"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
April 29, 2008
BASEBALL: Cliff Lee Roolz
BASEBALL: Class of '49
BASEBALL: Wright Ending
Good ending to tonight's game - David Wright has definitely entered the stage of his career where you get to extra innings with an o-fer and you figure the other team just can't shut him down that many times. The bullpen was another matter, but all is well that ends well.
Random thought: Is it just me, or does that Pirates catching gear make Ronny Paulino look like an overweight C-3PO?
Darryl Strawberry: studio analyst just seems strange to me.
POLITICS: Obama Weak On The Issues
There's a growing school of thought among Republicans that even despite his massive fundraising machine, pop culture cache and messianic aura, Barack Obama may yet turn out to be a much weaker general election opponent than Hillary Clinton. Hillary is certain to be a competitive candidate, but has enormous built-in negatives; any election involving her is likely to be very closely divided. But Obama, while he seems to have a much higher ceiling, also faces a much more significant risk of getting completely Mondaled. And a new poll from Rasmussen helps explain why - even moreso than Hillary, Obama matches up terribly against McCain on which candidate is more trusted on a host of key issues. Here's the key findings in tabular form:
Is Obama actually the easier target? Maybe, maybe not; any one poll is just a snapshot, and it's a long way to November. But more and more Republicans are eager to find out.
BASEBALL/FOOTBALL: They All Look Alike
I guess I am not the only one to notice that Ben Sheets is a dead ringer for Brett Favre:
At one point during lunch, a fan approached Sheets and said "Hey Brett, how are you enjoying retirement?"
BASEBALL: Bad Investments
Zito is a natural lightning rod, but of course it's not his fault that the Giants have no hitting (an anemic 3.26 R/G, second to worst in the NL) and a crummy defense (.673 defensive efficiency rating is the lowest in the NL and ahead of only the Rangers across MLB). In fact, Zito may end up needing to be traded to stop trying to carry the team.
That said, his core problem seems to be a loss of velocity, and that's not just psychological. Check out the analysis by veteran pitching guru Paul Nyman at The Hardball Times, introduced somewhat verbosely here, with the second installment here.
UPDATE: By the way, one reason Zito may be getting the blame is how well the Giants' other top pitchers are doing. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and the surprising Jonathan Sanchez, between them, are 7-2 with a 3.10 ERA, striking out 10.1 batters/9 and allowing 0.6 HR/9; they've been wild (4.8 BB/9, mainly Cain's doing), but effective. If you look at DER, Lincecum (.630) and Zito (.667) are getting the short end of the stick, with the others above .700. But Zito has historically relied on a combination of good DERs and decent K rates to keep the hits down, and he's lost both.
BASEBALL: "85% of the World's Working. The Other 15% Come Out Here"
25 years ago today: the legendary Lee Elia press conference. Bad language warning, of course:
April 28, 2008
BASEBALL: Up There Hacking
One of the interesting revelations about watching Johan Santana this season has been watching him hit. Pitchers, even ones who can swing the bat, usually have swings that are not that pretty to watch - they try to meet the ball, or take a butcher-boy approach to whacking it into the ground - but Santana's swing is relatively compact but with a sharp uppercut, a Mo Vaughn/David Oritz kind of swing, not at all what you expect from a pitcher who spent his whole career in the AL and isn't built like a burly first baseman.
And Santana's had decent results - he's batting .231/.286/.462 with 3 doubles in 13 at bats entering tonight's action, .250/.283/.386 in 46 career plate appearances, for a career OPS+ of 75, almost the level of a weak-hitting everyday catcher or shortstop.
The other reason this surprised me is that lefthanded power pitchers, in particular, have a fairly grisly track record at the plate. Some examples - bear in mind that you really need to work hard to get an OPS+ below zero; with 100 being the league average hitter, an OPS+ in the 20s is plenty bad (although by 2007, with pitchers falling further and further behind the average hitter, the NL OPS+ for pitchers was -3; in 1956 the Major League average for pitchers was 23) - I'm aware that not all these guys are known as power pitchers, but all of them were when they entered the league:
I included Waddell and Morris since they hale from an era when pitchers were expected to contribute more with the bat; Morris' presence shows that you can find this trend all the way back to the very first lefthanded pitcher to have a significant successful career (although his 1880s contemporaries Matt Kilroy and Toad Ramsey were much better hitters, with OPS+ of 72 and 42, respectively).
It's not all lefthanded power pitchers, of course; there's Babe Ruth, and there's also the following list of guys who ranged from dangerous hitters to fairly average hitting pitchers (Sabathia, like Santana, has limited hitting experience, just 39 plate appearances):
(I remember Sid being a better hitter than that but he batted .080 after turning 30).
Even recognizing that this is more an anecdotal than a systematic study, I don't have a good single explanation here. Clearly some of these guys were not great athletes, but Koufax, for example, was an excellent basketball player; some of these guys are latter-day AL pitchers, but the pattern precedes them back to the early days and has continued in the NL. I suppose the ability to throw hard as a lefthander probably means most of these guys got identified as pitchers earlier in their baseball-playing youth than your typical stud athlete who plays a lot of SS and CF before settling into a single position; that seems to me the most likely reason.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:16 PM | Baseball 2008 | Baseball Studies | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Party Of Two Universities
Far be it from me to knock fancy Ivy League law degrees, but you know, with Obama and Hillary the last two choices standing, it appears that the Democrats will pick a candidate from Harvard or Yale for the sixth straight election - Fritz Mondale was the last time they took a candidate educated entirely outside those two universities. Perhaps, if they are concerned about the constant battle to establish that their candidates are normal people rather than captives of a lot of ideas, beliefs, and associations that don't really exist outside the left-wing academic hothouse, it may be time to fish in wider waters. Consider:
1988 - Dukakis (Harvard Law)
POLITICS/LAW: Corruption in Louisiana?
Patterico has done some serious original digging with this post.
POLITICS: Getting Frisky
This, from Hillary Clinton, is a reminder why candidates with their backs against the wall are so dangerous - like Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush (in 1992) in the last weeks of their losing campaigns, Hillary has really hit her stride and found her voice as a candidate in a way that was never in evidence as long as she had some plausible case to be a frontrunner - but unlike those candidates, Hillary still has months to go before she can be formally pulled from the stage:
I know his supporters say, well they did like the last debate in Philadelphia, the questions were kind of mean and they were sort of tough, ...You know, I've got to say, tough questions in a debate is nothing like the tough decisions you've got to make in the White House. I think that this state deserves a debate. So here’s what I'm offering. How about this -- no moderators just the two of us on a stage for 90 minutes asking each other questions, talking about whatever's on our minds, just like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and I think, you know, we could even do it on the back of a flatbed truck, doesn’t even have to be in a fancy studio somewhere.
(H/T). Is this a sign of desperation? Sure, these kinds of challenges always are. But then, those of us on the Right never did figure out how to make the Clintons go away, no matter how much hot water they were in. Not only does Obama have to keep taking this, but he has now reached the point where he basically has to hide from debating her again for his own protection, stop doing press conferences, and generally go into a protracted defensive crouch, while McCain is doing blogger calls, touring traditional Democratic strongholds and generally having himself a good time.
LAW/POLITICS: Supreme Court Rejects Challenge To Indiana Voter ID Law
The Supreme Court this morning, by a 6-3 vote in Crawford v. Marion County Elec. Bd., upheld Indiana's voter ID law. This is a major defeat for the Democrats' efforts to prevent states from requiring valid identification to vote. The lawsuit was brought by the Indiana Democratic Party.
The Court took a fractured approach. Justice Stevens, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy, found no showing of an undue burden on various voters who challenged the voter ID law on its face. Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito would have upheld the law on the broader ground that it imposed the same requirements equally on all voters. Both opinions give great weight to the state interest in ensuring that only eligible voters cast ballots. Justice Souter, joined by Justices Breyer and Ginsburg, dissented on the grounds that they felt the statute did, in fact, unduly burden some voters. Justice Breyer wrote separately.
Justice Scalia's separate opinion is redolent of the judicial hangover from Bush v. Gore in its emphasis on the hazards of permitting case-by-case judicial review of neutral rules established by state legislatures before an election takes place. This is a point I've been making since the Bush v. Gore decision came down: the most important thing about that case is the fact that the SCOTUS was reviewing a non-statutory judicial remedy crafted by an appellate court after the election had taken place, when all the participants knew - or at least thought they knew - what remedies would benefit which candidates, as opposed to a statute of general applicability enacted before the election, setting out rules and procedures that all participants knew from Day One they would have to comply with.
Extended excerpts from the Stevens and Scalia opinions, and commentary, below the fold. Note that this is the third election-law case this Term (I discussed the first two here and here), and the democratically-enacted statute won in each case.
(UPDATES also below the fold).
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Justice Stevens' plurality opinion starts by noting the rule laid down in the Court's poll tax cases (I'm omitting footnotes, citations, etc. as I go):
[E]ven rational restrictions on the right to vote are invidious if they are unrelated to voter qualifications.... [H]owever, we [have] confirmed the general rule that "evenhanded restrictions that protect the integrity and reliability of the electoral process itself" are not invidious ...Rather than applying any "litmus test" that would neatly separate valid from invalid restrictions, ... a court must identify and evaluate the interests put forward by the State as justifications for the burden imposed by its rule, and then make the "hard judgment" that our adversary system demands.
Justice Stevens then addressed the case at bar:
While petitioners argue that the statute was actually motivated by partisan concerns and dispute both the significance of the State's interests and the magnitude of any real threat to those interests, they do not question the legitimacy of the interests the State has identified.
The first is the interest in deterring and detecting voter fraud. The State has a valid interest in participating in a nationwide effort to improve and modernize election procedures that have been criticized as antiquated and inefficient. [See National Commission on Federal Election Reform, To Assure Pride and Confidence in the Electoral Process 18 (2002) (with Honorary Co-chairs former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter).]
Justice Stevens quoted at length from that report, thus providing a rare example of such a bipartisan commission coming to some good (Justice Breyer would have placed equally strong weight on some of the commission's specific recommendations). He also cited the two recent federal enactments on voting procedures. He also noted that there was sufficient evidence that voter fraud happens to justify the state in trying to prevent it:
It remains true, however, that flagrant examples of such fraud in other parts of the country have been documented throughout this Nation's history by respected historians and journalists, that occasional examples have surfaced in recent years, and that Indiana's own experience with fraudulent voting in the 2003 Democratic primary for East Chicago Mayor - though perpetrated using absentee ballots and not in-person fraud - demonstrate that not only is the risk of voter fraud real but that it could affect the outcome of a close election.
Judge Barker cited record evidence containing examples from California, Washington, Maryland, Wisconsin, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Miami, and St. Louis. The Brief of Amici Curiae Brennan Center for Justice et al. in Support of Petitioners addresses each of these examples of fraud. While the brief indicates that the record evidence of in-person fraud was overstated because much of the fraud was actually absentee ballot fraud or voter registration fraud, there remain scattered instances of in-person voter fraud. For example, after a hotly contested gubernatorial election in 2004, Washington conducted an investigation of voter fraud and uncovered 19 "ghost voters." ....After a partial investigation of the ghost voting, one voter was confirmed to have committed in-person voting fraud.
Soren Dayton has more on the East Chicago case, which resulted in 45 convictions. Turning to the challenge to the statute's requirements, Justice Stevens noted that some groups may be unduly burdened but found an insufficient basis to invalidate the entire statute on the record before the Court - thus leaving open the possibility of future challenges:
The burdens that are relevant to the issue before us are those imposed on persons who are eligible to vote but do not possess a current photo identification that complies with the requirements of SEA 483.16 The fact that most voters already possess a valid driver's license, or some other form of acceptable identification, would not save the statute under our reasoning in Harper, if the State required voters to pay a tax or a fee to obtain a new photo identification. But just as other States provide free voter registration cards, the photo identification cards issued by Indiana's BMV are also free. For most voters who need them, the inconvenience of making a trip to the BMV, gathering the required documents, and posing for a photograph surely does not qualify as a substantial burden on the right to vote, or even represent a significant increase over the usual burdens of voting.
Petitioners ask this Court, in effect, to perform a unique balancing analysis that looks specifically at a small number of voters who may experience a special burden under the statute and weighs their burdens against the State’s broad interests in protecting election integrity....But on the basis of the evidence in the record it is not possible to quantify either the magnitude of the burden on this narrow class of voters or the portion of the burden imposed on them that is fully justified.
Finally we note that petitioners have not demonstrated that the proper remedy—even assuming an unjustified burden on some voters—would be to invalidate the entire statute. When evaluating a neutral, nondiscriminatory regulation of voting procedure, we must keep in mind that a ruling of unconstitutionality frustrates the intent of the elected representatives of the people.
Finally, Justice Stevens rejected the argument that the statute is improper because of a partisan motivation:
It is fair to infer that partisan considerations may have played a significant role in the decision to enact SEA 483. If such considerations had provided the only justification for a photo identification requirement, we may also assume that SEA 483 would suffer the same fate as the poll tax at issue in Harper.
Justice Scalia argued that the Court's precedents, the constitutional text and the practicalities of election litigation argued for a more sweeping rule deferring to state legislatures:
The lead opinion assumes petitioners' premise that the voter-identification law "may have imposed a special burden on" some voters... but holds that petitioners have not assembled evidence to show that the special burden is severe enough to warrant strict scrutiny, ... That is true enough, but for the sake of clarity and finality (as well as adherence to precedent), I prefer to decide these cases on the grounds that petitioners' premise is irrelevant and that the burden at issue is minimal and justified.
The Indiana law affects different voters differently, ... but what petitioners view as the law's several light and heavy burdens are no more than the different impacts of the single burden that the law uniformly imposes on all voters. To vote in person in Indiana, everyone must have and present a photo identification that can be obtained for free. The State draws no classifications, let alone discriminatory ones, except to establish optional absentee and provisional balloting for certain poor, elderly, and institutionalized voters and for religious objectors. Nor are voters who already have photo identifications exempted from the burden, since those voters must maintain the accuracy of the information displayed on the identifications, renew them before they expire, and replace them if they are lost.
