“We Got Him!” We got him! Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has sawed the head off his last civilian, as he was killed this morning by an American air strike. Zarqawi's end was, fittingly, impersonal and...">
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
June 30, 2006
BASEBALL: 25 Least-Favorite Mets, Part II
Continued from yesterday...
(By the way, in noting the pain of watching Mike Piazza play first like a catcher, I forgot the far more horrifying spectacle of Todd Hundley playing the outfield like a catcher)
10. Roberto Alomar .336/.541/.415. 30 steals in 36 attempts. 100 RBI, 113 Runs, 34 doubles, 12 triples, 20 HR. Those were not Roberto Alomar's numbers years before he came to the Mets - they were his numbers in 2001, the year before he came to the Mets. In his three years in Cleveland, Alomar batted .323/.515/.405 and averaged 121 Runs, 103 RBI and 35 steals. A year and a half later, he was traded in a deal in which the best player the Mets got was a AA pitcher who now projects as a LOOGY, and was replaced in the everyday lineup by Joe McEwing. I don't know whether Alomar didn't take good care of himself, didn't care, both, or just lost it, but the explosive player he had been before was completely gone in the blink of an eye at age 34, and the Mets got stuck holding the bag. To cap it off, Alomar's failures led the Mets to fill the 2B hole by moving Jose Reyes and signing Kaz Matsui.
9. Armando Benitez. Yes, he could be higher, but honestly, I loved Benitez when the Mets got him - his numbers in Baltimore were breathtaking, and finally a closer who could throw gas! - and for a long time I was willing to forgive some of his big-game blowups (basically, until Game One of the 2000 WS). Benitez' rap sheet for blowing big games is far too extensive to recount here, but let's say that by the end I was more than ready to cheer at his departure. (Charges that Benitez hit his girlfriend didn't help).
8. Mo Vaughn. Mo is, by all accounts, a nice guy, and it's not hard to see why he was a fan favorite in Boston. But his tenure with the Mets was an unmitigated catastrophe, starting with acquiring a gigantic contract for a player who hadn't played in a year, was demonstrably out of shape, and had no realistic prospect of getting in shape. His time in New York started badly - he didn't hit a lick for two months, least of all hit for power - and when he did get hot, he still couldn't even try to run or field. Then he got hurt again. For this, Mo was the highest paid player in the National League, and after two years with the Mets he still had three more to go on that awful contract. The #2 redeeming feature of the Mo era was that the Mets got rid of Kevin Appier's ridiculous contract, but even that joy was spoiled when Appier helped the Angels win a World Championship, one they likely would not have won with the iron-gloved Mo at first.
The #1 redeeming feature was that Mo's injury finally got his contract to be paid for by the insurance company.
7. Kaz Matsui. I can understand why people thought Matsui could be a major league hitter - his numbers in Japan weren't quite as gaudy as those of Ichiro or Hideki Matsui, but they also weren't so far away, either. .280/.450/.340 was a reasonable expectation for Matsui, and he's done nothing like that. What I could never understand was how anyone thought he could play shortstop in the majors, and well enough to move a tremendous prospect like Reyes off his natural position.
6. Braden Looper. Like Benitez, except without all the good parts - no great fastball, no brilliant seasons. Just a half-season of pretty good pitching followed by a year and a half of fooling absolutely nobody into believing he wasn't pitching hurt. You could tell by looking at Looper's expression when he came into a game if he didn't have his good hard sinking fastball - his primary weapon - that day. Which, in 2005, was most of the time.
5. Kenny Rogers. Tigers fans don't hate Rogers yet, but they will, they will. Rogers wasn't in New York that long, and his stint with the Mets began with a stretch of undefeated pitching (he didn't lose in his first ten starts), but that just set us up for the inevitable fall. I'll never forgive Bobby Valentine for starting Rogers over the red-hot Rick Reed in Game Two of the 1999 NLCS, thus guaranteeing that the team would get stuck in an 0-2 hole they could never climb out of. And that was before Rogers - supposedly a control pitcher - walked in the winning run to end an all-time classic series.
4. Dale Murray. If a relief pitcher is supposed to be a fireman, Murray and teammate Skip Lockwood were the Arsonists. The Mets of the early 80s were a crappy team, but with a Neil Allen/Jeff Reardon bullpen, and later an Orosco-led pen, they at least fared pretty well in late/close situations. But the late 70s were another matter. I was just getting old enough in those years to really follow the Mets regularly, and Murray's meltdowns really sucked the remaining rays of hope out of an already terrible team.
Murray's one redeeming feature: in 1983, the Yankees traded a 19-year-old Fred McGriff and Dave Collins and a young Mike Morgan to get him. Heh.
3. Rey Ordonez. When he first came up and the Mets were still bad, Ordonez was a lot of fun to watch. But Ordonez was wholly unsuited to playing on a team that was serious about winning (it's not an accident that the Mets made the World Series the year he was out hurt) - I don't have time to run the numbers here, but he was basically the worst-hitting everyday player to hold a job for a significant number of years since Bill Bergen. Plus, he wasn't a particularly good guy. Plus, his fielding deteriorated over the years (though he was always an above-average glove man). Plus, the guy couldn't even bunt.
2. Carlos Baerga. Before there was Alomar, there was Baerga, an allegedly 27-year-old lifetime .305/.454/.345 hitter entering 1996. The Mets traded Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino to get him; Kent could still be their second baseman, having outhit the Mets' actual second baseman every year since then except 1999. Baerga is higher on the list here than, say, Alomar because the Mets gave up for him and suffered through him for longer, 2 1/2 years. In 2003 with Arizona, Baerga batted .343.
1. Juan Samuel. It took an awful lot of bad decisions, injuries and bad luck to bring down the Mets juggernaut of the mid-1980s, but the watershed moment of the collapse - the first time I really felt management had no clue what it was doing - was when the Mets traded Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell for Juan Samuel in 1989. Recall that Samuel was a poor-fielding second baseman whose main virtue was that he hit well for a middle infielder; the Mets moved him to center field, where his bat even at its best would have been unremarkable, and his glovework was not much better.
In 1988, Samuel hit .243/.380/.298; Dykstra (a good defensive center fielder two years younger than Samuel) hit .270/.385/.321. In 1989, when they made the trade, Samuel was hitting .246/.392/.311, while Dykstra was hitting .270/.415/.362. Granted, the 1988 season had raised some questions about Dykstra's patience, and granted he did not hit well in Philly the rest of the year, but Dykstra was a real talent and would go on to bat .325 in 1990 and score 143 runs as one of the leaders of a pennant winning team in 1993. McDowell, too, remained effective on and off for several years. But Samuel was already done as a productive regular, as his performance to date in 1988-89 had shown; with the Mets, who ended up six games out of first place, Samuel hit just .228/.300/.299. (Eventually, several years later, Samuel became a fine hitter as a bench player, batting .274/.502/.350 from 1994 through 1997. But that was after years of futility as a regular).
In the fall of 1989, I went off to college and turned 18. I met my wife on August 20, 1989, the day Willie Randolph hit a homer off Don Aase that - I felt at the time - basically signified that the Mets would not catch the Cubs, who then held a 2.5 game lead. It was inevitable that I would move out of the stage where baseball in general and the Mets in particular were by far the most important thing in my life. But the ugly unraveling of that team made the process a lot more painful, and the Samuel deal was when it really became visible that the wheels were coming off. Which is why he remains my least favorite Met.
June 29, 2006
BASEBALL: Off the Ledge
BASEBALL: 25 Least-Favorite Mets, Part I
Ken Arneson at Catfish Stew discusses his 25 least-favorite A's of his lifetime of baseball fandom, and Alex Belth adds his 25 least-favorite Yankees. (This Red Sox fan offers up a partial list as well). Interestingly, a large number of players on each list played for both teams - Ken Phelps makes both lists, and Kenny Rogers, Johnny Damon, Luis Polonia, Greg Cadaret, Ruben Sierra, Esteban Loaiza, Don Baylor, Scott Sanderson, Jim Spencer, and Jay Witasick all make appearances.
So, who are my 25 least favorite Mets of the past 30 years? Why, funny you should ask. Today, we count down numbers 25-11:
First, the honorable mentions:
*Mike Piazza, first baseman. I never got down on Piazza throughout his Mets career, but it was hard to watch a first baseman whose natural reaction to throws in the dirt was to block them with his shins. Ouch.
*Hubie Brooks, Jeromy Burnitz, Roger Cedeno Part II: All three of these guys were favorites of mine the first time they played for the Mets, but all (and, to a lesser extent, David Cone) were painful to watch the second time around, and in Cedeno's case he was also unmotivated, out of shape and a huge waste of money.
*Willie Montanez and Richie Hebner. I wasn't really old enough to know better, but I probably should have disliked Montanez and Hebner for their listless performances with the Mets in the Joe Torre era.
*Joe Torre. I'm not listing managers here, plus I didn't really hate Torre at the time, but the fact is that he managed a bad team as badly as he has managed the Yankees well.
25. Tom Glavine - Around May of last year, Glavine would have been near the top of this list; now, he's close to pitching himself off it. Besides a contract he didn't come close to justifying the first 2 1/2 years - and which I opposed at the time - Glavine was a guy who killed the Mets as part of the staff of their arch-nemesis the Braves, then killed them some more whenever he pitched against the Braves in a Mets uniform (he hasn't been effective against the Phillies either). Plus, he's a long-time Players Union activist. More honorable mentions here for other guys who went from Met-killing opponents to Met-killing Mets, including Tommie Herr and Kevin Bass.
24. Don Schulze - Schulze was only a Met for 5 games, but he fairly symbolized the disaster of 1987, when the Mets had 7 top starting pitchers but wound up scraping the bottom of the barrel due to a bizarre series of injuries and personal problems. Plus, how can you root for a guy who once sued the San Diego Chicken?
23. Bill Almon - Almon was a two-time offender. His first tour with the Mets, in 1980, he inexplicably decided to take up switch hitting, and batted .170. His second tour, in 1987, he was ineffective again off the bench, and whiffed to end the 10th inning in the Mets' last chance to win a crucial September 30 game against the Phillies, preventing them from having at least a chance to tie things up in the season-ending 3-game set against the White Rat and his Cardinals. Davey Johnson should have sent up Gregg Jefferies in that situation.
22. Bobby Bonilla - I know a lot of people would rank Bonilla much more highly, but after his first season he did hit outstandingly well, and I did feel at the time that he got a raw deal from the press. Still, Bonilla was constantly unhappy as a Met, he stank his first year, and to top it off he was largely a useless malcontent when he returned in
21. Vince Coleman - Coleman's first two years with the Mets (1991 & 1992) were actually two of his best with the bat (OBPs of .347 and .355), but he couldn't stay healthy and had declined to mere mortal on the bases (61 steals and 23 caught in 143 games). He, too, had some unpleasant issues off the field, including throwing a firecracker that injured some fans, a few of them kids. Plus, to top it off, Coleman was - like Glavine and Bonilla - yet another guy whose problems with the Mets contrasted with his stardom on prior teams that beat up on the Mets.
20. Kaz Ishii - Ishii was a pointless and futile acquisition last year, and a frustrating pitcher to watch, with terrible control but lacking the overpowering stuff to compensate for it.
19. Todd Zeile - Zeile had half a good year the first half of 2000, but otherwise was an emblem of the Mets' decline from the days of John Olerud. His futility with the bat also led directly to the Mo Vaughn deal. And then there was his blunders on the basepaths in Game 1 of the 2000 World Series (granted, he did hit well that postseason). Zeile also had a hopeles second act with the Mets in 2004, and ended up getting nearly 400 plate appearances.
18. Rafael Santana - Santana was a nice enough guy, but he was never more than an average glove man, wasn't a particularly fast baserunner, and couldn't hit his way out of the proverbial paper bag. The Mets have had many such infielders over the years, but on a team with no other significant weaknesses, he drove me nuts. He drove Davey Johnson to play Howard Johnson and Kevin Mitchell at shortstop whenever possible.
17. Dan Norman - Norman's high in at bats for the Mets was 110, but of course it was his lack of accomplishment that made Norman so frustrating. When the Mets traded Tom Seaver for three other players, none of them stars (Steve Henderson, Pat Zachry and Doug Flynn), the management (specifically, M. Donald Grant) justifed the deal by touting Norman as a prospect and saying it would be remembered as "the Dan Norman trade." Indeed. If you ever wonder why Mets fans always call in to WFAN believing the Mets should trade an assortment of expendable loose ends for someone else's franchise player or best prospect, it's because we have been on the other end of so many deals like this one.
16. Tony Fernandez - Fernandez was a fine player before the Mets got him, but he stunk and made clear he didn't want to be around, batting .225 and slugging .295 in 48 games in 1993. Dumped by the Mets when many Mets fans had concluded he was finished, Fernandez immediately turned it on with his old team in Toronto, batting over .300 and driving in 9 runs in a 6-game World Series.
