Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
February 29, 2008
POLITICS: Josh Marshall Wants McCain To Spend All His Time Campaigning Against His Supporters

Well, of course that's what Josh wants. He helpfully explains to us what McCain's actual strategy is (hint: it's racist!), as evidenced by ... well, no evidence other than Josh's assertion that it would insult his intelligence to ask him for evidence. I guess his intelligence is easily insulted.

Actually, he does offer one specific evidentiary test to show that McCain's strategy is racist: "If McCain really wants to repudiate this stuff, he can start with the Tennessee Republican party". Which we know that McCain, being a racisty racist, won't do. Well, except that he did. So that, too, is proof of what a diabolical racist McCain is. Josh Marshall can't lose!

So keep your eyes peeled for the new location of the goalposts. (Here's one). The goal, though, remains to have McCain spend all his time criticizing Republicans and live in fear of criticizing his opponent. But then, as we lawyers would say, Josh Marshall's posts are never introduced for the truth of the matter, only as verbal acts.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:50 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Gods Don't Answer Letters

Hey, bloggers? Journalists? Want young, hip, happening? Want give-and-take? Want a guy who is one of you? Presidential candidate Barack Obama isn't that into you:

ABC News' Sunlen Miller reports: Barack Obama came to the press part of the plane for the first time since the airing of the now infamous "Saturday Night Live" last weekend featuring a parody of himself and Sen. Hillary Clinton. . .

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The senator shook a few print reporters' hands - told a few bloggers he doesn't read blogs - and then headed to the back of the plane - a part he dubbed "the fun part of the plane" - where the photographers sit.

An Obama staffer quickly ushered the candidate back to his portion of the plane as it was time to land - and before any more questions, or pillows, came his way.

H/T While Obama may not be as tight-lipped and pre-programmed as Hillary, he's not exactly the most engaged when it comes to standing in the batters' box for the tough questions that come from the back and forth with reporters and bloggers, much unlike John McCain, famous for holding court for hours on end with reporters at the back of the "Straight Talk Express." McCain, of course, holds regular calls with bloggers, and has been doing so since the middle of last year. And yes, the old dog understands the new tricks:

Q: [After a monologue on the importance of emerging technology] Can you tell the difference and YouTube and MySpace?

McCain: MySpace is social network that people can focused on social networking and establishing relationships . . . YouTube carries various videos. It includes anything that has ever been embarrassing to someone. Senator Edwards attests to that. I can attest to that.

Basic stuff, but the serious point here being that young voters tend to associate youth with pop culture savvy and age with a lack of verbal and mental agility - but for all of Obama's image as the Voice of the Future and all his windy, oracular pronouncements, it's McCain who is more at home handling contentious questioners and dorm-room bull sessions, and it may well be McCain who is actually (relatively) more in touch with the culture of college-age kids, since he has kids of his own that age (Obama's daughters are very young, and anyone who has small children can tell you that you lose touch with popular culture in a hurry when you are racing after small children).

But don't worry. Obama's still happy to take the money that's raised for him online.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:44 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Johan Who?

Emma Span, in what is sadly a typical sports column at Slate, writes at length about why it's a good thing for the Yankees and Red Sox that they did not sign Johan Santana, yet manages to say not a single word about the marginal value of Santana himself. Her general thesis, about free agent excesses and the value of building from within, may be sensible enough, but to apply that to the specific case you need to actually look at the player and his salary and ask whether he is worth the money. Span looks at neither.

PS - Speaking of Slate, Bill James has an essay there on Craig Biggio and why James fell out of love with him once he got popular. Or something like that, anyway. I wonder if his point about Biggio making his living off bad pitchers is broadly true of declining veterans.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:37 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Best and Worst Names For Baseball Prospects

Having a great baseball name is important. For example, lots of people remember Drungo La Rue Hazewood (who was 0-for-5 in the major leagues) and Van Lingle Mungo, but almost nobody has heard of Bobby Wallace even though he played 25 seasons in the majors and is in the Hall of Fame. Maybe he shoulda gone by his given name of "Rhoderick."

There are many ways to have a great baseball name. Some are whimsical or lyrical, some are unique, some are straightforwardly manly, some are born puns. But you know them when you hear them. Probably the best fit for a baseball name I can remember was Darry Strawberry. His first name was perfectly chant-able ("Daaaa-relllllll...."). "Straw" reminded people of the bravado of Reggie Jackson ("the straw that stirs the drink"), who was still playing for the crosstown Yankees when the Mets drafted Strawberry; "berry" reminded Mets fans of the belovedly inept Marv Throneberry. Staw's goofily aloof public persona and career provided plenty of opportunities to make both connections. Ty Cobb is a good example of a guy who was pretty much what his name made him sound like. Foreign-sounding names can be good if they have a whiff of the exotic or an interesting mix of sounds, but bad if they are unpronounceable or poor fits for a professional athlete. Personally, I'm fascinated by the fact that the top 5 or 6 Latino players in the game today include guys named "Johan," "Vladimir," "Albert" and "David".

So here are my nominations for the best and worst baseball names among current minor league prospects (I used the list in John Sickels' book for my reference list of who counts as a prospect):

The 15 Best

15. Joe Savery (P-PHI). Move that man to the bullpen.

14. Duane Below (P-DET). Look out!

13. Deik Scram (OF-DET). Yeah, the first name is hard to spell and pronounce, but this is one of the best headline-pun names in the batch.

12. Lance Broadway (P-CHW). Swagger and style. Come back a star, kid.

10. (Tie) Homer Bailey (P-CIN) and Jay Bruce (OF-CIN). Granted, Homer is better for a non-pitcher's name, but these guys just sound cool, and bonus points because they are (1) potential superstars and (2) teammates.

9. Jacob "Jake" Wild (P-SEA). He can call on his animal friends to bail him out in a pinch.

8. Jair Jurrjens (P-ATL). The right kind of foreign name, with just the right amount of flair. Bonus Star Wars geek points if you are tempted to call him "Moff".

7. Dallas Buck (P-AZ). Sounds like a redneck, a porn star, an action hero or some combination of the three.

6. Nick Noonan (2B-SF). Admit it: you want to add "Private Eye" at the end. The streets of San Francisco are his beat.

5. Rocky Roquet (P-CHC). Just rolls off the tongue; the Ballad of Rocky Roquet.

4. Christian Colonel (3B/OF-COL). Onward, Christian Colonel, marching off to war.

3. Joba Chamberlain (P-NYY). Yeah, you know this one by now.

2. Antonio Bastardo (P-PHI). Really, you are gonna dig in against a lefthanded pitcher named "Antonio Bastardo"?

1. Terry "TJ" Large (P-BOS). Somewhere out there are rappers who would kill for the name "TJ Large".

The 10 Worst

10. Randor Bierd (P-BAL). Sounds like a George Lucas character or an Ayn Rand character. That's an intersection you don't want. Plus, the surname is from mispellings-R-Us.

9. Wilmer Font (P-TEX). Does he have a sister named "Arial"?

8. Chase Fontaine (2B-TB). The diffident boyfriend from a Lifetime Original Movie.

6. (Tie) Travis D'Arnaud (C-PHI) and Jarrett Hoffpauir (2B-STL). A ballplayer should not have a name that sounds like a Belgian diplomat. Worse for Hoffpauir (how do you pronounce that, anyway?), there are apparently four Hoffpauirs kicking around baseball at the moment.

5. Pedro Beato (P-BAL). Doubly bad name for a pitcher. It could be worse: he wasn't in the Sickels book but there's also a pitcher in the Marlins system named - I kid you not - Benito Beato. That's just cruel.

4. Austin Bibens-Dirkx (P-SEA). A hyphen and an unspellable typewriter jam at the end. Good luck getting the newspapermen on your side, son.

3. Evan Longoria (3B-TB). The name's not that bad by itself, and ten years from now it may be fine; but the Rays' young star has the misfortune to have a name that sounds like that of a teeny-tiny little actress, and one who is known to sports fans because she is married to an NBA player. A French NBA player, at that. Not the mental picture you want to project.

2. Kasey Kiker (P-TEX). Thank God his middle initial is "W," not "K".

1. Billy Buckner (P-KC). Might as well legally add "no relation" to the end of his name.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:56 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (29) | TrackBack (0)
February 28, 2008
BASEBALL: Green Sunset

So Shawn Green has officially retired; Green says he had some interest from a number of teams but was only willing to play near home in California. That's what you can do when you made over $100 million playing Major League Baseball and don't want to spend a year in Milwaukee or Baltimore as a role player. From watching Green the past year and a half I can tell you he didn't have a whole lot of quality baseball in him, but he could still have helped someone if he was platooned; his Avg/OBP/Slg last season was .326/.383/.482 against righthanders but .195/.264/.288 against lefties, and over the last four seasons it was .298/.368/.478 vs RHP, .233/.306/.385 vs LHP (a regression to his early days when he struggled against lefthanders).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:38 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BUSINESS: Don't Believe The Hype

This is totally true.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:29 PM | Business | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Rubbish

You know you have a serious garbage-disposal problem when people are talking about taking steps "just like Kosovo" to solve it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:27 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: 2007 EWSL Wrapup By Team

As I did last year and the year before, before diving into my preseason Established Win Shares Levels ("EWSL") roster analyses, I'm going to look back at last season's on a team-by-team level. For those of you who need a primer on EWSL and my annual roster roundups, go here. A few basic reminders:

*I look at 23 players (13 non-pitchers, 10 pitchers) per team, so an average team should exceed its EWSL due to the fact that most teams these days use between 30-45 players in a season.

*EWSL is an estimate of the established major league talent on a team (adjusted for age) going into a season. It's not a system for predicting the future, although it can be a helpful part of the toolkit (or at least a sanity check) in making predictions of the future. That said, the more closely future performance hews to EWSL, the better the system is doing in setting baseline expectations.

*EWSL uses a standard figure for rookies (11 WS for rookie everyday players, 4 for rookie bench players, 5 for rookie starting pitchers, 6 for rookie relievers). It does not distinguish between good and bad prospects if both are expected to hold everyday jobs. Thus, a team with a lot of high-quality rookies will exceed its EWSL. I'd like to add a non-subjective adjustment for rookie quality, but until I can get Major League Equivalency Win Shares (I don't believe they exist anywhere), I have to rely on the facts that (1) bad rookies rarely get everyday jobs and (2) good rookies often fall on their faces. But I have used adjustments for Japanese imports.

