Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
November 30, 2004
BASEBALL: Charley Steiner Gets Traded To Melrose Place

Well, not quite, but the erstwhile Yankee radio man and SportsCenter anchor is off to Chavez Ravine, where he'll replace Ross Porter and share a booth with Rick Monday for Dodger broadcasts; they will alternate with Vin Scully, who works alone. From MLB's report:

Steiner, a New York native, said the first game he heard on a big Zenith radio at the age of 6 had Scully calling the Brooklyn Dodgers from Ebbets Field.

Link via Bookworm, who speculates that beat reporter Suzyn Waldman may take Steiner's place in the booth; I'm fairly certain she'd be the first woman to broadcast games on a regular basis for a New York baseball team.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:42 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Who Am I? Why Am I Here?

Long-time readers may want to skip this, but I figure I get enough new readers (especially with the Big Link from our old friend Bill Simmons) to make it worthwhile posting something I can perma-link in FAQ format to introduce myself to new readers.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:30 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: San Pedro de Flushing?

The Daily News claims that the Mets have offered Pedro Martinez a three-year deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $37-39 million (about $12-13 million per year), and are contemplating a fourth year guaranteed. While I'm not a fan of the overall strategy of committing more money to expensive stars in their thirties, Pedro is at least a sufficiently high-quality starter - a rare enough thing these days - that it would not be a terrible move, although adding a fourth year guaranteed, with Pedro's health and durability concerns, would be a Very Bad Idea. That fourth year is only worth it if you are - unlike the Mets - willing to risk writing off an extra season of salary to get over the top in the short run.

Anyway, amidst all the gnashing of teeth about Pedro's decline, a little perspective is in order:

WLERAGGSCGIPHHRBBK
13103.7033334216.21891970222
1972.8933332233.21882667251
1693.90333312171932661227

That's Pedro in 1996, 1998, and 2004; as you can see, Pedro's performance this season wasn't greatly out of line with seasons he had in his mid-20s. Yes, we'll never see the Pedro of 1999-2000 again (in our lifetimes, we may never see any pitcher that dominating again), and yes, he's lost some gas off his fastball, but the numbers say there's still plenty of gas in Pedro's tank if he can stay healthy.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:20 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/POLITICS: Self-Evident Idiocy

One last spleen-venting legal case for the day:

A California teacher who teaches his fifth-grade students with the aid of primary source documents like the Declaration of Independence has been ordered by school administrators to stop using such artifacts of American history because the material contains references to God.

I heard about this one during the significant amount of time I spent stuck in traffic on I-95 over the holiday weekend, while flipping past Sean Hannity’s radio show. Not considering that the most reliable source and more than a little skeptical, I decided to check it out and, lo and behold, The Smoking Gun had the documentation, including the teacher’s complaint.

Politically, this is an example of Democrats needing to better police their fringes. I can’t imagine that the mainstream of that party is really opposed to the Declaration of Independence or shares such absolutist hostility to religion, but the cumulative effect of stories like this, fairly or unfairly, pushes a lot of otherwise undecided people into the Republican camp. It’s hard to get anyone to trust their children to people who think the ideas of people like Thomas Jefferson and John Adams are unfit for public schools.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:15 PM | Law 2002-04 • | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Anti-Military Academics 1, Common Sense 0

Meanwhile, in a ruling I missed, the 3rd Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals handed down an outrageous opinion striking down the Solomon Amendment, which withholds federal funds from schools banning the military from appearing on campus. See here and here. (Academia, generally anti-military to begin with, frequently tries to ban groups like the ROTC or JAG recruiters on ideological grounds, the most fashionable recent pretext being protest of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.)

UPDATE: As you can probably tell, I feel very strongly about the issue of my taxpayer dollars going to institutions that ban our military from campus and have written in support of the Solomon Amendment in the past. This is a decision that politicians, from President Bush on down, need to condemn and the Supreme Court needs to reverse. It should not stand.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:32 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Mary Jane's Last Dance?

Dahlia Lithwick has a snarky look at the Supreme Court's oral arguments concerning California’s medical marijuana law, asking “should the court's staunchest conservatives get away with being for states' rights only when the state in question isn't California?

I’m sympathetic to the medical marijuana law in question, defended in this case by Randy Barnett, and, in fact, would support a good deal of reform of American drug laws. Yet Lithwick’s accusations of hypocrisy would be a lot more convincing if the Court had not, on the very same day, (correctly) declined to hear a case challenging the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s (egregious) “gay marriage” ruling, presumably on federalism grounds.

Also, in a broader sense, this is an annoying form of argument. One gets the sense here that Lithwick doesn’t really believe in federalism, but supports using it as a justification for drug legalization at the state level. Isn’t that line of reasoning just as hypocritical as that which she prematurely accuses the Supreme Court of following?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:04 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL/HISTORY: Alibi Ike

For reasons that are unclear to me, I got a free sample issue in the mail of "At The Yard," a magazine following the minor leagues. What caught my attention was an article on how Dwight Eisenhower apparently told reporters in 1945 that he had played minor league ball under an assumed name ("Wilson") in 1909 when he was 19. Grantland Rice reported that Ike played center field in the Central Kansas League (presumably a fairly low-level minor league), batting .288, scoring 43 runs and stealing 20 bases in a season of a little over 200 at bats. (Here's what little else I could find on this online).

(A side note: am I the only one who thinks Grover Alexander, a Nebraskan who was three years older than the Kansan Eisenhower also entered pro ball in 1909, bore a striking resemblance to Ike?)

Anyway, as the article (not available online, so far as I can tell) points out, Eisenhower abruptly stopped talking about his pro baseball career after that, and with good reason: he played football and baseball at West Point, which he entered in 1911, and to do so he would have had to sign an NCAA eligibility card stating that he had not played professional sports - and if he signed that card falsely, it would be a violation of West Point's honor code, something Ike would not want to admit to once he was embarked on a career in politics. In today's atmosphere, of course, it's unlikely he would have gotten away with this without someone digging this up.

But if there's some enterprising SABR type out there who would like to dig up the old minor league box scores, this sounds like a fun project to look into.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:55 AM | Baseball 2004 • | History | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)
LAW: Tragedy Strikes Estrada

A lot of conservatives were frustrated when Miguel Estrada, one of the best and brightest of Bush's judicial nominees, withdrew his nomination to the DC Circuit. Some have speculated that he may still be nominated to the Supreme Court.

Perhaps, at some point, he will. But Andrew McCarthy noted in The Corner yesterday that Estrada's wife died on Sunday. I don't know if she was his age (early 40s) or if they had kids, but the man will clearly have other priorities right now than the judiciary. Apparently, her death was sudden and unexpected. (Link via Bashman). For now, our prayers should be with him and his family.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:53 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Another Opportunity to Help

Via IMAO, here's a page from a California radio host with a variety of suggestions and calls to action that includes an address where you can send get-well wishes to wounded soldiers and Marines returning from Iraq:

AMERICAN HEROES KOGO RADIO 9660 GRANITE RIDGE DRIVE SAN DIEGO, CA 92123
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:48 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Boggs and Who?

Wade Boggs leads the new nominees on the Hall of Fame ballot, but while a few of the other new candidates, like Darryl Strawberry, Chili Davis and Willie McGee put together pieces of a Hall of Fame case, nobody else new is a serious candidate, whereas Boggs should and will skate in with little or no debate. I think my favorite Wade Boggs fact is in 1987 when he somehow must have sensed that the ball was livelier, and he announced in spring training that he was going to try to his more home runs. As it turned out, homers were up around the league, and Boggs hit 24 of them (up from a career high of 8; he would hit double figures only once more, with 11 in 1994).

Anyway, there's the usual lively debate about who else goes in; you can go here for a link-filled roundup of my past writings on the returning candidates, and why the only ones I would support are Bert Blyleven, Goose Gossage and Ryne Sandberg (although I may return at some point for a closer look at Sandberg and Alan Trammell).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:43 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
HISTORY: Happy Birthday to Churchill

An alert reader pointed out that today is Winston Churchill's 130th birthday.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:40 AM | History | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
RELIGION/POLITICS: Getting Tolerance Wrong

This Nicholas Kristof column in last Wednesday's NY Times, denouncing the "Left Behind" series of novels popular among evangeical Christians, rather perfectly captures a misunderstanding of religious tolerance that is found too often on the Left, and one I've dealt with before. Here's Kristof:

The "Left Behind" series, the best-selling novels for adults in the U.S., enthusiastically depict Jesus returning to slaughter everyone who is not a born-again Christian. The world's Hindus, Muslims, Jews and agnostics, along with many Catholics and Unitarians, are heaved into everlasting fire: "Jesus merely raised one hand a few inches and . . . they tumbled in, howling and screeching."

Gosh, what an uplifting scene!

If Saudi Arabians wrote an Islamic version of this series, we would furiously demand that sensible Muslims repudiate such hatemongering. We should hold ourselves to the same standard.

[snip]

I accept that [the authors] are sincere. (They base their conclusions on John 3.) But I've sat down in Pakistani and Iraqi mosques with Muslim fundamentalists, and they offered the same defense: they're just applying God's word.

. . . [I]f I praise the good work of evangelicals - like their superb relief efforts in Darfur - I'll also condemn what I perceive as bigotry.

See, here's the problem. Kristof isn't just asking the authors of these books to allow for people of other faiths to practice their own faiths in peace; he's demanding that the authors change what they themselves actually believe to be the Word of God. That's not a plea for religious tolerance; it is, in fact, religious intolerance, as Kristof is saying that the beliefs of these Christians are so offensive to him that they must be branded as "bigotry" and driven from public expression.

Let me put this another way to explain why the comparison to radical Muslims is so offensive. I have no problem with people who believe that God is going to send me to Hell for being a Catholic. They believe their thing, and I believe mine. I have a major problem with people who think that they, rather than God Himself, should send me there. It is right and proper and necessary to denounce religious extremists who are unable to accept the peaceable coexistence of people of different religions, who call for earthly violence and political opression against those of different faiths. But to demand that people give up the tenet of their faith - a central one in many faiths - that says that they are following the one and only path to salvation, that's what Stephen Carter has referred to as demanding that people treat "God as a hobby" rather than taking faith seriously. While it may in some circumstances be rude to say it, I wouldn't want to live in a country where people could not feel free to profess that theirs is the only true faith; such a country would be one in which no one really believed in anything at all.

The "Left Behind" guys aren't asking that anyone be harmed in the here and now; they are content to wait for Jesus to take care of that. By failing to distinguish between the two, Kristof shows that he still views religious beliefs as something that can be bent to the needs of human society rather than the other way around. Which is to say, not religion at all.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:31 AM | Politics 2004 • | Religion | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Communications Stream of Conspiracy Commerce

Ah, the media food chain in action. As noted here and here, late Tuesday night, I banged out a quick email to Instapundit, with the following thought, in response to an item he posted about a statement by Vaclav Havel on the situation in Ukraine:

Is there any way to get Havel to come out of retirement to succeed Kofi Annan as head of the UN, please? I mean, if ever there were a guy with the guts and moral clarity to insist that the UN live up to its ideals, it's Havel.

Instapundit quoted me by name on this, crediting me with the (admittedly somewhat fanciful) idea, with the further comment:

The more I think about it, the more I like the Havel-for-S.G. idea.

Approving links to Glenn Reynolds' post followed from people at, among other things, the National Review, Weekly Standard and Reason Magazine. Fast forward to yesterday morning, and Reynolds had an op-ed piece on the Wall Street Journal editorial page (subscription only; it ran in the middle of the bottom of the page) promoting the idea:

Things have gotten bad enough that some are calling for Mr. Annan's resignation, amid talk of former Czech President Vaclav Havel as successor. ("Havel for Secretary General" bumper stickers are on the Web.)

OK, so it's not quite the same as getting published in the WSJ myself, but it took less than a week to get my suggestion onto one of the nation's most influential op-ed pages. I'll take that.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:10 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
November 29, 2004
BASEBALL: Age and Established Win Shares

One of my major projects of late has been plugging the 2004 Win Shares data from the Hardball Times into a series of spreadsheets to (1) analyze the usefulness of my Established Win Shares Levels figures from earlier this year and (2) run similar EWSL numbers for 2005. EWSL is explained here; in a nutshell, it's an application to Win Shares of Established Performance Levels, which take a weighted measurement of a player's accomplishments in a given category over the prior three years. I ran an EWSL analysis of each team starting here, listing 23 players (13 non-pitchers and 10 pitchers).

As I've said before, EWSL is just a compilation of the past, not a projection of the future, although past performance is always a useful thing to have in projecting a ballplayer's future. Anyway, one issue with EWSL, especially on a team level, is that it tends to overrate older players and underrate younger ones by relying on established track records.

That, we already knew. But by how much? I had used a number of adjustments to deal with this issue, and I'll return to those later, but first I wanted to take a look at how the unadjusted EWSL fared as a predictor. So I broke down by age each of the 678 players I had listed to compare their unadjusted EWSL entering 2004 to their 2004 Win Shares, and grouped the results by age. The Average EWSL and Average 2004 Win Shares columns are rounded off; the % column shows the total 2004 Win Shares for that age group (un-rounded) divided by the total EWSL (also un-rounded), with 1.00 meaning the group matched its EWSL, numbers above 1.00 showing an increase and below 1.00 showing a decrease. I grouped the 20-21 and over-40 groups because they were so small (20 was just Edwin Jackson, who never did get a shot in 2004).

Age#Avg EWSLAvg 2004 WS+/-%
20-21637+42.77
2213411+73.15
2311610+41.61
2426610+41.76
2539610+41.64
267078+11.22
276089+11.19
2860911+21.26
294998-10.89
3062101000.96
315198-10.89
3253109-10.91
3341107-30.71
343487-10.87
3521147-70.52
3626109-10.84
3719119-20.81
381798-10.86
39111311-20.84
40+9111101.00

Although the overall aging pattern is hardly a surprise, I was struck by how vividly the pattern came out even over a relatively small sample size. (The breakdowns of numbers of players by age is interesting in its own right). The 40+ crowd, of course, was dominated by Clemens and Randy Johnson, which is what throws that off. Since Established Performance Levels acts as something of a multiplier of inexperience, it's not surprising to see the average player doubling or tripling his past track record at a very young age, when many in the group are rookies, and that time-lag may also contribute to why the break point for decline starts at 29 rather than 28. I was also struck by the overall stability of the numbers, as there was relatively little variance in the 2004 quality of production over age groups, although of course the mid-30s crowd did underperform the mid-20s crowd even though the mid-20s contingent included a much larger number of marginal players who won't last past 30.

The wipeout of the 35-year-olds was especially gruesome, and can be attributed partly to having a small sample and the highest starting point in the range. But there were more than just a few disasters in that group: Tim Salmon (down from 18 to 2), Bret Boone (29 to 9), Shigetoshi Hasegawa (10 to 3), John Olerud (20 to 10 - the Mariners had way too many of these guys), Mike Mussina (18 to 10), Paul Quantrill (10 to 6), Pat Hentgen (6 to 0), Fernando Vina (12 to 1), Sammy Sosa (27 to 14), and most egregiously of all, Hideo Nomo (15 to -6).

Anyway, there's more work still to be done, but clearly to be useful as a predictive tool EWSL needs to be adjusted for age in some fashion.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:40 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
November 28, 2004
FOOTBALL: Just Wow

I don't follow the NFL as closely as I used to, but . . . well, when you look up "taking it to another level" in the dictionary, you get something like this.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:09 PM | Football | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: A Word From My Sponsor

Baseball-Reference.com page sponsorships can get pretty rough on the sponsored player from time to time, but this is a new one: check out Wil Cordero's page:

Support Battered Women sponsor(s) this page.

According to a 2000 UNICEFstudy, 20-50% of females worldwide will be victimized by domestic violence.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:34 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: 11/28/04 Links

*Patterico has a tremendous idea: Senate Republicans should introduce a non-binding resolution of support for each of the filibustered judicial nominees, so as to put on the record the fact that they would be confirmed if granted a floor vote. Would the Democrats filibuster this as well, so as to prevent the public from finding this out? (Link via Bashman).

