Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
January 31, 2008
BASEBALL: The Santana Contract Talks

Jason Wulterkens takes an agent's-eye-view of the negotiations between Johan Santana and the Mets. And Cerrone, as always, has the latest on where the talks stand.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:03 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
January 30, 2008
POLITICS: McCain to Win

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It comes to this: John McCain and Mitt Romney. Rudy's out, and Huckabee is finished but will likely stay in the race as long as there is a race to stay in. More on them at another time, for we Republicans have a decision to make, and an important one: fall in behind the newly cemented frontrunner, John McCain, or stage a last-chance, rearguard action behind Mitt Romney. I'm sure I will not surprise anyone who has been reading my writings on this race these last few months when I say that I am supporting McCain, and hoping that the Party gets behind him quickly when and if, as seems likely, he sweeps a number of large states on Super-Duper Tuesday six days from now.

As I previously explained at some length, I am, like Martin Knight, under no illusions about the nature of a McCain presidency, which would undoubtedly lead to a lot of bad consequences for conservatives on a whole range of issues and would almost certainly lead a divided and demoralized party to a bloody and potentially disastrous schism by 2012. I'm not going to sell you on McCain's specific policies other than to point out the obvious, which is that he would be far better on the war, the courts, taxes, spending and entitlements than Hillary or, should the improbable happen, Obama. (I may return another day to what I think McCain could accomplish in office, specifically the hope I had in supporting him 8 years ago that he may yet be the man who can actually do something about the entitlements crisis; I would also remind McCain's critics that the man cast tough votes to put Robert Bork, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court, and to oppose Bush's expansion of Medicare to cover prescription drugs). But as Ben Domenech has set out brilliantly, this election is so important at such a critical juncture that I am willing to make that deal to win it - and I believe with all my heart that McCain can win this race and Mitt Romney cannot.

I will address below three main points:

1. Why I think McCain can win, and specifically why I think analogies to John Kerry and Bob Dole are misguided.

2. Why I think Romney can't win and would be a bad candidate to lose with.

3. Why we need the primaries wrapped up quickly now that we are down to a more traditional two-man race.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:33 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
January 29, 2008
BASEBALL: It's Santana Day!

OK, a moment of respectful silence for the fans of the Minnesota Twins. Really, of all the miserable feelings in this game, few can top losing a superstar in mid-career over money, whether or not you get good prospects in return (Mets fans who are old enough to remember June 15, 1977 can tell you this).

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OK, time's up...

snoopy_dance.jpgWE GOT JOHAN FREAKING SANTANA!!!!! The best pitcher in baseball! The deal is conditioned on a physical and a contract extension, but the former is a relative formality (Santana seems quite healthy for a pitcher, although the name "Mike Sirotka" should remind us that the team still has to actually conduct the physical to confirm that), and the Mets would not have done the deal if they thought the latter would be an insuperable obstacle. Frankly, if Santana wants a better deal than Barry Zito got, he deserves it and should get it. (I looked at Santana's numbers in more detail here, including by comparison to Erik Bedard, who is reportedly close to being dealt to Seattle).

The Yankees and Red Sox offers must really have petered out in the end, because the Mets' package here is nothing the team will really miss in the short run and none of the people you would have rated most highly in the long run: Carlos Gomez, Phil Humber, and pitchers Deolis Guerra and Kevin Mulvey, rated by minor league guru John Sickels as the #2, 3, 4 & 7 prospects in the Mets system. No Wright or Reyes, no Pelfrey, no Fernando Martinez (the #1 prospect). Obviously, no Milledge. Not even Dan Norman. Looks like highway robbery to me.

22-year-old Gomez (minor league numbers here) is young, got a taste of the big leages and is blindingly fast, perhaps the fastest man in the game, thus resolving the issue of whether the Twins were going to need to stick Mike Cuddyer in center to replace Torii Hunter. But while Gomez is too young to be sure if he will hit with authority in the future, right now he seems more like the next Endy Chavez, and certainly not the kind of player you ever regret dealing for the best pitcher in baseball.

25-year-old Humber (MLB numbers here) is a legit if unspectacular prospect a year removed from arm surgery. My guess is, if Twins fans expect him to be the next Kevin Tapani, they may have a pretty good idea of what is coming.

23-year-old Mulvey is a well-regarded prospect, also not a huge strikeout pitcher but in 164.2 innings at AA he has issued 43 walks and allowed just 5 homers. Sickels has a writeup of Mulvey here (he throws mostly in the low 90s).

19-year-old Guerra is rated well by Sickels but seems to have too little a minor league track record to evaluate statistically, other than to note that as an 18-year-old he pitched less well in A ball than Santana did in the AL. He cut his walks sharply in his second season of pro ball, always a positive sign for a teenage pitcher. He's obviously a few years away.

This has to vault the Mets back to being clear favorites in the NL East.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:18 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)
January 28, 2008
POLITICS: The New Federalism Speech

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As regular readers know (see here and here), I continue to believe that Rudy Giuliani is the best potential president in the GOP field - and specifically, the one most likely to accomplish conservative policy priorities - and would be a strong candidate in the general election. That assessment, which I won't rehash here, is based in large part on Rudy's personal characteristics, temperament and accomplishments; after all, ideas don't run for president, people do. Of course, Rudy's record on social issues has long been the primary obstacle to winning the nomination, and everyone who paid any attention whatsoever to Rudy's record and to Republican politics over the past few decades knew that. Thus, a Rudy for President campaign needed to have a well-thought-out plan from Day One as to how to deal with that obstacle.

Since the summer of 2005, I have been laying out in public and in private - including to people who hoped, at the time, to have the ear of the Giuliani camp - my roadmap to how Rudy could overcome this obstacle. I never thought he could win over everyone, but I believed then and believe now that there was an opportunity, had Rudy played his cards the right way at the right time, to take the goodwill and respect Rudy enjoyed with socially conservative voters who respected him as a leader and offer a compromise that would keep enough pro-lifers, in particular, on board to build a winning coalition in the primaries and hold enough of the party together - and appeal to enough independent or swing voters - to march to victory in November.

Rudy has followed some of the paths I laid out (not that I take credit for this), but he never gave the speech I thought would really make the difference. When voters go to the polls tomorrow in Florida, they may breathe new life into Rudy's campaign, or more likely they may end it. Either way, it's probably too late to give this speech - and so I offer it to you, dear readers, and to posterity.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:31 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Mitt Romney vs. the Suburbs?

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The Hartford Courant's endorsement of Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination starts off on an odd note:

The Republican governor led the fight to control sprawl and bring more affordable housing to the Bay State with groundbreaking laws and a dramatic reorganization of state agencies. In 2003, he combined transportation, housing, environmental and energy agencies into a super-agency, charged it with stopping runaway suburban growth, then appointed a Democrat environmentalist to run it. By comparison, Connecticut is still nibbling around the edges of smart growth.

There's a story behind this, and it's not one that should warm the hearts of suburban voters who play a crucial role in the GOP's coalition in November.

"Smart growth" is a euphemism for a social-engineering movement to stop suburban "sprawl," i.e., the traffic and other problems caused by having housing spread out far away from workplaces and mass transit hubs. As a candidate for Governor in 2002, Romney asserted that "Sprawl is the most important quality of life issue facing Massachusetts." On the surface, concerns about sprawl seem reasonable enough, and advocates of smart growth, Romney included, have argued that this is less about government vs the free market than about how to direct government decisionmaking, including local zoning, that affects housing and other infrastructure patterns. As Romney said in 2004:

To keep Massachusetts economically competitive and to improve our quality of life, it is important to coordinate state resources and implement new policies which encourage sustainable development, especially around town centers where existing infrastructure is already in place.

At the same time, it does not take too much time listening to opponents of sprawl to detect antagonism to the whole suburban way of life - detatched houses, big cars, middle- and upper-middle-class communities. Republicans should throw their lot in with such groups with great caution. The head of Romney's "smart growth" program and one of Romney's first appointments was Douglas Foy, as described by the Boston Globe:

For 25 years Foy was president of the Conservation Law Foundation, a powerful regional environmental group, and observers saw his appointment as Romney's attempt to ''green" his administration. Industry groups were fearful he would push an anti-automobile agenda. Environmental groups were happy to have influence.

And

As president of the Conservation Law Foundation for 25 years, Foy was the hardball lawyer-advocate who coaxed and threatened politicians into following or advancing environmental law, sometimes halting projects, such as oil drilling off Georges Bank, and sometimes even spurring massive projects, such as the cleanup of the Boston Harbor.

