Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
December 31, 2007
BLOG: Best of Baseball Crank 2007

I've been writing on the web since 2000 and blogging since 2002, and in all those years, 2007 has been perhaps the toughest in terms of being satisfied with my ability to produce consistently new and interesting content for my readers - so with things a little quiet here over the past week or so and probably staying that way for the next few days, I hope you will indulge me here if I run a retrospective look back at my best work from this year, or at least the posts I enjoyed the most. For newer readers, it's a chance to catch up on things you may have missed. Posts are grouped in three subjects and listed chronologically within those. As you can see, the 2008 presidential election is somewhat overrepresented here, while the baseball postseason is underrepresented.

Sports

A look at Hall of Fame and Hall of Fame candidate middle infielders.

Critiquing Baseball-Reference.com's translated statistics.

Review of Michael Lewis' The Blind Side.

Taking a victory lap on the BALCO leak.

EWSL review of 2006 and EWSL age analysis.

EWSL previews for the AL East, AL Central, AL West, NL East, NL West and NL Central.

A brief history of the rise of lefthanded pitching.

Assessing Scott Boras.

Is Billy Wagner the best lefthanded reliever ever?

That high-flying Mets defense, before it collapsed down the stretch, and after.

Baseball's most impressive records. Probably my favorite post of the year, and definitely my favorite baseball post.

Tom Glavine's 300th win, and the career path of the average 300 game winner.

My BBC Radio debate with David Pinto on Barry Bonds.

Michael Vick and the NFL players union.

Reviewing The Bronx is Burning (the book).

The role of pitching in the history of the Detroit Tigers.

Willie Randolph: the motivational poster.

The home run imbalance between the leagues.

The greatest late-season runs of all time, including the 2007 Rockies.

The horrible almost Yorvit Torrealba signing.

The Milledge deal.

The Cabrera/Willis deal.

The Hall of Fame ballot: Yes on Gossage, No on Dawson.

Isiah Thomas: the most hated figure in NY sports history?

Tim Raines and the Tablesetters.

Politics, War and Law

The wrong way for Rudy to argue about abortion.

Why I'm with Rudy.

Obama's plan to withdraw from Iraq beginning May 1, 2007.

Mike Huckabee: the right man for the wrong job.

The Iranians in Iraq.

The case against a national minimum wage.

John Edwards' amnesia on Iran and Israel.

Barack Obama, pandering to cannibals.

Bill Richardson, sucker for tyrants.

A culture war roundup from the courts.

On Imus and the Rutgers press conference.

A look at campaign finance laws through the lens of Torii Hunter's bat.

Those tax hiking Democratic governors. More here and here.

Eliot Spitzer's pro-abortion zealotry, and the Seven Stages of Liberal Legal Activism.

Tax amnesty for illegal immigrants.

John Edwards' fantasy foreign policy.

Obama's health care plan.

The elements of a third party presidential run.

Harry Reid, the Insult Comic Senate Majority Leader.

The Libby pardon. I'm not even sure if I still agree with this post, but I did put a lot of thought into it.

A satire on the (then-)sinking McCain campaign.

Trying to nail the Hillary jello to the wall on Iraq.

Two cheers for the hypocrites.

John Edwards doesn't want to know.

A taxonomy of the presidential candidates.

Why Fred Thompson needed to get specific. (He since has).

Uncivil litigators.

The Spitzer/Hillary posts on drivers licenses for illegal immigrants, here, here, here, here, and here.

The Trouble With Mitt Romney, Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Smearing John Edwards.

Expanding the battlefield.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Michael Gerson.

Yes, Hillary will win the nomination.

Pop Culture and Other Fun Stuff

The Star Wars prequels as they should have been.

Predictions and a wrapup on the end of The Sopranos.

Reviewing the fifth Harry Potter film and the final Harry Potter book.

Pennsylvania Travelogue.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:14 AM | Baseball 2007 • | Blog 2006-13 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
December 28, 2007
BLOG: Under Attack

I seem to have suffered some sort of server attack that has wiped out everything (posts & comments) posted to the site since Christmas Eve. My apologies. If anybody happens to have a blog-reader or other cache-type service that still contains the text of any of my posts for 12/25-27, it would be great if you could copy & paste and email them to me at:

baseball_crank at yahoo *dot* com

Thanks.

UPDATE: Got 'em, thanks to reader Dave S.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:46 AM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 27, 2007
WAR/POLITICS: Not Ready for Prime Time

Mike Huckabee on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:17 PM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Tablesetters

I have a long-in-the-making column up at The Hardball Times this morning on the Hall of Fame candidacies of Tim Raines and similar players - the tablesetters.

FYI, I left Amos Otis out of the article because I wasn't sure where to classify him. Otis was sort of neither fish nor fowl, not exactly a slugger or a tablesetter but, as Bill James has noted, one of the most well-rounded players in the game's history, doing well at almost everything. Anyway, Otis' translated stats for the 10 years of his prime (age 23-32, 1970-79) rates him at .285/.477/.351* in 623 plate appearances for a "Rate" of 104.1, with 30 SB and 7 CS and 11 DP per year.