This is an area where the dos and don'ts need to be known in advance of the election, and voter-by-voter examination of the burdens of voting regulations would prove especially disruptive. A case-by-case approach naturally encourages constant litigation. Very few new election regulations improve everyone's lot, so the potential allegations of severe burden are endless. A State reducing the number of polling places would be open to the complaint it has violated the rights of disabled voters who live near the closed stations. Indeed, it may even be the case that some laws already on the books are especially burdensome for some voters, and one can predict lawsuits demanding that a State adopt voting over the Internet or expand absentee balloting.
(Italics in original).
Justice Souter's dissent complains about the absence of public transportation in Indiana and why the new requirements had to be phased in immediately.
UPDATE: Allahpundit looks at Justice Souter's argument that the travel time to the DMV imposes an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote:
Do note that if you take the left seriously here, the act of voting itself arguably imposes an unconstitutional burden: As with a trip to the DMV, it requires leaving work, traveling, and waiting on line for an unknown amount of time. The only difference between the two is having to scrounge around for a copy of your birth certificate.
(In fact, it was the Democrats who pushed for "motor voter" registration on the theory that registration at the DMV was a great convenience). And Michelle Malkin notes that one of the voters cited in the case as being disadvantaged by the law was herself illegally registered to vote in two states.
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April 27, 2008
BASEBALL: Davey Looks Back
The Daily News talks to Davey Johnson. On Dwight Gooden:
DN: You managed one of the greatest young talents the game has ever seen in Dwight Gooden, who went 24-4 as a 20-year-old. How do you feel when you think about his career, and his life after baseball?
Um, yeah. That doesn't sound like a great idea. Of course, today you would not ask a 20-year-old pitcher to throw 276 innings, either.
DN: If you were starting a team and could choose from all the players you managed or played with/against, who would be your No. 1 pick?
Read the whole thing.
April 24, 2008
BASEBALL: I Just Can't Resist Noting It
The Tigers are presently scoring 19 runs per game with Curtis Granderson in the lineup.
With 78 runs in their last 10 games, I think you can say Detroit's offense, at least, is back.
POLITICS: A Word About The Bird
You know, it might not be a bad idea for Barack Obama to be just a little more careful with that finger:
April 23, 2008
BASEBALL: Card In The Hole
The Reds have hired as their general manager Walt Jocketty, the greatly successful former Cardinals GM. We'll see if Jocketty can recapture his winning formula from St. Louis, which focused on concentrating scarce resources on star-quality prospects and surrounding them largely with reclamation-project veterans (in a sense, not so different from how the Reds were run the past decade, but better), and trading actively while eschewing big free agent signings.
POLITICS: Negative Momentum
The bottom line on last night's Pennsylvania primary is, on the surface, what it has been for a while: Obama has the lead, but he has serious problems reaching Hillary's voters, and the voting results seem to support the notion that who wins and loses is determined less by events than by hardened demographic facts; Hillary has arguments about how she's a better general election candidate, but she's probably running out of forums in which to press them. I still think there's no way she can get the superdelegates to give her the nomination; even if were to up and decide en masse that Obama is by far the weaker general election candidate (a point that remains fiercely debatable), he represents three factions of the party (African-American voters, hard-left anti-war activists, and young people with little or no prior voting history) who are most likely to react poorly to the perception that their candidate won at the polls but was sold out in a back room deal. And at that point, the long-term damage to the party from backing Hillary will outweigh considerations of who could win this one.
That said, the Democrats do have to worry that to the extent that momentum is at all discernible in this race, their likely nominee has essentially negative momentum. Obama has faced the voters in seven states in the past 60 days, and here are the popular vote counts:
Obama can probably still run out the clock, but he's going to end with the worst run-up to the convention since Gerald Ford in 1976. And the real finish line, of course, is in November.
April 22, 2008
BASEBALL: Grandly Unsuccessful
With Jorge Sosa giving up a grand slam to Ronny Cedeno (career SLG: .351) and running his ERA to 7.24, it is real tempting to run this picture again. In 13.2 IP this season, Sosa's allowed 16 hits, 7 walks and 4 homers.
But at least we have those fond memories of his great stretch run last season...
FOOTBALL: Husker Too?
I suppose, given the state of Holy Cross football, I can understand why Justice Thomas prefers to root for Nebraska.
POLITICS: You Can't Ask Me That!
So the left-blogosphere, mainly the Obama supporters, has erupted in characteristically unbounded fury at the questions asked in Wednesday's debate - the fact that so many were pointed questions, the fact that they were heavily tilted towards recent controversies around Obama, the fact that the first 45 minutes of the debate covered those controversies before moving on to debate the candidates' positions on the issues. Obama himself has whined and complained and moaned about the debate and cancelled the next scheduled debate, leaving in doubt whether there will be any further debates even if this race goes on for another six weeks of voting.
I had planned a longer, more link-filled post examining the purpose of presidential debates, but I'm pressed for time, so I'll hit here the main points in somewhat disjointed form:
*I'd agree, as I said on Thursday, that George Stephanopoulos is too personally tied to the Clintons to get a seat at any debate involving Hillary, and I'd also agree that a couple of his questions were too aggressive. And I'd feel the same way about having him do a GOP debate. One might ask whether the moderators should really include former Democratic staffers (Chris Matthews, Tim Russert - although I do generally like Russert) or the children of Democratic politicians (Cokie Roberts). Fox didn't have Karl Rove moderating a debate, after all. But the Republicans had to endure Matthews.
*That said, you know, these candidates have debated plenty before; as Obama himself admitted:
"I'll be honest with you. We've now had 21," Obama said of the debates. "It's not as if we don't know how to do these things. I could deliver Senator Clinton's lines. I'm sure she could deliver mine."
On health care, where the two have assaulted each other in tedious detail over the microscopic differences in their proposals, that's true. So, it's understandable that the debate focused instead on what was new, and the first 45 minutes was all about the stories that had come out since the prior debate, the issues about Obama's statements, associations, and philosophy. I have said it repeatedly, and I'll return to this at a later date: ideas don't run for president, people do.
*Perhaps more to the point, this isn't like the silly GOP debate questions about evolution or some of the nonsense Matthews asked at the early GOP debates (I wish I had time now to go back over some of those - we forget quite how terrible many of the GOP debates were, even to the point of having questions from planted Democratic operatives giving speeches, see here and here) - basically every question on Wednesday was a hot issue in the news that any observer of this race would have expected to come up and, with the possible exception of the question about Obama's prior statements about his flag lapel-pin (which he then falsely denied having made), every question was on a topic that one or both of the candidates had raised in attacking each other. It's hard for reporters to say that something isn't newsworthy in a 2-candidate race when one of the campaigns is pushing the story; traditionally, if it's a bogus attack, that's a prime opportunity for the target of the attack to push back.
*I guess Obama would have preferred these people asking the questions - check in particular the Q&A around 1:50
BASEBALL: Soft Up The Middle
I have been thinking of Bill James' study (in this year's Goldmine book) confirming the conventional wisdom that good teams tend to be strong up the middle in the context of the Tigers' early struggles. Edgar Renteria seems to be doing OK, but look elsewhere: at catcher, Pudge Rodriguez is batting .271/.316/.414, and only in the last day or two got his OBP out of the .280s. At second, Placido Polanco - the anchor of the Detroit infield defense - has been injured, and when healthy he hit just .148/.292/.167. In center, star CF and key offensive and defensive contributor Curtis Granderson has been hurt and hasn't played yet.
That's not the whole explanation, of course; DH Gary Sheffield is hitting .192/.364/.308, left fielders Jacque Jones and Marcus Thames are hitting .178/.224/.178 and .172/.250/.276, respectively, and starters Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis and Kenny Rogers have combined to walk 5.77 men per 9 innings while striking out just 4.05. But the weakness up the middle is a key element.
Of course, Sheffield probably isn't totally done, Thames will hit again, and eventually Polanco and Granderson should be healthy. I still expect them to score buckets of runs. I'd be more concerned about the starters.
POLITICS: Going On The Record
Just for the record, now that the Pennsylvania primary is at last upon us, my prediction: I say it will be Hillary by 8 (RCP's average has her at 6). She's getting the late-breaking undecideds, as the more established candidate usually does, but I doubt there are enough of them to push her over the double-digit threshold she really needs to make a major mark.
One thing that goes against the usual conventional wisdom: if turnout is really huge, I expect that to help Hillary, since it probably means that (1) the Rendell machine is going full-out for her and (2) a lot of "Operation Chaos" Republicans have found their way into the primary. (On the other hand, with the primary race on the line, it's not surprising that Obama is finding ways around his pledge to disdain "walking around money," which he would in any event need in the fall to compete in PA, NJ, MO, WI and probably MI).
We will know more tomorrow - but I don't think we'll really know so much more than we do today.
April 21, 2008
POLITICS/LAW: Kinda Like That "Parallel Public Financing System"
On Tuesday the Supreme Court will hear a legal challenge to the so-called millionaires' amendment. It should uphold Congress's modest effort to help candidates who rely on outside contributions to get their messages out to the voters.
In other words, most candidates for public office - since "candidates who rely on outside contributions to get their messages out to the voters" is almost all of them. Would that the Court, and the Times (and Senators McCain and Obama, for that matter) would devote more energy to freeing such candidates to get their messages to the voters, and let the voters decide.
POLITICS: Your Sound Bite of the Day
WAR: McCain Dares To Speak The Truth In The Battle of Ideas
The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), "the nation's largest association of Muslim organizations," joined by one of its increasingly natural allies, the left-wing blog ThinkProgress, is pressing John McCain to stop using the term "radical Islamic extremism" to describe terrorist and terror-sympathizing groups that are undeniably radical and extremist and justify that radical extremism with appeals to a radical and extreme reading of Islam.
Or, at least, a reading that I assume is radical and extreme; one would like to believe that groups like ISNA think so. Naturally, the United States wants and needs to convince the Muslim world that this is the case, and that the terrorists aren't right when they invoke Islam to justify violence against non-Muslims and even, very regularly, against fellow Muslims. But it's hard to make that argument if you don't even acknowledge the fact that the enemy is making such use of an ideology that purports to be grounded in Islamic theology. How would you have gone about combatting the KKK without describing them as a racist group, or international Communism without arguing against Communism? ISNA's leader apparently wants to shut down precisely that sort of dialogue:
Mr. Fareed, who is ISNA's secretary-general, said such usages are wrong.
The self-proclaimed sophisticates at ThinkProgress echo this line of reasoning:
The term "Islamic extremism" is ...sloppy, denigrating Islam as a violent religion while conflating the diverse, multifaceted threats coming from abroad.
The answer here is obvious: we should stop referring to groups like Al Qaeda, Hezbollah (literally, "the party of Allah") and Hamas as Islamic when they themselves stop doing so. But as long as they cite chapter and verse of the Qu'ran, it is simply the truth to say that they are who they claim to be. And it's heartening to hear McCain spokesman Steve Schmidt stick to his guns:
"Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda represent a perverted strain of Islam at odds with the great many peaceful Muslims who practice their great faith peacefully," Mr. Schmidt said. "But the reality is, the hateful ideology which underpins bin Ladenism is properly described as radical Islamic extremism. Senator McCain refers to it that way because that is what it is."
Meanwhile, as the Washington Times notes, McCain's Democratic opponents are not so hot to wield the truth:
Mr. McCain often uses the term "Islamic" to describe terrorist enemies. The two remaining Democrats in the presidential field, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, generally shun such word usage.
Contrast the fire directed at McCain just for speaking the truth with Sen. Obama's, er, admirers among - you guessed it - radical Islamist extremists. First up, a senior official of Hamas:
We don't mind - actually we like Mr. Obama. We hope he will (win) the election and I do believe he is like John Kennedy, great man with great principle, and he has a vision to change America to make it in a position to lead the world community but not with domination and arrogance.
Then we have the Iranians:
Iranians are following the American presidential race more avidly than ever before. That's partly because they're eager for the exit of President Bush, who branded Iran part of an "Axis of Evil" and implicitly raised the possibility of a military strike against the country over its alleged nuclear weapons program. But the Iranians' interest is also driven by a sense among many Iranians that the candidacy of Barack Obama offers real hope for repairing the U.S.-Iranian relationship. Commenting on the Iranian preference for a Democrat in the White House, Sergei Barseghian, a columnist for the reformist Etemad Meli newspaper noted that in Farsi, the words Oo ba ma would translate as "He's with us." ...
(More here on Obama's collection of admirers who are not such big fans of the United States of America). Even weighing the usual caveats here about the difficulty of getting information out of the Iranian regime, as well as the layer of blather TIME pastes over these quotes, it should hardly surprise anyone that Obama is more popular with the enemy when he declines to follow McCain's lead in calling them by their true name.
BASEBALL: Moving On Without Them
This should be the last post from my preseason Established Win Shares (EWSL) division previews, and it's one I have been meaning to do in past years: a look at the amount of roster turnover. Each year, I identify 23 players who are projected to play roles for their team - 13 non-pitchers and 10 pitchers. That's not the whole Opening Day roster, but it pretty closely corresponds to the number of people who have something like a steady major league job, given the insecurity of life as a 12th pitcher or last man on the bench.
So, comparing the 2008 23-man rosters to the 2007 ones, how much turnover was there? 173 players were listed last season but not this year, an average of almost six per team. In percentage terms, 173 out of 690 - that's a 25% attrition rate in a single year even for guys who had made it all the way up the professional pyramid and shimmied up the greasy pole at the top to have one of those scarce jobs playing major league baseball. I'm not making any excuses for anyone when I say that you should remember figures like that the next time you read about ballplayers taking steroids, lying about their ages, corking their bats, scuffing the baseball, concealing injuries, or whatever other edge they think they need to get a big league job and contract and cling to it.
Not all these guys dropped out of the big leagues - some just slid from 10th pitcher to 11th, some are on the DL but could well be major contributors again by midseason, some are youngsters who got sent back for a little more minor league seasoning, some were guys I was just mistaken in thinking last year they'd have jobs. Some, in fact, are already back in a regular job a month later. The under-30 crowd in particular is dominated by injured pitchers. That said, the bulk of this list is guys who fell victim to the dog-eat-dog competition for scarce Major League jobs, most of whom will not return to that perch, and others of whom face an uphill battle in reclaiming those jobs from eager youngsters. In the main, they are a reminder that many more Major League careers end with a whimper than a bang.
The average age of the dropouts? 31.8. Average Win Shares earned show a pattern: 5.8 in 2005, 5.4 in 2006, 2.5 in 2007, with an age-adjusted EWSL of 3.4.
