"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
April 30, 2007
BASEBALL: Park Violation
So El Duque heads for the DL (disappointing, but this happens with him) and Chan Ho Park comes up. Park has a 7.29 ERA at AAA New Orleans and has allowed 6 home runs in 21 innings. What is odd is bringing him up when teammate Jorge Sosa, also an experienced major league starter of at best uneven recent accomplishments, has a 1.13 ERA there and a 29/4 K/BB ratio. I mean, I don't trust either of them but for a short-term assignment I'd rather pick the hot hand.
UPDATE: Commenters point out that Sosa just pitched and thus the choice of Park is dictated by availability. Of course, if Park gets bombed the Mets may need to rethink their choice if El Duque is out a while.
LAW/RELIGION: Preaching at Volume
So the Ninth Circuit rejects claims that San Francsico discriminated in applying its noise ordinance against roving Christian evangelists, rejecting a rare marriage of evangelical Christians and the ACLU. Maybe it's just me, but my reaction to this case is that I can think of higer-leverage uses for dedicated Christian evangelists than preaching by loudspeaker on the streets of San Francisco.
April 26, 2007
April 25, 2007
BASEBALL: The Natural
Sixth home run of the young season tonight, and in less than full time play (at last check, he is slugging .723), for Josh Hamilton, the Lloyd Daniels of major league baseball. That's just so impressive for a guy who was away from the game for over three years and counts 23 games at AA in 2002 as his only prior experience above A ball.
BASEBALL: Hunter Becomes Hunted
In light of the Torii Hunter situation, I think what MLB needs to do is retroactively clarify the rule to apply a lower punishment for minor violations. The current punishment is disproportionate to these facts - you can't suspend Hunter for three years. At the same time, if the rule is on the books you have to enforce it, and can't be selective about it. And while the punishment seems especially draconian for a guy who apparently didn't even know of the rule (I'd never heard of it before), I'm not at all comfortable writing into a prophylactic rule of this nature an "out" for guys who claim they didn't know.
This is off topic but this is another reason I've long thought the campaign finance laws were a farce. Back in the 90s, both Newt Gingrich and Al Gore (and they weren't the only ones, witness Tom DeLay's legal difficulties) got in trouble for rather technical campaign finance violations. In both cases their supporters argued that (1) such technical violations couldn't possibly be grounds for prosecuting such important elected officials, (2) they could not have known they were breaking the rule, there was no controlling legal authority, and (3) those laws hadn't been enforced in that way in the past (in Gore's case an 1886 statute nobody'd ever been prosecuted under). Regardless of the merits of the two cases, it seemed to me then and still does that if the laws are vague or technical enough, or the penalties disproportionate enough, that you would blanch at throwing an important person you support in the slammer for breaking them, then they have no business on the books. The same goes here - if you don't think Torii Hunter should be suspended for three years over a couple cases of champagne, change the rule.
PS, Hunter was making good on something he had said last year - did MLB know then, and if so why didn't anyone warn him?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:39 PM | Baseball 2007 | Politics 2007 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
Nifong is by no means the only overly aggressive prosecutor in this country. And Durham is by no means the only jurisdiction where the wrong people have been wrongly accused. As Seligmann suggested, the only real difference may have been that the Duke players had the resources to fight back. Many others don't.
Balko's other examples support his thesis that the Nifong case certainly wasn't a complete outlier in terms of law enforcement misconduct, but I think Balko sells short a hugely significant aspect of the Duke case that isn't present in a lot of ordinary criminal cases: the fact that an elected prosecutor used a high-profile, highly publicized case to win an election by playing to race and class resentment, with the complicity of the media and powerful forces in the community (in this case, local and national African-American "leaders" and the Duke faculty). While that's hardly the first time that's been done, it does suggest that there was rather a stronger-than-usual motive for the DA and the cops (one of whom appears to have had a long-running vendetta against Duke students) to bend, break and mutilate the rules to frame innocent men.
BASEBALL: Please Put Away Your Tickets
The Mike Pelfrey Bandwagon is not leaving the garage for some time.
Pelfrey has good velocity and he's generally around the strike zone, but until he improves his command within that area and develops a reliable strikeout pitch, he's still a ways from being a dependable major league pitcher. I'm not saying the Mets should pull the plug just yet; Pelfrey is still a significant talent, he's got learning he needs to do sooner or later, and the alternative options are no better.
LAW: Scalia on Thomas
One of the most persistent media myths about Thomas is that he follows the intellectual lead of fellow conservative Scalia...
BASEBALL: Happy Endy
You know, I'm not the biggest fan of the Endy Chavez type of ballplayer, the guy who doesn't hit for much power, doesn't draw many walks, doesn't consistently hit .300, and is a good but not great glove man and base thief. Players like that don't make good regulars, and managers often seem tempted to give them too much playing time.
That said, it's almost impossible to dislike Chavez himself, and a guy like this can be a very valuable fourth outfielder, with his ability to cover all three outfield positions defensively and play small ball in the late innings of close games. Last night we saw the classic example of that - I have been watching baseball all my life and can't ever remember seeing a guy get a walk-off RBI by bunting with two outs.
I was thinking this morning that the Mets have actually had a fair number of Chavez-like fourth outfielders in recent years - Mookie (from 1985 onward), Darryl Boston, Joe Orsulak, Timo Perez, Darryl Hamilton. Ryan McConnell is thinking along similar lines, asking if Endy is the best role player in Mets history.
POP CULTURE: Some Good May Come of Imus Imbroglio*
The Imus controversy has had a number of ripples, including the car accident that nearly killed the Governor of New Jersey. But now we see the opening of a door that just might lead to some good:
Prominent U.S. hip-hop executive Russell Simmons Monday recommended eliminating the words "b___h," "ho" and "n____r" from the recording industry, considering them "extreme curse words."
Simmons, co-founder of the Def Jam label and a driving force behind hip-hop's huge commercial success, called for voluntary restrictions on the words and setting up an industry watchdog to recommend guidelines for lyrical and visual standards.
Good for Russell Simmons, one of the few people with enough clout and enough credibility to make something like this happen.
* - YMMV as to whether this story was an imbroglio, a kerfuffle or a brouhaha.
WAR/POLITICS: McGovern Agrees With Cheney
In response to Dick Cheney's recent comparison of today's Democrats to the McGovernites of 1972, George McGovern himself responds:
I do agree with Cheney: Today's Democrats are taking positions on the Iraq war similar to the views I held toward the Vietnam War.
