"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
June 30, 2007
BASEBALL: Foot in Mouth
It seems pretty obvious that the latest Paul Lo Duca story is about Lo Duca ripping the media for being too lazy to talk to the Spanish-speaking platers, not his Spanish-speaking teammates. I don't know that that's accurate...either way, Lo Duca's fuse has gotten awfully short.
LAW: A Jury of One
POP CULTURE: It's The Shades
June 27, 2007
BASEBALL: Entry Level
An argument about what may be driving down signing bonuses. I think it's unsurprising if a shorter negotiating window gives more leverage to the teams.
BASEBALL: Scho Must Go
If there were any remaining doubts, last night's 11th-inning debacle, with Scott Schoenweis surrendering a game-winning home run to a rookie with zero career home runs, should make clear that it is time for the Mets to cut bait on Schoenweis. Extra inning games have a way of clarifying the fact that there's nowhere to hide bad pitchers on a major league roster.
Look, I know they spent good money on him, but Omar has shown a willingness in the past to cut his losses. And I know he is lefthanded, but with Wagner and Feliciano the Mets aren't exactly starved for lefty relievers. And I know that it would be easier to cut him if they could slot in Burgos, Sanchez or Padilla, none of whom will be available again for some time.
The fact is, not only is Schoenweis not pitching to anything like his usual standards, but those standards aren't any good anyway; he entered this season with a 5.01 career ERA and career rates of 9.56 H/9, 0.98 HR/9, 3.56 BB/9, and 5.12 K/9, none of them great numbers. You could replace him with a number of options: Jon Adkins had a 3.98 ERA last season and a 3.68 ERA at New Orleans; Adkins hardly inspires confidence but he has to be an improvement on Schoenweis. There's also Jason Vargas, who is as lefthanded as Schoenweis, although I'm not a Vargas fan either, and Steve Schmoll. Any one of these guys could come in with a decent chance of getting a few more outs than Schoenweis, plus they're all younger than he is.
(This would be the part where it is worth considering whether Heath Bell, Royce Ring or Henry Owens would come in handy, though Owens is still hurt. With the odd exception of Jorge Sosa, nearly none of the Mets' offseason moves this year worked out well, even ones like the Bannister-Burgos deal that looked really savvy at the time).
June 26, 2007
BASEBALL: Maybe Strat-O-Matic Can Use It
LAW: Good Legal News For Bloggers
The Second Circuit ruled, in today's decision in Best Van Lines, Inc. v. Walker, that making statements on an Iowa-based website about a New York-based moving company, responding to a question from a reader in New York, and accepting donations from New York readers does not subject the proprietor to jurisdiction in the New York courts under New York law. The court did not reach the issue of constitutional due process limitations on personal jurisdiction, and noted the limited scope of jurisdiction for defamation claims in the New York statute (a view influenced by the New York Times v. Sullivan case, which I have long cited as a significant horizontal-federalism case). For those who follow this issue closely, the court's skeptical treatment of the Zippo standard for jurisdiction will be interesting.
BASEBALL: The Gloves of Flushing
Another dramatic ending at Shea last night; this is exactly what the Mets needed, two blowouts and two walk-offs (at least Shawn Green could walk off; I had to leave the park on a dead run to get to the LIRR). I have to admit, I was still thinking that the Green of a few years ago would have put the game away with the drive he sent to left in the bottom of the 8th.
I was also very impressed yet again by Carlos Tres, as Gomez hit a bomb to left field for his first major league homer.
By the way, I was wondering Sunday, looking at Johan Santana's number 57 on the scoreboard, if his would someday be the highest number ever retired. According to Wikipedia (see also here for a list of NL retired numbers, and here for a list of AL), there have been four retired numbers 50 or higher: Jimmie Reese - Angels (coach), 50; Don Drysdale - Dodgers, 53; Carlton Fisk - White Sox, 72; and August Busch, Jr. - Cardinals (owner), 85.
The big story of last night is Jorge Sosa and his 3.79 ERA, from a pitcher who has finished a season below 4.62 only once. Coming into this season, Sosa's career averages were 1.38 HR/9, 4.22 BB/9, 5.81 K/9, and (by the back of the envelope measure) a .267 average on balls in play. In his one prior good year, 2005 in Atlanta under Leo Mazzone's tutelage, the numbers were 0.81, 4.30, 5.71 and .258, suggesting a combination of good defensive support and success keeping the ball in the park. This year, those figures are 0.76, 3.03, 5.16, and .242, suggesting much the same, albeit with better control. (His AAA numbers showed across the board dominance, 0 HR, 4 BB and 29 K in 32 IP). I can't predict whether that will continue - it's not likely, but it's not implausible that he could keep the homers under control for the remainder of the year.
But is that balls-in-play average just luck? The larger story is that the Mets defense has been quietly amazing. According to Baseball-Reference.com, only three major league teams have converted 71% or more balls in play into outs - the A's and Cubs, both at .714 (and two unlikely candidates, if you were guessing) and the Mets at .726. Amazingly, the Mets are first in the NL in batting average (a doubly impressive feat at Shea) and first in fewest hits allowed, despite unimpressive team pitching totals in walks (11th in the league), strikeouts (10th) and homers (9th). It's the defense, along with the league lead in batting and (by a large margin) steals holding them up.
But whose defense? If you look at range factors to see plays per game, the Mets are noticeably below the league average at two positions (first and left field) and way below at one (shortstop), but noticeably above average at two positions (right and center) and way above at only one (second). But range factors can be distorted by where the ball gets hit; ESPN's Zone Rating, which seeks to measure the number of plays compared to balls hit into a fielder's "zone" of the field, rates Jose Reyes second only to Omar Vizquel and way above the rest of the competition, rates Wright third in the majors at his position, Beltran fifth, Easley near the top half of the league and Valentin the bottom half, Delgado (!) above average, and Green near the league average.
As to Reyes in particular, I would not be surprised to see real progress - his defensive stats have lagged behind his reputation for a while now, but his quickness and one of the best shortsop arms in the game have to be somehow a part of the team's exceptional defensive play.
UPDATE: I have to say, I need a primer on how Zone Rating fits against team DER - I mean, ESPN is listing Zone Ratings of .885 for Delgado, .848 for Easley, .792 for Valentin, .903 for Reyes, .830 for Wright, .858 for Green, .906 for Beltran, and .804 for Alou - if those are percentages of balls turned into outs, and the team percentage is .726, then ESPN must be rating an awful lot of balls as not being in anybody's zone, which seems methodologically unsound.
A Hardball Times zone rating-based runs-saved analysis rates only one Mets defensive player among the top 3 at his position, rating David Wright as the best defensive player in baseball this year. Four Mets rate as having compiled at least 2 fielding Win Shares through June 15: Reyes (3.3), Beltran (2.8), Wright (2.2), and Lo Duca (2.1), with Reyes rating second only to Troy Tulowitzki among NL shortstops, Beltran trailing only Andruw Jones among NL outfielders and Wright trailing only Pedro Feliz among NL third basemen.
