"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
November 30, 2007
LAW: Swift Justice and the Immigration System
The speed of the deportation process at work - the name may not ring a bell for some of my younger readers:
CINCINNATI - A lawyer for a former autoworker accused of being a Nazi death camp guard on Thursday challenged the right of the nation's chief immigration judge to order his deportation.
Of course, this is why both advocates and opponents of aggressive use of the deportation system are fooling themselves and/or their listeners; whatever the merits of other options for controlling the border (employer enforcement, fencing, etc.), we simply don't and aren't likely to ever have procedures in place to handle large numbers of deportation proceedings with great dispatch.
November 28, 2007
BASEBALL: Hot Stove Roundup, Vol 2
*The Cubs re-signing Kerry Wood as a closer candidate makes all sorts of sense; Dempster was just terrible for much of 2007, and Wood clearly can't stay healthy unless handled very, very carefully; the steady, manageable workload of a closer may give him the chance to finally unleash his nasty stuff without hurting himself, while keeping super-effective Carlos Marmol in the setup role.
*Mark Prior for sale - well, now, that all depends on the price, doesn't it? The Cubs now have the pitching depth to prefer to cash in Prior and put the era of waiting on his and Wood's return to health behind them, and certainly Prior has upside. I'd think the best match would be someone like Tampa that can afford to wait on a guy who could still turn it around someday, though if I'm Prior I'd like to go to an organization with some track record for reviving injured pitchers (Cincinnati? St. Louis?).
*The Torii Hunter signing is fairly convincing evidence that Arte Moreno has turned into the late-70s Gene Autry or mid-90s Angelos, with more money than he knows what to do with. Sure, Hunter can probably marginally help the Angels in 2008; he's a good player, an excellent glove man with power. But 5 years and $90 million? Hunter is 32, he's never had a .340 OBP in his career, and his value is in his range as a CF; he's a terrible bet to hold his value in his mid-30s. Plus, they spent too much money last year on Gary Matthews for no other reason than his ability to play center field; I suppose you could deal Matthews and eat his contract (he's 33 and fell off the cliff in the last two months of the season after a solid enough first half, batting .180/.324/.269 from August 2 through the end of the year). I had thought the smart play for a team seeking a center fielder, especially a non-desperate team like the Angels, would be Mike Cameron, although after 2005 and 2007, Cameron will probably refuse to sign with any team that wants him to play alongside another center fielder.
The Hunter signing presumably sends Reggie Willits to fourth outfielder status, where if he plays his cards right he could have an Orlando Palmeiro-style career with his good OBP and speed; Willits' total lack of power doomed him as an everyday player, and from what I saw this season he's a terrible outfielder.
*It should surprise nobody familiar with the last decade and a half of Kansas City baseball to see the Royals pursuing Jose Guillen. At age 32, Guillen is essentially the same offensive player as Hunter, maybe a slightly better hitter for average, but without Hunter's good attitude, durability, consistency and glove. That's exactly the guy you want to pay millions to add to a young rebuilding team. Icing on the cake? "Guillen faces a possible suspension next season after being linked to the purchase of steroids and human growth hormone earlier this month in a story appearing in the San Francisco Chronicle."
*No, I can't see how anybody but the Yankees gets Johan Santana. The loss of Hunter probably means that Melky Cabrera would be a logical way to make a deal happen without the Yanks parting with both Hughes and Chamberlain. But that's a deal I'd make in a heartbeat if I'm the Yankees; there's no pitching prospect in history who had a better than 50/05 chance of becoming as good as Santana is now, and Santana's lefthanded, still reasonably young and healthy.
The Mets ... I just don't see what they offer that gets a deal done without Wright or Reyes, and they're not dealing one of those guys.
November 26, 2007
BASEBALL: Hot Stove Roundup, Vol 1
*The Daily News has a long profile of Duaner Sanchez's comeback trail (from the pictures, Sanchez looks skinnier) and an interview with Randy Niemann about Sanchez's rehab, both of which are necessarily inconclusive about how much the Mets could count on Sanchez this season; he would be a big help.
*The Mets appear to be pondering cutting newly acquired Johnny Estrada, who is coming off elbow bone spur surgery and - like nearly every catcher the Mets have had lately - is coming off a terrible year throwing out baserunners. I'm not wedded to Estrada, but he's an adequate enough alternative that I'd be skeptical of making a deal for Ramon Hernandez unless it can be done cheaply; Hernandez would be an upgrade, but hardly a huge one, as he's 32, coming off a season in which he slugged .382, and has caught 110 games just once in the past four seasons.
*The Reds' signing of Francisco Cordero seems like the classic move that hurts the Brewers more than it helps the Reds; Cordero is a solid but hardly a great closer, despite a gangbusters start to 2007 (he had a 4.66 ERA from June 9 through the end of the season, although his 51/10 K/BB ratio and 4 HR in 38.2 IP in that stretch suggests that he wasn't really throwing that badly), and his absence probably leaves the Brew Crew to trust to the erratic Derrick Turnbow again, but the Reds are far from being in a position to really take advantage of an upgrade at closer, and you'd think they would focus their efforts on other positions. Then again, given the bandbox they play in, Cordero's career 0.64 HR/9, even after spending much of his career in Texas, may have been irresistable.
*I'm still convinced that Tom Glavine is going to completely hit the wall next season. If he gives the Braves 95% of what he gave the Mets this season, they'll be happy, since they are desperate for someone to come in and eat innings, and Glavine can always do that. But I'm fairly certain that his bag of tricks has run dry, and it was only his tremendous savvy and experience that let him paper over that for much of 2007.
Colon has some near-term upside. He’s coming off injury and his conditioning habits leave much to be desired, but he's still got excellent stuff, and his performance down the stretch last season proved he’s still got something in the tank. He makes sense provided he's willing to sign a low-base, incentive-laden contract. If the market is such that he commands a multi-year deal, then consider him no longer worthy of this list.
I agree with that in the abstract - Colon was horrendous last season, but if you look at the numbers his 76/29 K/BB ratio in 99.1 IP indicates a guy who may not be entirely finished, though I don't trust him further than I could throw him (which is not far). But "down the stretch"? He threw just 13.2 innings after July 23, and his 3.95 ERA in three starts is way too little to draw any conclusions from. If anything, the season trend indicates a guy who came back solid but ran out of gas, as his ERA was in the threes into mid-May. Anyway, I agree with a number of the guys on Perry's list as being potentially low-profile signings who could help a team.