While the Globe notes that "Foy turned out to be a lot harder to predict" in office, he and Romney never seemed to have stopped seeing eye to eye on the "smart growth" initiative, and Deval Patrick's administration has carried on with a number of Romney's smart-growth initiatives.

There's no question that Romney made the "smart growth" initiative a major priority. In 2006 he announced a half billion dollar spending program of loans to localities who agreed to go along with the state program, stating that "I think this is going to be the most lasting, visual effect of this administration, perhaps, that we can imagine". A 2004 initiative involved $100 million for the construction of "mixed" (i.e., partially "affordable"/low income) housing. As one observer noted

"They did put it on the map," said Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, which works for smart growth. "This is really the first time in my recollection of working in politics in Massachusetts that an administration put smart growth front and center as an objective."

So what's the problem? Well, consider the objections from affected suburban localities, and you can see the threat Romney's initiative posed for the very nature of suburban communities:

Officials in about a dozen of the Commonwealth's 351 cities and towns say they are interested in the program, in which the state provides cash for zoning changes that allow dense development in town centers or near transit stations. At least 20 percent of housing built in such "smart growth districts" must be affordable.

Among local leaders' concerns is the lack of money to offset school costs to handle new children in that housing, a provision removed by former House speaker Thomas M. Finneran earlier this year. Towns also say the districts require too much density, especially in suburban areas.

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Boston, Somerville, Chelsea, Quincy, Newton, Natick, Weymouth, Watertown, Lowell, Grafton, Charlton, Williamstown, and Pittsfield have shown interest in signing up for the program when it becomes available in February.

But many communities are saying no thanks, including Kingston, Dennis, Sandwich, Acton, Braintree, and Hopkinton. Several more are on the fence. The most common concern cited in interviews with town planners and in the Metropolitan Area Planning Council report was the lack of permanent new funding for additional schoolchildren, expected as families fill the housing units. Another concern was the requirement for dense development, which was often described as especially out of character with suburban communities. Local leaders also balked at details such as a provision that towns return money if the housing is not built, and they were wary of the new streamlined approval process.

"I have a real problem with the mandated densities for any community over 10,000 in population," said Kathleen B. Bartolini, director of planning and economic development for Framingham. "I also believe in home rule and do not think we need to give [the state] another layer of review and approval over our zoning. I believe in density and general housing production to help decrease housing costs -- supply and demand -- but this is too superficial to work well as a land-use tool."

Many analysts have noted the crucial role suburbanites and exurbanites in fast-growing communities played for the GOP in 2004, and the losses Republicans suffered among those groups in 2006. Those voters may not see a lot to like in Romney's record on suburban issues.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:34 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
January 27, 2008
POLITICS: Elections Have Consequences

Eliot Spitzer, like Rudy Giuliani, first made his name as a tough, hard-nosed prosecutor. Both men earned the dislike of big business for their aggressive approach to white-collar crime.

But the reason why Spitzer will never be Rudy is that he never did have the stomach to take on anybody but legitimate businesses - and certainly not violent criminals. Now, New York State is getting a bitter taste of the Spitzer approach to violent convicts.

In New York, you see, the Parole Board is run by a gubernatorial appointee, presently a Spitzer appointee named George Alexander. And what has been the result of the new management? Look at the numbers:

235 violent felons, including 215 convicted murderers, have been released by the state parole board in the first year of Gov. Spitzer's administration, records show. That's 58% more than the 148 violent felons paroled in 2006, the last year of Gov. Pataki's tenure.

Some were locked away for crimes so heinous that previous state Parole Boards refused to set them free up to five times before their luck changed under the Spitzer administration, a Daily News analysis has found.

The News report has some vivid examples of the offenders involved, including:

College student Jose Parmes was 27 in 1981 when he hurled his 10-month-old daughter out a sixth-floor window after fatally stabbing girlfriend Iris Torres, 28, and cutting off her left ear. Parmes jumped out the same window. His daughter landed on a second-floor fire escape and survived. Parmes, now 54, got 16 years to life in 1982. He was released in May after being denied parole four times.

Frank DiChiara was 35 when he fatally shot 13-year-old Germania Zurlo in February 1978. She'd arrived home from religious instruction to find him rifling through her Brooklyn apartment. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1979 and released in September after twice being denied parole. He's 65.

Louis Mortillaro was a 28-year-old bank teller when he went to the Brooklyn home of his estranged wife, Doreen, in 1983 and plunged a knife into her neck, face and back as the couple's 11-month-old daughter watched from a playpen. Detectives found Mortillaro drinking in a bar blocks from the crime scene. Mortillaro, 49, was freed in November.

More details here and here. New Yorkers voted for Spitzer - and now we are reaping the consequences.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:40 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The President of Europe

Former Tory leader William Hague delivers a hilarious and pointed oration on the possibility that a presidency of the European Union would grow into a much more powerful position, relative to the elected national governments of the continent, in the hands of...well, just listen:

Via Pejman.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:02 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: On Hold

Bill Madden is right: it's been a remarkably quiet offseason, at least the last 4-6 weeks of it. I know I've been tied up with work, with blogging the 20028 elections and with doing the data entry that underlies my annual preseason Established Win Shares Levels roundups, but even on top of that there really have been remarkably few developments that really called out to me to write about, at least unless one has a much greater appetite for steroid stories than I can bring myself to have.

For the regulars, consider this a baseball open thread. And yes, even as quiet as I've been and as painful as the end of last season was, I am still very much looking forward to getting this season rolling.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:55 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
January 23, 2008
POLITICS: Ideas Don't Run For President; People Do

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With the failure of the Fred Thompson campaign, there has been predictable and understandable wailing and gnashing of teeth in conservative quarters about the state of the GOP and what this all means for the future of conservative ideas. Fred ran as a full-scale, across-the-board movement conservative, and he went nowhere. Among the four remaining major candidates, we have two who are genuine conservatives on some core issues but basically apostates on others (Rudy and Huck), a moderate who is generally if not as dramatically out of step on a large number of issues (McCain), and one candidate (Romney) whose positions have changed so much from his past positions and record that nobody really knows for certain how trustworthy he might be if he actually won the general election. Conservatives are asking: has our party abandoned us? Have GOP voters rejected our ideas?

No, it has not, and they have not. Remember Article II, Section 1 of our Constitution: "The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America." President, singular, individual. Flesh-and-blood human. That's who holds the job, that's who gets elected to the job. No perfect vessel, no incarnation of ideas. And that fact must be repeated again and again until people understand that winning and losing elections and choosing leaders is about picking the right person from the available choices. Ideas don't run for president, people do.

We got the field we started with because these were the men who were willing to ask for the job and able to raise the minimum amount of money and signatures and staff to initiate a campaign. That limited our options to the people who had - or thought they had - the qualifications and the right political moment to run in 2008, not some other year. We got the field we have now because along the way, some of the contenders failed to promote themselves well, or made a bad impression, or ran out of money, or found better things to do with their time. That leaves the four men who remain, plus of course Ron Paul. We have no choice but to take each them as a whole - platform and record, experience and character, skills and resources. And it is just one of those remaining men, as a whole, with whom we will go forth to battle in November.

An awful lot of angst could be avoided by remembering this simple truth. And an awful lot can yet be spared if the folks who live in this big and querelous tent we call a political party - which we would all like and hope to see function as a majority party - would remind themselves of it: we have been asked to choose among men, not ideas. While our choices certainly reflect our view of the ideas each man champions, it is deeply mistaken to read the choice of one man over another as the final and definitive statement of what ideas we truly support. I, for one, as a Republican would like to know that the candidate we settle on - or settle for - has more people behind him than just the ones who agree with every one of his ideas.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:02 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
January 22, 2008
FOOTBALL: Giants Among...The NFC

Sunday night's Giants-Packers NFC title game made me nostalgic for the days when I used to follow the NFL every week, rather than casually with my full attention not focused until the playoffs. It was a rare kind of classic game - typically a monster game involves two offenses clicking on all cylinders (like the Giants-Pats season finale - the all-time classic of this was the famous Chargers-Dolphins playoff in 1981), or two great defenses slugging it out, or a great offense against a great defense. But this was one of those rare games - much like the 1991 Giants-Bills Super Bowl - that was crisply played by both teams on both sides of the ball, and doubly impressive for such great football being played in such terrible cold. I don't think I have ever seen so many passes completed by one team with just tiptoes in fair territory on the sidelines (many of them diving grabs) as the much- and (until very recently) justly-maligned Eli Manning hit to Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer in this game. Those weren't blown coverages, as few of them were totally wide-open; they were just a QB in perfect sync with his receivers and the receivers making amazing snatches. Burress and Toomer have to be the best Giants receiving corps ever (and rookie Stephen Smith wasn't too shabby over the middle, either). The only marring factor was Lawrence Tynes' disastrous kicking before the OT game-winner; it reminded me all too much of the infamous Seahawks game two years ago when Jay Feeley missed three game-winning field goals, one to end regulation and two in overtime.