* - The THT folks switched all my Avg/Slg/OBP numbers to Avg/OBP/Slg, which still looks wierd to me but has become the convention in the last 10 years or so, I guess.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:43 AM | Baseball 2007 • | Baseball 2008 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
December 26, 2007
BLOG: It's Expensive To Not Look Cheap

An overdue idea, but awfully pricey.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:41 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Glenns Greenwald Miss The Obvious

Glenns Greenwald get bent out of shape - as only Greenwald can - about the fact that Mike Huckabee got lots of bad press for using - allegedly, intentionally - a subliminal cross in an overtly Christian campaign commercial, while John McCain got nothing but good press for his ad, an emotionally powerful ad in which McCain relates a Christmas story from his captivity in Vietnam:

Greenwald:

[T]he reverent reaction to McCain's ad could not have been more different than the one provoked by Huckabee's. Chris Wallace said: "That McCain ad is so powerful. You find yourself tearing up when you see that, obviously." Obviously. A clearly moved Fred Barnes concurred with the only word that was needed: "Indeed." Mort Kondracke gushed: "I think it was a great ad, and it had a religious overtone to it. . . . it should remind religious [voters] that there is another candidate in the options besides Huckabee."

In what conceivable way could Huckabee's ad, containing (arguably) a "subliminal" floating cross, constitute some grave breach of theological propriety, while McCain's overt appeal to the cross in his political ad is some sort of inspiring, perfectly appropriate message?

+++

Why does the Republican establishment think that Mike Huckabee should be barred from the use of Christian symbols while John McCain -- and, for that matter, George Bush -- are to be cheered when they do? Especially on this day, that strikes one as a deeply unfair standard.

Now, I was in the camp that thought Huckabee's ad was pushing the limits a bit, but hardly anything to get agitated about - but whether you liked Huck's ad or not, Greenwald misses the most obvious point of all: McCain was relating a story from his own life experience, and one that relates to the central narrative of McCain's career. Now, it's true enough that the media has had a long love affair with McCain, but Greenwald, who sneers at the emotional content of the ad, simply fails to comprehend - or finds it convenient to dismiss - the inspirational drama of McCain's experiences as a POW.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:11 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: You Gotta Have Grit

The grittiest ballplayers ever, proven statistically! Thanks to a couple of readers for passing this along, it's really a must-read.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:25 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 24, 2007
WAR: There's Still A War On. But For Now, It's Going Pretty Well.

The good guys aren't the only ones who have problems with former supporters turning on them:

One of Al Qaeda's senior theologians is calling on his followers to end their military jihad and saying the attacks of September 11, 2001, were a "catastrophe for all Muslims."

In a serialized manifesto written from prison in Egypt, Sayyed Imam al-Sharif is blasting Osama bin Laden for deceiving the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, and for insulting the Prophet Muhammad by comparing the September 11 attacks to the early raids of the Ansar warriors. The lapsed jihadist even calls for the formation of a special Islamic court to try Osama bin Laden and his old comrade Ayman al-Zawahri.

The disclosures from Mr. Sharif, also known as Dr. Fadl and Abd al-Qadir ibn Abd al-Aziz, have already opened a rift at the highest levels of Al Qaeda. The group's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, a former associate of the defecting theologian in Egypt, personally mocked him last month in a video, remarking that he was unaware Egyptian prisons had fax machines. Meanwhile, leading Western analysts are saying the defection of Mr. Sharif indicates the beginning of the end for Al Qaeda.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:17 AM | War 2007-12 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
December 23, 2007
POP CULTURE: Ernie and Bert

Yes, another video in lieu of content.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:36 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 20, 2007
POP CULTURE: Stairway, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

Via Allahpundit.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:41 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: George Romney, Martin Luther King and Mitt Romney's Recovered Memory

mittthepress.JPG

In his much-heralded and well-received speech on "Faith in America," Mitt Romney claimed as an example of his parents' moral example to him that "I saw my father march with Martin Luther King." On Sunday's Meet The Press, Gov. Romney repeated the same claim to deflect questions about his church's exclusionary policies - for context, I'll reprint the full Q&A with Tim Russert:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:27 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
December 19, 2007
POLITICS: Yes, Hillary Will Win The Nomination.

BarackLazio2.JPGWe've all heard the whispers, we've all seen the signs, we've all read the polls: Hillary Clinton is trailing Barack Obama in Iowa, her lead is in single digits in New Hampshire and within the margin of error in South Carolina. Youth and idealism will triumph. The Power of Oprah will turn the tide. Everybody's saying she could suddenly be vulnerable; lots of people are saying out loud that she could lose. All of our expectations could be unsettled; we could be facing Obama after all, an opponent who brings a wholly different set of strengths and vulnerabilitites to the table.