Here's the full list by age (sorted among age groups by declining EWSL) - each and every name on this list is a story of a guy who, at a minimum, started 2008 with less hope and optimism about his future than he did a year earlier:
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:07 PM | Baseball 2008 | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Heads I Win, Tails The Coin Was Loaded
As consumer, employee and other groups carefully build momentum in Congress for changes in the nation's arbitration landscape and business groups just as carefully organize their opposition, a new empirical study reports a "disturbing trend" at the state level: state courts vacating many arbitration awards for employees, but not for employers.
See, here's the thing: if the statistics were the opposite, these same people would be arguing (as they do in with other types of arbitration) that the arbitration panels are biased against them, and they'd cite the reversal rates by the courts as evidence that the arbitrators were less fair than a court would be.
In fact, overall statistics of this nature are famously uninformative because they assume a static universe in which the cases decided by arbitrators or the courts are a representative, evenly divided sample. But there are numerous ways in which data can be biased - just for example:
*If a forum is more favorable to plaintiffs, it may attract more weak or frivolous cases, and thus end up with a higher rate of defense victories - sort of the way outfielders with weak arms get a lot of assists because a lot of people run on them (between 1993 and 2003, Mike Piazza threw out 384 base thieves, Pudge Rodriguez threw out 387 - if you looked just at the total number thrown out, you might draw a very bad conclusion).
*Highly meritorious cases are much more likely to settle, especially in arbitration where plaintiffs are less likely to hold out for massive punitive damages. But the prevalance of nuisance-value settlements means it's also impossible to use settlement data as a reliable proxy for the merits, especially if you lack the means to assess the value of the settlement.
*Defendants who are repeat players (in employment litigation, that's pretty much every business) may be more likely to go to court to challenge awards they are dissatisfied with than employees represented by attorneys working on commission.
*Cases can settle at any stage of the process, so these numbers also don't include cases where a settlement is reached somewhere between the arbitration award and the court decision reviewing it. A defendant who wins in arbitration but faces a likelihood of reversal in court may very well decide to settle the case while the getting is good.
That's even before you get into the asymmetries here - in most employment cases the employee is the plaintiff, who has the burden of proof, a fact that will impact review of the award. The fact is, there are many points in litigation at which decisions can be made by one or both sides about what avenue to pursue next, and each of those decision-points can skew the sample.
POLITICS: "Get A Life" Seems Somehow Inadequate
The WSJ had a piece ($) on Friday on Obama and Hillary groups on Second Life (if you don't know, don't ask) ... invading each other's online rallies.
Join something like Second Life? Not my bag, but hey, I've wasted way too much time on the internet and other made-up games over the years to throw stones on that one. Join a group of like-minded folks? Well, they do the same on Facebook and MySpace. But thinking you can accomplish something by disrupting somebody else's make-believe political rally? You may have a problem.
April 20, 2008
POLITICS: You Are Too Old To Vote Democrat
Left-wing, Soros-funded* interest group "America Coming Together" has produced the following advertisement to helpfully remind you that if you are anywhere near as old as McCain, nyaaah, nyaaah, nyaah you're not cool enough to hang with the Democrats:
Via Exurban League, who breaks down voter turnout by age and remarks:
[In the ad,] twentysomethings ridicule McCain's age for 90 seconds. Because American voters love snarky college students insulting their war-hero elders.
H/T. Jim Geraghty thinks that "I were on Team McCain, I would make sure that ad runs in central Florida and closed-circuit television of every retirement community in the country," and suggests that "McCain is so old" could be the new Chuck Norris Facts. Certainly, McCain's tour harking back to the Great Depression is intended to solidify his bond with older voters, who are much more reliable than people like Obama Girl who make web videos and then don't bother to show up and vote.
If the Left thinks you are too old, well, it's never too late to come on over, join the adults, and vote Republican.
* - Why yes, George Soros is 78. I guess he's not too old for these punks to take his money. That's what grownups are there for - to pay the bills, right?
POLITICS: You Just Spent That Money
David Brooks sees some of the same problems I saw with Hillary's and Obama's answers about taxes at the Philadelphia debate:
Both promised to not raise taxes on those making less than $200,000 or $250,000 a year. They both just emasculated their domestic programs. Returning the rich to their Clinton-era tax rates will yield, at best, $40 billion a year in revenue. It’s impossible to fund a health care plan, let alone anything else, with that kind of money. The consequences are clear: if elected they will have to break their pledge, and thus destroy their credibility, or run a minimalist administration.
Just recall the kind of tax hikes Obama has admitted will be needed just to pay for his health care plan. (And go here, here and here for a reminder of how the Democrats are handling the tax issue at the state level). Ed Morrissey rounds up more as well on the other problem I noted: that the candidates, especially Obama, had already broken these pledges to not raise taxes on voters making under $200,000 a year by the next series of questions, when Obama endorsed (and Hillary refused to rule out) raising the capital gains tax, which of course you don't need a high income to pay (many retirees pay more in capital gains than income taxes).
BASEBALL: Not So Frank
The Blue Jays have unceremoniously cut Frank Thomas, and in the process insult our intelligence:
Thomas was hitless in his past 13 at-bats and had gone 4-for-35 since homering in three straight games April 5-8. Known as a slow starter, he batted .167 with three homers and 11 RBIs for Toronto this season.
There are many things that could be said for this decision - that John Gibbons needed to assert his authority over the team in the face of Thomas' griping about playing time, that the Jays aren't going to win anything this year and need to build for the future, that the move cuts expenses for the future...but two things that can't be said are that this is strictly about 2008 performance and that it's not at all about money.
The latter is obvious; as to the former, the main point here is to create playing time for Shannon Stewart in left field, thus forcing Matt Stairs into the DH role (note that Stairs is 40 and Stewart 34; this will make much more rebuilding sense once that PT goes to Adam Lind). And Stewart is batting .235/.341/.294, not much better than Thomas' .167/.306/.333.
In fact, the Big Hurt, even having a bad year through the 19th of April, still has 3 homers and 11 walks in 16 games/60 at bats. A 4-for-35 slump is way too early to give up on a guy who batted .277/.377/.480 and drove in 95 runs last season. In 2006, Thomas was batting .178/.300/.373 on May 20, and hit .302/.408/.603 the rest of the way.
Given that Thomas can't really play 1B, the market for his services is pretty narrow, but I'd be surprised if someone doesn't snap him up (Seattle, maybe? Minnesota? Baltimore? Tampa, if Jonny Gomes can go back to the outfield?).
April 18, 2008
BASEBALL: Magic Number
Gotta find a place in the sidebar for this:
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POP CULTURE: The Boss Has One Less Right Hand Man
Dan Federici, founding member of the E Street Band, has died at 58 of skin cancer. A great loss; the E Street Band has several key components, but Federici has always been one of them.
April 17, 2008
BASEBALL: Aging Before Our Eyes
Turns out Miguel Tejada has been lying about his age, and just turned 34, not 32. Oddly, unlike some players whose ages are adjusted, the arc of Tejada's career makes a lot more sense if he was still 32, since this means he basically had his best season at 30 and his best batting average at 32. Anyway, adjust your long-term expectations downward.
BASEBALL: One To Watch
Looking for a player who may be inching towards a big leap forward? It remains very early, but one guy to watch may be Wandy Rodriguez with the Astros. The 29-year-old Rodriguez is an unlikely prospect to become a really outstanding pitcher; he's not young and his first two years in the league he was horrible. But he did significantly improve his K/BB numbers last season, from 6.50 K/9 and 4.18 BB/9 in 2006 (also 1.13 HR) to 7.78 K/9 and 3.05 BB/9 (also 1.08 HR) in 2007. In three starts this season, Rodriguez has dialed it up a notch further, to 8.84 K/9, 0.93 BB/9, but 1.40 HR/9. The walk numbers are unsustainable, but if Rodriguez can make another stride forward in the K/BB department while keeping the homers from running away from him, he could be a legitimately solid #3 starter (not that the Astros have a #2). (One caution - Rodriguez pitched well in the first half last season, too - there may be durability issues as well.)
BASKETBALL: Free At Last!
An end to what should never have begun, for the most hated figure in the history of New York sports. You sometimes hear malign influences described as being like a "cancer" on a team; Isiah was more like the ebola virus.
BASEBALL: August Personages
A good baseball column at Slate (no, really!): why so many U.S.-born major leaguers are born in August and so few in July.
POLITICS: Thrilla in Phila
Obama's ham-handed defense of his San Francisco remarks last night - in which he flagrantly violated the First Rule of Holes - was just one of the nuggets from last night's Democratic slugfest in Philadelphia worth revisiting. Let's go to the transcript to hand out a few awards.
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Most Impartial Moderator
So, along with Charlie Gibson, the debate was moderated by...former Clinton staffer George Stephanopoulos. What, Harold Ickes wasn't available?
Most Glaring Historical Ignorance
Gibson gets the award for this question:
Just to quote from the Constitution again, "In every case" -- Article II, Section 1 -- "after the choice of the president, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the vice president."
Yes, Gibson managed to pick the very first provision of the Constitution to get scrapped because it proved in practice to be a disaster, and what's more, a disaster in some ways reminiscent of what the Democrats face today. This provision was bad enough when it saddled President John Adams with a Vice President, Thomas Jefferson, who was a vocal critic and leader of the opposition, but then it gave us the fiasco of the 1800 election, including the 18th century version of "Operation Chaos":
The election exposed one of the flaws in the original Constitution. Members of the Electoral College could only vote for President; each elector could vote for two candidates, and the Vice President was the person who received the second largest number of votes during the election. The Democratic-Republicans had planned for one of the electors to abstain from casting his second vote for Aaron Burr, leading to Jefferson receiving one vote more than Burr. The plan, however, was bungled, resulting in a tied electoral vote between Jefferson and Burr. The election was then put into the hands of the outgoing Federalist Party controlled House of Representatives. Most Federalists voted for Burr in order to block Jefferson from the Presidency, and the result was a week of deadlock. Federalist Alexander Hamilton, who detested both but preferred Jefferson to Burr, intervened on Jefferson's behalf, which allowed Jefferson to ascend to the Presidency. Hamilton's actions were one cause of his duel with Burr, which resulted in Hamilton's death in 1804.
To Obama, for this:
[T]he problem that we have in our politics, which is fairly typical, is that you take one person's statement, if it's not properly phrased, and you just beat it to death. And that's what Senator Clinton's been doing over the last four days.
This is a twofer. First, Obama complains about beating a phrase to death despite his own endless and misleading reworking of McCain's "100 years" remark, and then he manages to remind people (albeit with all sorts of caveats) about Hillary's notorious "baking cookies" crack. What's the word I'm looking for here? Slick.
The Judge A Man By His Friends Award, Part 1
Hillary tore into Obama over the Rev. Wright stuff:
I have to say that, you know, for Pastor Wright to have given his first sermon after 9/11 and to have blamed the United States for the attack, which happened in my city of New York, would have been just intolerable for me. And, therefore, I would have not been able to stay in the church.
And she kept on hammering Obama with more things that your typical NY Times-reading Democratic voter might not have heard about:
It is clear that, as leaders, we have a choice who we associate with and who we apparently give some kind of seal of approval to. And I think that it wasn't only the specific remarks but some of the relationships with Reverend Farrakhan, with giving the church bulletin over to the leader of Hamas, to put a message in.
The Hot Seat Award
Stephanopoulos threw Obama a hand grenade with this question: "[D]do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?" And followed up again: "But you do believe he's as patriotic as you are?"
(Gibson did a fine job running the debate, but Stephanopoulos got in a few too many of these rabbit punches).
What, You Believed Me? I'm a Clinton!
Hillary on Bosnia - yeah, that was not so true.
I may be a lot of things. But I'm not dumb. And I wrote about going to Bosnia in my book in 2004. I laid it all out there. And you're right. On a couple of occasions in the last weeks, I just said some things that weren't in keeping with what I knew to be the case and what I had written about in my book.
That Must Have Been That Other Barack Obama Guy
Obama: "I have never said that I don't wear flag pins or refuse to wear flag pins."
The Judge A Man By His Friends Award, Part 2
Hillary took the baton from Stephanopoulos on Obama's associations with Bill Ayers, formerly of the terrorist group the Weather Underground:
I also believe that Senator Obama served on a board with Mr. Ayers for a period of time, the Woods Foundation, which was a paid directorship position.
In fairness, the comments at issue were in a NY Times profile published the morning of September 11, i.e., they were made before the attacks of that day. But hey, an unrepentant radical terrorist is an unrepentant radical terrorist; he didn't need those attacks to tell which way the wind was blowing.
Great Moments in Moral Equivalence
Obama's response on Ayers?
The fact is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who, during his campaign, once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions.
Yeah, Obama will win a lot of friends by equating pro-lifers with terrorists. As Adam notes, "Sen. Coburn ran for office and is trying to change the law without making any violent actions. William Ayers tried to kill innocent people to make a political point."
Now, This Means War
Obama didn't forget that he's not the only one with a soft spot for leftist radicals:
[B]y Senator Clinton's own vetting standards, I don't think she would make it, since President Clinton pardoned or commuted the sentences of two members of the Weather Underground, which I think is a slightly more significant act... than me serving on a board with somebody for actions that he did 40 years ago.
That was just a great comeback, in all seriousness. Of course, it won't be of much use against McCain.
I'm All Outta Wiggle Room
Hillary's been trying out straddles on Iraq for a long time, despite having never backed off her original support for the war, but she's going all-in for the Democratic nomination now:
[U]pon taking office I will ask the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and my security advisers to immediately put together for me a plan so that I can begin to withdraw within 60 days. ...I have been convinced and very clear that I will begin to withdraw troops within 60 days.
Where will this lead? "We don't know what will happen as we withdraw."
Best One-Liner By Someone Not At The Debate
McCain, on video:
All these tax increases are under the fine print of the slogan hope. They're going to raise your taxes by thousands of dollars a year and they have the audacity to hope you don't mind.
Read My Lips Award
After Hillary promised to jack up the top income tax rates:
I am absolutely committed to not raising a single tax on middle- class Americans, people making less than $250,000 a year. ....
The latter isn't even remotely consistent with Obama's many tax hike schemes and big-spending plans, but we can certainly hold him to the pledge.