*If you liked my marginal vote analyses, Patrick Ruffini has a map that captures a lot of the same type of stuff in graphic form. I take it that some of the swing towards the Democrats in Montana may have been aided by the victory of the Democratic gubernatorial candidate there.

*Speaking of cool charts, check out this piece with its charts of blog activity during the campaign.

*This "Email of the Day" to Andrew Sullivan pretty well captures the Democrats' image problems.

*Two more from Ruffini, who's on a roll: first, this:

President Bush carried 97 of the nation's 100 fastest-growing counties, most of them "exurban" communities that are rapidly transforming farmland into subdivisions and shopping malls on the periphery of major metropolitan areas.

The counties with the most population loss (from people picking up and leaving) voted for Kerry 68.6% to 30.4%.

Mmmmm, 2010 census. And Ruffini also has a link to this must-read analysis over at Kos' place:

A top Kerry staffer (one of five who had been with Kerry from the very start of his primary campaign and who claimed he talked with Kerry almost daily on the phone) told me: "To be blunt, this is a fat-cat top-down campaign. The campaign staff doesn't really get grassroots." Those were his exact words (I wrote them down because I was startled he would admit this--I haven't told ANYONE this quote because I didn't want it to get into GOP hands prior to the election). He did think a grassroots strategy was crucial, but he may have been among the very few Kerry staffers there at the time to think that way; he and one other staffer were pushing to get me hired and create a real grassroots strategy. He called me daily with updates. On the fourth day, he apologized that Mary Beth Cahill was concerned I could be a "Republican mole." He told her I had been a volunteer with the Dean campaign and that he trusted me based on our phone conversations, but that didn't prove anything to her. She couldn't imagine hiring someone who lived in California that she'd never met. Instead, she hired a former Emily's List staffer with experience sending direct mail to big donors, whom Mary Beth had worked with previously.

This, of course, echoes many of the things the GOP side was saying before the election. Did McCain-Feingold actually succeed in hamstringing Kerry? Then again, the turnout and exit poll numbers do suggest that Kerry's side didn't do so badly in turning out the Democratic base and swinging Nader voters; where they lost was in high GOP turnout and, perhaps most of all, the defection of something like 10% of the people who voted for Gore in 2000. You win them back with the message and the candidate, not by digging deeper at the roots. Plus, the Republicans have an advantage: new GOP voters tend to stay put in their homes with their children, whereas the Democrats' newly registered voters are often transients - college students, new immigrants - and even if you can still find them four years later, they may start to lean more Republican as they set some roots down, which means the Dems need to reinvent the wheel every four years with their register-young-voters push.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:58 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: That's Incredible!

Took the kids to see The Incredibles yesterday, and it was, in fact, as tremendous a movie as advertised, a thrill-a-minute action flick with more than enough adult emotional depth to make it more than your typical action movie. Actually, in a number of ways the movie reminded me of the recently released Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, since the movies shared many settings and plot devices, but while Sky Captain, was a very enjoyable ride, it was the added emotional depth that makes The Incredibles by far the superior movie.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:41 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 26, 2004
BASEBALL: Kendall Gets Beaned

What's interesting about the A's apparently acquiring Jason Kendall for Mark Redman and Arthur Rhodes is not the Pirates' end of the deal, which involves getting some face-saving pitching help while getting out from under Kendall's oversized contract, but rather the A's being willing to take on salary to get a catcher (replacing the departing Damian Miller) who gets on base. For all the notoriety of the A's OBP obsession, the team had in recent years been losing ground in that department. Kendall helps turn around that trend (which had gotten a bit better this season).

Good deal for Oakland, in spite of Kendall's cost, age and lack of power.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:59 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Havel-Mania Update

With Instapundit in full dog-with-a-bone mode on my idea of Vaclav Havel for UN Secretary General - which, I admit, is more wishful thinking than anything - Jonathan Last of the Weekly Standard picks up the idea, while A Fistful of Euros notes that Havel's eclectic and sometimes dyspeptic worldview isn't entirely a conservative's dream. Well, yeah. But a good man unafraid to speak the truth would be such a vast improvement at the UN that it's worth it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:12 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 24, 2004
BASEBALL: Radke on the Block

I wonder whether it would be worthwhile for the Mets to take a look at Brad Radke, although it sounds like his asking price is fairly steep. (Then again, I loved this line: "Radke has said he wants only a two-year deal, but Simon [his agent] said that wouldn't necessarily be the length he proposes." Yeah, the agent will have a lot of credibility on that score.)

On the plus side, Radke's an extreme fly ball pitcher who would profit from pitching at Shea in front of Mike Cameron. And I'm less concerned about signing a free agent pitcher in his 30s as opposed to hitters, given (1) that you need a lot of innings on a pitching staff, so there's less sense that old guys are blocking the development of youngsters, and (2) age is less of a straight-line predictor of career path for pitchers (pitchers in their 20s are a crapshoot anyway). On the other hand, the Mets do need to keep cash free to develop the everyday lineup, and Radke is a guy who gives up a lot of hits.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:33 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASKETBALL: Simmons on Artest & Co.

Bill Simmons, unsurprisingly, has one of the most insightful columns on the whole Pistons-Pacers brawl. Lots of good stuff there - read the whole thing. I liked his suggestion that David Stern should punish Pistons fans by suspending beer sales at The Palace for 60 days, as well as his defense of Jermaine O'Neal and his suggestion that Artest would probably end up on the Knicks, stepping into the shoes vacated by the departure of Latrell Sprewell. This amused me:

Adam Carolla had an interesting take on this incident: Imagine being the guy at the game who was first attacked by Artest? You've been watching these guys for two hours, you're pretty buzzed, you're loving the seats ... and then this fight breaks out, and it's riveting as hell, and then suddenly Artest gets nailed by the cup and he's coming right at you. As Carolla said, it would be like watching "Captain Hook" in the movies for two hours, then Captain Hook comes right out of the movie screen and attacks you. Would you have blamed that first guy for soiling himself?

But Bill fails to answer the deep philosophical question: how did this entire thing manage to come off without Rasheed Wallace doing something crazy?

UPDATE: Of course, we Knick fans feel that Artest returning to NY would actually be poetic justice, recalling that he was the man the Knicks passed up to draft . . . Frederic "French Toast" Weis.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:00 AM | Basketball | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The UN's Abu Ghraib - and Havel for the UN!

Captain Ed notes a UN scandal larger and worse than Abu Ghraib, as there have been more than 150 charges of rape, prostitution, pedophilia and other sexual abuses by UN peacekeepers in the Congo against innocent refugees. Of course, as with the Oil-for-Food scam, stories that reflect badly on the UN get only a fraction of the attention devoted to stories that reflect badly on the Bush Administration, even if the story itself is considerably worse. And that imbalance in the worldwide press has tangible bad effects on the credibility of the US as opposed to the credibility of the UN, which by any right ought to be close to zero at this stage.

Meanwhile, Glenn Reynolds, who's been doing great work pulling together the latest from the Ukraine, likes my suggestion that Vaclav Havel should replace Kofi Annan as head of the UN.

UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg calls my suggestion of Havel "a great, wonderful, humane, inspired idea." Now, if only I can figure a way to get traffic to the blog out of this . . .

SECOND UPDATE: Matt Welch, who knows a lot more about Havel than I do from his years in what was then Czechoslovakia, is also supportive: "I think it's a capital idea, and would likely bring a gust of support behind the growing "Community of Democracies" reform initiative."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:50 AM | War 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Unilateralism Watch

Dan Drezner notes another diplomatic triumph for the Bush Administration, as James Baker hammers out an agreement with Russia, France, Germany and others to forgive 80% of Iraq's debts.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:32 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 23, 2004
BASEBALL: Leiter Out, Clement In?

That’s the rumor:

Take it for what it's worth, but moments ago, during an interview on the Michael Kay Show, Jon Heyman of Newsday said that his sources have indicated that the Mets are likely sever ties with Al Leiter and have targeted Matt Clement to be his replacement.

(Via Jason Mastaitis).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:19 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Tragedy of Multiple Viewpoints

I had to laugh at this exchange on CNN’s Sunday Late Edition between Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and Wolf Blitzer:

SANCHEZ: …I believe that we made mistakes. The media certainly is not in our hands any longer, and, in particular, radio talk shows where that is completely in the opposition's hands, and they use it effectively against us.

BLITZER: But, Loretta, when you say the media -- when you say the media is not in your hands, are you saying that ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN are hostile to Democrats?

SANCHEZ: No, that's not what I said. I'm saying that -- if you would let me finish -- that the majority of people are now receiving a lot of their information out of radio. And the radio isn't in the hands of the Democrats anymore.

Many years ago, the Republicans made a very effective play. They sat down. They made a strategy. They decided they were going to put big thinktanks around, that they were going to fund them. They decided that they would buy radio, that they would use that to talk to people. And people drive in their cars, they're listening to the radio all the time. They're getting a lot of information that way.

You know, networks are losing -- you know, they're getting less and less viewership.

The transcript doesn’t quite do justice to how depressed Sanchez sounded when she said “the media is not in our hands any longer.” But the interview did make me want to learn more about this sinister, so-called “radio” device and how the government can curb its pernicious influence.

Seriously, though, isn’t it overstating the case - and more than a little rude to Al Franken, who was on the very same panel – for a Democrat to say that radio is “completely in the opposition’s hands.” Comments like these would also seem to belie Sanchez’s claims.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:17 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Rivera for Guillen

I have to say the Angels got the better end of the deal that sent Jose Guillen to the Washington Nationals for Juan Rivera and prospect Macier Izturis (younger brother of Cesar Izturis). I don't know much about Izturis, but Guillen and Rivera are both the same general type of player - relatively free-swinging right-handed sluggers with a good arm - but Rivera is two years younger, makes a fraction of the money, and doesn't come with Guillen's clubhouse headaches. And Rivera finished with a flourish last year; in his first extended action as an everyday player, he batted .358/.526/418 after the All-Star Break. Given that Guillen himself has only been a productive regular for two seasons, I'd rather have Rivera even before you factor in the money, let alone when you toss in a 24-year-old shortstop who batted .338 in AAA last year.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:39 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: A Little Perspective for Kevin Drum

Drum notes a program at Santa Clara University to give preferential treatment to male students and huffs:

I'm hopeful that the principled folks over at National Review will condemn this practice. And please: not just a desultory acknowledgment or two to prove you care. I expect a stream of outraged posts and crosstalk at least equal to the recent torrents about Arlen Specter, the lack of conservatives among humanities faculties, and the shocking tolerance of liberalism at the University of Chicago.

I'm counting on you, Cornerites. The eyes of the blogosphere are on you.

Well, if Drum wants us conservatives to say that preferences for less-qualified male students in university admissions are bad, he can relax; obviously, this kind of discrimination is not justified. But, in the Kleiman style, he wants instead to paint conservatives as hypocrites for not dropping what they are doing and writing what Drum tells us to write.

But he can't be serious; this is one isolated and possibly unique feature of one not terribly prominent university. To say that it is deserving of the same attention as the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee - a matter that affects the court system and legal reform issues as a whole - is unserious at best and disingenuous at worst. Even to compare this to conservatives' principled opposition to racial preferences misses the fact that the latter are pervasive, perhaps universal, in higher education admissions. That doesn't make one more or less wrong than the other, but it certainly suggests why the emphasis falls naturally on the more prevalent program. A little perspective would go a long way.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:25 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
November 22, 2004
WAR: Defeat in Ukraine

Looks like the reform-minded, pro-Western challenger, Viktor Yushchenko, has been defeated by Viktor Yanukovich in Ukraine's presidential election, in a victory for Yanukovich ally Vladimir Putin, who obviously wants Ukraine bound more tightly to Russia. The usual cries of voter fraud are being raised, although at this distance it's never easy to tell if they are valid or not.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:36 AM | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Pavano With Caution

Nobody doubts that Carl Pavano is a talented pitcher, but I've been hearing people talk about Pavano as if he was a potential substitute for Pedro Martinez in Boston or Javier Vazquez or Kevin Brown in New York. Hold on there, people. Pavano may be just coming into his own, or he may be just coming off a career year. Either way, I don't see a #1 starter.

First off, there's his lack of a track record; Pavano's thrown 100 innings in a season 5 times, and 2004 is the first time he's been better than a league-average pitcher. Then there's the core of the problem: strikeouts. 28-year-old pitchers who don't get a lot of strikeouts do not, in general, become stars. And look at Pavano's K per 9 innings the last four years: 7.59, 6.09, 5.96, 5.63. Certainly not forward progress.

This is not to say that Pavano is doomed as an effective pitcher, or even that it's impossible that he will follow the footsteps of Kevin Brown and Mike Scott and similar pitchers who bucked the trend of history by becoming big strikeout pitchers in their 30s. After all, he had a fine year in 2004 by slicing his walks to less than 2 per 9 innings and avoiding the home run ball, both critical skills. But the odds on the latter are not strong. Consider the ten men identified by Baseball-Reference.com as the most-similar pitchers to Pavano through age 28:

Oil Can Boyd (980)
Dustin Hermanson (973)
Charles Nagy (970)
Luis Leal (969)
Bill Wegman (969)
Art Mahaffey (969)
Todd Stottlemyre (966)
Jim Lonborg (966)
Aaron Sele (962)
Frank Castillo (960)

As you can see, the similarity scores are fairly high - and these guys averaged 41 career wins after age 28. Nagy and Wegman both had their best years at 29, and Stottlemyre had a big strikeout year at 30, but not one of these guys was really on his way up entering his thirties.

I'd put Pavano on the level with Jon Lieber and Brad Radke, both similar pitchers in some ways, although Radke in particular is homer-prone. But Pedro Martinez, who's four years older and with a lot of mileage on his arm, still struck out 9.41 men per 9 innings in 2004 with only a slightly higher walk rate than Pavano. There's no comparison.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:03 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
November 21, 2004
BASKETBALL: Out of Control Weekend

Daniel Drezner puts the Pistons-Pacers brawl in perspective, noting that it pales in comparison to European soccer hooliganism. Which is fine, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t inexcusable, as was the ugly South Carolina brawl yesterday in Lou Holtz’s final game.

I’m not sure if I agree with Mannix (Chris, that is) that Ron Artest should be kicked out of the NBA for good, but a suspension for the rest of the season may be in order, in light of his repeated involvement in this kind of thing. And I do think the NBA has a major league-wide cultural problem, the roots of which I would blame on its addiction to ever younger, unschooled players. Back when most NBA players had three or four years of college and relative maturity behind them, things like this seemed a lot less common.

Of course, sports-related riots aren’t anything new. Remember the “Nickel Beer Night” fiasco?

Anyway, it was an ugly fighting weekend, with even President Bush and the Secret Service involved in a scrum down in Chile.

UPDATE: I stand corrected. Though I’ve always liked the sound of “Nickel Beer Night”, it appears that the ill-fated promotion of June 4, 1974 was actually “10-Cent Beer Night.” I guess I failed to account for inflation.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:22 PM | Basketball | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Is It Ever Enough?

Ricky West reminds us, graphically, that a major focus of George W. Bush's budget-busting spending increases compared to Clinton has been in education spending, an area where he's been criticized relentlessly for not spending enough.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:40 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Benson!

I can't say I'm ecstatic about seeing Kris Benson in a Mets uniform for another three years, but re-signing him was clearly a necessity once the team let Al Leiter go. The real proof in the pudding on the acquisitions of Benson and Victor Zambrano will come next year (although the costs will take longer to weigh as we watch the development of Scott Kazmir and the other prospects in the deals). Benson should, if healthy, be at least about a league-average pitcher, which isn't nothing.

Of course, yet again, all of this is just window dressing if Mets management still thinks that the club's problems can be rectified by the elderly and expensive likes of Sammy Sosa.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:36 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Subliminable

You know, some jokes just never get old.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:31 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 19, 2004
POLITICS/WAR: Links 11/19/04

*Real subtle, that Zarqawi:

In video shot by an embedded CNN cameraman, soldiers walked through an imposing building with concrete columns and with a large sign in Arabic on the wall reading "Al Qaida Organization" and "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger."

