Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
May 31, 2004
HISTORY: Worst. Government. Ever.

Nazis, Bolsheviks, the Khmer Rouge . . . there's plenty of candidates. But very high on the list, and in close competition with Pol Pot's regime, has to be the government of Francisco Solano López, who ruled Paraguay from 1862 to 1870. Solano López, placing undue faith in his large and powerful army and completely ignoring geographic and demographic realities, led Paraguay into the catastrophic War of the Triple Alliance against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. The war, described in more detail here, left 57% of Paraguay's population dead and the nation at the mercy of its neighbors:

The Paraguayan people had been fanatically committed to López and the war effort, and as a result they fought to the point of dissolution. The war left Paraguay utterly prostrate; its prewar population of approximately 525,000 was reduced to about 221,000 in 1871, of which only about 28,000 were men. During the war the Paraguayans suffered not only from the enemy but also from malnutrition, disease, and the domination of López, who tortured and killed countless numbers. Argentina and Brazil annexed about 55,000 square miles (140,000 square km) of Paraguayan territory: Argentina took much of the Misiones region and part of the Chaco between the Bermejo and Pilcomayo rivers; Brazil enlarged its Mato Grosso province from annexed territory. They both demanded a large indemnity (which was never paid) and occupied Paraguay until 1876. Meanwhile, the Colorados had gained control of Uruguay, and they retained that control until 1958.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:49 AM | History | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 29, 2004
BASEBALL: Ty One On

Jason Mastaitis at Always Amazin' notes that the hype over Armando Benitez closing out the Mets last night ignores the man's history: "remember, the great Armando doesn't blow games in June. His mental breakdown comes during the stretch run."

He also floats a trade theory:

Ty Wigginton may be being set up as trade bait.

McEwing's trade value is virtually nil but Wigginton has value, especially if he's additionally shopped as a second baseman. While I love Wiggy, imagine if the Mets made this trade:

Ty Wigginton and either Heilman, Yates, or Ginter for Jason Schmidt and Edgardo Alfonzo.

The Giants are looking for someone to take Fonzie's salary off their hands and they would need a third baseman in return. While this certainly is not a trade to make them younger, Fonzie would only be a stopgap third baseman for the next four months (who is still tremendously popular in NY) and they'd get a bona fide #1 starter to stabilize the rotation. Seems like a fit to me.

Well, as to point #1, Wigginton's now a semi-established major league regular who is 100% certain to lose his job the minute David Wright is ready, so of course he's trade bait. But the trade proposal doesn't hold water. First of all, why would the Giants be looking to dump veterans? Yes, they've started slowly, but when there's a guy in your lineup who is hitting .361/ .825/.613 and will be 40 in July, the future is now.

Also, even if the Giants wanted to deal Alfonzo for Wigginton - a dubious proposition, given Wiggy's career .259/.417/.318 numbers and sometimes erratic glovework - why on earth would they deal their #1 starter, Jason Schmidt (who's 31 and as far as I know doesn't have any contract issues) for Yates (an unproven youngster who hasn't shown he can throw 6 innings on a consistent basis), Heilman (who was pounded by major league pitching in his debut last season), or Ginter (a retread the Mets got for Timo Perez)?

I've been thinking the team that might be desperate enough to spring for Wigginton could be the Angels after the Glaus injury, but Chone Figgins has hit awfully well filling in at third. I gather Figgins' glove work hasn't won raves, though. But I can't see Anaheim giving up much to "upgrade" from Figgy to Wiggy.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:03 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Faux Conservatives For Kerry

I'm calling BS on the "Conservatives for Kerry" website. I've looked it over, and all of the apparently "conservative" critiques of Bush are either Kinsleyesque "if he believed his rhetoric he'd do this" charges or flimsy definitions of what's conservative. Put another way: nowhere on the site does the author actually argue for the validity of any conservative ideas as against the alternative.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:20 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: MoveOn Speech By Man Who Can't Move On

Fear Leads To Anger, Anger Leads To Hate, Hate Leads To Suffering

For those of us bloggers and pundits on the right, an Al Gore speech is just a gift that keeps on giving. Here's the full horror:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:11 AM | War 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
May 28, 2004
BASEBALL: You Are Getting Sleepy

One reason I've never liked Olympic Stadium in Montreal is the quality of baseball that seems to be played there, or at least the way it comes through on TV. It always seems like games there are quiet, sedate affairs, with the innings sliding by until the game just stops. Florida, ever since the Marlins were founded, has been even worse: with the heavy South Florida air and the Mets' and Marlins' historic tendency towards strong pitching and weak offenses, the games are often quite low-scoring, and add in the scores of empty seats you often see in Miami and you've got a recipe for some seriously sleepy baseball. Tonight was a perfect example of this, with a few runs early and nothing off Dontrelle Willis or Tom Glavine to alter the end 2-1 result.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:34 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Today's War Links

*The Donovan has cleared all else off his blog for a Memorial Day remembrance of a soldier killed in Iraq. Very moving.

*Gerard Vander Leun on moving the goalposts regarding Saddam's WMD programs.

*The Gettysburg Address, in Arabic.

*Matt Yglesias accuses Michael Ledeen of treason.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:27 PM | War 2004 | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Another Day, Another Race Card

Michael King has the goods. I've seen much worse, but this is reminiscent in its symbolism of the famous Jesse Helms "hands crumpling paper" ad on affirmative action.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:22 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Love Pleads Guilty

OK, I don't follow Courtney Love stories, but just consider that headline: "Love Pleads Guilty." Doesn't that sound like a cheesy 80s album title?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:17 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: NL FIP Leaders

This is a followup post to the one immediately below; courtesy of the Hardball Times, we have the National League "Fielding Independent Pitching" leaders, the (slightly longer) list of NL pitchers with a FIP below 4.00 in 45 or more innings through last night (the stats have now been updated):

PitcherIPFIP
Randy Johnson702.67
Roger Clemens57.12.80
Ben Sheets732.89
Jake Peavy53.22.99
Roy Oswalt69.23.02
Oliver Perez45.23.03
Carlos Zambrano61.13.43
Matt Clement60.13.55
Joe Kennedy59.13.60
Tom Glavine67.23.65
Josh Beckett663.65
Livan Hernandez803.74
Doug Davis61.23.74
Brad Penny683.76
Jeff Weaver63.23.80
Jon Thomson57.13.80
Jason Schmidt553.87
Jaret Wright49.23.88
Russ Ortiz563.99

Yes, that's Johnson and Schilling atop their respective leagues, with Roger Clemens close behind; good time for the oldsters. And the youngsters too, like Jake Peavy and Oliver Perez. Yyou can see here why the Peavy injury will hurt the Padres badly, as none of their other starters are in his class (as I noted before the season) . . . Kerry Wood (3.50) missed the innings cut by a third of an inning . . . the three Braves on the list all would have missed the cut a week ago; Atlanta's pitching is just now rounding into shape.

Caution: some guys on this list, notably Weaver and Davis, have repeatedly underachieved what their K/BB and HR numbers say they should do.

Yes, Tom Glavine (tonight included) has been far better than I had any reason to expect (sell high!).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:10 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: AL FIP Leaders

The Hardball Times has some great stat reports that, among other things, absolve me from trying to calculate Defense Independent Pitching Stats in-season as I did last year. I decided to take a stroll through the American League "Fielding Independent Pitching" leaders - Hardball Times' latest riff on a pitching metric based on HR, BB and K, yielding "an approximation of what the pitcher's ERA would be with an "average" defense behind him." Looking solely at guys who have thrown 40 or more innings this season (a pretty low cutoff, just below the qualifier for the ERA title, but high enough to keep the list to starting pitchers who have been in the rotation most of the year), here's the short list of AL pitchers with a FIP below 4.00 through the end of last week (the last time they updated):

PitcherIPFIP
Curt Schilling63.12.78
Brad Radke553.43
Kenny Rogers61.13.52
Cliff Lee45.23.67
Tim Hudson68.13.70
Rich Harden43.13.72
Pedro Martinez57.23.77
Freddy Garcia563.78
Roy Halladay69.13.94
Tim Wakefield493.94
Jake Westbrook403.97
Mark Buehrle63.13.99

Yes, that's The Gambler in third place. The man gets no respect (albeit for good reasons). But he's definitely been a factor in the Rangers' resurgence. And one of the quiet stories of the season thus far has been the emergence of a competent pitching staff in Cleveland with Lee, Westbrook and CC Sabathia (4.33) all pitching OK. If you're wondering, the Yankees' Big Three all seem to fall off this list due to allowing too many home runs. For Mussina and Vazquez, at least, that's a perennial problem. Meanwhile, Rich Harden looks like he's ready to supplant Barry Zito in Oakland's own Big Three (Mulder is just shy of the list at 4.03).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:07 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: One of the Bigger Lies

NRO looked at the response to Bush's big Iraq speech earlier in the week, and of course it was full of blather about the need to get certain unnamed countries (France and Germany) involved in the mission. Kerry released a statement saying that leadership in Iraq would "require the President to genuinely reach out to our allies so the United States doesn't have to continue to go it alone". It's amazing what one-trick ponies the leading Dem spokespersonages are on punting foreign policy responsibilities to countries that don't want them (it's consistent with calls for drafting people who don't want to serve into an army that doesn't want them). But we can argue yet another day about the idea that the United States needs more help from the Coalition of the Unwilling.

What sticks in my craw is the constant abuse by Democrats and by left-leaning bloggers and commentators of the word "unilateral" and the phrase "go it alone" to describe our supposed complete lack of allies in Iraq. I'm sorry, but the word "unilaterally" does not mean "with the support of a bunch of other countries but not all of them." Argue if you will that we need more help, but these words don't mean what they're being used to mean. When the British announce they are sending more troops to Iraq, as they did yesterday, doesn't that mean that more troops are going to Iraq and that they are not Americans? When soldiers from other nations are killed in Iraq - as many have been - do they not die? Every single time a Democrat describes our Iraq policy as "unilateral" or "go it alone," this is a knowing and flagrant falsehood. Period. Just stop it.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:59 AM | War 2004 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Kazardous

Shea Hot Corner, with links to Jason Stark and others, broaches the subject of moving Kaz Matsui to second base when/if Jose Reyes comes back, in light of Reyes' youth and great range compared to Matsui's thus far deeply disappointing glove work. Like the Yankees with Jeter and A-Rod, the Mets may be stuck by the difficulty of getting the inferior player to move, in this case because they promised Matsui he could play short when they signed him. Of course, a manager worth what they're paying Art Howe could make it happen - but putting the fear of God into a veteran player is just not Howe's style.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:03 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 27, 2004
POP CULTURE: "We didn't want someone to put nipples on the Batsuit."

Newsweek on the new Harry Potter movie and the transition in directors. Some choice quotes on the new cast members, Gary Oldman (who plays Sirius Black) and David Thewlis (who plays Remus Lupin):

For his part, it didn't even occur to Oldman that his costars might be intimidated. "I was intimidated by them," Oldman says. "I still come from that place of insecurity. This whole world is established, and it seems to be working pretty well. I am the Prisoner of Azkaban. It's called 'The Prisoner of Azkaban,' so really, the only person who could f—- this up was me." Thewlis, meanwhile, still can't stop raving about the lad who plays Harry: "He's fantastic, remarkably sane and quite eccentric. He's quite the little punk, and so self- deprecating. We used to joke that he'd be in rehab by the time he was 18, and by 27 he'd be hosting a game show called 'It's Wizards!' He's very funny."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:58 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: War Links 5/27/04

*You've doubtless read this somewhere before - it's been linked all over - but if you haven't, go read this plea for a computer game that simulates the frustrations of real war, complete with weathervane politicians, hyper-negative media, fatuous celebrities, and all the other horrors of modern PR in wartime. It's sidesplittingly funny precisely because it captures the tragic reality so well.

*Daniel Pipes reminds us that we're still at war with Hamas and Hezbollah.

*The Wall Street Journal, LT Smash and Cori Dauber have more on the continuing stream of emerging evidence of cooperation between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda before the Iraq war, including some intriguing links to the September 11th plot (a linkage I've always been skeptical of but that seems here to have some potential substance to it). The Saddam equivalent of the "there is no Mafia" crowd will continue to deny, deny, deny, but Saddam's multifarious ties to terror groups were always cloaked in uncertainties, and the question was always how much of a chance we were willing to bet on his good will.

