Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
June 30, 2004
POLITICS/WAR: Paralysis

I've stressed before that I'm not that interested in pinning blame on Americans for the September 11 attacks; there's way too much 20/20 hindsight out there. Nonetheless, it's important to keep the historical record straight - not least as a reminder that those who want to return to the pre-September 11 policies are horrifically mistaken, and also as a curative against current agitprop that seeks to blame President Bush for the problem. In that light, it's important to keep the Clinton legacy on terrorism in perspective and understand why, with the benefit of that hindsight, it was such a disaster.

Clinton likes to speak today of his "virtual obsession" with getting Osama bin Laden. Here's his explanation of why he didn't, from Larry King's show on Sunday night:

And after the African embassies were blown up, there was a plan to blow up our embassy in Albania. We did that. There was a plan by many of bin Laden's allies from the mujahideen in Afghanistan, the Afghan War, to take over Bosnia after the Bosnian War and we stopped that.

So we were deeply immersed in this. So what I say all the time is -- and what I told President Bush when we had our little meeting after the Supreme Court decision -- I regret deeply that I didn't get him. I tried everything I knew to get him.

I wish -- the only real regret I have in terms of our efforts is nearly everybody in the world knew that he did the USS Cole in October of 2000. I knew what our options were, I knew what our military options were, I knew what our covert options were. And I felt I couldn't take strong military action against Afghanistan because the FBI and the CIA didn't officially agree that bin Laden had done it until after I left office.

If they had done so when I was in office, I would have taken stronger action -- even as a lame duck president.

KING: Do you know why they didn't?

CLINTON: I think they just had a process they wanted to go through. And keep in mind, you know, when Oklahoma City happened, which before 9/11 was the worst domestic terrorist incident, a lot of people immediately jumped to the conclusion that it was a Muslim militant terrorist. And I remember standing in the Rose Garden of the White House pleading with the American people not to jump to any conclusions.

So I felt if I launched a full scale attack, violated air space of countries that wouldn't give me permission, had to do the logistics of doing that without basing rights like we had in Uzbekistan and other things we had after 9/11, I would have been on grounds without an approval.

But I don't think -- I don't know of anything that I could have done that I didn't do at the time that would have dramatically increased the chances of getting bin Laden because I wanted to do it and I regretted not doing it.

There's just a world of misguided caution there, and not just on Clinton's part; the FBI and CIA bear some pretty substantial responsibility as well. But note that Clinton treated the Cole incident exactly as the current critics of the Iraq war would have treated Saddam Hussein: by giving bin Laden the benefit of every doubt, by treating it as a law enforcement matter requiring indictable evidence before one moves to protect the nation. The consequences of this approach, as we now know, were catastrophic.

Clinton's approach was also problematic for a deeper reason: he spoke at the time and speaks now, as President Bush has wisely stopped doing, as if apprehending a single leader (bin Laden) was the goal, and as if military action was pointless if he didn't apprehend the #1 guy. But we also know, as Clinton knew and told the nation as far back as August 1998, that Taliban Afghanistan was home to "a network of terrorist compounds near the Pakistani border that housed supporters of Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden." Of course, it was the men training in those camps, not bin Laden himself, who actually executed the September 11 plot, and thousands more trained there who may still be at large. In a January 1999 speech, Clinton reiterated the problem:

Since 1993, we have tripled funding for FBI anti-terrorist efforts. Our agents and prosecutors, with excellent support from our intelligence agencies, have done extraordinary work in tracking down perpetrators of terrorist acts and bringing them to justice. And as our air strikes against Afghanistan -- or against the terrorist camps in Afghanistan -- last summer showed, we are prepared to use military force against terrorists who harm our citizens. But all of you know the fight against terrorism is far from over. And now, terrorists seek new tools of destruction.

Last May, at the Naval Academy commencement, I said terrorist and outlaw states are extending the world's fields of battle, from physical space to cyberspace, from our earth's vast bodies of water to the complex workings of our own human bodies. The enemies of peace realize they cannot defeat us with traditional military means. So they are working on two new forms of assault, which you've heard about today: cyber attacks on our critical computer systems, and attacks with weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological, potentially even nuclear weapons. We must be ready -- ready if our adversaries try to use computers to disable power grids, banking, communications and transportation networks, police, fire and health services -- or military assets.

Indeed, even ordinary internet users knew about the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan during the last two and a half years of the Clinton Administration.

Richard Miniter has taken a dark view of Clinton's efforts:

[S]tarting in 1993, Rep. Bill McCollum (R., Fla.) repeatedly wrote to President Clinton and warned him and other administration officials about bin Laden and other Islamic terrorists. McCollum was the founder and chairman of the House Taskforce on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare and had developed a wealth of contacts among the mujihedeen in Afghanistan. Those sources, who regularly visited McCollum, informed him about bin Laden's training camps and evil ambitions.

[snip]

In October 2000, al Qaeda bombed the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen. Seventeen sailors were killed in the blast. The USS Cole was almost sunk. In any ordinary administration, this would have been considered an act of war. After all, America entered the Spanish-American war and World War I when our ships were attacked.

Counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke had ordered his staff to review existing intelligence in relation to the bombing of the USS Cole. After that review, he and Michael Sheehan, the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator, were convinced it was the work of Osama bin Laden. The Pentagon had on-the-shelf, regularly updated and detailed strike plans for bin Laden's training camps and strongholds in Afghanistan.

At a meeting with Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Attorney General Janet Reno, and other staffers, Clarke was the only one in favor of retaliation against bin Laden. Reno thought retaliation might violate international law and was therefore against it. Tenet wanted to more definitive proof that bin Laden was behind the attack, although he personally thought he was. Albright was concerned about the reaction of world opinion to a retaliation against Muslims, and the impact it would have in the final days of the Clinton Middle East peace process. Cohen, according to Clarke, did not consider the Cole attack "sufficient provocation" for a military retaliation. Michael Sheehan was particularly surprised that the Pentagon did not want to act. He told Clarke: "What's it going to take to get them to hit al Qaeda in Afghanistan? Does al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon?"

Instead of destroying bin Laden's terrorist infrastructure and capabilities, President Clinton phoned twice phoned the president of Yemen demanding better cooperation between the FBI and the Yemeni security services. If Clarke's plan had been implemented, al Qaeda's infrastructure would have been demolished and bin Laden might well have been killed. Sept. 11, 2001 might have been just another sunny day.

Rich Lowry:

[W]hy attack just one Afghan training camp? Mike Rolince, former chief of the international terrorism division of the FBI, explained to me: "We never went back to the camps and dismantled the neighborhood where these people were allowed to train, test chemicals, recruit, plan operations. On a regular basis, we saw intelligence that documented what they were, where they were, how big they were, how many people were going through there, and the administration lacked the political will to go in there and do something about it."

Now, Clinton's failure to act is sometimes excused by other circumstances: impeachment distracted him, he had to prosecute the Kosovo war, he couldn't act during an election. Let's go to the timeline of Clinton's military responses against al Qaeda or, for that matter, against Iraq, charted against a selection (admittedly incomplete) of significant events:

MonthEventsMilitary Actions
August 1998August 7: Embassy bombings. August 17: Clinton grand jury testimonyAugust 20: Missile strikes on terror camps in Afghanistan
September 1998September 11: Starr Report releasedNone
October 1998n/aNone
November 1998Congressional electionsNone
December 1998December 19: Clinton impeachedDecember 16: Desert Fox (bombing of sites in Iraq)
January 1999n/aNone
February 1999February 12: Senate acquits ClintonNone
March 1999March 24: Bombing in Kosovo beginsNone
April 1999Kosovo campaign continuesNone
May 1999Kosovo campaign continuesNone
June 1999June 10: Kosovo campaign endsNone
July 1999n/aNone
August 1999n/aNone
September 1999n/aNone
October 1999n/aNone
November 1999n/aNone
December 1999n/aNone
January 2000n/aNone
February 2000n/aNone
March 2000March 7: Bush, Gore lock up nominations; stock market begins long slideNone
April 2000n/aNone
May 2000n/aNone
June 2000n/aNone
July 2000Republican ConventionNone
August 2000Democratic ConventionNone
September 2000n/aNone
October 2000October 12: Cole bombing; October 11: second Bush-Gore debate, candidates discuss Iraq but neither addresses terrorismNone
November 2000Election, recount beginsNone
December 2000December 12: Supreme Court stops recountNone
January 2001January 20: Clinton leaves office amid flurry of presidential pardons and new regulationsNone

Again, the purpose of the timeline isn't to damn Clinton (although one does come away with the conclusion that his military aggressiveness tended to wane when he wasn't in extreme political/legal peril, and question what he could have been doing instead of spending "a whole day a week every week for a year, maybe a little more" in marriage counseling), but to point out the obvious: for more than three years after the August 1998 attacks, the nation and its president (Clinton, for most of that period) knew there were terrorist camps operating in Afghanistan, and failed to treat them as a lethal threat. In the latter half of 1999 in particular, it seems difficult to explain why an offensive against terrorists could not have been a higher priority. Let us not repeat that error.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:51 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
June 29, 2004
BASEBALL: Following Freddy

Baseball teams tend to be unfortunately half-hearted in cutting bait on hopes of contention at times - consider Arizona's decision to retain Randy Johnson and Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finley even after the departure of Curt Schilling set them firmly on the rebuilding track - so we can't read too much into the Mariners unloading free agent-to-be Freddy Garcia. Still, with the aging Mariners in last place 10.5 games behind their nearest competitor, it's interesting to look at what's left. Leaving aside the rather pointless catcher swap of Ben Davis for Miguel Olivo, the primary bounty from the deal was Jeremy Reed, a high-average hitting outfielder (the Mariners also got minor league SS Michael Morse). The logical next steps would be dealing Jamie Moyer, Eddie Guardado, Mike Myers, and John Olerud (although Olerud's fine .374 OBP isn't really enough to deserve a starting job on a contender for a 1B who's slow and has no power).

UPDATE: Derek Zumsteg and friends at the USS Mariner are pretty pumped about the deal, partly in light of having watched Garcia's struggles in recent years; start here and scroll down. Unsurprisingly, David Cameron doesn't think Jamie Moyer's going anywhere. More interesting is whether some contender with a hole to fill will take a flyer on Bret Boone. Gee, I wonder who has money to burn and Miguel Cairo playing second base?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:39 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Comic Bomber

The American Spectator has an interesting look at a comic-book writer who foresaw the development of suicide bombers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:19 AM | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
June 28, 2004
BASEBALL: Lost Sunday

Not much to say about the first game Sunday, as Yankee longballs gave Jose Contreras' storybook reunion with his family all the help he needed. The second game was much more frustrating, since the Mets did a number of good things, including some massive home runs (Richard Hidalgo going deep to dead center, Eric Valent blasting an upper-deck job to right), and good pitching (like John Franco striking out the side in the eighth). But the hole Matt Ginter got into with some first inning dribblers and a hit batsman (Jeter) leading up to Ruben Sierra's 2-run shot was just too much.

Leiter and Glavine may be able to handle the likes of the Yankee lineup, but I'm doubtful as to the rest of the staff.

Oh, and Mike Stanton still sucks.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:02 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
June 27, 2004
BLOG: Milestone

Man, that was ugly. More on the Mets-Yankees fiasco tomorrow. In the meantime, a milestone: I have passed 200,000 on the hit counter, less than six months after hitting 100,000 in late January - a milestone that had taken me 17 months to scale.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:49 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
June 26, 2004
POLITICS: You're So Conventional

Drezner quotes Andrew Sullivan knocking the conventions:

For my part, I think bloggers could make more of a statement by not going to these elaborate infomercials. All they are are schmooze-fests for journalists, pundits and political types and then many layers of corrupting parties for donors. The only political importance is as television shows, and you can better understand that by, er, watching television.

