"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
July 31, 2006
BASEBALL: Baseball's Slugging-est Catcher
The results are even more pronounced since May 1.
BASEBALL: Mets Deadline Deals
We briefly interrupt our workday to bring you this:
*Duaner Sanchez is out, quite likely for the season, after separating his shoulder in a taxi accident (shades of Tom Glavine two years ago).
*The Mets have a number of potential setup men - Heilman is now the key guy - but to fill the hole, they've traded Xavier Nady to get back Roberto Hernandez plus Oliver Perez. Hernandez hasn't been that great this year after pitching great in 2005 - a 2.93 ERA and just 3 HR in 43 IP, but his K rate has dropped in half, he's allowing more than a hit an inning and he's walking 5 men per 9 (3.56 per 9 if you exclude intentional passes). You hate to deal an everyday player for a 41-year-old setup man.
*Barring another shoe drop, Lastings Milledge now becomes the everyday RF. I see Milledge as about even with Nady at present, but obviously this leaves the Mets with less depth and no chance (or risk) of dealing Milledge for a stud pitcher.
*Perez isn't a terrible gamble, since he's a still-young (24) lefty with a great arm, but he's obviously hopelessly lost at this point (Peterson presumably won't promise to fix him in 10 minutes) - 121 BB and 36 HR in 179 IP in 2005-06. I can't imagine that he'll pitch any important innings in the majors the next three months.
*If we don't get Linebrink, it's time to get more innings now for Heath Bell and Henry Owens and see what they can do. Ditto Maine and Pelfrey.
*Looks like no help on the way for the rotation.
BASEBALL: In-Season Salary Cap
Dan Lewis has some interesting thoughts on market efficiencies and deadline deals for free agents-to-be. I don't have time to digest this, but a thought on a related matter.
With hue and cry from some quarters over the Abreu deal, I can suggest that - if you think it's bad for the game for teams like the Yankees to be able to add a star player in season by bulking up payroll without parting for much talent - a debatable proposition - there is a relatively simple solution: an in-season salary cap. As with any cap, there would be some complex rules to make the thing work. But the general design would not involve the same set of skewed incentives provided by year-round caps; you could simply rule that a team needs to set its payroll (both current-season payroll and future committed payroll) by Opening Day, and can't add more than a limited amount to the payroll (except, perhaps, extensions for guys already on the roster) during the season.
BASEBALL: Slugger's Progress
.421, .494, .376, .458, .378, .378, .286*
.605, .603, .642, .656.
* - 7 at bats in October
BASEBALL: The Abreu Heist
A few very quick thoughts on the Yankees getting Bobby Abreu and Steamboat Cory Lidle for some prospects:
*Man, the Phillies should get a big tax deduction for this donation. Except, of course, that the Yankees are the least needy cause on earth.
*Abreu may be the best mid-season Yankees pickup since Johnny Mize, and at least since David Justice and David Cone. We're talking a Hall of Fame quality player who's 32 years old. Yes, his power and batting average have been off the past year or so, but he's still an on-base machine and a dangerous hitter. The Yankees may be best suited leading him off, except that Damon is comfortable in that role.
*So Abreu doesn't love the limelight. Neither did Gehrig or DiMaggio; plenty of guys with quiet personalities have thrived in the Bronx. And so he doesn't like running into walls; big deal, neither does Sheffield. When you have a hitter like Aaron Rowand, you can live with losing him for two weeks because he ran into a fence making a game-saving catch. A guy with Abreu's kind of bat, you want in the lineup.
*So Abreu makes a load of money. If he plays at his present pace, he's not really that overpaid; if he plays like he did in 2004, he's absolutely a $14-15 million player.
*From the Mets' perspective, the deal is frustrating in one sense: you hate to see them miss a chance when a great player is on the market for peanuts, though even with a big payroll they don't have the Yankees' bottomless resources (nobody does) and they don't need corner outfield help as badly as the Yanks. But it's also good news; besides Miguel Cabrera, Abreu was the best player on any of the Mets' four division rivals, and his departure ends the Philllies' time as a contender.
BASEBALL: The King Is Dead
The last stage of every pennant race is Miracle Time: the point at which a replay of 1995 or 1978 or 1964 or 1951 is still possible, but all other avenues to toppling the leader are closed. Entering this weekend, it was still Miracle Time for the perennially defending NL East champs in Atlanta - but the red-hot Braves needed to sweep the staggering Mets at Turner Field to keep that possibility alive. Instead, the Mets turned the tables and did the sweeping (as my son has pointed out, this means the Mets have now swept a series from each of their division rivals this season, which has to be an unusual accomplishment). Now, with the Braves having been swept and the Phillies having given away their best player and one of their few semi-reputable starters, we can finally say definitively: it's over. The division belongs to the Mets. The Braves will, for the first time since entering the division, finish a season in October out of first place.
July 28, 2006
BASEBALL: Going Down, Down, Down, Down Part III
Kameron Loe: 3.42 ERA at age 23 in 2005 now looks like a fluke.
Laynce Nix: The 25-year-old outfielder had holes in his game in 2003 and 2004; the past two years, it's been all holes, as he's surfaced just for a 3-for-32 slump this season.
Dallas McPherson: McPherson's a classic guy whose star has dimmed due to injuries; he's continued to flash decent power when healthy long enough to get into a groove, but he missed April in the minors and has missed July with back spasms, and you can't establish yourself that way.
Casey Kotchman: With Darin Erstad breaking down and offense in short supply in Anaheim, the 23-year-old Kotchman's time to shine was now. But he batted .162 in April and .091 in May before the Angels had to DL him with mononucleosis.
Dan Johnson: Despite a bad late-season slump that marred a fine rookie campaign, the 26-year-old Johnson entered the season with a hammerlock on the A's first base job but potentially a narrow window of opportunity ahead of super-prospect Daric Barton. The good news, for Johnson: Barton has struggled badly at AAA Sacramento, raising questions about his own prospect status, and the A's had the patience to sit out a terrible early-season slump (Johnson batted .196 with with 2 HR and 8 RBI as the everyday 1B in April and May) to be rewarded with a hot June in which he batted .321/.543/.406. But Johnson tumbled back into a slump in early July and the A's finally sent him down, indicating that Billy Beane's faith in him may be waning.
Joe Blanton: Blanton's another cold-hot-cold story - he won over some early skeptics in 2005 by raising his K rates as he came down the stretch to a 3.53 ERA in 201.1 innings last year, but regressed and struggled with his command in April and May, and has yet to post an ERA below 4.00 in any month. Blanton projects as a fourth starter now.
Bobby Crosby: An assortment of nagging injuries in 2005 and 2006 and a .231/.343/.298 line this season have taken much of the bloom off the 26-year-old Crosby. I still expect good seasons from him, but a long and smoothly successful career seems much less likely than it did a year or two ago.
Mark Ellis: Ellis looked to have hit his stride with the bat last year with a .314 average to go with a great glove after missing all of 2004. At 29, Ellis could have been entering a nice couple of year run, but his .220/.328/.286 line this season means he'll be fighting for jobs again in the near future.
Keith Ginter: Having lost out to Ellis, Ginter - who came to Oakland at age 29 in 2005 with a career .257/.448/.344 line - batted .161 part-time last season and has spent most of 2005 and 2006 at Sacramento, despite a major league contract. His .278/.431/.361 line at AAA this season is solid but not enough to attract the suitors he needs to bring him back to the majors.
UPDATE: Of course, this is probably where I disclose that my AL list here includes three members of my 2006 rotisserie team - Dan Johnson, Brian Anderson, and Josh Towers - five if you count the reserve draft (Willie Harris and Kyle Lohse).
BASEBALL: For The Fan Who Has Everything
July 27, 2006
BASEBALL: Going Down, Down, Down, Down Part II
Part II of my look at young or still-establishing-themselves players whose stock has fallen dramatically in 2006 and/or 2005 - the AL Central.
Jhonny Peralta: At age 23 in 2005, Peralta made the sudden step up - as guys that age sometimes do - from non-hitter to "young Nomar"-type slugger. His regression to a .258/.397/.330 line this season has to lower expectations for the future, and the signs are that his glove work hasn't been quite as stellar either.
Fernando Cabrera: The one-time future Indians closer was passed over for that title in favor of Fausto Carmona when Bob Wickman left town, and for good reason, with a 5.65 ERA inflated by 22 walks and 6 dingers in 36.2 IP. Cabrera's 42 Ks mark him as a guy who still has potential, but not for today.
Cliff Lee: Lee's failures haven't been as dramatic, but there was talk before the season that the 27-year-old lefty was ready to jump to the elite level of starters; a 4.78 ERA says otherwise.