Only consolation: Fernandez did the same thing to the Yankees two years later.
15. Mel Rojas - In August 1997, while still hanging around the pennant race, the Mets dealt Lance Johnson, Mark Clark and Manny Alexander for Rojas, Brian McRae and Turk Wendell. I hated the deal at the time; as it turned out, McRae did have one good year (1998) for the Mets after playing poorly in 1997, and Wendell wound up being the best player in the trade. But Rojas, formerly an effctive reliever in Montreal (and well-paid, with a $4.5 million contract), was appallingly bad, with a straight-as-an-arrow low-90s batting practice fastball as his only pitch. In 84.1 innings as a Met setup man - including the 1998 season, when the Mets only narrowly lost the Wild Card race - he allowed 92 hits, 13 homers, 36 walks and posted an ERA of 5.76. (The ultimate Rojas moment came the next year with Detroit, when he managed to allow 9 earned runs on his first 11 pitches).
13. Garry Templeton - Formerly an obnoxious, overrated underachiever, Templeton by the time of his appearance with the Mets as a 35-year-old in 1991 was finished in all aspects of his game, batting an anemic .228/.306/.257 and playing a poor shortstop. The Mets responded to the discovery that he could no longer hit well enough to play shortstop by trying him as a first baseman for 25 games. Aaaaargh!
12. Doug Sisk - As was true of Santana, Sisk's failures were magnified by pitching for a team with few other weaknesses. The Mets in 1985 won 98 games and lost the pennant by 3. The 5 starters had a combined ERA of 2.65. The Mets' other top 3 relievers (McDowell, Orosco and Leach) had a combined ERA of 2.82 - in total, 1270.1 innings of a 2.69 ERA. But the team ERA ended up at 3.11. Much of that was guys throwing a few bad innings here or there, but the rest was Sisk - previously a key setup man - and Tom Gorman. For his Mets career, Sisk walked 210 batters and struck out 165. He was a constant irritant to watch.
11. George Foster - A disaster from the day of his arrival in 1982, Foster partly redeemed himself as a good RBI man, if one with no other useful skills, from 1983-85. But then he spoiled it when he batted .227/.429/.289 in 1986, and then accused the Mets of racism when they cut him to hand the left field job to Mookie Wilson and Kevin Mitchell. As a fielder, either Bill James or Jim Baker (I forget which) said that Foster "raised aloofness to an art form".
Tomorrow: The Top 10.
June 28, 2006
LAW: From The Day Job
I don't generally mix work and the blog, but for those of you who are interested in the federal securities laws, I have an article out in the Delaware Journal of Corporate Law on Rule 10b-5(a) & (c) liability. You can download it here off SSRN.
UPDATE (6/30): No sooner do I publish than the Ninth Circuit disagrees with me.
POLITICS: Hillary's Flag Flop
You know, I wasn't in favor of an amendment to the Constitution to ban flag-burning, not least for the reason I mentioned here back in 2003: "Every time some nitwit college student burns a flag on camera, that's one less idiot who can ever run for public office." But let's not leave this topic without noting the following:
1. Hillary Clinton drew widespread publicity - referencing her position as evidence of a move towards the political center - for supporting legislation banning flag-burning.
2. Like everyone else who follows politics even remotely, Hillary knew full well that the Supreme Court in 1989 had held that the First Amendment protects flag-burning, and therefore that such legislation, to accomplish anything, required an amendment to the constitution.
3. When that amendment came up for a vote, it failed by one vote, and Hillary voted against it. In other words, Hillary's vote by itself defeated the position she had depicted herself as supporting.
June 27, 2006
BASEBALL: Pray For Peter Gammons
BASEBALL: Bad Scheduling
Howie Rose just piointed out that the Red Sox bizarrely chose today - with the Mets visiting - to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1986 AL Championship team.
BASEBALL: Scouting Valentin
One of the decisions the Mets have coming up is what to do about second base: stick with Jose Valentin or go get an upgrade. Statistical analysis of the situation is important, but let's not forget that the numbers can only take you up to a point; sometimes, there are judgments to be made that go beyond the numbers. In signing Jose Valentin and keeping him on the roster in the first place, Omar Minaya was making a judgment between two sets of statistics, and it turns out, so far, that he's been right.
A lot of people, myself included, looked at Valentin's age (36), his train wreck of a 2005 season (.170 batting, .265 slugging) and his overmatched look in March and April and concluded that he was toast. (And I'd been a fan of Valentin when he was in Chicago) Instead, he's been on a ferocious hot streak. Is this for real? Well, if you toss out Valentin's 2005 and compare his numbers in 2000-04 as a regular for the White Sox to this year's numbers (projected out to the same number of plate appearances)
Obviously, Valentin's not going to bat .297 if he stays in the everyday lineup, but otherwise you can see that he's not so far off base from the player he was in Chicago as recently as 2004, when he hit 30 home runs. Kudos to Minaya to choosing correctly in deciding whether we'd see something more like the 2000-04 Valentin or the 2005 Valentin at Shea this year. If he reverts to his 2000-04 form the rest of the way, we can more than live with that from the #8 hitter.
June 26, 2006
BASEBALL: Endy Chavez, "Rock Star"
You always hear about players being larger-than-life heroes in their home countries, and I'm never sure what to make of the extent of the hyperbole involved. This article would seem to take the cake for "hey, that can't be true, can it?":
Mets outfielder Endy Chavez is a rock star en Español. In his home country of Venezuela, he is a hero. Fathers want their sons to grow up to be like him, and mothers want their daughters to date him.
Endy Chavez??? Granted, this does explain some of this:
It also helps that he plays for the Magallanes Navegantes, arguably the most popular team in the Venezuelan Winter Leagues. What is the other most popular team? The Caracas Leones. The matchups between Magallanes and the Leones rival the Red Sox-Yankees series in intensity, press coverage and of course, fan participation.
Chavez . . . played for Venezuela in the 2006 Caribbean Series and for the country's team in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. He hit a home run against Puerto Rico in the second round of the World Baseball Classic, re-establishing himself as a star in Latin America, sending the Venezuelan fans in attendance into a frenzy and creating a life-long memory along the way.
BASEBALL: Pelfrey the Long Man
Matthew Cerrone at MetsBlog notes that the Mets are apparently thinking about using Mike Pelfrey initially as a long reliever. Of course, as I've explained before, I approve of this idea, although if you follow the link to the Daily News item he cites, it doesn't say that they're thinking of doing that this year.
LAW: SCOTUS Raps Howard Dean for Suppressing Free Speech
In a case I've been following since 2002 (see here, here and here), Act 64, the draconian Howard Dean-era campaign finance statute in Vermont, has been struck down by the Supreme Court. Go here for the syllabus summarizing how the decision played out, and for links to the opinions by Justices Breyer, Alito, Kennedy, Thomas, Stevens and Souter. Unfortunately, it looks like the arrival of two new Justices has done nothing to prevent the perennial splintering of the Court on this issue, as Roberts and Alito joined Breyer's opinion striking down the statute on what looks (at first glance) on fairly specific grounds, while Kennedy joined only the result, Thomas (joined by Scalia) sought a broader reversal of precedent in this area, and Alito specifically observed that the Court was not considering overruling Buckley v. Valeo because it had not been properly briefed on the stare decisis considerations involved in overturning a prior decision. Reading the tea leaves, there are two votes to overrule Buckley, Alito is signalling that he might be open to do so but refuses to do so unless specifically asked, Kennedy would seem unlikely to consider such a request but has expressed grave dissatisfaction with the workability of the present system, and Roberts isn't showing his cards.
[UPDATE]: Actually, Roberts specifically joined the part of Breyer's opinion refusing to overturn Buckley's holding that expenditure limits violate free speech.
BASEBALL: Keeping the Baserunners
There are four components to offense in baseball. Getting on base and batting for extra bases are the two biggies. Next is advancing once on base; the fourth is avoiding losing runners on the basepaths. The fourth is probably the one that flies furthest below the radar; it may be thought of as something that doesn't show in the box scores, but at least two components do: GIDP and Caught Stealing. Which teams are doing the best and worst jobs this season of avoiding losing runners that way? Well, it's time for . . . a chart! The first column, GD%, shows GIDP plus CS as a percentage of runners on first base (i.e., hits plus walks plus HBP plus catchers' interference - included because, hey, ESPN lists it - minus extra base hits). The second, SB/SH, divides a team's number of successful steals and sacrifice hits - both of which advance a runner, albeit with different costs - as a percentage of the same. This column shows a team's successful efforts to avoid losing a runner and instead get them to scoring position. The third shows strikeouts as a percentage of plate appearances - teams that whiff a lot at least aren't hitting into double plays, even if they're not making "productive outs" either. (If you're wondering, I didn't bother listing GB/FB ratios - the Cubs hit a ton of grounders but nobody else is much of an outlier).
Unsurprisingly, with Reyes and Beltran at the top of the order, the Mets have excelled in this category - if you divide the second column by the first one you get a ratio of successful one-run strategies to lost baserunners of 2.43 to 1, whereas only two other teams are better than 1.15 to 1 (the Reds at 1.41 and the Orioles at 1.18) and some teams are below 0.5 to 1 (the A's, perhaps reflecting their philosophy, rank last at 0.35, with the Red Sox at 0.39 and the Blue Jays at 0.43 - the best-known "Moneyball" adherents - and the Rangers at 0.46)
BASEBALL: This Time, With His Bat
I have to say, I would not have predicted Orlando Cabrera, of all people, to reach base safely 53 games in a row. With a .361 OBP, 22 doubles, 11 steals in 12 attempts and only 4 GIDP in more than 300 plate appearances, Cabrera's been doing all the little things to make himself a consistent offensive contributor on a team that's been starved of them.
(Speaking of shortstops and GIDP, Miguel Tejada has hit into 21 this season, a pace to easily pass Jim Rice's single-season record of 36 - Tejada could be the first man to hit into 40 double plays).
WAR: Loose Lips
If the media actually was working secretly for America's enemies in general and international Islamist terrorist groups in particular, how would it act differently from what it does today? I'm sure you could come up with examples, but sadly I think the answer is "not all that different." Patterico, who's been covering the LA Times' end of the recent efforts to "blow the whitsle" on a terror-fighting program that was clearly secret, legal and effective, looks into the mind of the LAT by listening to one of its editors justify the decision.
Ace has a darker view of the media's motivation:
I'm quite sure the reasonable liberals at the NYT and WaPo know full well that programs like this are absolutely vital, and their secrecy is likewise vital. However, they have made the most anti-American and evil sort of decision: While tools like this are vital for saving American lives, they will not permit any Republican President to use them. Only Democratic Presidents are permitted to employ the full panoply of powers for protecting American lives.
Like Allahpundit, I don't actually think any reporters think this way consciously, but if they are less trusting of Republican administrations and more likely to see it as necessary to undermine their ability to keep national secrets, it amounts to the same thing.
UPDATE: What would be more useful, if you were operating a terrorist network: the name of one Virginia-based WMD analyst who used to be a covert agent back before the African embassy bombings? Or roadmaps of how the US government monitors telecommunications and financial transactions?
June 23, 2006
BASEBALL: The Elements of A Great Pitching Team
Recall my comparison of the 2006 Tigers to the all-time great pitching teams (as measured by ERA compared to the league average). The Tigers were, at that writing, 39.9% better than the league, good for sixth best all-time; in coming back down to earth, they have settled at this writing to 31% better (3.52 ERA compared to 4.61 for the AL as a whole), which would put them just off the top 25, although that's still a plenty impressive place to be. You will also recall that I found that the Tigers' pitching success likely owes a lot to their defense.
Which got me wondering: if you look at the other top pitching teams - this time I expanded the list to the top 27 teams other than the Tigers, to include everyone since 1893 who ended 30% or better compared to the league - what most characterizes their great pitching? I decided to list out where each of these teams ranked vs. the league in the four main components of pitching: the three that the pitcher controls (preventing HR and BB and striking guys out), and the one that is mainly the responsibility of the defense (Defensive Efficiency, i.e., the percentage of balls in play turned to outs). As usual, I looked at Baseball-Reference.com for the answers. Let's see how these teams did it - "Lg" is how many teams were in the team's league at the time, and the rest are ranks from best to worst:
*Well, the obvious one that jumps out at me is how much more crucial the defense has been to making a great pitching team than any other element. I was stunned, frankly, that the results were this dramatic. Of the 28 teams, five finished in the bottom half of the league in strikeouts (including two 1960s White Sox teams), four in walks, two in homers (both pre-1920 teams), but not a one in DER, with the 1919 Cubs and 1912 Giants the only ones as low as fourth.
*More studies are still needed on which of these four elements are most subject to park effects.
*Granting that they had a lot of help from their park, the 1966 Dodgers were unsurprisingly the one team that swept the three pitching-only categories, unsurprising because - last I checked, in 2001 - they held the all-time (since the 4-ball/3-strike era began in 1889) record for best team K/BB ratio.
