Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
October 31, 2007
BASEBALL: Manager-Go-Round

It's really amazing quite how much has happened in the baseball world in a few days, to the point where I am already behind the curve on the offseason - I have a bunch of half-written posts that keep getting overtaken by events.

First up: the managing exchange that appears, at least for now, to be landing Joe Torre in LA and Joe Girardi back with the Yankees.

For Torre, this is something of a homecoming as well as an opportunity to prove himself away from the Yankees, Cashman, Rivera, Jeter, etc. Torre spent 36 years in the NL as a player and manager, coming away with one division title (managing the 1982 Braves) in those years. That said, with the successes he has had with the Yankees, he's got to be an upgrade on Grady Little. Either way, the current Dodger management seems bent on loading the team with AL East refugees. The good news for the Yankees is that the Dodgers already have a catcher and a closer, so Torre's presence on another team won't tempt Rivera and Posada to consider going elsewhere.

As for Girardi, it's an interesting choice, more interesting than Don Mattingly - a Mattingly hire would have made running Torre out of town pointless. On the surface, Girardi is what you would want in a manager replacing an older, low-key manager who'd held the job for over a decade, if you were worried about the team growing too comfortable: an aggressive, hard-nosed up-and-comer, a guy who is clearly comfortable playing youngsters and did a great job with the Marlins, taking an exceptionally green team deep into the pennant race only to see them collapse without him this year.

There are two major drawbacks, though. One, of course, is that Girardi is a young guy who was a teammate of many of the senior Yankees, who may not treat him as an authority figure and may resent him if he picks a fight with them just to establish who is boss.

Second is the issue that triggered his departure from Miami: the charge that he overworked Florida's young pitchers. Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez were brilliant under Girardi in 2006, hurt this season; Dontrelle Willis continued his downward slide; Scott Olsen fell off dramatically. Some of the fault for that lies with the Marlins' abysmal defense, and you could argue that Girardi's absence is why they faltered, but certainly the notion that he pushed Johnson and Sanchez too far too fast could raise concerns in how he will handle Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain & co. Those are the two subplots worth watching in Girardi's first year in the new Bronx Zoo.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:36 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Hillary Bobs and Weaves on Illegal Immigrant Driver's Licenses

Hillarystraddle.jpg

I asked last week whether Hillary Clinton would or would not stick by her previous qualified semi-support for Eliot Spitzer's plan to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Spitzer's plan continues to draw fire from Republicans and Democrats alike - polls have shown even voters in liberal New York oppose the plan by margins exceeding 70%. In a weekend meeting with Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff, Spitzer proposed a compromise under which licenses would be specially marked as not properly documented for identification purposes - a sensible concession that resolves the worst problem created by Spitzer's plan but one that has not mollified his critics but has enraged his allies on the Left: while the statewide Sherriff's Association opposes even the new compromise plan, Spitzer's concession is devastating because "only weeks ago he said specially marked licenses 'would be like a scarlet letter,'" and "the New York Civil Liberties Union, which cheered Spitzer's original plan, said he'd 'bowed to fear-mongering and turned New York into a poster child for the Bush administration's assault on civil liberties.'"

In last night's Democratic Presidential Debate, Tim Russert tried his best to do what Russert does best, and pin down the elusive Sen. Clinton on her position on the Spitzer plan, and caught her in full straddle on this issue - while only Sen. Chris Dodd, who presumably understands that he has no shot at the nomination anyway, was willing to accept Russert's invitation to speak up in opposition. Let's go to the transcript - the video is here:

Read On for the full exchange...

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:32 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Brad DeLong Is Right About One Thing

Perhaps we should apply Robert Conquest's First Law: everyone is conservative about that which he knows best:

My two cents' worth -- and I think it is the two cents' worth of everybody who worked for the Clinton Administration health care reform effort of 1993-1994 -- is that Hillary Rodham Clinton needs to be kept very far away from the White House for the rest of her life. Heading up health-care reform was the only major administrative job she has ever tried to do. And she was a complete flop at it. She had neither the grasp of policy substance, the managerial skills, nor the political smarts to do the job she was then given. And she wasn't smart enough to realize that she was in over her head and had to get out of the Health Care Czar role quickly.

So when senior members of the economic team said that key senators like Daniel Patrick Moynihan would have this-and-that objection, she told them they were disloyal. When junior members of the economic team told her that the Congressional Budget Office would say such-and-such, she told them (wrongly) that her conversations with CBO head Robert Reischauer had already fixed that. When long-time senior hill staffers told her that she was making a dreadful mistake by fighting with rather than reaching out to John Breaux and Jim Cooper, she told them that they did not understand the wave of popular political support the bill would generate. And when substantive objections were raised to the plan by analysts calculating the moral hazard and adverse selection pressures it would put on the nation's health-care system...

Hillary Rodham Clinton has already flopped as a senior administrative official in the executive branch--the equivalent of an Undersecretary. Perhaps she will make a good senator. But there is no reason to think that she would be anything but an abysmal president.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:25 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: Rue-less Joe

The ant-war wackos who tried, and failed, to throw Joe Lieberman out of the Senate now have to live with the fact that Lieberman is free to say what he thinks - and whatever his sorrow-not-anger shtick, I suspect he is relishing being a thorn in the side of his former party's presidential contenders.

Lieberman is dead right about the irresponsibility of Senators who voted to deny the role of Iranian units in arming terrorists:

"I thought it was so direct, factual, based on evidence the U.S. military has given us of the involvement of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in training and equipping Iraqi extremists who… have been responsible for the killing of hundreds of American soldiers."

Chuckling a bit, apparently in disbelief, Lieberman asked, "How can you vote against a request that the administration impose economic sanctions on a group that the U.S. military has presented us ample evidence is a terrorist group killing American soldiers?"

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:19 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
October 30, 2007
POLITICS: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Michael Gerson

Remember the scene in Wedding Crashers where Owen Wilson tells a woman he's trying to seduce, "You know how they say we only use 10 percent of our brains? I think we only use 10 percent of our hearts"?

Read everything Michael Gerson says to yourself in Wilson's voice and imagine he's saying it to get a girl in bed. It makes so much more sense that way.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:08 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
October 29, 2007
BASEBALL: Title Town

Congratulations to the Red Sox, and also to the Rockies, whose run was one for the ages even if the coach did turn to a pumpkin at the end.

Of course it is possible that some year will yet see a Boston team losing a world's championship.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:07 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
October 28, 2007
POLITICS: The Joys of Democratic Governance

Congressional Democrats have been discovering, after 12 years out of power, that actually governing is a lot harder and less fun than griping from the cheap seats; but as long as George W. Bush is in the White House, they retain a convenient scapegoat for the gap between their rhetoric and reality.

Democratic governors, the numbers of which have proliferated in recent years, have no such luxury; having sold the pie in the sky, they actually have to bake it. I've been warning of this since the spring in regard to tax hikes, and Eliot Spitzer's disastrous illegal-immigrant-driver's license plan is only one of many other examples of Democratic governors reminding people why there were so many Republican incumbents in the first place.

Add now the Chicago Tribune to the list of the disenchanted, to the point of arguing that the Rod Blagojevich era demonstrates why Illinois needs a mechanism to recall a governor:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:29 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Nailing It Down

For the record, I think that 2-run bloop to right by Ellsbury in the top of the 8th to make the lead, after shrinking from 6-0 to 6-5, back to 8-5, looks for all the world like the Sox putting this Series away.

UPDATE: And Pedroia makes it 9-5. By the way, Brad Hawpe reminds me a lot of Shawn Green, the same type of gangly lefthander at the plate.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:11 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 27, 2007
BASEBALL: Time To Break The Brooms

Baseball fans everywhere have to be hoping we get a Rockies win and a real Series tonight at Coors, although that may depend on the shaky pitching matchup of Lord Fogg vs how Matsuzaka adjusts to high altitude. Two of the last three Serieses have been complete duds (at least 2005 had some heart-stopping games, notably the 14-inning marathon Game 3); we have not had a six-game Series since 2003, a Game Seven since 2002.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:37 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Wallyball

If you haven't already, you should definitely read Jeff Pearlman's profile of Wally Backman and his apparently doomed quest to get another shot at managing inthe big leagues. (I have had multiple people send me this link). Of course, for Mets fans Backman will always be remembered fondly for his role in the 1984-88 teams, but that won't help him get a managing job.

The really nasty thing in Backman's record that seems to be holding him back is this:

[H]e didn't tell the [Diamondbacks] about his Oct. 7, 2001, domestic violence arrest because, according to both Wally and Sandi, it was merely a heated marital moment overblown by police involvement. ("People think I'm a battered wife in denial," Sandi says. "That makes me laugh. The idea of Wally hitting me is comical.")