*Hitchens defends Chalabi

*Tim Noah, attacking a recent statement by Attorney General John Ashcroft, tries to argue that bin Laden wouldn't care about influencing the election to defeat George Bush. Noah throws in a totally gratuitous comparison of Ashcroft to bin Laden ("Chatterbox thought Ashcroft would show a greater aptitude for imagining the thought processes of an insane religious fanatic."). He also assumes, erroneously, that bin Laden would understand American politics well enough that "surely he would know—or someone would tell him—that the overwhelmingly likely political result of an attack against the United States in the months leading up to Election Day would be a landslide victory for Bush." This seems inconsistent with bin Laden's prior actions and statements, which suggest a guy who thinks the U.S. is weak and will fold at the first sign of trouble.

Now, I can understand why the idea that bin Laden could be rooting for Kerry - something Kerry can do little enough about, at this point - would rankle a Democrat like Noah. But get real: everyone outside the U.S. will read a Kerry victory as a defeat for an aggressive U.S. foreign policy, much as the contrary conclusion was drawn in 2002. The Islamists Bush has tangled with will declare victory. To some extent that happens whenever the incumbent loses, but it will be greatly magnified in the current circumstances. Trying to deny this makes Noah sound desperate.

*Wartime humor only from the mind of Laurence Simon: "Hey. Cool. Pandas."

*Shades of Larry David: Time Magazine gives Don Rumsfeld crap for calling himself a "survivor," but Tim Blair is ready with examples of Time reporters calling Bill Clinton a survivor for surviving nothing worse than oral sex and Newt Gingrich. Unmentioned here: uh, Rumsfeld also survived a terrorist attack - don't forget that he was in the Pentagon when it was hit by American Airlines Flight 77.

A slight tangent: maybe I've paid too little attention or maybe it's the media here in New York, but has the 9/11 Commission focused awfully heavily on the World Trade Center and ignored the Pentagon? Of course, the Pentagon's victims and survivors are a lot less sympathetic to Democrats, but still . . .

*Kevin Drum links to an article making the obvious point that the World War II Memorial shouldn't be criticized for having been built in a style that was popular during, well, World War II.

*Warblogger Dan Darling shows how blogging can be a great career move - if you're a college student. I just loved the part where he couldn't get recommendations from his professors because he wanted to work at the American Enterprise Institute.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:46 PM | War 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Wolf At The Door

I'm not ready to write about tonight's Mets game, which completely wasted a brilliant outing by Matt Ginter, who threw six shutout innings at the Phillies. Let's talk about something else we'll see with the Phillies.

There's been a lot of attention paid to Dontrelle Willis' batting this year (not that his pitching of late has lived up to his bat), but there's another NL pitcher hitting the tar out of the ball: Randy Wolf, who's batting a booming .294/.588/.333 this season, after driving in 11 runs last year in 33 starts. Then, of course, there's Roger Clemens (4 RBI in 9 starts) and Tom Glavine (.263 and 3 RBI). (Brooks Kieschnick doesn't count).

At the far end of the scale, I'm not sure who's the worst hitting pitcher in the business; Al Leiter is pretty helpless looking up there, and his career line is .087/.107/.147 with 255 strikeouts in 469 at bats. But even worse is Ben Sheets. Hitless in 17 tries this season, Sheets is now batting .073 for his career, with an .078 career slugging percentage and a .118 career OBP. No wonder the Milwaukee staff ace is five games under .500 for his career.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:03 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
May 26, 2004
POLITICS: Landslide?

Chuck Todd argues that the election won't be close and Kerry will trounce Bush. He has to offer an exceptionally strained reading of the evidence - for example, he points to high turnout in two primaries and ignores sharply lower (by historical standards) turnout in numerous later contested Democratic primaries. Still, I have to agree that the odds are rising rapidly that this election will be a blowout one way or the other, as events in Iraq are drawing oxygen away from all other issues, and the public may well just decide either that Bush has screwed up or that Kerry can't be trusted. The fact that both candidates have been dropping in the polls recently seems to suggest that there are a lot of voters not too happy with how things are but not rushing to Bush.

Then again . . . suppose you had an employee (let's call him Joe), and you basically liked Joe and he did good work and you trusted him, but one morning he screwed up a big project. At lunch that day a colleague asks you, "how's Joe? Is he doing a good job?" You're probably not going to give Joe high marks.

But let's say instead that at lunch you meet your boss, and he says, "it's time for evaluations, and you have to decide which employees get bonuses and which ones get pink slips." Suddenly, you have to choose: do you really want to fire Joe? Of course not; you trust him and like him and he does good work, notwithstanding having that screwup on his record. Everybody makes mistakes, after all, and you can't be sure you'd get someone as good.

My point here is that when pollsters ask for job approval ratings, people are likely to vent about whatever good or bad is goinng on right this week - and they may not be thinking about the president's (or another public official's) overall record. And that's particularly true right now: there's been a lot of bad news from Iraq lately, especially the Abu Ghraib story, and it's not unreasonable for people to be unhappy with that news and express it to pollsters. But that's still rather a different thing than voting the president out of office.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:49 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: A World of Alberta

Dean Esmay makes a point that seems obvious to most North Americans, but nonetheless seems to evade European doomsayers: we are so far from the world being overcrowded that you could put the world's entire population as of 2010 in the Canadian province of Alberta, at a population density roughly the same as New York City, and have the whole rest of the world to play with.

(Link via Joyner).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:34 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Around The League

*An auspicious start for the Mets' string of games against NL East contenders, as Steve Trachsel shuts down the Phillies. You really could not ever have asked more from Traschsel than what he's given the Mets since recovering from a rocky start in the first months of 2001. Of course, I'll believe that this is a contending team when I see it; more on that to come.

*Through April 20, Bobby Abreu, one of the Phillies' stable of notorious slow starters, was batting .108 with just two extra base hits. His numbers over the 30 games since then, actual and projected to 162 games:

StatsGABH2B3BHRRRBIBBSBAVGSLGOBP
Actual291164110193231237.353.690.460
Projected1576262215454917316712438.353.690.460

That's a month; in fact, that, my friends, is a ballplayer. Nobody gets less respect for being a great player than Abreu.

*Jimmy Gobble continues his experiment in not striking people out. Through last night's matchup with K-impaired Mike Maroth, Gobble has struck out just 13 batters in 54.2 IP, 2.14 per 9 innings. Gobble has showed good control and kept the ball in the park, but it's really, really hard to win with that strikeout rate.

*I forgot to link to this earlier, but if you have any way to help the son of the late Gonzalo Marquez find memorabilia from his father's career or the 1972 A's, Bruce Markusen tells you how you can help.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:37 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: And That's Why I Wear The Bow Tie

Doctors' neckties may be hazardous to your health!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:20 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: 18,000 Terrorists?

I note the latest estimate of Al Qaeda strength over at the Command Post.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:12 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Life Imitates The Onion

Tuesday's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports:

As food companies look for ways to cash in on the nation's obsession with healthy eating, an increasing number are copying marketing tactics that long have been used by the pharmaceuticals industry: They are pitching their products directly to doctors. The hope is that doctors will start recommending specific foods -- and even brand names -- to patients.

The follows on the heels of the story broken earlier in the week by The Onion:

At a press conference Monday, drug giant Pfizer formally introduced Hoagizine, a pharmaceutical-grade Turkey-Bacon-Guacamole Melt so delicious, it's only available by prescription.

It just gets harder and harder to do satire these days . . .

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:32 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: A Shiite Sakharov?

The Washington Post identifies Hussain Shahristani as the likely prime minister of the new Iraqi provisional government that will rule from June 30 until elections can be held. The Post profile makes Shahristani out as a sort of Shiite Sakharov:

Shahristani, who has a doctorate in nuclear chemistry from the University of Toronto, served as chief scientific adviser to Iraq's atomic energy commission until 1979, when Hussein became president. When he refused to shift from nuclear energy to nuclear weaponry, he was jailed. For most of a decade, he was in Abu Ghraib prison, much of it in solitary confinement. He escaped in 1991 and fled with his wife and three children to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq and, eventually, Iran, where he worked with Iraqi refugees. He later moved to Britain, where he was a visiting university professor.

But unlike other exiles, Shahristani was not active in opposition parties, choosing instead to focus on humanitarian aid projects. He does, however, have a critical connection: He is close to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the country's most powerful Shiite cleric, whose support is essential for the viability of an interim government.

That would be the nuclear weapons program that didn't exist, of course; Saddam put scientists in jail for refusing to participate in it even though it didn't exist.

Shahristani's ties to Sistani are a double-edged sword, although there's really no denying Sistani's positive influence (or, more importantly, his influence, period) thus far. You can read Shahristani's own thoughts, in one of his Wall Street Journal op-eds urging faster elections, here:

Al-Sistani is perhaps the only person who can realize both the dreams of the majority of Iraqis, and the declared goal of the U.S.: to create a stable democracy that could potentially transform the Middle East. The U.S. should value the role the Grand Ayatollah is taking to lead the Iraqi people away from militancy and toward the international system of democracy. If Washington plays it right, this path that Al-Sistani spearheaded in Iraq could prove to be the most significant victory in a war on terrorism. Let us hope--and pray--that Washington has the wisdom to seize it.

The most practical way to help Iraq now is to allow the U.N. to work with representatives of all constituents of the Iraqi society to develop a formula for early direct elections--an achievable task. Elections will be held in Iraq, sooner or later. The sooner they are held, and a truly democratic Iraq is established, the fewer Iraqi and American lives will be lost.

Interesting side note: the WaPo article says that another one of Shahristani's WSJ op-eds (subscription only) was what called the attention of U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to Shahristani. I'm sure the WSJ op-ed editors are smiling at the opportuinity to play kingmaker, as it were. Here's a selection from that article:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:21 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: This Boy Can Really Fly

Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts expands on some observations by his brother about the absence from TV portrayals of teenage sexuality of what is euphemistically referred to as second and third base. It's an interesting argument.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:07 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
May 25, 2004
FOOTBALL/LAW: Clarett Runs Out Of Time

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which previously lifted the injunction ordering the NFL to permit Maurice Clarett to participate in the NFL Draft, has now rejected Clarett's contention that the antitrust laws require the NFL to let him be eligible for the draft. The opinion is here, but it's pretty dry reading unless you're a labor antitrust lawyer (and believe me, that's coming from someone who reads a lot of judicial opinions). Clarett has 90 days to file a petition with the United States Supreme Court, although unless he can convince the Court to issue an injunction providing for new emergency relief, the Court's usual schedule won't permit his appeal to be heard and decided until December at the earliest, and quite probably after the NFL season.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:41 PM | Football • | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Waiting For Atrios

Ricky West shares a "gotcha" moment with Atrios. He's still waiting for the promised mea culpa.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:53 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Mora The Same

Aaron Gleeman, writing at The Hardball Times, has some astonishing numbers showing Melvin Mora's last five healthy months, amounting to a .367/.597/.466 line. He also explains why "there's a good chance that Esteban Loaiza's 2003 season will go down as one of the strangest, completely-out-of-nowhere seasons in baseball history."

Also, Brian Gunn takes on Chris Kahrl's endless negativity on the St. Louis bench. I do enjoy Karhl, but I agree with Brian that he does ride the same hobbyhorses endlessly, and he packs so many inside references into each sentence and clause that his columns can be like reading a statute.

Then again, a note to Brian and his commenters who hold out some hope for a Roger Cedeno revival: trust me, I spent the past two years watching the guy. It ain't happening. Although it wouldn't hurt to get in better shape and have his eyes checked.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:27 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Little W?

Has the malaprop-wielding Little Carmine on The Sopranos been modeled after George W. Bush? That's one I had not thought of, but the quote at the end of this entry makes clear that this had to be deliberate. (Via Steve Silver who notices that Sunday night's episode - in which he finds himself in a "stagmire" - pretty much does away with the parallel).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:22 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Hearts and Minds

Matt Yglesias misunderstands the basic point about winning hearts and minds in Iraq that I make below:

One stable [sic] of "Iraq's all good, man" commentary has been to note that Muqtada al-Sadr is very anti-American while Ayatollah Sistani is not a fan of al-Sadr. Since Sistani is a very influential figure, this could be good news indeed. Good news, that is, if the fact that Sistani is a Sadr opponent implied that he was a fan of the American occupation. But it doesn't and, in fact, he isn't. So we're screwed either way. Less screwed, admittedly, under a scenario where we undercut Sadr military and Sistani undercuts him politically than we would be under the alternative, but still screwed.

The fact that Sistani's "no fan of the occupation" means nothing. Heck, George Bush is no fan of the occupation - what sane person would be? What matters is that Sistani does not appear to be supporting attacks on coalition troops or on his fellow Iraqis, and for the moment he doesn't appear to be pushing a jihadist theocracy.