Am I missing something? For an additional sanity check I went to look at Baseball Prospectus' individual defensive stats, and couldn't find them.
June 25, 2007
BASEBALL: Good Character
Three awards are given annually to Major League Baseball players for some combination of merit and good character on and off the field. The Roberto Clemente Award, handed out since 1971, is given the player combining good play and strong work in the community. The Hutch Award, in honor of Fred Hutchinson, has been given out since 1965; it is "given to an active player who best exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire to win" and for displaying "honor, courage and dedication to baseball, both on and off the field." The Lou Gehrig Award, presented since 1955, "is presented annually to the Major League baseball player who both on and off the field best exemplifies the character of Lou Gehrig."
Although a number of players have won two of the three, six players have won all three. Without clicking the links above, can you name them? Answers below the fold.
Read More »
« Close It
BASEBALL: What A Difference Three Days Makes
The Mets certainly righted the ship in a hurry this weekend. I was out at Shea yesterday for the first time this year (job + kids makes it difficult, though I will be there tonight as well). A couple of thoughts:
1. The Mets absolutely ran the A's off the field with their speed. The place was electrified from Jose Reyes' game-opening inside-the-park home run. Yes, I know it was scored as a double and a two-base error by Jack Cust in right field, but when a guy circles the bases on a ball that doesn't leave the yard, it sure feels like an inside-the-park home run, and the Mets could have been forgiven if they'd raised the magic apple. (Cust had the reverse of Travis Buck's Saturday in right field; where Buck made a game-saving throw to nail Ricky Ledee at the plate but then overran David Wright's game-winning single in the bottom of 9 rather than take his time to grab the ball and make any kind of throw on the glacial Ramon Castro, Cust botched the throw on Reyes' ball in the first but then made a fine running catch on David Wright's drive to the right field line in the 8th after the game was out of reach). Carlos Gomez was everywhere, albeit running with a variety of savvy (dancing off second to guarantee the cutoff of a throw on a sac fly that scored Valentin in the 2d) and recklessness (stealing third with two outs in the same inning). Gomez also beat out an infield single in the 6th that only a handful of players in the game would even have made interesting, and made a leaping catch against the wall in the 5th. Poor Jason Kendall had two passed balls on top of the steal of third, although he did nail Reyes in the 4th.
2. Good signs Valentin's 3-run homer to break open the game in the 8th; Beltran gradually defrosting, especially Friday night; brilliant pitching all weekend.
3. At the park: I don't know why, watching on TV, I really haven't noticed the gigantic Dunkin Donuts cofee in left field, but it really makes left field look like a miniature golf hole...you definitely don't get the full effect on TV of how much construction is going on at Citifield and how close it is behind the outfield fences...a scary moment: my wife got the baby (now 15 months) off to nap and was sitting at the end of the row, and she then handed her off to me to go get ice cream for the kids. Two minutes later (we were sitting in the loge under an overhang behind home plate), a foul ball slammed right into her now-empty seat. I never even saw it coming, since there was a guy standing up in front of us during the play.
BASEBALL: 2007 All-Stars Part II
The rest of my All-Star ballot. Let's try, here, to vote in an outfielder at each position.
AL: Vladimir Guerrero (.353/.590/.439, 102 RBI). Sorry, fans of Magglio Ordonez (.334/.542/.398, 114 RBI), who might well be neck and neck with A-Rod for the MVP Award if the season ended today; Vlad is a superstar having his tenth straight great season. What would the All-Star Game be without him? Ordonez is a close runner-up.
NL: With the NL not exactly bursting with quality right fielders, I can't think of a more fitting honoree than Ken Griffey Jr. (.270/.533/.354, 79 RBI as a RF and CF the past year), third in the majors in home runs and having covered more than half the ground to his 600th homer before the end of June.
AL: Ichiro (.344/.449/.393, 47 RBI as a CF, .323/.423/.372, 62 RBI overall) has the star power and is hitting .364, Torii Hunter (.296 .337 .555, 108 RBI) still has the great glove and the power bat, and Curtis Granderson (.259/.466/.314, 67 RBI) is having a wonderful year, but let's face it: the dominant center fielder in the league, and a guy who is highly likely to win an MVP over the next few years, is Grady Sizemore (.283/.499/.385, 74 RBI). I give Sizemore the nod, if only narrowly over Ichiro.
NL: When originally voting, my son and I were debating the merits of Carlos Beltran (.271 .367 .523 , 103 RBI) and Andruw Jones (.217/.458/.339, 106 RBI), both of whom have run off the rails since then. If I'm insisting on a center fielder, I still take Beltran. Mike Cameron (.273/.485/.347, 89 RBI) continues to be an unsung star.
AL: Manny Ramirez (.324/.549/.425, 86 RBI) doesn't really have the numbers this year, and at 35 he might not catch up to the competition, but you have to give a guy with his resume the benefit of the doubt, and he's up to .300 this season. Carl Crawford (.301/.487/.352, 87 RBI) is probably a year away from surpassing Manny; the rest of the AL features precious few quality left fielders, Hideki Matsui being an obvious exception.
NL: By any objective measure, you put Barry Bonds (.286/.585/.464, 75 RBI) on the team, as a recognition of an all-time great who is still a devastating hitter. That said, I couldn't actually bring myself to vote for Bonds, so Matt Holliday (.333/.589/.394, 119 RBI), is probably the best alternative even when you account for the Coors Effect. Narrowly trailing Holliday are a bunch of fine sluggers - Carlos Lee (.306/.509/.355, 104 RBI), Adam Dunn (.254/.505/.359, 96 RBI), Alfonso Soriano (.294/.576/.364, 71 RBI), and Jason Bay (.276/.485/.366, 102 RBI).
AL: Johan Santana (19-8, 2.81 ERA) is the best pitcher in baseball, period. Danny Haren's been the best this season, but as I said, I don't just consider this the April-June All-Star Game.
NL I'd be inclined to tab Jake Peavy (16-8, 2.95 ERA), who is leading the NL in Wins and Strikeouts and a close third in ERA. If you look at the numbers you will see that his teammate Chris Young is also on a great run, though.
June 22, 2007
BASEBALL: 2007 All-Stars, Part I
In theory, I prefer to see the All-Star Team populated by the best players in the game, regardless of whether they happen to be having the best year. After all, nobody looks back and says, "gee, Willie Mays shouldn't have been on the All-Star Team in such-and-such year because Jim Hickman had a great month of May." The opposite method leaves you with Jack Armstrong starting the All-Star Game. In practice, though, I look at this year's stats as much as anyone.
Before I fill in the lineups, let's start by making room on the roster for the guys the All-Star Game exists for: great players in their prime, having seasons that adequately reflect their greatness.
David Pinto's database gives a great way to put the early numbers in perspective because you can look back a full season at the press of a button, from today to this day last year. I'll use those numbers. I'm using his feature that isolates stats compiled at a particular position, which has the disadvantage of only listing RBI and not Runs. Let's cover the catchers and infielders now, get to the outfield later.