Inside the building, U.S. soldiers found documents, old computers, notebooks, photographs and copies of the Quran.

*Jay G has an amusingly profanity-laden tirade (you were warned!) about critics of Hardee's new super-fatburger.

*While what he did may well have been wrong, I'm loath to sit in judgment of the Marine who shot what appears to be a wounded and non-threatening sniper in Fallujah. I believe very, very strongly that a man who wears the uniform is entitled to the benefit of every doubt. But Dale Franks explains why sometimes soldiers have to be punished for reasons that have nothing to do with justice and everything to do with discipline.

*David Frum lays out options for blockading Iran and has some helpful history of the words "Palestine" and "Philistine".

*NZ Bear reminds us that we still need a loyal opposition.

*Kevin Drum notes that the exit polls always overestimate support for the Democrats.

*What are these "morals" you speak of?

*Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post on the centrality of corruption to Arafatistan. Jeff Jacoby, of course, had the definitive Arafat post-mortem:

In a better world, the PLO chief would have met his end on a gallows, hanged for mass murder much as the Nazi chiefs were hanged at Nuremberg.

*How the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign made better use of email than the Democrats.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:36 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Friday Roundup 11/19/04

*The Tigers sign Troy Percival for 2 years, $12 million. Yes, it's just a 2-year deal, but that's elite closer money, and Percival's just not worth it anymore.

*Thank you Mike Cameron? Baseball Prospectus' latest stab at team defensive stats (subscription only) lists the Mets as #4 in the majors for 2004.

*How did I miss this one when it happened? From September, Mike's Baseball Rants has some fun with John Kruk calling Chone Figgins - Chone Figgins - "the most valuable player in the game today."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:20 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 18, 2004
WAR: “Semper Fi”

Though it is a subscription-only "featured" article, Thursday’s Wall Street Journal editorial offers a clear-eyed perspective of recent events in Fallujah, in proper perspective. It is worth excerpting heavily:

Some 40 Marines have just lost their lives cleaning out one of the world's worst terror dens, in Fallujah, yet all the world wants to talk about is the NBC videotape of a Marine shooting a prostrate Iraqi inside a mosque. Have we lost all sense of moral proportion?…Never mind that the pictures don't come close to telling us about the context of the incident, much less what was on the mind of the soldier after days of combat…

When not disemboweling Iraqi women…killers hide in mosques and hospitals, booby-trap dead bodies, and open fire as they pretend to surrender. Their snipers kill U.S. soldiers out of nowhere. According to one account, the Marine in the videotape had seen a member of his unit killed by another insurgent pretending to be dead. Who from the safety of his Manhattan sofa has standing to judge what that Marine did in that mosque?

Beyond the one incident, think of what the Marine and Army units just accomplished in Fallujah. In a single week, they killed as many as 1,200 of the enemy and captured 1,000 more. They did this despite forfeiting the element of surprise, so civilians could escape, and while taking precautions to protect Iraqis that no doubt made their own mission more difficult and hazardous. And they did all of this not for personal advantage, and certainly not to get rich, but only out of a sense of duty to their comrades, their mission and their country.

In a more grateful age, this would be hailed as one of the great battles in Marine history--with Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Hue City and the Chosin Reservoir. We'd know the names of these military units, and of many of the soldiers too. Instead, the name we know belongs to the NBC correspondent, Kevin Sites. We suppose he was only doing his job, too. But that doesn't mean the rest of us have to indulge in the moral abdication that would equate deliberate televised beheadings of civilians with a Marine shooting a terrorist, who may or may not have been armed, amid the ferocity of battle.

The incident in question should be investigated fully at some later date, but in the meantime we should be deeply grateful to the Marines - whose death toll has apparently since risen - for moving mountains yet again, under the most difficult of circumstances. Semper fi, indeed.

UPDATE: I’ve never been in the military, but this sounds like sensible advice to me.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:56 PM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Democrats' Dilemma - Part II: Personnel

Part II of a three-part series on what the Democrats need to do from here; Part I, on Communications, is here, and Part III, on Policy, will follow.

1. Governors and State Legislatures

Obviously, the Democrats need to start by rebuilding their hold on governorships, which they lost in the mid-1990s. Republicans presently hold the governor's mansions in the nation's four largest states - California, Texas, New York, and Florida, although New York may be due to swing back their way when Eliot Spitzer runs in 2006, with George Pataki probably wisely choosing not to run again. Republicans have also captured several natural Democratic strongholds - Massachusetts (which hasn't elected a Democratic governor since Dukakis), Maryland, Hawaii, even Vermont. The near-abandonment of the South has left the Dems in a serious bind there as well, although the cyclical nature of governorships, particularly due to the lure of corruption in state government, means that they take one from time to time.

As far as developing presidential candidates, I'll get to that later when I'm handicapping the 2008 race, but they are just at the wrong part of the cycle, with few governors in office long enough and one of their biggest media stars (Jennifer Granholm in Michigan) ineligible to run because she's Canadian-born. It didn't help when Gray Davis was humbled by the California voters, Jim McGreevey stepped down amidst a multitude of scandals, Roy Barnes lost in Georgia, and even smaller-time governors like Gary Locke felt the need to quit and go home. The process of building up governors to run for president or Senate means having someone be successful and popular enough to get re-elected. Even Granholm may face a tough re-election battle in Michigan.

The picture at the state legislature level is much stronger, as the Dems gained a lot of seats this year in seveal states, both red and blue. If they can consolidate those gains, it will be particularly important when another round of redistricting arises after the 2010 census, which seems likely to send still more congressional seats and electoral votes out of the blue states and into the red states.

2. Carville for DNC Chair

I take it he doesn't want the job, and there seem to be too many other people focused on their own self-interest (and on stopping the Hillary juggernaut) for anyone to persuade him, but much as I loathe James Carville, he's exactly what the Democrats need in a party chair - he's a regular-guy type, knows the South, doesn't fall into the trap of believing his own BS, and understands how you craft a message to win elections. You can always have a McAuliffe type as your #2 to work the fundraising - Mercer Reynolds, for example, raised vast sums of money for Bush this year and I'd never even heard of the guy until last week. The party chair winds up on TV a lot, and Carville is good with TV.

More thoughts on the DNC/consultant side: The Dems badly need a new batch of consultants who have cut their teeth in states outside the Northeast and West Coast. They need to permanently banish Bob Shrum and his grim populist message from the party - not just from presidential races, because half the problem is that all their presidential candidates have been groomed from the start by Shrum. Ditto for humorless types like Tad Devine and Chris Lehane who don't know when to stop spinning. On the other hand, Donna Brazile is one of the more sensible types and an expert on turnout among African-Americans, and needs to get a larger role. And as with accepting the loss of Shrum's good record with Senate campaigns, the party needs to cut bait with Terry McAuliffe even if it means losing some of his golden fundraising touch; the guy is a disaster in every other way (McAuliffe was one of the fools whose obsession with Bush's National Guard record led to so many bad decisions this year, from Rathergate to the overdone stress on Kerry's combat record), and his fundraising skills are partly offset by the scandals he engenders.

3. More Chuck Schumer

In developing presidential candidates, the Democrats need to present the face of moderation, bring along people who have the personal touch. Congressional leadership is a different game. That's why, if it was my party, I'd have wanted Schumer rather than the soft-spoken Harry Reid to head the Senate Democrats. Schumer will never be president; as a liberal Jewish lawyer from Brooklyn with an accent to match, he's too NY to be president in the way that Phil Gramm was too Texas and, frankly, Kerry was too Massachusetts (truth be told, in an ordinary year Kerry would never have won the nomination). But Schumer brings to bear a number of advantages that would make him ideal as a party leader in Congress. He's insanely hard-working. He's exceptionally PR savvy; I've noted before his habit of doing a press conference on a consumer-protection issue every Sunday, guaranteeing him a block of time on the Sunday evening local news once a week to the point that the local networks know they can give their consumer reporters the night off. He's actually relatively sane on national security and law enforcement issues. He's tough as nails. And, unlike guys like Daschle and Gephardt, Schumer doesn't talk down to people and doesn't sound like he's reading made-up focus-grouped talking points he doesn't believe in.

4. Say Goodbye To Hollywood

Hollywood stars tend to lean very far to the Left, and tend to spout off their political opinions without being asked and whether they know anything about the subject or not. The Democratic Party can't change this fact. They also give a lot of money to Democrats. The Dems shouldn't want to change this fact. But what the party can and should do is stop being star-struck and just stop making public appearances with Hollywood types. It's one of the tendencies that makes so many people identify the Democrats with the values-free zone that is Hollywood and with unserious dilettante leftism. Take their money? Sure. But don't telegraph to the American people that you take Ben Affleck's opinions seriously.

Of all the celebs who worked with the Kerry campaign and supporting 527s this year, only two seemed like they might help: Bruce Springsteen, because he's a fairly serious guy with an older fan base including a lot of blue-collar types (although as I noted some time ago, Bruce's fans tend by the nature of his music to be more conservative), and Puff the Magic Diddy, because he would help get young urban African-Americans registered to vote. It's not clear even that these two were any help, although it may be that Bruce's appearances in Wisconsin were part of the major Kerry operation that delivered the state by a hair.

5. No More Moore

For many of the same reasons, the Democrats need to walk away from Michael Moore. Yes, his movies and books are beloved by a segment of the Democratic base. But having Moore appear in public with Democratic candidates like Wesley Clark and appear at the Democratic Convention (they couldn't really stop him from appearing at the GOP convention) led to far too close a public association with a shameless and deeply dishonest huckster. And worse yet is allowing Moore's favorite hobby-horses to become Democratic talking points and ad campaigns.

Don't like that advice? Think the GOP has people it should distance itself from? Well, to some extent yes - but as a matter of practical electoral politics, the Democrats lost. They are the ones who disregard such advice at their peril.

6. No More Sharpton

In the current political environment, racial division helps the Democrats. The 2000 NAACP James Byrd ad, promising that a Bush Administration would set off a wave of lynchings, was highly effective. The Bush camp was probably politically wise to give no reason for this election to be racially polarized, even to the point of compromising its principles by signalling to the Supreme Court in the Michigan affirmative action case that it would not attack racial preferences.

More astonishingly, Republicans even held their fire when Al Sharpton, the David Duke of the Democratic party, spoke at the convention in prime time; if there had been a similar speech at the GOP convention, you would have heard nothing else for months. But don't think voters didn't notice: as I noted before, Bush won white voters by a 17-point margin, and while Sharpton may not have been much of a factor in that, the Democrats simply have to suck up the short-term cost of annoying Sharpton if they want, in the long term, to win back the confidence of non-Jewish white voters and stem erosion of voters from two groups Sharpton has targeted with particular bile: Jews and Asian-Americans.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:22 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (2)
November 17, 2004
POLITICS: Objectivity, the Foreign Press and the Missing European Center

Jim Geraghty, back from vacationing in Italy (and still in need of a new title), has some interesting thoughts on the international press. He starts by surveying various options for someone in Europe looking for more objective coverage of the U.S. This caught my eye:

The International edition of USA Today: Making the domestic version of that newspaper look like “War and Peace.” Three paragraphs and then we punt. I can’t complain about their news coverage skewing one way or another because there was rarely enough to form an opinion about. I do love the sports section, though.

Here at home, I’m a fan of USA Today, because I feel like its aspirations to be a national paper and its famous brevity combine to make it one of America’s more objective publications. USA Today is generally scorned by readers of more hefty papers like The New York Times, but, unlike that paper, it really is a pretty good bellwether for the country. (Of course, brevity does not guarantee objectivity. Down here in DC, commuters are treated to the free Washington Post Express paper, which manages to cram an incredible amount of spin into just a few brief paragraphs every day.)

In fact, I’ve long wondered: what it is the most objective news source in the country?

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:38 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)
BASEBALL: M V Vlad

If you look at the Win Shares numbers from the Hardball Times, you can see that the AL MVP race was, for all intents and purposes, a dead heat between the top five candidates, each of whom was worth approximately 10 wins to his team:

PlayerWin Shares
Gary Sheffield31
Alex Rodriguez30
Hideki Matsui30
Miguel Tejada30
Vladimir Guerrero29

In a race like that, the more intangible factors - that Guerrero's team was unusually dependent on him (unlike the big Yankee sluggers, who could feed off each other) and that he closed with a bang to push the Angels over the top in the AL West in September, are good reason to give Guerrero the benefit of the doubt. Specifically, in 12 September-October games against Oakland and Texas, Guerrero scored 13 runs, drove in 14, hit 8 home runs, and batted .478/1.087/.547. Interestingly, the "Win Shares Above Average" figures - comparing each player to an average player with similar playing time - give a slightly different picture:

PlayerWSAA
Gary Sheffield15
Johan Santana15
Alex Rodriguez12
Hideki Matsui12
Miguel Tejada12
Vladimir Guerrero12
David Ortiz12
Manny Ramirez11
Travis Hafner11
Erubiel Durazo10

This would seem to support breaking Sheffield away from the pack a bit, especially since I'm not sure that WSAA is a valid basis for a straight-line comparison of a starting pitcher to an everyday player. It's still close enough that I'd give Guerrero the benefit of the doubt, though. I'm particularly suspicious that WSAA seems to favor players with little or no defensive value. For what it's worth, the Baseball Prospectus (subscription only) rates Guerrero #1 in the AL by a fairly decisive margin by its "VORP" (Value Over Replacement Level) rating for position players:

PlayerVORP
Vladimir Guerrero93.2
Melvin Mora79.3
Ichiro Suzuki79.2
Miguel Tejada79.1
Travis Hafner74.1
David Ortiz73.1
Carlos Guillen71.3
Manny Ramirez70.0

I'm not sure I understand VORP, one of BP's famously intricate measurements, well enough to figure out (1) why Vlad takes such a leap forward by its calculations or (2) why all the Yankees take such a beating (the big three all clock in below 65, with Matsui down around 55). One thing Guerrero did very well this year was slash his usually high number of caught stealings (3 in 18 attempts, compared to an average of 13 in 37 attempts the prior four years); he also grounded into 19 DPs, down a bit on a per-at-bat level from prior years, by cutting his ground ball/fly ball ratio to a career low. These are little things, but the caught stealings in particular had been a quiet drag on Guerrero's production in the past, and Mike Scioscia should get some credit if he's the one who convinced Guerrero to run less.

Another random note: Guerrero's patience at the plate did not fall off as dramatically as it might have appeared; his intentional walks dropped to 14 from an average of 25 a year his last four years in Montreal, but his rate of unintentional walks/at bats was 6.2%, as compared to 7.5% those prior four years.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:00 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Closing the Chapter

Sad but encouraging news yesterday, as the Mets let Al Leiter go after a desultory attempt to re-sign him on the cheap. Leiter will be remembered well by Mets fans not only for quality pitching but also for being an all-around gritty, emotional guy who took his job seriously, bonded with the fans and was always accessible to the media. No game he pitched was bigger or better than the utterly dominating 2-hit shutout he threw at the Reds in a 1-game playoff for the Wild Card in 1999.

On the other hand, the team needs a new direction, and tossing overboard a 39-year-old who's been known to meddle in the GM's business is a must. Leiter was still very effective this season, but his durability is questionable - he's thrown less than 190 innings three of the last four years - and he's playing an unsustainable game by nibbling around the corners, walking more batters and striking out fewer:

YearBB/9K/9K/BB
20003.298.652.63
20012.216.823.09
20023.047.582.49
20034.686.921.48
20045.036.061.21

It's to Leiter's credit that he's managed the guile and guts to stay effective against such an evident pattern of declining ability, but he can't keep it up much longer. Let the Yankees have him back.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:59 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
November 16, 2004
POLITICS: Games of State

President Bush just introduced Condoleeza Rice as the new Secretary of State.

One question: Rice’s former deputy Stephen Hadley is taking over as the new National Security Advisor. Since one of the main jobs of that position is to coordinate between the often-contentious State and Defense Departments, won’t it be hard for Hadley to take sides against his former boss? While the conventional wisdom is that Rice replacing Powell will move the Bush Administration’s foreign policy to the right, I’m wondering if the interaction between Bush, Rice and Hadley will move the balance of power in Washington towards Foggy Bottom. Which may actually be a good thing, assuming – and it is a big assumption - that that Department has the President’s best interests in mind.