That said, basically, my analysis assumes that there are three components to team success: how much established talent is on the preseason roster, how well they perform, and how much production the team gets from guys who supplement those top 23 players with trades, rookies or scrubs. The following table shows the following columns: (1) each team's 2007 EWSL; (2) the actual Win Shares for those 23 players (includes Win Shares earned for other teams, e.g., Mark Teixeira counts with the Rangers); (3) column (2) minus column (1) to show how the 23 players fared relative to EWSL; (4) the team's total actual 2007 Win Shares (i.e., Wins x 3); (5) the team's Win Shares minus those from the top 23 players (in the example above this will include the negative value of, say, Teixeira's Braves Win Shares from the Rangers' "Rest" column); and (6) column (4) minus column (1) to show how the team as a whole fared relative to EWSL. Teams are ranked by column (3), since that's the column that lets us compare apples to apples and see how each team's preseason-rated players did:

TeamEWSL23-Man WS23-Man WS-EWSLTotal WSRestTotal WS-EWSL
D-Backs175.57227+51.4327043+94.43
Padres207.83236+28.1826731+59.17
Mariners212.78232+19.2226432+51.22
Rockies197.68215+17.3227055+72.32
Red Sox239.82256+16.1828832+48.18
Cubs202.36210+7.6425545+52.64
Reds179.52186+6.4821630+36.48
Angels242.72249+6.2828233+39.28
Phillies225.76229+3.2426738+41.24
Mets225.93229+3.0726435+38.07
Brewers206.37208+1.6324941+42.63
Pirates186.01185-1.0120419+17.99
Yankees255.66252-3.6628230+26.34
Royals159.40155-4.4020752+47.60
Rays159.19154-5.1919844+38.81
Nationals177.85171-6.8521948+41.15
Twins226.62216-10.6223721+10.38
Giants172.62162-10.6221351+40.38
Rangers185.39174-11.3922551+39.61
Braves206.69194-12.6925258+45.31
Blue Jays208.77196-12.7724953+40.23
Indians239.82222-17.8228866+48.18
Dodgers231.76212-19.7624634+14.24
Tigers245.95220-25.9526444+18.05
Orioles204.25178-26.2520729+2.75
Cardinals212.53176-36.5323458+21.47
Astros207.33169-38.3321950+11.67
White Sox222.62181-41.6221635-6.62
Marlins223.63172-51.6321341-10.63
A's219.73167-52.7322861+8.27

A few observations:

*All in all, I'm pretty happy with EWSL's "performance" here at the team level - 11 out of 30 teams within 9 WS of their established levels, 21 within 20, and there were a lot more major downward than upward departures, as you would expect, since unforseeable injuries are more common than lightning-strike improvements. Anyway, the idea of a system like EWSL isn't to take away the element of surprise but precisely to set a baseline against which to measure surprises. And the Diamondbacks win the award for that going away.

*I generally regard a large number of win shares for the "rest" as the measure of the GM's ability to supplement the frontline roster with trades, prospects, etc. in-season. Obviously, in some cases the correlation between EWSL and final team record is going to be influenced not by the arithmetic but by how well I do in figuring out pre-season who the top 23 guys are. The Indians had the majors' highest number of win shares from players not listed in the preseason preview in very large part because I didn't include Fausto Carmona. That said, Cleveland had catastrophic failures by Josh Barfield and Cliff Lee, and did an admirable job of finding replacements.

*Billy Beane's ability to improvise on the fly was also yet again in evidence, with Oakland showing the second-highest figure for the rest of the team (Travis Buck figuring prominently) even as the original projected roster went in the crapper.

*The Mets and Phillies provide a fascinating contrast: the two teams were nearly even in preseason EWSL, they both nailed their preseason figures almost exactly with identical totals (note that I hadn't listed Pedro at all with the Mets' preseason roster), and the Phils' margin of victory was provided entirely by a 3-WS margin on the rest of the roster, mainly Kyle Kendrick but also marginally useful pickups like Tadahito Iguchi and Kyle Lohse.

*As usual, you win by being both lucky and good - note that the list of top overacheiving teams here includes both the Red Sox and Rockies.

*It's easier to see why the Marlins were willing to cut bait and start over when you consider how badly they underperformed last season.

*The NL West produced three of the four largest positive surprises and by far the two largest. Here are the totals by division:

DivisionEWSL23-Man WS23-Man WS-EWSLTotal WSRestTotal WS-EWSL
NL East1059.86995-64.861215220+155.14
NL Central1194.121134-60.121377243+182.88
NL West985.461052+66.551266214+280.54
AL East1067.691036-31.691224188+156.31
AL Central1094.41994-100.411212218+117.59
AL West860.62822-38.62999177+138.38

Boy, the NL West sticks out there, eh? Some of that is the division having an unexpectedly good year at the expense of the NL East and Central (the West had lot of young talent come along quickly), but given that (when you adjust for the non-standard number of teams in the AL West and NL Central) the NL West started with the smallest per-team EWSL and they all had to play each other, I have to chalk those numbers up in some part tto the unbalanced schedule - somebody has to win those games.

Here are the players among those on the preseason 23-man lineups of each team who were the biggest over and underacvhievers (in general I just went by raw totals, and left off anyone who wasn't at least +7 or -7):

TeamBestWorst
D-BacksE. Byrnes, T. Pena, C. SnyderC. Tracy, R. Johnson
PadresA. Gonzalez, H. Bell, J. BardC. Hensley
MarinersI. Suzuki, JJ. Putz, J. GuillenR. Sexson
RockiesT. Tulowitzki, B. Hawpe, K. MatsuiR. Ramirez
Red SoxM. Lowell, D. Pedroia, J. BeckettNone
CubsM. DeRosa, R. HillM. Barrett, M. Murton
RedsB. Phillips, J. HamiltonNone
AngelsO. Cabrera, C. Kotchman, K. EscobarJ. Rivera, S. Hillenbrand, E. Santana
PhilliesC. Ruiz, A. Rowand, J. WerthF. Garcia
MetsJ. MaineNone
BrewersC. Hart, JJ. HardyB. Hall, C. Capuano
PiratesN. McLouth, T. GorzelannyJ. Bay, Z. Duke, J. Castillo
YankeesA. Rodriguez, J. PosadaJ. Giambi
RoyalsB. BannisterA. Berroa, J. LaRue
RaysBJ Upton, B. HarrisJ. Cantu, Baldelli, C. Crawford
NationalsD. YoungN. Johnson
TwinsJ. Kubel, T. HunterJ. Crain, J. Mauer
J. Santana, J. Rincon
GiantsB. BondsEl. Alfonzo
RangersM. Byrd, K. Lofton, G. Laird, CJ WilsonH. Blalock
BravesK. Johnson, C. Jones, T. HudsonW. Aybar, Cr. Wilson, B. McCann
Blue JaysJ. Accardo, A. RiosBJ Ryan, L. Overbay, R. Johnson
IndiansR. Betancourt, CC SabathiaJ. Barfield, C. Lee
V. Martinez
DodgersB. PennyB. Clark, J. Schmidt, R. Furcal
TigersM. Ordonez, C. GrandersonJ. Zumaya, C. Shelton
P. PolancoK. Rogers
OriolesNoneJ. Gibbons, M. Tejada
CardinalsNoneC. Carpenter, A. Kennedy
P. Wilson, J. Encarnacion
AstrosNoneJ. Jennings, M. Ensberg, A. Everett
White SoxJ. Vazquez, J. ThomeJ. Crede, S. Podsednik, J. Dye
MarlinsK. GreggJ. Johnson, D. Willis, A. deAza
A'sM. EllisJ. Kendall, E. Chavez, M. Kotsay
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:29 AM | Baseball 2008 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Bloomberg Says He Is Out

Mike Bloomberg, the socially liberal and otherwise centrist Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent Mayor of New York, has announced in an op-ed for tomorrow's NY Times that he is not running for President:

I am not - and will not be - a candidate for president. ...

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In the weeks and months ahead, I will continue to work to steer the national conversation away from partisanship and toward unity; away from ideology and toward common sense; away from sound bites and toward substance. And while I have always said I am not running for president, the race is too important to sit on the sidelines, and so I have changed my mind in one area. If a candidate takes an independent, nonpartisan approach - and embraces practical solutions that challenge party orthodoxy - I'll join others in helping that candidate win the White House.

Sounds to me like he's probably more open to backing McCain, who goes beyond rhetorical nods and has actually worked to buck his party's orthodoxy more than I or other conservative Republicans would like; Obama may be a "unity" candidate in his rhetoric, but few things are less descriptive of Barack Obama than "practical solutions that challenge party orthodoxy."

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:29 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
February 27, 2008
POLITICS: Government's Most Solemn Duty

Protecting valuable food brand names:

Italy's food fraud police say they have seized about 1,000 hams because the meat was branded with fake Parma prosciutto trademarks.

Police said Wednesday the prosciutto isn't dangerous to eat. But the ham wasn't made by Italy's premier prosciutto makers, who can use the name Parma, the Italian city famed for the delicacy.

If ham can be sold under a false trademark, the terrorists will have won.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:16 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: No Lean And Hungry Look

bigbart.JPGYou would think, coming off two years wasted to arm injuries and without a major league job (he signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox), that Bartolo Colon might actually try to get in shape for once. You would be wrong.

I know fat pitchers don't have a long history of pitching well after losing weight, and I don't expect Colon to show up looking like Kent Tekulve. But you would think that slightly better conditioning would be on the menu, rather than showing up for camp even more overweight than usual.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:43 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Nuclear Freeze Candidate

The problem with trying to keep up with all the examples of Barack Obama's far-left leanings is that I get the material for 3 or 4 posts for every one that I get to write...well, it's a long way to November. The Obamafiles folder in my email will get cleaned out eventually, no need to blow it all in February.

Anyway, nothing says "Change" like reviving the Left's defense policy demands as of 1983: Nuclear Freeze, opposing "the weaponization of space," fetishization of arms control talks with the Soviets Russia. Next he will be talking about Grenada and Pershing missiles. Still, it is nice to see Obama pushing ideas that aren't from the 1970s, I guess... where's Zell Miller when you need him?

H/T. Note that the source of this video is from the Hillary camp. Not going quietly, eh? Pass the popcorn.

SECOND UPDATE: Moe Lane notes that Obama's proposed "global ban on the production of fissile material" would be the death knell of nuclear power, which would cripple current energy production in countries like France, Japan and South Korea and require them to return to carbon-based feuls for power. In Obama's defense, he probably doesn't understand the issue well enough to know that.