November 25, 2007
BASEBALL: Stay Classy
POLITICS: Billion-Dollar Marty
When I looked at the long list of tax hiking Democratic Governors back in the spring, I gave an incomplete grade to Maryland's new Democratic Governor, Martin O'Malley, not out of any illusions about whether he was anything but a standard-issue tax-and-spend liberal but simply because he hadn't done anything yet.
Well, no need to wait longer for the verdict. E.J. Dionne, predictably, hails O'Malley's billion-and-a-half dollar tax hike, passed earlier this week:
Facing a $1.7 billion budget deficit, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley -- who offered the above observations in an interview -- led the legislature this week to approve $1.4 billion in taxes and $550 million in spending cuts. It's been a long time since we've seen that kind of balance from the federal government.
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The fact that even Dionne recognizes that this is three dollars in tax hikes for every dollar in spending cuts, as well as the massive expansion of Medicaid to another 140,000 recipients, should tell you all you need to know about O'Malley's commitment to protecting the taxpayer. (Also, the $550 million is a apparently a cut in "State spending growth," not actual spending reductions). Indeed, Dionne hails the Maryland Governor as the man who can bring back the case for big government:
[T]he sound you are hearing not only in Maryland but in state capitals across the nation is the crashing and crumbling of ideology, specifically a right-wing ideology that demonizes taxes and government while preaching that the public interest depends upon solicitude toward the comfortable and the privileged.
Yup, a billion-dollar tax hike is exactly Mark Warner's formula for success; Virginia voters will soon enough be asked whether they want him to pressthat same philosophy nationally. And the fine print goes deeper than just a burden on Marylanders who work hard for their money:
Executives this week cast both brickbats and laurels at Maryland’s new package of business taxes and programs, with several singling out a new state sales tax on computer services for criticism.
Expanding the sales tax to computer businesses handicaps those companies when they compete against those in states that don’t have such a tax, Micheals said.
Fortunately for Maryland, it has a lot of company these days among states with tax-hiking Democratic governors.
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November 24, 2007
BASEBALL: Smorgasbord of Idiocy
Via Pinto, you really have to go read Phillies blog crashburnalley's email exchange with Bill Conlin (you may remember Conlin as the dumb, obnoxious, loudmouthed guy from ESPN's The
The only positive thing I can think of about Hitler’s time on earth–I’m sure he would have eliminated all bloggers. In Colonial times, bloggers were called “Pamphleteers.” They hung on street corners handing them out to passersby. Now, they hang out on electronic street corners, hoping somebody mouses on to their pretentious sites. Different medium, same MO.
Leave aside the familiar forms of statistical illiteracy that gets Conlin to this point in the argument, let's consider an analogy in which Conlin:
1. Praises Hitler for the very thing that made him Hitler
3. Somehow paints the pamphleteers who called for American independence as the bad guys.
It's a depthless hole.
November 22, 2007
POP CULTURE: Hollywood's "Social Conscience" In A Nutshell
Julia Roberts designs Armani bracelet for World AIDS Day. Mother Theresa should have been so virtuous.
POLITICS: ...And A Tax Hike
As if he hasn't had enough stumbles, NY Governor Eliot Spitzer is now considering breaking outright his campaign promise not to raise taxes, which he previously bent rather severely with proposed business tax hikes and aggressive sales tax enforcement against Native Americans. He's apparently pondering an income tax hike:
Governor Spitzer is considering a proposal to raise income taxes on wealthier New Yorkers, according to a labor-backed political party that is pushing for the increase....
This is on top of Spitzer's new plan to tax Internet sales and new MTA fare hikes. Because really, the first thing people think of in New York is that taxes are so low and the business climate is so friendly...
November 21, 2007
BASEBALL: Hole Plugged
The abortive Yorvit Torrealba experiment at least made me a lot happier to see the Mets deal Guillermo Mota for Johnny Estrada. Mota, of course, had to go, and I was surprised they didn't have to pay someone to take him - but then, he has a good arm and OK control, so there's always someone who thinks they can get a good year out of him.
As for Estrada, who's 32 and in the last year of his contract, the danger sign is his declining plate patience - 25 walks in two years, a .296 OBP last season - but he batted .278 and slugged .403 last year, and did better than that (albeit in Arizona) in 2006; if that's your #8 hitter, you could do worse. (As a switch hitter he might be available to platoon with Castro, but Estrada hits lefties just fine).
November 20, 2007
POP CULTURE: Valuing the Writers
Writers make a lot less money in comparison to directors and actors than they used to. And the less money you make on a project, the less control you can exert over the creative process.
His whole post is worth reading...the analogy isn't perfect in terms of market structure: writers have more of a free market than NFL linemen had pre-free-agency, but as Last notes in the comments, the market they have is not the most effective one, given the stranglehold a handful of consumers (i.e., network heads) have on the decision to hire them.
As Last notes, writers bring a large marginal value to the table: it's far more common to see TV shows fail for bad writing than for bad acting, so improving the writing can dramatically improve the expected return on investment on a show (unless the show's concept is so bad as to be beyond salvage by any writer). That's partly a function of an inefficient market (i.e., inability to identify the best writers, as compared to a relatively efficient market for locating good actors), possibly partly a scarcity-of-quality issue, and partly that - unlike novelists or movie writers - TV writers are signed in advance of turning out multiple stories, so the network heads may not want to pay in advance without assurances that a given writer will produce consistently good work.
The problem with writers not getting their due in terms of their marginal value to the projects they work on is, I would guess, the combination of the first and third points: networks don't have - or don't feel they have - a really good system for telling the difference between good and bad writers, and lack confidence that today's good writer will continue to churn out quality tomorrow. At least, that's my speculation. Because if the networks really did believe they could measure the difference between good writers and bad ones there would be a very big marginal investment return to be made by expanding your writing budget to snag the best ones.
November 18, 2007
BASEBALL: Multiple Second Choices
Matthew Cerrone, always the best source for compiling all the Mets trade/free agent rumors, notes word here and here that while the Mets were focused for some time on David Eckstein, and while Tadahito Iguchi - who I had thought might be a reasonable, inexpensive option - is asking for a 3-year deal, the team may now be on the verge of a 4-year contract for Luis Castillo.
