Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
September 29, 2007
BASEBALL: Episode 161: A New Hope

Well, the Mets today played pretty close to the theoretical best game they could possibly play under the worst possible circumstances: they set a season high for hits and tied their season high for runs scored while allowing 0 runs on 1 hit. John Maine came within 4 outs of the first no-hitter in franchise history and set a career high in strikeouts, while throwing 115 pitches to allow everyone in the pen besides the rawest rookies (Muniz and Collazo) to take the day off without even warming up. Lastings Milledge had his first career multi-homer game. Carlos Gomez made a spectacular diving catch in center field, dodging a collsion with an onrushing Ruben Gotay, to preserve a 13-run lead. Even Sandy Alomar Sr. got into the act, taking a punch to the head that was intended for Jose Reyes, while agitated Mets generally avoided taking the bait of consecutive bench-clearing incidents to avoid engaging in conduct that could lead to a suspension. Only a few instances of baserunning vapor lock by Reyes and Milledge marred the afternoon.

Meanwhile in Philly, Chico was the man for the Nationals and the Phillies played some horrible defense (for all the guff the Mets took for blowing a lead they held for more than 130 days, the Phillies' lead lasted just one day before they gave it back), Tony Gwynn jr. robbed his padre's Padres of their chance to put the Wild Card away, and suddenly tomorrow will dawn with two teams tied in the NL East, and possibly three teams tied a game behind the Wild Card leader. On the bright side, the Mets last night finally maneuvered themselves into a situation where they had to play some championship baseball to win a championship, and now they send Tom Glavine, veteran of more big games than you or I could count, against Dontrelle Willis tomorrow with the season in the balance, while Glavine's senior, Jamie Moyer, faces Jason Bergmann, and Jake Peavy faces Jeff Suppan. The Mets will presumably hold back only Maine and Pedro (the likely 1-game playoff starter, on 3 days rest for his surgically repaired shoulder); "staff" will be available.

For one night, Tug McGraw can cease spinning in his grave. Time to Believe.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:01 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
September 28, 2007
BASEBALL: Funeral For A Friend

Was at Shea tonight. Don't want to talk about it.

Attending Mets games at this point is like visiting a terminally ill friend or relative; it doesn't get better, you feel worse, but you somehow feel obligated to be there.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:51 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce at the Rock

Just a moment to blog here - I just got back from seeing Bruce Springsteen live at Rockefeller Center (which is just a block from my office). It was awesome (and a good deal more fun than last night's Mets game, which I was at Shea for, and which quickly turned from desperation to a funereal atmosphere). Granted, I couldn't see Bruce from where I was standing, and I couldn't hear nearly any of what he said when he bantered with or hectored the crowd or chatted with Matt Lauer, but (a) I was still closer to the stage than I have been for the three times I saw him in concert, and (b) hey, it's free. It was sort of surreal, since I was across the street and while Bruce was playing there were an endless stream of cabs, trucks, cop cars, buses, etc. streaming by. I also got to see Tim Russert, who wandered in front of one of the big panoramic second-floor windows on his cell phone and waved to the crowd.

Bruce was scheduled to go on at about 8:30, but he came out to do a warmup at 8am sharp - and oddly, he played "The Promised Land," which he then played a second time as his opener on the air. Bruce and the band both sounded great. After that he played two of the new songs that for various reasons I had not heard previously. First was "Radio Nowhere," which rocks, and if anything reminded me of "Trouble River," but bouncier. Second up, and preceded by some political screed about tearing up the Constitution and whatnot (I couldn't make out enough of it to really be irritated, and besides, we know Bruce's politics by now) was "Living in the Future," which has a real vintage E Street Band feel to it. Then he did a fairly somber version of "My Hometown," and came back out (I assume for the last time - I left a few minutes later) for an encore of "Night," a little bit of an odd choice at 9am but the longtime Bruce fans in the crowd ate it up.

UPDATE: From YouTube, audio of Bruce doing "Radio Nowhere" in Asbury Park Tuesday night:

And here is "Living in the Future"

It would appear that Bruce may have done one more song after I left....grrr.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
September 26, 2007
POLITICS: Hey, Big Spender

When you adjust for inflation and remove defense spending and entitlements, which recent presidential terms had the highest and lowest rates of discretionary government spending growth?

discgrowth-nodefense-bypresident-cpi.JPG

Neil Stevens has the full story. Remember to consider changes in control of Congress during terms, notably Reagan's second (the Senate went Democrat) and Clinton's first (the 1994 elections); it takes three parties (the White House, the House and the Senate) to spend, and credit and blame alike need to be shared.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:14 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Six Car Pileup

Another morning, the sun rises, I get out of bed...the Mets' efforts to kill me having failed for another day. My head hurts even contemplating the effort that goes into David Pinto's daily calculations every September of the possibilities for a massive tie for the wildcard; you can check out today's here. Bottom line:

So with five days left, we have a long shot at a six-way tie, and two possibilities for a five way tie. On top of all that, the Brewers gained a game on the Cubs, so we could end up with a tie in the NL Central as well. There is a very small chance that the regular season ends with half the National League teams still in the playoff hunt. . .

+++

[A] six-way tie results in two days of playoff to determine the division winners, then two days of playoffs to determine the wild card. Who doesn't want seven extra single elimination games?

(Raises hand)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:26 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
September 25, 2007
WAR/POLITICS: Fred on Ahmadinejad

Personally, I thought Fred Thompson hit just precisely the right note on Columbia University's decision to give a platform to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

I find it ironic that Iran's president accepted an invitation to speak at Columbia University, since students who dissent on Iranian campuses are not met with debate, they are met by a gun and imprisonment. A few months ago, eight college students were imprisoned in Iran's notorious Evin Prison for publishing articles and cartoons critical of Iran's government in a student-run newspaper. The Evin facility has been described as Iran's 'most feared prison' and is known to stone women to death. We need to do our best to empower freedom-loving people throughout Iran.

This, by the way, is the side of Fred that we need to see more consistently. While there are many different problems with giving Ahmadinejad a platform, I loved the way he pointedly ties this to the oppression of campus free speech in Iran (the same line he drew in his response to Michael Moore), which just pierces the hypocrisy of people who pretend like giving this man a platform is somehow advancing the cause of free speech and free inquiry on campus.

Given that we host the U.N., it wasn't really feasible to deny Ahmadinejad a visa, but the man should not be extended a welcome anywhere. First of all, it should be remembered that the original reason why we don't have diplomatic relations with his regime is that that regime - including Ahmadinejad personally, as one of the young hostage-takers - violated every norm of basic diplomacy and the most ancient and fundamental precepts of international relations and international law by seizing diplomats and holding them hostage for over a year. Add to that Iran's longstanding sponsorship of terrorism against the United States and its allies, most vividly in the case of the 236 U.S. Marines killed by Iranian-backed Hezbollah in 1983, as well as Ahmadinejad's (and the regime's) longstanding threats against the existence of Israel, Holocaust-denial and plots to build nuclear weapons - none of which the regime has ever shown any remorse for - and you have a man whose appearance here has nothing to do with free speech and everything to do with the raw assertion of power by an aggressive, terror-sponsoring tyranny.

For contrast, check out Tom Maguire's lengthy demolition of two pitiable Josh Marshall screeds taking Ahmadinejad's side in this controversy. Maguire notes that Marshall's position puts him even to the left of his own party's presidential candidates. Note that while Marshall concedes that "we officially don't like him. And we classify the country he runs as a state sponsor of terrorism," he is unable to force himself to admit that Iran actually is a sponsor of terrorism, since that would pretty well disintegrate his entire argument.

As Maguire notes, while Iran is not an Al Qaeda sponsor (with Hezbollah on the payroll, that would be redundant) it's an overstatement to parrot the talking point about how the Iranians have no responsibility at all for September 11:

[W]hen Dr. Marshall says that "[Ahmadinejad] has absolutely nothing to do with 9/11" he is being disingenuous. From the 9-11 Commission we learned that 10 of the hijackers traveled through Iran en route to the US while Iranian border officials waved them through without leaving any eyebrow-raising passport stamps. Now, Ahmadinejad was not in power in 2000/2001, but as the current leader of the Iranian state he certainly bears symbolic responsibility.

Now, this puts Iran more on a par with the Saudis than, say, the Taliban; the conditions that led to September 11, after all, were the result of an entire region's combination of fanaticism and terror-sponsoring tryannies (which had every incentive to look the other way at each other's mischief). But it's certainly further reason not to welcome the Iranian head of state to Ground Zero.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:13 AM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: It's Official: Lawyers Are Incapable Of Understanding Civility

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan has ruled, as a matter of law, that lawyers are unable to understand what "courtesy and respect" means.

OK, a little more detail on that one: outspoken Michigan lawyer Geoffrey Fieger, best known for representing Dr. Jack Kevorkian and for running as the Democratic candidate for Governor of Michigan in 1998, was disciplined under Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct 3.5(c), which prohibits lawyers from "undignified or discourteous conduct" toward judges and courts, and Rule 6.5(a), which requires lawyers to treat everyone involved in the legal process with "courtesy and respect." Fieger's original grievance stemmed from a Michigan appellate court decision that reversed a medical malpractice verdict, finding that he had

(1) without any basis in fact, accused defendants and their witnesses of engaging in a conspiracy, collusion, and perjury to cover up malpractice, (2) asserted without any basis in fact that defense witnesses had destroyed, altered, or suppressed evidence, and (3) insinuated without any basis in fact that one of the defendants had abandoned the plaintiff's medical care to engage in a sexual tryst with a nurse. The panel described Mr. Fieger's misconduct as "truly egregious" and "pervasive" and concluded that it "completely tainted the proceedings."

The Michigan Supreme Court described how Fieger responded to the decision by this panel - and for all the practicing attorneys in the audience, I would not advise you to try this yourself:

Three days later, on August 23, 1999, Mr. Fieger, in a tone similar to that which he had exhibited during the Badalamenti trial and on his then-daily radio program in Southeast Michigan, continued by addressing the three appellate judges in that case in the following manner, "Hey Michael Talbot, and Bandstra, and Markey, I declare war on you. You declare it on me, I declare it on you. Kiss my a**, too." Mr. Fieger, referring to his client, then said, "He lost both his hands and both his legs, but according to the Court of Appeals, he lost a finger. Well, the finger he should keep is the one where he should shove it up their a**es."

