Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
July 31, 2004
BASEBALL: Back To Square One

The Mad Hibernian is horrified at the deals that exchanged Scott Kazmir and Justin Huber for Victor Zambrano and Ty Wigginton and Matt Peterson for Kris Benson.

On the first count, I have to agree. I'll admit I'm no expert on the minor leagues, and it's true that pitching prospects are a crapshoot, but Kazmir has consistently been projected as a potential ace, and Huber is also a highly-regarded catching prospect. This, for a 28-year-old pitcher who's walked 202 batters in 316.1 innings the past two years. Zambrano's not a star now - heck, I have him on one of my Rotisserie teams and have had him on the bench all season - and I don't see a great likelihood that he's going to become one. It's true that he's still relativley young and cheap, so the Mets haven't broken the bank for a guy who'll be gone soon, but the deal still seems all but impossible to justify other than as a panic move in support of a pennant race that's rapidly slipping away (unless, of course, it's part of a larger deal with some greater fool - which I doubt).

I'm a little less appalled at the Benson deal, in theory - I was all in favor of cashing in Wigginton while his stock was up, although I do like the guy and his competitive fire will be missed - but Benson's high upside from 1999-2000 has never returned, and he's ranged from mediocre to bad to injured the past three years since missing the 2001 season. He's basically a sore-armed has-been - while he appears to be healthier now and may yet reclaim a little more ground, the hope of improvement is just not what you cash in your chips for.

Bottom line: the Mets have suffered a major setback in their rebuilding program, they've sought immediate help in guys who won't be worth it unless they show significant mid-career improvement, they haven't fixed their biggest short-term problem (the bullpen), they're still highly unlikely to win the division and even less likely to go anywhere in October, and fan sentiment - the usual reason for deals like these - is likely to be almost unanimously against these deals.

Suddenly, Jim Duquette looks an awful lot like someone else he knows well.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:08 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
July 30, 2004
POLITICS/WAR: But, Will He Fight?

On the big questions - would Kerry come out as an anti-war candidate or as a guy who stands by his vote for the Iraq war - and its practical significance (does he embrace the idea of an offensive strategy, including preemption and sometimes having to move without French and German allies), Kerry, unsurprisingly, didn't give an answer and tried to have it both ways. I've perma-linked this at the top; you owe it to yourself, in examining Kerry's views on this issue, to watch the RNC's devastating video on his contradictory positions over the years.

Where do we start?

Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn’t make it so. . . . As President, I will ask hard questions and demand hard evidence. I will immediately reform the intelligence system - so policy is guided by facts, and facts are never distorted by politics.

Of course, Kerry himself cited Saddam's WMD in voting for the Iraq war. But hey, nobody watching at home remembers that, do they?

And as President, I will bring back this nation’s time-honored tradition: the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to.

In theory, I agree with that, but "have to" means many different things to many different people. Was Iraq part of the larger war, which no one should dispute is one we have to fight?

Before you go to battle, you have to be able to look a parent in the eye and truthfully say: “I tried everything possible to avoid sending your son or daughter into harm’s way. But we had no choice. We had to protect the American people, fundamental American values from a threat that was real and imminent.” So lesson one, this is the only justification for going to war.

In other words: threat has to be imminent. Initiative has to belong to the enemy. That's a "no" on voting for the Iraq war.

I know what we have to do in Iraq. We need a President who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, and reduce the risk to American soldiers. That’s the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home.

Here is the reality: that won’t happen until we have a president who restores America’s respect and leadership — so we don’t have to go it alone in the world.

We all know this is hokum - the major European powers have neither the will nor the means to project more than token military support into Iraq. Kerry knows this, and does not care.

And we need to rebuild our alliances, so we can get the terrorists before they get us.

"[B]efore they get us"? Sounds like we're back to preemption and being willing to go on the attack.

I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as President. Let there be no mistake: I will never hesitate to use force when it is required.

Required, how?

Any attack will be met with a swift and certain response.

Oh, only if we're attacked first. As if there was any doubt that Kerry would respond to an attack. Well, unless - as is almost invariably true - the intelligence is fuzzy on exactly who attacked us, where they are located, and who their patrons are.

I will never give any nation or international institution a veto over our national security.

Sounds nice, but if you really mean the stuff before about needing allies, eventually there are times when the only realistic choice is to go with only ten or twenty of them or to wait for the whole world to get on board, resulting in inaction.

And I will build a stronger American military.

We will add 40,000 active duty troops - not in Iraq, but to strengthen American forces that are now overstretched, overextended, and under pressure. We will double our special forces to conduct anti-terrorist operations. We will provide our troops with the newest weapons and technology to save their lives - and win the battle. And we will end the backdoor draft of National Guard and reservists.

Note how quick to say "not in Iraq." So much for the idea that we need more troops there. Also, Kerry doesn't exactly have the best record of voting for "the newest weapons and technology."

As President, I will fight a smarter, more effective war on terror. We will deploy every tool in our arsenal: our economic as well as our military might; our principles as well as our firepower.

Which sounds good, but I note also that nearly nobody at this convention talked about the sicknesses of jihadism and anti-Semitism and tyranny in the Muslim and Arab worlds. You'd think the problem was just a few renegades.

We need a strong military and we need to lead strong alliances. And then, with confidence and determination, we will be able to tell the terrorists: You will lose and we will win. The future doesn’t belong to fear; it belongs to freedom.

Actually, I'd like a president who is willing to say that today.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:57 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Like A Dog That's Been Beat Too Much

So, for people tuning in last night, we can answer the question, "Who is John Kerry?": He's an orange man with mechanical hand gestures and run-on sentences like this one:

So tonight, in the city where America’s freedom began, only a few blocks from where the sons and daughters of liberty gave birth to our nation - here tonight, on behalf of a new birth of freedom - on behalf of the middle class who deserve a champion, and those struggling to join it who deserve a fair shot - for the brave men and women in uniform who risk their lives every day and the families who pray for their return - for all those who believe our best days are ahead of us - for all of you - with great faith in the American people, I accept your nomination for President of the United States.

Was it, as it should have been, the speech of Kerry's life? Well, measured against past Kerry speeches, I'd have to say it was - he didn't drone, and it wasn't a forty-car pileup of banalities. Neither was it a great speech; I'd maybe give it a B or a B+. But then, I'm not the target audience here. Some observations:

*The most striking characteristic of Kerry's speech, as with this whole Democratic convention and as with Kerry's traditional approach to defining himself (or, rather, un-defining himself) - particularly coming from a challenger - was its astounding defensiveness. I am too a patriot. I am too willing to defend this country from its enemies. I'm not gonna let the UN veto actions to defend the country. I do too share your values. I do too believe in God. I'm not gonna jack up your taxes. I'm not a pessimist or a mean, angry guy.

At some point, you have to wonder if the Democrats ever ask themselves why it is that they should have to say things like this. When you have to spend half the time at your own party's convention three months before the general election trying to convince people that you are not an unpatriotic, amoral, unprincipled, godless weenie, perhaps the convention shouldn't be the first time you deal with the problem.

*Echoes of any number of past campaigns here - I can't even count the faux-Kennedyisms, but there was the deliberate echo of both Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bush in 2000:

We have it in our power to change the world again. But only if we’re true to our ideals - and that starts by telling the truth to the American people. That is my first pledge to you tonight. As President, I will restore trust and credibility to the White House.

There was also the verbatim cribbing from Dick Cheney in 2000: "To all who serve in our armed forces today, I say, help is on the way."

Line with the strongest Shrum/Ted in '80 feel to it:

But we’re not finished. The journey isn’t complete. The march isn’t over. The promise isn’t perfected.

*My wife thought the choppy hand gestures - which got better about halfway through the speech, when the six cups of coffee or whatever started to wear off - made Kerry look like a cheerleader. Though I must say, John Stewart was running footage later of Jennifer Granholm, and Kerry wasn't that bad.

