Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
August 29, 2008
POLITICS: Sound and Fury

My take on Obama's speech last night, before it gets completely overshadowed by the McCain VP announcement (if it's indeed Palin, now we know what John McCain wanted for his birthday: Barack Obama's news cycle):

1. Yes, it's hard for me to objectively evaluate a speech of this nature by a Democrat, but I can say this: it wasn't a dud like Kerry in 2004 and wasn't power-mad like Gore in 2000, but it also wasn't full of "how can we possibly beat this guy" moments like one of Clinton's speeches. Only in the MLK homage did his rhetoric really soar, and his "specifics" still seemed either vague, small-bore, shopworn or implausible in light of his record.

2. Obama said nothing at all that will be remembered a week from now - no Cross of Gold, no "extremism in defense of liberty is no vice," no "kinder, gentler America," no "Bridge to the 21st century." If there was a unifying theme, it eluded me.

3. Probably Obama's most effective claim - I lack the time to deal with this one today - was his promise to cut taxes. Also his promise to eliminate government programs. Neither bears any relationship whatsoever to his record or his campaign to date.

4. Almost certainly the flimsiest part of the speech was where Obama basically said "I know we disagree on abortion, guns, immigration and same-sex marriage, but surely we can all agree on some talking points on these issues that Democrats have been using for years."

5. Someone should tell Obama to stop using the "my brother's keeper line" as long as George Obama is living on $1 a month in a shanty in Kenya.

6. The set wound up being less pompous than billed, but still reminded me of Bill Maher's old set:

maherset.JPG

UPDATE: I wrote too fast this morning and missed a crucial point I had wanted to make. A year ago, Democrats were full of woe about the future of Iraq. Last night, the worst Obama could think to say about the state of Iraq is that they are running a budget surplus.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:37 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (60) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Suspense Is Killing Me

Well, I will say this for John McCain: the man and his team can keep a secret. The leaks on his VP selection process have been self-evidently intentional and savvy, and here we are the morning of the announcement knowing no more for certain than ever before. Last night it seemed nearly 100% certain that he was taking Tim Pawlenty, and now Pawlenty says it's not him and he won't be in Dayton today. Conflicting reports on whether Mitt Romney will be in Dayton or not; I believe he's still scheduled to be at the second stop of the day in Missouri, but Fox is reporting it's not him. And word is suddenly out that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has chartered a flight from Anchorage to Dayton, presumably not for the scenery...but at this point, I don't even know what to believe.

PS - Quick take, now that it increasingly seems to be Palin: whether this is a success or not will depend very heavily on how well she holds up debating Biden on national security.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:23 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
August 28, 2008
POLITICS: Yeeearrrgggh!

I missed a good deal of the first two nights of the Democratic Convention and only caught last night's action on the radio after the Mets game ended (which conveniently was right before Biden went on) plus some TV highlights of Bill Clinton's speech, so I can't really speak to the growing sentiment from pundits on both sides of the aisle that the Convention is lacking in a coherent theme and unlikely to produce the kind of post-Convention polling bounce enjoyed by dynamic campaigns like the Dukakis campaign in 1988. I will say that Biden last night was fiesty, if scattered, although his alternative/revisionist history of the Iraq War, in which the success of the surge proved Obama right in opposing it and calling for a complete withdrawal by March 2008, was positively surreal. And the clips I saw of Bill Clinton suggest that the man still hasn't lost his flair.

But if Obama was looking to come off more like a rock star than a potential Leader of the Free World with his (apparently) impromptu appearance to steal the scene from Biden last night, he certainly did a good job of it, barking that "If I'm not mistaken, Hillary Clinton rocked the house last night" and talking about moving the party elsewhere (specifically, "Mile High Stadium," which no longer exists - the 72-year-old Obama must be borderline senile). While a certain ebullience and fire is of course to be expected on the campaign trail, it was not exactly presidential in the tone or tenor of Obama's remarks. Also, he pointedly said that he was "proud to have Joe Biden and Jill Biden and Beau Biden and Mama Biden and the whole Biden family," thus rather amusingly excluding only one member of that family, the Senator's Washington lobbyist son.

Meanwhile, we shall see how well John McCain's campaign tonight avoids what tripped up Obama in keeping a secret of his VP pick, scheduled for rollout Friday in Dayton Ohio - the need to move the candidate and his or her Secret Service detail into the location. Then again, (1) McCain hasn't made a big deal of promising his supporters a text message in advance of media reports (McCain's more interested in the voters who go to bed after the evening news) and (2) if word somehow leaks and steals some of the spotlight from Obama's speech tonight, I'm sure the McCain camp won't be heartbroken (ordinarily I'd consider that cheesy to step on Obama's big day but with only one business day between the two Conventions, it's a necessary evil).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:42 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Uneasy Lies The Head

All I gotta say on the last two nights' Mets-Phillies games is, maybe sometimes it is better not to have the early lead.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:41 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
August 27, 2008
POLITICS: Cantor for VP

We had a roundtable yesterday on the GOP Veepstakes over at RedState (as you can see, among the Contributors there we have a major divergence not only over the right VP pick but over McCain's odds in this election - and yes, that's former FEC Commissioner Brad Smith taking the view that McCain is a lost cause). I ultimately came to the conclusion that McCain should pick Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor, a view I and the other Directors of the site formally endorsed here. Obviously the chief consideration is that Cantor's the most conservative of the remaining plausible candidates, and he's smart and articulate. Cantor wasn't my ideal choice - I preferred Mark Sanford or Don Carcieri - but he's the best of the group that seems to be currently under consideration.

Cantor would be considered a little light on experience for a presidential candidate, but (1) McCain at the top of the ticket already has experience to burn, and (2) Cantor is obviously more experienced than Obama, having been in Congress twice as long and in House leadership since Obama was in the Illinois statehouse (like Dick Cheney, Cantor managed the unusual accomplishment of being named to a leadership position after just a single term in the House); he passes the basic threshold for credibility in the job, and should have no problem taking the same stage with Joe Biden. As I note in the roundtable there are different cases in their resumes and profiles for picking guys like Pawlenty (who has the most experience as a public executive) or Romney (who brings the private-sector business experience), but Cantor's the guy among the remaining candidates who stands the best chance of firing up the base, and he's been more involved in national security policy for the past 8 years than the other two, while avoiding some of the pitfalls of the more outside-the-box choices.

I should note that while John Kasich's name still comes up I have no idea if he's ever been considered - Kasich would also be a fine choice.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:21 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
August 26, 2008
BASEBALL: Stuff About Stuff

In case you have missed it, The Hardball Times has had two recent looks at Mets starting pitchers and where and how they are locating their pitches - Johan Santana and Pedro Martinez. Santana may yet end up leading the league in ERA and innings pitched, but THT notes his alarming drop in strikeout rate, which I had assumed was tied pretty directly to lost velocity, but THT's numbers indicate no loss compared to 2007 (there's no data shown for his Cy Young campaigns) and seems more concerned about movement on his fastball declining from outstanding to just good. Santana has a 2.13 ERA since June 1, third best in the game in that period, but he's done it by controlling the high HR rate that plagued him in 2007 and early 2008, possibly at the expense of the K rate. Meanwhile, it seems that Pedro's lost velocity is making his slider far less effective. Meanwhile, Maine is back on the DL. The Mets have no good options, although if they intend to give Neise a shot, better to try him out now rather than have to throw him to the wolves with no margin for error as they did to Phil Humber last year.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:10 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
August 25, 2008
POLITICS: Biden in Plain Sight

Two sets of thoughts on Obama's selection of Joe Biden as his running mate - more on this to follow:

1. Gaffe-Tastic! The initial gut reaction of essentially every Republican I know was giddiness. Biden's the most gaffe-prone politician I have ever seen, and if you think about the competition that is a truly impressive accolade. Others have spent more time cataloguing Biden's taste for his own shoes or the things he has said that are wholly inconsistent with Obama's message...one thing Obama has going for him, of course, is that it is absolutely impossible for Biden to lose Obama the support of African-American voters if he makes yet another of his famous racially insensitive remarks, which once upon a time brought calls for his head from lefty bloggers. Then there's his equally famously interminable monologues disguised as questions that anyone who watched the Bork, Thomas, Roberts or Alito hearings remembers well - he has a famous habit of starting sentences without a thought in the world of how he intends to end them. I've long described Biden as a sort of Senatorial equivalent to a boy raised by wolves; he entered the Senate at 29 just four years out of law school, and spent all of his 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s surrounded by Senators, and sometimes seems unable to remember how to talk to people who are not Senators. Biden once cracked that a typical Rudy Giuliani sentence was a noun, a verb and 9/11, but a typical Joe Biden sentence starts with "I," ends with "me" and takes the longest possible route between the two. And sometimes, there's just....

