"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
April 30, 2004
BLOG: All The Cool Kids Are Doing It
This one's from too many sources to mention, but seen most recently on Tim Blair's site:
1. Grab the nearest book. 2. Open the book to page 23. 3. Find the fifth sentence. 4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
Well, the nearest book is a book of baseball stats, but the closest other thing at hand is, of course, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, the revised first edition in paperback (I'm so predictable, but that's how my desk in the basement is set up), the chapter on the 1880s. The sentence:
With the coming of professionalism - and professional umpires - this [respect for umpires] quickly went out the window.
WAR/POLITICS: Political Natural Selection
There's been a lot of piling on UMass grad student Rene Gonzalez over his breathtakingly asinine op-ed essentially spitting on Pat Tillman's grave (even drawing co-blogger Kiner's Korner out of his long hibernation). Ricky West has the goods on Gonzalez' other public fulmintions, including (predictably enough) anti-Semitism and racial slurs aimed at African-American Republicans, and one of his commenters notes that Gonzalez is also a signer of one of those appallingly discriminatory "divest from Israel" petitions.
Gonzalez' attitudes are despicable, of course, although he's as much to be pitied for his ignorance as hated; the guy is obviously so isolated and so lacking in social skills that he had no clue how offensive the vast majority of sentient adults would find his remarks. Hopefully, UMass has the sense not to have this idiot teaching anything to undergrads; he has, or should have, killed any chance he ever had of teaching anywhere, since nobody wants to court lawsuits by hiring an instructor so completely lacking in basic sensitivity.
Rene is now a graduate student. He's active in politics, he's interested in all the big issues, he's maybe thinking about a political career, and he's just written something he'll deeply regret . . . Rene will get what's coming to him. Picture him a couple of decades from now, struggling to explain his youthful extremism to party officials or journalists or voters.
As you will recall, this is the same reason why I support keeping flag-burning legal: anything that allows guys like this to imprint the scarlet letter of anti-Americanism on themselves before they get into politics is A Good Thing.
(On a related note . . . when I worked on Jim Rappaport's 1990 Senate campaign against John Kerry back in my College Republican days, there were rumors among the low-level volunteers that somebody had video of Kerry from the early 70s burning a flag. Knowing what I know now, it's obvious that Kerry was never as far gone as all that - but if he had been, it would have been political death for him even in Massachusetts).
BASEBALL: We Get Letters
A reader, surveying worst-case scenarios, writes to ask:
Do you know what the best record for a team in April was, without then making the postseason? I am asking as a Red Sox fan, and looking at possibly finishing April at .727
Well, I don't have a definite answer, but I've got a pretty good guess. The 1987 Brewers went 18-3 in April, including the famous 13-0 getaway highlighted by Juan Nieves' no-hitter (they were 18-2 when Paul Molitor pulled his hamstring and missed a month), and stood at 20-3 on the morning of May 3, the day they started their 12-game losing streak. The Brew Crew finished third, albeit only 7 games back.
BASEBALL: More Olney Baloney
Buster Olney is back with another ode to "productive outs," yet again taking a simple notion - that there can be a benefit at times to sacrificing an out to improve your chances of scoring one run - and blowing it out of proportion as if it's the main reason for certain teams' successes and failures. Bizarrely, Olney's Exhibit A this time in support of his "Smallball vs. Moneyball" rant (ESPN's title, not mine) is a Yankees-Red Sox game last week in which the Red Sox won 2-0, with the only runs scoring on this sequence in the Boston fourth:
-Top of the 4th inning -M Bellhorn walked. -D Ortiz struck out looking. -M Ramirez homered to left, M Bellhorn scored. -K Millar lined out to shortstop. -J Varitek flied out to center.
Yup, the game turned on a walk (by Mark Bellhorn, the main target of Olney's scorn) and a home run, with the only intervening out being the least productive kind, with David Ortiz' strikeout being rendered moot by Manny's home run. Productive outs, indeed. See here for more on Olney's misguided attempt to pass off his pet theory as if it were a meaningful form of statistical analysis, notably the fact that his theory completely ignores the fact that teams that move a lot of baserunners are better than teams that don't because teams that have a lot of baserunners in the first place are better than teams that don't.
UPDATE: Well, this one certainly brought out the long knives. Check out Derek Zumsteg, David Pinto, and the Primates on Olney's folly. By the way, I also enjoyed how Olney quoted Paul O'Neill saying, in essence, how the Yankees were better when they had Paul O'Neill.
FOOTBALL: The Arizona Rangers?
One more thought on the Pat Tillman story: the Arizona Cardinals, Tillman's former team, have announced plans to name a plaza outside their new stadium in his honor, which is a nice gesture. Some have gone further, suggesting that the whole place be named after him. Of course, the Cardinals are a for-profit business, and the rights to name a stadium is one of their major assets, so it's unsurprising that this idea will go nowhere.
But here's an idea that makes a lot more sense: rename the team. And not in honor only of Tillman, who after all went out of his way to avoid an excess of publicity about his decision. Call them the Arizona Rangers, in honor of Tillman's unit in the Army and their sacrifices over many generations, most famously in scaling the cliffs at Normandy on D-Day but in many other deadly engagements.
This makes sense, of course, in part because the Cards could use a name change anyway; their current name is too tied both to the Midwestern (Chicago/St. Louis) roots they left behind and to one of the most abysmal franchise histories in all of sport. Why not give the franchise an honorable excuse for a fresh start?
WAR: Walking Out
I've long thought the September 11 Commission was, at best, pointless, since there had already been numerous official and unofficial inquiries into September 11, leading to overhauls of airport security, the Homeland Security Department, the Patriot Act, the war in Afghanistan and the new preemption posture leading to the war in Iraq, etc. Much of the really important stuff was public record anyway. The relevant question 2 1/2 years later is how those efforts are working, and not why policies that are no longer in place failed.
Anyway, for months and months now we've been hearing about the necessity of having the president testify, and the usual suspects have been up in arms about how it's beyond the pale for Bush and Cheney to testify together rather than have the president testify alone. (Never mind that Bush is, at the end of all this, the primary person with responsibility for national security to whom the commission must report anyway). So, how important was the president's testimony? Two Democrats on the panel didn't even bother to stay for the whole thing due to minor speaking engagements. And how appalling was it that Bush was permitted to testify with his #2 man at his side? Well, Henry Hanks reminds us of a fact the critics have consistently omitted: that Bill Clinton was allowed to show up to testify before the commission with his lawyer/damage control expert Bruce Lindsey and his National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger, in tow.
So much for that storyline.
WAR: I've Been Looking Too Long At These Pictures of You
At first glance, the Reuters report noted by The Command Post about how many North Koreans died in last week's train explosion because they ran back into their houses to save portraits of Kim Jong-il and his father - portraits the oppressed North Korean people are required to maintain in their homes - sounds like an urban legend spread by opponents of the regime to demonstrate its inhumanity and the level of regimented terror ordinary North Koreans live in on a daily basis, to the extent that they would run into a burning building rather than face what their government would do to them if for even the most understandable of reasons they didn't have their portraits of the Dear Leader.
But what's far creepier is the fact that these reports were actually coming from the North Korean regime itself. Why on earth would the regime publicize this? The only answer, of course - other than the regime's complete and total isolation from and indifference to the opinions of anyone outside the police state's borders - must be the intimidating effect the story would have on an already terrified North Korean population, by emphasizing the fact that the regime is actually proud of the fact that it values a picture of Kim more than it values the lives of its subjects.
April 29, 2004
WAR/FOOTBALL: Pat Tillman, R.I.P.
As with The Crank, there is little I can add, or say more eloquently, about Pat Tillman that has not been said already. Suffice it to say, he was an extraordinarily example in a world that grows increasingly concerned with celebrity status. I'm glad our country still produces people like him, and I hope his family finds comfort in the tremendous example he provides for us.
There are, of course, a few critics of even Tillman. Here's one as an example. But this clearly is a ridiculous attack from an immature person trying to create a stir and name for himself. For a worthy dismal of this attack, read here. Moreover, the UMass President deserves credit for his strong criticism of the column.
For a more amusing attack, note this:
Simeon Rice, a former Arizona Cardinals teammate now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, scoffed when Tillman enlisted in May 2002.
"He really wasn't that good, not really . . . Maybe it's the Rambo movies, maybe it's Sylvester Stallone, Rocky," he told a radio interviewer.
Can you say, "No more endorsement deals for me!", Mr. Rice?
WAR: A House Divided Against Itself
BASEBALL: Stripe-ed Tigers
Things are looking up for the Detroit pitching staff. This is all relative; although they won't be mistaken for Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz in their primes, the early returns on three of Detroit's young starters show a few signs for cautious optimism:
Maroth's numbers are particularly encouraging, and show a guy who's maturing into a dependable starter with great control, although with his low strikeout rate he'll always get hit. Robertson's numbers are your basic Nolan Ryan stat line - don't expect that to keep up, and don't expect him to finish with a 2.78 ERA if he keeps walking 6 men per 9 innings. But the exceptionally high strikeout rate is a very good sign.
Bonderman is still a long way off, but his high K rate is also a sign that he's starting to fool some people, which he did precious little of last season.
BASEBALL: Do They Come In Sets of a Billion?
WAR: The Tin Cup Is Rattling
I've post-dated this post to April 29 so it will stay at the top of the page until then (updated as necessary), humbly asking you to donate to the Spirit of America, a charitable group supporting the efforts of U.S. troops to spread good will in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. It's a worthy goal, and one that gives us private citizens a chance to do a little something to help out in the war for hearts and minds. See here and here for more details. I'm in with one of three coalitions of blogs competing in a drive to raise money for Spirit of America by April 29. For rewards, Michele is offering to dedicate posts and music to people who donate, and Dean Esmay is offering supporters of his coalition a post on a topic of their choice. Bah. I can do better: I promise that if you donate to Spirit of America, the Cubs and the Red Sox will win the World Series in your lifetime, or your money back. [disclaimer: refund may only be claimed after conclusion of lifetime] So there.
Give Victory a Chance! Please Donate Here. Thank you.
April 28, 2004
WAR: Oh, Those WMD
We already knew that the critical charge supporting the legal basis (if you take such things as UN resolutions seriously) of the war in Iraq has been confirmed by David Kay: Saddam Hussein's regime failed to comply with numerous UN resolutions that formed the basis of the 1991 cease-fire between the U.S.-led coalition and Iraq, specifically including his use of force and fraud to deceive UN inspectors about the status of his WMD programs.
But the question remains: what, really, had those programs accomplished, and why did our intelligence project a more advanced program than we have found evidence of?
Kenneth Timmerman at the conservative publication Insight Magazine has been parsing the evidence coming out of Iraq and now claims that we have, in fact, found many of the pieces of the WMD puzzle, but in ways that lack the sex appeal needed to dislodge the now-settled media narrative that the Bush Administration was just making this stuff up out of thin air for the past six years. Among the items Timmerman notes:
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*A prison laboratory complex that may have been used for human testing of BW agents and "that Iraqi officials working to prepare the U.N. inspections were explicitly ordered not to declare to the U.N." Why was Saddam interested in testing biological-warfare agents on humans if he didn't have a biological-weapons program?
Timmerman also notes evidence that Iraqi WMD were moved to Syria during the interminable 14-month "rush to war". (Links via Powerline here and here).
Let's see how this plays out.
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POLITICS: MSNBC In The Tank For Kerry?
Wizbang wonders why MSNBC's coverage of the Kerry medals-throwing story was so coordinated across several hosts and programs to give only Kerry's side of the story, and applies Occam's Razor to conclude that the logical explanation is that MSNBC went in the tank to get the exclusive interview with Kerry on Hardball. Hey, don't argue with me; go and read the whole thing and draw your own conclusions.
(Maybe the change in management is showing up onscreen)
POLITICS: Not Giving An Inch
The Mad Hibernian called my attention to this drivel from the AP Wire:
Some historians and professional groups are complaining about not being consulted before President Bush nominated a historian to head the National Archives who is best known for a book that concluded Alger Hiss was a Soviet spy.
* * *
Weinstein's work has stirred controversy, including his 1978 book, "Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case." It concluded that Hiss was a Soviet agent when he worked for the State Department in the 1940s.
Two things are striking here. First, the article tries to balance the charges against Hiss by stating that Hiss "maintained his innocence until his death in 1996," without mentioning that the Soviet archives later proved that Hiss was, in fact, a Soviet spy. Second, it's not at all clear that the Hiss story even has anything to do with the controversy, which appears to be more of a procedural fight.
BLOG: 419 Is No Joke In Your Town
We've all gotten the infamous Nigerian "419" scam emails, and most of us just laugh at them (this one, I'll admit, is pretty amusing). But I got to see a different side of one today, when I got an email from a guy claiming to be a (fictional) son of a Nigerian politician who died last year. What particularly rankled is that this particular politician was the father of one of my close friends from law school (we lived in the same 6-room basement my first year). Some nitwit out there is trying to make money off this man's good name in the wake of his death. Which is, even aside from the fraud involved, a pretty rotten thing to do.
BLOG: Lileks Says Give
FOOTBALL/BASEBALL/BASKETBALL: Lighting Up The Scoreboard
If you're wondering why New York Giants fans are so excited about Eli Manning, well, let me offer some perspective here. Consider my somewhat-typical experience. I'm a Mets/Giants/Knicks fan, and I'm 32 years old. Manning gives me, potentially (if he lives up to billing), the opportunity to see my favorite team develop an offensive superstar. Now, if you're a Red Sox fan or a Lakers fan or, even, a Detroit Lions or Montreal Expos fan, that may not sound like anything terribly novel. But consider the top homegrown offensive stars of my three favorite teams over the past 30 years or so, at least based on their performance in NY:
1. Patrick Ewing
That's a top-of-the head list (feel free to quibble - this one's a natural argument-starter), and after Ewing, it's pretty weak; plenty of individual franchises could do better. And neither of the corresponding lists will knock your socks off, either - the top guys who were brought along in NY but bloomed elsewhere (Rod Strickland, Ed McCaffrey, Lenny Dykstra, Kevin Mitchell, Gregg Jefferies), and the top guys who arrived from elsewhere (a list that starts to fall off after Mike Piazza, Bernard King and Bob McAdoo - meaning no disrespect to Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez - and on which the top Giants are creaky old guys like Ottis Anderson and Fran Terkenton).