On the other hand, Rumsfeld might increasingly run rings around those two less experienced figures. We shall see.

More thoughts on all of this here, here and here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:01 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: France’s Nuanced Diplomacy

Speaking from formerly German-occupied territory, Jacques Chirac is again lecturing Tony Blair on the wisdom of taking sides against the United States in Iraq:

Britain gave its support but I did not see anything in return. I’m not sure it is in the nature of our American friends at the moment to return favours systematically.

He sputters on:

It is like that nice guy in America — what’s his name again? — who spoke about ‘old Europe’. It has no sense. It’s a lack of culture to imagine that. Imagining that there can be division between the British and French vision of Europe is as absurd as imagining that we are building Europe against the United States. [Emphasis added]

Yes, who could imagine that? If I was going to make up snooty, hypocritical and overly sensitive things for Chirac to be saying I don’t think I could do a better job. Hopefully, the British retain the good sense to remember why they’ve been suspicious of the French since the dawn of Western Civilization. And remind me: what exactly has France gained by working tirelessly to fray European relations with the United States?

(That is, except for stories like this and hearings like this.)

UPDATE: Despite the ever-infuriating Chirac, it is good to hear that the Bush Administration is still working with France. After all, we still have shared interests with that country and European thought, in general, is larger than just one man, regardless of the size of his ego.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Australian Arthur Chrenkoff has a nice history lesson about why Poland is increasingly siding with the U.S. over France.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:16 PM | War 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Exiting The Democrats

You have to take the national exit polls with a grain of salt, but it appears that this poll weights out to the correct result, and if so, a few things jump off the page:

1. Bush won white voters 58-41. He won white males by 25 points and white women by 11. Now, I know white people aren't exactly a cohesive group, and that there's something vaguely distasteful, even, about speaking of a "white vote". But if you're not even competitive with a demographic that constitutes 77% of the electorate, you got problems. Similarly, 81% of the electorate consists of Christians, and while the poll doesn't combine Protestant and Catholic, if my (rusty) algebra is correct, Christians voted for Bush by a margin of 57-42. At the cross-section of the two majority groups, 61% of the electorate is white Christians, and they broke 63-36 for Bush. Again, you can't afford to lose by that kind of margin with a majority voting bloc.

2. 49% of voters trusted Bush and not Kerry to fight terrorism, and those voters broke for Bush 97-3, such a decisive margin as to suggest that this issue was a deal-breaker for nearly half of all voters. In short, all else aside, Kerry was about 99% defeated just by the lack of voter trust in him as a war leader. This is supported by the fact that voters who trusted both candidates on terrorism broke for Kerry 75-24, while voters who trusted both candidates on the economy broke for Bush 61-38.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:41 AM | Politics 2004 • | Poll Analysis | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Steyn Offline

No, I don't know what's up with Mark Steyn, who's left a note up that "[f]or personal and family reasons, this website will be on hiatus for a while." Hopefully, all will be well and he'll be back writing again soon. Hey, the New York Times needs a new conservative . . .

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:37 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Power of the Blogs

Patrick Ruffini is back after a long "absence" running the Bush campaign blog. Ruffini notes something I had heard during the campaign: "Blogs for Bush, Power Line, Hugh Hewitt, PoliPundit, Captain Ed, Red State, Real Clear Politics and many more were religious reads at BC04."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:31 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: New Year, Same MVP

I can remember, back in the 1980s, when there used to be exciting and interesting arguments over the NL MVP Award - arguments about Gary Carter and Dale Murphy and Mike Schmidt and Pedro Guerrero and Andre Dawson and Ozzie Smith . . . these days, it's just the same old thing every year - Bonds, Bonds, Bonds. There really wasn't a way to deny him the award this season, not with an OBP over .600.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:23 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
November 15, 2004
BASEBALL: Blog 'Em and Leave 'Em

Jon Weisman has a great piece up on the longetivity and replaceability of baseball bloggers in light of the departures of Brian Gunn and Edward Cossette and the death of Doug Pappas. (Link via Pinto). Two thoughts:

1. At least bloggers go away when (and sometimes before) they run out of things to say; by contrast, professional sportswriting is chock full of people who repeat themselves endlessly and have lost the love of what they do, but keep going paycheck to paycheck.

2. My own focus on a variety of topics is what keeps me going here, in my fifth year doing this; I can always put down baseball for politics, politics for baseball, or go write about law or pop culture or just anything. It's liberating and helps alleviate the need to say something fresh about the same topic every day.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:18 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Democrats' Dilemma - Part I: Communications

Since everyone and his brother is giving advice to Democrats, I might as well put in my own two cents as to the features of the Democratic Party that (1) might, possibly, be subject to change and (2) could help the Democrats in the long run if they were changed. I realize a lot of this will read as a criticism of Democratic candidates, but these really are some of the things I've found frustrating about Democratic campaigns, and I suspect that they are also things that turn off voters who are open to persuasion by Democrats; take this for what it's worth. I'll break down my analysis into three parts: Communications, Personnel, and Policy. Let's start with the Communications issue:

1. Obfuscation is a defensive tactic, not a strategy:

Republicans from the mid-1960s down through today have tried to brand Democratic candidates as "liberals," as a way of summarizing attacks on a broad range of positions on crime, defense, taxes, spending, social issues, etc. GOP consultant Arthur Finkelstein became particularly well-known for this tactic, which can be very effective. There are basically four ways to respond to this tactic: (a) defend liberal positions on the merits; (b) pretend that the positions are not really liberal; (c) nominate candidates who do not take liberal positions; or (d) be evasive about the candidate's positions.

Following the spectacular failure of (a) in the 1984 presidential election (when Mondale openly advocated raising taxes, among other positions) and (b) in the 1988 presidential election (when Dukakis proclaimed "competence, not ideology" was at issue), the Democrats have had to choose between (c) and (d). While Bill Clinton had sporadic success with (c) (notably on crime and trade issues), the party's presidential and Senate candidates, at least - Clinton included - have increasingly leaned towards (d).

John Kerry is perhaps the pinnacle of this strategy, a man who got burned by the liberal label in his unsuccessful 1972 House race, and has spent the rest of his career dodging the label. He does so in two ways. One is to salt his record with votes that he can use to defend himself against charges of liberalism - which would be a convincing strategy if he actually took consistent positions on those issues, rather than a vote here or there, usually accompanied by his other tactic, weaselly disclaimers that leave you guessing as to where he actually stands. I dealt with this issue here and here. As I've noted, the Republicans have a time-tested counterattack when a Democrat does things like this to avoid taking clear and identifiable positions: call him a flip-flopper.

With each of the last three Democratic presidential candidates there has been endless speculation as to what they believe on a whole battery of issues, and while Clinton was able to eke out victories with this tactic, politicians without his unusual talents have had a much rougher go.

Now, let me make one thing clear: all politicians fudge, straddle, and flip-flop from time to time to create confusion in the public mind as to where they stand on issues. This is a useful tactic for a candidate who does not want to offend potential supporters on a particular issue, and I'm not suggesting that Democrats should avoid it altogether. But here we come to the Democrats' weakness: mistaking a useful tactic for a strategy. You can obfuscate some of your positions so as to emphasize others, and you can obfuscate on small issues so as to emphasize big ones. But once voters start to catch on to the idea that you are playing hide-the-ball on multiple major major issues, you are toast. The place of the Iraq War in the War on Terror was the most central issue at stake in this year's campaign, and nobody but maybe John Kerry himself believed that he had a single, clear and coherent position on the issue. That may have been, under the circumstances, a necessary compromise to keep his base from splitting in half, but it was death in Kerry's efforts to broaden his appeal beyond Bush-haters to people who wanted a leader they could depend on to know where he stands. And the problem hasn't been limited to presidential candidates either, as red-state Senate Democrats like Tom Daschle and Mary Landrieu have struggled to balance their moderate images at home with their fealty to liberal causes in Washington.

If the Dems are going to try to become a majority party, they need candidates who will get out there and lead on issues rather than fudging and trying to be all things to all people. It will require courage, discipline, avoidance of panic at temporary setbacks and the willingness to suffer bad press and risk losing some elections. Of course, this presupposes that their positions are actually capable of attracting popular support. But if the Democratic party has lost faith that its ideas can attract popular support, then this entire conversation is pointless. Isn't it worth a try?

2. Biography is not a substitute for policy:

This is a second and related example of the Democrats taking a tried-and-true campaign tactic and trying to pass it off as a strategy, and another one in which Kerry represents a nadir. Again, all candidates use their biography when possible to shore up both the strong and weak points in their images. But what we've seen increasingly from Democrats is efforts to use biography as a shield to cover the candidate's policy positions. Get asked about gun control? Don't talk about the issue - go hunting! Get asked about war? Talk about your service record!

Leave aside for now the debate over whether the tendency to do this is just a feature of recent Democratic candidates and consultants or whether it's driven by the party's devotion to identity politics. As a practical matter, there are two problems with this approach. First, voters aren't stupid; a dove with medals is still a dove, and a hunter who favors gun control is still in favor of gun control. Second, nobody has enough biography to cover every issue, and the need to have something personal to say on issue after issue is one of the roots of the exaggerations and resume-padding that got Gore and Kerry into so much trouble. Look at Bush and Cheney for a comparison: Bush's bio story is well-known, but he rarely tries to connect it to a particular policy debate, and Cheney only reluctantly talks about himself at all despite having a genuinely impressive up-by-the-bootstraps story.

3. Forget Vietnam:

This goes with the issue above - voters just keep on rejecting combat veterans who aren't right on policy. And I won't rehash the whole Kerry Vietnam story here. But it goes deeper: the constant references to Afghanistan and then Iraq as "quagmires," Ted Kennedy calling Iraq "George Bush's Vietnam" - don't Democratic politicians and their allies in the media realize how sick Americans are of hearing about Vietnam, and how dated their worldview sounds? If there's one rhetorical crutch the Dems need to drop, it's Vietnam.

4. Voters want to be spoken to as adults:

This one is mostly a matter of speaking style, although it's also an issue of substance: too many Democratic politicians (prime offenders include Gore, Gephardt and Hillary Clinton) talk to audiences like they are five years old. With the exception of Lamar Alexander I can't think of a Republican who does this. Again, Cheney is a good model to imitate on this point (not that anyone has to go to his extreme) - you can tell when he gives a speech that he's talking to you exactly as he would speak to a room full of senior advisers. That's respect, and even if voters don't put it into words, we appreciate it.

5. Don't believe what you read in the papers:

The Kerry campaign spent much of the year reacting to newspaper headlines and stories on broadcast networks. On a few occasions, they got burned by believing that anything reported there would be backed up by evidence and widely digested and believed. In fact, a lot of the rage on the Left at the notion of ignorant voters is an inability to comprehend that some people out there don't watch 60 Minutes and don't believe everything they read in the NY Times. Much as Democrats may wish to deny the idea of liberal media bias, eventually they have to accept that they can't just sit back and expect that the media will do their jobs for them and still produce a credible product.

6. Explain programs in terms of incentives:

Government programs are complicated; that's just the way they are. When Democrats propose changes to programs or new programs, they often wind up choosing one of three ways to talk about them: either they oversimplify and just tell us what they intend the program to accomplish without explaining how it will work, or they talk up how much more money they will spend, or they start reeling off complex, wonkish details that put everyone to sleep.

In fact, one reason that I suspect that domestic policy was the dog that didn't bark in this campaign was that John Kerry was never able to explain any of his policy proposals in a way that allowed people to understand them and compare them to President Bush's.

Democrats should look at how Bush explains his proposals and take a lesson. With programs like private Social Security accounts and Health Savings Accounts, what Bush focuses on is how the incentives in the program work in favor of the citizen. People instinctively understand, for example, that a shift to private ownership of funds will give them more control. Of course, one might argue that plans to, for example, impose direct or indirect price controls on medical drugs can not be explained in terms of incentives without revealing their fundamental flaws.

7. People don't like being called bigots:

The same-sex marriage flap is only the most recent manifestation of the tendency of pundits, bloggers, entertainers and the like on the Left - and to some extent politicians as well, notably John Kerry in his speech against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 - to refer to their opponents as driven solely by "bigotry and ignorance." This position is especially sharp with regard to same-sex marriage, since the pro-same-sex-marriage argument depends on the idea that there is no rational basis grounded in anything but irrational bigotry for anyone to want to treat traditional opposite-sex marriage any differently from same-sex unions. The problem, of course, is that - even leaving aside the rights and wrongs of the debate for the moment - people tend to get defensive when their lifelong beliefs, especially their deeply-held religious beliefs, are branded as irrational superstition and bigotry. It's not a strategy for winning hearts, minds, or votes, as the overwhelming rejection of same-sex marriage at the polls even in liberal Oregon showed.

8. Bloggers and pundits matter too:

On some of these points, notably the last one, I'm thinking as much about liberal bloggers, newspaper columnists, TV and radio personalities, and the like as I am about Democratic politicians. But one thing conservatives and Republicans have learned, sometimes to our grief, is that people look at the Right as a single entity, and tend to have trouble remembering what arguments they heard from President Bush and which ones they heard from Rush Limbaugh or Pat Robertson.

Put another way: for a lot of people, their most regular exposure to liberal ideas comes from the New York Times editorial page, or from Atrios, or from The Daily Show, or from CBS News. If those organs constantly blare the same theme - Bush is a liar and a draft dodger! - people will identify it with the voice of the Left. That doesn't mean people should feel totally inhibited, especially on blogs, but if commentators on the Left think that the recent spate of "Jesusland" bashing, especially from the Times columnists, has no impact on the public's view of Democrats, they are sadly mistaken. And, bloggers: remember, you may not have a huge audience, but your readers include people in Democratic Party circles, both in Washington and at the grass roots, as well as people in the media. You do have an influence on the debate, and don't think that you can push anger and bile all day and pound the table for agendas that are not likely to fly with voters, and then wonder why the candidates you support can't convincingly portray themselves as level-headed moderates, or why your party has a bad reputation on religious issues when you sneer constantly at people of faith. You want to shape opinion? You got it. Use it wisely.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:53 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
November 14, 2004
BLOG: Who The Hell is James Wolcott?

James Wolcott of Vanity Fair magazine refers to Glenn Reynolds as "[a] racist-t-shirt wearing professor of Creationism at Wayback University". (Reynolds fires back here). I confess that I don't have much of an idea who Wolcott is, other than this quickie tongue-in-cheek bio on his site and my generally dim view of the low journalistic standards of his magazine's political hit jobs in the last several years. But you could hardly ask for a more extreme example of East Coast snobbery than to have a "columnist on media and pop culture" dismissing a guy like Reynolds as a know-nothing flat-earther. I mean, I'm certainly no worshipper of credentials as the sole basis for valuing a man's opinions, but Wolcott appears to fancy himself to be, by definition, Reynolds' intellectual superior simply because Wolcott is published in a glossy New York magazine and Reynolds lives in Tennessee, ignoring the fact that Reynolds is - in addition to his prolific internet profile - a respected and extensively published tenured law professor with a degree from Yale Law School and some depth of expertise on a staggering array of subjects. What is sadder is that I suspect that that self-image is reinforced by nearly everyone Wolcott knows.