Taxes Aren't For Revenue, After All
I loved this exchange in which Obama basically admitted that he was looking to raise the capital gains tax for punitive purposes even if it didn't produce more revenue:
GIBSON: All right. You have, however, said you would favor an increase in the capital gains tax. As a matter of fact, you said on CNBC, and I quote, "I certainly would not go above what existed under Bill Clinton," which was 28 percent. It's now 15 percent. That's almost a doubling, if you went to 28 percent.
Hillary, to her credit, was at least willing to put some limits on how much she would raise the capital gains tax:
GIBSON: ...I want to be clear, the question was about capital gains tax. Would you say, no, I'm not going to raise capital gains taxes?
Of course, you pay capital gains taxes regardless of your income (many retirees have more capital gains than income), so we are already disregarding the stuff they were just saying about not raising taxes on people at various income levels. Ah, it was fun while it lasted. Kinda like Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign promise of a middle class tax cut, which he then threw overboard (although as noted he did finally cut the capital gains tax five years into his tenure).
Money...That's What I Want
Oh, and tax hikes? We weren't done with tax hikes:
CLINTON: ...I'm certainly against one of Senator Obama's ideas, which is to lift the cap on the payroll tax, because that would impose additional taxes on people who are educators here in the Philadelphia area, or in the suburbs, police officers, firefighters and the like.
Unexpected Love For Dick Cheney Award
I'm probably more likely to ask advice of the current president's father than the president himself, because I think that when you look back at George H.W. Bush's foreign policy, it was a wise foreign policy.
There was more interesting stuff on foreign policy, guns, and affirmative action.
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POLITICS/BUSINESS: "Moral Panic" And the Credit Crunch
LAW/POLITICS: One Justice, One Vote
If you want to understand precisely why Barack Obama's sneering condescension towards the beliefs and culture of ordinary voters - and willingness to treat them as irrational prejudices - is a concern in presidential politics, you really need look no further than what happens when such attitudes are brought to the Supreme Court, whose Justices Senator Obama wants to pick. Check out the conclusion of Justice Scalia's brief but masterful concurring opinion yesterday Baze v. Rees, taking Justice Stevens to task for his separate opinion urging that the death penalty be held unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment (a position the Court had taken once before, only to be reversed by Justices then including Stevens himself), despite the many state and federal legislatures that have repeatedly endorsed it, the many juries that have imposed it, the studies supporting its effects, and the fact that the Constitution itself makes explicit references to the death penalty:
As Justice Stevens explains, "'objective evidence, though of great importance, [does] not wholly determine the controversy, for the Constitution contemplates that in the end our own judgment will be brought to bear on the question of the acceptability of the death penalty under the Eighth Amendment.'" .... "I have relied on my own experience in reaching the conclusion that the imposition of the death penalty" is unconstitutional.
(Bold added; italics in original). Read the whole thing; as I said, it's pretty short, as Justice Thomas' separate concurrence (there were seven separate opinions) does the heavy historical lifting.
Now, take note here; it's not Justice Scalia in this debate who wants to take the issue of the death penalty away from the people of Kentucky and make it a matter to be determined by presidential appointees; it's Justice Stevens. I think a lot of Americans wish that we had presidential politics free of hot-button cultural issues, but it's not conservatives who are the main obstacle to doing that. Yet if you listened to Senator Obama last night, he would still have you believe that there's something wrong with voters who care about the rights and democratic privileges that people like Senator Obama want to bring under federal control:
[P]eople are going through very difficult times right now. And we are seeing it all across the country. And that was true even before the current economic hardships ...And so the point I was making was that when people feel like Washington's not listening to them, when they're promised year after year, decade after decade, that their economic situation is going to change and it doesn't, then, politically, they end up focusing on those things that are constant like religion.
In other words, you're only supposed to vote about what Obama says you should vote about - even when Washington is busy meddling in other areas of life. On the "wedge issues," people who agree with Obama should just be given a free hand. (It's also rather rich for Obama to suggest that guns should not be a political issue given his own record of voting to restrict gun ownership - I guess he cast those votes because he was too bitter to stick to economic issues, eh?).
Cases like Baze vividly illustrate that, for the foreseeable future, the Presidential power to appoint federal judges will have an outsized impact on the resolution of "hot-button" or "wedge" issues. I understand full well why, given the unpopularity of "rule by judicial fiat" for liberal ends, Senator Obama doesn't want voters to consider those aspects of the president's powers in voting for who the president should be. But I very much doubt that most voters are such ignorant rubes that they don't realize that a President Obama would be quite happy to use his powers to advance his own values, not theirs.
April 16, 2008
BASEBALL: The Biggest Loser
On Sunday, Tom Glavine passed a milestone I was watching for a year ago, becoming just the second pitcher to lose 200 games among pitchers who broke in after 1973, the first being his longtime teammate Greg Maddux, who is one win away from 350. Barring a Roger Clemens return to rack up 16 more losses, the only active pitcher approaching 200 is Jamie Moyer, who needs 22 more - a feat he can accomplish if he stays in the rotation through the end of 2009 (as he's 45 now and straining to crack 80 on the radar gun, that may be a stretch). After that is Steve Trachsel, who's 37 and needs 44 more losses; about the only other active pitcher who is anywhere in the neihborhood is Livan Hernandez, whose age is indeterminate but who needs 72 more losses, about 6 years' work for him.
The 200-game loser is likely to remain rarer than the 300-game winner - as with Maddux, Glavine, Clemens and possibly Randy Johnson, the path to 300 wins will mainly be trod in the future by guys who win more than 60% of their decisions, given how hard it is to get that many decisions these days.
BASEBALL: Mets Open Thread
I don't have that much to add to last night's couldn't-be-any-better victory except to say that, as good as it was to have Duaner Sanchez back, there just isn't anything more encouraging for the organization right now than having Mike Pelfrey throw 7 shutout innings.
POLITICS: Lies About Money and Nonsense About The Economy
The Democratic Presidential Race Summarized In 31 Seconds
The latest Hillary Clinton ad pretty much summarizes the Democratic race in a nutshell. On the one hand, the ad throws a great punch at one of Barack Obama's more egregiously disingenuous attempts to pass himself off as Mr. New Politics, pointing out that his advertised claim not to take money from oil companies is bogus on two levels - nobody takes money from the companies themselves, since it's illegal, but Obama has received plenty of donations from oil company executives and employees:
Just when you are ready to (gag) cheer on Hillary, though, we get a rapid descent into utter nonsense, as she claims that "She'll make oil companies pay to create the new jobs ... America needs."
So how, exactly, is Hillary supposed to make oil companies create new jobs in the United States?
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Well, consider what oil companies actually do, using as an example ExxonMobil, the company that so personifies "Big Oil" that it might as well just change its name to "Standard Oil." ExxonMobil has approximately 80,800 corporate employees, according to its 2007 Annual Report, plus another 26,300 employed at "company-operated retail sites," i.e., gas stations. According to the company's 2006 Corporate Citizenship report, approximately 37% of the corporate employees are located in the U.S., and while a quick Google search didn't reveal a more reliable source for a further breakdown, Wikipedia claims that the company employs "4,000 employees in its Fairfax downstream headquarters and 27,000 people in its Houston upstream headquarters." The Annual Report defines these two lines of business (upstream and downstream) as follows:
The Corporation's principal business is energy, involving the worldwide exploration, production, transportation and sale of crude oil and natural gas (Upstream) and the manufacture, transportation and sale of petroleum products (Downstream). The Corporation is also a major worldwide manufacturer and marketer of petrochemicals (Chemical) and participates in electric power generation (Upstream).
So, I ask you this: precisely where are more U.S. jobs at ExxonMobil going to come from? As noted, the company's two main business lines already have their headquarters here, so it's not going to be management jobs. Let's start with the upstream business: "exploration, production, transportation and sale of crude oil and natural gas". Is Hillary planning to expand exploration and production in the U.S.? That can be done - the Teamsters would love to see more good drilling and refining jobs created here at home, from drilling in ANWR and off the Florida coast to building the new refineries we haven't had in three decades. But Hillary in the past has opposed such things (the very ad in question boasts that she has opposed even tepid energy bills proposed by the Bush Administration) - is she now going to change course and start drilling like John D. Rockefeller, over the shattered corpses of filthy Obama-supporting hippie environmentalists? That would be newsworthy, I'll say that much, but it's not in evidence in the ad.
Electric power generation? More nuclear plants, maybe? You aren't going to create a ton of jobs building wind farms, that's for sure. But if Hillary has proposed building new nuclear plants, I've missed it.
What about the downstream business? "[M]anufacture, transportation and sale of petroleum products"? To do that, you need to increase demand...is she really running on a platform of increasing demand for oil? As it happens, ExxonMobil reports growth in employment at company-operated retail sites from 17,400 in 2003 to 26,300 in 2007 - almost 9,000 new jobs, a 50% increase, though it's unclear how many of those are in the U.S. But that growth is only going to continue if the company keeps opening new gas stations. How exactly does she propose to compel the company to do that?
So, what is she proposing? Here's what her website says is the basis for the ad's claims:
Hillary introduced a bill that would create a strategic energy fund. "We need to reform our energy taxes so that large oil companies who reap huge benefits from unexpectedly high energy prices over the next two years will be required to pay a portion of their profits into the strategic energy fund." The fund would invest in renewable energy, accelerate the use of biofuels, utilize clean coal technology, and encourage the oil companies to invest in alternative energy. Hillary first introduced the bill that would create the Strategic Energy Fund on 5/23/06.
Supposedly, this "new strategic energy fund ... will create 5 million new jobs and bring down energy costs." If you actually try to plow through the bill itself, you will quickly recognize it for what it is: a marriage of central planning (a big fund of government-controlled money to be handed out as the government sees fit) to old-fashioned Washington special-interest tax breaks, tax incentives, tax expenditures, and other goodies to be earmarked and dispensed to ... well, to get us back to where we started, presumably to companies whose executives and employees donate to the right people in Washington.
Like so many things in Democratic orthodoxy, the promise of good new domestic jobs is basically at odds with the very things (higher taxes, more environmental regulations) Hillary proposes to do, and she proposes to square that circle by having the government take over the business. She's very good at one critical public service: explaining how Barack Obama is full of it. But when it comes to her own agenda, Hillary, too, is selling snake oil instead of the real thing.
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April 15, 2008
BASEBALL: Still on the Shelf
There are three bad things that can happen in April, in order of importance:
And #3 has to be really serious (i.e., what is happening in Detroit, the only team in baseball that's more than 4 games out of first place) before it's worth panicking. I'm not happy with the Mets' performance and W-L record thus far, but they are only 1.5 games back, percentage points behind the Phillies and a half game ahead of Atlanta, so no need to flip out yet. The worst that can be said is they are squandering opportunities.
General manager Omar Minaya told the New York Post for Tuesday's editions that the team doesn't expect the injured Martinez to return to the mound for the Mets until the middle of May or possibly June.
Granted, assuming Pedro comes back recovered, there's no reason the hamstring injury needs to be chronic, and his arm may be fresher in September/October for cutting him some slack now. But a long stretch with only three reliable starters plus reliance on Pelfrey and Nelson Figueroa is a good way to keep squandering.
BLOG: Five Years On
I count blogoversaries from three different points - the debut of my column on the old BSG site in May 2000 and the start of my Blogspot blog in August 2002 are the first two - but as of yesterday I reached the five year mark of this site in its current form. It's always an adventure, balancing the baseball/sports/pop culture and the political/war/law sides of the site, on top of all my other family and work commitments (and blog commitments, as I've assumed an ever larger role over at RedState, where I am currently one of the site's Directors), but it's almost always been fun. Thanks to everyone who stops by.
Leaving aside a pun he had probably spent years waiting to use, David Freddoso has an excellent piece on the complete collapse of opposition to a big-ticket new ship for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's ocean-floor-mapping project. NOAA, of course, takes up close to 60% of the budget of the Commerce Department, whose budget I looked at in greater detail here. Freddoso's point is that ocean-mapping is a classic example of a function that should be left to the private sector or, at a minimum, contracted out to private companies rather than performed by more-expensive government employees:
At the beginning of the Bush presidency, the administration enthusiastically embraced and fought for competitive sourcing. Bush’s first budget director, Mitch Daniels, issued a revised version of a Reagan-era OMB Circular to that end. "To ensure that the American people receive maximum value for their tax dollars," it reads, "commercial activities should be subject to the forces of competition."
And Freddoso warns that in the next Presidential Administration, we could see major increases in government employment as the Democrats roll back the progress that has been made on behalf of hard-working taxpayers:
Competitive sourcing is rarely discussed anymore, except when congressional Democrats, at the urging of public-sector unions, attempt to erode gains already made. Both of the remaining Democratic presidential candidates want the government to perform more non-governmental tasks. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D., N.Y.) told an enthusiastic crowd of unionists in Nevada last February that she would eliminate half a million private contractors. She promised $8 to $10 billion in savings, failing to account for the far-greater offsetting costs that government would incur.
Use of private contractors isn't necessarily the perfect solution, if the government can't get competitive bids, but even so it is cheaper than adding long-term employees to the government's various obligations. The better solution will generally be to get more tasks out of government entirely. But instead of debating between those two alternatives, the Democrats just want to expand the number of workers dependent on salaries and benefits drawn from taxpayer money. And the GOP, sadly, isn't expending much energy to stop them.
POLITICS: Obama Economic Logic
Barack Obama on the interconnectedness of the American economy:
Mr. Obama said America needs a president who understands the "fundamental truth that's been at the heart of America's economic success: that each American does better when all Americans do better; that the well-being of American business and the American people are aligned."
His policy proposal? He wants some Americans to do less well. Which will cause all Americans to do...well, you figure it out.
By the way, speaking of audacity, I just love Obama's euphemism for breaking his pledge to use public financing for his campaign:
"We have created a parallel public financing system where the American people decide if they want to support a campaign they can get on the Internet and finance it, and they will have as much access and influence over the course and direction of our campaign that has traditionally been reserved for the wealthy and the powerful."
Republicans absolutely must use this language. School choice? A parallel public education system where the American people decide if they want to support a school they can finance it. Private retirement accounts? A parallel public retirement system where the American people decide if they want to support their retirement they can finance it.