AL: The AL has four catchers who leap to mind - Joe Mauer (.324/.480/.411, 64 RBI) is the best in the league, but injured a lot this season; Pudge Rodriguez (.299/.455/.323, 72 RBI) has had the best career; Jorge Posada ( .306/.522/.374, 91 RBI) is a close second to both of them; and Victor Martinez has the best hitting numbers over the past year (.330/.501/.406, 89 RBI).
You probably need Pudge on the roster somewhere, but I'd give the starting nod to Posada because unlike Mauer he hasn't been injured. Honorable mention to Kenji Johjima, plus John Buck's hot start might get him a crack at a token spot if the Royals need a representative.
NL: Last I saw, Russell Martin (.286/.446/.357, 82 RBI) was leading LoDuca (.320/.413/.359, 45 RBI) in the balloting, but I still think Brian McCann (.296/.521/.349, 106 RBI) was the clear class of the field.
AL: The balloting here is complicated by including David Ortiz (.316/.652/.450, 108 RBI) as a first baseman; you gotta pick Big Papi. Selecting solely from the first base menu, I'd go with the MVP, Justin Morneau (.325/.574/.388, 122 RBI).
NL: Albert Pujols (.327/.594/.413, 119 RBI), or Ryan Howard (.298/.631/.439, 127 RBI)? I still think of Pujols as the best player in baseball, but it was neck and neck between the two in last season's MVP race...I break the tie with the fact that Pujols has been less disappointing this season (he's batting .306 now, compared to Howard at .247; both have similar power numbers) and has been this good for longer. Room will need to be made on the team for Prince Fielder (.269/.529/.363, 95 RBI); honorable mention to Adrian Gonzalez (.310/.526/.377, 106 RBI).
AL: Not a lot of competition for Robinson Cano (.310/.501/.342, 78 RBI), although Luis Castillo and Brian Roberts are both solid tablesetters.
NL: Orlando Hudson (.305/.489/.381, 82 RBI) is the best defensive 2B in the game and has come into his own with the bat - but there is only one best 2B in the National League, and his name is Chase Utley (.317/.554/.393, 115 RBI). Utley's 51 doubles and 31 homers are rare power indeed at his position. Still, it wouldn't be bad to see a little love for the long-underappreciated Ray Durham (.300/.529/.356, 103 RBI).
AL: Carlos Guillen (.337/.560/.411, 91 RBI) has the numbers, and Miguel Tejada (.322/.441/.372, 78 RBI) has the star power, but Derek Jeter (.346/.490/.412, 85 RBI) is still the obvious choice for the combination of the two.
NL: Jose Reyes (.317/.480/.380, 79 RBI), Hanley Ramirez (.317/.519/.374, 62 RBI), Jimmy Rollins (.288/.523/.339, 102 RBI), Rafael Furcal (.315/.463/.380, 62 RBI), and Edgar Renteria (.306/.467/.366, 76 RBI) are all fairly close on the numbers, with distinct advantages; Furcal may be the best glove, Renteria has the most good years behind him, Reyes is the best baserunner. I'm inclined to give the tie to the hometown Reyes, although I would probably pick Ramirez if pushed.
AL: No contest, Alex Rodriguez (.306/.610/.402, 141 RBI). I just picked my fourth Yankee for five positions; shoot me now.
NL: Just as many good candidates as the shortstops - Chipper Jones (.342/.692/.425, 73 RBI - otherwordly numbers, but in fewer than 400 healthy at bats) and Aramis Ramirez (.307/.587/.365, 115 RBI) are serious contenders, and David Wright, Garret Atkins and Ryan Zimmerman also have good numbers. But the logical heir to Pujols as the league's best player, if he stays healthy and in shape, is Miguel Cabrera (.337/.583/.419, 117 RBI). Gotta be Cabrera, he's a monster.
June 21, 2007
POLITICS: Finally, A Man Harry Reid Can Respect
Was it the pork? The filibusters against civil rights? The white sheet?
Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid calls Robert Byrd "this unusually brilliant man."
Well, that's a change of tune. Consider what Harry the Insult Comic Senator has had to say about a number of other distinguished public servants:
I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written. I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice.
Pace is also a yes-man for the President. I told him to his face, I laid it out last time he came in to see me. I told him what an incompetent man I thought he was.
I don't believe him. . . isn't in touch with what's going on in Baghdad.
Reid on Alan Greenspan: "one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington."
Reid on Bill Frist: "no institutional integrity"
Given the company, I'm quite certain I'd rather be criticized by Senator Reid.
LAW: Over the Line
June 20, 2007
POLITICS: Independent Mike and The First Law of Third Parties
So Mike Bloomberg's brief membership in the Republican party has ended, now that he made the cover of Time Magazine. (H/T)
Bloomberg and the GOP were always a marriage of convenience; a lifelong Democrat until he ran for Mayor, Bloomberg is your basic Northeastern centrist, liberal on social issues, fiscally moderate, but disdainful of the interest-group pathologies of the Democratic Party. The marriage made sense for both sides: Bloomberg needed a party and found an easier path in the GOP, which lacked longtime officeholders to get in his way; the GOP needed a successor who wouldn't dismantle the progress - especially on law enforcement - made by Rudy Giuliani, and wouldn't be beholden to the Al Sharptons of the world. By running as a Republican, Bloomberg made both sides happy, without ever really governing as a genuine Republican as opposed to a neoliberal. Now that he is term-limited from running again, the reason for the marriage has evaporated.
That said, the biggest winner from this announcement is Eliot Spitzer. Bloomberg would have been a formidable challenger for the governor's mansion, running as a self-financed, widely-known, moderate Republican with executive experience but no ties to Albany. I can't see him taking out an entrenched incumbent as an independent, and his decision to leave the party suggests a disinterest in going in that direction.
Speculation is rife, of course, that Bloomberg has his eye on national office. Think he will run even a semi-serious third party campaign for president? Think again. Remember the first, and perhaps only, rule of even modestly noteworthy third parties in our system: they must be organized around some issue on which the two major parties agree. The gravitational pull of the major parties is too strong to overcome simply by fielding a candidate who is charismatic (as the bloodless Bloomberg most assuredly is not - it's not that he lacks the warmth and empathy of Bill Clinton, it's that he lacks the warmth and empathy of Mike Dukakis) or who picks a different set of positions from the menu than either major party candidate. I've argued for some time that the sweet spot for an impact third party in 2008 would be anti-abortion, anti-war, anti-immigrant, anti-spending, anti-trade and perhaps anti-racial preferences - in short, a candidate with populist appeal to isolationist, socially conservative blue-collar voters - and almost none of that describes Bloomberg. I can't think of any issue on which he is likely to dissent alone from a consensus shared by the two major parties' nominees, and without that he would lack a rationale other than "let's elect a really, really rich guy."