One thing you have to say is that Tom Coughlin's decision to play full-bore for the 'meaningless' win the last day of the season against New England was the right decision. Going the distance against the undefeated Pats juggernaut clearly gave this team a confidence boost, and now they face the Patriots feeling quite reasonably like they can take them. I'm doubtful that they will, not least because it's nearly impossible to beat a demonstrably better team in the playoffs with an unreliable kicker. But there's time yet for hope.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:30 AM | Football | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
January 20, 2008
POLITICS: No Way I'm Disco Dancing

Having squeaked to a third-place finish in South Carolina with 16% of the vote, Fred Thompson has failed to do even the bare minimum he needed on highly favorable turf to remain a viable presidential candidate, and will soon either drop out of the race or remain in mainly as a spokesman rather than a serious contender. The "Big Five" is now down to four, and shrinking, as Mike Huckabee's second-place finish has wounded him in what had been hoped to be his Southern stronghold, and Rudy Giuliani's own do-or-die moment in Florida - and the test of his unusual "hang back and let them bruise each other" strategy - rapidly approaches with the specter of John McCain, the guy whose appeal overlaps most with Rudy's, as his primary obstacle (although Rudy may draw a few supply-siders from the beaching of the Good Ship Fred, and is calibrating his attacks accordingly).

Fred will be remembered as the Mycroft Holmes of presidential candidates. You will recall that Sherlock Holmes said that his older brother Mycroft would have been the greatest detective who ever lived, if that could be accomplished without leaving his armchair. That's Fred in a nutshell - indeed, the high watermark of the Fred phenomenon was his hilarious video response to Michael Moore, delivered ... from an armchair.

Fred's diehard supporters will complain that the mainstream media done him wrong, but as I have explained before, there were any number of full-scale conservatives one might have tried to draft into the race (we had serious and experienced if not quite as across-the-board conservative contenders running already in Sam Brownback and Duncan Hunter); the reason people settled on Fred was precisely because his background as an actor and trial lawyer suggested a guy who, like Reagan, could work around and over the heads of the media. His failure to do so effectively was what doomed his campaign.

Fred tried to (1) enter late and (2) run one of those "new kind of campaigns" that never work on the presidential level; even if one of the two was possible, the combination, added to the erratic quality of his public appearances on the trail (even many Fred supporters came away disappointed at some of his speeches and debate appearances) and the general lack of a well-run campaign organization (Fred turned out not to be able to learn to run an organization, having never done so before), was fatal. Fred refused to play by old rules he felt were demeaning, but he didn't come up with an effective substitute. It was said of Henry Clay that he would rather be right than president; at times it seemed that Fred would rather be cool than president.

And in the end, he didn't even maximize his ability to embrace the new. One of my fellow RedState contributors suggested some time back that Fred should combine his talk-radio experience and the power of YouTube to do a daily video "message of the day" that could reach web-connected voters nationally on a daily basis, at almost no cost. Such a video could be short (2-5 minutes), and run from a prepared script, yet be far more substantive than a 30-second TV spot, and would still be a great idea for any presidential contender, doubly so for one with Fred's talents; unlike the largely ignored campaign blogs, it would be visibly the work of the candidate himself. Yet after the initial and sometimes rambling off-the-cuff efforts at "Fred Answers" to voter questions, Fred basically disappeared from web video productions. So much for the new kind of campaign.

Anyway, we may not yet be done with Fred, as he would make a fine Vice Presidential nominee (although McCain is almost certainly the guy he is least suited to run with, as such a ticket would be too old, too Senatorial and too inside-the-Beltway). But like Mycroft Holmes, he will be best remembered as a walk-on part in somebody else's adventures.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:31 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (26) | TrackBack (0)
January 16, 2008
LAW/POLITICS: Supreme Court Leaves Politics To The Politicians

Nyc-supremecourt-60centerst.jpgThe U.S. Supreme Court today, in a unanimous opinion by Justice Scalia in NY State Bd of Elections v. Lopez Torres, reversed a Second Circuit decision that had overturned New York's system for selecting party nominees for trial judges. The appeals court had held that the First Amendment right to political association of prospective candidates for New York Supreme Court judgeships* were violated by the system of choosing nominees through party conventions dominated by party bosses, rather than through a more directly democratic system such as a primary.

Justice Scalia's opinion starts out with a concise summary of familiar and settled (if theoretically debatable) ground: the Constitution gives a political party some First Amendment associational rights to control its own processes for choosing its nominees, but imposes some restrictions (including Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment restrictions against discrimination) on a party's candidate-selection process when the state grants the party the right to a line on the ballot. But as he explains, the problem with the conventions is not any legal restriction on who can throw their hat in the ring but rather a practical, political limit to who can win those contests - a problem for which the solution is necessarily political, not legal:

To be sure, we have...permitted States to set their faces against "party bosses" by requiring party-candidate selection through processes more favorable to insurgents, such as primaries. But to say that the State can require this is a far cry from saying that the Constitution demands it. None of our cases establishes an individual’s constitutional right to have a "fair shot" at winning the party's nomination. And with good reason. What constitutes a "fair shot" is a reasonable enough question for legislative judgment, which we will accept so long as it does not too much infringe upon the party's associational rights. But it is hardly a manageable constitutional question for judges - especially for judges in our legal system, where traditional electoral practice gives no hint of even the existence, much less the content, of a constitutional requirement for a "fair shot" at party nomination. Party conventions, with their attendant "smoke-filled rooms" and domination by party leaders, have long been an accepted manner of selecting party candidates. "National party conventions prior to 1972 were generally under the control of state party leaders" who determined the votes of state delegates. . . . Selection by convention has never been thought unconstitutional, even when the delegates were not selected by primary but by party caucuses.

(Emphasis added, citations omitted). The Court similarly rejected the idea that one-party rule in many parts of New York State created a constitutional problem with the party's candidate-selection process that was resolvable by the judiciary:

The reason one-party rule is entrenched may be (and usually is) that voters approve of the positions and candidates that the party regularly puts forward. It is no function of the First Amendment to require revision of those positions or candidates. The States can, within limits (that is, short of violating the parties' freedom of association), discourage party monopoly - for example, by refusing to show party endorsement on the election ballot. But the Constitution provides no authority for federal courts to prescribe such a course. The First Amendment creates an open marketplace where ideas, most especially political ideas, may compete without government interference. . . . It does not call on the federal courts to manage the market by preventing too many buyers from settling upon a single product.

Limiting respondents' court-mandated "fair shot at party endorsement" to situations of one-party entrenchment merely multiplies the impracticable lines courts would be called upon to draw. It would add to those alluded to earlier the line at which mere party popularity turns into "one-party dominance." In the case of New York's election system for Supreme Court Justices, that line would have to be drawn separately for each of the 12 judicial districts - and in those districts that are "competitive" the current system would presumably remain valid. But why limit the remedy to one-party dominance? Does not the dominance of two parties similarly stifle competing opinions? Once again, we decline to enter the morass.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:14 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: A Fred Reality Check

I like Fred. Strategically, I'd like to see Fred win South Carolina on Saturday. Concerned as I am about his performance on the trail thus far, I would have no quarrel with Fred as the nominee.

But let's face facts. Having failed to make a dent with a late run in Iowa, Fred needs to win South Carolina, or at least finish a very close second there, to have any reason for staying in the race (I know some people hope that Fred could ride in on a white horse in case of a brokered deal - but frankly he would have a better chance of doing that if he stops losing primaries and stops criticizing other candidates, neither of which can be done as long as he is still running).

And it's three days until the voting. And the RCP polling average still has Fred in fourth place in SC, with only a hair over 10% of the vote. Even factoring in that the more recent polls give him some momentum, Fred is really going to have to do something surprising to top 20% of the vote. And I can't see any possible justification for him staying in the race if he can't pull 20% of the vote in a Southern state with one of the nation's most conservative electorates when he has thrown himself into the fight there.

Fight on to Saturday, Fred. But if Saturday comes and goes without a major shocker, Fredheads are going to have to accept that the Big Five will have dropped to the Big Four by dawn on Sunday.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:12 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Notice Anything Missing?

CNN.com's list of "What to put between you and burglars" seems to be missing a particular home-security device - see if you can guess what it is. (Hint: it's the one mentioned in the Bill of Rights. It's also the only one left once the burglars are actually inside the house.).