Looking at the list above, it's no surprise that the Mets have never had an MVP or a batting champ, the Knicks haven't had an MVP or scoring champ in the past 35 years, and I couldn't find the last time the Giants had a league leader in passing, rushing or receiving yards. My New York, at least, is a defensive town. That's why people went crazy for Stephon Marbury, who seems no more likely to bring home playoff glory than King or McAdoo, and why Mets fans are so hopeful about Jose Reyes if he can ever put together a healthy season.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:21 AM | Baseball 2004 | Basketball | Football | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
April 27, 2004
POLITICS: If You Can't Stand The Heat, Get Out of the Kitchen
Via Instapundit, the amazing true story of John Kerry snapping under the pressure of the right-wing Torquemadas at Good Morning America. If you're gonna gripe about the media, either (1) do it in private (recall Christy Mathewson's line that a ballplayer should always have an alibi and always keep it to himself) or (2) fight back on camera while you still have the audience (as George H.W. Bush did with Dan Rather). Don't whine with the cameras rolling after the live interview is over. Captain Ed has a great comment:
Hey ... what happened to "Bring It Ooooonnnnn!" Has he changed his campaign motto to "Maaaaake Iiiittt Stoooooopppppp!!!!"?
In a similar pile-on-Kerry vein, we have lots more where that came from:
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*Via just about everywhere, John Podhoretz' Kerry-bashing screed is highly entertaining.
*Note a bad sign for Kerry in Dick Cheney's latest speech: the laugh lines are mostly on direct quotes from Kerry. The guy parodies himself. And I liked this twist of the knife, which actually raises a rather serious point:
When Senator Kerry speaks about the direction of the war on terror, he often returns to a single theme -- the need for international cooperation. He has vowed to usher in a golden age of American diplomacy. He is fond of mentioning that some countries did not support America's actions in Iraq. Yet to the many nations that have joined our coalition, Senator Kerry offers only condescension. More than 30 nations have contributed and sacrificed for the freedom of the Iraqi people, including Great Britain, Australia, Italy, Poland, South Korea, and Japan. Senator Kerry calls these countries, quote, "window dressing." They are, in his words, "a coalition of the coerced and the bribed."
*One of Tom Maguire's commenters notes:
Nixon's bony hand gets revenge at last. Seems Kerry's incriminating 1971 "interview was shown on the Washington television station WRC, archived by President Richard M. Nixon's communications office and held by the National Archives," according to today's NY Times. How sweet! How sublime!
Lesson: never throw out opposition research! Not even when you're dead.
*Ed Moltzen notes Kerry's vulnerability to revelations that (sacre bleu!) the UN is a hothouse of corruption that's unduly deferential to dictators, given Kerry's many, many, many statements lauding the importance of giving authority to the UN. Call him UNion John.
*The Republicans' Vietnam vets, overlooked thus far in the campaign, get frisky on Kerry. I loved how they derailed the Democrats' efforts to talk about Earth Day.
*We'll let Fred Thompson have the last word.
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WAR: Natural Selection
American Digest brings us an example, from Iraq, of "The Darwin Awards in Real Time." Priceless. On a similar note, Laurence from Amish Tech Support has an amusing tale of some Palestinian hoodlums who tried to rob a fully armed suicide bomber, an escapade that, shall we say, did not end well for anyone involved.
BLOG: Ask and Ye Shall Receive
Just a reminder (see above) - besides asking for donations for Spirit of America, the Victory Coalition is also auctioning off a variety of valuable prizes and services to raise money. See Wizbang and A Small Victory for details. Unlike me, they'll be updating throughout the day, so keep checking.
POLITICS: Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
From the latest Rassmussen poll, from Oregon: "[r]egardless of who they will vote for, 49% of Oregon voters think Bush will be re-elected while 32% think Kerry will win." This is terrible news for Kerry if that gap holds in the major battlegrounds; a perception that the election is going to the incumbent can be deadly for a challenger.
Rasmussen also reports, in advance of the 2005 election, that New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey trails Bret Schundler [who McGreevey defeated in 2001] 46% to 39%. What's the over-under on when we see a John Fund column on this? I say maybe an item in today's Political Diary and a column as soon as he gets done with the Toomey/Specter race.
BLOG: Something Completely Different
Sgt. Mom over at Stryker's place has a nice essay on the joys of homemade clothing.
FOOTBALL: Football Blogs
Ricky West's buddy the Failed M.C. is looking for Atlanta Falcons blogs. There is indeed a great dearth of football blogging out there (either that or I don't know where to look); even Football Outsiders seems a bit thin on its list of football blogs, especially team-specific ones.
POLITICS: Kevin Drum Plays The Oldies
Kevin Drum, quoting a columnist and adding his own question:
When a white person screws up, it ignites a debate on the screw up. When a black person screws up, it ignites a debate on race.
The subject, of course, is Jack Kelley vs. Jayson Blair, and Pitts' point is precisely on target. Don't the folks who loudly insisted that affirmative action was to blame for Jayson Blair's transgressions owe us an explantion for their relative silence about the far worse journalistic fabrications of Jack Kelley?
This recycled canard makes no more sense than it did at the time of the Blair scandal, so why answer it afresh? Instead, I'll repeat what I wrote (partly in response to Drum) at the time:
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Had this happened at a less self-righteously PC publication than the Times - say, The New Republic, for example, let alone a conservative paper like the Wall Street Journal - the race point might have been ignored by most commentators. Scam artist being black: not a story. Scam artist being black and working for a paper that loves to talk about its own 'diversity' and editorialize in favor of affirmative action: story. I guarantee that's why people like Kaus and Howard Kurtz are quick to read it this way. In that sense, conservatives have jumped on the Times for this for precisely the same reason liberal commentators jumped on Bill Bennett (albeit with the difference that a massive fraud on the public is a wee bit bigger deal than a guy spending his own money on slot machines): because the Times has been such a scold on issues of race and trumpeted its own willingness to promote "diversity," there's a natural impulse to put them on the spot when a beneficiary of such programs blows up in the paper's face.
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April 26, 2004
BASEBALL/WAR: Men of Honor
I have little to add about the death of Pat Tillman that hasn't been better said elsewhere, although a quote from General George S. Patton I'd seen used elsewhere lately seemed a fitting tribute: "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."
It is worthwhile, at such a time, to remember that Tillman is not the first professional athlete to put his athletic career aside and put his life on the line for his country. The sacrifices of the World War II generation, like Ted Williams, is also a tale that's been better told elsewhere, including the contributions of Williams, Bob Feller, Joe DiMaggio, Hank Greenberg, Johnny Mize, Warren Spahn, Yogi Berra, Ralph Houk, Phil Rizzuto, Cecil Travis, Mickey Vernon, Dom DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Johnny Pesky, Dick Wakefield, Joe Gordon, Tommy Henrich, Charlie Keller, Alvin Dark, Sam Chapman, Buddy Lewis, Hank Sauer, Sid Gordon, Virgil Trucks, Hank Bauer, Barney McCosky, Ferris Fain, Eddie Robinson, Jackie Robinson, Wally Judnich, Enos Slaughter, Pete Reiser, Elbie Fletcher, Terry Moore, Al Rosen, Ralph Kiner, Pee Wee Reese, and others.
But baseball's sacrifices in the First World War need remembering, too, including:
*"Harvard Eddie" Grant, formerly an everyday third baseman for the Phillies and Reds, killed in action October 5, 1918 in the Argonne Forest.
*German-born Robert Gustave "Bun" Troy, who made a brief appearance with the Tigers in 1912, killed in action October 7, 1918 in Petit Maujouym, in France.
*Christy Mathewson, who suffered severe health problems from which he never recovered - possibly contributing to his death in 1925 at age 45 from tuberculosis - after inhaling poison gas in a training accident. (Ty Cobb also served in the same unit).
*Grover Cleveland Alexander, who as I explained here, would probably have made it to 400 wins or close to it if he hadn't lost a year at his peak to World War I, and who suffered lasting trauma from seeing combat with an artillery outfit.
*Sam Rice, who as I explained here, missed a year following his first big season after being drafted into the Army in World War I; Rice also got a late start in the majors because he’d joined the Navy at age 23 after his parents, wife and two children were killed by a tornado (Rice saw combat in the Navy, landing at Vera Cruz in 1914). Without those interruptions, Rice could easily have had 3500-3700 hits in the major leagues.
*Hall of Famer Rabbit Maranville also missed a year to the Great War, as did several others I've overlooked here.
Perhaps not quite on the same level as a guy like Tillman, who volunteered for some of the Army's most hazardous duty, but in the long run those are just details. Heroes all.
April 25, 2004
BASEBALL: The Day I Met Ted Williams
There are baseball heroes, and then there are just plain heroes. And then there are guys who were both. More on that subject later. For now, it seems an appropriate moment to tell a story I've been meaning to get to for some time: the day I met Ted Williams.
Now, for a variety of reasons, I've been fortunate to meet a number of famous ballplayers and political figures, and even managed to get my picture taken with some of them. But there's nothing quite like meeting the Splendid Splinter in person.
This was back in the fall of 1992, my senior year of college, and I was an officer in the College Republicans at Holy Cross. We were in Boston for a Bush/Quayle '92 event, filled with the sort of enthusiasm that no one over the age of 21 could possibly have had for the Bush/Quayle ticket, in Massachusetts, in the fall of that year. The Mets had a better year in 1992.
I was with Shawn Regan, a friend and the head of the CR group at the time, and one of us (Regan, I think) had thought to bring a camera. Early on, I believe, we managed to snag a picture with Bill Weld, then the governor of the state (politicians, wisely, are pretty generous with having their pictures taken with young volunteers, even if we weren't really all that useful to the campaign). But Williams was the evening's big attraction; he was speaking to a fairly modest-sized conference room full of people (us included), raising money and enthusiasm for the first President Bush's re-election. This being 1992, of course, the politics of military service were about the opposite of what they are today, and Williams' brief talk focused heavily on George H.W. Bush's distinguished service as a World War II fighter pilot in the Pacific, an experience Williams himself famously shared, and on the contrasting service record (or, rather, the absence thereof) of Bill Clinton. Teddy Ballgame, to put it mildly, did not think much of Clinton.
Williams was then still in great health and vigor - as he would remain until his stroke two years later - and that night he was in full John Wayne mode, wearing a bolo tie and pressing on through his speech with more force than eloquence. Of course, it was tribute enough to hear a speech from a man who so visibly did not enjoy giving them.
The chronology escapes me now, but I believe it was before Williams' speech that we ran into him (almost literally) as he was coming out of the men's room, with a fairly small group around him. Regan, who had a bit more presence of mind than I did at this juncture, managed to get out, "Mr. Williams, do you mind if we get a picture with you?" So, each of us got to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the great hitter himself. As we posed for the photo, Williams said something along the lines of "two fine fellows," to which I believe I responded something like "urk". I mean, how can you not be in awe of Ted Williams? And I still have a copy of the picture to this day (not the original photo, which was in my office at the World Trade Center, but a copy of my parents' copy; it'll do).
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(I've gotten a better pair of glasses since then . . . so I'm only about 95% as dorky-looking. On the other hand, that was back when I was lifting weights 5-6 days a week. But hey, that's me with Ted Williams! Who cares what I look like?)
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BASEBALL: Overmatched, Part II
Mets are fielding an even worse lineup today, with Guitierrez and Zeile in the infield and a AAA outfield of Karim Garcia, Jeff Duncan and Eric "Prince" Valent.
The results thus far have been predictable - drop what you're doing and go check out what's in progress at Wrigley.
UPDATE: Jinx worked; Matt Clement lasted one more inning with the no-hitter before surrendering a homer into the foliage in dead center by Garcia and, for good measure, a single by Valent (Mike Piazza gets an assist for an 8-pitch at bat before Garcia came up). But Clement's still in with 12 whiffs and a 3-run lead with one out in the top of the 8th.
April 24, 2004
BLOG: Not Alone In Our Ignorance
Turns out that Americans aren't the only ones who are woefully ignorant about history. From a recent survey of more than 2,000 people in Britain:
*11% think Hitler was a fictional character; 9% think the same of Winston Churchill. Score one here for American use of our historical figures on money and commemorations of their birth for holidays; I doubt that 10% of Americans would think Washington or Lincoln was a fictional character. The rest of the results are also appalling, although the last group suggests that some of the respondents were either (i) high or (ii) pulling the survey takers' legs. Also, the 32% who believe the Cold War never happened may include a number of people who thought the same thing while it was still in progress.
The rest of the list:
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Real people that some believe never existed Ethelred the Unready King of England 978 to 1016 - 63 per cent William Wallace 13th-century Scottish hero - 42 per cent Benjamin Disraeli Prime minister and founder of the modern Tory party - 40 per cent Genghis Khan, Mongol conqueror - 38 per cent Benito Mussolini, Fascist dictator, 33 per cent Adolf Hitler - 11 per cent Winston Churchill - 9 per cent
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Your New York Mets starting lineup today against Kerry Wood:
Kaz Matsui, SS
You just aren't going to win much with that; is it any surprise they got shut out? And while we're at it, why have Zeile hit second and Cameron sixth? At least Cameron can run if he manages to get on base; Zeile was slow 15 years ago. Actually, despite a few lapses in the field, Cameron has basically been exactly what he was cracked up to be, batting .236/.418/.348 after hitting .253/.431/.344 last season and .239/.442/.340 in 2002.