*Cheap shot: after Kerry said his mother "taught me to see trees as the cathedrals of nature", I half expected him to add, "and I came to see them as my brothers." Another one: when he said

Now, I’m not one to read into things, but guess which wing of the hospital the maternity ward was in? I’m not making this up.

I can't have been the only one thinking, "is he really gonna say, 'the left wing'?"
(I also noticed that they cut the volume on "No Surrender" right at the line "there's a war out there still ragin', you say it ain't ours anymore to win . . .")

*I predicted to some friends that Kerry would have his "band of brothers" on the stage alongside him during the speech. Between the salutes, the "reporting for duty," and all the Vietnam-vet stuff, I half expected him to come out in uniform - or at least wearing his medals (not the ribbons, I guess . . . ). Even Ollie North didn't play the man-in-uniform card this hard. Time will tell how the hard sell on his Vietnam service will play, but they definitely left no cliche behind in promoting it.

*Should the Republicans, as some have suggested, try to make hay out of the paucity of substantive attention given to domestic policy? The Democrats generally were long on pain-feeling and talking up job creation and very short on how you do anything about it. But I suspect the GOP needs to stick to its own game plan, which in any event has to include some real details on what the second-term agenda should look like.

*Now, correct me if I'm wrong - I didn't by any means watch every speech - but I swear I didn't hear the name "Saddam Hussein" from the podium once.

*More another time on Kerry's pie-in-the-sky on foreign oil and on the idea that we should be developing more life-saving drugs while imposing price controls on drug companies.

Cont'd . . .

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:55 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
July 29, 2004
BASEBALL: Cycle of Valent

The increasingly impressive (though not so young - he's 27) Eric Valent hit for the cycle in this afternoon's 10-1 thrashing of the lowly Expos; the finally red-hot Mike Cameron also chipped in a pair of home runs, giving him an impressive 20 homers to go with his pitiable .231 batting average. Cameron's not a high-average hitter, but he needs to hit at least .245 to be contributing with the bat, preferably around .260.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:00 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Not Winning The Close Ones

As any former Roger Clemens fans in Boston could attest, there's no frustration quite like having a guy who consistently chokes in big situations and then leaves the team, only to thrive in big situations. I'm not sure what the record is for saves by one pitcher against one team in a single season is - Ugueth Urbina saved seven games in the Expos' 12 matchups with the Mets in 1998, Dennis Eckersley had 8 saves against Seattle in 1992 - but Armando Benitez already has 6 saves against the Mets this season. Ugh.

The Mets are falling behind in a seesaw four-way race in which they are matched up against the division favorite Phillies, the defending division champion Braves, and the defending World Champion Marlins, so it's not a shock that they're the odd men out. But how it has happened has been intensely frustrating. With the current unbalanced schedule, head-to-head matchups are hugely important, and close games can be a big factor. Let's look at how the four contenders have fared against each other this season in games decided by one or two runs:

Team1-Run2-RunTotal
Marlins8-37-015-3
Braves3-54-17-6
Phillies6-31-87-11
Mets1-70-31-10

Ugh, ugh, ugh. You can see the bullpen's baleful influence right here, as well as why the Phillies haven't walked off with the division as they should.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:06 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: What If He Wins?

Dean Esmay asks whether, if John Kerry were to win the election, conservatives will pledge not to launch the sort of ceaseless attacks on Kerry's credibility and his acts abroad that Bush's opponents have launched:

I will refuse to call him traitor, loser, liar, incompetent. He will be my President, my Commander In Chief, the Chief Executive of a great nation, elected by the will of a majority of the electors in these 50 great united States. So even if he does things I disagree with in conducting foreign policy, I will say, "I respectfully disagree with the President's directions, but I will do my best to express my dissent respectfully and hope that I am mistaken and that he has made the proper decisions after all."

Suspending for the moment my disbelief in Kerry's chances, I for one - like most conservatives - have a mixed reaction to that. Many of the attacks on Bush have been hand in hand with the propaganda of America's enemies: that Bush is a lying warmonger, disrespects our allies, disregards international institutions, etc. By contrast, conservative critiques of Kerry's foreign policy would almost certainly be from the opposite direction: that he'd be too timid, too deferential to corrupt and ineffectual international institutions, too reliant on paper promises of peace. Those are, of course, the exact opposite positions as those pushed by our enemies.

Unlike the Clinton years, conservatives are united in a vision of what our foreign policy should be; as in the Cold War, expect me and other conservatives to rip Kerry if he fails to pursue that policy aggressively, but not to run around screaming that "Kerry lied, people died" if he takes firm action against the nation's sworn enemies. I don't expect to be accusing him of "wagging the dog" or screaming about dead civilians in foreign wars or accusing him of selling his foreign policy to big American corporations.

Liar? Well, Kerry usual avoids lying by avoiding saying anything with any factual content, but if he lies, yeah, I'll call him on it. I think Kerry's fairly contemptible in a number of ways (more on that tomorrow), but I don't expect to reach the level of bile of somebody like Atrios or Kos or Oliver Willis in indicting Kerry's whole party as a bunch of criminals; that's a stupid oversimplification that just makes it harder to have a dialogue.

On the other hand, I certainly would support an absolute refusal to allow Senate votes on any Kerry judicial nominee an inch to the left of Sandra Day O'Connor. Kerry and Edwards made that bed, if they win they deserve to sleep in it.

If there are questions raised about scandals, I'll certainly keep my eye on them, but I wouldn't expect to reach the level of venom directed at Bush on the flimsiest of evidence.

If Kerry were to take the nation to war, I'd be behind him 100%, no "buts" and no cheering for setbacks.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:46 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Links 7/29/04

*Nothing to fear but George W. Bush? (By the way, I haven't heard every speaker yet, but . . . has anyone heard the name "Saddam Hussein" mentioned?)

*Ken Layne on Clinton and the Democrats:

In four days of stupid, patronizing speeches at the 2000 Democratic convention, there was exactly one flash of "Whoa, what the hell?" That was Clinton's speech. I remember briefly feeling human, like I wasn't being talked down to like a common retard. Even Tim Blair shut up and actually admitted to a little bit of admiration for Big Bill's skills.

*Bill Gates' mug shot! (Via Bill Simmons)

*Defamer had an amusing graphic comparing Catwoman's opening box office to other cat movies. The real lesson: please, no more cat movies.

*Help a blogger find his son's killer(s).

*Stuart Buck has some more fun with Bush conspiracy theories.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:11 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
July 28, 2004
BASEBALL: Drinking Bernie's Foam

Al Bethke has a lengthy roundtable discussion with a bunch of other knowledgeable Brewer fans about the Brewers' pitching-driven resurgence this season after more than a decade of slumbers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:14 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: More Links 7/28/04

*Josh Marshall and Micheal Moore hit the nail on the head with regard to how the Democrats really feel about why this convention has been so vague and unspecific in its attacks on President Bush, to the point where I hardly think the name "Dick Cheney" or familiar hobby-horses like "Halliburton" or "Enron" or "Weapons of Mass Destruction" have been mentioned: they think it's so self-evident that Bush is a disaster that they don't even believe it's necessary to explain why. I'm not sure that's a winning approach, but I do think Marshall and Moore have put their fingers on what their side is thinking.

*The indispensable Dave Barry - for my money, the funniest writer in the history of the English language - on the convention's first night:

The highlight of Day One of the Democratic convention was the appearance of former President Bill Clinton, who gave a passionate speech on the theme ''My Book Is for Sale,'' after which the delegates unanimously nominated him for another term.

No, they didn't, but they would if they could. The Democrats haven't totally gotten over pining for Bill. Remember when you were in high school, and you really wanted to go to the prom with a gorgeous girl, but you couldn't ask her because she was really popular and already had served two terms as president of the United States, so you wound up asking John Kerry? That's the situation the Democrats are in now.

Barry also captures the Democrats' desperation to look tough:

The convention continues tonight, with the theme being: ''Making America Stronger through the Strength of Strongness.'' The idea here is to convince doubtful voters that the Democrats can be trusted to be tough on terrorism and won't create some kind of feel-good liberal bleeding-heart program like enrolling terrorists in bowling leagues.