Scott Baker: Baker got the nod over Francisco Liriano as the fifth starter in spring training, a decision that now seems very long ago. Baker looked like a quality pitcher in 2005 (3.35 ERA in 9 starts) and April (3.47 in 4 starts - a total K/BB ratio of 48-18 in that stretch) but has been pounded unmercifully since, allowing 58 hits and 12 homers in 37 innings. Unlike some of the others on this list, Baker is probably just taking needed lumps as a learning experience, and should have more chances.
Jesse Crain: 15-5 with a 2.53 ERA as a setup man in 2004-05, the 24-year-old Crain has struggled this year (4.31 ERA). Probably in the same boat as Baker: he's suffering but isn't losing out on opportunities that he'll never have again.
Denny Bautista: Major velocity, but like more Royals than we have time to discuss here, no sign of pitching talent shows up in his box scores, as Bautista has started just 7 times with a 5.66 ERA, no wins, and a 22-17 K/BB ratio. (See also: Jeremy Affeldt, Mike Wood)
Andrew Sisco: Perhaps the brightest spot in the 2005 KC wipeout was Sisco, a 6-10 southpaw Rule V pick with blazing heat; 76 K and just 6 HR in 75.1 relief innings gave visions of a future rotation star. But Sisco's control problems (28 walks in 40.1 IP) have sent him back to "project" land this season (7.14 ERA).
BLOG: SI Bleg
Apparently I'm mentioned in Sports Illustrated, which is very exciting news, but no longer being a subscriber I don't have the issue and have yet to be able to view the article online (here) and the newsstands I checked this morning didn't carry SI. Could someone with access to the online article email me the text? Thanks.
UPDATE: Got it. Cool. Welcome, SI readers! If you want to sample the posts mentioned in the article, the "Least Favorite Mets" list is here and here, and the series on the 2006 Tigers and the great pitching teams is here, here and here. There's a lot besides baseball here, but if you dislike my politics (or politics in general), you can always just bookmark the baseball-only category.
To my mind, the fact that Hezbollah has bought some folks' allegiance in southern Lebanon with bread and circuses just means that Israel is right to treat that whole sector of Lebanon as a hostile nation. That doesn't mean that the Israelis would be justified in targeting civilians, if they chose to do so in imitation of their enemies. But the moral calculus of dealing with civilian casualties does, it seems to me, depend at least partly on whether you see your armed forces as warring with a hostile people as opposed to a hostile non-state actor that has attached itself parasitically to an innocent populace of a peaceable state.
Of course, it bears reminding again that all of our legal and moral rules about war need re-examining in light of the rise of enemies who deliberately structure their operations around the moral and legal limitations we place on our use of force.
WAR: Mr. al-Maliki Goes To Washington
So, let me get this straight: The Democrats can condone the things that elected officials who are also barking moonbats - like Maxine Waters and Pete Stark - tell their far-out constituencies. They can swallow their pride and live with Bob Casey saying he's pro-life - supposedly an "out of the mainstream" position - to get elected in Pennsylvania. But they can't understand the things al-Maliki has to say and do to get elected in Iraq?
Let's make this real simple. The US is never going to get anywhere asking friendly Arab and/or Muslim governments to side with Israel. It is more than enough for them to decline to aid Israel's enemies, and deny them safe haven within their borders. If every state in the region did that, as Iraq does, Israel's problems would be few and limited.
Oops, I've made the mistake again of treating the Democrats as if they were serious about foreign policy again. They're actually just trying to triangulate a way to be anti-Iraqi (and thus placate the left-wing anti-war anti-Israel base) while at the same time appearing pro-Israel (to mollify the Jewish liberals who remain faithful Democratic donors and voters in the face of mounting evidence of who Israel's real friends in Washington are). As usual, the raw calculation at work is obvious.
July 26, 2006
BASEBALL: Going Down, Down, Down, Down Part I
Baseball is an unforgiving game: the flip side of a crop of young players on the rise is that somebody has to be on the way down. And it's not always just old guys. Let's take a look at players who are young or still establishing themselves whose stock has tumbled dramatically in 2006 and/or 2005, starting with the AL East:
Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small: Two more guys who people like me never thought much of, but a lot of folks expected that their remarkable stretch runs in 2005 would translate into full-season rotation gigs as reliable starters. Didn't happen. Chacon's 6.67 ERA and Small's 8.46 prove that midnight came once again for Cinderella.
Coco Crisp: Like Carlos Beltran in 2005, Crisp's off year may just be a combination of nagging injuries and high expectations; his future isn't as grim as others on this list. But bigger things than .266 with 4 HR were expected from Crisp coming to Fenway at age 26 after two years of steady progress.
Jason Frasor: A 3.25 ERA, down almost a run from his rookie year, and good peripheral numbers marked Frasor in 2005 as a quality steup man for BJ Ryan. His K rate is still good, but a 5.18 ERA and a rise in BB and HR rates has moved Frasor down the depth chart. He's not a bad bet to rebound, though.
Russ Adams: A regular SS at 24 last year, Adams didn't embarrass himself with the bat, and could have expected plenty of time to establish himself. Instead, John Gibbons' shuffling of the lineup - and its success with other hitters - has limited Adams to 199 at bats as he has hit just .226/.337/.280 on a team that's batting .294/.488/.361.
Jason Phillips: Phillips cooled drastically after a hot start as the Dodgers' #1 catcher in 2005, and ended up in the minors this year, only resurfacing this week with the Jays. Now battling to re-establish himself as a backup catcher.
David Newhan: .311/.453/.361 in 373 at bats marked Newhan as a possible late-bloomer rookie in 2004 (he was 30), but Newhan batted .202 last year and broke his leg in April, an injury he hasn't returned from.
John Parrish: Promising young pitcher who has missed most of 2005 and all of 2006 with arm surgery.
Sean Burroughs: Having at last worn out his welcome in San Diego, Burroughs at least brought a career .340 OBP in more than 1500 plate appearances to Tampa, and he's just 25. Instead, he lost his job in spring training and has batted .190 in just 21 at bats. A return to a regular job seems unlikely.
Seth McClung: Granted, McClung's never been any good, but he throws hard and struck out 92 batters in 109.1 IP in 2005; from that you can make something. Except that this year, even the whiffs have deserted him: 38 (to 47 walks) in 80.2 IP on his way to a 6.81 ERA.
Edwin Jackson: Once a hot Dodger pitching prospect and still just 22, Jackson has struggled at all levels for the third year in a row, with a 7.17 ERA in a brief major league trial. Think "Ed Yarnall."
July 25, 2006
BLOG: Quick Links 7/25/06
*Justice Stevens' opinion in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld took Senators John Kyl and Lindsay Graham to task for inserting a colloquy in the Congressional Record that didn't actually take place on the Senate floor, instead relying on statements by Harry Reid and Carl Levin; lots of bad press followed, and left-wing blogs tore into Kyl and Graham (see here and here for examples). Well, well, well, Ramesh Ponnuru points out that Levin's and Reid's statements were also inserted into the record and didn't take place on the floor. Which supports both the view that the Republican Senators did nothing unusual and - as Ponnuru notes - the common-sense position of Justice Scalia that legislative history can't be trusted. Kyl and Graham are owed an apology, big-time.
*IMAO T-Shirt Bride Sarah K. reads the tea leaves from the casting of the fifth Harry Potter film to guess at what storylines will and won't be pursued (with an 850+ page book to trim into a 2-3 hour movie, a lot will undoubtedly be left behind).
*I'm not sure what's more characteristically French - that they instituted paid vacations by force of law, or that the Vichy government sent the architect of that law to Buchenwald.
*They found 50? The good news is, apparently our Majority Leader is prettier than theirs.
BASEBALL: Getting Back on Track
Sorry for the outage in the site last night (my hosting company was sending bills to an old address and an expired credit card number), and for the general lack of baseball content of late. Should be back to normal here by tomorrow.
Two quick thoughts from last night -
1. Greg Maddux is just done. I had thought before this season that he might be a good mid-season pickup who can dependably take the ball for 6-7 innings every fifth day, throw strikes and let the defense work, but Maddux just looks finished. I assume he'll keep showing up to cash his paychecks and eat up innings (from the injury-plagued Cubs' perspective, the innings alone still make him worth the money), but I have to believe that 2006 will be the end.