Despite his various forays into nanny-state-ism, Bloomberg is, by New York City standards, not a bad mayor; like I said, he's a technocratic caretaker who has done a lot to consolidate Mayor Giuliani's gains. But he will not get 10% of the vote in any state in November 2008 if he runs.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:32 AM | Politics 2007 | Politics 2008 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Stealing Barrett
They haven't said yet for who, but looks like it could be a great deal for the Padres snagging Michael Barrett from the Cubs once Barrett's feuds with Carlos Zambrano and Rich Hill made his position untenable with the Cubs. It's the 1980s Mets trick: swoop in when a player has some problem with his team that makes him available on the cheap.
Who would have guessed that this season would be more painful for Barrett than last year, when he suffered an intrascrotal hematoma?
BASEBALL: Jeter and 4,000
The broadcasters on one of the Mets-Yankees games this weekend were discussing the fact that Derek Jeter entered this season with only 2 fewer hits than Pete Rose at the same age, 2152-2150. Which does, in fact, suggest that Jeter has an excellent shot to pile up a truly impressive career hit total.
But a few cautions are in order. First of all, Jeter is 32; Rose averaged 201 hits per year from age 33-39 and played regularly until age 42 and semi-regularly until age 45. That's a tall hill to climb. Second, look again at that list of comparables for Jeter - 10 players, 9 of whom (all but Gehringer) had at least 1900 hits at age 32, and only Rose made it to 3,000 hits; only Rose and Gehringer got 1,000 more hits. The one of the comps with the most hits is Roberto Alomar, who had 2196 hits through age 32, and not only didn't he make it to 3,000, but only one of his ten comparables did either, that being Robin Yount, who was basically washed up at 34. In fact, check out the all-time career hit leaders through age 32:
1. Ty Cobb 2713
You will notice that only Cobb, Aaron and Yount made it to 3,000.
Jeter, of course, is batting .341 after hitting .343 last season; he's showed no signs of slowing down that way (maybe afoot, as his steals are way down and GIDP are way up this year), and I do still think he will probably get to 3,000. But just bear in mind that (1) just as with 300 wins, it's what you do in your mid/late-thirties that really matters to getting to 3,000, (2) middle infielders have a notoriously poor track record of getting that far even with a big head start, and (3) it will take a really remarkable run for anyone to get to 4,000 hits, no matter how many years they stay with the pace.
One final note my older brother recently pointed out to me: another guy on these lists is Pudge Rodriguez, who may well have an outside shot to be the first catcher to 3,000 hits, and will likely end with the career record for hits by a catcher (unsurprisingly, since Pudge started at 19, has always carried a heavy workload, rarely walks or gets hurt, and even in his declining years still hits for a good average).
POLITICS: What Are You, On Crack?
No, I can't really top Ace on the Thomas Ravenel story.
Tough week for Rudy Giuliani - Ravenel was the top elected official in his South Carolina campaign, while tops in Iowa was Jim Nussle, who is now headed to DC to be the Budget Director.
June 18, 2007
BASEBALL: All On The Big Man
After winning 2-0 on Friday night and at least putting up a fight on Saturday, the Mets just got steamrolled by Chien-Ming Wang last night. Which, even despite the game-and-a-half lead they still hold in the NL East, brings us to the core of the problem: Carlos Beltran. Yes, it's been (besides Wright) largely a team-wide struggle lately, and yes, the 35 year old Carlos Delgado and his surgically repaired wrist have been scuffling all year. But Beltran is THE guy who needs to step it up right now. He's still the team's best player, and by a fair margin its highest paid. He's a veteran but still in his prime. He had a monster April, and unlike two years ago there doesn't appear to be anything physically wrong with him (though you have to wonder). Yet since May 1, while Wright and Lo Duca are hitting well (.301/.589/.368 and .333/.420/.380, respectively), Reyes is at least getting on base (.294/.376/.376) and Delgado hitting for power (.247/.481/.307), Beltran is hitting like Rey Ordonez in a slump: .204/.299/.304. The Mets are going nowhere with a .299 slugging Beltran, period.
June 16, 2007
POP CULTURE: Yet Another Sopranos Fanfic
An exhaustive explanation from the setting of the final scene of why Tony is deader than Paul McCartney. Via HotAir. Of course, all of this is equally consistent with Chase teasing us to build suspense. I still think the whole "show ends when Tony's point of view ends" assumption is inconsistent with the show's prior seasons, in which we saw plenty of things Tony never saw.
By the way - another spoiler here, albeit from an older film:
Read More »
people keep mentioning Michael Corleone's death in Godfather III. I saw the movie and I swear I never saw that. I was certain that the movie ended with his daughter
« Close It
June 15, 2007
BASEBALL: Subway Stoppers
Study in contrasts tonight with the matchup between Oliver Perez and Roger Clemens; while the Yankees have tried to capitalize on Perez' weakness (deep counts), the Mets have had more success with Clemens' (complete failure to hold runners) with four steals through five innings (two for Reyes, one - leading to a run - for Carlos Gomez, and one for Wright).
The play of the game so far - and in its own way nearly as impressive as Endy Chavez' famous catch in Game 7 of last year's NLCS - was Carlos Gomez making a leaping catch against the left field wall in the fourth followed by doubling Hideki Matsui off second. First, Gomez had to battle a forest of Yankee fans looking to play Jeffery Maier, and then he needed the presence of mind and accuracy for the 21-year-old rookie to outwit the veteran Matsui, who had bolted off second with one out. Gomez may be seriously overmatched as a big league hitter at this stage but you can't help but like the guy's blazing speed and hustle.
Jose Reyes' massive homer to right was a sight as well, against a Clemens who has been racking up the Ks. It's been an unusually big night for Reyes, who has never hit the Yankees well.
Watching David Wright stealing second in the fifth I noticed that he had something in his hands - it still looks unnatural to me to see guys carrying their batting gloves on the bases.
Keith Hernandez is ripping Clemens for coming out of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. As I wrote seven years ago, Clemens gets a bum rap:
Roger Clemens was 23 years old in 1986. Prior to that season, he had never thrown as many as 140 innings in a major league season; I don’t have his minor league numbers, but I’d be shocked if he had ever thrown 190 innings in a year at any level. In 1985, his season was ended prematurely (after 15 starts) by an arm injury. Coming off surgery, Clemens had his 20-K game (a complete game) in late April, and McNamara rode him hard, finishing nearly a third of his starts. To the credit of Clemens' strong arm, he held up remarkably well, way, way past his career high to that point in innings, until he was hit on the elbow by a line drive in September.
Given that Clemens is still pitching 21 years later, I think you have to give him credit for knowing his limits.
Mets announcers just reminded me that today is the 30th anniversary of the Mets dealing Seaver. I was 5. It was a dark, dark day.
Yes, I just kept calling Gomez "Carlos Perez" above - I'm getting old.
So the Yankees finally caught somebody - Gomez - but only after Clemens left the game. And frankly they caught Reyes next as well, but it was a bang-bang play and Reyes got the call.