Remember: the war for "hearts and minds" isn't about making them love us; it's about making the Iraqis and others in the Arab and Muslim worlds take responsibility for their own back yards, stop blaming us for everything and stop encouraging and assisting people to try to kill us . . . just because the Germans don't much like America doesn't mean we didn't win the "hearts and minds" war after World War II. Iraq for the Iraqis is good news for us.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:19 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Rallying The Troops

If President Bush's latest effort was less than inspirational, you can always count on the internet for a pep talk. Bill Whittle has a tremendously long two-part essay starting here reviewing the case for going to war in Iraq and why we must press on to victory. (Link via Instapundit) Not a lot of new information here, but uplifting nonetheless. Whittle's analysis of Fallujah bears repeating:

We ran from Fallujah, we hear; those murdering bastards are laughing at us. We’re not tough enough to win. Uh, not quite. Hundreds of those murdering bastards are dead. They are not laughing at anything.

The Fallujah bridge pissed off a lot of Americans. It really made us see red. Would we be disgusted enough to walk away, or furious enough to go in and indiscriminately slaughter thousands? The architects of that atrocity must have thought they nailed that perfect tic-tac-toe move: we go one way, they win on the other. Quoth Den Beste: the object of Terrorism is to provoke an overwhelming response. And the response to that response is the political and strategic goal of the terrorist.

Al Sadr, you less than magnificent bastard! We read your book!

Blah, blah…war is lost…blah blah blah... disaster, wreck and ruin… Only it turns out that the United States military may have produced a few life-long professionals who actually hold victory more precious than crowing loud. Many of us value reason over emotion, and reality over wishful thinking. Well, we did not level Fallujah, and we did not do it because those bodies on that bridge were bait, pure and simple. We didn’t take the bait. Or, I should say, our military didn’t take the bait; I took it, hook line and sinker. I wanted to level the goddam city and then walk away and let them kill each other. Now, as Al Sadr’s support evaporates; as his militia thugs are being hunted and killed by shadowy Iraqi ghost armies and extremely corporeal Marines; as his fellow Mullahs condemn him; as Iraqi demonstrations against him and all that poison and ruin he represents continue to rise; as his headquarters are destroyed, his most vicious ‘soldiers’ killed in their own backyards, playing defense in an urban environment by Marines whose skill and tactics stagger credulity for their expertise and success – now, we must ask ourselves: did you want to feel good or did you want to win?

I want to win. I was an idiot for taking that bait. And I thank God daily that America makes better, smarter people than me.

* * *

The threat of the vast Shiite uprising that loomed in early April has largely evaporated. Things are still very tense. They may again get worse; they may become horrible. But we will win this because we are not going home until we do. This is slowly beginning to dawn on some of the hardest heads in Iraq. When Iraqi leaders start saying things like we’d better help the Americans stabilize the country, because they will not go away until we do – well, that is precisely, exactly the kind of victory we need. We need that attitude. There is a shred of can-do self-reliance in those words. Al-Sadr will either end up like Uday and Qusay or Saddam. Those are his remaining choices.

Emphasis in original; read the whole thing. On the same note, NRO provides some choice words from Marine Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:14 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Will Hollywood Get It?

Sometimes, unfortunately, persuasion has to come retail. Little Green Footballs notes that Madonna canceled a concert in Israel due to death threats from Palestinians against her and her children.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:59 AM | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Hillary Is Right!

Yes, I'll say it: Hillary Clinton is right to call for a larger Army, in an ironic joint statement with former House impeachment manager (now Senator) Lindsey Graham (the Senate's too small for grudges). You don't have to believe that we need more troops in Iraq today to conclude that, on the whole, the demands of the War on Terror require us to expand our capacity to fight wars and/or occupations/insurgencies on multiple fronts at once to preserve our credibility in dealing with multiple problems at the same time.

What will Bush do? He's thus far resisted calls for a larger Army. But he's reversed course before after initially resisting calls for, among other things, a Homeland Security department, and left his critics outflanked on all sides as a result. If Bush decided to veer rightward and demand a bigger Army, the Democrats - as usual - would find themselves with no room to move, since many of them have gotten to Bush's right on this issue and couldn't flip far enough to get back to his left. Presumably, their only response would then be to call for more taxes to pay for more soldiers, but Democrats call for more taxes in just about any situation, usually without effect.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:57 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Fireside Chat

President Bush spoke to the nation last night to lay out the case for staying the course in Iraq. The president's delivery sounded awfully flat on the radio, and the speech was hardly a stirring one. On the substance, though, some good points were made.

Mickey Kaus, in his crusade quest for faster elections, is of course thrilled at this line, as I knew he would be: "The fifth and most important step is free, national elections, to be held no later than next January."

In a key passage, the President surveyed the security situation on the ground:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:46 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 24, 2004
BASEBALL: Learning To Take

I've lately been reading Allan Wood's marvelous book Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox; more on that later. One point that fascinated me from Wood's book is his portrayal of Ruth, in his first season spending significant time as a position player, as a tempermentally impatient hitter, one who loved swinging at first pitches, something his teammates usually avoided and for which he was sometimes reprimanded.

Take a look at Ruth's batting numbers broken down in three parts: 1914-17, when he was a full-time pitcher who got extra at bats mostly by pinch hitting; 1918, when he was new to the lineup; and 1919 and 1920, his first two years as a regular; I'll run a projection to 600 at bats so you can really see the changes:

Actual Batting Stats

YearsABBBK
1914-173613168
19183175858
191943210158
192045815080

Projected to 600 At Bats

YearsABBBK
1914-1760052113
1918600110110
191960014081
1920600197105

When you look at these numbers in light of the portrait painted by Wood, two things emerge: (1) the rapid rise in Ruth's walk rate is a compelling testimony to how quickly fear of the Babe's power caused pitchers to work around him; and (2) the very quick improvement in both Ruth's BB and K rates shows what a quick study Ruth was. This wasn't a guy who gloried in waiting out the pitcher; Ruth learned to wait. And he learned that lesson in just a few years, while lesser players can take their whole careers to get the point.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:02 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
BASEBALL: Not The Same

I haven't seen him enough to diagnose the problem, but there is something seriously wrong with Johan Santana (btw, didn't his first name used to have two "n"s?) - after his shellacking yesterday, the league is hitting .301 against Santana. His K/BB ratio (48/17 in 54.2 IP) is just fine, but he's been tagged for 10 home runs in 10 starts (1.6 per 9 IP) and averaging less than 6 innings a start.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:07 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: I Want My Taxpayer Funding!

Yeah, I know, picking on Air America is beating a dead horse. But this item really captures one prominent reason why conservatives have argued all along that openly liberal radio would never fly as a for-profit business:

Die-hard liberals tuning in to Air America couldn't believe their ears last week when they heard a commercial for the oil company Royal Dutch/Shell.

"Air America is trying to posit itself as anti-corporate, left-leaning radio, and they're running ads where Shell says it's a great corporate citizen?" kvetches an environmental advocate.

In the spot, about a scientist studying a coral reef, Shell comes across as environmentally concerned. Shell-bashers complain that the fossil-fuel dispenser is anything but. In a class-action lawsuit alleging complicity in human-rights abuses in Nigeria, the family of the late Nobel laureate Ken Saro-Wiwa claims that his protest against Shell's drilling led to his execution by the state. (A Shell spokesman told us the allegations were false.)

A source tells us the station inherited the ad commitment for a limited period when it took over WLIB (1190 AM).

It's hard enough getting sponsors without having to have them vetted by every environmental group out there to see if somebody has a beef with them.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:57 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 23, 2004
BASEBALL: No-Hitterless

As The Mad Hibernian notes below, yet another chance missed for a Mets no-hitter. (As you may recall, Tom Glavine also had another, more tenuous brush with a no-no for the Mets last August). It would have been ironic indeed to see the Mets' first no-hitter thrown by Glavine, who had a great career with the Braves but never threw a no-no there. After all, recall that Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone all had their best years at Shea but went on to throw no-hitters for other teams - Seaver and Gooden in their first years for a new team, Gooden and Cone for the Hated Yankees. Nolan Ryan, who spent four full seasons in Flushing and started 74 games for the Mets, threw four no-hitters in the four seasons after leaving the Mets. Here, as far as I can assemble it, is the full list - check here and correct me if I've missed someone:

Pitchers Who Threw No-Hitters After Leaving The Mets:
Nolan Ryan (seven times, including for every other franchise he pitched for)
Tom Seaver
Mike Scott
Dwight Gooden
David Cone
Hideo Nomo
*Octavio Dotel (1 inning in combined no-hitter)

Pitchers Who Threw No-Hitters Before Coming To The Mets:
Don Cardwell
Warren Spahn (twice, albeit long before he was a Met)
Dock Ellis
John Candelaria
*Alejandro Pena (1 inning in combined no-hitter)
Bret Saberhagen
Kenny Rogers
Al Leiter
Hideo Nomo (got 'em on both ends)
**Scott Erickson (not that he's pitched for the Mets in the regular season, or is likely to)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:59 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Moore Again

Heard on the radio in the shower this morning: Michael Moore described as "humbled" by being given an award at Cannes. Followed by audio clip of him saying he intended to make sure the soldiers in Iraq had not died in vain.

Even before the audio clip - dripping with self-importance and self-satisfaction, as always, to say nothing of hypocrisy - my wife could hear me laughing at the concept of Moore being "humbled" by anything.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:10 PM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Sequestration Order

Note to viewers of The Sopranos who aren't up to speed through tonight: Things Happened on tonight's episode. If you don't want to know, begin avoiding the media immediately, with particular emphasis on Slate.com, the New York Daily News, and the Letterman show, among others. Thank me later.

We now resume our regularly scheduled broadcast.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:45 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Quite Contreras

Jose Contreras yesterday had his second good outing in the last three: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 7 K, and 1 run on a solo homer. As bad as Contreras started the season, I wonder how many other teams would have pulled him from the rotation and sent him to the minors; the Yankees have particularly little tolerance for struggling pitchers, and always have. (Then again, the Mets have also used such early-season demotions to straighten out guys like Steve Trachsel and Bobby Jones). It's debatable which is the better approach, but Contreras does seem to be in the process of righting the ship.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:12 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 22, 2004
POP CULTURE: Five Songs, Vol. I

I'm kicking off a new intermittent feature here on the site (bearing in mind the unfinished nature of many of my prior serieses of posts): Five Songs, in which I'll post about five selected songs that I've been listening to lately. Hope you enjoy.

1. Forgotten Years, by Midnight Oil - "Who can remember, we've got to remember" - a heartfelt tribute to the tribulations of generations that fought wars (written in that whole "end of history" mood of the early Nineties), with a driving beat and a moving video shot amidst rows of crosses. Of course, it's no longer entirely true of America (though for the moment it remains true of Midnight Oil's native Australia) that "Our shorelines were never invaded, our country was never in flames".

2. Night Train, by Guns n' Roses - The Gunners at their best. One funny thing: there's a line in the song where Axl, in full "see how much of a badass I really am" mode, sings, "I got a dog eat dog sly smile." But until I read the lyrics, I thought he said, "I got a dog he doubts my smile" (listen some time and you'll see what I mean), which conveys a much more menacing thought - a man whose dog doesn't even trust him. Two bonus Guns n' Roses items. First, the band did a demo cover of the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" that got leaked to New York's Z100 back when I used to listen to the station (hey, I was in high school), and it went in heavy rotation for a few weeks until some sort of legal action quashed it. I hope they find a way some day to unearth this one - it was just dynamite, fast-paced full-tilt rock that made the classic original sound pokey by comparison. Second, and listen closely before you laugh at me: listen to the "sparks flying" part of the bridge in "Welcome to the Jungle" (the part leading up to where Axl screams, "you're in the jungle baby, you're gonna dieeeee); then listen to the sound of Satan's fiddlers in The Charlie Daniels Band's 1979 novelty country tune "The Devil Went Down To Georgia." Tell me they aren't basically playing the same sound.

3. Comfortably Numb, by Van Morrison - The Pink Floyd original is definitive, of course, but Morrison's interpretation, from the concert at the Berlin Wall, is quite different; while David Gilmour's purposely flat vocals give expression to the singer's drug-induced distance and emotional alienation, Morrison invests the song with a lot more emotion, singing about the pain of loss rather than portraying absence.