Of course, this moment of candid agreement comes in the middle of a long, screedy op-ed basically reiterating that McGovern and Cheney don't agree on very much. But inasmuch as this is virtually the only point in the op-ed where McGovern deals with the specific charge levelled by Cheney, it's a significant concession.
WAR: The Anti-Sarkozy Vote
BUSINESS: Does Not Compute
Um, yeah. Riiiiiight.
April 23, 2007
WAR: A Foolproof Idea
What could possibly go wrong with Russia building floating nuclear plants that admittedly "could be sold to other nations."?
That has "next season on 24" written all over it, to say nothing of the "Perfect Storm Meets the China Syndrome" aspect. I mean, I'm all in favor of more nuclear power, but this strikes me as (1) the kind of thing that ought not to be mobile and (2) probably not the kind of project the Russians are likely to get right before anybody else has tried it.
POLITICS: Fair and Balanced
French pick woman to face rightist in prez race
Royal, 53, perfectly coiffed and dressed in a chic white suit, urged supporters last night to choose a path to a "new France" that cultivates "human values" and cares for the less fortunate.
Many are predicting violence anew if Sarkozy is elected. Some voters blamed a strong anti-Sarkozy vote for yesterday's unprecedented 84% voter turnout.
But can a woman be elected president of chivalrous France, where Chirac still routinely greets women - even German Chancellor Angela Merkel - with a kiss on the hand?
But the press has no agenda. Just reporting the facts.
April 20, 2007
BASEBALL: Being Manny
Fascinating profile of Manny Ramirez in the New Yorker, built - predictably enough - around the unknowability of Manny. There's a lot in here I had not read before, from the fact that Manny doesn't keep track of the count except to know when there are two strikes and named his first two sons by different women Manny Jr. to what Dan Duquette is doing now (running the Israel Baseball League). David Ortiz also doesn't exactly mince words about Manny. Manny clearly works extremely hard, and follows one of the cardinal rules of baseball eccentrics, which is to tell different stories to different reporters when he speaks at all. The piece does leave out the time Manny cost the
Ben McGrath writes that Boston writers "cover baseball the way affairs of state are covered in Washington," which I would amend to say that the Boston sports media is probably best described as like the political media in a town where all the elected officials belong to one party and all the writers to the other one.
BASEBALL: Day at the Fens
April 19, 2007
WAR: Black Gold, Mosul T, Kirkuk Crude
There may be a lot more oil in Iraq than previously thought. (Via Drudge). That could be very bad news for severely oil-dependent economies like Iran and Venezuela, and good news for the free government and people of Iraq:
Iraq could hold almost twice as much oil in its reserves as had been thought, according to the most comprehensive independent study of its resources since the US-led invasion in 2003.
POLITICS: Hillary and McCain
RCP looks at the gulf between Hillary's strong position in the polls and her weakness among the lefty "netroots," in large part driven by her stance on the war. In a lot of ways this mirrors John McCain, who is still polling OK but is almost friendless in the blogosphere. In McCain's case that may be due in part to the fact that
1. Bloggers are independent writers about politics
and thus he may be disproportionately unpopular with bloggers. I think it's at least partly the case that there will be some convergence in each camp, although the presence of Obama does create a serious threat to Hillary that no other candidate could have mounted.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:28 PM | Politics 2008 | Poll Analysis | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Best Pitchers in Baseball 8/1/06-4/18/07
An interesting slice. I would not have picked Pettitte as #1. Note that tonight's Cubs starter, Rich Hill, looks to extend his string of elite pitching.
BLOG: 4/19/07 Quick Links
*There's a fair number of debates from the Virginia Tech shooting I don't have time to weigh in on now (there's the gun control issue; Glenn Reynolds aptly summarizes the case for less of it here, there's the university's reaction time, and there's the appalling spectacle of NBC News broadcasting the killer's videotape), though it seems the most important question is why it was so hard to get the killer out of circulation or at the very least on a list of people who should not be permitted to buy firearms, when he was giving off every sign of being a potential danger to himself and others and everyone around him saw those signs and several people tried to do something about it.
In all the horror I did find one moment of a little levity from this quote:
Briettney said her friend, who was shot in the knee, buttocks and shoulder, was expected to be all right. "The one day he goes to class, he gets shot three times!"
*All three of my fantasy baseball teams have Felix Hernandez. This is not good news for any of them. Perhaps letting him throw a 111-pitch complete game on a cold April night in Fenway in his last start was not such a good idea.
*I definitely did not see a Mark Buehrle no-hitter coming. The past four years, Buehrle has finished second, second, first and first in the AL in hits allowed.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:41 PM | Baseball 2007 | Basketball | Blog 2006-14 | Law 2006-08 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
April 18, 2007
BASEBALL: Good Start
Top of the sixth in Florida.
Mets, 8 runs, all charged to Dontrelle Willis, who was left in to finish the 5th even after allowing the last two runs.
Marlins, 0 hits.
UPDATE: John Maine pitches the sixth inning, Marlins' hit total does not change. Maine has thrown 85 pitches.
UPDATE: Miguel Cabrera leads off the seventh with a hit. 45 years later, the Mets still have never had a no-hitter.
April 17, 2007
Mark my words, before this season is out, Henry Owens will be the Marlins' closer. Owens has tough stuff and is off to a fine start, while Florida's imported closer, Jorge Julio, has been lit up like a Roman candle in the early going (19.06 ERA after this evening's shellacking). I give Julio until August at the lastest, but if he doesn't get untracked we could be talking May, not August.
BASEBALL: Might As Well Jump
In case you missed it when Bill Simmons linked to it last week: the YouTube video of Joey Gathright jumping a car. If Gathright was any good, the Royals would probably have a stroke watching this, but as it is, it's just entertaining.
He may not be much of a hitter, but Gathright is clearly one heck of an athlete.
POLITICS: John Edwards: Trust The Government To Do Your Taxes
"I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."
As if he needed to work harder to solidify the perception that he trusts the government to know everything in your life better than you do, John Edwards wants people to trust the IRS to do their taxes for them:
John Edwards is suggesting that the Internal Revenue Service prepare tax returns for 50 million Americans who have simple tax circumstances.
First of all, start with a mental picture of how exactly a federal agency produces an additional 50 million forms in just a few months, and if you form in your mind an image of smooth, flawless execution by white-lab-coated experts running superintelligent supercomputers, well, you haven't spent much time with bureaucracies.