*Looking at the top 4 teams gives you more sympathy for the voters who put Tinker, Evers and Chance in the Hall of Fame. Ditto the voters who gave Marty Marion the 1944 MVP and put Luis Aparicio in Cooperstown.
*The 1939 Yankees' defense is also discussed here in the context of a broader look at the centrality of defense to the great Yankee teams of the 40s through 60s.
*Bear in mind as well that defense was more crucial before homers, walks and strikeouts became as commonn as they are today.
POLITICS: Hype For Hire: Where Are Warner & Brown?
OK, it's all been good fun following the interesting coincidence of Kos supporting candidates after they hire his friend, co-author and sometime business partner Jerome Armstrong, and watching Kos' subsequent meltdown trying to contain the damage. But as I have said from the start, the real story here remains Armstrong himself and the revelation that he was - according to the SEC - the paid front man touting a stock whose trading was dominated and controlled by the participants in a classic pump-and-dump scam that cost investors millions. Dan Riehl rounds up more on this story, including what appears to be a rather lame "they didn't really pay me" defense by Armstrong before he settled with the SEC.
The question of the day is how presidential contender Mark Warner and Ohio Senate candidate Sherrod Brown, both employers of Armstrong, will react to the news of his involvement in such a scam.
To Mark Warner: you are still in the process of introducing yourself to the American people. Is Jerome Armstrong representative of the kinds of people you will appoint to important jobs in your Administration? We're waiting for your answer.
To Sherrod Brown: are you planning to bring Jerome Armstromng's ethics to the Senate? If so, how can you say things on your website like this?
We've got to put a stop to the pay-to-play system that runs unchecked by Republicans like our current senator Mike DeWine.
The people of Ohio deserve an answer.
June 22, 2006
You know, all the things they said about Felix Hernandez were true - true of Francisco Liriano, that is. (Hernandez is still a work in progress, but his numbers come the end of the season will be fine). And assuming the Twins hold the 3-0 lead Liriano now has over Roger Clemens, a lot more casual fans are going to be learning Liriano's name in the next 24 hours.
WAR: Breaking: 7 Arrested in Sears Tower Terror Plot
Seven people were arrested Thursday in connection with the early stages of a plot to attack Chicago's Sears Tower and other buildings in the U.S., a federal law enforcement official said.
More to follow tomorrow.
BASEBALL: Complete Game Quiz
1. Name the last pitcher to throw 10 complete games in a season.
2. Name the last pitcher to throw 15 complete games in a season.
3. Name the last pitcher to throw 20 complete games in a season.
4. Name the last pitcher to throw 25 complete games in a season.
5. Name the last pitcher to throw 30 complete games in a season.
6. Name the last pitcher to throw 35 complete games in a season.
(Irv Young was the last to throw 40, with the Boston Braves in 1905. I wouldn't ask that one).
Read More »
1. Randy Johnson in 1999
« Close It
Yes, that's Jose Reyes' OBP after today's game. And David Wright now has 60 RBI before the end of June (MVP! MVP!) And .346 is Julio Franco's batting average. Young and old.
No, I don't have another point. Do I need one?
WAR: Another Domino: Democracy in Kuwait & UAE
Yet more good news in the march of self-government across the Arab and Muslim worlds, an unthinkable development as recently as 2002, as the scope of democracy expands in Kuwait and will follow in the UAE:
Next week, Kuwaitis will go to the polls to elect a new National Assembly which will, in turn, approve a new prime minister and cabinet. The Kuwaitis will be making history for a number of reasons. This is the first election in which women are allowed to vote, which means the size of the electorate has more than doubled. More importantly, and much to the chagrin of Islamists who insist that women are unfit to play any role in politics, a number of women are standing, often on a platform of radial social and economic reform. With a native population of one million, Kuwait is one of the smallest states that form the Arab League. Nevertheless, its general election is important for the impact it is certain to have on broader Arab politics. One reason is that the exercise will help consolidate the idea of holding elections as a means of securing access to power, something new and still fragile in most Arab states. Days before the Kuwaitis were due to go to the polls, the United Arab Emirates announced that it, too, would opt for a parliamentary system based on elections. This means all but five of the Arab states are now committed to holding reasonably clean elections at the municipal and/or national level. SOME OF this new interest in holding elections is due to the impact of Iraq on the broader Arab imagination. Many within the Arab ruling elites saw, with a mixture of admiration and terror, how Saddam Hussein's regime, regarded as the strongest of the Arab despotic structures in recent memory, collapsed within three weeks. The message was clear: An Arab regime without some mandate from the people is never more than a house of cards. Next, the Arab masses began to see millions of Iraqis queuing to cast their ballots in several municipal elections, a referendum, and two general elections, all in a couple of years.
Via Taranto. Read the whole thing. And ask yourself, once again, how anyone can say that the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan are for nothing.
WAR: Where Are The WMD?
One of the pieces of the WMD case against Saddam Hussein's regime was that the regime had never accounted for stocks of chemical weapons known to exist even dating back before the Gulf War. This letter (more here and here and here), noting the discovery of over 500 chemical shells since 2003 (not new discoveries, mind you, but the accumulation of various discoveries over a period of years) just underlines David Kay's conclusion that even without huge stockpiles Saddam's Iraq was, if anything, more dangerous than we thought given the dispersed nature of such weapons. (More shells will surely be found for years into the future - the Belgians still have a booming business turning up World War I era explosives that remain dangerous). And that's before we even get to the biological programs; recall that you can store deadly biotoxins in vials, not warehouses.
George W. Bush has lost the public debate over the pre-war state of Saddam's arsenal of non-conventional weapons. He lost that debate partly because, yes, the nature of the threat was not as Bush and others depicted it - some of the intelligence (even intelligence on which there was a broad international consensus) was faulty, and some of the specific cases in which the Administration made judgment calls to assume the worst turned out not to be as bad as all that. And he lost the debate partly because Bush has always taken the view that the most important thing since 2003 has been to move forward rather than wallow in the original decision, which after all can no longer be changed. I would argue that that has been a huge mistake - Bush's opponents have understood far better than he that controlling the past gives you power over the future.
But facts are stubborn things. One can yet hope that historians, given the time to pull together the whole story and not just each day's drip-drip of news, will recognize that (1) pre-existing, if scattered, stocks of chemical weapons, (2) ongoing or ready-to-revive biological weapons programs and (3) long-range schemes to reactivate Saddam's nuclear weapons programs were a part of the multifaceted threat to the U.S. and its allies presented by the Saddam regime.
POLITICS: The Left's Townhouse
So, it turns out that Kos tried to use a discussion group including "many bloggers and other representatives of the netroots as well as a large number of partisan journalists and grassroots groups" to coordinate a conspiracy of silence on the latest series of stories on (1) Jerome Armstrong's run-in with the SEC and (2) speculation about the pattern of Kos supporting candidates who hired Armstrong. The relevant excerpt:
My request to you guys is that you ignore this for now. It would make my life easier if we can confine the story. Then, once Jerome can speak and defend himself, then I'll go on the offensive (which is when I would file any lawsuits) and anyone can pile on. If any of us blog on this right now, we fuel the story. Let's starve it of oxygen. And without the "he said, she said" element to the story, you know political journalists are paralyzed into inaction.
Now, there's nothing sinister about having a non-public discussion group - I belong to two such groups, one just for the RedState contributors and a more random, open one run by Jon Henke of Qand) and including a bunch of mostly conservative and libertarian blogs. But it really is revealing of the minset at work here that anyone would even try to get not only bloggers but journalists to not write on a story. Trust me, the idea that you could get, say, Glenn Reynolds, Michelle Malkin, Jeff Goldstein, Hugh Hewitt, Mike Krempasky, Ed Morrisey and John Hinderaker to agree on a single approach to a story or, more particularly, to not touch a story - the idea that you would even broach that topic across a list of the top conservative and libertarian blogs - is inconceivable. Despite the Online Left's insistence that conservative bloggers march in unison on an agenda handed down by Karl Rove, it's apparently the lefties who are the ones seeking to enforce message discipline behind the scenes.
WAR: Let The Family Vent
John Hinderaker really shouldn't have accused the uncle of one of the soldiers tortured and slain by hostage-takers in Iraq of having "no shame". If the guy is still holding down a public platform six months from now, maybe; but people say things when they are grieving, and the proper response is just to discount them. Via Blogometer.
On a related topic, Mark Steyn defends Ann Coulter's assault on the "Jersey Girls," four widows of victims of September 11, on the grounds that only Coulter's brand of outrageous overstatement was capable of shutting down their excesses:
For all the impact my column had, I might as well have done house calls. Then Coulter comes in and yuks it up with the Playboy-spread gags, and suddenly the Jersey Girls only want to do the super-extra-fluffy puffball interviews. So two paragraphs in Ann Coulter's book have succeeded in repositioning these ladies: they may still be effective Democrat hackettes, but I think TV shows will have a harder time passing them off as non-partisan representatives of the 9/11 dead.
Steyn has a point, as always, but I still think you can't measure when a commentator has overstepped the bounds of decency solely by asking whether it worked.
Finally, proving that the Left learns nothing, Jeff Goldstein and James Taranto (third item) point us to increasingly unhinged and incoherent uses of the "chickenhawk" canard by Howard Dean (who apparently thinks his own experience on the ski slopes during Vietnam trumps George W. Bush flying night patrols over the Gulf of Mexico in an F-102 and Don Rumsfeld serving as a Navy pilot) and the senile, rambling John Murtha, respectively.
UPDATE: I should add that the NY Daily News was shamefully dishonest about the Coulter flap in publishing this column by a different 9/11 widow implying that Coulter had attacked all the widows. I suppose I can't feel to sorry for Coulter, given how nasty her attack was, but at least some pretense of fairness would be nice (the best they could do was not mention Coulter in the article, as she might have had sued the paper if they had openly mischaracterized what she said).
June 21, 2006
WAR: Steyn on Demographics
Mark Steyn responds to my post (scroll down to "IT’S COZY IN BANGLADESH").
BASEBALL: Power Station
For the record, the slugging percentages (as of this morning) of the starting 8 from last night's Mets lineup:
Note that Lo Duca (.324) also has the lowest OBP in that lineup other than Milledge; it's a fair question what Lo Duca, who is slow to boot, is doing in the number 2 slot. Yes, he does some of the "little things," and the Mets have had something of a tradition in recent years of sticking their weakest hitter in the #2 hole, but there's really no reason to keep him up that high.
The short-term decision the Mets need to make is on Milledge when Floyd returns, but I have no problem with sending Milledge back for a few months, as long as he's back on the roster for the postseason. Right now, he's still about even with Nady - both have power and a mostly good glove, and neither gets on base much. Milledge needs to play every day, so Norfolk makes sense.
(As to the second base situation, I've gotta run but I'll get to that later).
June 20, 2006
I can't summarize this lengthy screed except by saying that Megan McArdle is wonderful.
BLOG: The Horror
BLOG: About the Comments
I've post-dated this so it stays at the top. Yes, I am well aware that the comments on the site are busted. And my efforts thus far to get help have been unsuccessful. If anyone can help or offer suggestions, I'd be much obliged.
UPDATE: I miss the feedback of having a comments section, but I simply have neither the time nor the technical skill to sift through self-help forums to find an answer. What I need is someone to get this done. Specifically, if anyone can recommend someone who can fix this sort of thing, let me know. I am willing to pay.
SECOND UPDATE: Comments are fixed!
BASEBALL/LAW: Separated At Birth?
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POLITICS: Jerome Armstrong - Hype for Hire
June 19, 2006
BASEBALL: The Junior Circuit Rules
David Pinto notes the AL's dominating record thus far in interleague play. I'm not so quick to write this off entirely as a small sample size - the AL isn't quite that much better, but I really have no question it's the stronger league right now. Certainly my pre-season look at the established talent levels in each league supported that view, as AL teams averaged 223.01 EWSL (74 wins' worth) vs. 202.29 (67 wins) for the NL. That's a substantial difference, although I'm not sure how real the difference is when you account for the fact that AL teams have 9 regulars and NL teams have 8 (there's some real chicken-and-egg issues there).
WAR: Geography Lesson Needed
I know it's kind of unfair to pick on feeble old John Murtha, who is obviously unable to defend himself in reasoned argument, but this is hilarious:
Murtha accepted Rove's premise by claiming that the entire Zarqawi operation could have been run out of... Okinawa. Yeah, that's right, Okinawa. The basis of this claim is that Zarqawi was bombed (ostensibly from aircraft that could have come from outside Iraq) and therefore why not just pull chalks and slink back to Oki where we could comfortably launch bombing missions at will.