Don't believe it.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:23 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Trouble With Mitt Romney (Part 5 of 5)

The fifth and last installment 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, Part 3, Part 4, and, from February 2007, my explanation of why I'm with Rudy and my take on Mike Huckabee.

V. The "M" Word

A. Why It Shouldn't Matter

mittbook.JPGAt long last, after 12,086 words of turning the Eye of Sauron on Mitt Romney, we come to the delicate matter of Romney's religion. A few preliminaries are in order. First, I will admit that, perhaps naively after seeing how Ted Kennedy cynically used it as a wedge against Romney in 1994, I was initially dismissive of early concerns that Romney would face unusual electoral problems due to his Mormon faith. Second, I myself would vote with great enthusiasm for a Mormon president if he's otherwise a good candidate (i.e., Orrin Hatch - yes. Harry Reid - no.). As I have said before, I was behind Romney in 1994 and 2002. Sure, there are some things Mormons believe in, theologically speaking, that seem downright bizarre to me, but other people's religions often look like that from the outside. Short of a politician espousing a religious doctrine that leads to actively dangerous policies, I'm fine with having a President I disagree with on matters of faith - after all, 41 of the 42 men to have the job weren't of my faith (Catholic), and the one who was wasn't exactly a saint, nor is the nominal Catholic I'm supporting this time around.

Moreover, there is a lot to be said for sticking religious bigotry in a box where we never take it into account. Especially when, as The Wall Street Journal put it:

The Mormons seem the very embodiment of "family values," and you couldn't invent a religious culture that lived more consistently with Biblical messages. Broadly speaking, most Mormons have, and come from, big families; they're regular churchgoers and give to charity; they don't drink, smoke, gamble or engage in premarital sex. On the scale of American problems, the Mormons don't even register.

And, one would add, Mormons are just about the most solidly Republican group in the nation. I would hate to see Mormons come away from the 2008 primary process feeling like their guy didn't get a fair shake because of his religion. In fact, some people have even advocated supporting Romney for that reason alone, while others contend that Romney would draw strength from the inevitable bile hurled by the left at his church. So it's with a fair amount of trepidation that I even get into this topic, given the very long list of legitimate reasons to oppose Romney's nomination that I dealt with in the first four installments.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:00 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Hobbitt 2: Bilbo Meets Jar Jar

The good news: there will be a movie version of The Hobbit, and Peter Jackson will be involved.

The bad news: I gather the "sequel" discussed here will be set between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Rings, which means it will have nothing to do with Tolkein, who wrote very little occurring in that period, and nothing resembling a fully fleshed out adventure. The Silmarillion and other parts of the Tolkein canon, including the LotR appendices, provide more than enough material for pre-Hobbit storytelling; I have no idea why Jackson would want to do that other than a positive desire to make his own stuff up. I mean, I want to see the fall of Gondolin, the flight of the Noldor from Valinor, the fight of Morgoth and Fingolfin. If he wants to do a story with a lot of creative liberties, he could do a full film treatment of the Last Alliance or some of the battles in the earlier Third Age.

UPDATE: More than a few people are questioning whether the "sequel" is really going to be something other than doing the book in two parts. I hope it won't, and maybe I have heard incorrectly. When I get a chance, I'll look for more sources on this.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:30 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
BASKETBALL: The Most Hated Figure In The History of New York Sports?

I have to wonder at this point if Isiah Thomas is the most unpopular sports figure in New York history. At least while in New York, that is; Walter O'Malley is still hated in many quarters 50 years after taking the Dodgers from Brooklyn, but O'Malley was only disliked for leaving town. Leo Durocher was hated by Dodger fans when he managed the Giants and Giants fans when he managed the Dodgers, but that's also not the same.

Consider the elements that went into Isiah's unpopularity:

1. As a player, he was a hated rival of the team.

2. He came to town with a seemingly endless stream of controversies in his past, many of them racially charged.

3. His prior record as a coach, GM and league executive was an unbroken string of failures, including the collapse of the league he ran.

4. He took over in NY as both the GM and, subsequently, the coach, thus eliminating any competition (other than the owner who hired him) for the fans' hatred.

5. He assembled a roster that was unsuccessful, seemingly designed not to play well together to match the talents of the players involved, expensive, not young, and not full of hustling, aggressive players. After this failed, he basically turned that roster over for another one just like it.

6. This method of roster construction left the team unable to change its direction for the foreseeable future due to the salary cap, while competing teams found ways to acquire major stars on the market at the same time.

7. On top of the failures in constructing, motivating and managing the team, he managed to get himself embroiled in a sensationally ugly offseason sex scandal.

8. He is apparently in no danger of ever being fired.

It's reached the point where the Onion's satire seems plausible enough and Knicks fans are reduced to discussing assassinating the coach.

I've certainly seen unpopular people in NY before. M. Donald Grant comes to mind after the Seaver trade, Steinbrenner's been hugely unpopular at times, and of course there's Joe Walton. Plenty of failed players have found ways to expand their portfolio of unpopularity, like Bobby Bonilla. Going back further, I don't believe there was ever this kind of hate directed at the likes of Ralph Branca or Fred Merkle or Joe Pisarcik or even Charles Smith.

