Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
May 31, 2005
BASEBALL: Hang It Up, Scott

Well, maybe it was a nice idea, but Scott Erickson, who's lost his slot in the Dodgers' starting rotation, is not just done, but long past done. It's been six years now since Erickson posted an ERA lower than 5.55. Since 2000, Erickson's ERA is 6.46, the highest of any major league pitcher to throw at least 250 innings in that period. Over that stretch he's walked more men than he struck out and allowed 11.34 hits per 9 innings. This season, he's walked 18 and struck out just 9 while allowing 11 home runs in 42.2 innings. It's over.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:57 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Cameron Gets It Done

Entering tonight's action, Mike Cameron has now played precisely 162 games as a Met. The results? .252/.510/.342, 97 runs, 87 RBI, 40 doubles, 35 HR, 71 walks, 26 steals in 32 tries, just 8 GIDP. Not bad.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:19 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 27, 2005
BASEBALL: The Old Master

Man, Pedro's 8 shutout innings were just an absolute pitching clinic tonight, as he methodically dismantled the Marlins lineup like he was picking the wings off a fly. In, out, faster, slower . . . he was just one step ahead with his changes in speeds and locations, just getting in their heads and outsmarting them. Tom Seaver, in the broadcast booth, is just completely energized when Pedro's out there -you can feel his enjoyment of great pitching like this, as he and Fran Healy spent the last few innings guessing where they'd call the next pitch - "I think he's got him here, Fran, I'd go up a couple inches and just move a little outside and he'll bite."

For the record, though, I would have pulled Pedro for a pinch hitter after 7, when he came up with a runner on second and one out, a 1-run lead, and already having thrown 100 pitches. He moved the runner over - as if this is a big deal, getting a man to third with two outs - and Jose Reyes went Bobbing for Bad Pitches to strike out and leave Pedro and then Looper to cling to a 1-0 lead.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:52 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL/WAR: Save Ali

Go here to help the Mets raise money for a young Iraqi boy who needs life-saving medical treatment.

(You can go to the main page here if the link above won't open).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:41 PM | Baseball 2005 • | War 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Worth A Thousand Words

You know, numbers alone just can't capture the distance between the Hated Yankees' payroll and everyone else's:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:19 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Yankee Bat Boy

The brother of a friend just published a book about his experience as a bat boy for the Hated Yankees in the early 90s. (His experiences were also the inspiration for the short-lived TV series "Clubhouse").

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:46 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Winning Is The Only Thing

In general, I agree with this Max Boot column on revisiting the roles of women and gays in the military. (via Instapundit). The only question, in both cases, should be whether the effectiveness of the military can be increased. Like Boot and a lot of other conservatives, my big concern in the 1990s was that people pushing social changes in the military were subordinating that objective to other goals.

Ultimately, of course, this is one issue that should be decided solely by the professional military leadership, without political interference from either side. But it couldn't hurt to make sure that the military leadership has confidence that whatever decisions it makes won't be second-guessed politically.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:27 AM | War 2005 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
May 26, 2005
BASEBALL: No Straight A's

Three stats fairly well summarize the season the A's are having:

*Oakland's team ERA: 3.65 in April, 5.94 in May.

*American League Avg/Slg/OBP: .263/.411/.327. A's: .245/.348/.319.

*Team OBP with nobody on/nobody out (i.e., in most cases, leading off an inning): .286.

UPDATE:
How 'bout a fourth? Blez points out they are also leading the majors in errors.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:14 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Automatic

At his peak, from August 1993 through the end of 1995 (about two full seasons), Greg Maddux was one of just three pitchers with an ERA below 3.20: Jose Rijo at 3.00, Randy Johnson at 2.74, and Maddux at 1.57. On the road during that period - when the Braves still played in The Launching Pad - Maddux was 28-2 with a 1.23 ERA.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:47 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Say It Ain't So

It couldn't possibly be the case that terrorists are also liars, could it?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:45 AM | War 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Those Pesky Connections

We just keep getting more pieces of the puzzle connecting Saddam's regime to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups (via Instapundit), although as always, there are questions of how much we really know (see questions raised here by Smash). I, for one, am glad that the option of collaborating with a regime like Saddam's is no longer open to Al Qaeda, and that we're no longer subject to that uncertainty.

In another year or two, someone needs to do a revised version of Stephen Hayes' book and really tie together what we do and don't know about Saddam's ties to Al Qeada, and which things we think we know but haven't proven one way or another. Frankly, given the covert nature of these kinds of contacts, I'm amazed we know as much as we do. Not that we're likely to get much help from the media, which regards this as a closed question.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:41 AM | War 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links 5/26/05

*Nobody Expects The Italian Inquisition! If ever there's a case where artists and writers the world over should be rising as one in protest of official censorship and incipient theocracy, this is it. Don't hold your breath waiting.

*Jeff Baxter, from rock star to counter-terrorist expert. (via Wizbang):

During one background interview, Mr. Baxter says, he was asked whether he could be bribed with money or drugs. He recalls telling the investigators not to worry because he had already "been there, done that, and given away the T-shirt" during his rock career.

*Slate has a fascinating article on how it was determined that the male-female population imbalance in some countries is largely the result of Hepatitis B.

*Dustbury links to "The Billboard Country Music Top Ten If Kenny Chesney Were Anakin Skywalker and Renée Zellweger Were Padmé Amidala." Such as, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (You Looked Exactly The Same As You Do Now. It's Weird.)"

*The nanny state strikes again, requiring contests to include math problems for Canadians.

*Historical perspective from NRO: Vintage Goldberg on one of Hillary Clinton's less than shining moments. I agree entirely with the concluding paragraph. And a classic example of unreality-based overwrought attacks on judges: Ted Kennedy on that dangerous, extremist right-winger David Souter.

*More historical perspective on judicial filibusters from Ann Althouse.

*Interesting and balanced NY Times Magazine profile of Rick Santorum. The Washington Post had a nearly identical profile last month.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:13 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 25, 2005
BASEBALL: Eternal Truths

Negro League pioneer Rube Foster, quoted in Only the Ball Was White, on why as a manager he generally ordered his players to take two strikes early in the game:

If you let a player make the pitcher pitch four or five balls to him, he will tire around seven innings, and if you can hit him at the beginning you can hit him when he is weaker and less effective. It is at this point I always center my attack. In most cases it is successful.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:01 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Sisco Kid

One of the few bright spots for the Royals this year has been Andy Sisco, a Rule V pick (from the Cubs) who's been put to maximum use in middle relief, appearing in 20 of KC's 45 games, on a pace to toss 92.1 innings out of the bullpen. The 22-year-old Sisco is a big, big guy, listed at 6'10" and 270 pounds, he's lefthanded and he throws in the 90s (Christian Ruzich has more), so he inevitably draws comparisons to Randy Johnson; his Rule V status also brings to mind Johan Santana, who was obtained the same way by the Twins.

Those are unfairly weighty comparisons, but Sisco has pitched impressively: he's striking out 10.87 batters per 9 innings, among the highest rates in baseball, and has allowed just 2 home runs and 17 hits in 25.2 innings of work. He's still an unfinished project, of course, walking 5.61 batters per 9, a rate that's been closer to 1 per inning in recent outings. KC fans can tell you, from watching Mike McDougal, what that kind of control can do to a pitcher with electric stuff. But fortunately for Sisco, the Royals have an inexhaustible supply of meaningless games in which a young middle reliever can work on his control.

UPDATE: I should note, by the way, that Sisco was a starter in the minors. I assume the point of investing major league innings in him now - other than the fact that he's actually one of the team's most effective relievers already - is to groom him to join the rotation in 2006 or 2007, mush the way Santana did with the Twins.

If you look down that K/9 list, some more interesting notes:

*The only guy to throw at least 20 innings with a K/9 of 7 or better and not allow a home run so far is Huston Street, who's stepping into the closer's role (possibly for good) while Octavio Dotel is on the DL for a few weeks. Street's been a bright spot in an A's pitching staff that has collapsed after a hot start: he's been almost as wild as Sisco (their numbers are actually rather similar), but if you can strike enough guys out and keep the ball in the park, you can be real tough to beat. Street is reminiscent of a young Billy Wagner at this point.

*At the opposite pole is Joe Blanton, the Oakland prospect who has bombed, striking out 13 in 43.2 innings of work. The rest of his numbers have now caught up (or, more properly, caught down) with his inability to fool anyone (shades of Jimmy Gobble, another well-regarded prospect who the league caught up with in a hurry last season). Blanton can't survive in the majors with those kind of numbers.

*Another guy who's very low in the K department is Jon Garland, whiffing 4.18 men per 9. Garland has cut his walks and slashed his HR/9 numbers (just 3 in 66.2 IP compared to 34 gophers last season), and his ability to keep that up will determine whether he can remain near his new level of effectiveness. Garland's never been terrible, but he's never hinted that he was about to be this good, either; he's in many ways a data point in favor of the idea that even modestly talented starting pitchers, like NFL quarterbacks, are bound to have at least one really good year if they can stay healthy for enough years and keep taking the ball.

*Tomo Okha is really playing with fire with a 21/16 BB/K ratio and 5 homers in 43.2 IP.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:18 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Cease Fire

I can't add a lot to the rivers of pixels that have been expended on the filibuster "deal." Obviously, it's not a good deal for Republicans, who for the future get only vague assurances of not filibustering except in "extraordinary" cases, which means nothing. Plus, as with cease-fires in war, an agreement of this nature is only useful if the will to enforce it can be summoned at the first violation. Making a deal when you have your forced mobilized always makes it harder to rally them again later.

Then again, it's not such a great deal for Democrats, either, as the Republican promises in the deal are entirely unenforceable once the Democrats filibuster again on ideological grounds. Thus, the only thing the Democrats get is to step back for a while from the brink at a time when the GOP may or may not have had the votes.

In that light, the deal's not a disaster overall - both sides went home unhappy, and Bill Frist got humiliated, but Bush does get a floor vote on three appellate court nominees, so unlike the typical Trent Lott-era deal at least there should be something lasting to show for all this.

Anyway, the pressure will only increase now on both parties not to compromise again at the next stage, when a Supreme Court nominee comes up. It's gonna be ugly.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:11 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: More Sith

Gary Farber has a long, interesting post on Revenge of the Sith, including a link to the original script and discussion of deleted scenes, some of which might have been useful to developing the plot. (via Instapundit). Farber and his commenters stress the usefulness, in understanding the broader story leading into Sith, of checking out the animated Clone Wars series and the Lucas-authorized novel Labyrinth of Evil, which leads directly into the opening of Sith. I missed the series but I'll probably check out both, eventually.

Also, Orson Scott Card has a big-picture review worth reading (via Will Collier).

In addition to busting several box office records in the US with a $160 million opening weekend, Sith had "the most successful film-opening in UK cinema history" and "grossed $144.7 million overseas for a total of $303 million worldwide," including more than $26 million in the UK and $22 million in France.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:07 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: As I Write This, A Man Is Waiting Downstairs To Murder Me

I dropped by Steven Den Beste's anime blog just to see if there was anything of more general interest there, and stumbled upon this entry, which you have to read to believe.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:03 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (2)
BLOG: No Joke

Ann Althouse discusses a Sunday NY Times article on the decline of joke-telling.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:01 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Saddam News Network

Saddam Hussein's wife is trying to buy a controlling stake in Al-Jazeera.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:58 AM | War 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 24, 2005
BASEBALL: Dodgers' Win-Share Items

In his interview with Paul DePodesta, Steve Henson of the Los Angeles Times writes that "Jeff Kent has been as advertised offensively and significantly better defensively at second." The latter characterization is slowly becoming the conventional wisdom among the mainstream press. It expresses pleasant surprise at the slugger's glove. Well, as of May 18, Kent trailed only Craig Counsell in fielding win shares among NL second basemen.