Blackfive runs a map showing where Okinawa actually is (recall that tens of thousands of Americans died to sieze it because of its convenience to aerial bombardment of Japan), and continues:
The straight yellow line extending across the middle of China and Iran is the distance from Okinawa to Baghdad as the crow flies which is approximately 4200 nautical miles. Obviously, the Chinese and the Iranians wouldn't be cool with that, but let's just roll with it. The max combat range for the F-16 with external fuel tanks and 2000 lbs of ordnance is 740 nautical miles so that's like a minimum of SIX midair refuelings in EACH direction.
Now, it's true that planned bombing runs can be made from very far away with today's technology - during the invasion we were running bombing sorties from bases in Missouri - but those are not rapid-reaction missions, to say the least. More on Murtha's embarrassing gaffe from Protein Wisdom, Patterico, Geraghty and RedState. And, of course, if you think Murtha has passed his expiration date, you can always support his opponent, Diana Irey.
WAR: Connections, Connections
WAR: Creeping Tyranny In Brussels
If you think the teachers' unions are powerful in the U.S., they can still - for now - only dream of doing this:
Yesterday my husband Paul Belien, the editor of this website, was summoned to the police station and interrogated. He was told that the Belgian authorities are of the opinion that, as a homeschooler, he has not adequately educated his children and, hence, is neglecting his duty as a parent, which is a criminal offence. The Ministry of Education has asked the judiciary to press charges and the judiciary told the police to investigate and take down his statement.
Now, if you read the whole thing it's unclear whether this is about a campaign against homeschooling or about a campaign against Brussles-based bloggers who dare to criticize the EUracracy, but neither is a particularly encouraging prospect for fans of civil liberties in Europe. But the subtext is an international movement by the usual suspects to bulldoze local freedom to educate your children as you see fit:
The fact that a growing group of children seems to be escaping from the government's influence clearly bothers the authorities. Three years ago a new school bill was introduced. The new bill refers to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and it obliges homeschooling parents to fill out a questionaire and sign an official "declaration of homeschooling" in which they agree to school their children "respecting the respect [sic] for the fundamental human rights and the cultural values of the child itself and of others."
Last month Michael Farris, the chairman of the American Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), warned that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child could make homeschooling illegal in the U.S., even though the US Senate has never ratified this Convention.
Another reminder, if one was needed, of how the UN's undemocratic, unaccountable influence can end up subverting important freedoms.
LAW: Those Latvian Judges
I was puzzled when I first read this LA Times article, which discussed the electoral defeat of Judge Dzintra Janavs, an apparently well-regarded Los Angeles judge, by Lynn Diane Olson, who runs a bagel store and has barely practiced law. (Via Bashman). What was so obviously odd was the LAT's insistence, really without any scrap of evidence, that Janavs' defeat in ethnically polyglot LA was due to bigotry against her Latvian name. Only much later in the article does one get the real story:
"I targeted Janavs because of her political affiliation, time on the bench and what I hear about her from people in the legal community," Olson said, referring to Janavs' reputation for courtroom gruffness.
Thousands of campaign mailers funded by Olson, as well as about 50,000 e-mails directed at registered Democrats, emphasized the candidate's endorsement by the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.
Patterico noted a different slant in the story, that being the LAT's use of the case to attack the concept of judicial elections, and has followed up by nothing that California's Republican governor has now stepped in to give Janavs another appointment on the bench, while also tracking down some lawyers who think she was a terrible judge anyway. Either way, it's pretty clear that the LAT didn't bother to get the story straight.
June 18, 2006
I got sidetracked from linking to this back in April: the video of Rick Monday saving the flag.
June 16, 2006
WAR: Phil Carter and the Rule of Law
Meant to link to this the other day - since I'm a WSJ.com subscriber, I'm not sure if it's free or not - Phil Carter of Intel Dump was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal earlier in the week for his efforts (he's currently in Iraq in the Army) to get Iraqi police and courts to follow the rule of law even in odious cases (e.g., murderers who are supposed to be free because of the amnesty issued by Saddam just before the invasion, which for various reasons the U.S. decided to honor).
BASEBALL: Making It Home
One of Jose Reyes' signature gifts is the ability to score runs once he is on base - despite his low to (this year) middling OBPs, Reyes always manages to score a bunch of runs. Last year, he nearly made history, narrowly missing becoming the first player since 1892 to score 100 runs with an OBP below .300.
But is Reyes really the best at scoring once he's on base? Turns out he's close, but no, at least this year. I took a look at the players who scored the most runs per time on base not due to home runs. I took a look at every player with 100 plate appearances through last night's action and ranked them by their runs scored (minus homers) per times on base (minus homers). To correct for the fact that some guys get into scoring position in the first place with their bats, I added to the times-on-base number (doubles)*(.33) (since a double gets you a third of the way from first to home) and (triples)*(.66). I'm sure there's a more scientific formula, and I think Baseball Prospectus used one in an article a few years ago, but I was looking for something I could run quickly.
Of course, a player's speed, aggressiveness and heads-up on the basepaths is only one of three variables in scoring runs: you also need to bat near the top of the lineup (you score more runs if you don't start a lot of innings with two outs) and bat ahead of good hitters. Players who have had at least 100 plate appearances as a leadoff man are listed in italics. As you'll see from the chart, fast guys, leadoff men and guys on good offenses tend to congregate at the top (Reed Johnson is #1 mainly because of the strength of the Toronto offense thus far, I suspect), and catchers and low-order hitters at the bottom (if you're wondering, the guy at the bottom is the Colorado Luis Gonzalez). Unsurprisingly, David DeJesus - recovering from injury and playing for a lousy offense - is near the bottom of the leadoff men, but I was surprised to see Gary Matthews jr. and Curtis Granderson, both guys who run reasonably well and bat ahead of power-laden offenses, ranked so low. You can see here some of the offsetting cost to leading off a slower but high-OBP guy like Youkilis or Jason Kendall.
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June 15, 2006
POLITICS: Hollywood/Dilettante Lefty Follies
*When the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces needs testimony on the best military equipment for soldiers in the field, who should they call as a witness? Why, Cher, of course.
*Stephen Colbert asks RFK jr, who is still peddling discredited conspiracy theories about the 2004 election (the presidential election, not the Washington governor's race), "Was it easier for Bush to steal Ohio in 2004 or for your uncle to steal Illinois in 1960?" No word yet, I assume, from the people who demanded laughter at Colbert's White House Correspondents' Dinner routine.
*A judge wants Alec Baldwin's head examined. I'm sure they won't find anything.
BASEBALL: In the Wings
Given the current state of the Mets juggernaut and the relative success of Alay Soler and (to a lesser extent) El Duque, the desperation to shore up the rotation further has dimmed. But when the time comes for another arm, especially if we're looking for help in middle relief (since I'm still skeptical of tossing him right in the rotation), Mike Pelfrey's AA numbers are starting look pretty good. I particularly like the 55-1 K/HR ratio (81-2 if you count A ball).
Actually, at the moment it looks like Trachsel is the first guy you'd want to replace, as he was hit hard again today. The good news is that this team is starting to look like it will soon be ready to think mainly about October (fingers crossed, expecting run of catastrophic injuries), so the desperation level should be minimized.
LAW: Five for Law Enforcement
The Supreme Court held 5-4 today in Hudson v. Michigan - with the five being Justices Scalia (who wrote the opinion), Thomas, Kennedy, Roberts and Alito - that when police officers enter a house without knocking and announcing their presence, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the remedy for that violation is not exclusion of the evidence seized in the following search, but is limited to discipline or legal action against the offending officers. While the Court recognized the important interests served by the knock-and-announce rule, including preventing unnecessary gunplay initiated by surprised targets of a search, it concluded that the interests served by the exclusionary rule were too attenuated from the manner of entry to a dwelling to be searched, especially given that the manner of entry was not even the cause of obtaining the evidence:
[E]xclusion may not be premised on the mere fact that a constitutional violation was a "but-for" cause of obtaining evidence. Our cases show that but-for causality is only a necessary, not a sufficient, condition for suppression. In this case, of course, the constitutional violation of an illegal manner of entry was not a but-for cause of obtaining the evidence. Whether that preliminary misstep had occurred or not, the police would have executed the warrant they had obtained, and would have discovered the gun and drugs inside the house.
(Emphasis in original). The Court's application of this common-sense limitation on the exclusionary rule, with its drastic costs to law enforcement, was rejected by the Court's liberal wing - Justices Breyer, Souter, Stevens and Ginsburg. An object lesson in the consequences of judicial nominations.
WAR/POLITICS: A Little Demographics
I've been playing around lately with the CIA Factbook, which has, among other things, reasonably up-to-date population and demographic data for every country on earth, and I thought I'd pull together a chart that hopefully can serve as the basis for some interesting analysis. Looking to narrow the list to major/significant countries, I focused on the 53 countries of 20 million or more people. I started with the CIA's figures for existing population density (expressed in people per square kilometer - yes, the data uses the metric system) and birthrate per 1000 people, and combined those two to come up with a rate of births per square kilometer - a truer measure of the potential for future population density (although of course future population density is also affected by infant/child mortality, adult life expectancy, and net immigration rates). I present here my results and just a few observations, leaving a more extensive analysis (including the consequences of this data for debates about abortion, immigration, entitlement reform, the environment and the War on Terror) to others or to another day:
1. For the most part, countries are grouped here by region - trends in population tend to be more regional than national.
2. The eye-popping figures for Bangladesh really stick out - there's no country on earth close to Bangladesh's overpopulation problem. Bangladesh squeezes half the population of the United States into a land mass smaller than Iowa.
3. Russia is well on its way to being uninhabited. By contrast, the fairly high rate of births per sq km for a number of the developed countries like Japan, Germany and the UK, suggesting that (a) their falling populations are a reasonable and natural correction for excessive population density and (b) they are, Steynian doomsaying to the contrary, in no danger of being depopulated. The real problem those countries have is not too few young people but too many old people, especially in light of their public pension systems. I should stress that I'm not at all questioning the reasoning of Mark Steyn and other demographic doomsayers, especially as to the consequences for Europe's and Japan's economies and welfare states and the resulting economic pressure to take on immigrants without being choosy about who. But the data suggests a little caution in extrapolating to sweeping generalizations about those countries ending up depopulated.
WAR: Going Out Of Business?
American and Iraqi forces have carried out 452 raids since last week's killing of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and 104 insurgents were killed during those actions, the U.S. military said Thursday.
Zarqawi's death may not mark the end of the insurgency, or necessarily even the beginning of the end, but it may well spell the end of Al Qaeda in Iraq and, more generally, the foreign-terrorist component of the insurgency. And the more the insurgency is limited to domestic Iraqi elements, the sooner the Iraqi government and military will be able to take over the battle against them. And, of course, this is bad news for Al Qaeda worldwide, as its only visibly active operating subsidiary has lost its CEO and is bleeding manpower and resources at a rapid rate.
June 14, 2006
BASEBALL: Double Up
Entering tonight, the Rangers were on pace to hit 394 doubles - a staggering 44 per lineup slot. The all-time record is 373, held by the 1997 and 2004 Red Sox and the 1930 Cardinals. Those Cardinals, the only NL team since 1900 to score 1000 runs, had an unbelievably balanced singles-and-doubles attack, with all 8 regulars and their top 2 bench guys all hitting .303 or better (granted, the league average was .303) and seven of the eight regulars hitting at least 32 doubles (the one guy who missed was catcher Jimmie Wilson, and the two catchers combined for 42 two-baggers).
POLITICS: Boltin' Joe
Lieberman sounds increasingly like a guy who will run as an independent if he loses the primary. In which case, if he's re-elected after being essentially expelled from his party, you have to wonder if he would caucus with the GOP - not become a Republican or change his policy positions, but take GOP-provided committee seats in exchange for voting for GOP control of the chamber.
BASEBALL: There They Go Again
It's almost a cliche at this point to say the Mets won the kind of game last night that championship teams win, pulling out a seesaw slugfest on the road against their only remaining division rival (paranoid as I am from years of losing to them, the Braves are toast, folks; they're 11 games back now) on a night when Tom Glavine (who has had nothing but trouble with Philly and Atlanta since he arrived at Shea) got smacked around for four home runs, and combining clutch hitting, great defensive plays (David Wright starting a crucial double play in the ninth) and some big bullpen innings to stretch their lead to 7.5 games.
Remember Bill James' "secondary average," basically extra bases on extra base hits plus walks plus steals divided by at bats? The Mets have three guys among the NL top 20: Carlos Beltran is third at .585, David Wright 16th at .400, and Carlos Delgado 19th at .380. But you might not expect the guy who's just off the leaderboard: Jose Reyes at .373 (Lastings Milledge is at .340, driven by power rather than patience). In part that's the fact that he's running tied withg Corey Patterson for the major league lead in steals, but it's also power and, yes, patience; if Reyes could just get his batting average from .251 to .281 at his present rate of extra base hits and walks, his line would read .281/.443/.356/. In fact, the team secondary average is .310 compared to .277 for the NL as a whole.
