Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
December 31, 2004
BLOG: Turning Over A New Leaf

As I've done in the past, I'm creating brand-new categories for the new year. You'll now go to Baseball 2005 for new baseball entries, Politics 2005 for new politics entries, War 2005 for new war entries, and Law 2005 for new law entries (the Law category hadn't needed an overhaul last year). I'll shortly be updating the link to baseball-only posts at the top of the page as well to send you to Baseball 2005.

Happy New Year!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:18 PM | Baseball 2004 • | Baseball 2005 • | Blog 2002-05 • | Law 2002-04 • | Law 2005 • | Politics 2004 • | Politics 2005 • | War 2004 • | War 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Bust Cycle

For many years, the number of original prime-time TV programs (i.e., shows with actors and a script), or at least the number of hours of original prime-time TV programming, was basically fixed. There were three networks, and after the collapse of prime-time game shows in the 1950s, only a few hours of prime time were set aside for movies, newsmagazines, Monday Night Football, and other non-scripted programs like Candid Camera and That's Incredible! The main variable in the number of shows was how many 1-hour dramas would be on vs. how many half-hour sitcoms.

That started to change in the mid/late-1980s, with the arrival of the FOX network as the first credible fourth network. Over the following decade or so, the supply of original programming exploded, with a fifth and sixth network (The WB and UPN), as well as original programming on pay cable (HBO, Showtime) and basic cable (USA Network, Comedy Central).

Of course, expansion of the supply of shows can only mean one of two things on the supply end - expansion of the supply of good writers and good ideas, or dilution of quality. Rather obviously, it has meant the latter. Worse yet, I suspect that what results is less a sharp division between good ideas written well and bad ideas written poorly, but fewer shows being able to sustain a core of good writers, as writing talent gets dispersed more widely. And writing talent is the key variable: there's always more good actors and actresses than there are well-written TV shows and films for them to populate (it's far more common to see good actors struggling to save bad material than the other way around).

The other inevitable consequence of increased supply is that, in the absence of increased demand - and the evidence is that with the rise of movie rentals and the internet and the proliferation of other entertainment options, overall demand for original TV programs has dropped - the increased supply will be chasing a smaller and smaller audience.

The consequences of this should have been obvious, and they are being manifested today. "Reality TV" may be a fad as far as TV viewers are concerned. To network execs, though, reality shows, expanded newsmagazine lineups, and prime time game shows are a rational response of substituting cheap-to-produce substitutes (reality shows, with few writers, essentially volunteer casts, and often poor production values, are famously cheap). Another consequence is that networks are taking a harder line with replacement-level actors and actresses - witness ABC's attempt to save "The Practice" before its final season by firing everyone on the show who made decent money (i.e., everyone but the ugly people), or CSI's abrupt firing of two cast members (later re-hired) who wanted more money. Even USA took a hard line with Bitty Schram, now-former co-star of "Monk." "Frasier" went off the air in large part because its cast was so expensive.

Of course, it's not an anomaly that, in such an environment, as in the movie business or in pro sports, the elite who can guarantee big ratings get an even bigger salary - like Ray Romano, who's both a star and writer of his own show, or James Gandolfini on The Sopranos. But the overall dynamic of network TV is unmistakable: with more players and a shrinking pie, networks in the future will allot fewer prime-time hours to original programming, and will spend less money on all but the biggest stars of those programs.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:03 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
December 30, 2004
BLOG: Where To Help

If you haven't already, check out the Command Post's list of links to donate to relief for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:00 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Check, Please

David Pinto notes the $85 million bill the Yankees have to cough up between the luxury tax ($25 million) and revenue sharing ($60 million). Ouch. Still, considering their free agent and Big Unit pursuits this offseason, it's hard to say that's put a crimp in the Yankees' budget. But you have to wonder how many more Giambi-sized mistakes they can eat before the team's behavior is affected (assuming they can't get out of contracts, as they may with Giambi).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:53 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Small World, Part XVIII

Lileks complains today, in the course of discussing the Nick Coleman-Powerline dustup, about "the inability of Police Chief Tony Bouza’s police department make law-abiding citizens feel as though they had the momentum" in Minneapolis some years back. I don't have anything to add to that except that my dad knew Bouza from his NYPD days (he also knows plenty of people who knew Bernard Kerik at the NYPD, and who had a rather low opinion of Kerik, for what it's worth).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:39 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Line of Duty

Yes, according to New Jersey workmen's compensation law, as construed by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, getting hurt while going out to dinner at your boss' insistence is a work-related injury.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:36 PM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: I'm Back

I'm still testing this out, but it looks like the upgrade on the blog is about done. More to follow.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:22 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Post Upgrade Test

test

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
December 27, 2004
POLITICS: How It's Done

This Powerline item is a classic fisking (link via Instapundit).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:22 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
HISTORY: Thought for the Day

"I have long since learned that a man may give offense and yet succeed."

--John Adams, on diplomacy (in a letter to Congress from the Netherlands defending his decision to press aggressively for Ducth support in the American Revolution, against charges of, among other things, having offended the French)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:53 PM | History | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 25, 2004
PATRIOT GAMES: Not Just A Fantasy

Eighth in a series of reflections on sports by "Andy Tollhaus," an Army officer currently serving in Iraq.

Thursday, December 23, 2004
FOB Speicher, Iraq

The Red Sox have been World Champions of the World for almost two months. I just keep visualizing Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling reenacting that scene from the end of Top Gun. You know… the one where Maverick and Ice Man make up and say, “You can be my wingman anytime!” Only this time, they’re on a baseball diamond in St. Louis instead of on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Indian Ocean. “Petey, you’re still dangerous, but you can be my Ace anytime!” “BS, Curt! You can be mine!”

Ah… if it were only that simple. As it turns out, Pedro would never offer to be the number two starter…anywhere. Oh well… all that really matters is the first sentence I wrote.

Since October, I’ve spent a lot of time realizing that other sports actually do exist. There have been plenty of other sports to follow, sometimes whether you like it or not. Mike Ferlazzo, the satin jacket hater from Long Island, jokingly got upset with himself for knowing that Ty Willingham had been fired. He prides himself in not following sports, but around here, you really can’t help it. Since sports are almost always on TV in the Dining Facility, people who never cared about basketball now know that Ron Artest is producing an R&B album and Peyton Manning has a little brother playing in New York.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:37 AM | Patriot Games | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 23, 2004
BLOG: Merry Christmas!

I'll be out-of-blog until after Christmas. Enjoy the holidays, everyone!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:55 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Miller to Mueller to Millar

Theo strikes again, signing Wade Miller.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:23 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Self-Esteem

Instapundit:

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN has an article on exploding the self-esteem myth. Bottom lines: "Boosting people's sense of self-worth has become a national preoccupation. Yet surprisingly, research shows that such efforts are of little value in fostering academic progress or preventing undesirable behavior." This isn't a big surprise. The Insta-Wife has noted for years that inflated self-esteem is often associated with negative behavior among teenagers, while teens with low self-esteem often behave well.

(Emphasis added). This is one of those so-obvious-they-shouldn't-have-to-study-it points. Let me ask you this - take two 16-year old boys, one of whom does well in school, but is scrawny, has lots of acne, and is unpopular with girls (I speak from personal experience here); the other is a big, good-looking guy who's successful in sports, has lots of sex, and is barely passing his classes. Which one do you think has higher self-esteem, really? Anyone who's remotely familiar with teenagers should be able to tell you that teen self-esteem tends to be closely tied to whether they are on the giving or receiving end of various types of social ostracism and abuse, while perhaps the best of academic motivators among teenage boys, at least, is the desire to have a better life later than one's crummy existence as a teenager.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:17 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Please Stand By

Yes, I'm aware that the comments section is plagued by many of the same error messages I've been getting whenever I try to post over the past week or so. For what it's worth, if anyone out there has had a similar issue, here's the error message:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:42 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: For The Rest of Us

It is inevitable that the Supreme Court will eventually be required to determine the constitutional status of the Festivus Pole.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:28 PM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 22, 2004
BASEBALL: Tooling Around

Mac Thomason rips Baseball America a new one over its preference for toolsy high-upside prospects over guys who have less upside but more likelihood of developing into useful contributors. I'm woefuly deficient in following the minor leagues myself, so I can't judge who's right on the particular prospects in question, but Mac's point is worth considering.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:46 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Armers' Market

Perhaps the most striking feature of this baseball offseason, coming during an era when effective starting pitching would seem to be in short supply, is the large number of starting pitchers with substantial track records - many of them quite successful in recent years - who have gone on the market. I'm probably missing someone here, but I count 30 starters - 20% of the starting jobs in the big leagues, and more than that as a proportion of guys with any kind of major league track record - who have either been traded or been free agents this off season (this is counting free agents who re-signed or, like Roger Clemens, are now committed to one team, as well as guys in the Randy Johnson deal who were publicly traded before the deal fell through). Of course, with so many pitchers available, it behooves buyers in this market not to overpay out of a concern for scarcity. To make sense of the available options, it's therefore useful to look at them as a group.