Save us from such options. Iguchi is a solid enough bat, though he has benefitted from playing in hitters' parks, but he's 33 and coming off an off year; Eckstein's 33, has no power, hasn't played 130 games since 2005, and his value depends entirely on hitting singles and getting hit by pitches. And Castillo, who is still a useful player and was once a very fine one, is 32, has less power than Eckstein, and most of all has such bad knees that a 1-year contract is a risk, let alone 4.
I understand the need for stopgaps, but this is ridiculous. I really like Castillo, but there is no way you are going to get more than two good years out of him. At some point you might be better off taking the offensive hit to get a glove wizard like Anderson Hernandez out there. All in all, this offseason has been a frightening reminder of how slim the pickings are these days at C and SS.
BASEBALL: No Yorvit
Best news of the week: Mets have not signed Torrealba after all, and have broken off negotiations. Somebody - apparently his agent - obviously screwed up big time by leaking this as if it was a done deal.
November 16, 2007
LAW/WAR: 9th Circuit: Responding to NY Times Waives State Secrets Privilege
When the New York Times disclosed a top-secret program of surveilance of international phone calls with suspected terrorists, the Bush Administration faced a critical choice: defend the program in public - including correcting misimpressions left by press reports - or try to preserve such secrecy as had not been shattered by the Times. Both choices had substantial downsides, but today the Ninth Circuit held (in a decision that is otherwise somewhat of a split decision* in a challenge brought to the program by "Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a designated terrorist organization, and two of its attorneys") that the Bush Administration waived its legal defense that a full judicial review of the program would involve disclosure of state secrets because the Administration responded to the Times in a way that confirmed the program's existence and some facts about it:
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Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush authorized the National Security Agency ("NSA") to conduct a warrantless communications surveillance program. The program intercepted international communications into and out of the United States of persons alleged to have ties to Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.
In light of extensive government disclosures about the TSP, the government is hard-pressed to sustain its claim that the very subject matter of the litigation is a state secret. Unlike a truly secret or "black box" program that remains in the shadows of public knowledge, the government has moved affirmatively to engage in public discourse about the TSP. Since President Bush's initial confirmation of the program's existence, there has been a cascade of acknowledgments and information coming from the government, as officials have openly, albeit selectively, described the contours of this program.
I should note, first of all, that the Sixth Circuit has reached a contrary conclusion, so expect the Supreme Court to weigh in on this sooner rather than later. The net result of this line of reasoning is that the media can combine with the courts to create a no-win situation: the media discloses a secret program and portrays it in an unfavorable light that suggests it's illegal; the White House can't stay silent without taking a public beating; and then the courts say that lawsuits can not only be filed because the White House fought back, but they also allow the development of a one-sided and incomplete factual record based on media misreporting.
None of which helps fight the bad guys.
* - Specifically, after finding that the lawsuit was not barred in its entirety, the court did find that a sealed document that was critical to the plaintiff's proof of standing was covered by the state secrets privilege, but remanded for the lower court to determine whether FISA preempts the state secrets privilege. While this may yet play out successfully for the government, what the court should have done is find that the state secrets privilege applies to cover the subject matter of the action where a full and fair litigation of the controversy would require disclosure of state secrets, rather than approach the issue piecemeal.
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POLITICS: If It's Possible, All Three of Them Will Lose
POLITICS: The Barack Files: The Truth Isn't Out There
LAW/BASEBALL: What Could Eliot Spitzer Do To Be *Really* Unpopular?
Pushing driver's licenses for illegal aliens, gay marriage, extremist legislation on abortion and having his top aides investigated for perjury is one thing; but going after Derek Jeter over back taxes...that would definitely be too far.
LAW: "A bout of gas or indigestion does not justify a race to the courthouse."
Tort law does not provide protection from the obvious or "widely known" risks of consuming a particular food. The risk that some people will get gas after consuming certain foods, such as milk, is widely known. A bout of gas or indigestion does not justify a race to the courthouse. Indeed, were the rule otherwise, a variety of food manufacturers as well as stadiums, bars, restaurants, convenience stores, and hot dog stands throughout the country would be liable to millions of would-be plaintiffs every day.
LAW: Take This Evolving National Consensus And Shove It
SCOTUSBlog notes that the State of Louisiana - in opposing a certiorari petition - is pointing to a trend of adding child rape to the list of capital crimes as a basis for finding that it's not cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to execute a man who raped his 8-year-old stepdaughter:
The state said that the Court, if it agrees to hear the case, should focus not only on how many states treat rape of a child as a capital crime, but also on a trend toward applying the death sentence to more crimes where the victim is not killed. Five states, like Louisiana, now have capital punishment for child rape, all enacted since 1997 with the most recent, in Texas, in 2007.
This argument puts the Court's liberals and swing vote Justice Kennedy to the test to see if they actually mean what they say.
If you recall, the Court in cases such as Atkins v Virginia, involving the execution of the mentally retarded, and Roper v. Simmons, involving the execution of defendants who were under 18 at the time of the crime, has pointed to some variant of an "evolving national consensus" drawn from a trend in state statutes dealing with the death penalty as a basis for finding that the meaning of the Eighth Amendment has been changed sufficiently to extend the constitutional rule to force the dissenting states into line. In Roper, that "evolving consensus" consisted of four state legislatures and one state court changing positions between 1989 and 2005. As I have argued previously, because Article V of the Constitution provides a specific mechanism for the meaning of the document to be altered by action of three-fourths of the states voting in a specified way on a specific written amendment proposed either by two-thirds of the states or two-thirds of both Houses of Congress, this line of reasoning is hopelessly irreconcilable with the text of the Constitution.
But for now, we are stuck with the doctrine; the issue is its application. Is it possible for the "national consensus" to "evolve" in a direction that Justices who oppose the death penalty* don't like or agree with? Or is this, like so many liberal Constitutional doctrines, a one-way ticket?
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* - As I have explained before, I personally don't support using the death penalty against ordinary individual crimes, even those as heinous as child rape, although I wouldn't really have a problem applying that law if asked to as a prosecutor or a juror. But in any event, it's nonsense to suggest that it's unconstitutional.
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November 15, 2007
BASEBALL: Yorvit Who?
So, the Mets have apparently located $14.4 million they don't need and given it in a 3-year deal to Yorvit Torrealba, who backed into the Rockies' starting catching job this season when rookie Chris Iannetta wasn't ready to hit major league pitching; Torrealba thus cleared 225 at bats for the first time in his career. ESPN notes:
The Mets . . . are signing Torrealba mainly for his defense. Rockies pitchers gave Torrealba a lot of credit for how he called a game, though he did not have a high success rate when trying to throw runners out.