UPDATE: Since we are on the subject of Obama and missile defense, here's more of what he has said on the subject (below the fold):

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 AM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
February 26, 2008
POLITICS: Meet Mark Sanford

Along with Tim Pawlenty, the first subject of this sporadic series of video clips (mostly from YouTube) of potential national GOP candidates (whether for the Vice Presidency in 2008 or the big job later), the other candidate on everyone's short list is South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Sanford is regarded as a rock-solid conservative (a somewhat tongue-in-cheek self-described "right wing nut," even), like McCain he has made a name as an anti-pork crusader, and he has a great resume - six years in Congress, six as a Governor - giving him far more experience at the same age than the likely Democratic presidential nominee.

So how does Sanford play on the small screen?

Read On...

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:44 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
February 25, 2008
BASEBALL: Flushing Out The New Nationals Park

nats.jpg

Tom Bridge looks at the Nationals' new home, with pictures, descriptions and accounts (make sure to click the links for the Flickr tour):

I was worried that it wouldn't look as good as Oriole Park in its red-brick, or any of the other new stadiums that have been built over the past couple years, as when I think cast concrete, I think of any of the various ugly ass buildings downtown that have all the personality of a washed-up tax accountant. Nationals Park has found a way, though, to make concrete sexy in a way that I didn't think was possible.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:51 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Would Obama Destroy McCain?

So we have been treated of late to the usual chorus of claims that the GOP is doomed, doomed I tell you, at the polls if McCain faces Obama. Well, Rasmussen's daily tracker has McCain pulling ahead of Obama the past 4 days, and now up 47-43 in a national head-to-head matchup. The RCP multi-poll average still gives a 47-43 nod to Obama. (McCain's matchup with Hillary is more favorable). But if you looked at polls taken between January 28 and March 7 of 2004, you would see Kerry leading Bush in 15 polls, to 7 showing Bush ahead and 3 ties, and an unweighted average result of 47.48 for Kerry to 45.2 for Bush. Gerald Ford trailed by 33 points in August and lost by 2. (H/T) George HW Bush trailed by 17 in July and won by a healthy margin. Those are the most famous examples, but hardly the only ones.

But, you say, huge primary turnout for the Democrats presages a landslide? Maybe, but Democrats traditionally have much higher primary turnout than the GOP:

PrimaryTurnoutsByParty3.JPG

That's right: Democratic turnout in the primaries was 47% higher than GOP turnout in 1980, and 89% higher in 1988. Any Democrats looking to replay those races?

Folks, it's a long way to November. Yes, you can slice and dice the polls cited above to make the point that polling (1) has its flaws and (2) can be badly abused if you don't distinguish between good polls and bad. And that's even aside from the fact that these are national polls whereas the election is actually 50 statewide elections. But the point is, there is simply no evidence right now that Obama, whose real record is very unknown to the national electorate and who has never run a campaign against anything resembling a competent Republican opponent, has this race in the bag. He may justifiably be favored over McCain, if you had to put money on this race today. But he is not unbeatable, or if he is the evidence of that is as yet undetectable.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:00 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)
SCIENCE: Giant Antarctic Sea Spiders!

Cool. Video here.

The deep sea truly is the last fronteir on earth. I have no doubt that we yet have much to learn of its inhabitants and its properties.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:55 PM | Science | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
February 24, 2008
BLOG: Multicultural Ignorance

How can the use of feng shui, a traditional Chinese concept, in a California McDonald's "help all customers tap their inner Zen," Zen being a Japanese religious/philosophical concept? You would think an AP reporter named Nguyen (a Vietnamese surname) would know the difference, but apparently all "Asians" are alike to her.

A person knowledgeable about her Vietnamese heritage would be acutely sensitive to such distinctions,the distinction between Chinese and Japanese culture and tradition being of enormous importance to East Asian history. A person raised in America to think of all "Asians" as a homogenous mass to be agglomerated for political purposes might miss that distinction. I infer the latter.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:05 PM | Blog 2006-13 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
February 23, 2008
POLITICS: If Only Barack Obama Had Been Here, Lazarus Would Not Have Died

Obasm alert: In last Sunday's paper, Mary Mitchell of the Chicago Sun-Times entered "if John Kerry is elected, Christopher Reeve will walk again" territory:

If you're wondering why Sen. Barack Obama's message of hope has resonated with so many voters across the country, consider the shooting rampage at Northern Illinois University.

+++

Why are people walking around armed to the teeth?

The only reason I can think of is that too many people have lost hope.

On the stump . . . Obama has had to defend his faith, and jokes about his critics calling him a "hopemonger." But Obama's ability to inspire people -- in urban areas as well as in rural towns -- is a gift the country needs.

Young people are killing each other in the ghettos as well as in our nation's universities. So it's not just drug wars or street gangs driving the violence.

But while young people are dying as martyrs, adults with the power to make a difference are still arguing over the merits of gun control.

Obama is surging ahead because a lot of people are tired of believing they are powerless to heal an ailing nation.

Yes, without Obama we are but empty, dessicated husks waiting for him to breathe meaning into our existence. Hazel Stone, who notes that the problem with the NIU shooter was that he went off his anti-bipolar meds (I guess he stopped taking them after Hillary won Florida?), writes:

One experience-lacking socialist-wannabe with a skillful speechwriter isn't going to single-handedly dispense rainbow-spewing hope nuggets, no matter how hard you clutch at your Polly Pockets pillow, squinch your eyes shut and wish for it.

Via Stephen Green.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:06 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (26) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: A Giant Step Forward For Missile Defense

25 years ago next month, President Reagan made this bold proposal to the nation:

What if free people could live secure in the knowledge that their security did not rest upon the threat of instant U.S. retaliation to deter a Soviet attack, that we could intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil or that of our allies?

I know this is a formidable, technical task, one that may not be accomplished before the end of this century.

Yet, current technology has attained a level of sophistication where it's reasonable for us to begin this effort. It will take years, probably decades of effort on many fronts. There will be failures and setbacks, just as there will be successes and breakthroughs. And as we proceed, we must remain constant in preserving the nuclear deterrent and maintaining a solid capability for flexible response. But isn't it worth every investment necessary to free the world from the threat of nuclear war? We know it is.

Reagan's proposal was immediately derided by Ted Kennedy as "Star Wars"; ever since, liberal critics have been arguing that it was impossible for such a system to work, or at a minimum arguing that it was not worth developing the technology if it could not be shown that it was already a workable system before development and testing were commenced (pretty much the opposite of how your usual R&D works). Slate.com defense critic Fred Kaplan, for example, has mocked the missile defense system as "bunk" and a "fantasy," while Greenpeace contends that "Missile Defense Does Not Work." Of course, these arguments have often been stalking horses for a variety of other ideological concerns about restraining U.S. "bullying," tying us more closely to international treaties, or not "militarizing space" (as if the worst imaginable place for war is a vacuum containing no civilians). Much as in the debate over coercive interrogation techniques, liberal critics prefer to pretend that things they dislike can never, ever work, so they can avoid the debate over the kinds of tradeoffs involved in defending the nation.

This week's successful effort to shoot a malfunctioning satellite out of the sky showed the world quite vividly how far these technologies have come:

(Hat tip to Congressman Eric Cantor for the video).

I await the response from the critics:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:47 AM | War 2007-12 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Everything Old Is New Again

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:04 AM | History • | Politics 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
February 21, 2008
POLITICS: Dying From Universal Health Insurance

Yes, even the NY Times can't deny that government health insurance sooner or later means that whatever is not provided by the government is against the law:

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February 20, 2008
POLITICS: The New Obamist Man

10gebote.jpgThou Shalt Remain Engaged In Politics. Thou Shalt Cast Down Thy Cynicism. Thou Shalt Have Only One Barack Obama.

Walter Ulbricht proclaimed the "Ten Commandments of Socialist Morality" at the SED's 6th Party Congress in July 1958. They were supposed to embody the principles of Socialist ethics and morality and guide the behavior of every GDR citizen. They were later incorporated into the SED party platform.

Ulbricht was the First Secretary of the SED, East Germany's version of the Communist Party and soon to become the formal head of state, and an "archetypical Stalinist," who designed much of the central-planning system that ran East Germany's economy into the ground. The picture at right shows a copy of those "Ten Commandments," in German, hanging in an East German school. Rendered in English, these governmental edicts commanded the "New Socialist Man" to perform the following obesiance to his political leadership:

1. Thou shalt always defend the international solidarity of the working class as well as the permanent bonds that unite all socialist countries.

2. Thou shalt love thy Fatherland and always be ready to defend worker and peasant power with all thy strength and capacity.

3. Thou shalt help to eliminate the exploitation of humans by one another.

4. Thou shalt perform good deeds for socialism, since socialism produces a better life for all working people.

5. Thou shalt act in the spirit of mutual support and comradely cooperation during the construction of socialism, respect the collective, and take its criticisms to heart.

6. Thou shalt protect and increase the property of the people.

7. Thou shalt always pursue ways to improve thy performance, be thrifty, and strengthen socialist work discipline.

8. Thou shalt rear thy children in the spirit of peace and socialism to become citizens who are well-educated, strong in character, and physically healthy.

9. Thou shalt live a clean and decent life and respect thy family.

10. Thou shalt exhibit solidarity with all those people who are fighting for national liberation and defending their independence.

Now, taken individually, at least some of these commandments (e.g., #9) are fine, wholesome sentiments. Taken collectively as an official statement of the government's ruling class, they are an abomination, a symbol of the subservient relationship of the individual to the constantly hectoring collective state.

I was put in mind of this sort of thing by the latest from Senator Obama's wife:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:54 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Vanilla Obama

Being called a second-hand Deval Patrick may be bad enough, but really, is there a worse insult to Sen. Obama than comparing him to Vanilla Ice?