In the past, I've found "established performance levels" to be a useful way to organize information about a player's record, including my continuing "Established Win Shares Levels" studies. In that spirit, here are the established performance levels, Win Shares included, for those 30 pitchers, ranked by ERA+ (which I computed as a weighted average); I listed "U" next to the team for guys who are still unclaimed:

AgePitcherTeamWLERAGGSIPH/9HR/9BB/9K/9ERA+EWSL
41RJohnsonAZ14112.8529292047.190.821.8910.6916419
33PMartinezNYM1673.123131203.27.490.772.339.8116318
29THudsonATL1473.123131213.28.510.512.225.5114720
42RClemensHOU1763.503232207.17.790.803.018.8612717
32BRadkeMIN1283.9732322009.711.091.165.4812015
39ALeiterFLA1293.533131180.27.970.844.556.6512011
27MMulderSTL1783.893030209.18.680.902.755.9912016
28WMillerU1193.712323133.28.010.913.907.711199
28JVazquezNYY13114.1333332148.581.282.407.7811716
29CPavanoNYY14103.683330200.29.100.782.175.7911614
29JaWrightNYY964.293417114.29.100.713.807.701167
28OdPerezU1093.613131196.28.421.182.006.2611511
30MClementBOS11123.823131191.27.551.023.718.8211411
27BPennyLA11103.762727158.18.790.912.816.651119
32DLoweU16104.573333195.19.750.703.115.0811011
42DWellsBOS1483.8831312039.631.021.074.7510912
38WWilliamsSD1383.913029185.18.930.892.506.2810810
31RuOrtizAZ1793.943434208.18.170.854.566.2210613
34EDessensLA574.424120140.210.311.212.735.741057
35JLieberPHI854.211717111.210.771.010.895.281057
31MRedmanPIT12124.263131192.29.411.022.935.5810310
30GRuschCHC584.653220140.210.130.872.836.361016
30MMorrisSTL1494.203030193.18.941.252.406.241009
32RaOrtizCIN1094.573323160.19.581.402.885.58988
29EMiltonU1054.682323134.28.811.752.866.88956
30KBensonNYM9104.522626156.29.690.872.925.90946
31KIshiiLA1284.382929160.28.031.075.626.72936
32PWilsonCIN984.552929179.19.841.302.985.42927
33CLidlePHI11135.013332201.29.631.092.545.30897
31IValdezU1195.20302815610.541.642.423.82865

Of course, this chart is just past performance; it doesn't show the severe injury risks associated with a large number of these guys, most notably Pedro and Brad Penny . . . Just a few more quick thoughts for now:

*You can clearly see that the Mets overpayed for Kris Benson. While I'm not a fan of Benson, I wasn't opposed to re-signing him, which seemed like a necessary move to avoid opening a hole in the rotation. But it's now clear that there were many other available alternatives of comparable quality, and the Mets should have relied on that to avoid overpaying and, if necessary, sign or trade for someone else.

*The difficulty of sustaining a serious workload in this day and age is apparent from the fact that only Hudson and Vazquez have been able to establish a level of 210 or more innings over the last three-year period.

*Context matters: Carl Pavano's numbers look better than those of Vazquez because he was pitching in a friendlier evironment last year. Derek Lowe's ERAs are actually better than those of David Wells, when you adjust for Fenway.

*Matt Clement is indeed a useful pitcher, and his power would have made him especially valuable to the Mets, but the guy does have weaknesses (mainly walks) that will be exposed at Fenway.

*I continue to think that Billy Beane will be vindicated in his decision to deal Mark Mulder now rather than later as far as Mulder's declining performance and uncertain health/durability is concerned - but that doesn't justify the trade, because it doesn't look like Beane got enough value in return. Good strategy, bad tactics. The same applies to a lesser extent to the Hudson deal.

*Matt Morris' performance no longer lives up to his reputation.

*Somebody could still really make a quiet impact on their rotation by snagging both Odalis Perez and Wade Miller.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:45 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)
December 21, 2004
BASEBALL: Keep Me In The Briar Patch!

So, after all the speculation about Javier Vazquez not being able to pitch in New York, Vazquez apparently scuttles the Randy Johnson deal by refusing to report to the Dodgers for a physical. Of course, it could be that he or the Yankees have something to hide about his physical condition, and it could be that Vazquez is trying to squeeze some extra money out of the deal. But for now, he seems to have decided that he'd rather try to make it here, and prove he could make it a-ny-where . . .

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:30 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
RELIGION: The Heart of the Matter

Earlier this week, the Pope provided a welcome reminder about Christmas.

Meanwhile, the usual silly controversies of this holy season are underway, to which Jim Geraghty has a good response. This is probably my last post of the year, so, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:34 PM | Religion | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL: Punch Drunk

Bill Simmons has a fun recap of last night’s Patriot loss, including his take on how he would do the obligatory Monday Night Football introduction of himself:

I would give the "Bill Simmons, College of the Holy Cross" instead of just the "Holy Cross," to squeeze the extra three words in for more camera time. And I think I would grow a cheesy porn mustache just for the occasion. But that's just me.

However, I can’t help but wonder: can a regular season loss by a team that was 12-1 really qualify as a “stomach-puncher”?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:31 PM | Football | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
HISTORY: Log Cabin Republican?

The New York Times has an article about a historian's rather thin-sounding argument that President Lincoln was gay. This sounds like wishful thinking on the part of the Times, but, for more, see here.

UPDATE: Actually, it is misleading to call the author of the book in question a "historian" - the Times, in fact, describes him as a "psychologist, influential gay writer and former sex researcher for Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey." Make of that what you will.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:29 PM | History | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Dispatches

* Today, another terrible and cowardly attack in Iraq claimed the lives of more good men and women. Recent news from the Middle East has recently been a mix of hopeful signs (see here, here and here) and desperate violence. I think that the former is a major incentive to the latter, an unfortunate dynamic that we’re going to struggle with for the foreseeable future.

* Indonesia’s second trial of one of the founders of al Qaeda’s Southeast Asian partner, Jemaah Islamiyah, is under way.

* David Adesnik dissents from the view of David Ignatius that the U.S. should engage in covert operations to influence the Iraqi election (as Iran is almost certainly doing).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:26 PM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Slate Sale

Things you don't really want to hear from your company's executives on the day of a new acquisition:

Ann McDaniel, a Post Co. vice president, said: "Our goal is not to in any way change Slate. We think it's important that it keep its personality. Over time, we hope to find a business model that will make money. You're not suddenly going to see a different kind of Slate."

Hope is not a business model. Then again, maybe the market believes that model is out there:

Following the news of the acquisition, Washington Post stock today rose and closed up more than $26, about a 2 percent increase. Microsoft was nearly unchanged, up about 13 cents.

via Instapundit

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:10 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: On and Off in Houston

Two of the Astros rotation slots remain up in the air: Wade Miller is leaving town, but Roger Clemens has accepted arbitration, meaning that if he comes back again it will be as an Astro.

Miller's a good pitcher who's been scarred by injuries and Minute Maid Field; if he's healthy, he'd be a great pickup for someone.

Clemens can certainly still pitch, so it's more a matter of motivation. If he does return, Clemens - the winningest righthander since Grover Alexander - could become only the second pitcher (after Warren Spahn) to break 330 career wins in the post-1920 lively ball era.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:54 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Reading List

From the archives: my favorite books.

For what it's worth, what I'm reading right now: John Keegan, The First World War (more on this later; I can't put it down); Michael Kelly, Things Worth Fighting For; and a few others I started and have made slow progress on. I was very close to finishing John Fund's Stealing Elections and Stephen Hayes' The Connection before the election, but haven't made much headway since then. I also recently finished PJ O'Rourke's new book Peace Kills: America's Fun New Imperialism, which was OK but I'd already read the best stuff in article form.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:38 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Chavez vs. Bonds

The Baseball Savant gets carried away with Eric Chavez, comparing his numbers through age 26 to Barry Bonds:

The only real difference between the two at this point is that Bonds was showing a greater degree of plate discipline at this early stage than is Chavez. On the other hand, Chavez is showing much more power than Bonds at this point.

Link via Pinto. Of course, Bonds through age 26 had won back-to-back MVP awards; Chavez has never placed in the top 10 in the balloting. That's because the offensive context Chavez plays in is radically different; for example, the rough measure of OPS+ shows Chavez at 131, 122, 132 and 132 the past four years, compared to 147, 125, 170 and 161 for Bonds.

Even if you ignore context, though, the comparison doesn't hold. Chavez missed 37 games to injury last season, something that didn't happen to Bonds until he was 34. And the comparison totally overlooks a factor of great significance in projecting player development: speed. Chavez has stolen 14 bases and grounded into 35 double plays the past two years, compared to 97 steals and 16 GIDP for Bonds at the same age. (As to the plate discipline, Chavez has drawn 90+ walks once; Bonds had done it three years running). Even with just the raw numbers, you could see several reasons why Chavez' future as a hitter - even ignoring the post-2000 Bonds surge, which is entirely without precedent - shouldn't be compared to Barry Bonds.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:07 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 20, 2004
BASEBALL: The Saga Continues…

Some new developments in the D.C. stadium saga:

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp have reached an agreement tonight on the terms of a baseball stadium financing package that they believe likely will satisfy Major League Baseball by guaranteeing construction of a future home for the Washington Nationals, aides said…

Details are still emerging about the new agreement between Cropp and Williams, but the full 13-member council will be asked to vote on an amended plan today…

Hopefully, they have better options on the table than just this.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:31 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Wrist and Reward?

Looks like Mike Cameron is going to be out for the start of next season. The Mets shouldn’t need an extra incentive to pursue Carlos Beltran, but this would seem to be it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:47 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Some Things Never Change

Aaron Gleeman on Luis Rivas:

The Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, La Velle E. Neal III, wrote an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune over the weekend that carried the headline: "Team worries Rivas has become stale."

As you can imagine, I got a nice chuckle out of that one. I also wondered about someone like Luis Rivas becoming "stale." I mean, if you have a bucket of, say, feces, and you leave it out for a week, does it become something worse than a bucket of feces? Does it become "rancid feces" or something? And how big of a bucket would you need to fit Rivas into it, exactly?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:06 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Trivial

Q of the Day: Of the 15 Harvard alums to play Major League Baseball, name the only one to make the Hall of Fame.

Answer in the extended entry:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:02 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
December 19, 2004
WAR: Spanning the Globe, 12/19/04

* Orin Kerr looks at some sloppy reporting of a recent survey about “civil liberties” and Muslim-Americans. (Via The Corner).

* A new RAND study has some good suggestions for winning the ideological component of the War on Terror.

* I’m no expert on military logistics, but Powerline has a link to an Army press conference that puts the armor issue in some useful context. (Via Instapundit).

* On the other hand, as critics of Donald Rumsfeld go, Greg Djerejian is among the most credible. (Via Just One Minute).

* The evidence against Ali Hassan al-Majid (a.k.a. “Chemical Ali”) is finally being aired. It is about time.

* Finally, Indiana Jones and the Battle for Fallujah?