Mets lead 2-0 - better get several more runs, Schoenweis is warming up in the pen.
Mike Bloomberg still there in the 9th inning. Good showing, for a Red Sox fan.
Boo-ya! Wagner smokes the Yanks in the ninth. 2-0 Mets.
BASEBALL: Also Starring Jose Lima As Hemlock
Mike Pelfrey would be a wine that hasn't had time to age yet. Pedro, of course, would be a fine South American cabernet you had with dinner last week; you're really hoping that the last bit left in the bottle still has some taste. Aaron Heilman would be a non-alcoholic beer that really might taste better as a regular beer. Victor Zambrano would be whatever you were drinking when you lost your wife in a poker game; it really doesn't matter what it tastes like, you won't drink it again. And Steve Trachsel would be that cheap beer you drank in college - you had a lot of good nights with that beer, many of which ran very, very long into the night, but you got really sick of the taste after four years, and if you were having friends over now for an important party it would not be on the menu.
From a commenter at MetsBlog:
I guess Chan Ho would have been badly aged Sake?
I think Sake is Japanese, but, yeah, that's about right.
June 13, 2007
BASEBALL: Mostly Intentional
I was looking at Ichiro's career stats and noticing that over a third of his career walks were intentional, and wondered how unusual that really was. Intentional walks have been tracked since 1955, and David Pinto's database goes back to 1957, so using Pinto's source I quickly collected a table of the guys who have drawn 100 or more intentional walks since 1957. Here is the top ten who have drawn the most intentional compared to total walks:
Ichiro is close, but not quite at the top. A second question: which hitters got the most intentional walk respect relative to their dangerousness? Here's the top 10 in IBB compared to Total Bases?
Of course, number 8 hitters get walked a lot in the NL, and Templeton and Edwards both drew a disproportionate share of their career IBB while batting 8th. Note that Bonds, even with 747 career homers (he's now 4th on the career Total Bases list behind only Aaron, Musial and Mays), still dominates this list.
June 12, 2007
BASEBALL: Vern Hoscheit
POLITICS: "Internationalist Iowa"
This hunger for a leader who will undo the foreign policy of the Bush years is particularly powerful in internationalist Iowa, a state with a long tradition of peace churches, almost no military industry, and farmers who have always preferred selling to America's foes rather than isolating them.
Iowa is "internationalist"??? Lizza is apparently cribbing from the liberal stylebook in which people who support the active use of American power abroad are "isolationists," people who want to withdraw from the fight and hole up at home are "internationalists," and people who have been active in Republican and/or conservative causes since the Eisenhower Administration are "neoconservatives."
I'm not even sure what else to say about the Mets lately, as they have barely been watchable. A dry stretch is inevitable now and then but aside from Wright and Delgado (and Jorge Sosa, of all people) they are really in a terrible collective slump. Fortunately the Braves have too, but that just means the Mets have missed chances to put some real distance on them, and at the same time have let the Phillies creep back in the race. The Braves are still the Braves, but it's Philadelphia that has the horses.
I hate to say it, and it's a small thing, but it may be time shortly to say farewell to Julio Franco. Of more pressing problems, Scott Schoenweis is just completely hopeless. And Glavine is starting to worry me, but there's nothing that can be done about that.
POLITICS: Twelve Points
Rudy's "Twelve Commitments." It's a fine list, albeit some of the items are vague ("I will impose accountability on Washington" - Rudy's as well-suited to that job as anyone, but don't hold your breath), and some are impossible ("I will end illegal immigration"). Of course, as always with Rudy and conservatives, the issue is with the things he left off the list. But he does show an admirably broad view of the issues that are well-suited to presidential leadership.
BLOG: Catchy Tunes
There really is nothing that says New York quite like walking through Penn Station early in the morning listening to South American immigrants playing "Hotel California" on the pan flute, is there?
Ever have a song stuck in your head by someone who never sung it (at least, as far as I know)? Had that the other day, had Barry White singing the WKRP theme song. And well, I should add. Once a few years back it was Britney Spears (I must have just heard a song on the radio - I couldn't hum the tune to two of her songs) singing the Kinks' "Till the End of the Day," another time Wilson Pickett doing Bon Jovi's "Never Say Goodbye," much better than the original.
"Baby, if you ever wonder..."
POP CULTURE: Chase Speaketh
An interesting interview with the Sopranos creator, including an unsurprising admission:
[R]emember that 21-month hiatus between Seasons Five and Six? That was Chase thinking up the ending. HBO chairman Chris Albrecht came to him after Season Five and suggested thinking up a conclusion to the series; Chase agreed, on the condition that he get "a long break" to decide on an ending.
Translation: if it feels like filler, it is filler. The Kevin Finnerty thing went on at least an episode too long as well.
HISTORY: Tear Down This Wall
Twenty years ago, Ronald Reagan then stood much where George W. Bush does now - 6 1/2 years into his term, rejected at the polls the prior November, facing a Democratic Congress and a hostile media, mired in battles with Congress over scandal, increasingly overshadowed by the coming Presidential race, abandoned by many of his best subordinates, given little credit by elite opinion for a long-booming economy. But Reagan had one big advantage: he was Reagan. And so he seized a moment to make history: "Mr. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Powerline has more, including video of the speech and Reagan's decision to override nervous Nellies at the State Department:
The day the President arrived in Berlin, State and NSC submitted yet another alternate draft. Yet in the limousine on the way to the Berlin Wall, the President told Duberstein he was determined to deliver the controversial line. Reagan smiled. "The boys at State are going to kill me," he said, "but it’s the right thing to do."
Of course, this was itself a call Reagan had been making for two decades, witness this line from his famous 1967 debate with Robert F. Kennedy:
I think when we signed the Consular Treaty with the Soviet Union, I think that there were things that we could have asked in return. I think it would be very admirable, if the Berlin Wall, which was built in direct contravention to a treaty if the Berlin Wall should disappear, I think that this would be a step toward peace, and towards self-determination for all the peoples if it were. And so, I think that what you're bringing up here, and this ties in with something that Bill Bradley said, and it's very significant--among people of good will in the world today, there is too much of a tendency to argue challenging or suspecting the other fellow's motive, when perhaps what we're challenging is only the method that has been suggested. Let's start with the premise that all people want peace, and not suspect that anything that someone else suggests is a plot. For example, we don't want the Berlin Wall knocked down so that it's easier to get at the throats of the East Germans. We just think that a wall that is put up to confine people, and keep them within their own country instead of allowing them the freedom of world travel, has to be somehow wrong.
WAR: You Have Been Volunteered To Have Less
Bad economic management leads, predictably, to bad economic results. Which leads political leaders who have been in power too long to blame their predecessors a few commonly used choices:
1. Admit there's a problem and change course.
Well, actually #1 isn't all that common. Hugo Chavez, in the course of gradually grinding down Venezuela's economy, has sampled liberally from the rest of that menu. Now, however, he's taking a more audacious step to avoid fixing the economy: "demanding" that Venezuelans make do with less, and in the process discouraging consumer demand:
Read More »
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez told his supporters to give away possessions they do not need such as an extra refrigerator because he only wants true socialists to be members of a new single party he is forming.