Meanwhile, Cesar Izturis stands alongside Clint Barmes and David Eckstein at the top of the league's shortstop list. But the reigning gold-glove winner has been doing it more at the plate than at the hole. He's the position leader in batting win shares (5.0). On defense, his 1.5 ranks fourth.

Lastly, as Studes points out, the Hee Seop Choi-Olmedo Saenz platoon has a combined 10 win shares, which tie MVP contenders Derrek Lee and Bobby Abreu (and exceed Albert Pujols). Of course, Saenz has logged some time at third, so some apples are mixed with the oranges. But we can say, at the very least, that the Dodgers' problems do not lie at first. (It's actually in the rotation.)

Posted by Robert Tagorda at 9:16 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Wright and Wrong

We've certainly been treated lately to some reminders that David Wright, likely as he is to be a major star in the near future (among other things, he's now #10 in all of baseball in number of pitches seen per plate appearance), is still a very young player who is prone to young player's mistakes - fielding errors and, last night, running outside the baseline to break up a double play, resulting in the nullification of the tying runs and Wright's ejection from the game. (It's an open question whether Rafael Furcal would have turned the DP if Wright hadn't veered in his direction, although MIke Cameron wouldn't have scored the 7th run on the play.

On a related topic, Studes explains here why the Win Shares system assigns Jose Reyes zero defensive value thus far this season.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:26 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: What Is An Extremist?

NRO provides a little historical context.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:24 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Health Savings Accounts

Matt Yglesias argues:

But let's say conservatives are right. Let's say the main problems with the US healthcare system really are overconsumption (i.e., third party payment encourages people to use health care services they don't really need) and overregulation (i.e., mandated features on insurance plans designed to make them better just price them out of the range of too many consumers) and that, therefore, HSAs are a good solution. Isn't universal health care still the way to go?

I think Yglesias undercounts the conservative objections, which also include lack of individual choice, erosion of the profit motive needed to drive further innovation, and the interposing of unnecessary third-party insurers. But anyway, let's look at his solutions:

First, eliminate the tax preference for health insurance as compensation vis-à-vis money.

This would politically difficult, but I'd certainly agree that having people go through their employers to get health care involves an extra level of intermediary that does no good.

Next, implement a national catastrophic care program where the government will pick up the tab for any health expenses you incur over a "deductible" of $X which you need to pay out of pocket. Providing catastrophic care to the entire under-65 population shouldn't be particularly expensive.

I'd agree with this - the present system is backwards. Insurance should be there, whether public or private (and in some cases public makes sense) to pick up costs that we can't handle, not to pay ordinary expenses.

Of course, this still leaves Health Savings Accounts as a logical solution for those intermediate-cost expenses, things that you can and should save for - Yglesias doesn't get to those.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:24 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Quick Links 5/24/05

*A Vietnamese reporter for TIME Magazine during the Vietnam War apparently used his position to spy for the enemy.

*This probably means less than meets the eye. But if it doesn't . . .

*Is Cuban dissident Luis Posada Carriles a terrorist or a freedom fighter? I say both, and we should hold him accountable for terrorism. Should he be turned over to Cuba or Venezuela? I'd say he should be. Of course, some may disagree on the grounds that Cuba, in particular, has a record of torturing prisoners. Presumably those who are opposed across the board to "rendition" of prisoners to countries with outstanding warrants and records of torturing prisoners in the past will oppose extradition of Carriles.

*Speaking of Cuba: Down with Fidel.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:08 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 23, 2005
BASEBALL: The Remainders

Tonight's starting lineups:

Mets
J. Reyes SS
M. Cairo 2B
M. Cameron CF
C. Floyd LF
D. Wright 3B
D. Mientkiewicz 1B
C. Woodward RF
M. DiFelice C
K. Ishii P

Braves
R. Furcal SS
M. Giles 2B
B. Jordan LF
A. Jones CF
J. Franco 1B
R. Mondesi RF
B. Pena C
W. Betemit 3B
H. Ramirez P

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:49 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Fully Armed and Operational

Well, I went to see Revenge of the Sith yesterday; my wife and I took the kids, ages 7 and 5. I should say that the movie was rather intense for their age, and my daughter had to hide her face in a few places. I think it's OK for a 7-8 year old, but if we'd been able to get away with it I wouldn't have brought a 5-year-old to see this.

I went in really wanting to like this movie, and if it wasn't perfect, it was a heck of a thrill ride and a fittingly satisfying end to the Star Wars saga, one that I think will stand up as the equal to Return of the Jedi in terms of action, drama and the resolution of loose ends. And yes: the Wookie army is cool, and serves as a crucial plot device. The bottom line: this was so much fun, and there was so much going on (some of which I missed, due to the mumbling of some dialogue and the kids peppering me with whispered questions) that I'm dying to see it again. (You should read the reviews (including spoilers) by Michele and Will Collier, who had much the same reaction).

I'm not quite ready to say "all is forgiven" - in particular not turning the Force into a biological phenomenon - but most of the misfires that marred Episodes I and II were but distant memories after Sith. Of course, I didn't hate Episodes I and II - Phantom Menace was enjoyable at the time, but the whole Jar Jar thing, among several other key failings, makes it painful to rewatch much of the movie. Attack of the Clones was better, but the love scenes were deadly and the entire thing was more a series of entertaining set pieces than a cohesive story.

Sith is better in that regard - everything is finally working together in a single multilayered plot held together by the masterful evil of Palpatine/Sidious, and the pacing of the movie (as well as its one startlingly graphic sequence) reminded me more than anything of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The movie's climax packs an emotional wallop despite the inevitable lack of suspense, as both Anakin and the remaining good guys watch everything they have fought for slip from within their grasp.

The special effects are great, and only in a few places - the big lizard, and some parts of the opening space battle - do they look a bit cheesy.

The dialogue isn't . . . well, it just isn't the point of the movie, but for a guy who gets a rap for bad dialogue, Lucas sure has written a lot of memorable lines. He gets in a few well-placed one-liners here.

Many of the knocks on the acting are misguided: while the acting is uneven in places, and even Ian McDiarmid - who gives the film's showstopping performance as the Emperor - takes a few lines a bit too far, most of what you want from the acting in a movie like this is not to detract from the plot.

I still think Hayden Christensen gets a bit of a bad rap - he was entirely realistic in his portrayal of Anakin in the last movie as a whining, melodramatic, self-important teenager, and he expands on that performance here as a young man who is long on courage and ego and short on patience and good judgment. In fact, if you go back and think about the Darth Vader scenes in Episodes IV-VI and imagine Christensen's voice and expressions, they actually fit quite well. Darth Vader was never, after all, an evil genius - he was always a villain whose downfall was his impatience and rash, impetuous decisions. When the Death Star is under siege, does he devise a clever, multifaceted defense of the station? No, he hops in his own specially designed Tie Fighter to go take care of what his damned incompetent subordinates can't do themselves. He runs through generals and admirals like Steinbrenner used to run through managers, sends a fleet of star destroyers into an asteroid field, and lets the good guys get away repeatedly.

MORE INCLUDING SPOILERS

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:35 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (4) | TrackBack (2)
BASEBALL: Good Weekend for the Empire

This Mets-Yankees series was deeply disappointing, as the Mets were in all three games and had the third one well in hand before the bullpen let it get away. (The Hated Yankees sure didn't look like Pedro's "daddy," but with the Mets bullpen they sure didn't need to). (Speaking of which, that expression comes from Pedro paying respect to the Yankees, and their fans will never let him hear the end of it. So much for being graceful in victory).

Some random thoughts from a topsy-turvy weekend, where the Mets won Randy Johnson's start and the Yankees won Pedro's:

*I guess Beltran's quad injury explains why he hasn't been stealing bases. The Mets sure could have used a steal in the 7th inning on Friday.

*If you missed it, the humor highlight of the series was the Dae Sung Koo show on Saturday. Mister Koo had drawn much mockery from the press box (and, apparently, his teammates) for his first big league at bat earlier in the week, when he made clear that he had no intention of taking the bat off his shoulder and took three easy strikes. Randy Johnson, presumably having read the scouting report on Koo, grooved a fat fastball to him - and the lefthanded hitting Koo ripped the ball 400 feet to center field for a double. Then, to top that off, when the next batter bunted him over and nobody covered home plate, Koo took off and wound up scoring from second on a sac bunt (leading to a disputed play at the plate).

*Man, does Tony Womack ever stink as a leftfielder - they guy is just a disaster with the glove, and this from a guy who barely hits enough to play every day as a middle infielder.

*Are the Mets trying to kill Piazza with the Zambrano/Ishii Axis of Wild in the rotation? Some of the pitches Piazza has to dive for are just way out there. And then he usually doesn't even get to enjoy working with Pedro.

*Bottom of the 8th on Friday against Tom Gordon: after David Wright walks on four pitches, Matsui and Valent each come up hacking and strike out on three pitches. Grrrr.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:20 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Ghost of Christmas Past

Via Pejman, a scathing IMDb review of the infamous Star Wars Christmas Special, which I am thankful not to have seen, or at least remembered. I assume that a condition of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher returning for the sequels was no more TV specials.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:14 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 22, 2005
POLITICS: Oh, That Liberal Media

A classic of the genre. Via Kaus. (BTW, what keeps happening to Mickey's permalinks? They're like Brigadoon).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:15 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
May 20, 2005
BASEBALL: Back To The Lab, Leo

Losing John Thomson for up to three months should, by the normal laws of baseball, be a crippling blow to the Braves; as I've noted before, since last year's All-Star Break, Thomson has been one of the very best pitchers in baseball.

Then again, Thomson arrived in Atlanta with a career ERA of 4.93, including 4.48 on the road, with a 2.1 K/BB ratio and 1.16 HR/9 allowed on the road; with Atlanta, his overall numbers are a 3.66 ERA, 2.5 K/BB and 0.80 HR/9, and the road numbers are similar, with the HR/9 rate dropping to 0.59. Which raises the question again of how hard it can really be for the Braves to find a guy with similar credentials to Thomson pre-Braves (such as Kris Benson or Victor Zambrano), knowing what Leo Mazzone can do with him.

Here's the full roster of Braves pitchers under Cox and Mazzone.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:32 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Starting Badly

Leadoff hitters for NL East teams:

TeamAvgSlgOBP
Nationals.297.473.369
Marlins.248.331.312
Phillies.233.361.285
Mets.257.383.280
Braves.231.325.275

In other words, the Mets aren't alone in this problem. But that makes it no less in need of fixing. And we also see reason #1 why the Nationals are competitive with the rest of the division - Brad Wilkerson is setting the table in a way nobody else in the division is.