UPDATE: Speaking of context, I’m curious as to the context of attacks against Rumsfeld for writing, but not personally signing, some “condolence” letters. In World War II, did George Marshall? In Vietnam, did Robert McNamara? In the Gulf War, did Dick Cheney? In Somalia, did Les Aspin? I honestly don’t know and would like to. There is an issue of time, but it does seem to me that a personalized letter from a subordinate would be preferable to a form letter from the Secretary. Anyway, it does sound a little tacky, but some context is necessary for me to know if this is something that is at all unique to Rumsfeld.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:36 PM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 18, 2004
BASEBALL: Unit Adhesion

Well, you knew Steinbrenner had to do something to top Pedro coming to Shea, and there was only one pitcher out there (well, other than bringing back Clemens) who fit the bill. Just wait for the first time Pedro and Randy Johnson square off in the regular season . . . although Joe Torre traditionally tries to duck the head-to-head matchups of aces.

Short term - over the next two seasons, maybe three - this deal is a bonanza for the Yankees, who give up the struggling Javier Vazquez and bring in the dominating Johnson plus, apparently, as of the latest report, Kaz Ishii, who can also be potentially useful. I'll have to digest the broader pitcure for the Yankee pitching staff later, but the minimal changes to the everyday lineup, combined with the addition of Johnson, Ishii, Pavano, Wright, Stanton and Rodriguez leaves no doubt where the Yanks felt they needed to improve.

If Vazquez isn't nursing an undisclosed injury - a very real possibility- I envy the Dodgers getting him out of the Bronx, where Torre had lost confidence in him, and into Dodger Stadium, although the Daily News suggested this morning that he could be headed to the White Sox . . . of course, the deal is still cotngent on Brad Penny passing a physical with Arizona, among other things (think the D-Backs ever thought when they traded Penny for Matt Mantei that they'd need to part with the Big Unit to get him back?)

The rationale for dumping Johnson and bringing in Penny makes sense for Arizona, and Shawn Green is still young enough, but Green's injuries and high salary obviously make him a less than ideal return on Johnson.

More to follow on all this, as well as Tim Hudson to the Braves, Beltre to the Mariners, and Renteria and Clement to the Red Sox . . . the moves are just coming too fast to make sense of them all.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:29 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASKETBALL: Bad Juxtaposition of the Day

NY Daily News website's top 2 headlines, at last check:

Nets get Vince Carter in 4-player deal
Charged with strangling mom, cutting baby from womb

In these NBA times, I had to do a double-take to remind myself these were not related items.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:01 AM | Basketball | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 17, 2004
BLOG: Details

Lileks shows his eye for the telling detail, even in an otherwise innocuous essay about a trip to Chuck E. Cheese:

[W]hile we played air hockey some limber kids were hurling basketballs into the net a few feet away, and three – Three! – balls flew over the backboard and struck me in the head. A woman clad head to toe in Muslim clothing apologized; all I saw were her eyes, but they were wide and beseeching, and for the first time I wondered what it would be like to live in a culture where the eyes were all you had to read. Would it be enough? Would it be all you needed to know, really?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:34 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Sorry, Harry

Prominent left-wing Yale constitutional law professor Jack Balkin gives no comfort to defenders of Harry Reid's baseless attack on Justice Thomas' competence, and grounds his objections to Thomas in purely results-oriented terms:

Having seen his work over the course of more than a decade, I have no reason to think that Thomas is appreciably better or worse in terms of his lawyerly skills than many other Justices who have sat on the Supreme Court. The positions he takes are often quite striking, almost to the point of being "off-the-wall," but sometimes ideas once thought "off-the-wall" become orthodoxy later on depending on how the political winds blow. If I have an objection to him, it is that his constitutional vision is very different from mine, and so I think he interprets the Constitution in ways that lead to very unjust and uncalled for results. I think his arguments are often wrong and his assumptions misguided, but that does not make him an embarrassment. It makes him a powerful person who is using his power to move the law in what I consider to be the wrong direction. I would oppose appointing more Justices to the Supreme Court who agreed with him not because they believed in natural law, or original understanding, or disagreed with legal realism, but because they would be likely to push the practical meaning of the Constitution in very unjust and inappropriate directions.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:31 PM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
December 16, 2004
BASEBALL: Pixels On Paper

You can now buy the departed Redbird Nation blog, starring our old friend and fellow Crusader Brian Gunn, in handy book form here. I've already ordered my copy.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:04 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Another Lie Exposed!

Humpty Dumpty was no egg. (via Jane Galt).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:53 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/WAR: Habeas Extended

Judge John Bates of the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued an opinion today in Omar Abu Ali v. Ashcroft (the kind of case that pretty well announces what it's about in the caption) refusing to dismiss a habeas petition brought by a US citizen who has been detained by Saudi Arabia since June 2003. Ali, who alleges that he has been tortured by the Saudis, also alleges that he is being held at the behest of the US government. The court concluded that habeas jurisdiction was not necessarily barred either by the fact that Ali was held outside the US nor by the fact that he was in the custody of a foreign power, but ordered further discovery proceedings to develop the factual record.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:31 PM | Law 2002-04 • | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 15, 2004
WAR: Spanning the Globe, 12/15/04

* Not to point any fingers or anything, but this is a cool article on the KGB’s historical fondness for using poison (complete with spring-loaded umbrellas!).

* The Washington Post covers Germany’s frustrating inability to prosecute anyone in connection with the 9/11 attacks. The more one reads about modern-day Germany, the more clear it is why it has been a favorite rest stop for terrorists: the legacy of the Nazis has left the country unwilling to take responsible security measures, both internally and externally.

* Like the Abu Ghraib case, this should be investigated and any wrongdoers should be severely punished.

* In criticizing Bernard Kerik, who clearly had some issues, a few of which might even be relevant, I’m pretty much in agreement with Rich Lowry’s argument that the first rationale for his withdrawal was the most important.

* Speaking of which, John Derbyshire doesn’t like the way some caricature the immigration debate.

* One of the contributors over at Slugger O’Toole provides a nice reminder as to which side in the dispute in Northern Ireland was recently praising the late, unlamented Yasser Arafat. (Hint: it’s not the one many Irish-Americans like to demonize). That said, from my limited knowledge, the anti-Catholic Rev. Paisley is someone I’m pretty loathe to defend.

* Finally, Ed Morrissey looks at the recent statement by Mahmoud Abbas calling the intifadas a “mistake as well as having some good suggestions as to how to support the troops this Christmas.

UPDATE: There is some dispute over the facts of the Kerik “nanny” situation. I have nothing to add about that, one way or another. My point was a more general one: for a potential head of DHS, or for anyone that matter, allegations of violating of U.S. immigration law should be viewed as a deadly serious matter in a post-9/11 world.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:23 PM | War 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
HISTORY: The Cold Hard Truth

Here’s a tribute to the late Iris Chang, who committed suicide in November. It is a sad tale, almost as sad as the one Chang became famous for retelling.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:17 PM | History | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Answering Josh Marshall's Call

(Also posted in The Corner after I emailed this to Jonah Goldberg - Welcome, Corner readers!).

For all of Josh Marshall's huffing and puffing about the effort to expose how Joe Wilson got picked for the Niger trip, it's worth taking a little trip in the Wayback Machine to what Marshall had to say on July 8, 2003, less than a week before Bob Novak's now-infamous column identifying Wilson's wife, CIA officer Valerie Plame, as the person who picked Wilson:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:50 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Pray They Don’t Alter It Any Further

The D.C. Council has pretty much rewritten the city’s agreement with Major League Baseball, leaving the future of the former Montreal Expos once again in doubt.

I’m sympathetic to the argument that D.C. taxpayers shouldn’t get stuck with the whole tab for a new stadium, but the City Council should honor the city’s original agreement with MLB. Doing otherwise only gives baseball an excuse to look elsewhere for a less inept city government that won’t renege on its deals.

UPDATE: David Pinto has a different take, which I agree with in principle, except to say that, if D.C. wanted to draw a line about demanding private financing, the time to do that was when it first made a deal. With baseball already committed to moving and renaming the team and local baseball fans prepared to support it, I think it’s wrong to reverse course like this. Hopefully, an owner or investor will ride in to pony up the money, but the track record of D.C.’s local government can’t be much of an incentive.

SECOND UPDATE (from the Crank): I like the image of Bud Selig as Lando . . . Eric McErlain has been all over this story, and has links aplenty here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Chris Lawrence makes a valid point.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:02 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Grand Slam Trivia

A reader emailed me this question:

"Who is the only player to hit an Inside the Park Grand Slam pinch hit Home Run and have it be the only Home run of his career?"

Well, I didn't know the answer, and haven't yet been able to verify that it happened that way (maybe someone can confirm this in the comments). But assuming that there is, in fact, precisely one such player, I think I found the answer.

This link lists the 12 major leaguers to hit both a pinch hit grand slam and an inside the park grand slam in their careers:

Randy Winn is the 12th major-leaguer, third in the past 50 years, to hit an inside-the-park grand slam (Oct. 3, 1999) and a pinch-hit grand slam (April 4). The others, according to SABR home run analyst David Vincent: Mike O'Neill, Beals Becker, Cy Williams, Marty Kavanagh, Rogers Hornsby, Harvey Hendrick, Les Bell, Hack Wilson, Pete Milne, Tim McCarver and Cesar Cedeno.

(A purportedly complete list of inside the park grand slams is here).

Of the 12, precisely one player had just one career home run: Pete Milne of the 1949 New York Giants. Milne batted 29 times in 31 games for the Giants that year while making just one appearance in the field, so it stands to reason that he was used mostly as a pinch hitter. (The list above identifies the date of his grand slam as April 27, 1949, a game the Giants won 11-8 over the hated Dodgers, so it's not surprising that it won him a job as a pinch hitter). So that appears to be the answer.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: San Pedro de Shea

As you can tell from my commentary the past few days, I have decidedly mixed feelings about the Mets' signing of Pedro Martinez to a four-year, $50 million contract. Some thoughts, some original, some not, in no particular order:

1. Four years is obviously too much guaranteed time for a guy with Pedro's injury history. On the other hand, the cost of the deal is money ($50 million), players (the draft picks the Mets give up) and opportunity cost (the innings Pedro takes away from other players). Given that Pedro seems unlikely to reach the point where he's pitching a lot of innings but pitching ineffectively, an extra year only costs the Mets one of those, the money. On the other hand, you can hardly blame the Red Sox for deciding that this was crazy money.