At least he didn't wear a cardigan.
« Close It
June 10, 2007
POP CULTURE: Don't Stop Believing
Let's talk about the ending of The Sopranos. Spoliers, of course, aplenty. DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW HOW IT ENDED
(NOTE: POST HAS BEEN UPDATED SEVERAL TIMES)
Read More »
If you do know how it ended, let me know...I mean, seriously, what the hell? I'm not saying that a non-ending of sorts, with the family sitting down for a meal and life going on, would have been a bad thing; we had a resolution of the war, with the death of Phil; we know that Tony is still in legal jeopardy; we know that his line of work will continue to expose him to risks. That, I can live with. The "choose your own adventure" ending is another story. And: Journey???? All the great music they have chosen in this series...don't get me wrong, I like cheesy music as much as the next guy (I even have that song on my iPod), but going out with "Don't Stop Believing"?
On the whole, the suspense was incredible throughout - shots of security cameras at the Bing, people coming up behind Tony, etc. But as with many past seasons, the real action was the next to last episode.
My best guess at the last minute had been that Tony would try to cooperate with the feds, Paulie would sniff him out, and the last words Tony would hear would be "Sorry, T." As it turned out, Paulie did indeed seemingly stay loyal (albeit with grievances as always) to the end. But there was one scene where we saw Paulie make a face after telling Tony he needed to think about the promotion...until he explained later the whole vision of the Blessed Mother thing, I thought he was feeling guilt about somehow betraying Tony while Tony was promoting him. (The funniest line in the whole show was Tony's response: "F*** strippers, we coulda had a shrine, sell holy water by the gallon").
In fact, at the end we never saw any secret mole, any hidden betrayal (Carlo flipping when his son gets pinched doesn't count) - although of course the final scene certainly showed the possible setup for either (1) a hit on Tony or (2) Tony and family getting killed in the crossfire of some totally unrelated criminal beef.
Since basically everyone else had been corrupted on this show - cops, the Church, the doctors and psychiatrists, the educators, etc. - the last episode was the FBI's turn, with Agent Harris having an affair with a colleague and basically taking Tony's side in selling out Phil's location. That crossed a serious line, and we definitely see that even as he has moved on to nastier things - or maybe because of that - Harris has taken to sympathizing with Tony just as it becomes obvious that Tony is playing him. This was Harris' episode as much as it was anyone's besides AJ.
I was surprised that we got more Junior, but a fitting end - he thinks it's "nice" that he ran North Jersey with Johnny Boy, but he doesn't remember...and doesn't know where he stashed his money.
Tony, for all his feigned contempt for therapy, was quick to start in with the Livia stuff again. Why does AJ have a new therapist - did Dr. Monotone get dumped for failing to see the suicide attempt coming? And Meadow, of course, is quite the expert in knowing what guilt buttons to push to shut up her father.
I forget if I'd blogged it here but I'd been wondering aloud for a while if we were building up to AJ joining the Army, albeit out of misguided reasons (a love for violence and a newfound hypersensitivity to the Arab world). Of course, he is easily enough bribed out of doing something genuinely noble by his parents. Carmela, by contrast, never did play a key role in the wind-down, nor really did Janice or Meadow.
Phil...couldn't happen to a nicer guy. That rollover scene looked like something from "Scary Movie" with the Greek chorus/peanut gallery cringing at the sight of his head getting squashed like a grape. Who would have thought that even Butchie would buy into killing Phil? I really had thought last week that one way or another he would win.
We never did get to see Tony use the big gun.
UPDATE: Saltier comments here. The ending really is a failure of storytelling. Shakespeare would have cringed.
At least Carmela got that AJ would never be an officer, but somehow I doubt the Army would take a guy who is just weeks removed from a suicide attempt.
I see someone mentions this in comments - I do think it's likely that Harris' motivation was strongly influenced by Phil having once set up a female FBI agent to be raped, whether or not it's the woman he's sleeping with - that's not legal or morally right, but it's the old-school cop response: a mobster violates the unwritten rule on not going after cops, he doesn't get arrested, the cops just look the other way or lend a hand in his gang rivals killing him.
No open casket for Phil, I guess.
I liked the comments by people saying the cat was Adrianna and that AJ is now officially on the Little Carmine career path.
By the way: if there is any artistic defense for Chase writing a highly suspenseful scene and then stopping in the middle of it to end the series, it would be wholly undermined if they ever did a Sopranos movie.
OK, I'm hearing this a lot, but I see no evidence that Tony Soprano got killed last night.
(You could add #4, things the writer says, but thus far beyond Delphic hints Chase has said nothing to confirm Tony's murder).
We didn't see Tony die.
STILL MORE: The blackout, of course, was a reverse War of the Worlds, sending people to call the cable company to find out why their TV showed nothing happening in New Jersey.
A couple of contrasts to the Godfather series - the guy goes in the bathroom and never comes out; we are invited to think of the whole family except the daughter getting killed at the end; AJ doesn't end up serving in the Army, in contrast to Michael Corleone.
If you are doing the "Tony bought it" fanfic thing, I guess there's a parallel to the Kevin Finnerty sequence - there, Tony came out of the coma when he heard Meadow calling. This time? He, never gets to see - or at least we never get to see - Meadow come through the door.
This really was a great exchange:
Meadow: "The state can crush the individual." Tony (incredulously): "New Jersey?"
Also, perfect AJ hearing Bob Dylan and thinking it's some sort of revelation, 40 years later.
And yes, part of me wonders if Chase was trying to get plaudits from the usual suspects for dissing his audience, and part of me wonders if he was holding back multiple alternate endings to sell DVDs.
Lest there be any confusion: I did love the episode, every bit of it up to the blackout. But the blackout was weak.
« Close It
June 8, 2007
BASEBALL: The Best Lefthanded Reliever Ever
I suppose this is an especially inauspicious morning to be discussing this, since we could just as well be discussing whether Pat Burrell should be traded to Tampa, Texas or preferably Japan. But my son asked me the other day who the best lefthanded relief pitcher in baseball history was, I thought about it and realized that it may well be Billy Wagner.