I mean, I'm really not a gun fan myself, but it seems silly to discuss home security without even broaching the topic....on a related note, this has to be quote of the day - Instapundit, quoting a commenter at Alphecca on the Democrats debating gun control:

They're not "illegal guns." They're "undocumented firearms."
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:09 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
January 15, 2008
BASEBALL: The Dwindling Bums

The WSJ's sports blog rounds up some good stories about 1955 World Series hero and legendary pitching coach Johnny Podres. With Podres' death, only a handful of the Dodgers of the early to mid 50s remain, most notably the team's young slugger Duke Snider.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:10 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Is Senator McCain Serious About Border Enforcement?

Mark Krikorian, one of the leading immigration hardliners and the man whose immigration plan Mike Huckabee has adopted, asks the following:

Does Anyone Believe McCain's Change of Heart?

McCain claims to have heard the voice of the people, and now ostensibly supports enforcing the border before implementing an amnesty (though I haven't heard him support any other prerequisites, like a functioning, universal work-verification system, 100% deportation of criminals upon completion of their sentences, withholding federal funds from cities defying federal immigration law, etc).

It's a fair question. Speaking as a McCain-sympathizing Rudy supporter, let me provide what I think is the answer here.

As I have noted before, Senator McCain, like each of the other main contenders, has changed his tune on some issues; in fact, immigration is probably the issue on which these five candidates have done the most shifting of their rhetoric and their positions over time, including a number of outright flip-flops. That said, there is a difference between a flip-flop and a strategic retreat in response to a collision with political reality, and I think the latter is what McCain is doing. He's not claiming he has changed his opinion - he is clearly still a believer in the merits of "comprehensive immigration reform" - he's just promising to change his behavior in response to a setback.

But do we believe him? My best guess, which is consistent with my general view that McCain may be worth buying but with the understanding up front of the tradeoff of remorse we will pay down the road, is as follows:

1. McCain has, in fact, concluded that it's politically impossible to get a comprehensive bill (including all the elements in McCain-Kennedy) through the Congress until some visible progress is shown on enforcement, just as the Clintons concluded after 1994 that a comprehensive health care plan would not pass.

2. Therefore, McCain will pursue stepped-up enforcement first, and will not push for a comprehensive immigration bill in 2009.

3. McCain's idea of what constitutes "stepped-up enforcement" and "visible progress" is very different from that of people like Krikorian, and probably not radically different from some of the things Bush has done. Expect some visible fence-construction and a few more big enforcement cases against employers, and maybe some funding for a verification system. Do not expect a crackdown on 'sanctuary cities' or radically stepped-up numbers of deportations.

4. Nobody wants to try to do a comprehensive immigration bill in an election year, so 2010 is out as well.

5. I would expect that McCain, who turns 75 in the summer of 2011 and is unlikely at that point to have the wind at his back as far as re-election or perhaps even re-nomination is concerned, will then seek to bring back a comprehensive bill that year, especially if the Democrats control Congress. The bill will probably have slightly tougher enforcement provisions than this year's bill, if only to continue things done in 2009-10, but it will not make it any more difficult for current illegal aliens to gain citizenship. And it will yet again come down to whether there are enough Congressional Republicans, plus a handful of far-lefties who don't want any compromise at all, around to defeat the bill.

That's my best guess. Whether you think that's an acceptable result probably depends on whether or not you think McCain is already an unacceptable option.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:21 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
January 14, 2008
BASEBALL: Hot Stove Roundup: Tampa Bay Rays

Let's look at a few things happening in the Tampa Bay Rays' offseason. It's been a busy offseason off the field, as Tampa dropped the "Devil" to simplify their team name and make it more flexible, something I thought they should have done years ago ("Rays" is a pun, for a team in the Sunshine State), and pushed forward with plans for a new stadium without taxpayer funding (I guess they think an outdoor field will be more appealing to the fans they still don't have, though my own experience at the Trop convinces me that what they really need is more parking, aside from the obvious need for a better team).

On the field? Well, good luck to Cliff Floyd, who signed a 1-year deal with the Rays reportedly in the neighborhood of $3 million, which is pennies to most teams but actually a fairly big line item to the Rays. You would not have expected Tampa to be importing veteran outfielders a year ago, but the departure of Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes clears some of the logjam for an outfield of Crawford, Upton and (when available) Baldelli, and Floyd and Jonny Gomes will presumably form a left-right DH platoon and fill in when Floyd is healthy and Baldelli is not. Floyd replaces Greg Norton, who is actually the same age as Floyd, and he's an upgrade on Norton.

Floyd should help the team in the short run, but one hopes, for Tampa's sake, that the Rays aren't just opening the bankroll for the likes of Floyd only to pass on spending money on younger and better options that have more to do with building an actual contending team, which requires them to shore up the pitching staff and fix the team's worst-in-the-AL defense.

The Young deal takes a step in that direction, but at a steep price. The media attention seemed to focus on the idea that Young was ditched because of character issues, and thus the drama was set as a debate between those who saw Young as a ticking time bomb wisely removed (along with Dukes) from the roster and those who saw the Twins as savvily snapping up a very high-ceiling young slugger while his stock was down.

That may have been part of the motivation, although Young actually doesn't have a serious rap sheet beyond that one ugly incident in AAA; the Dukes deal is more of a straight-up "dump the jerk" deal, though Dukes batting .190 obviously didn't help.

The larger theme is Young for Matt Garza, which is obviously a risky move to trade a young hitter for a young pitcher. Not for nothing is Young regarded as a great prospect despite the fact that he is still very far from being a great player. 3 of the top four of Baseball-Reference.com's list of most similar 21-year-old players are in the Hall of Fame (Tris Speaker, Roberto Clemente and Joe Kelley; the fourth is Baldelli, lest we get too enthused). I looked at Young's numbers here.

Anyway, the overlooked part of the deal was the acquisition of Jason Bartlett from the Twins. Bartlett had the best Zone Rating in the AL last year (his range factor was less impressive, THT's range metric rates him closer to the middle of the pack; by fielding Win Shares he rated fifth in the AL). In any event, whether you rate Bartlett as a superior or merely slightly above average fielder, he gives Tampa stability in the middle infield that was sorely lacking. Combined with the 1-2-3 of Kazmir-Shields-Garza, that promises the possibility of the Rays actually keeping some runs off the board, which they dramatically failed at last season. Of course, that assumes that their other infield overhauls - Akinori Iwamura to 2B, rookie Evan Longoria in at 3B - actually works out.

Meanwhile, Jae Seo, who when he left New York looked like a guy who could have a real career, cut bait on the big leagues and headed back to South Korea after posting an 8.13 ERA that made him the least effective of a very ineffective crop of starters in Tampa. And the Rays have wisely not been suckered by Carlos Pena, refusing to offer him the long-term contract hoped for by his agent (cue menacing theme music) Scott Boras. Tampa is better off taking what they can in the two years remaining on Pena's current deal.

Finally, Tampa shelled out $8 million over two years for Troy Percival. Percival can apparently still pitch, and as closers go that's not all that expensive (it beats a 3-year, $10 million deal for Scott Schoenweis); I would not be thrilled with the deal but you can forgive the Rays for deciding after Al Reyes' unraveling after a solid start that a bargain-basement closer wasn't in the cards for them. As with the Floyd signing you can't really evaluate this one without knowing how they expect it to affect the rest of the team's budget.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Domino Theory

Apparently the Brew Crew's signing of Mike Cameron - once he serves his 25-game suspension - is supposed to set off a domino effect on Milwaukee's defense, sending Ryan Braun to left and Bill Hall back to the infield, to third base, and Milwaukee writing off re-signing Geoff Jenkins. That's a good example of wise use of a veteran signing, since it lets the team put its quality young players in the right spots on the field.

Of course, probably the most urgent issue for the Brewers is getting Chris Capuano straightened out. Capuano battled a groin injury last year and recently had surgery on the labrum in his right (non-pitching) shoulder, but it's still unclear if injuries were at the root of his staggering collapse last season, in which he probably did more damage to a contending team than any player in the majors. Capuano entered 2007 looking like a potential breakout candidate after winning 18 games in 2005 and then cutting his walks in half in 2006 without losing strikeouts, and he was a big factor in Milwaukee's hot start, going 5-0 with a 2.31 ERA in his first seven starts, with 31 K, 13 BB and only 2 HR in 39 IP. But starting with a May 13 loss to the Mets, the wheels came completely off Capuano's game: 0-12 with a 6.08 ERA and the Brewers losing all 22 games (including 18 starts) he appeared in. Even base thieves, previously terrified of Capuano, went 6-0 against him.