Two days later, on the same radio show, Mr. Fieger called these same judges "three jackass Court of Appeals judges." When another person involved in the broadcast used the word "innuendo," Mr. Fieger stated, "I know the only thing that's in their endo should be a large, you know, plunger about the size of, you know, my fist." Finally, Mr. Fieger said, "They say under their name, 'Court of Appeals Judge,' so anybody that votes for them, they've changed their name from, you know, Adolf Hitler and Goebbels, and I think - what was Hitler's - Eva Braun, I think it was, is now Judge Markey, she's on the Court of Appeals."

The Federal District Court, however, overruled the State Supreme Court on the federal constitutional question of whether the Michigan rules are vague, overbroad, and "are so imprecise that persons of ordinary intelligence must guess at their meaning." It's the latter ruling that prompted the District Court to conclude:

One person's courtesy may be another person's abomination. For example, a man extending his hand in greeting may be a courtesy to many. To others, it may be a violation of a fundamental belief. Thus, the chance of selective enforcement based on the judiciary's sensibilities is too great for these rules to withstand constitutional scrutiny.

Yes, and one man's threat to put his fist up....well, there is probably merit to the conclusion that rules of this nature are overbroad and give the judiciary power to sanction legitimate speech. But I fail to see how there is any possible basis for saying that Fieger was unable to understand that he was crossing and leaving far behind in the dust any pretense at the minimal level of decency and civility that an attorney is supposed to show to the courts he practices before. Unless lawyers really are unable to understand what "courtesy and respect" means.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:39 AM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 24, 2007
POP CULTURE: Napster Killed The Radio Star

Will Collier explains how the record companies' declining profit margins from selling music in the age of iTunes are pushing them to focus on acts who generate profit from things other than their music, with inevitable declining returns on the quality of the music.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Logical Capstone To Milton Bradley's Career

For a player who has long combined an explosive temper and an improbable injury history, I guess tearing his ACL in a fight with his own manager really should not surprise anyone.

Then again, even this hilarious Catfish Stew post didn't see this one coming.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:30 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Stat Breakdowns of the Day

1. For Jose Reyes' career, he is batting .353 and slugging .547 when putting the first pitch in play, .336 and .491 on an 0-1 pitch, and .302 and .450 on a 1-1 pitch, and .353 and .545 on a 2-1 pitch, and .287 and .418 overall after falling behind 0-1, but just .259 and .393 after getting ahead 1-0.

Most players have huge splits based on the count, and many hit well on the first pitch, but Reyes is extremely rare for hitting better when the first pitch is a strike than when it's a ball. Of course, his OBPs are much better when he's ahead in the count, and like nearly all hitters he hits poorly (in absolute terms) with two strikes on him, but it is perhaps a sign of some benefit to Reyes' overall aggressiveness as a hitter that getting one strike up on him doesn't get you far (the same trend can be seen in his 2007 stats but less dramatically, perhaps reflecting his maturation to a more conventional hitter).

Anyone who has watched him over the last six weeks or so knows that Reyes has been swinging at some bad balls again, but when he is on, he does have tremendous plate coverage.


2. If Josh Beckett's season ended today, he'd be the third pitcher in baseball history to win 20 games while throwing fewer than 200 innings, the other two being Pedro Martinez in 2002 and Bob Grim in 1954. Note that Pedro and Jamie Moyer are the only guys to appear twice on the list of 20-game winners throwing 220 innings or fewer. Unsurprisingly, 13 of the 20 guys on the list are from the past ten seasons.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:26 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: Fraud By The Left To Smear The War Effort

An admission of guilt:

A Washington man, whose claims to have slaughtered civilians as a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq were seen by millions on YouTube, admitted in federal court in Seattle today that he was a fake and a liar.

Jesse Adam Macbeth, 23, pleaded guilty to charges he faked his war record. "He was in the Army for 40 days before he was kicked out of boot camp for being unfit," said U.S. Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan. "He was never in Iraq."...

Macbeth's story of killing men and women as they left a Baghdad mosque included claims that he was a U.S. Army Ranger and had received the Purple Heart for injuries suffered in combat in Iraq.

+++

His interview was translated into Arabic and distributed in the Middle East, said the U.S. attorney.

"Macbeth's lies fueled hostility to our servicemen in Iraq and here at home," Sullivan said.

H/T

That's the end result of lies like those of Jesse MacBeth or Scott Thomas Beauchamp: they assist the enemy, who of course depends on winning in the propaganda war battles that can not be won against American soldiers in the field.

For shame.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:01 PM | Politics 2007 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Those Unnamed Foreign Leaders Are Back!

And this time they're pissed. Assuming they exist, that is.

For all of his legendary political savvy, Bill Clinton just can't help himself from repeating one of the stupider mistakes of the Kerry '04 campaign (which is saying quite a bit): touting the support of (mostly) unnamed and unidentifiable "foreign leaders" who are allegedly supporting Hillary!:

Bill Clinton regularly touts his wife's bid for the White House by telling crowds that leaders around the globe are pulling for Hillary Clinton's election in 2008.

Yet none of the leaders the former President cited will back him up, the Daily News has found.

"Every African leader I talked to, every single one when I was there, without any prodding from me, said, 'For God sakes, I hope Hillary wins. We don't like disliking America here,'" Bill Clinton said at a fund-raiser for her last month.

"I called the outgoing French president, and he said, 'Oh, tell me Hillary's going to win. I'm so tired of disliking America,'" Bill Clinton told the crowd.

Bill Clinton also quoted the immediate past prime minister of Singapore as saying, "'Please tell me Hillary's going to win. We need America leading the world again.'"

This is at least a threefer for boneheadedness. First, Bill looks like a liar (perish the thought, I know) because nobody will admit to saying this to him. Granted, they should deny it in public, but with Bill one never knows either way, which is pretty much the point.

Second, it is a visible symptom of the Democrats' obsession with placing an absurdly high priority on making nice with foreign executives and diplomats, something most Americans rightly regard as at best a very minor foreign policy priority, and at worst a sign of giving away too much to people who manifestly have their own interests and not ours at heart. Shepherds should not be popular with wolves.

And third, it sounds hopelessly naive to suggest that the causes of anti-Americanism in foreign locales is simply the personalities and policies of individual leaders rather than fundamental conflicts of national interest and ideology. It's true that personalities can play a part - in the specific case of France, our relationship is already improving dramatically due to Chirac being replaced by Sarkozy, but underlying causes of tension between U.S. and French foriegn policies won't just go away.

Remember the First Rule of Democrats and Foreign Policy: They never learn. They never, ever, ever learn.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:53 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (32) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: A Matter of Trust

I'd mark Thursday as the point at which I officially switched from being annoyed that the Mets were making this race much closer than it needed to be to being convinced that they will go nowhere in the playoffs. While the other parts of the team have had their hiccups, the entire reason for that is the pen. I mean, coming from behind to build a 3-run lead in the late innings and then blowing it to a last-place team is once thing; doing it twice in a 4-game series is just indescribable. You do not need a great bullpen to win in October, but you need an adequate one; a team that can't protect any lead against anyone just can't win.

For the record:

Heath Bell: 77 games, 80 IP, 2.17 ERA, 93 K
Chad Bradford: 75 games, 62.1 IP, 3.47 ERA
Brian Bannister: 164.1 IP, 12-9, 3.61 ERA
Royce Ring: 15 games, 15 IP, 3.60 ERA
Henry Owens: 22 games, 23 IP, 1.96 ERA, 4 SV

To be fair, Owens - like Ambiorix Burgos - is down for the count, having required rotator cuff surgery, and Ring hasn't worked more because he walked 14 guys in 15 innings. And I wasn't for re-signing Bradford at the price he commanded, except that the team spent almost as much on Schoenweis.

If there is a silver lining for the bullpen from yesterday's debacle - other than the fact that the offense saving their bacon increases the odds of getting a few days' breather at the end of the season - it's that Joe Smith pitched well; Smith has been totally ineffective since his return, but I'd still rather try him in big situations than Mota and Sosa.

Of course, on a macro level the schedule may be the Mets' salvation, as over the next four days they face Washington at home three times and the Cards once, while a still-not-mathematically-eliminated Braves team rides into Philly.

UPDATE: Of course, the bullpen might look a whole lot better right now if we had Duaner Sanchez, Burgos and/or the elusive Juan Padilla. Realistically, the Burgos deal was still a sensible gamble that just didn't pan out because Burgos was hurt (this being the Royals rather than the Braves, I assume they didn't know he was hurt). What's really inexcusable is the Bell deal, since the Mets never really had a basis to believe that Jon Adkins was going to help them.

SECOND UPDATE: It should be noted that Heilman and Feliciano have both passed their career high in games pitched, Smith is in his first season as a pro ballplayer, and Mota has made 50 appearances in just 105 games on the roster.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:19 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
September 21, 2007
BASEBALL: The Little Black Raincloud

I'm trying to pry the sky off my head after the Mets had to take Beltran out tonight with a leg injury of undetermined severity, with the announcers discussing the possibility that if Billy Wagner's not ready to go tonight the team may use a guy who arrived from AA this morning to close.

Now, it's raining. Ideally, the rain will end the game after 5 with the Mets up by 4, but more likely all it will do is guarantee that Pedro doesn't pitch the sixth and thus the Mets need four innings of relief work.

UPDATE: Apparently it was a knee injury. Beltran walked off the field under his own power, but we have seen in the past that he does not play well through injury.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:06 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Power Imbalance, Part II

Following up on a point from last week - on the whole, home runs are down in both leagues this year, but far more dramatically in the AL, to the point where NL hitters are going yard more frequently than their AL counterparts for the first time in this decade. Of course, as the following chart shows, when you take out NL pitchers and AL DHs, the NL's power output has been ahead all along, but is dramatically further ahead this season:

YearAL-ABAL-HRAL-DH-ABAL-DH-HRNL-ABNL-HRNL-P-ABNL-P-HRAL-HR/600NL-HR/600AL-w/oDHNL-w/oP
2007737522120764029884208255045052617.218.216.519.0
2006784972546803539288844284048322919.519.218.320.1
2005782152437809932788120258050251818.717.618.118.5
2004787312605814632888622284649322419.919.319.420.2
2003783112499809432788426270849812919.118.418.619.3
2002777882464815931687794259549392719.017.718.518.6
2001781342506813733788100295250072619.220.118.621.1
2000785472688817835288743300551773220.520.319.921.3

The last four columns are expressed in terms of home runs per 600 at bat. Of course, you could slice the numbers more finely if you had time, to take out the small number of AL pitcher and NL DH at bats and correct for Coors Field, but what's interesting to me is the dramatic change in one season in the AL, much more dramatic than in the NL. I'll leave you for now with the data but I may do a little more thinking about whether there is a plausible cause here beyond random variation.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:01 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Justice Stevens: "Pretty Darn Conservative"?