Emphasis on this theme will continue through Thursday night, when, to climax the convention, an actual live terrorist will be released onstage, and John Kerry will beat him senseless with a hockey stick, after which John Edwards will sue him.

Read the whole thing.

*Terrific speech from last week by Senator Mitch McConnell on the media's failure to give adequate attention to the complete collapse of the story they trumpeted this time last year about the Iraq, Niger and the 2003 State of the Union Address.
(Link via the MinuteMan).

*Gratuitous Boston Herald paraphrasing potshot, in an article noting nasty comments Teresa Heinz Kerry once made about Ted Kennedy: "Kennedy's office dismissed the comments as water under the bridge" (Link via Wonkette)

*Tim Blair has a laugh at the expense of one of his chief nemeses, left-leaning Australian journalist Margo Kingston, who doesn't understand what's so "anti-semetic" about saying that "the fundamentalist Zionist lobby controls politics and the media in the US and Australia."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:47 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: How Many Americas?

Barack Obama, in last night's keynote address:

[E]ven as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America — there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States.

Ted Kennedy:

[I]n our own time, there are those who seek to divide us. One community against another. Urban against rural. City against suburb. Whites against blacks. Men against women. Straights against gays. Americans against Americans.

Um, doesn't this create a bit of a jarring contrast to a campaign that, with the addition of John Edwards to the ticket, has made "Two Americas" a central theme? Of course, "Two Americas" speaks of economic, not cultural divisions - but it's still an inherently divisive, Manichean, us vs. them view of the country.

Of course, the Democrats' overarching theme here is that there should be no cultural issues in politics - we should just let them dictate the terms of conservatives' surrender. Note that in all the talk about common values there's no attempt to deal with the Democrats' actual positions on the issues that the people, in a democracy, have every right to disagree over. Much closer to the Democratic heart - as far as the party's governing philosophy - is Ron Reagan's statement:

[I]t does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many.

Translation: my moral concerns should be the basis for government policy; yours are just a personal opinion, driven by that awful thing, "theology."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:33 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
July 27, 2004
POLITICS: A Few Words In Favor of President Bush

Ricky West has a fine self-produced video up; make sure you check it out. And I actually got an email this morning from John McCain asking for donations to the Bush campaign (yes, hold the irony with that one):

Today we face the greatest test of our generation, defending our nation from a depraved, malevolent force that opposes our every interest and hates every value we hold dear. There was no avoiding this war but we will survive. Our enemies must not.

In this challenging time, I am grateful for the leadership of President George W. Bush and his steadfast resolve in defending our nation. He has led this country with moral clarity about the stakes involved and the strength to achieve unconditional victory.

Our President has not wavered in his determination to make this world a better, safer, freer place. Our nation must not yield in this long, tough fight to vanquish international terrorism and with George W. Bush as our President, it will not.

My friends, this is the most important election of our lifetime and I wouldn't be writing you if I didn't firmly believe in President Bush's leadership and the need for his re-election in these challenging times. As Democrats gather in Boston, I am asking you to demonstrate your strong support for President Bush by making a contribution to his re-election campaign at www.GeorgeWBush.com/JohnMcCain/ today.

To the work of many American generations who protected our interests and championed our values abroad must now be added the defense of our freedoms here at home from a clear and present danger. We are very fortunate that in these challenging days we have a President and Vice President that have demonstrated time and again the determined, clear thinking necessary to prevail in this global fight between good and evil.

Yup. You know, I keep thinking that if McCain had been president instead of Bush, the Left would hate him just as much - he'd undoubtedly have done a lot of the same things in terms of foreign policy, he's certainly no more diplomatic than Bush, and his background as a pilot from a Navy family would probably have led to him being characterized as a mad bomber and the like, in terms pretty well opposite to the attacks on Bush for not having seen combat.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:17 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The New Batting Practice Pitcher

I'm not enjoying the Scott Erickson era. Bear in mind, these are the Expos we are talking about.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:09 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Opening Night

Very little time to blog this morning, so just my gut reactions to what I saw of the Democrats last night: strong speech by Bill Clinton, as you would expect; there were a few howlers along the way as he and Hillary blamed Bush for various things Clinton did nothing about, but so be it. At least he had the decency to admit, when making a point about Kerry's Vietnam service, that he didn't go either. (Clinton's efforts to make Kerry sound like a point man in the Senate were fairly tepid; even Clinton needs more to work with than Kerry's Senate record) . . . funny how Hillary is suddenly known principally as a voice for expanding the military . . . Hillary's Chicago accent seemed to be more in evidence than usual . . . I thought it odd that neither of the Clinton's referred to the other as "my husband"/"my wife" . . . didn't see Gore, but Jimmy Carter's speech seemed very typically Jimmy Carterish, full of despair and blaming America and Israel for all the world's ills; Carter also sounds as if he has some sort of speech impediment, which isn't really all that unusual given his age.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:06 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 26, 2004
BLOG/BASEBALL/POLITICS etc.: Here n' There

Thoughts upon my return from vacationing in Lake George, NY:

*Saw a bunch of Bush/Cheney and W'04 bumper stickers. Saw tons of those yellow ribbon support-the-troops stickers. Did not see a Kerry or Kerry/Edwards sticker anywhere. Blue state, red country. Also on the sticker subject, I bought one of those magnetic Bush stickers advertised over at Smash's place; they're a great thing if (like my wife) you don't want permanent sticker residue on your car after the election (downside: the fear of the sticker getting swiped). I also saw a Bush TV ad, which seemed odd, given that the New York/Vermont TV market isn't exactly a swing state market.

*Ever have one of those stretches when you just keep having instant problems with stuff you buy? We had this - inedible/undercooked hot dog, corkscrew that won't open a bottle, overcharge for a food order, take-out entree that gets home without an essential element - and the solutions are always bad: I don't want to sit back and accept getting ripped off, but I also hate to be one of those people who goes back and complains about stuff all the time.

*Ricky Williams is retiring. Ricky Williams was born in 1977. Yes, I feel old.

*The Mets appear ready to decide that this team is worth making a few tinkers around the edges but otherwise be neither a buyer nor a seller in the summer deal market. Which is depressing, given how close they have come in so many games blown by the bullpen lately, but makes sense. Sometimes a pennant race just has to be enjoyed on its own terms, without high expectations.

*On Sandy Berger's pants-gate: man, Clinton scandals are just the gift that keeps on giving, aren't they?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:45 AM | Baseball 2004 • | Blog 2002-05 • | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
July 24, 2004
BLOG: Out of Blog Experience

Well, I'm off on vacation for a week, far from this place we call the internet. There'll be lots to catch up on when I return; hopefully the Mad Hibernian will keep things lively around here in my absence. I'm post-dating this entry so it stays up top; feel free to leave questions or comments if you've got ideas for me to blog on or stories to discuss when I return.

In the meantime, go check out Rich Lederer, who's running a tremendous series of excerpts from the original Bill James Abstracts going back to the Seventies. Trust me, there's plenty there to keep you occupied.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 16, 2004
BLOG: Fun for the Whole Family!

Amazing government websites for kids! (via Jane Galt). Some favorites:

Yucca Mountain for Kids!

Key quote:

What if we took out the garbage, but let it pile up in our yards? Over time, our neighborhoods would become very unhealthy places to live. So we have sanitary workers pick up our garbage and properly dispose of it in landfills.

Right now, nuclear waste is piling up in a lot of places around the country.

Asks a friend: "Does Homeland Security know about this?"

CIA for Kids!

ATF for Kids!

And perhaps my favorite, this classic parade of horribles from the Bureau of Mine Safety and Health Administration - for Kids!:

Piles of of rock, dirt, or sand are not safe to climb or slide on. They can slide down on top of you and cover you up.

Big trucks, trains, and other machines can run over you. If you're close to them, the drivers can't see you. And if they do see someone in the way, it takes a long time for a big truck to slow down and stop.

Power lines, cables, and electric machinery can give you a DEADLY electric shock.