But perhaps the two are related - was bad defense to blame? From 2005 through May 7 2007, Capuano averaged 1.16 HR/9, 2.84 BB/9, and 7.15 K/9; from May 13 on, it was 1.46 HR/9, 3.32 BB/9, and 8.19 K/9. A falloff in control and more homers, to be sure, but with a higher K rate that should have led at most to a mild off year, not a catastrophe. Yet, Capuano's H/9 soared from 8.86 to 11.27. Comparing 2007 to 2005/06 overall, his number of extra bases on doubles and triples per 9 IP actually dropped (2.51 to 2.16). Looking at the THT figures, as I did in Saturday's post, Capuano's DER dropped off to .670 from .717 and .705, and this despite a rise in his ground ball percentage (38.4 and 39.9 to 43%) and a drop in the number of line drives allowed (20.8 and 20.1 to 18.4). All of which suggests that perhaps Milwaukee's defense, especially the left side of the field (Braun and Jenkins), probably was very heavily at fault for turning a slight slippage by Capuano into a train wreck that ruined his confidence and got him exiled to the bullpen.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
January 12, 2008
BASEBALL: Dissecting Blanton, Bedard and Santana

The Mets have lately been said to be pursuing three pitchers, all on the trade market: 29-year-old lefthander Johan Santana, 29-year-old lefthander Erik Bedard and 27-year-old righthander Joe Blanton. Santana, of course, is the best pitcher in baseball, and nearly everyone agrees that Bedard made The Leap to become a significant star in 2007 before his season was ended by a strained right oblique muscle. But how much better is Santana than Bedard, and why? And is Blanton really a quality alternative - or is he just a guy whose stock is high after a good year he can't repeat?

Let's break down their records over the past three seasons by their component parts, thanks to The Hardball Times and ESPN.com. Let's start with the basic numbers, and some sense of their context:

PitcherYearIPERAH/923/9HR/9BB/9K/9LgERA
Blanton2005201.13.537.962.241.032.995.194.36
2006194.14.8211.162.690.792.694.964.43
2007230.03.959.391.960.631.575.484.20
Bedard2005141.24.008.831.590.643.627.944.32
2006196.13.768.981.700.733.167.844.56
2007182.03.166.971.290.942.8210.934.61
Santana2005231.22.886.991.940.851.759.254.45
2006233.22.777.162.000.921.819.444.47
2007219.03.337.521.971.362.149.664.33

23/9 refers to doubles plus 2x triples per 9 innings - basically, how many extra bases the pitcher allowed on balls in play. Like hits per 9, this can be heavily influenced by team defense. LgERA is the park-adjusted league ERA figure from baseball-reference.com, so you can get some sense of the different offensive contexts they pitched in.

As you can see, the three pitchers show disparate trends. Blanton had a fine rookie year, a terrible 2006, and a bounce back in 2007. Bedard has been making steady progress for years. Santana had an off year in 2007, but his overall record is steady and the off year is consistent with what happens to great pitchers in midcareer from time to time.

Blanton's K rate alone tells you that he's just not in the same class as the other two. It improved in 2007 to the point where it allowed him to succeed, but his real step forward this season was in dropping his walks to a minuscule level, while also cutting down on the longball. Also, and we will see this more below, Blanton's numbers in 2007 suggest a more stable mix - he's less dependent than in 2005 on a very low hits/innings ratio that wasn't sustainable.

Bedard's gradual improvement is mainly a matter of mastering his control, though his previously steady K rate shot through the roof this year. His weak point is that unlike the other two he has yet to prove he can hold up under a 200+ IP workload.

Santana, by contrast, has carried a heavy workload for some years, which is generally a sign of durability but is also a double-edged sword in long-term projections. While his walks were up slightly, Santana's off year this season was mainly the result of a sharp upward spike in home runs.

Now, let's dig deeper to get at the components of how they got these results:

PitcherYearDERTmDERLD%GB%DP/BRSB/BRSB%HR/FIF/F
Blanton2005.752.71516.845.78.294.4288.911.214.2
2006.665.68819.843.18.585.5872.27.610.0
2007.701.69120.646.99.918.5682.67.810.6
Bedard2005.685.69223.340.08.984.7966.77.514.0
2006.691.67821.248.87.731.8266.79.87.9
2007.717.68617.347.98.133.1371.412.77.7
Santana2005.732.70216.540.46.332.5344.410.918.8
2006.731.68519.840.66.022.4144.411.512.8
2007.729.68518.438.08.643.7054.515.69.6

DER is the percentage of balls in play turned into outs; I've included team DER here as well so you can compare how much of this is team defense. LD% is the percentage of balls in play that are line drives, which on average are obviously more likely to be hits regardless of defense. GB% is percentage of ground balls as a percentage of balls in play. DP and SB/BR are numbers of double plays and steals per 100 baserunners on first, as estimated from (H+BB+HBP-2B-3B-HR). HR/F and IF/F are percentages of homers and infield flies as a percentage of fly balls. It's debatable how much this is luck vs skill by the pitcher, and of course a low percentage of homers per fly ball can also be the park rather than the pitcher.

Looking deeper into Blanton's numbers, a few things stick out. First, he really was a product of good defense/good luck in 2005, with that amazing DER. Second, I wonder if THT has changed the way they compute infield flies, since all three of these guys had a much higher proportion of them in 2005. Third, it's not really fair to compare him to two lefties in terms of holding runners on.

And fourth, and most important, Blanton is not a ground ball pitcher, so his bread and butter is that exceptionally low (one of the lowest in the AL two years running) rate of homers per fly ball. With a mediocre K rate and a great walk rate, Blanton's success turns in large part on his ability to combine a very low HR rate with that great control. Oakland's a big ballpark, but from what I can tell from looking at the A's numbers in recent years (including comparing, say, Barry Zito's numbers from 2006 and 2007), while Oakland pitchers do seem to have possibly a lower HR/F ratio than normal, there doesn't seem to be anything dramatic enough to suggest that Blanton's numbers are mainly park-driven. Either this is a skill, or he has been very lucky two years running.

As a result, while he's got to be the third choice in this crowd, compared to two #1 starters, I feel OK with the idea that at least Blanton's great control and relative lack of homers allowed makes him a good bet to remain a reasonably effective third starter type for the next few years.

As to Bedard, he's clearly labored under the toughest conditions of the three - highest-scoring environment, poorest defensive support. His eye-popping K numbers suggest a guy who is pretty close to the top of the game right now. Starters who can routinely rack up over those kind of K/9 are hard to find (the Mets are fortunate that of the 26 starters to strike out at least 7.7 men per 9 in 300+ innings over the past three years, they have four of them - Pedro at 8.98, Perez at 8.55, El Duque at 7.86 and Maine at 7.71. Bedard or Santana would make a fifth if they don't have to part with Maine or Perez). He has also done a tremendous job of avoiding doubles and triples (this year Corey Patterson may have been a factor in that). The issue with Bedard is whether you can project him forward from 180-190 innings to 220-230, which he has never done.

As for Santana, I've said before that if you can sign him and not part with Wright or Reyes, you do that deal; he's the best in the business. Santana's a high-risk proposition because he is a pitcher, but he's probably the least risky bet of any pitcher in the game. Note that on top of great K/BB numbers his DERs have been markedly better than the team three years running, which suggests at least the possibility that he may have some particular skill in avoiding good contact. Note that Santana in a bad year still had an ERA more than half a run lower than Blanton in a more favorable park having a very good year.

Santana's high HR rate this year was partly trhe result of his very low GB/FB ratio, but it was probably partly a fluke (that 15.6% HR/F was one of the league's highest and out of line with his past history).

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links 1/12/08

*Tom Maguire on Paul Krugman's efforts to put lipstick on the pig of the European welfare state. Of course, deceit is to Krugman what the fedora and the bullwhip are to Indiana Jones.

*And here I thought Daniel Webster had driven him out of New Hampshire permanently.

*Megan McArdle has the, er, skinny on people who are waaaaaaaay too sensitive.

*Excellent GOP primary roadmap from David Freddoso.

*Don't mess with Vladimir Putin, Part XXVIII

*Two war-related decisions yesterday from the DC Circuit; one that rejects First Amendment challenges by Cindy Sheehan to her arrest at a protest but reverses her conviction for failure to prove her state of mind, the other of which rejects a variety of civil claims against Donald Rumsfeld and a variety of other DoD personnel, brought by Guantanamo detainees claiming that they were tortured or otherwise mistreated in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

*The All-Messed Mets Team.

*Heh.