2. In the same vein: finding good young hitters is not that hard; finding good young pitchers these days - guys who can consistently take 30 turns in the rotation with a better-than-league ERA - is next to impossible. And Barry Bonds notwithstanding, in general, hitters decline much more predictably with age than do pitchers. And, a starting pitcher usually does much less to block the progress of good young arms, since few teams are so glutted with pitching that they can't quickly find room for a good youngster. All of which are a way of explaining why, as a general matter, I'm more willing to see even a rebuilding team take on an expensive starting pitcher in his 30s, as compared to a Sammy Sosa-type declining slugger.

3. Pedro is, as I discussed yesterday, a pitcher of historic levels of greatness. If you are going to gamble, better to gamble on a guy who's an inner-circle Hall of Famer than on . . . well, on Kris Benson and Victor Zambrano, for example. Given his track record, I view Pedro as much more of a proven commodity, and not a significantly greater injury risk, than Carl Pavano or Jaret Wright, both headed to the Bronx after precisely one year of being healthy and effective. (Of course, all pitchers are greater injury risks than almost all everyday players).

On the durability front, well, Pedro is replacing Al Leiter, who is six years older and was never an iron man himself. Leiter, working for an average salary the past 3-4 years of about $2 million per year less than Pedro will make, averaged 194 innings a year in his seven seasons at Shea, only once throwing more than 210 (Pedro threw 217 last year, but with diminished effectiveness compared to 2001-03). If we get about the same from Pedro, I'll be happy. I don't expect 230 innings.

4. Shea is a great place for a power pitcher, especially with Mike Cameron in center field, and facing a pitcher instead of some Frank Thomas/Edgar Martinez type DH every nine hitters is a great way to cut down the number of stressful pitches thrown. Both of which are a way of saying that Pedro may wind up being more valuable with the Mets than he would have been with the Red Sox. Bringing a power pitcher to Shea is like bringing a power hitter to Wrigley (see, Dawson, Andre; Alou, Moises).

5. Of course, none of this should be viewed as a substitute for the long-term strategy the Mets need to develop young talent. But frankly, I'm not about to hold my breath waiting for that to happen. Given the existing strategy of trying to half-rebuild while continuing to prop up the team with veterans, Pedro is a decent fit in that context.

6. I know the market has changed a lot, but $50 million really doesn't look like an extraordinary amount of money compared to past contracts given to Mike Hampton, Kevin Brown, Darren Dreifort, Kevin Appier, Mike Mussina, Tom Glavine, Chan Ho Park . . . yeah, there's a lot of bad decisions there, but this isn't a Mo Vaughn style 7-year $100-mil-plus millstone here; it's basically one Kris Benson plus one Kaz Matsui. If this deal deters the Mets from two more middle-market contracts like those, where's the harm?

7. Just for a little perspective, if you look at the most similar pitchers at the same age, Pedro is around the same age at which Tom Seaver went to the Reds, Roger Clemens to the Blue Jays, Mussina to the Yankees, and Lefty Grove to the Red Sox. Most of the guys on that list had their ups and downs in their mid-30s, but in general they had some real high points as well. Of course, physically, Martinez resembles Mussina, Grove, Greg Maddux, Whitey Ford or Juan Marichal much more than he does Seaver or Clemens. On a more sobering note, Pedro is also about the same age Frank Viola and Bret Saberhagen were when they left the Mets.

8. Can we finally have a no-hitter now, please?

9. Dan Lewis asks Five Questions:

1) Will this guy improve the team next year?
2) Does the move cost us too much in players?
3) What would our plan have been if we didn’t make this move, and is the gain signficant?
4) What is the effect of the deal if it goes badly?
5) If the deal goes awry, how will we fix it?

Go see his answers; I do think there's a missing factor here: the deal has upside. Although I don't regard it as the most likely possibility, it's certainly one of the plausible scenarios to get 800 innings, 800 strikeouts and an ERA below 3.00 from Pedro over the next four years. Given the scarcity of highly effective pitchers these days, that would be worth more than $12 million a year, in my view. (A return to something close to vintage Pedro, which is not going to happen, would be worth much more). That's one thing that distinguishes this from the contracts that a lot of mid-30s hitters get, where you are paying them a salary equal to the best value they are likely to give you. Hey, you win in baseball by taking risks. This deal is a big risk, but then Vladimir Guerrero last year was a big risk too. This is one that could pay off. Better that than give out more $25 million contracts to guys who are a safe bet to turn in a 4.25 ERA.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:11 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
December 14, 2004
BASEBALL: The Very Best

Long-time readers will recall my Translated Pitcher Records project from four years ago. Hopefully, I'll get back to that one some day. But a simpler way of comparing the very best pitchers over time is ERA+, baseballreference.com's comparison of a pitcher's career ERA to a park-context-adjusted league average. There are two problems, however, with the baseballreference.com leaderboard: it has a very low innings pitched threshold, and thus is loaded at the top with relief pitchers; and, unlike my Translated Records, it isn't translated back into a recognizable ERA benchmark.

So I thought I'd do both; I separated out the pitchers by groupings of innings pitched, and translated their ERAs back into a uniform context of a league ERA of 4.50, which is around midway between the NL and AL ERAs in 2004:

3000 Career Innings or More

#PitcherERAIP
1Lefty Grove3.043940.2
2Walter Johnson3.085914.2
3Randy Johnson3.133368
4Roger Clemens3.194493
5Greg Maddux3.194181.1
6Kid Nichols3.245056.1
7Three Finger Brown3.263172.1
8Cy Young3.267354.2
9Grover Alexander3.335190
10Christy Mathewson3.334780.2
11John Clarkson3.364536.1
12Whitey Ford3.413170.1
13Kevin Brown3.463183
14Carl Hubbell3.463590.1
15Amos Rusie3.463769.2

You can see why I stick to the view that Walter Johnson was the greatest of all pitchers, as he stands second only to Lefty Grove here, and in 40% more innings. This list is dominated by pre-1920 and active pitchers, other than Grove and Ford. While I knew he was on the edge of making a Hall of Fame case, I was as surprised as anyone to see Kevin Brown on a list this elite. And this is also further confirmation of precisely how great Kid Nichols was, and why he really gets a raw deal when the great pitchers of old are being ranked.

2000-3000 Career Innings

This second list is guys who have had fairly substantial careers but not a full, 15-years-at-200-innings career:

#PitcherERAIP
1Pedro Martinez2.692296
2Hoyt Wilhelm3.082254.1
3Ed Walsh3.102964.1
4Addie Joss3.172327
5Al Spalding3.172890.2
6Rube Waddell3.362961.1
7Noodles Hahn3.412029.1
8Sandy Koufax3.442324.1
9Curt Schilling3.442812.2
10Hal Newhouser3.462993

You can see here why, for all my mixed feelings about the warning signs and the Mets overpaying, I'm still excited about the possibility of Pedro coming to Shea: he's been head and shoulders above anybody else who's ever pitched, he's still just 33, and a guy that good is worth a gamble. . . Noodles Hahn? Yeah, I'm not too sure about that one either, but Hahn's the classic forgotten type of pitcher, a guy whose big years came with the turn-of-the-century Reds, a dismal franchise in a quiet period in the game's history. . . Curt Schilling is close to qualifying for the next list up, although he's also close to dropping off the bottom if he finishes with a few bad seasons.

The rest of the guys in the under-2000 IP bin fall into three groups: relievers, starting with Dan Quisenberry at 3.08 and including John Franco, Bruce Sutter, John Hiller, Lee Smith, Kent Tekulve, and Doug Jones; very-short-career starters, from Smoky Joe Wood at 3.08 down through Jim Devlin (who was banned from baseball for throwing the 1877 pennant race), Harry Brecheen, Spud Chandler, and Dizzy Dean; and one active starter, Tim Hudson at 3.26.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:45 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: 2003-04 Traffic Report

I checked my traffic stats last night with the "Webalizer" feature at Hosting Matters. . . thought it would be interesting to chart this out. This is visits per day, but less important that what the actual number is is that it's a consistent measurement of the site's daily traffic since I moved to the Movable Type site:

MonthVisits
Apr 2003115
May 2003192
Jun 2003243
Jul 2003321
Aug 2003283
Sep 2003329
Oct 2003403
Nov 2003394
Dec 2003410
Jan 2004544
Feb 2004726
Mar 2004735
Apr 2004798
May 2004799
Jun 2004837
Jul 2004879
Aug 2004982
Sep 20041152
Oct 20041513
Nov 20041580
Dec 20041781

Wow. And the thing is, you go around the blogosphere, you see a lot of people whose traffic patterns look something like this. Of course, it remains to be seen if I can keep up the momentum of the election, the 2004 postseason and some of the huge links I've had lately.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:54 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 13, 2004
BASEBALL: Following The Glavine Trail

Well, this would put the Mets one Mike Mussina acquisition from ensuring that no active pitcher wins 300 games . . .The fourth year for Pedro strikes me as the one year too many. I'm more encouraged by the fact that they're pursuing Delgado and Sexson, especially now that they wouldn't need to surrender draft choices to get Delgado (I'd rather have Sexson, although he may be close to signing with Seattle).

UPDATE: At least the Mets aren't doing anything nearly as stupid as trading Carlos Lee for Scott Podsednik. The mind staggers at that one.

SECOND UPDATE: It certainly looks like this is happening, given Larry Lucchino's email referring to Pedro's Red Sox tenure in the past tense.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:19 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (1)
SCIENCE/POLITICS: Getting Warmer

The Mad Hibernian's post on Friday on Michael Crichton's new book questioning "global warming" and similar environmental dogmas (which followed on this powerful speech by Crichton last year denouncing global warming theories) prompted some interesting comments and links. Now, I'm no expert on the subject myself, but I did think it was worth repeating here something I said in the comments to that post. I'm very skeptical of hearing "global warming" discussed as if it is a single concept, like "the earth is round." Basically, "global warming," as I understand its popular meaning, is really three different concepts:

1. The earth has, for some period of time, been getting warmer.

2. This past warming trend is not a random or cyclical phenomenon but is a trend that will continue into the future unless interrupted by human intervention.

3. The past trend and its continuation into the future are the results of specifically identifiable human activities, i.e., carbon emissions.