Of course, the taxpayer will do one of two things with the IRS-prepared form: either check its accuracy, in which case it saves little or no time, or sign it unchecked and return it. Either way, the idea is pointless at best, unduly trusting of the competence and disinterest of the bureaucracy at worst - to say nothing of the infantilizing assumption that people should have yet another thing done for them at public expense.
As Jim Geraghty notes, Edwards is imitating a California program, but there are reasons to believe that this program, ReadyReturn, is not trusted by a lot of taxpayers: only 22% of respondents used it:
At the delightfully unsubtle URL taxthreat.com, the ReadyReturn opponents touted a poll that found that 67% of respondents opposed the program, that 7% of respondents trusted a state agency to prepare their taxes, and that 81% preferred "an independent tax preparer."
The tax code is indeed too complicated, but the answer is less complexity and offering people at least the option to use a simplified flat-tax* form, not having the government pass the rules and then interpret them for its own benefit.
* - By which I mean "flat" as in "without deductions/exemptions" - flattening out the tax rates being a separate issue that goes more to the growth vs. progressivity debate than to tax simplification.
April 16, 2007
BASEBALL: 2007 NL West EWSL Report
The fifth of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. EWSL is explained here, and you should read that link before commenting on the method; 2007 revisions to the age adjustment discussed here and rookie adjustments here). Bear in mind as always that (1) EWSL is a record of past performance, adjusted by age to give an assessment of the available talent on hand; it is not an individualized projection system; (2) individual EWSL are rounded off but team totals are compiled from the unrounded figures; and (3) as demonstrated here and here in some detail, nearly all teams will win more games than their EWSL total because I'm only rating 23 players per team. Further disclaimers and explanations are in my AL East preview here; my AL Central preview is here, AL West is here, and NL East here.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Raw EWSL: 220 (73 W)
Also in the mix: Hong-chih Kuo, if he can get healthy, should be in there with Billingsley and the veteran Hendrickson to step into the rotation. Prospect Andy LaRoche is close to ready at 3B. Also Jason Repko, Yhency Brazoban, Tim Hamulack, and Ramon Martinez.
The Dodgers are unlikely to score as many runs as last season without JD Drew and Kenny Lofton's contributions (Gonzalez is nearing the end of the line, and Juan Pierre in his prime is still a poor offensive substitute for Lofton even at his advanced age, though he will compensate a bit with his glove for Lofton's terrible defense in CF), so much will ride on the health of veterans Garciaparra and Kent and the productivity of last year's booming rookie class (Ethier, Martin, Kemp, James Loney, as well as Billingsley, Kuo, Saito and Broxton on the pitching staff). On the other hand, the bench is deep. Dodgers are the clear though not heavy favorites in the West.
San Diego Padres
Raw EWSL: 198 (66 W)
The Padres have their own age issues with Brian Giles, Cameron, Maddux and Hoffman. Obviously the bullpen is deep and off to a flying start, as among other things we will see whether Heath Bell finally makes good on his abilities. I would expect Cruz to take Sledge's job at some point. The key guys on this team may be Marcus Giles and the slugging Kouzmanoff, who have the ability to create a powerful offensive infield, especially if San Diego can squeeze a little more out of the 27-year-old Greene. I expect Peavy to rebound strongly from 2006; nothing in his numbers last season reflected a real falloff in ability, just a failure to perform to standards.
Raw EWSL: 175 (58 W)
Also on hand: Cory Sullivan, Denny Bautista, Tom Martin, Taylor Buchholz. I suspect that Colorado will have no better luck with Affeldt and Bautista than the Royals did; those guys need to get attention from someplace that isn't one of the two worst franchises in baseball to pitch for.
No, I don't actually expect Colorado to finish ahead of Arizona, but if rookies Ianetta and Tulowitzki live up to their projections from minor league success, the Rockies will have a very deep lineup; playing in Colorado you really need to lead the league in runs scored to finish much above .500, but this team could do that. The only offensive holes should be Matsui (who is hurt already, what a surprise) and Taveras. The rotation is also not as bad as some Colorado staffs of the past, though there's nobody here you would be happy to start in a posteason game.
The deal that was built around Jason Jennings for Taveras is an interesting one, philosophically. Jennings was the Rockies' ace, and he's pitched well already with the Astros, but is also missing time this week with elbow tendinitis, lending credence to the idea that Coors ages pitchers in dog years. Taveras is basically a poor man's Juan Pierre, one of the fastest men in the game brought in almost solely for the value his glove will bring in Coors' cavernous center field. This deal could be a disaster, or it could work if you think that Jennings is damaged goods or that the value of good center field defense in Coors (given how many potential extra base hits are put into play) is a core survival issue for the team.
If you believe the latter, however, why would you employ a 42-year-old Steve Finley?
Raw EWSL: 146 (49 W)
Micah Owings has pitched well in the rotation so far, and also on hand are JD Durbin and Brian Barden. I gave subjective bumps up for Drew (from 8 to 11) and Hairston (from 1 to 9) to reflect increased playing time/opportunity.
EWSL punishes the D-Backs for the lack of star power in their lineup (my guess is that Chad Tracy has an up year this year with the bat, Hudson and Byrnes have down ones), a lack of depth in proven quality pitchers, and the heavy mileage on Johnson, Hernandez and Davis. Hairston is something of a wild card but once healthy, Quentin will get playing time from someone.
San Francisco Giants
Raw EWSL: 215 (72 W)
Tod Linden is also on hand at present, and star pitching prospect Tim Licencum should make his presence known later. The Giants' rebuilding/youth movement is well under way in their rotation - Cain, Lowry, and Licencum should provide plenty of upside in years to come, with Zito (still under 30 and signed for 7 years) anchoring the staff. I expect a good year from Zito, with the switch of leagues probably making 2007 the best season of his outrageous contract.
Beyond the rotation, evidence of the rest of the Giants' roster can be obtained from archaeologists - I mean, look at the age of their double play combination and their outfield. In fact, that age alone makes me more skeptical about Zito and the other starters (although last year's Giants barely missed second in the NL in defensive efficiency on balls in play, and thus far this season they are not too far from last year's pace, albeit well behind the league). There is simply no sign that San Francisco has even started the rebuilding job in the lineup, which is why it should be years before they can field a strong contender. The quality of their young pitchers contrasted with the deperate state of their lineup makes the decision to commit all those resoruces to Zito all the more bizarre.
The best they can hope for is a solid showing in a tight division where nobody wins 90 games. And, as usual in recent years, if Bonds goes down the Giants plunge deep into the cellar.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:15 PM | Baseball 2007 | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
April 13, 2007
BASEBALL: HGH Doesn't Work?