Unless someone has a compelling case for someone else, I'm going with Isiah.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:23 AM | Basketball | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links 12/19/07

*Studes says Jose Reyes' problem down the stretch last season was not hitting too few ground balls.

*TIME Magazine looked into Vladimir Putin's heart, too, and named him their Man of the Year for discarding the remaining constitutional breaks on dictatorship in Russia. Unlike President Bush, TIME can't excuse this as diplomacy.

*You'll shoot your eye out! Mike Huckabee may have a serious problem with granting too many clemencies to violent criminals, but Mitt Romney's refusal to grant any pardons or clemencies at all took him to the ridiculous length of refusing to expunge the conviction of a decorated Iraq War veteran who was convicted at age 13 of shooting a friend in the arm with a BB gun.

*Britney Spears' 16-year-old sister, who was supposed to be the responsible one, has announced that she is pregnant. At least she's keeping the baby.

*Businesses that should exist but don't.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:19 AM | Baseball 2007 • | Blog 2006-13 • | Pop Culture | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
December 18, 2007
POLITICS: Romney's Hidden Strengths

Unfortunately, given that he's my least favorite of the GOP's Big Five, Mitt Romney does seem to have the strongest path right now to the nomination; see Patrick Ruffini, Soren Dayton and John McIntyre.

We'll know a lot more after New Hampshire on January 8. If Romney loses both Iowa and New Hampshire, he's toast. Right now, if I had to predict, I'd say he finishes a close second in Iowa and wins New Hampshire - his lead in the polls there will be awfully hard for McCain to close in a short time, especially if McCain finishes fifth or sixth in Iowa, as is likely. Ironically, McCain's best hope is for a decisive Hillary win in Iowa, since the next two primaries (NH and MI) are open to independent voters (that's how McCain won those two states in 2000) who might vote in the Democratic primary if it's still a race.

Rudy, of course, is still banking on primaries after New Hampshire, so his campaign can't be fully evaluated until Michigan at the earliest.

At this point, I'm really in the Anyone But Mitt camp. If we nominate him, we will lose.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:07 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: FrankTV

My wife and I have been watching some episodes of FrankTV lately on TBS. The show, if you're not familiar, is basically as low-budget a concept as you can get this side of a reality show: Frank Caliendo does sketches in which he plays nearly all the characters, and the sketches are broken up by Frank on a couch with a semi-randomly selected member of the studio audience.

The writing on the show isn't particularly good, but it's worth tuning in for an episode or two if you haven't seen Caliendo's impressions, which are uncanny. Longer term, of course, the show is yet another point in the evolution of original TV programming towards budget-consciousness. Even some scripted shows these days seem to be under pressure to make do with smaller casts and fewer sets. It's an economically rational response to the decline of mass-market ratings.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:34 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
December 17, 2007
BASEBALL: Taking It ... Where It Should Not Go

This goes rather too far even for dedicated Clemens-haters.
To say nothing of the mental image.

In other news, somebody needs a hug.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:48 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/LAW: Mr. Justice Clinton

Prof. Douglas Kmiec suggests that Hillary Clinton, if elected, could have her husband follow the footsteps of former President Taft by appointing him to the Supreme Court. Taft was, in fact, a very good Chief Justice after being a failure as President, a job for which he never had the talent or desire.

Prof. Kmiec gets right some of the obvious problems with this parallel: Clinton, unlike Taft, has no prior judicial experience and loves politics much more than the law; Clinton, unlike Taft, would presumably not be taking the Chief Justice job; and Taft, unlike Clinton, never had his law license suspended for perjury in a judicial proceeding.

What Prof. Kmiec misses is the showstopper* - even beyond losing him as a campaigner - that would prevent Hillary Clinton, especially, from considering this: confirmation hearings. Nobody in her right mind who was at all sympathetic to Bill Clinton would ever want to see the man testify under oath again. And given the tendency of modern confirmation hearings to delve into any and all scandals in the nominee's past, hearings with Bill Clinton as the nominee would be both exhaustively lengthy and acrimonious and potentially uniquely damaging to Hillary personally. Assuming the Democrats hold control of the Senate they could potentially try to quash much questioning at the hearings, but even Republicans who hold principled objections to filibustering judges would be on firm ground blocking a floor vote until the Judiciary Committee was willing to hold a full hearing on the nominee.

I suppose in theory, I could imagine Hillary pulling such a stunt as a deliberate provocation and/or for the express purpose of breaking the tradition of such hearings. But I think it far more likely that she would avoid at any cost the spectacle of William Jefferson Clinton being sworn in to testify anywhere ever again.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
December 13, 2007
BASEBALL: I Hold In My Hand A Piece Of Paper Containing The Names...