When I looked more closely at the issue, the second thing that jumped out was that the Mets - and, other than the Mets, the Yankees - have had a disproportionate share of the best ones. Let's look over the list of serious or semi-serious candidates. I left off Lefty Grove, who was never used primarily as a reliever other than the 1929 World Series but who finished in the top 5 in the league in saves 6 times, including a league-leading 9 in 1930 while winning 28 games. I'm also leaving off a bunch of guys who are in the next tier, either because they never reached the heights or had only a moment of greatness or were never ace relievers - Mark Davis, Mitch Williams, Al Hrabosky, John Hiller, BJ Ryan, Eddie Guardado. That leaves the contenders. The key for the table - which is drawn from career totals:
"Y" is the number of seasons when each guy (1) was his team's #1 reliever and (2) had an ERA+ of 100 or better (i.e., an ERA equal to or better than the park-adjusted league average as measured by baseball-reference.com - for the uninitiated, the higher the ERA+ the better the pitcher was relative to the league); ERA+ is a career total, but the other numbers are based only on career totals as a reliever (Wagner, Franco and Lyle never started a game, and Perranoski started only one); walks per 9 innings are measured by excluding intentional walks, which are a major occupational hazard for relievers, especially situational middlemen; the last two columns are career innings and ERA as a reliever in the postseason (Righetti is the only guy here to start a postseason game, and pitched outsandingly as a starter in the 1981 postseason), in roughly what I think is the right order for the top 11 (stats are through last night's fiasco), though I suppose one could quibble about Plesac vs Hrabosky (not that I think a lot of bar fights will be started over that particular argument).
The two main arguments against Wagner as the best - and understanding that it's hard to compare a modern short-outing closer to a 70s-style relief ace like Lyle, McGraw or Perranoski - are that he hasn't thrown nearly enough innings and that his postseason record is ghastly, compared to a bunch of guys who were brilliant in October. But in terms of the quality of his pitching, Wagner has just been so far ahead of the others, and over an extended period of years in which he has been fantastically consistent, that you have to give him the nod.
As for picking Myers over Perranoski on this list, Myers was really dominant in his best years, and also gets a close call for his postseason exploits.
At any rate, Mets fans can look at that list with some pride: Tug, Jesse, Randall K, Franco and now Wagner. Quite a tradition (Stanton even pitched two years for the Mets, though my brain has largely blocked out the memory).
June 7, 2007
Hugh Hewitt had a three-hour debate between Hitchens and Mark D. Roberts the other night over the subject of God, and it was quite enjoyable, both for its depth and civility. I think Hitch won, ergo God Does Not Exist. Dynamite the churches! Of course, in such situations the atheist always wins, because he doesn’t have to prove anything. It’s like a color-blind man debating someone without sight about the existence of Red – a fascinating intellectual exercise that tests and reveals the talents and character of the debaters, but has little to do with the hue of the stuff that runs through your arteries.
June 6, 2007
BASEBALL: Not The Year of the Rookie, Part II
Yesterday, I ran through the rookie crop in the NL. Today, the AL - where, I must admit, the field is stronger the more I look at it, though still weak compared to last season.
While the AL has its share of struggling rookies, these five are not a bad foundation at all, albeit Harris is more of a journeyman than a prospect. I don't know if a guy with Willits' extreme lack of power can keep his OBP above .400, but if he can stay in that neighborhood he could be a heck of a player for the next 5 years or so. Iwamura's injury means that we haven't gotten a real chance to assess him yet.
As you can see, while there have been a bunch of successful young pitchers thus far - particularly Leo Mazzone's charges - many of them need to get their strikeouts up or walks down if they are going to last the season. Then again, Mazzone's guys may be specifically concentrating on keeping the ball in the park (0.41 HR/9 between them). Huges and Loewen are supposed to be the highest-ceiling guys in this batch, although for the short term Okajima is providing the most value.
It's this category that is weakest in the AL - I'm especially stretching to include Lind, who has shown a tiny bit of power, and Rabelo, who has hit for a decent average as a backup catcher but little else. Dukes, of course, may yet eliminate his opportunity to develop his promising talents, if he can't control his rage.
Matsuzaka obviously has star-quality tools and has pitched some wonderful games, but he has yet to find his consistency as a front-of-the-rotation major league starter. Rasner has been one of the brighter spots among the Yankees' emergency-starter crew.
Struggling or Outright Failing
Wood, obviously, got only the briefest cup of coffee. I still expect Gordon to be a star, but he really has been horrendous - like Angel Berroa, all he seems able to do right is get drilled by pitches. The man's in the everyday lineup and has driven in 8 runs.
Like I said yesterday - rookie pitchers will break your heart. With apologies to David Pinto, Roger Clemens could out-pitch most of these Yankee rookies with one groin tied behind his back. There is a reason why the Yanks' staff has struck out 278 batters while every other major league team is at 314 or better. Granted, guys like Karstens didn't exactly have the luxury of a long look.
June 5, 2007
BLOG: The End For Hewlett Packard
My tribulations with Hewlett Packard, previously chronicled here and here, have reached their logical endpoint. To recap briefly, my brand new HP desktop didn't work at all, so HP was going to send someone out to look at it pursuant to the extended/in-home service contract I paid an extra $300 for; the guy never showed, and only later called to say the motherboard he was supposed to replace wouldn't be in until late May (later revised to late June). Once I got the second date I had them send me a new PC instead.
So the new PC doesn't work either; it has the exact same problem. I called tech support tonight, to get them to hopefully send someone out who would actually come. Naturally this led to an hour or more on the phone being tranfserred through five different people (one of whom was in laptop support, the prior person having ignored me when I said desktop), and having to retell the whole tale from the top for each one.
Finally, I get past the guys who wanted to run me through all the same steps that accomplished nothing last time, and onto the guy who could authorize sending someone out...and he tells me that until the old PC has returned the in-home service doesn't apply to the replacement.
Which, in the interim, still does not work. Even though it, like its predecessor, is brand new.
I have had it; I'm sending everything back to HP, getting my money back and never buying a computer from them again. I've now been a month without a working computer (I'm typing this from my wife's laptop) with no realistic prospect of having one any time soon. I keep reading all this great stuff about HP (the Wall Street Journal had a cover story recently on them surpassing Dell as the #1 maker of computers) but as far as I am concerned, a company that can't sell a computer that actually functions is not one I want to do business with.
BASEBALL: Not The Year of the Rookie
After last season's bonanza of quality rookies, some letdown was perhaps to be expected, but I have been surprised at quite how badly so many of this season's rookies have played. Which is not to say they won't go on to successful careers, or even turn things around over the final two thirds of the season - but teams handing out a lot of playing time to rookies this season have inherited a lot of grief. Let's run down the NL rookies first, breaking them out by their level of success - I may not have caught everyone here who has pitched 10 innings and some of them did play last season but I think all these guys are still eligible for the Rookie of the Year award:
The pickings are slim here - only Pence and Hamilton have had anything like a full audition in terms of playing time, Hamilton and Hopper are too old to be prospects (although Hamilton is a unique case). Reynolds does look like a serious prospect, though, and if a non-pitcher is going to win the Rookie of the Year Award, he's probably as good odds as anyone, and way better odds than anyone but Pence. Not that I mean to slight Pence, who has really been tremendous. Hopper, of course, gets demerits for nearly killing Ryan Freel.