2. One of the standard arguments of stat-head types vs. old-fogey sportswriters is that blowouts, rather than close games, are the test of a quality team: good teams beat people up and rarely get blown out, while most teams will play much closer to .500 in close games. Last night was a perfect example of why this is true. If the Cubs were a good team, they would have been more likely to bury the Mets once they had them down 3-0 or 8-4. If the Mets were not a good team, they would have been more likely to stay down. Instead, they mounted rallies to tie the game 3-3 and to draw within one, 8-7 (the latter including a fine effort by Bell, Bradford and Sanchez in relief), to give the top of their lineup a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth.
They didn't win it, of course, so this one goes down as a failure in a 1-run game. But that obscures their success in making it into a 1-run game in the first place.
LAW: Anonymous Lawyer
I'm late to the party here, but I do try to make it a practice to actually read books that are sent to me before reviewing them, and this one actually only hits stores today. So let's talk about Jeremy Blachman's new novel Anonymous Lawyer, based on the (fiction) blog of the same name.
The premise is a look at the life (mostly the work life, as that's all there is) of a lawyer who is the hiring partner at a big LA firm but aches to be Chairman of the firm. The structure of the book is blog form - Anonymous Lawyer posts about his work on his blog, while exchanging emails with his readers and his niece, a Yale Law student. Eventually, as you would expect, the grim picture of his firm that emerges from his writing makes his blog a problem despite its putative anonymity. Consistent with some of the reactions Blachman (then a Harvard Law student who had only summered at a big firm) got, but undoubtedly exaggerated for dramatic effect, Anonymous Lawyer also receives a stream of emails from people at other firms who think he works there.
Now, I should preface my remarks on the "realism" of this book by saying that I probably know as little as it is possible to know about big-firm life after working for a (now very) big firm for ten years; I'm generally the kind of person who is the last to know everything at my firm, being engrossed in my cases, my efforts to stay ahead of the latest developments in the law, and my life outside the job (blog included). And of course, not all firms are alike, notwithstanding the general tendency of large for-profit organizations to have certain basic similarities, about which you need to keep a sense of humor. Still, you don't have to know that much about the big firms to recognize that, while Blachman has some of the mechanics of law firm life down, several of the incidents in the book have a "all the worst things at all the worst firms in one place at one time" feel to them, and the rest are just pure fantasy, and one filtered through the lens of someone who has never actually worked at a firm except as a summer associate.
On the other hand, one thing Blachman has caught on to, from his law school experience, is the same central insight that made Scott Turow's One-L work: that many of the pressures faced by big-firm lawyers, just as with law students, come from the internal, self-imposed desire to keep measuring yourself against other people, to the detriment of having perspective about your life and career. The people who are most miserable in law school and in the practice of law are often those who fall into this trap. The best advice you can give law students and lawyers alike is to make sure to have contact with people outside the law, and interests outside the law, to maintain that perspective. Of course, the characters in Blachman's novel who lack this perspective invariably face crises arising from that flaw.
As long as you're OK with the fact that the book is more of a broad farce than a deft satire, the first half of the book (which I suspect is truer to Blachman's blog) is very funny indeed, as Anonymous Lawyer's gleefully over-the-top misanthropy provides a steady stream of dark humor (such as when he decides to send a summer associate to Belize for no purpose, then calls and tells him that the - nonexistent - case he sent him there for settled). At the halfway point, however, one of the lawyers in the book has a sudden health crisis (I won't give away more), and the book turns away from the episodic humor and focuses on a more conventional effort at a plot, which unfortunately has a surplus of predictable plot twists as well as incidents that push the reader's suspension of disbelief beyond the breaking point. The second half of the book took me a lot longer to read, and while there were still a few grim amusements, it wasn't that much fun.
Anyway, I wish Blachman luck; he's obviously got a way with words and a dark sense of humor, and depending on your taste for that kind of humor, you may well enjoy "Anonymous Lawyer." For more, you can visit Blachman's parody site, "Anonymous Law Firm" here (some parts are actually closer to a dead-on parody of law firm websites than the book is). It's also complete with a bar exam card/taunt feature.
WARNING: Spoilers may follow in the comment section.
July 23, 2006
WAR: Strong Words
They are only words, and one can argue that the President shouldn't offer anything but words at this point anyway. But it is a fine day when President Bush can step out a bit from behind the usual conventions of (1) diplomatic doublespeak and (2) non-specific condemnations of "terrorists," and speak truths that talk directly to who the problem is, and why:
The recent crisis in the region was triggered by the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by the terrorist group Hezbollah and the launch of rockets against Israeli cities. I believe sovereign nations have the right to defend their people from terrorist attack, and to take the necessary action to prevent those attacks.
In 2004, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1559, which recognizes the sovereignty of Lebanon, calls for all foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon, and calls for the disbanding and disarmament of all militias. Hezbollah defied the world's just demands by maintaining armed units in the southern region of Lebanon and attacking Israel in defiance of the democratically elected Lebanese government.
For many years, Syria has been a primary sponsor of Hezbollah and it has helped provide Hezbollah with shipments of Iranian made weapons. Iran's regime has also repeatedly defied the international community with its ambition for nuclear weapons and aid to terrorist groups. Their actions threaten the entire Middle East and stand in the way of resolving the current crisis and bringing lasting peace to this troubled region.
I would have liked a little more connection drawn directly between Iran and Hezbollah, but otherwise President Bush left little doubt whose side we are on here, and why, and why even if Syria and Iran stay on the sidelines of the current crisis, they will have to be dealt with sooner or later.
July 21, 2006
WAR: Mumbai Conspirators Caught
India has caught four suspects in the July 11 Mumbai (Bombay) train bombings, tracking them as far as Kenya. Shockingly, the suspects - Abdul Karim Tunda, "one of India’s most wanted men," Khaleel Aziz Sheikh, Kamal Ahmed Ansari and Mumtaz Ahmed Chowdhury - are believed to be affiliated with an Islamic jihadist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba. Tension with the Pakistanis runs high, as Pakistan apparently harbors the group, while General Pervez Musharraf denies - well, pretty much everything.
BLOG: Bad PR
This post by John Scalzi vivisecting a marketing email sent on behalf of Napster is side-splittingly hilarious. (H/t Instapundit) I actually got the same email - verbatim, of course, though my blog and readership are rather different - and just stuck it aside to review later because I couldn't immediately make sense of what it meant and it left me with a vaguely bad feeling that this was spam or a trick of some sort. Good marketing never makes you think it sounds like a 411 scam.
The postscript: if you believe a comment left on Scalzi's thread, apparently by the CEO of the marketing firm, Scalzi's post got the author of the email fired. The comment, by the way, claimed that the email was "specifically developed for outreach to a database of comedic fansites," which doesn't explain why it went to Scalzi (a novelist who writes sci-fi) or to me.
BLOG: Tanks For Nuthin'
Ken Arneson spots an unusual road sign in Denmark. The comments are pretty funny.
WAR: Iraqis Taking The Fight To The Enemy
CENTCOM reports on two recent operations:
Iraqi security forces conducted two separate operations in Baghdad on July 20, capturing four insurgents who may be involved in "extra judicial killing," or EJK cells.
Time is on our side. Yes it is.
WAR: Defeat In Detail
It is well-known that Hezbollah receives major financial support, equipment, and to some extent direction from Iran (in addition to material support and safe harbor from Syria). Bill Kristol makes the case that, this being so, the United States should use the current war between Israel and Hezbollah, triggered by Hezbollah's rocket attacks on Israel, as casus belli for a U.S. preemptive military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Kristol is right, of course, about the Iranian roots of the Hezbollah problem, he's right that Israel's war with Hezbollah is our war too, and he's most likely right about the Iranian nuclear threat and what we have to contemplate doing about it. But he's missing a crucial point about military strategy and tactics.
Read More »
Now I have, in the past, written about the Iranian nuclear threat, the serious possibility that we will have to use military force at some point to remove that threat, the futility of negotiating with Iran's present regime, the ways in which the U.S. can actually benefit from fighting on several fronts at once, and the potential benefits of widening the present war at least to include Syria. I'm not unmindful of the costs involved in each of these decisions, which are a subject for another day, but it's safe to say that I'm in Kristol's camp at least in the broadest outlines.
What Kristol is missing here is the opportunity for defeat in detail of an important Iranian asset. Defeat in detail is military-theory jargon - it's not precisely synonymous with the more colloquial concept of "divide and conquer," but the idea is similar: defeat an enemy's forces by isolating individual units and deploying your main force against them one at a time, rather than engaging the enemy's entire force at once. It's one of those ideas that military theorists and historians love, but that can be much more difficult to execute in practice, where the enemy gets a say in the terms of engagement. But the conditions for pulling this off are nearly perfect, so long as we get out of the way and let the Israelis finish what they have started.