So, he's here to call games for Pedro Martinez? You'd think when you sign a defense-first, catch-and-throw catcher, you'd at least get a guy who can throw. The money here is bizarre; good catchers are scarce, but it's not like Torrealba's skill set is at all hard to find cheap. Certainly he's a lesser player than Ramon Castro, who will be signed far more cheaply to back him up (granted, Castro's not physically up to playing every day). I suppose I could understand skimping on the catching position - deciding that it's not worth spending a fortune on guys who are not really stars, like Michael Barrett - but if that's your goal, why plunk down $14 million? Why not just beat the bushes for some other guys who can hit .240 for peanuts?
Torrealba will be 29 in 2008, and is a career .251/.391/.313 hitter, .242/.377/.299 away from Coors Field; there's no reason to think he is due to make a big step forward as a hitter, and those numbers are poor even for a #8 hitter. Despite batting less than 400 times in 2007, he managed to finish in the top 10 in the league in GIDP. There is no possible explanation for this deal.
UPDATE: Cerrone talks to a Denver writer who calls Torrealba a "clutch hitter." In 2007, Torrealba batted .201/.254/.270 with men in scoring position and .205/.298/.277 with two outs. His career batting line in the postseason is .238/.357/.298.
BOTTOM LINE: I would score this signing as being similar to the contract the Phillies gave Adam Eaton. Honestly, if they were going to sign a guy who can't throw, they may as well have brought back Piazza.
BASEBALL: Bonds Indicted
Breaking: Records in hand, Barry Bonds has just been indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice:
Baseball superstar Barry Bonds was charged Thursday with perjury and obstruction of justice, the culmination of a four-year federal probe into whether he lied under oath to a grand jury investigating steroid use by elite athletes.
Um....wow. I don't really know enough yet to say more.
UPDATE: The short answer here is, perjury and obstruction are serious crimes; at the same time, they - and their close cousin, lying to federal investigators - can sometimes be all too easily resorted to by overzealous prosecutors. The key issues in these cases, at least as far as the debate over whether charges should have been brought, comes down to the degree to which the defendant (1) blatantly misrepresented some fact and can't reasonably be said to have just forgotten, misunderstood the question, or shaded the truth, and (2) placed, at least for some period of time, a genuine roadblock in the way of a legitimate investigation or lawsuit (i.e., the difference between hiding a fact and merely offering a strained characterization of known facts).
BASEBALL: Norma Rae Rod
Although I thought it was just more hilarious Boras-driven smoke-blowing at the time, in retrospect we should have recognized Friday's report that the union was claiming to be concerned about collusion in the event that A-Rod did not get his $350 million contract as a signal that things were not going as planned. So the news that A-Rod has apparently all but finalized a deal to return to the Yankees after all, and done so without Scott Boras after Boras hopelessly alienated the Yankees (and probably at a mutual savings by cutting out Boras' fee - what, Boras is gonna sue?) is an occasion for some schadenfreude all around, even if it does make the Yankees that much stronger again: the Yanks and A-Rod are now stuck in an unhappy marriage neither can afford to leave, and Boras is publicly humiliated, out a whole boatload of commission, has had his bridges burned by his best-known client, and best of all fails miserably at the one thing that people have been forced to respect him for, i.e., his ability to judge the market.
Of course, this saga has had its twists and turns before, so stay tuned to see if the early reports on this all pan out.
November 14, 2007
BLOG: The Static Channel
Apologies for the general lack of content and specific lack of baseball content - it's been crazy in a couple of ways, and I admit that the baseball stuff has been crowded out a bit from all the work that has gone into the Romney series, of which two installments remain. Hopefully I can return soon to the hot stove league and postseason awards beat.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:30 PM | Baseball 2007 | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
November 10, 2007
BASEBALL: Off The Lidge
I wasquite unhappy to see the Phillies swing a deal to get Brad Lidge (with a couple of other useful players changing sides in the deal), who I had sort of been hoping the Mets might pursue. Lidge wore out his welcome for good reasons in Houston, and even after winning back the closer job he pitched badly down the stretch, with ERAs above 5.00 each of the last two months. So the Phillies get a quality arm, but one who may or may not be a reliable closer; it still improves their pen. But a team with an established closer could probably have put Lidge in the setup role where he has seemed more comfortable since 2005's fiasco.
The other major deal so far is a depressing one all around - for the Braves, who dealt a quality player in Edgar Renteria to replace him with a cheaper youngster, and for the Tigers, who made final the admission that Carlos Guillen has gone from a top-hitting shortstop to a first baseman whose bat will be unremarkable for the position.
Since the Tigers were dealing from need, the deal has little upside for them, and instead fixes a hole, upgrading offensively - though not dramatically, in the long term - from Sean Casey to Renteria. The Braves could well end up with a great deal if 25 year old shortstop Yunel Escobar and the two prospects they got for Renteria - Gorkys Hernandez and Jair Jurrjens - pan out (from what I gather, Moff Jurrjens is the better prospect of the two). Or, they could just like players with unusual names.
November 9, 2007
POLITICS: We Were Just Kidding About That Democracy Business
POLITICS: The Trouble With Mitt Romney (Part 3 of 5)
The third 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. For background, check out Part 1, Part 2, my explanation of why I'm with Rudy, and my take on Mike Huckabee.
III. What, Precisely, Does This Man Stand For?
In Part III, we take on the issue that has dogged Mitt Romney throughout his campaign for the presidency: the charge that he is a flip-flopper. The fact that he has that reputation is itself damaging, as John Kerry could tell you; it's not as if the Democrats will not know how to make maximum use of it if Romney wins the nomination (I'd advise him to avoid windsurfing in the interim just to be safe). What I'd like to explain here is precisely why it is that the flip-flop label sticks so easily to Romney when it doesn't seem to attach to other politicians who have changed their positions now and again.