*Slate has a really silly article about the demise of the billable hour, while admitting that the big law firms that handle high-end cases (i.e., lawyers like me) are not likely to abandon hourly billing any time soon. Yes, it's true that basically every lawyer in private practice hates the billable hour; that's been true as long as anyone could remember. And it's true that clients don't love it either, and that if change comes to billing methods, it will come from client demand. But like Churchill's dictum about democracy being the worst form of government except every alternative that has been tried, hourly billing endures because lawyers and clients alike are familiar with it, and for potentially major litigation, it's hard to come up with alternatives that don't have larger problems. The flaw in the Slate piece is not suggesting any feasible alternative - that works at least minimally for both lawyer and client - for how to bill a case that walks in the door with potentially huge damages liability, yet even the most experienced litigator can't tell you up front whether it will be quickly dismissed or settled, or end up in years of labor-intensive discovery and trial, or somewhere in between. Without a workable alternative, large organizations will always prefer the tried and tested, and work within that framework to make the process work for both parties.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:43 PM | Blog 2006-13 • | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Endy Ailing

Well, we have our explanation now as to why the Mets would want Angel Pagan.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:34 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
January 10, 2008
POLITICS: The McCain Temptation

Well, the caucusers have been counted in Iowa and Wyoming, and the votes are in in New Hampshire, and the candidate I have endorsed - Rudy Giuliani - has yet to get off the mat, while one guy we all buried last summer, John McCain, is suddenly in the thick of the race, and could officially claim frontrunner status if he can win the Michigan primary on Tuesday, January 15.

As a result - and I've been building to this for the past two months, so New Hampshire just brings this to a head - I find myself on the horns of a dilemma regarding the 2008 GOP presidential primaries, and I don't mind sharing it with you, dear readers: I'm debating whether it's time to back another candidate besides Rudy - specifically, McCain. I don't do this lightly; I've debated the merits of others in the field before, but I don't shed commitments easily, and my longstanding view is that, having made my choice, I won't switch to another candidate unless and until I'm decided to walk away from the Rudy camp for good. I'm still not ready to do that - but for now, at least, I'm happy to see Senator McCain's victory in New Hampshire, and I even sent a donation his way to help him take on Romney and Huckabee.

mccainrudy.JPGAs regular readers will recall, while I supported McCain in 2000, I have been a long time supporter of Rudy, having followed his career since the mid-1980s, lived in New York City through his second term as Mayor and been through September 11. I laid out in the summer of 2005 my roadmap for how I thought he could pursue the GOP presidential nomination in spite of his pro-choice, socially liberal record and I came out publicly for Giuliani for president in February 2007. Today, I'll explain why McCain may end up being my guy after all - and why the collective impulse of a lot of us to settle on McCain is tantamount to taking the known divisions within the party and kicking them down the road for the sake of this election, even if possibly at the cost of aggravating them further in the interim.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:41 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Here's Where I Think We Stand As of Now on the GOP Horse Race

Take this for what it's worth, but here with minimal spin is my distillation of the calendar, the polls and the CW as they stand.

1. There is no frontrunner. The winner of Michigan on Tuesday becomes the official frontrunner at least through Florida on the 29th. If it's McCain, he argues that he's a known, vetted national figure who has won 2 of 3 significant contests thus far. He then remains the frontrunner even if he doesn't win SC. If it's Huck, he argues that he has won 2 of 3 and is only now heading for his home region; he stays the frontrunner unless McCain somehow beats him in SC. If it's Mitt, he argues that he alone competed in all 4 contests thus far, won MI & WY, placed second in IA and NH, and has the money to go national on 2/5.

2. Rudy has to win FL outright or he is toast. He's gone too many contests without being competitive; only a first place showing in a big, contested state changes that dynamic. If Rudy wins FL, his February 5 strategy remains in play, though it is still a long shot. Best outcome for Rudy now is for McCain to win MI and Fred to at least make a strong showing in SC so that Rudy faces neither a re-energized Mitt on 2/5 nor a Huckernaut in FL.

3. Fred has to win SC outright or he is toast. Same dynamic as Rudy, plus Fred needs badly to keep Huck from locking down the South. Best outcome for Fred now is for Huck to finish third in MI.

4. There's no way that there are more than three tickets punched to survive 2/5, but I can easily see it remaining a 3-man race through March 4, when Ohio, Texas and three New England states vote (MA, RI & VT). My guess as of now is that the race ends there; I can't see anybody being ready to put the whole thing to bed by 2/5 (several of the candidates have likely wins that day in their home bases) and the primaries in between (LA & KS on 2/9, VA/MD/DC on 2/12, and WI/WA on 2/19) seem unlikely to be decisive for candidates who have survived that far. But God have mercy on us if we go past 3/4; besides Mississippi on 3/11, we then go six weeks until the next primary (Pennsylvania on April 22), by which time the D nominee will already be spending general election funds.

5. The hidden story here is money. Except Romney's own checkbook, none of these guys has the money to last beyond 2/5, and only Mitt and Rudy can even get that far without raising a lot of money this month; that's why they each need to leverage visible momentum to avoid getting KO'd. But the surprise at the end of the day may be that one of the candidates who ended up far off the money lead wins the nomination, which is a much bigger long term story than it has been so far.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:29 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
January 9, 2008
POLITICS: Schadenfreude, Schadenfreude, Lovely, Lovely Schadenfreude

Bwahahahahahahahaha. H/T

Related thoughts here. If Hillary beats Obama, it's gonna be Humphrey '68 and Bob Abrams '92 rolled into one.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:50 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Well Said By Tyler Cowen

Here.

Megan McArdle described this as "the year's best blog post" - I would hardly go that far (even in such a young year), or even agree with all of it, necessarily. But Cowen has some fine points worth pondering.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:37 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL: Opos

And it's only four letters. H/T Ben.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:14 PM | Football | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: New Hampshire Memory Lane

I could swear I posted this years ago, but it came to mind on the morning after a crafty veteran pol defeated a people-powered insurgent in NH in the face of polls showing the contrary . . . Let's just say it's a reminder that in Democratic primaries, not all is necessarily as it seems on the surface.

Vice-President Al Gore may have won the 2000 New Hampshire primary - and subsequent primaries, which fed on the New Hampshire-generated momentum - thanks to a traffic jam. At least that's what many Democratic operatives with experience in New Hampshire seem to think. Today, when people look back at the 2000 Democratic-primary season, the prevailing memory is of Gore trouncing former New Jersey senator Bill Bradley. But he beat Bradley in New Hampshire by just four points, a relatively narrow margin of 6395 votes. The bulk of these votes - more than 3000 - came from Hillsborough County, home to Nashua and Manchester, as well as abutting suburbs like Bedford, Goffstown, and Merrimack. This is a small, relatively compact area where political foot soldiers can provide the margin of victory. And, many believe, during the last New Hampshire primary, they did.

As late as 3 p.m. that day, Gore operatives had access to exit polls showing the vice-president being defeated by Bradley. They also learned that while Democratic voters were voting in large numbers for Gore, independents, many of them upscale suburban voters, were voting for Bradley's sophisticated brand of liberalism. Knowing that Bradley's strength came from tony tech havens such as Bedford, the Gore team organized a caravan to clog highway I-93 with traffic so as to discourage potential Bradley voters from getting to the polls. (Michael Whouley, a chief Gore strategist, recounted the Gore team's Election Day field efforts at a Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics symposium, and his comments are included in a book compiled by the Institute titled Campaign for President: The Managers Look at 2000. He knocked down the rumor that they considered overturning an 18-wheeler to clog up traffic.) The caravan - spoken of with awe by operatives who worked on the campaign - had the desired effect. It was harder for Bradley voters to get the polls.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:06 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: A Traitor Dies In Exile

Philip Agee has died:

Philip Agee, a former CIA agent who became an outspoken critic of the agency and opened a travel site to bring Americans to Cuba in defiance of U.S. law, has died following ulcer surgeries, Cuban state media reported Wednesday. He was 72.

Agee quit the CIA in 1969 after 12 years working mostly in Latin America at a time when leftist movements were gaining prominence and sympathizers. His 1975 book "Inside the Company: CIA Diary" alleged CIA misdeeds against leftists in the region and included a 22-page list of purported agency operatives.

Leaving aside the benefits to Mr. Agee of Fidel Castro's world-class health care system, there is no doubt that his deliberate exposure of scores of active undercover CIA operatives - which led to the passage of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 - was a calculated effort to undermine the security of the United States, at cost to the lives of those who serve us in most dangerous capacities.

He will not be missed.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:04 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
January 8, 2008
BLOG: Quick Links 1/8/08

*Dave Barry's Year in Review. Priceless. Too much great stuff to excerpt.