I wouldn't want to overgeneralize, but it's not hard to see from extended observation that there are, at a minimum, more than a few people in the media world who think precisely the way Wolcott does: that a man who has succeeded in getting paid to be a full-time journalist must have more brains and sophistication than the people who have carved out careers in other endeavors, no matter how much more educated or accomplished those people are. And, of course, that attitude is precisely how journalists often wind up making hilarious errors when they try to cover specialized areas like the law, the military, etc., where a little bit of consultation with people who actually do the stuff for a living could have set them straight.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:38 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
November 13, 2004
BLOG: Good One To Walk Away From

Jeff Quinton has photos of a car accident he was lucky to walk away from. Good reminder of the value of seatbelts.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:44 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Another Way To Help

If you're looking for a way to say "thanks" to our men and women in harm's way overseas, go here for more on the “Help Our Troops Call Home” program and donate prepaid calling cards. One of the best gifts that soldiers deployed overseas can use is the ability to call home and talk to their families.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:42 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 12, 2004
BLOG: Slow Week

No, I'm not suffering from blog-burnout or anything; just a busy week at work. Still lots to come on post-election analysis as well as the usual baseball stuff.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:40 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 11, 2004
POLITICS: Not a Bad W-L Record

In contrast to Kos, who as I and others have noted backed 15 Congressional candidates and they all lost, the Club for Growth had a pretty decent 19-14 record in Senate and House general election races this year, a record that looks better when you look at some of the longshots they backed (not that Kos didn't back a few longshots, but you'd think in 15 races he'd get one right).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:09 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Around the Horn 11/11/04

I haven't done a trip around the baseball blogosphere in a while; here we go:

*Brian Gunn hangs up his cleats at Redbird Nation. The Holy Cross sportswriting contingent loses one of its best, as Brian becomes yet another blogger to decide that blogging is just too all-consuming. It's a shame; the only problem with Brian's site was that, like Aaron Gleeman's writings, there were never enough hours in the day to read it all if you were reading other sites as well. Let's hope we see him back in print soon, but in the meantime, good luck.

*USS Mariner has a good rundown of dates to keep in mind this offseason, starting with today's opening of teams' ability to initiate formal talks with other teams' free agents.

*Mac Thomason on the Braves' free agents:

[J.D.] Drew was the Braves' best hitter this year, finding his health and having a career year in Atlanta. And it's his home state. Some players would take less to stay at home where they've found success. These players do not have Scott Boras as an agent. Drew will want an eight-figure salary and a long-term contract, one I find it unlikely that the Braves would give. . . . There's still the question of his health, which might drive the price down. But the market is thin in outfielders this year, and it seems likely to me that someone will indeed give Drew a long-term deal for more than $10 million a season. And that it won't be the Braves. . . .

*Speaking of Gleeman, lest I be accused again of ducking the issue, I send you to Aaron's explanation of why Derek Jeter - who was improved with the glove this year - did not deserve the Gold Glove.

*Jay Jaffe studies the Yankees' most recent cost-cutting moves, from declining options on Jon Lieber and Paul Quantrill to letting Fred Hickman (!) go, and concludes that the Yankees do, in fact, have limits to how much money they will spend. Me, I'll believe it when I see it. I think of the bumper sticker slogan used by supporters of New Jersey Senate candidate Bob Franks in 2000 against multi-millionaire Jon Corzine's self-financed campaign: "Make him spend it all, Bob." Make him spend it all, Omar and Theo and the rest. At the moment, however, it looks like a familiar process is starting whereby other teams are already getting scared off from bidding against the Yankees for Carlos Beltran while Yankee players woo him.

*Participate in Tangotiger's fan scouting survey of your home team!

*Jon Weisman discusses a Mike Piazza for Shawn Green rumor, which sounds like a really bad idea for the Mets; Green's not that young, plenty expensive, and appears to be damaged goods (he had a very disppointing 2004), and at that point you might as well just stick with the one who can get behind the plate. I can see why the Dodgers are desperate for catching help, though.

*I'm way late in linking to Wizbang, which sends you to the sad tale of how gambling wrecked Cecil Fielder. By the way, I've seen Fielder's house in Florida, and it is indeed gigantic; it's a sign of the guy's foolishness that he managed to lose the house, when part of the reason why rich people buy big mansions in Florida is because of legal protections against losing your house there if you file for bankruptcy.

*Finally, Will Carroll notes an irony for baseball-and-politics bloggers:

[Ever notice that] everyone says “get back to baseball” to me when we get “too” political, but that we get insanely long participative threads when we talk about anything except baseball?

Or is it just that everyone nods their head and says “Oh, dead on!” when I write about baseball?

Actually, the irony is this: most of the major baseball bloggers agree on the basic ideas they are promoting, there's a lot of agreement and civility among baseball bloggers, in contrast to the acrimony and the adversarial nature of political blogs. But one side effect of that is that it sometimes seems that baseball bloggers (other than David Pinto) don't link to each other enough precisely because we're not attacking each other. And I say that being as guilty of that as anybody.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:54 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Giving Thanks

Following up on yesterday’s thoughts, happy Veterans Day to all those who have so bravely served and defended our country through the years, whether in popular or less popular wars.

We owe much to all of them.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:51 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: New Day Dawning?

Daniel Drezner is soliciting views as to whether Yasser Arafat’s death will mean progress for Israeli-Palestinian negotiation. He also has similar thoughts to my own:

Assuming that Arafat's successor recognizes the futility of the second intifada, one wonders whether, to use a crude analogy, the Palestinians will be to Bush what the Soviets were to Reagan -- an implacable foe that was transformed into a near ally after a display of toughness on the U.S. side and a change in leadership on the other side.

Of course, this requires a Palestinian version of Gorbachev.

Who knows? But the U.S. should get involved again here without looking like it’s picking leaders for the Palestinians. In my view, this is an excellent area for the Bush Administration to reach out to Democrats. Bringing in some Clinton-era type, perhaps a George Mitchell, Kenneth Pollock or even Richard Holbrooke, might be a good move for all concerned parties. The broad outline of what a final agreement might look like has not tremendously changed since the Clinton era, the Bush Administration has just taken a firmer stand, mainly due to Arafat. With him gone, peace may be closer. Since the other apparent option is Palestinian civil war, let’s hope for the best.

UPDATE: I agree with Max Boot's assessment of Arafat:

There has been no more successful terrorist in the modern age. Yet his biggest victims were not Israelis. It was his own people who suffered the most. If Arafat had displayed the wisdom of a Gandhi or Mandela, he would long ago have presided over the establishment of a fully independent Palestine comprising all of the Gaza Strip, part of Jerusalem and at least 95% of the West Bank.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:50 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/POLITICS: McConnell for Chief Justice

The more I think about it, the more I have to agree with Stuart Buck that, if Chief Justice Rehnquist is the first Supreme Court Justice to step down, Michael McConnell would be the best choice to replace him. As Buck pointed out in an email, this People for the American Way brief against McConnell actually summarizes pretty well why pro-life conservatives should want him on the bench. McConnell is one of the most distinguished scholars in the federal judiciary, having for many years been a leading scholar and court advocate on Establishment Clause issues. He is well-regarded as well in academia as a man of even and judicious temperment, which is one reason why his nomination for the bench in 2001 attracted the broad support of even liberal academics like Laurence Tribe and Cass Sunstein. This is one reason why Senate Democrats, having seen how badly the filibuster issue hurt them in many elections in 2002 (as it did again this year), moved swiftly to drop the filibuster against McConnell, and he was approved by the Senate by voice vote on November 15, 2002. That issue will loom again for 2006, as five Democratic Senators face re-election in states Bush carried in 2004 (although two of those, Robert Byrd and Jeff Bingaman, are likely to be immune to public pressure). Surely, recognizing that a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee will be an unusually divisive and unpopular move - it's only been done once, in the case of Abe Fortas' elevation to Chief Justice, and then only on allegations of improprieties that eventually forced Fortas' resignation from the bench - the Dems may quietly be looking for an excuse not to filibuster the replacement for the conservative Rehnquist but instead save their fire for nominations to replace the moderate Sandra Day O'Connor or liberals John Paul Stevens or Ruth Bader Ginsburg, especially if the nomination comes up right on the heels of the election. McConnell would give them a good reason not to fight, and present major obstacles to having one.

Others who agree that McConnell would be a good choice:

*Michael Rappaport

*Eugene Volokh

*Stephen Bainbridge

*John Hinderaker (although the Deacon has his own suggestions)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:32 AM | Law 2002-04 • | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 10, 2004
WAR: No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy

Happy birthday wishes here and here to the U.S. Marine Corps. As usual, the Marines are on the front lines of battle, this time in Fallujah.

I feel thankful that they’re on our side.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:46 PM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 9, 2004
BASEBALL: Let's Play Hardball

The invaluable Hardball Times is launching sales of its first book today, the The Hardball Times 2004 Baseball Annual. You can read more about the book here and place an order here. Check it out.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:15 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 8, 2004
BASEBALL: Not Really Free

Jason Mastaitis looks at the compensation available for Mets free agents:

Type A: Richard Hidalgo, Al Leiter

Type B: Mike DeJean

Type C: Kris Benson, Ricky Bottalico

For a Type A player, the compensation is the signing team's first-round pick plus a supplemental first-rounder. For a Type B, it's the signing team's first-round choice. For a Type C, it's a supplemental second-rounder. However, if the signing team picks in the upper half of the first round, that choice is protected and it loses its second-round selection instead.

I'd mostly agree with his suggested dispositions, although I think I'd offer arbitration to Bottalico as well. Clearly, the Mets should be looking to keep Benson and get compensation for Leiter, unless Benson's demands are too high or Leiter's very low. I'm more hesitant to offer arbitration to Hidalgo, although he could yet be useful.

The full list of free agents by type, with asterisks denoting the guys who may still have a team or player option to exercise:

Type A Moises Alou (ChC), Wilson Alvarez (LA), *Tony Batista (Mon), Carlos Beltran (Hou), Adrian Beltre (LA), Armando Benitez (Fla), Jeromy Burnitz (Col), Orlando Cabrera (Bos), Miguel Cairo (NYY), Vinny Castilla (Col), Royce Clayton (Col), *Roger Clemens (Hou), Rheal Cormier (Phi), Carlos Delgado (Tor), J.D. Drew (Atl), Cal Eldred (StL), Steve Finley (LA), Nomar Garciaparra (ChC), Mark Grudzielanek (ChC), Chris Hammond (Oak), Dustin Hermanson (SF), Richard Hidalgo (NYM), Jeff Kent (Hou), Steve Kline (StL), Corey Koskie (Min), *Al Leiter (NYM), Esteban Loaiza (NYY), Derek Lowe (Bos), Matt Mantei (Ari), Edgar Martinez (Sea), Pedro Martinez (Bos), Mike Matheny (StL), Kent Mercker (ChC), Dan Miceli (Hou), Damian Miller (Oak), Kevin Millwood (Phi), Matt Morris (StL), Jeff Nelson (Tex), Magglio Ordonez (CWS), Russ Ortiz (Atl), Carl Pavano (Fla), Troy Percival (Ana), Odalis Perez (LA), Placido Polanco (Phi), Brad Radke (Min), Joe Randa (KC), Edgar Renteria (StL), Richie Sexson (Ari), Paul Shuey (LA), *Ugueth Urbina (Det), Jason Varitek (Bos), Omar Vizquel (Cle), David Wells (SD), *Woody Williams (StL), Scott Williamson (Bos), Jaret Wright (Atl).

Type B
Terry Adams (Bos), Antonio Alfonseca (Atl), Roberto Alomar (CWS), Rich Aurilia (SD), Danny Bautista (Ari), Dave Burba (SF), Chris Carpenter (StL), Matt Clement (ChC), Craig Counsell (Mil), Deivi Cruz (SF), *Mike DeJean (NYM), Elmer Dessens (LA), Brook Fordyce (TB), Chad Fox (Fla), Alex Gonzalez (SD), Juan Gonzalez (KC), Cristian Guzman (Min), Jose Hernandez (LA), Orlando Hernandez (NYY), Todd Jones (Phi), Barry Larkin (Cin), Curtis Leskanic (Bos), Cory Lidle (Phi), *Jon Lieber (NYY), Jose Lima (LA), Tino Martinez (TB), Brent Mayne (LA), *Jose Mesa (Phi), Doug Mirabelli (Bos), Greg Myers (Tor), Hideo Nomo (LA), John Olerud (NYY), Antonio Osuna (SD), Todd Pratt (Phi), Steve Reed (Col), *B.J. Surhoff (Bal), Jose Valentin (CWS), Robin Ventura (LA), Ron Villone (Sea), Todd Walker (ChC), Gabe White (Cin), Dan Wilson (Sea), Paul Wilson (Cin), Esteban Yan (Det), Eric Young (Tex), Gregg Zaun (Tor).

Type C
Sandy Alomar Jr. (CWS), Carlos Baerga (Ari), Kris Benson (NYM), Henry Blanco (Min), Ricky Bottalico (NYM), Jermaine Dye (Oak), Shawn Estes (Col), Julio Franco (Atl), Troy Glaus (Ana), Todd Greene (Col), Ben Grieve (ChC), John Halama (TB), Roberto Hernandez (Phi), *Todd Hollandsworth (ChC), Travis Lee (NYY), Al Levine (Det), *John Mabry (StL), Ramon Martinez (ChC), Jim Mecir (Oak), Eric Milton (Phi), Mike Redmond (Fla), Desi Relaford (KC), Rudy Seanez (Fla), Aaron Sele (Ana), Ismael Valdez (Fla), Todd Van Poppel (Cin), Bob Wickman (CWS), Tony Womack (StL).

Beltran, of course, is the big prize among the everyday players, as well as Ordonez. Either one would be a good acquisition; Beltran would be better, but Ordonez could come cheaper. Richie Sexson - who like Ordonez is coming off an injury - would also be a nice fit. As much as I like John Olerud and think his glove would be a big help, I don't see him having enough gas in his tank at the plate to be useful. Carlos Delgado is still a monster, but he'll be 33 next year and showed the first signs of decline this season; I'd stay away if I were a team as in need of youth as the Mets. Another guy who looks interesting on that list is Matt Clement; power pitchers have always had good fortunes at Shea.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:03 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Backman Out

Well, I admit I was wrong to say the Mets should have hired Wally Backman to manage, after the Diamondbacks fire him after discovering past arrests for DUI and domestic violence. Lesson for fans: sometimes, the insiders do know things we don't. Lesson for Arizona: do your background checks first. It's a shame, because Backman had the hallmarks of a successful manager. A lot of great managers have had off-field issues, of course, but it's just not acceptable anymore to look the other way at them.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:48 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
November 7, 2004
POLITICS: Where Bush's Swing Voters Came From

In this post, I examined the national popular vote and concluded that, comparing of the increased number of Bush voters from 2000 (about 8.66 million) and the increased number of Kerry voters as compared to Gore voters in 2000 (about 4.56 million), one of two things had happened - either:

1. Bush had won the votes of 65.5% of "new voters," defined as people who - regardless of whether they had voted in past elections - didn't vote for either Bush or Gore in 2000; or

2. Bush had won less than 65.5% of such voters but had stolen away so many Gore voters (even over and above Nader voters who switched to Kerry) that he could approximate the same effect.

As more poll data comes in, I'm more convinced now by some of the commenters to the prior post who argued that it was more the latter than the former, and that the Gore voter switch is particularly pronounced when you consider the likelihood that most of Nader's voters from 2000 went over to Kerry. (I heard someone on TV claim that exit polls showed Bush won 10% of Gore voters). This is a conclusion that should cause ABC's The Note great embarrassment for its now-famous declaration, back on August 11, that "we still can't find a single American who voted for Al Gore in 2000 who is planning to vote for George Bush in 2004."

I calculated the 65.5% "marginal votes" figure by applying the following formula to the national popular vote:

((Bush 2004 votes) - (Bush 2000 votes))/(((Kerry 2004 votes) - (Gore 2000 votes)) + ((Bush 2004 votes) - (Bush 2000 votes)))

As noted, Bush won an additional 8.66 million Republican votes, whereas Kerry won something on the order of 4.56 million additional Democratic votes. I computed these figures by ignoring third-party candidates, figuring that people Kerry won over who had voted Nader last time are, in many ways, equivalent to bringing new people into the process, and by comparing the official FEC tabulations from 2000 and the latest running tallies so far. I would caution that the 2004 figures are still moving targets; returns are coming in daily. The 65.5% figure, for example, is down to 64.5% as of Friday, and may go up or down as more absentee and provisional ballots are tabulated in various states.