POLITICS: More Kos For Concern
So after Thursday's post I am informed, in at least one case with a fairly typical lack of civility, that there is a distinction between those posters at Daily Kos who could be considered co-bloggers and those who make "diary" entries posted to a different part of the site . . . I'll admit that in my time of reading the site I never really noticed the difference, and I don't think it makes much of one, in the sense that the site really has more in common with the Democratic Underground or FreeRepublic.com than with a mainstream blog in having no filter whatsoever to keep the worst examples of hate-filled extremism from filling up the site (at least Charles Johnson, for all the guff he gets, doesn't let the nuts out of the comment section). [UPDATE: Gerry Dales assures me that Free Republic does, in fact, have filters to keep the place from going to the nuts. My bad - not a site I read regularly either, and perhaps I'm making the mistake of buying into the bad reputation of the site in some quarters. Lesson: don't make generalizations about sites unless you're a regular reader.].
I went back today just to look over the "diary" area, and like clockwork there was this beaut, reprinted in its entirety:
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is it time yet to turn on our soldiers by ctkeith Sat Apr 24th, 2004 at 16:04:28 EDT
Granted, the author here at least thinks he's being civil . . . people like this may shed crocodile tears for our troops, but this is clearly not a show of sympathy here.
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BLOG/BASEBALL: New Blog City
Like most bloggers, I get emails from time to time asking me to check out new blogs. Generally, like most bloggers, I'm more interested in someone sending me an interesting post they've written rather than a general "look at my blog" or "let's trade links." But I also remember when, not so long ago, this was a small blog in internet nowhere, so I hate to just blow people off.
My two cents, by the way, on getting linked? Here's a few tips:
1. Write regularly. Regular content is huge in getting noticed.
Anyway, presented without further introduction, here's a list of blogs who have dropped me a line the past few months, mostly baseball blogs and also some message boards, if you're looking for new content to read; some of these are no doubt good sites and some are not, but I haven't had time myself to tell the difference:
The Bug (Mudville Magazine Blog)
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:28 AM | Baseball 2004 | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Wilson Rides Again?
Michael Fishman, a new contributor over at Dan Lewis' new site, demands to know why Jose Lima is starting for the Dodgers and Wilson Alvarez isn't.
April 23, 2004
BASEBALL: Gwynn and Raines, Part II
Following up on yesterday's review of Tony Gwynn and Tim Raines . . . there are a variety of statistical metrics out there to measure a player's career value. Let's mix and match, with a hearty helping from the Baseball Prospectus, sticking to the same comparison group of Gwynn, Raines, Rod Carew, Wade Boggs, Paul Molitor, Pete Rose, and Ichiro.
Holy acronyms, Batman! See below for explanation. You will notice a few things:
*Again, these players look pretty similar, at least as hitters, once you adjust for context.
*If you're wondering, Raines earns 51 fielding Win Shares to Gwynn's 45, which helps even the score a bit despite Gwynn's offensive advantage.
*The BP stats - which love Wade Boggs - prefer Raines to Gwynn with the bat despite Gwynn's higher batting average. That "XO" category tells a big part of the story - Raines made very few unnecessary outs (he rarely hit into DPs and was the greatest percentage base thief of all time, almost 85% in nearly 1000 attempts), while Gwynn and Rod Carew made the most such outs of anyone in this group.
*Gwynn's high batting average gives him the best translated slugging percentage in the group, although Molitor had the most power.
*Ichiro, even just on three seasons of his prime, barely keeps pace with the rest of the group. He's an outstanding player, but he's not Gwynn or Raines or the others.
*Yes, Tony Gwynn was a great player. But if you can find a dime's difference between Gwynn and Raines, you are stretching. Raines should be every bit as much the no-questions-asked Hall of Famer as Gwynn.
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WS= Win Shares (includes defense)
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April 22, 2004
POLITICS: Flip, or Flop; Take Your Pick
According to this April 1 report, the Bentley College Republicans came up with just a brilliant contest, one that you should try at your school, if you're a student (or at a weblog near you, for that matter):
The contest offers a $100 to the first Bentley student who can "unequivocally define John Kerry's position" on certain issues. The issues listed are NAFTA, Gay Marriage, Iraq, Taxation and Education, specifically the No Child Left Behind Act. To win the contest a student must "point out a vote by John Kerry in the Senate which is not contradicted by any public statements or previous vote made by the candidates." [sic] The contest ended on Monday, March 29 with approximately fourteen entries, described more as commentaries than entries, and no winners.
POLITICS: Can't Even See The Line Anymore
Warning: this post contains racially insensitive language
It wasn't so long ago, only a few months, that Daily Kos (supposedly the second-most-linked and -read blog, although that combines its rankings with Political State Report) was presenting itself as a part of the political mainstream, a legitimate indicator of a movement within the Democratic Party. These days, the donkey can't run fast enough away from the wacko hatemongers at Kos.
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Sue Strong at Blogs for Bush links to a post by one of the co-bloggers at Daily Kos that plumbs new depths in its use of racial slurs. The post, which is so appalling I won't even link to here (you can follow the Blogs for Bush link if you like, but consider yourself forewarned), is entitled "Uncle Tom Powell Stumps for Massah Bush" and leads off with a photo of the Secretary of State, helpfully captioned "Yes suh! Yes suh! Right away suh!" Amos n' Andy could not be reached for comment.
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WAR/POLITICS: Communism Sucks
Yeah, you knew that already - if "sucks" is strong enough a word for the senseless death, imprisonment, torture, oppression and impoverishment of millions worldwide, not to mention an arms race, numerous wars and coups, etc. We had a grim reminder today of those horrors in the thousands incinerated in North Korea by a train collision, an event that was almost certainly caused by the endemic and frequently fatal incompetence of communist regimes.
Thankfully, we're down to just two hard-core Communist states (North Korea and Cuba), although nominally Communist China is still a tyranny and some shifty ex-Communists can still be found in power throughout the former Warsaw Pact. No thanks to John Kerry (seen here shaking hands with Sandanista dictator Daniel Ortega), who from his return from Vietnam all the way through the end of the Cold War never really got on board with the notion that it was a worthwhile endeavor to rid the world of this malignancy. Today's edition of OpinionJournal's Political Diary (worth every penny of the $3.95/month cost) gives some examples from Kerry's tour with the anti-war movement in the early seventies, the efforts that shot him to the political prominence on which his entire subsequent career has been founded:
Mr. Kerry may have to explain yet more dubious remarks from  at West Virginia's Bethany College in which he declared: "Our democracy is a farce; it is not the best in the world." College newspaper accounts report Mr. Kerry also told students that "there is a disbelief in the American Dream, people are questioning if it is really a dream or if the dream still exists."
NRO also has words with a Vietnam-era critic of Kerry's blithe use of false charges against American soldiers; it's a good read, and an important one. Kerry's conduct in the early 70s wasn't just irresponsible or impulsive youth; it was about the conscious use of sensational slanders to advance his own career at the expense of the national interest, and about patterns of thought and behavior about national security issues that have plagued his entire public career.
WAR: True or False?
The Man Without Qualities does some September 11 myth-busting. Among the myths:
3. The September 11 hijackers used box cutters as weapons. Instead, the Commission said it was more likely the hijackers used "Leatherman" utility knives that have several tools and a long, sharp blade that locks into position - which at least two of the hijackers probably purchased and FAA guidelines permitted on board. Box cutters were banned.
WAR/POP CULTURE: Springtime for Arafat
For those who have complained - rightly - of Hollywood's post-September 11 squeamishness about making movies about terrorism where the bad guys are (duh!) Muslim and/or Arab fanatics, there is hope: Steven Spielberg, who's likely to be pretty damn unsympathetic to lunatic Jew-hating Palestinian terrorists, is making a movie about the terror attacks at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
LAW: Friends Like These
Around the blawgosphere and elsewhere . . .
*Eugene Volokh notes that the metamorphosis of amici curiae from friends of the court to friends of the parties can be traced to the early- to mid-19th century and the rise of written as opposed to oral advocacy.
*If you haven't noticed yet, the indefatigable Howard Bashman has moved to a new address at http://legalaffairs.org/howappealing/; like Kevin Drum, he's now the opening act for the online home of a magazine, in this case Legal Affairs. Speaking of which, Legal Affairs has a good writeup on New York's Martin Act, with some useful historical detail as well as some anonymous potshots at New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.
*California gets tough on unfounded lawsuits, as a California Supreme Court opinion (authored by DC Circuit nominee Janice Rogers Brown) concludes that a lawyer can be sued for malicious prosecution for continuing to pursue a lawsuit that appeared to have arguable merit when filed but was later discovered to be frivolous:
"Continuing an action one discovers to be baseless harms the defendant and burdens the court system just as much as initiating an action known to be baseless from the outset," Justice Janice Rogers Brown wrote. "As the court of appeal in this case observed, 'It makes little sense to hold attorneys accountable for their knowledge when they file a lawsuit, but not for their knowledge the next day.'"
Ironically enough, the case involved (stay with me here) a lawyer suing his former client's lawyer for malicious prosection in bringing an action on behalf of the former client against her former lawyer. For his actions in yet another lawsuit.
BLOG: Massive Improvement
If you're like me, you regularly read Lileks' Bleats but don't often remember to check up on his other writings, such as at the Backfence (unfortunately, the Star-Tribune requires registration). If so, you're missing some great stuff. This one cracked me up:
Perhaps you've noticed that the Brawny towel guy has been retired, due to his anachronistic '70s style mustache. The facial hair no longer said "alluring fantasy object to the bored housewife"; it said, "creepy guy in rusty van playing Foghat too loud, wagging his tongue." There's a new giant spokesman grinning at Mrs. American Pulp Purchaser, and the Brawny roll now says:
BASEBALL: Valuing Tony Gwynn and Tim Raines
Geoff Young at Ducksnorts has some well-deserved fun at the expense of Baseball Prospectus' comment that Ichiro Suzuki "is the player people think Tony Gwynn was." Now, it's true enough that Gwynn's high batting averages led many casual observers to overrate him over the years. But BP's disdain for Gwynn goes overboard, and shows a real lack of appreciation for the man's talents, as well as for the broader point: the value of batting average.
Which presents two questions. The first is about batting average itself. As I noted three years ago in my tribute to Ichiro, the hallowed place of batting average in the minds of sportswriters can be traced to the fact that, back when the game began in the 1870s and early 1880s, the ability to "hit 'em where they ain't" really was the game's one and only really critical offensive skill.
Guess what? For all the uses of power, speed and patience, it's still the most important skill. Don't believe me? Simple math tells the story. Let's look at the league totals for 2003:
Yes, I know this is a crude calculation, but it makes the point (in fact, Hits still outweight Extra Bases if you add the number of home runs to the latter and subtract it from the former, even in our homer-happy era). While there are exceptions (like the extreme case of Barry Bonds), the ability to get hits is still the most valuable single skill in the offensive toolkit.
(The other major objection to batting average, set out at some length in the Orioles team comment of this year's Prospectus, is that the ability to hit singles, doubles and triples is a more volatile and less dependable skill from year to year. That's a valid objection, but it's a far cry from showing that it's not a statistically significantly measurable individual skill).
Anyway, the other question raised is about Tony Gwynn himself - how good was he? I've been looking at Gwynn in the context of comparing him to Tim Raines, for purposes of explaining Raines' Hall of Fame candidacy, and I'll admit that I was surprised myself to see how well Gwynn stacks up. Rather than a systematic analysis, let's just show how a variety of different career offensive measures stack up both Gwynn and Raines against four other similar recent players of undeniable Hall of Fame credentials - Rod Carew, Wade Boggs, Paul Molitor, and Pete Rose. I'll throw Ichiro's numbers through 2003 in the mix just to fill things out.
Let's look at the raw numbers first:
(TOB=Times on Base)
At first glance, aside from the massive size of Rose's career and Boggs' superior OBP and lack of steals, what's remarkable is how similar these guys look. Continued tomorrow - some more sophisticated measurements.
April 21, 2004
WAR: Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?
I'll break in here quickly from my lunch to remind you to donate to the Spirit of America, a charitable group supporting the efforts of U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere to spread good will with the people who live there. See here for more on the group's current need for donations, and here for a first-hand testimonial from LT Smash. I've joined up with the coalition of blogs headed by Kevin from Wizbang and Michele from A Small Victory in soliciting donations daily between today and next Thursday for this worthy cause (Michele has more on the friendly competition with two other blog coalitions to see who can raise the most money).
BASEBALL: Shut The Door
I have to say, at this point there just isn't anybody in the Mets' bullpen I would trust. Tonight's game was yet another fiasco . . . I suppose Weathers has been reliable at times in the past, but he's probably the best they've got, and that's not saying much (Looper can be dominating when he's on, but he's basically just a cheaper, wilder Benitez). I know spending money on the bullpen is justifiably a low priority for a rebuilding team, but that doesn't make it more fun to watch, and it does make me appreciate Bobby Valentine, who whatever his other faults always managed to put together a pen that could hold leads.
WAR: Saudi Oil Deal, or Saudi Oil Weapon?
Presented for your consideration:
*Matt Welch and Kevin Drum try to make something of the idea that President Bush struck some sort of secret deal with the Saudis to drive down oil prices before the elections (which, as James Joyner notes, is pretty much what John Kerry was critizing the Bush Administration for not doing only a few weeks ago).
What intrigued me about this whole story, though, is that only a month ago, in a widely-discussed piece, Ed Lasky was arguing precisely the opposite: that the Saudis were deliberately using high oil prices to squeeze the economy to try to get Bush out of office.