I'm traveling on business today and so can't blog at length, but just to chime in quickly: we've all had a lot of amusement with the various unofficial and then official blacklists of steroid users circulated through the good offices of one of my all-time least favorite U.S. Senators, George Mitchell. It's natural to have some schadenfreude - or angst, depending on whose ox is gored and how much you enjoy German - over this, but at the end of the day, we've ended up with various lists circulated that were not officially sourced, plus lists that were and may not have been the result of a particularly fair or thorough process* and thus aren't necessarily the final word that both the accused players and the fans deserved.

Which is a shame, just as the shoddy and tendentious Dowd Report was a shame even though it was ultimately proven to be correct in its core conclusion. Fans and the game's posterity do deserve an accounting, not least because an unfair cloud of suspicion has hung over many players who likely did nothing wrong.

Maybe we will learn more - and I'll learn more when I have time to get a longer look at what has come out - but for now I'm not ready to hang anybody for their having been named on George Mitchell's list.

* - To the surprise of nobody who remembers Senate investigations from Mitchell's days as Majority Leader

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:44 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)
December 12, 2007
WAR: Science Fiction Meets Ugly Reality

At first glance, the commercially available jet pack seems wonderful and Jetsons-ish, but while I hate to be a spoilsport, I have to think that suicide bombers will just love it:

1. Strap pack with tank of jet feul on back.
2. Strap on suicide belt. So far, all can be done in secluded private property.
3. Fly at and into target at maximum velocity, without need for mass transit, checkpoints, or any sort of license.
4. Profit!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:28 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Huckabee Picks His Own Poison

As you have probably seen, a New York Times profile on Mike Huckabee includes comments about the Mormon faith that are likely to stir up passions over religious differences between Evangelical Christians and Mormons - two faithful parts of the GOP coalition - that are best left untouched.

Huckabee's camp responded to the initial leak from the NYT by pleading for context, as well they should:

In fact, the full context of the exchange makes it clear that Governor Huckabee was illustrating his unwillingness to answer questions about Mormonism and to avoid addressing theological questions during this campaign. "Governor Huckabee has said consistently that he believes this campaign should center on a discussion of the important issues confronting our nation," said Senior Advisor, Dr. Charmaine Yoest, "and not focus on questions of religious belief. He wants to assure persons of all faith traditions of his firm commitment to religious tolerance and freedom of worship. Governor Huckabee believes that one of the great strengths of our nation lies in its diversity of thought, opinion and faith."

Now, the full article is online, so we can get the context that was missing from the teaser. Unfortunately, we can see from the context that Huck went and volunteered his thoughts on this point, even after admitting that he's not well-versed in LDS theology. Perhaps, as a man trained and experienced as a guider of souls, the former Baptist preacher couldn't resist the temptation to evangelize, just a little. But as a presidential candidate, he really should have known better than to go there. But he went there anyway:

Huckabee is, indeed, a discreet fellow, but he has no trouble making his feelings known. He mentioned how much he respected his fellow candidates John McCain and Rudolph W. Giuliani. The name of his principal rival in Iowa, Mitt Romney, went unmentioned. Romney, a Mormon, had promised that he would be addressing the subject of his religion a few days later. I asked Huckabee, who describes himself as the only Republican candidate with a degree in theology, if he considered Mormonism a cult or a religion. "I think it's a religion," he said. "I really don't know much about it."

I was about to jot down this piece of boilerplate when Huckabee surprised me with a question of his own: "Don't Mormons," he asked in an innocent voice, "believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"

The problem is obvious: while Romney is clearly having some troubles with voters who are uncomfortable with the doctrines of his church, the last thing in the world Huckabee should be doing, morally or as a matter of political strategy, is inflaming sectarian divides within the GOP. He shouldn't have gone there...but he just couldn't stop himself. And he will have nobody else to blame for Romney using this slap to attack Huckabee for doing exactly what Romney pleaded with his countrymen not to do to him.

PS - The Times profile is long, interesting and by no means entirely unsympathetic, and it makes good reading. Key graf:

Huckabee has almost no money or organization. He has no national finance chairman, no speechwriters and a policy staff of three. His "national field director" is his 25-year-old daughter, Sarah. Huckabee does have a pollster, Dick Dresner, but so far there hasn't been enough cash to take any polls. "I think we can go until the beginning of the year," Dresner told me. "If we start by then to raise some money, we can begin to acquire the trappings of a campaign. Which, at the moment, we don't really have."
Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:55 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Goose, Dawson and the Hall of Fame Debate

I participated in a roundtable discussion of this year's Hall of Fame ballot over at Armchair GM, arguing in favor of Gossage and against Andre Dawson. David Pinto, Dayn Perry, Matt Sussman, and Rich Lederer also participated (no points for guessing who Lederer argues in favor of). Go check it out, along with the other fine submissions.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:55 AM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (36) | TrackBack (0)
December 11, 2007
WAR: Estimating Iran

A few thoughts on last week's announcement of the National Intelligence Estimate, which estimates that Iran ceased its nuclear weapons program in 2003:

1. As Reagan used to say, trust, but verify. U.S. intelligence has historically been lousy regarding other nations' WMD programs, especially police states, going back as far as the USSR and Red China getting The Bomb. The errors haven't even all been in one direction: threats have been underestimated at least as often as overestimated. And if the post-9/11 bureaucratic imperative was to avoid charges of failing to 'connect the dots,' the post-Iraq War imperative is to avoid charges of overestimating WMD threats. So this may well be yet another case of fighting the last war. Taranto's column last Wednesday collected some good analyses, of which there are many more. At a minimum, the NIE should not be taken at face value as holy writ. There's a reason they call these things "estimates."