WSJ Law Blog carries a series of excerpts from a lengthy NY Times Magazine profile ($) of Justice John Paul Stevens, the senior Justice on the Supreme Court and by any commonly used standard the leader of the Court's liberal wing. Some of the key excerpts:

"I don't think of myself as a liberal at all," he told me during a recent interview in his chambers, laughing and shaking his head. "I think as part of my general politics, I'm pretty darn conservative." Stevens said that his views haven't changed since 1975, when as a moderate Republican he was appointed by President Gerald Ford to the Supreme Court. Stevens's judicial hero is Potter Stewart, the Republican centrist, whom Stevens has said he admires more than all of the other justices with whom he has served. He considers himself a "judicial conservative," he said, and only appears liberal today because he has been surrounded by increasingly conservative colleagues.
[H]e emphasized that he still thinks of himself as a judicial conservative, which he defined as someone who tries to follow precedents and "who submerges his or her own views of sound policy to respect those decisions by the people who have authority to make them."

+++

"Originalism is perfectly sensible. I always try to figure out what the original intent was, but to say that's the Bible and nothing else counts seems to me quite wrong."

Up to a point, Justice Stevens is framing his view of the Court's job in terms similar to those commonly used by Justice Scalia or by Chief Justice Roberts to describe their judicial philosophies, and he's self-identifying as a "judicial conservative." Now, you can take this, if you like, as so much disingenuousness in light of his record, but I think it's also a powerful tribute to how far conservatives in general and Justice Scalia in particular have shifted the landscape in how people within and outside of the Court perceive its role and mission that even Justice Stevens finds it desirable that he be perceived as engaging in the same sort of project, and disagreeing mainly at the margins of what constitutes "judicial conservatism." Just as was true when Bill Clinton declared that "the era of big government is over," the moment your opponents start cloaking themselves in your philosophical garb, you know you are winning the battle of ideas. It also means that nostalgia for the old order (H/T) is simply the lament of the losing side in that battle.

Relatedly, Tom Goldstein, who is certainly no conservative himself but is a careful observer of the Supreme Court, has a thought-provoking post on the political implications of the upcoming Term. Among other things, he predicts a victory for Guantanamo detainees in their pursuit of access to federal courts, and notes that whichever way the DC gun ban case comes out, it's likely to mobilize the Right more than the Left. His analysis is worth considering:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:09 AM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Time to Forget Rudy, Fred, Mitt, John and the Rest

A candidate we can all get behind: Jack Bauer '08. H/T Dave Barry.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:04 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Lamentations, O Lamentations

How many leads must a man throw away
Before you won't give him the ball?
How many times must he throw the same way
And watch it go over the wall?

The pennant race, my friends, is being blown again
The pennant race is being blown again

How many times must a manager do
The same thing that cost him last night?
And how many games must the lead dwindle down
Before he can see he's not right?

The pennant race, my friends, is being blown again
The pennant race is being blown again

And how many arms must a man trade away
Before you can give him the blame?
How many dollars can go to a man
Who can't show to close out a game?

The pennant race, my friends, is being blown again
The pennant race is being blown again.

UPDATE: I have added a visual representation of Willie Randolph's handling of the bullpen:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:00 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Paul Krugman's Dream World

Paul Krugman apparently has a blog at the NY Times site (now that they are giving it away for more than it is worth), and Tom Maguire actually read an entire post there, on how Krugman's utopia - reduced income inequality - requires a revival of the FDR years. Maguire:

Of course, as a policy prescription, urging Dems to inflict a depression and world war on the rest of us in order to achieve Krugman's vision of greater income [equality] may seem a bit harsh, so I can see why he shies away from that.

+++

Krugman wants to return us to a happy place we reached by way of war and depression, a place where minorities and women could not work, and where illegal immigrants toiled in the fields but nowhere else. And he wants to pretend that is not how we got there, and not where we were. Good luck. Let's hope his subsequent blog offerings show a bit more of a basis in reality.

Good luck with that.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:43 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Latest Romney Ad and Strategy

Allahpundit says:

[T]he ad's really about good government and effective management, both of which conservatives are hungry for and both of which Mitt's well positioned to push, partly based on his record and partly on his reputation as a guy so squeaky clean that he won't even use foul language. Rudy's too socially liberal to get away with an ad like this, Fred has too much lobbyist baggage, and McCain's too much of an amnesty shill. If any one of the big four's going to do it, and it needs to be done, it's Mitt.

Mitt's also the only one of the big four who's hinted, however slightly, at drifting away from Bush on Iraq. If things take a downturn this fall, he'll probably be the first major Republican candidate to tack left to try to capture growing anti-war sentiment among the right.

I'll refrain from commenting in more detail for now (regular readers should know by now I am not a fan of Romney as a presidential candidate, for many reasons I will come back to when time permits) ...certainly, Romney is not the first of the '08 candidates to (properly) try to distance himself from the Beltway GOP's departures from conservative principle on spending.

An interesting strategic question is whether Romney will turn out to have put too many of his eggs in the Iowa/New Hampshire basket. Personally, I don't think Mitt should have any regrets about his IA/NH strategy; I think it was the best angle for him to pursue, and it does still give him a theoretical pathway to the nomination, which was always going to be an uphill battle for him. He started off with a natural advantage in NH as a high-profile neighboring GOP governor, and that squeaky-clean persona made him a good fit for Iowa social conservatives. And he was always going to meet skepticism in the South. You can criticize the way Mitt has carried out his campaign but his overall strategic choices on where geographically to spend his money and time have been sound.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:34 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Statist Impulse

Emily Bazelon pens a perfectly good two-paragraph column about why it's more dangerous to ride in a car with your seat reclined...but somehow just can't resist turning it into a two-page screed on why government regulation is needed to protect ignorant consumers from avaricious automakers who don't want to warn you not to use one of the features in your car.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:26 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Rick Perry, VP Material?

Now, I'm not from Texas, so maybe I'm missing something here. Matt Lewis thinks Texas' Governor would be a fine addition to a national ticket:

Perry's national visibility will also likely increase, as he is rumored to be in line to become Chairman of the Republican Governor's Association (RGA) -- a position that often serves as a stepping-stone toward a presidential bid.

Sources tell me the governor has close relationships with both Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. One can easily imagine that the endorsement of a conservative Texas governor might help Giuliani in his bid to seal the nomination.

Should Giuliani's wooing work, a Perry VP nomination is certainly imaginable.

From what I know of Gov. Perry, he's a solid enough Republican but nobody's idea of a star in the makings, and not really all that beloved by serious people in the Texas GOP - kind of a Texan George Pataki, albeit a better Republican than Pataki because he is planted in better soil.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:12 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
September 19, 2007
POLITICS: Your Papers, Please

Hillary! wants to make it illegal to get a job if you don't have proof of health insurance:

She said she could envision a day when "you have to show proof to your employer that you're insured as a part of the job interview — like when your kid goes to school and has to show proof of vaccination," but said such details would be worked out through negotiations with Congress.

Proof of health insurance, yes. Proof of citizenship, no; that would be unfair and mean-spirited. Also, it's racist to require proof of citizenship and eligibility to vote.

Got that straight?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:05 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
September 18, 2007
BASEBALL: Anathema

Add to the list of people I never want to see in a Mets uniform again Brian Lawrence, Aaron Sele, and, if he wasn't already, Jorge Sosa (note that the list already included Guillermo Mota and Scott Schoenweis, as well as Chan Ho Park).

Joe Smith was no prize yesterday either.

UPDATE: Since August 26, Pedro, Glavine, Maine, Perez and Pelfrey are a combined 9-3 in 102.2 IP with a 2.81 ERA, averaging 8.50 hits, 0.61 HR, 3.86 BB and 7.10 K per 9 innings.

In the same period, Wagner, Heilman and Feliciano are 0-2 with 6 saves in 26.1 IP with a 3.42 ERA, averaging 8.20 hits, 1.03 HR, 2.73 BB and 8.89 K per 9 innings.

In the same period, the rest of the staff is 0-2 in 22.2 IP with a 10.32 ERA, averaging 14.69 hits, 2.38 HR, 5.16 BB and 3.97 K per 9.

I demand that you shoot me now.

UPDATE (Tuesday night): Let's go Mets!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:52 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (21) | TrackBack (0)
September 17, 2007
POLITICS: Fred Will Need Specifics If He Wants To Govern With A Mandate

If you watched the inaugural episode of "Fred Answers," you will note that Fred Thompson did an excellent job of explaining why the tax code is broken, but didn't actually answer the question of whether he prefers the Flat Tax, the so-called "Fair Tax," or something different.

Now, we don't expect presidential candidates to unroll complex legislative proposals at the drop of a hat, so I'm not necessarily criticizing him for not giving his own proposal on the spot. But I am suggesting this: if you expect Fred Thompson to overhaul the tax code or the entitlement system, watch to see if his campaign puts out a detailed white paper or some such document actually proposing to do so. Because if he doesn't, I submit to you that he will never get any such plan passed through Congress.

Why do I say that? Consider the history. President Bush campaigned on a big, detailed tax cut plan in 2000 (as Reagan did in 1980) and (like Reagan) he got it passed. The Bush tax cut plan had taken a lot of slings and arrows in the primary and general election seasons, but when it came time to propose it, everybody on the Hill knew that the guy who proposed it had survived the election. No Child Left Behind went through a similar process, albeit getting passed in a form that jettisoned some of the more popular elements of the bill (school choice).

By contrast, President Bush didn't unroll a specific Social Security reform plan in 2004, and three years later, he never has sent up to the Hill proposed legislation on that topic. Even though he had campaigned twice on the general outlines of his plan, he lost the battle to convince people in Congress that he had been elected with a mandate to actually make this happen. Ditto for comprehensive immigration reform.

In 1992, the Clintons campaigned on a national healthcare plan, but many of the details of HillaryCare had been ironed out in secret commitee sessions after the inauguration. Lacking an electoral mandate for the plan itself (which derived as well from having received only 43% of the vote), the Clintons were never able to go over the heads of Congress.