4. I'm the Ocean, by Neil Young with Pearl Jam - Young, famously, is a master of both heavy metal and easy listening; this is in the former vein. The "Mirror Ball" album he did backed by Pearl Jam is uneven, but has some good stuff, this song among it.

5. Human Wheels, John Mellencamp - Another song for just the right mood - melancholy, without being depressing, and with a hypnotic, cycling beat. Should rank with Mellencamp's best.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:44 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL/OTHER SPORTS etc.: Great Sports Moments

Michele asks for greatest sports moments. I'll repost my thoughts here. I'll agree with some of the moments cited by her commenters - Jose Canseco getting hit in the head with a ball and turning it into a home run is still the funniest thing that's ever happened. Bill Mazeroski's homer - ten years to the day before I was born - is tough to top for sheer instant drama and finality, especially when you consider the aura of invincability of those Yankees and the back-and-forth nature of that game and that series. And yes, I once had a poster on my wall of the famous Starks dunk over Jordan.

My personal favorite, of course, is still the bottom of the tenth inning of Game Six, 1986 World Series, specifically Bob Stanley's game-tying wild pitch. Close behind are Robin Ventura's "grand slam single" in the rain in 1999 and virtually every minute of the 1991 Super Bowl.

Probably the most electric moment from a sport I don't follow or, ordinarily, even like that much was Sarah Hughes' gold medal winning figure skating performance, because she single-handedly did what I thought couldn't be done in figure skating: overcome the expectations and grab victory through the sheer brilliance of a single performance. In other words, for one night, she actually made figure skating a real sport.

The most memorable ones I've seen in person: (1) Game Six of the Knicks-Heat series in 1997, when half the team (including Patrick) was suspended and the MSG crowd just tried to will the skeleton roster to victory; (2) Brad Clontz' wild pitch in the last scheduled game of the regular season in 1999 to send the Mets to a 1-game playoff with the Reds.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:22 AM | Baseball 2004 • | Basketball • | Football • | Other Sports | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Careful About Those Battlegrounds

The Washington Post reminds us that trends can be moving in different ways in different states, changing which states are "battlegrounds." Another reason why, if you aren't already, you should be reading Gerry Dales' Electoral College Breakdown on a regular basis.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:20 AM | Politics 2004 • | Poll Analysis | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: You're A Loser Baby, So Why Don't You Vote For Me?

Joshua Wolf Shenk at Mother Jones has an astute observation, albeit couched in the usual anti-Bush screediness, about the Left's inability to weave a positive narrative, as exemplified by the Kerry campaign's Shrumian rhetoric:

What's the story here? It puts forth two main characters: There's this greedy, powerful character named "Special Interest" who has been kicking ass! Special Interest runs the political and corporate worlds. Hell, Special Interest runs the world. S/he has a penthouse in Trump Tower, a chalet on Aspen Mountain and a ranch in Montana. S/he spends the morning on the phone with Wall Street, making a few billion, and the afternoon on the phone with Washington, making the money tax-free. Then, at night...

Up against "Special Interest" is a perennial loser called "Everyday American." Loser has a nagging spouse and impeccably average kids and a long commute to and from a cubicle. At home, the toilet leaks but it's hard to find a decent plumber. The cell phone keeps blinking out, but the new ones are so expensive. But then again, Loser thinks, "I'm worth it." So s/he logs onto to Internet - wants to save the sales tax - and goes to bed excited, wondering whether UPS will take two or three days, and whether there will be someone at home to sign for the package, and whether s/he is as truly, deeply pathetic as it seems.

Which of these characters would you rather be? John Kerry and Bob Shrum don't condescend to give you the choice. They tell you, "You're Loser." You secretly hate them for this. You may hate their opponents more, and vote for Kerry with clenched teeth. Or you may vote for Nader (at five points in the May Gallup poll). Or you may (like huge chunks of the core Democratic constituency) just not vote.

Whereas the right-wing has a good story that they believe, liberals have a lame story--and they don't even believe it. One of the highlights from Bob Shrum's reel is when he dressed up former Senator Bob Kerrey in a uniform of a hockey goalie and had him say that he was going to defend America from foreign imports. Kerrey went along with it, then later said that he hadn't believed a word of what he said in the campaign.

The same must be true for John Kerry. This wealthy Washington insider may tell us--but surely he doesn't believe--that he's going to lead us in a fight against "Special Interest." Anyway, even if Kerry gets elected telling this story, who will want to follow him? Americans don't want to fight the rich and the powerful. They want to be rich and powerful.

Ouch. In some ways this is also where John McCain went off the rails, when he stopped using his campaign finance crusade and his anti-pork tirades as credibility-building examples of his fearlessness and tried to make them the centerpiece of his campaign.

Of course, Wolf Shenk's own proposed narrative doesn't hang together so well, either, as it basically degenerates into a litany of "BUSH LIED!!!!" and carping about budget deficits. Actually, if you buy the narrative, the one that does work for Democrats is tying the same sex marriage issue into the civil rights movement . . . except, of course, that the public isn't buying same sex marriage at this point and the Democrats are afraid (probably justifiably) to try to lead them there. Plus, of course, the fact that weaving a civil rights narrative leaves them with nothing to say about war or the economy. But that's still better than having nothing to say at all.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:18 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: End of The Week Non-Baseball Links

An accumulation:

*Gen. Anthony Zinni has a new book out this summer, entitled "Battle Ready," co-authored by Tom Clancy and chronicling Zinni's career. Sure sounds like a guy auditioning for VP to me.

*Michael King has some thoughts on a recent Bill Cosby speech that didn't go down so well with an assemblage of 'civil rights leaders'.

*Kevin Drum gets in a huff about the Texas state controller ruling that Unitarian-Universalists aren't a real religion. This is indeed pretty dumb, but only people on the Left could blame it on what evil cretins all Texans are. The problem here is one that's common throughout government: idiotic decisions driven by fear of litigation, in this case fear that the absence of a clear standard will render the controller vulnerable in future litigation with genuine crackpots. Horror stories are common of government officials - especially at the public school level - overreacting to stuff, especially where religious liberties are concerned, out of misunderstanding of the applicable law coupled with fear of litigation. The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the Texans but in our courts.

*Daniel Drezner comes down hard on education school programs.

*Dana at Note-It Posts has some thoughts on abortion (via NGD).

*The MinuteMan comes down real hard on Brad Pitt's Troy.

*Pejman seeks to correct the common misperception that "being a law student is like being a Jew during the Inquisition." He has and links to some good advice; I'd heartily second the idea that law school is still less work than having a job (personally, I found that the stress of job-hunting was actually the main anxiety-builder in law school) and that it's just crucial to spend time with people who are not law students.

*Those swift boat vets just won't let up on Kerry.

*Venomous Kate is a good place to start for strange theories about Nicholas Berg (link via An Unsealed Room). I just want to know if this Zelig of the Terror War was related to Moe Berg, catcher and spy.

*Speaking of Berg, Michele tears into his father's fatuous editorial for the Guardian, the left-wing London rag. Read the whole thing. It's the Guardian that should really be ashamed for printing this drivel. I love this line, which is one of the best things I think I've ever read: "let me tell you, Mr. Berg - if George Bush had looked into your son's eyes, it wouldn't be while he was slicing his head off." A sample of the foolishness:

[S]tart honouring and respecting every human's need to live free and autonomously, to truly respect the sovereignty of every state. To stop making up rules by which others must live and then separate rules for ourselves.

Well, we can respect other humans, or we can respect sovereign states. We can't have both, not when other sovereign states are run with not the slightest regard for our fellow humans or for us.

Likewise, we can expect others to live up to the same rules we do - or we can accept that they don't. Again, we've gotta choose between the two. It's astounding how often the Left looks at homicidal dictatorships and assumes that this is how their subjects freely choose to live. If you start with the (rather indisputable) premise that the Saddams and the Zarqawis of the world wish to impose their will on a population that does not want to live that way, all the talk in the world about respecting how other people choose to live falls away to nonsense.

*Anything that gets William Donahue to blast the Vatican is pretty misguided. That's like Terry McAuliffe ripping Clinton.

*The NY Daily News' headline from Rudy Giuliani's testimony before the increasingly farcical September 11 commission: "We did all we could" (Underlining in the print headline on the front page). But that's not what he said; what Rudy said, which was much wiser and encompassed the failures of 9/11 and why we shouldn't rush to place blame for them, was "we did everything we could think of ... to protect the city." Ponder that one. We, as a nation, and our governments, federal, state and city, did not do everything we could. We did do, as Rudy said, everything we could think of. The problem was a collective failure of imagination.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:46 AM | Blog 2002-05 • | Law 2002-04 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 21, 2004
BASEBALL: He Will Be Missed

Via David Pinto, some horrible news: Doug Pappas, the indefatigable business-of-baseball writer who tilted endlessly at the windmill of Major League Baseball's opaque finances, has died suddenly:

Doug Pappas, attorney and writer, died Thursday while hiking in Big Bend National Park, apparently due to heat prostration.

Doug died while taking part in one of his passions, traveling the country and taking pictures of it for his Roadside Photos web site.

That's scary; Pappas was only 43. Pappas did great work; I never met the man, but I enjoyed his writing, which often broke new ground. You can check out his Business of Baseball blog here (last entry was Tuesday), and his article archive at Baseball Prospectus (last article, part of a series on ticket prices, ran Monday) here.

Hopefully, someone will take up responsibility for preserving his writings on his blog; it's the least that can be done.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:50 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Rocky Finish

Yes, I'm aware that this blog has been (a) a bit too quiet lately and (b) in particular, quite short on baseball blogging of late. What can I say? I've been traveling the past two weekends and busy at work.

Tonight, i got to watch some actual baseball for the first time in a bit, specifically the Mets and Rockies. A few random thoughts:

*The Rockies pitching staff . . . not good. Not at all good. The Mets looked like they were taking batting practice out there.

*Is Royce Clayton auditioning for Milli Vanilli? (Well, Rob's dead, after all). Like the Vanillis, Clayton can't get a hit without a lot of help . . .

*How sad is this? The Mets radio announcers were waxing nostalgic for the one week last season when Jose Reyes, Cliff Floyd and Mike Piazza were all healthy at the same time.

*Matt Ginter is not terrible. Which is about all you could ask from him, but it's better than, oh say, giving a game ball to James Baldwin every fifth day (the Mets signed Baldwin because Scott Ruffcorn was unavailable).

*Tonight, we saw the Braden Looper we all remember from his Marlins days, wild and living on the edge. In fairness, two of the ninth inning baserunners got on on fluke bad bounce grounders that ate up Kaz Matsui and Ty Wigginton. But he did manage to get out of the jam.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:36 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Tinfoil Ted

A must-read: how Ted Kennedy is relying on the Lyndon LaRouche operation for some of his anti-war charges. In fact - and I had meant to blog on this earlier this week when it was reported in OpinionJournal's Political Diary - Kennedy, the de facto leader of the anti-war faction these days, is even relying on the work of a writer he himself doesn't believe.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:45 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASKETBALL/POP CULTURE: Sports Guy & Wiley

Bill Simmons faced off with Ralph Wiley on Monday, talking basketball and other stuff. As Aaron Gleeman noted, Bill "did the unthinkable" and "made Ralph Wiley seem almost likeable." He did the even more unthinkable by playing the first race card in a chat with Wiley - that's like winning the tipoff against Wilt Chamberlain.

There's a mountain of interesting arguments to be had over their lists of the top basketball players of all time, but one that got me was Bill choosing Moses over Kareem. I know he hates Kareem, but c'mon here - if titles are everything, as the rest of his list seems to suggest, how can you rank Moses that high? He was basically just a rich man's Ewing who only won the one title. He couldn't score with Kareem, pass with Kareem, block shots with Kareem, he was at best even as a rebounder, and he didn't have a single killer offensive move.

NOTE: SOPRANOS DISCUSSION AHEAD

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:30 AM | Basketball • | Pop Culture | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
May 20, 2004
POLITICS: Moore-On

Annika imagines Michael Moore in boot camp. And the MooreWatch guys suggest that if Moore really thought getting his message out was more important than cashing in, he'd pre-release his latest crockumentary on the internet free of charge. Which ain't gonna happen.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:13 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Prediction Holding Steady

With the news that the Attorneys General of Connecticut and Rhode Island are following Elliot Spitzer in deciding that they are obligated to recognize same-sex marriages from Massachusetts, my prediction from February looks better every day:

Gay marriage will become the law of the land without any state legislature ever having voted it into law, without a majority of either house of Congress ever having voted in favor of gay marriage, without any statewide popular referendum ever having voted in favor of gay marriage, and without any state or federal constitutional provision ever having explicitly authorized it.