Now, we all know that ballplayers get away with things as bad as wife-beating (Brett Myers and Wil Cordero come to mind, as well as Elijah Dukes), but the simple fact is that proven or promising major league players are harder to replace than a manager who has yet to manage in the big leagues. And it's hard to sympathize with a guy who loses his job over beating his wife.

That said, the problem is this: it's entirely plausible that Backman and his wife are telling the truth - lots of married couples have arguments, and some of them end up making a lot of angry noise and breaking stuff and getting the cops called. It's more than possible that Backman is getting blackballed over basically nothing.

But it's also true, if you know anything at all about domestic violence, that battered wives very often brush things off and make these kinds of excuses after the fact, so facially plausible pleas of innocence can't be taken at face value. The frustrating thing is that you or I, from a distance, can't know. And neither can teams that might hire Backman. Which is why, guilty or not, when you put this together with a guy who has made trouble controlling his anger in other situations, Backman is going to be radioactive pretty much permanently.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:15 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 26, 2007
POP CULTURE: Tell Me Where The Trailer Is!

Warning: contains spoilers if you have not watched all 6 prior seasons (I learned things here I did not know, not having yet caught up on seasons 4 & 5):

Via Allahpundit.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:45 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Out Foer Himself

If there is one thing we have definitvely learned from the whole Scott Beauchamp episode, it's that Franklin Foer is a cretin.

Relatedly, we have also been reminded of one of the central lessons of the Plame affair: nepotism and secret-keeping don't mix.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:40 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 25, 2007
BASEBALL: The Buck O'Neil Award

On the whole, I'm in favor of the Hall of Fame memorializing Buck O'Neil with a Lifetime Achievement Award named in his honor. Given that we have little reason to believe that O'Neil was actually a great ballplayer, it would have been something of a sham to elect him to the Hall as a player solely on the basis of sticking around a long time and telling a lot of good stories. But given the relative paucity of written records of the Negro Leagues, O'Neil's tireless charm in keeping the oral history of the Negro Leagues alive was surely worthy of a special place in Cooperstown as a service to the game.

What's a shame is that the Hall couldn't have found the time somewhere during the 94 years of O'Neil's life to give him this honor.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:28 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: How Hot?

Jayson Stark:

Did we just say "the hottest lineup ever to march to home plate in the annals of 103 Octobers?"

Yep. We sure did. Which means ... hotter than the '27 Yankees. Hotter than the '36 Yankees. Hotter than "The Big Red Machine." Hotter even than the 2004 Red Sox.

Seriously. We can say that because this makes three straight postseason games now that these Red Sox have scored in double figures: 12 runs in Game 6 against Cleveland, 11 more runs in Game 7 against Cleveland, and another 13 runs in Game 1 of the World Series.

So let's see now. How many other teams have ever rolled up more than 10 runs in three consecutive postseason games? That would be . . . exactly . . . zero.

That's true, but while the Sox have scored 36 runs in their last three games, it's actually not even the club record for scoring over 3 postseason games. In 1999, they scored 44 runs over the last three games of the ALDS against Cleveland. They missed Stark's list only because the first of those games they scored 9 runs rather than 10.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:18 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The DH Issue

After last night's thrashing, the Red Sox served notice that the Rockies' hot streak will most likely not, all by itself, decide the Series. But with David Ortiz cracking a single and two doubles and Colorado batting its 0-for-2 DH ninth, the issue of the home park DH rule - on top of the fact that Colorado and Boston traditionally are unique parks that lend significant home-field advantages (the BoSox were 6 games better at home this season; the Rockies were 12 games better, and had a losing road record, as they almost always do) - may be bigger than it has been in years. I'd say there are pretty strong odds that the Rockies will win the Series if and only if they take all three games in Colorado.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure there really is a better answer as long as the two leagues are playing by fundamentally different rules. The irony is that in almost every other way - especially with the advent of interleague play - the lines between the two leagues has been blurring in recent years, the sense that there are separate league offices, different umpiring styles and a real rivalry between the leagues' players and fans all having evaporated.

As I have said a number of times, while I'd like to see the DH eliminated (I don't hate it as much as older traditionalists do, but we can do better without it), the problem with the split DH system is economic: an everyday DH makes more money than an equivalent bench player. Thus, the NL owners won't budge on adding it; thus, the Players' Union won't budge on removing it from the AL.

UPDATE: Cheer up, Rockies fans! The Red Sox became the fourth team to win Game One of the World Series by 10 runs or more, joining the 1959 White Sox (11-0), the 1982 Brewers (10-0), and the 1996 Braves (12-1). None of them won the Series.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:23 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Will Hillary Abandon Spitzer Over Illegal Immigrant Driver's Licenses?

I've written previously here and here about NY Governor Eliot Spitzer's foolhardy and politically disastrous plan to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens, and NY Senator Hillary Clinton's evasive response to questions about the plan that "I know exactly what Governor Spitzer's trying to do and it makes a lot of sense, because he's trying to get people out of the shadows" and "it's unfortunate that too many people are using this to demagogue the issue," wink, wink, while, as Jim Geraghty notes, sending her chief strategist out to argue that the families of illegal immigrants "may be the most powerful political force in the country," nudge, nudge.

But just because a Clinton takes a non-position doesn't mean it can't change, and the NY Post's veteran Albany correspondent, Frederic Dicker, reports that a panicked NY Democratic Party is planning to throw Spitzer under the, er, steamroller - and some believe that Sen. Clinton may end up getting on board with that effort:

Top Democrats fear that Gov. Spitzer's controversial plan to grant driver's licenses to illegal aliens has endangered their party's candidates across the state -- and even threatens the presidential prospects of Hillary Rodham Clinton, The Post has learned.

A half-dozen senior Democrats told The Post that Spitzer's licensing plan is producing what one called "a mass exodus" away from the party's candidates that may lead to unexpected losses in November's local elections.

They are also warning that growing voter unhappiness with Spitzer on the licensing and other issues - illustrated in several recent polls - could carry into next year and end the Democrats' hope of winning control of the GOP-dominated state Senate.

"The driver's-license issue is a killer for us in the suburbs," a senior party strategist said. . . .

+++

Another senior Democrat predicted that Sen. Clinton, who has repeatedly refused to say whether she backs Spitzer's plan, would soon be forced to reject it.

"The immigrant license issue is one of the most politically dangerous in the nation, and Hillary will have to come out against it," the Democrat said.

H/T Geraghty. Stay tuned.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:21 AM | Politics 2007 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
October 24, 2007
POLITICS: The Trouble With Mitt Romney (Part 2 of 5)

The second of a five-part series on why Republicans who are serious about winning the White House in 2008 are wasting our time on Mitt Romney. Part 1 is here, and my explanation of why I'm with Rudy is here.

II. The Experience Factor and The War

In Part 1, I discussed my general impression, and some of the reasons for that impression, that Romney would be a lousy general election candidate. Closely related to both the electability factor and what I call the governability factor - i.e., what confidence we have that Romney can actually move the chains in Washington if he gets elected, and not get eaten alive by the forces naturally opposed to a Republican president - is the question of Romney's experience and accomplishments in public office. Or rather, his relative lack thereof. At a time when the nation is at war and the general public has lost faith in our party first and foremost because the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina convinced people that the GOP was not doing a competent job of administering the federal government, and when the Democratic candidate has been in DC a long time but with little independent executive experience, Romney's thin resume in public office is likely to be a major handicap or at a minimum forfeit what is usually a strong Republican advantage, of the type enjoyed by Eisenhower (Supreme Allied Commander, a job involving intricate political/diplomatic maneuvering and unprecedented logistical planning), Reagan (two-term governor of the nation's largest state), Nixon (two-term Vice President as well as Congressman and Senator) and both President Bushes (the elder a two-term VP, CIA head and RNC Chair as well as a Congressman and UN and China Ambassador; the younger a two-term governor of Texas).

Read on - there is much, much more...

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:32 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
October 22, 2007
BASEBALL: Rox'em-Sox'em

The stage is set...it would be a fool's errand to try to predict this series; Boston is clearly the stronger team, but the Rockies' hot streak is just impossible to project one way or another, plus we have no idea what late-October baseball in Colorado will look like.

Most relieved yet disappointed person tonight: Indians' third base coach and managerial prospect Joel Skinner, whose inexplicable decision to hold Kenny Lofton cost the Indians what could have been a game-tying run; the lopsided final score probably mooted that.