Anyway, I thought I'd take a state-by-state look to see where it was, precisely, that all of those 8.66 million new Bush voters came from. The numbers that follow were computed Friday, November 5, following the call of Iowa, the last contested state, for President Bush. It's a particularly interesting question for me, as a New York City Republican listening to my fellow New Yorkers rage at what they saw as the provincialism of the red-staters who gave Bush his victory (See here and here for examples): where was it that all these extra Bush votes came from? What state led the charge to Bush?

New York

That's right, New York. The single largest percentage of marginal voters swinging to Bush came among the benighted, provincial, knuckle-draggin', Bible-thumpin', troglodytes of the Empire State itself. New York was one of only three states in the Union (along with Rhode Island and Alabama) to see an increase in Bush votes and a decrease in Kerry votes as compared to Gore, and the only one in which the decrease was significant. Bush gained nearly 400,000 additional votes in New York while Kerry lost more than 120,000 - a swing of nearly half a million votes. That swing, by the way, all but eliminated Gore's 540,000 advantage in the national popular vote all by itself. Before New Yorkers fume at Bush voters in the South and the Great Plains states they should look around at their neighbors and ask themselves how many of them have been strangely quiet about this election.

It wasn't just New York, of course; the fourth-largest marginal swing was New Jersey, and Bush won over 80% of the marginal votes in Connecticut. Can you say, "September 11"? And, come to think of it - when you combine those states with the nearly 1 million new Bush votes in Florida - there may have been another factor at work in 2000, much noted in the media at the time and much ignored in the media this time: Joe-mentum. Without the presence of the first Jew on a national ticket, Kerry may not have had the same oomph in states with a large Jewish population ("Where have you gone, Joe Lieberman, your party turns its lonely eyes to you . . . ") Of course, these are basically Democratic states, so Bush still didn't win them. But he won over a lot of people here in the past four years, and that showed in the final tallies.

I list the states in order of the percentage of the marginal vote won by Bush:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:18 PM | Politics 2004 • | Poll Analysis | Comments (8) | TrackBack (1)
LAW: Monkeying Around With History

Following up on a comment from this David Brooks op-ed, Jim Lindgren at the Volokh Conspiracy makes a good point about the 1925 "Scopes monkey trial” and how it is selectively remembered. (Via Instapundit).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:42 PM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 6, 2004
POLITICS: The Insincerest Form Of Criticism

Instapundit links to a post-election item from one of the Daily Kos contributors containing this charming bit:

Marching order #1, therefore, is this: No matter whom you talk to outside our circles, begin to perpetuate the (false, exaggerated) notion that George Bush's victory was built not merely on values issues, but gay marriage specifically. If you feel a need to broaden it slightly, try depicting the GOP as a majority party synonymous with gay-haters, warmongers and country-clubbers. Because I, for one, am tired of hearing whiny complaints from conservatives that, not only do I not have values, but that I fail to properly respect the values of people who are all too happy to buy into, no less perpetuate, inaccurate caricatures of the 54+ million Americans who voted Tuesday for John Kerry.

Criticizing the GOP ain't gonna build us a new national majority. But the process is brick by brick, or perhaps, brickbat by brickbat. We didn't decide the rules of engagement, but that's what they are and so we may as well start firing away.

I have heard this attitude many times, and it always seems to come from the Left. Not from everyone, mind you, but the people it does come from . . . let's back up a bit here: we all know that many people on the Right and on the Left regard some or all of the other side as liars, cheaters, etc. in their conduct of elections and political debate. Leaving aside for the sake of argument who's right about this and in what ways, it can be very frustrating to fight against people you regard as fighting dirty and cheating.

I've read or been party to plenty of bitter wallows after election defeats, from widespread debacles in 1989, 1990, 1992, 1996 and 1998 to more localized issues like Hillary Clinton's senate win in 2000. I've seen plenty of examples of conservatives looking for ways to stop lies, election fraud and other sorts of wrongdoing by Democrats. I've seen conservatives willing to hoist Democrats by their own petards, most notably with the Independent Counsel statute and with he-said-she-said sexual harrassment claims (Paula Jones as revenge for Anita Hill). And yes, I've seen conservatives argue points that were just not true.

But I have never seen anybody on the Right argue that we ought to knowingly spread untruths or create false impressions to win political arguments. What's disturbing about a lot of the reactions from people in the Left's fever swamps and sometimes even in more mainstream venues is the notion that Democrats ought to imitate precisely those facets of Republican tactics that they profess to find offensive. What's particularly damaging is the desire to imitate the GOP without really understanding why Republicans do the things we do and why they are effective, which is how you get what amounts to cargo-cult operations like Media Matters, which purports to be a complement to conservative outlets that decry media bias but instead spends most of its time just taking potshots at conservative pundits.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:49 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR/LAW: 11/6/04 Links

*Now, They Tell Us: the lead story on the NY Times website yesterday was one that veterans of the 1992 election will find familiar: the discovery, all of a sudden, that the jobs picture is better than it was painted in the run-up to the election. I'm watching carefully for signs of economic revisionism where Democrats and Bush Administration critics who just a few days ago were comparing this economy to the Great Depression start arguing that Bush was hard to beat because economic times are good.

*Kos just topped the "screw 'em" classic, by openly hoping for America's defeat in Iraq:

The big silver lining, and it's significant, is that Kerry won't be tarred for cleaning up Bush's mess. Had Kerry gotten us out of Iraq, he would've been blamed for "losing the war". Now Bush will ineptly lose it for himself.

Kos is taken firmly to task for this by Greg Djejerian:

[S]uch flippant treatment of a major national security issue is also very small; and the American people have smelled this smallness out. That's part of the reason a somewhat embattled American president, with a less than ideal economy and with a tough war on his hands, was handily re-elected (I believe not since FDR has a President been re-elected while simultaneously gaining seats for his party in both Houses of Congress). Americans like to dream of big projects and goals--and the Democratic party is failing them in this--content instead to lazily carp from the sidelines. Worse, some of that party's activists, it too often appears, would wish for some important, declared national objectives to be scuttled. Trust me, that wasn't a winning strategy in the past, it isn't one right now, and it won't be one in the future.

Kos is undoubtedly particularly peeved at the failure of his personal ambition to become a power player in the Democratic party, as all 15 of the House and Senate candidates he backed lost. The list, here, is particularly funny now due to the misspellings and egregious cheap shots, like claiming Jim Bunning's mental health was deteriorating. (Link via Blogs for Bush)

*Speaking of Blogs for Bush, the site will continue in a new format, although it's unclear to me how its function will differ from that of RedState.

*Catch Mark Steyn in something close to full gloat mode here and here. I liked this one:

Michael Mooronification damages everyone who gets it.

Look at the recently resurrected Osama bin Laden. Three years ago he was Mr Jihad, demanding the restoration of the caliphate, the return of Andalucia, the conversion of every infidel to Islam, the imposition of sharia and an end to fornication, homosexuality and alcoholic beverages. In his latest video he sounds like some elderly Berkeley sociology student making lame jokes about Halliburton and Bush reading My Pet Goat.

*Speaking of gloating, while I might divide the group differently, I endorse the general sentiment of John Derbyshire as to the people who deserve to be gloated at and those who don't.

*From November 2: Best Jimmy Breslin column ever.

*Lileks on New Yorkers who are aghast at the supposed ignorance of the red states that voted for Bush:

It's a big country. Please take this in the spirit it's offered: we watch the news that comes from New York, read the magazines that come from New York, see the shows that come from New York. It's entirely possible we know you better than you know us. Nu?

*Tim Blair links to some classic inside stuff from the Bush and Kerry camps. The guy who comes off in this as the real political brains isn't Karl Rove but Bush himself - note that Bush figured out before Rove did that Howard Dean was toast in the primaries. Of course, this is consistent with the theory that Bush's expertise is knowing people, and he knew Dean personally.

*Stuart Buck thinks - and I agree with him - that Justices Rehnquist and O'Connor would have retired before the election if it were not for the legitimacy questions that people raised after Bush v. Gore.

*Where credit is due: Wretchard notes that "[t]he French may have performed a valuable service by admitting Arafat to a military hospital in Europe which will reduce the risk of imputing his death to Jewish poisoning, a rumor that has already made the rounds in the Middle East."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:35 AM | Law 2002-04 • | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: The Final Countdown

If you’re looking for a nice break from politics or sports, you may want to check out the teaser trailer for what may be the final "Star Wars" movie. Hint: it prominently features both Alec Guinness and the voice of James Earl Jones.

I thought it was pretty neat.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:30 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 5, 2004
BASEBALL: Meet the Nats, Greet the Nats…

I thought I had deleted this old post, but it looks like I was ahead of the curve for once. DC’s major league team will reportedly be called the Washington Nationals:

Nationals was the primary name of Washington's first American League franchise from 1905 to 1957, a period that included a 1924 World Series title. At several points during that long stretch, however, Senators was used as an alternate nickname.

(Via The Corner).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:26 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Unsolicited Advice to Democrats

Looking at Slate yesterday, it was unsurprising to see a characteristically Democratic “why do they hate us” debate ongoing among its liberal writers. Two things struck me about this. On one hand, things aren’t quite as bad for the Democrats as a lot of us are assuming. A few more votes in a few of the swing states and we might be talking right now about what’s wrong with the Republican Party. However, on the other hand, this election did turn out to be, in the end, a profound disaster for the Democrats and, as someone who definitely leans Republican, even I am a little bit concerned about the degree to which one party currently has control of our government. So what should the Democrats do? At risk of being greeted with hostility, here is some unsolicited, yet sincere, advice for the minority party for the years leading up to 2008:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:23 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
November 4, 2004
POLITICS: Marginal Votes For Bush

Here's something I think is really, really interesting, as long as you understand that the methodology isn't so much science as a rough way of measuring the impact of something that might be more accurately measured if you had accurate exit polls. Turnout was up across the country, such that Bush got more votes everywhere than he did in 2000, and Kerry got more votes everywhere than Gore did in 2000 (except California in each case, as far as I can tell, although there may be a bunch of absentee ballots yet to count).

The conventional wisdom was that increased turnout would help Democrats. If this were true, one would expect that, at least in contested states, the marginal voters would break for Kerry - i.e., that when you subtract out the 2000 returns from each side, what's left should lean Kerry. This would be true unless Bush moved so many Gore voters to his column (above and beyond the number of 2000 Bush voters who abandoned him) to negate the benefits of new Kerry-leaning voters. (My own suspicion is that, in general, the people who voted last time and switched sides were close to a wash, although they likely broke for Bush in some places like NJ where he lost decisively last time but closed the gap significantly).

But if you run the calculations of marginal votes, what you get is Bush majorities in the marginal numbers in a lot of places. In some states by big margins - in Connecticut, for example, Bush wins about 88% of the marginal vote. Ohio was an exception, but Bush takes 48% there, enough to hold a state he won by a few points last time. Of course, in New Hampshire, which he lost, he drops to 43%.

I'll run a state-by-state table of these later on when we're closer to having final tallies (including absentees) to provide a good comparison. But let's at least run the table on the national popular vote. Here's the equation I used:

((Bush 2004 votes) - (Bush 2000 votes))/(((Kerry 2004 votes) - (Gore 2000 votes)) + ((Bush 2004 votes) - (Bush 2000 votes)))

For these purposes, I ignored third-party candidates, since people Kerry won over who had voted Nader last time are, in many ways, equivalent to bringing new people into the process. Looking at the official FEC tabulations from 2000 and the latest tallies so far, I get the following:

Bush 2000Bush 2004Bush +Gore 2000Kerry 2004Kerry +Bush Share of Increase
50,456,00259,117,5238,661,52150,999,89755,557,5844,557,68765.5%

When you put the numbers in that context, you see that Bush was actually hugely more successful at the margins in his combination of bringing new voters to the polls and convincing more people to switch to him than away from him. Remember that next time you hear that high turnout always and everywhere favors the Democrats.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:38 AM | Politics 2004 • | Poll Analysis | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Paint The Map Red

Will Collier has the county-by-county map.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:20 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Believe The Polls

By now you've heard a lot about how the partial exit polls that leaked out during the day on Election Day across the internet were skewed to an almost absurd pro-Kerry extent, and you've seen how pro-Democrat pollster John Zogby's final results were the same way just before the election (he projected more than 300 electoral votes for Kerry).

But the state-by-state polls actually weren't all that far off if you knew how to read them. Personally, I was relying on two reliable sources down the stretch: Daly Thoughts and RealClearPolitics, both of which came out with the same Election Day prediction of 296 electoral votes for Bush. Assuming that nothing overturns Bush's lead in Iowa, which looks like the last state not definitively called, Dales and RCP will have each gotten 49 of 50 states right, missing only Wisconsin, which Kerry held on to by the narrowest of margins.

In fact, RCP's national poll average showed a fairly steady lead for Bush throughout the fall, so anyone who put their faith in the RCP guys knew what was likely to happen. Media reports to the contrary were mostly based on cherry-picking pro-Kerry polls and/or on the assumption that new voter turnout would moot all the old polling models. Dales in particular should be explaining over the next few weeks why that was a bad idea (Kaus got in the best cheap shot yet: "Bush 51, Kerry 48: Pollster Ruy Teixeira demands that these raw numbers be weighted to reflect party I.D.!")

Mark Steyn often argues that liberal media bias is a Republican's best friend, as Election Day is the only time that Democrats are forced out of the self-serving illusions given them by the media and compelled to face reality. On this one, he seems to have been right; the evidence was there in the polls, but people who were reading Zogby and the various media outlets that trumpeted a late Kerry surge missed it. Glad I was reading guys who could tell me the score.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:19 AM | Politics 2004 • | Poll Analysis | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Message

We'll see more from exit polls and the like, although one of the ironies of this election is that the exit polls were so wrong about the result, yet they will still be used to break out who voted for who and why. Makes you wonder.

Anyway, here's my best guess on the message of this election as it pertains to the issues (more later on the candidates and the campaigns):

1. The War on Terror: Polls regularly showed that people are split on the war in Iraq, with many Americans having misgivings on the reasons for going there and our progress in winning the war. Ultimately, nothing succeeds like success; I'm confident that in time, we'll have enough tangible progress to get more public acceptance.

But Democratic hopes that unease about the war would sink Bush turned out to be largely unfounded. Even if people weren't so sure they supported the Iraq war, it was clear throughout the campaign that they trusted Bush and his team to carry the broader war through to victory, or at least as far as they could get in four more years. To some people, that may sound irrational: if you don't trust Bush on Iraq, why trust him at all? But most people, I think, understand that the president knows more than they do about any particular foreign controversy; they are perfectly capable of doubting the Iraq war based on what they know, and yet resting comfortably with the more general sense that Bush has proven himself to be a guy who's not going to take potential threats sitting down.

One of the criticisms that has sometimes been made by Democrats is that Bush politicized the war. If they mean simply that Bush sought political profit from his leadership in wartime and his handling of the time of crisis after September 11, well, that's politics; do these people not remember Oklahoma City, or the 1944 election for that matter? But that's not it; what really rankles is not that Bush scored political points off of having handled some uncontroversial things well. What rankles is that Bush found electoral advantages in 2002 and 2004 from the Democrats' own differences of opinion with his policies. As if it was noble of Democrats to attack the president's policies at all turns in the harshest of possible terms and seek to undermine them in Congress, and yet somehow improper for the president to point out these differences to the American people and ask them to decide which side of these various controversies they trusted.

This is the great dilemma for Democrats. Democrats have a set of beliefs about domestic politics (more later on this), and many of them feel cheated in some sense that foreign policy swamped those issues in the campaign. But at the same time, a large segment of Democrats remain harshly critical of the president's foreign policies. A Tony Blair/Joe Lieberman-type Democrat who doesn't put daylight between himself and Republicans on foreign policy and national security issues would make it nearly impossible to politicize those issues and remove deep divisions in our politics. If Democrats are going to bemoan the prominence of national security in our politics, they need to decide: are they willing to go along with Republican policies and attitudes that are popular, at least in broad outline, with the public? If they are, the security issue can be neutralized. If not, then they will have to accept the natural consequences of their own ideas.