2. Iran is certainly not disarmed, as Alan Deshowitz explains:

[The NIE] falls hook, line and sinker for a transparent bait and switch tactic employed not only by Iran, but by several other nuclear powers in the past.

The tactic is obvious and well-known to all intelligence officials with an IQ above room temperature. It goes like this: There are two tracks to making nuclear weapons: One is to conduct research and develop technology directly related to military use. That is what the United States did when it developed the atomic bomb during the Manhattan Project. The second track is to develop nuclear technology for civilian use and then to use the civilian technology for military purposes.

What every intelligence agency knows is that the most difficult part of developing weapons corresponds precisely to the second track, namely civilian use. In other words, it is relatively simple to move from track 2 to track 1 in a short period of time.

Read the whole thing. H/T (Dershowitz is an arch-liberal, but a Jewish arch-liberal of an age to remember when being pro-Israel was a liberal priority).

3. That said, if nothing else, the NIE's conclusions, if true, suggest that we at least have a little more time to deal with the threat. As Dershowitz suggests, this may be part of the Bush Administration's slipping into "legacy watch" mode, i.e., concluding that it can't really solve any more problems in the time remaining and instead trying to make them look solved so problems down the road get pinned on the next President (this is a tried and true formula across many policy areas; Bush didn't invent it and neither did Clinton). Even so, the preferred solution on the Right for handling Iran has been to pursue a multi-pronged strategy aimed at destabilizing the regime from within and keeping it sufficiently harrassed from without to limit its ability to make trouble; almost nobody actually wants war with Iran, for a variety of reasons. The urgency of dealing right now with the Iranian problem has largely been driven by two things: the nuclear threat, which once accomplished would take most of our other options off the table in addition to creating its own hazards, and the continuing Iranian meddling in Iraq (and to a lesser extent Lebanon). Those aren't the only problems the Iranians present (there's the longstanding issue of Iranian support for international terrorism, for which Iran has justly headed the list of state sponsors of terror for decades), but they're the ones that have demanded the most immediate response. If Iran is 'keeping its powder dry' on the nuclear front, along with improving conditions and a more aggressive U.S. posture in Iraq, that may give some real, and not just perceived, breathing room in dealing with the problem.

4. Of course, as Taranto and others have noted, if Iran really did downshift its nuclear program in 2003, even as a matter of sending it further under cover, it requires some fairly severe contortions to pretend that this was not a direct result of the Iraq War, combined with the general perception that Bush was a trigger-happy warmonger who had Iran next on his list.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:15 AM | War 2007-12 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Huck Amok

A blistering editorial from National Review:

On Iran, Huckabee is at his most troubling. He accuses the administration of "proceeding down only one track with Iran: armed confrontation." This is false, and the kind of rhetoric you'd expect from DailyKos bloggers, not a Republican presidential candidate. Huckabee thinks it has been a lack of diplomatic engagement that has soured our relations with Iran: "We haven't had diplomatic relations with Iran in almost 30 years, my whole adult life and a lot of good it's done. Putting this in human terms, all of us know that when we stop talking to a parent or a sibling or a friend, it's impossible to accomplish anything, impossible to resolve differences and move the relationship forward. The same is true for countries."

This is the kernel of Huckabee's foreign policy. He wants to anthropomorphize international relations and bring a Christian commitment to the Golden Rule to our affairs with other nations. As he told the Des Moines Register the other day, "You treat others the way you'd like to be treated. That's to me the fundamental issue that has to be re-established in our dealings with other countries."

This is deeply naive. Countries aren't people, and the world is more dangerous than a Sunday church social. Threats, deception, and - as a last resort - violence must play a role in international relations. Differences cannot always be worked out through sweet persuasion. A U.S. president who doesn't realize this will repeat the experience of President Jimmy Carter at his most ineffectual.

Read the whole thing, and this as well by Clarice Feldman, and this by Ace. I'm warming to Huckabee's electability; he's a likeable guy and a great speaker. One could make the case that his ardently pro-life convictions matter, in the grand scheme of things, more than his un-conservative approach to economic issues and the size of government. But any president's Job #1 is being the Commander-in-Chief and "decider" in foreign affairs. And the more I see of Huckabee's views on foreign policy, the more he looks like a guy who has no business doing the most important part of the job.