UPDATE: A few additional thoughts. First, the Mets also have little to show from the #2 slot, a problem they share with Atlanta and Washington. Second, I don't doubt that Willie Randolph is a smart guy. I'm sure he knows that Reyes is not a major league leadoff hitter and won't be until he adds significantly more patience (or starts hitting .330). The difference between the Mets and the Nationals is that Frank Robinson has the guts to use an unconventional leadoff man, a power hitter who strikes out a lot. Randolph hasn't demonstrated that he has the self-confidence to buck the conventional wisdom (even widely discredited conventional wisdom like batting a fast guy who doesn't get on base in the leadoff slot), and he won't be a successful major league manager unless he develops it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:27 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (1)
POLITICS: Three Links

Poliblogger has another systematic look at obstruction of judicial nominees, and why it's particularly unprecedented to see this level of obstruction when the president's party controls the Senate. Unfortunately, the data only goes through 2003. Via Wizbang.

Dale Franks has a good discussion of income inequality and (1) its connection to the fact that people who make more money tend to work more and (2) the fact that people tend to make more money as they get older. Neither of which should be news except for the New York Times' persistent efforts to oversimplify the issue. Of course, that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of hardworking people who make peanuts, but the broad generalizations drawn from statistics on the subject are almost always misleading.

And Ann Coulter has a typically blistering column comparing Newsweek's willingness to run a poorly sourced Michael Isikoff item on Koran-flushing with Newsweek's unwillingness to run extensively sourced Isikoff items on Clinton scandals. (Standard disclaimers about Coulter columns apply).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:17 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Blackmun's Arguments

From a review of Linda Greenhouse's new book on Harry Blackmun:

Blackmun's legacy as a justice is uncertain at best. Although one would not know it from Greenhouse's book, he possessed neither the persuasive skills of a William Brennan nor the analytical skills of a John Paul Stevens. (Full disclosure: I clerked for Stevens.) Such skills are necessary to have a far-reaching impact on the court. Of course, every justice possesses significant power with his or her vote. But Blackmun lacked the additional firepower to forge an influential jurisprudence, one that would reach beyond the power of his vote. Greenhouse never tackles this question or offers her readers the tools for making or disputing such a judgment.

I think that's right, and of course it was never more in evidence than in the sloppy, poorly-reasoned and intellectually dishonest opinion in Roe v. Wade that defined Blackmun's career. There's simply nothing in the man's career to suggest that he was particularly smart.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:10 AM | Law 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: We Don't Need To Know

You know, while the pitcures taken of Saddam Hussein when he was captured were humiliating, that was a good thing - crack the mystique and all - and necessary to show we had him. But pictures of him in his underwear seem quite unnecessary, to say nothing of something we just don't want to see on the front page of a newspaper.

(I'll warn you before you click the link that the NY Post is now requiring registration. Ugh.)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:57 AM | War 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 19, 2005
BLOG: Quick Links 5/19/05

*Silent Running conducts a visual test of the plausibility of flushing a book down a toilet. (via Wizbang) And Jack Shafer notes the past proliferation of urban legends about the Koran and toilets. I should add that, if there's one journalistic practice I would hope that the media would be very careful about in the future after the Newsweek and Rathergate fiascos, it would be the practice of assuming that the failure of the government to deny a report is affirmative evidence of its truth. Anyone who's dealt with large organizations knows thatn it's hard to get them to commit to confirming or denying things with much confidence if some representative of the organization is hearing a charge for the first time.

*From the Day by Day archives: in the 1-year period after his return from drug rehab, Dwight Gooden went 23-8. But perhaps more interesting, look at Roger Clemens' workload in that stretch: 300+ innings and 20 complete games. At age 24. Presumably this took years off Clemens' career?

*Amusing article on Star Wars mania overseas. Even the French and the Chinese are not immune. (Heard on the morning news: "Many people who went to the late showing last night will be calling in Sith today." Ba dump bump.) Also, Slate's review. I don't get people reading anti-Bush-ism into Anakin saying a variant on "you are with me or against me," which (a) is a line from countless movie heroes and villains and (b) is a close cousin to that line beloved by left-wingers (as well as some on the Right), "you are part of the solution or part of the problem," which means almost exactly the same thing. Slate's Edelstein notes a different line, from the Emperor: "He stirs Anakin's ambitions and parries the young man's objection that the Jedi work for good with the line, 'Good is a point of view.'" Well, that plays perfectly into conservative themes about moral relativism.

Or, maybe it's just a movie, folks.

*I have to agree with John Derbyshire: George Galloway may be a nutty leftist, a crook, and a bought-and-paid-for Saddam apologist, but you have to admire the man's style.

*Instapundit offers some perspective for Andrew Sullivan, who has completely lost his.

*Cardinal fan the Birdwatch regrets the loss of the Mets-Cardinals rivalry and has to admit that Shea isn't such a bad place. I have to say, I've never understood why people don't like Shea, which is a very nice place to see a ballgame. (via Pinto)

*Megan McArdle notes some misguided assumptions in a New York Times piece on differences in health among rich and poor, specifically the idea - where they got this I have no idea - that poor people work longer hours. Are you kidding me?

*Hugh Hewitt asks why the same people who denounce any criticism of judges as some sort of mortal threat to the Republic have no problem denouncing Bush's judicial appointees as 'extremists' based on their records . . . as judges.

*The real 2004 election fraud. (Via Kaus and Mystery Pollster)

*Neat summary of what the War on Terror is about.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:45 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
May 18, 2005
BLOG: Quick Links 5/18/05

*Mark the Pundit wants to know who picks up the check for the evacuation of the Capitol & White House.

*Josh Marshall writes a surprisingly spin-free review of David McCullough's new book on George Washington, but in the course of it, he touches on the clash between the modern cult of authenticity and the way Washington forced himself to play a continuous role, that of the larger-than-life heroic figure, and the benefits that role had for his leadership of the nation in times of crisis. Nobody measures up to Washington, of course, but it's hard to read this and not think of more modern presidents - Reagan, Bush, FDR - who knew the importance of maintaining a consistent public persona (Clinton too had the ability to "put on" who he wanted to be in public, but what Clinton lacked was the constancy to make that public persona convincing - while the others succeeded by forcing themselves to be the same under every circumstance, Clinton's gift was to be different in every circumstance).

*On a related note, I can't stand articles like this one, on Bruce Springsteen, that trash a performer for inauthenticity for making that kind of effort to have a consistent public persona. Typical critic to love all Bruce's acoustic albums and not the really good stuff. This is implausible:

From the post-Landau period, the harrowing masterpiece Nebraska is the only record you can push on the nonbelievers, followed by the grossly underrated Tunnel of Love.

Um, no - he seems to have forgotten in this passage that Born in the USA had 7 top-10 hits on Top 40 Radio. (My wife doesn't love Bruce but she loved The Rising). I regard Nebraska more as fodder for the hardest-core Bruce fans; I've never met anyone who said it was their favorite Bruce record. On the other hand, he's right that Darkness on the Edge of Town is the album that separates true Bruce fans from the rest of the world. The new album doesn't have any really good songs, but has a few that are OK - Maria's Bed, Leah, and Long Time Comin' are all pretty good tunes. As for "All the Way Home," I preferred the original Southside Johnny version.

*John Fund wants to know why we don't use more commissions like the military base-closing commission. He has a point, although such commissions can only work in similar circumstances: when Congress agrees to overall spending cuts but can't agree on where to find them.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:44 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Really Bad Advice

Brendan Miniter wants Mitt Romney to run against Ted Kennedy in 2006 to promote Romney's chances of running for president in 2008. This is horrendously bad advice. First of all, you don't run for a new job two years before you run for president. It's too hard and looks too transparently careerist. Second, Romney fought the good fight vs. Ted once, and if Ted couldn't be beaten in GOP-friendly 1994 he never will be. Third, you lose and it rubs some of the luster off no matter how expected. Fourth, to be a serious 2008 challenger Romney probably needs to get re-elected, hard as that may be.

Maybe, maybe, if Romney wanted to run in 2012 and had a chance of winning this race, I'd advise him to consider it. But I still would balk at that advice. If he wants to go to the Senate, wait until Kerry retires or Ted dies.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:22 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Saudi Insurgency

Christopher Hitchens (via Vodka), Megan McArdle and Tyler Cowen all ponder a New York Times article noting that the insurgency in Iraq isn't following any of the traditional patterns for an insurgency, in the sense of (1) trying to build popular support or (2) having a comprehensible set of goals or demands. Hitchens - whose column is a must read - notes the obvious: the "insurgents" are basically Zarqawi's organization and the former Ba'athists. Zarqawi's group is part of Al Qaeda and composed of non-Iraqis; their behavior is precisely in line with Al Qaeda's MO and stated ideology, and they are no more an Iraqi "insurgency" than Al Qaeda in the United States is an American insurgency:

The Bin Laden and Zarqawi organizations, and their co-thinkers in other countries, have gone to great pains to announce, on several occasions, that they will win because they love death, while their enemies are so soft and degenerate that they prefer life. Are we supposed to think that they were just boasting when they said this? Their actions demonstrate it every day, and there are burned-out school buses and clinics and hospitals to prove it, as well as mosques . . .

Then we might find a little space for the small question of democracy. . . . As for the Bin Ladenists, they have taken extraordinary pains to say, through the direct statements of Osama and of Zarqawi, that democracy is a vile heresy, a Greek fabrication, and a source of profanity. For the last several weeks, however, the Times has been opining every day that the latest hysterical murder campaign is a result of the time it has taken the newly elected Iraqi Assembly to come up with a representative government. The corollary of this mush-headed coverage must be that, if a more representative government were available in these terrible conditions (conditions supplied by the gangsters themselves), the homicide and sabotage would thereby decline. Is there a serious person in the known world who can be brought to believe such self-evident rubbish?

On many occasions, the jihadists in Iraq have been very specific as well as very general. When they murdered Sergio Vieira de Mello, the brilliant and brave U.N. representative assigned to Baghdad by Kofi Annan, the terrorists' communique hailed the death of the man who had so criminally helped Christian East Timor to become independent of Muslim Indonesia. (This was also among the "reasons" given for the bombing of the bar in Bali.) I think I begin to sense the "frustration" of the "insurgents." They keep telling us what they are like and what they want. But do we ever listen? Nah. For them, it must be like talking to the wall. Bennet even complains that it's difficult for reporters to get close to the "insurgents": He forgets that his own paper has published a conversation with one of them, in which the man praises the invasion of Kuwait, supports the cleansing of the Kurds, and says that "we cannot accept to live with infidels."

This point is underlined by a recent Washington Post analysis pointing out the high proportion of young Saudi jihadists in the "insurgency". These are reckless, frustrated young men, in their teens and early twenties, who desire martyrdom. Not only are they foreigners whose only interests are harming America and bringing death on themselves, but the fact that they have no plan or program for the future of Iraq is about as surprising as the idea that a 15-year-old boy who gets his girlfriend pregnant has no long term plan for fatherhood.

Then there's the Ba'athists; Hitchens again:

[W]hy would the "secular" former Baathists join in such theocratic mayhem? Let me see if I can guess. Leaving aside the formation of another well-named group - the Fedayeen Saddam - to perform state-sponsored jihad before the intervention, how did the Baath Party actually rule? Yes, it's coming back to me. By putting every Iraqi citizen in daily fear of his or her life, by random and capricious torture and murder, and by cynical divide-and-rule among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. Does this remind you of anything?