H/T.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:51 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Highly Recommended

I just ponied up for my copy of John Sickels' annual Baseball Prospect Book. I got the book for the first time last year and highly recommend it. Excellent stuff - Sickels has raw stats and scouting, and his analysis is a great complement to the Baseball Prospectus' more stat-oriented prospect analysis. Since I don't really follow the minors directly much myself, those are two great sources to build from.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:40 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Busting It For The New Boss

This, in a nutshell, is why even the best managers need to be replaced after a certain amount of time.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:31 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Slate-ism of the Day

I drift by Slate.com somewhat regularly - it's got some good, provocative and idiosyncratic writers (Kaus, Hitchens) and usually has some other good content as well. But there's also, on any given day, just a staggering amount of lameness on the site, and this column, purporting to analyze Hillary Clinton by reviewing her eating habits, perfectly encapsulates the awfulness of so many Slate pieces: the combination of nitpicking and a supercilious and unserious analysis with a faux-highbrow tone that tries to connote intellectual sophistication but actually conveys snobbery masquerading as erudition. All that's missing from making this the perfect Slate piece is a potshot at President Bush.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:11 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Away-Rod

Derek Zumsteg has a lengthy and detailed post looking back at the departure of Alex Rodriguez from Seattle, and defending A-Rod against charges that he was a greedy, two-faced mercenary. (This is as opposed to his attempt to leave the Yankees, but then Yankee fans always thought A-Rod was a greedy, two-faced mercenary). Zumsteg makes a good case that A-Rod may well have been willing to stay in Seattle for less money than Texas, but (1) it wasn't crazy to think that Texas was a more winning franchise at the time, and (2) Texas offered so much more money than Seattle. Zumsteg refers to this only generally, but you have to remember that at the time, A-Rod had watched the two cornerstones of the Mariner franchise (Griffey and Randy Johnson) leave over money; it was reasonable, when the Mariners then offered him far less money than he ended up getting from Texas, to conclude that Seattle just wasn't going to put down the kind of dollars needed to field a competitive team over the course of the contract.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:01 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
February 19, 2008
POLITICS: A Word of Advice To Senator Barack Obama

Although Senator Obama has been married long enough that he ought to know this already:

When a woman is criticizing you, it might not be such a good idea to suggest that she is in one of those periods when she is feeling down, and that's why she's doing it. Because, you know, sometimes that doesn't go over so well.

Just a thought. Pass the popcorn.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:29 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (38) | TrackBack (0)
February 17, 2008
BLOG: Quick Links 2/17/08

*Pedro: kicking it clean.

*Barack Obama as the Mirror of Erised.

*Debra Burlingame on Bill Clinton's Puerto Rican terrorist pardons.

*Good roundup of what's expected from various shows with the writers' strike over.

*The morality of waterboarding. This probably deserves a longer post but I agree 100% with the point that you have to consider the morally correct thing first and let the law follow.

*The most badass U.S. presidents in history. Hilarious.

*Stephen Green on why Hillary's South Carolina strategy was actually the opposite of Rudy's mistake.

*A fitting assessment of Harry Reid.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:19 AM | Baseball 2008 • | Blog 2006-13 • | History • | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (30) | TrackBack (0)
February 16, 2008
POLITICS: On Wisconsin And After

The Democratic primary contest is by no means over, despite the public momentum shift to Obama. Wisconsin, the next primary up on Tuesday, is more natural Obama territory given the weight that left-leaning Madison and the college crowd, so while Hillary has been running closer than expected in the polls there, I would still expect Obama to win it by 6-7 points.

I have to agree with the conventional wisdom that it's all going to come down to Texas and Ohio on March 4 and Pennsylvania on April 22. Hillary has a much stronger position in those three large states - polls show her leading Obama in Ohio by 15 points or so - plus Ohio and Pennsylvania are crucial November states where McCain tends to run better than the typical Republican. If Hillary is able to win all three, she will have more than enough delegates and momentum to take this all the way to the convention. If she doesn't, there will be more pressure on her to drop out, but of course nobody ever made a penny betting on the Clintons to relinquish power willingly.

Then what? It always amuses me to hear the stream of commenters who will come through here predicting certain doom for the GOP. We heard exactly the same thing in 2004, the idea that voting Republican was so far beyond the pale that the public could never even conceive doing it. And George W. Bush walked off with more votes than any presidential candidate in American history.

If I had to lay money today on this year's result, I'd give the Democrats better than a 50/50 shot; Bush is indeed unpopular, people are generally dissatisfied and looking for a change, and the Dems have two strong candidates, in terms of their national profile, and McCain is not beloved of his own party. But a lot can happen on the way to November, and it's lunacy to suggest that a McCain defeat is a foregone conclusion, especially with the possibility that it will be April or June or August before the Democrats settle on a candidate, and in light of the built-in weaknesses those candidates and McCain's appeal to independent voters, I like his punchers' chance to take this one. McCain historically runs much better from behind than as a frontrunner anyway.

I have to say, for those of us who write about politics from the Republican side, even if Hillary is the easier candidate to take on, it's going to be a lot more fun to run against Obama, with the huge contrast in experience between him and McCain, the extremism of so many of Obama's positions and the vacuousness of his campaign. Obama, when you scrape away the hype, is basically Howard Dean without the anger. A white guy with Obama's record wouldn't win two states. What Obama really reminds me of is the Dukes of Hazzard movie: fresh new faces, same old 70s script.

Running against Hillary is a dreary exercise in rehashing the 90s, dragging out old grudges and settling old scores, and in engaging in the endlessly tiresome exercise of trying to pin down a Clinton's positions (although one of the morals of the current campaign may be that it's easy to keep track of the truth, hard to keep track of lies and twice as hard to keep track of two separate people's lies). There's just so little new to say about Hillary that hasn't been said to death.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:36 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Real Gun Politics

Obamarado.bmp

Obama on gun control, after Thursday's shootings in his home state:

Before speaking to a rally here, Obama said the nation must do a "more effective job of enforcing our gun laws, strengthening our background check system, being able to trace guns that are used in violent crimes to unscrupulous gun dealers -- so that we can crack down on them -- closing gun show loopholes."

+++

Obama said he believes in the Second Amendment, but that there is plenty of room for added gun regulations. "There is an individual right to bear arms, but it's subject to commonsense regulation," he said.

Mentioning his home city, Obama said local entities should also have the ability to have their own more strict regulations.

"I think that local jurisdictions have the capacity to institute their own gun laws . . . The City of Chicago has gun laws, as does Washington, D.C.," he said. "I think the notion that somehow local jurisdictions can't initiate gun safety laws to deal with gang-bangers and random shootings on the street isn't born out by our constitution."

Hmmm, that should go over real well in the Texas primary on March 4. Just as the national Dems seemed to have learned their lesson on this issue, expect to hear a lot about guns if Obama is the nominee, for two reasons.

1. Guns are one of the few areas where McCain has a pretty solid conservative record. The NRA's leadership hates McCain due mainly to McCain-Feingold, but on the actual gun-rights issues he's voted pretty consistently for gun rights (e.g., he voted against the Brady Bill), although McCain has also clashed with the NRA over a gun show bill he co-sponsored with Joe Lieberman.

2. There is, nonetheless, a huge contrast to be drawn on this issue. Obama is about as anti-gun as you would expect from a Chicago politician - voted for assault weapons bans, voted to limit the number of handguns a person could buy, voted against lawsuit protections for gun manufacturers, supported a national ban on concealed carry, and worst of all voted against a bill protecting homeowners from being sued by burglars they shoot in their own homes.

Obama's not going to get a pass on that record from gun owners.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:28 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Popgun Politics

Please, please, please tell me that John McCain's not going to spend a ton of time beating up Obama on an agreement they had about campaign spending. Sure, send him a nasty press relase, whatever. Remind the media that he's not Mr. Above The Fray. But this sort of meta-politics is not a winning general election argument.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:25 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Nicaraguan Communists For Obama

You Ain't Gonna Make It With Anyone Anyhow

At least the Che thing wasn't an actual endorsement by Che himself, just some idiot Obama supporters, albeit ones whose marked enthusiasm for Che is in contrast to their jealous guardianship of their own property rights. But Daniel Ortega is the genuine article, and he sees in Obama a kindred spirit:

"It's not to say that there is already a revolution under way in the U.S. ... but yes, they are laying the foundations for a revolutionary change," the Sandinista leader said Wednesday night . . .

H/T. At least we know that the signals Obama sends abroad about what kind of President he would be are clearly understood.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:24 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Our Friends The Saudis

They're just the good cop.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:23 AM | War 2007-12 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
February 15, 2008
BASEBALL: Outfield Depth

The Mets have a real issue with lack of depth in the outfield - Carlos Beltran in CF has averaged 627 plate appearances over the past two seasons, but the figures are 380 for Ryan Church in RF, 369 for 41-year-old Moises Alou in LF, and 278 for Endy Chavez as the fourth outfielder. Backups Ben Johnson and Angel Pagan are at best unproven as major-league caliber players, and super-prospect Fernando Martinez is 19, has played just 60 games above A ball and thus is unlikely to be ready this season except as an emergency fill-in. In short, the Mets will be holding their breath on Alou's health and Church's adjustment to truly full-time play to see if they can get 2100+ plate appearances and an equivalent number of innings in the field from this crowd without having to water down the quality.

With that as backdrop, their signing and invitation to camp of Brady Clark is a worthwhile gamble. Clark at 35 is a few years past being more than an emergency fill-in in CF, and his lack of power makes him a shaky corner outfielder, but a guy with a .358 career OBP at least offers the prospect of a solid pinch hitter and creditable fill-in here and there as holes open up. He certainly beats bringing back Ricky Ledee or David Newhan, both of whom (like Marlon Anderson) are only a year younger than Clark. (The downside of carrying Clark with Anderson is that their pinch hitting options would lean lefthanded, especially since two of the team's four switch-hitting second basemen - Jose Valentin and Ruben Gotay - are much better hitters against RHP).

PS - Looking at that list of lefty bats on the bench...that's why Damion Easley will make the roster.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:29 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Advice for McCain vs. Obama: Pork and Earmarks Will Not Cut It

OK, with McCain stuffing the Huck-insurgency back in the bottle Tuesday, it's time to start thinking general election strategy (see here for a RedState roundtable we did on how he should try to win over skeptical conservatives). Now, we know the basics of what John McCain needs to do to beat Hillary Clinton, which is mostly based on (1) reminding voters that she is Hillary Clinton and (2) letting voters get prolonged exposure to watching and listening to Hillary Clinton.

But Barack Obama, if he manages to keep his back free of Clinton shivs long enough to secure the nomination, will be a more challenging nut to crack; he has far lower built-in negatives and is surrounded by a protective heat shield of worshipful press coverage. He's unlike the unlikeable and fundamentally disingenuous candidates the Democrats ran in 2000 and 2004, and much more similar to the candidates they ran in 1972 and 1984. That last analogy suggests why Obama, strong as he is on the surface, should not be confused with an unbeatable candidate.