I have long been skeptical of people who say steroids don't help in baseball; as I have previously explained, for that to be true you have to show either that (1) steroids don't help you get stronger or (2) strength doesn't help you as a baseball player. I don't buy either one.
BASEBALL: Low Scoring
Scoring is way down thus far this season:
For those of you who are picky about such things, the 2006 figures for Avg/Slg/OBP are batting figures, the HR/BB/K numbers are pitching figures. The distinction is irrelevant for 2007 stats since there have been no interleague games yet.
There are a number of reasons why scoring tends to be low quite this early, the main ones being (1) cold weather, (2) extra days off means more games started by #1 starters and few yet by #5 starters, and (3) injuries and fatigue as the season progresses tend to hit pitchers harder than hitters. It's been an unusually cold April, so that is probably a major reason why.
Still, if the trend continues a few more weeks it may bear watching. Note that both batting average in general and home runs in particular are down very sharply, while K and BB rates are largely unchanged.
UPDATE: I see Pinto had the same thought this morning, and compares apples to apples with the scoring through this point last season.
BASEBALL: Today's Trivia Quizzes
1. Who holds the record for most strikeouts (as a batter) while winning the MVP award?
2. Even more endangered these days than the 300-game winner is the 200-game loser. Tom Glavine needs 8 more losses to reach 200; name the only other four pitchers to enter the league since 1970 to lose 200 or more games.
UPDATE: By the way, last night's victory raises Glavine to precisely 100 games over .500 for his career (292-192), and 1 game over for his Mets career (50-49).
Read More »
1. Ryan Howard, 181 in 2006. The previous record was held by Sammy Sosa.
2. Bert Blyleven, 250 losses; Frank Tanana, 236 losses; Charlie Hough, 216 losses; Greg Maddux, 204 losses. And note that Blyleven and Hough started in 1970 and Tanana in 1973.
« Close It
April 11, 2007
POLITICS: Chris Dodd Can't Do Anything Right
Of course, this assumes that anybody remembers that Dodd has announced a 2008 presidential bid at all.
BASEBALL: Early Yet
But in his matchup with Dice Matsuzaka, Felix Hernandez has thrown five innings against the Red Sox. And the Red Sox do not have a hit.
I should add that he has also not allowed a run, unlike Oliver Perez who left tonight's game having allowed three runs on one hit - and 7 walks.
UPDATE: Seeing as how I have King Felix on all three of my fantasy teams, I'm not exactly excited by the possibility of him trying to throw a complete game on a cold night in April in Boston. Then again, he is pitching on 8 days' rest due to the snowstorms in Cleveland. But say this much, Matsuzaka's first two starts have produiced plenty of drama in the matchups.
UPDATE: Six innings. Cerrone must be envious. Somewhere, Bob Murphy is too.
UPDATE: Felix gets Youkilis, Ortiz and Manny up next in the seventh. This is the big test.
UPDATE: He gets Ortiz and Manny. Wow. Felix has thrown 85 pitches, so he should at least go 8.
UPDATE: JD Drew breaks it up to lead off the 8th.
UPDATE: Hernandez finishes with a 1-hit shutout, throwing 111 pitches and finishing by striking out Youkilis with Ortiz on deck.
POP CULTURE: Sticks and Stones
So the Rutgers women's basketball team held a team press conference yesterday to respond to Don Imus:
Rutgers' outraged coach, C. Vivian Stringer, wiped away tears as she recounted her own battles with racism and said she won't let Imus "steal our joy."
The decision to hold this press conference is a horrible failure of leadership on the part of Stringer and anyone else in the athletic and academic establishment at Rutgers who let this happen.
To recap, for those of you just tuning in, radio 'shock jock' Don Imus is in hot water, and justifiably so, for referring to the Rutgers women's hoops players as "nappy headed hos," and a fair debate is to be had as to whether this proves that Imus is
(a) a racist and/or sexist;
I'm not here to defend Imus, as his remark was indefensible, and besides, Imus endorsed and relentlessly touted Kerry in 2004, so let the Left defend him. On the other hand, as I have long argued, not everything that is indefensible is necessarily a capital crime. Imus has, appropriately, been given a two-week suspension for the same reason you hit the dog with a rolled-up newspaper when he poops on the living room rug. Whether he should be fired depends on what you think more generally about shock-jock radio, since this kind of thing is basically an occupational hazard of employing people like Imus. Of course, there's also the fact that Imus isn't funny (granted, I've never been a regular listener, and I first heard him around 1980 so I may be selling his early work short, but in my book a guy who is unfunny for going on three decades is not funny).
But here's the thing: whether or not they think they are just in the business of winning ballgames, college coaches are role models to their players. College students are at a particularly impressionable stage in their lives: finally old enough to first start to see adults as peers rather than distant authority figures, they naturally begin to model themselves on whomever they meet that most impresses them. Most college athletes - and I assume this is true of the Rutgers women as well - will not become professional athletes, and thus are preparing themselves for life and jobs in the real world. It is incumbent on their coaches to teach them lessons that will help them there.
Imus' remarks were crude and ugly, but the lesson Stringer should have been sending these young ladies is that they say a lot about Imus but nothing about them. Different people handle these things differently, but a coach worth his or her salt could have played this at least two perfectly reasonable ways. One is to laugh it off with the traditional "sticks and stones" attitude, and show the players that this really shouldn't mean anything to them; there will always be people who say inappropriate and mean-spirited things in life, and you shouldn't take that seriously. A more combative personality of the Bobby Knight variety would respond by taking some personal public potshots at Imus, drawing the story away from the players and into coach vs. shock jock; this would teach the players the valuable lesson that when somebody sucker punches your people, you hit them back in kind and teach them a lesson.
What you do not do is call a press conference like this:
"I want to ask him, 'Now that you've met me, am I ho?'" said Rutgers center Kia Vaughn of the Bronx. "Unless they've given 'ho' a whole new definition, that's not what I am."
Somebody gave these young women the message - or at least failed to disabuse them of the notion - that they should take Imus' words seriously, take them to heart. This press conference was a show of the coach and the players wallowing in Imus' words, embracing them, and thus elevating them as if any serious person would think less of them - rather than of Imus - for what Imus said. This story should never have been about the players, because Imus' words were generic (indeed, that's precisely why they were offensive). It's the Culture of Victimology at its most destructive, teaching these young women that they should consider themselves to have been genuinely maligned by an aging boor and to seek out the status and posture of one to whom a deep wrong has been done and who is owed.