UPDATE: Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus (link for subscribers only) notes that the Mets' outfield defense, keyed by Beltran, has been crucial:
The real key to their run prevention, though, has been the defense, and in particular, the outfield defense. The Mets are fourth in the NL in Defensive Efficiency, converting 72% of the balls in play against them into outs. They have allowed 73 homers, good for just ninth in the league, but despite that they've allowed just a .389 SLG, last in the league, and an ISO of .147, second-to-last (to the Rockies?!?!). How is that possible?
Sheehan's chart shows that the next best team, the Padres, is at 4.65; the Mets have allowed 89 doubles, compared to 101 for the Giants, and 7 triples, bested only by the Reds (5). (I wonder if the Giants' low number is partly because Bonds plays so deep now to compensate for being unable to go back on fly balls, and how many singles that costs them). Beltran's defensive value is more quiet than showy, but the value of his glove is undeniable - the Win Shares system has also rated his defense very highly both last season and this season - and Cliff Floyd's defensive improvement under Willie Randolph has also been marked in 2005 and 2006.
June 13, 2006
BASEBALL: Remembering 1960
That series went seven games, and I vividly remember how it ended. School was out for the day, and I was heading home, pushing my bike up a steep hill, listening to my cheapo little radio, my eyes staring vacantly ahead, my mind locked on the game. A delivery truck came by, and the driver stopped and asked if he could listen. Actually, he more or less told me he was going to listen; I said OK.
LAW: A Worthy Cause
Patterico is raising money for an LAPD officer paralyzed in the line of duty by a criminal's bullet. She's got a 15-month-old and her husband is also an LA cop. Go and do the right thing by someone who put her life on the line for the people of her community.
POLITICS: Amnesty, National
On immigration I've long been in the President's camp in the mushy middle, looking to use the countervailing pressures for enforcement and "legalization" to cobble together support for a comprehensive bill that deals with both. More recently, though, I am - reluctantly - beginning to drift into the camp that thinks that the recently passed Senate bill is so bad that we'd be better off just getting an enforcement-only bill now and deal with the rest later.
As we stand at this pass, though, with the legislative process still fluid (House GOP stalwart Mike Pence is promoting an alternative of his own to the House and Senate bills), it's still worth considering the merits of "legalization" - i.e., the process of allowing illegal immigrants to become legal residents and, ultimately, American citizens. And that means confronting the question of amnesty - what it is, what it isn't, why you would consider any sort of amnesty, and under what circumstances.
First of all, when you speak of amnesty, you need to remember that you may be talking about two different things, because there are two different types of amnesties. Under one view, an amnesty means that an individual has no liability or penalty whatsoever for a prior crime - the same as a pardon. This is what I would call "Complete Amnesty." Under another view, an amnesty is any mass reduction in the prescribed penalty for a violation - what I would call a "Partial Amnesty." The distinction can be a significant one, and given the bad reputation of amnesty in the immigration arena, the distinction is often blurred both by politicians eager to explain that they are not supporting anything that could be called an amnesty when in fact they are supporting a Partial Amnesty, and by critics who accuse supporters of Partial Amnesty of supporting amnesty, without clarifying that they are not talking about a Complete Amnesty.
It is a misconception to suggest that amnesty is somehow unheard-of outside of the immigration laws. In general, there are three main reasons why governments may rationally choose to offer an amnesty for violators of some particular type of law.
1. To Correct an Injustice. If a law is unjust, and society has recognized that injustice by repealing the law, it often makes sense to wipe clean the records of those who were unjustly convicted; the classic examples of this are releases of political prisoners after a change in regime or, in the U.S. context, the amnesty for violators of the Alien and Sedition Acts by the Jefferson Administration.
A variation on the idea that the law itself is unjust is the notion that an otherwise just law has been applied unjustly - for example, I believe that some of the arrests and prosecutions of protestors against segregation were under laws prohibiting trespassing, breach of the peace and similar offenses. Nobody would argue that trespassing laws are unjust in themselves, but clearly they are unjustly applied when the purpose is to enforce segregation. Jimmy Carter's rationale for amnesty for Vietnam-era draft dodgers (a whole 'nother can of worms in itself) was, at bottom, based on a similar theory: not that the draft was unjust but that its use to send people to Vietnam was unjust.
Now, there are fair arguments that the current system for legal immigration is so broken and dilatory that the difficulty of navigating it is a mitigating factor in the decision to come here illegally, especially for people who are very poor and willing and able to work when they get here. But the fact is, people from countries poorer than Mexico line up at consulates the world over to try to come to America legally; it would be unfair to the people who play by the rules to grant too easy a path to those who disregarded them.
Finally, there is the argument that America's lax enforcement of the border has conveyed a wink-and-a-nod message to prospective illegal immigrants, especially those who crossed the border on foot or by truck from Mexico, that we would look the other way; some would argue that it is unfair to take away the lives they built here in reliance on this state of affairs. I'm sympathetic to the situation of illegal immigrants who have made a home, family and career here, but this argument ignores some basic facts: first, that it's always been clear and well-known that illegal immigration was, in fact, illegal, and those who have prospered here have had to repeatedly and consciously evade and in some cases deceive the long arm of the law to do so; second, even as lax as enforcement has been, people are still arrested and deported by the thousands every day in this country; and third, deporting illegal immigrants isn't so much a punishment as a restoration of the status quo - the fact that we didn't enforce the law in the past is no reason to expect it won't be enforced prospectively, and long-time illegal residents are still illegal.
2. To Remove A Source of Social Tension. A second reason why amnesties are sometimes granted has nothing to do with justice, and everything to do with peace: sometimes, a society simply finds it easier to look the other way at certain past crimes than bring everyone guilty to justice. Countries like Chile and South Africa (and, less formally, East Germany) have taken this route at least to some extent after a change away from a repressive government, concluding that too many people were complicit to prosecute them all without expending massive resources on a backward-looking process and undergoing the wrenching process of tossing huge numbers of people in prison.
Certainly, fear of social disruption is why nearly all of even the most aggressive opponents of illegal immigration blanch at the notion of mass deportations of millions of people (including whole families and long-term residents), despite the fact that we have the perfect legal right to do just that. (The preferred solution is generally an 'attrition' strategy of gradually drying up the opportunities for illegal employment)
But we have had millions of illegal immigrants in this country for years without massive social unrest; if we simply continue the status quo or replace it with moderately more vigilant interior enforcement, that is unlikely to rend the fabric of American society. Thus, a "path to citizenship" isn't needed for that purpose.
3. To Bring People or Activities Out of the Shadows. One of the most common types of amnesties is tax amnesty; go here, for example, for an explanation of how a recent tax amnesty in California operated. Tax amnesty isn't about justice - nobody is seriously arguing that tax evaders had a legitimate excuse to avoid oppressive taxes that the rest of us paid. Nor is it about social peace - it would be difficult, yes, to lock up everyone who underestimates or avoids paying taxes, but the Republic would survive. No, the main reason why tax amnesty is regularly pursued by state governments is to make money. Governments understand that a lot of activity takes place off the books, and that giving people an incentive to report that activity and pay taxes on it is worth the cost to deterrence of allowing people to pay those taxes with little or no penalty. Part of the theory is also that people who have taken advantage of an amnesty in the past will no longer be afraid, in the future, to report income for fear of being investigated over their prior years.
Much of the theory of providing a legalization/"path to citizenship" process is similar - not a sense that illegal immigrants necessarily deserve to be rewarded for illegal activity or even that we need to allow them to become legal residents or citizens, but that bringing a big chunk of that population out of the shadows, where they pay little or no taxes, fear cooperating with the police, are beyond the reach of laws governing the workplace, etc., will be an overall benefit to society and government in the long run.
Is this worth it? That's an empirical question, but the first thing that needs to be asked is what society is getting in return. Absolutely non-negotiable, in my view, is that anybody seeking legalization must pay all back taxes of any sort, including Social Security and other withholdings, and that any doubts presented by the scanty documentation many workers have should be resolved against the applicant for citizenship (perhaps by establishing a minimum level of presumed income). That is the bare minimum for tax amnesty, and it should be no less for prospective citizens who seek amnesty both for unpaid taxes and for being here illegally. (Also, requiring full payment of all back taxes reduces the incentive to exaggerate how long you have been here, since a longer term of residence means more tax liability).
Of course, to some people, any sort of amnesty in the immigration area is out of the question, period. Partial amnesty treats citizenship as a thing of value: if you are willing to pay enough (not just in money but in other efforts such as learning English), you can have it. If you view illegal entry fundamentally not as a debt, a forgivable sin or a crime for which society can choose at its discretion to negotiate or remove the penalty but as a stain that can never be washed away, then you're not going to go for anything that looks like an amnesty. But if you accept the possibility that amnesty can have positive practical consequences, then it's worth putting aside those objections and focusing on the practical pros and cons.
That said, the practical objections to many of the plans that have been mooted about are considerable. The main line of argument goes like this:
1. A record of past amnesties - like the 1986 fiasco - encourage more people to come here illegally hoping and expecting future amnesties.
2. That's not a problem if we can radically improve border enforcement, but (a) it's not clear we can ever do that, (b) we should try out enhanced enforcement first and see how it works, and/or (c) unless we hold the legalization process in limbo, there won't be an incentive for the political class, which tends to be lax on this issue, to get serious about enforcement.
These aren't unreasonable objections, but as to #1, at least, I continue to believe that the best check against the vicious cycle of repeated demands for amnesty is, paradoxically, to create a legalization process - rather than have one-time amnesties, set in place a permanent process by which future illegal immigrants can become legal residents. Any process that is too lenient to set up as a permanent, ongoing process is too lenient to do as a one-shot deal, precisely because there will always be future demands for more one-shot deals.
A final thought along those lines; I'm not an expert on the ins and outs of all the pending bills. But the idea that we should treat citizenship as a thing of value that could be sold is one thing; the idea that we should sell it for $1,000 is ludicrous. A New York City taxi medallion sells for many multiples of that, and certainly many immigrants manage to at least rent one. We haven't seen an economy car retail for under $4,000 since the Yugo, and if the Yugo isn't the symbol of a devalued birthright, I don't know what is. The fact is, if we are letting illegal aliens buy their way into citizenship mainly on the theory that they will become sufficiently productive members of society to be worth looking the other way at how they got here, we should treat that citizenship as a valuable asset, not a discount appliance.
POLITICS: Never Mind
No indictment for Karl Rove. The statement from his attorney, Robert Luskin:
On June 12, 2006, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald formally advised us that he does not anticipate seeking charges against Karl Rove. In deference to the pending case, we will not make any further public statements about the subject matter of the investigation. We believe that the Special Counsel's decision should put an end to the baseless speculation about Mr. Rove's conduct.
Chairman How isn't taking very well the news that he did all that digging in that huge pile Fitzmas morning and there was no pony. Hopefully, in time, we will find out what really happened - the true extent of Valerie Plame's "covert" status, how well known it was, who knew what and when and who said what and when. Assuming Scooter Libby goes to trial, much will likely come out then, but probably not everything. In the meantime, hopefully this will clear Rove to do more public appearances - he's actually a very sharp and impressive guy, and a strong spokesman for the president's agenda, his reputation as a secretive sorcerer notwithstanding.
UPDATE: The MinuteMan, of course, has been the go-to guy on this story for years, so go check out his review.
June 12, 2006
BLOG: Quick Links 6/12/06
*Clarice Feldman at The American Thinker starts the discussion of whether the Haditha "massacre" was a hoax. It's too early to tell - but of course it hasn't been too early for potential House Majority Leader John Murtha to pronounce the guilt of all involved in war crimes or for the domestic Left and America's enemies overseas to sing the same common theme. More here on TIME Magazine's corrections to its initial story, and a longer roundup and links here.
*At least Republicans pretend to want to limit government spending. The absence of even that pretense is what makes the Dems frightening as stewards of the public purse. Well, that and a 40-year track record as the House majority.
*"Dems slipping in state races": A USAToday front-pager today on the Democrats' struggles in governors' races, prominently featuring Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle.
*I've said it before: Mike Huckabee, New Democrat.
*This may be of some relevance to the ongoing interrogation debate. And of course, Zarqawi read Newsweek (via Taranto) By contrast, Tom Elia asks if the BBC could "actively help the government by passing along coded, top secret information in order to advance the objective of winning a war" as it did in advance of D-Day. In the BBC's case, it's even worse - the BBC isn't just a media organization that heaps scorn on the government and works at cross-purposes to it - it's one that does so with taxpayer money and the benefits of governmentally sustained monopoly power.
*Bring it on! I last revisited the ongoing battle between John Kerry and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in detail here back in September 2004. Well, in late May, Kerry decided to reopen the battle in the pages of the New York Times, but Thomas Lipscomb is answering in detail, with the first two installments here and here. Read the whole thing - especially, read part two to the last line.