A major cliche award should go to anybody who carps about the fact that conventions are contrived for TV. The whole point of the modern political convention is to allow a once-every-four-years opportunity for each of our two major political parties to speak directly to the public - without much in the way of media filtering - about their agenda and vision for the nation. The parties make some delberate choices about the face they choose to show to the public, and those choices, as in the 1992 GOP convention or Al Gore's 2000 speech, can be significant. And there are still the genuine human moments that crop up in any live TV event, no matter how stage-managed, like the electricity generated by the Ted Kennedy 1980 and Reagan 1976 not-entirely-a-concession speeches.

So count me as a dissenter against the cynics. Yes, conventions are scripted for TV. But that's precisely why they matter.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Admiral Goes Down With The Ship

Time to lower that level to yellow.

Sadly, I got rained out of my chance to see Friday night's game (I was there with people from work). Tomorrow's matchups - Traschsel/Contreras and Ginter/Mussina - look promising if you're pulling for a split.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:07 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 25, 2004
BASEBALL: No, Just Outs

Larry Mahnken at Hardball Times does a number on ESPN's bogus "Productive Outs" stat. A must-read.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:23 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Ryan Ryan & Ryan

One of Drezner's readers has a good point here about GOP Senate candidate Jack Ryan:

[A]s a Chicagoan let me just mention how depressing it is to have the most clueless, lunkheaded republican party in the country. Worst of all they cant seem to find a candidate for any office not named Ryan (former Governor George Ryan was plagued with graft and corruption). Newsflash GOP, many voters dont bother to see what a guys first name is, if a Ryan keeps showing up on ballots every couple of years, a significant number of semi-apathetic voters will check the opposite column just out of habit. Idiots.

You'll recall this problem biting GOP gubernatorial candidate Jim Ryan in 2002. (Not that I'm endorsing the characterization of the IL GOP as the most clueless in the nation; MA, NJ & CA all provide stiff competition). Why not double down and bring in the Express?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:18 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Al Gore Calls Me A Nazi

There he goes again: Al Gore serves up a steaming dollop of leftist tropes on how people were misled about the Iraq-Al Qaeda connection, based on the usual Gore assumption that the American people are too stupid to understand what the Administration actually says. Then, he rails against the Bush Administration getting support from a "network of 'rapid response' digital Brown Shirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for 'undermining support for our troops.'"

I guess he means us warbloggers, eh?

Powerline, as usual, has, well, a rapid response and an appropriate one, including some amusing Gore quotes from 12 years ago, back when he was still a responsible adult.

More ugliness:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:12 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 24, 2004
BLOG: Mr. Subways

Via Gerard Vanderleun, we have the Rules for the New York Subway. I, of course, swear by these (except when I'm violating them by pacing back and forth on the platform), although I generally prefer to walk the 17 blocks to my office whenever possible rather than ride on what sooner or later will become a mobile anthrax lab.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:23 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Greetings from Crawford

Lawroark (via Andrew Sullivan) takes apart Michael Moore for dredging up a silly Dana Milbank article from the September 3, 2002 Washington Post saying that President Bush had spent 42% of his term on vacation. Lawroark notes a couple problems with this, including the inclusion of weekends in the figure, and has a nifty photo display of Bush meeting with foreign heads of state at the ranch and Camp David, which hardly seems like a day at the beach to me.

Let's add two more problems with this line of attack:

1. The proportion of the president's term spent on vacation will always be highest if measured at the beginning of September, and higher still if it includes two whole summers in office and only one winter. Entering September 2002, the months of June, July and August accounted for 6 of the 19 months of the Bush presidency (31.5%). Does this mean Bush only likes being president in the summertime? Or did Milbank, on a slow newsday, just pick a fortuitous time to run the numbers?

2. As President Clinton told Newsweek three years ago (I don't have the link but the quote is reprinted here), and repeats the point in his memoirs: "Every important mistake I made in my life, I made because I was too tired." Bush understands that executive decisions require judgment, and judgment requires a clear head; if he needs to go jogging, get to bed early or clear brush on his ranch to think things through, that's a far better management strategy than staying up all night eating pizza and getting frisky with interns.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:11 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Beltran Goes South

Well, for all you fans of the Mets - or anybody else - hoping to land Carlos Beltran, the jig is up as Beltran goes to the Astros, in a three-way deal that explains a lot about Houston's willingness to donate Richard Hidalgo to the Mets for David Weathers. With a strong team, a tough division and heavy reliance on oldsters like Clemens and Bagwell, the Astros are definitely in go-for-broke mode, so acquiring Beltran is a worthwhile gamble.

What Houston gave up, though, will cost them: Octavio Dotel. This presumably makes Brad Lidge the closer, but leaves the team short in the pen (not that this is an unacceptable cost for a big star like Beltran). Dotel had some off days this year, mainly due to the longball, but he should greatly improve the closer-less bullpen in Oakland, which can now move Arthur Rhodes back to the setup role. Kudos to Billy Beane on weaseling his way into another three-way swap. He even managed to wheedle some cash out of the poor-mouthing Royals. Wanna bet Beane's not done yet?

As for KC, giving up on this season had come to make sense, even though this team looked before the season like a legit contender. They got three prospects from Houston and Oakland: third baseman Mark Teahen and right-hander Mike Wood from Oakland, and catcher Joe or John Buck (sources seem unclear on this; if it's Joe, he has a colorful history of broadcasting and prostitution behind him) from the Astros. I checked the Baseball Prospectus and they had unimpressive numbers for Buck and Wood and nothing on Teahan, but I'm sure we'll see commentary soon enough from some of the experts on minor leaguers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:56 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Going Hard on the Mullahs

David Warren thinks the rising nuclear threat presented by the repressive theocarcy in Iran is so grave that Bush should launch military strikes, even if it costs him the election. Via Bill Hobbs, who agrees but thinks Bush's electoral prospects wouldn't be harmed. I'm highly sympathetic to the idea of using air power to take out Iran's nuclear capacity and using covery operations to speed the overthrow the Iranian government by pro-Western democratic reformers. I'm less certain that we've quite reached the right moment for either, but I would certainly hope that the Administration is considering the question closely, election or no election.

Of course, given Iran's vast size and our commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea, there's no way we'd be able to provide nation-building security support in Iran. But then, democracies broke out all over the place in the late 80s and early 90s without American hand-holding, in many cases in countries ravaged by Communism. In Iran, there's no possibility of getting a worse government than the current one, so the only real risks would be (1) total destabilization of the place and (2) we better be damn sure we hit all the nuclear sites. Those are real risks. But nuclear weapons in the hands of the sponsors of Hezbollah is a prospect too frightening to contemplate.

Like the man says: faster, please.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:35 PM | War 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Texas Standoff

Quite the classic battle going on in Texas - the Mariners and Rangers were tied 7-7 entering the bottom of the 15th at last check.

UPDATE: Rangers have loaded the bases against Jamie Moyer with one out in the bottom of the 15th.

UPDATE: Moyer gets Hank Blalock to ground into a 1-2-3 double play. On to the 16th.

LAST UPDATE: 9-7 Rangers on a walk-off homer in the 18th by Alfonso Soriano.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:59 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: It's Bill's World

If you haven't noticed, ESPN has now launched a separate site for Bill Simmons' columns (Page 2 1/2?); make sure to add it to your bookmarks. At the moment, it's just a page of columns, although there may be additional bells and whistles on the way, and Bill has plenty of stuff there now on the latest doings in the NBA. I doubt that Bill could re-create all the features of the old BSG site on a national platform even if he wanted to (the ones he wrote, that is, not that I'd exactly be adverse to contributing the occasional baseball column for old times' sake), but it will be interesting to see what else he and the ESPN team can come up with now that he's back to sportswriting full time.

(On the other hand, much as I like Bill, I personally wouldn't compare him to Einstein and Michael Jordan).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:24 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Not Clinton

Will Saletan pens a transparently fatuous article seeking to compare Illinois Senate candidate Jack Ryan to Bill Clinton so as to level a ludicrous accusation of hypocrisy against Republicans:

Six years ago, Republicans demanded that Bill Clinton be investigated and impeached for having sex with an intern and covering it up. Now their nominee for the U.S. Senate in Illinois, Jack Ryan, is brushing off his then-wife's allegations that he repeatedly pressured her, despite her protestations, to have sex with him in front of other people. Instead of denouncing Ryan, many Republicans are defending him.

Saletan concludes: "Now we know why Bill Clinton got impeached. He was in the wrong club." No serious adult could believe that the GOP's defense of Ryan shows "why Bill Clinton got impeached," and I very seriously doubt that Saletan expects anyone to believe this column. Note that Saletan doesn't even bother to deal with the inconvenient facts about Clinton, none of which are involved here:

1. He was the President; character is more central with an executive than a legislator, and particularly the president;

2. He was cheating on his wife;

3. With a star-struck and emotionally vulnerable woman half his age;

4. Who was a subordinate and, later, a federal employee;

5. In the office during the workday;

6. He lied about it under oath;

7. He conspired with others to do the same, including hiding evidence and offering favors to those who agreed to keep quiet;

8. He involved other federal officials in lying to the public about it;

9. He had an extremely long history of sexual infidelity, including numerous charges, some of them quite credible, that Clinton had essentially forced himself on unwilling women.

Ryan, by contrast, comes off only as a bad and boorish husband with freaky sexual interests - not a recommendation of his candidacy but hardly fatal to being a U.S. Senator (heck, John Kerry left his first wife while she was battling suicidal depression to run for the Senate). [CORRECTION: Kerry left his wife because he was concerned that she would distract him from running for Lieutenant Governor, not the Senate]. Only in the fantasies of Clinton's defenders is that all there was to the Lewinsky saga. I suppose Saletan is trying to bait us conservatives into rehashing all this to make us sound obsessed with Clinton, and if that's his intent, I just fell for it. But really, nobody could believe Saletan's Clinton analogy here in good faith.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:22 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: No Mahdi

The good news from the Washington Times' account of the 1st Armored Division's defeat of Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army (link via Sullivan): "The division estimates it killed at least several thousand militia members" out of an estimated 10,000 strong militia. I'm less disappointed in letting Sadr go if we killed so many of his men, since that makes it much harded for him to rebuild a power base. I'm hopeful that Sadr will be dealt with eventually, just not by us. The important thing is, he was defeated and by this point, everybody knows it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:10 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: I Did That. That's My Fault

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that last night's Mets loss was Kaz Matsui's fault. First and third, one out in the bottom of the ninth - after a hustling Todd Zeile went first-to-third on a Jason Phillips single - and Matsui, after running the count to 3-1, strikes out diving at a pitch that was way low and outside. The Mets wouldn't get another chance as good to win the game.

As the Mets announcers were pointing out, the team was also in the unusual position where they regretted sending home today's starting pitcher (Tom Glavine) early - because they needed him as a pinch hitter in extra innings, and instead had to send up Steve Trachsel.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:00 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
June 23, 2004
BASEBALL: Not So Much Glove

I'm not as down on Kaz Matsui as some people, but I can't help wondering: who scouted this guy and came back with the universally glowing reports about his defense? And was it the same guy who scouted Frederic Weis for the Knicks?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:28 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Link Roundup 6/23/04

*The MinuteMan rips Paul Krugman for criticizing John Ashcroft for not holding a press conference on the arrest of a domestic terrorist. Of course, if you missed it, Michelle Malkin did a good number on Krugman's last fact-challenged foray into smearing Ashcroft. (via Instapundit)

*PJ O'Rourke (via Kaus) rehashes parts of his 1986 essay "Goons, Guns & Gold" in which he goes after John Kerry for being spineless (or, as O'Rourke wrote in his notes at the time, "ball-less" - even Joe Conason comes out looking like a hero compared to Kerry.) Not that Richard Lugar fares well either, and I suppose you can argue that Kerry's unwillingness to get involved showed a nuanced appreciation for the diplomatic complexities, but it's still a rather ugly incident.