There are exceptions to this, to be sure; genuinely bipartisan "Tax Reform" got passed in 1986, for example, without anyone having run on such a platform in 1984. But that case, as with any of Fred's plans, would need to be a product of true bipartisan compromise of the sort that few of us would view with any degree of confidence. Other examples of large-scale domestic legislation often involve reaction to perceived recent crises rather than longstanding ills of Washington.

Like it or not, Mitt Romney understands this dynamic, which is why he is running on a health care plan that was actually enacted into law in Massachusetts; if he survives the primary and general elections, the plan will have a good head of steam behind it. Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee (the other two experienced executives in the race) have also unveiled at least the beginnings of detailed health care and tax plans, respectively, and may need to go further down that road themselves.

Sure, it may well be smart electoral politics to avoid the kind of specifics that sink big, complex reform proposals, since the candidate is apt to sink with it. But there's no way around the fact that a presidential candidate who hasn't staked his own rear end on a proposal won't be able to get nervous Congresscritters to put theirs on the line.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:18 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/WAR: The Ninth Circuit Rejects Foreign Policy By Civil Lawsuit

The Ninth Circuit today affirmed the dismissal of a complaint by the family of Rachel Corrie, who was crushed to death by a bulldozer operated by the Israel Defense Forces while protesting the destruction of Palestinian homes, against Caterpillar, the manufacturer of the bulldozers. The plaintiffs also included the families of various Palestinians. The court did not wade into the facts far enough to grasp the extent to which Ms. Corrie was actively abetting the smuggling of weapons used in terrorism against Israel, nor to discuss who was really at fault in the specific incident that led to Ms. Corrie's death. Instead, it dismissed under the political question doctrine, finding that, because the bulldozers were financed and permitted to be sold by U.S. aid to Israel, it was not the place of the courts to allow a civil lawsuit to decide such explosive foreign policy questions and possibly resolve them differently than would the Executive and Legislative Branches:

The decisive factor here is that Caterpillar's sales to Israel were paid for by the United States. . . .

+++

Allowing this action to proceed would necessarily require the judicial branch of our government to question the political branches' decision to grant extensive military aid to Israel. It is difficult to see how we could impose liability on Caterpillar without at least implicitly deciding the propriety of the United States' decision to pay for the bulldozers which allegedly killed the plaintiffs' family members.

+++

We cannot intrude into our government's decision to grant military assistance to Israel, even indirectly by deciding this challenge to a defense contractor's sales.

+++

In this regard, we are mindful of the potential for causing international embarrassment were a federal court to undermine foreign policy decisions in the sensitive context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Plaintiffs argue that the United States government has already criticized Israel's home demolitions in the Palestinian Territories. They point, for example, to former Secretary of State Powell's statement that "[w]e oppose the destruction of [Palestinian] homes - we don't think that is productive." But that language is different in kind from a declaration that the IDF has systematically committed grave violations of international law, none of which the United States has ever accused Israel of, so far as the record reveals. Diplomats choose their words carefully, and we cannot subvert United States foreign policy by latching onto such mildly critical language by the Secretary of State. Cf. Crosby v. Nat'l Foreign Trade Council, 530 U.S. 363, 386 (2000) ("[T]he nuances of the foreign policy of the United States . . . are much more the province of the Executive Branch and Congress than of this Court.") (internal quotations omitted).

It is not the role of the courts to indirectly indict Israel for violating international law with military equipment the United States government provided and continues to provide. . . . Plaintiffs may purport to look no further than Caterpillar itself, but resolving their suit will necessarily require us to look beyond the lone defendant in this case and toward the foreign policy interests and judgments of the United States government itself.

Three cheers for the Ninth Circuit panel (consisting, by the way, of two Clinton appointees and a Carter appointee) for getting this one right.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:24 PM | Law 2006-08 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Phiasco

What an utter disaster this weekend was for the Mets, the only compensation being that the Phillies are still 4 back in the loss column and the Mets' last 14 games include one game with a team that's 8 games under .500 (the Cardinals), 6 with a team that's 17 under (the Nationals), and 7 with a team that's 19 under (the Marlins), whereas the Phils have three games with Atlanta, three with the Cards, 7 with Washington and none with the Marlins.

It's bad enough to lose to the Phillies on their strength - the offense really is hard to stop - and the exposing of the Mets' weakness, their middle relief. But much of the past 8 straight losses to the Phils has been the result of the Mets failing to capitalize on the Phillies' weak points (not scoring even adequately on their weak pitching staff, especially the bullpen) and being betrayed by their own strengths - the best defensive team in the league making 6 errors in a game (at one point yesterday Jimmy Rollins had induced an error or botched defensive play on five consecutive plate appearances), Billy Wagner blowing games, the best base stealing team in the league repeatedly running themselves out of innings (as Gotay and Reyes did in the pivotal sixth inning on Saturday, including Reyes' boneheaded caught stealing at third to end the inning, while Carlos Gomez failed to take a key extra base Friday night, costing the Mets the chance to win in regulation).

At this point, I'm counting El Duque out of the postseason picture until we see him make a healthy outing again; it's ironic (or worse) that after all those years of postseason glory in the Bronx he may be out or effectively useless in October two straight years with the Mets. Some of that may be that the Mets have actually expected him to hold down a rotation slot all season rather than just giving him weeks off in midsummer to stay fresh, of course.

What does that leave for the October staff? Pedro and Glavine are definitely in the rotation; Glavine has righted the ship recently after some doldrums and while Pedro hasn't been as dominating as 17 K, 4 BB and 0 HR in 16 IP and a 1.69 ERA would suggest (it's not an accident that he's allowing more than a hit an inning), he looks plenty crafty enough to deserve a rotation slot in October. For now, that suggests a rotation of Pedro-Glavine-Perez-Maine, and the bullpen would include Wagner-Heilman-Feliciano . . . but after that, who? I hate the idea of using Mota and Schoenweis in a postseason game (even Randolph has to be out of patience with Mota after yesterday), and Sosa has been in a tailspin lately. Sele has been growing cobwebs in the pen, and he's really done nothing to make me trust him. I'd like to see Joe Smith get a shot if he is completely healthy, but he needs some appearances in the majors again. Collazo and Humber are totally unproven and at this point unprovable commodities. About the only other option is Pelfrey, who has finally been putting things together lately. Pelfrey at least doesn't give up home runs, but while he's never terribly wild, he still needs to show more consistent ability to put the ball where he wants it if he is going to pitch important innings in big games.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
September 13, 2007
BASEBALL: Running When Needed

Via Ryan McConnell, a good point about Jose Reyes from Tim Marchman:

[O]nly 23% of his 93 attempts have come when the Mets were either ahead or behind by more than two runs. Sixty-eight percent of the time, he's run when the Mets were tied, up one, or down one, and he's 19 for 23 in the latter two situations -- the most crucial in the game.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:18 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Harry Reid Draws A Line In The Sand

One of the basic rules of political power is never to stake everything you have on a fight you are not sure of winning. But with rumors swirling that former Solicitor General and Reagan Justice Department official Ted Olson might be tabbed as the next Attorney General, the Senate Majority Leader yesterday laid down an ultimatum on which he was willing to stake the full prestige of his office:

"Ted Olson will not be be confirmed by the Senate," Reid said after a Capitol news conference. "I intend to do everything I can to prevent him from being confirmed as the next attorney general."

Reid may well be betting on a sure thing, as the rumor of the day is that Olson is no longer the frontrunner for the job, perhaps due to White House concerns over a messy and difficult confirmation process for Olson in spite of his stellar resume, unquestionable qualifications for the job, past confirmations by the Senate and undoubted ability to best any Judiciary Committee Senator in verbal combat. But for a Senate leader who has accomplished little and failed at many of his goals since gaining the majority, betting it all that Ted Olson will never be confirmed is a risky gamble.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:24 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links 9/13/07

*Michael Lewis is a wonderful writer and a guy who understands and loves markets. You have to read (here and here) his take on the subprime lending crisis. (Not everyone is amused). Lewis himself was a bond trader for a few years in the 1980s, leading to his smash hit book "Liar's Poker," and he poses here as a Gordon Gekko-type hedge-fund manager who blames poor people for evertything. The great thing about these pieces is that they are double-edged satire, containing enough cold-hearted economic truth to effectively skewer subprime borrowers and Capitol Hill demagogues, but at the same time mocking the misanthropic (at best) attitudes he parrots.

*Speaking of which, Gekko himself is apparently coming back as a hedge-fund manager (improbable given his insider-trading conviction, but that's Hollywood - it wouldn't be as much fun if he was running a car insurance company). I wonder how he reacts when he finds out Martin Sheen ended up President.

*Medieval scholastics would have been awed by the effort exerted by the Third Circuit to determine that putting on a hair net is "work". Of course, I am thankful not to work in a place of employment that has an "evisceration" department.

*The Constitution stops at the frat house door, as the Second Circuit upholds a college's right to use anti-discrimination policies to deny recognition to a fraternity on grounds of not admitting women. There's a case to be made for greater autonomy of educational institutions and a case to be made for the fundamental ambiguity of right-to-association law, but the reasoning used in this opinion is almost as flimsy as the public policy at issue is blinkered.

*An ex-parrot who was impressively intelligent.

*Of course, Michael Moore's new movie is loaded with untruths. (H/T). That's like going to a Jackie Chan movie and seeing a lot of kicking.

*Seems like a whole lot of nothing to me.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:52 PM | Blog 2006-13 • | Business • | Law 2006-08 • | Science | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Power Imbalance

Top 3 AL outfielders in Home Runs:

Torii Hunter (28)
Magglio Ordonez (27)
Jermaine Dye (26)

Top 3 NL Second Basemen in Home Runs:

Brandon Phillips (29)
Dan Uggla (29)
Jeff Kent (20)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:42 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL: Bill Belichick's Patriot Act

No, especially after reading KSK's take I couldn't resist that title.

The news that Jets coach Eric Mangini caught Bill Belichick in the act of stealing the Jets' defensive signals via video camera in violation of NFL rules presents a number of interesting issues. For obvious reasons, the NFL isn't going to go back and start forfeiting games or kick Belichick out of the league, but the penalty does have to be real and stiff to discourage this sort of thing from happening; the NFL has talked about docking the team draft picks, and a first round pick would be a sufficiently stiff penalty that it should be included. And yes, the penalty should fall on the team as a whole, since this was an operation involving multiple people from the head coach on down for the benefit of the club.