(H/T) Biden's uncontrollable mouth is so well known as to be proverbial; as Biden said to John Stewart:

STEWART: "Is there anything in Delaware the Bidens don't control?"

BIDEN: "Yes, my mouth."

In a way, Biden is sort of like McCain: he's unscripted and unpredictable, and you never know what he's going to say next. Leaving aside the other dissimilarities between the two - more on which below - I've noted in the past that this can be a strength of McCain's...but nobody in his right mind would pick John McCain as a running mate, because you get the downside of his being constantly off-message, off the reservation or just plain off on his own planet, without the upsides.

2. What He Brings To The Table: All that said, Biden's fiesty speech on Saturday was a good reminder that while he's a risky pick due to his inability to stop himself from saying silly things, he does bring some benefits to the ticket. Biden's an affable, likeable guy; McCain likes him, Bush likes him, even I kind of like him. Despite his bouts of impenetrable Senatitis, he at least doesn't speak in that horrible robotic Hillaryspeak in which every single thing in his life has to be reduced to a trite sermon on public policy, doesn't use language that's focus-grouped within an inch of its life, doesn't talk like he thinks he's the only guy in the room who finished the fourth grade; this is a major departure for Democrats. He's likely to play much better with blue-collar white voters than Obama. (The papers stressed Biden's Scranton birth, but he hasn't lived in Pennsylvania since 1952; McCain's lived in Virginia more recently than that).

Obama had a choice of which of his many weaknesses to shore up with his running mate; clearly his main focus was the charge of foreign policy inexperience. Biden really doesn't have the ideal resume for a presidential candidate - like Obama, he has no executive experience, no military experience, no business experience. But with 36 years in the Senate, nobody seriously doubts that he'd be capable of stepping into the role of Commander-in-Chief at a moment's notice.

(BTW, the fact that neither Obama nor Biden has really ever had any responsible job other than lawyer and politician is a major reason why McCain may be leaning towards Romney - for all my well-catalogued dislike of Romney as a presidential candidate, the fact is that a McCain-Romney ticket would contrast their extensive military and business backgrounds before politics with two guys who have basically only been lawyers and legislators - see Dean Barnett's excellent look at Obama's career. By contrast, I have to think the Biden pick works against Joe Lieberman - not only does it seem crazy for both parties to pick tickets of two Senators given the awful history of Senators in presidential politics and the historic low approval record of Congress, but with Obama picking a safe East Coast blue-stater rather than a guy who scrambles the map, the case for a high-risk choice like Lieberman seems much weaker).

Biden's also serious about national security, or at least tries to be; he hasn't tended to fall into the John Kerry habit of reflexively echoing the talking points of America's enemies. But his judgment in foreign affairs is also notoriously erratic - just on Iraq, while he supported the current Iraq War, he opposed the 1991 Gulf War; he also spent much of the past two years pushing a crackpot plan to carve up Iraq into three separate countries on the model of 1990s Yugoslavia. Biden is, in short, McCain without the very things that make him attractive as a candidate - the strong and consistent view on national security, the military record, the "maverick" reputation (like most veteran Senators, Biden's worked across the aisle from time to time but he's basically a conventional liberal and party man).

On the whole, Obama might have done worse; a Tim Kaine pick would have just been flaunting Obama's inexperience, for example. But Biden doesn't help sew up a key state and comes with some extremely well-known warning signs; Obama can't blame anyone else if he loses a few news cycles as a result of Biden's mouth firing off again accidentally.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:47 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)
August 22, 2008
LAW: SOX Survives

A divided panel of the DC Circuit this morning, in Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, No. 07-5127 (D.C. Cir. Aug. 22, 2008), rejected a challenge to the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board's appointment on separation of powers grounds; because of the lack of a severability clause in Sarbanes-Oxley, the challenge presented the possibility that the court would have had to declare the entire statute unconstitutional. Judge Judith Rogers, joined by Judge Janice Rogers Brown, found that the statute did not unduly dilute the executive branch's control over the PCAOB:

We hold, first, that the Act does not encroach upon the Appointment power because, in view of the [SEC]'s comprehensive control of the Board, Board members are subject to direction and supervision of the Commission and thus are inferior officers not required to be appointed by the President. Second, we hold that the for-cause limitations on the Commission's power to remove Board members and the President's power to remove Commissioners do not strip the President of sufficient power to influence the Board and thus do not contravene separation of powers, as that principle embraces independent agencies like the Commission and their exercise of broad authority over their subordinates.

Slip op. at 3 (emphasis added). In short, the court found "no instance in which the Board can make policy that the Commission cannot override." Id. at 33. The court did, however, find that the constitutional challenge was properly presented and did not require exhaustion of administrative review procedures. Id. at 7-8. Judge Brett Kavanaugh dissented, on essentially similar grounds to Justice Scalia's masterful (but lone) dissent in the 1988 independent counsel case, Morrison v. Olson, although he also argued that the constitutional problems here go beyond those in Morrison:

The President's power to remove is critical to the President's power to control the Executive Branch and perform his Article II responsibilities. Yet under this statute, the President is two levels of for-cause removal away from Board members, a previously unheard-of restriction on and attenuation of the President's authority over executive officers. This structure effectively eliminates any Presidential power to control the PCAOB, notwithstanding that the Board performs numerous regulatory and lawenforcement functions at the core of the executive power. So far as the parties, including the United States as intervenor, have been able to determine in the research reflected in their exhaustive and excellent briefs, never before in American history has there been an independent agency whose heads are appointed by and removable only for cause by another independent agency, rather than by the President or his alter ego. But that is the case with PCAOB members, who are removable for cause only by the SEC - and it is undisputed that the SEC as an independent agency is not the President's alter ego.

Presumably, the plaintiffs will petition the Supreme Court for cert; it remains to be seen if the Court takes the case.

UPDATE: The plaintiffs say they will either petition for cert or for rehearing en banc by the full DC Circuit.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:54 AM | Business • | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
August 21, 2008
BASEBALL: Working Economically

Following up on last night's thoughts on the Mets' rotation and their ability to go deep in games, here are the key numbers for the Mets' five primary starters:

PitcherIP/GBF/GP/GBF/IPP/IPP/BF
Santana6.8127.88103.354.1015.193.71
Martinez5.3123.8590.694.4917.093.80
Maine5.6024.13101.214.3118.194.20
Perez5.7324.8897.624.3417.033.92
Pelfrey6.1626.40102.284.2916.603.87

The thing that really jumped out at me is that Maine has thrown at least 7 full innings in a start only twice this season compared to 11 times for Pelfrey, 6 for Perez and 16 for Santana (Pedro's done it once). At the opposite end of the scale, Perez has twice failed to throw 2 innings in a start, which pulls down his averages, while Pedro's injury-shortened first start is the only time any of the others has thrown less than 4 full innings.

As you can see, Santana and Pedro are both efficient with batters, while Maine is extremely inefficient. Pedro's problems are his lack of effectiveness (the high number of hitters per inning) and durability (the low pitch count), while Maine's innings are held back almost entirely by the number of pitches he eats up getting through each hitter; he throws nearly as many pitches per start as Santana and Pelfrey.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:31 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
August 20, 2008
BASEBALL: He Could. Go. All. The. Way.

You know, I was just thinking something last night that was borne out completely by tonight's Mets game, in which Mike Pelfrey went the full 9 innings, throwing 108 pitches: if you go into a big series or the postseason without Wagner, your #2 starter behind Santana has to be Pelfrey. I am not sure I really trust Pelfrey quite enough to think him more effective in a big game than Maine or Perez; but I'm quite certain that I trust his ability, more than theirs (or certainly Pedro's) to go 7 or 8 or 9 innings. And if your starter goes 8, for example, you retain the ability to go lefty-righty-lefty with the specialists and not have to rely on the closer you don't have.

PS: Daniel Murphy is the new Ty Wigginton. Discuss.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:39 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Did We Mention That Eric Cantor Is Jewish?

The Democratic National Committee has a website set up to attack potential McCain running mates as "The Next Cheney" (if only); if you want to see there are pages dedicated to Bobby Jindal, Mitt Romney, John Thune, Tom Ridge, Tim Pawlenty, Carly Fiorina, Charlie Crist, Fred Smith and Eric Cantor. Lest there be any doubt as to the origins of this site, there's a disclaimer at the bottom of each page: "Paid for by the Democratic National Committee - 430 S. Capitol St. SE, Washington DC 20003."

If you go to the page on Congressman Cantor, you will see a grainy image of a grimacing, disembodied headshot of Cantor, and then the meat of the attacks, starting with the shocking revelation that a member of the House GOP leadership frequently votes with the GOP, and then moving on to various efforts to tie Cantor to Jack Abramoff based on having done some fundraisers with the prolific fundraiser.