*The US District Court in Massachusetts, following the lead of the Florida and Massachusetts state bars, disbars F. Lee Bailey. The First Circuit affirms, explaining along the way how the once-prominent criminal defense attorney came to this pass.
*Leading Democrats' reactions to Zarqwi's death - most of them are OK, but Hillary's otherwise fine reaction is marred by a typically Clintonian urge to personalize the issue:
I saw firsthand the terrible consequences of Zarqawi's terrorist network when Bill, Chelsea and I visited the hotel ballroom in Amman, Jordan last November where Zarqawi's followers had detonated a bomb at a wedding party, killing and wounding innocent people.
Because, you know, if a Clinton wasn't there it didn't happen.
Pitcher Scott Erickson, who started the game for the Orioles and was in line to get the win before Armando Benitez served up the fateful pitch in the eighth inning to Jeter, said he hopes Maier makes it to the major leagues, "just so I can drill him -- I'd like to get one shot at him."
*Dan Lewis calls on Selig to resign in the wake of the Jason Grimsley story. We should not be surprised at Grimsley's attitude towards the drug policy. Recall that this is the same guy who confessed to assisting Albert Belle in covering up a corked bat and whose father was a notorious spitballer.
BASEBALL: Poison Pens
Metsgeek runs down the various manufactured controversies involving Lastings Milledge and the media. The "Milledge high-fives the fans" story should hardly have been a controversy; granted, because big-leaguers don't do that, Willie Randolph was wise to sit Milledge down afterwards. But there's no good reason why big-leaguers shouldn't do it, and many players (Pete Rose comes to mind) have been lauded in the past for doing things that "just aren't done." The overreaction to every little thing with Milledge does help explain how some black players end up with complexes about the media; he's a kid, give him some space to get his bearings. There are also good examples of the loathesome Bob Raissman making trouble where it doesn't need to be - he wants the broadcasters to discuss a rape charge during a broadcast? There are kids watching! How does nobody get this?
FOOTBALL: Roethlisberger Injured
Let's hope he makes a full recovery; it appears that he suffered a head injury in a motorcycle accident while not wearing a helmet.
BASEBALL: No More Matsui
I am, unsurprisingly, in favor of the deal that dumped Kaz Matsui on the Rockies for Eli Marrero. Matsui had passed the point at which it was at all realistic to expect him to be a productive regular, and yet as long as he was on the roster the Mets were tempted to give him another shot. Even as late as entering this year, I'd thought that Matsui had a chance to revive offensively with a change of scenery, but I'm skeptical now that even Coors Field can do that. Meanwhile, Marrero isn't anything great, but he's versatile, and given Paul Lo Duca's history of second-half fades, getting a plausible (i.e., not Carlos Delgado) third catcher should help encourage Willie Randolph to use Ramon Castro more.
POLITICS/SCIENCE: What Causes Global Warming?
*As I've said in the past, I accept that the Earth has been getting warmer as a historical matter, but there are several more steps required from that simple proposition of historical global warming to the proposition that such warming (1) constitutes a man-made phenomenon (2) with predictable future consequences (3) that can be altered by future human actions (4) at a cost we can all live with compared to the marginal benefits of such actions. Dale Franks at the outstanding blog QandO offers a lengthy look at reasons to doubt that the current climate models have really proven much of anything about (1) and (2). Among his less technical objections:
1. Despite the fact that, since the end of the 19th century, human produced CO2 emissions have increased exponentially, the earth's temperature has increased in basically linear fashion since 1800, despite the fact that modern industrialization did not add any signifigant amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere until well into the 20th century.
June 9, 2006
LAW: Cox on SOX
"Just as World War I was not really the war to end all wars, Enron was not the scandal to end all scandals"
The irony here is that Cox is a smart enough guy to remember that one of the causes of World War II was the overly punitive response to WWI . . .
BASEBALL: Caution on Lo Duca
A lot of Mets fans have been won over by Paul Lo Duca, and I can certainly appreciate after wathing him why people love the guy - he's a gritty player with quite a knack for big hits (and looks like the Met most likely to play a henchman on The Sopranos). And given that he's a few years younger than Mike Piazza, he may still end up giving the Mets more production over the long haul, though for now Piazza - playing in baseball's toughest pitcher's park for about a third of Lo Duca's salary - is batting .272/.483/.335 compared to .286/.401/.330 for Lo Duca. (Plus, Lo Duca isn't really much of an improvement over Piazza in terms of throwing arm or foot speed).
Anyway, what fans need to remember about Lo Duca is that June's batting line is unlikely to be where he finishes. Consider something every Rotisserie player knows - Lo Duca is baseball's most notorious second-half fader, as shown by his before/after All-Star Break splits for his five full seasons as a regular and his career:
As you can see, last year was the first time Lo Duca didn't have a dramatic falloff in the second half. It was also, perhaps not coincidentally, a career low in at bats (445, first season below 535 since his rookie year). Randolph has ridden Lo Duca very hard thus far, not giving him a lot of rest - a pace for over 520 at bats at last count, even though Ramon Castro is a perfectly adequate backup, a better defensive player than Lo Duca and not much of a falloff with the bat. I hope Randolph starts to get him some rest soon.
WAR: A Quagmire In The Desert Is Just Sand
As I have argued before, given that the insurgency in Iraq will truly and completely be over when and only when the other side has lost the will or the means to fight, it is useful in the aftermath of the death of Zarqawi and the completion of the process of forming a legitimate, elected government to ask once again how this war must look to the other side. And no matter how much good press they get, I can't imagine the answer to that is anything but "terrible."
Consider this: we in the U.S. have been frustrated by the fact that we have not, since the end of major combat in the invasion phase of the war, had much in the way of taking-territory types of milestones to victory. And, as Glenn Reynolds often points out, democratization is a process, not an event. And yet, when you add them up, we do have a rather lengthy list of victories since then that can be strung together to demonstrate concrete, forward progress, one building on the next: capturing or killing Zarqawi, Saddam, Uday and Qusay; taking and holding cities like Fallujah; multiple free elections; the transfer of sovereignty, the ratification of a constitution, and the formation of provisional and permanent governments. Frustrated as we are, we can go to our soldiers, to new recruits, and to the taxpayers who support the war financially and show a series of steps forward.
Where are the other side's victories? They've had some - the original taking of Fallujah and the Madrid bombing that precipitated the withdrawal of Spain come to mind, but both of those are over two years ago now, and other examples are few and far between. Their victories are mostly either abstractions (e.g., a sense of chaos) or the mere continuation of conflict for its own sake. Which is an exhausting and demoralizing message to send to your men, even if they are religious zealots: we fight today so as to keep fighting for years without end. Don't worry about the fact that we never get anywhere. I mean, what does a car bombing or an IED or the decapatation of a hostage accomplish? Sure, it keeps the fight going, but each new day puts you back to zero. You wake up the next morning, and if you don't follow yesterday's car bomb with one today, then you lose the momentum, and that momentum is the entirety of what you have going for you.
The only way to hold together a fighting force that never wins any real battles, never takes any territory, never establishes any concrete milestones, is constantly suffering casualties and basically can claim the mere act of fighting as its only victories is through leadership. Leaders can play both on fear (the idea that a beachhead for liberty in Iraq will only be the beginning) and on the most distant of hopes. It is no accident that successful guerilla fighters have always had strong or charismatic leaders, from George Washington to Mao to Ho Chi Minh (and all three of them, despite their other dissimilarities, could also point to the gradual expansion of territory under their control). Which is why killing Zarqawi has to look like such a big thing from the other side: with the symbol of the insurgents' persistence squashed like a bug, who else enters the void, and how else do you keep men in the field who have been living in shadow and fear for three years without anything to show for it? How else do you keep raising money and new recruits to keep up the fight?
There are, of course, always bitter-enders who will go on, and there remain some in Iraq who fight less for any broader goal than for the ability to reap the benefits of fear in their local neighborhood. Nobody is saying the insurgency ended yesterday. But today the insurgents awaken to a world that still requires them to start their weary struggle afresh, and do so without the man who has symbolized their resistance and endurance. And the next time some broken-down old cynic on their side gives them the Jack Murtha "you boys can't beat them" speech, maybe there won't be anyone left to tell them otherwise. Day by day, man by man, they will grow weaker. If you were in their shoes, would you keep fighting now?
BASEBALL: The Astros' Worst Mistakes, 1991-2006
Every baseball organization has its share of disastrous trades (don't even get Mets fans started on this). But over the past 15 years, few franchises - and still fewer successful franchises - can match the Houston Astros' record for giving away talent for little return. Let's count down the 11 worst personnel moves of Astros history since 1991 in terms of surrendering talent for little or no return; while many of these are more in the category of bad moves in hindsight than just plain stupidity, the fact is there's a lot of lost talent here:
11. November 11, 1994: Astros trade Pete Harnisch to the Mets for Todd Beckerman and Juan Castillo. Harnisch was a highly effective pitcher in 1991 (12-9, 2.70 ERA, 172 K) and 1993 (16-9, 2.98, 185 K), but he had a bad, injury-riddled 1994 and the Astros dumped him and his $3 million salary to the Mets for a couple of nonentities. Harnisch was OK for the Mets in 1995-96, although it wasn't until 1998-99 that he became once again an outstanding pitcher. The deal wasn't indefensible, but it clearly gave away a servicable pitcher for peanuts.
10. October 17, 1997: Let Melvin Mora leave as a minor league free agent; Mora signed with the Mets the following July. Now, Mora was 25 at this point and had been stuck in the minors for seven years without progress, so this wasn't so much a glaring error as "one that got away". But Mora eventually went on to several years of star-caliber play with the Orioles, capped by a 2004 season when he batted .340/.562/.419, drove in 104 runs and placed (18th) in the AL MVP balloting.
9. December 16, 2002: Let Mark Loretta sign as a free agent with the Padres. Loretta, who had made $5 million in 2002, killed the ball in a brief trial with Houston down the stretch, batting .424 and slugging .576. He signed for a bargain price of $1.25 million and proceeded to bat .314 in 2003 and .335 in 2004. This one is ameliorated by the fact that the Astros signed Jeff Kent (for $7.5 million) and gave Morgan Ensberg the third base job, so they would only have had room for Loretta if they'd stretched him defensively at shortstop and benched Adam Everett.
8. December 9, 1997: Let Luis Gonzalez sign as a free agent with the Tigers. Gonzalez had returned to Houston in 1997 after having played there from 1990-95. Behind him was a career as, at best, an average corner outfielder, and one on the downside: he was entering his 30s, coming off batting .258 with 10 homers, and was a career .268/.425/.342 hitter, who wouldn't have cracked the Astros' 1998 outfield of Moises Alou, Carl Everett and Derrek Bell. From 1998 through 2003, though, Gonzo batted .306/.550/.395 and averaged 108 RBI per year, including batting .336 in 1999 and smacking 57 homers in 2001.
Honorable mention goes to the June 28, 1995 deal that sent Gonzalez away the first time along with Scott Servais for Rick Wilkins, who hit just .218 with 7 home runs in an Astros uniform (after a .303 and 30 HR season in 1993).
7. December 2, 1993: Traded Doug Jones and Jeff Juden to the Phillies for Mitch Williams. Jones posted a 1.85 ERA in a career-high 111.2 innings and 36 saves in 1991, his sixth outstanding season in seven years despite a fastball that wouldn't dent bread, but backslid to an unsightly 4.54 ERA (in the Astrodome, in the pre-1994 era) at age 36 in 1993. Juden was still just a raw prospect at that point, 22 years old with 23 career big league IP. The flamethrowing Williams, by contrast, was 29 and had saved 43 games in 1993 before a disastrous postseason capped by the infamous Joe Carter home run that ended the 1993 World Series.
The deal was a train wreck for the Astros. Williams never recovered, walking 24 batters in 20 innings for a 7.65 ERA for the Astros and getting released by Memorial Day; he pitched just 17.2 more innings in the bigs, although the Astros were able to paper over the closer job with youngster Todd Jones and rookie John Hudek. Meanwhile, Doug Jones posted a 2.17 ERA in Philly and saved 27 games that strike-shortened season (Jones would remain inconsistent, having one more great year as a closer at age 40 in 1997 for the Brewers and pitching well as a setup man in Oakland in 1999-2000). Juden also pitched fairly well in 1995 and 1996, but never lived up to his promise and never stayed in one place for long.
The redeeming feature of the Williams deal, besides giving an opportunity to Hudek, was that a week later the Astros dealt Eric Anthony to Seattle for Mike Hampton.
6. August 10, 1995: Traded Phil Nevin to the Tigers for Mike Henneman. The Astros gave up on Nevin, the first pick in the draft in 1992, at age 24 with just 60 major league at bats behind him, trading him to shore up a bullpen weakened by an injury to Hudek. Henneman gave the Astros some decent work (8 saves and a 3.00 ERA) on the way to a second-place finish, one game behind the Rockies for the wild card, but that would be all - he left after the season and retired a year later. Nevin, meanwhile, slugged .533 as a part-timer in 1996 and would, by 1999, develop into an outstanding player.