Anyway, I'll start with one specific issue that I think needs not to be overplayed in a campaign against Obama: pork-barrel spending and earmarks. Yes, it's a hot issue and a worthy one. Yes, it contributed to the air of fiscal irresponsibility and corruption that fed the GOP's defeat in 2006, and from which McCain needs to distance himself. Yes, it's important to McCain's good-government, spending-hawk brand, is an issue he attacks with genuine enthusiasm and helps serve as a firewall against the charge that McCain's superior experience is a liability because he doesn't represent Abstract Nouns like a man who just got to Washington in 2005 and hasn't even located the big spigot where the taxpayer money flows from yet.

But for all of that, if Sen. Obama is the nominee, I hope Sen. McCain is clued in early to the fact that this issue is not going to be a useful distinction against Obama, for three reasons.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:36 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: First, Pavlov Rang The Bell...

There are few laws of American politics more immutable than the one that states that if the race card is played anywhere, Al Sharpton will show up demanding, "deal me in."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:21 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BUSINESS/POP CULTURE: Unbuild A Bear

One of yesterday's biggest stock losers was Build A Bear Workshop, which saw its stock price plunge 20% on a disappointing earnings report. Motley Fool looks at the roadblocks the company has faced, mainly escalating costs and a general sense that the novelty of bear-building has worn off. The suggestion that someone like Disney snap up the company makes some sense, and probably a lot more sense if the price continues to drop.* When we took the kids to Citizens Bank Park last summer, they had a Build-a-Phanatic store; I would think that Disneyworld could do something similar. The good news for a brand like this is that if kids get bored with it, there's always another generation of little ones for whom everything is new.

One thing that isn't mentioned here but should be, though, is the rising threat of Webkinz. If you're not familiar, Webkinz sells stuffed animals, much like a slightly larger version of Beanie Babies, but the hook is that each Webkinz can be registered on a website so that kids can then play online games with an online avatar of their stuffed character, buy things for the character (e.g., furniture for its room). The site is engaging and it's kid-safe, in that while kids can interact with others over the site, such as by playing games with them and exchanging some canned forms of communication, there's no way for them to actually talk to other kids on the site - and thus no way for them to talk to people pretending to be kids, either. It's enormously addictive, and the Webkinz site has definitely drawn my kids away from Build a Bears to Webkinz.

That said, we were back at Build a Bear this weekend (much to the particular joy and amazement of my youngest, who is almost two). Why? Because Build a Bear has opened its own website, and in addition to registering all new stuffed animals on the site they are having a limited time offer to register previously purchased stuffed animals. While "Build a Bearville" doesn't seem to be on a par with "Webkinz World," it at least got my kids back to wanting to go to the store and check out the site.

So that's the real story from the trenches. It remains to be seen which of the two prevails in the long run (Webkinz has the advantage of lower margins, since they don't operate retail stores), or whether perhaps there is even an opportunity for the two companies to merge their operations (less likely). But it's proof that even so prosaic a company as Build a Bear needs to adapt to the internet to stay competitive.

* - I should note that (a) I'm not giving investment advice, nor would anyone in their right minds take investment advice from me and (b) I haven't checked on whether Build a Bear is one of my law firm's many clients and I don't personally have any non-public information about the company or any of the other companies mentioned here or in the Fool.com article.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:51 AM | Business • | Pop Culture | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Horror

Ana Marie Cox: "Tell me this is a joke or if there's medication to stop... the ... cringing..." Allahpundit: "a metaphor for her campaign."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:33 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Ennui In The UK

Writing about McCainBloggette.com, the blog by John McCain's 23-year-old daughter Meghan, the UK's Observer begins:

Americans have enjoyed certain inalienable rights ever since the Declaration of Independence. Chief among these is the right to have a political system that is ineffably more glamorous than ours. They have Barack Obama, the thinking woman's Denzel Washington, a man who looks good in a suit and has been endorsed by the Kennedys. We have Gordon Brown, the thinking woman's Jimmy Nail, a man who looks like an undertaker and has been endorsed by Ed Balls.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:30 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/LAW: Always Give The Other Guy A Downside

Glenn Reynolds understands how in this case, litigation really is war by other means.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:29 AM | Law 2006-08 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Obamafiles: Lileks on The Obama-Backed Patriot Corporation Act

The nonsense left-wing legislation to declare some companies more patriotic than others based on meeting various union demands is discussed here. Lileks' take on it?

If dissent is the highest form of patriotism, then companies that don't conform to the bill's stndards will be so damn patriotic they will bleed red white and blue and tootle "Yankee Doodle" on a fife that pops out of their butt every time the CEO passes wind.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:27 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Hooray For Me! It's The Law.

From the Obamafiles: in the Illinois State Senate, Barack Obama co-sponsored a bill to celebrate the role of African-American Illinois state legislators. I'm sure that was a real tough vote for him to cast.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:24 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
February 14, 2008
BASEBALL: Inclemens

I suppose that, as a lawyer and baseball blogger, I'm supposed to be following the Roger Clemens saga's twists and turns...I can tell you I caught enough of what went on yesterday to be pretty convinced that Clemens is in some very deep legal trouble. But that said, I just hate this whole story. I hate the millionaire athletes jamming needles in each others' butts and the skeevy friends who sell them the stuff; I hate the holier-than-thou sportswriters looking to show off their ability to mount a moral high horse, especially the ones who didn't say boo when this was all happening; I hate the apologists who keep trying to convince us that improved physical strength has nothing whatsoever to do with performance on the baseball field; I hate the grandstanding politicians who think they have nothing better to do than hearings on this nonsense; I hate the union reps and owners who turned this into a bargaining chip nobody was willing to pay for instead of a set of rules to be enforced for the good of the game; and I hate the media that saturates us with all this. I just want this to go away and get us back to the game on the field.

Surly Mets fan thought for the day: wouldn't it have been a different world if Gooden and Strawberry had gotten into steroids instead of cocaine?

Johan Santana was in Mets camp yesterday. Let's play ball.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:16 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
February 12, 2008
BASEBALL: Retroactively Forgiven

One of the things I've been thinking about with the Mets' trade for Johan Santana is that it has made me feel a lot better about the Milledge deal. Think about it - three of the major reasons to be upset about the Milledge trade were washed away in one sweep:

1. I'd been concerned that trading Milledge meant losing a key bargaining chip that was needed to upgrade the starting rotation. Obviously, the Mets were able to land the best pitcher in baseball without him.

2. The deal seemed like a win-now trade (Ryan Church is probably a better hitter than Milledge right now, but Milledge should surpass him by 2009 and has a much brighter future; Brian Schneider is also in his prime and not getting any better) without a real assurance that the team was doing what it takes to make a real win-now run. With Santana, the Mets are going for it big-time.

3. Bringing in a light-hitting defensive-stud catcher like Schneider would make more sense if the team had a top-flight starting rotation around which to build a superior defense. Now, with Santana-Pedro-Maine-Perez-El Duque/Pelfrey, they do.

I still think the Mets need to bring in one more bullpen arm (and Ruddy Lugo is not what I have in mind, although it's possible that El Duque or Pelfrey could help out in the pen), and the outfield is still thin, especially on potential everyday left fielders younger than Alou and older than Fernando Martinez. And the second base situation doesn't inspire tremendous confidence, although Castillo and Valentin may be able to keep their knees healthier if they split time.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:15 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
February 11, 2008
POLITCS: Texas Communists For Obama

obama-che.jpg

Yup: that's Cuban Communist executioner Che Guevara hanging on the wall at an Obama campaign HQ in Texas. Apparently they were out of Himmler posters. Video here, with a hat tip to Allahpundit, who suggests some perspective.

John McCain, for one, is not taking any guff from Communists, dismissing criticism from Fidel Castro over McCain's comments about Cuban agents torturing American POWs in Vietnam:

"For me to respond to Fidel Castro, who has oppressed and repressed his people and who is one of the most brutal dictators on Earth, for me to dignify any comments he might make is certainly beneath me," he said at a press conference.

"It's a matter of record and you can ask several of the POWs who had direct contact with some, some thug that came to Hanoi with an underling assistant."

Meanwhile, Sen. Obama himself is reiterating his offer to meet with Hugo Chavez, the next-generation heir to the Che tradition of violent socialist thuggery:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:24 PM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (34) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The EWSL Fudge Factor

It's the time of year again when I prepare for my Established Win Shares Levels (EWSL)-powered team previews by first reviewing how last year's real-world results varied from the method. Of course, since EWSL is a compilation of historical results adjusted by age, rather than a projection system, it's not supposed to flawlessly predict the future but rather to set a reasonable baseline for expectations, from which real life invariably varies.

This time, I will start off with the subjective adjustments I introduced in 2007. Since EWSL works from past performance, it's necessarily less stable when dealing with guys who have a limited track record in the majors, especially second-year players. Second-year players, of which very young players are a large proportion, tend to be split between guys with a full season or a partial season of experience. Given that I haven't had the time and methods to split the two, the age adjustment for very young players tends therefore to over-project non-pitchers with precisely one full season in their early 20s under their belts, while perhaps under-projecting high-quality players with a half-season of experience. Last season I tried to fix that on an ad hoc basis with subejctive tweaks to players whose numbers looked out of whack. Note that I use Win Shares numbers from the Bill James Handbook. Let's see how I did. First, downward adjustments on non-pitchers:

1. Ryan Zimmerman, age 22. Adjusted down from 54 EWSL to 30. Actual 2007 WS: 20.

Zimmerman was a compelling case for a downward adjustment - while I thought and think that his short- and long-term future is excellent, 54 Win Shares would be a career year by a large margin for Albert Pujols. Zimmerman was over-projected because so few players are quality full-season regulars at 21. As it turned out, I still think 30 EWSL was at least a realistic expectation, but one he failed to meet with a sophmore jinx that dropped him to 20.

2. Hanley Ramirez, age 23. Adjusted down from 36 EWSL to 27. Actual 2007 WS: 27.

Right on the nose. Ramirez took a big leap forward from a great rookie year, but 36 was too far for him to reach.

3. Dan Uggla, age 27. Adjusted down from 25 EWSL to 22. Actual 2007 WS: 16.

With Uggla, by contrast, I was dealing with the fact that the typical 27-year-old is not a second year player, so I was really hedging him down for the fact that his rookie year looked like a bit of a fluke. Dropping his EWSL to 16 would have been too big an adjustment to make on that subjective assessment.