. . . Having once read in high school that violence is produced by underlying social conditions, the author of this appalling article refers in lenient terms to "the goal of ridding Iraq of an American presence, a goal that may find sympathy among Iraqis angry about poor electricity and water service and high unemployment." Bet you hadn't thought of that: The water and power are intermittent, so let's go and blow up the generating stations and the oil pipelines. No job? Shoot up the people waiting to register for employment. To the insult of flattering the psychopaths, Bennet adds his condescension to the suffering of ordinary Iraqis, who are murdered every day while trying to keep essential services running. (Baathism, by the way, comes in very handy in crippling these, because the secret police of the old regime know how things operate, as well as where everybody lives. Or perhaps you think that the attacks are so "deadly" because the bombers get lucky seven days a week?)

I can understand why people objected, early in the insurgency, to calling the perpetrators of a guerilla campaign that then had some modicum of popular support "terrorism," although the main motive for the objection was to deny any connection between Iraq and the larger war. At this point, however, it requires a fairly powerful desire to flee reality to keep treating these guys as anything but nihilistic, jihad-oriented terrorists.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:58 AM | War 2005 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Less Than Zero

I've had a couple of people ask me to explain this in the past few days, so I figure there must be interest in the question: Robinson Cano of the Yankees is presently batting .327 with a .320 on base percentage. For those of you wondering how that can happen, OBP counts Sacrifice Flies as outs, while they don't count in batting average. So a player with no walks and who hasn't been hit by any pitches can have a lower OBP than his batting average if he's hit a Sac Fly.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:48 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 17, 2005
WAR: In Memory of One Marine

Al Bethke asks us to drop by a tribute site to Cpl. Robert P. "Bobby" Warns II, a Marine from Wisconsin killed in Iraq on November 8, 2004; the site includes a tribute video, pictures of the daughter he never saw (born May 5, 2005), comments from folks who have viewed the video, and a place to donate to the little girl.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:11 PM | War 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Humorous Paragraph of the Day

Who said it?

We teach our kids when they're little that rules are made to be followed; that unjust or unwise rules can be challenged and ultimately changed; that the rules for challenging or changing them are especially important; and that those rules, at least while we're playing the same game, can't be broken but must be obeyed. What's true even of a child's game is doubly true in adult political life. Ripping up the rules for changing the rules is unacceptable if one believes in a rule-governed democracy. For a mere majority simply to plow ahead and have its way even when the rules in place haven't been changed in accord with their own provision for change is to reduce rules to mere suggestions.

None other than Laurence Tribe, proponent of a "living" or "evolving" Constitution, litigant on behalf of Al Gore in Florida 2000, extolling the virtues of unchanging, agreed-upon rules as a good in and of themselves. I kid you not (via NRO Bench Memos). Me, I think it should be easier for the Senate, by majority vote of all Senators, to change the parliamentary rules of the Senate than for judges to change the meaning of the Constitution enacted by the People. But hey, what do I know?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:16 PM | Law 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Senate Smart Bomb

With the showdown on judicial filibusters escalating, Republicans have an opportunity rare in Washington: they possess the raw political power to do essentially whatever they want, in the sense that on most or all of the filibustered judges they possess the 51 votes neeed both for confirmation and to change the rules to eliminate obstacles to confirmation. The debate has thus focused on two questions about how they should use that power: whether they will suffer an electoral backlash, and whether changing the Senate rules or otherwise ramming through nominations will come back to haunt them when, some day, the Democrats regain a majority in the Senate.

Let's review the options:

1. The "Nuclear Option": Changing Senate Rules to require 51 votes rather than 60 for "cloture" of debate on a judicial nomination, i.e., to break a "filibuster" and force a floor vote.

Pro: Will eliminate possibility of Democratic filibusters for the remainder of Bush's term. This is particularly appealing now that Harry Reid has threatened to filibuster a Bush Supreme Court nominee. (Link via Daly)

Con: There are three downsides here. One is that Republicans will suffer at the polls. I'm not convinced of that - breaking the filibusters should help solidify the conservative base, and couldn't inflame the liberal base more than it is already. And to the extent that moderate swing voters pay attention to judicial fights at all, the GOP has probably taken its lumps with them already for the nomination of conservative judges, which Bush has broadcast widely. (Although I will concede that the phrase "nuclear option" is the winningest Democratic spin since the government shutdown). Certainly, almost every Senate race in which judicial nominees was a major issue went to the GOP, except for Mary Landrieu and Ken Salazar, both of whom got elected/re-elected in part by making promises of support for votes on judicial nominees (promises they never intended to keep, but that's another story).

The second is that the GOP would be disarming itself in future battles over the judiciary. First of all, I don't buy this, because it assumes that if Republicans don't change the rule, Democrats won't either. Yeah, and I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. Banking on future Democratic good faith is foolhardy in the extreme. Democrats aren't even pretending to promise that they won't support the same thing later; consider their past track record on changing the filibuster rule to suit their purposes.

The third concern is a related one, one that is of more concern and is openly discussed by liberal pundits: that disregarding the availability of the filibuster for judges will give political cover to wholesale elimination of the filibuster for legislation. This concerns me more, because the filibuster as a brake on bad, complicated legislation is a check and balance that conservatives have depended upon in the past (see: Hillarycare), and may again. Unlike the judicial filibuster, which I suspect Democrats will bulldoze as soon as they are in position to benefit from doing so, eliminating the filibuster entirely would be seen as a radical move even by the media - but perhaps less so if the filibuster were completely eliminated for nominations.

The filibuster for legislation is, as a matter of policy, more sensible - while Mickey Kaus argues that the filibuster's compromise-forcing function is more important in judicial nominees, I disagree because compromises in legislation are easier to reach - and more likely to yield intended results - because both sides can be assured of what they are getting. Judicial nomination compromises often wind up a lose-lose situation for principled conservatives; should we accept a system in which "compromise candidates" wind up as Souter or Blackmun?

Bottom Line: I'm willing to live with the "nuclear option," but I'd prefer the more targeted solution I discuss below.

2. The "Conventional Warfare" Option: A number of commentators (see here) have suggested that Republicans should force the Democrats to live up to their rhetoric and actually stage an old-fashioned, talk-to-exhaustion filibuster. I'm not sure if this requires an actual rule change or just an announcement or interpretation of the rules, but you'd need a majority of the Senate to enforce it.

Pro: Filibustering is hard work, and Democrats would quickly get exhausted by the talkathon. A filibuster would spotlight the issue, putting pressure for a resolution that the GOP could use to its advantage.

Con: Several. First of all, the media would likely buy the Democrats' argument that the GOP was shutting down the government if the old-time filibuster ended up squeezing out all other Senate business. Second, anything that raises the public stakes makes it harder for Democrats to visibly back down. Third, I gather that - although I've forgotten where I read this - the old rules would only require a single filibusterer to be present, while the whole majority would have to be there (although I see no reason why that couldn't be altered by rule change). And when a Supreme Court nominee comes up, the Dems would never budge.

Bottom line: This ain't gonna happen, because it's physically taxing on the Senators themselves, none of whom wants to be martyred to a debate about judges. I'm also less and less enthusiastic about how it would play out in the media.

3. The 60 Seats Option: Change nothing, and use the judges issue again in 2006 in hopes of getting to 60 seats.

Pro: Judges have been a winning issue, and the zero-sum nature of the issue keeps social conservatives motivated and mobilized. The map favors the GOP: Republicans are defending 15 seats to the Democrats' 18, one open seat to the Dems' three, and are defending fewer seats in states they lost in 2004. A gain in Senate seats is very possible.

Con: A decent chance at a net gain, yes; but 5 seats would be a shocker, and the most likely outcome is no more than a 1-seat net pickup, as both sides have their vulnerabilities and hurdles to clear. Local conditions (e.g., poor challengers) always reduce the number of seats truly in play, and sooner or later the trend against the incumbent party is bound to catch up with Republicans. In the meantime, nothing gets done. Plus, social conservatives may start to feel disenchanted if nothing out of Washington-as-usual gets attempted.

Bottom Line: Fear and greed both suggest that this option could happen, as nervous Republicans yet again kick the issue down the road. But the momentum and logic of the battle, plus Frist's presidential ambitions, makes this an unsatisfying outcome. Besides, how often do you get to rewrite the rules to fix the process? It's time to use that power.

4. Cut a Deal: Trent Lott seems to have taken a stab at this, but was swatted down by Bill Frist - cutting a deal where the GOP tables the rule changes but some of the nominees get a vote.

Pro: Get a few judges in.

Con: The underlying stalemate remains, the stakes escalate for a Supreme Court battle, and even the Democrats look hypocritical for changing direction on people they've tabbed as "extremists".

Bottom Line: The Senate loves deals, but I just don't see what's in it for either side to cut one.

5. The Advice-Without-Consent Option: Patterico suggested, back in November, having Republicans vote on non-binding resolutions of support to (a) formalize the fact that filibusters were blocking nominees with majority support and (b) force fence-sitting Democratic Senators to come out from behind the procedural battle and admit that they oppose these nominees.

Pro: Put people on the record.

Con: Voting to filibuster a nominee in perpetuity is basically a stronger form of voting them down. Can we shame the Democrats into changing positions? I don't think so - the liberals are proud of what they're doing, and the rest are already cemented in place by intense pressure from party leadership. And you might lose a few liberal Republicans who oppose the filibuster but don't support the nominees.

Bottom Line: This should have been tried before the elections. But it's a PR stunt, not a solution.

6. The Smart Bomb Solution: OK, we've been through the rest. Some of the options above are ones I can live with. But the GOP shouldn't be satisfied with a solution that's temporary, and shouldn't demand one that goes further than necessary to fix the problem. And thinking long-term in politics means not only blocking tactics abused only by the other side, but removing powers you yourself have used - like tying up nominees in committee and "blue slips" that enable single Senators to hold up certain nominees - if they have contributed to the overall problem.

What's the problem? Not the filibustering of judges per se, but the open-ended, indefinite delay of floor votes on judicial and other nominees, especially by a minority of the Senate. The filibuster is a new and extreme addition to the arsenal of delay, one not used before; the lone precedent Democrats can cite is Abe Fortas, but that was a short-term filibuster (with bipartisan support, of an already-sitting Justice) designed at getting more information about ethics charges. That's a function we shouldn't preclude: the use of the filibuster, of delay in committee, or even of "blue slips" to delay a nominee long enough to get information and build opposition.

But there is a world of difference between the use of parliamentary delaying tactics to allow the opposition to coalesce and using those tactics to allow the losing side to delay any action at all once the lines of support and opposition have hardened. Neither the Constitution nor the historical advice-and-consent practices of the Senate (by "historical" I mean, more than the past three Administrations or so) provide any support for a minority power to perpetually obstruct nominees with majority support. The judicial filibuster is not, perhaps, a wholly new creation, but it's a plant that has grown up rapidly in recent years to obstruct and choke off all the other traditional growths around it. The best solution isn't to pull the old fellow up by the roots but to prune it back to reasonable size.

There are various ways to do this, but I would suggest a sliding scale: initially, 60 votes needed for cloture, for forcing nominations out of committee, or for overriding a "blue slip." Once the first cloture vote fails, the threshold starts dropping, say, by one vote every 30 days or some such until you get to 51. The goal should be to ensure that every nomination (except for those truly made at the last minute) gets an up or down vote within about a year, sooner of course if there's broader support or if the White House can successfully exert pressure for a vote, as will generally be the case for a Supreme Court vacancy.