As I've noted before, the way in which this is being done is what I find most problematic. It's one thing for democratically elected legislatures to enter into a radical social experiment like recognizing same-sex marriage; if there are unintended consequences or things just don't seem to be working out, you can change. But by judicially imposing a no-compromises, all-or-nothing, one-size-fits-all solution and having it enforced administratively, the proponents of same-sex marriage are giving the people no room for compromise, balance, or reflection. That's no way to run a democracy.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:34 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Jose The Slugger

Take a look at this box score and tell me what's wrong. Yes . . . that's right . . . that's Jose Offerman, batting cleanup.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:22 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
May 19, 2004
POLITICS: Is His Heart In It?

Will Dick Cheney decline to run again in 2004, citing health reasons? It's a favorite topic of speculation, especially among fans of Condoleazza Rice, but most of the scenarios I've seen - focusing on Bush forcing Cheney out for political reasons or Cheney quitting to "take one for the team" and using his health as a pretext - strike me as pretty far-fetched, if not as ridiculous as John Kerry picking a pro-life Republican war hawk as his running mate.

This column from The Hill, however, actually makes a not-insane, if speculative, argument that Cheney's health may yet force him to the sidelines:

There are two other reasons I’m betting there won’t be a Bush-Cheney ticket this fall. One was a little-noticed report in the Federicksburg (Va.) Free Lance Star on April 16 that Cheney was taken to the Culpeper Regional Hospital on April 5 from a nearby secret undisclosed location, just before leaving for Asia. . . .
* * *
I asked [reporter Donnie] Johnston, who lives in Culpeper, about his story, which Cheney’s office refused to comment on. “I could get no official confirmation,” he said, “but unofficially, I was told by three different sources that Cheney was there under an assumed name. That’s why the hospital said they had no record of his being there.”

The second reason is that Cheney’s defibrillator, made by Medtronic of Minneapolis, may be nearing the end of its average life expectancy of about five years. An earlier model was recalled in 1999 because of faulty capacitors, according to Medtronic spokesman Scott Papillon, who said the problem was corrected in Cheney’s newer model.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:52 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Fantasy of Containment

Kevin Drum links to a Wesley Clark article (also in the Washington Monthly) on the lessons of the Cold War:

The neoconservatives persist in seeing a vast difference between Reagan's policy of confronting the Soviets and previous American administrations' tack of containing it. In fact, it was precisely those decades of containment and cultural engagement that made Reagan's challenge effective.

Drum's conclusion:

Clark's point is a simple one: Neither Reagan nor any of the seven Cold War presidents before him ever attacked either the Soviet Union or one of its satellites directly. This wasn't because of insufficient dedication to anticommunism, but because it wouldn't have worked. . . .
* * *

In the end, the patient strategy of military containment and cultural engagement was the right call, and it's the right call for the war on terror as well. Too bad George Bush doesn't seem to get this.

(Emphasis in original). Now, there are fair arguments about the Cold War's history; suffice it to say that you can take the victory without agreeing that containment without a more aggressive approach was the right call at each and every historical moment. And there were those on the Left who never accepted the costs and burdens of containment, let alone of Reagan's policies, notably including John Kerry. But leave all that aside for now. Because Drum's idea that a "patient strategy of military containment and cultural engagement" is a feasible way to run the war on terror - a notion he apparently shares with Clark and many others on the Left - is pure fantasy.

There was a substantial downside to merely containing the Soviets: the loss of lives and freedom in places like Vietnam, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, etc., as communists lashed out in the far corners of the world and we could never do more than push back in a reactive way. But while lots of people died at the hands of our enemies, they were often not Americans, so I can see how you can consider this a viable option. Here, however, the downside of taking punches while waiting for containment to work is, we lose an office building, a planeload of civilians, a city.

Containment sorta worked, in preventing direct attacks on us, because we had deterrence. But that just isn't present anymore. As to non-state actors, where do you hit them back? And as to their state sponsors, the critical problem is deniability. Ask yourself: if Saddam was involved in the first WTC bombing, or Oklahoma City, or September 11, how would we prove to a certainty? One thing we surely know from the Iraq war debate is that there would be no shortage of Americans eager to defend any foreign dictator against charges of complicity in terrorism, and no shortage of obstacles to getting perfect evidence in the aftermath of an attack.

On a related note, containment requires solid and dependable intelligence; we can't rest easily on a strategy of decades of patience if we don't know what the other guy is up to. We now know that much of the intelligence developed about Iraq - not only by the Bush Administration but by the Clinton Administration, the governments of Britain, France, Germany, Russia and others, and relied on and cited even by the UN and Congressional Democrats - was off base in a number of significant ways, and not all of them in the direction of overestimating threats. In fact, it turned out at the end of the Cold War that the CIA got a lot wrong there as well. Consistently dependable intelligence is hard; who among the containment advocates would argue that we will always have good enough intelligence to switch to an offensive posture when and only when threats of attack are imminent?

Also, the anaolgy to our pressure on the Soviet economy doesn't fly. We can't collapse Arab economies, because we can't kill the oil business and that's all they have anyway. Certainly, Arab and Muslim leaders have proven quite adept at convincing a largely illiterate populace that their problems stem from a Zionist conspiracy and not the faults of their leaders. Accepting the status quo means accepting that as a permanent condition. Containment does nothing to stop the anti-American propaganda that feuls hatred of us and is at the very core of our problem.

Also, containment in Iraq was a fiasco - it was expensive and dangerous and we now know that the sanctions regime, while imposing real hardships on the Iraqi people, was largely ineffective to stop Saddam from skimming off an almost limitless supply of funds that were available to make mischief.

Also, containment means accepting that hostile regimes (as Saddam's was) will, at a minimum, decline to cooperate with our law enforcement efforts against non-state actors. As long as their were big black holes on the map into which we couldn't follow the trail of terrorists, they sure as heck were not contained.

The problem of the war on terror is, we need to change the behavior of regimes in the region - either by external pressure, internal pressure, or regime change - and we need for our own safety to do so ASAP, not four decades from now. The reason Saddam was first in line (after the Taliban) is that his behavior was most intractable and least subject to change, but others are due for more pressure next. Just living with him wasn't an option.

Containment isn't always a workable option; it wasn't in World War II or several other historical conflicts. It isn't now. It's frightening that many Democrats don't understand that.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:52 AM | War 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)
May 18, 2004
BASEBALL: What They Threw

A little glimpse of discarded extras from the new Bill James/Rob Neyer book (due in June) on pitchers and what they threw.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:04 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: When Cat-Kicking Alone Won't Do

Jonah Goldberg likes to conjure the mental image of Paul Krugman kicking his cat whenever there's good economic news. Via the now-defunct Amish Tech Support, we have the answer to the question: "what will Krugman's cat look like after six more months of economic good news?"

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:00 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Perfection in Progress?

Randy Johnson is perfect through 7 innings, with Andruw Jones due up to start the 8th. Johnson's thrown 91 pitches through 7.

UPDATE: Jones flied out to center. Estrada whiffs. Every pitch thrown so far in the 8th is a strike. 1-2 pitch, Drew grounds out. Three outs to go.

Ninth inning, one down as DeRosa grounds out on a 1-2 pitch. Nick Green up, a pinch hitter for Hampton on deck.

Green whiffs on a 1-2 pitch.

1-1 to Eddie Perez. Mets rallying, by the way.

2-2.

Cliff Floyd wins the Mets game with a 9th inning hit.

Perez whiffs. RANDY JOHNSON HAS THROWN A PERFECT GAME. 117 pitches.

Floyd to Ed Coleman: "I just want to win so bad, man."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Bush Record

One of the more bizarre Kerry campaign talking points is the repeated assertion that President Bush "has no record to run on." Kerry even used it himself on Meet the Press. This is nonsense, to the point where you wonder how stupid these guys think the voters really are.

If you take off your partisan hat for a minute, leave aside your view of how good or bad the various Administration efforts have been, step back and ask yourself what the Bush Administration has actually made happen, it's a pretty extensive list for just under three and a half years in office.

1. The Iraq War - While it's true that any administration would have faced a crisis in dealing with Saddam Hussein after September 11, given the collapse of the basic assumptions of the sanctions regime and the Clinton-era commitment to a policy of regime change, there's no denying that the Bush Administration required a massive diplomatic and political initiative to persuade reluctant allies and members of Congress, arrange basing rights and other critical military support, get UN Resolution 1441 passed, and deal with all the other logistical and political aspects of the war and its aftermath. And, of course, the war itself resulted in conquering America's most prominent adversary in a matter of weeks and embarking on a long and arduous reconstruction of the country.

2. The Afghan War - While the Afghan war didn't face the same political and diplomatic hurdles as the Iraq war and hasn't involved the same complex reconstruction efforts, there were decisions to be made up front about how directly to confront the Taliban, there were those who criticized the decision to go to war (including much of the European press). The Administration's response was to assemble what it described as "the largest coalition ever assembled."

3. Tax Cuts - Not one or two but three rounds of tax cuts, cutting income tax rates for everyone who pays income taxes, cutting capital gains taxes, dividend taxes, estate taxes. All against such a stiff headwind of political opposition that the tax cut fight triggered a mid-term shift in control of the Senate, and at times when pundits declared that the people did not want tax cuts. Bush made the cuts his top domestic priority, and the results are apparent in the tax bills of most taxpayers.

4. Medicare Prescription Drug Bill - I don't happen to be a big fan of this one - it seems hard to find anyone who is - but the fact remains that a prescription drug benefit was something the Clinton Administration sought and couldn't deliver, and something both Bush and Gore campaigned on; the Bush Adminstration pressed hard on some Congressional Republicans to deal with the issue and even lined up the support of AARP, rare for any GOP initiative. The resulting program is one of the largest new federal programs in four decades.

5. No Child Left Behind - Again, a deeply controversial bit of legislation, and one that bequeaths a legacy of disputes over its implementation, as such programs often do. But you can't ignore it; Bush worked with some unlikely Democratic allies (like Ted Kennedy) on the bill, and produced a substantial new set of rules and priorities for federal education policy.

6. The Patriot Act - The Administration rammed through Congress in a matter of weeks after September 11 a long and involved piece of new legislation including a long wish list of authorizations the Justice Department had been begging for for years. Law enforcement authority has been expanded in many significant ways.

7. Homeland Security - While the Administration really wasn't the driving force behind establishing a new Department of Homeland Security, it played a very large role in shaping the legislation and, of course, has set about the daunting task of implementing it. Bush even made the contours of the Homeland Security bill a central issue in several Senate races in which he heavily invested his political capital and came away with freshly minted GOP Senators.

8. Missile Defense - Boy, we're far down the list for something as big as missile defense, a long-time GOP priority that has moved substantially towards implementation; the Bush Administration removed the major diplomatic obstacle by withdrawing from the ABM Treaty, over fairly minimal Russian protests.

9. Partial Birth Abortion Ban - Another long-time political priority and one with major symbolic significance, as the first federal statutory restriction on abortion since Roe v. Wade. Might rank higher except that it remains to be seen if the bill survives the courts in a way that preserves any real-world impact.

10. Libya and Pakistan - The unraveling of Libya's WMD program and the illicit arms network run by a Pakistani scientist had roots in some longstanding initiatives, but there's little doubt that the Administration's diplomatic efforts (including the credible threat of force, even if only implicitly) gets some credit.

11. Capture of Major Fugitives - More an operational than a policy success and part of the Iraq and Afghan wars, the apprehension of numerous Al Qaeda and Iraqi figures, as well as wanted fugitives around the globe and the interdiction of terrorist financing sources, has to be listed as an Administration accomplishment.

12. McCain-Feingold - A highly significant and longstanding legislative priority that led to a substantial overhaul of the campaign finance laws. I would rank it higher except that the Bush Administration played only a fairly minor role in actually getting the bill done. Still, Bush did manage to ensure that the hard money limits would be doubled to $2,000, the first such change since 1974, and following that compromise he did sign the bill into law.

13. Sarbanes-Oxley - An even further-reaching real-world impact can be chalked up to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which raised the criminal penalties for white collar offenses, extended the statute of limitations for securities fraud claims and imposed extensive new regulations on the way public companies operate. Like McCain-Feingold this was more something that Bush allowed to happen than made happen, but the White House's insistence that some new legislation must be passed did play a part in getting the bill done in an election year.