Put more succinctly, when someone calls you a 'nappy headed ho,' you should not feel the need to call a press conference to deny it. Maybe these young women don't know that - but if they don't, it was the business of someone in a position of authority to teach them. Shame on Vivian Stringer and Rutgers University for failing to teach them that.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 AM | Basketball | Politics 2007 | Pop Culture | Comments (26) | TrackBack (0)
April 9, 2007
LAW: Preposition Trouble
CNN header on the front page: "Howard K. Stern hires lawyer in JonBenet case".
The actual story shows that Stern - of Anna Nicole Smith fame, not the radio shock jock - hired the lawyer from the JonBenet case. As in, a guy who represented the Ramseys. But to read the headline you would think he was a suspect in the JonBenet case, a combination that would keep the tabloids in business for centuries.
BASEBALL: Don't Believe All The Hype
Royals super-prospect Alex Gordon is hitting .050.
Will Gordon be a great player? Quite possibly. A good one? Quite likely. Will he be the AL Rookie of the Year? He's still as likely as anybody.
For all that, a reminder that jumping from AA to the big leagues isn't a seamless transition. Gordon should still have a fine year on the way to a fine career, and fortunately for him the Royals are likely to be patient with him and not bail after a bad week or two, but it's not really that unlikely that he will be hitting .225 at the All-Star Break, either; it happens to the best of rookies. (Here's just one example that pops to mind of a great hitter who had some early struggles in a fine rookie season).
POLITICS: Edwards and Sullivan
Last Wednesday I noted a story by the WaPo "Sleuth" blogger showing that John Edwards' campaign was harvesting the names of people sending emails of support to Edwards' cancer-stricken wife for Edwards' campaign fundraising list. Andrew Sullivan linked to my post, with a post consisting entirely of the following text:
A swipe at Edwards and a defense. Count me among the latter.
Bizarrely, Sullivan linked for "a defense" to the very Sleuth article I linked to. I have no clue what he's talking about - the Sleuth item contained the Edwards campaign's terse response, but not any sort of real denial.
Anyway, today the Sleuth reported that Edwards has modified the form to include what the Sleuth describes as "an "opt-out" option" but actually appears from the factual description to be an opt-in option; either way, a tacit admission that they couldn't defend the prior practice. Sullivan hasn't responded, so I still have no idea what he was talking about or why he thinks it's OK to hit people up for campaign cash when they are just offering sympathy.
POP CULTURE: B.C. RIP
Josh notes the passing of B.C. creator Johnny Hart, who suffered a fatal stroke (at age 76) while working on his comic strip: "the dude died at his drawing board. That's hardcore."
As Josh notes, B.C. was a deeply idiosyncratic strip, with thick and sometimes impenetrable doses of Hart's Christianity and a lot of running gags, most of which were not funny. I bought a book of B.C. strips some years back; when Hart was on he could, in fact, be both funny and thoughtful, even though a lot of what he did wasn't really my cup of tea. I agree 100% with Josh that the strip shouldn't be continued by Hart's family.
BASEBALL: Making 'Em Count
Highly touted D-Backs rookie Chris Young is struggling mightily at the plate, batting .192/.346/.214 - but has driven in 9 runs in 7 games.
BLOG: Swimming the Amazon
52-year-old Slovenian swimmer Martin Strel has set a world record by swimming the length of the Amazon River - but somehow, this article just doesn't make it sound like much fun:
By Thursday evening, he was struggling with dizziness, vertigo, high blood pressure, diarrhea, nausea and delirium, his Web site said. But despite having difficulty standing and being ordered by the doctor not to swim, Strel was obsessed with finishing the course and insisted on night swimming.
He said he was lucky to have escaped encounters with piranhas, the dreaded toothpick fish, which swims into body orifices to suck blood, and even bull sharks that swim in shallow waters and can live for a while in fresh water.
Cramps, high blood pressure, diarrhea, chronic insomnia, larvae infections, dehydration and abrasions caused by the constant rubbing of his wet suit against his skin frequently tormented him.
Why? Because it was there, I guess.
BASEBALL: No Dice
The Hated Yankees can't be happy with their starting pitching thus far - five games into the season, they have yet to have a starter throw more than 5 innings or allow fewer than 4 runs, and against Tampa and Baltimore, no less. The most disturbing performance had to be Saturday's outing by the new Japanese import, Kei Igawa, getting tagged for 7 runs by the Orioles.
On the other hand, Yankee fans and Yankee haters alike will have to stretch long and hard after Saturday's come-from-behind, walk-off grand slam by A-Rod to claim that he never comes through in the clutch. I think I may have run these numbers before, but A-Rod has played 35 career postseason games, and entering the 9th inning of the 23d of those games (Game Four of the 2004 ALCS), his career postseason line was .375/.670/.421 with a 162-game pace for 120 Runs, 113 RBI and 21 SB. His "choke" tag is based almost entirely on the 44 bad at bats that followed.
April 7, 2007
BASEBALL: Switching Hands
BASEBALL: Getting in the Mood
Mike Pelfrey is pitching in A ball today to prepare for his next start against the Nationals.
Do I need a punchline?
April 6, 2007
Since late July 2005, only four major league players have been caught stealing more than 17 times. This in and of itself is testimony to the startling conservatism of major league baserunners these days - the stolen base really is a dying art - but of those four, three have produced prime time steals numbers to offset the cost of running - Jose Reyes (93 SB, 26 CS, 78.1% success rate), Juan Pierre (86 SB, 29 CS, 74.8% success rate), and Chone Figgins (82 SB, 27 CS, 75.2% success rate). The game's other elite base thief, Carl Crawford, has gone 71-13 (84.5%) in that stretch.
That leaves us the fourth player: Scott Podsednik. Podsednik has been caught 35 times to only 50 steals, a 58.8% success rate, including twice in three attempts this season. For any other player, you'd say he should just stop running at that point - but running is nearly Podsednik's whole value, with a .268/.354/.333 batting/slugging/OBP line over that time period while playing left field. If he doesn't shape up on the bases very soon, it may be high time for the White Sox to just stop playing him.
BASEBALL: Blame-Rod and the Rays
The Yankees lose their first game of the season, and as day follows night, A-Rod's picture appears on the back page of the Daily News and the NY Post. Note that two games into the season, A-Rod has singled, stolen second and scored the winning run in the late innings of a tie game only once.