Explosives could go off and hurt you.

Ponds and old quarry pits full of water can drown you. There are no life guards, and dangers can be out of sight under the water.

Mine roads and off-road areas are not safe places to ride a bike or all-terrain vehicle. You could run into hidden pits or other hazards, fall off a steep place, or roll over and be badly hurt.

Underground shafts and tunnels can trap you. You could get lost, fall down a shaft, have rocks fall on you, or run into poisonous gas.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:05 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Giant Fungus!

One of those amusing facts that always cracks me up. Via Dave Barry.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:01 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Olerud on the Block?

The Mariners have designated John Olerud for assignment, which makes lots of sense given that he's having a lousy year and the team needs to blow up their aging roster and rebuild. I suspect they may still trade him, but if they can't, Olerud becomes a free agent - one with a good glove and a .354 on base percentage (.383 away from SafeCo). Surely, that's still a useful player for a team looking to plug a gaping hole at first.

Would the Mets be interested? He's still probably a better hitter than Jason Phillips, who's currently stuck at .214/.341/.290. But giving Olerud any significant playing time would shove Piazza back behind the plate (I'd like to see him catching half time or less at this stage), plus Olerud was terribly slow when he was with the Mets the first time. In short, there are probably other teams who could use his services more.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:58 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Don't Read This Before Flying

Very long, creepy story (via Instapundit). But one you won't hear from the mainstream media.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:52 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Plame-O

Dean Esmay has the best summary of the Valerie Plame scandal I've heard yet. There's now nothing left of Joe Wilson's original charge - that President Bush misrepresented the state of intelligence on Saddam Hussein's efforts to buy element needed to make nuclear weapons in Africa - and little or nothing left of Wilson's credibility. Nor is there any reason to think that Plame's career as a Langley, Virginia-based CIA analyst has been injured, nor her safety jeopardized.

What's left, primarily, is the issue of whether there's been a technical violation of 50 U.S.C. 421, which of course requires proof that the defendant disclosed a covert agent's identity "knowing . . . that the United States is taking affirmative measures to conceal such covert agent's intelligence relationship to the United States" - a state-of-mind requirement that seems very difficult to establish in this case, especially given the likelihood that the sources who told Bob Novak that Plame was with the CIA had encountered her in her capacity as a Langley-based analyst and reviewed her recommendation of Wilson in the same capacity.

Oh, and just by the way: this is interesting.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:49 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 15, 2004
BASEBALL: Card Counting

Few developments have been more surprising over the past month or so than the sudden movement of the Cardinals to put away the NL Central. Not that the division is done for, but some serious countermoves will be required to get the rest of the division back in the game.

With the exception of the Astros, however, the Cards' division rivals haven't played that badly; instead, the Cardinals have just outdone themselves, running their record to 54-33, a .621 clip and a 101-win pace.

Let's look back at my Established Win Shares estimates, compared to the 2004 Win Shares pace for each Cards player (I'll just double them for simplicity):

Adjusted EWSL: 257.0 (86 wins)
Unadjusted EWSL: 251.0 (84 wins)
Weighted Age: 30.409

PosPlayerEWSL2004 WS PaceAge
CMMatheny11833
1BAPujols363424
2BTWomack82034
SSERenteria231828
3BSRolen274829
RFRSanders161636
CFJEdmonds262634
LFRLankford4837
UTMAnderson12630
C2CMcKay+0230
INFJMabry4633
OFRCedeno10229
13STaguchi*2434
SP1MMorris121029
SP2WWilliams12837
SP3JSuppan121229
SP4CCarpenter31629
SP5JMarquis31225
CLJIsringhausen101231
R2SKline7831
R3RKing5830
R4CEldred3036
R5JTavarez7431

Top Win Shares paces for players I didn't list before the season: Kiko Calero (4), Yadier Molina (4), Hector Luna (4), and Mike Lincoln (2). In other words, the Cards are dancing with them that brung 'em.

What jumps out at you, of course, is Rolen, although frankly I'm quite not sure why his numbers (.339/.599/.415) add up to such a staggering total of 20.1 batting Win Shares. When you look up and down the list, most of the rest of the team is pretty much on target, with bench players down from their projections due to reduced playing time and Tony Womack enjoying an unexpected (and unlikely to continue) resurgence at .319/.427/.364. You will also note something I noticed in my earlier EWSL analysis of the NL Central: the Cards' infield is presently right around on pace for the all-time record for Win Shares by one starting infield, which is 119.

The bullpen has also been hot (Ray King has a 1.41 ERA and has been touched for just 22 hits, none of them homers, in 32 innings in 45 appearances, and Steve Kline has a similar line - 42 games, 32 IP, 25 Hits, 1 HR, 1.97 ERA), and the team's biggest preseason question mark (the back end of the rotation, with Chris Carpenter and Jason Marquis a combined 18-8 with ERAs of 3.87 and 3.88 and a combined K/BB ratio of 167/59.

Can they keep it up? That will be the big question for the second half (I remain skeptical of Carpenter, who's had great hot streaks before but shows no sign of being capable of throwing 200+ innings without some serious wear and tear).

UPDATE: I forgot to include the link to Brian Gunn at Redbird Nation, who ran a similar analysis with PECOTA projections.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:48 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
July 14, 2004
BLOG: Busy Again

Sorry, too busy to blog once again this morning.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:40 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
July 13, 2004
WAR: Smash Get Angry

Can't blame LT Smash for losing his cool over this.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:16 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: J. Danforth Edwards

You may have seen Jonah Goldberg's point last week that the Democrats who ripped Dan Quayle for his lack of experience have a lot of explaining to do to justify John Edwards, with only about half of Quayle's tenure as a legislator, as a VP candidate. This was a particularly amusing example:

In 1988 John Kerry got into a lot of trouble -- and eventually apologized -- for telling the following joke when asked about Quayle's qualifications:

"The Secret Service is under orders that if Bush is shot, to shoot Quayle."

But what really amazed me was the site Jonah linked to: www.quaylemuseum.org. Yes, there really is a Dan Quayle United States Vice Presidential Museum. See for yourself. Quayle's bio gives in to one flight of hyperbole that would make Bill Clinton blush: "As a leader in causes from legal system reform to deregulation to the renewal of basic American values, Vice President Quayle developed a large national following and became one of the most admired Americans of his time."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:11 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Successes and Failures

Some good stuff over at ESPN.com, including Page 2's list of the ten most overpaid players and John Sickels' analysis of one of the most surprising and significant improvements this season, by Braves catcher Johnny Estrada, a .332-hitting doubles machine thus far this season (the Win Shares board over at The Hardball Times has Estrada ranked in the top 10 players in the NL this season):

In Estrada's case, he hit for average in the low minors, but showed poor strike zone judgment and not much power. He struggled at times in the upper levels, and was awful for the Phillies in 2002. But then he showed major improvement when he was 26 years old in Triple-A. Few hitters show real, genuine, sustained improvement in their numbers at that age. But it does happen sometimes, and in Estrada's case it looks like the optimists (the Braves and their fans) were right, and the pessimists (people like me who worried about his low walk rate and weird Triple-A performance spike) were wrong.

As to the Page 2 list, of course, I'd rate guys like Roger Cedeno, Higginson or Chan Ho Park above, say, Carlos Delgado or Bartolo Colon, who still seem like decent bets to be their old selves in the second half.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:06 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Body Language

I didn't get to see much news this weekend - we were busy with my son's 7th birthday - but I did catch a clip from a CBS News interview that I found amusing. Kerry and Edwards were doing a joint interview, sitting in chairs next to each other; they were interrupting each other on and off, and at one point Edwards leans forward, says to Kerry, "let me answer this one," and launches into an answer to a question about how Kerry would have handled the Iraq War differently . . . what I noticed was that as he did this, Edwards gripped Kerry's right arm with his left hand. It was an instantly recognizable gesture, of course, and one Edwards has undoubtedly used so many times it's second nature: the lawyer cutting off his (perhaps sympathetic but usually inarticulate) client and taking charge of the meeting.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:57 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: A Voice

Yes, Iraq's government now has something of its own to say about foreign troops: in response to word that the government of the Philippines may withdraw its troop presence earlier than planned in return for the release of a hostage, the Iraqis are asking foreign governments not to negotiate with hostage-takers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:49 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 10, 2004
LAW: Want Fries With That Lawsuit?