5. June 25, 1991: Released Mark McLemore. In six major league seasons, the 26-year-old McLemore had batted .225/.289/.295 and not even been a particularly effective (71%) base thief. The Astros cut bait. But Johnny Oates and the Orioles saw something nobody else did, and signed McLemore; by 1993, McLemore batted .284 with a .353 OBP, and after following Oates to Texas he became a perennially productive regular, posting a .360 OBP in nearly 6,000 plate appearances from 1993 to 2004 and retiring only at age 39.
4. December 10, 1991: Kenny Lofton and Dave Rohde to the Indians for Eddie Taubensee and Willie Blair. Now, the real disasters. Lofton immediately set out on a long and productive career that saw him make six All-Star teams and four Gold Gloves, finish as high as fourth in the MVP voting, score 100 runs six times, bat .300 seven times, steal well over 500 bases and keep playing to this day, batting .335 as recently as 2005 at age 38. Taubensee never got his OBP above .300 in two-plus years in Houston, though he would later be a productive player, And Blair pitched poorly and was gone from the Astros in a year.
3. December 13, 1999: Allowed the Marlins to snag the 20-year-old Johan Santana in the Rule V draft, after which the Marlins flipped Santana to the Twins for cash and a minor leaguer. Santana, of course, became an elite pitcher by 2002, won the 2004 AL Cy Young Award, and at 27 is now the best pitcher in baseball. He would have looked very good in last year's Astros rotation.
2. April 2, 1992: Traded Curt Schilling to the Phillies for Jason Grimsley. I'll repeat what I wrote before on this - one of the great underrated terrible trades in recent baseball history is the Astros' decision to trade Schilling straight up for Grimsley. Schilling and Grimsley were both young pitchers trying to establish themselves at this point - Grimsley was 24, Schilling 25 - and both had followed some success as rookies in 1990 (a 3.30 ERA in 57.1 IP as a starter for Grimsley, a 2.54 ERA in 46 IP as a reliever for Schilling) with struggles in 1991 (1-7 with a 4.87 ERA in 61 IP as a starter for Grimsley, a 3.81 ERA in 75.2 IP as a reliever for Schilling). But it should have been obvious at the time not only that Schilling threw harder but that he was closer to breaking through: 103 K and 58 walks for Schilling in 121.2 IP over the previous two years - including 71 K in 75.2 IP in 1991 - compared to an abysmal record of 83 K to 84 walks for Grimsley (and 16 wild pitches) in 118.1 IP. And the results were immediate and dramatic: Schilling posted a 2.35 ERA in 226.1 IP in 1992 for the Phillies - 4th best in the NL - and would pitch a shutout in the World Series by the end of 1993, while Grimsley never pitched a game in an Astros uniform and was released a year later (although he was still pitching until this week).
It's not clear to me, years later, what Houston was thinking; with Pete Harnisch, Darryl Kile, and Butch Henry, Houston had no shortage of young starters, and Schilling had started in the minors. Perhaps Grimsley had options left and Schilling didn't (after all, the deal was April 2)? Either way, the Astros don't get nearly enough grief for this one in the annals of catastrophically bad trades.
1. November 18, 1997: Allowed Bobby Abreu to go to Tampa Bay in the expansion draft (a move only topped in its foolishness by the Rays then flipping Abreu to Philly for Kevin Stocker). Yes, as discussed above in connection with the departure of Luis Gonzalez, the Astros were glutted with outfielders at this point, with the cheap offseason acquisitions of Alou and Carl Everett adding to the incumbents Bell and Gonzalez and prospects like Abreu and Richard Hidalgo. But Abreu's been clearly the best of that group since 1998, and entered this season a lifetime .303/.512/.411 hitter (plus 241 career steals) and a legitimate future Hall of Famer. For which, as with so many on this list, Houston got nothing.
June 8, 2006
POLITICS: Nancy Pelosi's Plantation?
Remember when Hillary Clinton argued that Republicans ran the House like a plantation? Well, looks like it's the Democrats who are facing a revolt along racial lines for high-handed tactics:
A drive by the Democratic leadership to strip embattled Rep. William Jefferson of his committee post triggered a backlash Thursday as the Congressional Black Caucus opposed the move and said the Louisianan deserves a "presumption of innocence."
In point of fact, Pelosi is actually trying to do the right thing as well as acting in the best interests of her party. But she who lives by the race card . . .
WAR: Smells Like Victory
“We Got Him!”
We got him! Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has sawed the head off his last civilian, as he was killed this morning by an American air strike. Zarqawi's end was, fittingly, impersonal and delivered from a distance - an appropriate demise for the head of a movement specializing in the roadside bomb.
It's a great, great day for Iraq and for America. And the joy an the victory belongs solely to those who have stuck by this mission this far, and of course even moreso to those who have carried it out.
Down where the goblins go, below, below below yo ho . . .
UPDATE: The President:
Zarqawi was the operational commander of the terrorist movement in Iraq. He led a campaign of car bombings, assassinations and suicide attacks that has taken the lives of many American forces and thousands of innocent Iraqis. Osama bin Laden called this Jordanian terrorist "the prince of al Qaeda in Iraq." He called on the terrorists around the world to listen to him and obey him. Zarqawi personally beheaded American hostages and other civilians in Iraq. He masterminded the destruction of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. He was responsible for the assassination of an American diplomat in Jordan, and the bombing of a hotel in Amman.
Through his every action, he sought to defeat America and our coalition partners, and turn Iraq into a safe haven from which al Qaeda could wage its war on free nations. To achieve these ends, he worked to divide Iraqis and incite civil war. And only last week he released an audio tape attacking Iraq's elected leaders, and denouncing those advocating the end of sectarianism.
UPDATE: President Bush isn't the only leader whose taken his lumps for standing tall for liberty and democracy, so let's give the floor to an ally who has done so at great political cost:
"They know that if progress and democracy take root in those two previously failed and terrorized states, then their values of violence and hatred against those who disagree with them will in turn be uprooted.
"That's why they fight and why they will continue to fight very hard. . . .
"This terrorism is a global movement. Their attack in Iraq has only ever been part of a wider attack that they have carried into conflicts and countries the world over.
"Indeed, there is barely a major nation in the world that has not felt the outreach of their evil.
"Defeat them in Iraq and we will defeat them everywhere.
"We need to do so armed, of course, with weapons, but also with one simple idea -- that where people want to live in freedom and be governed by democracy, they should be able to do so and the world should stand united behind them."
UPDATE: Will Collier makes an excellent point about the intelligence "treasure trove" that was unearthed in 17 simultaneous raids following the Zarqawi strike, which lends much more of an air of a near-final roundup to all of this. I also got an email from CENTCOM with a video of the strike; their server was down but you can see the video here.
June 7, 2006
WAR: Waaaaaay Over The Line
I do find it to be worthwhile at times to quote Ann Coulter; she's highly intelligent (you don't make Law Review at Michigan Law School and land an 8th Circuit clerkship if you aren't very bright), she's a brilliantly talented polemicist, and she's capable of good journalism when so inclined. When Coulter trains her poison pen on people who genuinely deserve scorn without measure or mercy, it can be something to behold.
But there are reasons why decent people keep a safe distance from embracing Coulter and her work, and this is a particularly nasty example of why:
When their husbands were killed on 9/11, four New Jersey widows tried to find out why - and now no-holds-barred conservative pundit Ann Coulter is mercilessly denouncing them as "witches." "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much," Coulter writes in her new book.
In "Godless: The Church of Liberalism," the uncompromisingly right-wing Coulter writes the Jersey Girls have no right to criticize President Bush or any of the failures that led to the terror attacks.
WOW. It's not even worth untangling all the pieces of this broadside; this sort of savage attack on people who have suffered a horrible tragedy is beyond any excusing and, really, beyond any apology. Coulter, who was a friend of Barbara Olson (killed on the plane that hit the Pentagon), should know better; heck, any first-grader would know better. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
(It's almost a footnote to this controversy that there are, in fact, legitimate criticisms to be made of this particular band of widows, albeit criticisms that relate more to the media's treatment of them - specifically, that (1) they are just a tiny subset of the families affected by September 11 and should not be treated as if they spoke for all the thousands of others, and (2) they happen to have been partisan Democrats before September 11, and should be identified as such by the media. But Coulter's mean-spirited attack on these women will, perversely, shield them from more sober-minded and humane criticisms.)
Gee, thanks Ann. You speak for nobody but yourself, and that's a poor, shabby excuse for a constituency.
BASEBALL: Keith Miller
POLITICS: Hawaiian Punch
There's been surprisingly little attention paid to Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka's race for re-election, but wavering Republicans thinking of voting for the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act should consider - in addition to the general distatefulness of supporting an apartheid bill - the potentially beneficial political impact that a defeat of the bill would have in this race. The 81-year-old Akaka is being challenged in a September 23 Democratic primary by 53-year-old Representative Ed Case, who has painted himself as an outsider challenging the Democratic machine:
"Clearly the bunker mentality of the shrinking Democratic status quo in Hawaii has been resistant to my candidacy," Case said. "Can you micromanage voters and spoon-feed them on who should represent them in the Senate? This campaign will be a referendum on what is a broken political culture."
Hawaii races tend to be lightly polled and fly under the national political radar - the Bush-Cheney campaign hastily arranged to send Vice President Cheney to the islands near the end of the campaign when the first poll in months showed Bush within striking distance of Kerry (who still won the heavily Democratic state, albeit by less than 10 points). Hawaii elected a Republican governor, Linda Lingle, in 2002, although her record since then has been mixed, at best.
Case - like Lingle, for that matter, who is also up for re-election in 2006 - supports the Akaka bill, but its defeat in the Senate would be a severe blow to Akaka's efforts to paint his seniority and Senate experience as assets in getting things done (Time Magazine recently labelled him one of America's 5 worst Senators). It's unclear how this race will poll after this vote, and no incumbent Senator has ever lost an election in Hawaii, but a SurveyUSA poll showing a drop in Akaka’s popularity rating from 60 percent to 50 percent in just the last month has to be a concern for Akaka, as well as other polls, which may or may not be reliable:
Three recent polls, including one conducted and made public by Case, show the 53-year-old Case is ahead of Akaka. The other two polls (one done by a Congressional candidate and the other by a non-profit) also show Case is in the lead (one the Big Island by a 2-to-1 margin). However, the challenge for Case is to win the support of enough independent and moderate Democrat voters to make it through the primary election this September.
Would Akaka's defeat open up a safe seat to a possible Republican challenger? Given the state's partisan tilt, that seems a stretch - I'm not sure the GOP even has a candidate (someone feel free to correct me on this) - but a Case victory would be good news nonetheless. Unlike Akaka, he has been willing to support the Bush Administration on the Iraq War, the Patriot Act and other legislation. Chris Bowers of MyDD has labelled the race as the opposite of the Lieberman-Lamont race in Connecticut - here, the "progressive" is the incumbent and the more moderate Democrat is the challenger. (H/t) (There are also Republicans looking to replace Case in the House - former state House Minority Leader Quentin Kawananakoa and state Sen. Bob Hogue.)
GOP Senators shouldn't be lining up to throw a life preserver to one of the most liberal members of the Democratic caucus.
June 6, 2006
HISTORY: 62 Years
62 years is a very long time - long enough to turn a boy of 18 to an old man of 80, long enough to turn even the most searing emotional wounds to a long, dull throb, long enough to bury even the deepest of grudges, at least if scores have been adequately evened.
But 62 years should not be long enough to forget heroism to which we are all in debt. The Normandy invasion, 62 years ago this morning, was not the only battle of the Second World War, but it was certainly the most complicated and the most visibly pivotal, and it was an undertaking of great uncertainty by men fully aware of its dangers, who went anyway. In remembering their courage and sacrifice, we remember all the heroes of all the battles of that terrible war. 62 years later.
WAR: Rewriting The Army Field Manual
Jon Henke points us to this LA Times article citing anonymous sources discussing revisions supposedly* being made to the Army Field Manual regarding interrogation of detainees in response to the McCain Amendment, which was designed to raise the standards for treatment of unlawful-combatant detainees by having their interrogation governed by the Army Field Manual, which also applies to interrogation of, among others, lawful-combatant POWs. Henke quotes this passage:
The Pentagon has decided to omit from new detainee policies a key tenet of the Geneva Convention that explicitly bans "humiliating and degrading treatment," according to knowledgeable military officials, a step that would mark a further, potentially permanent, shift away from strict adherence to international human rights standards.
[T]his (again) means no more complaining that our enemies do not abide by the Geneva Convention. If we abandon the rule of law and our treaty obligations when it becomes convenient to do so, we can hardly complain that they've done so when it was convenient for them.