Sign-stealing has a long pedigree, of course, and in baseball we have the now-notorious example (only unearthed 50 years later) of the 1951 Giants' elaborate surveillance operation. But while baseball has mostly treated it as a venial sin and one that carries no penalty if you aren't caught red-handed (as the Patriots here were) it strikes me as being a more serious issue in football, given the elaborate nature of the play-calling process in today's game.

At the same time, I'm not so quick to jump on the bandwagon of people trying to strip the legitimacy of the Patriots' titles; as is often the case with these things, you start doing that and it raises the issue of who else got away with what that was never known or suspected.

Probably the biggest lesson of the whole affair is that you should never use dirty tricks against people who used to work for you and know your M.O. "The Mangenius" knew Belichick's tricks from having worked for the Pats; if Belichick expected Mangini to keep quiet out of an unspoken code of loyalty, he shouldn't have tried the same thing against Mangini's team.

Oh, and: don't mess with a guy who knows Tony Soprano.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:23 AM | Football | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Fun Randolph-Era Mets Fact of the Day

Since Willie Randolph took over the Mets helm in 2005, not only have the Mets led the NL in steals three years running, but - headed by the trio of Reyes, Beltran and Wright - they have a team stolen base percentage of 80.9% in that period, including 82.5% this season.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:18 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 11, 2007
BASEBALL: Splitting Delgado

If you drill down in the splits on Carlos Delgado, some interesting things appear, some of which mitigate his rough season, but some only make him look worse:

*Delgado is, as I have previously noted, hitting just fine since July 1 (.282/.465/.374) in the second half.

*Even more than Beltran, Shea is killing Delgado, who is batting .292/.513/.355 on the road but an anemic .213/.365/.299 at Shea.

*Delgado is batting .322/.592/.402 with no outs, but .170/.327/.255 with two outs, and it's all those inning enders that have really made him look helpless. Relatedly, he's batting .224/.388/.326 with men in scoring position.

*Delgado is hitting .285/.492/.352 against the Mets' NL East foes, including .328/.638/.403 against the Phillies. That matters, a lot.

*Consider Delgado's problems at Shea, which is notorious for its poor visibility. Consider that he is hitting .289/.510/.379 in day games and .317/.512/.429 indoors, but .241/.418/.307 at night. Consider that he is hitting .283/.532/.342 against finesse pitchers, but .212/.349/.296 against power pitchers.

Does Delgado need his eyes checked, and that's why he's having trouble at night and at home? Or is it that - like everyone - he just sees the ball a slight bit better by day and away from Shea, and that that extra microsecond to react is where his declining reflexes, at age 35, are becoming a problem? Perhaps the struggles with power pitchers suggest the latter.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:40 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Remind Me Again Where Eliot Spitzer Is Governor Of?

Eliot Spitzer's remarks today at the September 11 memorial service:

We stand on this terrible threshold remembering all that happened. We feel today as we felt then, that we belong to one another, not because we are inhabitants of the same city or same country but because we are all part of the same human story, part of one community of our fellow human beings. John Dunne wrote these immortal words centuries ago: "No man is an island, entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, apart of the main, any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee."

Well, actually no, Eliot. You are a Governor. Which means you are elected by a particular group of people, who share a basic social contract of self-government (I know it's hard to get used to that after thinking you were Attorney General of the entire financial world, but there we have it). Now, we New Yorkers are indeed a diverse lot, as people come here from all throughout the nation and the world. But that doesn't change the fact that we belong to each other because we share a city, a state, and a nation; to the contrary, the fact that so many of your constituents are New Yorkers by choice means precisely that any notion of belonging to one another is about more than just common humanity; it is, instead, a compact grounded in common values, values we can choose to accept, or reject.

The men who flew those planes into our neighborhood rejected them. And they would reject you, Governor Spitzer, and never forget that. They would reject you first of all for your faith, which is certainly the first thing that would pop in their heads while sawing off yours, which they would gladly do if given the opportunity. They would reject you for your city, which they attacked, and your nation, which stands in their way.

We New Yorkers may be a broad-minded lot, but when the day is done, like any other people anywhere, we take care of our own. We elect people who swear to do that, even at times people we do not particularly like. You were not asked to speak at a memorial service for the hijackers (notice the absence of reading of their names?), or for humanity at large. You were asked to speak at a memorial for our neighbors. Whose families and friends are gathered here, because those who died were their family and friends.

I would offer Rudy Giuliani's statement at the same service as a more appropriate way to offer some general, non-controversial sentiments without descending into this swamp of moral equivalence in which we care not who died, or why:

On this day six years ago and on the days that followed, in the midst of our great grief and turmoil, we also witnessed uncompromising strength and resilience as a people. It was a day with no answers, but with an unending line of those who came forward to try to help one another. Elie Wiesel wrote this about the blackest night a human being can know: "I have learned two lessons in my life. First, there are no significant literary, psychological or historical answers to human tragedy, only moral ones. Second, just as despair can come to one another only from other human beings, hope too can be given to one only by other human beings."

God bless America.

As James Lileks once put it, speaking of former Minnesota Senator Mark Dayton:

It's as if people of Dayton's ilk believe they're really Senators in some transnational body that represents the world, not a weirdly-shaped state with its head jammed up against the broad flat butt of Canada. I'm starting to think they're all Senators from the United Federation of Planets, and soon the Temporal Police will show up and take them back to the future.

Governor, by those sentiments, you are no family, no friend of ours. We need someone who understands that our Governor is supposed to be on our side, and not just on the side of "humanity" in general.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:32 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Not Forgetting

It only hit me when we turned over the calendar to September that the 11th would be on a Tuesday this year. Mercifully, it's a rainy morning; yesterday was more reminiscent of the day. This video of the news reports at 8am that morning should bring it back.

For remembering the events of September 11, I still can't add to what I wrote when it was still fresh in my mind.

We have been fortunate indeed - and it is not just luck, of course - that there has been no follow-up attack within the U.S. in the six succeeding years. I have to say, I'm increasingly pessimistic that this can keep up, especially in light of the Left's continuous and longstanding assault on every method of intelligence-gathering we have - electronic surveillance, interrogation of captured detainees, boots on the ground, covert operations, use of defectors and double-agents, reports by citizens of suspicious behavior - and on our ability to act on them.

It is altogether fitting that this day in Washington is taken up with the question of whether and how the United States will continue the fight in Iraq. One of the central facts that the Vietnam analogists always ignore is the geographic, strategic and cultural centrality of Iraq to the Arab and Muslim worlds, which of course are the origin of the threat that struck us on that September morning. The case for abandoning Vietnam would have been far weaker had the war been fought in Poland. These days, the anti-war crowd is mainly occupied with contortions to prove that we are not actually fighting Al Qaeda and related jihadists in Iraq. But short of admitting that we were not going to conduct a broad offensive campaign to get to the problem at its roots, there was never a good answer to how we were going to win a war on terror with Saddam at our back, as he would have been had we started the second stage (after Afghanistan) anywhere else. And today, the option of having a "do-over" of the past five years having faded into the alt-history swamp, the question is still more pressing: given that the very ideological forces we are fighting, and who attacked us that day, have made it a priority to defeat the United States in Iraq, how can the wider war be won without it being seen that the U.S. has defeated them there?

I'm thankful this morning for the men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan precisely because I remember that morning six years ago.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:49 AM | War 2007-12 | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)
September 10, 2007
BASEBALL: Declawed

Further to my note on Jeremy Bonderman the other day, yesterday's Tigers-Mariners slugfest - featuring a poor pitching performance by 21-year-old Felix Hernandez and yet another meltdown by the 24-year-old Bonderman - was a fine illustration of the difficulties of bringing along young pitchers these days, especially in the AL. You could scarcely find two more talented young arms than these two, and both have great stuff and good control and have been generally healthy (Hernandez' balky elbow earlier this year notwithstanding) while pitching in the two best pitcher's parks in the league. Yet, Bonderman's now sporting a 4.78 career and 5.01 season ERAs, has never had an ERA below 4.00, and had never won more than 14 games; Hernandez (let's not call him "F-Her") has a 4.03 career and 4.17 season ERAs, and his career high in wins is 12. Either or both could still become major stars as soon as next season, but the point is the struggles they have required just to become slightly above-league-average pitchers. Meanwhile, the most heralded young pitcher in the AL, Joba Chamberlain, has pitched the grand total of 14.1 major league innings and has yet to start a game.

For the Tigers, this portends a larger problem. They are in the unusual situation, for a Detroit team, of being awash in young arms - Bonderman, Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya, Andrew Miller, Zach Miner, Jair Jurrjens. Yet their pitching staff has been awful, 9th in the league in ERA.

This got me thinking about the historic role of pitching in the Tigers franchise. If you look at the real ace seasons, 200+IP and an ERA of less than 3.00, only the Red Sox of the original 8 AL teams have had fewer such seasons since 1920 than the Tigers (the numbers: Red Sox 27, Tigers 29, A's 34, Twins/Senators 36, Orioles/Browns 37, White Sox 39, Indians 44, Yankees 61). Here's Detroit's list.

I also looked at the role hitting and pitching has played in team success, broken out by the team's winning percentages. I included the 2007 season, in which Detroit is 2d in the AL in Runs Scored, 9th in ERA, and has a .538 winning percentage. "Runs High" is seasons where the Tigers have ranked higher in the AL in Runs Scored than in ERA, "ERA High" is seasons where they ranked higher in ERA than in Runs Scored, and "Tie" is where they finished the same. The "Avg" figures show their average finish in each category in seasons when they posted winning percentages in that category.

W%Runs HighERA HighTieAvg RAvg ERA
All64331056
.500+4216635
-.5002217478
+.60081112
.550-.599124435
.500-.5492211146
.450-.499119157
.400-.44973289
-.4004511010

First of all, we have a reminder here that, the 1994-2005 period notwithstanding, the Tigers have been an exceptionally successful franchise over the years. Of course, this is more a descriptive table than a predictive one; if there's a reason why the Tigers have far more frequently built winning teams around offense than pitching it's Tiger Stadium, which is no more. Still, historically there has been a very pronounced tendency for Detroit's teams to rely more on their bats, and that tendency has only been more pronounced in the years when they have had their best seasons.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:53 AM | Baseball 2007 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: The September 10 Party

Nancy Pelosi is visiting Ground Zero today to promote...a health care bill. No, you couldn't make this up if you tried:

The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, will meet with Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Spitzer today and tour the World Trade Center site on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The trip coincides with a new proposal, the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, a bill to be introduced tomorrow in Congress that would provide comprehensive medical coverage and financial compensation to those who became ill after being exposed to dust at ground zero.