You can read reams and reams of discussion by people who like Huckabee without ever once running across foreign or national security policy (this is true to a lesser extent of Romney; both of them seem to have teleported here from the 2000 or 1996 primaries). And I wonder: is that large a segment of the primary electorate just disinterested in the fact that there's a war on? If so, that certainly is bad news for Rudy, who more than anyone is the candidate whose appeal is to 'Jack Bauer' voters who want the guy who will most relentlessly and remorselessly take on the bad guys. Rudy's whole appeal and whole career both before and after September 11 has been based on being the guy who takes it to the bad guys of every variety - from the Mafia to Marc Rich, from Al Qaeda to Arafat, from insider traders to squeegee men. If we are re-entering a period of national hibernation - and real good news from Iraq coupled with phony good news from Iran, Palestine and North Korea suggests we are - Rudy will not go anywhere (nor will McCain, the other candidate who relies heavily on his credibility on national security).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:01 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
December 7, 2007
POLITICS: The Trouble With Mitt Romney (Part 4 of 5)

The fourth 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, Part 3, my explanation of why I'm with Rudy, and my take on Mike Huckabee.

IV. Campaigning Like A Democrat

citizenmitt.jpgIn this installment, I'd like to discuss yet another of the major problems I have with Romney: his style of campaigning, which in my view is too much like a Democrat-style campaign that often ends up insulting the intelligence of the voter - because it proceeds from the assumption that the voters are stupid.

Now, let me preface this by saying that it would be foolish, especially after 2006, to assume that Democrats are somehow congenitally unable to win elections; there's obviously a long history of highly effective Democratic campaigns. And it would be silly to pretend that Republican campaign tactics are without sin.

But I do contend that there is a distinctive style of campaign, with a number of identifiable traits, that has been adopted primarily by Democratic candidates and far fewer Republicans. It's a style that can be effective in state and local races, where there are limits to the attention span and resources of the voters and the media (consider Bob Shrum's record of success at the state level). But it has proven repeatedly to wilt under the hot glare of a national campaign that affords the media and the voters alike months of attention to a candidate's every move and utterance. Romney and his campaign team seem to illustrate too many of these distinctive traits, and that not only repels me but concerns me deeply about his viability in a national election.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:18 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
December 6, 2007
BASEBALL/LAW: And He's Cheap, Too

Barry Bonds wants only the best legal representation - but only at a discount.

Of course, this begs the question of who is familiar with these negotiations that is blabbing them to the press.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:52 PM | Baseball 2007 • | Law 2006-08 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
December 5, 2007
BASEBALL: Back to Square One

A few thoughts on the big Marlins-Tigers trade of Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis for Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Mike Rabelo and minor league pitchers Eulogio De La Cruz, Dallas Trahern and Burke Badenhop:

1. Is This A Good Return For These Two?

It's a good package - Maybin and Miller are high-upside prospects; Rabelo seems like a typical backup catcher type who will hit .250-.270 but do little else. It's tough to get a read on Miller, who has thrown 74.1 innings in the majors and 83 in the minors after a storied college career, but he could easily be an ace in the making, and Maybin is just 20 and has tremendous tools and a fine minor league record. Trahern has thrown over 500 minor league innings striking out less than 5 men per 9, so he's a non-prospect. Badenhop seems to have great control, but really I don't know much more about him or De La Cruz.

Straight up for Cabrera, as huge as Cabrera's value is, this seems like a solid package of prospects. Still, it has to be a sign of how far Willis' market value has fallen that you couldn't get more by dealing them separately.

2. Is This A Good Deal For The Tigers?

Absolutely. They're a contending team and they surrendered no proven major leaguers and got one of the three or four best hitters in baseball in return, who is young and durable and still reasonably priced. Cabrera presents challenges given his weight and poor glove, but if Renteria holds up at short, they won't have the same problems the Marlins had of Cabrera's weaknesses being exposed by combination with Hanley Ramirez. And Detroit can move him to DH in a year or two if they have to. As for Willis, you have to think there's at least a chance that a change of scenery and better defensive support could help him, but I'd bet on him spending some quality time with Dr. Andrews before long; his downward spiral seems more likely the result of injuries leaching his effectiveness than just a funk.

3. Does The Marlins' Business Model Make Any Sense?

If you start with the assumption that you had to deal these guys because they were getting expensive and needed to get prospects in return, this trade makes some sense. But I question the underlying assumption that Florida can't bring in enough revenue to afford keeping a home-grown superstar like Cabrera - an assumption that also implies that three or four years from now, they will be dealing Maybin and Miller as well (in fact, if that's your business model, Maybin being 20 years old is a minus, since it means he'll be free agent ready before he hits his prime). Granted, the Marlins have managed to win two championships, but the frustration of these continual firesales probably costs them more in fan loyalty than it saves in salary. It's not like South Florida is a sparsely populated area or filled with people unfamiliar with baseball, after all; a commitment to building a consistently competitive team that hangs on to its players would stand a fair chance of being rewarded. With the death of the Expos, the Marlins have become the prime example of what Joe Sheehan has called anti-marketing, i.e., a franchise that is more interested in convincing the fans that they can't afford to compete - so as to panhandle for a new ballpark - than in doing the contrary to put fans in the seats.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:25 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
December 3, 2007
POLITICS: Quick Links 12/3/07

*Charles Krauthammer and Jonah Goldberg on the complete and total vindication of President Bush and other opponents of public funding for embryonic stem cell research.