The truth? Hard to say. Although I've long since concluded that Occam's Razor, especially when applied along criteria we in the West would understand, does not apply to the motivations of the Saudi regime, given the byzantine internal politics of the Saudi royal family.
POLITICS/WAR/LAW: Lileks and More Lileks
Lileks has been on a ferocious roll lately. Tuesday's Bleat looks at Claudia Rossett's NRO piece drawing up a roadmap of the ties between the UN's oil-for-food boondoggle for the benefit of
[W]hat does this do for John Kerry’s credibility? He stated on Sunday that Saddam had no connections to Al-Qaeda, an assertion that has now taken on the mantle of Absolute Fact.
Monday, Lileks gave a well-deserved Fisking to Andrew Sullivan's call for a regressive, growth-strangling gas tax. Read the whole thing.
Friday, Lileks offered up the best effort I've read yet to articulate the opposition to the gay marriage movement (indicative of his openness to honest debate on the one issue but not the other, Sullivan links to the gas tax Bleat but ignores this one). After noting that he doesn't have a religious issue with homosexual relations or with same-sex marriage, Lileks tears into the argument of an anthropologist in support of same-sex marriage, in terms that are worth reprinting here in full:
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[W]hat perked up my ears was one of the anthropologist’s assertions that there is no difference between a two-parent / two-sex family and a two-parent / same-sex family. None. He said: Any preference for a traditional mom/dad family was based in a “superstition.” His word: “Superstition.” Because, you see, there was no evidence that two moms were different in any important way than a mom and a dad. Belief in werewolves, belief in the evil eye, belief in the walking undead or the superiority of a mom-dad household: superstition.
Lileks admits that this may not be the prevailing view of advocates of same-sex marriage -- oh, but it is, at least as it's presented in the courts (as opposed to some legislatively negotiated, half-a-loaf compromise), and he nails precisely why this argument strikes such an emotional chord with opponents of same-sex marriage. Remeber: under well-settled constitutional law standards, the legal argument under the Equal Protection Clause depends on showing that the distinction between same-sex marriage and traditional marriage has no rational basis at all. That the State has no reason that could be articulated with a straight face as justifying a preference for marriage in the form it has always existed, including its integral relationship to the bearing, begetting and rearing of the next generation. If they concede that there is any unique value whatsoever to children having both a mother and a father, advocates of imposing same-sex marriage through the courts have no argument; they've given away the game. Thus, they must attack, and attack, and attack, and chip away at faith in the institution so many of us hold dear, and denigrate it to the point where it's indistinguishable from the alternative.
But those of us who value marriage, who believe that having a mother and a father is a good thing for children - we're the ones who are being "divisive".
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:42 AM | Law 2002-04 | Politics 2004 | War 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
Michael King looks at a shameful banner ad run by the Kerry campaign demonizing Halliburton while its employees are in the firing line over in Iraq. (In fact, if you know your history - the British East India Company, anyone? - the Kerry people even have the past wrong). It's still amazing that the guy can simultaneously run on a platform of (1) demonizing companies that send American jobs to foreign countries and (2) threatening to take big contracts away from an American company and give them to foreigners.
King also notes that Doonesbury is about to have a character, former football star B.D., lose a leg in Iraq (I'm not clear what he's doing there, but then if I read Doonesbury twice a year it's a lot). I agree with King that while this could be a good storyline in less aggressively partisan hands - and probably good for the aging, decades-past-its-prime comic strip - Trudeau's record doesn't suggest a guy who's capable of that kind of balance.
WAR: On The Other Side
Somebody explain to me why anyone still listens to Michael Moore? (Link via Instapundit).
WAR: The WMD That Aren't There
Cleaning out old emails, a reader had sent me this WaPo article forever ago - it's got some interesting lore on baseball bats.
POLITICS: Digging For Documents
Ed Moltzen has some fun excerpting quotes from various big bloggers on the Left (from way back in early 2004!) who held their breath until they turned blue demanding that President Bush release every last scrap of paper anyone had anywhere bearing on his National Guard service. None of these bloggers, it seems, have had anything at all to say about John Kerry holding off on full disclosure of his military records.
Now, this seems to be a ridiculous controversy, and Mickey Kaus may be wise to suspect a trap:
[M]aybe it's a trap. Kerry's intentionally turning the military records fight into a bigger story than it had to be because he knows that when the full records are (inevitably) released reporters will discover not scandal but official encomiums to his character and leadership!
(Emphasis in original). Tonight on CNN, in an interview with Wolf Blitzer, Kerry adviser Michael Meehan issues a carefully worded statement in response:
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BLITZER: On Sunday, John Kerry told Tim Russert that if anyone wants to see his military records, they can go to campaign headquarters and review whatever they want. A reporter from "The Boston Globe" went the next day and he was told to leave. He wasn't allowed to see the records. What happened?
As I understand these things, what the Navy sent Kerry is probably a good deal less than the complete file in the Navy's possession. If we're obsessing over seeing every scrap of paper detailing the candidates' military service, the press should be sure to confirm that they're getting everything they could obtain from the military itself, and that Kerry's doing everything necessary to make that happen. Hey, don't ask me why - I'm not the one who set this standard.
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April 20, 2004
A reader writes to ask, "Omar Vizquel is about to get his 2000th hit. How many players who have achieved such a milestone have been worse offensively?" I think we have an answer, at least on the question of who was the worst.
Vizquel - who stands at 1998 hits entering tonight's action - has been, on balance, a pretty mediocre hitter, albeit a good one in his best seasons and more than productive enough to go with his slick glove at short. His career averages are .273 batting, .356 slugging and .340 OBP.
According to Aaron Haspel's invaluable search engine, thirty players have (like Vizquel) notched 2,000 hits without either a career OBP of .350 or a career slugging % of .400. Aaron's search engine hasn't been updated with stats beyond 2001, but the only other recent entrant to the 2,000 hit club who approaches this level of futility is Marquis Grissom, who last season became the 24th player to clear 2,000 hits with an OBP of .330 or less.
The leading contenders for worst of the bunch are the five players with career OBPs below .310 and career slugging percentages below .400 - Tommy Corcoran, Frank White, Larry Bowa, Bill Mazeroski, and Garry Templeton. Each has his own merits - Bowa has the lowest slugging percentage of the group at .320, White struck out twice as much as the others and had the lowest batting average (.255) plus playing in a DH league, and Mazeroski was the only one who didn't steal bases. But it's nearly impossible to argue with Corcoran; the former Dodgers and Reds shortstop had the lowest OBP of the group (.289) and a poor slugging percentage (.335), while being an everyday player through the 1890s, the highest-scoring offensive era in baseball history. In 1895, for example - not a particularly atypical year for Corcoran - he batted .265 with a .299 OBP while the National League as a whole batted .296 with a .354 OBP, and the average team scored 6.58 runs/game. After the offensive bonanza of the 1890s turned to the low-scoring 1900s, Corcoran was even worse relative to the league, a .240 hitter with no power who regularly drew less than 20 walks a year. Given that he played regularly for many years, mostly on winning teams, Corcoran must have been contributing something with his glove; he sure wasn't helping with the bat.
OTHER SPORTS: The Wrong Way Out
Two years ago, I wrote:
Whatever you think about the merits of a gay man in baseball coming out publicly, I can't possibly imagine a worse situation than 'outing' the star of a contending team in midseason against his will.
Obviously, this was a failure of imagination on my part, given the murder-for-hire story swirling around Mike Danton of the NHL's St. Louis Blues . . . if the stories around Danton are true - and they may well not be - there can't be anybody to be happy at this being the first public 'outing' of an active gay athlete in major team sports. See here for an example of a press release trying feverishly to spin this story as one about "homophobia" to get a sense of how unpleasant this whole thing is, or look at how hard some of the news stories are straining to avoid explaining the "relationship" Danton is purported to have had with his 'roommate.'
Anyway, I won't be following this bizarre saga, but Eric McErlain's all over it.
POLITICS: Throwing Out The Ceremonial First Ted
The Bush campaign passes another milestone with a mass email last Thursday - Tax Day, of course - picturing John Kerry side-by-side with Ted Kennedy, with the caption "If You Need A Good Reason To Support President Bush, Here It Is":
Both Ted Kennedy and John Kerry Voted Against President Bush's Tax Relief in 2001 and 2003. Both Ted Kennedy and John Kerry Voted For Bill Clinton's 1993 Tax Increase -- the Largest Tax Increase in History.
(Emphasis in original). It's a fair enough ad, of course - those are hardly votes Kerry could try to run away from.
Meanwhile, the Bush campaign overhauls its "official blog". It looks pretty good - "official blog" is still something of an oxymoron, but the campaign looks to have figured out what a campaign blog can do in terms of churning out daily raw materials for unaffiliated bloggers to run with. I can understand why there are no comments - the campaign doesn't want to be held responsible for what's said there - although a trackback feature or Technorati links or some such would be a nice nod to the interactivity of the blogosphere in a way that doesn't require the campaign to have even implicitly endorsed the content of the blogs sending links.
BUSINESS: Stock Answer
Mark Cuban has some revealing if unduly cynical thoughts about the stock market, from someone who was on the inside in the 1990s. (Yet again, Cuban writes with the touching naivete of a guy who thinks you can speak freely about the stock market in this country without getting sued at the drop of a hat). While I can't agree with Cuban's wholesale cynicism about the market, it's amazing how often investors, like sports fans and sports teams, forget that something that is a good buy at one price can be a terrible investment at a different price. His story about a company called Gandalf is a great example of the phenomenon.
BASEBALL: Bury My Heart at Le Stade Olympique
With last night's strangulation by Tyler Yates on the way to his first major league win, the Expos have scored 20 runs in 12 games, an average of just 1.67 runs per game and nearly a run below the worst mark in major league history, the 1908 Cardinals, who averaged 2.41 runs/game in a league where the average team scored 3.33 R/G.
The Expos shouldn't be quite that bad, particularly if Nick Johnson ever returns, but the offense does look grisly. However, asking the good people of Montreal and San Juan to sit through the 1899 Cleveland Spiders - Part Deux! is too much. With the departures of Vladimir Guerrero and Javier Vazquez, this team no longer even pretends to be a competitive franchise any longer. And why Frank Robinson, baseball legend and successful manager and executive, has bothered to stick around when he no longer has Guerrero to mentor is just beyond me.
Put them out of their misery. Now.
WAR: Um, That Would Be Good To Know
Stuart Buck shares an unfinished tale of what may have been additional September 11 hijackers who got away without even being identified. There's gotta be more to this story. Right?
April 19, 2004
BASEBALL: Another One for the Crime Dog
I meant to link to this one back when I was looking at Fred McGriff - Rich Lederer stands up for McGriff as a Hall of Fame candidate.
BASEBALL: Lost Weekend
This weekend's series with the Pirates was one of those where-do-you-even start deals - just everything went wrong. The lowlight was Friday night's bullpen implosion that turned a 2-0 lead in the eighth inning into a 7-2 deficit, a hole that was just a bit too deep for the comeback that followed. And we still have yet to see the Mets' entire lineup on the field at once. Ugh.
POLITICS: Separated at Birth?
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and his long-lost relatives:
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WAR: Man, That Ain't Oil, That's Blood
To date, thirty Halliburton workers have been killed in Iraq. Question of the day for Democrats who have bashed the company: are these Americans we are proud of? (I only caught the tail end, but CNN was running an interview with some Halliburton workers last night that seemed to be putting a human face on the company' workers in Iraq that doesn't look like a Thomas Nast cartoon).
On a related note, the papers have been buzzing about an Italian (read: "fraudulent" coalition member) security guard, Fabrizio Quattrocchi, who was executed by his captors in Iraq; Quattrocchi reportedly tried to pull off his hood to look his captors in the eye and shouted, "I’m going to show you how an Italian dies." Noteworthy observation: in extremis, facing death and with nothing left to him but his pride, Quattrocchi fell back on something that mattered to him - his nationality. Not, "Europe" and not the "legitimacy" of international organizations. It is worthwhile, before sending men to fight and die - even sending private citizens into war zones - to remember for what they will do so.
April 18, 2004
BASEBALL: Fast No More
In a move that will be of interest only to the most hard-core devotees of the encylopedic trivia of baseball history, the Mad Hibernian has informed me that The Pitcher Formerly Known Only As Fast has been identified.
BASEBALL: The Power of Yan
I noted this in the comments the other day to the Mad Hibernian's post on Dontrelle Willis' slugging exploits: there's actually an active pitcher who's tied for the all-time record for career slugging percentage among players with more than one major league at bat: Esteban Yan, who has a homer, a single and a sacrifice hit in his three major league plate appearances. Equally interesting: he's only seen five pitches in those three plate appearances, and he's never batted in the minor leagues (I noted Yan homering on the first pitch he saw as a professional ballplayer as a sign of the apocalypse back in June 2000).
Yan's career slugging % of 2.500 ties him with pitcher Frank O'Connor, who posted a similar batting line for the 1893 Phillies. Two others have a slugging average of 2.000 - Ed Irvin, one of the sandlot subs from the famous Tigers strike game in 1912, who tripled in two of his three at bats, and Red Sox pitcher Hal Deviney, who singled and tripled in his only at bats in 1920.
Made some more changes to the blogroll, including a few I should explain. First of all, I've given a prominent place to Gerry Dales' Electoral College projections site, which looks at the most recent state-by-state polls. I found this site through James Taranto's Best of the Web, which linked to Dales on Thursday; it's precisely what I've been looking for for the past few months in keeping tabs on the only polls that matter. I'm still stunned by the polls Dales cites showing Bush leading in Democrat-leaning New Jersey; then again, besides the September 11 effect in NY & NJ, there may be a backlash growing in the state against Democrat governor Jim McGreevey, or at least an end to the long backlash against the state's GOP governors (who rode to power on the backlash against Jim Florio . . . ).