Where this gets creepy, though, is the persistent focus on Cantor's faith. We should associate Cantor with Abramoff, the Democrats tell us, because "Both Abramoff and Cantor are Jewish". Then we get this item that is supposed to make us fear Cantor:

At Fundraiser, Jack Abramoff Named Sandwich After Eric Cantor -- Cantor Asked To Switch Sandwiches. "At a January 2003 fundraiser for Cantor, who had just become chief deputy whip, Abramoff unveiled the Eric Cantor sandwich, 'a tuna-based stacker,' which, lamentably, was 'not quite [the] power lunch befitting' the only Jewish Republican in the House. Hence a request by Cantor ... to switch his eponymous sandwich to roast beef on challah, 'a deli special that exudes Jewish power.'"

Oooh, that scary Jewish sandwich power! Head for the hills!

In fact, in a webpage that runs just 660 words, the word "Jewish" appears five times, which I suppose in some circles is a really devastating indictment of Cantor. You can see a screenshot of the page below the fold.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:26 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Quote of the Year

I'd forgotten to cross-post this when I wrote it, but can you really top this as a slogan for Chicago politics?:

"Most aldermen, most politicians are hos"

Also: The O-Hawk. And that was before they came out with the hand gesture, which literally made me change my shirt when I first clicked on it and spit out a mouthful of tea laughing at the thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:00 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Yaz

With the news of Carl Yastrzemski having chest pains resulting in open-heart surgery, it's worth remembering - while he is still with us, hopefully still for many years to come - what a ballplayer Yaz was. He's one of those guys whose career is subject to a number of cross-cutting statistical illusions: he played his prime years in a hitters' park in a pitchers' era, was an excellent glove man in the outfield (as a left fielder he averaged 15 assists per 162 games for his career) who nonetheless spent seasons as a 1B and DH and even was given a short-lived experiment as a 3B*. But the biggest one is the fact that - like Ernie Banks, Robin Roberts, Robin Yount and Craig Biggio - Yaz had a very long career (he's second only to Pete Rose in plate appearances) yet should be best remembered for the handful of seasons when he was really a dominating ballplayer.

In Yaz's case, he was a productive hitter most of the years from age 22 (1962) to 43 (1983), including some very good seasons here and there, mostly for bad Sox teams, but it was four seasons (1967-70) when he was truly one of the very best players in the game. For those four years, swimming against the tide of the late-60s pitchers' era, he batted .302/.414/.554 and averaged 106 R, 102 RBI, 37 HR, 110 BB, 30 2B and 15 SB - numbers that ranked him first in the majors in Runs, second in OBP, third in slugging, fifth in HR, 6th in RBI and 7th in batting average.

The true Fenway faithful, of course, remember him the best for the magical 1967 season that transformed a franchise that had been adrift since the early 1950s. More than anybody, the left fielder from Long Island created what we now think of as "Red Sox Nation" - it may seem hard to believe now, but between 1959 and 1966, the Red Sox finished in the bottom half of the league in attendance 6 times in 8 years; from 1961-66 they never averaged as many as 12,000 fans per game, and dropped below 10,000 twice. Attendance in 1967 doubled, and the Sox have remained the centerpiece of the Boston sports world ever since. Yaz was everything that year - MVP, Triple Crown, led the league in OBP and Slugging and Runs and Total Bases, won the Gold Glove, had 3 hits in the All-Star Game, carried his team to the pennant in an airtight race with a blistering stretch from August 19 through the end of the year when he batted .358/.466/.723 with 16 HR and 40 RBI in 45 games (including .523/.604/.955 with 16 RBI in the last 12), batted .331/.434/.662 with RISP and .367/.467/.674 when batting with two outs, and hit .400/.500/.840 3 HR in the World Series. It was an amazing season for a great player.

* - Ever notice how many Hall of Famers who played the bulk of their careers at other positions spent at least part of a season as regular third basemen? The list includes Yaz, Johnny Bench, Cap Anson, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Tony Perez, Cal Ripken, Jackie Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Ryne Sandberg, Buck Ewing, Frankie Frisch, Joe Sewell, Honus Wagner, Luke Appling...some of these guys played the hot corner at the beginning or end of their careers or were just migrant sluggers - none were really third basemen - but several of them were, like Yaz, basically mid-career experiments to plug a hole.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:12 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: McCain's Website Needs An Obama Tax Hike Calculator

So I spent a little time noodling around the McCain campaign website, and maybe this is buried deep in the site somewhere and I missed it, but shouldn't the site have a place where you can calculate, even roughly, how much Obama's tax hike plans will cost you? Certainly taxes is a huge issue, being a hardy GOP perennial, an issue on which Obama has been backtracking, and the focus of several of McCain's recent ads, like this one:

I recall the tax cut calculator being a popular feature of Bush's site in 2000, back in the Stone Age of web campaigns. But you can't do anything similar on McCain's site. The "Issues" section of McCain's site also has no separate page on taxes. (On a related note, the RNC website's "Obama Spendometer" link no longer leads you to anything - maybe Obama broke it?)

I realize that Obama's tax plans can be hard to pin down, and that there are challenges presented in trying to corral the many different taxes he is proposing to raise, like capital gains, dividend, payroll, and estate taxes, as well as indirect taxes like energy and corporate taxes (in the latter case, as with gas taxes, he's opposing McCain's proposed cuts) and tariffs. But calculations for particular people presumably can be done, at least in a rough-estimate sort of way, and the numbers they give you can be eye-popping especially for groups like upper-middle-class professionals and small business people who the GOP has been weaker with in recent elections.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:09 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Platformers

A little compare-and-contrast. On the GOP side, John McCain has decided against a bitter battle to bend the party platform to match his own idiosyncratic views:

Republicans are inviting suggestions for their party platform this year, and thousands have responded online. But when a committee meets to draft the document in Minneapolis next week, one voice will be largely absent: John McCain's.

The Republican standard-bearer is at odds with his party on such hot-button issues as global warming, immigration, campaign-finance overhaul, stem-cell research, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Many party stalwarts are also deeply skeptical when it comes to judicial nominations, given his Senate record.

Instead of fighting with party activists to form the platform around his own ideas, Sen. McCain has taken a hands-off approach. He "is a voice in this process," says Steven Duffield, executive director of the platform committee. But "this is ultimately a party platform," he adds. Sen. McCain seems to agree. "The delegates are going through the process and we are going to let them work their will on the platform," campaign spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said in an email in response to questions about drafting the party platform.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama's own staff was principally involved in writing the Democrats' platform:

Platform writers for Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton worked side-by-side Saturday as the Democratic Party developed a policy statement to promote nominee-in-waiting Obama and keep Clinton backers involved.

The 20-member drafting committee heard Friday and Saturday morning from scores of party regulars, policy experts and hard-luck Americans before beginning a draft of the platform, which goes before the full platform committee Aug. 9 in Pittsburgh.

The committee, meeting through Sunday, reviewed a 44-page document principally written by Karen Kornbluh, who has worked on Obama's Senate staff. She said the draft included Obama and Clinton materials and was meant to highlight renewing core American goals.

As Ezra Klein notes, "[t]his whole process was quarterbacked by Obama's Senate policy director, Karen Kornbluh..."

Now, on one level this is unsurprising; Obama's trying to be a transformational figure and leader of his party, so you'd expect him to want his stamp put on the platform; McCain's a long-time dissenter from various party orthodoxies who claimed the nomination without really being embraced by his party's base, so he needs to avoid unnecessary battles over his long-term impact on the party's direction. But the major reason why Obama's role matters is that the Obama platform takes significant steps to strip away even the tepid Clinton-era nods in the platform towards rhetorical moderation on abortion. We may hear the media feed us the every-four-years perennial "Republican platform fight about abortion" stories anyway, but it's the Democratic nominee who is leading his party further away from the center on the most divisive issue of the day.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:04 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
August 19, 2008
BASEBALL: No Closer To Winning

While the Mets have been going pretty well of late, it's still quite clear that they just can't close out games without Billy Wagner, so the news that an MRI of Wagner's elbow shows inflammation that could put him out for the season is dire indeed. The acquisition of Luis Ayala over the weekend (for Anderson Hernandez, batting .203/.262/.307 at AAA) seems more like hope than strategy:

The Mets are hoping they can fix Ayala in much the same way they repaired Guillermo Mota in 2006. Their scouts have determined Ayala has regained most of the velocity he lost in '06 when he underwent reconstructive surgery on his right elbow, but they also believe he has lost the sink that made an effective reliever with the Expos in 2003 and '04.

They believe an adjustment in the angle of his arm will help him regain the sink.

Leaving aside Mota's substantial role in losing the NLCS that year, you can't just extrapolate from Rick Peterson's modest success with a struggling Mota that the current Mets brain trust can do the same for Ayala just because he's been bad. And make no mistake: Ayala's long been an excellent pitcher, but he's been horrid this year to the tune of a 5.77 ERA and crummy peripheral stats to match.