With a plaintiffs' lawyer on the national ticket, the issue of tort reform - often promised by George W. Bush but never delivered - is back on the front burner. But, but - ask the defenders of the status quo - what's so bad about seeking to hold corporations responsible when they cause grievous injuries?

Well.

Walter Olson has the daily grind on this; I spend more of my time beating back bogus or severely exaggerated lawsuits than I do blogging about them. But if you want an example that's all too typical of the kind of criticism of corporate behavior that winds up getting turned into a big-money, resource-sucking lawsuit, look no further than this example:

McDonald's Corp. was hit with a lawsuit Thursday accusing the fast-food giant of failing to reduce fat in the cooking oil used in its french fries and other foods.

Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's pledged in September 2002 to switch to a lower-fat oil by February, 2003.

The suit, filed in federal court on behalf of a California woman, says McDonald's has not disclosed "to the public in an effective manner that it had not switched to a new, healthier cooking oil."

The restaurant chain had announced it planned to cut the trans fat levels in its fried foods. But McDonald's has delayed the plan, citing concerns of product quality and customer satisfaction.

You got a problem with McDonald's french fries, which - I should add - are incredibly tasty and accordingly popular? Start a blog, issue a press release, open a competing chain. But no; somebody's looking to strike attorney-fee gold here. And they'll probably get paid, before this is all through.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:52 PM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
July 9, 2004
BASEBALL: Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side

Dr. Manhattan sends along news of additional seductions.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:18 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (2)
POLITICS: The Rich

John Edwards, war profiteer? Not really, but Tim Blair has some grist for conspiracy theorists, and Bill Hobbs has some fun with Kerry and Edwards flying "Million Air" (yes, that's actually what the private airline service said). Of course, that wasn't the Kerry camp's only amusing recent gaffe; the Boston Herald's blog also noted Kerry arriving at an education event to the strains of Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender" - a great song, but one whose opening lines are "We busted out of class/had to get away from those fools/We learned more from a three-minute record, baby/than we ever learned in school."

Anyway, on the money issue, one thing that gets me is how Edwards vs. Cheney is supposed to be the little guy vs. the plutocrat; the New York Daily News bills the matchup as "The Lawyer vs. the Tycoon." But Edwards was a multimillionaire years before Cheney was. My recollection on this could be wrong, but I don't believe Cheney grew up rich in Wyoming in the Forties and Fifties; he spent the Sixties as a student, 1969-76 working in the Nixon & Ford Administrations, spent the Carter & Reagan years as a small-state Congressman, and 1989-92 as Secretary of Defense, while his wife was (I believe) also in the public-policy business. In other words, while Congressmen and Cabinet secretaries are hardly poor, I doubt he made much in the way of really serious millionaire-type money until he left the Pentagon in 1993 to head Halliburton. Edwards, by contrast, won his first million-dollar verdict in a contingency fee case (i.e., he probably walked off with a third) around 1984, and his wife was also in lucrative private practice for many years. I guarantee you that in 1992, Edwards was worth several times what Cheney was worth. Yet, somehow, Edwards is the "little guy". Bah.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:25 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
July 8, 2004
BASEBALL: Curtains for Raffy?

David Pinto asks whether it's time for Rafael Palmeiro to hang it up. I wondered a month ago whether the sudden spike in Palmeiro's walk rate, combined with a drop in his power numbers, spelled trouble; since then, the bottom has dropped out, with Palmeiro batting .194/.347/.291 in June and July.

But a closer look at the numbers suggests the real problem: like a lot of older players, Palmeiro needs to be platooned. This season, he's batting .159/.261/.230 against lefthanded pitching, while keeping a healthy .279/.468/.402 clip against righthanders. Plus, Palmeiro has played nearly every game (80 out of 82) for the Orioles, a wearying grind for a 39-year-old player; sitting him against lefties would undoubtedly give him a needed breather. Granted, Palmeiro hasn't had big platoon splits in the past, but age does funny things to hitters. Platooning added years to the careers of guys like Harold Baines, Lou Whitaker and George Brett, and it could help the O's squeeze another productive season or so out of Palmeiro.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:57 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: [Cue "Jaws" Music]

Suddenly, the Fourth of July is in the rear view mirror, the All-Star Break is just three games away, and guess what?

TeamW-LGB
Phillies44-39--
Mets43-401
Braves43-411.5
Marlins43-422

Between today and the trade deadline, the Mets play the Marlins 5 times, the Braves 5 times, the Phillies 4 times and the Expos (not visible with the naked eye from the rest of the standings) 6 times. (The Mets are also just 2.5 back in the wild card standings, but I don't regard that as a realistic possibility, whereas the unbalanced schedule gives the team a shot against a wobbly division).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:00 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Blackmail

Jonah Goldberg notes a New York Press article by Michelangelo Signorile approvingly reporting on efforts by gay activists to use threats of "outing" Members of Congress and their staffs as a way of influencing their votes on the Federal Marriage Amendment, including threats to expose Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, who apparently is widely believed to be a lesbian:

As the July 12 date nears for a vote on the federal marriage amendment, an outing panic has gripped Washington's political and media circles. Some gay activists have vowed to expose those closeted members of Congress who are supporting the amendment, as well as the closeted gay staffers of any member backing it. And it's not only right-wing Republicans who should be on notice. After initially indicating that she would vote against the constitutional amendment that would make gays and lesbians into second-class citizens, Sen. Barbara Mikulski's opposition to the amendment appears to have gone into the closet: Now that a vote is near, the Maryland Democrat—who is up for reelection in November—is suddenly not returning reporters' phone calls seeking her intentions on the vote, nor is she issuing any statements on the matter.

[snip]

All of Capitol Hill, reports the Blade, is in a "panic" over activists' efforts to out politicians supporting the FMA and, perhaps more controversially, threatening to out staffers who might be gay. The argument for outing the staffers is that many of them have a lot of influence in their offices and are public figures in their own right, quoted often in the beltway press, representing their bosses. Activist Mike Rogers has been calling the offices of at least 13 members of Congress urging the closeted gay staffers to confront their bosses on the issue, and outing them to the chiefs of staff if they refuse to discuss the issue with him.

Rumors have circulated in Washington that the Blade had planned to publish a list of names of closeted staffers and members, something the paper denies even as it defends reporting on those who might be closeted gays who might be voting for the amendment.

Interestingly, Goldberg notes this morning that Mikuski has quickly issued a press release reiterating her opposition to the amendment.

Now, maybe I'm missing something, but aren't the facts described in this article a textbook case of blackmail - and probably extortion in violation of numerous federal laws - in that activists are threatening to expose the private lives of Members of Congress and their staffs unless they change their votes on pending legislation (indeed, an amendment to the Constitution itself) in a way that satisfies the activists? If I were one of the targets in this situation, I'd have to consider putting in a call the FBI and start wearing a wire.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:55 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
July 7, 2004
WAR: Yes, Virginia, There Is Yellowcake

Instapundit reports that a British commission on intelligence "is expected to conclude that Britain's spies were correct to say that Saddam Hussein's regime sought to buy uranium from Niger." So much for Joe Wilson's Hercule Poirot act, and so much for the supposed unreasonableness of President Bush's reliance on the British reports in the 2003 State of the Union Address. But then, the report also vindicates this guy ("[A]ll U.S. intelligence experts agree that they are seeking nuclear weapons. There is little question that Saddam Hussein wants to develop them.") and this guy ("We know that [Saddam Hussein] is doing everything he can to build nuclear weapons, and we know that each day he gets closer to achieving that goal.").