*An amusing conversation between Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader. They agree more than they disagree.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:24 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Man Who Came To Dinner

I wonder about the effect of Bill Clinton's listen-to-me tour on the Kerry campaign. Of course, the effect of such things tends to be minimal either way, but . . . Reagan's death was a mixed bag for Bush: Bush clearly stands for many of the same things Reagan did, has endured many of the same criticisms from the same sources, and shares some of Reagan's strengths. On the other hand, especially when it comes to his wit and persuasive powers as well as substantive issues like battling government spending, Bush is clearly no Reagan.

But Clinton doesn't even hold such mixed blessings for Kerry, because Kerry shares few of Clinton's virtues (his charm and charisma, his willingness to take on elements of his party, his ability to tap into the nation's innate optimism) and has different liabilities (his positions are both more liberal and less distinct than Clinton's, plus Clinton was never accused of being an aloof, out-off-touch elitist). You can draw parallels between Clinton and Kerry, to be sure, but you have to work so hard at it that you aren't likely to convince anyone but the choir.

Plenty of Clinton stuff out there, if you care to read it. Kathryn Jean Lopez notes that Clinton's 957-page opus ignores his own signing of the Defense of Marriage Act. Blackfive has a humorous anecdote and some more pointed observations. Favorite line: "Dan Rather looked like he was taking the hottest girl to the prom..."

Anyway, I've still got serious Clinton fatigue; I'm working on one or two posts but I'm not going to spend a lot of time on all this.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:06 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Getting Back

Well, I'm back from my travels, but still catching up (I missed some great Mets action while I was away, although through the miracle of airplane TVs I did get to watch CC Sabathia mow down the White Sox).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:53 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 21, 2004
BASEBALL: Workhorses

One quick Mets thought: not only are Tom Glavine (2.07), Al Leiter (2.14), Braden Looper (1.83), Matt Ginter (2.79), Orber Moreno (3.20) and Ricky Bottalico (2.01) all pitching thus far to career-best ERAs, but through 68 games, several Mets pitchers are on pace for career highs in innings pitched, including Glavine (249), Steve Trachsel (218), Looper (93), Ginter (92), and Mike Stanton (85). We'll see how they all hold up.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:38 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Out of Blog

Sorry, not much in the blogging mood this morning - I'm headed out of town on business, be back late Tuesday night, so things should be a bit quiet around here the next few days.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:57 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
HISTORY: Really, You Don't Want To

Dr. Weevil notes that there was at least one example of someone trying to cross the Berlin Wall in the other direction:

In the late '70s or early '80s The American Spectator reported that a young West German had tried repeatedly to do just that. After apprehending him for the 8th or 18th time (details are a little fuzzy now), the East German authorities demanded that the West German authorities put him in a mental hospital. It was, as TAS noted with cheerful contempt, a very revealing demand.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:24 AM | History | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/BUSINESS: Paying Dividends

A DC-based lobbying outfit called the American Shareholders Association has produced a study showing a sharp increase in payment of dividends following the dividend tax cut:

According to the latest ASA analysis of S&P 500 dividend data, favorable dividend activity among S&P 500 companies increased 55.2 percent since the tax cut was enacted. A total of 298 favorable dividend actions (increases and initiations) were taken on the S&P 500 compared to just 192 in the previous 12 month period. 19 more companies are paying a dividend than before the tax cut and companies increased their dividend 277 times. As a result, $185 billion of cash will be returned to S&P 500 shareholders in 2004.

The group's head argues that this is good corporate governance, given that unlike reported earnings, cash dividends can't be faked:

"More cash in shareholders pockets is disciplining managers to undertake only the most productive investments. This has re-elevated shareholders to be true owners of the corporations they invest in and has improved corporate governance more than any regulation passed by Congress or the Securities and Exchange Commission."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:17 AM | Business • | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
June 19, 2004
POLITICS: The Perfect Ted Kennedy Tribute

Wizbang has the details. Those who ignore their history are doomed to commemorate it.

UPDATE: A diligent reader writes: "It was too good to be true. Ted K drove off the bridge on 7/19. He did, however, plead guilty to leaving the scene of an accident on 7/26."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:51 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Quotes of the Week

David Weathers, on being traded to Houston:

David Weathers said one of the toughest parts of getting dealt to Houston was telling his 4 1/2-year-old son Ryan, who is a fixture in the New York clubhouse.

"He was crushed," Weathers said. "He told me, 'you can be an Astro. I'm gonna be a Met.' And then he didn't come out of his room for almost an hour."

Richard Hidalgo, on rumors (prior to the deal being finalized) of his being traded to the Mets:

"I don't think about it," he said of the trade talks. "They're the ones thinking about it (in New York). I don't have anything to say about that, but New York doesn't scare me. I've played in Venezuela."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:25 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
June 18, 2004
BASEBALL: Hidalgo Gold

All trades involve a certain amount of risk; you just have to weigh the upside against the downside and the cost and compare that to doing nothing. And the Mets' trade of David Weathers and B-grade pitching prospect Jeremy Griffiths for Astros outfielder Richard Hidalgo looks like a great gamble:

1. Weathers is 34; Hidalgo is 28. So, you can't view this as compromising the future for a win-now posture.

2. Hidalgo has just one year left on his contract, which the Mets can buy out for $2 million:

As Duquette was quick to point out, if Hidalgo has any future with the Mets beyond 2004, it won't come with that hefty price tag. "It wouldn't preclude us from renegotiating if he played well here and liked it here," Duquette said. "We'll keep an open mind to it."

So, this isn't a deal that ties the Mets' hands much beyond this season.

3. Weathers has been terrible (see this analysis from Avkash at the Raindrops, which I linked to last week).

4. Even when you factor in that he's leaving Minute Maid Field, Hidalgo's a guy who can put up some serious power numbers. Hidalgo had a huge year last year, slugging .572 in more than 500 at bats, and started this season like a house afire before sliding into a slump at the end of April that he hasn't shaken yet. Here's his numbers for 2003-04:

DatesGABH2B3BHRRRBIBBKAVGSLGOBPOPS
2003-4/24/041585801845233210410762119.317.583.383966
4/25-6/16/0441133266108111338.195.256.267523

Now, that is indeed one horrendous slump, and if you're Houston and paying Hidalgo $12 million, it looks twice as bad. But in a lot of ways, Houston's decision to drop Hidalgo after a bad six weeks looks suspiciously like the White Sox' abandonment of D'Angelo Jimenez this time last season in the midst of a similar slump; I questioned that move at the time here and showed how badly it worked out here. It's possible that something's seriously wrong with Hidalgo that was fine in April (he has been battling some shoulder problems lately), but if this is just a slump, the Astros could really regret dealing him. Recall that Baseball Prospectus had Hidalgo projected for this season at .278/.498/.358, and thought he would probably exceed that (the Established Win Shares method lists him as a 15 Win Shares player entering this year, which is quite solid).

I'll take this bet any day.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:21 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Weathervane

Over at the Command Post I note John Kerry's latest broadside against the idea that the Iraq war is part of the war on terror, and contrast it with what he said back in 2002 when he voted to authorize the war. It's Kerry's clearest statement yet that he simply wants no part of the current strategy in the war on terror - viewing the problem as one arising from the nature of the whole Middle East and requiring a regional solution - but sees the war as just Afghanistan and some parts of Pakistan where Al Qaeda remains in concentrated hiding.

John McCain, by stark contrast, has not gone wobbly at all; in this New Republic article (subscription only), despite some criticisms for how the Bush Administration handled the pre- and post-war situation in Iraq, McCain expresses no reservations about the decision to go to war based on the information we had at the time (or on what we know now), and makes clear that he buys in completely to the "neocon" vision of the war's overall strategy:

Added to th[e humanitarian] justification for war were the potential benefits to the region--the ripple effects that a free and democratic Iraqi state can still have on the Middle East. Naysayers have accused hawks of playing dice with people's lives: How could we possibly know that a democratic Iraq would have a demonstration effect on the region? On one level, they are correct; we cannot know. But we did know what would happen if we didn't try. The ossified situation in the Middle East, with its utter lack of political freedom or economic opportunity for millions of men and women, helps breed murderous ideologies that threaten the United States. And the region's autocratic but pro-American regimes are increasingly incapable of stifling these deadly, anti-Western tendencies in their own people. The Saudi regime pledges its love and respect for the United States, yet 15 of 19 September 11 hijackers were Saudi. Establishing a democratic Iraq in the heart of the region was, and remains, our best chance for encouraging the necessary transformation of the Middle East. Already, the effects of Iraq are being felt: A major reform conference recently took place in Alexandria, Egypt, and the Arab League has endorsed a reform agenda.

So, in the end, we had essentially three choices--deal with Saddam early, while we could; deal with Saddam later, after sanctions had lost force, he had resuscitated his weapons programs, and more Iraqis had lost their lives; or simply sit back and hope for the best. We were right to act. And we have paid a high price for our noble ambitions--over 800 Americans dead, well over $100 billion and counting spent on the war, disgrace at Abu Ghraib. But, when I stood in August at the mass grave at Hilla, where 10,000 Iraqis were executed--some tied together and shot so as to save bullets--I did not wish to take it all back. We believed we would be greeted as liberators, and in many places we have been--not everywhere, to be sure, but, during my visit to the country, there was widespread thanks for the coalition.

Count me with McCain on this one. We know where he stands. The best you can say about Kerry's position is that it's subject to change.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:00 AM | War 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
June 17, 2004
POLITICS: What He Said

The MinuteMan weighs in with some thoughts on criticizing non-blogging, and notes that he was way ahead of me, back in 2002, with more examples of Mark Kleiman's demonization of things not written by right-leaning bloggers, including this howler:

Aside from Andrew Sullivan, who doesn't like gay-baiting no matter who does it (but seems ok with other forms of prejudice), I have yet to see anyone in the right blogosphere object to the persistent use of bigotry and other dirty tricks by Republican candidates. This is in fairly sharp contrast to the practices of the left blogosphere, and seems to me to reflect a real difference between liberals and conservatives in terms of willingness to criticize their own side.

...I think the difference is a legitimate source of pride: to be liberal is, fundamentally, to be fair-minded.

(To be fair, this was before the Trent Lott brewhaha).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:30 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The High Hard One

I'm really looking forward to the new Neyer/Bill James book on pitchers; ESPN had an excerpt the other day that's worth a few arguments on the best fastballs of all time (link via Baseball Primer).

Looking at Rob Neyer's overall list of the best fastballs, I might rate Robin Roberts - who was the best pitcher in baseball for several years throwing nearly nothing but fastballs - ahead of Clemens, even though Clemens in his early-90s prime was a better pitcher (he's not so shabby today, of course, but since 1996 or so the heater really hasn't been his strikeout pitch).

Personally, I'd say the two best fastballs I've ever seen in my lifetime - on their own merits, as opposed to how they set them up with other pitches - are Mariano Rivera's cut fastball and Dwight Gooden's heater in his prime. Gooden's high riser was a classic "oh, that's just not fair" pitch even when the hitter was looking for it, let alone when he set it up with the big arching curveball. (Of course, Nolan Ryan's fastball was plenty intimidating, but Ryan was also quite wild at his peak). Gossage isn't far behind, though.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:04 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (1)
POLITICS: Not So Easy

Some interesting Kerry stuff from Robert Sam Anson in the NY Observer last week - I can't find it online anymore - including Nixon privately calling Kerry "sort of a phony" on tape and a list of some of the daughters of fame and privilege Kerry has dated; I had forgotten that he dated Reagan's daughter.

Near the end, though, Anson says that this is an election "between a man who knows life's sorrows too well and agonizes too much, and a man who knows doubt, worry, reflection or serious hurt barely at all." You hear this sometimes about Bush, but it conveniently forgets one of the formative, and undoubtedly shattering, experiences in Bush's life - the death of his younger sister from leukemia when he was about 7 years old and she was 3 or 4. You really can't overstate the impact a thing like that that has on a kid that age, but because the Bushes don't dwell on it, Bush is seen as a guy who's never suffered.