Hezbollah, of course, is an organization with tentacles extending over a number of areas worldwide, and we can't hope to see it entirely liquidated. But let's discuss here what I would call "Hezbollah-Lebanon," the main force of Hezbollah, as it exists in the region west of Iraq and east of the Mediterranean (thanks to the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, there are at least some obstacles, if not enough, to free movement of forces and weapons between Hezbollah-Lebanon and Iran). Entering the current conflict, Hezbollah-Lebanon had four major assets: (1) rockets/missiles capable of reaching Israeli territory, (2) conventional military forces, (3) unconventional (terrorist) capabilities and (4) political control over a chunk of Lebanon.
If we ended up in a full-scale war with Iran, Hezbollah-Lebanon would undoubtedly be a major asset for the Iranians, a base from which the Iranians could, as desired, attack Israel, Iraq, Turkey and of course Lebanon. We would also have another problem: wishing to gather broad international support, we would yet again want the Israelis, with their formidable military and knowledge of the terrain, to sit on their hands, so as not to offend possible Arab/European allies. Thus, an ideal strategic precondition for any confrontation with Iran would be to eliminate Hezbollah-Lebanon as a miliary asset without activating the full range of Iranian assets worldwide, and at the same time make use of the Israeli forces that might otherwise be sidelined in a larger war. This is precisely what is happening. All the better, from the point of view of U.S. interests, the rocket attacks on Israeli cities have blunted much of the usual criticism of Israel by our other real and putative allies.
I have no illusions that an Israeli war with Hezbollah will result in a complete elimination of Hezbollah-Lebanon. But if allowed to continue without widening to Iran or Syria, the war should be expected to yield the following:
1. Substantial degradation or elimination of Hezbollah-Lebanon's rocket/missile capabilities.
2. Substantial degradation of Hezbollah-Lebanon's conventional military forces, possibly to the point where in the future, another party who has been sidelined so far - the Lebanese Army under the command of the democratic government of Lebanon - will find the balance of forces much more favorable in attempting to assert control over Lebanese sovereign territory.
3. Some degradation of Hezbollah-Lebanon's terrorist capabilities. Terrorist groups can never be destroyed by military force alone, any more than by law enforcement alone, but destroying camps and killing potential terrorists and equipment should go a long way to reducing the threat.
Less certain is the impact on Hezbollah's political influence; while there are signs that many in Lebanon, especially those previously well-disposed towards Hezbollah because of its use of (Iranian-supplied) funds to buy good will with the populace through public works, are turning against Hezbollah for having brought down the wrath of the mighty IDF on Lebanon. On the other hand, the impulse to rally with any Arab or Muslim against Israel is a deep-seated one in the Middle East, so long term it will remain to be seen if a radicalized faction keeps Hezbollah's place at the table in a democratic Lebanon, or worse yet leads to the failure of Lebanon's nascent democracy. As in any war, the potential political ramifications are never all good and certainly never predictable.
In short, the terms of the war have a key Iranian strategic asset right where we want it. No matter how eager one may be to remove the Iranian threat once and for all, widening the battle before Israel has a chance to finish the job against Hezbollah-Lebanon would just be bad strategy.
« Close It
July 20, 2006
BASEBALL: Bonds Won't Be Indicted
Just saw this. This is good news for baseball, when you think about it.
BASEBALL: Close Call
Let's hire Steve Phillips just so we can fire him again. Via Pinto. I couldn't find a post in the archives, but I know in conversations I've given Phillips some credit for drafting Wright (with the pick the Mets got for Mike Hampton). I now renounce that.
BLOG: One Million Visits
If you check the Digits.com counter on the left, which has been up since August 2002, you will see that as of lunchtime today I am within 800 visits (a day's worth, give or take) of cracking a million. Thanks to everyone who has visited, linked to or otherwise helped out the site.
POLITICS: Yet Another 2008 GOP Poll
Sorry for the lack of content generally and baseball content in particular of late - been busy. In the meantime, go vote - this one's a little different angle. I could live with Rudy, McCain, Allen, Romney and Brownback:
July 19, 2006
SCIENCE: Man on Monkey?
BLOG: Patterico Feeds The Trolls
I would advise Glenn Greenwald not to tangle with Patterico. (More here). The last guy who did that ended up losing his job.
UPDATE: I might have advised Greenwald to not repeat the exact same mistake Hiltzik made. I'd predict that Greenwald would lose his job and end up fleeing the country, but as he apparently has no job and left America for Brazil a couple of years ago, I guess the worst that can happen is to lose still more credibility on the internet . . .
SECOND UPDATE: Greenwald claims that the "sock puppets" must be someone else who lives with him. Also, he notes that he only lives in Brazil half the time. Though he remains, if you've read any sampling of his blog posts, remarkably cavalier about American national security. Anyway, the main problem with Greenwald is his persistent hysteria about the Bush Administration and the ways in which that leads him to extremely attenuated factual and legal conclusions and bad policy arguments. But it's amusing, after his bitter attacks on other bloggers, to see him get called on this.
WAR: Your Daily Dose of Helen Thomas
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Helen. Q The United States is not that helpless. It could have stopped the bombardment of Lebanon. We have that much control with the Israelis.
I think Snow, to his credit, has figured out that if he's nice to the people who are there to gather news, he can get away with being (justifiably) nasty to people who aren't. I continue to think that press secretary briefings are a waste of time, but if they are going to serve a purpose, that purpose is to frame questions the press wants answered and let the press secretary explain the Administration's answer. No purpose is served by having a reporter engage in a "did not"/"did too!" exchange that merely highlights the reporter's own opinions.
You would think they would revoke Thomas' press credentials, but like Castro, we seem to have resigned ourselves to waiting for her to die rather than do anything about her.
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BASEBALL: Bob Sikes
While I'm in one of my busy-with-work modes, I've been meaning for some time to link to Bob Sikes at Getting Paid to Watch. Bob is a former assistant trainer with the mid-80s Mets; between posts on the current Mets he has some interesting stories that will eventually be published in a book.
July 18, 2006
BASEBALL: Partial Progress
Jose Valentin's OBP in 2005: .326
Which is funny, since in 2005 Valentin batted a punchless .170 and slugged .265 and looked completely finished, whereas this year he's batting .284 and slugging .528.
July 17, 2006
HISTORY: Slaves At Valley Forge
WAR: Just Say No To "Peacekeepers"
There is talk, once again, of using international "peacekeeping" forces (including Americans, but restricted by the need to play by "international" rules of engagement) to enter southern Lebanon and get between the Israelis and Hezbollah. This is a terrible idea, for the reasons I have explained before at length here and here - we should not deploy troops without identifying an enemy and taking sides against that enemy.
Remember the golden rule: the function and animating purpose of the military is to defeat the enemy. That is not to say that soldiers are not capable of doing anything but fighting; certainly the U.S. military has proven adept, in Iraq and elsewhere, at the many peaceable tasks that go into nation-building. But in Iraq and Afghanistan, as tough as the job sometimes is, we know whose side we are on, which among other things enables us to go on the offensive (miliarily and otherwise) and not be bound to a purely reactive sitting-ducks stance. No identified enemy, no sides taken, no soldiers. Period.
If the international community wants to fix the problem - i.e., the inability of Lebanon's democratic government to stop Hezbollah from making war from its territory - by asking in an international force to assist the Lebanese in liquidating Hezbollah, I'm all for that. It needs to be done, by someone, and it is better done under the cover of the blue helmet and with some sharing of the burden besides just Israel or the United States. But inserting U.S. troops into Lebanon without a mandate to take the battle to the enemy was Ronald Reagan's worst mistake as president, and cost us 241 Marines, for whose lives Hezbollah has never adequately paid. Let us not repeat that tragic error.
Thankfully, our president seems to understand this.
UPDATE: Ed Morrissey has a similar reaction.
SECOND UPDATE: Of course, there are already UN "peacekeepers" in Southern Lebanon, and have been since 1978. You can tell they are there because of all that peace they've been keeping.
BASEBALL: Cliff is Back
Cliff Floyd is batting .307/.567/.417 since May 5 (good for fourth on the team in slugging and first in OBP in that period).
July 15, 2006
OTHER SPORTS: Strong Words
For language reasons I won't quote him here, but Lance Armstrong's line about the French soccer team certainly makes for pithy headlines.