*Spitzer's DMV strikes again:

Arno Herwerth, a 21-year veteran of the New York Police Department, said he requested the "GETOSAMA" plates earlier this month to send a political message. He said he was surprised to hear, after receiving the plates, that the DMV wanted them back.

In a Nov. 15 letter to Herwerth, the agency cited a regulation prohibiting plates that could be considered "obscene, lewd, lascivious, derogatory to a particular ethnic group or patently offensive."

Oh, really - offensive to whom?

*Of all the planted-question issues with the debates (see here, here and here), this video of Obama unwittingly giving away that he knew a questioner is perhaps the funniest.
It's like something out of Matlock.

*Hillary throws stones from a glass house:

Clinton closed out her Sunday with an appeal to voters in Bettendorf to caucus for her, but earlier in Cedar Rapids, she took Obama to task over his health care plan and disputed his claim he doesn’t take lobbyist money.

When a reporter asked whether she is suggesting Obama has “issues of character, the New York senator said, "I'm going to let voters make that decision but it’s beginning to look a lot like that. It really is."

For those of us old enough to remember the Clintons and their surrogates arguing incessantly that character is wholly irrelevant to the presidency and that campaigning on such issues is a sign of being defeated on the issues - heck, go back and watch "The American President," their propaganda movie devoted to this theme, albeit while re-casting the facts in the most favorable possible light - this is hilarious, as is this:

Clinton said she wanted to win the caucuses — and, next year, push the state into the Democratic column in the general election.

"I want a long term relationship," she said. "I don't want to just have a one night stand with all of you."

*And, for a little humor, this, via Ace. We've all been on the other end of conversations like this, though perhaps rarely quite so graphically.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:29 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Some Things Even Hugo Can't Fix

Venezuelan voters reject Hugo Chavez' effort to get an electoral mandate to be president-for-life and impose wholesale socialism on the nation (as opposed to the creeping socialism and dictatorship he's been working at for years).

Liberty is good. People tend to resist when the question of surrendering it entirely is put to them quite that directly.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:26 AM | War 2007-12 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
December 1, 2007
BASEBALL: Lastings Out The Door

The Mets' deal of Lastings Milledge for Brian Schneider and Ryan Church is a pretty classic example of a deal I didn't love but didn't hate at first glance, but quickly started hating the more I thought about it. Let's go through the lessons of this deal:

1. There's no such thing as a mistake you only pay for once. This deal is the wages of Omar letting Jesus Flores go in the Rule V draft; Flores now becomes the Nats' starting catcher, and had the Mets still had Flores, they would not have felt that the catching position was a need to be filled.

2. Short term, this deal may not hurt the Mets that much, as it brings in two everyday players of some use. Schneider is a great defensive catcher, probably the best in the game; he's probably good enough to be worth carrying his weak bat, which at 31 isn't going to get better. And Church is a solid player, a career .271/.462/.348 hitter (.279/.484/.355 on the road), albeit one who doesn't hit lefties real well; he's 29 and could have a bust-out year getting out of RFK. My guess is that Chuch will still be a better hitter thah Milledge in 2008. Then again, I'm not sure I want the inevitable Alou injury being the only thing standing between us and Church/Chavez/Gomez holding down the corners.

3. However, dealing Milledge, one of the system's crown jewels, for this pair almost certainly means no deal for a top starting pitcher, as Milledge was constantly mentioned in potential packages for the likes of Danny Haren or Johan Santana.

4. More to the point, long term, we could easily regret this big-time. At 23 next season with great athletecism and no real weakness other than immaturity and sporadic glovework, Milledge still has definite star potential. Add him to the list of young hitters abandoned by the Mets - sometimes for something of value, sometimes not - and while he is less accomplished than some, he's moreso than others and among the youngest:

PLAYERAgeABAVGSLGOBP
Amos Otis22152.178.224.238
Lastings Milledge22350.257.414.326
Kevin Mitchell24342.275.456.340
Ken Singleton24496.252.387.369
Carl Everett26924.250.402.326
Lenny Dykstra261686.278.413.350
Jeff Kent281831.279.453.327

I don't think you could really say Milledge has less upside at this stage than any of those guys at the time they left the Mets.

5. I assume this also means the Mets will non-tender Johnny Estrada. Estrada's not as much better as Schneider with the bat as he seems, given that Scneider gets on base more and has also suffered from RFK, but he's a pretty useful guy to just give away for nothing.

6. Along with the departure of Lo Duca, Glavine and Mota, this smacks of housecleaning, although actually we have not seen as many guys cleaned out as you might expect.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:33 PM | Baseball 2007 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)