Moreover, painting Bush as a guy who's immune to reflection ignores his decision to quit drinking, which is a fairly prime example of a man engaging in serious reflection and changing the course of his own life. Certainly you'd be hard pressed to find anything in Kerry's life over the past 30 years (i.e., since the end of his Vietnam protest days) that bespeaks a similar effort to take stock and really reorient himself. Perhaps the portrait of Bush could use some (gasp) nuance.

UPDATE: Dr. Manhattan, in the comments, points me to the link.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:57 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Not On Message

Kos, on a plan to change Republican-leaning Colorado from winner-take-all to a proportional division of electoral votes: "The move is brilliant. For one, every state should allocate EVs in this manner. . . "

One of Kos' contributors, on a plan to do the same in California: "republican ploy in california to steal pres. election"

My own reaction is that I'm not in favor of changing the rules this far into the electoral season, much as overturning Kerry's likely lock on California might be a tempting target. Long term, proportional division of state electoral votes might make sense except for two facts:

1. Small states with 3 or 4 electoral votes are harder to carve up in a fair proportion because of rounding issues;

2. As the Sultan of Snark notes, trying to fix this by tying it to congressional districts would only exacerbate the malign influence of gerrymandering.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:48 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: The Fat Cat

Chris Suellentrop argues that Garfield has, since its inception, been basically a cynical merchandising concept in search of a comic strip. Personally - and maybe it's just because I was 10, 12 years old at the time - I thought Garfield was a genuinely funny strip the first few years (especially the very early strips when Garfield was squarer and poorly drawn), granting that it jumped the shark some 20+ years ago.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:17 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Once You've Directed Jesus . . .

Looks like there won't be another Mad Max movie after all.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:12 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 16, 2004
POLITICS: You Will Write What I Tell You To Write

Is there any blogger out there who makes more demands of other bloggers than Mark Kleiman? I should preface this by saying that I generally don't get into flame wars and the like with other bloggers; life's too short, and I generally prefer just to bicker with a particular post and leave it at that (although the disappearance of Hesiod from the blogosphere does warm my heart). But Kleiman's tactics and rhetoric have really gotten under my skin one time too many. Kleiman's beloved rhetorical hobbyhorse is branding as many people on the Right as he can - other bloggers as well as pundits and elected officials - as bigots, liars, and crooks, often by association. He's probably the single blogger most obsessed with a tactic we all use sometimes - and properly so, in some circumstances - but should be extremely cautious about overusing, especially against fellow amateur pundits who don't have the time to cover every issue under the sun: demanding that people on the other side of the spectrum denounce this person or that activity or the other statement. And, of course, his hair-trigger overreactions even on subjects about which he knows little or nothing often winds up forcing him to back down from things he's written.

It would, of course, be unfair of me to make such sweeping assertions about Kleiman's blog without some examples. This is hardly exhaustive; we'll go in reverse chronological order here:

June 13, 2004
Kleiman rips Eugene Volokh and Glenn Reynolds for not writing about the torture-memo issue, in response to Volokh's reasoned explanation of why he was staying out of this controversy. Kleiman:

If the attacks on the Presdient were even a little bit unfair, one would have expected that, even if Eugene decided to remain silent, one of the less weighty conservative law-bloggers could have been found to rise to the President's defense. (Glenn Reynolds, who has been silent so far this round, presumably isn't available, given his unprintable response last time the torture issue came up.)

Sometimes silence conveys more information than speech. Indeed, as Leo Strauss never tired of reminding his readers, sometimes silence is intended to convey information about which speech would be inconvenient, or information too important to be written or spoken. This may be one of those cases.

June 4, 2004
Kleiman tries to smear the entire universe of people criticizing George Soros' overwrought anti-Bush broadsides (like comparing Bush to Hitler) as nothing but disguised anti-Semitism:

Ever since the Republicans started their attempt to demonize George Soros, I've had in the back of my mind a nagging question about how much of the campaign was based on simple anti-Semitism.

Rather than ask himself whether Democrats would tear into a billionaire who was financing over-the-top attack ads on their president (Richard Mellon Scaife, anyone?), Kleiman latches on to a legitimately anti-Semitic Tony Blankley column in the Washington Times, but then uses it as a club to smear the rest of the Right while demanding that we all snap to attention; after Pejman weighed in, Kleiman wrote, "I'm still waiting for a non-Jewish conservative to agree, or a hint of complaint from the RNC or its allies"; after Drezner did the same, he insisted, "Drezner also doubts that Blankley's words reflect discredit on the other Republican Soros-bashers. I'm with Kevin Drum on this one: yes they do, unless the other Republican Soros-bashers distance themselves from their colleague." Frankly, I doubt that I've ever read a Tony Blankley column in my life, but there you have it: I'm a bigot because I didn't denounce it the way Mark Kleiman demands. And if you've criticized Soros, even if you've never read anything Blankley has ever written, so are you.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:00 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (4)
BASEBALL/WAR: Neither Here Nor There

Apropos of nothing: Walter O'Malley catching a game at Ebbets Field with King Faisal of Iraq in 1952.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:17 AM | Baseball 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 15, 2004
WAR: No Worse Friend, No Better Enemy

I'm just speechless. This sounds like something from the Onion, but it's not.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:40 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Camouflage

Is it me, or doesn't this picture suggest that the Army's new uniforms stand out against the backdrop - which isn't really what you want from camouflage? Still, I guess the new uniforms are good for urban combat.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:37 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Not Your Father's Legal Ethics

Overlawyered has a horror story of seduction and blackmail . . . and nobody in the legal system willing to say a bad word about it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:34 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 14, 2004
BLOG: Wiley Passes On

ESPN reports the sudden death of Ralph Wiley, the Page 2 columnist and former regular on the Sports Reporters. Wow. Wiley was 52 and in apparent good health, and his heart just gave out on him. One bit of trivia I didn't know: Wiley coined the term "Billy Ball" for Billy Martin's hustling 1980 A's. Regular readers will recall that I've been no fan of Wiley, although he and Bill Simmons had played off each other quite well in some recent joint efforts, including a chat room session just last week. Say this much: Wiley won't be easily replaced or replicated.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:18 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Slicing The Pie

OK, I've been on something of a Win Shares kick lately, playing around with the latest data. Here's something else I came up with from looking at The Hardball Times' tables of in-season 2004 Win Shares: the players who are contributing the greatest share of their teams' Win Shares (through Thursday's action). I broke the list between contending and non-contending teams (using .500, for now, as the break, since a team under .500 can't contend unless they improve), and, due to the DH, between AL and NL. I also used un-rounded Win Shares rather than the rounded-off numbers, since it's still early enough in the season that the rounding makes a significant impact. So, who's carrying the biggest load for their team?

NL Contenders:

#PlayerWin SharesTeamTeam Wins%
1Barry Bonds20.1SF3022.3
2Sean Casey19.6CIN3419.2
3Scott Rolen18.1STL3417.8
4Bobby Abreu15.8PHI3017.6
5Ken Griffey15.3CIN3415.3
6Adam Dunn14.6CIN3414.6
7Johnny Estrada12.2ATL2914.0
8Lance Berkman13.2HOU3213.8
9Mike Lowell13.7FLA3413.2
10Albert Pujols13.2STL3412.9

Bonds, as always, dominates these lists . . . You can certainly see that the Reds are heavily dependent on three players for nearly half the team's value, two of whom have underachieved in recent years and the third of whom has been injury prone. Fingers crossed . . . Johnny Estrada? . . . .

AL Contenders:

#PlayerWin SharesTeamTeam Wins%
1Vladimir Guerrero13.6ANA3413.3
2Michael Young12.2TEX3312.3
3Manny Ramirez12.0BOS3511.4
4Alex Rodriguez12.7NYY3811.1
5Jose Guillen10.5ANA3410.3
6Frank Thomas9.1CHW319.8
7Lew Ford9.5MIN339.6
8Curt Schilling9.8BOS359.3
9TTim Hudson9.3OAK349.1
9TScott Hatteberg9.3OAK349.1

No surprise that Guerrero tops this list . . . As with the NL leaders, there are still some pretenders here (Lew Ford, Hatteberg). There are also fewer winning teams in the AL to pick from. In general, AL teams are less dependent on their stars at this stage, partly due to the concentration of stars on the Yankees.

NL Non-Contenders:

#PlayerWin SharesTeamTeam Wins%
1Craig Wilson11.8PIT2416.4
2Todd Helton8.8COL2114.0
3Randy Johnson9.9AZ2413.8
4Luis Gonzalez9.8AZ2413.6
5Jack Wilson9.5PIT2413.2

Like some of the NL leaders, a few of the bad teams are also top-heavy with a few decent contributors.

AL Non-Contenders:

#PlayerWin SharesTeamTeam Wins%
1Melvin Mora13.1BAL2616.8
2Carlos Beltran10.0KC2115.9
3Ivan Rodriguez11.2DET2713.8
4Julio Lugo8.8TB2312.8
5Carlos Guillen10.3DET2712.7

Interestingly, these are all up-the-middle defensive players.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:25 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (1)
WAR: The Missing M.O.

As David Adesnik notes, the Reagan foreign policy legacy of using democracy promotion as a strategy and not just an aspiration is alive and well in the Bush Administration's Iraq policy.

But there is one significant area in which Bush has thus far not made use of the Reagan era precedents. There were, to simplify a bit, three major foreign policy approaches during the Cold War. One, identified primarily with the Nixon and Ford years, was Detente: treating the Soviet Union as if it was any other nation and making deals that presupposed that we could peacefully co-exist with a massive tyranny. One, identified mostly with Truman and JFK, was Containment: the idea that if we refused to do anything to assist the Soviets and opposed their expansion at every turn, the combination of the Communist centrally planned economic system and the Soviet empire's ethnic tensions (George Kennan particularly stressed the latter) would sooner or later cause the whole system to collapse under its own weight. The third, coined during the Eisenhower years, was Rollback - the idea that rather than wait passively for trouble, the United States should work to undermine Communist control of captive nations.

It's clear that no administration relied exclusively on one of these strategies; most tended to pursue a mixture of all three, but there was a distinct shift in emphasis from one administration to the next, and the Reagan years involved particularly agressive efforts not only to peel back recent Communist gains but to undermine the basis of Communist tyranny in the heartland of the Warsaw Pact nations.

Of course, a similar debate over the overall strategy is alive today, as President Bush pushes for rolling back the terror-sponsoring tyrannies of the Arab world, while critics argue for a more reactive "containment" strategy. What's particularly worth remembering from the Reagan years, however, is that there were multiple ways to skin the cat of Soviet oppression, and the Bush team doesn't seem to be doing much to project two of America's most potent weapons: material support for domestic insurgencies fighting within tyrranies, and ensuring that our message gets heard within those nations.

On the latter there have been some efforts to revive the "Radio Free Europe" concept for the Arab world. On the former, though, we seem to have no strategy. Granted, supporting revolts within Iraq failed miserably in the 1990s. But in some of the other Arab or Muslim states in the region, the ground may be more fertile, notably in Iran, where popular discontent with the mullahrchy appears to be widespread. We don't want or need to wait to go to open war with Iran to put our efforts into weakening or removing its oppressive government.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:34 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 13, 2004
BASEBALL: 500 With One Team

So, Barry Bonds today hit his 500th home run as a Giant (I noted the approaching milestone a few weeks back). I guess that "who's the greatest free agent signing ever" debate is pretty much over, huh? There's no question that Bonds would be a Hall of Famer without his career with the Pirates.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:30 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Disney Spam?

I'm getting what appear to be spam comments . . . leading to the Disney Online website. What's with that?

I should add my particular annoyance that I tend to get comment spam attacks on weekends, especially holiday weekends, when I have the least time to deal (at least during the week I get an hour or so of uninterrupted blogging time every morning with breakfast).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:22 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Nothing To See Here, Please Move Along

Stryker notices a verrrry interesting World Tribune report about a briefing by UN inspectors to the Security Council:

The United Nations has determined that Saddam Hussein shipped weapons of mass destruction components as well as medium-range ballistic missiles before, during and after the U.S.-led war against Iraq in 2003.

The UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission briefed the Security Council on new findings that could help trace the whereabouts of Saddam's missile and WMD program.