Most unhappy: umpires, writers, and anybody else who is indifferent to the teams and ratings but who will be attending a series in Boston and Denver in late October. Brrr.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:09 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (36) | TrackBack (0)
October 21, 2007
BASEBALL: A Question For Red Sox Fans

Does JD Drew still suck?

Besides last night, there's the fact that Drew batted .289/.468/.384 from May 27 through the end of the year, .297/.477/.398 from June 15 on, .322/.523/.416 from August 6 on. I know there were a lot of disappointments, and certainly Drew's price tag is ridiculous, but he's spent a lot of the season getting blamed for having a bad first two months. The man can still hit.

PS - And tonight, we find out whether Red Sox Nation will pick "love" or "hate" for Dice K.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:59 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
October 19, 2007
POLITICS: That Ol' Clinton Straddle

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's plan to document the undocumented by giving drivers licenses to illegal aliens has been yet another fiasco for the Empire State's unpopular new governor, bleeding his support even among Democrats who are in the country legally and leading other Democratic officials to keep their distance. But what does New York's junior senator, running now for President, think of the state's unilateral effort to hijack federal immigration policy? Up to now, Hillary Clinton has been quiet on the subject, but in an interview she finally had to answer the question:

I think it's important to bring everybody out of the shadows. To do the background checks. To deport those who have outstanding warrants or have committed crimes in the United States, and then to say to those who wish to stay here, you have to pay back taxes, you have to pay a fine, you have to learn English, and you have to wait in line. And I hate to see any state being pushed to try to take this into their own hands, because the federal government has failed. So I know exactly what Governor Spitzer's trying to do and it makes a lot of sense, because he's trying to get people out of the shadows. He's trying to say, "O.K., come forward and we will give you this license."

But without a federal policy in effect, people will come forward and they could get picked up by I.C.E. tomorrow. I mean, this can't work state-by-state. It has to be looked at comprehensively. I agreed with President Bush and his efforts to try to approach this. He just didn't have the political capital left by the time he actually got serious about it.
And it's unfortunate that too many people are using this to demagogue the issue, instead of trying to solve it: you know, people in politics, people in the press, and there's a kind of unholy alliance.

Spitzer's camp immediately rushed to claim this as support:

"We are gratified that many state leaders understand the security value of bringing people out of the shadows and into the system," said spokeswoman Christine Anderson.

The NY Times and NY Daily News, however, recognized this for what it is: a typically Clintonian effort to have it both ways without answering the question and taking some responsibility for the answer. What else is new?

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:44 AM | Politics 2007 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Torre Out

So, Joe Torre leaves the stage, having been offered a pay cut as a way to get him to quit. (You don't cut the pay of a man in Torre's situation if you expect him to stay).

Torre's record: two fifth place finishes, three sixth place finishes, and a high of 67 wins...no wait, that's the Torre I will always remember. In fairness he learned a good deal about managing over the years in addition to getting better players, but this isn't Earl Weaver we are talking about.

Torre didn't deserve to be fired any more than Casey did after losing the 1960 World Series in 7 games, but cutting him loose is defensible - he'd been at the Yankee helm for over a decade, and after 7 straight seasons of postseason failure, it's a fair question whether a fresh face would shake things up and be more effective. Then again, promoting coach and long-time organization man Don Mattingly, the rumored frontrunner for the job, seems unlikely to change much other than symbolizing another marker of the end of an era in the Bronx (granting that there is a long franchise history of one era being pretty much like the last).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:30 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
October 18, 2007
BASEBALL: The Wally Pipp Story

Here's a trivia quiz for you: three men played first base for the Yankees in 1925. One was the long-time regular, 32-year-old Wally Pipp, who famously exited the lineup on June 2. One was the 22-year-old rookie who took his job, Lou Gehrig.

Who was the third man, who made a few starts for Gehrig against lefthanded pitchers (Gehrig kept his streak alive either by late inning appearances or playing the outfield, it's not clear which) until Gehrig settled in? Hint: his name is well-known and he was a starting player in five World Serieses for three franchises.

The answer can be found in this excellent Snopes essay on what really happened on June 2, and you can read the player's bio here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:55 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Hey Bulldog

Matt Welch links to a cool video of the Beatles performing "Hey Bulldog," one of their lesser-known but still excellent tunes:

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:36 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Breaking New Ground

Whenever you think unhinged political rhetoric has reached its lowest possible point in this country, Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-CA, of course) manages to burrow to a new low, this time in debating the SCHIP bill:

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:31 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
October 17, 2007
BASEBALL: Times Have Changed

In the process of the last post I looked at the 1974 Orioles' pitchers down the stretch run (starting August 29, 1974) and went to compare them to major league pitchers at large ... looking at the 86 pitchers who threw 35 or more innings over that stretch (during which Baltimore played 34 games), I was struck even more than usual by the pitcher dominance of the era. Of those 86, for that period:

*Pitchers with ERAs of below 2.00: 18

*Pitchers with ERAs of below 2.50: 28

*Pitchers with ERAs of 5.00 or higher (mind you, this only requires a bad month): four.

*Pitchers who allowed one home run or more per 9 innings: 15.
*Pitchers who allowed no home runs at all: 5 (including Bert Blyleven in 55.2 innings).
*Pitchers who allowed more than a hit per inning: 17

*Pitchers who threw between 4 and 7 complete games in a little over a month: 22
*Starting pitchers who threw no complete games: 9
*Starting pitchers who threw 65 or more innings: 8
*Relievers who threw 40 or more innings: 2

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:34 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Last Requests

In light of my earlier post on great multi-round postseasons and Mike Carminati's on a similar theme, Jonathan Last asks: "Do the Rockies need to win the World Series, or does what they've done already count as the greatest streak in baseball history?"

There's no real way to define the answer to that question so as to resolve it with mathematical precision, but Rob Neyer and Eddie Epstein, at pp. 176-81 of their 2000 book Baseball Dynasties, lay out their "Ten Greatest Stretch Runs," and it's a good place to start in putting in context the Rox winning 13 out of 14 games to close the regular season to force a tie for the wild card, then winning the 1-game playoff (in extra innings, natch), then sweeping the NLDS in 3, then sweeping the NLCS in 4, with their only loss in 22 games coming at the hands of Brandon Webb, arguably the best pitcher in the league. Looking more broadly, the Rox are 33-10 over their last 43 games.

Here's Neyer and Epstein's list, with links and my comments; the 2002 A's' 20-game win streak and overall 43-12 run to take the division by 2 would also make the list, although Oakland went down in the first round of the playoffs. A commenter's suggestion of the 2004 Red Sox gets honorable mention for the greatest-ever playoff comeback, but that was only 7 games, whereas the 1916 Giants' 26-game win streak began and ended with the team in 4th place:

10. 1974 Orioles, 28-6 to come from 8 games back of the Red Sox lead and win the division by 2 over the Yankees. Impressive, but they then lost the LCS 3-1.

9. 1977 Royals, 38-9 including a 24-1 run to come from 4th place back to win the division. But the Royals put it away too early; they won the division by 8, ended the season losing 5 of 8, and blew a 2-1 lead to lose the LCS with a disastrous bullpen meltdown in game 5.

8. 1930 Cardinals, 39-10 including a 21-4 September to win the pennant by 2 after being 12 back of the Cubs, followed by winning the World Series 4-2 after dropping the first two games to the Foxx/Grove/Cochrane/Simmons A's. That's pretty impressive.

7. 1969 Mets; the Mets were 10 games back after August 13, but went 38-11 the rest of the way, then swept through the postseason on a 7-1 tear, thus doing a better job than the 1930 Cards of keeping the momentum straight through. The main difference is that the Mets won the division by 8, so unlike the Rockies they had a breather from playing high-pressure games before embarking on the postseason.

6. 1993 Braves, 39-11 to erase a 9.5 game lead and win by 1 over a 103-win team. The Braves, however, then dropped the NLCS 4-2.

5. 1978 Yankees, 53-21 including the Bucky Dent game to erase a 14-game lead, including a 30-9 finish, followed by going 7-3 in the postseason to win it all. One of the great extended comebacks, but never got into quite the same "can't possibly lose" mode.

4. 1935 Cubs, 2.5 games behind the Cards in third place on September 2, won 21 in a row to put the pennant away and seize a 6-game lead before losing the season's last 2 games. (Ronald Reagan, then doing remote radio broadcasts of Cubs games from a ticker in Iowa, described this as his greatest thrill in baseball). Cubs lost the World Series 4-2, but winning 21 in a row with 23 to play in a tight race is way up there.