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Let's start with an obvious point: all politicians flip-flop, hedge and straddle from time to time. Indeed, in a representative democracy, this is arguably a good thing. Let's consider an obvious point: what if a candidate for public office is exceptionally well-qualified for the job and has positions you agree with on a number of important matters, but disagrees on a point that is relatively small, yet important to you personally? Would you rather the politician change his position? Is that better than rejecting a good candidate over one minor issue, or alternatively electing someone who takes a stance that troubles you? For most of us, if we are honest, the answer is yes; we want to be represented by people who will do what we want them to do. Voters like flip-flops; they reward flip-flops, especially when a candidate is moving from a local to statewide, or statewide to national electorates. Even Ronald Reagan, who was probably the most politically principled politician to win the White House in memory, changed some of his positions when he ran successfully in 1980, the most direct example of which was when he dropped his advocacy of repealing the Davis-Bacon Act to appeal to union voters.
That said, however, voters also want leaders, people who announce their commitment to clear, principled positions and stick to them, even if it means having to try dragging the voters away from their current views. As I have written previously, in a representative democracy, it's not necessarily fatal to hire leaders who echo what we want them to say, rather than what they'd do if they had their druthers. Many of our individual druthers, after all, aren't so well thought-out. But what matters more than anything is not a politician's fealty to his own internal principles but his ability to publicly take a principled position and stick to it. What we look for in leaders, especially presidents, is that ability: the willingness to say, "here I stand," let the voters judge the merits of that stand, and keep faith with your promises, even when the going gets rough.
This is doubly important in the presidency, because of the president's unique role in foreign policy - courage and constancy are vital virtues, even when that sometimes means not giving us what we want. Many voters in 2004 were closer in their own hearts to Kerry's studied ambivalence about Iraq than to Bush's stubborn commitment, but they respected Bush's leadership, and rewarded him with another term to carry on the job.
Put simply: flip-flops buy votes, but do so at an escalating cost to a politician's credibility. First, they erode a candidate's reputation as a leader; then, in time, they come to cast doubt even on the candidate's announced positions, creating fear that he will hold them only until a better offer comes along. Voters may not mind if you sold somebody else out to get their vote, but they will not vote for you if they expect you to sell them out as soon as he comes under fire. Which brings us to the four ways in which Romney's flip-flops have extracted a particularly high cost to his credibility, which can't be readily recovered in time for the 2008 election.
The first problem with Romney's vulnerability to the flip-flop charge is simply that there are so many examples floating around of Romney changing his tune. Abortion is only the most notorious example. I'll pick over a few here and link to other, more detailed treatments of the issue. I can't vouch 100% for each source cited here, but the cumulative effect is pretty damning.
Ben Domenech has gone into detail here and here about the collision between Romney's 2006 claim, while running as a committed pro-lifer, that he "never called myself pro-choice" and his 2002 position, which included declaring that "If the question is whether I will protect and defend a woman's right to choose, my answer is an unequivocal 'Yes,'" vowing that "I respect and will fully protect a woman's right to choose." and sending his running mate out to declare that abortion should be a non-issue in 2002 because "[t]here isn't a dime of difference between Mitt Romney's position on choice and [NARAL-endorsed] Shannon O'Brien". He even filled out Planned Parenthood and NARAL questionnaires in 2002 pledging to uphold Roe v Wade and support public funding for abortion.
Romney also appeared to change his position on stem cell research between 2002 and 2005, shifting from statements that appeared to suggest a broad, unqualified support to a more nuanced position that supported the destruction of IVF embryos but opposed cloning. But it's arguable that that's more a matter of coming out with a clearer position on an issue he had fudged in the past than actually altering his position.
Leon Wolf has covered Mitt's immigration flip-flop in some detail. Romney initially supported, and then later became a vocal foe of, the Bush/McCain-Kennedy approach to comprehensive immigration reform. (More here). As I noted in the last installment, he also never did squat about sanctuary cities in Massachusetts, an issue about which he now professes to be deeply offended to the point of calling for federal funding to be cut off to coerce such cities to drop their policies.
Alphecca has a look at Romney's shifts on gun control, having supported the assault weapons ban and Brady Bill in the past and gone from saying "I don't line up with the NRA" to becoming a card-carrying member. Mitt has changed his tune significantly on guns. (More here).
4. The Bush Tax Cuts
Romney's shift on taxes is perhaps more a matter of political strategy than a genuine alteration of his positions. Romney now campaigns in favor of making the Bush tax cuts permanent, but as recently as 2003, during the battle in Congress for the larger part of those cuts, he pointedly refused to support them - sending his press secretary out to say that he would not be taking a position on the issue - and signalled that he was open to supporting a federal gas tax hike, with both positions earning praise from Barney Frank.
One related issue that deserves a little discussion here as well is the minimum wage. Romney has been accused more than a few times by left and right alike (see here and here) of flip-flopping on the minimum wage, especially after he campaigned on a promise to raise the minimum wage in Massachusetts and then vetoed a bill to do just that in 2006. Romney does, however, appear to have been genuinely consistent from 1994 through 2007 in arguing that the minimum wage should be indexed to inflation to provide for annual increases, a position consistent with his veto of an increase from $6.75 to $8/hour and counter-proposal of $7/hour. Romney's position is anything but friendly to business and economic growth, but he has been consistent.
5. Campaign Finance Reform
In 1994, Romney was for a variety of campaign finance reforms (go to about 1:25 in this video), including spending limits, abolishing PACs, and gift limits:
Now, he's posing as a champion of free speech, penning op-eds against McCain-Feingold and cheering the Supreme Court for its WRTL decision striking in part a McCain-Feingold issue ad ban.
"MY FEAR," former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said at the Republican debate this month, "is that McCain-Kennedy would do to immigration what McCain-Feingold has done to campaign finance and money in politics, and that's bad." Mr. Romney has turned campaign finance reform into one of his stump villains -- which represents a dramatic . . . turnabout from his days running for office in Massachusetts.
The Hill reports that in 2002 Mitt Romney advocated radical campaign finance reform:
6. Other Issues
I'm not going to wade here - for time and space reasons - into the extent to which Romney's metamorphosis from claiming to be more gay-friendly than Ted Kennedy to battling against same-sex marriage represents a comprehensive change in opinion as opposed to a shift in tone in response to a new issue environment (Mitt has been consistently in favor of civil unions/domestic partnerships, and consistently opposed to same-sex marriage). If you want to examine the Romney record on those and other issues more broadly, Jim Geraghty walks through some key examples as well, including Romney's 1994 efforts to distance himself from the "Reagan-Bush" GOP. And consider the exhaustive laundry list compiled by Brian Camenker, a long-time Massachusetts conservative critic of Romney. Camenker is obviously a guy with an axe to grind and somewhat obsessed with gay rights issues (more on him here and the Romney camp's response to him here, including the necessary admission "FACT: Governor Romney Has Said He Has Been Wrong On Some Issues In The Past And Is Not Embarrassed To Admit It"). From the left side of the GOP spectrum, the Log Cabin Republicans have compiled a similar list covering much of the same ground. More here. Just to give a couple additional examples:
None of this is to suggest that Romney is alone in shifting his positions - indeed, on each of the major issues above Romney has some company in the GOP field (Rudy and Huckabee on immigration, McCain on the Bush tax cuts, Fred on campaign finance reform, etc.). But the breadth of his portfolio of flip-flops is staggering.