Obviously, my previous optimism about Aaron Heilman was misguided. But Duaner Sanchez hasn't shown any consistency either, and really nobody else is a credible candidate (Feliciano's really a specialist - righties are batting .322/.412/.517 against him and .318/.413/.500 against Schoenweis, while lefties are batting .318/.434/.455 against Joe Smith). And I continue to think, as I did before they called him up, that Eddie Kunz' AA numbers don't suggest a guy who is big league ready, and it's dicey to take a starting pitching prospect like Jon Niese and toss him into a MLB closer job. The only starter they could spare now is Pedro, who probably could not really transition well to working multiple days in a row (El Duque maybe, but he probably won't be ready to pitch until 2009, if ever). I'd suggest a deal (Huston Street?), but not only is it past the deadline but the acquisition of Ayala suggests that the Mets tried already and that was the best they could do.

Ugh.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:39 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Roto Rooting, Down The Drain

As a general rule, on grounds of not boring the audience, I don't write that much about my fantasy baseball teams other than an annual roundup of my draft (which I was too busy to get to this year) and the occasional aside about who I do and don't own as a way of explaining who I'm watching more closely. But permit me here a moment of despair.

I have three teams - an AL-only traditional Roto team and two AL/NL Yahoo autodraft teams. At this writing I'm tied for fourth in the former and in first and second in the latter two. The roto team is my 'main' team, consuming the most effort because you have to dig much deeper on AL rosters to fill out your squad. My active lineup this season has featured such luminaries as Denard Span, Joe Inglett, Brian Buscher, Guillermo Quiroz, Morgan Ensberg, Shawn Riggans, Andy Marte, Jonny Gomes, Chris Shelton, Willy Aybar, Brandon Boggs, Ben Broussard, Jose Vidro, Grant Balfour, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Jason Jennings, Sean Green, Dustin Moseley, Arthur Rhodes, Jesse Carlson, and Ross Ohlendorf.

Anyway, thus far I have survived the injury to my $27 ace pitcher, Erik Bedard (thank you, John Danks, Dice-K, Joakim Soria and BJ Ryan). I have been surviving the injury to my $38 top offensive player, Carl Crawford. I have been surviving the injury to the revived Joe Crede, and disappointing years from Nick Swisher and Adrian Beltre.

But if Ian Kinsler is out for the season with a sports hernia, I am even more thoroughly doomed than the Rangers are. Kinsler's batting .319, he's leading the majors in hits, he has 18 HR, 26 SB and 71 RBI, and he's been on fire in recent weeks. He and Crawford account for more than half my team's steals.

This has been an unusually busy summer for trades and an unusually busy August, in particular, for injuries. In both real and fantasy baseball, the healthiest will have a huge leg up to outlast the competition.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:14 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
August 18, 2008
POLITICS: Obama's Revisionist History on Iraq And WMD

Here is Barack Obama in Sunday's Saddleback forum:

Warren: What's the most significant--let me ask it this way. What's the most gut-wrenching decision you ever had to make and how did you process that to come to that decision?
Obama: Well, you know, I think the opposition to the war in Iraq was as tough a decision as I've had to make. Not only because there were political consequences, but also because Saddam Hussein was a real bad person, and there was no doubt that he meant America ill. But I was firmly convinced at the time that we did not have strong evidence of weapons of mass destruction, and there were a lot of questions that, as I spoke to experts, kept on coming up. Do we know how the Shia and the Sunni and the Kurds are going to get along in a post-Saddam situation? What's our assessment as to how this will affect the battle against terrorists like al Qaeda? Have we finished the job in Afghanistan?
So I agonized over that.

Kevin Holtsberry has already discussed how Obama mischaracterizes his 2002 anti-war speech as an act of political courage when it was really pandering to his political base, and Taranto notes that Obama's speech itself shows no indication that he struggled with the decision or even considered supporters of the war to be acting in good faith. (I've discussed previously why Obama's speech also trafficked in anti-Semitism).

But there's another aspect of Obama's revisionism that bears noting: his claim today that he was skeptical about the international intelligence community consensus that Saddam had biological and chemical weapons programs and was proceeding apace to get nuclear weapons.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:02 PM | Politics 2008 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Back But Not All The Way

I'm back from vacation but it's looking like tomorrow at the earliest before I'm dug out enough to resume regular blogging.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:16 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
August 17, 2008
SPORTS: What makes an MVP?

Posted by Ricky West

This will be my final post as the Crank is returning from his much deserved vacation.  I want to thank him for allowing me this opportunity to reach a new audience and reignite the vigor for political debate that I'd lost a few months back when I went into virtual hibernation.  I'm truly not worthy. To all who felt like looking me up on google & pummeling me: I truly enjoyed it, it was a blast, and I wish you all the best....don't take this politics stuff too seriously.  Oh, and I was right and you were wrong. :)

The year 2002 gave us Miguel Tejada as the AL's MVP.  In 2006-2007, the NBA gave us Dirk Nowitzki as its league's MVP.  To me, both decisions were ludicrous and simply reinforced the oft-held notion that sportswriters are lazy and simply vote for the best players on the best teams.  Crank gave his arguments against Tejada almost 6 years ago, before the award was given:

The usual argument, then, erupts over whether you can give the award to Rodriguez, who played for a last place team, as opposed to Thome - no, scratch that, as opposed to Giambi or Miguel Tejada, both of whose teams made the playoffs, despite the obvious fact that neither of them was the best player in the league at his position. Some people have also mentioned Soriano as a candidate, but while Soriano was clearly among the top 10 players in the league, he wasn't on the same elite level as the others offensively (because he was just a point above the league on base percentage) and didn't compensate with especially dazzling glove work (Soriano is no better than, at his best, an average defensive second baseman, and probably less than that).

(Ironically, as Mel Antonen of USAToday notes, it's often the players who prefer to look at the numbers and the writers who go with the argument that "intangibles" that make "winners" are an important factor.)

An argument can most certainly be made against giving an award to the person who simply had the best numbers.  NFL teams with horrific defenses often have quarterbacks who throw for more than 4,000 yards simply because they're always playing from behind, for example.  I agree that it would be a bad precedent for adopting the practice of simply awarding personal achievement that may come at team expense.  Then again, if you just look at the top teams and eliminate the players that have the misfortune to be surrounded by excellence that the front office acquired, you can end up with laughable decisions like giving the esteemed Bill Russell the MVP during the season when Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50 points and 27 rebounds.  And, before anyone retorts that Wilt simply shot it every time he got it that season, keep in mind that he was 3rd in the league in FG percentage that season. I'm sorry, when someone has the greatest offensive season in league history, the greatest rebounding season in league history and is the 3rd most efficient field goal shooter, they're the MVP.  It wasn't Wilt's fault that Russell was surrounded by 8 future hall-of-famers (not taking anything from Russell, the greatest winner in sports history...he just wasn't as good as Wilt, period).  Or, Joe Dimaggio winning the MVP when Ted Williams is the triple crown winner.

In the case of A-Rod & 2002, you had Rodriguez having arguably the greatest offensive season for any shortstop in major league history:

G   AB    R    H   2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB  BB  BA   OBP   SLG  OPS  TB  HBP 
162 624  125  187  27  2  57  142   9  87 .300 .392  .623  1015 389 10

And, for anyone who says that it was just a case of Rodriguez putting up offensive numbers, he also won the gold glove that season.  So, you had a player who was not only the best offensive shortstop that season (he was the best offensive player in baseball) but he was the best defensive shortstop that season.  Who got the MVP?  Another shortstop.  One who wasn't as good offensively or defensively.  Yes, clutch hits and intangibles are huge, but they don't erase the sheer dominance that A-Rod displayed that season. 

Likewise, let's consider the case of Dirk Nowitzki.  Truly, the best player on the best team in the NBA that season.  Yes, he faded in the playoffs, but the voting occurs before the playoffs.  Let's ignore Kobe Bryant's statistical dominance over Nowitzki, substantial as it is.  It's quite simple: Kobe Bryant was the scoring champion that season.  Kobe Bryant was 1st team all-defense (Marcus Camby was the defensive player of the year).  Much like A-Rod winning the gold glove, Kobe Bryant was the best defensive player at his position.  Dirk Nowitzki, on the other hand, was neither the best offensive nor defensive player at his position.  Nowitzki wasn't among the top 4 defensive players on his own team, by the way.  Again, you have the best offensive player in the league and best defender at his position being denied simply because he played on the 'wrong' team.  With the passage of time, we know that Bryant wasn't the cause of the Lakers' mediocrity last season, but rather it was the rest of the team getting better as they made the NBA finals this year*.

Summation: No, don't give out the top awards to the guys who put up the best numbers.  However, you don't ignore those who are obviously the best and most valuable in the league simply because their teammates aren't quite up to par with the top franchises.  Or, in the case of Wilt & Teddy Ballgame, the sportswriters hate you.

Thanks, again, Crank! 