*Mark Steyn cautions against

writing New Hampshire off as just another effete decadent coastal latte-swilling gay-marriage weekend home untypical of the conservative heartland, just a Studio 54 in the mountains full of transplanted liberals hitting on coked-up moose as they stagger around in search of a restaurant serving something with arugula. NH delivered Bush's margin of victory in 2000. It remains the north-east's still-just-about non-liberal state. If the Republican Party can't come up with a candidate that has some appeal in New Hampshire, its prospects of winning in November are dramatically reduced.

*From Kevin Drum, grudging acceptance of military progress in Iraq, and a picture-perfect sample of the attitude I described here. And yes, I still think it more likely than not that Hillary pulls this out, although while Iowa didn't really surprise me that much (the race there had been close for months), I've been surprised at how quickly her support in NH seems to have cratered. Speaking of which, Patrick Ruffini and Jay Cost, two of the Right's savvier campaign observers, lay out how Hillary can win the nomination even after losing New Hampshire, as she is now expected to do. Patrick focuses on the Nevada caucuses, while Jay focuses on the delegate math, particularly the superdelegates.

*Ralph Peters argues that the US Navy should have reacted more aggressively to an obvious provocation by the Iranians in the Gulf on Sunday. He's clearly right about what the Iranians were trying to do, and I'm generally sympathetic to the power-politics argument that failing to respond to provocations only brings larger ones. On the other hand, you don't start fights you are not prepared to pursue to the bitter end. As Peters describes it, the encounter came awfully close to the line at which a US Naval commander would need to open fire to protect his vessels, but I don't buy the idea that we always have to initiate combat over this sort of thing, which is the logical endpoint of Peters' argument.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:20 PM | Blog 2006-13 • | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Hall Feels The Need For Speed

Goose Gossage goes in - Rice just misses - Dawson finishes third. Vote totals to follow; WFAN says 72% for Rice, 65% for Dawson. My case for the Goose here.

Full voting here.

Six Year Voting Trend:

PLAYER200320042005200620072008
Gossage42.140.755.264.671.285.8
Rice52.254.559.564.863.572.2
Dawson50.050.052.361.056.765.9
Blyleven29.235.440.953.347.761.9
L. Smith42.336.638.845.039.843.3
Morris22.826.333.341.237.142.9
John23.421.923.829.622.929.1
Raines----------24.3
McGwire--------23.523.6
Trammell14.113.816.917.713.418.2
Concepcion11.111.310.712.513.616.2
Mattingly13.712.811.412.39.915.8
Parker10.310.512.614.411.415.1

I'm disappointed in Blyleven's and Raines' showings, and alarmed by Dawson's rise. All the new candidates but Raines dropped off the ballot, but all the returning ones remained, although Harold Baines at 5.2% is dropping close to the line, and Dave Concepcion now goes to the Veterans Commitee. Rice and Tommy John will be on the ballot one last time next year, and Rice probably goes in then.

On further reflection, Blyleven's jump to over 60% probably does mean he's finally on track to make it.

Let me also point out something that should be screamingly obvious: Tim Raines was born in 1959 and played in the majors from 1979 to 2002. Lee Smith was born in 1957 and played in the majors from 1980-97. With the possible exception of the 1991-92 offseason, at no point during those years would anyone in their right minds have considered trading Tim Raines to get Lee Smith.

(2007 ballot here, 2006 here, 2005 here, 2004 here, 2003 here).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:56 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Be Prepared

The Boy Scouts should always be welcome in the Maldives:

The president of the Maldives was saved from assassination Tuesday when a boy scout grabbed the knife of an attacker who had jumped out of a crowd greeting the leader, an official said.

President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was not hurt, but his shirt was ripped when the attacker tried to stab him before the boy and security guards intervened during the event on the small island of Horafushi, said government spokesman Mohammad Shareef.

"This fellow in the crowd with a knife in his hand attempted to stab the president in his stomach," Shareef said by telephone from Male, the capital. "But a 15-year-old boy came in the way, and grabbed the knife. One brave boy saved the president's life."

The scout was identified as Mohamed Jaisham Ibrahim, who had lined up to welcome Gayoom, according to the president's Web site.

The Muslim nation has apparently faced unrest from Islamic militants (a common enough theme these days):

A police Web site identified the attacker as Mohamed Murshid, 20. No motive was given, and other details were not disclosed.

Shareef, speaking by telephone from Male, said the assassination attempt may have had a "political motive," but it was too early to say if Islamic militants were involved. Opposition to Gayoom's three-decade rule has grown in recent years and there have also been concerns about increased Islamic militancy in the Muslim nation.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:15 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Pagan Ritual

The Mets' deal of two prospects to get back Angel Pagan seems to suggest, at a minimum, the desire for Endy Chavez insurance, and maybe more than that. Pagan is a non-hitter; in 318 major league at bats through age 25 he's a .255/.306/.415 hitter, and in 8 minor league seasons he has batted .280/.337/.373, never at any level showing the ability to hit for power, draw walks or hit for an impressive batting average. He can steal some bases, but a 72% career success rate in the minors hardly suggests a budding Rickey Henderson. Omar touted his athleticism and ability to play multiple outfield positions as evidence of his value, but that's equally true of both Endy Chavez and Carlos Gomez - if you expect both to be with the Mets in the future. Perhaps Omar has another shoe to drop.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:11 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
January 7, 2008
POLITICS: An Old Familiar Tune

Megan McArdle:

I find it hard to believe that, in this day and age, anyone is really making an issue of Obama's purported ability to transcend partisanship. Whether it's Paul Krugman lamenting that he just doesn't have the steely will to really stick it to the right, or fawning fans gushing that Barack's transcendant appeal will finally unite us all into one big pulsating mass of Obamamaniacs, I have the same reaction: didn't I already graduate from high school? More to the point, didn't they?

Now granted: Obama does have the advantage, in a general election, that unlike Hillary he doesn't carry the baggage of having already made scores of enemies and inflicted and endured scores of battle scars in Beltway partisan warfare. But the idea that a man whose policy proposals are invariably standard-issue liberal Democrat talking points is somehow a nonpartisan figure is indeed laughably naive.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:14 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Predictions For Tomorrow's Important Vote Results

Chris Jaffe projects Goose Gossage and maybe Jim Rice to enter the Hall, with Tim Raines making a respectable first-ballot showing. Go read the whole thing for his reasoning and other candidates' projections.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:52 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
January 4, 2008
POLITICS: Watching Wyoming

Jim Geraghty has a roundup of what to watch in tomorrow's Wyoming caucuses, including which candidates have visited the Vice President's home state (Fred also has Cheney's daughter Liz in his camp). Voting should be done by 3p.m. local time (5p.m. Eastern time). For the demographically-minded, Wyoming's population is 11.25% Mormon, the third highest of any state in the nation, so assuming those voters are going to mainly break for Romney and likely to be motivated and well-organized, I'd expect Romney (who has visited the state twice and sent his family to campaign there) to have an edge that may translate into a victory when combined with his turnout organization.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:12 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Supreme Court To Decide Eighth Amendment Issue

Some of you may remember my post about the cert petition in Kennedy v. Louisiana, and the question of whether the "evolving national consensus" theory of the Eighth Amendment only goes in one direction - that is, if it's true that the action of some states to ban a punishment in a particular context (here, the death penalty for child rape) transmutes that punishment into a "cruel and unusual" one for constitutional purposes where it was not before, is it also true that more states adding that punishment can make it not cruel and unusual?

Well, today the Court granted cert in Kennedy, so the Court will be faced with that question, among others.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:10 PM | Law 2006-08 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Andrew Olmsted, RIP

I encountered him only intermittently on the web (see here, here and here), but Andrew Olmsted (Major, US Army) was part of the larger community of bloggers, and he was serving his country in Iraq when he was killed yesterday. You can read his final, "post in case of my death" blog post here. Go take the time to read it; to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, he paid for that microphone, and earned a few minutes of your time. And honor his request:

I do ask (not that I'm in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side. If you think the U.S. should stay in Iraq, don't drag me into it by claiming that somehow my death demands us staying in Iraq. If you think the U.S. ought to get out tomorrow, don't cite my name as an example of someone's life who was wasted by our mission in Iraq. I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I'm not around to expound on them I'd prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn't support. Further, this is tough enough on my family without their having to see my picture being used in some rally or my name being cited for some political purpose. You can fight political battles without hurting my family, and I'd prefer that you did so.

RIP. RedState's Charles Bird and hilzoy of Obsidian Wings (who was tasked with posting the entry) both offer additional thoughts.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:53 PM | War 2007-12 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Minor Candidate Roundup

Duncan Hunter is focusing on New Hampshire and Wyoming (which caucuses Saturday) rather than pack it in after drawing 1% of the vote in Iowa, which he was largely ignoring. Presumably, Hunter will end his pointless campaign by next Wednesday and focus on positioning himself to be the next Secretary of Defense, a job for which he is well-qualified, although I'm not really sure who he would be liklely to endorse at this stage.