A second problem, even beyond the sheer volume of Romney's shifts, is how quickly some of them have come. In a long career in public life, it's to be understood that some genuine changes of heart will come to almost anyone. A number of presidential candidates have run after abandoning or modifying long-ago positions on abortion (Bush and Gore in the 70s, Reagan in the 60s), just to pick a prominent example. Some even switched parties over time.
But a perusal of the record of Romney flip-flops includes a distressing number of examples of things he did and said as recently as the 2002 campaign, the 2003 Bush tax cut fight, his 2005 position on abortion, and 2006 statements on immigration, as well as conservative positions he took for the first time in 2006 or 2007. For a man with such limited experience in public office, the most charitable thing you can say is that he is learning as he goes along - hardly an endorsement of the man as being ready for prime time as leader of his party and leader of the Free World.
This can be intimately tied to the problems of frequency and recency, but in Romney's case it's a particular sore spot with his abortion flip-flop. If a politician expects people to believe that his change of heart on an issue was at least in part something other than naked political expediency, he needs to offer some sort of plausible justification for the change. George W. Bush, for example, ran as essentially a pro-choicer for Congress in 1978; when he ran again as a pro-lifer for Texas Governor in 1994, 16 years had passed, and Bush had undergone a life-changing religious awakening and quit drinking. Whether or not people believed that politics played a role in the initial or later positions or the change, the relevant point is that there were legitimate and plausible reasons to think that by 1994, the position he took was the one he really believed in.
In Romney's case, he not only hasn't provided a plausible explanation for several of his shifts, he has (1) tried at times to deny his prior positions and (2) provided explanations for his changes of heart that strain credulity to the breaking point.
Leon has been through this before on the abortion issue: it's not just that Mitt says he changed his mind on abortion, or that he tells us what sounds, at first, like a plausible story of having thought through the issue seriously for the first time during the stem cell debate:
Romney said the turning point for him on abortion came when he was looking at the issue of stem cells. In the past, Romney has supported limited government funding for stem-cell research. But Romney said he found stem-cell researchers casually cloning and farming embryos in Orwellian labs.
Yet, Romney peddled an equally plausible story in 1994 of what made him a pro-choicer; I'll excerpt the most damning parts of Leon's piece:
On abortion rights, Kennedy took the offensive. Recounting his sponsorship of the Freedom of Choice Act and the clinic access law, Kennedy said: "I am pro- choice, my opponent is multiple choice."
[H]e "opened a window on his personal life, saying that his pro-choice stand developed because a member of his family had died after an illegal abortion." He said that the woman was "my brother-in-law's sister and a very close family hriend," who died in the '60s, when Romney would have been in his teens and early 20s. Romney, on his abortion position at the time: "I hadn't thought about it much." He added that the relative's death "obviously makes one see that regardless of one's beliefs about choice that you would hope it would be safe and legal."
I just don't know how you can read both sets of conversions and consider Romney's account remotely plausible. St. Paul only went to Damascus the one time.
Guns is another example of Romney's efforts straining credulity: Romney sought to gloss over the pro-gun-control elements of his record by boldly declaring, "I've been a hunter pretty much all my life," but had to back down when further investigation turned up nothing resembling a history of hunting. (More here). (I'll go next time in more detail into why this episode bothered me particularly).
And yet, rather than take the Rudy or McCain approaches of acknowledging himself as a less than orthodox member of a conservative party, Romney has had the effrontery to pass himself off as the principled conservative in the race, saying on national TV that besides abortion, "on other issues, my positions have been very consistent with my principles and my views" and declaring that "I do speak for the Republican wing of the Republican Party."
All of this might be forgivable in a politician who was laboring to avoid having minor issues derail an otherwise strong case for his election, or who was running mainly on a long and distinguished record as opposed to an issue-driven campaign. But the really fatal thing, the thing that more than any other single factor makes me leery of Romney, is that he has shifted positions on issues that he now promotes as being central to his appeal.
If you look at the other major GOP contenders, what you see is candidates with a core of issues that represent their basic reason for being in public life. Rudy started off fighting crime, welfare and the other scourges of big-city liberalism, and after September 11 has been a man on a mission to get back at the Islamist extremists who attacked his city. Fred is a long-time believer in federalism, trying to revive the principles of the 1994 GOP wave that brought him to public office. McCain is first and foremost a patriot and a warrior, a man who stood for his warrior's code even under torture and imprisonment. Huckabee is a former Baptist minister who sells himself as the champion of rural, Christian values. In each case, the pitch works to some extent because there is a lifetime of experience behind it that enables each candidate to say: this is who I am, judge me by the miles I have walked.
What Mitt lacks is that same identifiable core that says "this is why I'm running; these are the things that are really important to me." In fact, if anything he has been placing very heavy emphasis on his social conservatism and hard-line position on immigration - the very issues on which he has flipped most dramatically. The others may be mistrusted by various groups of conservatives, but at least on their core issues, we know Rudy won't sell us out in the battle against Islamic extremists, McCain won't turn his back on the troops, Fred won't buy into some scheme to expand big Washington government, Huckabee won't turn his back on Christian values and the unborn. But there is no faction in the GOP that can say with certainty that Mitt will never sell them out.
In this sense, Romney revives memories of George H.W. Bush, like Romney a man of unquestioned personal integrity, a good family man and successful businessman but also a man wholly without political principles, who campaigned as the heir of the Reagan Revolution but ended up giving us tax hikes, a raft of liberal legislation, an adventure in Somalia, David Souter, and, in the end, Bill Clinton. Bush didn't sell us out again and again and again because he was a bad or dishonest man or a closet liberal; he just kept finding the path of least resistance to be running away from the principles he campaigned on, and lacked the core convictions to push back. The Romney record is nothing if not a series of searches for the positions that will be most convenient and popular for him at any given point in time. It's not that Romney's lying to us; but we really are fools if we believe that he will fight tomorrow for the things he says he believes today.