This is a stable solution that could become permanent. It meets the needs of majorities while preserving a role for the opposition. It also, of course, allows a Senate of one party to bottle up nominations by the other party, which was the source of tension between 1991 and 2002, a tension many voters thought they were resolving by turning over the Senate to the party of the President. But the descending threshold ensures - I think* - that such opposition will have to go on the record repeatedly and will have to be uniform across 51 votes, enabling the president to take his case to the people and target the wobblers. (* - This assumes that the minority can make a motion for cloture. I believe that's the rule but I could be wrong).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:31 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (3)
May 16, 2005
POP CULTURE: "[B]etter than 'Star Wars'"

NY Times movie critic AO Scott on Revenge of the Sith.

Update: Ace thinks the NYT's enthusiasm for anti-Bush themes is a bad sign (via Basil). I still haven't heard anything from the advance reviews that you could identify as an actual Bush criticism without a microscope; yes, the movie has villains, and for some people any villain is a reminder of Bush. Whatever. But I loved this, from the comments to Ace's post:

[T]here was always this one brief shot (competely irrelevant to the story, I know) that said a lot about the Empire.

When the [Death Star] is fired up for the first time, and the guys in the split-level helmets are working the controls on the video editing board (that's supposed to be the ray beam control center), they fire a ray beam that is supposed to be the most powerful weapon ever devised.

Did you ever notice that this channel of unprecedented energy zips right past two guys who are manning a station that is rather oddly located inside the in the ray's exit hole? Can you imagine what kind of s**t job that is?

"Corporal, your assignment is to man this station."

"What's that big tunnel for?"

"That's where the planet-destroying ray beam comes out."

"Where's my desk?"

"Right there."

"You mean the one that's, like, eight feet from this ray beam you mentioned?"

"That's the one."

"Where's the plexiglass wall between me and it?"

"There isn't one. Here's some earplugs."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:31 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)
BASEBALL: Matt Welch and Dave Hansen

If you missed it, Matt Welch had a cool article on knowing Dave Hansen growing up.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:28 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 15, 2005
WAR: Sorry About The Mess

Badly-sourced Newsweek report retracted; only 15 people were killed as a result. Another day, another dollar. Instapundit, as always, has more.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:07 PM | War 2005 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
May 14, 2005
POLITICS: Beyond The Pale

Michael King notes Cosby critic Michael Eric Dyson comparing Cos to Timothy McVeigh on the Today show (in what was, given Today's politics, naturally a sympathetic interview). Words fail me.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:10 PM | Politics 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Hall of Bloggers

Via The Corner, I came across the latest MLBlogs. Two of note: Tommy Lasorda and Brooks Robinson. Unlike politics, which really requires sustained attention to the back-and-forth on particular issues to avoid waddling in to a debate a day late and a few facts short (see Jim Lampley), a sporadic, dilettante-ish celebrity baseball blog can still be entertaining if it's run by someone who can dispense good yarns and occasional dollops of insight.

Robinson's blog is not off to an auspicious start, however. Here, for example, he goes on at some length responding to a reader inquiry for his thoughts on who is better with the glove - Scott Rolen or Eric Chavez - explaining why he isn't going to say one guy is better than another. Which is a good-natured and gentlemanly thing for a baseball 'insider' to say, but it's not going to make for interesting reading.

Then there's Tommy, whose blog so far seems like the real unfiltered Lasorda. This post opens with an anecdote that captures the man pretty well:

My father had five sons, and one day he called a family meeting, sat us down, and told us he wanted to bring his brother's son, Mario, to America. He told us to treat him as an equal because he was family. When Mario arrived, my father told Mario he could live with him so while he worked hard, he could save his money and eventually bring his own family to America too.

Mario was lazy; he did not work hard, he did not save any money and his trip to America was a failure. When he returned to Italy, he blamed his failure on my father instead of taking responsibility for his own actions.

I was so mad at Mario, I wanted to go to Italy, find him, and throw him into the Adriatic Sea for ruining my father's name.

Later, my father sat us brothers down again and told us he wanted to bring his sister's son to America. I immediately jumped up and shouted in protest that I did not want to bring any more relatives to America. I said I didn't want to support any more lazy Greenhorns. My father, in broken English, told me to sit down and shut up. He said because Mario was bad should not deprive his sister's son from coming to this country.

Well, he came to America and lived in my father's house. He worked hard and raised a beautiful family with two sons of his own, who eventually became professors in Rome.

The emotion, the pride, the self-reliance, the protective family bonds - and also the chip on his shoulder, the impatience with his lazy cousin (who Tommy is willing to slam on the web these many years later) - it's all there. And, of course, it's all a segue into a lecture on preserving the special relationship of the Dodgers with their fans, as Lasorda keeps on bleeding Dodger blue.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:56 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)
BASEBALL: Bradley Takes Center Stage

Last night, I intended to write bitterly about poor Dodger game management, which started when the blistering Hee Seop Choi was benched, and continued until a fatigued Jeff Weaver gave up a critical grand slam in the eighth inning. But I'll pass. This market, after all, is already cornered by Fire Jim Tracy.

So instead I'll discuss Milton Bradley, who hit two homeruns, including his own grand slam, from both sides of the plate. As FJT correctly observes, he hasn't been perfect this year. His walk rate is down: he's projected to draw fewer than 40 bases on balls. Relatedly, he's been seeing fewer pitches per plate appearance (3.59) than at any time in his career (3.84, though it reached 3.96 in 2003).

But, otherwise, he's been great. In fact, he's been perhaps the best centerfielder in the National League. Compare him to a couple of notables:

PlayerOPSEQARARPVORP
Milton Bradley.961.32114.417.7
Jim Edmonds.897.2968.111.8
Carlos Beltran.841.2868.611.0

I haven't been following the defensive end quite as much, so I can't make any credible assertions there. But I suppose it doesn't hurt that Bradley has five assists, which is the highest total among all major league outfielders.

Posted by Robert Tagorda at 9:43 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Secrets and Smears

Byron York, Kevin Aylward and Captain Ed all note the impropriety of Harry Reid smearing Sixth Circuit nominee Henry Saad by saying that the Democrats are holding up his nomination because:

"Henry Saad would have been filibustered anyway," Reid said. "He's one of those nominees. All you need to do is have a member go upstairs and look at his confidential report from the FBI, and I think we would all agree there is a problem there."

Now, look: if there's something really nasty in Saad's record, Bush should pull the nomination. And I am, in fact, uncomfortable with the idea of keeping genuinely material information from the public. But given the nature of FBI files - which tend to be loaded with unverifiable hearsay and gossip - that's unavoidable.

Either way, given the confidential status of a nominee's FBI file, the Democrats just should not go smearing the guy with dark hints about his secret files. There's also an elephant in the living room that York and the others ignore: the uniquely explosive nature, in the current climate, of dropping hints about the classified FBI file of an Arab-American (I believe Saad, if confirmed, would be the first Arab-American to sit on a federal court of appeals, but I could be wrong about that). If that's not McCarthyism, I don't know what would be. As far as playing to crude stereoytpes, that's like calling a black judge stupid (whoops, Reid's already done that). Where's CAIR and James Zogby on this one?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:13 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Sneering at Star Wars

In the interests of balancing my sight-unseen irrational exuberance about Revenge of the Sith, I present to you a nasty, sneering essay in the New York Observer. (via Instapundit). Frankly, in complying with the First Rule of Sequel Reviews - tell the reader what you thought of the earlier movies - the author, Dale Peck, gives the game away with his assertion that "[t]here has not, in fact, been a good Star Wars movie since the first one." And frankly, the entire article is almost a parody of sneering contempt for the whole Star Wars enterprise and its fans, to the point where I sincerely doubt that Peck enjoyed the first one, either. Plus, of course, the picture of the elitist New York movie critic unable to enjoy a good show wouldn't be complete without totally non sequitur anti-Bush rants.

Look: the Star Wars films are not everyone's taste, but you really have to work at this kind of animosity towards the entire project. Among other things, you need to separate yourself wholly from the ability to enjoy films with even a shred of the joy and innocence of childhood (just from reading this "review" - which scarcely discusses Revenge of the Sith, so it's really more of an essay on Star Wars in general - I would bet good money that this guy has no kids of his own).

I didn't understand this line at all:

[T]he real loss in the immediate sequels was the cantankerous sexual triangle of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia that had given Star Wars a recognizable and genuinely compelling psychological frisson . . . Mr. Lucas jettisoned the sex stuff, along with any other traces of personality that had crept into his original story . . .

Did this guy see The Empire Strikes Back? I mean, you don't have to like the romantic angle in that movie - I certainly don't - but there's really quite a lot more of it than there was in the original Star Wars.

I should add that, in general, I've never liked the romantic stuff in these films. At first, looking back, I thought that might be because I saw them first in boyhood, when my natural reaction to such scenes was "yuck." But now that I'm an adult and enjoy romantic comedies and drama and the like as much as the next guy (romance, that is; not sex scenes . . . I've never really grasped the appeal in watching two people making out if I'm not one of them), I still don't like these scenes. I think it's a combination of two things. One is that Lucas just doesn't know how to write these scenes, or for that matter to write female characters in any mode other than scrappy, sassy and wisecracking. The other is, really, that I almost never enjoy this kind of stuff in action/sci-fi/fantasy films, because that's not what I'm in the mood for when I go to one of these movies; the scenes very often seem forced and artificial and I wind up feeling like I wasted valuable time that could have been spent advancing the action.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:48 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Small World Redux

As I've noted before, it's always amusing to see people you've known pop up in the news, on TV, or in the blogosphere. I head on over to Drezner's place, and lo and behold, one of the guest bloggers subbing for him is Suzanne Nossel, a woman who was in my section my first year of law school. Of course, I've encountered law school classmates on the web before - see here for my discussion of another classmate's piece in Slate, and of course I also knew Orin Kerr of the Volokh site, who was a year behind me in law school and active in some of the same circles. Small, small, world.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:36 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 13, 2005
BASEBALL: Hitting Rockets

Roger Clemens is closing in on a surprising milestone. Not his 330 wins, or his .667 winning percentage, or his 4367 strikeouts. Clemens is flirting with a lifetime .200 batting average. He's batting .357 (5 for 14) this season, raising his lifetime regular season average to .198; it would go to .200 even if he goes 1 for his next 4.

Entering 2004, Clemens was a most unlikely hitting prospect; while his lifetime average sat at .200, that was in only 20 at bats, for a 41-year-old who'd never batted more than 4 times in the same season and who'd gone 1 for 8 in his postseason career. But superior athlete that he is, Clemens rapped out 12 hits last season, including his third career double, driving in 7 runs in 32 starts.

A .200 batting average is not easy for a pitcher. Mike Hampton, of course, is the undisputed champ, a lifetime .243 hitter with 15 career home runs who sports a 900 OPS this season. Hampton's presently batting over .260 for the sixth time in eight years. After that, even the best hitting pitchers struggle: Tom Glavine's career average is .185, Greg Maddux .177, Dwight Gooden finished at .196. A few have done it in recent years: Orel Hershiser at .201, Fernando Valenzuela at .200, Rick Aguilera .201. If Clemens manages to match that, given the late start to his batting career, you gotta tip your cap to the guy.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:17 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 12, 2005
FOOTBALL: Caught Red-. . .