The briefing contained satellite photographs that demonstrated the speed with which Saddam dismantled his missile and WMD sites before and during the war. Council members were shown photographs of a ballistic missile site outside Baghdad in May 2003, and then saw a satellite image of the same location in February 2004, in which facilities had disappeared.

I'm not so sure about the World Tribune's sources or credibility, but as usual this sounds like it could bear watching.

UPDATE: The World Tribune is apparently a NewsMax-style wire service run by some Washington Times staffers, so a grain of salt is appropriate, but most of the various pieces of this story are basically confirmed by reports in the Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and that right-wing rag, the New York Times. However, these sources don't refer to shipments of materiel prior to the Iraq war, focusing instead on the banned missile components disappearing after the war.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:12 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: 20th Century Sunset

I have to say, the whole Reagan memorial week, coming on the heels of the dedication of the World War II memorial and the last D-Day anniversary that most of the veterans of that war will attend, felt like a funeral for the 20th century. Oh, there were end-of-century retrospectives in 1999, but we're now far enough into the new century, with enough new problems and traumas behind us to give some distance and perspective, to see more clearly the century that preceded. The involvement of so many of the other key figures of the last half of the century in remembring Reagan - Thatcher, the Pope, Gorbachev, Walesa - underlined that.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:04 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
OTHER SPORTS: The Long Road Back

NY Newsday reports that Olympic figure skating champ Sarah Hughes, who's something of a folk hero in these parts (she lives two towns over from my house), is considering returning to competition. Judging from recent photos, though, Hughes will probably be fighting the uphill battle against competing after puberty that has done in so many female athletes in sports like figure skating, gymnastics, etc.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:59 AM | Other Sports | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 10, 2004
BLOG: 6/10/4 Links

*Bill Simmons/Ralph Wiley chat wrap! Anarchically funny.

*Venomous Kate shares a look at the Toddler Diet.

*Captain Ed has some thoughts on Quaddafi trying to assasinate the leaders of Saudi Arabia; key quote:

Looking at this, one supposes that Prince Abdullah would want to reconsider his partnership with a country that hires assassins as spokespeople, but looking around his area, he'd be hard pressed to find a country that doesn't, and at least we don't do it on purpose.

*Powerline with an interesting anecdote on the Reagan Administration and sabotage.

*Women are more likely to have sex when they are ovulating and thus more likely to get pregnant. Well, duh.

*Now this is the kind of team-building exercise most law firms only dream of.

*Bruce Springsteen thinks Al Gore's lunatic rant is a good thing to read. Ugh.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:14 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Hearts and Minds, Part II

As I've insisted before, "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."

According to Tom Friedman, Lt. Gen. David Petraeus gets it:

I called Lt. Gen. David Petraeus in Baghdad, the widely respected U.S. commander for rebuilding the Iraqi Army. He told me that contracts for more than $3 billion worth of equipment, uniforms, training facilities, weaponry, bases and communications gear for the new Iraqi Army are finally being signed and executed so by the end of the summer, a lot of it should be getting to units. Moreover, he said, the first battalion of Iraqi internal security forces, trained for urban warfare, will be deployed in Baghdad. If the training stays on schedule, says General Petraeus, a critical mass of trained Iraqi Army, civil defense and police forces should be up and running by January, in time for elections.
"Early on, just after we got here, we talked a lot about how to win Iraqi hearts and minds, and get them to like us," General Petraeus said. "But we understand now that what we really need is for them to love the new Iraq. That is what needs to happen. . . . Bombs are going to go off every day, but what we need to do is somehow keep looking to the longer term and focus on building the new Iraq. . . . We just need to keep our heads down, be patient and keep driving on. This is really, really hard work."

Also: more good news for the new Iraqi government in the disbanding of the militias (link via Iraq the Model) and the new government's assertion of full control over Iraq's oil industry (link via Joe Katzman of Winds of Change).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:06 PM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: EWSL - The Pitchers

When I started the Established Win Shares project, I ran a list of the top 25 players in baseball by EWSL. But there were no pitchers, and it was justifiably asked, who are the top-ranked pitchers? Well, having covered all the teams, I can now line them up (I broke ties by age rather than pore over the decimal places as I did with the original list):

RankPlayerEWSLPos.TeamAge
1Tim Hudson22SPOAK28
2Barry Zito20SPOAK26
2TRoy Halladay20SPTOR27
2TEric Gagne20RPLA28
2TCurt Schilling20SPBOS37
6Pedro Martinez19SPBOS32
7TMark Mulder18SPOAK26
7TJavier Vazquez18SPNYY27
7TBartolo Colon18SPANA31
7TMike Mussina18SPNYY35
11TKeith Foulke17RPBOS31
11TBilly Wagner17RPPHI32
11TRandy Johnson17SPAZ40
11TJamie Moyer17SPSEA41
15TByung-Hyun Kim16PBOS25
15TJason Schmidt16SPSF31
17TMark Buehrle15SPCHA25
17TKerry Wood15SPCHN27
17TRuss Ortiz15SPATL30
17TDerek Lowe15SPBOS31
17TMariano Rivera15RPNYY34
17THideo Nomo15SPLA35
17TJohn Smoltz15RPATL37
17TGreg Maddux15SPCHN38

Hey, I was as surprised at some of these names as you are . . . you can really see the domination of a few teams (Red Sox, A's, Yankees) on this list.

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

The Belmont Club identifies a key problem in the War on Terror: the absence of publicly announced goals for the next stage of the war. The first step in the WOT was obvious: removing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and closing up the terrorist camps there (although it did have its Chomskyite detractors on the Left). The second was an interim measure: making clear that the United States wasn't going to waste its time negotiating with Arafatistan, and would essentially back-burner the "peace process" until there was new Palestinian leadership. This caused only a relatively minimal controversy because the policy ended up simply leaving the status quo in place. The third step was also obvious but controversial, removing Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.

Wretchard identifies six areas where we need to identify our goals, but #4 is about Iraq and the last two are about Europe; I'm more interested in the problem presented by the first three:

1. The desired end state in Saudi Arabia: whether or not this includes the survival of the House of Saud or its total overthrow;
2. The fate of the regime in Damascus;
3. Whether or not the United States is committed to overthrowing the Mullahs in Iran and the question of what is to replace them;

Now, I have little doubt that George Bush will pursue a more aggressive policy as to each of these than John Kerry would, given how steeped Kerry is in the diplomatic status quo and how little enthusiasm he seems to have for viewing the WOT as a war at all. But the fact is, Bush has not committed anything but the barest of his energies to building a public case - at home or internationally - to #2 & 3, and none at all to #1.

Thus far, the steps taken have been the imposition of sanctions on Syria, the naming of Iran as part of the "axis of evil," the slow-motion (as these things always are) nuclear inspections of Iran, and Bush's occasional rhetorical bone thrown to democracy in Iran. As to the Saudis, they remain nominally our allies.

But here's the problem that the broad strategy in the WOT has faced all along, and that is now approaching a crossroads, especially as to the Saudis: at some point, with the obvious steps taken care of, the president needs to put the squeeze on these three regimes - but at the same time, maintaining some modicum of support with our other, tenuous allies in the region may be impossible if we declare openly our intention of overturning these regimes. In other words, it may not (at least yet) be in our national interest to announce our next steps.

At the same time, eventual public support will need to be prepared - not just for the future but to buck up support at home during the long twilight struggle in Iraq - and there is, of course, an election coming in which the people ought to be told why it is that Bush has a strategy for dealing with these three regimes and Kerry doesn't.

Put another way, Bush may have to choose between honesty and a certain amount of deception (or, more properly, silence and ambiguity), where honesty is in his best political interest but ambiguity is in the nation's interest. I fear the consequences of either course.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:43 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 9, 2004
WAR: What Is Sovereignty?

The big meme on the left side of the blogosphere regarding the transfer of power on June 30 in Iraq is . . . well, it's just a sneer:

It amazes me that some people actually buy this Iraqi handover and "transition". After the handover, we still run Iraq from our embassy there. The new government has no real power. The UN resolution doesn't provide for any extra troops in the field.

(Link via QandO). Now, I don't have all the answers here; as usual, I'm content just to re-frame the questions. What is sovereignty, after all? Yes, it's true that a country doesn't have complete and total sovereignty over its territory if there are foreign troops running around and they can't easily be told to leave. But is that the only aspect of sovereignty? (It's ironic, if you think about it, that so many folks on the Left are equating the Hobbesian monopoly on force with the sole measure of government).

There are many entities in the world that have some but not plenary sovereignty over their territory:

*The State and City of New York lack many attributes of sovereignty, such as the ability to coin money or run a foreign policy, but my state and local governments still have the ability to lay and collect taxes, send people to jail, run fire departments and schools and collect trash, tell me where to put bottles and cans for recycling, and impose all sorts of onerous requirements on businesses doing business in New York. Quebec has even more sovereignty than New York does.

*France similarly lacks its own currency, control over its own trade policies, and must even submit to the dictates of Belgian bureaucrats as to the regulation of its beloved cheeses. Yet, it is unquestionable that France exercises considerable sovereignty.

*Even the United States' sovereignty has limits: not only are some powers reserved to the states, but we are bound by treaties with Native American tribes that reside within our own borders.

So, how do we determine whether the new Iraqi government has been given sovereignty and is beginning to exercise it (two different things - letting the Iraqis have a police force is not the same as it actually functioning)? Let's start with this handy checklist:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:48 PM | War 2004 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Talk P.J.

P.J. O'Rourke, who has a new book out in stores today entitled "Peace Kills : America's Fun New Imperialism", has an amusing look at talk radio in The Atlantic, in which he takes on easy targets Ann Coulter ("has the look of a soon-to-be-ex wife who has just finished shouting"), Bill O'Reilly ("We've all backed away from this fellow while vigorously nodding our heads in agreement. Often the fellow we were backing away from was our own dad."), and of course, Michael Moore:

Moore does include one chapter on how to argue with a conservative. As if. Approached by someone like Michael Moore, a conservative would drop a quarter in Moore's Starbucks cup and hurriedly walk away.

O'Rourke also asks what conservative talk radio has really accomplished:

The effect, as best I can measure it, is nil. In 1988 George Bush won the presidency with 53.4 percent of the popular vote. In 2000 Bush's arguably more conservative son won the presidency with a Supreme Court ruling.

Read the whole thing. (Via I Love Jet Noise).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:21 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Personal Diplomacy

Interesting WaPo article on how President Bush relates personally to other world leaders. In the end, though - unsurprisingly - personal relationships only go so far; Bush has apparently hit it off much more with Vicente Fox than with Ariel Sharon, but it's Sharon he's worked with more lately because that's where US interests are. While I have a pretty low opinion of the Saudis and their unctuous spokesman Adel al-Jubeir, he at least has been open about the fundamental basis of U.S.-Saudi relations:

"The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States is not based on personalities. It's based on interests," said Adel Jubeir, foreign affairs adviser to Crown Prince Abdullah, the kingdom's de facto ruler. "I don't think it's ever been as strong as it is now."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:13 PM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Linky Linky 6/9/4

*Jay Jaffe has the story of 10-Cent Beer Night in Cleveland in 1974, which turned out to be particularly ill-advised because the Indians were playing the (Billy Martin-managed) Rangers and had a bench-clearing brawl with them the previous game that ended with Ranger fans pouring beer on the Indians. Key stat: attendance was 25,000, and approximately 65,000 beers were sold. (Link via Baseball News Blog).

*Has the lost, sunken city of Atlantis been located in southern Spain? (Link via Gary Farber at Winds of Change).

*QandO catches Paul Krugman playing games with the numbers to skew the Reagan record on taxes. (Maybe Krugman was just confused? It's not like he's a professional economist or anything). (Link via the MinuteMan).

*It's not just the Crisps: Allison Kaplan Sommer reports that Courtney Cox and husband David Arquette are considering naming their expected daughter Coco Cox.