Now, I'm not necessarily opposed to compensating people, especially those who worked (formally or informally) for the government in clearing the site and got sick as a result. Although of course with any such bill creating a new spending entitlement there will be issues of how exactly the government will decide what sort of proof is required to tie illnesses or claimed illnesses to the site.

But it's so typical of the Democrats that they are most comfortable dealing with soldiers, cops, firemen, etc. when they can get away from endorsing anything they actually do and treat them solely as passive victims to be nursed by the federal government.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:30 AM | Politics 2007 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
September 9, 2007
BASEBALL: The Driver's Seat

The Mets may not be in clinch mode, but they sure are looking like they have the NL East well in hand. Yet again today, Pedro was not dominating, but showed he could turn the dials when he needed to, and had that one inning with the three strikeouts when he made the Astros look like amateurs. Between him and Wagner getting back on track, I'm feeling pretty good about the next 4-8 weeks.

Guillermo Mota is another story. I know Randolph is basically playing the elimination game right now to see which pitchers to give roles to in October, but Mota sure is not making a good case for himself.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:56 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Is Partition Inevitable?

Via one of the WSJ's many blogs, an article in the Economiston the possible dissolution of Belgium, yet another of the awkward multi-ethnic creations of the European leadership of the past two centuries, and how little it might mean.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:50 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Great Line

From Patterico:

[Richard] Haynes, the witty and gentlemanly criminal defense lawyer, recalls the prior generation’s legal master Percy Foreman warning him that the law is a jealous mistress "but they don't explain that the law is a nymphomaniac."
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:47 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 8, 2007
BLOG: Everyone Says So

Today's Dilbert is a classic:

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:38 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BUSINESS: The Nose Knows

You can't convince me that McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts don't already do something like this. The smell from their restaurants is always stronger than you would expect solely from the cooking process.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:06 PM | Business | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
September 7, 2007
POLITICS: Club for Growth Reports

The Club for Growth, the supply-side advocacy group, has its report on Fred Thompson up. The Club's reports are very helpful in presenting the facts on each of the candidates, although of course there's a certain amount of editorializing you may or may not agree with. The Fred one notes his "generally pro-growth with an excellent record on entitlement reform and school choice and a very good record on taxes, regulation, and trade" but chides him on pork, tort reform and McCain-Feingold.

The Club gave a mainly positive writeup on Rudy, effectively grading him on a curve for the degree of difficulty of being pro-growth in NYC; a qualified positive writeup on Romney ("a mixture of pro-growth accomplishments and some troublesome positions that beg to be explained"), a harsh treatment of McCain for "the Senator’s vocal and class-warfare-laced opposition to the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts; his occasional but eager support for increased government regulation; his support for raising Social Security taxes; and his persistent attacks on political free speech in the form of the McCain-Feingold Act", a postive treatment of Sam Brownback other than his support for Bush's 2003 Medicare bill, and what can only be described as a hatchet job on Mike Huckabee. No word from the Club on whether reports on Hunter, Paul and Tancredo will be forthcoming.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:30 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: I Admit It, I Confess

I am totally a sucker for anything that combines Legos and YouTube. Do I need a better reason? I think not:

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:29 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/LAW: Because He's The President And You Are Not, That's Why

Senator Webb wants to know why Bush nominated an attorney who wasn't on a list submitted by Webb for the Fourth Circuit.

Elections=>Consequences.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:27 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2007 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Neither A Surgeon Nor A General

Koop.jpgYuval Levin had an interesting article in the most recent National Review (subscription only) explaining, against the backdrop of recent charges by Congressional Democrats of undue politicization of the Surgeon General's office, that the Surgeon General job really has nothing else to do but make politically provocative pronouncements, given that the real responsibilities of the office have long since been given away to the Department of Health and Human Services and subsidiary agencies like the CDC and NIH:

When the post was created in 1871, the surgeon general was head of the Marine Hospital Service, which cared for American merchant sailors. Under the first surgeon general, John Maynard Woodworth, the MHS took the form of a uniformed pseudo-military service, and was assigned some crucial public-health responsibilities, most notably the maintenance of quarantines. In 1889, the larger U.S. Public Health Service was created, and the surgeon general was made its head. The MHS, meanwhile, was folded into the PHS and became its Commissioned Corps, a uniformed service assigned to help prevent the spread of disease and bring medical care to areas in need. Today, it continues to perform these functions through its roughly 6,000 doctors, nurses, pharmacists, engineers, and other uniformed officers.

The surgeon general's duties, in short, fit the grandeur of his title. But since 1953, when another reorganization created the cabinet-level office now known as the Department of Health and Human Services, the surgeon general's duties have gradually contracted. In 1968, the responsibility for running the PHS was moved to the assistant secretary for health, to whom the surgeon general now reports.

This is much the same problem that besets the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. All government agencies are inherently political to one extent or another, but agencies that have no real executive responsibilities have no check on becoming simply mills for churning out propaganda.

Levin's argument, which is worth reading at length, is that the Surgeon General has basically come to be an oracle of public health, one of the last bastions accepted by the Left - along with environmentalism - for the role of public moralizer (albeit the kinds of morals promoted on the Left). But really, the article can just as easily be read as a brief for abolishing the office entirely. There are more than enough agencies already charged with actually carrying out the job of improving public health. We shouldn't have to pay another one to preach the government's gospel to us.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Maybe Not The Natural

Rick Ankiel under investigation for using HGH. According to the New York Daily News' report on an ongoing investigation

Ankiel has not been accused by authorities of wrongdoing, and stopped receiving HGH just before Major League Baseball officially banned it in 2005, The News reported.

Of course, HGH doesn't work, or at least doesn't work other than in conjunction with steroids.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Does WBuck Approve?

When you reach the point of "DFred," I think this form of abbreviation has reached its logical nadir. I believe it started with A-Rod, followed by J-Lo, in the mid-90s. As far as I am concerned it should not have gone beyond those two.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
September 6, 2007
BASEBALL: Walkoff Trivia

Baseball-Reference.com (which, by the way, just debuted a brand new updated-thru-2007 minor league stats page with stats going back to 1992, including helpful all-on-one-page listings by franchise/year - see here for the 2007 Mets farmhands), has a breakout of the 8 walkoff homers to end a postseason series. There's a bunch of fun ways to do the trivia on this one (e.g., name the pitchers), but try this: 7 of the 8 came in tie games. Which was the only one hit from behind?

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:09 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Under Fire

I haven't linked to nearly enough of my RedState colleague Jeff Emanuel's dispatches from Iraq, but you won't want to miss his first-person account of being on a patrol hit by an IED on the road in Samarra.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:13 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: That's Rich

I see where Hillary Clinton's felonious fundraiser (well, that narrows it down - this time, it's a guy named Norman Hsu) has gone on the lam again. Somebody must have given him the idea that you can get away with being a fugitive if you give money to the Clintons. Wonder how he got that idea?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:17 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Past His Expiration Date

Is there a worse stretch drive pitcher in baseball than Jeremy Bonderman? For his career, Bonderman has a 4.30 ERA in the first half, 5.34 in the second, including a lifetime record of - I'm not making this up - 5-18 with a 5.81 ERA in August. This season, Bonderman went from 9-1, 3.48 ERA in the first half to 2-7, 6.72 in the second. Last year, 8-4, 3.46 in the first half, 6-4, 4.87 in the second. 2005, 11-5, 3.99 at the break, 3-8, 5.61 in the second half, including a 6.64 ERA after August 1.

Consider Bonderman's innings totals at the break each season: 121.2 in 2005, 119.2 in 2006, 106 this year. It may be that he just isn't up for carrying a #1 starter's workload (at least not yet; he's still just 24), but then the same thing happened this year after paring back his innings a bit. The second-half flops are the main reason why Bonderman, who has as much talent as almost anybody in the game, still has a 4.72 career ERA.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:52 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
September 5, 2007
POLITICS: Tonight's GOP Debate

My quick thoughts, to be supplemented later?

Well, everyone will have their own take. I thought, having caught only parts of the earlier debates, that this was an excellent debate. I wouldn't presume to declare a winner, but my guy Rudy had a very good night, benefitted from his command of the details and gave a heartfelt answer in defending his performance as Mayor during and despite the ugly eruption of his personal life. But the debate covered a lot more ground than just that, for all the participants. I personally thought Hunter and Huckabee both auditioned well for the VP job, although I know some people found some of Huckabee's answers on the war off-putting.

In fact, other than Tancredo (who stammers too much and who doesn't have a real role to play with Romney and Hunter carrying the immigration-hawk banner) and Brownback (who has been largely marginalized to his pet issues and isn't aggressive enough in this forum), most of the candidates played fairly well to their pre-existing images: Romney worked at exposing the fissures between himself and the others (notably his sustained attacks on Rudy on the "sanctuary cities" issue), McCain was both grave and wisecracking in turn, Huckabee was eloquent and got off some great lines as always, Hunter was serious and tough, and Paul was shrill but made sure the others had to answer his unique perspectives. (I didn't much like Romney's performance but that's mainly because of the issues I had with him going in). As a field they work a lot better with 8 than with 10, and hopefully that field will continue to narrow - my vote would be for Tancredo to pull out next.

Probably the best line of the night was Huckabee's response to Paul on the idea that Iraq was hurting the party at the polls ("Even if we lose elections we should not lose our honor"). Chris Wallace sounded like he had it in for Paul, going after him with a zeal rarely applied to marginal candidates (e.g., asking if we should take our marching orders from Al Qaeda on withdrawing troops from the region).

Finally, I have to think that Fred was a loser with the people who watched this - unavoidably, perhaps, but we need to get him out there and see what he's made of in these things. Fred needs less tell and more show. The only candidate who really gave a full preview of his line of attack against Fred was Rudy, who lumped him in with Hillary, Obama and Edwards in lacking executive experience (a distinction that drew a smile from Romney). If nothing else, Rudy's willingness to throw a punch at a guy who wasn't even on the stage was vintage Giuliani.

UPDATES: I've decided that Paul reminds me of this guy.

Hunter also had a good line about how the Democrats make their scandals chairman.

Rudy will be held to that promise to go to Iraq this year.


Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:17 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: No Salary Drive

Since signing his 5-year, $91 million contract August 17, Carlos Zambrano is 0-3 with a 9.56 ERA. Maybe the Cubs should have kept him hanging a little longer.