July 14, 2006
WAR: Cry Havoc
No time to give my full thoughts this morning on the accelerating war between Israel and Hezbollah, which controls southern Lebanon. It appears that the Israelis are mobilizing for a full-scale war, calling up the reserves. Most likely, this will mean war between Israel, on one hand, and Hezbollah, Syria, and Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon, on the other. (It may be disastrous for Assad to join in this conflict, but he may feel compelled, or Israel may attack him preemptively). If that's as far as it goes, the war will be bloody and ugly but could advance the long-term peace of the region by removing Hezboollah from its power base, permitting the full integration of Lebanon into a freestanding democracy, and potentially toppling the brutal and troublesome Assad regime.
Where things get really dicey for the rest of us, however, is what the Iranians do in response - they can't well take the loss of Hezbollah, a crucial terrorist proxy, sitting down, but as a matter of simple geography anything beyond very low profile support would involve violating the territory and/or airspace of Turkey (a NATO member) and/or Iraq (which, obviously, is the site of some 130,000 U.S. troops, including a number of the world's best combat units), as well as possibly Jordan and/or Saudi Arabia. Any of these steps would push Iran, ultimately, into war with the U.S., and possibly force the hand of some of our allies who would normally sit on their hands even if Israel was on the brink of extermination. My guess is that the Iranians have to back down and let Olmert clean out their allies in that neighborhood, but smaller things have started bigger wars.
POP CULTURE: Comedy Gold
Mr. T, whose real name is Lawrence Tero, stars in "I Pity the Fool" debuting in October on TV Land. He dispenses advice to viewers who are struggling with life's problems.
July 13, 2006
LAW: The Plame Complaint
So, Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame have filed suit against Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Scooter Libby, among others, over Bob Novak's disclosure that Plame worked for the CIA. I've read the complaint, which is posted over at NRO; it alleges various theories of denial of civil rights, essentially on a theory of retaliation against Plame, as a government employee, for Wilson's exercise of his free speech rights. Thoughts:
1. There's a good deal of predictable partisan posturing here, and big chunks copied from the Libby indictment and press accounts, but Plame and Wilson cagily allege as few additional facts as they can. Basically, a blogger who had never spoken to Plame or Wilson could have written most of this. In particular, there's no detail on Plame's career at the CIA other than that she was "an operations officer in the Directorate of Operations" and "her employment status was classified," neither of which necessarily implies any covert activities.
2. Fitzgerald's press conference is quoted as providing a basis for a civil lawsuit against people who were not even indicted, giving a good example of why prosecutors should not give press conferences about topics outside the four corners of their charges.
3. There's a cause of action for violation of a "Fifth Amendment right to privacy," and while I'm not familiar with the caselaw on constitutional torts, that sounds like a stretch. The complaint does not reference the Vanity Fair photo shoot or what happened to the profits from the book deal Joe Wilson got out of all this.
4. The complaint provides nothing to connect Cheney or Libby to the actual press disclosure of Plame's identity.
5. It appears from the "JDB" docket number on the NRO version of the Plame complaint that the case was initially assigned to Judge John D. Bates, a George W. Bush appointee. However, it may be that Judge Bates would recuse himself from a lawsuit naming Cheney and Rove in their personal capacities, and it is possible that the case could be sent to Judge Walton, who is handling the Libby trial.
6. The initial issue in the case, before the legal sufficiency of the allegations and before any discovery is taken, is whether some or all defendants (or other interested parties) will ask for a stay or dismissal of the litigation. There are three bases for doing so. One, the liberal quotation from the indictment underscores the fact that this suit overlaps substantially with the subject of a pending criminal trial. Fitzgerald may well intervene to ask for a stay of all proceedings - he won't want his trial witnesses deposed in a civil suit. Second, Dick Cheney in particular has duties as the Vice President, including dealing with an unstable and dangerous world potentially lurching into another war on top of the two-front war we're already fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Under Clinton v Jones, there's no absolute bar to such a suit but the district court can balance the intrusion of the litigation, among other factors - here, with the case focusing on Administration foreign policy, the level of intrusion could be significant. And third, there's the state secrets privilege, described extensively in this opinion (later upheld by the DC Circuit) dismissing claims by Sibel Edmonds, who charged retaliation by the FBI relating to her work as a translator of national security documents. Basically, if a civil suit would involve discovery of national security information (such as, for example, details of any covert activities by Plame, to say nothing of discovery directed at Cheney), the court can dismiss it in the greater national interest. The Bush Administration has been loath to press the envelope on the kinds of legal privileges asserted by the Clintons to deflect personal scandals (as opposed to expanding the rights of the Executive Branch more broadly) but the desire to get this lawsuit out of the way may compel them to seek a stay or dismissal on this basis.
WAR: Progress in Muthanna
Press release I just received via email from CENTCOM:
Iraq witnessed a historic event today with the transfer of security responsibility in Muthanna Province from the Multi-National Force - Iraq (MNF-I) to the Provincial Governor and civilian-controlled Iraqi Security Forces. The handover represents a milestone in the successful development of Iraq's capability to govern and protect itself as a sovereign and democratic nation. Muthanna is the first of Iraq's 18 provinces to be designated for such a transition.
Australian, Japanese, and the United Kingdom forces have assisted Muthanna authorities as models of international cooperation, providing economic and humanitarian assistance as well as security and stability.
All to the good. More remains to be done, of course, but progress continues to move in our direction and against the enemy.
BASEBALL: Quiz Me!
Take this quiz, via John Salmon. I got 49 out of 50, missing only #44; none of the ESPN analysts broke 45 (Rob Neyer got 43). (Kevin Mench got 40, topping the ballplayers who took the quiz, which proves that Mench knows baseball history better than he knows his own feet). Many of these are easy if you know basic history, but a few are quite tough. I got a couple by educated guesses (I would probably have scored around 38-40 if this wasn't multiple choice), and got #4 & 43 right through more random guesses. I'll have to try this one out on my son.
BASEBALL: Youth Will Be Served
There are few bigger stories this season than the massive youth movement sweeping baseball. I leave it to the reader to judge whether the ability of young players to supplant the older generation has been accelerated by the (presumed) reduction in steroid use resulting from the institution of drug testing. Either way, the youngsters are dominating the game as they haven't in some time. Look at the under-24 age groups:
Other 22-year-olds with more mixed or incomplete results so far: Cole Hamels, Nick Markakis, Dioner Navarro, Brandon McCarthy, Craig Hansen, Mike Pelfrey, Kyle Davies, James Loney, Howie Kendrick, Rene Rivera, Zack Greinke.
Other less successful 23-year-olds: Zach Duke, JJ Hardy, Ronny Cedeno, Yadier Molina, Chris Resop, Ricky Nolasco, Anderson Hernandez, Casey Kotchman, Andrew Sisco, Jeff Mathis, Gavin Floyd.
Other less successful 24-year-olds: the effective but injury-plagued Rich Harden, Jhonny Peralta (60 runs, but a comedown year with the bat), Willy Taveras, Oscar Villereal (8-1 but not that effective for the Braves), Ian Snell, Nate McLouth, Paul Maholm, Oliver Perez, Brian Anderson, Jesse Crain, Fernando Cabrera, Matt Murton, Kameron Loe, Brad Thompson, Brandon Watson, Corey Hart, Victor Diaz, Jerome Williams, Mark Teahen, Franquelis Osoria.
(This is before we get to the 25-year-olds, like Jonathan Papelbon, Curtis Granderson, Justin Morneau and Dan Uggla.) The next few years should be a great time to be a baseball fan.
July 11, 2006
BASEBALL: He Must Be In The Front Row
There's pathetic, there's really pathetic, and then there's stalking Bob Uecker.
WAR: If Only
Val Prieto and company are, of course, the first people to check on for all things anti-Castro.
POLITICS: Novak Shows A Little More
Via Drudge, Bob Novak has now come forward with a fuller - but not yet complete - account of his column on Valerie Plame. What's frustrating - in the purest sense of wanting all the facts out - is that he doesn't identify his main source or give a detailed account of his conversation with Karl Rove, who apparently was a confirming source for the information. Key quotes:
When Fitzgerald arrived, he had a third waiver in hand -- from Bill Harlow, the CIA public information officer who was my CIA source for the column confirming Mrs. Wilson's identity. I answered questions using the names of Rove, Harlow and my primary source.
Note that this means that Fitzgerald had the names two and a half years ago; the rest of his investigation has been about figuring out who said what and when, and who knew what and when. And, of course, it confirms the role of the CIA's press office, which in retrospect was at least severely negligent if this was information at all worth protecting.
I have revealed Rove's name because his attorney has divulged the substance of our conversation, though in a form different from my recollection. I have revealed Harlow's name because he has publicly disclosed his version of our conversation, which also differs from my recollection. My primary source has not come forward to identify himself.
Bob, could ya tell us what your recollection is?