14. Healthy Forests - I may be underestimating the significance of this legislation or of forest management generally as an issue, in ranking this rather low. But it is yet another area where the Bush Administration has set priorities and seen them enshrined in new legislation.

15. Steel Tariffs - Don't ask for an endorsement here, but the tariffs did have some real-world consequences for the price of steel.

16. Faith Based Initiative - Bush's legislation didn't get passed, but the push to improve the government's ability to use faith-based initiatives has nonetheless had some practical consequences in the way the government operates.

17. Clear Skies - Like the faith-based initiative, this one hasn't seen new legislation, but the Administration has changed environmental regulations in a number of ways, including several that target specific types of emissions reductions.

As I said, you don't have to like all these policies to recognize them as significant changes to the world President Bush inherited in 2001. I've left off things like Bush's rallying the nation after September 11, since the impact of that is rather subjective, and I've left aside here as well Bush's groundbreaking endorsement of a Palestinian state, since little enough has come of that. I've probably forgotten a few other things, perhaps some of them quite important (I wasn't sure where to rank the African AIDS initiative or his decision on stem cells). And admittedly, there are a number of other Administration priorities that have gone undone or unfinished - not just faith-based initiatives and "Clear Skies," but private social security accounts, negotiations with North Korea, support of democracy in Iran, a constitutional amendment on same-sex marriage, an overhaul of immigration policy, more substantial provisions on school choice and medical savings accounts, judicial appointments, tort reform, and drilling in ANWR.

But the overall record is one that's highly consistent with Bush's carefully cultivated image as a guy who sets priorities and makes things happen. It requires an astonishing suspension of reality to describe this as no record at all.

UPDATE: The commenters have some good suggestions for additions to the list. Also check the further discussions at Blogs for Bush and Right Wing News.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:04 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (3)
May 17, 2004
BASEBALL: Hot Properties

More random thoughts:

*Victor Martinez has arrived; 3 RBI tonight moves the Cleveland catcher into the top 10 in the AL.

*Troy Glaus being out for the season would be just a huge blow to the Angels.

*Heard on WFAN tonight: a Yankee fan speaking optimistically about Tanyon Sturtze. Yes, there is a God.

*Rich Harden: 37.1 IP, 2 HR, 17 BB, 40 K. Yes, he's allowed 39 hits, but Harden shows every sign of joining the elite of the Oakland rotation.

*The Greek God of Walks is in the house. And he could be here to stay.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:55 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: Linkmania 5/17/04

Time to dump out a bunch of links I'd accumulated but won't have time upon which to blog:

*Where else in the world but the U.S. is it a "coverup" if you announce an investigation in a press release posted on the internet? Also: if the problem with Abu Ghraib is humiliation, isn't that multiplied by airing the pictures? I mean, the media won't publish the names of rape victims, but it will show this? And this picture about says it all on the President's reaction to this story.

*Pete Stark is just crazy. And he's not alone.

*Michael Barone thinks it's 1988 again. Read the whole thing.

*Daschle's stall on judges hits new lows.

*Too good to be true? Vodkapundit sees hope for the end of EU farm subsidies.

*Jimmy Kimmel Suckers the NY Times.

*Boston Globe on blogs; the key point here is the fact that blogs are all about the print media, and can miss out on the significance of events that are especially TV-centric.

*Missing hijacker? Nelson Ascher takes this with a grain of salt, and you should too, but it's an intriguing one.

*A delightful WaPo profile of John McCain:

He has no idea why George Tenet still runs the CIA. "I think he must have some negatives somewhere," McCain says, meaning photo negatives.

McCain met with Tenet at Langley about a year ago. Seemed like a good guy, McCain says. Tenet made his case for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and it sounded compelling.

"But it was a little like a Chinese meal," McCain recalls. "An hour later I was hungry again."

McCain is that rarest of creatures, a genuine maverick. Guys like him usually wind up just being in the wrong party, like Arlen Specter or Zell Miller. But McCain is, on some issues, as conservative as they come, and on others he is frankly quite liberal. But wherever he sets his sails, he never trims them.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:40 PM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Two Points

Wonkette complains about an event where "I have not had my rack checked out so brazenly and so often since I stopped going to Cozumel for Spring Break." Her post helpfully includes a photo that prominently shows off . . . well, the evidence in question.

Upside: at least she took a break from claiming that all conservatives are gay.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:06 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: A Request To Readers

For 5 minutes of your time: click here to participate in a short online survey, run by Henry Copeland of Blogads, looking to determine the demographics of blog readership. Make sure to type "baseballcrank.com" in the answer to #22; if you do, Henry will be able to send me a report summarizing the results for readers of this blog.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:02 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Exciting Baseball

Pennant contention? Don't be silly. Development of exciting young players? Hold off on that for now. Right now, all the Mets can hope to offer, with a mediocre and veteran-laden roster, is exciting baseball. But this last 7-game road trip to Arizona and Houston provided that in scads, topped off by yesterday's 13-inning thriller, in which Mike Piazza homered off Octavio Dotel, down 2-0 and down to his last strike, to take the win away from Roger Clemens (oh, boo hoo) and Jason Phillips was defrosted from his season-long slump long enough to hit the game-winning home run.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:08 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Destabilizing

Now this is bad news: the head of the Iraqi Governing Council has been killed by a suicide bomber. The worst-case scenarios for Iraq that always troubled me the most were the ones that looked at what happened in Lebanon after its president was killed by a bomb in the early 1980s.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:55 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 16, 2004
BLOG: Travelin' Man

I'm just back in town again after another 3-day weekend away - this time a wedding in DC - so bear with me if there's a bit of catching up to do the next few days.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:22 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 14, 2004
BASEBALL: What Wins In October

The Hardball Times carries a great look at what types of teams have prevailed in playoff serieses since 1995 (hat tip to Matt Welch). The answer (other than "teams with Mariano Rivera"), roughly: (1) pitching, (2) starting pitching, (3) pitching and defense, (4) speed and contact.

This partially gibes with Bill James' prior studies - I'm rushing this morning and don't have time to look it up, but I believe his various studies have found that what wins World Serieses, at least, is frontline starting pitching and home run power.

The advantage in the current study for steals is unusual, since historically, great stolen base teams (think of the 1985 Cardinals or 1911-13 Giants) get killed in the World Series. The relationship isn't strong enough to generalize, but I can take a guess: the stolen base is more of an advantage today precisely because it's rare. Thus, in the past, there were teams that reliead heavily on steals (Whiteyball!), and they didn't fare well, but nobody plays like that now. Whereas in today's game, a steals advantage is more likely to be negative - that is, one team can't run at all. And with the higher caliber of pitching in the postseason, a complete inability to manufacture runs may be a handicap more than the ability to do so is an advantage.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:23 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 13, 2004
BLOG: Cockfighters!

The picture with this story is no less funny for the fact that it's so crudely photoshopped.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:12 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: O-Dog Patience Watch

I noted over a month ago that Orlando Hudson seemed to be showing improved patience at the plate, and wondered if it would pay off with increased power. Checking back in now that the season's well underway, I've thus far been right on target; Hudson's still seeing 4.02 pitches per plate appearance compared to 3.65 and 3.76 his first two seasons entering last night's action, and the payoff (including last night) has been a .286/.518/.369 line, including a pace for 44 doubles and 25 home runs. Go Dog Go!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:06 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Iraq and Al Qaeda, Again

Dan Darling over at Winds of Change has a long, fact-packed discussion of his reasons for supporting the Iraq war, focusing heavily on the Iraqi regime's terrorist connections. (Links to interviews with the two defectors who first publicized the Salman Pak hijacker-training story, which Darling discusses at some length, can be found here and here). Meanwhile, Laurie Mylroie has some new details in her dogged pursuit of the theory that the Iraqi regime was, in fact, involved directly with Mohammed Atta. Darling also has a good discussion of Mylroie's theories, which remain pretty speculative; as I have, he concludes that Mylroie's critics haven't done themselves any favors by their overreliance on scorn and ad hominem attacks, but that it's hard to put too much weight on her work in the absence of more solid evidence. Both pieces are well worth the read; judge for yourself.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:00 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Knuckle Under

An alert reader points me to this charming New Yorker article on the knuckleball, focusing on Tim Wakefield and Red Sox prospect Charlie Zink (given the Bill James influence on the organization, it's unsurprising that there's a pro-knuckleball and pro-sidearm bias at work in Boston; I'm a big fan myself). I hadn't known that Toad Ramsey was considered the primeval knuckleballer.

This anecdote about Zink was amusing:

“My first double-A game, I was pitching in Binghamton against the Mets,” he said. “And the second hitter I faced pulled a rib-cage muscle from swinging so hard. He had to get taken out of the game. I mean, that was one of the funniest things I’ve seen.”
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:51 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 12, 2004
BASEBALL: Nothing Lost in Translation

Give Kaz Matsui this much credit: the guy knows how to make a first impression. Tonight, Randy Johnson got the rude awakening about the wiry shortstop's power, as Matsui leads the game off with a homer on Johnson's second pitch of the game.

UPDATE (Thursday Morning): And 1-0 is how it ends. I have to admit that Braden Looper and Tom Glavine have both been far better than my preseason skepticism indicated (both have had improved control, Looper dramatically), although I still don't trust either one of them. There have been too few positive surprises this season, although Orber Moreno has looked good at times and Eric "Prince" Valent has shown an enticing combination of patience and power.

The real test comes if Glavine is still pitching well in July and contending teams start inquiring about taking him and maybe half his contract off the Mets' hands. Will they be able to pull the trigger even if it means writing off a multimilliondollar loss?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:46 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: Sanity Check

Robert Tagorda points us to polls showing a high level of public support for Don Rumsfeld in the Iraq prisoner abuse crisis. Which I would attribute, to some extent, to common sense: not blaming the head of such a vast organization as the Armed Forces for the behavior of every soldier. People get the fact that Rumsfeld, as it were, did not order the Code Red. In fact, it appears that, outside of the Abu Ghraib facility, nobody did.

Democrats screaming for Rumsfeld's head and looking to score points against President Bush would be wise to first ask themselves what they would want their guy to do in the same shoes. The facile answer is that a Democrat would never find himself (or herself) in the situation of having prisoners mistreated by American soldiers. One way to put that is that a Democrat wouldn't have gone to war in Iraq; while that is probably true, it's also true that many Democrats did vote for war (and some still support it), including the party's current presidential nominee. You certainly can't look at the broader situation - American troops sent into sometimes hostile territory and engaged in putting down an insurgency while building national institutions - and say no Democrat would ever go there.

The second idea is that this is somehow the fault of insufficient troop strength, and a Democrat would never have made the mistake of providing an insufficient number of troops. Even crediting this argument, this position is highly implausible (anyone remember Mogadishu, Desert One, or the Bay of Pigs? Democrats have often been accused of applying insufficient force).

The third, I suppose, is that the absence of formal Geneva Convention rules here was the problem, although I fail to see where such rules would be a substitute for better field-level supervision of individual soldiers.

All that really leaves is the charge that Democrats are better at supervision . . . which is also ridiculous. Bad stuff happens at lower echelons in any organization. Are we to believe this sort of thing doesn't happen in prisons in the U.S. under the supervision of elected Democrats? And have the Dems ever espoused such stringent "the leader must fall on his sword" doctrines for their own - did they call for the resignations of Janet Reno after Waco, Bill Richardson after Los Alamos, or are they calling even now for the head of Kofi Annan?

The fact is, this problem happened on the ground, and while the Administration's response after the fact may not have been pitch-perfect, it's been diligent, contrite and relatively open in ensuring that those responsible will be punished. I certainly haven't heard a realistic explanation of how the Administration has done anything particularly disappointing since learning about the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:09 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Bait and Switch Watch

Following up on yesterday's point, in political arguments (or any arguments), you always have to be on the lookout for the bait and switch. Of course, no one side has a monopoly on this tactic, but one of the more egregious ones that we've seen used ad nauseum is the Left's insistence on switching between connecting Saddam Hussein's regime to Al Qaeda and connecting the regime to September 11; for example, the absence of a September 11 connection is taken as definitive proof that there was no Al Qaeda connection, and statements by the Bush Administration drawing an Al Qaeda connection are taken as if they drew a September 11 connection. Trying to get some people to recognize this distinction can be like talking to a brick wall, unfortunately. Chris Matthews' recent interview with Don Rumsfeld contained a classic of the genre although the transcript doesn't capture how fast Matthews was talking in his (ultimately unsuccessful, of course) effort to trick Rumsfeld:

MATTHEWS: You know, when you watch the culture of the country, there’s a great sense in country music, you remember how you felt. You’ve heard these songs. They’re so American. And they talk about the war in Iraq as being some kind of payback or justice for what happened to us on 9/11.