I was on vacation when they signed the deal - assuming Zambrano's just slumping and not injured, it's still a good deal; Zambrano is in rare company (along with Barry Zito) in terms of his consistency and durability, he's younger and better than Zito and it's a shorter contract for less total money.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:56 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Looking at the Breakdowns

Looking over the batting comparisons since July 1, a few things spring to mind:

*David Wright has been the toughest out in baseball, batting .356/.580/.449. Wright is not so much the kind of hitter who goes on weeklong tears as the kind who gets in a groove and stays there for half a season, as he did the first half of 2006 and the last two months of 2005. But Wright's not the only Met - consider Beltran (.287/.622/.385), Delgado (.297/.500/.383), plus Alou, who doesn't have the at bats but is batting .336/.568/.400 over the same period.

*Pat Burrell, just behind Wright in OBP and slugging .650, has also been a monster and should have quieted a lot of doubters.

*If you are looking for guys who really broke out in the past two months, Jeremy Hermida should be at the top of that list, batting .335/.555/.411 and thus answering those who wondered if his minor league plate patience would translate into an unduly passive, punchless major league hitter.

*By contrast, the jury is out on whether Jeff Keppinger, batting .362/.546/.426 with just 8 K in 152 at bats, is showing he's a legitimate major league hitter or just riding a crazy hot streak. The Royals somehow managed to deal Ruben Gotay for Keppinger and let the latter go in time to get nothing from either of them, although with Grudzielanek hitting .350 they have at least covered the short run.

*I really didn't expect Mike Lowell to be hitting .370 over this stretch.

*Hanley Ramirez has also only gotten hotter (.354/.650/.403, 21 steals in 26 attempts) - Jose Reyes (.262/.404/.322 but 35 steals) will only beat out Ramirez by being a better defender. And even now, as well as Josh Beckett is pitching, the Red Sox have to be hurting over that one.

*The Yankees hitters, of course, are just murder up and down the lineup.

*Freddy Sanchez batting .331/.568/.387 with 24 doubles (!) should resolve concerns that his batting title was a 1-year fluke. Sanchez isn't a great player but if you hit for a high enough average with enough doubles you can be valuable without doing a whole lot else.

*Billy Butler has been a breakout in the second half, hitting .321/.495/.385 at the tender age of 21. Teammate Alex Gordon has come alive as well but is still a work in progress at .267/.476/.303, having slowed his early-season pace for hit by pitches.

*Two other youngsters building on initial successes: Matt Kemp (.325/.558/.358) and Ryan Braun (following up an insane June by batting .326/.644/.373).

*Reggie Willits at .234/.266/.348 seems to be answering in the negative the question of whether he can do anything besides draw walks and run. And his 7 for 13 base stealing leaves the latter in question as well. Teammate Casey Kotchman has also hit pumpkin time (.271/.387/.333), as has Dan Johnson in Oakland (.185/.344/.301).

*Frank Thomas at .300/.493/.368 may, perversely, be bad news; if Frank can't slug .500 even when he's in a .300 hitting groove, he's old. Frank has helped the Jays but 2006 looks like his last hurrah as a star.

*Kevin Youkilis really cooled down: .237/.407/.356. But of all people, Julio Lugo has picked up the slack: .304/.435/.348. On the other hand, the combination of Crisp and Drew both slugging below .400 over that stretch doesn't inspire confidence in Boston's lineup entering October.

*Delmon Young continues to look like a talented kid who has no clue what he's doing - .322/.411/.350, 18 doubles but only 1 HR and 1 steal, 11/46 BB/K ratio. Young's high average and doubles numbers suggest that the power will come, whereas you generally don't learn to steal bases at the big league level, so the key factor will be whether he learns some plate discipline. Speaking of which, Alfonso Soriano has regressed (.277/.447/.295, 35/5 K/BB ratio).

*Travis Hafner has only gotten weaker as the season progressed: .256/.431/.344. Hafner's decline is a serious problem for the Indians.

*Sometimes, a player who hits above his head in his mid-30s is Barry Bonds. Sometimes, though, they come back to earth with a crash like Ray Durham (.169/.262/.270).

*Seattle's baserunner deficit in a nutshell: Sexson (.202/.356/.292), Lopez (.238/.291/.251), Betancourt (.291/.458/.311) and Johjima (.278/.433/.303). Even with Jose Vidro reclaiming his glory days (.337/.437/.412), that won't cut it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
September 4, 2007
WAR: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Has Proof!

math.JPG

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he is undeterred by the possibility that his pursuit of nuclear weapons could lead to armed conflict with the United States, because he can prove mathematically that the U.S. will not respond:

"In some discussions I told them 'I am an engineer and I am examining the issue. They do not dare wage war against us and I base this on a double proof'," he said in the speech on Sunday, reported by the reformist Etemad Melli and Kargozaran newspapers.

"I tell them: 'I am an engineer and I am a master in calculation and tabulation.

"I draw up tables. For hours, I write out different hypotheses. I reject, I reason. I reason with planning and I make a conclusion. They cannot make problems for Iran.'"

This would be funnier if Ahmadinejad wasn't using this kind of reasoning to pursue weapons of mass destruction on behalf of a theocratic tyranny.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:58 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The 2008 Field: A Taxonomy

With the post-Labor Day entry of Fred Thompson into the race, we have almost certainly reached the point of no return for the 2008 presidential race. It's already late for Fred to get in, but at least he's been raising money, hiring staff and making plans; it's nearly impossible for anybody who hasn't done all that to get in after him (Newt Gingrich being the only remaining potential candidate who has even hinted at doing so, other than third party possibility Mike Bloomberg, who doesn't need to run a primary campaign). As such, it is possible to classify the candidates in each field. There are, in the main, six general types of presidential primary contender, and we have representatives of each type in this year's two fields. While not every candidate fits every characteristic of a type, they can generally fit most of the definition for a particular type.

Rock Stars

Politics, it has been said, is show business for ugly people. In a similar vein, when you refer to a politician as a "Rock Star," it's not exactly the same as being Elvis in '55 or Lennon and McCartney in '64 in terms of excitement.

There are a few defining characteristics of a Rock Star candidate, all of which boil down to the fact that a Rock Star candidate, unlike other types of candidates, is a known quantity to much of the electorate (at least, to the people who vote, especially primary voters, not the sort of people who don't know who the current Vice President is). Thus, we can generalize:

*A Rock Star candidate can generate his or her own press without having to pay for it simply by announcing a stand on an issue or appearing in a locality.
*A Rock Star candidate already has a number of issue positions, biographical details and personality characteristics that are identified with the candidate - even if the candidate's actual positions are deliberately obscure.
*A Rock Star candidate is often referred to by one name (first, last or nickname).
*People already have a fixed opinion of a Rock Star candidate.
*A Rock Star candidate is regarded as a national figure regardless of what jurisdiction he or she represents.
*A Rock Star candidate raises money effortlessly.

While being a Rock Star candidate is no guarantee of a successful or even respectable showing in a presidential primary, it's undoubtedly a huge advantage, and it's very rare to have more than one Rock Star in a party's field. Sitting Vice Presidents are almost always Rock Stars, even when they are terribly unexciting people, as are past presidential nominees.

Past Rock Star candidates to win their party's nomination include Reagan in 1980, Nixon in 1960 and 1968, Eisenhower in 1952, George HW Bush in 1988, Dewey in 1948, Gore in 2000, and Stevenson in 1956 (if you are keeping score, half of those won the general election).

Other than prior presidents, there are at least 7 Rock Stars sitting this race out - Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Newt Gingrich and Arnold Schwarzenegger (who is constitutionally barred from holding the job) on the GOP side, Al Gore and Howard Dean on the Democratic side. Merely to list these names should be proof that being a Rock Star is no guarantee of success. There are others who are still rock star types but are recognized as being past their primes as presidential contenders (Ted Kennedy, Colin Powell) or are no longer Rock Stars (Dan Quayle).

In the current field, the Republicans have what ought to be an embarrassing luxury: two Rock Star candidates running simultaneously, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. Rudy's been a national figure since the mid-90s, and became a globally known one after September 11; McCain, of course, won national renown as a POW in the early 70s and became a political brand name in the 2000 primary campaign. But McCain's campaign has all but expired due to a combination of his lack of money, age, and accumulation of enemies among the party's base, and Rudy's refusal to distance himself from his socially liberal record continues to be a huge vulnerability, so instead the field continues to have room for other serious contenders.

By contrast, the Democrats have just one true Rock Star candidate, Hillary Clinton. Hillary is perhaps the most polarizing figure in national politics, with the arguable exception of her husband and George W. Bush - the winners, of course, of the last four elections (assuming that Bush completes his term, not only will we have the first consecutive two-complete-term presidencies since Jefferson, Madison and Monroe presided during the collapse of the opposition Federalist party, we will have the first ever consecutive two-complete-term presidencies of different parties). Of course, neither Clinton nor Bush started off with such astronomically high numbers of sworn enemies.

For all of Hillary's built-in weaknesses, it's hard to see how she loses in the primaries. She has nearly unlimited financial resources and name recognition, she doesn't make mistakes, and she isn't anathema to any faction in the party besides the hard-core anti-war lobby, which proved in the Dean '04 and Lamont '06 campaigns that it can't close the deal even in liberal electorates all by itself. Sure, Hillary is a preachy, nagging schoolmarm, but don't forget quite how many preachy, nagging schoolmarms vote in Democratic primaries. Scroll down the RCP Poll Index for the past 10 months and you will see that every single poll has one thing in common: Hillary at the top.

Perennial Contenders

The Perennial Contender candidate is not as well-known to the general public as the rock star candidate, but is a well-known quantity among political observers, has usually run a less successful campaign in the past or been short-listed as a vice presidential choice. The rationale for the Perennial Contender's campaign is that his moment has arrived. Perennial contenders, however, especially Senators, have a fairly dismal general election track record.

Past examples of Perennial Contender candidates who won the nomination include Adlai Stevenson in 1952, Mondale in 1984, Clinton in 1992 (recall that he'd been in office over a decade and given the keynote at the 88 convention), Dole in 1996, and Kerry in 2004; I'd also list Hubert Humphery here rather than as a Rock Star - nobody really had Humphery on their radar until March of '68 after LBJ pulled out, and he basically had the nomination fall into his lap as the safe choice after the real Rock Star in the race, RFK, was assassinated.

The Perennial Contender class has until recently been the weak link in the GOP field; other than McCain, who appears past his prime, there wasn't anyone whose "turn" it seemed logically to be, no gray-headed default option from the center of the party's ideological spectrum. And that's precisely where Fred Thompson came in.