In my sworn testimony, I said what I have contended in my columns and on television: Joe Wilson's wife's role in instituting her husband's mission was revealed to me in the middle of a long interview with an official who I have previously said was not a political gunslinger. After the federal investigation was announced, he told me through a third party that the disclosure was inadvertent on his part.
More grist for the mill, but we're not yet all that close for any of the people involved to line up (1) what they said, (2) what they knew, and (3) what the truth was about Plame's status. Which is what matters. Also, note the very un-Clinton-Administration-like extent of the cooperation with Fitzgerald's investigation.
I still tentatively think there's much to recommend Tom Maguire's thesis that source #1 was Richard Armitage, a Powell deputy at the State Department who is pretty much the antithesis of a Cheney-supporting neocon and who is unlikely to have been taking marching orders from the White House or the Veep. The facts may yet bear out the conclusion that Rove said things he shouldn't have, but assuming Novak's account is accurate, there's not much evidence to support the claim that there was some sort of organized campaign to disclose Plame's status as a CIA analyst, nor any sign that anyone involved in the disclosure knew that she had ever been a covert agent. (That conclusion can be revisited if we ever do see evidence pointing in that direction, but it's still not there).
LAW: You Think Your Judge Is Hostile?
The DC Circuit has removed US District Judge Royce Lamberth from the longstanding (to put it mildly) litigation over the Interior Department's management of Indian trust funds, after reversing one of his orders for the eighth time. (Via Bashman). Even if you've followed this dispute as it has grown progressively nastier since the mid-1990s (when it was already quite nasty indeed), you have to read the opinion to believe it - while the DC Circuit acknowledged that the Interior Department's conduct in the litigation and the underlying dispute has been deplorable, it agreed that a judge who viewed the Department and its counsel at Justice as irredeemably "villainous racists" (in the government's phrase) "could contribute to a reasonable observer's belief that Interior stands
BASEBALL: Long Memories
While we remain on the subject of our least favorites, Metstradamus is taking votes for his Hall of Hate. What I found amusing is that Dick Young is running fourth in the voting with 118 votes at last check, despite having been dead for something like two decades. Not that this is uncalled-for. It's never too late to hate Dick Young.
And also, while we're at it:
FACT: If the NL wins the All-Star Game, the NL team gets home field advantage in the 2006 World Series.
FACT: As the team with the NL's best record, the Mets are as likely as anyone to benefit from this.
FACT: Kenny Rogers is starting the All-Star Game for the AL.
Life is good. Now, an entire league of fans has a chance to be let down by Rogers all at once.
LAW: The Rule of Law Applies to Congress
Judge Thomas Hogan of the US District Court of DC upholds the search of Democratic Congressman William Jefferson's office in the Rayburn building, over the objections of Jefferson and - among others - Speaker Hastert. The opinion is here. Key quotes:
The purpose of the Speech or Debate Clause is not to promote or maintain secrecy in legislative activity.
Congress' capacity to function effectively is not threatened by permitting congressional offices to be searched pursuant to validly issued search warrants, which are only available in relation to criminal investigations, are subject to the rigors of the Fourth Amendment, and require prior approval by the neutral third branch of government.
Finally, the Court finds no support for the proposition that a Member of Congress must be given advance notice of a search, with an opportunity to screen out and remove materials the Member believes to be privileged. Indeed, the Court is aware of no case in which such a procedure is mandated by any other recognized privilege.
The power to determine the scope of one's own privilege is not available to any other person, including members of the co-equal branches of government: federal judges, . . or the President of the United States, . . .
If there is any threat to the separation of powers here, it is not from the execution of a search warrant by one co-equal branch of government upon another, after the independent approval of the third separate, and co-equal branch. Rather, the principle of the separation of powers is threatened by the position that the Legislative Branch enjoys the unilateral and unreviewable power to invoke an absolute privilege, thus making it immune from the ordinary criminal process of a validly issued search warrant. This theory would allow Members of Congress to frustrate investigations into non-legislative criminal activities for which the Speech or Debate Clause clearly provides no protection from prosecution.
The rule of law should prevail over the lawmakers.
July 10, 2006
BASEBALL: He Actually Can't Win
"David [Wright] should get Jose [Lima] to throw to him. He'd win for sure."
UPDATE: With Paul Lo Duca pitching to him, Wright finishes as the runner-up to Ryan Howard.
SECOND UPDATE: For those of you who get the reference, the third comment on this post is a classic.
BASEBALL: He Just Can't Win
Lyford takes the Boston media, particularly WEEI, to task for giving Manny Ramirez a hard time over his decision to play with pain in his knee in the games that count but not in the All-Star Game. Presumably, if he was still in Boston, they'd give Pedro the same guff. The negativity in the Boston media really does stink.
BASEBALL: Trivia Time
Over the past year (from last July 10 to this July 9), four pitchers have won 19 or more games. Name them.
WAR: The Scourge of Beslan Meets a Bad End
Allahpundit has a good roundup on the reported death of Shamil Basayev, the Chechen leader who claimed responsibility for the Beslan atrocity. According to reports, Russian security forces blew up Basayev's car with a truck bomb, but were subsequently able to locate his head to positively identify him. No word if it will be mounted in Vladimir Putin's office, but really, I wouldn't blame him.
BASEBALL: Pre-All-Star-Weekend Mets Notes
Thoughts from an up-and-down weekend of Mets baseball:
*Jose Lima made my son cry. Well, not actually cry, but he looked pretty close after Lima gave up the grand slam to Dontrelle Willis. Please, Omar, keep Lima in Norfolk where he belongs. Do it for the children.
*As it turned out, the big story with Mike Pelfrey wasn't his fastball, but his tongue. If you haven't seen him yet, Pelfrey sticks out his tongue as he leans into his delivery - and not a little out of the side of his mouth, like Reyes running the bases, but all the way down his chin, halfway between Michael Jordan and Gene Simmons. It's very disconcerting.
On the whole, Pelfrey was clearly nervous - his command looked good at first but deteriorated as he worked around the big-league hitters, even after the Mets spotted him 9 runs in the first two innings and even though few of the Marlins are more than a year or two older than Pelfrey and most are rookies themselves. That's not fatal, of course; to give one example, I don't think I've ever seen a young pitcher as much of a nervous wreck as David Cone in his first two starts with the Mets in 1987 (discussed in more detail at the end of this column). But Cone eventually grew into a guy we all remember as a gutsy, mentally tough pitcher. Pelfrey may yet have that in him as well, and for now the important thing is that he got one start under his belt in the bigs, survived, got the win - and, yes, got a lesson in how hard he'll have to work to be a winner here.
*I may have been too hard on John Maine the other day, or at least unduly influenced by his failure to go at least 5 innings in either of his first two starts. I guess the upside on a guy like Maine would be a Brad Radke-type pitcher with good control who gives up a ton of homers. Or Trachsel, perhaps. If El Duque eventually joins Pedro in taking his annual summer vacation, there will be more chances to figure out whether Maine, Pelfrey, or Soler should be the fifth starter (not that I'm thrilled with taking Trachsel into the playoffs as a #3).
*Henry Owens, combined 2006 line: 28 innings, 8 hits, 52 K.
*I can't tell you how much faith I have at this point in Carlos Beltran in center field. I wouldn't quite put him on the level with Andruw Jones, but he's awfully close, and probably as good when healthy as Cameron - just watch time and time again as balls are hit in places that used to frighten me, and I now just wait for Beltran to cruise in and put away without even a visible effort. As A-Rod has done for Jeter, Beltran has also made Floyd a better outfielder by cutting down the ground he has to cover; Floyd can make some really good catches and has a good arm, and with a smaller left field to cover he's been much more effective in 2005 & 2006.
*My confidence level in Wright at the plate in a big situation is much the same.
*The Mets team offensive record book could look very different at the end of the year if they keep this up. Wright is now a very good bet to bury the single-season club record for RBI (124, by Mike Piazza) with a pace for 135, and Lance Johnson's club Total Bases record of 327 with a pace for 355; Reyes is on pace to break Edgardo Alfonzo's club record of 123 Runs with 137, Roger Cedeno's club steals record of 66 with 71, and Johnson's club triples record of 21 with 22 (in fact, Reyes is already third on the club career triples list); and Beltran is on pace for 46 homers, breaking Todd Hundley's club record of 41, plus he's slugging .606, just trailing Piazza's team slugging % record of .614. On the whole, the team is on pace to score 861 runs, breaking the club record of 853 set in 1999.
July 9, 2006
BLOG: From the Referrer Logs
How can I not reciprocate when I get a link from a blog called "Star-Spangled Haggis"?