POLITICS: Twisting the Knife
Well, if Senator Obama wants to get away from his remarks about small-town Americans at a fundraiser on Billionaires' Row, his opponents aren't going to make it easy for him. First up, John McCain, who calls Obama's refusal to disavow his statements "defining" because it suggests that Obama really thinks that people's values on fundamental issues are shaped by economics - and we know that if there's one thing that's a constant in McCain's value system, it's that there are things more important than money:
It helps in dispelling the myth that somehow Barack Obama is good for Democrats down ballot. In the districts that many target Democrats won in 2006, they did so with the help of the kind of rural, church-going, gun-toting voters that Obama appears to disdain.
Then there's Hillary, who wants us to know that Harry and Louise are, er, still bitter over this:
And a thought: you know who might find that this is a good time to speak up for small central Pennsylvania towns? Lynn Swann, that's who.
POLITICS: "You Are What You Read"
Ace had a fine point a few weeks back about media bias and the ways mainstream media figures respond to criticisms from the Right and the Left:
They don't even bother responding to us on the right, even in a clear-cut and provable systemic and deliberate case of a bias such as this. They don't even bother defending themselves. They just ignore us. Because they're not even reading us and even if they did, what we think just doesn't matter.
April 14, 2008
POLITICS: Watch For The Bait And Switch
One of the things I have been watching carefully in Barack Obama's pushback at the "Rubegate" controversy over his remarks at that San Francisco fundraiser is his attempt to change the subject of what the controversy is about. With Obama, always watch for the bait-and-switch.
Recall that Obama's response to the controversy over his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and Wright's preaching of extremist, hateful and anti-American ideas and - worse yet - outright lies (e.g., HIV being invented by the CIA) was to give a speech widely billed as a conversation about race in America. The speech itself, standing alone, was in some ways a thoughtful effort to deal with that issue, and had Obama given it unprompted it would have been a positive contribution on that issue. But what the speech actually was, was an attempt to switch the subject matter, so Obama could get headlines like "Obama takes on race in America" without actually answering the difficult questions about his "I went to the church but didn't inhale" position: whether he could continue to tout the depths of his Christian religious conviction (exactly as he is doing now) while suggesting that he wasn't really paying attention to the man he credits as his own spiritual mentor; whether he was financially supporting Wright's church and lending his own prestige as a public official to Wright's congregation without ever raising a peep of dissent; why, regardless of his and his wife's ability to shrug off Wright's poisonous rhetoric, he kept bringing his two young daughters to hear this man preach and whether he ever told them that they were being sold a bill of goods in church every Sunday.
That's why I wasn't impressed with the speech. John F. Kennedy's Inaugural ("ask not...") was a great speech; if it had been given by Richard Nixon in July 1974, it would not have been a great speech, it would have been a gigantic red herring. It's like the Lewinsky thing: a lot of people didn't like Bill Clinton cheating on his wife, but very few people wanted to throw him out of office for doing so. So Clinton made the story about whether or not he should be impeached for cheating on his wife, even though the real issue was giving false testimony under oath in a civil lawsuit and offering inducements to others to do the same, and the real issue even about the sex wasn't infidelity but rather a powerful man taking sexual advantage of a young subordinate employee in the workplace. (Hollywood went this one better with the film The American President, which suggested that the issue was exactly the same as whether a widower could date a single woman his own age). That switch worked like a charm, and Obama has obviously learned to imitate the master.
The switch here (see the video I linked to Sunday) is to say that the issue is whether or not people are frustrated over the economy. Um, no, that's not it at all. The issue is Obama's characterization of the reaction of people in small-town Pennsylvania to those circumstances - the fact that he (1) equated religion and guns with bad things people believe in only because they are frustrated, (2) suggested that people in places like central PA are racists, (3) suggesting that people in places like central PA don't know what's good for them and that their beliefs are artifacts of their economic circumstances and (4) implied, by this litany, that he himself doesn't believe in things like religion and, amusingly, anti-trade sentiment, even though he has made both out to be key themes of his campaign and even though he has lately been pretending at outreach to gun owners.
So, next time you hear Obama or one of his surrogates arguing that he's being criticized for saying that people in this country are frustrated or even bitter, just remember: always watch the bait and switch. And don't let him get away with it.
POLITICS: My Beliefs, Your Prejudices
Mickey Kaus absolutely nails what's so condescending about guys like Obama:
He doesn't patronize everyone equally. Specifically, he regards the views of these Pennsylvanians as epiphenomena--byproducts of economic stagnation--in a way he doesn't regard, say, his own views as epiphenomena.** Once the Pennsylvanians get some jobs back, they'll change and become as enlightened as Obama [and] the San Franciscans to whom he was talking. That's the clear logic of his argument. Superiority of this sort -- not crediting the authenticity and standing of your subject's views -- is a violation of social equality, which is a more important value for Americans than money equality. Liberals tend to lose elections when they forget that.
Read the whole thing...this is exactly it, and is one of the signals of Obama having been raised by a sociologist and educated in Ivy League institutions that are famous for this kind of thinking and its close cousin, the "false consciousness" arguments of Marxists and "Crits" (critical race/gender academic studies). I mean, all of us believe that we are not just right but use better reasoning to get there, but it's another matter to take the view that my beliefs are the product of pristine process of logic and empathy, but your beliefs are just prejudices to be explained away by circumstance, and unworthy even of refuting. And, of course, Kaus' social-egalitarian point harks back to the point I have been making for some time: Republicans, even ones born to wealth and privilege like George W. Bush, end up making more convincing and less phony populists because it's easier to run as a cultural populist against people who really do look down on you for the things you share in common with the average voter, than to run as an economic populist when you yourself don't share much or anything in common with the economic circumstances of the average voter.
April 12, 2008
POLITICS: Hey, Rube!
As you have probably seen by now, Barack Obama has really stepped in it this time, as evidenced by the furor unexpectedly kicked up by the following remarks at a fundraiser in San Francisco, where he committed the Kinsley-gaffe of saying what he really thinks about the world of small-town America that he obviously knows nothing of first hand:
You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.
Here's how it is: in a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long, and they feel so betrayed by government, and when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn't buy it. And when it's delivered by -- it's true that when it's delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama (laugher), then that adds another layer of skepticism.
Victor Davis Hanson unpacks the multiple levels of elitism and hypocrisy at work (the really damning thing, in my view, is lumping religion in with the negative things people turn to); Allah has the Hillary and McCain reactions.
So how should Obama react, when even netroots types recognize how sneering and condescending all this sounds to the ear of the average voter? Regular commenter Robert in BA said in another thread here that he should double down:
I hope he doesn't fall over himself apologizing for saying something that is basically true. People are dealing with economic difficulties, and human nature is to take it out on those they feel are threatening them (and, more conveniently those who are more marginalized than them) --whether that is the reality or not--(see every explanation on "why they hate us/ our freedoms" for examples). If he doesn't, we'll know he's a new kind of politician.
This is, in my view, the worst possible political advice Obama could get - yet he appears to be eating it up:
Uh, good luck with that. Let me know how it worked out. Hope and Change just officially entered Howard Dean "my anger can bend light!" territory.
April 11, 2008
Even monkey boys and girls play with different toys. This will require some explaining among the "it's all society's fault" crowd.
Which is not to say that similar behavior in human children isn't influenced by social conditioning. But the argument has always been that that conditioning is somehow creating artificial constructs from whole cloth, or running against the genetic grain of our natural instincts. If social conditioning is working with instincts that are already there, well, there's no reason to think there's anything wrong with that.
POLITICS: A Creation of the System
Obama's advantage hinges on a system that, whatever the actual intentions behind it, seems custom-made to hobble Democratic chances in the fall. It depends on ignoring one of the central principles of American electoral politics, one that will be operative on a state-by-state basis this November, which is that the winner takes all. If the Democrats ran their nominating process the way we run our general elections, Sen. Hillary Clinton would have a commanding lead in the delegate count, one that will only grow more commanding after the next round of primaries, and all questions about which of the two Democratic contenders is more electable would be moot.
Now consider the delegate count and its connection to the popular vote. In Nevada, Clinton also won a popular majority, despite pressure from union officials on the rank and file attending the caucuses to vote for Obama. Yet Obama claims, on the primary electoral map posted on his official Web site, that he actually won Nevada -- presumably because rules that gave greater weight to rural than urban votes mean he won a marginal edge in the Byzantine allotment of the state's delegates. Why, in deference to the clear-cut Nevada popular majority, doesn't Obama cede the majority of the state's delegates to Clinton? Because, according to the rules, he's entitled to those delegates. But why are the rules suddenly sacrosanct and the popular vote irrelevant? Might it be because the rules, and not the popular vote, now benefit Obama? And what about Texas, another state where Clinton won the popular vote but has not been awarded the majority of pledged delegates? Once again, for Obama, the rules are suddenly all-important -- because the rules, and not the popular majority, now favor him.
Now, the rules are the rules, and I'm a firm believer that there's no changing them in the middle of the game; the Democrats are stuck with the system they chose. But much as I concluded at the end of the GOP race, the best possible primary system, like the best spring training baseball games, is one that replicates as closely as possible the conditions of the fall election - no caucuses, no proportional delegates. It's no accident that the caucuses disproportionately favored Obama and Romney, two candidates with tons of money and organization and a hard core of committed followers, over the kinds of candidates who have broader appeal of the type that generally prospers in November (this is a general point - I've long since given up trying to figure whether Obama or Hillary is the stronger general election candidate, other than that a Hillary victory under present circumstances would probably be the best outcome for Republicans for the demoralizing effect it would have on several key voting blocs). And that's before we get to the insanity of the superdelegate system, which exists mainly in the Democratic system because the Democrats don't trust their own voters not to get carried away with left-wing nonsense. And have you tried to get an accurate delegate count lately for the Democratic race? It's impossible due to the bizarre opacity of their rules.
There are fair arguments to be made about open vs. closed primaries and the schedule, but it's long past time to bury the caucuses, kill off proportional voting, and otherwise eliminate any obstacle to having the state-by-state winners take an ascertainable, transparent number of delegates at every stage of the game.
BASEBALL: Giants Among...Well, Bigger Men
The Onion nails it. Man, it's gonna be a long year in San Fran.
BUSINESS: Couric Flounders
CBS, besides defending a $70 million lawsuit over the dismissal of its last Evening News anchor, is now pondering dumping Katie Couric, who has failed to earn her own $75 million paycheck.
For Couric, this turned out to be a bad case of hubris: she assumed that, having been a commercial success in morning TV, she could switch to the different format and audience of evening news and not only succeed but turn around a floundering, scandal-tarred news division. It didn't happen; not only did she lose one of her principal assets along the way (Couric's chipper demeanor always went over well with the morning-TV crowd), but once CBS made the decision to stay a nominally straight news outlet rather than becoming an openly left-leaning news source, Couric was always the worst possible person to try to correct CBS News' decades-long reputation as the most liberal news source on TV.
Clearly, CBS should have listened to me when I suggested back in December 2004 that they hire CNN's Erica Hill instead. Hill's career has only headed up since then; Headline News ended up rebranding her prime-time shift as "Prime News with Erica Hill," and more recently she moved to the mother network to pair with Anderson Cooper on one of CNN's two most prominent news shows (the other being The Lou Dobbs Really Hates Foreigners Hour). Hill probably wouldn't have singlehandedly turned around CBS overnight either, but hiring a younger, lower-key and undoubtedly less expensive anchor would have kept costs and expectations lower, and signalled a commitment to rebuilding the brand from scratch rather than trying to poach from NBC. Instead, CBS is now reduced to denying reports that it's going to outsource newsgathering to ... CNN.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:16 AM | Business | Politics 2008 | Pop Culture | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
April 10, 2008
POLITICS: McCain and Mo Udall
There's a lot of layers of insight in this 1997 Michael Lewis column on John McCain and Morris Udall, including the reminder that Lewis was essentially one of the founders of the McCain media fanclub. It's also a reminder of a bygone age of clubby relationships across the aisle that would probably be impossible in the climate of the past 21 years.
POLITICS/SCIENCE: Toxic Bulbs
I've thought from the very beginning that the move to outlaw Edison's great invention, the incandescent light bulb, was basically foolhardy and possibly just a ploy to force consumers to buy $7 lightbulbs that (in my experience, at least) don't necessarily last much longer than regular bulbs. But that was before I really started to focus on the extent to which (as discussed here and here) the mercury in the bulbs presents a real health hazard that wasn't previously present in the home, and which - like the now-infamous introduction of MTBE into gasoline (also, at the time, claimed to be an environmental measure) is probably going to end up getting pulled off the market after the plaintiffs' personal injury bar gets done with it. Government's natural tendency to folly is exponentially enhanced by runaway environmentalism divorced from common sense.
BASEBALL: Figgins On Fire
Entering tonight's action, Chone Figgins is batting .381 since last May 31. In fact, Figgins batted .405 over an 83-game stretch of last season after hitting .133 through May 28.
BASEBALL: Flesh For Fantasy (Baseball)
Is it just me, or does CBS Sportsline fantasy baseball analyst Amber Wilson look disturbingly like a CGI creation?
(See here and here for video). It may just be the film they use for web video; I've only caught her roundups a few times (my Roto league uses CBS Sportsline), but I don't recall her seeming quite so ... animated last season.
POLITICS: NY Judge Largely Depoliticizes Dan Rather's Lawsuit Against CBS
Allahpundit and HuffPo take differing looks at Manhattan state court trial judge Justice Ira Gammerman's decision (the text of which is here) dismissing some parts of Dan Rather's complaint against CBS. Note that under NY state procedure, the decision on a motion to dismiss a complaint (i.e., without hearing the evidence) is immediately appealable, and given the amount of money and ego involved it would not surprise me if one or both sides appealed.
As an economic matter, the decision is mainly a victory for Rather; Justice Gammerman allows him to seek substantial breach of contract damages for CBS "benching" him after March 2005, under a contractual provision the court reads as essentially allowing liquidated damages designed to cover that purpose, by requiring CBS to then immediately pay Rather his salary due through November 2006.
More significantly, in terms of the evidence that can be introduced (and, presumably, the remaining source of his punitive damages claims), the decision also allows Rather to argue that (1) CBS owed Rather a fiduciary duty and breached it (the decision is unclear as to whether the breach is the decision to bench Rather or a broader theory involving making him retract and apologize for the Rathergate story) and (2) Viacom, CBS' parent, improperly and tortiously interfered with Rather's contract with CBS by forcing its subsidiary to bench and fire him. The judge held that it was a factual issue whether Viacom acted in its own economic interests by sacking Rather, which under NY law is a defense to a tortious interference claim.