4. Melky Cabrera, age 22. Adjusted down from 29 EWSL to 15. Actual 2007 WS: 12.

Like Zimmerman, Melky's numbers were way out of whack - EWSL had him as the best player in the AL East - and doubly so because Melky was very unlikely to get everyday playing time. Also, he was unusual in that most 21-year-old regulars get a job due to their exceptional talent rather than due to a battery of team injuries.

He still projects as a quality player but the downward adjustment looks fine in retrospect.

Conclusion: these were, as a group, necessary and wise adjustments.

Upward adjustments for non-pitchers:

1. Stephen Drew, age 24. Adjusted upward from 8 EWSL to 11. Actual 2007 WS: 16.

Drew looked like a quality player who would play everyday and should not be projected to repeat at less than half a season's at bats. As it turned out he had a poor 2007 with the bat, but his raw WS total went up anyway from a full season's glovework.

2. Ryan Shealy, age 27. Adjusted upward from 6 EWSL to 9. Actual 2007 WS: 1.

Shealy had injuries but he also represents the reason to be cautious about upward adjustments: sometimes the guy who hasn't proven himself over a full season, doesn't.

3. Chris Duffy, age 27. Adjusted upward from 6 EWSL to 8. Actual 2007 WS: 5.

Same problem as Shealy, and again with a 27-year-old.

4. Scott Thorman, age 25. Adjusted upward from 3 EWSL to 8. Actual 2007 WS: 2.

Same problem again, although in Thorman's case it was clear from the outset that he wasn't that good.

5. Kelly Johnson, age 25. Adjusted upward from 5 EWSL to 8. Actual 2007 WS: 19.

Johnson actually did have an excellent year after missing 2006 with an elbow injury and switching to second base. An odd case, and one that's hard to generalize from.

6. Gerald Laird, age 27. Adjusted upward from 3 EWSL to 8. Actual 2007 WS: 10.

Laird did somewhat better with a sudden promotion to full-timer than some of the others, but then he was a backup being promoted rather than a late arrival from the minors.

Conclusion: I may skip the upward adjustments this season, or at least will be much more stingy with them. They were largely unreliable. Better simply to rest on the general fact that EWSL is a system that measures established performance.

Upward adjustments for pitchers:

1. Daisuke Matsuzaka, age 26. Adjusted up from 5 EWSL to 10. Actual 2007 WS: 12.

I'd do this one again; Dice-K was known to be a high-quality Japanese import in his prime, and should not have been rated with the 5 EWSL I hand out to rookie pitchers.

2. Matt Garza, age 23. Adjusted upward from 1 EWSL to 5. Actual 2007 WS: 4.

I suppose this worked out OK. My theory was that Garza after 50 major league innings should not rate lower than a straight rookie. He ended up close to the rookie average. That said, he didn't pitch that well and the rookie average includes guys who have not yet struggled in the bigs. I'll be careful with this in the future.

Downward adjustment - pitcher

Josh Johnson, age 22. Adjusted downward from 12 EWSL to 9. Actual 2007 WS: 0.

It may be that I should not have rated Johnson at all, given that he began the season injured with an uncertain timetable for return. Next time in that situation I may apply a steeper discount to an injured pitcher, maybe 50%.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:03 PM | Baseball 2008 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Root for Injuries

Paul Krugman blames Obama's supporters for the poisonous state of the Democratic race:

[M]ost of the venom I see is coming from supporters of Mr. Obama, who want their hero or nobody . . . progressives should realize that Nixonland is not the country we want to be. Racism, misogyny and character assassination are all ways of distracting voters from the issues, and people who care about the issues have a shared interest in making the politics of hatred unacceptable.

H/T. But Frank Rich puts the blame on race-baiting by the Clintons (I guess Rich finally woke up to the idea that there could possibly be reasons to oppose the Clintons that don't derive from one's sexual hang-ups or whatever his theory was in the 90s):

The campaign's other most potent form of currency remains its thick deck of race cards. . . . This decision was a cold, political cost-benefit calculus. . . . [O]nce black voters met Mr. Obama and started to gravitate toward him, Bill Clinton and the campaign's other surrogates stopped caring about what African-Americans thought. In an effort to scare off white voters, Mr. Obama was ghettoized as a cocaine user (by the chief Clinton strategist, Mark Penn, among others), "the black candidate" (as Clinton strategists told the Associated Press) and Jesse Jackson redux (by Mr. Clinton himself). . . [T]he wholesale substitution of Hispanics for blacks on the Hallmark show is tainted by a creepy racial back story. Last month a Hispanic pollster employed by the Clinton campaign pitted the two groups against each other by telling The New Yorker that Hispanic voters have "not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates." Mrs. Clinton then seconded the motion by telling Tim Russert in a debate that her pollster was "making a historical statement."

It wasn't an accurate statement, historical or otherwise. It was a lie, and a bigoted lie at that . . . The real point of the Clinton campaign's decision to sow misinformation and racial division, Mr. Rodriguez concluded, was to "undermine one of Obama's central selling points, that he can build bridges and unite Americans of all types." . . . Mrs. Clinton did pile up her expected large margin among Latino voters in California. But her tight grip on that electorate is loosening. . . .Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign's attempt to drive white voters away from Mr. Obama by playing the race card has backfired. . . . The question now is how much more racial friction the Clinton campaign will gin up if its Hispanic support starts to erode in Texas . . . [D]oes anyone seriously believe that Howard Dean can deter a Clinton combine so ruthless that it risked shredding three decades of mutual affection with black America to win a primary?

Read the whole, wonderful thing. This Democratic race really can't go on long enough, can it?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:13 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Meet Tim Pawlenty

I'm a big believer in the idea that political campaigns on a national level are influenced very heavily by personality and character, and thus much must be learned about a candidate by watching them in action rather than just ticking off issue positions and lines on the resume. Yet even in this interconnected age, even political junkies often seem to end up forming strong opinions about politicians they know only by record and reputation.

There is bound to be another round of speculation on the way about who is and isn't an appropriate choice for the next entires on national stage, starting with the likely GOP running mate for John McCain. Let's take a video tour, starting with one of the top short-listers, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:09 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
February 10, 2008
POLITICS: Dog Bites Man

Patterico catches the LA Times writing a tendentious, fact-stretching op-ed piece disguised as a news story.

H/T

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:12 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
February 8, 2008
POLITICS: The Amazing Steyn

I've been meaning to blog about Mark Steyn's book America Alone and the free speech issues raised by the attacks on the book, but in the meantime, this video of him speaking at CPAC, the big conservative conference in DC, is priceless. I had not heard Steyn speak before and didn't realize what an accent he has.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:44 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Air Huckey

If I had told you, 2 years ago, that a Republican candidate whose appeal is focused on Christian conservatives would become the darling of the Stewart/Colbert/Conan circuit...well, stranger things have happened in this election cycle, but not many.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:43 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Remorse

David Cone - much unlike others in ownership and union leadership - takes some responsibility for his role in preventing steroid testing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:11 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Curtains?

Well, the plot continues to thicken around Curt Schilling's shoulder (David Pinto's been following the story here and here, which links to Schilling's own account). It certainly sounds like Schilling will not pitch this season, and few pitchers come back well from a full season on the shelf - let alone with a shoulder injury - past 40 (Bert Blyleven didn't come back so well).

In the short run, the question is the Red Sox rotation. It still looks fairly solid, with Beckett and Matsuzaka as the anchors, Wakefield eating innings and young Buchholz and Lester being asked to step up. But the loss of Schilling, a solid contributor the past two years, is a blow.

(UPDATE: WIll Carroll seems more optimistic about Schilling returning this season)

In the long run, will Schilling make the Hall of Fame? His career has been riddled with injury-driven inconsistency - he's won in double figures only half of the seasons of his 20-year career, and one of those was an 11-14 season. That said, he has 216 career wins, enough bulk to merit a look at the quality, and he has the highlights - a .597 winning percentage, three 20-win seasons, three 300-K seasons, 3000 strikeouts and the best K/BB ratio in modern (since they went to 4 balls/3 strikes) history, a crucial role in three World Championships and 4 pennants, 3-time runner up for the Cy Young, 6 All-Star teams, and an amazing 11-2 record and 2.23 ERA in five postseasons. His credentials are highly similar to those of his contemporary John Smoltz. I have to think if this is it, he makes it, and deservedly so.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:52 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
February 7, 2008
POP CULTURE: Good News

Looks like the writers' strike may be close to an end, which means no more of this. Hopefully, the actors won't go out next.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:15 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Romney Drops Out

So Mitt Romney has dropped out of the race, citing the need to unify behind McCain as the nominee in wartime as a reason not to stage a costly losing battle all the way to the covention.

I may expand on this later...I am sympathetic to the people who bought into the idea of the Romney campaign but, as happened to those of us who backed Rudy or Fred, the time has come to accept that the reality of the campaign was never what it was cracked up to be.

deleterudy.JPG

In Mitt's case, he just wasn't the champion of conservative principles and enforcer of conservative orthodoxy he played on the trail. He was and is a pragmatic businessman, and a very good one. I have argued that Rudy should have sold a modified position on Roe v Wade not as a change of heart but as a principled compromise. A similar approach might have worked for Mitt as well on some of the issues he shifted on. Instead, while Rudy wouldn't move far enough, Mitt tried too hard on too many fronts and ended up with nobody believing that he was the guy he was running as.

A hamburger is a delicious and popular meal. A grilled chicken sandwich is nutritious and reasonably tasty. You can sell a hamburger, and you can sell a grilled chicken sandwich; both have their virtues. But as anyone with a marketing background could have told you, you can't get people to buy a grilled chicken sandwich by convincing them that it is a hamburger.

What next? I had been thinking that, with Romney likely to be looking for what to do next to build credibility with conservatives, a logical next step whether he intends to pursue national office or simply find a way to do some real public good would be to move back home to Michigan and run for Governor. After all, Romney's core strength - his business acumen - is the one thing Michigan needs most desperately after two terms of Jennifer Granholm.

Sadly, however, Michigan's Constitution requires that the Governor must "have been a registered elector in this state for four years next preceding his election." Since the next race is in 2010, there will not be sufficient time for Romney to establish residency. It's a shame; Mitt could have said he was coming home to the state he was born and raised in because Michigan needs him (which would have been true). He would have had to run on basically the same positions as in this race. He would probably have needed to promise not to run in 2012, but could keep his eyes on 2016, which given his health and vigor is not implausible (he'd be 68). And if he could actually have become the second American (after Sam Houston) to become GOV of two states and then turned around the MI business climate while staying essentially faithful to his currently stated principles, he would have been able to make a convincing case down the road as a tested, proven leader.