3. 1914 Braves, 15 back and in last place on July 4, finished 68-19 and swept the World Series against the defending champion A's, including a 30-5 run from late August to early October. But the Miracle Braves won the pennant by double figures, so about half of that 30-5 run was after the lid had been blown off.

2. 1942 Cardinals, finished 43-8 to roar from a 10-game August deficit to beat a 104-win team by 2, and proceeded to win the World Series 4-1 over the defending champion Yankees. Probably the closest parallel to what the Rockies have accomplished in terms of the 1-2-3 punch of (1) playing incredible regular season baseball (2) needed to win a close pennant race and then (3) continuing the streak into the postseason.

1. 1951 Giants, 39-8 including the famous best-of-3 playoff to erase a 13-game mid-August deficit. Got squashed 4-2 in the World Series.

More teams worthy of mention, off the top of my head (links to the stretch drive records): 1973 Mets, 1908 Cubs (40-9 to win the most famously close pennant race of all, plus the World Series 4-1), 1934 Cardinals (20-5 and won a 7-game World Series), 1999 Mets.

So I'd answer that yes, the Rockies can lay claim to the greatest pressurized run of great baseball ever. If they take the World Series they can formally claim a spot at the head of the line ahead of the 1942, 1930 and 1934 Cardinals, 1969 Mets, 1908 Cubs and 1914 Braves.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:00 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Lake Woebegon Arithmetic

From George Will's column today:

SCHIP is described as serving "poor children" or children of "the working poor." Everyone agrees that it is for "low-income" people. Under the bill that Democrats hope to pass over the president's veto tomorrow, states could extend eligibility to households earning $61,950. But America's median household income is $48,201. How can people above the median income be eligible for a program serving lower-income people?

Incidentally, though there are some very significant differences, Will also notes that Hillary Clinton's 401(k) proposal does contain some crucial concessions to the Right's longstanding arguments for Social Security reform:

Clinton's idea for helping Americans save for retirement is this: Any family that earns less than $60,000 and puts $1,000 into a new 401(k)-type plan would receive a matching $1,000 tax cut. For those earning between $60,000 and $100,000 the government would match half of the first $1,000. She proposes to pay for this by taxing people who will be stoical about this -- dead people -- by freezing the estate tax exemption at its 2009 level.

A conservative case can be made for something like Clinton's proposal. It is a case for reducing the supply of government by reducing demand for it, and doing so by giving people ownership of enlarged private assets as a basis for their security. It is a case for raising the nation's deplorable saving rate and simultaneously encouraging the nation's economic literacy and temperance by giving more people a stake in equities markets.

George W. Bush made this case in his advocacy of personal accounts financed by a portion of individuals' Social Security taxes and invested in funds based on equities and bonds. When he proposed this, Clinton stridently opposed him, and not just because she thought it would undermine Social Security's solvency and political support. She also said it was a dangerous gamble that would make retirement insecure by linking retirement savings to the stock market. Echoing a trope from Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, she said investing retirement funds in the stock market was a "risky scheme."

Today her Web site calls her proposal a way to save for "a secure retirement." After an undisclosed epiphany, she belatedly recognizes that 401(k) funds invested in equities are a foundation for security.

Of course, Clinton - as usual - is proposing this in addition to Social Security (while she has been suggesting that Social Security taxes be raised, as well as estate taxes and all the various other things she proposes to pay for with new taxes), and like many Clinton plans it involves careful slicing and dicing of the economy via "targeted" tax cuts. Still, the movement is in the right direction.

The great strategic error that Bush made in 2005 on the Social Security battle was in many ways a reprise of the WMD fiasco in the run-up to the Iraq War: he banked on the wrong arguments and gave short shrift to the better ones. Bush tried to argue that personal, semi-private* accounts were necessary to fix Social Security's projected shortfalls. The problem is, we are already in a hole on Social Security benefits that are owed without the ability to pay for them under current tax/benefit policies, and the personal-accounts system would do nothing to make the hole smaller; all it would do is stop digging new holes for the future. That's a great virtue of the proposal - it would make the system perpetually self-financing, rather than financed on a Ponzi scheme footing of using current receipts to pay current benefits without any necessary connection between the two - but Bush oversold the extent to which it could pay for the massive unfunded debts we already have.

*Semi-private in that the accounts are subject to private control and ultimate ownership; they would still be part of a mandatory government program.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:46 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Megan McArdle vs. Bad Pro-Abortion Statisics

As usual, not a fair fight.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:45 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: I Love Political Correctness

Sometimes it's just so cute. Apparently, according to Lynne Cheney, Dick Cheney and Barack Obama are eighth cousins. "The common ancestor was Mareen Devall, who the Chicago Sun-Times said was a 17th century immigrant from France." (Noted in the Diaries here).

The wire story by Reuters explains why this is surprising:

The two men could hardly be more different. Cheney is an advocate for pursuing the war in Iraq to try to stabilize the country, while Obama wants to get U.S. troops out of Iraq.

Yeah, that's the first thing I would notice to look at them ...

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:44 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: "No such thing as a 'Catholic judge.'"

Justice Scalia on faith and the law.

Via Bashman.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:41 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Bring Out Yer Dead

Anti-war Eeyore journalism reaches new levels of self-parody.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:40 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Scalped

Last night's Sox-Indians game was at least interesting for the one inning in which all the scoring took place. The people who wanted Beckett over Wakefield were pretty much vindicated when Wakefield, having started the game like a house afire, abruptly ran out of gas in the fifth, and Manny Delcarmen let the game get away. Now it's down to Beckett to beat Sabathia Friday night at the Jake to save the season.

Random thought: am I the only one who thinks Travis Hafner looks like a burlier version of John Krasinski from "The Office"?

hafneroffice.JPG

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:25 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
October 16, 2007
LAW: The Greatest of the Bill of Rights

The Third Amendment! I've actually long argued that the Third Amendment was, at least, the most successful of the Bill of Rights, in terms of actually getting respected by the government. The funny thing is that the Onion actually gets the history right here.

Via Bench Memos.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:05 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL: As American As...

The Super Bowl in London?

It's not complete heresy - this is football, not baseball, after all - but it does seem a bit much to take the nation's premier championship sporting event on the road.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:03 PM | Football | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: On The Benefits Of Choosing Where To Fight

By now you have no doubt seen the most important news story of the week, yesterday's front-pager in the Washington Post reporting the debate among the U.S. military between those who believe that recent, dramatic successes against Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQIZ) represent a decisive and irreversible turning point, especially given the newfound cooperation in Sunni areas alienated by AQIZ, and those who caution that AQIZ might yet regenerate itself again as it did after its leadership was decimated by the series of raids beginning with the decaptitation strike that killed AQIZ's notorious leader, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, in June 2006.

That debate is itself important, as are the collateral domestic political questions that follow from it. But perhaps the most intriguing line in the WaPo piece is this one:

The flow of foreign fighters through Syria into Iraq has also diminished, although officials are unsure of the reason and are concerned that the broader al-Qaeda network may be diverting new recruits to Afghanistan and elsewhere.

This raises a question I have addressed before: whether the United States is doing enough to expand the battlefield on which we take the fight to the enemy.

You see, regardless of the precise nature of the organizational charts of Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups, the basic fact remains: we are facing an enemy that operates across national borders, mostly shares common goals and common religious and poilitical ideology, and draws from the same pools of resources. Al Qaeda and its fellow travelers operate in Iraq, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, even in New Jersey and North Carolina.

Like any adversary in war, especially an asymmetrical war such as this one, the jihadist enemy has some advantages over us: fanatical foot soldiers willing to engage in suicide attacks, superior ability to manipulate the media, an absence of moral restraint, little or no territory to protect, an ability to blend in with the population, and patience to take the long view against a nation famous for its impatience. Their goal is to make maximum use of those advantages, while nullifying ours.

But it should not be a given that the U.S. lets the enemy dictate the terms of engagement - and indeed, that is precisely what the Iraq War has been all about. It is a basic rule of any form of conflict - from wars to political campaigns to sporting events to litigation to business competition - that you force the enemy to react to your strengths, rather than let him dictate that the battle be fought on the ground of your weaknesses. It's a dictum as old as Sun Tzu. You don't win wars by hunkering down to figure out how to stop what the other guy does best; you win wars by making the other guy wake up every morning wondering what you are going to do to him.