The more politically explosive parts of the suit - dealing directly with Rather's claim that he was defrauded and effectively defamed by CBS making him apologize for the story when he really didn't want to - were thrown out on statute of limitations grounds and for failure to show damages, so really neither side can claim any vindication on the merits.
The net result of this is that, while Rather gets to pursue the money he feels is owed to him, it may be difficult for him to get a Bush-hating Manhattan jury to rule on his claim that the story was true after all. But whether he can get the court to hear evidence on that point depends in large part on the contours of the remaining claims, and whether he ends up surviving summary judgment (CBS is vowing to get a later ruling that there's insufficient evidence to send these claims to a jury) on any claim that goes beyond "after they benched me they didn't give me enough to do" to "they shouldn't have benched me because I was right." As much money as is involved in the former, it's only the latter that anyone will care about.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:10 PM | Politics 2004 | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Baseball Link Roundup
Maybe I'm more sympathetic toward storytellers because I'm a lousy storyteller. Analysts, though? I believe they should be held to the highest of standards, because we don't ask them to entertain us; first we ask them to be right.
Neyer also addresses why blogging is more work than writing columns.
*Rays Index wants to know if the Rays can get compensation from the Twins if Matt Garza was already hurt. This is why, in general, you don't trade great young OF prospects for great young pitching prospects.
*Mike Carminati answers the burning question for Tigers fans: how many teams have made the postseason after starting the season 0-7? (Hint: less than one. But go check out the chart of the teams that recovered the best).
*The Indians lock up Fausto Carmona. As a team, you'd rather see Carmona do it again before you ink him to a big deal, but of course the player's leverage and asking price goes way up at that point. Which is why we seem to be seeing more of these kinds of deals after a guy has his first good year; once a player gets established, he's more apt to wait it out and try his hand at the open market.
*I didn't get to this story at the time, but I still think Zimmer was right and Girardi was wrong. You don't play games halfway.
April 9, 2008
...Cliff Floyd and Rich Harden are hurt (you didn't see that coming, did you?); Floyd is headed for surgery and the leaky boat of the Rays has sprung another leak. Actually, this may be the excuse they need to get Evan Longoria back up to get a power bat in the lineup, with Eric Hinske currently taking Floyd's playing time.
One guy who could benefit from the chaos in Tampa is Shawn Riggans, who has been stepping in for Dioner Navarro at catcher; I mentioned in the AL East preview that the Rays didn't have a Plan B if Navarro again fails to hit, but the 27-year-old Riggans is a career .292/.351/.454 hitter in the minors, much of that at AA and AAA, and while he's not a well-regarded defensive catcher, a strong showing while Navarro is sidelined could persuade Tampa to give Riggans a larger share of the catching duties going forward.
BASEBALL: Another Pitching Prospect Returns to Square One
POLITICS: Treating The Homebuyer Like Sheep
See, when you have a stack of legal forms in front of you, and a realtor and a seller, and you've put no money down, and you're buying the house at a price twice what it was a few years ago, and you're getting an adjustable rate mortgage where the monthly payments skyrocket after a short period of time, and you have either exaggerated or lied about your income and savings, and/or not provided any documentation to verify them, and you're about to sign the contract, Washington is supposed to jump in and stop you.
Here's the thing: I'm sure there have were cases, in the housing-bubble period, of people who were flatly lied to about the terms of their mortgages - they were told the interest rate was fixed when it was actually variable, etc. The law pretty reasonably draws some key distinctions here: You're responsible for reading your contract, but in some factual settings outright fraud can be shown even if there's tiny print somewhere in the back of a long document saying something else...that said, there's already a whole bunch of fairly understandable federally required disclosures involved when you get a mortgage, and mortgages, even some of the more creative ones being offered recently, are not rocket science; ordinary people have been borrowing from banks to buy houses for a very long time, and I see no reason why the government should get in the way of that.
It's nonsense to suggest that adults buying homes - the ultimate major financial decision for most Americans - are incapable of understanding the basics:
*The difference between a fixed and adjustable rate mortgage, and the terms of when the payments can change.
*The fact that if you put little or no money down, you can end up with a huge monthly payment.
*How to figure out what size monthly payment you can afford on your family's budget.
*The fact that housing prices won't keep rising forever.
You buy a house, as I have done twice in the past 8 years, you sit down with a calculator and a pad and work out what you are going to be paying and how that fits in your budget. To think people can't do that, Obama has to have an incredibly dim view of the intelligence of the average American ... well, actually, I'm sure he doesn't actually believe that; he just knows there are people who got themselves in financial trouble and he figures it's popular to find a scapegoat and hand out taxpayer money. It's the oldest kind of politics there is.
BASEBALL: Welcome To Florida, Kid
Andrew Miller's first two starts:
Why? With a DER of 0.444, the Marlins defense is turning less than half of balls in play against Miller into outs. Granted, THT's numbers say that 25% of those are line drives, which will usually mostly be hits, so Miller's not entirely innocent here. But while some of that is just unusually bad luck in a small sample size (7.2 IP), I suspect he will not enjoy pitching before the Marlins' defense, which is already second only to the Giants for the worst in the majors thus far.
I expect Miller to be a good pitcher in time; he has the tools, once he masters his control. But he'll need a better defense behind him before you see that reflected in his results.
BASEBALL: Final EWSL Predictions
Now, lest I be accused of predicting the major leagues to finish above .500, I noticed that if you add up the W-L records in my preseason EWSL reports add up to have all of MLB over .500. The reason for that, of course, is as follows:
1. EWSL - by rating only 23 players per team, whereas the average team uses something like 35-40 players in a season - tends to underreport the total number of team wins.
2. To fix this in converting team EWSL to a W-L record this season I applied an average adjustment of plus 12.853 wins per team. That's the average number of wins you get from 1/3 of the average number of Win Shares per team earned in 2005-07 from players I didn't rate in a team's preseason 23-man EWSL roster.
That's a reasonable enough fudge factor, and I was doing one division at a time; but now that I have all 30 teams done, I need to rebalance the numbers to get them all out at .500. Also, I made two adjustments for roster changes between the writing of the previews and the start of the season: I replaced Kelvim Escobar, who is out for the season, with Dustin Moseley, thus dropping the Angels team EWSL from 250.31 to 247.08, and I replaced Reed Johnson (who got rated on both the Blue Jays and the Cubs) on Toronto's roster with John McDonald, dropping the Jays from 209.93 to 207.68. I stayed away from less drastic tinkering, but of course you can expect a downgrade on Detroit's full-season outlook, for example, from being without Curtis Granderson for the early part of the year (not that I'd blame his absence for everything that's gone wrong so far for the Tigers).
With those two adjustments made, we get a major league total of 6193.10 EWSL, which is enough for 68.81 wins per major league team. Now, there are two ways I could get that up to 81 wins per team - proportionally, as I did in 2005 and 2006, or by sticking with the straight addition per team approach. I'm using the latter because (1) historically, I have not observed any notable positive relationship between a team's preseason EWSL and how many WS it generates from players outside the 23-man roster and (2) adjusting proportionally gets us into some question-begging issues about the unbalanced schedule...I just don't want to get into that. So I'm now using a standard adjustment of plus 12.188 wins per team. Of course, for all that math it's an adjustment of less than half a win per team, so the end results here should not be all that dramatic.
Without further ado, here are the final standings according to EWSL:
NL Wild Card: Phillies.
AL Wild Card: Indians.
A few final notes, bearing in mind that in the division previews I already went through where I subjectively expect particular teams to depart from their EWSL baseline expectations. As noted in the divisional previews, EWSL is furthest out on a limb, compared to the general consensus among preseason analysts, in being pessimistic about the Red Sox, Cubs and Rays - the Cubs mainly because of their age, the Rays mainly because of their reliance on unproven youngsters, the Sox because of a mix of the two. The disadvantage of a system like EWSL that is not at all individualized is that it can't target the particular players who are likely to do a lot more than their prior major league accomplishments, as more refined systems like Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA system can. But prediction isn't an exact science anyway; in looking over where things stand entering a season, there's something to be said for considering the discipline of a remorselessly depersonalized system such as this one, which cautions that unproven youngsters should be valued as such until they show us otherwise, and that age cuts down everyone sooner or later. The early injury to Matt Garza is perhaps one indicator of the wisdom of this approach. That said, as an empirical-testing matter, I'll be interested to see whether EWSL turns out to be a better guide as a whole to the direction of those three teams.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Baseball 2008 | Baseball Studies | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The One To Have When You Are Having More Than One
BASEBALL: Men, Don't Try This At Home
Meant to link to this a while back, words of, er... wisdom?... from Dusty Baker:
Asked about being back in baseball after a year off, Dusty said, "I enjoyed spending time with my son, my wife, my daughter and my dog. My dog is 11-years-old and I miss my dog. That's the best woman in my life." Baker's 9-year-old son heard that comment and quickly said, "I'm going to call mom and tell her."
H/T Pinto. Sounds like Dusty's son is learning better these days how and when to get out of the way.
April 8, 2008
POLITICS/WAR: Metaphor Alert
BASEBALL: Like Old Times
It's just so wonderful to see Scott Schoenweis and Jorge Sosa again.
POLITICS: The Good Fight
Over at RedState, a look at two GOP governors who have stood their ground. First, Bobby Jindal, the man Barack Obama only pretends to be. Jindal's needed too badly in Louisiana to run on a national ticket just yet, but he will someday - he's my age, 35 years younger than John McCain and a decade younger than Obama. Then there's a guy who maybe isn't on McCain's radar for a running mate or Cabinet post, but perhaps should be: Rhode Island Governor Don Carcieri (Carcieri supported Romney in the primaries). Carcieri's not young, glamorous, well-known, from a swing state or a dynamic speaker, but he's a solid, businesslike grownup, a tax-cutting pro-lifer and - like McCain - an Iraq War supporter but not unqualified supporter of the Bush Administration's handling of the war (here's Carcieri in Iraq), who has been elected to two terms as governor of an overwhelmingly Democratic state, and could bring the private-sector experience McCain lacks, plus he could presumably help McCain reach out to Italian voters in key states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey. On video, he sort of reminds me of Al Franken, but with Cheneyesque business-like gravitas.
I'm not saying he should be the first pick; McCain has a number of good people to choose from, and they all need careful vetting and a weighing of the pros, the cons and how personally comfortable McCain will be with them as his #2. But one for the list.
UPDATE: More here on Jindal.
April 7, 2008
POLITICS: Mastered By The Obvious
McArdle also discusses the resignation under a cloud of Bush's HUD Secretary. My reaction to that was, basically, that's what HUD Secretaries do. Other than Jack Kemp, I can't ever remember a HUD Secretary making news for anything but being under an ethical cloud. It's practically part of the job description.
BASEBALL: The King And His Castle
Felix Hernandez has great stuff and potential, and at 22 it's too early to conclude that he won't be a great pitcher someday, or even someday soon.
But it's probably past time to recognize that King Felix's success so far, such as it has been, owes a lot to SafeCo Field. Check out his career splits:
The HR numbers are the least surprising - SafeCo is obviously death to fly balls - but also a reminder that for all Hernandez' vaunted ground ball tendencies, his ability to avoid the Big Fly is largely a creature of his home park. But the K rate is the most worrisome, since his high strikeout rate is generally the most positive indicator for his future.
That said, the road numbers still are not bad for such a young pitcher. But he has a ways still to go.
POLITICS: Live By The Anecdote
Honestly, these stories just always seem to have holes in them.
TIME should save the title, though. It's a perennial.
BLOG: It's An Honor Just To Be Nominated
This looks like a desperate cry for links and traffic...but I'm linking anyway. If you don't mind bad language and generally non-G-rated content you can go vote, or something. There are no real upsets in the 8/9 game anyway.
April 6, 2008
BASEBALL: Frank Sullivan Today
Sullivan, who I wrote about in one of my first columns back in 2000, was recently inducted in the Red Sox Hall of Fame, having worked in golf since his retirement from baseball. H/T ProJo.
BLOG: Quick Links 4/6/08 Part II
*Poor cash management. Among other things.
*For the record, I approve of splitting the 7th Harry Potter film in two parts. There are too many good extended action sequences in the book that shouldn't be cut to the bone to fit a 2-hour film schedule.
*I have linked to this Bill James interview before, but I am very interested to hear that James, an avowed fan of crime stories, is finally working on a true-crimes book of his own.
POLITICS: Quick Links 4/6/08
This is basically a continuing roundup of stuff I didn't get to over the past month or so:
*A fascinating map of the U.S. on religious-denomination grounds. Except for McCain's win in South Carolina and Huckabee's in Iowa, this could double as a map of the GOP primaries, with Huckabee in the Baptist areas, McCain in Catholic areas and Romney in the Mormon and Lutheran areas.
*Jim Geraghty and Tom Maguire note that for all of Obama's supposed bipartisanship, he's been MIA or on the other side for all the great battles in which McCain actually got in there and made bipartisan agreements happen.
*Nice try, Chairman How. If nothing else, the D primaries have been a reminder that Howard Dean should never be allowed to run anything, ever. And yet, these same people want to run our health care system.
*McCain on Churchill and naval contsruction. It's a good read; it's never clear how much a prominent politician does of the writing when books are published in his name (McCain generally works with Mark Salter, his chief speechwriter), but this one is a subject near and dear to his heart.
*Classic John Derbyshire quote: "Wherever there is a jackboot stomping on a human face there will be a well-heeled Western liberal to explain that the face does, after all, enjoy free health care and 100 percent literacy." A reminder of why Derbyshire, for all his bizarre eccentricities and hobby horses, used to be worth reading.
BASEBALL: Split Stardom, Part 2
The next pitcher whose best year was split over two seasons is James Rodney Richard. For those of you who are too young to remember, J.R. Richard was basically Randy Johnson 1.0. Richard was righthanded, black (in the 70s, black pitchers were still something of a novelty*), and an easygoing if introverted personality, but otherwise, he was Johnson to a T - a tall (6'8"), fireballing, fastball/slider pitcher who improved in a series of sudden leaps forward - each man was a too-wild-to-use project through age 25, and then a workhorse K king who was held back from real dominance by his wildness through age 28:
Richard pitched in a more pitcher-friendly situation (the Astrodome vs the Kingdome in a DH league) on better teams, while Johnson pitched in a higher-strikeout era when workloads were lower...when you adjust for all that, they were nearly the same pitcher, and Richard if anything was better, winning 20, 18 and 18 games.