My guess is, the likelihood is that if Romney is planning to run for president again, he will probably do so via the John Edwards path of spending four more years campaigning without adding to his short resume in public office and thus without a realistic mechanism for proving his conservative bona fides.

Oh, and before I forget, I'll throw up one last link to the fundraiser:

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:50 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
February 6, 2008
POLITICS: Did The Primary Process Fail Conservatives?

I led a roundtable discussion on this and related questions over at Redstate. Here's my opening observations:

1. I don't think it was inevitable that the primary voters in this cycle would choose a non-conservative nominee. I do think the primary electorate wanted someone visibly different from George W. Bush, and that was likely to mean less conservative on at least some issues, but there was room to run to Bush's right on others, like immigration and spending. McCain's rise has had more to do with the peculiarities of the people in this field than any shift in mood away from a robust conservatism. As I have said ad nauseum, ideas don't run for president, people do.

2. The people who did run were less a feature of the times than an accident of history: McCain, Romney, Rudy and Huck ran because of the points they were at in their careers (although in Rudy's case that was clearly influenced by the timing of 9/11). Only Fred was really pulled into the race by popular demand for his ideas, and Fred ran the most conservative campaign.

3. That said, the people did not run fell into three groups: those who were too personally tied to Bush to run (e.g., Jeb), those who were clearly not ready for the national stage (e.g,., Bobby Jindal), and those whose careers were derailed by 2006 (e.g., George Allen). Only the third group is really a feature of the ideological climate as opposed to personal circumstance.

4. You can't really blame the process for dictating the nature of the race, as McCain's really crucial victories came in two fairly conservative Southern states (South Carolina and Florida) that were hardly his natural turf. That said, I see three impacts from the calendar. First, Romney's hometown ties to New Hampshire and Michigan robbed Rudy of a natural starting point in the early states, and probably discouraged him from running harder there. I wouldn't suggest that that was the biggest factor in Rudy's demise, but it exacerbated his problems. Second, the short space between Florida and Super Tuesday made it impossible for the anti-McCain forces to rally effectively behind a single candidate, although I'm still skeptical that that was possible (I don't buy that Huck's voters would have preferred Romney to McCain by the substantial margins needed to unseat the leader). And third, the Northeastern states, by going to winner-take-all and ganging up on Super Tuesday while most other states divided their delegates, ended up having an outsize role in Tuesday's delegate count. It's probably wiser in the future for states to go to winner-take-all if they want their voters' preferences to have equal weight in the process.

5. Can we please get rid of caucuses? Romney kept winning small-state caucuses, but it never helped him. Huckabee won West Virginia when the McCain forces fell in behind him, leading to much gnashing of teeth about backroom deals from the Romney camp. If every state had a primary we would not have endless arguments about weighing the legitimacy of different states' choices.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:38 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Selected, Not Elected

Allahpundit looks at an analysis by Chris Bowers of OpenLeft (who is, obviously, no right-winger) admitting that the Democrats, with typical foresight, have created a situation in which it was, even before yesterday's results, essentially impossible for either of their candidates to clinch the nomination by winning primaries and caucuses. Thus, unless either Hillary or Obama concedes a winnable race for the good of the party (shall we take bets on the odds on the Clintons relinquishing power for the greater good? Anyone remember 1998?), the Democratic presidential nominee will not be elected by the voters but will be selected by the "superdelegates" (the party elite) and/or through machinations at the convention (mark your calendars - August 25!):

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:48 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The GOP's Ash Wednesday

You can listen to my take on last night's results on NPR here (although I do wish they had spelled my name right).

The takeaway: you can't beat somebody with nobody, and while McCain didn't win the nomination last night, Mitt Romney lost it, and with him the last realistic obstacle to McCain, as the race as a practical matter resolves to McCain vs. Huckabee. Romney says he will fight on (they all say that, until they stop saying it) but he is reported to be taking a day off the trail to meet and take stock with his advisers. Maybe they will decide to throw one last Hail Mary pass over the next week (Louisiana, Washington and Kansas vote Saturday, Virginia, Maryland and DC next Tuesday), and Romney has the money to stay in the race, but there's just no purpose to be served by carrying the fight beyond that, especially if Romney thinks he has some future in the GOP.

Watching Romney's speech last night, I gotta say, he sure sounded like he was giving a concession speech. His family looked, and his crowd sounded, like this is the end. And he sounded like his heart wasn't in it - rushing his delivery, not stopping for applause lines. He didn't win the winner-take-all blue states, which broke big for McCain as he consolidated the support he had previously been siphoning away from Rudy Giuliani. (Ironically, other than their actual home states, the Northeast has gone for the Arizona Senator, while the Mountain states have gone for the Massachusetts Governor). And more damaging, Romney ran third in a lot of the southern or border-south red states, which broke for Huckabee. There are no bronze medals given out in a three-man race. Romney to the end was Mr. Caucus, winning mostly caucuses dominated by organization and money - and states where he already had deep roots - but never managing to win primaries where he had to appeal to voters wholesale who didn't start off giving him the benefit of every doubt.

Huckabee, by contrast, was wearing the Eli Manning "I can't believe I got this far" face. Whatever else may be said of the man, you just can't help being impressed with what he has accomplished in this race with no money, no staff, no name recognition, etc. And it sure seems like a lot of voters across the heartland of the GOP base looked at the choice between McCain and Romney, found neither inspiring and decided to just vote their hearts.

As for Hillary, she was wearing a smile that could cut glass; both Democratic candidates won enough to claim a mandate to stay in the race for a long time to come, and while a McCain-Huckabee race would involve two candidates with very little money, Hillary and Obama have the deep pockets to run a Yankees-Red Sox style pennant race.

Obama? Listening to his speech, I started wondering if the Secret Service is screening to protect him from specifics. Perhaps it's an allergy. But man, that guy is smooth. Maybe the Man from Hope and Change doesn't need to stand for anything in particular; he stands for whatever Change you Hope he can bring.

One of today's storylines has to be precisely why McCain won so many blue states and Obama won so many red states. In Obama's case it's partly because the moderates and the white people in those states are all Republicans, clearing the field for his coalition of college students, antiwar activists and African-Americans, and partly because Obama has an in with the 50-state-strategy Deaniacs, which is how you get an Obama organization in places like Idaho (and, perhaps as well, that in the Mountain West he did well in caucuses where people don't want to be seen voting against him). In McCain's case, I think deep-blue-state Republicans are more accustomed to compromising to get the most electable general election candidate.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:54 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
February 5, 2008
POLITICS: Super-De-Dooper Tuesday

*A must read: Jay Cost on the McCain voters.

*Yes, everybody hates Romney.

*Not the analogy Romney should be looking for - given McCain's close association with the U.S. war effort in Iraq, this imagery used by Romney's press secretary seems ill-advised, to say nothing of who it makes Mitt out to be in this analogy:

"When we wake up Wednesday morning, there will be a realization it will be a long, hard slog to the convention," not a cake walk for McCain, Fehrnstrom said.

*Can all the stories about Obama's late surge in the polls the last few days be believed? The important thing isn't that Obama is gaining in polls, but that he is being reported as gaining in polls. You can't buy the kind of publicity he has gotten in the last 72 hours.

*It's always hazardous to read too much into a single poll, let alone the cross-tabs from a single small-sample poll, but I was looking at the breakdowns from the lastest SurveyUSA poll of 556 actual or likely GOP primary voters in California, and I noticed something interesting from the tabs breaking out McCain and Romney voters by their top issues:

Economy
McCain 51
Romney 32

Health Care
McCain 63
Romney 19

Environment
Romney 53
McCain 27

Immigration
Romney 52
McCain 19

(Voters who listed education or Social Security first put Huckabee above the other two. Whereas on foreign policy, McCain drew a commanding lead among Iraq-War voters).

Why is this interesting? Well, which candidate is most associated with doing something about the economy, and with having a health care plan? Romney. Which candidate is most associated with "comprehensive immigration reform" and environmental legislation? McCain. Yet at least in this one survey, voters who listed those issues first preferred the candidate who seems less likely to make something happen in Washington.

Maybe among Republican voters, the hunger for change is outweighed by concern that no matter who wins, Washington is just going to make things worse.

*Three words that should bring every single Republican back to the GOP fold: Justice John Edwards.

*Jonah Goldberg offers some much-needed perspective for the overheated McCain-bashing at NRO. Mark Steyn questions Romney's, er, stones. And the WSJ explores Mitt Romney's conservative convictions, or rather lack thereof.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:59 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Let The Healing Begin

I'm signing on to Ruffini's pledge (more here):

Hopefully, if McCain effectively wraps this thing up tonight, the folks on the Right who have been going bonkers about him will settle down, get some perspective and realize the myriad ways in which he is still better than the Democrat alternatives. I never thought I'd live to see the day when Rush Limbaugh needed to be reminded of this.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:47 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
February 4, 2008
POLITICS: The Long Battle

Bob Novak explains how the delegate-distribution process makes it more likely that the Democrats will have a drawn-out primary battle. Of course, there is still the possibility that one or the other candidate - especially Obama, who presumably hopes to run again if he doesn't get the nomination - would be pressured by party elders, including his or her own supporters, to drop out and make nice at some point for the good of the party. For now, though, it is starting to seem as if the Republicans might really settle on a nominee a month or more before the Democrats, and that could be a major advantage, especially given (1) the Democrats' fundraising prowess this cycle compared to McCain's empty pockets and (2) the race/gender edge to the Democratic race, which is especially unlikely to heal well if Obama loses the nomination on the most undemocratic, smoke-filled-room bases imaginable (superdelegate alliances with Hillary, credential fights over Michigan and Florida). All that's missing is a recount.

If there's one part of the campaign that John McCain should be uniquely well-positioned for, it's spending a month shaking his head in sorrow at the Democratic contenders throwing mud at each other while he stays blissfully above the fray.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:09 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: An Idea That Is Several Years Overdue

Bill James is starting a website.

Via THT.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:07 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Time Equals Money

David Pinto makes a very incisive point about Curtis Granderson's new contract, signed well in advance of Granderson's eligibility for free agency (like those of David Wright and Jose Reyes):

It strikes me that these deals are going to end up distorting the free agent market. By keeping these players until they are starting their decline phases, not only are teams saving money now, they're saving their fellow owners money later. A 32-year-old free agent just isn't (or shouldn't be) worth the save as a 28-year-old with the same skills.