Second, I've taken Wonkette off my blogroll; I still check the site daily and will still link to specific items; there's some good stuff there. But I can't really recommend it to readers. Wonkette's obsession with pushing her point of view on gay issues into just everything makes Andrew Sullivan's content seem varied by contrast. She's still great with one-liners, but the Atrios impersonation on that one issue is starting to wear thin.
Third, I've also taken down the link to the ever-controversial Little Green Footballs. There's been persistent controversy over whether LGF, which was (ironically) something of a center-left-leaning site until September 11, has crossed the line into an anti-Islamic/anti-Arab hate site. Joe Katzman has some good thoughts starting here (link via Meryl Yourish); a lot of the issue revolves around whether Charles Johnson can be held responsible for the bile that pours from some of his enormous stable of regular commenters.
Of course, nearly every site that features comments has more extreme stuff in the comments than the blogger; it's the nature of the medium. I was going to weigh in, but it would be unfair of me to rip Johnson and ignorant of me to defend him, since frankly I don't read the site that much myself. LGF is still a great news-aggregating (and sometimes news-gathering) resource, and I have no problem linking to specific posts; but I can't really be bothered at this point to be responsible for endorsing a site when I'm not that up to speed on its contents (which isn't to say I'm totally on top of every site on my blogroll, but I'm not aware of any of the others generating so much angst).
This brings me to a broader point. I've de-linked Kos because I couldn't in good conscience be associated with his deplorable endorsement of murdering American contractors in Iraq, and I've stopped regularly reading Atrios because he makes my blood boil (see here for an example). But I'd have no problem linking to either if I ran across some reason to do so on a particular point. My general philosophy with the likes of Kos and Atrios is that if they come up with something worthwhile, I'll hear about it from Kevin Drum, Josh Marshall and Paul Krugman soon enough.
There are only two sites I would really have a problem linking to. One is Hesiod, who's just out of his mind; the other is the Agonist, who got nailed for plaigarism. Anybody else, I may not want to blogroll them, but they're part of the conversation.
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P.S. - If you missed it, Aaron Haspel had the definitive take last spring on Hesiod and Atrios:
Hesiod "Theogeny". A sort of bush-league Atrios who literally can't spell his own name. Same m.o., less traffic.
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April 16, 2004
BASEBALL: No Clear Path
The Royals cruised to an early division lead last season by whomping on their division rivals; despite some great hitting early on, looks like we won't see that repeated, as KC has a 4-5 record (all against division rivals) and a 5.83 team ERA. Wednesday's game against the White Sox captured this perfectly, as the Royals rallied from a 6-0 deficit to get to 6-5, only to see Shawn Camp and Scott Sullivan give back two runs in the bottom of the seventh; then, after a stirring 4-run ninth inning rally involving back-to-back homers by Carlos Beltran and Mike Sweeney off Billy Koch (who doesn't look right now like a great bet to hold the closer job for the ChiSox), Curtis Leskanic blew the save and lost the game 10-9. Add in yesterday's 6-5 loss in 10 innings to Chicago, and you've got some real lost opportunities in the early jockeying for position in the AL Central.
POLITICS: Shrum Along By Heart
TNR's Ryan Lizza has a good profile of Ted Kerry guru Bob Shrum in The Atlantic. My thoughts:
*Shrum quit the Carter campaign in 1976, telling Carter, "I am not sure what you truly believe in, other than yourself." How far he's come from that to working for Kerry.
*Lizza asks, "Why is it that almost every major candidate for the Democratic nomination since 1972 has wanted Bob Shrum to work for them?" The answer is obvious, and it's something Lizza notes elsewhere: it's because Shrum helped so many of them (Kerry included) win statewide office. They just don't get that the presidency is different.
*Why am I not surprised that a guy who's advised Kerry and Gore had a brief involvement with the New Coke fiasco, the world's worst example of mania for reinvention?
*Lizza's parade of nearly identical quotes from Shrum candidates over the years promising to be "a fighter" against "powerful forces" is hilarious. Does Shrum think he's Cus D'Amato?
*"With much of the country passionately aligned against President Bush, the consummate Shrum villain if ever there was one, the sociological and political landscape may at last be hospitable to the consultant's steadfast world view." Self-delusion, thy name is Lizza. Sorry, but Kerry can't win unless he can get the people who don't hate Bush to vote for him.
BLOG: An Unlikely Story
No, it's not the Onion. I swear I'm not making this up. The Reuters headline:
and this, from the story:
McDonald's U.S. Marketing Director Alex Conti said the company was launching a new Web site to go along with its "Go Active" adult Happy Meals, which include a salad, bottled water and a pedometer to encourage walking.
Yao will presumably lecture us on the important obesity-avoiding benefits of being 7'2".
April 15, 2004
BLOG: Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys?
I really shouldn't be getting emails from the manufacturer about things like this. But buy a few toys for the kids, and the tempters return . . .
WAR: Spread The Word
Michele is raising money to help the Marines in Iraq set up a TV station to win hearts and minds. Head on over and lend a hand - especially all you libertarians who want to show that even core government functions like foreign policy can be supported by private donations.
BASEBALL: Shooting Blancos
What on earth has got into Henry Blanco? The Twins looked to be in a tight spot indeed when, opening the season after dealing A.J. Pierzynski to the Giants, they lost Joe Mauer and Matt LeCroy to injuries, leaving the weak-hitting Blanco as the Twinkies' everyday catcher. This is a guy who's never slugged .400 or batted higher than .236 in five major league seasons; his career high OBP was .320, and that came in Coors Field.
So what does he go and do? Through 7 games including tonight's explosion, Blanco has cracked 3 doubles and 3 homers and drawn 5 walks for a Ruthian .364/.909/.500 line. My first instinct is to point out that, even in such a small sample size, patience pays off; Blanco's been seeing almost an extra pitch per at bat compared to the past two years; the result is both a higher walk rate and the power that comes from seeing good pitches. The more obvious answer, other than the fact that anybody can have 4 good games (Blanco opened the season 0 for his first three starts), may be some of the same thing that helped Orlando Husdon's spike in seeing pitches: the Tigers. Blanco's faced nobody but Detroit and Cleveland.
Sometimes, a hot streak is just a soft spot in the schedule.
Soxblog has some thoughts on the applicability (or not) of the Bill James/Moneyball approach outside of the baseball world (which rather completes the circle, since Michael Lewis' book worked in large part because he brought lessons from Wall Street to bear on baseball). I agree with his diagnosis that baseball is much more easily subject to objective analysis because the number of variables that have changed over time is pretty minor compared to other fields. Mike and the Mad Dog also interviewed Lewis today (audio link here; hat tip to Dr. Manhattan, who emailed the link with the comment that it shows "an example of parties speaking different languages even though the conversation is in English").
BLOG: One-Year MT Blogoversary
Somehow, I let the 14th of April pass without noting that this marks one year since I moved this site over from Blogspot and went live with the new Movable Type blog (albeit at a domain I'd owned since 2000). Here's my daily average traffic in that period according to HostMatters:
Thanks to everyone who's dropped by, linked or otherwise supported the site, particularly early supporter David Pinto, the straw that stirs the baseball blogosphere.
April 14, 2004
WAR: Playing Offense, Playing Defense
I can't say this often enough: in asking what could have been done pre-September 11, you have to divide the question in two parts: offense (taking the fight to the terrorists) and defense (ratcheting up homeland defense and law enforcement).
On offense, in hindsight, Clinton was a (can we use the phrase?) miserable failure. There are, I think, fair-minded arguments on both sides about whether and what Clinton could or should have done based on what was known at the time, but we now recognize with the benefits of hindsight that he should have done more to pressure and/or topple terror-sponsoring states, finish off the camps in Afghanistan, etc. Bush failed, again in hindsight, by failing to change Clinton's policies in this regard. But with just 8 months in office, no public mandate for war, no consensus on the issue among our allies, and his hands full just trying to get all his foreign policy people through the Senate (the people who want UN approval for everything didn't mind dragging their feet on Bush's UN ambassador), a quick change in policy would have been turning a battleship in a bathtub.
On defense, again, hindsight proves that there were systemic and bipartisan failings in providing for airport security, FBI/CIA cooperation, processing of intelligence, wiretap authority, etc. It seems clear that some of these could have cracked the case if we'd been organized as we are today. None of those systemic failures can be pinned on Bush (again, how many top DOJ jobs were left vacant for weeks or months?), and it's debatable how many can be pinned on Clinton, either. The problems were systemic.
What that leaves is the idea that, even with the faulty apparatus for gathering domestic inteligence and even with the meager infrastructure that existed for screening airline passengers pre-September 11, there was some information that went up the chain to the White House that should have led to the conclusion that something needed to be done ASAP that wasn't already being done. The FBI certainly seems to have been busy reassuring the President that they were all over this issue like PB on J.
What's left? That's where we get this August 6 briefing (although you can't evaluate it if you haven't seen what's in every briefing). As noted below, though, I just don't see what information was in that memo, taken in context and not just in hindsight, that says "stop what we're doing now, call the airports and look for Arab men fitting, you know, a certain profile." The bin Laden threat was indeed well-known - most of us knew September 11 was bin Laden as soon as the planes hit the towers. But the Democrats just haven't made the case that the red warning light of impending airline hijackings, specifically, should have gone off in a way that should have pointed to a practical solution.
BASEBALL: Keeps Turning Up
With a dominant performance last night against Montreal, Brad Penny is off to one blazing start this season:
Small sample size, of course; anybody can have two good starts. But not just anybody puts up an eye-popping 16-2 K/BB ratio even in that small a sample.
WAR: Japan Getting Serious?
Setting the World to Rights has some thoughts on Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi's response to threats to kill the Japanese hostages in Iraq.
[W]hen Bush read the carefully chosen title of the Aug. 6 brief -- "Bin Laden determined to strike in the US" -- he should have demanded that his national security team scour files for useful information and institute immediate preventive precautions.
(Emphasis added). Talk about nonsense - does the Globe really think that the people making these decisions report directly to the president, or for that matter, have less than about 10 layers of reporting between them and the president? And remember, every level you go down, to get action, you have to order that many other people to do other things that wouldn't get you anywhere . . .
You're George Bush in August 2001. Tell me, specifically, what you would have done based on that memo, that would have a reasonable chance of apprehending the hijackers. "Put the government on alert" is glaringly insufficient. The memo says that Al Qaeda may want to hijack an airplane to secure the release of militants, or that it may aim to make some sort of attack in Washington. Given that you do not know which of these, if either, is true, nor when, where, or how the attack will come; given that the "chatter" to which opponents of Mr Bush like to refer has more often not presaged an attack (as we have seen with the numerous "Orange Alerts" and so forth); and given that any measures you take will be expensive and anger some subset of the population, what do you do? If your answers include, with astonishing foresight, such unprecedented things as strip searching passengers on domestic flights or ordering pilots not to open cockpit doors even after hijackers have begun killing passengers, please explain which of the tens of thousands of domestic flights taking off in the United States each day you plan to target; where you will get the extra personnel to do so; how you will respond when the ACLU and the airlines get a preliminary injunction against you for flagrantly violating passengers' civil rights; how you plan to sell the massive delays to the millions of angry passengers; what you are going to do about the inevitable Democratic charges of racial profiling; and how long you plan to keep this up, given that you have no idea whether an attack is due this week, this year, or at all? You must also include a section explaining what you are going to do about the North Korea expert shouting in your ear that you really need to pay attention to this intelligence saying that crazy Cousin Kim may have nukes.
(Emphasis in original). Read the whole thing.
POLITICS: Downside of A Smear
[M]ost Americans recoil from efforts to blame Bush for the [September 11] attacks. One leading Democratic interest group recently asked a focus group in Florida to respond to a potential television ad accusing Bush of negligence in failing to stop the attacks. The result was volcanic — against the ad.
POLITICS: John Kerry Invents New Form of Misery
Gregg Easterbrook has some fun with the Kerry campaign's new "middle class misery index," which "seven indicators: median family income, personal bankruptcies, job growth in the private sector, home ownership rates, and the costs of gasoline, health care, and college." The index is, typically of Kerry, both too complicated to explain easily and so transparently slanted that it's counterproductive:
[I]n order to be manipulated such that George W. Bush has "the worst record of any president ever," indicators must be chosen that give a great economic rating to Jimmy Carter. Check the Kerry campaign's graph, halfway down the page. When were times best by this index? At the end of the Clinton administration, and in 1978. Can you find one single person in the United States who would want a time-machine ride to the economic conditions of 1978? That was the time of "stagflation," combined inflation and lack of growth. Unemployment was worse in 1978 than today, too.
Of course, when you campaign on 'jobs, jobs, jobs' and can't put the unemployment rate in your 'misery' index, you have problems. But another thing I found particularly odd about Kerry's index is that it ignored interest rates. I mean, for the Party of Rubinomics, interest rates are everything; virtually the entire economic argument made by Democrats against the Bush tax cuts is a variant on the tax cuts=>deficits=>high interest rates meme. Which makes it all the more telling that nobody's complaining about high interest rates (another reason to scoff at an index that pines for the good old days of 1978).
April 13, 2004
POLITICS: Franken and Fartman
Nick Confessore argues that Air America can rapidly make itself commercially viable by signing on Howard Stern for the morning drive time slot. This is a perfect test of two dilemmas liberal radio faces: (1) is it willing to put a guy on the air who appeals to the young, sexually liberal males that the Democrats deperately need to reach (as Marc Fisher noted in a Slate essay I linked to over a year ago) but who is anathema to humorless PC feminists? (2) is Air America willing, more broadly, to hire a guy who can be something of an albatross to the radio network as far as its partisan mission (Stern is, justifiably, a big target) but who will rake in the bucks? In other words, is this really a serious commercial venture, as opposed to just another campaign adjunct?