At 29, each pitcher started to bust out - Richard improved his K/BB from 303/141 to 313/98 and cut his ERA to 2.71, Johnson from 241/144 to 308/99 and went 19-8. For Johnson, it was off to the races after that - from age 29 on, he has won nearly 70% of his decisions, going 235-102 with a 3.03 ERA (ERA+ of 151), nearly 3800 strikeouts on the way to Cooperstown. He's still a power pitcher at age 44.
Richard's performance in the first half of 1980 - 9-3, a 1.51 ERA througfh June 17 - suggested a similarly dizzy upward trajectory, before he started complaining of a variety of symptoms (dizziness, arm and back stiffness), was ineffective and left early in his last three starts in late June and early July, and eventually had a stroke on July 30 that nearly killed him and effectively ended his baseball career, though he did try to come back the following spring and eventually pitched again briefly in the minors in 1982.
Astros Daily has a much more comprehensive writeup on J.R. Richard's career and sad story, which at one point in the 90s left him living under a bridge before money was raised to get him back on his feet, including his minor league stats, his 48-0 record as a high school pitcher, the details of his stroke and even an interview. But for my purposes, I'm more interested in the fact that while Richard was denied even the ability to finish that one crowning season, he did have a calendar year that showed his true dominance. From June 25, 1979 through June 24, 1980, only five major league pitchers who threw 200 or more innings had an ERA below 3.00 - it was one of those periods in the 70s and 80s when the hitters had control for a while - and only one was below 2.88: J.R. Richard at 1.90. He was 21-10, with 301 Ks and a preposterous 6 homers allowed in 275.1 IP. He allowed just 5.59 H/9 IP, which over a regular season would be one of the lowest figures ever compiled. He was completely the dominant pitcher in baseball, and the Astros, had they had his services when they lost an LCS that concluded with 4 straight extra inning games in a best-of-5 series, might well have been World Champions in 1980. Richard was 36 when the Astros won the division in 1986; he might have pitched into his 40s, might have been one of the all-time greats.
Speaking of what might have been, Sutton's 1976 also led me to Mark Fidrych, not for split seasons (unless you like this) but just to marvel at his workload, as a 21-year-old on a going-nowhere team. In his first 22 major league starts, Ralph Houk had The Bird - hardly a hulking figure at just 175 pounds over his 6'3" height - throw 19 complete games and 198 innings, an average of 9 innings a start, going extra innings five times, four of them extending to 11 full innings, and one of those into the twelfth. From May 31 to July 16, Fidrych threw 94.1 innings in 10 starts - no, that's not a typo, he averaged almost 9 1/2 innings a start. On the season, Fidrych completed 24 of his 29 starts and averaged 8.6 innings a start, a staggeringly high figure even for the mid-70s and inexplicable for a prized young arm on a 74-win team. No wonder he blew his arm out the next year. While it's debatable how long a career Fidrych would have had - he only struck out 3.5 men per 9 innings as a rookie - he was young enough that he might have been able to get those numbers up (he reached 5.8 K/9 over a 6-start stretch the next season before the wheels came off), and his great control and sinking fastball made him otherwise brutally tough to beat, averaging 1.9 walks and 0.42 HR/9 that rookie year, when he finished second in the Cy Young balloting and 11th in the MVP. Like Richard, Fidrych could have been of great use to his franchise much further down the road, had Houk not wasted his arm in a losing season - he was 23 when the Tigers became a contender in 1978, 29 when they won the Series in 1984, 32 when they won the division in 1987, in his mid-30s when the Tigers' monster offenses were dying for pitching help in the early 90s.
Finally, for split-season fun: the 365-day period in which Nolan Ryan struck out 407 batters.
April 4, 2008
BASEBALL: Split Stardom, Part 1
I was looking at this fascinating Hardball Times article on pitching splits (as well as a few batting splits, like the Royals batting .332 in July 1980, thanks mainly to George Brett, Willie Wilson and Hal McRae), and the one that caught my eye was the 1976 Dodgers posting a 1.98 team ERA after August 1 - though amazingly, even with three rotation starters throwing in the ones, only one pitcher on the team was more than one game over .500 in that stretch.
Which got me looking at Don Sutton's incredible stretch run that year (12-2 with a 1.49 ERA after the All-Star Break)...the funny thing is, Sutton looks like the most consistent and unspectacular of pitchers in that era - 21-10, 3.06 ERA in 1976, 14-8, 3.18 ERA in 1977, in an era when an ERA in the threes in Dodger Stadium was nothing all that special. Yet, when you look at the 365-day period from roughly the 1976-1977 All-Star Breaks (7/13/76-7/12/77), Sutton was basically the game's dominant pitcher, posting a Major League-best 1.97 ERA and a gaudy 22-5 record that tied for the most wins and gave him easily the best winning percentage in the game. Granted, Sutton was partly lucky in his defensive support (0.73 HR, 2.67 BB and 5.40 K/9 are not such tremendous numbers - but he allowed just 194 hits in 270 innings). Yet, think of how differently perma-Don would be remembered today, even with the same career stats, if he had had a single season in his career of 22-5 with a 1.97 ERA.
Sutton's not the only one; a guy who is in many ways a similar though lesser pitcher to Sutton is Jack Morris. Morris was a 2-time 20-game winner, but he never finished higher than third in the Cy Young voting, never had an ERA below 3.00, never had that signature dominant season. But as was well known when he was pitching, Morris would get locked into hot streaks where he would win all his starts for a month with an ERA in the ones or zeros.
It turns out, though, that Morris' greatest year-long stretches crossed over seasons in a way that might have made people think about him very differently. From June 1, 1983 to May 31, 1984, Morris was 27-9 with a 2.36 ERA (best in the AL and second in baseball only to 1983 NL Cy Young Award winner John Denny); in addition to the 27 wins, Morris threw 24 complete games and struck out 248 batters (second only to Steve Carlton) in 317 innings. Like Sutton, his success in this stretch was partly defensive luck and good run support, and maybe that's a lesson in why the great seasons tend to be by pitchers less dependent on help - 0.68 HR, 2.50 BB, 7.04 K but 235 hits in 317 innings. Then in 1986-87, Morris did it again: from July 5, 1986 through July 4, 1987, he went 26-5 with a 2.98 ERA, albeit while allowing 37 homers in 275 innings.
Would these records have been possible in individual seasons? In Morris' case it's probably true that slicing through the middle of a season may slightly inflate his numbers; workloads and fatigue even out over a season, so this may cut in a way that increases the number of starts caught. But partly it is just luck. I've argued against Morris as a Hall of Famer, though he would not be a terrible one, but I think it safe to say that even with the same career stats, if he had posted seasons of 27-9, 2.36 and 26-5, 2.98 - basically, Lefty Gomez' two best seasons - he would be in the Hall now.
UPDATE: BTW, check out the White Sox starters in that 1983-84 breakdown: Richard Dotson 24-4, 2.69, LaMarr Hoyt 24-9, 3.44. Also, I looked back before at the 2002-03 golden age of Oakland's Hudson/Zito/Mulder Big Three.
BLOG: Quick Links 4/4/08
*This analysis of major league managers' tendencies illustrated as cartoon faces is...well, you have to click on the graphic to get the full effect. It's bizarre. H/T Rays Index.
*Today is the 97th anniversary of the introduction of baseball's MVP Award by automaker Hugh Chalmers. The first-ever MVPs? In the AL, 24-year-old Ty Cobb for his first and best .400 season, batting .420/.467/.621 with 47 doubles, 24 triples and 83 steals, scoring 147 runs and driving in 127. In the NL, 28-year-old veteran Cubs rightfielder Frank "Wildfire" Schulte, narrowly over Christy Mathewson, for batting .300/.384/.534 with 21 triples and 21 homers (only the third 20-HR season ever if you exclude the fluky 1884 Cubs), 105 Runs, and 107 RBI.
*Our old friend Dr. Manhattan is back blogging! While I was tied up doing my baseball previews, he had a fine column taking John McCain to task for his knee-jerk ignorance on the connection between vaccines and autism. As a general rule, the more science is involved in an issue, the worse McCain is. He seems sometimes to have a superstitious faith in junk science.
*Former equipment manager Yosh Kawano is leaving the Cubs clubhouse after 65 years. That's a very long time to work for one baseball team and not get a World Series ring. I think Kawano's name is familiar to me from one of Joe Garagiola's books...as in, he was there when Garagiola played for the Cubs.
*Via Pinto, Travis Nelson at Boy of Summer has a lengthy attack on Melky Cabrera. I'm more optimistic about Cabrera's potential for across-the-board growth as a hitter, but I'd generally agree that his prospects are much dimmer if you don't regard him as a competent defensive center fielder.
*There's no such thing as an innocent non-Muslim? This may go a ways to explaining what this means. I can't buy into Hawkins' notion, which has been pushed for some time by my RedState colleague Paul Cella, that the U.S. should bar immigration by Muslims, but when you consider Hawkins' logic, I have to admit that that's more an emotional reaction than a reasoned position on my part.
*While I don't agree with all the analysis, David Frum and Bill Kristol have some useful points about the perlious passivity of the Bush Administration in responding to criticism, most particularly the conviction that there's no point in fighting over the past. The Administration's enemies have nourished a number of myths about the past 7 years that have proven terribly corrosive of its credibility, goodwill and, ultimately, ability to get anything done. (On a related note, consider how little press went to the Army Corps of Engineers' ultimate admission that its design defects caused the flooding of New Orleans).
*Yes, Glenn Greenwald is still a fool who has trouble with elementary logical reasoning.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:09 AM | Baseball 2008 | Blog 2006-14 | Business | Hurricane Katrina | Politics 2008 | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
April 3, 2008
BASEBALL: Johnny K Good
Johnny Cueto made his major league debut for the Reds today, and in 7 innings he struck out 10, walked nobody and allowed just one hit (a Justin Upton homer). How rare is this? I looked for rookie pitchers racking up double-figure strikeouts without walking anyone, and since 1956 (as far as baseball-reference.com's database goes back), it's been done 50 times in a pitcher's first 30 major league appearances, but (1) none of those was a major league debut (Andy Sonnanstine, Frank DiPino and Dennis Ribant did it in their second, third and third appearances, respectively) and (2) only two of them allowed just a single hit, Kerry Wood in his 20-K game and Kevin Millwood.
During the same period, 16 pitchers racked up 10 Ks in their big league debut, the lowest BB totals being 1 for Dice K, Steve Woodard and Juan Marichal, and 2 for Mark Prior and Don Aase.
Conclusion: Cueto is in company with some very good pitchers, some guys who started great and petered out, and some other people who never made it big at all. Jury's still out. But it's a good start.
RELIGION: The Gospel According To...
I know it's not really a revolutionary notion, but if further proof were needed that (1) some people have waaaaaaay too much time on their hands and (2) the internet is the greatest thing ever created for pouring that time down an endless hole, I present to you:
2. But wait, there's more! There's also The Brick Testament, the stories of the Bible rendered in Legos. This one, at least, is entertaining beyond a few lines, and I can understand why someone would bother doing it, but still. It may sound like a cool educational idea, but like the Bible itself, there's a lot of stuff in there you would not show your kids.
(On the other hand, this is just coolness beyond description).
SCIENCE: You Lookin' At Me?
The fish was discovered by divers near a reef off the Indonesian coast.
Also on the subject of the animal kingdom, Cracked.com's list of 6 endangered species that are not endangered enough. They manage to ignore the geopolitical implications of the last one. I guess it's not endangered, so they left off the candiru, a/k/a the toothpick fish.
April 2, 2008
BASEBALL: At This Pace
The obligatory "at this pace" post: at this pace, assuming the umps don't reverse their call denying him a homer in this game, Carlos Beltran will break the single-season doubles record on May 14. He has 5 through 3 games.
The Mets are really taking out their frustrations on the Marlins tonight.
POLITICS: Yes, She Can?
RedState diarist horaceox, also of myelectionanalysis.com and Race42008.com, has an awesome post looking at the Hillary-Obama race on a county-by-county level, with lots of cool demographic and topographic (yes!) maps to support his thesis that Hillary can get the votes she needs to pass Obama in total popular vote (a soft spot for Democrats since 2000) by carrying over her strength in the Appalachian sections of Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia and similar areas of Indiana. I think he's probably right that, given six weeks to gear up and lots of mischief-minded Republicans switching party registration, turnout in Pennsylvania's primary could be huge; I think he's also right that the Chicago-based Obama won't get a hometown-ish bounce in Indiana, very little of which (even cities like Indianapolis and Gary) is much like Chicago.
What that all means remains speculation, but at least it's informed speculation.
BASEBALL: Where The Sonnanstine
I noted in the AL East preview that Rays pitcher Andy Sonnanstine had very good K/BB numbers as a rookie last season and not-terrible HR rates, thus making him a good bet to improve this year. But I didn't realize at first how historic his rookie year was: in fact, among pitchers who threw 100 or more innings with a K/BB ratio of 3-to-1 or better, Sonnanstine's 5.85 ERA was the second-highest ever, behind only Ken Dixon in 1985, who never returned to the majors after posting a 6.43 ERA at age 26.
What does this mean? Let's take a quick look. I picked out the 10 highest ERAs among this group by pitchers age 27 or younger, who pitched again in the majors, and pitched after the modern ball-strike counts were set in 1889 - this chart shows their age in the season when they had the high ERA and their ERAs in the following three seasons, with an asterisk on seasons of very few innings:
Definitely a mixed record, but one with a substantial opportunity for short-term optimism. While nearly every name on this list has had in one sense or another a disappointing career other than maybe Lieber, almost all of them have been effective and valuable pitchers at some point in their careers (Woodard being the exception, and Woodard and Towers have the worst ERAs ever for pitchers with career K/BB ratios above 3 to 1), and a number of these guys became stars overnight - Sheets, Bosio, Perez.