2. The Economy: Some Republicans will argue that the president's economic policies have been blessed by the electorate. I'm not sure I'd go that far. Polls seemed to indicate, again, a generally divided view, with Kerry sometimes having advantages on the economy. But it is clear that voters found Bush's economic management at least sufficiently unobjectionable that bread-and-butter issues didn't overwhelm the rest of his message, even in hard-hit places like Ohio and Michigan (Bush did better in Michigan than in 2004). And, of course, there's no question that Bush's fealty to his tax cut pledges helped him hold his base, and that - as in 2004 - a number of House and Senate races went Republican after being fought on economic issues.

3. Social Issues and the Courts: Here, I believe there is a mandate, if one that Republicans need to interpret carefully. Republicans up and down the ticket did exceptionally well with rural and other socially conservative voters, and Karl Rove's prediction that he could bring out millions of evangelical Christian voters who didn't vote in 2000 proved prophetic. Polls regularly showed that voters preferred Bush over Kerry in picking judges, and it's now already conventional wisdom that the same-sex marriage issue played disastrously for Democrats in the heartland. With the Senate now up to 55 Republicans, Bush will be amply justified in appointing conservative judges and in pushing to get through the appellate judges who are already stalled. If Bush is really devious, he could respond to the next Supreme Court vacancy by appointing Miguel Estrada and daring Democrats to complain about his lack of judicial experience after they spent years keeping him off the bench.

But the posture of the same-sex marriage issue should also serve as a reminder: America is a progressive country and a conservative country, and politicians forget one of the two parts of that formula at their peril. Progressive, in the sense that there is a broad, general acceptance of social change. People may fight about particular changes in our society and grumble and groan about the decay of everything, but at a fundamental level, the public is willing to accept that attitudes about race, gender roles, sexual behavior and the like do change over time, and the society changes accordingly. Certainly, efforts to use government to forcibly hold back such changes in attitude almost always result in political setbacks. Bill Bennett had this to say yesterday:

President Bush now has a mandate to affect policy that will promote a more decent society, through both politics and law. His supporters want that, and have given him a mandate in their popular and electoral votes to see to it. Now is the time to begin our long, national cultural renewal . . .

With all due respect to Bennett - much as I'm sure he and I agree on many values issues - that's not going to work. But if it's important to recognize the progressive nature of social change, it's at least equally important to recognize the conservative impulse as well: people who may be willing to be persuaded to change their minds about things - or who may give way in time to people with different opinions - may not be so enthused about court decisions that take away from the people the development of that process and tie it up in a constitutional straitjacket. In some cases, that straitjacket can actually reverse the direction of the progressive impulse (as any social change can be reversed over time if attitudes change); pro-lifers are optimistic that, if anything, the absolutism of pro-abortion groups like NARAL and their allies in the courts have succeeded in provoking a general trend towards more rather than less disapproval of abortion. If such a trend grows visibly over time, eventually there will not be popular support for candidates like Kerry who swear to appoint judges with a pro-Roe v. Wade litmus test. This election could wind up being seen in retrospect as such a turning point, as Bush (like Reagan) got a larger share of the popular vote than avowedly pro-abortion candidates like Kerry, Gore, Clinton, Dukakis and Mondale ever did.

People like Kevin Drum keep telling us that times are a-changing and eventually, issues that favor conservatives will go away. But this dichotomy will never go away, no matter what the particular issue. Liberals are forever trying to use the courts to short-cut or entirely avoid the process of persuading people on social issues, and that will continue to be a self-defeating tendency no matter what the specific issue at hand. As long as conservatives focus their energies on appointing judges who will leave most such issues in the hands of the people and don't try to make major social changes of their own before their time, social issues will remain a bulwark of conservatism.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:42 AM | Politics 2004 • | Poll Analysis | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Meet The Met

I hadn't planned on getting back to baseball this week, but of course I can't ignore the Mets' hiring of Willie Randolph as manager.

Of course, first impressions of a first-time manager can be misleading or pointless. On the positive side, Randolph has been with a lot of winning teams and was a smart player himself; he seems like a level-headed, even-keeled guy; he's not the same old retread; and the Mets apparently are not paying him all that much money. On the negative side, he seems a bit too much like Art Howe, there's probably a reason why Randolph has been turned down for so many managerial jobs in the past (although it's true that the "you must interview a minority" rule means Randolph has been interviewed for a lot of jobs where the team already had someone else in mind), and he does continue the sense of the Mets as the second-class organization in town.

Time will tell. I would have preferred Wally Backman myself.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:54 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 3, 2004
POLITICS: Kerry Concedes

It is being reported that Senator Kerry has conceded to President Bush and that both men agreed on the need to reunite the country.

Kerry reportedly will be speaking at 1 PM in Boston. Bush will probably speak later today.

UPDATE: It is very interesting, and quite heartening, to hear how much respect Bush and Kerry apparently have for one another. I got the sense in 2000 that Bush and Gore really could not stand one another, something subsequent events have only seemed to reinforce.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jim Geraghty has a classy salute to Tom Daschle that I completely endorse.

FINAL UPDATE: My take on today’s speeches: I thought Edwards was trying to rally Democratic spirits, but came off all wrong, a little too partisan for the occasion. Kerry was very good, striking just the right tone and doing his best to heal the bitterness of a too-long campaign. Like Gore at the very end in 2000, I'm not a fan of the guy, but it was hard not to feel for him and his supporters (well, most of them). Cheney was Cheney, with a deadpan crack about having “delivered” Wyoming for the ticket. Bush seemed very gracious and relieved. The President proceeded to give a very nice speech about looking forward, serving all Americans and about what he hopes to accomplish. In all, a peaceful and honorable democratic transition all around.

If you’re depressed, Daniel Drezner has some encouraging words for moderates who voted for Kerry.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:29 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: 2004: The Morning After

I stayed up until Edwards spoke at 2:30 (after being announced as "the next vice president of the United States"), so I'm just too spent this morning to do the full what-it-all-means post, or even to fully absorb the meaning of Kerry's refusal so far to concede. My gut tells me that Kerry's refusal to call it last night was only fair, given the traumatic 2000 experience for his party and given how close this one was in the Electoral College, although it's rather sad to see the tradition of Election Night concession speeches fade away. But I would hope he buries the hatchet by the end of today; fishing for an extra 500 votes when you have a popular vote plurality at your back is one thing, but going to war for 146,000 votes is quite another, and with Bush having won a decisive majority of the national popular vote, I suspect the public would run out of patience for a fight that lasts more than another day or so. The Democrats never got closure on the last election because the leader of their party never looked them in the eye and said, "we lost fair and square, it's over" the way the loser of every election had before. Kerry surely must be able to appreciate, particularly with the passions that election and the war have stirred up, why it will be crucially important to the peace of the nation going forward to do that soon.

My feeling this morning is mostly one of overwhelming relief. We got through the election without a terrorist attack, meaning the last thing Al Qaeda might have been holding back something for has passed. Not that they are done, but there was no other reason to wait other than lack of capacity to strike. And the election went well. The Commander-in-Chief will stay at the helm, and we will have the opportunity to carry his strategy through for another four years. The Senate will be more Republican, as we steel for a likely Supreme Court battle and maybe several.

For historical perspective, not only has Bush won a majority of the popular vote for the first time since 1988, but his 51% of the vote is larger than any Democrat has won, other than FDR (who did it four times) and LBJ in 1964, since the Republican party ran its first national election in 1856 (Jimmy Carter in 1976 is the only other Democrat to muster a majority in that period, and then it was 50% in the wake of Watergate). The Republican party remains a majority party at the national level, having won popular majorities now 7 times to the Democrats' two since 1945. It is, of course, particularly satisfying, on an emotional level, to see Bush win a larger share of the vote than Clinton ever did.

On the coverage last night, I was flipping channels continuously. CBS was actually the fastest network to call states early, but only FOX and NBC called Ohio for Bush, and at last check nobody was willing to say 270; it's safe to say that some of the networks just couldn't quite bring themselves to call a winner until the other side had conceded defeat. I do think FOX had the best coverage, for two reasons. First, FOX had the best ticker, packing in useful information on popular vote totals along with the percentages and share reporting for all the major races. Some of the others left out the raw numbers. Second, FOX had the incomparable Michael Barone, whose encyclopedic understanding of every battleground state down to the precinct level gave FOX viewers a decisive informational advantage in digesting the returns from hotly contested states like Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida.

Furthest-out line of the night, besides some of Dan Rather's Ratherisms, had to be Joe Scarborough discussing why statewide and nationwide elected officials like hurricanes in Florida.

Anyway, I'm tired and I need to get back to work. I'll be back on my usual early-morning blogging schedule wrapping up the election the next two days, and then I'll be resuming baseball coverage next week. I'll also be taking down some of the election-related bells and whistles on the site over the next several days.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:43 AM | Politics 2004 • | Poll Analysis | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
November 2, 2004
POLITICS: It Stays Early Late Around Here

I'm done blogging for the night, having done little enough anyway. I may even try to go to bed if it looks like this will drag on all night.

Still no blue states red and no red states blue. And the networks are quivering in fear of calling Florida, which looks very solid for Bush. The bad news is that it looks at the moment like Bush may need to hold Ohio because he's not gaining ground in any blue state, plus Nevada is tight and NH a slight Kerry lead, eroding further Bush's margin for error.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:42 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: It's A Trap!

An amusing but almost certainly daft Rove-is-a-genius theory.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:31 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Holding Pattern

Very little blood drawn yet, in the sense of either side losing anything they'd had much realistic hope of winning. The calls so far that are at all interesting:

R: Win WV, Win Senate races for Tom Coburn, Jim DeMint, Mitch Daniels wins IN gov, defeat Amendment 36 in CO.

D: Win NJ.

Like I said, not a lott of blood drawn as of 9:53 pm. And Isakson and Obama won.

UPDATE (10:17 pm): NBC calling Arkansas for Bush. Another mild heartburn extinguished.

But everything I'm hearing seems to augur well for Bush in Florida, and Florida is the key state. (This sounds particularly good for Bush in FL).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:51 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Kerry Cavalry Not Coming?

At almost 8pm, everyone on both sides is dying of anxiety right now. But this one sounds good for Bush:

AP also found that 18-24 year olds broke for Kerry by +15 ... but didn't turn out in any greater numbers this year than in 2000. So much for Rock the Vote.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:59 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Advantage Mainstream Media

Blogosphere's been in over-bandwidth meltdown. I haven't blogged in hours and have been trapped in Tech Support Hell with Dell since 4:30.

Having the ability to support a lot of traffic turns out to be a Big Deal on Election Night.

UPDATE (8:45 pm): Gave up on the laptop, I had downloaded some bad software from Microsoft that the laptop told me to take. Bad idea. Will be blogging only when I can run downstairs from the TV.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:34 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Sites I'm Watching

Command Post 2004 page

NRO Kerry Spot

NRO Battlegrounders

Instapundit

Jay Cost

Vodkapundit

And checking in on a few others, but those are the ones to watch.

Will I be in the right-wing coccoon to some extent? Well, Election Day is one day you want the news - even and especially the bad news - from your friends. Besides, there's always the TV.

UPDATE: I'd pass along some of the cautions you'll see elsewhere: I'm trying not to get too excited about anecdotal reports about turnout, fragmentary exit polls, and the like. And that particularly includes voter fraud and similar shenanigans - while my two biggest concerns about this election have been litigation and fraud, I'm hoping as much as possible to keep from thinking about them. Remember that initial reports of any kind of fraud or irregularities coming out on Election Day are likely to be wrong, much the way that initial reports from a war zone (or anywhere else where there's a lot of people, a lot of fast-moving activity and news reports rely on eyewitnesses and hearsay) tend to get a lot of the details wrong. There should hopefully be enough diligent people on hand to record the facts almost anywhere things get dicey.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:29 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Big Day

I voted absentee and took the day off because I had planned on volunteering for the Bush campaign, but I never got a response back despite several attempts; I'm not sure if that means the campaign has enough lawyers, or what. Anyway, I'm home much of the day, although I've been running errands and dealing with work stuff anyway so far. But I'll be chasing the same fragmentary bits of information as everyone else and I'll post as I get the chance.

Two links to start off:

*Rasmussen's final tracking poll showed Bush surging to over 50% for what is, I believe, the first time all year. No time like today!

*The Brothers Judd on Kurds in Iraq keeping their fingers crossed for a Bush victory.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:20 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Go to Hell, Bin Laden

My vote is in.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:27 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Most Precious Freedom

A few weeks back, discussing Afghanistan’s first democratic election in its history, I trotted out a favorite quote from Churchill. In honor of today’s election at home, it seems appropriate to bring it out again:

At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man, walking into the little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper.

For the slightly more cynical, here is another:

Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.

I believe that America is the greatest country in the world, not because Americans are inherently any better than others, but because we were blessed with the very best constitutional foundation in the world. Today, from Afghanistan to Indonesia to Ukraine to Iraq, democracy is, with our help, increasingly on the rise and the sphere of representative governments continues to expand every year. We should be thankful to live in a country that not just practices democracy, but is willing to sacrifice to promote and defend it.

Whatever the outcome of today’s election, I sincerely hope that never changes.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:34 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 1, 2004
POLITICS: The Optimists' Club

Latest from the most credible of the GOP optimists:

Jay Cost's final predictions.

Jim Geraghty's conversations with his highly-placed Republican insider and the insider's mentor.

I can't tell you what these are worth, but their arguments have been a principal source of my optimism. Are they spinning, or deluding themselves? We'll know soon enough.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:28 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Caminiti Died of Drug Overdose

I've been on a break from baseball news about these parts; I'll be looking to refocus on my post-season wrapups after the election. One item of note: a medical examiner's report has attributed Ken Caminiti's death to a cocaine overdose. Of course, the contrubuting causes - "[c]oronary artery disease and an enlarged heart" - can't entirely be separated from Caminiti's other problems, including steroids, but it would seem that the major culprit here was drugs of a non-performance-enhancing nature.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:43 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Last Call

Well, I've put my faith all year in Dales as the best of the poll-watchers. Now, it's put up or shut up time. He's currently showing states solidly behind the two candidates at 222-186 for Bush, 276-238 for Bush - game, set, match - if the candidates each take the states where they are leading only by a little, and just two states (Ohio and Hawaii) too close to call. Electoral-vote.com has Kerry 298, Bush 231, coming to different conclusions (all in Kerry's favor) on Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, and Hawaii, with the sole call more in the Bush direction being New Hampshire, listed with New Mexico as the only tossups.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:28 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Strong Incumbents, Strong Challengers

Looking at the RealClearPolitics 3-way polling averages, 11 out of 12 have Bush with between 47 and 51% of the vote, and 8 of 12 have Kerry with between 47 and 49% of the vote. The latest Rasmussen tracking polls are consistent as well, showing Bush leading 47.9-47.1, 48.1-47.1, and 48.8-47.4 over the past three days (the most recent listed last). Which means, essentially, that we have both an incumbent and a challenger who have a fairly solid base of support entering the last two days of the campaign. I think most of us will agree that it is highly likely that Bush will poll at least 47% on Election Day, and equally highly likely that Kerry will poll at least 46% and probably at least 47% - thus, at least a decently close election remains likely, although we could still have a decisive popular-vote majority and/or an Electoral College landslide.

Recognizing the limits of historical analogies, what can we determine from this? I decided to take a look at the final election results for elections dating back to 1824, when they started keeping records of the popular vote. There have been 25 elections in that period in which an incumbent has stood for re-election; 16 have been re-elected, 9 have been voted out of office.

Strong Incumbents, Weak Incumbents
Obviously, a strong incumbent - if we define a "strong" candidate as one who finishes with at least 47% of the vote - is likely to be re-elected. How likely? All 16 who were re-elected had at least 47%, while only two incumbents who polled at least 47% were voted out, those being Ford in 1976 with 48% of the vote and Grover Cleveland in 1888, who won the popular vote with 48.6% and was voted down (if you want to quibble with my line-drawing - and I had to draw it somewhere - the one incumbent in the 46% range, Martin van Buren at 46.8% in 1840, went down to defeat). The only three presidents to be re-elected with below 50% were Harry Truman in 1948 (49.4%), Woodrow Wilson in 1916 (49.2%) and Bill Clinton in 1996 (49.2%).