I'm no Stern fan, but I can appreciate that, as New York's sportsradio WFAN has done with Imus, sometimes commerce demands bending your format for a morning radio star if you really want to be profitable. It's time for Air America to decide if it's willing to put profits first. If not, the only alternative may be to wait for a Democratic administration and beg for grants.
POLITICS/WAR: The Oldies Station
It's late, so forgive me if I ramble . . . Instapundit asks, "[t]o the Democrats, well, 'we'd all love to see the plan.' Where is it?" I'm starting to wonder if Kerry is running the Nixon '68 playbook, what with his platform of having a secret plan to end the insurgency in Iraq and have peace with honor, the details of which he won't share with us. (Of course, he voted for it because he was brainwashed by Bush!) Here's a problem with nominating a guy like Kerry whose entire resume is built on something he did 35 years ago - the ability to adapt his thoughts to new and changing circumstances is painfully limited. Frankly, Kerry's a has-been. George W. Bush gets accused of being inflexible, but maybe there are advantages to nominating a guy who didn't make up his mind on a lot of things until recently.
Meanwhile, Goldberg blasts Ted Kennedy for raising the specter of quagmire. Jonah's column is pretty standard fare - there's something to be said for the idea that using the "V" word is a universally recognized signal for defeatism. Frankly, when you hear a liberal say "Vietnam," you know the meaning of what he's saying without listening just as sure as you know a conservative's meaning when you hear him mention Neville Chamberlain. But it did make me wonder: as Lileks has noted, despite the Democrats' current conventional wisdom that Vietnam was Nixon's war, Kennedy actually voted for the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, as did Robert Byrd, the other big quagmirist in the current war (has Kerry ever asked either one for an apology?). As with John McCain and campaign finance reform, or Trent Lott's momentary vow to become a born-again fan of affirmative action: Lord save us from penitent politicians, forever making amends at our expense.
Unrelated Cynical Question of the Day: What percentage of America's voting public is aware that Wesley Clark and Richard Clarke are not the same person? (Not that I blame the average voter for a certain rational indifference to the Beltway crisis of the hour, by the way). There's this Clark guy running around on TV, used to be sort of a Republican, used to work for Clinton, now he says Bush should have prevented 9/11 and not gone to war with Iraq . . . I can see how folks would get confused.
Finally, speaking of McCain, I think it's just funny that the Democrats' cupboard of leadership is so bare that many of them would kill to put a Republican (and not just any Republican, but one who's more of a war hawk than Bush, and is a firm supporter of school choice and private Social Security accounts and other heresies) on the ticket. I mean, could you imagine anybody in the conservative press or blogosphere agitating to put Bob Kerrey or even Zell Miller on the GOP ticket? The closest we'd come is lifelong liberal Republicans like Powell or Giuliani or Schwarzenegger, and even they'd be viewed with mixed feelings.
BLOG: New Search Engine!
The Onion has the scoop. Somehow, for us attorneys, the search keeps coming up "no results found."
April 12, 2004
WAR: Training On Safety
I've seen very little media coverage on this, other than generalized reports on stepping up safety alerts at train stations after the March 11 bombing in Madrid, but one thing I noticed in the last two weeks: most of the trash cans have disappeared from the LIRR waiting area in Penn Station. I have to assume this is connected.
BASEBALL: 4/12/04 Notes
*The Mets' hopes of ever having their entire projected starting lineup on the field don't look great after Cliff Floyd pulled up lame yesterday with a quad injury that looked just awful (he had to be helped off the field). Jose Reyes remains sidelined. The Mets' offense looks pretty good to me, if they could ever all get healthy. If.
*From the Department of Trends That Won't Continue, Victor "Old Hoss" Zambrano, who got an extra start from the trip to Japan, is now on pace for 69 wins, 9 or 10 (depending what source you believe) ahead of the all time record, 27 ahead of Jack Chesbro's AL record and 55 ahead of Rolando Arrojo's club record of 14 (I'd at least make Zambrano a decent bet at the latter). More at-this-pace nonsense for Zambrano: 409 innings, 347 hits, 69 home runs, 231 walks, 347 strikeouts. Sure, Zambrano hasn't even pitched outstandingly well even in the small sample - but don't wake Devil Rays fans yet, who get so few brushes with history.
POLITICS: Zero Sum Game
CNN and Harvard celebrate, as an unambiguous good, a report showing a record high percentage of women admitted to the freshman class at Harvard. Unmentioned is the fact that you can only raise the percentage of one group by reducing another . . .
Harvard officials have been trying to raise the number of women on campus for decades.
Now, there's always a hornet's nest around the question of how much "trying" is acceptable - certainly, if women were 10% of the incoming class, you'd think something was wrong - but what's revealing here is the idea that there is no cost whatsoever to persistently straining to reduce the admission of men. A little more agonizing, at least, would be appropriate. But then, William R. Fitzsimmons presumably has his college degree already. What should he care?
April 11, 2004
RELIGION: Easter Sunday
Happy Easter! Regularly scheduled blogging should resume tomorrow.
April 10, 2004
POLITICS/HISTORY: Presidential Precedential
For all of President Bush's obstacles to re-election, there are a number of reasons why I have a hard time imagining Kerry actually winning this thing. The history of incumbent presidents is one of them. When was the last time an incumbent president got ousted really by surprise, without massive dissension in his ranks, without a huge overhang of economic doom? I mean, look how many things had to go wrong for incumbents to lose in the past century:
Bush I - Major fissures in the party (as shown by Buchanan's primary challenge), major third party candidate (Perot), more severe recession than anyone could claim today with a straight face (though they try), and his party had been in power 12 years, which always exerts a pull back to the middle. His opponent (Clinton) won with 43% of vote.
Carter - Major recession (remember stagflation?), international humiliations, malaise, major fissures in the party (between Kennedy's primary challenge and fighting between the Carter White House and Hill Democrats), and a serious third party candidate (John Anderson) who gave anti-Reagan voters an alternative to re-upping the incumbent.
Ford - Watergate overhang, gigantic debate gaffe (Poland), never elected in his own right, barely survived primary challenge by Reagan that split the party.
LBJ - Hung it up after New Hampshire primary after internal revolt on war, and his party was rent in two in November; never faced general electorate.
Hoover - Great Depression, and his party had been in power for 12 years.
Taft - Party split in two, Taft's popular predecessor (Teddy Roosevelt) ran as a third party candidate, his opponent (Wilson) won with less than 40% of vote, and his party had been in power 16 years.
Compare these to, say, Harry Truman, who saw his party split three ways and still got re-elected amid a weak economy and international crises. I think the forces of inertia and incumbency are stronger than we think, and may help Bush on top of his other strengths.
BASEBALL: Milwaukee's Best
Will the Brewers be better than you or I think this season? Well, for me, it wouldn't be hard. The Albethke Round Table thinks that, at a minimum, the Brew Crew will do a better job of getting on base this season, although the most optimistic number floated is 76 wins. Read the whole thing.
April 9, 2004
BASEBALL: Counting the Chickens
Great Met game tonight in San Juan, featuring great pitching by Tyler Yates (making his major league debut) and former future closer Orber Moreno, some fine hitting by Cliff Floyd, and a game-winning hit in the 11th by prodigal sub Todd Zeile. But I have to think that Art Howe was kicking himself for pulling Floyd, Mike Piazza and Jason Phillips - the core of his lineup - while clinging to a 2-run lead in the bottom of the 8th, only to wind up in extra innings. I know that removing Piazza and Floyd shores up the defense and Phillips went out in a double switch, but collectively that's just too high an offensive price to pay when the other team is two swings of the bat from sending you to extra innings.
BASEBALL/LAW: Blackmun Gold
I haven't yet done anything with the release of Harry Blackmun's papers from his years on the Supreme Court, but Shea Hot Corner reprinted some images of some of the more amusing examples pertaining to baseball. (And did you know that Blackmun belonged to a society of Cubs fans co-founded by Dick Cheney?)
On another note, Blackmun's papers include this item:
Chief Justice William Rehnquist set up an intricate pool for the 1992 presidential election with justices wagering on the results of each state. After the election Rehnquist announced that "Sandra (Day O'Connor) proved to be positively prescient," winning $18.30.
Presumably, if they ran one like that in 2000, they had to disband it.
POLITICS: Steyn Catches The Tune
BASEBALL: O The Patience
The Blue Jays, like the A's, have a brain trust committed to, among other things, patience at the plate. But while the A's have had some signal successes with that formula in the past, we have yet to really see dividends in Toronto.
One player on the Jays' roster who could use an infusion of patience is 26-year old second baseman Orlando Hudson, an athletic player who's flashed signs of power but has yet to make himself an offensive asset. Hudson drew just 39 walks last season. If you've been watching Hudson thus far for signs of patience, though, the early signs may be modestly encouraging.
Through the opening three-game set (albeit) against the Tigers, Hudson saw 4.09 pitches per plate appearance, up from 3.65 and 3.76 his first two seasons. Today, against the Red Sox and Bronson Arroyo, Hudson was a picture of patience his first four trips to the plate:
Second Inning, first and second, none out: Ball, Foul, Foul, Ball, Ball, Hudson walked.
Fourth Inning, leading off: Strike looking, Ball, Foul, Ball, Ball, Hudson walked.
Fifth Inning, second and third, one out: Ball, Strike looking, Ball, Ball, Foul, Hudson struck out looking, Hinske caught stealing, catcher to shortstop.
Eighth Inning, runner on first, one out: Foul, Ball, Ball, Hudson doubled to center, Hinske scored
In the ninth, however, Hudson faced David McCarty, making his debut as a pitcher with a runner on first and one out; Hudson swung at McCarty's first pitch and grounded out. I wasn't watching the game; maybe McCarty threw him a meatball. Still, you'd like a guy to take a pitch in that situation, see what McCarty has to offer and whether he can get the ball over the plate in a real game.
Overall, though, looks like another small step towards Hudson learning a valuable skill: 5 plate appearances, 23 pitches seen (4.6/plate appearance), including 13 balls, three strikes taken, 5 fouled off, and an extra-base hit. Keep your eyes on Hudson to see if this keeps up; if it does, I wouldn't be surprised to see more power follow from forcing pitchers to throw him better pitches.
LAW: You Are Being Watched
When I first noted Mark Cuban's weblog three weeks ago, I noted that one of his entries at the time was discussing his investment in search engine company Mamma.com, and that "the fact that he's talking here about investments about which he's making SEC filings . . . could get him in a whole lot more trouble than an NBA fine." Now, as day follows night, comes a CNN report that the SEC "launched an informal probe concerning recent activity in [Mamma.com] stock, which has almost quadrupled over the past month in highly volatile trading," with CNN specifically noting that the stock
closed at $15.66 Monday on Nasdaq, up from its $4 price range at the beginning of March.
(Emphasis added). Now, investigations like this are often opened without there necessarily having been any wrongdoing by anyone, and I'm not saying that Cuban did or did not do anything improper here (I'm particularly hesitant to comment on the merits because my law firm does a lot of work in this area, and for all I know we may be representing somebody already in this particular probe). But my initial point remains: if you blog about your investments in a way that could even arguably be construed as encouraging others to make investment decisions, you could wind up blogging yourself into some trouble.
April 8, 2004
POLITICS: Political Links
*You learn something new every day: Ricky West tells us about when Hillary Clinton was on the Board of Directors for Wal-Mart. As the biggest business in Arkansas, it made a certain amount of sense to give a cushy job to the governor's wife.
*The shocking news that the Bush Administration's communications team in Iraq is staffed with (gasp!) people who support the Bush Administration's policy in Iraq!
*John Kerry keeps his VP search quiet . . . as detailed by reports about that search in the New York Times. The news here is his apparent intention (if you believe this report) to name a VP nominee a month or so before the convention.
*Wonkette on NBC disassociating itself with Ashleigh Banfield: "Who can we contact about nixing her right to be associated with journalism?"
WAR: Died For What?
Given the horrible headlines that followed the brutal deaths of four Americans last week, you’d think that would be the main story, or at least something that merited a mention in a headline. But a dozen dead Marines is the main story. The reason they died is not the main story. What has been accomplished is not the main story. To me, this is like printing “Four Thousand Dead in French Assault” and putting “Omaha Beach secured” in the subhead.
Read the whole thing; he's got lots more good stuff on other topics.
POLITICS/WAR: Kos Theory
I generally prefer to blog on a subject like last week's Kos Kontroversy when I've got sufficient uninterrupted blogging time to unpack all its implications, but I haven't had that kind of time lately and the issue's getting a bit stale now. So, I'll just run through my quick thoughts.
First of all, if you missed it, blogger Markos Zuniga of the popular far-left site Daily Kos (which I had added to my blogroll not long ago because of its excellent horse-race coverage, notwithstanding the overall left-wing nuttiness of the site) created a big stir when he made the following remarks on the death of the four Americans who were lynched by a mob in Fallujah:
Every death should be on the front page
I won't get into all the subsequent controversies, covered well enough by Michele (also here), Instapundit, and others far too numerous to mention, about (1) whether Kos misbehaved in trying to erase/conceal the entry on his site and in his various semi-apologies and justifications, (2) whether it's proper to pressure Kos' advertisers over a remark on his blog (I'll agree that the trend there is disturbing), or (3) to what extent left-leaning bloggers had an obligation to denounce what Kos said. (The latter being a point I'll expand on another day, the short answer being that it depends how bad the comments are, how prominent the blogger making them is, how prominent, prolific and/or professional the blogger with the 'obligation' is, and whether the latter blogger often makes similar demands of the other side; in any event, Oliver Willis gets credit for being the first big blogger on the left to denounce this). Random thoughts, though, on a few aspects:
First, I don't have much use for people who, in the course of defending Kos, describe his remarks merely as "stupid". Yes, they were stupid. But the problem isn't that they were stupid, or ignorant, or prejudiced, none of which is exactly rare on blogs or anywhere else people air their opinions. Nor is the problem that Kos was too flip and too disrespectful of the dead. The snarky, quick-hit, shoot-from-the-hip style of blogs does, sometimes, lead to undue callousness. As someone who writes under intense time pressure (when time runs out, I gotta run for a train), I can sympathize with bloggers who don't always get to dress up their statements with the appropriate nods to convention and politesse.