There certainly should be a punishment for this. I share Ed Morrissey's skepticism that a man would carry this thing for another man.

via Off Wing Opinion

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:45 PM | Football | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Hitless Wonders

At a glance, it may seem that the White Sox are pitching unusually well this year, and thus winning like crazy despite poor starts with the bat from players like Jermaine Dye, Aaron Rowand and Paul Konerko. But is that what's really afoot? Or has the park changed, resulting in the Sox batting .240 at home and .270 on the road, yet posting an 11-3 record at home? Let's look at the runs scored in games played at US Cellular this season vs. White Sox road games, as compared to seasons past:

YearR/G (Home)R/G (Road)Home+/-
20056.938.67-20.0%
200411.159.79+13.9%
20039.169.43-2.9%
200210.499.93+5.7%
200110.119.56+5.8%
200011.7810.65+10.5%

Could be the small sample size (14 home games this year), and could be that park factors fluctuate even from year to year due to luck. But the park has been repeatedly renovated over the past five years. Maybe this year, between that and the weather, something's new. Either way, scoring is way down in what had been one of the top hitters' parks in baseball in recent years.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:06 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Talk To The Animals

A South Korean company is selling a service purporting to translate your dog's barks into text messages:

KTF Corp., a South Korean mobile phone operator, said Thursday it will begin offering a service that will enable dog owners to know whether their pets are feeling happy or sad.

The users must first connect to Internet with their cell phones, and then register information of their dogs such as the breed and age. The service will then record the dog's bark.

The owner will receive text messages telling them how their pet is feeling, such as "I am happy" or "I am frustrated."

The service, which will begin on Friday, will also translate basic messages into dog sounds. The service will cost about one dollar.

I dunno, sounds like a scam to me.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:03 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Choi's Charge

In the last seven days, Hee Seop Choi has posted the highest OPS among all major league players with at least 10 at-bats. His 1.766, which includes two doubles and three homeruns, edges Brian Giles' 1.771 (though, in truth, the latter has been more impressive, collecting eight walks along with four doubles and two homeruns). Choi has also raised his seasonal batting average from .246 to .302.

I think it's time for him to take a crack at left-handed pitching. According to CBS, the Dodgers are projected to face Horacio Ramirez tomorrow and Mike Hampton on Saturday. Choi deserves a shot.

Posted by Robert Tagorda at 9:29 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: The Fool Who Follows Him

Will Collier has a history lesson for those dismayed by John Pohoretz's slam on Revenge of the Sith.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:59 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Abu Ghraib In Focus

Rich Lowry and Christopher Hitchens (link via Roger Simon) offer up some perspective on the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse story. Lowry notes that the details of this New York Times story pretty well undermine the desperate efforts of Bush Administration critics to paint the abuses by the Abu Ghraib night shift as being done on orders from above; among other things, Graner and England admitted that they had been taking lewd pictures of themselves with others even before they got to the prison. Graner was an obvious bad apple, a guy whose first wife had three orders of protection out on him, and as I've noted before, only an arbitrator's interference prevented Graner from being fired from his stateside job as a prison guard due to a serious history of disciplinary problems. Meanwhile, I hadn't realized that England was a clerk who didn't even work in that part of the prison and had been ordered not to go there. At this point, the only basis for concluding that what went on at Abu Ghraib was ordered from above is that some people want to believe it.

Hitchens, meanwhile, notes the bitter irony of Abu Ghraib being known solely as a house of American horrors:

To the Iraqis, it was a name to be mentioned in whispers, if at all, as "the house of the end." It was a Dachau. Numberless people were consigned there and were never heard of again. Its execution shed worked overtime, as did its torturers, and we are still trying to discover how many Iraqis and Kurds died in its precincts.

If a handful of Americans had sexually and otherwise humiliated some Nazi prisoners at Auschwitz in 1946, would the name "Auschwitz" today be known solely as a place where Americans did bad things? In some circles, probably.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:26 AM | War 2005 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
May 11, 2005
BASEBALL: Disco Demolition Night

Michele has a post about disco vs. rock that mentions Disco Demolition Night. I present, through the miracle of Retrosheet, Game One of the Disco Demolition Night doubleheader. Attendance: 47,795. As it turns out, the evening featured an even more astonishing event: a stolen base by Rusty Staub (the White Sox' presumably startled catcher apparently threw the ball away, allowing Lou Whitaker to score from third on the play).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (1)
LAW/BASEBALL/FOOTBALL: Stadium Shuffle

Interesting article in Reason Magazine arguing that the big Supreme Court takings case this term, as well as another rather flimsy-sounding lawsuit against the Bengals could spell real trouble for future efforts to soak the taxpayers for publicly-funded stadiums (via Bashman). Personally, I've long thought that - as a condition of exemption from the antitrust laws - it would be perfectly legitimate for the federal government to intervene by statute to prevent big-time pro sports teams from extorting public money as a condition of not relocating. While that would go against my usual disinclination to over-regulate business and interfere in state and local government, a statutory solution could be necessary to protect state and local taxpayers from the undue leverage created by the ability of sports teams to relocate and not be replaced.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:13 AM | Baseball 2005 • | Football • | Law 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)
POLITICS: DeLay Not DeOnly One

I've generally not blogged about the various ethics claims raised against Tom DeLay, mainly because it's hard to stick a toe into the subject without triggering insistent demands to denounce anything and everything DeLay-related without exception. My general impression from the things I've read thus far is that the charges against DeLay are something of a mixed bag - some are self-evidently bogus (like giving jobs to his family), some are ethically indefensible but apparently legal and commonplace, and on some the jury is still out as far as the facts.

I would generally agree that the aggregation of charges can ultimately justify the need to get rid of even an effective political leader even if no one charge is fatal, and of course I don't want to fall into the various traps of the Clinton bitter-enders, such as (a) assuming that because some of the charges are bogus, they must all be, or (b) accepting "everybody does it" as a complete defense even when your guy is by far the worst offender. On the other hand, a political party, like any other large organization, does owe its members some loyalty, some willingness to give their own guy the benefit of the doubt on the close calls, and the fact that a practice is common is always relevant to the degree of its impropriety. Short answer: I haven't entirely made up my mind yet on whether there's sufficient basis for Republicans to dump DeLay.

With that caveat out of the way, this is a very interesting study on privately-funded Congressional travel. Turns out that, to no one's surprise, the Democrats live in one very large glass house on this issue, and while DeLay is one of the worse offenders, he certainly doesn't stand out, with the top 8 slots all going to Democrats, including moderates like John Breaux and Evan Bayh and far-left nutballs like Maxine Waters, Maurice Hinchey and Jim McDermott. (It's also amusing that Henry Waxman is right behind DeLay).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:55 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
May 10, 2005
BLOG: No Place Like Home

American Cities That Best Fit You:

70% Austin
60% Denver
60% Las Vegas
60% Miami
55% Atlanta

Of course, this quiz assumes you would want to live in a city, and it also leaves out some important information, like whether the city has a major league baseball team. But it's true enough that, if I was picking from scratch based just on where I'd rather live, there's no way I'd live in New York. I don't make a lot of use of many of the city's virtues (I've only been to a Broadway show once and don't really go out all that much in Manhattan), and I could really do without the traffic, the commute, and the overall unpleasantness of Manhattan. (In a lot of ways, I'm more of a red-state guy by nature). So why do I live here? Mostly the traditional reasons - family's here, I grew up outside NYC, and my job is here - the kind of law I practice is hard to do in too many other markets. It also doesn't hurt to stay where I can follow the Mets (I live about a 15 minutes from Shea). So, home it is.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:41 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (1)
May 9, 2005
POP CULTURE: "Padme is the new Jar Jar"

A mostly-good review of Revenge of the Sith, but awfully harsh on the film's lone significant female character. Of course, Natalie Portman's not as unpleasant to look at as Jar Jar, but given Lucas' track record of attempts at writing romance, I'm not optimistic.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:22 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Money Rolls In

The deficit improves. via Kaus. As usual, efforts to project the future of the federal budget prove elusive. If you learn nothing else from annual arguments about the budget, remember that financial projections about the government are a mug's game.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:18 PM | Politics 2005 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Peer into the Darkness

EUReferendum links to an article on the appalling rhetoric and mindset of leading advocates of political unification:

A senior European Commissioner marked VE Day yesterday by accusing Eurosceptics of risking a return to the Holocaust by clinging to "nationalistic pride".

Margot Wallstrom, a Swede and the commissioner who must sell the draft constitution to voters, argued that politicians who resisted pooling national sovereignty risked a return to Nazi horrors of the 1930s and 1940s.

Mrs Wallstrom, vice-president of the commission for institutional relations and communications, was speaking in the former Jewish ghetto of Terezin in the Czech Republic.

She blamed the Second World War on "nationalistic pride and greed, and … international rivalry for wealth and power". The EU had replaced such rivalry with an historic agreement to share national sovereignty.

Her fellow commissioners also issued a joint declaration, stating that EU citizens should pay tribute to the dead of the Second World War by voting Yes to the draft constitution for Europe.

The commissioners also gave the EU sole credit for ending the Cold War, making no mention of the role of Nato and the United States.

This sort of thing is, of course, yet more evidence that the "world government" crowd is more than a figment of the fevered imaginations of the American black-helicopter crowd. These people have actually convinced themselves - assuming they believe their own rhetoric - that demolishing national sovereignty is a workable plan for peace rather than what it really is, the removal of power from the sources of democratic accountability and the consent of the governed.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:07 PM | War 2005 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Tory Hunters

Mark Steyn thinks Britain's Tories need to capture the crime issue to return to power.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:03 PM | Politics 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: It's The Vladmobile!

Classic photo op.

But when they flash the Vlad Signal in the sky, is it the hammer and sickle? I remain convinced that Putin-good/Putin-bad punditry is way too simplistic. But Putin will probably be out of office before we can really assess his impact.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:54 PM | War 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Phillips Propels to the Top

With last night's monstrous game, which included his first career grand slam, Jason Phillips became the leader in SLG, OPS, EQA, and VORP among National League catchers.

PlayerSLG
Jason Phillips.470
Ramon Hernandez.453
Mike Piazza.450

PlayerOPS
Jason Phillips.828
Paul Lo Duca.787
Ramon Hernandez.786

PlayerEQA
Jason Phillips.296
Paul Lo Duca.289
Ramon Hernandez.280
Brian Schneider.280

PlayerVORP
Jason Phillips8.4
Ramon Hernandez8.2
Paul Lo Duca7.8

It's worth noting that Lo Duca, who preceded Phillips in the Dodger backstop, is the league leader in AVG and OBP. Piazza, who preceded Lo Duca, is the league leader in homeruns. But they all basically trail the elite corps of AL catchers, most notably Joe Mauer, Jason Varitek, and Javy Lopez.

Posted by Robert Tagorda at 4:33 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Fun Facts

Quick facts about the Mets so far:

*As a team, they're batting .291/.495/.358 against lefthanded pitching - and without facing Tom Glavine!

*Team batting average with RSIP: .237, but a .433 Slg (compared to .427 overall). RSIP and two outs: .194 (*cough* Piazza *cough*). But late innings of a close game: .310/.535/.364.

*Mets leadoff hitters: 4 walks. Mets #9 hitters: 5 walks. 'nuff said.

*Highest OBP: Mets #8 hitters, followed by #7, followed by #6. It's the Bizarro Lineup!