My concern is that, while the Iraq War has succeeded in occupying much of the enemy's attention, U.S. policy has let the enemy too often off the hook by allowing them to fight only in Iraq. Remember, with no disrespect to our fighting men, America has won wars in the past (hot and Cold) not so much by having more or braver men than the enemy but in large part by forcing the enemy to compete on multiple fronts in ways that allow us to leverage our huge advantages in producing armaments and supplies and in moving men, materiel and information from place to place while interdicting the enemy's ability to do so. Indeed, those are advantages being deployed now by Gen. Petraeus:

Captures and interrogations of AQI leaders over the summer had what a senior military intelligence official called a "cascade effect," leading to other killings and captures. . . .

The deployment of more U.S. and Iraqi forces into AQI strongholds in Anbar province and the Baghdad area, as well as the recruitment of Sunni tribal fighters to combat AQI operatives in those locations, has helped to deprive the militants of a secure base of operations, U.S. military officials said. "They are less and less coordinated, more and more fragmented," Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, said recently. Describing frayed support structures and supply lines, Odierno estimated that the group's capabilities have been "degraded" by 60 to 70 percent since the beginning of the year.

There remains a debate about precisely how much manpower the jihadists can call upon, and thus whether a strategy of manpower attrition (i.e., killing terrorists) is likely to get us anywhere on a global basis any time soon:

Despite the increased killings and captures of AQI members, Odierno said, "it only takes three people" to construct and detonate a suicide car bomb that can "kill thousands." The goal, he said, is to make each attack less effective and lengthen the periods between them.

But even terrorist groups don't just run on warm bodies; they need money, leadership, experience and expertise (e.g., in building IEDs), munitions, and communications. All of these are finite resources, and the United States and its allies can reproduce them, move them, coordinate them and interdict them far better and on a far larger scale than the enemy can. We need them to be fighting on more fronts than they can logistically handle. And unless there's a lot more going on behind the scenes than we can guess, I'm not convinced that we are doing nearly enough of that. The Iranians, for example, appear to have a very free hand to stoke the violence in Iraq and Lebanon and support the jihadis (even the Sunni jihadis who represent Iran's ancient enemies, but who are fighting us now) with minimal consequences for themselves, and little taxation of resources they would have difficulty replenishing. Ditto the Syrians.

The prescription to expand the battlefield is easier said than done, of course; we don't really need to be invading countries willy-nilly, nor am I suggesting we do so. As the Cold War experience - against a much vaster and better-funded enemy - shows, there are a variety of ways to engage the enemy in combat without committing large numbers of our own troops (although we had a much larger and better-funded military then, as we probably should today). And there is a counter-argument, which is in essence that our main priority needs to be consolidating gains of fragile democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan (and, to a much more tenuous extent, in Lebanon, where the democrats still have a fighting chance against difficult odds) rather than opening new fronts. But the longstanding logic of war, together with the political reality of a restive U.S. populace, counsels daring rather than caution. As a guiding principle, whenever and wherever U.S. policymakers have the opportunity to engage the jihadist enemy in ways that further tax its finite resources, we should be doing so.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:14 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Malaise

I have to admit here that I simply have not been able to generate enough enthusiasm to watch a lot of the postseason. I mean, I've tuned in and caught at least pieces of most of the games, and seen large chunks of some of them, but I haven't really gotten into them, to the point of not being able to turn the game off and do something else. A big part of that, of course, is the sour taste left by the gruesome end to the Mets' season, and part as well is the lack of drama, with all three series in the NL ended in sweeps and the Red Sox and Indians looking like perhaps the first truly competitive series. (The focus in the NL on expansion teams with few real marquee established stars hasn't helped, but that alone would not turn me off otherwise).

Of course, it often only takes one game to suck you back in. There's still time.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:02 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
October 15, 2007
POP CULTURE: What's Next, The Jar Jar Jar?

Boba Fett: Delicious Cookie Receptacle.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:07 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Best Maureen Dowd Column Ever

Granted, it's a low hurdle, but Dowd hands over most of her column to Stephen Colbert, with hilarious results:

Dick Cheney's fondest pipe dream is driving a bulldozer into The New York Times while drinking crude oil out of Keith Olbermann's skull...

+++

Bad things are happening in countries you shouldn't have to think about. It's all George Bush's fault, the vice president is Satan, and God is gay.

There. Now I've written Frank Rich's column too.

Read the whole thing. What makes Colbert so funny when he's on is the two-sided nature of the satire (of the type Jon Stewart himself used to do): the ability to satirize right-wing blowhards of the Bill O'Reilly variety while using that persona to throw legitimately funny barbs at the left. It's harder than it looks.

Also: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:34 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Avalanche

The Rockies steaming to a 6-0 record in the postseason thus far is an extremely impressive feat for a team that won 90 games in the regular season and only got over .500 to stay on the 28th of July. The ability to win in the postseason is, famously, unpredictable, and often seems to bear only a mild relationship to regular season success. But the ability to avoid losing games at all in the postseason is almost exclusively the province of outstanding teams. Since the introduction of divisional play in 1969, only 6 teams have won the World Series while losing just one game, and only 1 had gone undefeated:

Year/TeamPost W-LReg W-L
1976 Reds7-0102-60
2005 White Sox11-199-63
1999 Yankees11-198-64
1989 A's8-199-63
1970 Orioles7-1108-54
1984 Tigers7-1104-58
1969 Mets7-1100-62

Interestingly, four of these teams - the 99 Yanks, 89 A's, 70 O's and 76 Reds - were coming off seasons in which they won even more games in the regular season.

The Rockies still have a high mountain to climb to match these teams; history is not on their side, even if they do manage to go all the way.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
October 14, 2007
WAR: Real Nobel-ity

Who the Nobel Peace Prize Committee wouldhave chosen if they were serious about supporting opposition to tyranny and terrorism, especially non-violent opposition. Surely, each of these was a better candidate.

We are rapidly approaching the point at which the Nobel committee will just cut out the middleman and give itself the prize. In the meantime, I guess it's progress not to give the award (as done repeatedly in the past) to someone who signed a cease-fire they had no intention of honoring.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:24 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
October 11, 2007
POLITICS: Check Your Facts At The Door

FactCheck.org is, as such groups go, one of the less obviously dishonest "watchdog" groups, but their knocks on Rudy Giuliani from the latest debate include some howlers. First, they attack Rudy for saying that Hillary proposed giving $5,000 to every baby born in the country when

Clinton told the Congressional Black Caucus on Sept. 28, "I like the idea of giving every baby born in America a $5,000 account that will grow over time, so that when that young person turns 18 if they have finished high school they will be able to access it to go to college or maybe they will be able to make that down payment on their first home." A campaign spokesman told The Associated Press that Clinton’s comment was not a policy proposal "but an idea under consideration."

Note: this was an idea nobody else, to my knowledge, had proposed or asked her about; Hillary made this statement unprompted out of her own mouth, and did so clearly after giving it some thought. Simply because she backed away when the trial balloon attracted harsh criticism doesn't immunize her from having floated it in the first place.

Then, they call Rudy a liar for saying of Hillary's 401(k) giveaway proposal, "this one costs $5 billion more than the last one." On what basis?

Giuliani also exaggerated when he said Clinton's new proposal would cost $5 billion more than the $5,000-per-baby idea. She estimates that the new retirement plan proposal would cost about $20 billion to $25 billion each year, an amount she would finance by freezing the estate tax at its 2009 level. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 4,289,000 live births in the U.S. during the 12 months ending in February, the most recent year on record. The cost of giving each of those kids a $5,000 bond is $21.4 billion, which is actually more than the low end of Clinton's estimate for her new plan.

In other words, Rudy's a liar because he does not bow before the towering integrity of Hillary Clinton's self-serving estimates of the costs of her own proposals? Paul Krugman would be proud. I file these under Crank's First Law of Government Financial Forecasts: they are always, always wrong. (Also, even if her numbers are right, the high-end $25 billion estimate is nearly $4 billion larger than $21.4 billion, so we're not talking a large discrepancy here with what Rudy said).

FactCheck also takes Rudy to task for saying that Hillary called the free market "destructive" when the words she really used (in a quote) were "the most radically disruptive force in American life in the last generation".

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:50 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Who Is Trashing John Edwards?

Sid Blumenthal In The Conservatory With A Filmmaker?

Let's review a few basic facts here, folks.

1. John Edwards has no realistic prospect of winning the 2008 Democratic nomination. Hillary Clinton has 20+ point leads in numerous polls, and if by some chance she should stumble irreparably, Barack Obama would take her place.

2. Edwards is also unlikely to run again for public office. In other words, other than the sheer joy of taking down the smug poseur, Republicans have basically no motive to expend energy digging up dirt for a hit job on Edwards, much less one that could blow up in their faces.