Meanwhile, Elijah Dukes - initially thought to be up just to spot the Devil Rays outfield until Rocco Baldelli healed - homered again, which will undoubtedly increase the pressure and temptation to keep Tampa's second stud outfield prospect in the majors along with Delmon Young and the fully-matured-to-stardom Carl Crawford. Baldelli is too good to go the Wally Pipp route, but this creates an interesting dilemma for Tampa on two levels. First, do you turn Baldelli into a DH? He's a solid glove man but with his health record that may be a necessity. Second, what about Jonny Gomes, who despite last season's injury-marred disaster has as much power and patience as anyone in the Tampa lineup? Do you try to turn Gomes or Baldelli into a first baseman to replace Ty Wigginton, who is a useful sub but not enough of a hittter to hold an everyday job at first? Probably the best bet would be to keep Gomes as the everyday DH for now and hope you can trade him, or maybe deal Baldelli for a serious first baseman.
(Amusing note: having Ben Zobrist on my fantasy team, I was stunned to see he stole two bases yesterday with Andy Pettitte on the mound, but I checked the play-by-play and sure enough one was a steal of third and the other was immediately after Pettitte left the game).
April 5, 2007
BASEBALL: The Early Lead
If you think, as I do, that the Phillies are the bigger threat in the NL East, you may be comforted by the fact that they are already three games behind the Mets.
If not, there's the fact that the Braves and Mets are tied.
BASEBALL: Broom, Broom, Broom
You can't get even in April for a loss in the postseason, but it was nonetheless satisfying to see the Mets dismember the defending World Champion Cardinals this week. It was doubly amusing (given how the World Series played out) to see them undone in significant part by appalling outfield defense (surprisingly, mostly not involving DH Chris Duncan). And the Mets have showcased some solid starting pitching and really tremendous work up the middle by Reyes, Valentin and (of course) Beltran.
It's a long season, but 3-0 and a 2.5 game lead over the Phillies is a good start.
BASEBALL: 2007 NL East EWSL Report
The fourth of six division previews, using Established Win Shares Levels as a jumping-off point. EWSL is explained here, and you should read that link before commenting on the method; 2007 revisions to the age adjustment discussed here and rookie adjustments here). Bear in mind as always that (1) EWSL is a record of past performance, adjusted by age to give an assessment of the available talent on hand; it is not an individualized projection system; (2) individual EWSL are rounded off but team totals are compiled from the unrounded figures; and (3) as demonstrated here and here in some detail, nearly all teams will win more games than their EWSL total because I'm only rating 23 players per team. Further disclaimers and explanations are in my AL East preview here; my AL Central preview is here, AL West is here.
New York Mets
Raw EWSL: 243 (81 W)
I've been super-conservative with the Mets projections, leaving Pedro Martinez, Duaner Sanchez, Guillermo Mota and Juan Padilla entirely out of the picture. Also on hand is sidearming rookie ROOGY Joe Smith to replace Chad Bradford, plus David Newhan, Anderson Hernandez and an unusual number of guys with major league track records or who are as major league ready as they will ever be in the wings: Jorge Sosa, Aaron Sele, Chan Ho Park, Jon Adkins, Dave Williams, Jason Vargas, Anderson Hernandez, and Ben Johnson (Alay Soler, who looked to be in the same boat, was cut in the spring and has been snapped up by the Pirates).
The Mets should justifiably be the favorites this year, despite the fact that numerous key players are unlikely to repeat last season (especially Lo Duca, Chavez, Valentin and Feliciano). They still have the young core of Wright and Reyes, they still have Beltran and Delgado, and the pitching staff, if healthy, should be adequate despite the palpable absence of a legitimate #1 starter.
Raw EWSL: 212 (71 W)
Also on hand on the pitching side: Fabio Castro, Clay Condrey, and at AAA Scott Mathieson.
It's worth noting here that Howard, Utley and Rollins, the Phillies' core offensive players, are (respectively) three, four and four years older than David Wright, Jose Reyes and Miguel Cabrera, who in turn are a year older than Brian McCann and Hanley Ramirez, who in turn are a year older than Ryan Zimmerman (Burrell is two years older than Utley and Rollins). Granted, the key pitchers (Hamels and Myers) are younger than that, but this is not an up-and-coming team relative to the rest of the division; their future is now.
That said, the present looks solid - Hamels and Myers give them the chance to have the best 1-2 pitching punch in the division, the talent on hand is mostly prime-age, and the rotation and lineup have soft spots but no glaring holes. The Phils would be division favorites but for the disastrous Bobby Abreu deal, which leaves them with a significantly weaker outfield than the Mets or Braves, both of whom have an anchoring superstar in center. Even without Abreu, they should give the Mets a serious rival.
Raw EWSL: 145 (48 W)
Also on hand: Cody Ross, Eric Reed, Reggie Abercrombie, Henry Owens, and Nate Field. Jorge Julio has solved the question of who would claim the Marlin closer job, but don't be surprised to see Owens grab a significant late-inning role - the Mets gave up on him due to a single bad outing last season, but Owens has some nasty stuff.
I'm applying the subjective adjustments here downward - Josh Johnson down to 9 WS to reflect his injury status, Ramirez to 27 and Uggla to 22 to reflect the problem I identified with Melky Cabrera in the Yankees comment of over-projecting improvement based upon one single season of play. In Uggla's case, I just don't think he can improve on last season; Ramirez may really be a 36-WS player someday but I don't see him taking that dramatic a step forward all at once. Without those adjustments, this would be listed as the first-place team.
Two main questions linger about the Marlins, those being the pitching staff and the outfield. On the former, Dontrelle Willis will be solid, but we don't know if he will return to his elite status from 2005, and almost everyone else in the rotation is still a seriously unknown quantity. As to the latter, Willingham is dependable but we don't know what direction the injured Jeremy Hermida will go in (Hermida has major offensive talent but hasn't hit the ball with authority in the bigs yet) or what to make of de Aza, the latest center field experiment (the presence of Alex Sanchez should tell you all you need to know about the Marlins' own uncertainty at that position).
My guess is that this is the year that Cabrera becomes a really big time 40+ home run hitter.
Raw EWSL: 182 (61 W)
Also on hand: Pete Orr, Kyle Davies, Mike Hampton (both injured), Chad Paronto, Tanyan Sturtze, Tyler Yates, and Peter Moylan. I used subjective adjustments to bump up both Thorman and Kelly Johnson to 8 WS to reflect the fact that their EWSL numbers reflect very little playing time; 8 is a conservative measure but I try to limit the size of the subjective adjustments when possible, since they are based on pure speculation (plus, Thorman will be platooned with Craig Wilson, while Johnson may well lose his job to Aybar once Aybar is healthy). Either way, Atlanta's offense will miss Marcus Giles and Adam LaRoche; I have trouble seeing this as an elite offensive team.
