Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 18, 2004
BLOG: Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition!

Bonus link: I answer Ricky West's Ten Questions over at North Georgia Dogma.

UPDATE (2005): Here's the link today. And here's the full text of the Q&A:

1. If you were the President of the United States and could issue one (and only one) executive order, what would it be?

Most of the things I’d like to do would take an act of Congress or a constitutional amendment . . . if I could pull it off without running afoul of too many collective bargaining agreements and the like, I’d require every federal employee having even the remotest connection to foreign policy or national/homeland security to agree, as a condition of further employment, never (or at least, not for some 20-25 years after leaving federal employment) to accept employment or any other thing of value from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or any member of the Saudi royal family or any other entity substantially funded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or any member of the Saudi royal family.

2. Which was worse in your mind: Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz or Larry Anderson for Jeff Bagwell?

No contest: Andersen for Bagwell. (1) The Tigers were arguably the best team in baseball in 1987 with an aging roster, and had reason to bet the ranch on winning it all. The Red Sox in 1990 were a fairly weak division winner looking down the barrel of the Bash Brothers juggernaut, but had Clemens in his prime, a bunch of young hitters (Burks, Greenwell, Reed) and what looked like more on the way (e.g., Plantier). They shouldn’t have mortgaged the future. (2) Bagwell’s been better; Smoltz is a fine pitcher, but a marginal Hall of Fame candidate at best, while Bagwell’s been more durable, a regular MVP candidate and is an easy ride to Cooperstown. (3) Andersen was a middle reliever; while he and Alexander both pitched as brilliantly as you could hope in the stretch run of tight races against the Blue Jays, Alexander posting a 1.53 ERA and the Tigers winning all 11 of his starts was absolutely decisive. (4) Bagwell was a pretty clear can’t-miss prospect, while I believe Smoltz was a little further away at that point, and pitching prospects are more of a crapshoot anyhow. (5) Andersen was a free agent, whereas Alexander had another year on his contract. The only factors working the other way are that Andersen had pitched spectacularly for a year and a half before the deal, while Alexander’s Pedro act was mostly unexpected, and that Alexander lived up to his long history as a lousy postseason pitcher.

3. Word association. First word or phrase that comes to mind:

Colin Powell "according to a senior administration official . . . "
Tom Glavine Finished
Condi Rice Brilliant
Bill Clinton Slippery
Barry Bonds Jerk

4. Drug legalization: none at all, only the soft stuff or across the board?

I definitely consider myself open to persuasion on legalizing marijuana, but (while I haven’t read extensively on the subject), the legalization advocates haven’t sold me at this point. I do tend to think that pot should generally be handled by the state and local rather than federal governments, though; it’s just hysteria to look at pot as a national issue, and there can be reasonable differences of opinion on how seriously to penalize potheads and what resources to devote to the task. (Then again, I do wish you could go to concerts without gagging on the smell of the stuff). Harder drugs, I see no reason why we should legalize them, and I regard the National Review and the libertarian movement as highly eccentric in their positions on the issue.

5. What actor or actress in Hollywood that has received top billing on at least one movie in the last three years wouldn't be your choice to serve as the lead in a church Christmas play?

Wow, I can’t think of too many Hollywood types who could set foot in a church with a straight face. The only really prominent Catholic I can think of – other than people who do nothing but rip the Church – is Mel Gibson, and Gibson wouldn’t come to my church because we have Mass in English. . . . as to who’s the worst actor, I haven’t seen enough recent movies to say, but I’d gnaw my right arm off before I’d sit through a movie with Tom Green in it.

6. (a) What is your ideal all-world baseball team that consists of current MLB players (100 games at a defensive position for eligibility & for pitchers give a LH and RH starter plus one reliever)? My 2004 team? I’ll stick pretty closely to my Win Shares analysis.

C-Jorge Posada (Piazza and Pudge are a bit long in the tooth these days).
1B-Todd Helton
2B-Soriano, I suppose; I’m not a big believer in Soriano or Boone or Kent, at this stage, and while I like Vidro, his health is a concern. It could easily be Marcus Giles if he consolidates his gains from 2003 and flashes some of his brother’s patience at the plate.
SS-A-Rod. Yet he can’t get the job on his own team.
3B-Scott Rolen, narrowly over Chavez. But Chavez is the more likely of the two to explode with a big year, as are Glaus and Blaylock.
RF-Albert Pujols (hey, I moved A-Rod, I can move Pujols too; Bob Abreu’s the best real right fielder)
CF-Carlos Beltran’s the best pure CF, although Lance Berkman and Brian Giles both could play center in a pinch (not well). Beltran should have a big salary drive, although he does make me nervous. There’s always the possible Andruw Jones breakout, too.
LF- Barry %!$% Bonds
DH-Either Frank Thomas, Tim Salmon or Aubrey Huff. I’d probably take Thomas.
RHP-Mark Prior
LHP-still Randy Johnson
Reliever-Eric Gagne
(b) What’s your all-time baseball team, with players having played at least 1,000 games at a position before they’re eligible (for pitchers, give a LH and RH starter plus one reliever)? I guess we’re talking career value here, rather than peak value.