It is entirely possible to believe #1 without believing #2 and #3, or even to believe #1 and #2 without believing #3. Beware of anyone who tries to use evidence supporting just one of those propositions to convince you of all three.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Enemies of Science • | Politics 2004 • | Science | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: 2004 Bedfellow Awards

Well, as promised back in late October, it's time to award the 2004 Bedfellow Awards. The Bedfellow Awards are named in honor of the comic strip "Bloom County," in which Senator Bedfellow was defeated on the strength of an election-day headline, "WARNING: VOTING FOR BEDFELLOW MAY CAUSE HERPES". Although the award gives special points for attacks that are false and/or unfair, the simplest definition of a Bedfellow Award nominee is a news story that (1) comes out shortly before the election, and (2) has a much larger impact on the election than it would have if it had come out earlier.

I solicited nominations, although I didn't get a whole lot of them. You can see some of the nominees here and a very early candidate here as well as in the post linked above and its trackbacks. Let's run through the awards:

1. Overall Winner: Osama bin Laden

Political experts will debate endlessly which candidate it helped and whether it had much of an impact one way or another (Kerry says it cost him the election), but there's no question that the big, knock-everything-else-off-the-front-page surprise story of the campaign's last weekend was the emergence of OBL himself from his gopher hole with a video message aimed directly at the American people and obviously timed deliberately to influence the election. (I'll leave aside here as well the debate over whether he was actually trying to help Kerry or just to show he could influence an American election as his minions had in Spain). The story, once out there, was a legitimate story, which is why I'm giving the award to bin Laden himself rather than the news media or the candidates, who had no choice but to react to it.

2. Anti-Bush Winner: The Al-Qaqaa Explosives Story

This was a favorite nominee, and it would have been an even more outsized story if CBS had succeeded, as planned, in sitting on the story until the Sunday before the election (instead, because the NY Times broke the story a week earlier, 60 Minutes had to settle for a story attacking the Bush Administration over the sufficiency of equipment for the troops in Iraq). The explosives story got more heat and less light than it would have earlier in the campaign because there was so little time to get to the bottom of the thing.

3. Anti-Kerry Winner: The Dishonorable Discharge

On November 1, the New York Sun's Thomas Lipscomb finally broke through Kerry's long stonewall on the circumstances of his discharge from the military, but the day-before-the-election timing wound up making the story a late hit. Of course, unlike late hits against Bush, this one got ignored and buried.

4. Senate Race Winner: The Kentucky Senate Race

Nasty, nasty, nasty, full of allegations of whispering campaigns, the most late-hit-filled and under-the-radar campaign of the year turned out to be the Kentucky Senate race, with Democrat Dan Mongiardo openly challenging the mental competence of Republican righty Jim Bunning, and Bunning accused of a whispering campaign to convince voters that Mongiardo was gay.

I didn't get enough nominations or pay close enough attention to pick a House winner, but the latest of the late hits had to be the attack on Louisiana Republican Billy Tauzin III for a citation for trespassing and illegal hunting of nutria, a kind of rodent.

Anyway, there were plenty of candidates from this year's presidential elections. Feel free to suggest additional honorable mentions in the comments and trackbacks.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:20 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: You Like Me! You Really Like Me!

2004weblogawards400banner.jpeg

Well, the voting is in, and I have to say that I'm just flabbergasted that I actually won the 2004 Weblog Award for Best Sports Blog, taking 19.7% of the vote to 10.9% for the Athletics Nation community and 10.8% to Eric McErlain's Off Wing Opinion. (I'll have to add Athletics Nation to my regular reads). Of course, particularly given that this blog covers only one sport and somewhat sporadically, this award probably should have gone to someone like David Pinto, but I'm flattered nonetheless that, by my calculations, more than 670 of you voted for me. I'll try to do my best to live up to the honor in the coming year.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:45 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 12, 2004
BASEBALL: Hudson Crossing

Another era is ending in Oakland, just as the first Beane Era ended with the departure of Matt Stairs, Ben Grieve, John Jaha, and Jason Giambi. It seems increasingly likely now that Tim Hudson will be traded in accordance with his demand for a new contract by March 1, bringing the era of the Big Three starters to a close.

Hudson, of course, is one of baseball's true elite pitchers, has been since he arrived in the majors in the last century. He's been durable - 2004 was the first time he missed significant time to injury - and unbeatable, 92-39 in his Oakland career.

Of course, I've long been a devotee of Bill James' belief that one thing you have to watch in evaluating pitchers is their strikeout rates; a dropping rate is both a signal (diminishing effectiveness) and has a direct effect on performance, increasing the number of balls in play that can potentially become hits. On the other hand, there are ways for a pitcher to compensate for a loss of strikeouts, at least temporarily, mostly by throwing strikes and keeping the ball in the park.

Tim Hudson in recent years has been one of the most extreme examples of those coping mechanisms you will ever see. Let's look at his season-by-season rates in a number of categories:

YearK/9BB/9HR/9GB/FBGDP/9SB/9SB%
19998.714.090.532.270.920.9273.7
20007.523.651.072.020.711.0788.9
20016.932.720.772.260.690.9277.4
20025.742.340.722.031.320.1938.5
20036.082.290.562.260.860.2653.8
20044.912.100.382.531.100.3866.7

It's not an unbroken chain in every category, but the overall pattern is crystal clear: a broad-based improvement in every other aspect of Hudson's game but strikeouts since 1999. You have to admire Hudson's determined adaptability, relentlessly cutting walks and home runs, getting more ground balls, and revolutionizing his ability to set up the double play by eliminating his vulnerability to the stolen base almost overnight in 2002. He's even made just 3 errors the past three years compared to 10 the prior three.

That's the good news. The bad news is, his strikeout rate has been sinking like a stone, and Hudson has all but run out of room to squeeze further improvements out of the rest of his game to compensate. Lefthanders are particularly catching up to him, batting .298/.422/.352 against Hudson in 2004.

It's very possible that the smart, gifted and driven 29-year-old ace will come up with new ways to trick batters and reverse the downward trend in his strikeout rate, keeping him at the elite level to which he's grown accustomed. But any team forking over big bucks and top prospects to get him should understand that, if he doesn't, Hudson's days as one of the league's elite may be numbered.

UPDATE: I recognize, of course, that Hudson's alarmingly low 2004 K rate may have been a function of pitching through injuries. The downward trend is still worrisome.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:31 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
December 10, 2004
LAW: The Office Christmas Party

In light of the Mad Hibernian's post on this topic Wednesday, I though I'd flash back to my own reflections, from 2002, on office Christmas parties.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:12 PM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
OTHER SPORTS: Season on Ice

I haven’t been following the NHL lockout very closely at all, so I was kind of struck by what kind of financial problems the league must be having when the Players’ Association is making proposals to cut their own salaries by 24% (up from their 5% September proposal). Apparently, the main dispute is over whether to have a luxury tax or a salary cap. Scott Burnside has some more-informed analysis.

I’m glad I don’t have Gary Bettman’s job.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:41 PM | Other Sports | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Last March of the Ents?

I don’t agree with all of it, but Victor Davis Hanson has a cool column today on the “Ents of Europe” and the War on Terror. J.R.R. Tolkien probably would have hated it, once writing that “The Lord of the Rings” was “neither allegorical nor topical.” As these things go though, Hanson’s analogy strikes me as pretty apt.

Hopefully, for all of us, the final outcome will be similar.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:38 PM | War 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
SCIENCE: The Skeptical Novelist

I’m intrigued by Michael Crichton coming out as a global warming skeptic in his new novel, see here and here, but probably not intrigued enough to actually buy it. Crichton’s highly intelligent and has a lot of interesting ideas, but doesn’t seem to be writing very entertaining stories these days. This book in particular sounds like it would work a lot better as non-fiction, although it would almost certainly reach a much smaller readership that way.

Anyway, I’m a certified dunce when it comes to science and would hardly claim to be an authority one way or another, but am a relative skeptic on environmental matters. Thus, before reading Crichton’s book, I should probably try and tackle this one.

UPDATE: Via Instapundit, here is a very positive review of Crichton’s new book.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:35 PM | Science | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: If Not Bigotry, What Then?

I really meant to blog earlier in the week about Harry Reid's bizarre comments about Clarence Thomas; as you've probably seen by now, in an interview with Tim Russert, Reid objected to Justice Scalia as Chief Justice but conceded that "I may not agree with some of his opinions, but I agree with the brilliance of his mind"; then, turning to Thomas, he argued that

I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written. I don't--I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice.

Taranto, Stuart Buck, and Ann Althouse have all taken this apart quite well. I hate to throw around unjustified accusations of bigotry, so I'm certainly prepared to believe that Reid wasn't taking a potshot at Thomas' intellect either (1) because he regards Justice Thomas as dumb because he's black or (2) because he thinks he can convince others that Thomas is dumb because he's black. But if Reid has something else in mind, I can't imagine what it is. He didn't bother to give examples, and Russert didn't press him for any. I very much doubt that Reid has read many of Thomas' opinions, and I suspect that he was just parroting what his staffers tell him. I have read quite a number of those opinions, ranging from opinions on intensely arcane subjects to critical issues of civil procedure to impassioned dissents on hot-button issues, and I can tell you that the charge of bad writing is ludicrously off the mark. At times, he can be quite eloquent. Thomas may not be the stylistic genius Scalia is, but Scalia is almost certainly the best writer the Court has ever seen (which is high praise, compared to people like Robert Jackson and Oliver Wendell Holmes); nobody else on the Court today compares to him either. Thomas' opinions certainly don't suffer from the kind of sloppiness and high-handedness that characterized, say, William O. Douglas. Buck, who's a great admirer of Justice Thomas, has links to some sample opinions and to comments of grudging admiration for Thomas' legal thinking by a prominent left-leaning academic, and you should go check out his links. (I should add that I've met Justice Thomas, and he's quite an impressive guy in person).

If Reid has even a shred of support for the argument that Justice Thomas is unqualified to be Chief Justice by virtue of his writing abilities or any other defect of competence or intellect, let him come forward with it. Thus far, I'm hearing nothing from Reid or his defenders to suggest he can. To the contrary, Noam Scheiber of the New Republic had to conclude:

Since Reid doesn't provide any evidence for his low opinion of Thomas, it sounds to me like he's thoughtlessly embracing the increasingly untenable view that Thomas is an affirmative action case utterly incapable of the kind of deep (or independent) thoughts Supreme Court justices are supposed to think, which has more than a slight whiff of racism.