No, the problem with Kos' remarks is that they were vicious and mean, and effectively took sides with a lynch mob. Now, I recognize that many on the Right have been equally rough on Ahmed Yassin, Uday and Qusay, and even on less thoroughly evil figures like Rachel Corrie. But there's a common denominator there: those are all people who chose to take sides with those who want to kill us. They're on the other side.
And that's how Kos treated the men who were lynched in Fallujah: as not on his side. Except that, whatever you think of "mercenaries" and their motives (more on that below), there's no dispute that these guys' were in ultimately in Iraq because the Coalition Provisional Authority wanted them there to assist in its efforts to rebuild the country into a democracy. The fact that Kos sees the people engaged in that task as being on the other side puts him, at least emotionally, on the side of the lynch mob, the fascists, and the Islamists.
In any case, the viciousness of siding with a lynch mob, in any case short of the Ceacesceaus of the world, is impossible to justify; as Kevin Drum put it:
I really don't think it matters if they were private contractors in any case. They were burned to death and hung from a bridge. Nor does it matter much that you don't like the war. Some of the wingnuts on the right gloated over the deaths of UN workers in last August's bombing, and that was wrong as well, regardless of what they thought of the UN.
(Emphasis in original). I don't think that Kos' attitude is representative of liberals/the Left as a whole. Still, there were those on the left side of the spectrum who insisted that any criticism of Kos whatsoever for this attitude was out of line. Check out Jeralyn Merritt's take:
We will make our position very clear: We wholeheartedly support Markos. He made a comment most people find objectionable and then retracted it and explained why he made it. To us, it should be the end of the story. Any attempt to inflate it or even to keep it alive has little to do with Markos, and everything to do with right-wing conservatives trying to make political hay out of it. This has become a right-wing ploy to debase the left. Don't let it happen. Don't let them win. . . .
(Emphasis added). Wow. "Shame" on anyone who even criticizes Kos' hateful comments? That's an astonishing view. I can't see how you can say that people like Drum and Willis should be ashamed of themselves for finding Kos' comments offensive unless you are arguing either that (1) his "screw 'em" attitude is not only correct but beyond question, or (2) there is no level of offensive behavior by the left that should be valued above ideological solidarity (well, except for the dire offense of being a "centrist"). Neither is an appealing option.
On the other hand, as nasty as Kos' attitude on the war is - and even though I felt compelled to de-link him, especially since I had him on my list of bloggers who form the "Loyal Opposition" - I'm not prepared to give him the "Fredo, you're nothing to me now" speech the way the perennially overwrought Mark Kleiman did, at least initially:
[Ann Coulter] put herself beyond the pale of civilized discourse. Anyone who now quotes her, links to her approvingly, or supports her financially is dirtying himself: Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.
There are all kinds of people out there who contribute something to public discourse, even if they have some views that are appallingly uncivilized. Sure, there are some that are totally out of bounds, and I certainly wouldn't cite the likes of either Coulter or Kos on any subject without some appropriate caveats (nor would I have even before Kos made this comment; he's always been way out there, at least on the war). But, as I've long stressed, a person can do a thing that is entirely indefensible and still not be worthy of capital punishment. Put another way: we're all sinners here.
The second thing, and one that's also been covered extensively elsewhere so I won't dwell on it: I don't see what makes these guys 'mercenaries' as opposed to just security guards, which everyone needs in Iraq or many other dangerous places (Moscow, Mexico City, etc.) It's not like they were conducting offensive operations or anything. To say that every civilian who carries a gun for a paycheck is a "mercenary" means the security guard at the local shopping mall is a mercenary. You can call him that if you want, but in so doing, you've rigged your argument by abandoning the accepted commonsense meaning of the term.
Like Xbox? Yeah, when I saw my office building pouring smoke and bodies falling out of it, I thought it was just like f#&!%ing Space Invaders. Even on the substantive point - Kos' argument that every corpse in Iraq should be placed on the front page: we don't put every drug dealer who shoots another drug dealer on the front page. We don't put every fetus who's aborted on the front page. We don't put every Israeli victim of suicide bombings on the front page. We didn't put the victims of the Rwandan or Cambodian genocides on the front page, not every last one of them. We sure as hell haven't put everyone who was raped or gassed or run through a shredder by the Ba'athists on the front page. Massively publicizing every death is a decision about what things to highlight. Kos wants to stack the deck.
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*Ed Moltzen at Late Final notes something I've seen on my own blog: sometimes, people who have a personal connection to the events in question will drop by, read what you wrote, and comment, sometimes months or a year later.
*Here's Kos trying to make himself out as the victim of some "wingnut" conspiracy. Someone who regularly lumps people like Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan and Michele Catalano into a single, undifferentiated mass of "wingnuts" has simply gone so far over to one side that they've completely lost their sense of proportion.
*Wonkette's take on the Konstroversy: Please, don't take me seriously!
*I and everyone else who's made up pun-filled headlines had assumed that "Kos" is pronounced as in Cosby. But, really, if it's short for "Markos," that can't be the case, can it?
*Mark Steyn passes up the "Kos said what all Democrats really think" cheap shot, but focuses in on a much more damning indictment, supported by illustrative quotes: that the hatred spewing from people like Kos is actually coming in part from the Democratic leadership, as much as the other way around:
Where would [Kos] have got the idea that American civilians in Iraq are ‘mercenaries’ who aren’t ‘trying to help the people’ but are there to ‘wage war for profit’? Maybe from Senator John Edwards, former presidential candidate, whose solitary reference to the war in his stump speech was a pledge to stop ‘Bush’s friends’ from ‘war-profiteering in Iraq’. Or maybe from Senator Bob Graham, another candidate, justifying his vote against the Iraqi reconstruction bill by saying, ‘I will not support a dime to protect the profits of Halliburton in Iraq.’ Or DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe declaring on TV last October that Bush would never withdraw from Iraq because ‘I don’t think they want to give up Halliburton and the $6 billion of no-bid contracts they’ve got on oilfields over there.’ Or Kerry sidekick and former senator Max Cleland, who fumed that Bush’s ‘insane’ war was all to do with profiteering and ‘oil wells’ and ‘Cheney getting income from Halliburton’. Or John Kerry, who says, ‘Halliburton is guilty of shameful war-profiteering.’
(link requires registration). (Also, a reminder of how things have changed in the blog world: Kos makes a quick post on his blog in California, and it winds up in a mainstream pundit's column in a magazine in England).
*The Kontroversy is not the only recent example of Kleiman backing down from his original, overwrought reaction; he also had to abandon his fact-challenged "Ted Kennedy didn't mean quagmire when he referred to Iraq as George Bush's Vietnam" spin when Eugene Volokh pointed out that Kennedy had elsewhere made the quagmire analogy explicit.
Â« Close It
WAR: The Mahdi
Reading this Belmont Club analysis (via Instapundit), I couldn't help but notice the reference to Muqtada Sadr's group calling itself "the Mahdi Army." You'll recall the self-proclaimed 'Mahdi,' from your 19th century history as the quasi-messianic figure who led an Islamist revolt against the British in Sudan that was ultimately suppressed following the defeat of the Mahdi's army by General 'Chinese' Gordon at Omdurman (more on that in general here and specifically here).
POLITICS: Say What?
Stuart Buck is back on the blog and having fun spinning a few conspiracy theories. Bring your own grain of salt.
BASEBALL: Showin' How It's Done
By now, you've probably seen Alex Belth's interview with Bill James. I just wanted to highlight one of the best non-answer answers to a question I've ever seen, when James says, "This question requires me to think in ways that I simply don't think." That's a combination of blunt candor, evasion and philosophical depth that even Don Rumsfeld would have to envy.
April 7, 2004
POLITICS: More Bad News From Minnesota
UPDATE: Also, check out the latest polls showing Bush up 9 in Colorado and down just 1 point in Michigan, with the latter putting him closer to Kerry there today than he was to Gore on Election Day 2000.
Joe Mauer's promising rookie season gets put rapidly on the shelf, as he'll need knee surgery and is expected to miss a month. Matt LeCroy, the only plausible alternative with the bat at the position, left tonight's game in the 2nd inning with a rib injury. Johan Santana left last night's game with cramps in his pitching arm, while Torii Hunter's hamstring is ailing and could sideline him for4 or 5 days. Tough times in Minnesota.
BASEBALL: Do It Hard!
From the CBSSportsline play-by-play of the first inning tonight (in reverse order):
Phillips singled hard to right. Cameron homered hard to deep left center. Piazza homered hard to deep left center, Floyd scored. Floyd singled hard to right.
As opposed to soft home runs?
Looks like another good first inning, anyway. Could be a long year in Atlanta.
UPDATE: 6-0 entering the bottom of the third. I'm starting to feel pretty good about the Mets' offense, if they can keep them all healthy (with Jose Reyes on the DL, we're not there yet). Score one for the incurable optimists.
FOURTH INNING UPDATE: Not feeling so good about the pitching staff. Traschel blew the whole 6-run lead. Grant Roberts is in. Bases loaded, nobody out.
UPDATE: 11-run inning for the Braves. Long night for all concerned.
UPDATE: Piazza cracks his third home run in two days. Of course, it's still 14-7 Braves.
FINAL UPDATE: Braves win 18-10. Piazza has an even better game than Matsui did yesterday, and is now just one homer shy of Carlton Fisk's career record for catchers.
BASEBALL: Bye, George
Bamberger's tenure as Mets manager wasn't the high point of his career, but he seemed like a decent guy who just didn't have the horses, much like Joe Torre before him. I'll always remember him more as the manager of the Brewers in the years when they gave full time jobs to, among others, Gorman Thomas, reclamation project Mike Caldwell, platoon players Cecil Cooper and Ben Oglivie, and raw rookie Paul Molitor, and wound up with an overnight contender.
BASEBALL: Gunn Theme
Happy blogoversary yesterday to our friends at Redbird Nation, which has really become one the web's best and most prolific baseball blogs.
April 6, 2004
BASEBALL: Well, That's A Start
Here I was, listening to the Met game on the radio and opening the play-by-play on CBS Sportsline, and before CBS even gets the lineups loaded, Kaz Matsui jacks the first pitch of the game, the first official pitch he's seen as a major league ballplayer, out of Turner Field for a home run.
Nowhere to go but down? Maybe. But it's a start. (Meanwhile, looks like the Yankees are reminding Victor Zambrano not to tug on Superman's cape).
UPDATE: RBI double for KazMat in his second time up; Glavine and Russ Ortiz are both getting teed off on tonight.
Mmmmmm . . . a full day's action yesterday, highlighted by the Royals' late rally and the Twins' dramatic 11-inning victory on Shannon Stewart's walk-off three-run homer. One interesting development in the Twins game that I'd missed in spring training: Michael Cuddyer's appearance at second base (actually his second, as he spotted there once last season). In the short run, Cuddyer's effort to reinvent himself as a utilityman who can play second and third should help alleviate the Twins' logjam of outfielders. But you have to wonder: if Cuddyer can handle the position defensively well enough to be out there in an extra inning game, maybe it will wind up being worth considering a full-time move so he can eat Luis oh-for-Threevas' lunch.
POLITICS/WAR: Quote of the Week
From the Krauthammer column I noted yesterday, this Q&A from the September 11 hearings is all you really need to know about desperate efforts to blame the Bush Administration for September 11:
SEN. SLADE GORTON: "Assuming that the recommendations that you made on January 25th of 2001 ... had all been adopted say on January 26th, year 2001, is there the remotest chance that it would have prevented 9/11?"
April 5, 2004
BASEBALL: No Two Twists Come Out The Same
From the Indians' perspective, it's pretty sad to have had to deal Milton Bradley, although as David Pinto has noted, Bradley's latest antics didn't really give them a choice, especially on a young team where the rules of the road still need to be imprinted on the youngsters. Of course, while they may be in a weak division, the Indians weren't likely to go far this year anyway, so losing Bradley's not as bad as it looks. And the player they got in return, 21-year-old outfielder Franklin Gutierrez, appears to be a Grade A prospect of the type the Indians don't presently have anywhere near the major league level (the Baseball Prospectus compares him to Juan Gonzalez).
For the Dodgers, while Gutierrez is a stiff price to pay and Bradley is a certifiable head case, this should be a steal unless Bradley just spins out of control. It will definitely be a challenge to Jim Tracy to get the most from Bradley, but if he can repeat his monster year last season, he'll give the Dodgers a desperately needed offensive infusion in a division LA can definitely win. (I'm not so much in favor of reviving the Shawn Green-to-1B idea, but given the absence of a decent first baseman, that may have been inevitable).
UPDATE: Fun but misleading fact to cheer up Dodgers fans: baseball-reference.com tabs the most similar player to Bradley, through age 25, as Gil Hodges. Well, except for the being totally insane part. (PECOTA prefers Roy White).
I was going over the whole Richard Clarke thing again . . . the core of the problem I have with his 'apology' is this: as far as I can tell, Clarke never once admitted that he had been wrong about anything, ever. That's no apology. Contrast, for example, President Reagan: I don't know if Reagan ever formally apologized for sending the Marines to Beirut, but he regularly described that decision as the worst mistake of his presidency. That's how you act when you genuinely believe that you have erred.