-

*Note: I most certainly do not bring Kobe Bryant into the discussion because I'm a Laker fan or Bryant fan.  Currently, the NBA player I dislike the most is Kobe Bryant. Thus, this is purely an argument based on the merits, not the personalities.

Finally, note to self: Something you believe + the words "Rush" and "Limbaugh" pasted at the top = blog comments gold!

Posted by Ricky West at 6:41 PM | Other Sports | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
August 15, 2008
RELIGION/POLITICS: I guess I'm on a roll

Posted by Ricky West



I've long heard the charges that the right was leaning too much on the Falwells & Robertsons to bring evangelicals to politics. Now, there are charges that the left is allowing Jeremiah Wright & this Pflegler guy to define lefty religion/politics. After hearing those two over the past few months and reading many of their comments, I must ask: when did it become en vogue for reverends to curse? I guess this is a lot like the Mel Gibson episode, where everyone was aghast about what he said about Jews (and I'm not ignoring that) and basically forgot the part about him driving drunk. In this case, you have preachers saying things that are politically - and in Wright's case, patriotically - incendiary, and virtually everyone has overlooked the fact that those two are dropping four-letter words on a constant basis. Is this a regional thing? I know in the south, to say it's be frowned on by the community would be an understatement.

Posted by Ricky West at 9:10 PM | Religion | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BLOGS: Oh, my; plus, 'I'm intolerant of intolerance'

Posted by Ricky West



I told myself that I wouldn't turn Crank's site into a blog that talks about other blogs, but all I can say is.....wow.

Also, a tangential comment about this:

Hate dominates like the Celts in the East
Michelle Malkin wants to snitch
Like you tell the police
She ought to be shot

Not the lyrics and not anything about Malkin. Heck, the real crime to me is that people are still buying into the shinola that is hardcore rap (save yourself the effort), but for some reason it reminded me of an old episode of Politically Incorrect, the Maher show that at least tried to entertain instead of spread propaganda, where a no-name rapper was there to discuss the issues of the day (yeah, probably alongside Carrot Top). Anyway, the guy got around to admitting that he and his group were communists, not long after Maher had held up the band's CD and urged people to purchase it at their local retailer, since the rapper was there as part of the band's junket.

Reminds me of the young groupies following Rage Against the Machine (who rocked, by the way) and their willingness to adhere to the words urging them to stick it to the capitalist powers that be. Apparently, a part of the mechanism for the impending Marxist revolution was purchasing RATM CDs, shelling out cash for a moshpit-laden concert and making all the band members millionaires. What, you believed the lyrics?

Posted by Ricky West at 8:54 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Huh?

Maybe I'm missing something. Wouldn't be the first time, of course:

Minority Americans have been flocking to the nation's "swing counties," hotly contested areas that could play a crucial role in this year's election.

That's got to be good news for Barack Obama, bidding to become the first black president.

Blacks and Hispanics are moving to counties that already were racially diverse, such as Osceola in central Florida and Mecklenberg in North Carolina, home to Charlotte. They also are moving to key counties that remain predominantly white, such as Lake in Northeast Ohio, Lehigh in eastern Pennsylvania and Oakland outside Detroit.

If this year's election is as close as the past two, demographic shifts in these counties could make a big difference.

The racial changes reflect national trends: 93 percent of all counties are less white than they were at the start of the decade, according to new Census estimates. But the changes are even more profound in swing counties of potential battleground states, counties that were decided by razor thin margins in 2000 and 2004 and could decide statewide winners this year.


They finally pinpointed something pertinent in the final sentence, although the entire story still doesn't make much sense. As Al Gore and John Kerry found out, losing an overwhelming majority of counties (we've all seen the red/blue county-by-county map, right?) means, well, nothing electorally. States matter. Electoral votes matter. If Sen. Obama can eek out some states that were red in '04, then he'll be our next president. Winning counties? Besides, is anyone out there willing to put money down that Obama will win NC or Florida? The red states have been the ones increasing their electoral tallies and the ones that are really in play are OH and VA. I know I certainly don't expect McCain to win Michigan. I'm sorry, I don't see the story or why a paper would devote space to something that is of zero importance.

That is, unless the story is a rebuttal to the county-by-county map that the right has pointed to for over seven years. Again, I admit that I'm probably missing something, but could there be any other logical reason that an editor gave the go-ahead on such a non-story, because Obama winning counties in Florida means jack squat if he wins Florida. Again, ask Citizen Gore.

Posted by Ricky West at 8:43 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
August 14, 2008
PERSONAL: Trust me, I'm aware of my circumstances

Posted by Ricky West


Today, my little girl turns 11. 

My, how time flies.

So, a few weeks back I ask "what do you want for your birthday?"

Her answer: "I want you to take us to see the Braves".

With all the choices out there; a Hannah Montana CD, a trip to some play zone, a dinner at her favorite restaurant, some video game or toy, clothes....my little princess wants to go see a major league game with her Daddy.  As she slowly moves from little-girl into budding-young-lady, I keep thinking back to that lil' pumpkin that introduced me to parenthood.  All the dads out there know, you don't just love your daughter simply because she's your daughter, they cause you to fall in love with them.  Sure, there are tons of love songs about a man and a woman, but when a daughter blinks her little eyes at her dad, that is the true epitome of a melting heart.  She's my little girl, my princess, my first born and along with her brother & mom, make what is my world something to look forward to each and every day.

So, while you're having dinner or watching the Olympics, I'll be viewing the Cubs likely pummeling my Braves (the Cubs are my #3 team, behind Atlanta & the BoSox).  However, the actual outcome of the game isn't important at all, as I'll be sitting beside my little girl, my little middle-schooler, watching a major league baseball game at her request.

Yeah, I'm that lucky.

Posted by Ricky West at 10:08 AM | Other Sports | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
August 13, 2008
POLITICS: Rush Limbaugh on health care

Posted by Ricky West



The libertarian in me is horrified by the notion that the government may
mandate that I take part in a federal health care plan.  Instead of droning
on endlessly, the Godfather of radio laid things out perfectly a few months
back:



A friend of mine in a state
on the East Coast sent me a note.  This is yesterday: "I heard a rather
liberal GOP political consultant here in Raleigh say today that health care
is too complicated to be a deciding issue in the elections; it can't be
summarized in 30 seconds, it's just too hard."  So we're not even supposed
to talk about it, don't even go there.  Liberal Republican consultants,
don't even talk about health care, it's a losing issue, just as you are
saying, Tony.  I don't accept that it's a losing issue, and I don't accept
that we have to accept things about it, like it's a right or it is too
complicated.  



In less than 30 seconds, I can explain health care in a nutshell.  No
employer, no insurance company, no politician or government bureaucrat knows
better than you about your family's health needs.  You should have the right
to purchase health care and health insurance as you see fit without
governmental restrictions or penalties, and you should not be of the mind
that your neighbors have to buy it for you.
  Less than 30 seconds
I've just explained the concept of fixing health care.


[]


What we also have in this
country are some people who don't want to use their own assets to pay for
their own health care.  They want someone else to do it.  And that brings in
a very happy and compliant Democrat Party.  It is a matter of individual
priorities.  Let me say it to you as Mr. Buckley might have said it.  Moral
obligations, should one choose to assume moral obligations, are actually
higher on the list of things than rights.  That's why we set up systems to
take care of the indigent, because we are a moral people.  It is why we have
Medicare; it is why we have Medicaid; it is why we have S-CHIP.  At least
it's why we started them.  It's why good people support them.  We can get
into an argument here of whether these programs are more of the same liberal
drivel to create as many dependents as possible, but I think we are a
compassionate country, and we are a country that understands our moral
obligations to people who can't provide for themselves because of certain
things, and those people nobody will argue with, being taken care of and
helped.  That is precisely why we set up systems to take care of the
indigent.  It is why we take care of our neighbors.  It is why we have our
churches engage in the various community actions that they do and, not to
mention, there's all kinds of other community organizations that exist for
the express purpose of bringing things to poor, indigent people that they
don't have and can't have on their own.  



This is a country of high moral obligation, and we meet those moral
obligations at all times.  That is why, because we have such a moral
obligation, and because we are such a compassionate people, and because we
are such a generous people, this is why we try to lower costs and increase
competition so that more people can be taken care of well, so that people
are not left to fall through the cracks.  Now, this doesn't mean that any of
this is a right.  It is our moral obligation as a society that has us take
care of people who otherwise could not afford this.  But what has
happened is that people who very well could afford it, just as they could
afford a plasma TV or a car or what have you, can afford health care and
choose not to, they choose in fact for others, their neighbors, fellow
citizens, to pay for it, precisely because they have been led to believe
that it is their right to have health care.  And I would submit to you that
the whole notion of having your neighbor pay for what your responsibilities
are can be very addictive, once it starts.
 



Emphasis mine.