*Functional Ambivalent, who never agreed with Reagan but can't really see today why he got so upset at him, has some useful thoughts on avoiding excesses of outrage in blogging and political discourse. While I don't agree with his assumption that overwrought anger is mostly on the Right these days - try spending a few hours at Atrios' place - it's a useful contribution. (Link via Conrad at Gweilo Diaries).

*Bill Hobbs tells you where to go in the minor leagues to get a Moses bobblehead.

*Is the UN resolution on the transfer of power in Iraq a big victory for Bush? Well, if you can't trust Communists to tell you if democracy is on the way, who can you trust? And the Germans feel the same way!

*Bill Russell has some thoughts on team defense as the essential characteristic of championship basketball teams.

*Ralph Peters on Reagan's impact on the military's morale and readiness. (via Will Collier at VodkaPundit)

*Collier again, on mistrust of the media.

*Peters again, on the unchanging nature of war. Good stuff in general, although I'm not sure he really has anything specific to add here on the knotty problems of figuring out when we're facing the enemy and when we're not. But the point stands that we can win only by killing. If the courts make it more difficult to hold prisoners, that focus only intensifies. (also via Vodkapundit).

*Engrish! (via the Functional Ambivalent).

*If you missed it at the time, this Dave Cullen piece on Columbine is fascinating.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:06 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Raining on Art's Parade

Avkash Patel at The Raindrops has an outstanding analysis of the Mets bullpen (link via David Pinto). I think he perhaps gives short shrift to the fact that the Mets bullpen just doesn't have the talent to get the job done right no matter how they're used, but it's true that more Orber Moreno and less John Franco, for example, would be nice in key situations.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:10 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: 2004 NL Central Established Win Shares Report

Finally, at long last, I've completed my division-by-division walk around the major leagues by Established Win Shares Levels with the biggest division, the NL Central. Some time in the next week or so, I'll have to go back and pull together an overall summary of the results for all six divisions. To review, you can go back over 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

*NL East 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.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:00 AM | Baseball 2004 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)
June 8, 2004
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Reagan and Baseball

I thought I'd take a quick look at some of the 40th president's baseball connections:

*Straight out of college in 1932, Reagan got a job with radio station WOC in Des Moines, Iowa; within a year, following the station's merger with WHO, Reagan was installed as the station's broadcaster for Chicago Cubs games, a job he would hold for five seasons, until he landed his first Hollywood job in 1937. You have to recall that, in those days, the technology didn't exist to broadcast games live from the ballpark to a coast-to-coast or even a regional audience. So, Reagan wasn't the Cubs broadcaster - just the broadcaster for Des Moines and the surrounding area reached by WHO. But to people who lived there, he was the voice of the Cubs for those years.

What that meant was, Reagan would sit in front of a ticker reeling off the play-by-play and re-creating the game as it was happening. Imagine doing this by watching the play-by-play on the internet and you get the idea. I recall Bob Costas doing a demonstration on the pregame show for the NBC Game of the Week back in the 80s showing what this process was like; among other things, the broadcaster would click two sticks together to make a bat-hitting-ball sound, and play a tape of canned crowd noise. Once, the tape jammed and Reagan just improvised the batter fouling off pitch after pitch until they fixed the feed.

Reagan often said that his biggest baseball thrill was the last month of the 1935 pennant race. It's not hard to see why. Reagan was a 24-year-old broadcaster that season, and the Cubs were chasing the defending World Champion Cardinals of "Gashouse Gang" fame. On the morning of September 3, 1935, the Cubs stood in third place, 2.5 games behind the Cardinals (but 5 back in the loss column). The Cards would go on to have a fine stretch run, going 17-11. But what the Cubs did the rest of the way was remarkable, winning 21 straight, including three straight (culminating with a doubleheader sweep that kicked off by beating 28-game-winner Dizzy Dean) from the Cards to clinch the pennant before dropping the final two games to St. Louis.

*Reagan was born in 1911. Of course, this means that even without the Alzheimer's, at 93 he was too young to remember a Cubs world championship (they lost to the Tigers in the 1935 Series, including three 1-run games). What baseball players were born in 1911? You could look it up; the better-known names on the list:

Hank Greenberg
Joe "Ducky Wucky" Medwick
Frank McCormick
Walter Alston
Denny Galehouse
Van Lingle Mungo

What do these guys have in common? Well, among other things, other than Galehouse (who died in 1998), all of them were dead by the time Reagan left the White House in 1989.

*Last December, I panned Reagan's performance in the Grover Cleveland Alexander biopic The Winning Team:

You may remember that shortly after Alexander died, Hollywood rushed out a movie of his life called "The Winning Team," starring Reagan as Alexander and Doris Day as his wife. It was just awful. The movie had a few dramatic high points, but they made little enough attempt to capture the real Alexander. And Reagan put aside your politics for a minute and just think acting gave what had to be the worst performance of his acting career: adept at playing the genial Everyman and the B-movie hero, Reagan was completely out of his league trying to portray a morose, moody alcoholic. Only Reagans political career kept the movie from disappearing into complete obscurity, but the butchering of Alexanders life story left him less well known today than Crash Davis and Moonlight Graham.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:22 AM | Baseball 2004 • | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: "The Marines did it through aggressive raiding and downright obstinate refusal to budge regardless of the costs."

An interesting analysis of the situation in Fallujah, with a conclusion that's not so reassuring, from a Marine on the front lines. (via Andrew Sullivan)

It's amazing how many guys there are on the front lines who are capable of drawing a compelling narrative of what's going on and are willing to put in the time to do so. We've come a long way from Vietnam and Walter Cronkite having absolute control over what the public got to hear (or, for that matter, World War II and the Pentagon having absolute control). And, of course, the less a few anti-war voices in the media can control the storyline, the better.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:51 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: At First

Twins Fan Dan at All-Baseball.com asks, reviewing the current crop of first basemen, "Has the position ever been this deficient in greatness?" The commenters note that we're nearing the end of a golden era, so the premise is a bit faulty. But there have certainly been darker times.

The 1900-1919 period was pretty slim for first basemen. Hall of Famers for that period are mostly guys ending their careers (Jake Beckley), starting out (Sisler), or touching first on the way out the door after they were already washed up (Wagner, Lajoie). My initial assumption was that the best first baseman of the period was probably Frank Chance (who had a short career), and if not him some nondescript type like Fred Merkle or Stuffy McInnis, or a crook like Hal Chase.

The Win Shares system rates the top first basemen for the 1900-09 decade as Chance (209 WS, 17th among all players for the decade); Harry Davis (189 WS, 23d) and Fred Tenney (165, 43d). For 1910-19, tops are Ed Konetchy (204 WS, 12th among all players for the decade); Jake Daubert (182 WS, 21st); and Merkle (176 WS, 28th). Konetchy, a guy I've barely heard of, seems to top out the group with 287 Win Shares between 1907 and 1921.

By contrast, my "Established Win Shares" list of the top players in baseball entering this season lists four first basemen in the top 10 (Giambi, Thome, Helton and Delgado; five if you count Pujols). And there are a couple of active first basemen, still productive players, who are well past Ed Konetchy in terms of career totals: Jeff Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, and Frank Thomas all cleared 300 WS years ago. (Even John Olerud's career stacks up fairly well with the Konetchys and Frank Chances).

So no, we are not at a historic low ebb for first basemen. Far from it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:10 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 7, 2004
WAR: Moving the Bases

Phil Carter notes some preliminary progress in a good and long overdue idea: leaving behind the last vestiges of America's Cold War-oriented military bases in Germany and rearranging our forces to fit their current and likely future missions.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:55 PM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Reagan and Carter

I've been a bit short on Reagan hagiography compared to some other people around the blogosphere, but then I don't have the luxury of time, so I generally write only a fraction of what's on my mind. I should note that, while there's a good deal of bickering about Reagan's legacy from the usual sources of bickery, I have to confess that there are two presidents I'm not really able to discuss entirely rationally: Carter and Reagan. The reason is obvious: I was 5 years old when Carter was inaugurated and 18 when Reagan left office, and my perceptions of both men were heavily filtered through the prism of youth. It's one thing to go back and revisit your youthful convictions in light of later experience, as I've done and as most people do (I have changed my mind over the years on a few issues). It's another to revisit the incidents of your youth themeselves. I've had a similar experience in trying to come to grips with the idea that maybe Jim Rice never really was a superstar . . . the mind doesn't grasp it.

Not that I have a lot of doubts, mind you, but I'm really in no mood to argue the details, that's all. Suffice it to say that, after the drear of the Seventies, I found Reagan to be a deeply inspiring figure, one who left a permanent mark on my notions of leadership and the goals of the American enterprise.

Still, it wasn't just my childhood; Carter really was, as Dave Barry put it, a colossal weenie. Just re-read the famous "crisis of confidence" speech, and contrast it with the tone Reagan set throughout his presidency. (Link via the MinuteMan).

Bonus observation: I hadn't realized how much of the Clinton "feel your pain" and "listening tour" stuff came from Carter.

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

Smash has some fine first-hand reporting on what can only be described as an anti-America protest. More picking on far-out wackos who don't deserve the attention? Maybe. Until Smash points out that the leader and at least one of her friends who came out to encourage "a peoples movement" to follow the Vietnam model of support for a "determined national liberation struggle" by the Iraqi 'insurgents' and "[a] historic revolt within the US armed forces" are public school teachers, and the leader teaches history to high school kids, apparently influenced by her radical socialist politics.

Another reminder why I send my kids to Catholic school. Of course, not everyone can afford that option, so their kids have to swallow this sort of propaganda, paid for with our tax dollars. The education of a child with no other options, of course, is a small price to pay for a teacher's freedom of speech.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:40 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Only Republicans Need Apply?

This is probably just an oversight, but it seems an odd one - today's Washington Post's lead article on Reagan lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda asserts:

Reagan will join a list of those who have lain in state beneath the Rotunda that includes Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, William H. Taft, Warren G. Harding, William McKinley Jr., James A. Garfield, Herbert Hoover and Lincoln.

That's seven other presidents, all Republicans. Have Democratic presidents not been given this honor, or is the Post just ignoring them?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:31 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Putting People First

National Review gives Ralph Nader's organization good marks for supporting the use of DDT in countries where malaria is still a tremendous killer of humans, despite lingering debates over DDT's environmental impact.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:49 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Charting The Cost

Interesting chart here showing the distribution of American soldiers killed in Iraq by proportion of state population. Unsurprisingly, given the formula, small states dominated the top of the list, mostly "red" states in the mountain/plains area (the Dakotas, Wyoming, Nebraska) but also including several New England states. The more urban states - NY, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, Massachusetts - tended towards the bottom half.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:25 AM | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Pool Shark

Ombudsgod has some background on the Washington Post's Dana Milbank's history of playing it fast and loose.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:11 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 6, 2004
POLITICS: Meeting Reagan

Punch the Bag has a first-hand remembrance of Reagan's presence.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:32 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 5, 2004
POLITICS: Thoughts on Reagan

I can't presume here to sum up Ronald Reagan's legacy; I'd suggest you head on over to the National Review, which is heading into saturation-coverage mode, and properly so. I'll offer a few disjointed thoughts; for tonight, two snippets:

*Reagan, from his speech on the 40th anniversary of D-Day:

The men of Normandy had . . . the deep knowledge - and pray God we have not lost it - that there is a profound, moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.

*I think I've mentioned this before . . . my career in radio was extremely short, a few months of doing news updates on campus radio in my freshman year of college, in the fall of 1989. But the one highlight: I got to go on the air and announce that the Berlin Wall had come down. It hardly mattered if nobody was listening. After all those years and all those people saying it was just another system, the good guys won, the oppressed got freedom - and Reagan was vindicated. I can only hope we will live to see such victory again.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:21 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BUSINESS/POLITICS: It Can't Be The Economy, Stupid!