This, of course, was why A-Rod's original deal was so enormous - not just because A-Rod's so good, but because he went on the market at age 25. (As an aside, it irritates me that rational GMs take away the lesson from that that they should keep guys like him in the minors longer, to the detriment of the game. Free agent eligibility should be based on age, not big-league experience).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:01 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Department of Narrowly Averted Disasters

Season 7 of 24, if it ever arrives, will be missing this thrilling plot:

Come spring, the show's writers and their Fox bosses began having informal telephone conversations about how to recover for next season. By the May 21 season finale, the audience had dropped to just over 11 million. Fox gave the writers carte blanche to "reimagine" the show. One of the team's chief considerations was how to address the controversy surrounding Jack's use of torture. Should Jack be feeling the guilt the media would have him feel?

On May 31, the show's head writers went in for a meeting at the studio to present their first big idea: sending Jack to Africa. In various incarnations, Jack would begin the season digging ditches, building houses, tending to orphans, providing security for an embassy or escorting around a visiting dignitary. "One of the themes we discussed was penance, that Africa was a place Jack had gone to seek some kind of penance. Some sanctuary too, but also penance for things he's done in his life," Mr. Gordon says.

Ms. Walden and Gary Newman, chairmen of 20th Century Fox Television, were receptive but believed it was too much of a departure. "It felt like we were throwing the baby out with the bathwater," says Ms. Walden. The Africa plot also had several glaring problems, the first of which was that at some point Jack would have to fly back to the U.S. The writers proposed that for the first time ever, "24" would break from its real-time conceit; the show would skip the period when Jack was on his 14-hour flight.

The writers agreed to work on the plot. Just three weeks before they were due to start shooting the first episodes, Messrs. Gordon and Surnow joined fellow head writers Bob Cochran and Manny Coto for a pancake breakfast at an IHOP to talk through the elements of Jack-in-Africa that still weren't working. Jack was too far away, they felt, both from the immediacy of domestic terror and from the character he had been in prior seasons.

As Dave Barry would say: 24 has writers?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:25 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL: Big Blue David

This is truly a moment to savor, as it's the first time in 17 years that one of my three teams (Mets, Giants, Franchise Formerly Known as the Knicks) has won it all. Before the game I had expected that the Giants would hang with the Pats for at least the first half, but I never thought they would actually pull this off. And I'll admit that over the past two seasons I never believed that Eli would turn into the kind of QB who could run that incredible do-or-die drive to retake the lead down 4 in the closing two minutes. And maybe I haven't paid close enough attention to the NFL but it still amazes me that the Giants were able to do this without Tiki Barber and Jeremy Shockey, the two mainstays of their offense these last few years. And on top of that, a quiet day by Tiki's replacement, Brandon Jacobs.

The co-MVP of the game could easily have been David Tyree, who caught Eli's first TD pass and had a number of impressive catches including a crucial 24-yard circus catch off the top of his helmet in the final drive that looked like a throwback to the stickum age. But the play that will most likely be re-shown in the days to come was Eli evading the grasp of defenders who nearly tore the jersey off his back to complete a 45-yard strike over the middle to Kevin Boss early in the 4th quarter when the game was still stalled at 7-3 Pats.

If there was one downside to this game it was the officiating, which seemed intrusive and yet missed shenanigans caught on camera by both sides on a couple of occasions.

Nobody will weep for Goliath - least of all the now-giddy 72 Dolphins - the Pats have plenty of rings to count. But from this day forward the credcendo will build whenever a team gets to 10-0 or so that they better lose now and not wait until the Super Bowl. Which is probably unfair to the Patriots, who just looked last night like a team that got beat by another team, not a team that played too tight and choked.

UPDATE: A few additional thoughts:

1. I didn't give the Giants D nearly enough credit above for stopping the Pats' vaunted offense. This defensive unit may not have the big names of Giant defenses of yore, but they showed up when it counted.

2. I guess it's no surprise that I can't reach firetomcoughlin.com this morning.

SECOND UPDATE: Yeah, I somehow got the plays mixed up in my head and forgot that the Eli torn-jersey play was actually the same play as Tyree's helmet-catch. Duh.

Also, humbling moment of the day: watching scrawny little Wes Welker, realizing that he's even smaller without his pads...and being informed that Welker is my height and outweighs me by 40 pounds.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:05 AM | Football | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
February 1, 2008
BASEBALL: The Santana Contract

Cerrone says 6 years, $137.5 million. It's a huge deal and risky to pay a pitcher that much, but if anybody's worth it, Santana is.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:58 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links 2/1/08

*Bob Klapisch has a must-read (really!) article about how the Twins got backed into the Santana deal with the Mets instead of taking better packages from the Yankees and Red Sox (one is left with the impression that the Red Sox, possibly rationally, lost interest once the Yankees were out of the bidding - unlike the Yanks they don't have unlimited financial resources and have a fairly solid pitching staff at present). Via Pinto. On the one hand, the Twins' new GM Bill Smith clearly screwed up by turning down a deal involving Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera and two additional prospects in December; on the other hand, the Yankees will probably regret turning down a last-minute chance to get Santana for just Ian Kennedy, Melky and one other prospect (and I say this as someone who thinks Melky has a good shot to be a real good player).

*Speaking of great reporting, Fred Barnes' account of how President Bush decided on the surge, based heavily on interviews with the president himself, is also a must-read for intelligent discussion of the subject.

*The five stages of voting in Republican primaries. Via Vodkapundit. Absolutely spot-on.

*The wages of Kelo: the Second Circuit this morning affirms the use of the eminent domain power for the munificent public purpose of bringing the Nets to Brooklyn.

*Stanley Kurtz on Waziristan past, and Waziristan present.

*This is an amazing story, if true.

*You will look long and hard for two savvier observers of presidential politics than Karl Rove and Patrick Ruffini, and their takes on the 08 scene are worth reading, especially Rove's point about exit polls and Patrick's point about the advantages of online fundraising (added advantage he doesn't mention: online donors don't show up demanding favors).

*The FBI interrogator who questioned Saddam after his capture confirms what we all knew: Saddam intended all along to retain the ability to ramp up WMD production as soon as he could, and he made a deliberate effort to appear to still have WMD capability:

Mr. Piro: "The folks that he needed to reconstitute his program are still there."

Mr. Pelley: "And that was his intention?"

Mr. Piro: "Yes."

Mr. Pelley: "What weapons of mass destruction did he intend to pursue again once he had the opportunity?"

Mr. Piro: "He wanted to pursue all of WMD. So he wanted to reconstitute his entire WMD program."

Mr. Pelley: "Chemical, biological, even nuclear."

Mr. Piro: "Yes."

*Great move by the Yankees snagging Morgan Ensberg. Ensberg has had his struggles lately and granted he will be less useful as a first baseman, but his combination of power and patience makes him a potentially very useful bat.

*Color me un-shocked that Clinton crony Strobe Talbott would be duped by Soviet agents.

*The real DB Cooper, unmasked? Nah, he would never have stolen paper currency just months after Nixon took us off the gold standard.

*Mark Steyn rightly takes McCain to task for his hostility to making money in the private sector. I think John Hinderaker has the better of the argument about preferring McCain to a novice politician like Romney on foreign affairs - unlike Steyn's example of Hillary, McCain is a longstanding, indeed life-long, foreign policy hawk who has no illusions about the likes of Putin (I believe he once said he looked in Putin's eyes and saw the lettters "KGB"). And Pejman properly takes McCain to task for misrepresenting Romney's position on timetables and the surge, which is a shame because there really is a fair contrast (see here and here) on the fact that McCain was a longstanding, vocal leader on Iraq strategy while Romney played the role of a cautious follower who always kept his options open to bail on victory in Iraq for the greater good of getting himself elected.

*Andrew Ferguson on Fred: brilliant. Ruffini's Fred postmortem is also worth reading.

*This video about Hillary's role on the Board of Directors of Wal-Mart will likely hurt her mostly in the primaries, and certainly doesn't scandalize me. But it's amusing and interesting on a few levels, not least the accent she was using back then. There's also a lesson about what drives journalists; biases are one thing, but when Brian Ross mentions that he covered this story 16 years ago, it's pretty clear that returning to it now is about Ross' career more than about Hillary.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Baseball 2008 • | Basketball • | Blog 2006-13 • | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Bush The Spending Hawk

This AP report suggests that President Bush may be submitting his most frugal budget yet, in his final year in office:

President George W. Bush's 2009 budget will virtually freeze most domestic programs and seek nearly $200 billion in savings from federal health care programs, a senior administration official said Thursday.

Given that this is an election-year budget submitted by a lame duck president to a hostile Congress, don't hold your breath waiting for this to get enacted. But for once, the Bush White House may be taking steps to draw an election-year contrast on spending, and just as a candidate who has sought to brand himself as a spending hawk seems poised to take the party's nomination. Maybe some parts of the GOP's domestic-policy brand can be salvaged yet. How does Bush propose to save that money?

The president will propose nearly $178 billion . . . in savings from a health care program for the elderly [presumably, Medicare] - a number that is nearly triple what he proposed last year. Much of the savings would come from freezing reimbursement rates for most health care providers for three years. Another $17 billion . . . would come from the state-federal partnership that provides health coverage to the poor [Medicaid].

The official, whose spoke on condition of anonymity because the budget has not yet been released, said the budget for domestic programs would look like last year's.
"It's a very small increase," he said. "Very small."

A second official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that domestic discretionary spending would increase by less than 1 percent under Bush's proposal.

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One official made that clear that medical program for the elderly would continue to grow, but not as quickly as had been expected. "Medicare will grow at 5 percent. It just won't grow over 7 percent," said this official.

Savings also would come by charging wealthier people higher monthly premiums for the drug portion of this program.

Of course, any "savings" that come from plans for "the next three years" can easily be undone by the 2010 budget that will be proposed by the next President. Still, it does look like this is a 4-part plan: tight control over discretionary spending, a less favorable deal for some enrollees in the Medicare prescription drug plan, a worse deal for doctors and hospitals under Medicare (I assume this will get passed on in some fashion to patients) and unspecified Medicaid savings.

The devil as always will be in the details, and Democrats will no doubt brand this as what one presidential candidate in 1999 famously called "balancing the budget on the backs of the poor." But it would be really good news for the GOP to once again have a fight about stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:50 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)