Posted by Ricky West at 12:42 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (84) | TrackBack (0)
August 12, 2008
POLITICS/BLOGS: Yes, but that was then and we REALLY needed to win

Posted by Ricky West


Four years ago today:

To some up, it is very credible that Kerry was in or near Cambodia during Christmas 1968 AND it is clear that the operation involved substantial incursions into Cambodia.

Ah, good times. Back when military service was crucial during a campaign.

"Reporting for duty", indeed.

Posted by Ricky West at 11:01 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
August 11, 2008
POLITICS: The evidence doesn't warrant the charge
Posted by Ricky West

Going to the wayback machine.  I posted a similar item on my site back in 2003, but the html was screwed up & it's not legible at this time, so why not an update? 

A lot has been said about the inability of national/federal Democrats to win elections in the south.  Much of what I’ve seen has disproportionately been little more than excuses disguised as rationale, such as the "Nixon southern strategy", "God, gays and guns", or the ever present "confederate culture" (read: racists).  This sort of rhetoric is usually revisited every two years, as elections need to be won & villains need to be found.  However, is this actually the case?  Are southerners actually hostile to Democrats?

Well, I did some research on just what the political makeup of the region was as recently as 1996.  I chose the "big" four offices for each state, Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State and Attorney General, along with the respective chambers of their legislatures.  Each state will have different avenues of choosing their officers so I won’t go that deep in the analysis but thought that a quick reminder would shed some much-needed light on the scenario.  Democratic margins are in bold while Republican margins are in italics.  Here is how things stood in mid-1996 in the south, and by that I mean the "south" where Maryland, Missouri or Oklahoma are fine states but not of the southern brand:

Alabama
Governor - Fob James, Jr. (R)
Lt. Governor - Don Siegelman (D)
Sec. of State - Jim Bennett (D)
Atty. Gen - Jeff Sessions (R)
Senate - Dem., 22; Rep., 12 (1 vacancy)
House - Dem., 83; Rep., 22
 
Advantage: Democrats (4 of 6)
Arkansas
Governor - Mike Huckabee (R)
Lt. Governor - Vacant
Sec. of State - Sharon Priest (D)
Atty. Gen - Winston Bryant (D)
Senate - Dem., 28; Rep., 7
House - Dem., 89; Rep., 11
 
Advantage: Democrats (4 of 5)
Florida
Governor - Lawton Chiles (D)
Lt. Governor - Kenneth McKay (D)
Sec. of State - Sandra Mortham (R)
Atty. Gen - Robert Butterworth (D)
Senate - Dem., 18; Rep., 22
House - Dem., 63; Rep., 57
 
Advantage: Democrats (4 of 6)
Georgia
Governor - Zell Miller (D)
Lt. Governor - Pierre Howard (D)
Sec. of State - Lewis Massey (D)
Atty. Gen - Michael Bowers (R)
Senate - Dem., 35; Rep., 21
House - Dem., 112; Rep., 68
 
Advantage: Democrats (5 of 6)
Kentucky
Governor - Paul Patton (D)
Lt. Governor - Steve Henry (D)
Sec. of State - John Brown (D)
Atty. Gen - A.B. Chandler (D)
Senate - Dem., 20; Rep., 17 (1 vacancy)
House - Dem., 63; Rep., 36 (1 vacancy)
 
Advantage: Democrats (6 of 6)
Louisiana
Governor - Mike Foster (R)
Lt. Governor - Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D)
Sec. of State - W. Fox McKeithen (R)
Atty. Gen - Richard Ieyoub (D)
Senate - Dem., 24; Rep., 14 (1 vacancy)
House - Dem., 77; Rep., 27 (1 vacancy)
 
Advantage: Democrats (5 of 6)
Mississippi
Governor - Kirk Fordice (R)
Lt. Governor - Ronnie Musgrove (D)
Sec. of State - Eric Clark (D)
Atty. Gen - Mike Moore (D)
Senate - Dem., 35; Rep., 17
House - Dem., 85; Rep., 34; 3 Ind.
 
Advantage: Democrats (5 of 6)
North Carolina
Governor - James Hunt (D)
Lt. Governor - Dennis Wicker (D)
Sec. of State - Janice Faulkner (D)
Atty. Gen - Mike Easley (D)
Senate - Dem., 26; Rep., 24
House - Dem., 52; Rep., 68
 
Advantage: Democrats (5 of 6)
South Carolina
Governor - David Beasley (R)
Lt. Governor - Robert Peeler (R)
Sec. of State - Jim Miles (R)
Atty. Gen - Charles Condon (R)
Senate - Dem., 25; Rep., 20
House - Dem., 62; Rep., 54; 4 Ind.; 4 Vac.
 
Advantage: Republicans (4 of 6)
Tennessee
Governor - Don Sundquist (R)
Lt. Governor - John Wilder (D)
Sec. of State - Riley Darnell (D)
Atty. Gen - Charles Burson (D)
Senate - Dem., 16; Rep., 17
House - Dem., 59; Rep., 40
 
Advantage: Democrats (4 of 6)
Texas
Governor - George W. Bush (R)
Lt. Governor - Bob Bullock (D)
Sec. of State - Antonio Garza (R)
Atty. Gen - Dan Morales (D)
Senate - Dem., 17; Rep., 14
House - Dem., 88; Rep., 62
 
Advantage: Democrats (4 of 6)
West Virginia
Governor - Gaston Caperton (D)
Lt. Governor - None
Sec. of State - Ken Hechler (D)
Atty. Gen - Darrell McGraw (D)
Senate - Dem., 32; Rep., 2
House - Dem., 79; Rep., 21
 
Advantage: Democrats (5 of 5)

 (source: World Almanac and Book of Facts)

Totals:
Republicans hold 7 of 12 Governor seats.
Democrats hold 90% of the Lt. Governor seats.
Democrats hold 2/3 of the Secretary of State offices.
Democrats hold 3/4 of the Attorney General offices.
Democrats control 21 of 24 chambers (senate or house), some with staggering majorities:
The total state house representation within the south: Democrats, 912; Republicans, 500; Independent, 7
The total state senate representation within the south: Democrats, 298; Republicans, 127
 
Conclusions:
Wow, look at those legislative majorities. 
Take a look at that table again.  Remind yourself that it’s not representative of 1946 but 1996.  So, instead of the celebrated excuses listed at the beginning, couldn’t a more prudent conclusion could be the conventional wisdom that has been put forth from so many: the south is more conservative than the national Democratic party?
As the Obama campaign moves forward after the convention & some poll numbers come out which shows conservative regions less willing to accept the Messiah's platform that the various forms of the media have been bombarding us with of late (in case you hadn't heard, he transcends politics and is post racial.  What?  You don't agree?  Well, you're a racist) keep in mind that this has always been the case for the last generation, at least.  Democrats have long ruled the south.

Liberals, or their newfound attempt at branding, 'progressives'?  Not so much.

 

[note: Why did I choose 1996?  Because I was clearing a bookshelf and the 1997 Almanac was there and I started reading it and thought the data was interesting.]

 

 

Posted by Ricky West at 3:05 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The complete total base


Posted by Ricky West


I know Crank is a lot like most new-age baseball fans & pays close attention
to OPS (on base plus slugging), as do I.  Like batting average, though,
that can take into account a player's value only when he's on the field which
can be deceiving for a player who is as likely to be injured or on the DL as he
is to be on the field.  Take Nomar Garciaparra, for instance, always good
for a high batting average & decent OPS but also rarely available for more than
130 games per season.  My fantasy league has created what we feel to be the
true barometer for a player's value when it comes to performance on the field:
the overall total base.   The calculation for this category is quite
simple, MLB's total bases plus walks plus HBP plus steals.  So, other than
when a batter/fielder moves the runner up, this formula encapsulates what a
player has done on the field during the season.  Does this really
matter?  Well, ask any rotisserie (or MLB) owner of Milton Bradley or
Chipper Jones, who have been day-to-day seemingly since June.  Currently,
for players with more than 200 at-bats, the top 20 OPS performers in MLB are:




























































































Player

OPS

A. Pujols

1.080

C. Jones

1.066

L. Berkman

1.038

M. Bradley

1.036

M. Holliday

1.032

A. Rodriguez

1.001

R. Ludwick

0.994

M. Ramirez

0.965

C. Quentin

0.952

X. Nady

0.952

P. Burrell

0.950

J. Drew

0.948

B. McCann

0.942

K. Youkilis

0.938

C. Lee

0.937

C. Utley

0.934

R. Braun

0.925

J. Dye

0.924

J. Hamilton

0.921

A. Soriano

0.918

Diehard fans look at that list and know that Pujols was on the DL last month. 
Chipper, #2 on the list, has 327 at-bats (David Wright has 453).  Milton
Bradley, fourth on the list, has two plate appearances in the last week and a
half.  Alfonso Soriano, #20, has missed over a third of the season. 
Fantasy owners know all too well that there are two categories that are of the
utmost importance: at-bats and innings pitched.  If they don't play, they
don't help you.  Here are the current overall total base leaders through
Sunday's games, and chances are that means these are the fantasy 'studs' in your
league:




























































































Player

TB

G. Sizemore

340

L. Berkman

338

H. Ramirez

336

J. Reyes

327

I. Kinsler

325

C. Utley

322

D. Wright

321

A. Pujols

320

M. Holliday

318

J. Hamilton

315

C. Quentin

312

R. Braun

312

B. Roberts

308

N. McLouth

302

N. Markakis

299

P. Burrell

297

J. Bay

296

M. Teixeira

294

C. Lee

292

P. Fielder

292

Yes, Shady Grady Sizemore is the complete total base champ of baseball, at
this juncture.  Yes, he has a high number of at-bats & a mediocre batting
average  (.269).  At the end of the day, though, when your fantasy
league is tallying up runs, homeruns, rbi and steals (and, maybe, MLBs total
bases) you're more likely to wish for Mr. Sizemore's presence on your squad than
Xavier Nady, J.D. Drew or Jermaine Dye.  The old commercial may have said "chicks dig the long ball" but fantasy owners dig players who are on the field. Honesly, who is happy that they picked Howie Kendrick and his batting average?