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:49 PM | War 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/LAW: Edmonds Gets Shut Down

Remember Sibel Dinez Edmonds, the disgruntled former FBI translator who aired sensational charges of disloyalty and deliberate incompetence at the FBI after September 11? Well, on Tuesday the US District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed her lawsuit, accepting an affidavit by John Ashcroft to the effect that resolution of her claims would require the disclosure of state secrets.

Edmonds' charges are grave, but not tremendously credible. Here's hoping that Congress has conducted or will conduct an adequate investigation, because her claims (probably properly) won't get their day in court.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:40 PM | Law 2002-04 • | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Go Deep

The Mets just hit three home runs off Brett Myers in the second inning (Floyd, Wigginton and Cameron), giving them 24 round-trippers in the past 10 games.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:08 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Short Notes

*Aaron Gleeman is campaigning for Bobby Abreu for his first All-Star Team; you can vote online until tonight. Of course, you can vote in the AL as well, and I cast my ballot for Frank Thomas, who's had no shortage of honors in his career but clearly deserves to be on this year's team, as his .271/.563/.434 numbers are his best since 2000 and (on the Slg and OBP fronts) closely in line with his surefire Hall of Fame career averages.

*Really odd to see Barry Bonds pass Rickey Henderson's career walks record while Rickey's still out there playing ball.

*Through just past the midpoint of the season, Mike Piazza has appeared in all but one of the Mets' games and is on pace for career highs in games and at bats while batting .310/.531/.399, close to his career averages, while catching in only about half of his appearances. Obviously, the move to first base has been a success on that score, and his glove work has been visibly improving. You can still see the catching instincts; I've never seen a first baseman do so many splits and I've certainly never seen one block throws in the dirt with his legs.

*Richard Hidalgo's season slugging average is now .506. Just thought you should know that.

*Bret Boone has some unusually large splits this season: .246/.557/.361 vs. LHP, .237/.353/.286 vs. RHP, .284/.556/.348 in day games, .221/.333/.286 at night. What does that mean? Maybe nothing. But maybe it's a sign of declining reflexes and/or vision.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:40 AM | Baseball 2004 | TrackBack (0)
July 6, 2004
POLITICS: That Kerry Magic

John Kerry works his famous personal magnetism on John McCain, with predictable results:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:30 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: Edwards on the Iraq War

Memory lane - an October 10, 2002 press release:

The bipartisan resolution on Iraq was cosponsored by Senator Edwards. It closely tracked provisions he spelled out one month ago. The joint resolution gives the president authority to use military force against Iraq to enforce relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. It calls on the president to work with the U.N. to make Iraq comply with its resolutions, but authorizes force if diplomatic means fail. The measure also focuses on what happens in a post-Saddam Iraq and its transition to democracy.

Senator Edwards said the debate on the congressional resolution helped make the case to the American people that Saddam Hussein must be stopped from adding nuclear weapons to his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

I posted much more in this vein at the Command Post back in January. On the other hand, see this Peter Beinart column from last fall trashing Edwards and Kerry for voting against the $87 billion in Iraq reconstruction funds:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Dewey Picks Truman

NY Post headline this morning:

KERRY PICKS GEPHARDT

Official Kerry Announcement:

In just a few minutes, I will announce that Senator John Edwards will join me as my running-mate on the Democratic ticket as a candidate for vice president of the United States.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:16 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Who to Buy

I'm still unconvinced that the Mets ought to be buyers in the trade market this year unless they can get more players as cheaply as they got Richard Hidalgo. On the other hand, it's July, and if they can rebound and play well against the Phillies and the Marlins over the next 12 games even without help, the race will be close enough that you have to start thinking in those terms, as long as you don't compromise your long-term plans.

Last week, Jason Mastaitis speculated on the available pitchers:

One high-level scout believes the modest list of available arms ultimately will include Atlanta's Russ Ortiz and Jaret Wright, Colorado's Jason Jennings and Shawn Estes, Milwaukee's Ben Sheets, Pittsburgh's Kip Wells and Toronto's Pat Hentgen, Miguel Batista and Ted Lilly. Anaheim's Ramon Ortiz also could pique the Mets' interest.

The only two names on that list that would pique my interest are Jennings, who may be worth a gamble taking him out of Coors (although he's has a great record at home, his stats are better on the road), and Sheets, whom the Brewers would be crazy to trade.

I'm not so sure about Jennings, who's been appalling even on the road this year. Most of those guys wouldn't even offer a short-term benefit, and I agree that I can't imagine the Brew Crew dealing Sheets. On the other hand, if Lilly didn't come too expensive, I could see being interested in him; Lilly pitched solidly for Oakland last season and is striking out nearly a batter per inning with a 4.01 ERA this year.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:49 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Say What?

Instapundit is all over the story of John Kerry conceding that "I believe life does begin at conception," which as Captain Ed notes, makes anything but a pro-life position on abortion an appalling admission of callousness:

John Kerry, in his remarks to the Iowa newspaper, comes up with a completely different raison d'etre -- he seeks to define life so as to protect his political career. Kerry now admits he practices hypocrisy on a scale so monstrous, it boggles the mind.

If life begins at conception, why then does Jon Kerry not only agree to allow abortion, but campaigns on its behalf? Does he care so little for human life and the souls of the unborn that he cheerfully sells them out for political gain? John Kerry was one of only 14 Senators who voted to continue the practice of partial-birth abortions, which take a fetus past the point of viability into the birth canal and kills it by sucking out its brain. How does that match up with a belief in life at conception?

Read the whole thing. I tend to side with those who assume that Kerry doesn't and can't really believe this, as evidenced by his record and rhetoric over the course of his career.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:40 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
BASKETBALL: Learn 'em Young

Harvard Law School visiting researcher Michael McCann has a study showing that high schoolers entering the NBA Draft "average more points, more rebounds, and more assists than the average NBA player." I'm not so sure history is a fair sample - McCann seems to concede that the good record arises from self-selection that is itself the product of the disincentives maintained by the NBA to skipping college - but the study is reported in this article; judge for yourself.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:33 AM | Basketball | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Eating Crow

One thing that's striking about this political season is the confidence of the two sides (see here for a sample from Kevin Drum's debate with Hugh Hewitt, this Reason article - not even by a Bush supporter - arguing that Bush "is a lock," and my discussion here of Chuck Todd's Kerry-landslide theory). I mean, in any presidential election there can be found partisans on each side who are so convinced of the hopelessness of their adversaries that they are certain of victory. But this year seems unusual in that regard - left-leaning sites seem full of posts and comments about how Bush is going down, while many conservative commentators are talking landslide. Me, I admit I have a hard time picturing Kerry actually winning this thing - especially with an improving economy and a likely decline in the level of violence in Iraq by Election Day - much harder than I did with Gore in 2000 or even Clinton in 1992.

All of which will be very interesting to watch, come November. One way or the other, there are a lot of very confident people out there who are going to be eating some serious crow.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:26 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
July 5, 2004
WAR: Moore is Not Better

One of the nuttier memes rising on the Left is an effort to seek a moral equivalence between Michael Moore and the Bush Administration; we'll let Paul Krugman play the tune, although people like Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias are following him to the sea:

There has been much tut-tutting by pundits who complain that the movie, though it has yet to be caught in any major factual errors, uses association and innuendo to create false impressions. Many of these same pundits consider it bad form to make a big fuss about the Bush administration's use of association and innuendo to link the Iraq war to 9/11. Why hold a self-proclaimed polemicist to a higher standard than you hold the president of the United States?

Leave aside the laughable notion that Moore didn't get anything seriously wrong. (My favorite example is when ABC's Jake Tapper confronted him with Richard Clarke's admission - very much against Clarke's interest - that he and he alone, not dark, powerful moneyed interests around President Bush, authorized the flights of members of the bin Laden family out of the US after September 11, and Moore countered that "I don't agree with Clarke on this point." Yeah, what would Richard Clarke know about decisions made by Richard Clarke?)

