes on the attack, and says he would've voted against NAFTA. Which puts him way out there with Gephardt, Perot, Buchanan and Bob "the Goalie" Kerrey in rejecting Bill Clinton's number one accomplishment as president.

*Salon carries an article (sorry, subscription only) on why Wesley Clark doesn't blink. The author of the article, Anna Holmes, actually contacted me and a number of other bloggers looking for quotes about why we thought Clark was so creepy, although there's only a few quotes (none from yours truly) in the final article.

*From Saturday, David Brooks nails the bizarre nature of the Kerry phenomenon of voters trying to elect a candidate based on his electability.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:27 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 2, 2004
POLITICS: George W. Bush: Reform Conservative or Neoliberal?

One of the burning questions that has surrounded George W. Bush since he arrived on the national scene has been, how conservative is he, really? Four years ago, I thought I had an answer. Today, I'm not so sure.

To make sense of Bush's proper place on the Right, it's necessary to look at two significant political movements that have come to the fore in the past 15 years or so. Traditionally, the conservative movement has been driven by small-government conservatism, the idea that government is too big and intrusive and spends and regulates too much. Ever since the Reagan years, the small-government conservatives have been trapped in a sort of limbo: they've won the battle of ideas, but lost the political battle, most spectacularly with the failure of Newt Gingrich's 1994 revolution to eliminate any significant government programs.

Partially in response to this, we've seen the growth of what (at the risk of adding another sub-category) I've long liked to think of as Reform Conservatism. The central insight of Reform Conservatives has been that the most important problem with government programs is not that that they involve the government, but that they take choices away from individuals. The classic Reform Conservative solution is including privately controlled accounts within the Social Security system; rather than stage a losing battle over trying to scale back or get rid of the program, Reform Conservatives have focused on introducing within it an element of private choice to make the operation of Social Security more like a non-governmental program. The other signature issue of Reform Conservatives, school choice, operates the same way: it's still redistributing taxpayer money, but the decisionmaking authority over the use of that money is shifted to parents and away from school system bureaucrats.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:59 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
February 1, 2004
FOOTBALL/POP CULTURE: Return of the Sports Guy

I hope you haven't missed out on this week's rare treat: Bill Simmons is back and blogging twice a day. Bill's Boston Sports Guy site, of course, was a hit blog before most people knew what a blog was -- for the last few years of the 1990s, he was a mostly one-man show offering daily links and sidesplittingly funny commentary on sports and pop culture. (As many of you know, I got my own start on the Net on Bill's site from May 2000 to its demise a year later). Anyway, he's been reduced to two columns a week lately while working for the Jimmy Kimmel show, but this week he's been in Houston for the Super Bowl and back in top form. Click here for yesterday's entry and links to the rest of the week.

I confess to not having followed football that much this season, but Bill's Thursday column completely sold me on why the Patriots should be heavy favorites:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:40 AM | Football • | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL: The Toll Of The Pounding

The NY Daily News has a sad look at the decrepit-before-his time Earl Campbell, who was absolutely the most unstoppable force I've ever seen on a football field - harder to contain in his prime even than Jerry Rice or Lawrence Taylor. The online edition lacks the photo (check here for that). Take a look at the white-bearded Campbell and ask yourself if you can believe this man is two years younger than John Edwards.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:38 AM | Football | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Neocon Abuse

Thursday's NY Times carried a review of Debra Dickerson's book "The End of Blackness," about race in America. What caught my eye was this bit of idiocy:

Ms. Dickerson has been accused of employing reductive neoconservative logic and of pandering to white readers, telling them what they want to hear.

This, of course, is a classic misreading of the term "neoconservative," by someone who probably learned the term in the past year and thinks it means "anything that is conservative that I do not like." Since when is there even a standard "neocon" position on race (at least, one that is distinct from conservatism as a whole), much less one that should be seen by the Left as particularly odious?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:35 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)