It seems almost beside the point at this stage to talk about domestic politics - the political terrain is 100% Iraq at the moment - but if the economy winds up becoming an issue in the election, the recent job growth reports may send the Democrats looking to take this helpful advice from the Politburo.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:55 AM | Business • | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Matt LeCroy Redux

Will Carroll (subscription only) notes the severity of the knee surgery Joe Mauer had and concludes, "I would be stunned if Mauer can stay at catcher for the next six years." As usual, I suggest you cough up the money to subscribe and read the whole thing - Carroll's injury analyses are worth the price of BP Premium by themselves.

(On the other hand, I was skimming his book "Saving the Pitcher" in Barnes & Noble last week, and it looks way too medical-detailed for me).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:35 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Home Stretch for the Gipper

Sad news: CNN reports that President Reagan is dying. Given how much Alzheimer's has taken from him already, it's probably for the best for the 93-year-old Reagan and his family if the end comes soon.

To be cold-bloodedly political for a second, how would Reagan's death in the next month or two affect this year's presidential race? Not much, of course - most things that are supposed to affect the presidential race turn out to be overrated - but a wave of Reagan nostalgia would undoubtedly be a bit of help to Bush, reminding people of the common principles both have stood for and the common criticisms both faced. This is in marked contrast to the coming wave of Clinton nostalgia that will arrive with Bill's book - the further away one gets from the Clinton years, the less of lasting importance (other than his trade deals, for which his successors are none to quick to claim credit) can really be traced to him, and the things people remember fondly about Clinton (his charm, empathy and optimism) are palpably lacking in the Democrats' current nominee.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:06 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Fisking a Disclaimer

Jack Shafer fisks an email disclaimer. It's not really a fair fight.

I see his point - disclaimers on email messages are hardly ironclad legal protection - but any careful lawyer will tell you that you're better off trying. In some contexts, such as protection of the attorney-client privilege, courts will look at what steps you took to keep things confidential - and having a disclaimer, while hardly determinative, can't hurt. Granted, it's hard to argue that something a computer stamps on every outgoing message is an indicia of the privileged nature of the contents, but it's at least a sign that you are notifying an inadvertent recipient that this could be sensitive stuff they should give back.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:16 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 4, 2004
BASEBALL: Bad Non-Investment

I agree completely with David Pinto that the teams that didn't bid on Vladimir Guerrero - or, in the Mets' case, teams that bid halfheartedly - are looking pretty dumb right now, as Guerrero is singlehandedly keeping an injury-riddled Angels team in the race. Baseball Prospectus rates him fourth in the major leagues in VORP (Value over Replacement Player), behind only Bonds, Sean Casey, and, er, Melvin Mora, and Hardball Times has him first in the AL with 14 Win Shares (behind only Bonds, Casey and Scott Rolen in the NL and tied with Mike Lowell). Guerrero, need we be reminded, is 28, the same age as Karim Garcia and four years younger than Shane Spencer. Who are not leading the league in anything.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:10 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Brock'd

RatherBiased.com notes David Brock, discussing his new project (left-wing media commentary site MediaMatters.org), undercutting his entire thesis by talking about how mainstream media figures love MediaMatters:

"In the past few weeks -- as I have been on some of these TV shows, either talking about my book or about MediaMatters.org -- I have been -- off air -- been told by network talent: 'Thank God you are doing this because we can't do it -- because [conservative minister] James Dobson can send an e-mail and turn NBC upside down'"
* * *

"I think they are afraid," Brock said. "For a long time, the mainstream media has not stood up. They've essentially allowed Fox to happen. They do not cover Limbaugh -- he is a serious political figure in this country -- they don't write about what he says."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:44 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: He's Ba-ack

Reports of Barry Zito's demise seem premature; with another spectacular outing last night, Zito's line since May 1 is a 3.21 ERA, 7.50 H/9 IP, 0.64 HR, 3.21 BB, and 7.07 K. In his last four starts, Zito has allowed just 1 home run and 19 hits in 29 innings of work.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:13 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Tale of Two Sluggers

Barry Bonds is closing in on another home run milestone: he's four homers from 500 as a Giant. Which is pretty impressive, seeing as he was already a two-time MVP when he got to San Francisco.

Rafael Palmeiro is also still plugging along, batting .280/.446/.403. A closer look at the numbers, though, reveals some possible danger signs. Palmeiro's walk rate has spiked sharply upward this season - he's on pace for 126 walks compared to 84 last year and a career high of 104 - while his power has dropped off very sharply. I recall a Bill James thesis that an old player who starts walking a lot more may be compensating for slower bat speed, and will usually be found out soon enough by the pitchers. Then again, it wasn't a systematic study, and Palmeiro's strikeouts are at their lowest rate since 1989, while players showing this pattern typically start striking out a lot more as well. We shall see.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:01 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Shea It's Seo

I made it out to Shea last night for what turned out to be a remarkably fast-moving game, nosing the Mets above .500 with a victory over the defending champs. Jae Seo was in fine form, somehow surviving a brutal defensive infield with Piazza at first, Wigginton and second and Zeile at third. AJ Burnett was unimpressive in his return from surgery, getting cuffed around (with the help of Miguel Cabrera, who botched a key Ty Wigginton triple in the second inning, letting it roll past him to the wall).

Cliff Floyd attempted two stolen bases, which tells me two things: his legs are healthy again after last weekend's collision with Mike Cameron, and the Mets have very little respect for the Burnett/Mike Redmond battery.

I have to say, the Mets would really be in some deep trouble if they hadn't signed Kaz Matsui - not that he's been great, but with Jose Reyes shut down from rehabbing his hamstrings due to a bad back, it's a good thing the Mets weren't more reliant on Reyes. The team ought to just plug in Danny Garcia at second and see where it goes from there.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:53 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
June 3, 2004
BASEBALL: Mister Clutch

As numerous studies have told us, clutch hitting is a result, not a skill. But it sure is nice to get those results, as Todd Zeile followed Tuesday's game-winning hit in the 10th inning with a 2-run 10th inning homer that put last night's game out of reach. Of course, the Wagner-less Philadelphia bullpen had a bit to do with that, as Tim Worrell ran out of gas in his second inning of work Tuesday and Roberto Hernandez was serving up meatballs last night. Still, any time you can win consecutive extra inning games on the road against the strongest team in the division, you take what you can get.

It's a long season yet, and I'm still no believer in Zeile, but it's starting to look like a respectable ending to his 16-year major league odyssey since his arrival as a catcher with Whitey Herzog's Cardinals.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:24 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 2, 2004
BLOG: One For The Ladies

Drezner and Michele discuss the relative paucity of female bloggers among the tippity-top of the A-List of bloggers who influence the media. Michele asks:

Lots of stuff going on today about women in the blogosphere. Are females underrepresented? Has Wonkette become the media's official spokesperson for the female portion of the blogosphere? Are we destined to just be cute and adorable playthings? Or is the whole idea of sexism in blogs just a manufactured tale thought up by people who just aren't making the time to find blogs that aren't already on their small links list?

Well, looking over my own blogroll - which, given the concentration of baseball blogs, is bound to be male-dominated - I see five female-authored blogs (Michele, Bookworm, Erin O'Connor, Meryl Yourish, and Jane Galt), plus NRO's Corner, which is male-dominated but moderated by Kathryn Jean Lopez, one of the most active contributors to the group, and The Command Post, at which Michele is one of the ringleaders. Other female bloggers I've linked to - only sporadically - would include Dana at Note-It Posts, law blogger Denise Howell of Bag and Baggage, Baldilocks, Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft, and, of course, Wonkette. Not nothing, but clearly a minority.

Here's the thing: at the dawn of blogilization (late 01-early 02), the leading blogs were overwhelmingly white, male, bespectacled, between 30 and 50, pro-war, centrist/libertarian on domestic issues, and dominated by academics and professional writers, especially those with ties to the New Republic (Reynolds, Sullivan, Lileks, Kaus, Volokh, Marshall, Goldberg, den Beste, Welch, Jarvis, C. Johnson . . . each of them hits several if not all of these points). The image stuck, and those guys ascended to a sort of firmament.

While people have to be pretty dim to ignore the likes of Michele, Jane Galt, and Yourish, Wonkette is indeed one of the few female bloggers who has the paid position, journalistic background, etc. to get instant credibility with the media - other female bloggers tend to be civilians, as it were, rather than journalists or academics (Merritt may be something of an exception, as a sometime TV pundit).

You see, in the blogosphere, when it comes to influencing the media, there are still two classes of bloggers: the credentialed in-crowd and the civilians. Bloggers who are professional journalists are in the in-crowd, however much they may (like Sullivan) maintain a contrarian pose that costs them with employers inside journalism. Bloggers who are academics get the entree as well; besides having jobs that permit them to blog at length during business hours, journalists respect academics. Look at how Drezner slid easily into a column at The New Republic. (If you're young enough, like Matt Yglesias, you can write your way into the in-crowd. If you're old enough to have a job and a mortgage, you're out of luck).

My conclusion here: Michele is among the best and brightest of the "civilian" bloggers. And we ought to be a happy bunch, since we've come a long way from the days when civilians had no hope of getting published. But except for Wonkette, few female bloggers are part of that in crowd. The fault isn't the blogs themselves; it's the who-you-know nature of journalism.

(It may also be that fewer women are interested in writing political blogs; Yglesias explains the gender gap as it pertains to men vs. women following politics).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:55 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: One For The Ladies

Drezner and Michele discuss the relative paucity of female bloggers among the tippity-top of the A-List of bloggers who influence the media. Michele asks:

Lots of stuff going on today about women in the blogosphere. Are females underrepresented? Has Wonkette become the media's official spokesperson for the female portion of the blogosphere? Are we destined to just be cute and adorable playthings? Or is the whole idea of sexism in blogs just a manufactured tale thought up by people who just aren't making the time to find blogs that aren't already on their small links list?

Well, looking over my own blogroll - which, given the concentration of baseball blogs, is bound to be male-dominated - I see five female-authored blogs (Michele, Bookworm, Erin O'Connor, Meryl Yourish, and Jane Galt), plus NRO's Corner, which is male-dominated but moderated by Kathryn Jean Lopez, one of the most active contributors to the group, and The Command Post, at which Michele is one of the ringleaders. Other female bloggers I've linked to - only sporadically - would include Dana at Note-It Posts, law blogger Denise Howell of Bag and Baggage, Baldilocks, Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft, and, of course, Wonkette. Not nothing, but clearly a minority.

Here's the thing: at the dawn of blogilization (late 01-early 02), the leading blogs were overwhelmingly white, male, bespectacled, between 30 and 50, pro-war, centrist/libertarian on domestic issues, and dominated by academics and professional writers, especially those with ties to the New Republic (Reynolds, Sullivan, Lileks, Kaus, Volokh, Marshall, Goldberg, den Beste, Welch, Jarvis, C. Johnson . . . each of them hits several if not all of these points). The image stuck, and those guys ascended to a sort of firmament.

While people have to be pretty dim to ignore the likes of Michele, Jane Galt, and Yourish, Wonkette is indeed one of the few female bloggers who has the paid position, journalistic background, etc. to get instant credibility with the media - other female bloggers tend to be civilians, as it were, rather than journalists or academics (Merritt may be something of an exception, as a sometime TV pundit).

You see, in the blogosphere, when it comes to influencing the media, there are still two classes of bloggers: the credentialed in-crowd and the civilians. Bloggers who are professional journalists are in the in-crowd, however much they may (like Sullivan) maintain a contrarian pose that costs them with employers inside journalism. Bloggers who are academics get the entree as well; besides having jobs that permit them to blog at length during business hours, journalists respect academics. Look at how Drezner slid easily into a column at The New Republic. (If you're young enough, like Matt Yglesias, you can write your way into the in-crowd. If you're old enough to have a job and a mortgage, you're out of luck).

My conclusion here: Michele is among the best and brightest of the "civilian" bloggers. And we ought to be a happy bunch, since we've come a long way from the days when civilians had no hope of getting published. But except for Wonkette, few female bloggers are part of that in crowd. The fault isn't the blogs themselves; it's the who-you-know nature of journalism.