EWSL still projects Francouer, solely on the basis of his youth, to develop significantly; I think that's possible but his strike zone judgment is so terrible that I can easily see him playing his last season as an everyday player around age 25.
On the whole, last season has stripped the Braves of the air of invulnerability that says that we just know that everything will turn out better for them than it looks on paper. Hudson in particular is now just another pitcher trying to make ends meet, and if Smoltz goes down, things get grim indeed. Oddly, the bullpen, last year's Achilles heel, could be an elite pen this year with the addition of Gonzalez and Soriano.
Raw EWSL: 94 (31 W)
I cut down Zimmerman, the most egregious of the 1-year guys, from 54 (!) win shares to a still-optimistic 30, but didn't bother with other subjective tweaks even despite Nick Johnson's injury; basically, this team will have to manufacture wins ex nihilo, because there is nearly no talent on hand with any kind of established track record you could rely on. You have to work really hard to lose 115 or more games - the odds say the Nationals catch some breaks somewhere and end up closer to 108 losses - but the Law of Competitive Balance is pretty much the only reason to think they won't lose that many. This will very likely be the worst team in baseball; there is hope for at least modest improvement in Tampa, Kansas City and Pittsburgh, but not Washington.
The infield will be much better off if Cristian Guzman can reclaim his 2006 form as early in the season as possible, and he appears well on his way. The thumping the Nats took for the first two and a half games of their series with Florida is indicative of the pitching, especially if John Patterson - their one potential quality starter - doesn't have a full, healthy season. It's gonna be a long summer.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:13 AM | Baseball 2007 | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
April 4, 2007
LAW: Not Really Injured
In a concurring opinion, Seventh Circuit judge (and Supreme Court short-lister) Diane Sykes calls foul on plaintiffs who claimed taxpayer standing to sue to block the Army from aiding the Boy Scout Jamboree (on grounds of the Scouts' rather bland and generic religious requirements) but didn't have the guts to take their position to its logical conclusion:
The district court held that Sec. 2554 violated the Establishment Clause and enjoined "the U.S. Secretary of Defense and his officers, agents, servants, employees and attorneys . . . from providing any aid to the Boy Scouts of America pursuant to 10 U.S.C. Sec. 2554, with the sole exception of aid provided or to be provided in support of the 2005 Jamboree that will take place from July 25 through August 3, 2005." (Emphasis added.) This order was dated June 22, 2005, and it notes that "[t]he injunction the plaintiffs are seeking specifically excludes the upcoming 2005 Jamboree." Whether the plaintiffs’ forbearance in this regard was the product of generosity, the spirit of compromise, or a desire to avoid the public relations fallout that would have attended their eleventh-hour scuttling of the 2005 Jamboree (if that’s what would have occurred), their conduct undermines any claim that they were suffering a grave constitutional injury. Constitutional litigation is legitimate only where there is a real injury and a legal remedy available to redress it. A willingness to postpone the remedy suggests that the plaintiffs' injury was not real but only a legal fiction to get their Establishment Clause claim before the court.
POLITICS: Chasing the Ambulance
Send a note of sympathy to Elizabeth Edwards, and you will be added to her husband's fundraising list.
POLITICS: Raise The H-1B Cap
Lost in the perennial debate about amnesties, guest workers and lettuce-pickers is the H-1B visa, an economically vital program to let highly educated professionals who already have jobs lined up to enter the country to do them:
There's currently an annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visas, which allow foreigners with a bachelor's degree in their area of specialty to spend up to six years working for companies in the United States. Up to 20,000 more visas are available for foreigners with advanced degrees from U.S. universities.
Whatever your thoughts on immigration more generally, these workers - many of them with advanced high-tech degrees and in great demand by U.S.-based businesses who are trying to onshore employees instead of offshoring facilities - are an exceptionally valuable economic resource our government should be encouraging. And as this year's H-1B lottery, which yet again was massively oversubscribed in record numbers from the very first day it opened (this Monday) shows, the dynamism of the U.S. economy is attracting far more of these workers than our government will permit into the country:
A spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services told CNET News.com on Wednesday that the estimated 150,000 petitions received by the agency as of Monday afternoon--and an as-yet uncounted number that came in on Tuesday--set a record for the first days of a new application round.
Yes, you read that right: more than half of the applicants just on the first day will be turned away. Some of those opportunities may not knock a second time.
POP CULTURE: Drugs Are Bad
WAR: McGovern's Book
Sooner or later I will have to read "All American: Why I Believe in Football, God, and the War in Iraq," by Ropb McGovern, a lawyer, former NFL player, and graduate of Holy Cross and of my high school's arch-rivals Bergen Catholic who left the Manhattan DA's office after September 11 to become a JAG lawyer in Afghanistan and Iraq (I linked to an interview with him here).
BASEBALL: Roto 2007, Part I
Apologies for the lack of original content here lately - life has been intervening more than usual. For those of you who are interested, I annually review my Rotisserie draft here on the site. Let's start with the main roto team, drafted March 31 - AL league, traditional roto rules (4x4, 12 teams, $260 for 23 slots, 10 reserves) - for what it's worth, last year's team finished fourth (in the money), though only because two teams dropped out of the money for failing to meet the 1000 innings requirement:
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My pitching looks very solid, my offense less so - while there aren't that many hitters I really overpaid for by more than a buck or two, the collective result of loading up on singles hitters is bound to bite me. Ideally, you don't just want playing time, you want guys who are capable of 20 HR and 70 RBI if they play, and I'm short on those - I'm too heavily invested now in Markakis. If Podsednik and Upton are healthy and hitting a month from now I will almost certainly try to deal Podsednik. Teixeira was one guy I wanted badly (he's on all three of my teams, as is Felix Hernandez; others I drafted on two teams include Lackey, Street, Lopez, Alex Gordon, Barry Bonds, Brad Hawpe, Ryan Freel, Takashi Saito, Matt Cain, and Michael Young). This is the first time I've drafted Pudge, but my older brother got Piazza for $17, which was a much better deal; I'm happier with Buck, who if he can hold off Jason LaRue should give me some good bargain HR and RBI. Stewart isn't that good anymore but should benefit from the injuries to Dan Johnson and Mark Kotsay. Payton at $2 was a bargain I couldn't pass up despite his injuries. I may regret using my last free cash on Pena while Andy Marte and Marcus Thames were still on the board as the last potential HR threats, but Pena is the first option for the Sox if a number of people get hurt (Drew, Manny, Ortiz, maybe even Crisp).