In the next installment: How Romney campaigns like a Democrat, and why that's a problem.
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November 7, 2007
POP CULTURE: The Sad Thing Is...
POLITICS: NJ Voters Reject Corzine's Half-Billion Dollar Stem Cell Boondoggle
Democrats nationwide have been operating on the assumption that taxpayer funding for stem cell research is endlessly popular with the voters (for all the talk of "banning" research on embryonic stem cells, remember that nobody has advanced a serious proposal to make such research illegal; the issue is whether to spend taxpayer money on it despite the substantial moral/ethical objections of a significant number of taxpayers).
Yesterday in New Jersey, that theory was put to the test, and appears to have gone down in defeat before what is usually accounted as a liberal Northeastern electorate:
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New Jersey voters on Tuesday rejected borrowing $450 million to pay for stem cell research grants in the state for 10 years.
Presumably, supporters of federal stem cell research believe that the federal government's fiscal house is already in enviable condition. But voters, if asked to put their money where their priorities are, might say otherwise.
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November 4, 2007
BASEBALL: Posada Crossing Town?
The papers have been full of the rumor that the Mets may pursue Jorge Posada:
Industry sources are becoming increasingly baffled at the sluggish pace the Yankees have taken with the five-time All-Star catcher. Even though Posada has filed for free agency, the Bombers are in an exclusive 15-day negotiating rights period with the catcher but apparently have not presented an offer since the end of the season.
Bidding against the Yankees always involves a high probability of failure, especially when you are talking about them re-signing a veteran who's been in their organization his whole career. Cerrone notes that some reports are, wisely, suggesting that Posada may just be getting the Mets' name in the mix to improve his leverage.
That said, what's the downside? There are few big-money free agents that the Mets would otherwise pursue - I don't really see them getting A-Rod - and there's no question that, given their current roster, Posada would help the Mets more than anyone else on the market, especially since there are really no other quality catchers out there - the Tigers picked up Pudge's option, Lo Duca and Kendall are basically just singles hitters, and Damian Miller is 38 (other than Posada, Michael Barrett, at 31 coming off a single bad year, may be the #2 guy on the market, and perhaps I should not be so quick to write him off). So, it's worth a try.
Would he be worth a 4-5-year deal in the $50-70 million range? Well, after some of last season's contracts, it's hard to know where the market is, and you can't evaluate dollars in a vacuum. Posada's not young - he's the same age as Lo Duca and only three years younger than Piazza. He's a year younger than Javy Lopez and a year older than Mike Lieberthal, and both of those guys are finished. When I looked at comps for Piazza two years ago, I did not find the most encouraging signs even for the most elite catchers in their late 30s. Posada was not worked that hard in his youth, catching 110 games in a big league season for the first time at age 28, but he's now caught 1360 games (not counting the minors and the postseason - he's probably caught in nearly all 96 of his postseason games), and that takes its toll. He's also not the greatest defensive catcher, although his arm is stronger than Lo Duca's (faint praise, I know).
As with any free agent, it comes down to what the Mets are willing to lay out financially. The Mets have no significant catching prospects on the way, and short of waiting and hoping for Joe Mauer to go on the market, they aren't likely to get an elite catcher any time soon. I'd make a run at him.
November 3, 2007
POP CULTURE: I Did Not Know That
FOOTBALL: The Big Spread
Seriously, did you ever expect to see a team that was (1) the defending Super Bowl champs, (2) undefeated 7 weeks into the season, (3) playing at home, (4) against a team they beat in the playoffs the previous year, (5) who just lost their leading rusher for the season...and be a 5-6 point underdog?
I'm not saying the oddsmakers are crazy, given how the Patriots have played this season, but it remains an astonishing set of circumstances. As for the "Game of the Century" hype...um, don't we expect these same two teams to likely meet again in the playoffs?
November 2, 2007
POLITICS: Edwards on Hillary
Devastating anti-Hillary ad put out by John Edwards:
Via Stop Her Now.
November 1, 2007
BLOG: More Quick Links
*A note about something missing from the California disaster: looting.
*Matt Yglesias looks at evidence that independent voters are more aggreived about illegal immigration than anything else, a finding that surprises me. Via OTB. It's pretty clear that the government needs to rebuild confidence in border security before the political environment will again permit serious consideration of a path to legalization.
POLITICS: Hillary's Pander-Monium on Illegal Alien Driver's Licenses
So after straddling, wavering and then waffling and contradicting herself in a nationally televised debate on Eliot Spitzer's plan to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens, and then blaming Tim Russert for daring to ask her the question (another example here of her playing the gender card to deligitimize criticism), Hillary Clinton has finally decided that pandering to left-wing extremists is the safer course, albeit kicking and screaming about having to be even this specific:
"Senator Clinton supports governors like Governor Spitzer who believe they need such a measure to deal with the crisis caused by this administration's failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform,'" her campaign said.
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Amazingly, even the NY Times' Adam Nagourney described Sen. Clinton's response as being driven by weakness:
her campaign sought to contain potentially damaging fallout from what her own supporters saw as a tense and listless debate performance.
Republican candidates, of course, can be expected to oppose the plan - Rudy Giuliani was an early critic, and Fred Thompson has blasted it as a recipe for voter fraud, which as John Fund notes is par for the course in measures supported by Hillary and Spitzer. All told, this is an error that was forced on Hillary by Spitzer, since as the junior Senator from Spitzer's state she couldn't really evade the issue (Obama, having led the charge for a similar plan in Illinois as a state legislator, was already planted to her left if she didn't go along - a fact that explains his perplexed half-hand-raise when the issue came up at the debate). That's bad news for Hillary, whose top political strategist has already openly embraced the idea of pandering to illegal immigrants for electoral gain. The politics of immigration are dicey - voters tend to be against illegal immigration but hesitant to back candidates who are seen as too stridently anti-immigrant, so the worst of all possible worlds for a Democrat is to be seen as pushing to advance the position of illegal immigrants, giving Republicans an opening to be opposed without seeming obsessed with nativist concerns.
Hillary is a savvy politician, but her greatest weakness is that she does not respond well to being pinned down to specifics. This setback for her campaign may yet provide a roadmap for future efforts to hold her accountable for actually taking positions.