3. The GOP presidential campaigns do have their hands full right now with each other, as both Fred and Rudy have serious chances to win the nomination, Romney has an outside shot, and the other campaigns are battling to stay relevant. If a Republican did have personal dirt on Edwards, now would not be a useful time to unload it.

4. Edwards is, however, importantly positioned in one respect: in Iowa, the first Democratic primary/caucus and the only one where Hillary lacks a large lead, he has around 20-25% of the vote, nearly even with Hillary and Obama, as a result of having campaigned there pretty much continuously for five years. Obama's wife has conceded that if Hillary wins Iowa, the race is effectively over; if Obama wins, that could force Hillary into a much tougher primary campaign and potentially drain her war chest and alienate key constituencies. Thus, both candidates have a motive to want Edwards out of the way so they can go after the voters who have been long committed to Edwards.

Why do I bring all this up? Because there is a particularly nasty piece of work being floated around about Edwards - and there is every reason to believe that it is being driven by the Clinton or Obama camps. And given that this bears all the hallmarks of Clinton politics (recall that a similar hit job was perpetrated by Clinton ally Wes Clark during the 2004 primaries), my money would be on the Hillary folks. The media should be sure to press both campaigns to go on the record as to their involvement.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:47 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
October 10, 2007
POLITICS: The Trouble With Mitt Romney, Part 1 of 5

The first of a five-part series on why Republicans who are serious about winning the White House in 2008 are wasting our time on Mitt Romney.

romney_2008.jpgI'm a conservative in large part because of the vast social/cultural gulf that separates Right and Left, first and foremost on the issue of abortion - and yet, the candidate I'm supporting for the 2008 GOP nomination, Rudy Giuliani, is an avowed pro-choicer who has often been on the wrong side of that gulf.

I also believe that the GOP, for a number of reasons I'll discuss below, needs to nominate a candidate who has a demonstrated record of management excellence - and yet, my second choice in 2008 is Fred Thompson, a man who has pretty much never managed anything.

You would think that I might be a natural constituency for Mitt Romney, the stronger of the two GOP candidates (the other being Mike Huckabee, more on whom here) who has substantial executive experience and is running as a social conservative. After all, I've watched Romney for years (I was in school in Massachusetts and semi-active in GOP campaigns during his 1994 Senate run), and he's even an alumnus of my law school. So why is Romney no more than my fifth choice for the nomination (behind Rudy, Fred, McCain, and Hunter)? Why do I dread the prospect that he might capture the nomination? Let me explain.

Romney-Family-Photo.jpg

I should start off by saying that there are quite a number of things I like about Romney. He's obviously smart, articulate and very hard-working. He was a fabulously successful businessman, intimately involved in the development of many new and growing businesses during his career in venture capital and private equity. He ran the Salt Lake City Olympics well, rescuing it from a corruption scandal as well as the challenge of handling the extra security that came from hosting the Games just five months after September 11. He was a good Governor in Massachusetts. He's obviously a good family man, a man of faith and unquestioned personal integrity. He seems like the kind of guy anyone would be glad to have as a next-door neighbor or a son-in-law. I supported him for the Senate in 1994 (and was appalled at the religious bigotry hurled at him in that campaign by Ted Kennedy), cheered for his campaign for Governor in 2002, and I'd walk over hot coals to elect him in place of my own state's current Governor, Eliot Spitzer.

I. If We Nominate Him, We're Gonna Lose

romney2.jpg

Leaving aside for a second how you rank them, there are basically four things that have to be looked at in examining a presidential candidate:

1. Can he (or she, but we're talking Romney here) win the general election?
2. Does he stand for good positions and priorities on the issues?
3. How likely is he to actually turn those positions into effective policy, often in the face of a hostile opposition and media and under various pressures from within and without the Party and the Beltway to back down, flip-flop or compromise?
4. How well do we think he can handle unexpected crises and new issues (especially in foreign affairs) beyond what he's campaigning on?

Regardless of the relative priority you put on the other three, the simple fact is that the best possible potential president in the world is no use if he can't get elected. And I am quite certain that Mitt Romney, if nominated, won't get elected. There are a number of reasons for this, not all of them fair, but no less real for being unfair.

A. He's Not Not-Bush

The first reason is one of the iron rules of politics: after 8 years of the same president - any president, popular or otherwise - voters want change. Partly it's a sense of getting someone who has a different style and approach and just feels different, and partly it's the entirely rational assumption that since the job is too big for any one person to do comprehensively, at least exchanging a president with one set of flaws and priorities and values for a different one will ensure that the same things don't get overlooked or done wrong for another four years.

By nature, this puts the incumbent's party at a disadvantage, since switching parties is the easiest way to ensure wholesale change - as happened after two-term presidencies in 2000, 1960, 1952, and 1920, and after quasi-two-term presidencies in 1976, 1968, and 1952. And that disadvantage increases when the incumbent is deeply unpopular and is prosecuting a frustrating and unpopular war, as was the case in 1968 and 1952. Make no mistake: that is true today of George W. Bush and the war in Iraq.

The challenge for Republicans, then, is to prove to the electorate that the next nominee is not-Bush, and specifically is not-Bush in the ways that people find most troublesome about Bush. (That's easier said than done when different people are upset about different things, but you can start by focusing on the reasons why people who might potentially vote Republican, and even people who are still happier than not with him, are dissatisfied with Bush).

With George Allen's campaign having ended before it began, Romney is probably the least not-Bush of any of the candidates. He's the son of a politician, a businessman running with a fairly short resume in public office, a religious man, a Harvard MBA. Like Bush, he's led something of a charmed existence - he didn't come up by the bootstraps, and he didn't fight in a war. Like Bush, he's known for his tightly controlled message discipline. There's even a sense that Romney has been the favored candidate of the Bush family, Jeb in particular (and there's a reason why Jeb, arguably the GOP's best possible candidate, can't run in 2008). See here, here, and here. Worst of all, Romney will be seen as Bush-like without the corresponding virtue (his stubborn constancy) that Bush's supporters have long most admired, and without Bush's cultural credibility with Southern Christian conservatives.

To Romney supporters, the comparison seems unfair in two major ways even above and beyond the extent to which it ignores Bush's own political and policy accomplishments and punishes Romney even for the virtues he shares with Bush. First, unlike Bush, a mediocre oilman who didn't find consistent success until he led an investor group to buy the Texas Rangers, Romney was a great success in the private business world. (While this is an impressive credential, it turns out to be less of a historically useful one than you might think - successful businessmen, notably Hoover, have been poor presidents; about the only man to really succeed in the presidency and in business was George Washington, and Washington's success in the whiskey business came only after he left office). Unfortunately for Romney, it may be very difficult for his campaign to convince people that he is selling a kind of experience that's fundamentally different from Bush's.

Second, Romney is much more verbally facile than Bush, much less apt to seem cornered and defensive behind a podium or to leave listeners wondering about his gray matter. But Romney has his own issues as a communicator, as I will discuss below and later in this series.

The bottom line? For Americans who are open to conservative principles but tired of George W. Bush, Romney will be a tough sell, much tougher than Giuliani (a New Yorker, a verbal battler, a guy who accomplished a lot as a public-sector leader in the public eye, and who is - unfortunately - not identified with religious conservatives) or McCain (whose war-hero status gives him unique credibility and who has long been known as a "maverick"), and perhaps even tougher than the laconic Southerner, Fred Thompson, with his commanding demeanor, long movie and TV exposure and more comparatively humble origins. That might not be as much of an issue if Romney had credibility in his efforts to differentiate himself from Bush on the Right on issues like spending and immigration. Lacking that, his only substantive way out is to turn against Bush on the Iraq War. And conservatives - like me - who believe that that war effort can't be separated from the wider war thus have twice the reason to be nervous about Romney.

B. Americans Hate Phonies

This is admittedly subjective, but Jonah Goldberg aptly summarized the way Romney often comes off in public by describing his demeanor as, "What Do I Have to Do To Put You In This BMW Today?". I'll discuss the specifics in more detail later, but the broader issue is that Romney seems unconvincing as the conservative he is running as; his calculations seem too close to the surface.

When the race kicked off, with Rudy and McCain as the frontrunners and the second tier filled with unknowns and/or candidates with their own issues with the base (e.g., Huckabee on taxes, Brownback to some extent on immigration), there was an opportunity for a candidate to build a market niche as the sane, electable conservative. Romney, to the credit of his business instincts, jumped on that opportunity like a starving man on a sandwich. The problem is that that posture is just not consistent with Romney's history of campaigning and governing as a moderate, pragmatic, non-ideological Northeastern Republican, and specifically with numerous stands he has taken in the very recent past. Now, a good businessman, or even a candidate running principally as a competent technocrat, can get away with running on what the public wants today rather than on principles. But Romney is running a fundamentally ideological campaign, and he is doing so all too transparently as a businessman pursuing an underserved market rather than as a true believer.