Do you think that’s a fair way to look at it morally and sort of sentimentally, the idea that we’re getting back at the people that hit us?

I mean, the soldiers are, maybe—probably think that. I’m just guessing. They think, “We’ve got to go back and hit them. They hit us.” Like Pearl Harbor. They hit us; we’re hitting them back.

Is that accurate in history?

RUMSFELD: I guess in life, things are never quite as simple as they seem. There’s no doubt but that we’re fighting terrorists in Iraq, there, and it’s part of the global war on terror. The direct connection between 9/11 and...

MATTHEWS: You feel there’s a connection?

RUMSFELD: There’s a different one. No.

MATTHEWS: You see one?

RUMSFELD: No.

MATTHEWS: You don’t see an al Qaeda-Iraq connection before 9/11?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:33 AM | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Origins

John Thorn has found evidence of baseball being played as early as 1791 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. No word on how the Pittsfield team fared against teams from New York . . .

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:19 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 11, 2004
BASEBALL: Baldwin Bad

News flash: James Baldwin is still bad.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:46 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Wrong Thing

Stryker has the best gut-level reaction I've seen to the whole Iraq prisoner-abuse story . . . I haven't yet gotten to a longer post on the subject - as you may have noticed, I don't always like to jump on issues I haven't had a chance to think through - but, at the end of the day, (1) I don't have a problem, and I suspect the chain of command all the way up to Rumsfeld didn't have a problem, with some fairly rough interrogation techniques (in terms of imposing psychological pressure) for getting critical information out of captured insurgents, but (2) saying that you can live with "rough interrogation techniques" or were aware they were being used is a far cry from accepting the sort of sicko sexual abuse and degradation we've seen depicted. And beware of anyone who tries the bait-and-switch tactic of blaming the higher-ups for knowing about (2) if all they expected was going on was (1). (Greyhawk over at Mudville Gazette, in a post linked by Instapundit, caught Seymour Hersh in a similar bait-and-switch talking about civilian detainees who were not housed in the controversial part of the prison and aren't part of the allegations here).

UPDATE: Deacon over at Powerline notes a similar bait-and-switch.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:43 AM | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Darin Pipp?

The overpaid and perenially underperforming Darin Erstad may really live to regret his latest injury, as the Angels have responded by bringing up top prospect Casey Kotchman from AA to take his place. Kotchman was batting .368 with power in Arkansas. At this point, Erstad's contract is really the only reason he still has a job anyway, but eventually the Angels may realize that the money is a sunk cost and send him somewhere where Erstad's decent batting averages, good glove in the outfield, speed and versatility can make him a useful bench player rather than a subpar everyday player.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:31 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
HISTORY: Pearl Harbor

You learn something new every day - my dad was telling me this story about Pearl Harbor over the weekend, and it's pretty horrifying. When they righted the capsized USS Oklahoma in 1943 and raised the USS West Virginia in 1942 they found that men had survived inside each of the ships for some two weeks after the attack, waiting in vain to be rescued; sailors in the West Virginia had scratched off days on a calendar as far as December 23, 1941:

Late Spring 1942 found Navy salvage teams finally getting to work on the WV.

An Inventive series of tremic cement patches were fitted to her port side, and enough water pumped out to partially float the once grand ship. BB48 was nudged across the Harbor into drydock and the grim task of finding bodies began.

For Commander Paul Dice, compartment A-111 was expected to be like the rest: Put on gas masks, place some goo into a bodybag and let the Medical boys worry about identification. They had seen it all, but this compartment was different. Dice first noticed the interior was dry and flashlight batteries and empty ration cans littered the floor. A manhole cover to a fresh water supply was opened. Then he saw the calendar. It was 12"x14" and marked with big red Xs that ended December 23. Hardened salvage workers wept uncontrollably as they realized the fate of these men. Word quickly spread among salvage crews: Three men had lived for 16 days to suffer the most agonizing deaths among the 2800 victims at Pearl Harbor.

More here, here and here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:23 AM | History | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
BASEBALL: Mondesi Done

Looks like Raul Mondesi is sitting out the rest of the season due to a legal dispute back home in the Dominican Republic; although one report says that "Mondesi believed his wife or four children may have been in jeopardy, and he returned home to insure their safety," perhaps the more telling quote is this one:

"I've played 20 straight years of baseball all year round," Mondesi said. "I deserve a rest even if it's only for a few months. Today I took my children to school for the first time in my life. It was an amazing feeling."

There have been questions for some time about how dedicated Mondesi really is; he's hardly the first ballplayer to decide he just isn't enjoying the game anymore. Hopefully, after some time away, he'll be ready to make the game a priority again.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:10 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 10, 2004
POLITICS: Stop The Fight

If there were a mercy rule for political columns, this spectacularly brutal Mark Steyn effort would have to be stopped long before its, well, merciless conclusion about John Kerry's latest efforts to blame his "Benedit Arnold CEOs" rhetoric, as well as a botched proposal to name Jimmy Carter or James Baker as a Middle East envoy, on "overzealous speechwriters":

Boy, those Benedict Arnold speechwriters who take the hard-earned money of decent, honest American politicians and salt it away in their Cayman Islands bank accounts, there oughta be a law against it. Given their uncanny ability to make Kerry say what he doesn't mean at six campaign stops a day, is it possible these overzealous speechwriters are part of the ''Republican attack machine''?

Or is this a typically shrewd move by the Kerry campaign? Democratic operatives have long dismissed the moron Bush as incapable of stringing two words together without puppetmaster Dick Cheney shoving his arm up the back of the coat. By announcing that he too is merely a brainless stooge reading out whatever's put in front of him, the senator could seriously cut into Bush's base in key swing states.

And the coup de grace:

Who is John Kerry? They weren't his medals he threw away, just some non-name World War II vet he happened to bump into. Those aren't his four gas-guzzling SUVs in the drive, just ones owned by his ''family.'' They're not his words coming out of his mouth, just words wholly owned and operated by employees of a subsidiary unit of his wife's holding company, Benedict Arnold Heinz Kerry Campaign Rhetoric Inc., registered in Bermuda.

It takes a big man to blame everyone around him. Which is at last a rationale for the Kerry campaign: If you're the kind of fellow who likes blaming your underlings, at least when you're president there's no end of underlings to blame.

The whole thing really amazes me - I mean, yes, politicians pass the buck sometimes, and some things really are underlings' faults. But to take something like the Benedict Arnold line that was near the core of his stump speech and claim that it was never intended to connect with primary voters seething at outsourcing . . . amazing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:14 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Canadian Adventure

So, I'm just getting organized here after a 3-day weekend away; we were in Canada (specifically, Brampton, a suburb of Toronto) from Friday to Sunday. This was, amazingly enough, only my second-ever foreign trip, the first being a honeymoon in Ireland. We were visiting for my great-uncle's 100th birthday party; he's my father's mother's brother and basically the last of the immigrant generation in my family (like all four of my grandparents, he came over in the 1920s). It was also a sort of family reunion, with a large contingent from Scotland joining the American and Canadian branches of the family.

We had a bit of anxiety on the trip up; the State Department travel advisory for Canada stated as follows:

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Unfortunately, on reading this, it didn't occur to me that the only form of ID that's acceptable at the border is a birth certificate (we had brought the kids' Social Security cards and even showed the cards showing that they are on our health insurance plan; not enough). Fortunately, we live close to the airport and could get them in time for a later flight.

It's hard, based on only a weekend, to put a finger on the aspects of Canada - other than obvious details like the money - that are "foreign" - I suspect a lot of the things I noticed as different from home had more to do with being in the Midwest than with being across the border. But even as an American, I was astounded at the wide open spaces and gigantic buildings - particularly since we were on the outskirts of Canada's largest city.

Anyway, regular blogging should resume tomorrow.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:05 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 7, 2004
WAR: The Star

More details emergs about the heroic death of Pat Tillman as he is posthumously awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in combat. (Link via Bill Hobbs).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:59 AM | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Eating Their Own

There is, in fact, justice in this world.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:56 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 6, 2004
WAR: Make This Man An Honorary Scotsman!

If Mr. Met doesn't get them (see below), the bagpiper will. (Hat tip to Baldilocks via Stryker).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:29 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Fund Catches On

I asked last week how long it would take John Fund to notice the New Jersey poll showing Governor Jim McGreevey trailing his 2001 opponent Bret Schundler 46% to 39% a year and a half before the next election. Fund finally got to the poll in yesterday's OpinionJournal Political Diary. He's slipping!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:26 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL/WAR: Mr. Met, Patriot

While Michele is busy heaping slanders on Mr. Met (it gets worse), I think it is important to defend the honor of He of the Round Head by raising this important fact, from a 2002 report:

He’s serving in the U.S. Army now and has gone from wearing a baseball as a head to keeping the ball rolling at a prison camp for terrorists.

His name is Lee Reynolds and over the course of the last three years he has been a man behind the mask of New York Mets mascot Mr. Met.

Major Reynolds is currently stationed in the Army public affairs office at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to Army officials.

Camp X-Ray is the name of the military compound where al Qaeda and Taliban detainees captured in Afghanistan are being held.

According to Mets officials, Reynolds’ role as the Mets mascot is one shared with a “couple of people.”

Mets officials said that they hope he is safe and that they are grateful for Reynolds’ service to his country.

According to published reports Reynolds, 38, will be stationed in Cuba for the next six months.

Reynolds told a reporter for the New York Post, “Reserve soldiers come from all walks of life, and right now I’m serving my country and serving my state after 9/11. I am very proud to be here, in spite of having to miss the entire baseball season and the Mets have always been 100 percent supportive. They’ve said the door is open for me.”

Of course, the Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees are sure to confess when he walks into the interrogation room in the Mr. Met head . . .

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:20 AM | Baseball 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (3)
BASEBALL: A Word To The Wise

Don't shake hands with Moises Alou.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:13 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: GoreTV

With Al Gore buying a TV network - well, you know, nothing says "pitch-perfect PR sense" like "Al Gore." Can you spot the contradiction:

"This is not going to be a liberal network or a Democratic network or a political network in any way shape or form," Gore said during a news conference. His partner, Hyatt, ran unsuccessfully to represent Ohio in the Senate [ed. - from what party, as if we can't guess?], a position once held by his father-in-law, former Democratic senator Howard Metzenbaum. Hyatt made his fortune marketing legal services through television advertising.

Other investors in INdTV Holdings LLC, an investment group Gore founded with Hyatt, include former Warner Bros. Home Video President Warren Lieberfarb and RealNetworks Inc. Chairman Rob Glaser. Glaser also invested in the Air America Radio, a liberal radio network. . . .

Gore said on Tuesday he and his fellow investors plan to keep their new channel an independent entity, "because the trend towards consolidation is one that needs to be countered with independent voices."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:11 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: The Sexy Friend

A thought on the end of "Friends" tonight . . . it's a commonplace, and one I'd certainly agree with, that there's altogether too much sex and sexuality in mass entertainment these days. And yet, for all the panting and bumping and grinding, the portrayals of sex tend to be rather incomplete. The typical mode of sexual expression tends to be raw, animal passion, people grabbing each other, tearing their clothes off, etc., conveying a sense that sex is a powerful force that completely overhwelms us. Which is fine as far as it goes, but in the real world, even the most passionate relationships won't sustain that sort of demonstrative intensity for very long stretches; even fires that burn very hot won't always send up such visible flames. At the other end of the scale, particularly among long-married sitcom couples, we see the portrayal of sex as the logical conclusion of playful, wholesomely leering banter; the big inside joke of a married couple. Which, again, isn't so much a false picture as a woefully incomplete one.

What brings this all to mind is that Jennifer Aniston has to be one of the best, perhaps the best, actress I can recall at portraying genuine sexual longing - not just theatrical lust but the powerful cocktail of affection, need, and desire that forms the real foundation of a sexual relationship. The episode this season that really powerfully dramatized this was the one where Rachel's father had a heart attack and she was hanging closely on to Ross; their scene in her childhood bedroom was one of the most sexually charged things I've ever seen on television notwithstanding the fact that the scene concluded with essentially nothing having happened and the characters still fully clothed. Watch that one again some time and pay careful attention to her. It should be added, of course, that Aniston's acting in this regard has sustained the credibility of the Ross-Rachel storyline this season despite the obvious fact that Ross, who was the funniest thing on the show the first season or two, has been acting like an annoying idiot for the last 6 or 7 years on end.