(It may also be that fewer women are interested in writing political blogs; Yglesias explains the gender gap as it pertains to men vs. women following politics).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Hook Will Bring You Back

Bob "The Prince of Darkness" Novak - a fine conservative of good standing in many domestic battles, but also a guy who's been a relentless critic of the Bush Administration's foreign policies, to the point where the National Review openly questioned his patriotism - has a gloom-and-doom look at Afghanistan. Sgt. Hook, who's actually serving in Afghanistan at the moment, takes umbrage.

(Link via Dean Esmay)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:32 PM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Battery Up

News reports are expressing surprise at Alfonso Soriano leading the AL All-Star balloting, but this should be no big surprise; he's probably got loyal backers both in NY and Texas, and there's precious little competition among AL 2B. (The Win Shares leaders at second right now are Juan Uribe, Ron Belliard and Mark Bellhorn, none of them household names).

The fun story: with Mike Piazza leading among NL catchers, the likely starting battery for the NL will be Piazza with either Randy Johnson . . . or Roger Clemens.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:28 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Too Good To Check, Part II

Nikita at The Command Post links to a NewsMax report of John Kerry giving the finger to Ted Sampley, a particularly rude and aggressive Vietnam War vet and activist, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in front of a bunch of schoolchildren. I'm not buying the story on the basis of a single-source report from NewsMax, particularly given that Sampley appears to be the source for the story. Something like this would be a real "Dead Zone" moment if it had happened, though.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:22 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Goalposts

We can't well judge where we stand on victory in Iraq - and how much more needs to be done - without stepping back and reviewing what our objectives there were in the first place. I'm not looking so much to answer all these questions in this one entry as to frame the issues:

1. Removing the Regime: As I've explained repeatedly before (see here, for example) and will no doubt return to again soon, the first and primary reason for the Iraq war was the nature of the regime itself - implacably hostile to the United States, planted at the center of the region that has been the epicenter for terrorism against the United States and its allies, immune to outside persuasion or pressure, safe from any internal revolt, and unpredictable in its actions. The regime's record on numerous issues supported the conclusion that it could neither be changed nor safely ignored. Recall just one example, one of the most critical facts about Saddam Hussein's regime: after September 11, when nearly all of the world's worst dictators - Castro, Khaddafi, even Arafat - were lining up to give lip service to denouncing the attacks, Saddam's state-run media was trumpeting them with front-page celebrations. The Ba'athist regime put up murals cheering the attacks. All of which underlined why the United States Congress had passed, and President Clinton signed into law, legislation making "regime change" in Iraq the formal policy of the United States. Removing the regime would also take care of its appalling human rights record.

The objective of removing the regime was, of course, accomplished by mid-April 2003, which is what anyone who was paying attention understood to be the "Mission Accomplished" announced by President Bush a few weeks later. The final nails in the coffin were the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein and the December 2003 capture of Saddam himself. While it's true that some ex-Ba'athists are starting to resurface in the new Iraq, notably in the Fallujah Brigade tasked with pacifying Fallujah (and now the head of the new provisional government), that's as unremarkable as the presence of ex-Communists (like Yeltsin and Putin) in post-Soviet Russia, given the lack of alternatives to being in the Ba'ath party while Saddam ruled the country. There's nothing to fear in terms of the regime rising again in anything resembling its prior form, especially given how much of that form was dictated by the personality of Saddam Hussein himself.

2. Removal of the WMD Threat - While the human element was Iraq's chief threat, the regime's persistent pursuit of weapons of mass destruction - chemical, biological, nuclear - was, famously, the subject of international debate for years before the war dating back to Israel's bombing of the Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981. On the issue of WMD programs, we can feel pretty good about what we've accomplished - we know that the regime was continuing to, at a minimum, 'keep its powder dry' in terms of maintaining the know-how and capability to ramp up production of chemical and biological weapons, which are cheaper, quicker and easier to produce and transport than nuclear weapons; that that capability was concealed from weapons inspectors; and that that capability is now dissipated.

Actual weapons - including the large stockpiles previously identified by the UN (and cited by President Bush) but not accounted for - are another matter. If we ever get comfortable that there really were no such stockpiles by the time of the war, of course, that would be good news; a propaganda victory for war opponents, but good news nonetheless. On the other hand, if there's one thing that's made me genuinely nervous about the aftermath of the war (or perhaps the interminable 14-month "rush to war"), it's the possibility that WMD materiel made its way to Syria or into the hands of rogue individuals or groups, including Al Qaeda or other international terror groups. Thus, it remains premature to declare victory on this front, and we may never really get to the bottom of the question.

3. Eliminate Iraq as a Terrorist Safe Haven: Regardless of the continuing debate over the extent of Saddam's active operational and financial assistance to various terror groups, the incontestible fact remains that Iraq before March 2003 was (as Iran and Syria remain) a black hole on the map into which terrorists of all kinds - Zarqawi, Abu Nidal, Abu Abbas, Ansar Al-Islam, possibly some of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers - could disappear or encamp without fear of being apprehended or reliably traced. For the moment, that aspect has been greatly diminished - it's true that we haven't found Zarqawi, but then fugitives in the US have been known to evade capture for years as well, and there have been many, many foreign terrorists captured or killed by US forces there. There's at least been very significant progress in reducing the freedom of terrorists to move into Iraq as a safe haven. And, of course, Saddam is no longer pumping cash into the suicide-bombing operations in Israel, which is good.

4. Prevent the Re-Emergence of a Hostile Regime: Obviously, this is the big-ticket endgame right now, and one that might ultimately require us to play power politics, since neither the Shiites, the Sunnis nor the Kurds can create a dangerous rogue regime in Iraq if the other two groups retain some base of power. The major danger would be an Islamist theocracy controlled by Iran under someone like al-Sadr (who's pretty well discredited and weakened at the moment, although the careers of the likes of Khomeini and Saddam suggest that a guy like this is a continuing danger to bounce back until he's actually dead or in permanent US custody).

5. Prevent the Descent of Iraq into a Failed State: The opposite pole, and the first of the objectives that represents an objective of the reconstruction rather than the war (although Christopher Hitchens, among others, has argued that Iraq was headed this way anyway) is preventing anarchy - if Iraq winds up looking like Somalia, it will resume its status as a place for transnational terror groups to congregate. Again, the jury's still out, but the growth of local institutions in the Kurdish north and the Shiite south hopefully could create a fallback position where if post-occupation Iraq started to crumble, there would be hope of salvaging parts of the country from anarchy.

6. Building a Role Model: Most of the objectives of the Iraq war were negative - get Saddam out of power, stop the spread of weapons and terror groups, etc. The positive goal - building democracy in Iraq - has attracted mountains of scorn, but when you consider that we had little choice but to try to rebuild the place anyway once we'd removed the existing regime, why wouldn't we want to use all the persuasive powers at our command to try to provide a positive example to the rest of the region? Needless to say, this aspect of President Bush's "forward strategy of freedom" has a ways to go, although there's no reason to suspect that there won't be elections by January - the more troubling question is what comes after that. My own bottom line: regardless of the shape it takes, if the resulting institutions provide accountable government that the Iraqi people are happy with, that alone will put pressure on the neighbors to shape up. Considering the number of former tyrannies around the world that have transitioned to functioning or semi-functioning democracies in the last 20 years without any U.S. troops at all, and sometimes in the face of bitter-end internal resistance, faltering economies, and/or inhospitable cultural traditions, I hardly consider this an unrealistic endeavor.

7. Humanitarian Reconstruction: Rebuilding roads, schools, hospitals, etc. Keeping the lights on. By all accounts, this is going well. In fact, we made significant progress just by putting and end to the failed sanctions regime, which gave the "containment" policy a brutal cost in human life.

8. Prevent Iraqi-on-Iraqi Violence: At the end of the day, this is Iraq's problem, not ours, although we obviously need to keep violence from overwhelming the other mission objectives. The US media has tended to elevated this to Job One in Iraq, thus missing the entire point of the exercise.

(I'm ignoring "prevent violence against US troops," since that's not so much an end goal as something we're trying to do while working towards our goals; in military terms, force protection is an ongoing priority but not a mission objective - if every other job on the list was done, we could keep the troops safe just by bringing them home. The importance and difficulty of protecting our forces has, of course, been a critical concern through all of this.).

9. "Flypaper": The notion that our troops would serve as "flypaper" - attracting jihadist fanatics to Iraq to kill them rather than have to hunt them down elsewhere - always struck me more as a sliver lining to the cloud of the insurgency rather than a positive goal. It's not that we actually want people attacking our soldiers. But if they are going to pour into Iraq, killing a lot of them is a laudable goal that will advance our ultimate war aims, and the casualty figures from the front suggest that we are indeed doing this at a fairly high volume.

10. Get the Wells Pumping: Nobody seriously argued that oil should have been a valid reason for war - we could have increased Iraq's production by lifting UN sanctions - but given oil's importance to the Iraqi, world and US economies, getting the wells pumping at full tilt was obviously an important thing to do. From what I've read, that's going fine, although it may be some time before Iraq can really tap into its full potential as an oil producer.

11. Reorganize US Base Structure: Basing US troops in Saudi Arabia, of course, was not only expensive and inefficient (like the Germans, the Saudis could be picky about where they would let us go), but also an irritant cited by bin Laden as a grounds for jihad. We seem to be headed towards the first leg of this objective, getting our bases out of Saudi Arabia, and for now we have temporary bases in Iraq from which to stage more operations against the likes of Syria and Iran. But it's an open question whether the new Iraqi government will agree to long-term basing rights.

I've probably forgotten something, and I'm also leaving off some of the more intangible objectives, like demonstrating US resolve, sending a message to other dictators, improving the future credibility of UN resolutions, repaying the Kurds and Shiites for abandoning them in the past, etc. I'm also ignoring the end of the oil-for-food boondoggle, since that wasn't and couldn't have been fully appreciated as a war aim before the war.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:16 AM | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
June 1, 2004
BASEBALL: Bizarro Home Field Advantage

His first three years in the majors, Juan Uribe had a fairly large home-field advantage, batting .288/.468/.324 at home and .227/.345/.271 on the road. Which was to be expected; he was playing his home games at Coors Field. Uribe was nonetheless a disappointment, since he was expected to be better than a .227 hitter with minimal power, and was expected to take much greater advantage of Coors.

So, this season, Uribe goes to Comiskey Park, no bandbox. So what happens? His road numbers have, in fact, improved substantially across the board without the compression effect of playing on the road after having a homestand at high altitude: .277/.400/.347. But the really spectacular improvement is at home: a guy who was nothing really special at Coors is batting .371/.638/.416 in Chicago (oddly, he's also had nearly twice as many at bats at home, since the White Sox have played 27 home and 22 road games, and Uribe didn't have a firm grip on the everyday job until the end of the season-opening road trip).

The effects of Coors can be complex. For whatever reason, Uribe doesn't seem to have taken advantage. Contrast this with Vinny Castilla, up to his old tricks after three years away:

Park: SeasonAVGSLGOBP
Home: 2001-03.245.399.282
Road: 2001-03.266.448.308
Home: 2004.371.773.441
Road: 2004.213.447.272
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:42 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: Kerry All Over the Map

The Bush campaign has a very amusing graphic showing John Kerry's shifting positions on Iraq. (Link via Instapundit).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:37 PM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Long Weekend

Not much in the way of new content this morning, as I'm catching up at work from the long weekend, although if you're just checking in, I had a flurry of new stuff on Friday night and Saturday. Some longer stuff on Iraq is on the way tomorrow, plus some ongoing baseball projects (I'm still trying to finish up the Established Win Shares Levels review by wrapping up the NL Central).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:26 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Down, and Up

A high note yesterday to cap off an otherwise depressing weekend for the Mets, including Cliff Floyd's return to the lineup and a game-winning hit for Mike Cameron; Floyd really looked pretty severely injured after colliding with Cameron in the first inning on Saturday. The Mets seem to be matching up better with the Phillies than the Marlins this season, likely due to their inability to hit Florida's pitching.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:32 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)