Joe Biden and Chris Dodd have returned to their day jobs in the Senate. Dodd's campaign never did get the wave of momentum he expected from announcing his candidacy on the Don Imus show.

Hunter, along with Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, will be barred from the next round of debates hosted by ABC. ABC's press release doesn't even mention Alan Keyes. I haven't yet seen evidence that Keyes is even on the ballot in key states. Thus, the next debates will feature Huckabee, McCain, Romney, Giuliani, Thompson and Paul on the GOP side and Obama, Clinton, Edwards and Richardson on the Democrat side.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:21 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: "Protecting Our Constitution"

I've suspected for some time that Markos has a different copy of the Constitution than I do, but I'd still like to know what language in his requires a right to file class action lawsuits against telephone companies.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:20 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Back To The Drawing Board

Billy Beane's decision to deal Nick Swisher to the White Sox, on the heels of the Dan Haren trade, shows that he's absolutely serious about going back to Square One, taking the A's to the cellar and rebuilding from scratch. I wonder if Eric Chavez, with the team's biggest contract, will be next; although I suspect Chavez has a no-trade clause he might be willing to waive that if a stretch in the wilderness is in the offing. Oakland got three more prospects in return for the 27-year-old Swisher:

*22-year-old starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez seems like the top guy in the deal, having struck out 185 batters to 57 walks in 150 innings at AA Birmingham this season while allowing just 10 HR; Gonzalez had similarly impressive K numbers the prior two seasons, although he struggled with walks and homers in 2006 at AA Reading. There's every reason to believe Gonzalez should be a quality major league starting pitcher. Gonzalez is listed at 5'11", so he fits the A's effort to accumulate short pitchers who may be undervalued by other organization.

*22-year-old starting pitcher Faustino De Los Santos hasn't been out of A ball and so has to be a longer shot than Gonzalez, but in 122.1 innings in his first season of pro ball he struck out 153 batters and allowed 69 hits, so you have to think he's got a high upside.

*23-year-old outfielder Ryan Sweeney, a career .289/.349/.401 hitter (see! I'm really trying to change to Avg/OBP/Slg, it's my New Year's Resolution!), seems to be a throw-in, as he's never batted .300, hit 15 homers, stolen 10 bases or drawn 50 walks in four full minor league seasons.

In other words, young pitching-first.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Spirit of '76

Hugh Hewitt consoles himself over Romney's loss in Iowa by saying, "Shades of 1976 --the long march begins."

Does anyone have the heart to tell Hugh that the winners in Iowa in 1976 were Carter and Ford, the eventual nominees?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Hey, Wasn't There Also A Republican Primary Last Night?

bam.JPG

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:18 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
January 3, 2008
HISTORY: No Further Apology Necessary

Didn't these guys already do this?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:12 PM | History | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
SPORTS: Best Features of 2007

The WSJ's sports blog has a roundup of some great feature stories of the past year.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:06 PM | Baseball 2008 • | Basketball • | Football • | Other Sports | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Fred The Sunday Pitcher

fredstandsback.jpg

I started this as part of a longer post on my choice between Giuliani and McCain that I'm still working on, but it got long enough to stand on its own.

As regular readers will recall, I have been publicly supporting Rudy Giuliani for president since February 2007, before Fred Thompson was even being seriously discussed as a potential candidate. My first serious flirtation with switching away from Rudy, back around May or June, was Fred Thompson. For the reasons I'll discuss at greater length in the longer piece, I was already worried about the problems Rudy's social-issue stances present for the general election by that point, and Fred looked like the one guy who might, if he played his cards right, unite the national security and social conservative wings of the party behind a charismatic candidate who also had a solid record on fiscal issues.

Fred had one significant, though not insurmountable, weakness as a candidate: no executive experience and little leadership experience of any variety aside from a largely ineffective tour as a Senate subcommittee chairman. Heck, even in Fred's years in acting he'd rarely had a starring role. Executive/leadership experience isn't everything - and no presidential candidate has all the qualifications we'd like to see - but it's one of the most important credentials for a potential president (John F. Kennedy's only such experience was commanding a PT boat; of the 13 other successful candidates since 1900 - not counting the three who were first elected as incumbents after succeeding from the vice presidency - we've had 8 governors, two VPs, a military leader (Ike), a colonial administrator (Taft), and a Cabinet Secretary/businessman/wartime reconstruction administrator (Hoover). And the last two were disasters at the job.). So before I was willing to throw my support behind Fred, I wanted to see him in action actually running something - see if he could manage a media-savvy campaign that would command the narrative and hit the ground running with Hollywood flair. After all, if there's one thing a trial lawer or an actor (and Fred has been both) should know, it's stagecraft - the kind of stagecraft that so excited everyone on the web when Fred rolled out that rapid response to Michael Moore.

I waited to see Fred come roaring out of the gate - and waited, and waited. He never did. He dithered, and he entered the race with a whimper rather than a bang, and he reshuffled his staff, and he seemed to go out of his way at times to fly under the radar in a crowded field. Rather than media-savvy, Fred has been media-shy. In a business in which communications is the lifeblood of presidential influence, that's bad, bad news.

Some will object that the mainstream media is misleading us by downplaying Fred because he's conservative, because he's Southern, because he refuses to bow to a lot of their silly rituals. But like it or not, the MSM is as much a reality for a president as the strike zone is for a baseball pitcher. If you can't hit the umpire's zone consistently, it really doesn't matter how good your pitches are. Maybe it's just me, but I have yet to encounter anyone who (1) takes Fred's campaign seriously and (2) doesn't get the majority of their news from the internet.

To continue the baseball analogy, Fred reminds me most of all of Pedro Martinez. Not the Pedro of his Boston glory days, but the Pedro who has pitched for the Mets since 2005. Pedro is a true master of his craft, full of guile and skill, and on those days when he arrives at the ballpark healthy and in possession of what passes these days for his good fastball, Good Pedro is still a beauty to watch, dissecting opponents, messing with their timing and generally looking like a man pitching to boys. But many days, Pedro doesn't have even that fastball to work with, or he's pitching hurt, or he isn't healthy enough to take the hill at all.

That's Fred - Good Fred is a master at work, at turns folksy, frank and commanding. On policy, he's right on nearly everything, he's been mostly consistent through the years (with the exception of campaign finance issues), and after a maddeningly vague rollout to his candidacy he has produced issue proposals worthy of the title "Policy Fred." About the only issue where Fred worries me is immigration, where he may be too much of a hard-liner for the sake of the GOP's long-term relationship with Latino voters sensitive to overdoses of nativism.

But, like Good Pedro, Good Fred just doesn't show up often enough to carry the team for the whole season; sometimes he's off his game, and sometimes he's just not to be found at all. And as we have seen with George W. Bush, a guy who doesn't come out swinging every single day will sooner or later get eaten alive by his inability to control the terms of debate. A Fred Thompson presidency would, I am sure, be characterized by integrity, good judgment, a stable, steady hand, wise policy, and rarest of all, perspective about the things that really matter. But a Fred presidency, and a Fred general election candidacy, would also be afflicted by periods of drift and apathy, resulting in the steady bleeding of support in the face of the typically ferocious onslaught that faces any president and in particular a conservative Republican. Fred might well propose good things, but proposing things and making them happen are two different animals.

In the 1930s and 1940s, baseball teams played a lot of Sunday doubleheaders, and accordingly could make use of a pitcher who would pitch once a week rather than every four days. Teams would often fill this role with a talented but sore-armed veteran who was no longer up to the task of going every four days - a "Sunday Pitcher." Some of these were very successful, most famously Hall of Famer Ted Lyons, who worked in the role for nearly a decade, starting 20 games a year instead of 35 or 40 and leaving hitters baffled, while resting his arm during the week. That, to me, is Fred: the Sunday Pitcher of politics, the guy who is at his best as he has been in the movies and on TV, showing up at a few key points to provide wise counsel and sly one-liners. A man like that can make a tremendous addition to a national ticket - for any of the others, really - as the Vice Presidential candidate, to pop up here and there when he has something to say, and otherwise act (as Dick Cheney has) behind the scenes as an advocate for conservative ideas and principles. He can be trusted to provide a steady hand at the till if he's needed to step into the big job. I wouldn't be heartbroken by any means to see Fred pull out the nomination, and obviously a stirring comeback in the primaries would require Fred to show more of what we have too rarely seen from him. But we have a tough race ahead of us, and Fred just hasn't shown in an extended audition that he's the guy to carry the team on his back accross the finish line.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)