Anyway, this is a classic debater's trick of raising the level of generality to the point where factual refutation is almost pointless . . . the comparison is so obscene that I hate to give it credence by trying to refute it, but consider just a few obvious points:

1. The Adminisration made a number of well-supported and nearly undisputed points in the run-up to war about intelligence relating to Saddam Hussein's WMD programs, past stockpiles, ongoing deceptions, and connections to Al Qaeda. From this, the Administration argued for some inferences - such as an ongoing and/or future threat of Saddam-Al Qaeda cooperation or the existence of large WMD stockpiles - some of which remain controversial and others of which haven't panned out. The chief charge of late against the Administration is that, by some sort of Jedi mind trick, it sought to subliminally (or subliminablely, as it were) convince people of an Iraqi connection to September 11, for which the evidence is exceptionally sparse and generally unconvincing.

By contrast, the issue with Moore isn't that he made valid points but some people think he was insinuating something unsupportable. Virtually all of Moore's points of any substance are wholly speculative and either rely on non-existent evidence or ignore substantial contrary evidence. If you peel back the frauds and the tricks, there's nothing there at all.

2. Even considered in the most uncharitable light, the Bush Administration was asking us to draw dark inferences about the most diabolical and conspiratorial characters on the face of the earth. Saddam having WMD? Well, this is a guy who's used the stuff, both in battle and against civilians, let alone the whole record of his cat-and-mouse games with inspectors. This is rather like accusing Steve Howe of being mixed up in drugs. And Saddam doing business with bin Laden, and maybe participating in a crazy attack on the U.S.? This is a textbook totalitarian dictator with a rap sheet a mile long of unprovoked aggressions that were manifestly not in his best interests, including trying to assassinate a former president of the United States, which would serve no purpose at all but spite. Is it really that crazy to suggest that a regime who boasts of paying suicide bombers and puts up murals and celebratory newspaper coverage of the September 11 attacks would get mixed up with terrorists?

Moore, meanwhile . . . I mean, I just don't know anymore what color the sky is in Krugman's world, but Drum and Yglesias can't really believe that Bush went to war in Afghanistan principally to benefit Unocal, or that Bush is somehow in bin Laden's pocket. Is it really easier to believe that Bush is a tool of bin Laden than that Saddam would do business with him? Or have they become so consumed by Bush-hatred that the difference between the President of the United States and a guy who sat and watched with glee while his subjects were eaten by dogs is totally lost on these guys?

UPDATE: Drum's still at it. This is apparently now one of his favorite hobbyhorses.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:40 AM | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
July 4, 2004
WAR: The Media Enemy

We can debate until the cows come home what the obligations of a free press in wartime are, whether it's fair to impugn the motives and biases of the Western media, and whether it makes you a Nazi to even discuss the subject. What's not debatable is that modern war requires the U.S. military to regard the media (Western and otherwise) as a potential source for turning victories into defeats, simply by the way coverage of stories tends to focus on U.S. setbacks and the way any absence of peace is portrayed as an American failing. Wretchard at Belmont Club has a poignant example of how this affects tactics:

In what was probably the most psychologically revealing moment of the battle, infantrymen fought six hours for the possession of one damaged Humvee, of no tactical value, simply so that the network news would not have the satisfaction of displaying the piece of junk in the hands of Sadr's men. The enemy understood the rules of engagement too well, but from the other side. "Squeezed into a few downtown blocks, Sadr militants began using children to shuttle ammunition, soldiers said. Youngsters carrying large plastic bags darted from corner to corner, and the soldiers would not shoot them. 'We all grew up knowing you don't hurt women and children,' Taylor said. 'And they used that to their advantage.' The US estimates that 20 civilians were killed in operations around Najaf. The Najaf hospital claims 81. When the Russians retook Grozny after a disastrous first foray, they returned to the operational formula of Marshak Konev in Berlin and rained down 8,000 artillery shells per hour on the town, killing perhaps 27,000 before attempting it again. The vastly more powerful Americans did not, yet triumphed. They are inept, as everyone knows.

Ted Koppel was determined to read the names of 700 American servicemen who have died in Iraq to remind us how serious was their loss. Michael Moore has dedicated his film Farenheit 9/11 to the Americans who died in Afghanistan. And they did a land office business. But at least they didn't get to show Sadr's miliamen dancing around a battered Humvee. The men of the First Armored paid the price to stop that screening and those concerned can keep the change.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:44 PM | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Amnesty, National

Iraq's new provisional government ponders amnesty for Iraqi insurgents, which strikes me as a good thing, in theory; it's all well and good to take a hard line, but offers of amnesty are often good ways to try to draw down a guerilla war in face-saving fashion.

In practice, there are twin problems: first, the somewhat invisible nature of the enemy may make them uninterested in the benefits of amnesty. Then again, these guys may be less invisible to Iraqis than to us, and nobody wants to live in the wilderness forever. If the long-term strategy is to peel off all but the hardest-core jihadists, this may be a worthwhile strategy. Second, of course, you need some way to verify that people have actually laid down their arms.

It should go without saying, of course, that no amnesty should be shown to non-Iraqis who have entered the country to fight. The only solution to those guys is to kill them.

In a perhaps not-unrelated development, Muqtada al-Sadr is again blasting the Iraqi government:

"We pledge to the Iraqi people and the world to continue resisting oppression and occupation to our last drop of blood," al-Sadr said. "Resistance is a legitimate right and not a crime to be punished."

[snip]

[I]n his statement Sunday, the young cleric said, "There is no truce with the occupier and those who cooperate with it."

"We announce that the current government is illegitimate and illegal," al-Sadr said. "It's generally following the occupation. We demand complete sovereignty and independence by holding honest elections."

The call for elections is an interesting touch, and suggests that he may still be giving himself a fallback position to get involved in the new government while stoking anti-American resentments. In the case of al-Sadr, as with the amnesty decision, it really has to be up to the Iraqis (who understand the byzantine power dynamics of the place better than we could hope to) to deal with him. That's the risk we have to take if we're going to bank on self-governance.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:19 PM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Same Dog, New Tricks

Ricky West has moved to http://www.rjwest.com/blog, abandoning the hassles and headaches of Movable Type for the wonderful city of Solla Sollew, where they never have troubles, at least very few.

Update your bookmarks accordingly.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:09 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Walk Like Brando Right Into the Sun

One thing I was thinking about this week with the death of Marlon Brado - in the mid/late 50s, four of the biggest stars in Hollywood, were Brando, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. At the time, they were all about the same level and type of star, although Monroe had probably been a star the longest (excluding Taylor's original incarnation as a child star). They were all considered steamy sex symbols.

We know how the story went from there; Brando and Taylor went on to greater artistic heights but eventually decended into self-parody, getting fat, old, batty and beset by tragedies great and small; Dean and Monroe died young and beautiful, but left behind less of a comprehensive body of work, at least compared to Brando. Dean and Monrore, though, have an aura that nutty old Liz and Marlon gradually dissipated.

Which makes you wonder about how images change; who Taylor and Brando were in the 50s hasn't changed, yet their memory is much clouded by who they became. You wonder, if they had died and Dean and Monroe had lived, how different the memories would be.

As for Brando, in a way, his image is liberated by his death, free again to be remembered for his best work; you can see that already in the tributes. Maybe, in the long view, the better part of his life will reclaim center stage.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:56 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Broom, Broom, Broom, Let's Go Get Out Those Brooms

Extremely impressive victory by the Mets today to complete the sweep of the Hated Yankees. What particularly impressed me was this: the Mets took the first two and got our hopes up by grabbing the early 4-1 lead today through three innings, but the game had the feel of one of those clinics on why great teams put people away when they're on the ropes, and teams . . . well, teams like these Mets don't. They played sloppy defense in the field while the Yankees had some electrifying moments on the bases and in the field (Derek Jeter snagged one key ball up the middle in the spot where we've seen so many hits go by him in years past - is he cheating towards the middle more with a Gold Glove shortstop playing third?). Naturally, the Yankees came back to tie it up 4-4 and tie it up again 5-5. Yet, somehow, Ty Wigginton managed to hit his second homer of the game (it could easily have been his third), and they hung on. Of course, nobody's perfect, and as this series displayed, the way to beat this Yankee team is to go yard on them early and often against a longball-prone staff (it helps that Richard Hidalgo is now slugging .746 in a Mets uniform, and setting one awfully high bar for Carlos Beltran in the process, not that Beltran hasn't responded).