POLITICS/WAR: The "100 Years of War in Iraq" Fairytale
The Democrats have an Iraq problem. The war has, for some time, been broadly unpopular, and the Democrats have tended to just assume that this should translate into Democratic votes, as the Democrats have been publicly identified as the anti-war party. But reality has a way of intruding. One problem is that some of the people who are most dissatisfied with the war are those who think it hasn't been waged aggressively enough, and naturally that's the group most inclined to support John McCain, a vocal supporter of the war but also a vocal supporter of a larger troop presence in Iraq for some years now. Another problem is that being locked into a narrative of defeat runs them up against pesky reality in the form of the counterinsurgency "surge" strategy and the improvements it has made in the military and political situation in Iraq, even through inevitable challenges like the recent counterattack in Basra. A third is the poor historical track record of dovish candidates in the race for the White House. But the broader problem is simply that their candidates don't have any sort of defensible vision for how regional security and America's place in the world would be improved by a headlong retreat now.
The serious, adult solution to this is to try to lay out a vision of how America's willingness to accept defeat in Iraq would not be like the dolorous consequences of defeat in Vietnam, or other great-power defeats in history. The easy solution is just to lie about McCain's position. Guess which one they chose, especially the Obama campaign, which is committed to pretending that you can plan for the future based on everything since 2002 never happening, rather than dealing with the world as it now is? I can't possibly improve on Charles Krauthammer's explanation of how McCain's vision of a permanent base structure in Iraq has been turned into "100 years of war in Iraq":
Asked at a New Hampshire campaign stop about possibly staying in Iraq 50 years, John McCain interrupted -- "Make it a hundred" -- then offered a precise analogy to what he envisioned: "We've been in Japan for 60 years. We've been in South Korea for 50 years or so." Lest anyone think he was talking about prolonged war-fighting rather than maintaining a presence in postwar Iraq, he explained: "That would be fine with me, as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed."
As Krauthammer notes, even Obama's own senior military adviser sounded the exact same tune in 2003:
The desirability of a similar presence in Iraq was obvious as long as five years ago to retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, one of Barack Obama's leading military advisers and his campaign co-chairman. During the first week of the Iraq War, McPeak (a war critic) suggested in an interview that "we'll be there a century, hopefully. If it works right." (Meaning, if we win.)
Indeed, some of us have been arguing for years that long-term establishment of a U.S. military presence in a friendly Iraq would be one of the strategic benefits of the war. Read Krauthammer's entire column for examples of the Democrats' flagrant distortions of McCain's entirely clear explanation; some of the highlights:
-- "He (McCain) says that he is willing to send our troops into another 100 years of war in Iraq" (Barack Obama, Feb. 19).
A Howard Dean fundraising letter charging McCain with seeking "an endless war in Iraq." And a Democratic National Committee press release in which Dean asserts: "McCain's strategy is a war without end. ... Elect John McCain and get 100 years in Iraq."
McCain's point, which he continues to make and on which he continues to press Obama for a clear response, is that even as Iraqis take more control over the security situation in their country, there will still be benefits to a U.S. presence in Iraq for precisely the same reasons as in places like German, Japan, Kuwait, and Korea. Obama seems to understand that he has gone far out on a limb, as when pressed he started babbling instead about having troops around just to do embassy security. But when the press isn't there to question him, don't bank on him dropping the "100 years of war in Iraq" line. It's just too tempting.
UPDATE: The Columbia Journalism Review, not exactly a known hotbed of right-wingery, concludes that "Obama is seriously misleading voters -- if not outright lying to them -- about exactly what McCain said." California Yankee has more, including FactCheck.org's characterization of Obama's attacks as a "serious distortion to the point of rank falsehood."
SECOND UPDATE: The Washington Post's FactChecker, which quotes Obama on Monday as saying "You know, John McCain wants to continue a war in Iraq perhaps as long as 100 years," runs the videotape of McCain and concludes that the Democrats "have twisted his words".
April 1, 2008
POLITICS: Silly Slogans
It may be pretentious, but it's mostly harmless puffery for The New Republic to use this as the slogan for The Plank blog:
What is funny about it, though, is that TNR has other blogs on its site. But with not as much smartness. Period.
BASEBALL: It Was Nice While It Lasted
Well, so much for my thought earlier about opening in Florida...Pedro popped a hamstring in tonight's loss. No word yet on how long he will be out.
Oh, and by the way: I haven't yet caught the name of the new radio guy working with Howie Rose - Wayne something? - but he seems to be really boring.
POLITICS: That 70s Navy
Bret Stephens in today's WSJ notes a facet of McCain's biography that tends to get overlooked in the impact it had on his views on defense:
In a recent interview, Randy Scheunemann, who runs the McCain campaign's foreign policy shop, noted that "Vietnam had a huge impact on John." Obviously. Less obvious: "It's not about his personal experiences in the war as a POW," he said. "It's about leading a group of naval aviators [after the Vietnam war] when they had to cannibalize parts."
BASEBALL: Why The Mets Traded Nolan Ryan
Well, there wasn't just one single reason, but in considering the Mets' much- and justly-maligned deal of Nolan Ryan, I had never previously looked at the breakdowns from the 1971 season. Ryan that year started off looking very much like the pitcher he would soon become; at the end of June, he was 8-4 with a 2.05 ERA; in 92.1 innings he was allowing 6.24 hits, 0.49 HR, and 5.26 BB, 9.06 K per 9. Ryan pitched OK in defeat in his next start, but beginning with his appearance the day before the All-Star Break, he completely lost the strike zone: from July 11 through the end of 1971, he was 2-9 with a 7.62 ERA (9.00 if you include unearned runs), averaged just 3.89 IP per start in 13 starts, and averaged 10.04 H, 10.04 BB, and only 6.75 K (he did still avoid the longball, 0.52 HR/9). The Mets won just 2 of Ryan's last 16 appearances, and one of those was a game where they scored 20 runs.
Yes, it was terribly short-sighted to give up on a 24-year-old pitcher who threw 100 mph, and the Fregosi trade, along with the Amos Otis deal, was one of the cornerstones of the downfall of the franchise in the 1970s. But few GMs would have much more patience with a starting pitcher who walks 10 men per 9 innings and an equal number of hits over half a season.
BASEBALL: The Big C
POLITICS: Department of Bad Photo Ops
Whoever set up the President of the United States to look like he has been demoted to working from a cubicle in a phone bank should not have a long career in public relations:
That's from an appearance Friday in Freehold, NJ, and I seriously had to double-check that these were not satirical photos from The Onion or something. We even got the "Bush tries to feed the cube-dwellers" photo:
Oh, well. It can always be worse:
Read More »
Meanwhile, Barack Obama becomes one with the Force:
UPDATE: And John McCain takes his audience on a jump to hyperspace:
« Close It
LAW/POLITICS: Mumia Abu-Jamal Is Still Guilty of Murder. Police Officer Daniel Faulkner Is Still Dead.
On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed yet again the 1982 conviction of the man who calls himself Mumia Abu-Jamal for murdering Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner, who Abu-Jamal took from his family more than 26 years ago. That conviction was upheld on direct appeal in 1989, an appeal the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear at the time, but has been the subject of successive habeas corpus petitions ever since, this one supported by the efforts of a flotilla of lawyers with apparently nothing better to do from, among others, Widener University School of Law, The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., and the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School (the latter appearing on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild, National Conference of Black Lawyers, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice of Harvard Law School, Southern Center for Human Rights, and National Jury Project). The court did, however, vacate the death sentence handed down by the jury in 1982 and the death warrant signed by Governor Tom Ridge in 1995, and remanded for a new penalty proceeding. I have not plowed through the entirety of the court's 118-page opinion, which deals with Abu-Jamal's challenges to the jury selection and the prosecutor's closing argument as well as the penalty phase, but it's worth reading the introduction to be reminded just what a cold-blooded killer and political extremist Abu-Jamal was and is, and how utterly meritless is the suggestion that he is anything but guilty. I excerpt here at length:
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On December 9, 1981, between three thirty and four o'clock in the morning, Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner made a traffic stop of a Volkswagen driven by William Cook, Abu-Jamal's brother, on Locust Street between 12th and 13th Streets, in Philadelphia. Officer Faulkner radioed for backup assistance, and both men exited their vehicles. A struggle ensued, and Officer Faulkner tried to secure Cook's hands behind his back. At that moment, Abu-Jamal, who was in a parking lot on the opposite side of the street, ran toward Officer Faulkner and Cook. As he approached, Abu-Jamal shot Officer Faulkner in the back. As Officer Faulkner fell to the ground, he was able to turn around, reach for his own firearm, and fire at Abu-Jamal, striking him in the chest. Abu-Jamal, now standing over Officer Faulkner, fired four shots at close range. One shot struck Officer Faulkner between the eyes and entered his brain.
Pray, if you will, for the repentance of Mr. Abu-Jamal, and his opportunity to seek God's forgiveness for what he has done and what he took from Officer Faulkner and his family. But no earthly justice can be done by allowing him to evade indefinitely the lawful and proper consequences of his crime.
« Close It
POLITICS: Running Away From Success
One of the striking things about Barack Obama's campaign is that, for all his rhetorical nods to centrism and non-partisanship, he has systematically burned his bridges with every effort made by electorally successful Democrats to actually put centrism and moderation into practice, and even gone out of his way to distance himself from some of the more popular aspects of his party's record, while embracing ideas the national Democrats have run away from as being electorally poisonous.
There's a case to be made that the economy of the 1990s was not, fundamentally, as good as it looked at the time (recall the popping of the internet bubble); that some of the credit for that economy goes to the post-1994 policies of Republicans in Congress and at the state and local levels in places like Michigan, Wisconsin and New York City; that some also goes to historically unique factors (the rapid expansion of democracy and world trade and a time of unprecedented peace, as well as technology spending in advance of Y2K); and that the Clinton Administration's greatest contributions to the boom years were policies Obama now explicitly opposes, from NAFTA to capital gains tax cuts. But despite all of that, the good economic times under the last Democratic president is an asset with the public's goodwill that no sane Democrat would tamper with.
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Barack Obama on Thursday laid much of the blame for America's unfolding credit crisis on the financial deregulation of the 1990s in his hardest hitting attack so far on the economic legacy of Bill Clinton's administration.
Without mentioning the Clintons by name, the clear target of Mr Obama's speech was the economic record of the 1990s. Hillary Clinton has portrayed her candidacy as offering a return to the economic successes of the 1990s. She has also presented herself as more competent on the economy than Mr Obama.
Mr Obama on Thursday also attacked Mr McCain, whose response to the sub-prime crisis "amounted to little more than watching this crisis happen". But economists said the significance of Mr Obama’s speech was in offering the most clear distinction so far with Mrs Clinton on the economy.
By distancing himself from the Clintons, Senator Obama is just underlining the obvious: that on economic matters, his proposals would be more of a return to the only other Democratic president of the past four decades: Jimmy Carter.
* - What, you thought Obama wouldn't still support Glass-Steagall, a decade after its long-overdue death?
« Close It
POLITICS: A New King In Albany?
The NY Times reports that Long Island Republican Peter King is considering a run to reclaim the scandal-tarred New York governorship for the GOP. It's early yet - King is up for re-election to the House, and won't make a formal decision until after the fall elections. The 63-year-old King may also wait to see how badly things continue to go with David Paterson (presumably Paterson, who King had warm words for before the nasty revelations started pouring out, will hang on to 2010, but if he were to resign, a special election would be held earlier), whether other GOP powerhouses like Rudy Giuliani elect to get in the race (reports have suggested that Rudy might be interested in a special election but not in 2010), and whether King's sometime ally John McCain wins the White House, thus potentially offering a chance at a job like the Homeland Security post (it's 11 years now since McCain sniped that "the only 'Republican' organization I have ever noticed Mr. King represent is the Irish Republican Army,"; those wounds healed long enough for King to be a vocal McCain backer in 2000, though he was equally outspoken in support of the Giuliani campaign this time around).
King is an eclectic sort of politician with a 'maverick' streak of his own, a pro-union Republican who is generally moderate on economic and spending issues but is a confirmed hawk on what his campaign ads bluntly called "the War on Islamic terror" (he made headlines in the past with broadsides against subversive mosques; more here), pro-life (he's Catholic), and an immigration hawk. Stylistically, his blunt, two-fisted-Irishman style is well-suited to New York's pugilistic politicals, and particularly to the always-dicey task of translating a downstate politician into support in the Rust Belt areas of upstate NY. And for now, King is talking a good game about getting the prostrate NY GOP off the canvas at a time when the state's Democrats ought to be on the ropes themselves:
He pointed, for example, to what he said had been the reluctance of state Republican leaders to call for Eliot Spitzer's resignation as governor immediately after federal authorities identified him as a client of an expensive prostitution operation.
"I just think that a lot of Republicans have become gun-shy," Mr. King said. "We have to be more outspoken. When Al D'Amato was there, he was outspoken. And when Rudy Giuliani was mayor, he was outspoken. We have to stop playing it safe."
I'm not the biggest King fan, but he's a serious guy who would be a strong candidate. This could end up being a race worth watching.
BASEBALL: Opening Well
Just a couple quick thoughts on yesterday's Mets opener, which I had to follow on the web after the batteries in my transistor radio died:
1. Definitely shades of last season in the first inning: Castillo fails to score on a Beltran double, setting up Delgado to go quietly with two men in scoring position and two outs. It was Delgado's two-out, men-on troubles as much as his overall numbers that were painful to watch last season.
2. Advantage to starting the season in Florida: fewer worries about pitching arms tightening up in the cold weather, allowing Randolph to stretch Santana out to 100 pitches, getting him a step closer to midseason form. (Contrast this with opening in, say, Cleveland, where Victor Martinez' hamstring tighened up on him, or Chicago, where Martinez left last season's opener with a quad injury).
3. One item of concern for Santana, who was otherwise brilliant: dating back to last season he has now surrendered 16 homers in his last 14 regular season starts.
4. Angel Pagan batted ahead of Ryan Church. I just don't understand this. I mean, presumably the Mets thought Church would hit enough to be a real corner outfielder when they acquired him. He's a career .271/.347/.462 hitter, .279/.355/.484 on the road. Pagan, by contrast, has a career batting line of .280/.337/.373 in the minor leagues, and hasn't slugged .450 since rookie ball; his career major league line is .255/.309/.417. Even assuming this was because of Church's struggles with lefties like Mark Hendrickson, a career .254/.331/.392 line, the switch-hitting Pagan's career mark against lefties is a pitiable .219/.280/.406. I know Pagan is a good athlete and had a good spring; I know at 26 there's always the outside chance that he will take a step forward; and I know the Mets are short-handed. So I understand why we may be stuck with him getting playing time. But I can't see any reason for batting him ahead of Church.