Romney's air of slickness and phoniness manifests itself in a number of specific ways I will get into later in this series, but the overall effect is an even more pronounced than usual (for a politician) tendency to leave people feeling like he will say anything to get elected. Democrats have, justly, suffered for that perception in the last two presidential elections, and they are almost certainly nominating a candidate who is legendarily calculating (Bill Clinton, by contrast, was a master at faking sincerity; but Romney, like so many others in politics, lacks Clinton's talents in this regard and would do well not to try to imitate him). Republicans, having successfully and appropriately attacked Gore and Kerry and most likely Hillary as well on this basis, cannot afford to run a candidate who comes off as a phony.

In Part II: Romney's relative lack of experience and the implications for Romney as a war leader.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:42 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Autopsy

In the quest to identify the real killer of the Mets' season, Ryan McConnell links to a Tim Marchman analysis that aptly demonstrates that the Mets' bullpen problem was not - in the aggregate - overwork caused by starters not going deep enough in games, although Marchman (1) doesn't address the extent to which individual relievers wore out and (2) doesn't deal at all with the bullpen's actual performance. McConnell also breaks out the abysmal performance of fifth and spot starters used by the Mets this year.

There are always multiple causes of failure, of course. Reyes certainly rode off the bridge in the last two months of the year. But the offense as a whole can't be blamed; despite struggles at Shea, the Mets finished 4th in the league in runs scored and just a hair (5.46 R/G to 5.40) behind the Phillies for most runs scored on the road.

Anyway, one culprit (I'll return if I get a chance to look at individuals) was the decay of the team's previously spectacular defense in the season's closing months. Let's break out the decline of the pitching staff by its component parts: homers, walks (excluding intentional walks, but including HBP, which are the pitcher's fault), and strikeouts (the parts entirely under the pitchers' control) per 600 plate appearances month by month, vs. four elements more under the fielders' control: opponents' batting average on balls in play, extra bases (1 for a double, two for a triple) per 600 balls in play, batters reaching on errors per 600 balls in play, and double plays turned per opportunity (a rough measure of DP divided by (singles + walks + HBP + ROE). All sourced here.

MonthHR/600UIBB/600K/600BABIPXB/600ROE/600DP/OPP
Apr13.070.9113.2.26647.88.0.114
May18.555.0105.3.23847.87.7.078
June15.846.2102.9.28547.35.0.048
July17.650.6102.3.28643.09.9.058
Aug16.157.3107.1.33359.87.9.065
Sept13.359.4117.7.32859.011.3.054

As you can see, while the trendlines do show some negatives, especially in the walks/HBP column, the overall picture does not show a dramatic change in the pitching staff over the course of the season, and even shows some improvement (largely Pedro-driven) in HR and K in September. But the trendlines for the parts that are more the responsibility of the defense do show a drastic decline over the season, especially the final two months - hits on balls in play way up, doubles and triples way up, errors up sharply, double play balls never recovering the April-May levels when Valentin was in the lineup. Reyes is doubtless responsible for some of this as well (possibly Wright too, who played spectacular defense early in the year) but I have to think a lot of the blame for the doubles and triples figure in particular comes from two sources that were simultaneously responsible for keeping the offense in the game: the return of Alou in place of the fleet-footed Gomez and Chavez in left, and a hobbled Carlos Beltran in center (the Mets' defense in right was bad all year).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:40 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
October 8, 2007
BASEBALL: Fact of the Day

I know there's a couple ways to slice this data but it's still striking: by ERA+, Joe Borowski is the only pitcher to save 40 games with an ERA worse than the league. As you can see from the list, Randy Myers with 38 saves was the prior record holder. September was the only month of the season when Borowski had an ERA below 3.38, and the 3.38 mark was in June when the league hit .370 against him.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:07 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
October 7, 2007
BASEBALL: Johnny Leyritz

If you are going to shoot at the king, you better kill him. I have a bad feeling that the Indians will live to regret not putting away the Yankees after Clemens went down, and the torch officially passed from Clemens to Phil Hughes.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:20 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: From The Department of Badly Timed Awards

Don't use the men's room at the Idaho Hall of Fame.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:19 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: John Edwards Did Not Serve In Vietnam

Just when you thought we had finally gotten past this particular obsession, let us state for the record:

Rush Limbaugh was born in 1951.

Rush Limbaugh was judged, by his draft board, to be medically unfit to serve in the military.

John Edwards was born in 1953.

John Edwards was judged, by his draft board, to be medically fit to serve in the military.

John Edwards did not serve in the military.

So, why is his wife calling Limbaugh a "draft dodger"?

In point of fact, only one of the even marginally significant 2008 candidates in either party, John McCain, served. Let's move along, now.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:59 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Al Franken Spending Money But Not Getting More Well-Liked

The graphic comes from this Brian Maloney story, which goes through how Franken has outraised Norm Coleman in the race for Coleman's Senate seat but has been burning through cash (in part because Franken still has a serious primary opponent, wealthy trial lawyer Mike Ciresi) to the point where Coleman has twice as much cash on hand, $5 million to $2.45 million.

The result:

Republicans gloated that while Franken burned more than $1 million in the second quarter, a recent Minnesota Poll gave him only a 27 percent favorable rating, compared with 52 percent for Coleman, who faces his first reelection test next year.

H/T HotAir. Coleman's is one of the Senate seats we need to hold in 2008; hopefully, he will get some help from this sort of bumbling by one of his potential opponents.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:54 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Justice Scalia on "24"

This video from Slate is hilarious.

H/T WSJ Law Blog.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:53 AM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: NLCS Time

I guess it is too late for my NLDS predictions (which, for the record, would have been Chicago and Colorado, FWIW). I have been gradually licking my wounds enough to start paying attention again.

TBS can't be happy with the prospect of as many as four sweeps in the first round, nor with an Arizona-Colorado series (they don't have the ALCS). Of course, I will not shed a tear if Roger Clemens goes out today the way Glavine did against the Marlins.

For the NLCS, I'm inclined to take the Rockies, who won the season series 10-8 and have now won 17 of their last 18. I have not been a believer in the D-Backs all season; their poor Pythagorean record (they may be the first team ever to have the best record in theleague while allowing more runs than they scored) reflects the fact that they have neither a dominant offensive player nor a deep offense, their defense aside from Orlando Hudson is nothing special, and their pitching, while improved in depth over the second half (especially Micah Owings and a deep bullpen) is not, other than Brandon Webb, spectacular enough to overcome that. By contrast, the Rockies seem to be the ideally constructed team for their park - an outstanding bullpen (there may be no more pivotal figure in the league than Manny Corpas), good defense at key positions, a deep lineup and at least an adequate starting rotation. Not that Colorado is a 95-win type of team, but when a team has Kaz Matsui hitting grand slams in key games, you can't give the other guy extra points for momentum and luck and a better bullpen.

That said, I'd have to expect a long series, as neither team has the starting pitching to just put the other away consistently, and with two good, deep bullpens, a lot of extra inning games are easy to imagine.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:23 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 2, 2007
LAW: Now That Johnnie Cochran's Dead

OJ seeks the next best thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:36 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: I Should Sue

Taco Bell infringes on my intellectual property:

cranktacobell.JPG

If it were worth the filing fee, I would do something.

Hat tip: Red Sox Republican, who emailed the pic.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:30 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL: Lowered Expectations

You know, once you've been an ex-backup punter at the college level, it's all downhill.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:15 PM | Football | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Spitzer Loses Interest In Law Enforcement

NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer has kicked up yet another firestorm with his latest genius idea, to issue drivers' licenses to illegal aliens:

All New Yorkers are now entitled to earn a driver's license, regardless of immigration status, under an administrative policy change Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced Friday.

The controversial change was hailed by supporters as a necessary measure to make roads safer, increase the number of insured drivers and protect immigrants' rights. Opponents said it will threaten homeland security and could put driver's licenses in the hands of terrorists.

Reversing a post-9/11 state policy that made it impossible for undocumented workers to obtain licenses, Spitzer and Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner David Swarts said Social Security numbers no longer will be required to obtain a license. A passport or other valid identification can be used instead. The initiative is aimed at identifying unlicensed drivers on the roads. The DMV estimates that could include 10,000 people.