Assuming that there is no reliable specific data that one can point to in order to judge a player's worth, does this truly account for a player's numerical fantasy value? Thoughts? Reactions?

Posted by Ricky West at 9:29 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
August 9, 2008
POLITICS: Are you lonesome tonight?

Posted by Ricky West



This campaign season is definitely not a good one for Republicans. It's shaping up to be not so welcoming to liberals:
There’s an old saying in politics that elections are won or lost one vote at a time.
On Friday, DFL-endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken demonstrated how true that saying can be, when a roundtable on veterans issues at Brigitte’s Cafe his campaign scheduled drew only one participant.
Josh John, a St. Cloud resident who said he served in the Navy from 2000-04, had Franken to himself for an hour as he described difficulties he faced returning from his tour of duty and the help he received from his Veterans Services Office and the St. Cloud VA Medical Center.

Note I typed "liberals", not "Democrats". Watching Obama run as far from his ultra-liberal past reaffirms what many have known all along: while the country may not be Reaganesque in its conservatism, it most definitely is not a left-of-center country. And, apparently, many Dems know it.

But not Al Franken.


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H/T to DrewM.

Posted by Ricky West at 4:25 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
August 8, 2008
BASEBALL: The worst player in the majors?

Posted by Ricky West


Scott Boras, infamous for being a first-class jerk who nonetheless is constantly able to garner big bucks for his clients (often much more than they’re worth), may have been able to offset some of the bad PR throughout the entire A-Rod debacle, where he came out the big loser. He was able to snag a $36 million dollar deal (2 years) for Andruw Jones, who statisticcally appears to be the worst player in the majors. Say what you will about Boras, and there's not much positive that I can conjure, but knowing that his client is guaranteed well into fiveeight figures next season is quite a feat when you consider that with the acquisition of Manny Ramirez, Jones has lost his grasp on the 4th outfielder's slot in Los Angeles.

The year-to-date figures
are staggering when one considers that Carlos Delgado almost matched the home-run and RBI figures in the Mets game of June 27.


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Ricky normally doesn't blog very much any more at blog.rjwest.com, but in his spare time he enjoys baseball, fantasy baseball, Baseball Tonight on ESPN and knowing that he can renew Tim Lincecum for a pittance on his fantasy team next season. On the downside, he realizes that Andruw Jones would probably be the third outfielder on this season's Braves team. Plus, his phone service has been on the fritz for about 18 hours, so he's hoping that he'll be able to provide Crank with some material early on in his well-deserved vacation.

Posted by Ricky West at 10:57 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Guest Starring....

There's a bunch of stuff I'd like to get to today, but I really have to get everything in order before I leave on vacation. So in case I don't get back to the blog this evening, as I did the last two years I have lined up a guest blogger; I will be leaving you in the capable hands of the excellent but semi-retired-from-blogging Ricky West, who really is a good guy despite being a Braves fan.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:35 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
August 7, 2008
BASEBALL: Kid Nichols in Action

nichols1890.jpgThere are any number of interesting things you can stumble across on the web, and this public-domain collection of old-timey (1880s-1910s, mainly 1901-06) baseball photos from the Boston Public Library is pretty impressive. Among others you can find Honus Wagner shaking hands with Nap Lajoie, a 1906 Cubs team picture, a picture of Hugh Duffy in mid-career, an 1895 picture of four of the stars of the old Baltimore Orioles, and a 1901 team picture with Cy Young at the center.

Below the fold you can see one series of pics from 1901 of Hall of Famer Kid Nichols demonstrating for a photographer his pitching grip & motion (granted, the motion's a bit artificial since it has to be stopped for still photos in a studio). Nichols, largely forgotton today, was easily one of the 10 best pitchers in the game's history - he won 63% of his career decisions with a 2.95 ERA pitching mainly in the offense-crazy 1890s, his career ERA+ of 140 means he was 40% better than the league for his career (among pitchers with over 3,000 career IP, only Lefty Grove, Walter Johnson and Roger Clemens can top that, and Nichols threw a thousand more innings than Grove), his average record from age 20-28 was 31-15, his decision to be a player-manager in the Western League for two years in mid-career is probably the only reason he didn't join Cy Young and Walter Johnson as a 400-game winner, and he was durable and tremendously consistent despite carrying a heavy workload from an early age (over 420 innings a year from age 20-24). The picture at the side here is of Nichols as a 20-year-old rookie in 1890. It's funny; I've known a fair bit about Nichols for a long time and this is the first time I've seen anything like action shots to give a sense of what he looked like on the mound.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:37 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Windfall

Beldar notes that ExxonMobil in the second quarter of 2008 paid three times as much in taxes as its after-tax profits.

You know, if there is one thing - one thing - that will encourage the development of alternative fuels, it's the same thing that led to the mad scramble of capital into internet and telecom in the 1990s: the belief by investors that whoever got ahead in the race to market would reap fabulous profits.

The best possible way to blunt that belief is to slap additional taxes on today's energy producers for being too profitable. Especially when they aren't even all that profitable on a returns-on-investment basis; those humongous profit figures are just due to massive market share:

Exxon's profit margin stood at 10% for 2007, which is hardly out of line with the oil and gas industry average of 8.3%, or the 8.9% for U.S. manufacturing (excluding the sputtering auto makers).

If that's what constitutes windfall profits, most of corporate America would qualify. Take aerospace or machinery -- both 8.2% in 2007. Chemicals had an average margin of 12.7%. Computers: 13.7%. Electronics and appliances: 14.5%. Pharmaceuticals (18.4%) and beverages and tobacco (19.1%) round out the Census Bureau's industry rankings.

(That WSJ editorial also notes that Google had a 25.3% profit margin).

Anyway, I'll probably get into this further when I have time for a longer post on energy, but I laid out the case in 2006 for some ideas on how government can do more to strengthen the confidence of investors that the winners of any alternate-fuel gold rush actually get to enjoy the spoils of their investment and labor.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:22 PM | Business • | Politics 2008 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Why Obama's Flip-Flops Matter

Obama to the left

If you looked at Barack Obama's record, public statements and campaign platform as of any time before June 3, 2008 (the last day of the Democratic primaries), you could detect a trend: on issue after issue after issue, there was a conservative position, a moderate position, a liberal position...and then there was an Obama position. Other liberals opposed the Iraq War; Obama called for complete withdrawal by March 2008. Other liberals opposed confrontation with Iran; Obama pledged to meet its leader unconditionally. Other liberals supported abortion on demand or even partial-birth abortion; Obama went beyond that to oppose any legal protection for a child born alive after a failed abortion. Other liberals supported amnesty to give illegal immigrants citizenship and "bring them out of the shadows"; Obama championed giving drivers licenses to illegal aliens even as they continued to live outside the law. Other liberals were concerned about surveillance outside of the FISA framework; Obama pledged to filibuster even a bill that brought surveillance into that framework unless it allowed civil lawsuits against phone companies that had complied with prior government requests. Other liberals voted against Justice Alito; Obama voted against Chief Justice Roberts, too, and for that matter voted to filibuster to prevent a vote on Alito. Other liberals courted liberal interest groups; Obama sought the nomination of a Marxist third party. Other liberals championed a "nuclear freeze" during the arms race of the early 1980s; Obama called for eliminating nuclear weapons and "slow[ing] our development of future combat systems" during a period of American nuclear and military predominance. On issue after issue after issue - taxes, guns, energy, you name it - Obama not only stood outside the national political mainstream, but on the far left edge even of his own party, which is how he earned the National Journal's "most liberal Senator" rating for 2007 despite the presence of a self-described Socialist in his caucus. Indeed, he was the candidate who promised Democrats that he would eschew Clintonian triangulation to lead "not by polls, but by principle; not by calculation, but by conviction" - to run as the same arch-liberal he has been throughout his (admittedly brief) political career. Republicans, having enjoyed great success in presidential contests against openly liberal candidates between 1968 and 1988, salivated at the prospect.