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POLITICS: Stone Cold Politics
Matt Labash's Weekly Standard profile of GOP political operative Roger Stone is one of the funniest, most fascinating things you are likely to read about a practitioner of politics at its most bare-knuckeled (the man has a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back). I'd be here all day if I started to excerpt it, so I'll just say: read the whole thing.
POLITICS: You Say "Macaca," I Say "Jimmy The Greek," Let's Call The Whole Thing Off
Joe Biden's arch-nemesis - his own mouth - has struck again, according to a one-day story on Page A7 of the Washington Post:
Biden also stumbled through a discourse on race and education, leaving the impression that he believes one reason that so many District of Columbia schools fail is the city's high minority population. His campaign quickly issued a statement saying he meant to indicate that the disadvantages were based on economic status, not race.
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Naturally, rather than tattoo this statement onto Biden as it did with George Allen, the WaPo gives him an immediate out, and then drops the issue:
The Biden campaign moved quickly to clarify the senator's remarks in a statement: "This was not a race-based distinction, but a discussion of the problems kids face who don't have the same socio-economic support system (and all that implies -- nutrition, pre K, etc.) entering grade school and the impact of those disadvantages on outcomes."
I'm sure if this was a GOP Senator that would not be the end of the story.
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BASEBALL: A-Rod On The Block
Thoughts and observations on what is certain to be the #1 headline story of the offseason:
A. Yeah, announcing his free agency in the middle of Game Four was a totally classless move, and seemed uniquely designed to peeve the Red Sox, who would be one of the likely bidders...but it may be that Boras had a significant conversation that day with another owner and felt the need to make the announcement to avoid any suggestion of tampering.
B. Nobody can be happier about how this worked out than Texas, which gets off the hook for $21.3 million at a stroke. A-Rod should get a standing O next time he comes to town.
C. For the most part, A-Rod should and will be remembered in NY roughly the way Clemens is in Toronto - he came, he played well, he took the money and ran - but of course his postseason failures will overshadow the two MVP seasons.
D. Where does he go from here? An awful lot actually depends on whether A-Rod is regarded as a credible shortstop. He was a good defender at short and keeps himself in good shape, and in the post-Ripken era, big men are no longer discounted at the position...still, at 32 years old, after 4 years away from the position, I don't know how many teams are willing to gamble $25-30 million a year on him being able to play short again. Let's review the main options, understanding that there's only so much credibility we can give to public reports that various teams are or are not interested, given especially that (i) Boras likes to use the media to drum up a belief that 45 big-market teams are pursuing his player and (ii) the teams, presumably growing wise to this tactic, have every reason to publicly downplay their interest. This list is not really in order:
1. The Angels do look like the main suitors - they're a contender, A-Rod could stay in his comfort zone in the AL, their third baseman (Chone Figgins) can easily move to any number of other positions, and ownership has shown a willingness to lay out big bucks.
2. The Cubs are a large-market contender that could use the buzz, but (1) their ownership situation remains unsettled (that didn't stop them last winter from signing Soriano, but A-Rod will want a lot more money than Soriano), and (2) with Aramis Ramirez signed comparatively cheaply, they would only interested in playing him at SS.
3. The Red Sox, if they re-sign Lowell, will similarly be more interested in supplanting Lugo. They have the money and the audacity, and with Manny entering the last year of his deal, they could do it, but they have been publicly coy.
4. The Yankees. I actually don't see this happening - A-Rod just stiffed them publicly and took their $21 million subsidy from Texas off the table. Particularly if the point of hiring Girardi is to take a harder line in the clubhouse, it would be a bad precedent for the team to go back on the public pledge that the deal was take it or leave it. Also, Yankee fans will pretty much universally blame Rodriguez, not the team, for letting him walk. That said, they don't have a Plan B at third base (Wilson Betemit would have the job if the season opened tomorrow).
5. The Giants have a gaping hole at pretty much every position, and they certainly won't let A-Rod's unpopularity and postseason failures deter them. But after the Barry Zito debacle, they may not be eager to take Boras' calls again.
6. The Dodgers would actually make a huge amount of sense giving their crying need for a power bat (they were next to last in the league in HR), but I don't know about their willingness to spend money. Certainly they have the resources if they decide to get in the game.
7. The Mets. Minaya has the budget and the daring, but with Reyes and Wright in place on the left side of the infield, A-Rod simply isn't worth as much to the Mets as to almost any other team - one of the three would need to be relocated to 1B, 2B (where Reyes was already a failure) or LF (where they just re-upped Alou).
8. The Phillies have no credible 3B and could probably swing the money, plus an A-Rod signing would give them the best infield in the game's history. But the Phils are another big-market team that hasn't gone big in the free agent market. They probably need to be chasing a closer so they can get Brett Myers back in the rotation, but the list of options isn't extensive, with Joe Nathan re-upped by the Twins and Rivera unlikely to leave NY (that leaves Isringhausen, Francisco Cordero and some risky or low-quality closer candidates like Wickman, Todd Jones, Jorge Julio or Kerry Wood).
9. The Orioles are a stop of last resort for free agents with no real rationale for going anywhere else, and they could use an upgrade from Melvin Mora.
11. Finally, what about the Nationals? They've got the new ballpark, no real payroll and the need to make a splash and prove they won't be Expos Part Deux. But they, too, would need to play him at short, given that their best young player is a third baseman (Zimmerman had some defensive struggles this season but he's still very young and a highly talented defensive player).
On the whole, I'll be surprised if A-Rod ends up with a significant upgrade compared to what the richest team in baseball could offer him with the added advantage of a $21.3 million subsidy - but there are enough possible bidders out there that he will probably end up with at least a few more years at a salary similar to what he was getting.
WAR: Heroes Under Fire
If you read just one story this week about Iraq, make sure that it's Jeff Emanuel's story of incredible perseverance under fire by four U.S. Army snipers surrounded and badly outnumbered on a rooftop in Samarra in August 2007. Really, print it out and read it at leisure, but make sure you read it.
You might also go by Jeff's site and toss some cash his way to support the kind of front-line reporting that made this possible.
POLITICS: Quick Links
*As the comments to this post noted, the Bush Administration is obviously producing good economic news to distract the media from the progress being made in Iraq.
*I'm no Obama fan but this T-Shirt sold to benefit his campaign is pretty clever.