Fred generates a fair amount of glamor and excitement for his Hollywood years and his commanding physical presence (towering height, deep voice, general air of gravitas), but I would not put him in the "Rock Star" class - his face and voice may be familiar to the general public, but his name really isn't, much less a concrete sense of who he is, where he comes from and what he stands for. But he is, at the same time, too familiar a face inside the Beltway (from Watergate and from being first elected 13 years ago) and on TV to be a Phenom candidate, as described below; he was even briefly rumored as a 2000 candidate. I'll have more on Fred another day.

On the Democratic side, with Wes Clark and Evan Bayh sitting out, among others, there are three Perennial Contender candidates in the field: John Edwards, Bill Richardson and Joe Biden.

Edwards is more a perennial candidate, having not stopped campaigning since 2004 and thus running on the same flimsy resume of a single undistinguished and largely absentee term in the Senate in a state he would have no chance of winning in a general election.

Richardson, a perennial VP short-lister, governor, Congressman, ambassador and Cabinet Secretary, is a classic Perennial Contender type, all resume and retail charm but dry as dust on TV. He's made some periodic noise in the polls, pulling around 10% and a fourth place finish in Iowa and New Hampshire, but seems unlikely to do more than hang around.

Biden, I've often compared to the Senatorial equivalent of a boy raised by wolves - having spent nearly his whole adult life surrounded entirely by Senators (he was elected at 29), he's hilariously out of his element outside the Senate. Like Richardson, despite his windy, gaffe-a-minute speeches, Biden's combination of long experience, especially in foreign policy, and gregarious persona might make him a real contender in a weaker field, but this year he doesn't stand a chance.

Phenoms

The Phenoom candidate is a candidate who has fairly thin experience and accomplishment, but has for one reason or another been mentioned as presidential timber essentially since entering public office, and thus rockets to national prominence with astonishing rapidity, often less than 8 years after first surfacing on the political radar. John Edwards was such a candidate last time around; successful Phenom candidates include John F. Kennedy in 1960 and George W. Bush in 2000.

There are two Phenom candidates in the current field - Mitt Romney and Barack Obama - Romney was first elected to office in 2002, Obama first rose out of the state legislature in 2004. Obama's lack of a firmly established policy profile and the shortness of his time in the spotlight precludes him from being classed as a Rock Star candidate, though he rapidly approaches that status. Green as he is, I'd give Obama a good shot at the nomination if Hillary didn't already have it in a headlock.

I'll also come back to discuss Romney more at a later date, but the short summary is that I have mainly regarded Romney less as a politician of conviction than as a savvy businessman pursuing an underserved market in running as the conservative in the field; the entry of Fred Thompson into the race upsets that strategy, but then a smart venture capitalist like Romney always bets on the successful early entrant to attract competition.

Dark Horses

The Dark Horse candidate is generally a candidate with no obvious reason why he can't win other than his obscurity. Dark Horses are almost always governors, successful and sometimes charismatic executives who haven't stepped on the toes of any of their party's significant factions. For the most part, a Dark Horse can only capture a weak field, though a Dark Horse who picks the right issues can suddenly steal a march, at least temporarily after the fashion of Dean in 2004. Past Dark Horse nominees include Jimmy Carter and Mike Dukakis.

Most of the potential Dark Horses, sensing a strong field, chose to sit out this cycle - Pawlenty, Sanford, Barbour, Rendell, Bredesen, Easley (I class Mark Warner more as the phenom type). That leaves two, both on the GOP side - Mike Huckabee, a charismatic and experienced socially conservative governor who has impressed many at the debates, and Duncan Hunter, a hawk on national defense and immigration (and also a solid social conservative) and Vietnam vet who has spent decades in the House, including as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

The GOP field, divided as it is, doesn't quite seem ripe for a Dark Horse insurgency (note that Carter and Dukakis were both Democrats), plus Huckabee in particular has never been a favorite of economic conservatives (in a sense he's the anti-Rudy, conservative only on social issues). Both men may yet position themselves for a VP nomination or Cabinet post, although as I and others have argued, Huckabee would do the party much more good running for the Senate in 2008.

Agenda-Setters

Agenda Setters are the easiest kind of candidate to peg - they are often quite unpretentious about their dim chances of winning the nomination, but they are nonetheless a significant part of the storyline because their real goal is to influence the direction of the party and the ultimate nominee. Steve Forbes, for example, was highly successful in influencing George W. Bush's economic agenda after having been a force in Bob Dole's 1996 promise of a 15% tax cut - the fact that Bush moved to suck the oxygen out of Forbes' 2000 effort to reprise his 1996 campaign meant that Forbes was more, rather than less, successful in 2000.

Agenda-Setters, of course, are inevitably disasters as the nominee, McGovern and Goldwater being the exemplars. Third party campaigns like Ross Perot's, by contrast, are more successful if they aim to set the agenda.

The Agenda Setters in this year's fields? Sam Brownback for the social/cultural/religious conservatives, Tom Tancredo for the immigration restrictionists, Ron Paul for the libertarians, and Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich for the far left anti-war movement. The anti-warriors, of course, already have a lot of influence, while Paul and Tancredo aren't getting any traction thus far outside of their base camps; only Brownback looks likely to get up enough head of steam to exert some gravitational pull on the nominee, and even that has thus far been an uphill battle. Had Chuck Hagel run it would have been as an Agenda Setter; his absence leaves Paul to carry the anti-war standard, such as it is, in the GOP.

Sixth Sense Candidates

So-called because they're the only guy in the room who doesn't know they are dead. The only candidate I can recall to claim this status and then revive his way to the nomination was Kerry (in late 2003, Mickey Kaus held a contest to come up with ways for Kerry to withdraw without humiliating himself) - Clinton came close in February 1992, but nobody ever really landed a death blow, and Clinton wasn't so much a lifeless campaign as one dogged by scandal. More often, such campaigns are dead from Day One. The defining characteristic of a Sixth Sense campaign is that nobody can figure out the rationale for why the candidate is running or who he is supposed to appeal to.

Many such illusions have been popped in the past year (e.g., Frist, Pataki, Kerry, Gilmore, Tommy Thompson); remaining Sixth Sense campaigns include Chris Dodd and the quixotic John Cox.

Where Do We Go From Here?

What is particularly unusual in this year's Republican race is that ideology has really trumped classification. In an ordinary race, much of the spring and summer of the year before the primaries is spent with candidates in each classification running mainly against the others of their class, trying to secure sole possession of their particular role in the field. Instead, what we have seen is mainly a series of feeding frenzies, with Mitt Romney often at the center. Regardless of where the attacks actually came from, this made eminent sense based on the positioning of the candidates - everyone to his right saw the frontrunners as being vulnerable from the right, and the frontrunners (Giuliani and McCain) wanted to keep those challenges weak and divided; also, Rudy had to recognize from the beginning that Romney was the candidate most likely to threaten Giuliani's status as the guy with executive experience.

The dynamic should persist now that Fred is in the race, and doubly so with McCain fading - while Rudy's ideal endgame is a mano-a-mano showdown with a manifestly unelectable social conservative with no executive experience (i.e., Sam Brownback), his intermediate game has to be to keep the center of the party from coalescing around either Romney or Fred until it is too late. Fred, by contrast, has a huge vested interest in pouncing on those voters who just didn't buy Romney as a true conservative.

A more interesting question to turn to later is the dynamics of Romney's strong position on the calendar given his heavy investment in Iowa and New Hampshire and local-boy status in New Hampshire.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:50 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
September 3, 2007
BASEBALL: Thought of the Day

I am pretty sure Billy Beane regrets trading Aaron Harang for a few months' rental of Jose Guillen.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:25 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The End of the Beginning

Nothing is certain in pennant races, but I think we saw the end of the Braves' chances of winning the division yesterday, with the Mets pulling 7.5 games ahead, as well as the confirmation of my sense from Day One of this season that the Phillies were the greater threat of the two even despite the residual toughness of any team helmed by Bobby Cox and led by John Smoltz and Chipper Jones. Of course, Philly's pitching staff is still a horror show, as yesterday's latest Adam Eaton fiasco showed - today's Philly starter is Jamie Moyer (5.08 ERA), yesterday's pitchers had ERAs of 6.28, 6.00, 5.96 and 2.11 (JC Romero being the odd man out), the prior day 6.27, 5.09, 5.74, 6.04 and 5.36.

At the same time, today feels like Opening Day at last, with Pedro beginning anew in the place(Cincinnati) where he started his Mets career 2 1/2 years ago. Hope springs anew even in the Fall.

PS - Remember, Pedro needs only 2 Ks for 3,000, so he doesn't have to be highly effective for today to be a career milestone.

UPDATE: Pedro's fastball rose from 82-83 mph at the beginning of the first inning to 88-89 by the end. Not the Pedro of old, but whether he can get up consistently around 90 will be hugely important to whether he will be an asset over the next two months.

And Aaron Harang becomes #3,000. Meanwhile, Ichiro is 2 runs scored from his 7th consecutive season of 200 hits and 100 runs scored.

Well, Pedro does about the best you could realistically hope for: 5 innings, 76 pitches, 4 Ks, 3 runs (1 unearned), hit 90 mph on the gun in his last inning of work, pretty good control, working his fastball, change, curve and to a lesser extent slider. We'll have to wait and see where he goes from there.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:17 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
September 1, 2007
BASEBALL: Making It Look Easy

Clay Buchholz's no-hitter in his second major league start puts me in mind of this.

UPDATE: Note that that list should now be updated - Scott Erickson did pitch for the Mets, Pedro Martinez threw 9 no-hit innings in 1995 before losing it in the 10th, plus the list of Mets relievers to participate in a combined no-no went to 3 when Billy Wagner joined the team.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:14 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Lost at Sea

Well, I've been waiting since early July for the Mariners to come back to earth in light of their pitiable starting pitching, batting average-dependent offense, and mismatch between their record and their runs scored and allowed (also noted here), and their 8-game losing streak seems to have done the trick. One thing I will grant Seattle is incredible durability. 133 games into the season (entering today), 7 regulars have played 120 or more games, all 9 on pace for 500 at bats. As I discussed after the 2002 Angels won the World Series, if you can pull that off, you can paper over less-than stellar offensive talent simply by not having to use much in terms of bench players, who tend to be offensive weak links. The downside is that when you have 6 regulars 31 or older and nobody takes days off, that's not a recipe for a strong September.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:57 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)