"I applaud the DMV and Commissioner Swarts for making this common-sense change that deals practically with the reality that hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants live among us and that allowing them the opportunity to obtain driver licenses in a responsible and secure manner will help increase public safety," Spitzer said in a statement.

+++

New anti-fraud measures will be implemented to increase the security of licensing, officials said. The DMV will use new document verification technology, photo-comparison tools, and staff specially trained in foreign-source identifications. People need to prove New York residency to obtain a license.

+++

The Social Security number requirement was implemented in 1995 as part of an effort to punish parents for not paying child support. In 2002, the state began allowing people ineligible for Social Security numbers to apply for licenses. A subsequent administrative policy change required proof of ineligibility from the Social Security Administration, a document only available to legal immigrants, thus making it impossible for illegal immigrants to get licenses.

Unsurprisingly, this issue has unified New York's Republicans and Conservatives, ranging from Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani to State Senate President Joe Bruno to erstwhile Republican Mayor Mike Bloomberg to the state's bumptious Conservative Party:

"Today's directive to the Department of Motor Vehicles to no longer require provide Social Security numbers, or proof that they are eligible for Social Security cards, will certainly make it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain valid identification to blend into society," said Michael Long, state chairman of the Conservative Party.

The State Senate isn't just talking, either, and it looks as if it may have the votes to force a showdown with the ham-handed Spitzer:

In an effort to stop what they deem an ill-advised order from Governor Spitzer that could jeopardize the safety and security of New Yorkers, the New York State Senate will act on legislation next month to prohibit the state from issuing drivers licenses to illegal aliens. The legislation would require a social security number or proof of authorized presence in the United States to obtain a New York State drivers license.

"The Senate has made its' opposition to the Governor's plan very clear," Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said. "The Senate passed a bill earlier this year that would have prevented illegal aliens from obtaining drivers licenses and we will act on a new bill when we return for a special session next month to stop the Governor’s plan. We need the Assembly to join us. We need the Speaker to bring the Assembly back into session, pass our bill, and deliver a strong message to the Governor that the people of this state oppose his plan and it must be stopped."

+++

The legislation the Senate will take up next month is similar to bills proposed by Senator Frank Padavan (Queens) that would require applicants for a drivers license or non-driver identification card, to submit satisfactory proof to the Department of Motor Vehicles that the applicant’s presence in the United States is authorized under federal law (S.74); and legislation (S.6250), passed by the Senate in June, sponsored by Senator John Flanagan (R-C, East Northport), that would require the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to obtain proof from any applicant for a drivers license or nondriver identification card who cannot provide a social security number, that they are ineligible for a social security number. The Assembly did not act on this bill.

More here from a Staten Island Republican, and here for more from Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola, who insists he will not follow the new policy:

"I've been with the DMV 20 years, I've seen a lot of crazy things. This is the worst," Merola said of the governor's plan. "My stomach is in knots. I just don't understand how I can issue a driver's license to a person who can't prove they're here legally. If they want to put 'undocumented' across the top of it, that would be just fine, but they went just the opposite.

"Osama bin Laden could be standing in my lobby and I'd have to give him a driver's license."
He said licenses issued by his office after Monday no longer have a temporary stamp that show license holders are not permanent, legal residents meaning the licenses are good for eight years though the driver may no longer be legally in the U.S. by then.

After Pataki's 2002 order, Merola said, county clerks collected Social Security numbers from drivers' license applicants and checked the numbers against Social Security records. They found 120,000 cases of bogus Social Security numbers that were used to apply for driving privileges.

Giuliani, who has been under fire from Mitt Romney for policies tolerant of illegal aliens while Mayor but who has been running on a platform of requiring better identification of those who enter the country legally, ripped the plan:

"I think it would just create an even further level of fraud and confusion in what is already a very confusing picture," said Mr. Giuliani . . .

"The reality is there is so much traffic in false documents that creates part of this problem," he said. "It is the reason I am so much in favor of a tamper-proof ID card for people who come in from foreign countries and want to work here."

Like Mayor Giuliani, I'm sympathetic to the problem of how you deal with a large illegal alien population without exacerbating the problem by having - in this case - scores of uninsured drivers on the roads. But so long as the drivers' license is used as a proxy identification card for broader purposes (which it will be in practice for some time despite federal efforts to improve on the situation), licenses that do not in any way reflect on their face that they were issued without proof of legal residency will only make the situation worse. Spitzer seems to have forgotten yet again that New York is particularly vulnerable to terrorism:

Certain facts about terrorist operations are beyond dispute, and as the 9/11 Commission noted, one is that terrorists cannot function without I.D. The sixty-three authentic U.S. driver's licenses the 9/11 terrorists held (from Virginia, Florida, Maryland and other states) permitted them to blend in as ordinary U.S. citizens; permitted them to rent cars, open bank accounts, rent hotel rooms, obtain credit cards, etc. They used them when purchasing flying lessons. And on the morning of 9/11, their U.S. licenses were the "valid ID" that got them on board the planes they used as missiles.

Those authentic, U.S. issued drivers licenses were the tools that allowed the terrorists to hide in plain sight among millions of other illegal aliens and to obtain all the goods and services they needed to plan, rehearse, finance and carry out their attacks.

Naturally, Spitzer's allies on the Left are lining up behind him - the AFL-CIO, the NY Civil Liberties Union, and of course, the NY Times. These are, of course, the same folks who invariably line up to protest requirements that even the most basic forms of identification - such as, yes, the drivers' license - be presented before you can vote (an issue now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court). All of which suggests the real priority here, which is to find new and different ways to enlarge the Left's political base outside of the pool of U.S. citizens.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:04 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Rockie Horror

It may be midnight, but Cinderella's slipper still fits. Now that is how you play a deciding game. One for the ages.

PS - I will pretend I did not just see Kaz Matsui trigger a pennant-winning rally.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:18 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
October 1, 2007
POLITICS: The Frontrunner

Byron York notes that Rudy Giuliani now leads in the polls among essentially every category of Republican.

Fred better get in gear if he is going to take down the leader.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:50 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Well, That Didn't Work Out So Well

If you will excuse me, I have some bitterness to wallow in...

Seriously, more analysis will be required in the weeks to come, but a few quick thoughts on a couple of the big questions:

1. Sack the Brain Trust?

While I'm not always on the same page as Omar Minaya, Willie Randolph or Rick Peterson, I wouldn't can any of them just yet. Randolph's position would be the most tenuous; unlike Minaya or Peterson, it's hard to identify his successes to set against his failures, but the simple fact is that the team has won 55% of its games for Randolph, compared to 42% for Art Howe and 53% for Bobby Valentine or, historically, 52% for Gil Hodges (Davey won 59%). Willie deserves one last chance to get this team over the hump next season.

2. Will Glavine and LoDuca Return?

At this point, I'd rather see Glavine go. He was, until yesterday's meltdown, still helping the team, but it's been clear for a while that the smoke and mirrors is all he has left, and time is running short - his K/9 plunged from 5.95 to a hair under 4, which is a serious red flag for a pitcher who will be 42 next season. Let him pursue his 200th loss elsewhere. Much as I hated Glavine in Atlanta and objected to his signing, I won't be bitter about the Glavine Era; he did, after turning the corner in 2004, manage to give the Mets a few solid years and some great postseason performances in 2006, and win his 300th game in a Mets uniform. But he's still always a Brave to everyone. Let him go back there.

As for Lo Duca, well, his falloff with the bat this season was perhaps predictable; whether he returns or not should depend heavily on the weak market for alternatives (there are a lot of free agent catchers this offseason but little quality) and whether the Mets are content to just pick up a guy to split time with Castro.

3. What Is Reyes Missing?

Reyes' fadeout over the second half was dramatic and at times marked by listlessness, and he probably needs more days off next season to recharge his batteries, mentally if not physically - in contrast to Jimmy Rollins, who just broke Lenny Dykstra's single season plate appearances record. Face it, while Reyes can be a flashy player he lacks the arrogant, in-your-face braggodocio of Rollins or Hanley Ramirez, that drive to insult the other guy and then make him eat your words.

4. Whither Delgado?

Other than Wagner, who simply had a mild off year with his usual bad timing, the Mets' 35-year-olds (Lo Duca, Delgado and Pedro) suffered precisely the collapse (in Pedro's case, a long injury respite) that my Established Win Shares projections suggested for the typical 35-year-old before the season. Delgado started the season with arm surgery and ended it with a broken hand after being drilled by Dontrelle Willis...I'd really be very concerned about his ability to bounce back from that next year. But the Mets will have few alternatives.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:14 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)