I'll add a few examples of Thomas opinions of my own on a variety of subjects:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (1)
WAR/POLITICS: 12/10/04 Links

*Great, great column by Tom Friedman on the radicalization of Iraqis under sanctions. Friedman often infuriates; he's right about diagnosing problems but responds by suggesting daft solutions. This one's more on the diagnosis side. (Link via Geraghty).

*A fine primer on Ukrainian history from a Ukrainian friend of LT Smash. If you've studied Russian history, as I did in college, some of this will be familiar, but there were also things here that were new to me or that I'd long forgotten.

*You'll want to head over to Soxblog, where pseudonymous blogger James Frederick Dwight (you really shouldn't need to think too hard on the origin of his pseudonym) is tearing apart a sloppy New Yorker piece comparing hospitals and clinics that treat cystic fibrosis (start here and scroll up for followup posts, including his discussion of my initial reaction to the piece, which was that it sounds like something drafted by the plaintiffs' bar).

*Yes, the Onion's Iraq Alert System just killed me. (Link via Simmons' Intern).

*Victor Cha, a Georgetown professor who advocates a "hawk
engagement" strategy regarding North Korea, will assume the post of Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council.

*You can look at this chart here and argue, as these Berkeley professors do, that the results on this graph show that the 2004 vote in Broward and Palm Beach counties were a suspicious outlier, but isn't the far more logical inference that the 2000 count in Broward and Palm Beach is the suspicious outlier? Gee, does anyone remember any controversy over the vote-counting methods used in Broward and Palm Beach in 2000? I wonder if the results would look less anomolous if you used the Election Day 2000 counts in those two counties rather than the figures that were generated a month later.

*The Gift That Keeps On Giving, Part LXVIII.

*Ann Althouse on Nancy Pelosi's horrible facelift/plastic surgery.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:12 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)
December 9, 2004
BASEBALL: The Winners

One quick thought on the Yankees' acquisition of Tony Womack (no relation to Dooley). Yes, he's had a big hit or two, but for his career, the 35-year-old Womack has played in 38 of his teams' 39 games in the postseason; here's his postseason career record projected out to a full 162-game season:

GABH2B3BHRRRBIBBKSBCSAVGSLGOBP
15864813725807925291041712.212.276.250

Come to think of it, let's check out Jaret Wright's career postseason record; Wright has made 15 appearances in 27 postseason games played by his teams:

WLERAGGSIPHBBKH/9BB/9K/9
18277.2490543063361982829.885.828.29

Well, OK, Wright's numbers - which include a 15.63 career postseason ERA against the Red Sox - are spread over almost two different careers in Cleveland and Atlanta, and the postseason does wacky things to pitcher workloads. Still, if you believe in the Yankee postseason magic, these guys haven't had it in the past.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
December 8, 2004
LAW: There’s Always One

Reading this month’s ABA Journal, I came upon an annual rite of the holiday season as easy to predict as the Perils-Of-Trick-Or-Treating articles you see every Halloween or the Blinding-Of-Larry-Driscoll-type stories you read about fireworks every 4th of July. It could perhaps be classified as the Don’t-Get-Too-Drunk-At-Your-Law-Firm’s-Holiday-Party article. I had to laugh at this in particular anecdote:

It is fairly common knowledge in one law firm that a decade or so ago a young associate, at the urging of a partner, dropped his pants on the dance floor at a party in Washington, D.C. The associate survived and went on later to the Justice Department. But no one at the firm wants to confirm or talk about the incident.

I’m sure John Ashcroft would be proud.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:45 PM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Three Strikes Foolishness

Tung Yin notes the following story:

Florida voters . . . approved a three-strikes law unlike any other state's — a measure aimed not at killers and thieves but at doctors who foul up.

The newly approved amendment to the Florida Constitution would automatically revoke the medical license of any doctor hit with three malpractice judgments. The law is backed by doctors' foremost antagonists — lawyers — and the ramifications could be huge.

This amendment has nothing to do with patient safety and everything to do with giving additional leverage to plaintiffs' lawyers to coerce settlement of med mal lawsuits. How can I be so sure? As Prof. Yin notes, "the amendment speaks of three judgments, not three lawsuits". I'd bet the plaintiffs' bar would scream bloody murder if a settlement counted as a strike, and especially if a settlement above a specified dollar amount counted as a strike, which it would if the idea was actually to punish malpractice rather than create a hammer for settlements. After all, a doctor who repeatedly commits malpractice but never goes to trial would never have a judgment against him, just a bunch of settlements. Whereas if you counted settlements against the doctors, they would have more incentive to fight claims rather than pay off the plaintiffs and their lawyers.

You can compare this to the way the NASD, which regulates stockbrokers, operates. NASD rules now make it very difficult for a broker who settles a claim to get it expunged from his record; even with the consent of the other party, you still need a specific order from an arbitration panel and court approval of that order. While this procedure is controversial and of debatable effectiveness, there's no question that its intention is to prevent crooked brokers from settling quietly with anyone who complains. If the Florida statute had a similar rule, there would at least be the possibility that it was intended to crack down on bad doctors, rather than on doctors who insist on defending themselves before a jury. (Of course, even a three-settlements rule might work as a hammer for plaintiffs' attorneys if it allowed you to avoid the rule by settling before a case is filed, but it would be closer to the expressed purpose of the statute).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:32 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASKETBALL: Athletes Out of Action

Slate has an interesting tribute to Athletes in Action, the traveling Christian basketball team that's being pushed to the brink of extinction by the NCAA.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Basketball | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
December 7, 2004
WAR: Depends How You Define “Facts”

Earlier today, I made the mistake of reading Eric Alterman’s column on MSNBC.com. After discussing how French anti-Semitism during World War II was basically a myth, which seems to conflict with a number of events I remember reading about in history class, Alterman launches into a critique of a registration-only article discussing bias at The New York Times. Needless to say, Alterman disagrees with its author, basically asserting that the Times is, in fact, a right-wing mouthpiece for the Bush Administration. Fine.

Anyway, Alterman goes on about how Saddam Hussein had no connection whatsoever with al Qaeda and about how this is a skull-thumpingly obvious fact that everyone knows. I don’t want to rehash the whole debate over Iraq’s al Qaeda connections, which are contentiously debated (see here, here and here for counter-arguments, as well as here for my take). But having just recently been reading the 9/11 Commission report, which Alterman apparently never has, I was struck by his certainty.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:52 PM | War 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Tangled Up In Green

Slate.com carries a negative review of Ed Bradley’s mailed-in Sunday interview with Bob Dylan and sees a Viacom connection as the motivation behind Dylan’s rare appearance and Bradley’s fawning. The Crank mentioned in passing here the tendency of CBS to shamelessly plug books put out by its corporate masters.

Aside from ethics, I guess there’s nothing necessarily wrong about it - Dylan is certainly a worthy interview subject - but you have to wish that “60 Minutes” would be a little more forthright about this type of thing.

UPDATE: I misread the end of the Slate piece, which, as a more alert reader points out in the comments, says that Steve Kroft had apparently mentioned the Viacom-CBS-Dylan connection at the top of the show. Having just caught the tail end of the interview and reading the Slate author’s tone, I assumed that CBS had failed to disclose it. Anyway, as a result, I don’t see any real problem here except for a boring interview. My bad.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:18 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Mr. Bin Laden’s Wild Ride

Reading this story - about how (newly democratic) Afghanistan is hoping to make the caves of Tora Bora into a “visitor attraction” - suggests to me that tourism may not be the best hope for that country’s economy.

Although you never know:

Tourism was once a major industry for Afghanistan. In the 1960s and 1970s the country was a key stopping point on the Hippy Trail from Europe to India — famed for its spectacular scenery, ancient ruins and local intoxicants. But the Russian invasion of 1979 placed Afghanistan off limits and, for 25 years, it has remained in tourist limbo.

Now the first visitors are returning. The latest issue of the Lonely Planet Central Asia guide is the first to include a section on the country.

Previous editions contained a two word entry on Afghanistan: “Don’t go!”

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:13 PM | War 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
HISTORY: Remembering Pearl Harbor

63 years ago today. Go here for one of the less-remembered (by me, anyway) stories of that attack.

UPDATE: Murdoc Online has a fascinating account, including the after-action report, for the initial confrontation with a Japanese submarine a little over an hour prior to the bombing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | History | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Whither CBS News?

Jim Geraghty maps out the possibilities for CBS News after the final report comes out on Rathergate:

CBS could go one of three routes from this point. One, they could try to clean up their act, stop behaving as if their job is to drive President Bush from office, cover viewpoints beyond the left, and attempt to break up the groupthink that has calcified their news judgment.

Two, they could define themselves as the left-of-center news channel, and aim for the blue state audience. Instead of trying to prevent bias, they could embrace it, and make it part of their brand identity. "CBS News: The channel that progressives prefer."

Three, they could define themselves as the tabloid news channel, rushing things to air without checking, and intentionally eroding their standards for accuracy in the name of being first. They could be one part supermarket checkout line tabloid, one part Drudge, one part Wonkette, one part British Fleet Street scandal sheet.

The third is obviously somewhat tongue in cheek, especially for a deep-pocketed broadcast network. I agree that CBS can and should make a clear decision as to which way the Evening News goes: try to build a new reputation for evenhandedness, or embrace the Left the way FOX has embraced the Right. On the other hand, the departure of Rather, who after all brought this story on himself in his capacity as a 60 Minutes II correspondent rather than as Evening News anchor, offers a third way: start splitting the brand, letting 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II go their way as crusading liberal newsmagazines, while attempting to play it straight on the Evening News. This can work in the newspaper business - the Wall Street Journal has had success with both a highly ideological opinion page (which hires its own reporters) and a news section with a high reputation for evenhandedness and balance. Would it work in TV? If CBS tries to rebrand itself as a network that distinguishes between a balanced newscast and an openly left-wing newsmagazine, of course, the network would have to decide which side of the line they want to dominate the morning show, the coverage of big events like the conventions (where FOX, for example, has prospered by stacking its panels with conservative commentators who draw in right-leaning viewers). Splitting the two sides makes some sense: while the Evening News has floundered in the ratings, 60 Minutes remains healthy and can profit by enlarging its reputation as a vocal critic of all things Bush (although they might do well to stop shilling books sold by Viacom).