What's interesting - and, in fact, what shows the limitations of historical analogies - is how few incumbents have lost races without a complete collapse in their support. Besides Ford, the other four incumbents to lose since 1900 got completely abandoned at the polls: Carter in 1980 got 41%, Hoover in 1928 got 39.6%, Bush Sr. in 1992 got 37.4%, and Taft in 1912 got 23.2% and finished third. Besides Cleveland and van Buren, the other two 19th century incumbents to lose also showed weakly, in both cases against candidates who beat them in the popular vote four years earlier: Benjamin Harrison drew just 43% in his 1892 rematch with Cleveland, and John Quincy Adams drew just 43.6% in his 1828 rematch with Andrew Jackson.

The average margin of victory for successful incumbents? 54.9 to 41.1 overall and 54.9 to 40.9 since 1900. The average margin of victory for successful challengers? 49.5 to 41.2 overall, and 48.5 to 37.8 since 1900.

Strong Challengers, Weak Challengers
The flip side is when, as this year, we have a strong challenger: six candidates have drawn at least 47% of the popular vote against an incumbent president, and all of them have won. Of those, only one drew less than 50% of the vote: Benjamin Harrison in 1888 with 47.8%.

Strong Incumbents, Strong Challengers
You can see where this is heading. In the five presidential elections in which an incumbent and a challenger were separated by 5 points or less, the incumbent won two (Truman in 1948 and Wilson in 1916); the challenger won three, Carter defeating Ford in 1976 and the two Cleveland-Harrison matches in 1888 and 1892; or, that's a two-to-one advantage since 1900. Not much you can learn there either way. For what it's worth, the average outcome was 47.6% for the incumbent and 47% for the challenger, or 48.9% for the incumbent and 47% for the challenger since 1900.

If you look at matchups of a strong challenger against a strong incumbent, there's only two historical precedents, both of them bad for the incumbent: 1888 and 1976.

Conclusion
Well, it should be pretty clear from all this that the history isn't all that enlightening; there's really only five campaigns out of 25, and maybe really only two, that give us any examples to study. But I do think the history is a useful caution about reading too much into the study of, for example, how late-deciding voters make their minds up. The fact is, the 1976 campaign is the only one in the last 50 years to look anything like this one, and the polling data from 1976 don't exactly support the notion that voters facing a choice between a strong incumbent and a strong challenger will swarm to the challenger at the end, as Ford's strength came from a late surge after never pulling better than 45% until the final poll of the election, when he pulled briefly ahead at 49-48 with a momentary surge that quickly subsided (link via this analysis). And Ford, you may recall, was a bit of a unique incumbent: he had never been on a national ticket before, and was running on a record of the first election after Watergate and the fall of South Vietnam.

In other words: tomorrow, history leaves us on our own. It's our job to make it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:00 PM | Politics 2004 • | Poll Analysis | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Virtues of Not Voting

Will Collier passes on a wise lecture from Jeff Greenfield on why you shouldn't vote if you really can't make up your mind.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:07 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Tom Daschle's Neighborhood

How popular is Bush in South Dakota, the state where Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle is fighting for his political life after four years of efforts to undermine and denounce Bush at every turn? Popular enough that Democratic Representative Stephanie Herseth felt the need to pledge that if the Electoral College ends in a 269-269 tie, she would vote to re-elect Bush.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:27 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Drum Declares Victory

Leave aside the fact that Kevin Drum is obviously living in a different universe from people like Steyn when it comes to the election; that, after all, will be settled at the polls in the next 36 hours. But this post, arguing that this election - win or lose - spells the death of movement conservatism, is just daft. First of all, the idea that Republicans are on the brink of agreeing that it's a good idea to raise taxes is . . . well, I can't even find a principle so central to the Democratic party to compare it to. A Republican Party that believes in higher taxes would be, in short order, a recipe for a one-party state.

It's true, as Drum has said in the past, that Republicans' failure to even try a large-scale attack on government spending shows the difficulty of a frontal assault on spending, although I think it's equally true that the war and Bush's personality have as much to do with that as anything, and I'm on record saying the GOP will be looking for a spending hawk to nominate in 2008 no matter what happens here.

It's particularly hilarious to hear Drum claim that this election is being held in "the most favorable environment imaginable for a conservative tough guy." Well, if Drum is prepared to agree that the economy is booming and the Iraq War is going seamlessly - heck, even I wouldn't go quite that far on either score, and I'm pretty optimistic on both counts - I'll believe him. Talk about reversing your own spin when it's convenient to do so.

As I've said before, if Kerry wins - even if, as I suspect is his only realistic path to victory, he wins by keeping it close enough to be decided by fraud and/or litigation - it will be seen, and rightly so, mainly as a decisive popular rejection of the Iraq War. This is doubly true if - as I also think is likely even in a Kerry-wins scenario - Kerry wins in spite of Bush getting a very impressive turnout by his base and a more-than-respectable share of non-first-time independent voters, each of which would suggest that the appeal of the Republican message as a whole remains in the general 50/50 neighborhood.

My own predictions, for what they're worth, later today.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:22 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Putting His Chips Down

Mark Steyn's latest Spectator column is vintage Steyn, albeit a bit less laugh-out-loud than usual (and I like the new Spectator layout, for what it's worth, although you can't see it in the printer-friendly format). Steyn concludes by assuring his British audience that if he's wrong they can get a new analyst of the American scene:

My sense is that the 2002 model is still operative, and that the Democrats and the media, talking to each other in their mutually self-deluding cocoon, have overplayed the Bush-bashing. Next Tuesday the President will win the states he won last time, plus Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Maine’s Second Congressional District to put him up to 301 electoral votes. Minnesota? Why not? Nudge him up to 311 electoral votes. Oh, and what the hell, give him Hawaii: that’s 315. The Republicans will make a net gain of two seats in the Senate, one of which will bring with it the scalp of the Democrats’ leader, Tom Daschle. . . . Look for a handful of Republican House gains, too. And Democrats tearing their hair out — or John Kerry’s and John Edwards’s hair, if they can penetrate the styling gel.

The above prediction needs to be able to withstand Democrat fraud, which I’m nervous about. If Tuesday goes off as smoothly as the Afghan election, we’ll be very lucky.

Usually after making wild predictions I confidently toss my job on the line and say, if they don’t pan out, I’m outta here. I’ve done that a couple of times this campaign season — over Wes Clark (remember him?) — but it almost goes without saying in these circumstances. Were America to elect John Kerry president, it would be seen around the world as a repudiation not just of Bush and of Iraq but of the broader war. It would be a declaration by the people of American unexceptionalism — that they are a slightly butcher Belgium; they would be signing on to the wisdom of conventional transnationalism. Having failed to read correctly the mood of my own backyard, I could hardly continue to pass myself off as a plausible interpreter of the great geopolitical forces at play. Obviously that doesn’t bother a lot of chaps in this line of work — Sir Simon Jenkins, Robert ‘Mister Robert’ Fisk, etc., — and no doubt I could breeze through the next four years doing ketchup riffs on Teresa Heinz Kerry, but I feel a period of sober reflection far from the scene would be appropriate. My faith in the persuasive powers of journalism would be shattered; maybe it would be time to try something else — organising coups in Africa, like the alleged Sir Mark Thatcher is alleged to have allegedly done; maybe abseiling down the walls of the Presidential palace and garroting the guards personally.

But I don’t think it will come to that. This is the 9/11 election, a choice between pushing on or retreating to the polite fictions of September 10. I bet on reality.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:05 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Final Pre-Election Kerry War Position Update

Greyhawk, who I believe is still blogging from the front in Iraq, has the details, and a memorable empty throne (via Lileks, who has some as-always-worth-reading thoughts of his own on how Kerry plans to find bin Laden).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:55 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
PATRIOT GAMES: Globe Radio

Our Iraq-based Red Sox correspondent, "Andy Tollhaus" just emailed to let me know he'll be on the radio - I didn't get what station but it's the Boston Globe's radio show - with Mike Barnicle, Dan Shaughnessy and Charlie Sennott at 10:50 a.m. EST this morning.

UPDATE: 96.9 FM Boston, maybe? That's Barnicle's show.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:15 AM | Patriot Games | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Why I Voted For George W. Bush

As I mentioned, I voted absentee already, and proudly cast my ballot for George W. Bush. If you've been reading this site the past 2+ years, you already know why, and I have neither time nor space here to go through all the reasons. So, I'll just summarize the top three. For a compare and contrast, you can look back at why I voted for McCain over Bush in 2000.

1. The War on Terror: By far the overarching issue in this election is the war. Put simply, Kerry could get me killed. Having been targeted for murder once before on September 11, and given that I still work a few blocks from Times Square, that's something I take rather seriously.

I've written too much about Bush, his leadership and his strategy to recount here, but let's just say this: from the time that he grabbed that bullhorn at Ground Zero to vow that we would be heard from, Bush has gotten it. My philosophy in the war on terror is aptly summarized by the Churchill quote I use as a tagline to the site; the full quote:

Germany must be beaten; Germany must feel that she is beaten. No compromise with the main purpose, no peace till victory, no pact with unrepentant wrong.

Does Bush apply a similar philosophy to the war on terror? I believe he does, and his willingness to absorb endless abuse and wavering support from the public and from some of our allies is, in a wartime leader, a sign of the kind of constancy we desperately need. Bush knows what he wants to do, and he will not be deterred until it is done.

Which brings us to the contrast with his opponent. Can you even begin to picture Kerry insisting that the war on terror does not end until our enemies feel that they are beaten, that it ends only on our terms and at a time of our choosing, that we will not and should not believe we have peace until we have victory? I can't. Not with Kerry's history, not with how he has conducted himself in this campaign. And, of course, Kerry's long history of shifting course with the winds, too well known and extensive to be worth rehashing here, does not inspire confidence in his ability to stay single-mindedly focused on a coherent strategy in the face of obstacles, setbacks and criticism. (For more on Bush's and Kerry's differences as leaders, see here and here).

Even aside from the issue of the two candidates' fundamental differences in philosophy and temperment, there is the question of strategy, which is why this election - which frankly everyone recognizes is a referendum on that strategy - is so critical. Kerry has tried, at every opportunity, to attack Bush on tactics. But even if you agree with some of Kerry's tactical criticisms (which I discussed here), the larger issue is that Kerry rejects the overall strategy of the Bush Administration in fighting the war on terror (including the place of the Iraq war in that strategy), and has not advanced a credible alternative strategy or even convinced me that he would have one other than a return to the do-not-enough policies of the Clinton era. Consider the major strategic doctrines of this administration - each of which I wholeheartedly endorse (see Steven den Beste for more on the grand strategy; the Bush Administration thus far has stuck rather closely by the detailed vision surmised by den Beste) - and how little faith Kerry has in them:

A. The United States is pursuing a "forward strategy of freedom" by which it seeks to encourage reform and/or directly undermine or overthrow undemocratic regimes and replace them with more democratic regimes. Kerry went out of his way in the debates and at the Democratic Convention to avoid saying anything complementary about democracy promotion as a key weapon against tyranny; instead, just as in his dealings with Communist regimes in the 1970s-1980s (think: Daniel Ortega) and his statements about Arafat and Aristede in more recent years, Kerry has shown a disturbing degree of deference to existing regimes that are recognized as legitimate by the international community, no matter how little their legitimacy derives from the consent of their people and no matter how hostile they are to the United States, its allies and its interests. When he does talk about democracy, Kerry says things like this:

"We must support human rights groups, independent media, and labor unions dedicated to building a democratic culture from the grassroots up."

Labor unions???? In countries with huge pools of unemployed young men and no skilled labor? And that's how you propose to topple the region's tyrants? By getting them to join the AFL-CIO? Independent media and human rights groups do have a role to play, assuming they don't get co-opted into carping mostly about the tyrant's enemies (as so many did with Saddam), but most of the region's regimes need stronger medicine than that.

B. States that sponsor, harbor, or encourage terrorists are as culpable as the terrorists and will be treated as enemies; states with past connections to terrorists must be either with us or against us. Kerry, again, seems more concerned with making sure that we are on the sides of our allies than the other way around, and is profoundly allergic to incurring the anger of allies if it is necessary to get people to do what we want. (See here on why I think Kerry is saying he would not have gone to war with Iraq).

C. The United States reserves the right to launch a pre-emptive strike against our enemies when we believe they represent a serious and developing threat to our security, whether or not we have established that the threat is imminent. (As announced, I don't think this doctrine extends to threats to our interests, but more narrowly to direct threats to our physical security). Kerry, as I have discussed, takes a narrower view of when and how we can respond to threats.

(For more on Kerry's overall foreign policy outlook, see here, here, here, here, here, here and here).

On whether Kerry can effectively rally the nation to finish the job in Iraq no matter what the obstacles, just ask yourself: you work for a big company, and a new guy gets appointed CEO after a protracted power struggle. Do you really want to get assigned to a project that the new CEO, all the way through his climb up the ladder, has savaged as a diversion, a waste of money, and precisely the opposite of the direction the company should be going in?

I didn't think so.

Finally, and of grossly underestimated significance in this election season, there's the signal a Kerry victory would send to the world. As I noted recently, when you try to strip Kerry's message down to soundbites - which is how a president's message gets translated to the rest of the world - it can't be seen as anything but a message of retreat and retrenchment and a popular repudiation of Bush's aggressive defense of American interests. Kerry would need to labor long and hard, at great cost in life and treasure, to correct that impression even if he was totally dedicated to doing so. (More on Kerry's credibility and the message a Kerry victory would send here and here).

2. The Courts: I tend to focus my concerns, on the domestic side, first and foremost on those areas where the president's polices, once in place, are most difficult to change. Nothing has a longer-lasting impact than Supreme Court nominations. One reason for the rising temperature of the last three presidential and last five Senate election cycles is that activists on each side have, on each occasion, steeled for battle over the next Supreme Court nomination on a narrowly divided Court, and each time we've gone another two/four years with nothing happening. That can't hold forever, with a couple of Justices past 80 and several suffering major health problems.

As a practicing litigator, I see the many ways in which the composition of the courts affects the progress of litigation and its effects, direct and indirect, on society. And although it's not an ironclad rule, it's true in most cases that conservative judges, even when they err, wind up leaving things in a position that can be changed by the voters; liberal judges tend, when in doubt, to constititionalize more issues in a way that gradually narrows the scope of democratic accountability and control. That's an ominous development.

3. Social Security: The biggest long-term issue in the federal budget is entitlements. Bush took a step backward on that issue when he fulfilled his campaign promise to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. But in his second term, Bush will be looking for a domestic legacy, and he recognizes the importance of changing the fundamental operation of Social Security as the key to his long-range view of an "ownership society" in which individuals have ownership and control over more aspects of their lives. And Bush is a guy who gets things done. (More on the larger themes at stake here). I look forward to the debate on this issue after the election (see here for a key point on the transition-cost issue); if Kerry wins, of course, nothing will change in the way the government does business.

Conclusion: There are many other issues at stake here, and many reasons I have not discussed. But on the biggest of the big things - leadership, determination and strategy at war, the role of the courts in our society, and the long-term structure of the entitlement programs that consume the largest share of the federal budget - the choice of Bush over Kerry is clear. May the right man win; I cast my vote for him already, and hope you do too.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:05 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL/POLITICS: From the Frozen Tundra of Lambert Field

Brett Favre has apparently joined the Bush camp. Not a big surprise, but that?s good news for Republicans in Wisconsin, since Favre is easily more popular there than either of the two candidates this year.

(By the way, if you don?t get the headline above, you're obviously not following the campaign obsessively enough! See here.)

UPDATE: There is now some doubt about that earlier report. Maybe someone in Wisconsin could confirm or deny?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:33 AM | Football • | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Why Others Are Supporting Bush

ELECTION EVE UPDATE: This is my final update to this post, which you may or may not find to be a useful resource. May the best man win.

Well, I’ve more or less said my piece about who I’m supporting this year, offering one of the least-coveted endorsements of the season here. The following are just a few of those who seem to agree...

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:30 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)