First of all, if you read only the first half of the LAT piece and Henke and John Cole and Andrew Sullivan, you would never know that (1) the changes at issue only apply to unlawful combatants, not to our treatment of proper POWs and (2) it is a stretch, at best, to say that the Geneva Conventions even apply to unlawful international combatants. Anyway, I've said my bit both about torture and "torture" here and here at much greater length; to summarize the relevant points here:
*It's pretty much an iron rule that when you link our treatment of unlawful combatants either to our treatment of lawful combatants (including properly organized domestic insurrectionists) or to our treatment of charged criminal defendants, you end up creating hydraulic pressure to water down the standards of treatment of either of the latter. We should resist at all turns such "linkage," but that doesn't mean we should have no rules at all. The battle against international terrorism will be a long one, and we need new, formalized rules to guide us in the long road ahead.
*We certainly shouldn't grant unlawful combatants or anyone else the protection of bilateral agreements they refuse to abide by, lest we undermine the incentive for others to abide by such agreements (treaties are contracts, after all, and we weaken rather than strengthen their force by giving away their benefits to those who don't reciprocate).
Before we go further, let's quote some additional detail from the LAT article that sheds a bit more light on the subject:
The detainee directive was due to be released in late April along with the Army Field Manual on interrogation. But objections from several senators on other Field Manual issues forced a delay. The senators objected to provisions allowing harsher interrogation techniques for those considered unlawful combatants, such as suspected terrorists, as opposed to traditional prisoners of war.
This tells us that (a) this is a battle about linkage vs. non-linkage, not about overall treatment of all POWs, and (b) the LAT's likely sources here are in the Senate.
Article 3 [of the Geneva Convention] covers all detainees - whether they are held as unlawful combatants or traditional prisoners of war. The protections for detainees in Article 3 go beyond the McCain amendment by specifically prohibiting humiliation, treatment that falls short of cruelty or torture.
The military lawyers, known as judge advocates general, or JAGs, have concluded that they will have to wait for a new administration before mounting another push to link Pentagon policy to the standards of Geneva.
The LAT presents as holy writ its view of the Geneva Conventions, but only if you read to the end of the article do you find that
Common Article 3 was originally written to cover civil wars, when one side of the conflict was not a state and therefore could not have signed the Geneva Convention.
Anyway, if our behavior creates incentives for other countries to follow suit and create separate rules for the treatment of unlawful combatants, well, that's just fine. If it raises the cost of violating the laws of war, so be it. And if it encourages, in the long term, the creation of a new international standard on the American model for treatment of unlawful combatants, that would be wonderful, so long as we get our own rules right. It should not be forgotten that a successful rule of international law almost always starts as the law of one state or an agreement of a few states, rather than being drafted at the multilateral level and forced downward.
So, are we trying to get our own rules right?
The Pentagon tried to satisfy some of the military lawyers' concerns by including some protections of Article 3 in the new policy, most notably a ban on inhumane treatment, but refused to embrace the actual Geneva standard in the directive it planned to issue.
So, what's the issue?
Another defense official said that Article 3 prohibitions against "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment" could be interpreted as banning well-honed interrogation techniques.
Now, we get to the rub of the debate in two critical ways. First of all, there's no way we should allow unlawful combatant detainees any access to US courts to complain about interrogation practices, period. If you give them that tool, they will use it against us as a tactic of war. If we have rules and they are violated, that's what the courts-martial process is for. Second, is "humiliation" an objective, cross-cultural standard? We're talking here about religious fanatics who take offense at the drop of a hat.
Anyway, I don't pretend to have all the detailed answers, and unless you have read the draft revised Field Manual - which remains a non-public document - neither do you. But the issue should be what practices we allow, what we don't and whether the line we draw comports with standards of morally decent behavior. That can and should be done without linkage to the treatment of lawful combatants, without binding ourselves to one-way treaties that our enemies use only as a shield, and without creating causes of action for unlawful combatants in US courts.
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* - While I don't see particular reasons to disbelieve this story, the total reliance on unnamed sources discussing a non-public draft of a document means that we're all operating on speculation here, and should take the LAT's reporting with the usual grains of salt.
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June 5, 2006
POP CULTURE: Back to Hell
OK, I don't blog about parenthood here all that much, but indulge me here for a minute. Or not; it's my blog. Anyway, yesterday my youngest daughter played peek-a-boo with me.
Now, if you know babies, you know they love peek-a-boo, and some of them have a nearly inexhausible patience for watching a parent or pretty much anyone cover and uncover their face repeatedly. Since my youngest daughter is just three months today, I wasn't sure if she was quite old enough to respond to peek-a-boo, but a few days ago I did it and got a laugh out of her.
So, yesterday I was doing it again, and she was sitting in her car seat with a blanket a little below her chin, and she didn't just smile - she pulled the blanket up with both hands and lowered her face so the blanket covered her eyes, and then popped back up again. In other words, she played peek-a-boo with me, and not just by doing exactly what I was doing but imitating the concept. Of course, that got a tremendous rise out of me, and my wife and mother-in-law came to watch - and she did it again. As in, seven or eight times in a row, ducking behind her blanket and then pulling it back down and popping back up again, to leave pretty much no doubt that she was doing this on purpose.
Parenthood is a lot of work and, at times, more than its share of aggravation, but there are times when you are reminded very directly why it's worth it.
June 2, 2006
WAR: Talking To The Iranian Wall
There are many good reasons why war with Iran should be an absolute last resort, and a ghastly one at that (more here from an advocate of invasion); while I continue to believe that the Iranian regime is a serious and multifaceted threat (Andy McCarthy at NRO notes that talk of the Iranian nuclear threat gives short shrift to the longstanding menace of Iranian sponsorship of terrorism), I really would prefer to see some answer to this crisis that doesn't require us to go to war. And while an internal revolution that topples the mullahcracy and installs a democracy along the lines of those in Turkey or Iraq or Lebanon would be the ideal resolution - since the problem with Iran, as with Saddam's Iraq, is the regime itself rather than the tools at its disposal - there's no way of predicting when or whether such a revolution might ignite, no security in relying on one developing, and no short-term prospect of fomenting one through American assistance. For now, in other words, we can't hide behind the hope that the threat will go away on its own.
We do not, yet, appear to be at an impasse that requires us to choose whether to fight, although the precise amount of time we have depends upon the imponderables of Iran's nuclear timeline (more here), and unfortunately the record of our intelligence agencies over the past 60 years or so in accurately estimating foreign WMD capacity is abysmal, giving the entire debate over when to act the flavor of Russian roulette. Still, for the moment the debate is to negotiate or not negotiate directly with the Iranians. The U.S. announced this week it is moving for the first time in the direction of joining talks with Iran, though insisting that such talks involve the entire permanent membership of the UN Security Council (Britain, France, Russia and China) plus Germany.
David Frum makes the case against negotiating, although Frum focuses mainly on the case against direct bilateral rather than multilateral talks. (Via Barone). I will add here two points to Frum's analysis. First of all, let's recall that negotiating directly with the Iranians gives them, free of charge and as a reward for their bad behavior, something of value they have lacked since 1979: diplomatic relations with the United States. That's not a good start to any negotiation, for us to reward the opposing party without demanding in exchange some face-saving compensation, at a minimum an apology for the 1979 hostage-taking and a promise not to kidnap our diplomats in future face-to-face dealings.
Second, a point I have been making for some time now, see here and here and here and here: we should never treat negotiations, or treaties, as ends in themselves, and never operate under the illusion that negotiations and treaties are a substitute for fighting. To the contrary, if war (as Clausewitz famously said) is politics by other means, the negotiation of treaties is war by other means, and should never be regarded as anything but. As Justice Scalia, quoting Justice Holmes, explained in the context of commercial contracts:
Virtually every contract operates, not as a guarantee of particular future conduct, but as an assumption of liability in the event of nonperformance: "The duty to keep a contract at common law means a prediction that you must pay damages if you do not keep it, - and nothing else."
If there's a common lesson of Versailles (where we agreed to stop fighting Germany in World War I, an agreement violated without consequence by Germany leading to World War II), and of Vietnam (where we agreed to stop fighting North Vietnam by treaty preserving an independent South Vietnam, but hostilities were then resumed - again, without consequence from us - on more favorable terms by the North), and of the first Gulf War (where we agreed to stop fighting with Saddam but then let him get away for more than a decade, with minimal consequence, with violating the terms of the agreement) and of North Korea (where we entered into an agreement in the mid-1990s that was violated without consequence almost from the outset) it is that negotiating treaties only weakens us if we are not willing to keep ready to enforce them by military force.
Negotiations - unless entered into in bad faith solely for purposes of delay and/or public relations - are of value only if they have a chance of leading to a workable agreement. Workable agreements require that we get something of verifiable value, and that we make the consequences of violation both clear and credible. As of now, count me skeptical that talking to the Iranians gets us either. We will eventually need to decide if we are willing to go to war to stop the present Iranian regime from getting nuclear weapons. Whether we negotiate with them or not will have little effect except to cede what little control we now have over the timing and circumstances in which we make that decision.
June 1, 2006
BASEBALL: Buccing Again
The Pirates, living in Royals-land at 14-33 entering their current homestand, have abruptly caught fire, winning 6 of 7 against two pretty good teams (the Astros and Brewers) including a 4-game sweep of Milwaukee, slamming 15 home runs in that stretch and outscoring their opponents 60-25. The red-hot return of Sean Casey from the DL for the Milwaukee series has been crucial, as have been a 6-HR 17-RBI rampage by Jose Castillo (who had just 19 homers his first two seasons in the league) and 4 HR and 11 RBI by Jason Bay. Pittsburgh is still 14.5 games behind the Cardinals and 10.5 behind the wild card-leading Dodgers, so it's not like they'll be in any pennant races this season, but the odds of a historically bad 110-loss type of season have been lowered dramatically.
BASEBALL: Fun Pedro Fact
Pedro Martinez has allowed 22 runs (21 earned) in 75.2 innings this season - of which 14 have come on home runs. Thus, he's allowed just 8 other runs (7 earned) in his 11 starts.
BASEBALL: 1-0 in 13
I was out at Shea last night for yet another Mets classic, as Pedro baffled the Diamondbacks and the unlikely duo of Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez finally broke a 0-0 tie in the 13th. Some thoughts:
*Lastings Milledge looked every inch the talented but raw rookie: a great running catch in right, an amazing throw to cut down a runner at third, a muffed easy fly when he tried a one-handed catch, and a combination of quick hands and a from-the-heels swing that had him out in front of almost every pitch all night. The crowd very badly wanted Milledge to do something good - he got a number of ovations - but he was just too eager.
*On the whole, some incredible defense, particularly by the Mets outfield, with Beltran and Floyd also making a number of tremendous running catches.
*The Mets are now 5-3 in extra innings, a pace to play 25 extra inning games this season. The record is 31 by the 1943 Boston Red Sox, who must have spent a lot of innings wishing Ted Williams wasn't in the Marines.
*When Brandon Webb is in a groove, nothing at all happens. At least Pedro is entertaining, changing speeds like a master puppeteer and notching strikeouts. Webb just puts people down.
*The Mets managed to use only three pitchers; with the overworked Duaner Sanchez throwing three innings, he may not be available Friday even after a day off today, but otherwise the bullpen should be fresh. By contrast, Arizona was down to Jason Grimsley, who I had no idea was still pitching, in the 13th.
*By the way: when did Sanchez start his whole Eric Gagne look - was it only when he got to the Dodgers? He's got the full Gagne look - the build, the goatee, the goggles, the beat-up cap.
*Now that he's reduced to pinch running duties, the Mets should consider whether Kaz Matsui would consent to them selling his contract back to a Japanese team. I doubt you could get anyone to eat his whole salary, but there must be someone who'd pay to get him back in Japan where he was a star.
POLITICS: Time For Hastert To Step Aside
Quin Hillyer at the American Spectator argues that it is time for Dennis Hastert to step down as Speaker of the House. Hillyer focuses on two issues: the Contract with America-era promise that no Republican Speaker would serve more than the 8 years to which the President is limited, and Hastert's bad in intervening to object to an FBI search of the offices of a Democratic Congressman who'd been caught on tape taking bribes (and who'd had a history of interfering with FBI searches).
In general, I'm not a fan of throwing the leadership overboard for minor infractions, and as bad judgment as Hastert showed in the William Jefferson affair, neither that alone nor the generally adrift nature of the Congressional GOP is reason enough to toss Hastert over the side. Besides, it's hard for those of us outside the Beltway to really judge the role that the low-key, personally honest Hastert has played behind the scenes in various policy battles. But Hillyer does make a good case that Hastert should be bound to the promises that built the Republican majority in the first place, and certainly his record hasn't otherwise been so covered in glory to justify the idea that he has earned a special exemption. Time for Hastert to keep his promises and let someone else take the helm.