POLITICS: Not Singing Along With Mitch
Punch the Bag has seen former White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels' campaign "reality show" in support of his campaign for Indiana Governor, and he's not impressed.
April 4, 2004
BASEBALL: Addition by Subtraction
The Mets dump Roger Cedeno on the Cardinals and eat most of his salary, getting just minor league veterans Wilson Delgado and Chris Widger in return. From the Mets' perspective, this had to be done; Cedeno didn't have a place on the team and wasn't happy or motivated.
For the Cards, you'd be tempted to say that a change of scenery would do him good, but he's had four changes of scenery before, and it's only done him good once. First thing I'd do is get Cedeno's eyes tested. . . he's a corner outfielder who's got no power, terrible defensive instincts, and sporadic plate patience; he's a speed player who's lost a step, and who knows how old he really is? I can't see him as a useful spare part.
POLITICS: Latest From Wisconsin
If you've noticed, I've removed Daily Kos from my blogroll, where he'd been listed (ironically enough) under the "Loyal Opposition" section. I'm not calmed down enough to blog about that one just yet.
I haven't de-linked the Kos-affiliated site Political State Report, which remains a useful news source. This latest entry has an interesting look at the latest Bush-Kerry polls from Wisconsin.
BASEBALL: Say It Ain’t Seo, Part II
I'd echo the Mad Hibernian's comments on Jae Seo not making the Mets' rotation, which caught me (and, apparently, Seo) by surprise, even though I'd been following the battle for starting slots. While my gut reaction is to rip the Mets for giving a rotation slot to a retread like Scott Erickson, I can understand the logic in trying to get Erickson back to top form and then flip him for prospects. On the other hand, you hate to do this to a guy like Seo, who's young and was the team's best pitcher for much of last season. (Of course, the real problem is giving a big contract and a rotation slot to a pitcher who is both washed-up and untradeable, but that's another matter). I'm less upset about Grant Roberts failing to make the rotation, as I remain unconvinced that he has the arm strength to throw 200 innings.
On the plus side, Tyler Yates really has impressed this spring; while his minor league record is unimpressive, you never know with pitchers. And Aaron Heilman, who was so horrendous last year that I was ready to give up hope, was much more effective this spring. If the team can deal Erickson and - much as I hate to see him go - Leiter, things may be looking up.
BASEBALL: Taking a Swing at Wagner
Sunday at 8 on TNT, Matthew Modine is going where, apparently, no actor has gone before: portraying Honus Wagner on film. The tall, thin, and rather callow-looking Modine doesn't seem like the best choice for the rough-hewn, barrel-chested, bow-legged slugger from coal country in Western Pennsylvania, but Robert DeNiro, who seems the obvious choice if you've seen pictures of Wagner, is too old for the part, and it sounds like Modine's at least made a sincere effort to pick up some baseball chops and some of Wagner's mannerisms. Time will tell if he's successful (not that I'll be watching a movie that's on against the Sopranos, but I'll be tempted to see if I can catch a bit of the first hour). Wagner's certainly a guy worth remembering: as I've noted before, for the decade of his peak he was the best hitter for average in baseball, the best hitter for power in baseball, the game's best base thief, tough as nails and unafraid of anyone, and the nicest guy in the game to boot. As Modine learned from his research for the part:
"I didn't know much about Wagner besides the baseball card," he says. "When I researched him, I found out he was one of the best guys ever to play the game. I couldn't find anything negative about him."
April 3, 2004
POLITICS: Me No Like You Jobs Record
In looking over a Bloomberg News report on the latest good news on the job-growth front, I came across this bizarre piece of garble:
"In every single month of this administration, we haven't seen the creation of a single manufacturing job in America,'' Kerry, 60, said in an e-mailed statement.
Is Kerry really saying that not one manufacturing job has been created in any month of the last 3+ years? Or that there's been no net gain over that period, or in any month of that period . . . This pileup of double negatives is impossible to argue with because it's incoherent. Now, people make fun of "Bushims" that come out when Bush makes a verbal miscue, often when speaking extemporaneously. But at least when Bush and his team issue something in writing, it sounds good, because Bush hires writers who can, you know, write.
I have to say, there are just certain news stories - such as anything involving Michael Jackson, Paris Hilton or Courtney Love - that I don't just ignore in the papers . . . it's not just that I don't think they're news; it's that they form a sort of anti-news, positive evidence of the absence of news.
BLOG: Showing The Flag
From the Volokh site, an amusing site in which some guy has set out to grade the relative ugliness and unoriginality of the world's flags (all of them!). I don't agree with all of his rankings - he's way too hard on Brazil, for example, and it's sometimes hard to see why some flags rank highly while very similar ones rank much lower - but the commentary is quite entertaining.
April 2, 2004
WAR: "[T]he evidence that we saw . . . was not real"
Lileks has already had ample fun with John Kerry's interview on MTV, but this passage (also excerpted on Best of the Web) caught my attention - Kerry explaining the evidence that convinced him that Saddam Hussein's regime had weapons of mass destruction:
[T]he evidence that we saw--we were given photographs, direct evidence--was not real. I mean, it just turned out not to be, not to pan out, so I think the vote was a correct one based on the evidence that everybody was given.
Kerry's in a hole on this one, since he has to explain how it is that he looked at the same evidence Bush did, came to the same conclusion, yet Bush is a Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire, yet Kerry is uniquely qualified to make decisions about war and peace. What he seems to suggest here before he backs away is not that the evidence wasn't all it was cracked up to be, but that it was somehow faked or intentionally doctored. That's what he wants people to believe - Bush gave me bad data - but it won't withstand minimal scrutiny and totally abdicates Kerry's own responsbility for reaching his own conclusions.
The fact is, some of the evidence did not, as Kerry said, "pan out." There's much more to the WMD story than that, of course - like Saddam's trail of deception of weapons inspectors - but if Kerry's story depends on the CIA fabricating phony photographs, he's not going to convince anybody outside the fever swamps.
BASEBALL: Nick The Sick
Nick Johnson's hurt again, and this time it's back trouble, which underlines the fact that the Expos got jobbed. Johnson was a great prospect once, but I foresee a career that looks more like Cliff Floyd or JD Drew than Jeff Bagwell or Jim Thome. Which is still useful, but no Hall of Famer. (The downside is if the back trouble eats into his power).
On another, neither here-nor-there note, the Baseball News Blog now links to us as "Baseball Frank." Can I get that on a bun?
POLITICS/WAR: Clarke 4/2/04
OpinionJournal carries just a devastating review of Richard Clarke's book. Also, I noted yesterday allegations from the Left, amplified (as always) by Paul Krugman, of a smear job aimed at Clarke's personal life (see also here), but in fairness, I should note that the unsourced rumors involved give us, frankly, no evidence at all to tie them to anybody in the Bush camp, and nearly everything I've seen on this comes from the lefties (although Wonkette does seem to think that Laura Ingraham has been implying the same thing). I still think it's wrong if it's being done - but let's not be too quick to indulge the assumption that whatever Wolf Blitzer says is the gospel truth.
(On a side note, it still cracks me up that Blitzer is seen by the lefties as some sort of right-wing secret agent. Talk about paranoid).
WAR: Peggy Noonan, Tough Guy
We know what the men and boys who did the atrocity of Fallujah look like; they posed for the cameras. We know exactly what they did--again, the cameras. We know they massed on a bridge and raised their guns triumphantly. It's all there on film. It would be good not only for elemental justice but for Iraq and its future if a large force of coalition troops led by U.S. Marines would go into Fallujah, find the young men, arrest them or kill them, and, to make sure the point isn't lost on them, blow up the bridge. Whatever the long-term impact of the charred bodies the short term response must be a message to Fallujah and to all the young men of Iraq: the violent and unlawful will be broken.
BUSINESS: New Dow
Via Dustbury, we see that the Dow Jones Industrial Average has dropped AT&T, International Paper and Eastman Kodak and added AIG, Pfizer and Verizon. The passing of AT&T, in particular, from the Dow seems like a real sign of changing times.
POLITICS: Kerry's Michigan Problem
Workingforchange.com, not exactly a right-wing source, notes how John Kerry's positions on CAFE and Kyoto can't help him in Michigan. Not that they killed Al Gore there (Gore won the state by 5.1%, and that was with Bush getting big support from the state's substantial Muslim population, which is sure to swing behind Kerry), but it won't help. I've long thought that his continuing embrace of Kyoto (despite having voted for the anti-Kyoto resolution, of course) could blunt one of Kerry's major themes, which is outsourcing; pushing for an agreement that handed a huge competitive advantage in manufacturing to India and China is not the act of a man obsessed with the loss of jobs from America to those countries.
In other campaign notes - OpinionJournal's Political Diary (subscription only) noted that, while the Heinz Corporation has (wisely) noted that it takes no position on the campaign (they don't want to be Kerry's Halliburton, and red-staters buy ketchup too), Kerry's wife and her children control a block of Heinz stock worth some $520 million. Also, this seems like a pretty effective Bush ad on the economy, while this "report" from a group called the American Shareholders Association (link opens PDF file) attack's Kerry's record on economic issues. Meanwhile, I continue to be amused by the implication that Josh Marshall, in the item I linked to yesterday, persists in the delusion that the Dems' big weakness is the failure to call Bush a liar often enough.
BLOG: The Buck Has Not Stopped
Good to see Stuart Buck blogging again, however briefly. Sounds like his condition isn't as bad as "had two strokes" would sound, not that it makes it any less frightening. Get well soon, Stuart.
WAR: Queer Eye For The Warlord Guy
A German fashion designer praises Hamid Karzai for his fashion sense. (Actually, "warlord" is a bit unfair to Karzai, but that's another post). Hey, a little superficiality is a welcome break from Afghanistan's usual methods of getting in the news.
April 1, 2004
BASEBALL: Spring Infatuations
Jon Weisman has some cogent suggestions for making spring training stats more meaningful. Personally, while I'd like to see this, I don't pay attention to spring stats unless they're real outliers, like a guy with a 12.00+ ERA or something, or a pitcher (such as Aaron Heilman this season) with a newly impressive K/BB ratio.
BLOG: More Regrettable Food
From a Daily News item about Elaine's, the famous celeb-infested Manhattan eatery:
Where else would Keith Hernandez make love to a socialite's girlfriend in the bathroom, only to be discovered by the guy and say, "Sorry, man," with a pat on his back?
BLOG: Radio Silence
No entries in almost two months over at The American Scene. I may take down the link soon. Too bad.
POLITICS: Flag on the Play
Apparently, Wolf Blitzer and Wonkette have been spreading the idea that sources in the Bush Administration have been whispering that Richard Clarke is gay. This appears to be a pretty low-profile inside-the-Beltway thing, and it's not clear who in DC this is supposed to influence. But I'll agree with Mark Kleiman that this sort of thing really has no place in this sort of debate, any more than does Bob Novak implying that he knows that Clarke is a racist. The Democrats' whole passive-agressive, we-attack-and-then-complain-when-you-fight-back thing may drive me nuts, but there are some times when people on the Right really go overboard. This looks like one of them.
POLITICS: Telling Omission
OK, this is just a snapshot on a week when the candidate has been on vacation and is about to have rotator cuff surgery (have the Democrats nominated the Steve Karsay of politics here?), but I've noticed it before: go check out Josh Marshall's blog, and one thing you'll notice on the front page is an almost complete absence of items about John Kerry. There's only one item apiece on Matt Yglesias' and Kevin Drum's blogs (there's a bit more at Kos and Mark Kleiman, but in neither case are they saying much about Kerry's proposed policies or speaking favorably of his candidacy, while Atrios has mostly just been asking for donations). It's been previously noted that there were no pro-Kerry blogs of note during the primaries, when major bloggers were lining up behind Clark, Edwards and Dean. Now, it's always easier to attack - I've almost certainly written more about Kerry than Bush lately - but keep your eyes out, because if the left side of the blogosphere can't generate much enthusiasm for Kerry and can't get enough of a fix on the man's policy proposals to stump for them, that's probably a sign that he's going to have trouble getting a coherent and exciting message out to the portion of the population that isn't obsessed with politics.
Marshall, by the way, is clearly worried about Kerry (link via Tom Maguire), who's down 7 points now to Bush in the latest poll from Pennsylvania (link via The Corner). As you may have noticed, I've added links at the bottom of the page that open Google News searches that should pull in the lastest poll from the various major battleground states.
BUSINESS: Accounting For Options
Kevin Drum links to this Gregg Easterbrook item arguing for treating stock options as an expense . . . granted, I'm a lawyer not an accountant, but as I explained in one of my earliest entries on this blog (one that drew a response from the author of a WSJ op-ed) I still don't understand why options should be an expense rather than a contingent liability that's expensed when exercised. Easterbrook's example of a company giving away land is entirely bogus, since granting an option gives away (duh!) an option to buy stock, not the stock itself. You can estimate the potential cost, but the real cost to the company isn't realized until when-and-if the option is exercised (and not all options are exercised, especially given that stock prices sometimes go down, not up).
PS - In the same item, Drum also argues that the Easterbrook item I cited yesterday on Richard Clarke and Iraq missed a few public statements Clarke did make at the time, although Easterbrook's larger point still stands about the gap between Clarke's present level of outrage and his willingness to speak out at the time.
BLOG: Your Moment of Yin
Tung Yin has moved; update your bookmarks and blogrolls accordingly. He also invites you to mock his fantasy baseball team, although I wonder about the sportsmanship of people in his league holding him to an accidental pick with his first choice, and besides the ill-considered first choice, his team looks pretty solid to me.
BASEBALL: Yoda Speaks
If you missed it, as I did, Richard Ceccarelli at Pearly Gates has a few quotes from Bill James' appearance on Dennis Miller last night.