*All Met outfielders: .317/.558/.403

*Home: 11-5, 3.82 ERA, .385 team Slg
*Road: 6-10, 5.05 ERA, .467 team Slg

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:18 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
May 8, 2005
BASEBALL: Dinner for Four

Cliff Floyd, on who he would choose if he could invite any three historical figures to dinner:

"Malcolm X. Michael Jordan. Harold Baines."

I also liked the closing line of this interview, which pretty well captures adulthood:

Q: You were the class clown in school?

A: I thought I was pretty funny. These days I'm not that funny.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:48 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Division and Conquest

Each of baseball's divisions, of course, has a .500 record against itself. Take those out, and what are the records of each division solely against out-of-division opponents? Let's rank them by winning percentage through Sunday's action:

DivisionWL%+.500
NL East2913.690+16
AL Central2321.523+2
AL West2930.492-1
AL East2223.489-1
NL West2122.488-1
NL Central2035.364-15

(Current standings here). The NL East is 11-4 vs. the West and 18-9 vs. the Central, so it's not just having a lot of games against the weak sisters of the Central; the East is one tough division even in spite of the apparent lack of a single dominant team. Note that the powerhouse Cardinals are 3-7 outside their division, 16-4 in their own pond.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:47 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 7, 2005
BASEBALL: Ghame Over*

Eric Gagne is, of course, the last reliever to win the NL Cy Young Award. If the season were to end today, who would be the top candidate to repeat this accomplishment?

You guessed it: Yhency Brazoban, the current replacement of the injured Dodger closer. According to the Neyer/James model, Brazoban ranks seventh overall among NL contenders -- one place ahead of Pedro Martinez. But this ranking depends more on circumstance than on dominance. For instance, Brandon Lyon and Jose Mesa actually have better save totals and ERAs, among other statistics. But Lyon has two losses, which amount to a 4-point penalty. And, whereas Brazoban plays for a first-place team -- good for a substantial "victory bonus" -- Mesa is stuck with a poor club.

So, if I were Gagne, I wouldn't worry too much about being eclipsed any time soon.

(*The title comes from this Dodger Thoughts post.)

Posted by Robert Tagorda at 12:48 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 6, 2005
BASEBALL: How Bad Has Adrian Beltre Been?

Well, let's just put it this way: Dodger fans have been less than impressed with Norihiro Nakamura and his .369 OPS. But Beltre hasn't exactly been tearing it up himself. In fact, though his OPS is at least above .500, other metrics suggest that he's closer to the futility of the former Japanese superstar.

PlayerVORPRARP
Nakamura-4.2-4.2
Beltre-4.0-4.6

Jose Valentin has been superior to both, posting a .722 OPS, 2.8 VORP, and 3.9 RARP. Surprisingly, however, his contributions have not come in the form of power; he only has 2 homeruns with his .164 ISO. Rather, they have come in the form of plate discipline, as his 16 walks and .364 OBP suggest. He's also the league leader in pitches per plate appearance: 4.41. This ranking isn't as anomalous as it may appear, since his career P/PA is just slightly under 4.0.

Update: For additional comments, see this post by the new and insightful Blue Think Tank.

Posted by Robert Tagorda at 11:22 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
BASEBALL: Clutch Hitting

Elan Fuld, a junior at the University of Pennsylvania, apparently has evidence on this elusive phenomenon:

[H]is calculations provided statistical evidence that players such as Eddie Murray, Frank Duffy and Luis Gomez were clutch hitters.

A surprising finding in the study was that Bill Buckner, who has gone down in history as one of the game's worst "choke artists" for his Game 6 World Series error, was statistically proven to be a clutch hitter.

In his study, Fuld defined a clutch hitter as a batter who hits better at more important points of the game. He modeled the at-bat outcomes of players using the importance of the game situation to find out if clutch or choke abilities helped to explain their performance.

"Once situational importance rose to around at least a certain level, the player would start to think this is very important and start doing something that makes him hit better, if he's clutch, or panics and does something that makes him hit worse, if he's a choke hitter," Fuld said.

This information comes from a university press release. It sounds interesting and plausible, but I'd like to see the data for myself. I'd also like to know how he weighted game situations.

(Via 6-4-2.)

Posted by Robert Tagorda at 2:42 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
BASEBALL: DIPS and Downs Part II

The second half of yesterday's post: the weaker pitchers.

4.51 to 5.00

PitcherIPDIPS ERA
Lowry98.24.53
J.Johnson107.14.54
Jennings1284.54
Fogg111.24.55
Clement99.24.56
Ol.Perez130.14.56
Greinke113.24.56
Ponson132.14.56
Lidle117.24.57
Od.Perez119.24.57
Towers108.14.59
Chen814.61
Redman1234.63
Contreras128.14.66
Vazquez116.14.67
Bush1154.71
Meche119.24.74
Myers1264.75
Lilly116.14.77
Wolf79.24.79
Villone71.24.80
Leiter1134.83
Mulholland90.24.84
Santos1004.89
Park76.14.97
Loaiza1014.98
Kennedy90.15.00

A few people here, like Clement and Oliver Perez, I was surprised to see rank so low. Some of these guys are doing better in the 2005 portion, like Brett Myers and Vazquez. DIPS seems pessimistic on Bruce Chen's improvement.

If you're below Chan Ho Park in anything, you got problems.

5.01 to 5.50

PitcherIPDIPS ERA
Halama77.15.01
Trachsel905.04
Sele895.05
Garland141.25.06
M.Wood1015.07
Capuano705.07
C.Lee100.25.07
Suppan113.15.08
Sosa70.25.10
Moyer125.25.10
Harang1195.13
Lohse108.25.16
Rueter1195.16
Vogelsong72.15.18
Mulder1305.19
Fossum945.20
B.Anderson1155.21
Elarton116.25.24
Claussen80.15.26
P.Wilson111.15.27
Ra.Ortiz74.25.27
Jam.Wright108.25.28
Bell92.25.29
Wakefield1155.30
Robertson1135.34
May95.25.42
Glavine114.15.44

No bad luck for Glavine, just bad pitching. Trachsel was nothing so hot, either; he had a fine run with the Mets but was running on fumes the second half of last year. And you can see, especially in contrast to where Danny Haren ranked yesterday, why the Mulder deal is a real risk for the Cardinals. Garland is low because he pitched a lot of innings last year, so this year's numbers don't make much of an impact yet. Wakefield, being a knuckleballer, can be expected to outperform his DIPS ERA anyway.

5.51 to 6.50

PitcherIPDIPS ERA
Cabrera985.56
Brazleton1155.62
Batista88.25.71
Franklin134.15.73
Lima119.15.75
Estes123.25.79
Milton130.25.83
Ishii89.15.98
Ru.Ortiz122.26.10
Valdez716.21

You can see here why the pitchers on my HACKING MASS team over at Baseball Prospectus are Russ Ortiz and Jose Lima, both of whom moved into tougher parks to pitch in this year. Hopefully, the Ishii Experience will be brief now that the Mets are developing other options, but it's debatable whether he's the most flammable of the Washed-Up Ex-Dodgers Club along with Park, Pedro Astacio and Hideo Nomo (what, Ramon Martinez can't find work?).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:57 AM | Baseball 2005 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Alderaan's 9/11

Michele, who's obviously getting as sucked in to the Revenge of the Sith hype as I am, has a wee problem with Princess Leia's reaction in the original:

Tell me something: how would you react if you watched your home planet blown to smithereeens right in front of you? Would you collapse in grief? Break down in uncontrollable sobs? Faint? Go deaf, dumb and blind from the horror of watching everyone you have ever known or loved be wiped out in milliseconds? Or would you gasp, let out a stifled cry and then, a short time later, engage in flirtatious banter with a rogue space captain?

UPDATE: Another glowing review for Sith (with a few spoilers), this one from Variety. (via Todd Zywicki). I drop whatever I'm doing when an ad for this movie comes on TV. This is gonna be good.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:24 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Working the Umps

Sabernomics runs some numbers comparing ball and strike calls in Questec vs. non-Questec parks to see if some managers, in the non-Questec parks (i.e., where balls and strikes are still solely a human judgment call) have a greater effect on the umps. Conclusion: about the only managers with a major positive impact are Tony LaRussa and Jim Tracy.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:17 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 5, 2005
BASEBALL: Arroy-No?

Just noticed that the Tigers have no hits off Bronson Arroyo through six innings. Check in here.

UPDATE: Never mind. Carlos Guillen homers to tie it up 1-1.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:43 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: DIPS and Downs

Now that we're a bit of the way into the season and have a little 2005 data to weigh a bit into the balance (most of your significant starting pitchers have thrown between 25 and 45 innings), I thought I'd take a look at some DIPS numbers (see here; I used the simplified DIPS formula). Using David Pinto's Day by Day Database - which easily enables copy & pasting into a spreadsheet - I ran the DIPS numbers for every major league pitcher who threw at least 70 innings between the 2004 All-Star Break and Tuesday. Bear in mind, of course, that DIPS isn't perfect, and the rough formula is a bit, well, rough. But this is shorthand for whose numbers back up the idea that they've pitched well since the middle of last season.

For ease of reading, I'll break out the DIPS ERAs in groups; bear in mind that the average DIPS ERA for the group was 4.42, and the median (Brett Tomko) was 4.46. Today, we'll do roughly the top half, the pitchers at 4.50 and under:

3.00 and Below

PitcherIPDIPS ERA
Santana145.12.39
R.Johnson159.22.60
Burnett1122.96
P.Martinez142.12.97
Clemens132.22.98
Peavy1393.00

Pretty heady company there for Peavy and Burnett.

3.01 to 3.50

PitcherIPDIPS ERA
Sheets1413.21
Smoltz 773.25
Schmidt141.13.36
J.Thomson1243.39
Arroyo122.13.45

You see with Schmidt, as with Pedro, that the elite guys rank higher here than they do on the ERA charts, suggesting that their rough patches are largely poor defense or luck. On the other hand, few pitchers have received less attention for a stretch of outstanding pitching than John Thomson.

3.51 to 4.00

PitcherIPDIPS ERA
Rusch743.56
Carpenter1103.60
Beckett115.13.60
Harden132.23.64
Madritsch92.13.68
C.Zambrano1343.68
Prior106.23.69
Lowe130.13.70
Hudson1143.71
Willis128.13.71
Bonderman131.13.72
Benson90.13.76
Haren733.76
Escobar117.23.78
Schilling1193.80
O.Hernandez109.23.80
D.Davis1263.82
Pavano133.13.83
Bedard92.23.84
K.Brown75.13.85
Oswalt147.13.88
Lackey1233.89
F.Garcia117.13.92
Jar.Wright1083.98
Weaver143.14.00

Yes, that's Kevin Brown, he of the 5.38 ERA over this period; while Brown's problems obviously run deeper than his stuff, at this point he may have more gas left in the tank than Tom Glavine, who we will meet much lower on these lists. (Would you trade Brown for Glavine, or Glavine for Brown? I might do that deal if I were the Mets, and I might if I were the Yankees). And you can see why the Mets will be banking on Kris Benson to step in as their #2 starter beginning tonight. The emergence of Jeremy Bonderman, Erik Bedard, Dontrelle Willis and Danny Haren is also in evidence. And Carl Pavano is what he is: a slightly younger, better version of Jon Lieber.