Again, we have a collection weighted towards middle relievers already in their primes. Note the presence of two sidearmers (Smith and Moylan). Owings does look like a keeper, and we have not seen top pitching prospects Homer Bailey (soon to make his debut in Cincinnati) and Yovanny Gallardo of Milwaukee. Cameron will need to throw some strikes to be effective long term.
Young is the stud prospect on this list, and does look like he will be a star if he can master the strike zone, but that's a work in progress. Ruiz, at 28, is as good as he will get. Tulowitzki's numbers look good for a 22-year-old shortstop with a cannon arm until you remember that he plays at Coors.
Lincecum has had some rough outings but will almost assuredly be on the top chart by the end of the year, and looks like a coming star; he is probably the best bet to take the NL Rookie of the Year when all is said and done.
Struggling or Outright Failing
Like some of the success stories, a number of these guys have had so few at bats that you can't say much except that they haven't contributed anything. In Gomez' case, of course, he wasn't expected to make the majors and was called up before his time to plug an injury hole. Iannetta, by contrast, has had his struggles cost him playing time in a losing battle with journeyman Yorvit Torrealba. Kouzmanoff has been particularly disapointing given his minor league batting record.
Well, rookie pitchers will always break your heart. Pelfrey did manage to keep the ball in the park well, but that's about it.
June 4, 2007
POP CULTURE: Penultimate Sopranos
Now, now, we are really in the home stretch. SPOLIERS from last night's Sopranos included, so don't go below the fold if you are still waiting to watch it.
Read More »
David Chase has done a lot to keep us guessing throughout the series, so in a sense it was a surprise when last night's episode followed the most conventional path from the plotlines laid out the past few weeks - Melfi dropping Tony over the study about sociopaths, Phil deciding to whack Tony and the rest of the remaining leadership of his crew, and the whackings proceeding apace. Thoughts:
*I assume this is it for Melfi, as a Tony on the run won't have time - nor does the show - to have a final encounter. My wife and I debated whether Melfi should have been less angry and more clear about having revisited the literature and decided that she couldn't do anything for him, but (1) Tony respects anger and needs confrontation, (2) there's no good way to say "you're a hopeless sociopath," and (3) she was obviously frustrtated at feeling she'd been used all those years. Will Tony nonetheless draw on his experiences in "terapy" to survive his looming encounter with Phil?
Melfi's shrink acted unethically in opening the issue of Tony at a dinner party, even if the others at the table are all psychiatrists (so much for patient confidentiality) but it did force Melfi, who we have seen as the moral counterweight (i.e, unlike Meadow with Coco she refused to tell Tony about the rape and trigger his vengeance, or Carmela who takes the money and looks the other way) to confront the fact that she has been taking Tony's money and the vicarious thrills he provides and enabling his behavior.
It was, of course, amusing to see Tony, who has gotten away with so much, get called on swiping a recipe from a magazine, and ironic to call her "immoral."
*Bobby's death was telegraphed clearly the second he walked away from the ringing phone - I had no doubt he would not make it, especially given the contrast between his gentle, wistful love of classic model trains and the brutality of mob life finally tracking him down. Of course, you have to feel for Bobby's kids, who lost both their parents and are stuck now with Janice.
As for Silvio, he almost made it out of the Bing parking lot - and might have, if he hadn't spent time unloading the cash from the safe and collecting receipts. In a way I was sadder about Silvio's death, since he's been with the show longer and it wasn't as obviously coming, but he is not a sympathetic character, as we've seen from his murder of Adrianna to the guy he garroted at the opening of the episode.
As I mentioned a few weeks back, Silvio is the embodiment of the Soprano crime family as an organization (in addition to being Tony's most reliable and least self-interested counsellor). His death makes clear that whatever happens to Tony and Phil, Phil's side wins.
*What was the place Tony was hiding out? Junior's house? The porch reminded me of the Kevin Finnerty house and the upstate place where Tony B met his end. And was it just me or was there a big cardboard cutout of Silvio in the corner?
And I could not advise sleeping with that huge gun - right at hand, yes, but you don't want to startle out of bed and shoot your own guys. Note how that closing scene mirrors the season that ended with Tony waiting in his backyard for the bear.
*AJ is still a whiner to the end, and while I momentarily expected Tony to give him a gentle farewell, he really did need to be smacked out of his therapy-talk and made to understand the urgency of the situation. Note that the family had taken his belt and drained the pool - the pool that always meant so much to Tony - but of course there are still lethal weapons everywhere at hand.
*The final insult to Paulie - Phil doesn't think him worth killing. Silvio and Bobby were within their rights in letting Paulie know that he wasn't entitled to hear confirmation that the boss had ordered the hit on Phil (deniability vs Paulie's big mouth), whereas I have to assume that Al, the third guy at the table with Phil and Butchie, is Agent Harris' source. Unfortunately, Harris' uncertainty means they didn't have Al wearing a wire, or Phil would be in huge legal doo-doo for ordering multiple murders accross state lines. (For this reason, when I saw Al open a store, I was sure we'd see him get gunned down).
*We got one more Artie scene, plus a further offscreen humiliation for Junior. (Janice says they don't have the money to pay for Junior's care, but Bobby has $8 grand to blow on model trains).
*So where does this end, now? I guess it's possible Tony could turn in to the FBI, but right now everything is pointing to a continuation along this week's path, with Phil's crew hunting down Tony and Paulie and possibly Tony's family (recall that Phil doesn't respect limits - he tried to have an FBI agent raped - he's still bitter about his brother, and now they killed his girlfriend). Tony is cornered now like a king on a chessboard with one rook and some pawns facing an opponent with a full set - there's no way he can win this against Phil, even if he takes out Phil personally.
UPDATE: A couple of thoughts, keying among other things off the TWOP forums:
*Melfi's shrink, Elliott, mentioned in an earlier episode that his dad was an Untouchables fan - so we should conclude that he's named after Elliott Ness?
*It's not clear what house Tony is hiding in - some people seem to think Livia's house - but it does seem dumb that they are ordering out pizza from there.
*Yeah, Silvio should have had his gun a lot handier. A few people pointed out the parallel between Silvio crawling in the car for his gun and the way Adrianna was dragged from the car and crawled when he shot her.
*Anybody think Janice is going to kill Phil? (I didn't notice that Tony failed to warn Janice about the coming war with Phil).
*Tony still does, or at least had been doing, illegal business with Phil. Is it wise of Harris to tell Tony that Phil has a rat in his organization?
« Close It
June 1, 2007
POLITICS: Patrick Ruffini Moves On From Giuliani Campaign
Blogger and web guru Patrick Ruffini, who has run the internet operations for the RNC and Bush 2004 campaigns in the past, was a great addition to the Giuliani campaign as it got off the ground earlier this year, but he is now moving on to other things:
In an e-mail, Ruffini said the decision to cut ties with the former mayor was his own and "was done amicably."
While he is still supporting Giuliani, I'd agree with Jonathan Martin's assessment that "the widely-respected Ruffini's departure is a loss for Giuliani . . . he had (and has) considerable street cred with the conservative blog set".