Of course, Aniston's not the only one who does this well; Linda Cardellini and Goran Visnjic have put on similar performances on "ER" this season, and even Tony and Carmela's scene in the pool on the Sopranos two weeks ago was a good example of going beyond the usual TV cliche on sex. But Aniston has long been particularly impressive, in "Friends" and her film roles, in this regard.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:06 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 5, 2004
BASEBALL: Catching The Record

Mike Piazza's first-inning homer tonight breaks Carlton Fisk's career record for homers as a catcher. Good to see the record behind him, thus avoiding the Gary Carter-in-1988 problem, where Carter slumped horribly as months passed with him stuck on 299 career homers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:54 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Four Years

Yes, it's been four years now that I've been doing this - four years ago today that my first "Baseball Crank" baseball column appeared on the internet. Wow. (Among other things, this means that I've been moonlighting as an internet sportswriter for more than half my career as a practicing lawyer). For those of you who are new to the site, a brief recap: I started out writing a weekly column for the Boston Sports Guy site, run by my former college classmate Bill Simmons, in May 2000. It was a great time to be writing for Bill's site - he was just starting to really reach a national audience - and I still think that the columns I did for the BSG site are some of the best writing I've done. (My one disappointment was the fact that I had a huge trial in October 2000 and wasn't able to write about the Subway Series as it was happening). Bill closed his site down a year later, moving up to a national platform at ESPN.com, where he remains to this day. I was fortunate to land a spot at the Providence Journal Online, thanks to Projo sports editor Art Martone, and I kept writing weekly columns there. (You can still access my full archive of columns from the BSG site and Projo here).

On September 11, 2001, of course, terrorists blew up my office in the World Trade Center; I wrote about the experience for Projo, which even published my column in the 'dead tree' paper that Sunday. After September 11, it became harder to just stick to baseball. After my mom died in August 2002, I was feeling pretty down and decided to do something new; on something of a whim, I set up a blogspot blog (also under the Baseball Crank name), and immediately got hooked, discovering that the flexibility of blogging worked much better with my work schedule and varied interests than a weekly column. Barely two weeks into blogging, I got linked by Andrew Sullivan (fifth item down, linking to this), and there was no going back. In March of 2003 I wrote my last column for Projo; in April 2003 I opened the Movable Type site here. It's been quite a ride thus far.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:30 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)
RELIGION: Kerry and the Cardinal

I may on some other day deal with the issue of whether the Catholic Church should deny Communion to John Kerry. The interesting subtext: the controversy was touched off by statements by Cardinal Francis Arinze, a prominent conservative Nigerian Cardinal. Why is that interesting? Because the Church in Africa is more conservative and faster-growing than most anywhere else in the world, and Cardinal Arinze is sometimes mentioned as a possible successor to Pope John Paul II. A black African pope, of course, would be a huge cultural moment - for Africa, which for more than 4,000 years has taken a back seat to civilizations on the surrounding continents; for the Church, which has not had a non-European pope in well over a thousand years; in the war on terror, where it would not be unnoticed if the Church is led by a man from a nation where Christians still fear persecution by Muslims in some parts of the country; and here in the United States, where there would be tremendous symbolism to seeing a black man elevated to what may well be the world's second-most-influential job.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:19 AM | Religion | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
May 4, 2004
LAW: Hey, I Won That Prize Already!

So, from Wonkette we learn that one of the networks is doing a "reality" show where the prize is a job at a law firm. Or, as the notice calls it, "YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LUCRATIVE POSITION WITH A PRETIGIOUS LAW FIRM!" As one Wonkette reader (well, me, actually, but I can still quote myself) emailed her, "Presumably, if the show is anything like real law practice, you get extra points for pointing out that 'PRETIGIOUS' is not a word."

The contest: "Compete in mock trials/courtroom showdowns on prime-time TV." I'm guessing they only show the trial, not the preparation . . . my question is, what sort of "PRETIGIOUS LAW FIRM" wants to tell its clients it is handing out jobs on the basis of a TV show? I'd guess a plaintiffs' firm that does a lot of trial work, since the show appears to be testing trial skills rather than some of the less visual lawyering skills.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:55 PM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Long Journey Home

This has been linked all over, but you still need to read the simple yet powerful narrative of a fallen Marine's journey from Dover Air Force Base to his final resting place in Wyoming, written by the Marine Lt. Col. who escorted the remains.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:36 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Power Up

Adam Dunn certainly seems to have regained his lost power stroke without cutting his strikeouts - Dunn's 9 homers trail only Barry Bonds, yet his 32 walks and 29 whiffs put him, at present, on a pace for around 200 of each.

Another guy to watch in the early going: Oliver Perez, having what certainly looks like the kind of breakout year that will give Pirates fans hope of breaking even on the Brian Giles trade. With 29 whiffs and just 5 walks in 25.2 IP, Perez is starting to feel his oats - but then, he's thus far faced only the Reds (twice), Mets and Brewers. Something more needs to be proven yet.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:33 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Wright Stuff

Via Jason Mastaitis at Always Amazin', Baseball America takes a look at David Wright, who may be the Mets' third baseman in the very near future. Wright, who almost invariably draws comparisons to Scott Rolen, may well be the franchise's most valuable property; he doesn't have Jose Reyes' injury history and, unlike Scott Kazmir, he's not a pitcher (pitchers are always a risk - who would you rather bet on for the next three years, Albert Pujols or Mark Prior?).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:24 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASKETBALL: Doing It All

Kevin Garnett runs off with the NBA's MVP Award. This should be pretty uncontroversial, even though Garnett doesn't have the ability to dominate a single game or short series the way Tim Duncan does; Duncan missed 13 games this season while Garnett, as usual, was indestructable. Garnett became the first player since Bob McAdoo in 1974-75 to lead the NBA in total points (McGrady had a higher per-game average) and total rebounds. In fact, Garnett led in rebounds by a huge margin, especially on the defensive glass, where he pulled down 894 defensive rebounds to 682 for Ben Wallace; Wallace was the only player in the league within 250 rebounds of Garnett. John Hollinger also rated Garnett and Duncan 1-2.

Garnett has more in common with Karl Malone than Michael Jordan, in the sense that his game is less dominant and more a display of uncommonly consistent and sustained excellence. It's hard to find a category where Garnett didn't excel - 9th in the league in blocked shots, 19th in steals, 22d in assists. Despite leading the league in shot attempts he finished at a respectable .499 from the field, good for 11th in a league where, amazingly, only ten players shot .500. While this was his best season, he's been churning out years much like this for some time without interruption.

The number that jumps out is that Garnett's season high in scoring was 35, and his career high (reached twice) is 40. Think about that: a career 20-a-night scorer over almost 700 career games, averaging 23 last year and 24.2 this season, who's never scored more than 40 in one night. That's a man who butters his bread with his consistency.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:01 AM | Basketball | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: 5/4/04 Link Roundup

*Mark Steyn's verdict: on Tim Robbins' (relatively) new play: "not . . . as funny as a genocidal madman"

*The 2006 NY Governor's race has officially begun

*Bad photo op alert: John Kerry on his bicycle, wearing lycra shorts, an orange-and-yellow ensemble that matches his bike, and a facial expression that can only be described as "jaunty rich guy on a bike". Dukakis looked better in the tank.

*Jeffrey Toobin, in the New Yorker, has (unsurprisingly, considering the source) a positive look at John Kerry's years as a practicing lawyer, first as a politically upwardly mobile prosecutor and then in private practice. Kerry still comes off as more than a little of an egostical and opportunistic self-promoter, but it's not like Toobin could just write about a different person. By contrast, OpinionJournal's Political Diary (subscription only) carries a claim (by Democrat and Kerry supporter) David Liederman, founder of the David's Cookies chain, that Kerry's cookie shop in Faneuil Hall ripped off Liederman's chain store design and business plan.

*Captain Ed has a measured look at the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," a group of Vietnam vets of Kerry's era, including "19 of 23 officers who served with" Kerry and "every commanding officer he ever had in Vietnam," and who are coming out to declare him "unfit to be commander-in-chief," largely on the basis of his post-war anti-war activities. The group is headed by attorney John O'Neill; I noted NRO's profile of O'Neill here.

*Robert Tagorda notices Kerry dialing down his rhetoric on the economy in the face of reality (Link via Instapundit)

*The Bush campaign blog links to an article comparing Kerry to Stephen Douglas and his have-it-both-ways approach on slavery.

*The May 3, 2004 Day by Day is a keeper.

*Peggy Noonan goes to a revival of a play now starring Puff the Magic Diddy and sees progress - but also a loss of sense of tragedy about abortion.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:44 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
May 3, 2004
BASEBALL: 2004 NL East Established Win Shares Report

In the grand tradition of half-finished serieses on this website, I am at long last returning to the next installment of my division-by-division walk around the major leagues by Established Win Shares Levels. It's still early enough that it feels worthwhile to cover the NL East, although we'll see how long the last division (NL Central) takes; I may resort to running one team at a time. (Now that I have the routine down pat, I'll try to get them all done before the season next year). Here's my previous efforts:

*The Top 25 Players in Baseball and explanation of EWSL method

*AL West EWSL Report & explanation of team method

*AL East EWSL Report & slight modification to team method

*AL Central EWSL Report

*NL West EWSL Report

A few recurring notes on the method: Recall that the projected win totals below are probably a bit on the low side, in part because I only list 23 players, and that these aren't really projections at all, so much as estimates of how much established major league talent is on each roster. Also, as before, I've indicated the players who are ranked only on 2002-03 with a #, players ranked only on 2003 with a *, and rookies with a +. For rookie non-pitchers with everyday jobs, I've arbitrarily pencilled in 10 Win Shares , 5 WS for rookie pitchers with rotation slots, 3 for bench players and 2 for relievers. So, with the defending champion Marlins off and running, how does the EWSL method stack up the division?

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:50 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 2, 2004
BASEBALL: Finished

Maybe I'm overreacting to last night's game, when he served up a 2-run moonshot to Brian Giles - I don't think so, since this sort of thing has become all too common this season - but I'm about ready to conclude that John Franco is, finally, finished. He's had a good run, but I just don't see him fooling anybody anymore.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:20 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 1, 2004
LAW: Mugged

Fortunately, it looks like Justice Souter is OK after being mugged last night. Of course, there's an old saying that a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged . . . but that would be too much to ask for. Ideological carping aside, it's good to see he wasn't seriously injured.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:10 PM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Crickets

I watched part of Chris Matthews' Hardball interview with Don Rumsfeld from Rumsfeld's office in the Pentagon the other night, and beyond Rumsfeld himself (who'd be any lawyer's dream witness, a guy who unpacks the assumptions in every question before answering it), one thing struck me: the strong background noise of crickets chirping, presumably outside Rumsfeld's window. It was definitely the TV - it stopped when we changed channels. (You can pull up part of the interview online here, but the crickets aren't in evidence). It seemed odd that Matthews' producers wouldn't shut the window or find a way to block out the sound, plus it was just a bit unsettling for what's supposed to be an indoor interview (kinda like the flies buzzing behind President Bush in his speech from the Crawford ranch on the stem cell issue in August 2001). Anyone else notice this?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:03 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Another Non-Scandal

James Joyner catches Kevin Drum mischaracterizing President Bush's record as a rugby player at Yale (Bush played intercollegiate rugby, which was a club sport, and Drum rips Bush for claiming to have been on the "varsity") in a rather pitiful attempt to make Bush look like a liar (Drum claims he was just making a point about Mickey Kaus, but read Drum's entry for yourself and ask if he's trying to make Bush look bad).

Next up: the Bush Little League records - WHERE ARE THEY??????

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:25 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Move Over Steve Bartman

You just have to see what happened in the sixth inning of game 2 of the Braves-Rockies doubleheader at Coors Field this evening - you won't believe it if you don't. Vinny Castilla, who's back with the Rox, went into the first row of the stands to catch a foul ball, and banged into a fan (presumably a Rockies fan) who was reaching for the ball. As Castilla is turning to try and convince the umpire that he caught the ball, the fan reaches in and takes the ball out of Castilla's glove, resulting in the ump (who didn't seem to see what happened) blowing the call and ruling no catch.

Unbelievable. Like I said, watch tonight's highlights for this one.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:08 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Higher and Higher Straight Up We'll Climb

Traffic stats for April: over 20,000 visits, up from the previous high of just above 15,000. Once again: thanks for stopping by, and hope you come back.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:35 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Secret Identity

Atrios revealed!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:30 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)