4.01 to 4.50

PitcherIPDIPS ERA
Sabathia102.14.03
Backe75.14.04
Silva112.14.05
Mussina93.14.07
K.Wood1174.10
Morris94.14.10
L.Hernandez159.14.11
Colon142.24.14
Radke136.14.18
Hendrickson99.14.18
D.Wells1294.20
Lawrence1204.24
Lieber135.14.24
Drese1294.25
Eaton1224.26
W.Williams121.24.27
Rogers132.14.29
Ledezma75.14.30
Westbrook143.14.30
Byrd124.14.31
Maddux1314.32
R.Lopez125.14.33
Zito1394.35
Buehrle1634.35
Patterson109.14.36
Webb1284.37
Marquis135.24.39
Maroth138.14.40
Hampton115.24.42
Tomko132.24.46
Washburn87.24.47
K.Wells75.24.50

Hamton, unlike Thomson, hasn't really pitched as well as his ERA, although Hampton's extreme ground ball tendencies help him in other ways, like DP balls. I was surprised to see Mark Hendrickson up with guys like Mussina and Radke and Kerry Wood. Jarrod Washburn, once the Angels' ace, is the fifth Anaheim starter listed here. You can also see Maddux and Zito regressing, although in Maddux's case that's part of a lengthy period of slow erosion; a few years as a league-average starter will do nothing to dim his legend and could get him a truly staggering career win total.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:40 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (2)
BASEBALL: BJ Blowing It

BJ Upton's struggles afield continue, which is undoubtedly why we saw Nick Green rather than Upton getting a shot in Tampa's infield shuffle. Upton has made 17 errors in 25 games at AAA Durham, a Gochnauerian figure, mainly on throwing errors. But Tampa still projects him as a shortstop. All of which suggests we won't see him until after the break at the earliest.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:05 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Yankee Go Wrong

Obituaries for the Hated Yankees are entirely premature, but this long excerpt from Buster Olney's book is nonetheless worth reading, from Olney's description of the Yanks "treating championship building like a hot dog-eating contest" to the unintended humor in saying that "Jason Giambi knew all about chemistry" to the account of Toronto's reaction when they called for Raul Mondesi to this:

Shortly after the Yankees lost to Anaheim, Gordon Blakeley, the Yankees' director of international scouting, was sent to Nicaragua, under orders from Steinbrenner to sign Jose Contreras. The bidding between the Yankees, Boston, and the Mariners began in earnest at four years, $24 million, for a pitcher without a single day of major league experience. But Blakeley told rival executives that he had come to sign Contreras, no matter the cost; Steinbrenner promised Blakeley that he would be fired if he failed to land the pitcher. Hearing this, another executive realized his team had no chance to sign Contreras, so he decided to at least make the Yankees pay exorbitantly and kept matching the Yankees' offers, driving up the price. The Yankees signed Contreras to a four-year, $32 million deal – a contract much larger than that signed by many established players in the same offseason.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:56 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (1)
May 4, 2005
POLITICS: Sex Ed for Kids

In the second grade. Some people just don't get it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:38 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Federalizing Drivers' Licenses

Like Glenn Reynolds, I agree that while the federal government has an interest in seeing the standards for issuing drivers licenses strengthened, it's probably unconstitutional to go about telling the states how to do that, and another sign of "fair weather federalism." Now, if you had a national ID requirement - a debate for another day, but bear with me - it would hardly be unreasonable to allow state-issued drivers licenses to substitute if they met certain security criteria. That would place a certain amount of pressure on states to comply, but it wouldn't be the sort of direct interference at issue here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:17 AM | Law 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: For Attribution

This seems like a good idea. It's sort of ridiculous to have regularly scheduled briefings be anonymous. If the White House wants to get information out without committing itself to a position on an issue, there are plenty of other avenues to do that.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:14 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: I'll Have One Of Those

This was about my sentiment at the time as well.

(via Memeorandum)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:08 AM | War 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: A Lot of Explaining To Do

Wesley Clark has an article in the Washington Monthly straining to explain away all the progress in the Middle East as having nothing to do with the Iraq war. Clark, still angling for that job in a Democratic administration someday, argues:

Anyone who has traveled regularly to the Middle East over the years, as I have, knows that the recent hopeful democratic moves in Lebanon, Egypt, and the Palestinian territories have causal roots that long predate our arrival in Iraq, or that are otherwise unconnected to the war.

Mm-hm. Anybody remember this guy talking about these "causal roots" when he was running for president? Sure, there are other causes. But that's not the point; the point is that American policy removed one major obstacle to democratization (Saddam, who was part of the problem in multiple parts of the region), provided an object lesson in democracy by allowing it to flourish in Iraq (at least Clark doesn't claim that Iraq was democratizing before the war), and - by isolating Arafat and announcing democratization as part of the way out in Palestine - strongly encouraged his successors to seek an alternative. And for whatever Egypt's moves towards democracy are worth, it's awful hard to look at two decades of intransignet Mubarak rule followed by a rapid about-face on elections the day after Condi Rice cancelled a trip to Egypt and not find a big American footprint. There's a better argument that a movement in Lebanon might have developed anyway - but what made the Lebanese people think they could stand up to Syria without retribution, and made the Syrians think it wasn't safe to crack down? American power may not have planted the seeds, but it certainly weeded the garden at a critical time.

Anyway, the funniest thing in the whole article, after all of Clark's partisan spin and his efforts to deny credit to the Bush Administration, is his concluding sentence:

Let's give credit where credit is due—and leave the political spin at the water's edge.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:49 AM | War 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
RELIGION: Beating a Dead Language

OK, we all know that when the new pope was announced, they made the announcement with the Latin phrase for "we have a pope". But what's the proper spelling of that phrase? There certainly is plenty of disagreement:

1. Habemas Papam? (See here and here)

2. Habemus Papam? (See here and here).

3. Habemus Papem? (See here and here).

4. Habemas Papem? (See here).

5. Habemus Papum? (See here and here).

You say potato, I say . . . Any Latin scholars out there? Looks like #2 is the correct answer, since that's what's on the official Vatican website. Slate concurs.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:33 AM | Religion | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
May 3, 2005
BASEBALL: Counsell Walks Away

Has anyone else noticed that Craig Counsell leads the National League in walks*? The guy has 22 in 25 games. That's almost 40% of what he drew all last season -- and we still have yet to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

Here I was marvelling at JD Drew's eight walks in the past three games. But the Barry Bonds impersonation may be taking place in the desert, not the ravine.

[*Brian Giles also has 22.]

Posted by Robert Tagorda at 4:53 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)
BASEBALL: What We Don't Know

I meant to link to this a while ago - via David Pinto, you can now access Bill James' pot-stirring SABR article criticizing the common sabermetric methodology - used many times by James himself - of comparing season-to-season results to determine whether things like clutch hitting and platoon differentials are persistent skills rather than transient statistical flukes caused by luck. James' main point: several of the items he lists are just unknowable by this method because the year-to-year sample sizes are so small they can't be useful for any study.

Of course, in some cases, like the Voros McCracken hypothesis about balls in play, there are alternative ways to attack the problem by looking at the extent to which performance over time tends to level off. It's not that the questions James revisits can't be answered, but he's probably right (as usual) that the answers we have so far are unsatisfactory to the extent that they are based on this methodology.

(Of course, for selfish reasons I'm glad to see a movement away from a type of study that was always beyond my computational skills; I don't do regression analyses).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:12 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASKETBALL: Shooting Revisited

Now that the 2004-05 stats are up at Basketball-Reference.com, I thought I'd update the tables from my historical analysis of shooting efficiency in the NBA. As it turns out, 2004-05 may go down as the year the league's tinkering finally yielded some results in terms of improved offensive efficiency and increased tempo, resulting in just the second season in a decade with an average team scoring above 97 points/game and the best shooting efficiency since they moved the three point line back eight years ago. Here's the new tables, including revised historical averages incorporating the new numbers:

The 2000s

SeasonP/G2%3%FT%PPFGAFGA/GFT/PFGA/FTA%3
1999-0097.5.468.353.7501.04693.219.53.2516.7
2000-0194.8.461.353.7471.03691.519.63.2417.0
2001-0295.5.465.354.7531.04191.818.83.4118.1
2002-0395.1.463.350.7571.03991.519.53.3118.2
2003-0493.4.460.347.7521.03290.519.53.3018.7
2004-0597.2.470.355.7561.05991.820.33.0819.6
Average103.4.444.340.7410.996103.821.72.9810.6

You'll see that all the elements of offensive efficiency were up - shooting percentages from all distances were up, as were three pointers and free throws as a percentage of field goal attempts. These figures are reflected in the numbers for the league's top players and teams, notably several players on Phoenix (check the 1.23 PSA - another abbreviation for PPFGA - on Amare Stoudamire, who attempted nearly 800 free throws this season) and Miami. Also look at Kevin Garnett's career high 1.13 mark, as Garnett easily set career highs in free throw attempts and FT% while cutting his shot attempts and matching his career best FG%.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:09 AM | Basketball | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links 5/3/5

*Christina Hoff Summers has a hilarious account of a College Republicans counter-protest against "V-Day" and the Vagina Monologues (warning: extensive penis humor involved). It appears that the use of the costume is what got these guys in trouble. Yet again, proof that the conservative movement's vibrancy draws strength from the fact that humorless authority figures on college campuses are invariably on the Left. (Link via Althouse)

*I didn't do an obituary for Earl Wilson, but Attila recounts some memorable moments from Wilson's career. Of course, my all-time favorite pitcher baserunning moment remains the time Sid Fernandez got confused on a bunt and ran up the third base line.

*It's never too much - Matt Yglesias refuses to state any amount of taxation he would view as unfair or unjust. At most, he'll concede that "it's quite unjust to implement massively unwise or counterproductive policies". Kevin Drum, on the other hand, takes a whack at answering the question.

*John Perricone blows his top over Congress threatening action on steroids. As I've indicated before, I'm not as unconcerned as Perricone about steroids, but I'd agree that actually passing something like this into law would be a bad idea, in the sense of being a waste of government resources for a fairly localized problem.

*First Goering, now Hitler: a new interview with Hitler's nurse about his final days. I believe this is the first time someone who was there when Hitler killed himself has spoken publicly, but I could be wrong about that.

*The Washington Post had a good article a few weeks back about changing approaches to DC scandals, specifically a few cases where embattled figures seem to be succeeding in riding out the storm rather than putting it all behind them. Time will tell; I doubt this is a good strategy in most cases.

*A defense of everything that is wrong with the extreme Left: this article could be a parody, not only of the Left and political extremism generally but also of immaturity and the effort to justify immaturity as an end in itself. (Link via Althouse).

*I still think peace between India and Pakistan has to be the most underappreciated development of the past decade.

*If you missed it, a writeup of the first Medal of Honor awarded in Iraq, for a firefight at the airport during the invasion.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:33 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (1)
May 2, 2005
LAW: Solomon's Wisdom

The Supreme Court this morning agreed to review the Third Circuit decision (discussed here) that the Solomon Amendment, which provides that universities may not continue to receive federal funding if they refuse to allow military recruiters on campus, violated the First Amendment freedoms of speech and association of university law schools. The case presumably will be heard during the 2005-06 term, so there may not be a decision until next June.

As noted in my prior post and the comments thereto, the case actually raises a number of thorny issues on which the Court's precedents have been wildly inconsistent.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:00 AM | Law 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)