I love my pitching. I vowed not to blow $30 on a closer this year, but had to get Street at $26; he should have a fine year as long as the A's can score enough runs to be competitive. I don't love Verlander but he should be solid: he's healthy, throws 100 mph, throws strikes and pitches for a winning team. How bad can he be? Blanton I'm not a fan of at all, but he will give me innings that might otherwise go to some John Koronka type with a 6+ ERA. Rogers is a crapshoot but a cheap one. There was confusion at the draft (including by me) as to the severity of Lee's injury, but for $3 if he's back by mid-May he should be a steal. Grienke I'm very high on based on his good spring (last I checked he had a K/BB ratio of something like 21/2), and in his situation he was one guy whose spring stats bore close watching - I unloaded my last $7 on him. His teammate Gil Meche went for $5, proving that Roto owners are a flintier bunch of skeptics than MLB owners.
Now, the reserves:
Walker could be a steal if he slides into a Scott Hatteberg-type role as Oakland's 1B, whereas they cut Durazo and I will soon too. I was able to swallow Zambrano, who had an excellent spring, since he was buried in the reserve draft. Unusually, I didn't snag a backup catcher in the reserve draft, but instead loaded up on setup men (Riske is already looking like a guy who will get significant saves), plus Anderson as a warm body to slot in for Payton.
« Close It
April 3, 2007
POP CULTURE: KITT for Sale
You know you want it. They're asking $150K. Of course, some disclaimers are apparently thought necessary:
Although it cannot achieve the 300 mph speeds that KITT reached, soar 50 feet in the air or throw smoke bombs, key features of the star car are intact. Perhaps most important, the red scanner light on the nose glows and makes a humming noise.
Well, I'm glad they cleared that up. Of course, you will want the car David Hasselhoff drove before he ended the Cold War.
April 2, 2007
BASEBALL: Amusing Ad
LAW: On the Record
Patterico thinks the FBI should drop its resistance to taping interviews with suspects and witnesses. As he notes, there are practical reasons why you can't and shouldn't record every such interview, but no particularly good reason to have a blanket opposition to them.
In fact, the Scooter Libby case provided a good example of why - recall that, if I remember correctly, Libby was acquitted on the count of lying to the FBI that related to an interview that was not transcribed in contemporaneous notes produced at trial, even though the jury convicted him of what was apparently the same general statements to the grand jury. And there were signs that the jury simply didn't believe that Fiztgerald had proven beyond a reasonable doubt what Libby said in that interview.
Any lawyer who has ever gone back to a deposition or court transcript - or even a legal brief - knows that you sometimes come away recalling that something was said that wasn't, at least in so many words. That's why transcripts are invaluable. And it's why recorded interviews or videotaped confessions are, when practicable, a tremendous step forward for the system.
BASEBALL: Well Begun, Dunn
BASEBALL: Wright On!
NY Magazine has a long profile of David Wright, including how he views Derek Jeter as a role model and where women stand in his life these days:
"I don't want to put them in the same category as drugs, but women can be a ... a distraction," he says. "I have to remember, baseball is the reason I have my apartment, baseball is the reason I'm on the cover of video games-baseball is what I do. I'm not saying I don't ever ... I mean, I go on dates, but I'll just never let something like that become as important as the game. Not right now, at least."
I think I will not comment on that. On the other hand, Wright appears to have lost interest in his blog, not posting since the beginning of the NLDS last season.
BASEBALL: Fun with PECOTA
Baseball Prospectus' team PECOTA projections ($) have the Mets finishing third in the NL East in scoring, well behind Philly and Atlanta, but winning the division on the strength of the third-fewest runs allowed in the National League.
BP is - unsurprisingly, given the conservatism of their projections - projecting a real shortage of quality starting pitching, especially of the 200+ IP variety. You will have to login or buy the book to get the hard numbers, but PECOTA projects only the following starters to meet the most basic ERA/IP standards:
200+ IP, Sub-3.00 ERA
AL: Johan Santana
200+ IP, 3.00-3.99 ERA
AL: Jeremy Bonderman, Roy Halladay, John Lackey, CC Sabathia, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Curt Schilling
NL: Chris Carpenter, Jake Peavy, Brandon Webb, Roy Oswalt, Carlos Zambrano, John Smoltz
100-199 IP, 3.00-3.99 ERA
AL: Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver, Kelvim Escobar, Rich Harden
NL: Ben Sheets, Cole Hamels, Randy Johnson, Anthony Reyes, Adam Wainwright, Greg Maddux
200+ IP, 4.00-4.49 ERA
AL: Danny Haren
NL: Dontrelle Willis, Aaron Harang, Freddy Garcia
200+ IP, 4.50-4.99 ERA
AL: Jon Garland
BASEBALL: Best Record in Baseball
Certainly an encouraging start to the Mets' season last night, and particularly a good start against the Cardinals to beat Chris Carpenter with Kip Wells and - chortle - Braden Looper starting the next two games. It was much better than, say, 2005, when the Mets played a beautiful game on Opening Day only to have it spoiled by - say it again - Braden Looper blowing the game in the ninth in spectacular fashion.
The Mets drip-dripped Carpenter with singles right up the middle in the rally that let them pull away, before David Eckstein finally decided to just plant himself behind second base...some great defense by Jose Reyes last night as well. After his offensive breakout in 2006, one of the major questions of 2007 is whether Reyes can start putting up great defensive stats to match his tremendous tools - his quickness, athleticism and the best shortstop arm in the game. His numbers thus far haven't been impressive by most measures, though if Jose Valentin's bat holds up, it may help to finally stabilize second base - like his crosstown rival Derek Jeter, Reyes has suffered from a revolving door at second including some highly questionable gloves.
The one moment I didn't understand last night: 8th inning, 5-1 Mets, two men on, Joe Smith on the mound, Albert Pujols at bat, Smith throws his first pitch out of the strike zone. Smith throws his second pitch out of the strike zone. And I'm wondering: you have a raw rookie on the mound, a guy with 12.2 career innings above A ball, making his major league debut on the road on national television on Opening Day against the defending World Champions, best hitter in baseball at the plate, tying run on deck in the person of Scott Rolen, the one thing you don't want to do here is walk Pujols - yet, when Smith gets himself into this position, nobody goes to the mound to talk to him. Isn't that kind of what you pay a 35-year-old catcher to do, settle the kid down and focus him on making Pujols hit the ball? Instead, Smith walks him and the Mets had to get Aaron Heilman in the game to get Rolen.