Meanwhile, this series showed yet again why Tony Clark continues to be a valuable bench player - yes, he's still not going to hit above .250, and the old Clark is gone, but what you want from a guy like that is that sometimes he'll come up with the big hit; yesterday he had plenty.

Anyway, a 3-game sweep against what is, let's face it, still the best team in baseball is a great building block to go into the next set with the NL East. The Mets still need work getting the top of the order on and getting the defense in order, but if they can keep the middle of the order healthy, they need no longer fear a power outage. They can slug.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:58 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
July 3, 2004
WAR: I'm Sayin, Bro

This is too funny for words:

Rock, Paper, Saddam

via Michele.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:17 AM | War 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
July 2, 2004
POP CULTURE: Well, it wasn't enough time, Michael. It wasn't enough time.

Seven Inches of Sense sends word that Marlon Brando has died.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:41 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Link Roundup 7/2/04

*Via Baseball Primer, comes word that the Twins have bowed to political pressure to take the guns away from a G.I. Joe figure they are giving out at the Humpdome on a night honoring local military personnel:

"I think the Twins are way off base with this idea,'' said John Varone, a Vietnam veteran and president of the Twin Cities chapter of Veterans for Peace. "For gosh sakes, the last place we need to promote war is at our national pastime.''

The Twins say Joe isn't glorifying war, but celebrating the efforts of servicemen and women. As part of that mission, the team asked Duke's maker, Hasbro Inc., to remove the customary gun from his side, bringing him in accordance with the Metrodome's no-gun policy. Hand grenades are still visible.

"I know there are people who are adamant about opposition to the war, but this is not about politics,'' Twins marketing vice president Patrick Klinger said. "And it's not just about this war. It's about what happened 60 years ago.''

[snip]

[T]he Twins will admit current and former military personnel and their families at half price Monday, as part of what the Twins are calling Armed Services Appreciation Day. There also will be a flag ceremony involving Gov. Tim Pawlenty before the game.

The Twins' first such day was held last year, when, on the eve of the assault on Iraq, a soldier from Minnesota threw out the first ball to a fellow soldier from the state. The throw and catch occurred in Kuwait and were broadcast to Minnesota at the beginning of the game.

"I looked around the ballpark that night and there were tears everywhere,'' Klinger said. "It was the highlight of my career.''

Still, more than one peace group believes the combat-ready G.I. Joe, measuring just a bit shorter than 4 inches, is a big mistake, and they would like the Twins to cancel the promotion.

"It's not a credible way to honor those who've suffered the inhumanity of war,'' said Phil Steger, executive director of Friends for a Non-Violent World, a St. Paul-based group with about 4,000 members in Minnesota.

"One wonders whether a desire to increase ticket sales is masquerading as good intentions. We hope not. Minnesotans' moral sense and empathy with those who have lost life, limb and loved ones in war — soldier and civilian — rejects this kind of opportunism,'' Steger said.

Mary Beaudoin, a leader of Women Against Military Madness, Minneapolis, said she's "appalled'' by the giveaway.

"This is hideous … a bad message to send kids,'' she said. "Kids need to be raised with the values of life, not killing.''

GI Joe: unarmed, defenseless and ready for his beheading! Brought to you by senseless Minnesota peaceniks.

*Wall Streeter Mindles Dreck has some thoughts on business models in the brokerage industry, which I found interesting even aside from his use of the analogy to Iraq.

*The BBC has some powerful pictures of a fetus in the womb at the end of the first trimester. Go look, and ask yourself if that's a human being; if you approach the question without political preconceptions, the answer's pretty easy.

*Via the Corner, Rush Limbaugh has some reflections on his encounters with Bill Buckley (did you know that Rush's odd way of pronouncing Jesse Jackson's name was a homage to Buckley? I didn't). Interesting piece, which in some ways says more about Rush, his influences and his insecurities than it does about Buckley.

*Chris Lawrence points us to Laura in Apartment 11D complaining about Steven den Beste mercilessly tearing apart a survey she sent him and about 70 other big bloggers. I love den Beste's writing, but he can really be unwarrantedly cruel sometimes to people who send him well-meaning stuff; in this case, he seems to have misunderstood the fact that you have to put some obvious questions in a survey sent to that many people.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:39 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Raindrops Keep Falling

Avkash over at the Raindrops has all sorts of bloggy goodness; check out his look at how some of the Mets' less well-known prospects are doing in the minors (including one teenager named Yusmeiro Petit who walked 10 and struck out 85 in 77.1 innings last year and has followed up this year by striking out 122 and walking 22 in 83 innings in the Sally League - 13.2 K/9 IP, if you're keeping score). He's also got some appropriate observations on Tom Glavine's consistency, as well as linking to "Farenheit 1918," which is one of the funniest things I've read in some time ("Mike:
Poor silly girl, of course. It's all about oil. Always has been. The Babe Ruth trade was about oil.")

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:23 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Ups and Downs

So, are we seeing an unusual number and extent of teams showing sudden improvement or decline this season? Mike Carminati has the answer.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:12 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: More Moore

I hate to keep raising Michael Moore around here, but I just keep seeing people on the Left who actually seem to think he's doing good things. Can anybody be that credulous?

Well, Dave Kopel is collecting a bill of particulars on Moore's latest movie. Spinsanity has some background.

UPDATE: Matthew Hoy, noting Paul Krugman's contention that Moore "has yet to be caught in any major factual errors," suggests that "Krugman doesn't know what facts are."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:31 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
July 1, 2004
BLOG: Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, What's That In My Tummy?

Dana has a thought-provoking question (adult language used).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:32 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: What The Foulke?

The Red Sox just brought in their closer, Keith Foulke, to start the bottom of the 8th of a tie game at Yankee Stadium. Charlie Steiner announced this as if the Red Sox were planning to use voodoo to beat the Yankees.

Kudos to the Bill James-influenced Sox for recognizing that sometimes you need to use your relief ace when the game is most in the balance.

UPDATE: Well, this has been a wild one. Foulke and Rivera each threw two scoreless. Right now, the Red Sox have Dave McCarty at second base, and the Yankee announcers are discussing whether the Yanks might have to use Posada at second at some point.

UPDATE: Sheffield winds up at third. Manny homers in the 13th.

UPDATE: Cairo doubles in Sierra to tie it again in the 14th. Red Sox had been one strike away . . .

UPDATE: Never bet against the house. John Flaherty drives one to the wall to drive in the winning run.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:31 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: You Knew This Was Coming

Big but predictable end-of-term Supreme Court decision; really, it was compelled by any number of recent precedents.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:40 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Shame, Shame on Krugman

David Frum notes Paul Krugman's latest jeremiad, this one against Simone Ledeen, the daughter of Michael Ledeen, who has been working for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq; it's a good illustration of why Krugman is basically Michael Moore with degrees:

I have to say that I am stunned by the implication that working in Iraq is some kind of sinecure that one obtains by wire-pulling. I wonder how many of Krugman’s dinner party pals are badgering their political connections to get their children internships in Baghdad? Simone Ledeen risked her life in Iraq for her country. One of her best friends was killed by a car bomb. She herself was frequently fired upon. I can attest first hand that her insights into the situation in Iraq were both shrewd and sensitive. Her intelligence and courage and idealism are the virtues that wartime America most desperately needs.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:39 AM | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Down the Rabbit Hole

Ed Moltzen starts down the rabbit hole of the latest Al Gore speech, and keeps tumbling down, down, down . . . too much good stuff here to excerpt.

(Link via Michele).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:35 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
RELIGION: Sorry About the Mess

The Pope apologizes for the 13th century sack of Constantinople. (via the Corner). Really, is this necessary?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:33 AM | Religion | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)