I've also got an outside-the-box suggestion for Rather's replacement: CNN Headline News anchor, technology reporter and former Tech TV anchor Erica Hill. Hill would bring a number of advantages to the anchor position. First, and most obviously, she's drop-dead gorgeous, better-looking than most of the actresses on CBS' prime-time schedule, let alone in the news business. That never hurts in the ratings department, and before you gripe about looks as a job qualification, remind me again why Brian Williams is succeeding Tom Brokaw, and why John Roberts has been mentioned as a replacement for Rather: first and foremost because they are big, good-looking guys with reassuring voices. Let's not pretend otherwise.

But there are other women on TV who could look good reading the news; what's additionally noteworthy about Hill is her background as a tech reporter. If you've seen her reports on CNN, she clearly comes off as someone who understands and enjoys new technologies and, frankly, spends a lot of time on the internet; she's been reporting for months on the influence of blogs and the internet on campaigns. That's precisely the fresh perspective towards newsgathering that CBS badly needs. I don't know how smart she is - her bio says she's a summa cum laude graduate of BU, which is nothing to sneeze at - but she comes off as intelligent on the air, which is important.

Granted, there would be internal resistance at CBS to bringing in someone with minimal experience (she can't be more than 30 years old, and looks younger than that), although again, the CNN bio does say she anchored the now-defunct Tech TV's on-air coverage all day on September 11, which is a real baptism of fire for any anchor. And maybe shaking things up would be a good in itself, sending a message that the way things have always been is part of the problem and bringing in someone not so set in her ways that she can't take the program in new directions. In any event, part of CBS' problem, even above and beyond bias, is age: Rather and Bob Schieffer and Mike Wallace . . . these guys are fossils, and whatever their other virtues they can't be expected to connect with younger viewers or change with the times. Maybe CBS, with an older-skewing audience, is happy with that dynamic, but it's unsustainable long-term. A young, fresh-faced anchor would change all that. With Brokaw leaving, there will be a window of opportunity for a new anchor to capture market share if CBS can make a splash. Erica Hill in Dan Rather's chair would make a splash.

UPDATE: You can catch a flavor of Hill's style with her online "Hot Wired" columns at CNN.com here (from January, discussing campaign blogs), here (marveling that she could survive a few days without internet access) and here (discussing procrastinating online).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:04 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Perspective on Schilling

I was looking over Curt Schilling's career, and two thoughts come to mind:

1. One of the great underrated terrible trades in recent baseball history is the Astros' decision, on April 2, 1992, to trade Schilling straight up for Jason Grimsley. Schilling and Grimsley were both young pitchers trying to establish themselves at this point - Grimsley was 24, Schilling 25 - and both had followed some success as rookies in 1990 (a 3.30 ERA in 57.1 IP as a starter for Grimsley, a 2.54 ERA in 46 IP as a reliever for Schilling) with struggles in 1991 (1-7 with a 4.87 ERA in 61 IP as a starter for Grimsley, a 3.81 ERA in 75.2 IP as a reliever for Schilling). But it should have been obvious at the time not only that Schilling threw harder but that he was closer to breaking through: 103 K and 58 walks for Schilling in 121.2 IP over the previous two years - including 71 K in 75.2 IP in 1991 - compared to an abysmal record of 83 K to 84 walks for Grimsley (and 16 wild pitches) in 118.1 IP. And the results were immediate and dramatic: Schilling posted a 2.35 ERA in 226.1 IP in 1992 for the Phillies - 4th best in the NL - and would pitch a shutout in the World Series by the end of 1993, while Grimsley never pitched a game in an Astros uniform and was released a year later.

It's not clear to me, years later, what Houston was thinking; with Pete Harnisch, Darryl Kile, and Butch Henry, Houston had no shortage of young starters, and Schilling had started in the minors. Perhaps Grimsley had options left and Schilling didn't (after all, the deal was April 2)? Either way, the Astros don't get nearly enough grief for this one in the annals of catastrophically bad trades.

2. If there's one guy whose career path Schilling's resembles, strangely enough, it's Tommy John, and not only because both of them were pioneers in bionic baseball. Through age 33, due to a variety of injuries and misfortunes (including lousy support from their teams) over the years, both Schilling and John had a lot of good baseball behind them and not much to show in the win column: Schilling had 110 lifetime wins at the end of 2000 (when he went 11-12), following his mid-season arrival in Arizona, despite a league-average-or-better ERA 9 times in 11 years; John had 134 wins after his first post-surgery season, in 1976, when he went 10-10, despite a league-average-or-better ERA 11 years in a row. Each had seemingly given his arm in the service of a dismal franchise - Schilling throwing 254.1 and 268.2 IP in 1997-98 with the Phillies, John 269.1 IP in 1970 with the White Sox.

Then, each suddenly reeled off three 20-win seasons in four years, and went to the postseason with two different teams, Schilling the D-Backs and Red Sox and John the Dodgers and Yankees.

Of course, the parallels aren't perfect. Schilling is most unlikely to match John's durability (pitching to age 46) or win total of 288 (John through age 37 was up to 214 wins, while Schilling now stands at 184). On the other hand, Schilling's teams haven't failed in the postseason as John's did in 1977, 1978, 1980, 1981 and 1982 - despite solid efforts from John (a 2.65 career postseason ERA), and Schilling had been the difference for both Arizona and Boston. And John couldn't quite match Schilling's level of dominance - from age 34 to 37, John went 80-35, Schilling 74-28, and John's career winning percentage through age 37 stood at .586 compared to .599 for Schilling (this before John went 23-20 over the next two years pitching mostly for division-winning teams). To say nothing of the fact that Schilling is an overpowering strikeout pitcher who alreadly has 500 more strikeouts than John did in nearly 2000 more career innings.

As you can see, though, the parallels are actually fairly strong, a factor to consider down the road in evaluating both pitchers' Hall of Fame cases.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:42 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Tale of the Tape Measure

SI.com writer Peter McEntegart repeats a slightly different variation of a stat I saw Peter Gammons citing the other day:

The most astounding number to come out of the Barry Bonds steroid controversy is not that 93 percent of the 40,000-plus voters on a SI.com poll don't believe Bonds' claim that he was unaware he took steroids. The more intriguing number comes from Stats Inc., which reports that Bonds had never hit a home run longer than 450 feet before the 2000 season, when he turned 36. Since then, he's hit at least 21 homers of 450 feet or farther.

Here is Gammons’ version:

WFAN's Christopher Russo interviewed a home run distance expert who claimed that prior to 2000, Bonds hit three homers longer than 450 feet; in the last five years, he has hit 26.

Either way…well…it seems like telling circumstantial evidence.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:44 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
December 6, 2004
BASEBALL: The Bonds Defense

Poliblogger passes on this Barry Bonds quote:

Bonds said he never paid Anderson for drugs or supplements but did give the trainer $15,000 in cash in 2003 for weight training and a $20,000 bonus after his 73-homer season.

Bonds said that Anderson had so little money that he “lives in his car half the time.” Asked by a juror why he didn’t buy “a mansion” for his trainer, Bonds answered: “One, I’m black, and I’m keeping my money. And there’s not too many rich black people in this world. There’s more wealthy Asian people and Caucasian and white. And I ain’t giving my money up.”

and asks the relevant question:

Why in the world would a multi-million dollar athlete at the pinnacle of his career employ a trainer who was semi-homeless? I will grant that Bonds didn’t need to buy the guy a house, but you are letting a guy who “lives in his car half the time” to use unknown substances on your body?

So, Bonds now says he took what Anderson gave him but didn't ask what it was. Are you kidding me? Here you've got a guy walking around with the Scarlet "S" tattooed on his head, he knows he's taking a variety of supposedly unidentified substances . . . Absolutely everyone who followed baseball the past five years either (1) thought Bonds was using the stuff or at least (2) was aware of the charges. You thought Bonds was on steroids. I thought Bonds was on steroids. But it never even occurred to Barry Bonds himself that he should look into the stuff he was taking? If so, he was the only guy in the game who wasn't thinking it. He has to know it won't pass the smell test.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:04 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Anti-Family Zealots

And the Democrats wonder why they lost even normally Democrat-friendly states like New Mexico:

Democratic legislators too often seem hostile to suburban concerns, and indifferent to the aspirations of those who would like to buy a home and a small green place to call their own. In Albuquerque, for example, planners working for the local Democratic regime advocated banning backyards, an essential part of the middle-class family lifestyle. One even told a local developer that his having four children made him "immoral." A small--and probably extreme--example? Undoubtedly. But it speaks to a stereotype that Democrats have been battling for years now: that they disdain suburbia and the families who live there. It is long past time for Democrats to start undoing that perception.

Oh, and to repeat a point we Republicans keep making: you take the people who abort their children, and we'll take the families with four kids, and we'll see in a generation which of us has more voters.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:01 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Traxler Dies

Jon Weisman reports the sad news of the death of Brian Traxler, a square-shaped line drive hitter who managed to make a big impression on a lot of fans for a guy who had only one major league hit.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:50 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL/LAW: Big Daddy Hits Back

Speaking of the media and ballplayers' personal lives, remember the story about Cecil Fielder's gambling problem? Well, now Fielder has sued the Detroit News for libel:

The libel suit, filed Nov. 23 in Wayne County Circuit Court, accuses the Detroit Newspaper Agency and reporter Fred Girard of defaming and slandering the three-time All Star by reporting that he was "in hiding," "not in contact with his family," not supporting his daughter financially, and had an "unstoppable gambling compulsion," according to the suit.

[snip]

Fielder's lawyers said the stories exaggerated the gambling and reported incorrect information.

In a follow up story Oct. 21, Fielder told the News he planned to repay his debts, saying: "I'm going to be a man about it. I'm going to take care of all my responsibilities."