One suggestion to small blogs looking to get noticed: bloggers love links, but they love traffic even more. I tend to follow to see who is sending me readers.
OTHER SPORTS: Italy Wins the World Cup
Coming back to Queens from my in-laws in Westchester today, we saw many cars on the road honking and waving Italian flags. Somehow, had the French won, I doubt we would have seen that.
My lone observation on the World Cup: I did not pay much attention to the World Cup and only saw one game, the U.S.-Italy match.
UPDATE: If you are looking for some thoroughly gratuitous French-bashing, Ace is your man.
BLOG: Our Long Nightmare is Over
May 25: Moved to new house.
July 8, 2006
WAR: No WMD Here, None At All, Move Along
More from Ace on Saddam's anthrax program. Which didn't exist, because of course Saddam didn't have WMD. Especially not in 2002.
More from Ed Morrissey, who has been all over this story, most recently here.
BASEBALL: Making the Bats
The National Association of Manufacturers has a video up this morning showing how Louisville Slugger baseball bats are made. Parts of the video are targeted to kids, but it's still pretty cool. You can also check out how tennis balls are made.
July 7, 2006
WAR: One Year Later
9/11. Bali. Madrid. Too many anniversaries. Josh Trevino remembers 7/7/05 in London.
BASEBALL: In and Out With the Old and New
The big news in Mets-land is the turmoil on the pitching staff, with Pedro to the DL, the injured Alay Soler to the minors, Heath Bell to the minors, and Jose Lima, Mike Pelfrey and John Maine joining the rotation at least for a turn.
*Bell, I've discussed before ad nauseum; he continues to frustrate, showing progress and then having a bad outing or two that uglies up his numbers. Despite his fine K/BB ratios, Bell remains hittable. Still, my general preference is for young pitchers who throw strikes and strike guys out over old retreads who do neither; I still think Bell would flourish over time if the Mets weren't jumping on him every time he fails.
*Had I known Lima was coming back, I would have added him to my "25 least favorite Mets" post.
*On a similar broken-record theme, isn't it past time to see if a move to the rotation would straighten out Aaron Heilman?
*Maine hasn't impressed; he, too, might benefit from some patience, but I don't know that the Mets are in a position to experiment with him at the major league level at this juncture.
*Pelfrey has certainly gotten on track after an adjustment period at AA (I like his overall minor league ratio of 103 K to 3 HR). Which suggests some caution - the jump to the majors is an adjustment, too - I'd guess he'd post an ERA around 4.00 if left in the rotation the rest of the year. I'm still worried he'll run out of gas as a starter in his first pro season, but if Soler doesn't get healthy and straightened out and Heilman stays in the pen, the Mets don't have many other plausible options for that slot. So Pelfrey may be here to stay.
*I'm not perturbed in the least by Pedro hitting the DL - it's an annual ritual, so the stretch over the All-Star Break is better than what happened last year, when he ran out of gas the last few weeks of September. This is where the double-digit lead in the NL East is so important; the Mets will end up spending some of that lead resting Pedro, but it will be well spent to have a fresh Pedro in the second half.
BASEBALL: Birds of a Feather
One thing that's been interesting this season as Jose Reyes bloomed abruptly into an offensive force is the parallel development of Carl Crawford in Tampa Bay. Crawford is very much the same type of hitter as Reyes, and like Reyes he started slowly (batting .261/.342/.322 through May 21*) before very suddenly catching fire (.386/.709/.409 since then) to raise his averages into the .300/.500/.350 zone, in which a player as fast as Reyes or Crawford is just dynamite. Crawford's a bigger guy than Reyes and a year older and has done it a little differently - more homers, fewer walks and triples - but both of them, if they stay healthy, should have very long and productive careers ahead of them (look at Kenny Lofton or Marquis Grissom).
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* - Brag: yes, this was just about exactly when I acquired Crawford for one of my Roto teams in exchange for John Lackey and Corey Patterson.
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WAR: Running Uphill
Far be it from me to laugh at the terror threat we face continuously here in New York City, especially an attack on the vulnerable bridges and tunnels that I travel through every day, but this did crack me up - the plot apparently contemplated a Hurricane Katrina-style flood from blowing up the Holland Tunnel, except, well:
Any plot to flood lower Manhattan by blowing up the Holland Tunnel is doomed to fail, experts say - because it would have to defy the laws of physics.
They needed experts to explain the "laws of physics" that water does not flow up hill?
POLITICS: Champions of Free Speech
You know, if you compare the roll call votes, only two Senators voted against the flag burning amendment and voted against the free-speech-suppressing McCain-Feingold campaign finance "reform" bill: Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Robert Bennett. If you are looking for an example of Senators truly and consistently committed to free speech even when it's not popular, that's the whole list right there.
July 6, 2006
POLITICS: The Litmus Test List Gets Longer
LAW: New York's Highest Court Declines To Require Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage
I discussed the lower court opinion at length here. The NY Court of Appeals identified two rational bases for distinguishing between same- and opposite-sex couples, and its reasoning (which is similar to my arguments in the post linked above) is worth quoting at length:
The Legislature could also find that such relationships are all too often casual or temporary. It could find that an important function of marriage is to create more stability and permanence in the relationships that cause children to be born. It thus could choose to offer an inducement -- in the form of marriage and its attendant benefits -- to opposite-sex couples who make a solemn, long-term commitment to each other.
The Legislature could find that this rationale for marriage does not apply with comparable force to same-sex couples. These couples can become parents by adoption, or by artificial insemination or other technological marvels, but they do not become parents as a result of accident or impulse. The Legislature could find that unstable relationships between people of the opposite sex present a greater danger that children will be born into or grow up in unstable homes than is the case with same-sex couples, and thus that promoting stability in oppositesex relationships will help children more. This is one reason why the Legislature could rationally offer the benefits of marriage to opposite-sex couples only.
There is a second reason: The Legislature could rationally believe that it is better, other things being equal, for children to grow up with both a mother and a father. Intuition and experience suggest that a child benefits from having before his or her eyes, every day, living models of what both a man and a woman are like. It is obvious that there are exceptions to this general rule -- some children who never know their fathers, or their mothers, do far better than some who grow up with parents of both sexes -- but the Legislature could find that the general rule will usually hold.
Plaintiffs, and amici supporting them, argue that the proposition asserted is simply untrue: that a home with two parents of different sexes has no advantage, from the point of view of raising children, over a home with two parents of the same sex. Perhaps they are right, but the Legislature could rationally think otherwise.
And so, even here in liberal New York, the legislature will decide a contentious social issue (as the court stressed the legislature may). As it should be.
SECOND UPDATE: Howard Dean calls the NY court's reasons - which merely allowed for the possibility that there could be something unique, special or valuable in traditional families - "outdated and bigoted notions about families". Tell me again how that "50-state strategy" is going, Howard? If the ignorant, knuckle-dragging bigots in New York aren't enlightened enough for the Democratic Party, well, that's a pretty small tent.
POLITICS: Rush to Judgment
For some odd reason, it's considered news that Rush Limbaugh won't be prosecuted for possessing drugs that had been lawfully prescribed to him. I guess they won't be charging any of his fans with orderly conduct, either.
(Hat tip: Jon Henke). Lots and lots of lefty blogs (like digby) owe Limbaugh an apology over this story. Don't hold your breath.
BUSINESS/LAW: Deserve's Got Nothin' To Do With It
I don't blog much about business-scandal stories like Enron, not least because of the potential fof conflicts with work, but I would offer a few reflections following the death of Ken Lay.
First, I always wondered - if Lay had not been a major financial supporter of George W. Bush, would Enron have been a story for the Wall Street Journal and the financial pages, rather than front page news? Quite possibly. There have been many sensational business scandals that never really got more than passing attention from the non-financial press. Certainly, had it not been for the desperation to tie Lay to Bush, you would not have seen people like Paul Krugman arguing that Enron was a bigger story than September 11.
Second, would Lay have been indicted if he hadn't been so politically prominent? Maybe not. The public outcry had Lay not been indicted would have been fierce, precisely because of his association with Bush - but absent his unique prominence resulting from his political ties, the public would much more likely have been satisfied with the indictment of Andrew Fastow (the CFO who was the real locus of misconduct at Enron) and the hands-on CEO Jeff Skilling, and less concerned with nailing a genial but apparently detached Chairman of the Board.