C-Major leagues only, as great as Johnny Bench was and as great a hitter as Mike Piazza has been, if I had to build an actual team, I’d go with Yogi Berra. Josh Gibson was very likely the best ever, though.
1B-Lou Gehrig, easy.
2B-Sorry Bill James, I’d still take Rogers Hornsby over Joe Morgan or Eddie Collins, although Collins did have an astonishingly long, consistent and productive career.
SS-Honus Wagner, hands down. A-Rod should wind up #2 on this list if he can get the SS job back.
3B-One at bat? George Brett. But I’d take Mike Schmidt overall.
RF-Da Babe.
CF-Ty Cobb. The difference between Cobb, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Tris Speaker is pretty slim, especially when you give Willie his two years in the Army back (Cobb only lost about a month to military service in WWI), but Cobb was just such a dominating offensive force. Bill James also thinks highly of Oscar Charleston, but I must plead ignorance on how good he really was.
LF-I’m just not ready to put Bonds ahead of Ted Williams. I have to wait until Bonds is retired to face that one again, but he may be there by now, even adjusting for Williams’ loss of five prime seasons to two wars. (I actually met Williams once, which is a story for another day on my own blog). Musial’s close, too.
DH - Of actual DHs, it’s between Hal McRae, Paul Molitor, Edgar Martinez and Harold Baines; Edgar probably has been the best if you limit him to his years as a DH. Otherwise, I’d cheat and make Williams the DH.
LH-Lefty Grove
RH-Walter Johnson (again, I don’t have a basis to compare him to Satchel Paige).
Reliever-Goose Gossage

7. To the delight of millions, Maureen Dowd is dropped from the NYT and her space will be filled by two people (they take turns writing columns). One is a lefty pundit while the other is a righty and you have the final decision on whom to consider. Taking into account that these are legitimate choices (a blogger with 25 visitors per day doesn’t qualify—-we’re talking someone of at least some prominence), who would be your ideal choices to fill the opening and why?

On the right, I’d take Mark Steyn, who’s funny, pointed, urbane, consistent and I’d guarantee that 99% of the Times’ current readers have never heard of him. Krauthammer may be the best righty pundit out there, but he’s not as entertaining and he’s already got some pretty big perches at WaPo and the Daily News. Goldberg and Lileks are great, but would be less suited to the NYT’s format. On the left, I’d go with Matt Yglesias, followed by Kevin Drum, both of whom have ‘taken the Boeing’ recently. Unlike nearly all your liberal pundits outside the New Republic, those guys actually do try to grapple with what conservatives have to offer (even though I do give Drum a lot of grief for how much partisan nonsense he’s peddled in recent months, esp. on the AWOL business). Runner-up: Howard Dean, who’d actually make a better pundit than candidate (plus, having an editor might be good for him, assuming that anyone actually edits NYT op-ed pieces).

8. Is there anything the Republican party can do in your opinion to make inroads into acquiring a marginal percentage of the black vote (assuming that this would be a long-term strategy)? Double-shot: What can the Democratic party do to make inroads into the married Christian vote?

I despair of ever reaching African-American voters. About the only thing that would make a temporary dent is a black candidate at the top of the ticket (VP won’t help; it has to be someone who visibly answers to nobody). Rice is the only one on the horizon, although frankly that looks unlikely for 2008; while she’s a foreign policy visionary, she’s had a checkered record as an administrator, she’s got no experience with domestic policy or electoral politics, and she’s reportedly burned out on Washington at the moment (it’s emotionally very tough being single at her level of government). I see her either as VP material or maybe running for Senate back home in California, although she’s still young in politician years. As for the Dems, their best hope is that the number of married, non-African-American Christians who haven’t reached retirement age continues to decline relative to the population as a whole. But getting genuinely serious about national security couldn’t hurt.

9. On the hot seat: You are writing legislation that will be adopted by all 50 states & is designed to handle the entire ‘gay marriage’ imbroglio. In a nutshell, what would it be? (you’re welcome for the question. :>)

Oh yeah, thanks. You answer that . . . as you know, I’ve argued on my blog for letting each state’s legislature (i.e., not the courts) decide for itself, although I fear it will require a constitutional amendment to keep the courts from mooting that. On the merits, I’d be in favor of a civil union statute (I came down on that side ten years ago when I first looked at the issue and haven’t changed my mind in either direction since then), but I’ll leave to someone more foolhardy than me the job of deciding exactly which of the 1,000+ legal benefits and privileges of marriage should or shouldn’t be extended to a union of consenting adults who aren’t in a relationship with an ancient and inherent relationship to the bearing, begetting and rearing of the next generation.

10. You are appointed commissioner of MLB. What are four decrees/orders that you’d immediately implement as a means of turning around the fan base (assuming that the players union would agree to all)?

I’ll stick with the low-hanging fruit here. First one, I’d pick the topic of my first-ever online column almost four years ago and require that all relief pitchers face at least three batters, rather than the current one (unless they’re injured or pinch hit for). From a fan’s perspective, the one-out reliever offers no benefit and a lot of extra delay, and such a move would actually be in harmony with the game’s traditions. Second one is another I’ve written up already: create a matching fund to help teams re-sign their own free agents;. Third, earlier start times for postseason games, especially on the weekends. Think of the children! (There oughta be a law against playing a professional football game during a postseason baseball game if it causes the baseball game to get moved to the night time). And fourth, I’d sell the Expos ASAP and let them move to a new city, maybe even in Mexico.

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