From the story reported on ESPN, it doesn't sound as if Fielder is disputing many of the key allegations against him - that he gambled away millions of dollars and had lost his Florida mansion as a result of inability to pay gambling debts - and is instead attacking charges that are harder to pin down, like the extent to which he was "in hiding" or in contact with his family. Those are facts as to which it will be hard to show that the News recklessly disregarded the truth if they relied on what somebody told them or on the fact that they couldn't find him, and Fielder will have a tough time proving $25 million in damages if the thrust of the story - massive gambling debts, loss of his house - is true.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:42 AM | Baseball 2004 • | Law 2002-04 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Smear Job

I thought what the NY Daily News did to Jason Giambi on Sunday was just reprehensible. Giambi has a lot of well-deserved grief coming over his use of illegal and against-the-rules steroids and his lies to cover up that use. But the Daily News splashed a huge story across the back page about Giambi's love of Vegas nightlife:

The release of his grand jury testimony, which labels him as both a steroid user and a liar, not only makes Giambi the worst kind of bum as far as New York is concerned. It makes his somewhat reckless personal life, until now something of an open secret in baseball circles, fair game for public consumption.

Um, why would that be? What does Vegas have to do with whether the guy cheated and - the question of the hour - how seriously we should take that cheating? And what do you mean, "reckless"? Drugs? Sex? Gambling? Something else entirely? The News never precisely says, burying us instead in innuendo and a bunch of truisms about Sin City:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:37 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Out of Service

I've been off line since Thursday night due to computer difficulties (I'll get into those later), so I'm just catching up here - blogging may be sporadic until our computers have been restored.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:22 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Small World

The woman who beat Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings lost the next day to a woman named Katie Fitzgerald, who grew up with my wife. This is actually the second time we've known someone who won on Jeopardy! - we were on vacation last year, turned on the TV in mid-afternoon, and there on TV was Pete O'Malley, another college classmate who was known, back in the day, for performing as the school mascot, the Crusader (complete with sword and armor, decked out in his full infidel-slaughterin' glory).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:02 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 4, 2004
BASEBALL: Mr. Bright Side

Well, one positive development from all this steroid business is that the Mets have apparently decided to pass on Sammy Sosa.

Jason Mastaitis has picked up on this too and has some other juicy…err…interesting Mets news.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:27 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Iron From a Stone

This IMDB news item caught my eye:

Movie-maker Oliver Stone is lining up another historical figure for his next biopic - former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The director is refusing to let the critical mauling and disastrous box office performance of his latest film Alexander - based on Macedonian warrior Alexander The Great - and is pursuing his current dream of bringing the British leader's life to the big screen. And Stone is determined to land Meryl Streep for the lead role. He says, "Margaret Thatcher is an amazing woman and a good subject for a film. I'm thinking about Meryl Streep to play the Iron Lady." Pals claim Stone - who's documented the lives of shamed President Richard Nixon, assassinated leader John F. Kennedy and rock star Jim Morrison - is now keen to focus his films on some of his female idols. One friends says, "Oliver is one of Baroness Thatcher's greatest fans. Alexander was slammed by critics, so maybe he think it's time to concentrate on a great woman for a film. Thatcher was one of the most powerful political figures in the world and her life has been as colorful as any superstar." [Emphasis added]

I confess to being more than a little surprised that Stone is an avid admirer of the famously conservative “Iron Lady” but, then again, I wouldn’t have thought he would be a fan of an unapologetic conqueror like Alexander the Great either.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:25 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Legalize It?

In a post about Pete Rose and Barry Bonds, David Pinto has some provocative thoughts about steroid use and baseball, basically asking why is it wrong:

I want to throw out a hypothetical here. What if a surgeon invented a way to make you stronger with muscle implants? We already harvest hearts and lungs and corneas and livers for transplant. What if there was a way to graft more muscle onto your thighs? Is it different than laser surgery on your eyes so you see as well as Ted Williams? Is it different than getting a new arm through surgery to repair a blown tendon? Hypothetically, the effect would be the same as steroids; a stronger body hitting the ball farther. Would this be okay? Where do we draw the line and why do steroids seem to cross it?

We want to watch big guys hit home runs. That sells baseball. That helps our teams win. That's exciting. Why do we care so much about how they sculpt their bodies to become those hitters?

After all, we don't see to care so much about actors and actresses having plastic surgery. We go see them in movies because they look good, and when they stop being beautiful, we stop watching. Should there be a rule that only "natural" actors be allowed to make movies? Should Hollywood ban everyone who gets a face lift or tummy tuck?

Of course not. Becuase these people are hurting no one but themselves. And the same is true of baseball players.

It’s a very good question, the fundamental kind people too rarely ask. Like in international relations, why is it wrong for countries like Iraq and Iran to pursue nuclear weapons? Asking such questions doesn’t necessarily mean that you will come to a different conclusion, but it does help prevent you from blindly following conventional wisdom. In terms of steroids, there are several reasons why they should be banned and why their usage should be proscribed. Here are just a few…

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:43 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
December 3, 2004
POP CULTURE: Classical Rebirth?

The City Journal, lamenting New York’s long, unpleasant experiment with “modernist” architecture, has some great suggestions for a rebirth of classical architecture on the West Side.

It is long past overdue for the City to stop alternately constructing hideous eyesores and bland, nondescript office buildings and move back to the classical architecture of Grand Central Station, the Flatiron Building and the Empire State Building. As the authors here state:

Well, the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site is a lost opportunity; but New York suddenly has another chance to move beyond the stale, seven-decade-old cliché of the endlessly repeated glass box, or the glass box twisted, deconstructed, or otherwise contorted as much by computer-design programs as by any human imagination. The City Planning Commission has proposed re-zoning for redevelopment a vast area of the Far West Side—more than 60 blocks from Seventh to Twelfth Avenues and from 30th to 43rd Streets...For this north-south street, called Hudson Boulevard, City Journal has asked six renowned architects to design a half-dozen truly postmodernist buildings, skyscrapers that bypass modernism's dead end and bring New York's long and vibrant tradition of classical tall buildings triumphantly into the twenty-first century.

Here’s hoping this idea gets somewhere.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:15 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 2, 2004
BLOG: Count Every Vote!

Yours truly is up against some fierce competition in the balloting for "Best Sports Blog" at the Wizbang-sponsored "2004 Weblog Awards." You can go here to vote or view the results in that category, or here for the whole poll.

Of course, there are always some anomalies in the categories. This blog isn't, of course, purely a sports blog. Vodkapundit and Ann Althouse are undoubtedly horrified to be listed under "Best Conservative Blog." Mark Steyn's site isn't really a blog at all. Powerline should have been nominated under "Best Conservative Blog" and "Best Group Blog," Kevin Drum should have been nominated for "Best Liberal Blog" (Powerline and Drum both appear in the "Best Overall Blog" category), and having a "Best LGBT Blog" category without Andrew Sullivan is like having a "Best Game Show Contestant" category and leaving off Ken Jennings. And the voting is skewed a bit in some ways - LGF is leading the "Best Blog" ballot, while the liberal blogs are all getting crushed there.

Still, it's a fun process; thanks to Kevin Aylward for putting it all together. And, of course, I'm flattered that anybody is voting for me.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:25 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Spilling The Juice

No time to blog this morning, but I'll point you to Jeff Quinton, who picks up the NY Daily News report on Jason Giambi admitting to the BALCO grand jury that he used steroids and human growth hormone. Of course, if this story gets confirmed in the public eye - not that anybody'd be all that surprised - it would reduce Giambi's vulnerability to blackmail by the Yankees.

Of course, the Yankees also have their hands full with not paying their taxes rent . . .

UPDATE: Fixed the reference above. Also, note that Jeremy Giambi also admitted using steroids, which is unsurprising in light of his brother's admission:

Jeremy Giambi's testimony mirrored his brother's -- right down to Anderson's notifying him that he had tested positive for the steroid Deca Durabolin. Jeremy Giambi described to the grand jury how he had injected human growth hormone and testosterone he received from the trainer before the start of the 2003 season, when he played for the Boston Red Sox.

The younger Giambi testified that he knew testosterone was a steroid but that Anderson had described "the clear" and "the cream" only as undetectable "alternatives to steroids."

"For all I knew, it could have been baby lotion," Jeremy Giambi told the grand jury.

Jeremy Giambi, 30, also told the grand jury that he had taken several different-colored pills provided by Anderson even though he didn't know what they were.

Nedrow asked Jeremy Giambi why he trusted Anderson.

"I don't know, I guess -- I mean, you're right," Jeremy Giambi testified. "I probably shouldn't have trusted the guy. But I just felt like, you know, what he had done for Barry [Bonds] and, you know, I didn't think the guy would send me something that was, you know, Drano or something, you know, I mean, I hope he wouldn't."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:45 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (3)
December 1, 2004
BASEBALL: Be Careful Who You Wish For

The Giants have to be planning on drifting gradually to a safe distance from the pennant race as the Marlins did this season if they are looking to entrust their closer job to Armando Benitez. As the AP item notes:

[W]hile Benitez has been one of the game's top closers in the regular season with 244 saves in 283 chances - the fourth best percentage all-time -- his postseason history is spotty. He has blown six of 10 postseason save opportunities -- a major league record . . .

Yeah, and that doesn't count meaningful regular season games in pennant races. Brian Sabean is falling back on the "everybody blows games" defense:

"He's 32-years old and has learned a lot from his experience," Sabean said, adding that in this postseason "people with greater reputations proved they're fallible."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: It Depends Whose Ox Is Getting Gored

The latest example of judicial overreaching on social issues comes from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where a panel ruled on Monday in FAIR v. Rumsfeld (link opens 100+ page PDF file) that the Solomon Amendment violated the First Amendment freedoms of speech and association of university law schools. The Mad Hibernian noted the decision here; I first blogged about the Solomon Amendment here, on the second day of this blog's existence.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the issue, the Solomon Amendment provides that universities may not continue to receive federal funding if they refuse to allow military recruiters on campus. Many colleges and, in particular, law schools banned military recruiters during the Vietnam War as an anti-war protest, although the bans that remain in effect today are mainly predicated, at least ostensibly, on a protest against the military's "don't-ask-don't-tell" policy towards gay servicemen and women. A group of law schools sued, saying that their freedom of speech and association was violated by making them, as a condition of receiving federal funding, accept recruiters on their campuses.

There is, of course, no constitutional right to federal funding, so the case turns on the doctrine of "unconstitutional conditions," by which the government may not impose an undue burden on the exercise of a fundamental right as a condition of receiving a benefit. In other words, the court had to balance the degree of imposition on the law schools' rights of speech and association with the strength of the government interest involved.

This is where the court's opinion is problematic.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:15 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)