I can't really criticize the jury for convicting Lay - they heard a whole lot more evidence than I ever did, and maybe the devil in the details made Lay's innocence implausible. But everything I saw about the case suggested a front man who was just out of touch with the details of Fastow's schemes and the fundamental rot in so many parts of the company's business. (Notably, some press accounts have indicated that even when Lay started selling off his stock to meet margin calls, he went out of his way to try to hold on to as big an Enron position as he could manage, at the expense of selling other investments - evidence of a guy who deludedly believed in his own company to the bitter end). That doesn't mean he should ever have held a position of any responsibility, but it also doesn't mean he was a crook so much as a fool.
If that's what really happened - if Lay simply failed to understand or examine the financial house of cards that Enron had become - then he didn't deserve to be branded a criminal - but then, he didn't deserve the wealth and influence that came with being the Chairman of the Board of a massively-capitalized public company, either, so there's a certain rough justice in how Lay's negligence came crashing down on him in ways that I suspect he never imagined were possible. Fortune's Wheel, and all. Which is a tragedy of sorts, but just one of thousands of tragedies in the Enron saga, most of them involving people who had a lot fewer chances to avoid their fate than Ken Lay did.
July 5, 2006
BASEBALL: Conspiracy to Pun
Pinto points to this Bleed Cubbie Blue post including Tribune columnist Phil Rogers' suggestion that with Dusty Baker on the verge of possibly being sacked, the Cubs might consider interviewing White Sox AAA manager Razor Shines.
I suspect that the Trib's headline writers would be on board with Shines as the Cubs manager. Oh, the possibilities.
POP CULTURE: Great Moments in Movie Cameos
Keith Richards will appear as Johnny Depp's pirate father in the second Pirates Of The Caribbean sequel, playing "a whisky-soaked buccaneer." I'm guessing that won't be a stretch.
I was out at Shea Stadium yesterday, for - among other things - my 4-month-old daughter's first baseball game. Before the game the Mets honored New York's last living Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Francis S. Currey. The official citation for his honor:
He was an automatic rifleman with the 3d Platoon defending a strong point near Malmedy, Belgium, on 21 December 1944, when the enemy launched a powerful attack. Overrunning tank destroyers and antitank guns located near the strong point, German tanks advanced to the 3d Platoon's position, and, after prolonged fighting, forced the withdrawal of this group to a nearby factory. Sgt. Currey found a bazooka in the building and crossed the street to secure rockets meanwhile enduring intense fire from enemy tanks and hostile infantrymen who had taken up a position at a house a short distance away. In the face of small-arms, machinegun, and artillery fire, he, with a companion, knocked out a tank with 1 shot. Moving to another position, he observed 3 Germans in the doorway of an enemy-held house. He killed or wounded all 3 with his automatic rifle. He emerged from cover and advanced alone to within 50 yards of the house, intent on wrecking it with rockets. Covered by friendly fire, he stood erect, and fired a shot which knocked down half of 1 wall. While in this forward position, he observed 5 Americans who had been pinned down for hours by fire from the house and 3 tanks. Realizing that they could not escape until the enemy tank and infantry guns had been silenced, Sgt. Currey crossed the street to a vehicle, where he procured an armful of antitank grenades. These he launched while under heavy enemy fire, driving the tankmen from the vehicles into the house. He then climbed onto a half-track in full view of the Germans and fired a machinegun at the house. Once again changing his position, he manned another machinegun whose crew had been killed; under his covering fire the 5 soldiers were able to retire to safety. Deprived of tanks and with heavy infantry casualties, the enemy was forced to withdraw. Through his extensive knowledge of weapons and by his heroic and repeated braving of murderous enemy fire, Sgt. Currey was greatly responsible for inflicting heavy losses in men and material on the enemy, for rescuing 5 comrades, 2 of whom were wounded, and for stemming an attack which threatened to flank his battalion's position.
That's enough to humble even a hardened combat veteran, let alone a guy like me. After the ceremony, Mr. Currey - now in his 80s - ended up sitting behind me for the game (we were in the loge). After Wagner got the last out, Mr. Currey stopped and wished good luck at the end of the game to a younger (twenties) guy in an Army t-shirt who appeared to be heading out to Iraq. The torch passes.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Baseball 2006 | History | War 2006 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Borough of Immigrants
Independence Day is celebrated once a year in most of America. In Queens, the most ethnically diverse county in the nation, where an estimated 44 percent of the 2.2 million residents are foreign born, it is celebrated again and again and again.
The article is pro-immigrant, of course, like all NYT articles (I consider myself fairly pro-immigration, but the Times is too typical of mainstream press organs in treating the issue as wholly one-sided). In fact, one could read the ode to diversity here as making another point less palatable to the Times: that places in the Southwest where the immigrants all come from the same place are not so easy to assimilate.
July 4, 2006
WAR: Loose Lips, Indeed
Think that newspaper disclosures of U.S. methods of electronic surveillance are harmless? Think again. 241 times. Via Instapundit. Had the Post not disclosed that we were listenning, the plot may well have been foiled.
July 2, 2006
BASEBALL: Your AL MVP . . . Curtis Granderson?
Yes, at least through June 25, The Hardball Times' AL Win Shares leaderboard listed Granderson, with 16 Win Shares, as the AL leader, followed by Joe Mauer at 15 and four players tied at 14 (Jim Thome, Ramon Hernandez, Carl Crawford and Vernon Wells). Thome is rated as the top hitter in the league, followed by Travis Hafner, but both are DHs while Mauer, Granderson, Hernandez and Wells all have substantial defensive value.
Which is not to say I think Granderson is MVP material, although with his good OBP and power combo in the leadoff slot and outstanding defense on a team whose defense has been a huge part of its turnaround, he's certainly been an impact player (it would seem that he, Crawford and Wells all get valued highly by the Win Shares system for staying in the lineup a lot - here are the major league batting leaders as of that date).
There's a couple of broader points here. First, there really is no dominant MVP candidate in the AL this year, so far (I imagine Thome would win the award if they voted now, although a .392-hitting catcher with a good glove, power and good wheels is hard to turn down). Second, and relatedly, the strength of the AL this season is probably why - it's harder for a single AL player to have a really monster dominant season like Albert Pujols was having before he got hurt.
BASEBALL: Brien Taylor in 2006
*Taylor's record $1.55 million bonus was the work of his agent, Scott Boras; Taylor was, if I recall correctly, the player who put Boras on the map. Odd that the article - which has to work around the fact that Taylor doesn't want to talk to reporters - didn't interview Boras. The famous Boras honesty is on display here, after Taylor shreds his shoulder:
Boras tells reporters the injury is a bruise, no big deal. Famed surgeon Dr. Frank Jobe examines Taylor, who has in fact suffered a torn capsule and torn labrum. Taylor has surgery the following week. "Just tell everyone I'll be fine," Taylor told a reporter from his hospital bed.
*At least Taylor got something out of the money; he built his parents a nice house, and still lives in it with them. He also still drives the Mustang he bought, although it is presumably no longer a stylish car 15 years later.
*Taylor is one in a long line of Yankee starting pitching prospects - a number of them quite hyped - the past two decades or so who didn't pan out or enjoyed only fleeting big league success (Taylor, Sam Militello, Joe Cowley, Dave Eiland, Domingo Jean), were converted to relievers (Mariano Rivera, Dave Righetti, Ramiro Mendoza, Bob Wickman), didn't blossom until they left town, if at all (Al Leiter, Doug Drabek, Jose Rijo, Jim Deshaies, Brad Halsey, Ted Lilly) or only became mediocrities (Scott Kamieniecki, Sterling Hitchcock). Not that Yankee fans have anything to complain about with Rivera or much with Righetti, either, but not as starters. Since 1976, other than Ron Guidry, there's just one unqualified subsequent success story: Andy Pettitte. Besides Pettitte and Guidry, over those 30 seasons, the Yankees have had a home-grown starter+ win 10 games just 8 times (9 once Wang makes it this year), and only Righetti (twice) did it more than once, the others being Dennis Rasmussen, Cowley, Kamieniecki, Hitchcock, Wickman and Mendoza.
+ - I'm counting as home-grown young pitchers who came to the Yanks as prospects, like Cowley and Rasmussen, but not foreign veterans like El Duque and Irabu.
BASEBALL: Please Be A Stranger
Curtis Edmonds follows up on the "25 least favorite" meme with his 25 least favorite Texas Rangers. Kenny Rogers makes yet another appearance.
UPDATE: Chris Lynch adds his 25 least favorite Red Sox. Rogers has never played for the Red Sox.
July 1, 2006
POP CULTURE: I'll Take Blogging For $1,000, Alex
In the future, at the fifteenth minute, everyone will have a blog. In that spirit, welcome Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings to the blogosphere. Via Orin Kerr.