Obama to the right

Once he won the Democratic nomination, though, Obama started moving so quickly to re-brand himself as a 'centrist' that you'd be forgiven getting whiplash watching him move. Suddenly, he was siding with the Supreme Court's conservatives supporting the death penalty for child rapists and opposing the DC gun ban, and opposing an abortion bill he himself co-sponsors. Suddenly, he didn't think it worth drawing a "line[] that cannot be crossed" on FISA. Suddenly, he was fudging on Iraq, muddying the waters on his position and newly willing to meet with our commander on the ground. And now, under fire from John McCain and the GOP, he's been sending signals, however tepid, about buckling on his opposition to domestic oil drilling. (Other examples of Obama's shifts here (trade), here (affirmative action), here (campaign finance pledge), and here (faith-based initiatives, Israel, education and Social Security taxes), and here (oil reserves).) His own supporters have ranged from bewildered to in denial to enraged to laying out lists of things he must not concede (H/T). Meanwhile, in some cases the McCain camp is simply refusing to accept that Obama has abandoned his former position, preferring to run against the less ambiguous left-winger.

Should Obama's sudden and jarring shifts on such a broad menu of issues in the span of two months concern voters about what kind of man this is, and what he really believes in and stands for? Should he face the same sort of skepticism about his principles that eventually overwhelmed Mitt Romney's presidential campaign? I say yes, and for essentially the same reasons.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:00 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (27) | TrackBack (0)
August 6, 2008
BASEBALL: Throwing Zs

Amidst the collapse of a previously overachieving A's team (in part an unavoidable risk of Billy Beane dumping Rich Harden, Chad Gaudin and Joe Blanton), one high point has been Brad Ziegler, who entered tonight unscored upon in 34 innings over 26 appearances.

Ziegler attracted notice last week for breaking George McQuillian's 101-year-old record for most consecutive scoreless innings to start a career. He may be approaching the record for consecutive scoreless games to start a season as well; baseball-reference.com's database, going back to 1956, lists the record as 33 by Mike Meyers in 2000, albeit over only 17.2 innings. Since high-turnover relief pitching was in its infancy in 1956, that's probably the record. He's also passed the club record for consecutive scoreless innings by a reliever.

I'm less sure if it's the record for consecutive scoreless innings to start a season. Walter Johnson's AL record 55.1 consecutive scoreless innings started on Opening Day 1913, but the Yankees got a first inning run against the Senators that day, and I assume Johnson was the starting pitcher, so he must have allowed that run.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:14 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
August 5, 2008
POLITICS: Bait .... Switch

Kevin Holtsberry looks at Obama's response to GOP mockery of his advocacy of saving fuel by properly inflating your tires. In a lot of ways it's a perfect example of an Obama response - it's highly effective if you've only heard one side of the story, as Obama presents the issue as an argument between Obama, making a useful suggestion, and Republicans who "take pride in being ignorant." In fact, his suggestion that we raise awareness of the benefits of proper tire inflation is mildly helpful, although as Jim Geraghty notes, government policy initiatives that depend on the government changing the behavior of the people don't tend to be all that effective, especially against the hard core of folks who are disengaged from the news. (As a conservative, I tend to have more faith in the people's right to change the government than the government's ability to change the people).

But just as in other controversies - most notoriously, when Obama used his much-ballyhooed Speech About Race In America to change the subject from questions about his own personal relationship with his pastor - Obama's response completely ignores the actual subject at hand, which is the fact that he proposed tire inflation as an alternative to, and adequate substitute for, domestic oil drilling, yet anybody who looks at the issue (Kevin collects a few examples) can tell you that it won't come close to doing that. Dialogue being the skill set he lacks - he's happy with a microphone in his hand, but only as long as he's the only one who decides what to talk about.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:53 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Paris Fires Back

Paris Hilton's response to the McCain ad.

UPDATE: McCain responds to Paris Hilton's energy plan. No, really. Actually from the GOP perspective, it says something of the zeitgeist that even Paris Hilton's tongue-in-cheek energy plan makes room for more drilling. If that thought has penetrated even the empty heads of Hollywood floozies, we really have won this debate.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:52 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Heilman the Fireman

Jerry Manuel confirms that he'll turn to Aaron Heilman as the closer with Billy Wagner on the DL. This makes sense to me - Duaner Sanchez just hasn't been consistent this year, and while he can be quite effective at times, I suspect it's still physical problems from his injury rehab that cause him to be erratic. Feliciano, Smith and Schoenweis are better suited to righty/lefty work. Whereas a lot of Heilman's periodic struggles (like he had this weekend) seem mental as much as physical, and the challenge of closing may help lock him in - Heilman's exactly the sort of pitcher who probably has a streak of 11 straight saves in his arm at some point in his career.

Of course, the loss of Wagner for any stretch is still a big blow and one that cascades down the line in the pen - Heilman closing means Sanchez has to be the go-to 8th inning guy, etc. Ruddy Lugo is being called up to add to the pen, which of course will be leaned on hard if Maine and/or Pedro can't get back to contributing a reliable 6-7 innings every fifth day some time soon. The upside is that if Wagner does come back at full strength, the rest may make him fresher for September and possibly October than he's been in past years.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:31 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Music Television

Michele Catalano looks back at the first day's playlist on MTV.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:09 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Senator, You Are No Ronald Reagan

Feast your eyes on one of the silliest things you will see this election season:

Via Kos (H/T), though even Kos has to present it without comment to keep a straight face. Where there's nonsense, of course, there's also always Andrew Sullivan to declare it "the best way to respond to Rovian tactics." One has difficulty viewing this video and imagining that it is intended to be taken seriously.

Anyway, nonsensical as the idea is that Obama in 2008 is somehow comparable to Reagan in 1980, there is quite a lot of sentiment you see these days from commentators on the left yearning for Obama to be the Left's Reagan, the guy who realigns the political landscape around his ideas. One can never predict the political future, but this, too, seems to miss some critical points about Obama and Reagan, points that go beyond the simple and stark difference between the substance of their ideas.

Similar Experience? Really?

Both Reagan and Obama burst on the national political scene as the result of a single speech given during a presidential election campaign. In Reagan's case, it was the 1964 "Time for Choosing" speech, a nationally televised 30-minute address on behalf of the Goldwater campaign; in Obama's, his 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention.

You could plausibly argue that the two men had similar experience up to that point. Obama had more political experience, 8 years as a state legislator in Springfield; Reagan, unlike Obama, had some executive experience, eight years as the head of a labor union, running the Screen Actors Guild from 1947-52 and 1959-60, and while SAG is not your usual union, it was a challenging job:

Ronald Reagan presided over Screen Actors Guild at one of the most challenging moments in our union's history, as the rise of television significantly impacted the compensation and working conditions for the nation's screen actors. Under his tenure, SAG grew significantly in size and influence as the Guild tackled issues ranging from runaway production, to fair compensation, to unity in an increasingly complex industry - all issues that remain timely to working actors today.

Reagan's role as head of SAG also brought him directly into the great national security policy debates of the day - this was the McCarthy era - including his 1947 testimony to Congress about Communist infiltration of Hollywood. One looks in vain for analogous examples of Obama's role in national security debates in the 1980s.

Reagan also had some military experience, albeit not terribly impressive, serving in the reserves from 1937-42 and making training and PR films in Hollywood during World War II. But still, eight more years in military service of any kind than Obama can point to.

Of course, what matters is what these men did with the national platform they inherited. Reagan immediately became a leading spokesman on national security issues; in 1967 he debated Robert Kennedy about the Vietnam War on national television before a hostile audience, and by all accounts mopped the floor with the Senator and former Attorney General. Obama, by contrast, kept a fairly low profile in 2005-06 as a backbench freshman Senator in the minority party. Still, you could still plausibly argue that Obama in 2008 has comparable credentials to Reagan in 1968: four years as a Senator compared to two as a Governor.

Except that Reagan in 1968 recognized that he wasn't ready to run for president:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:01 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
August 4, 2008
POLITICS: Cantor: Obama "seeking culprits rather than solutions" on Energy

Courtesy of my RedState connection, I participated in a short conference call this morning on Obama's energy policy (before the rollout of Obama's latest energy speech, which Ed Morrissey hits the highlights of here) with Virginia Congressman and House Chief Deputy Minority Whip Eric Cantor, and McCain campaign spokesman Douglas Holtz-Eakin. Here's my summary of the call.

The chief theme pushed by Cantor and Holtz-Eakin is that Obama is at best weakly committed, and at worst outright opposed, to more domestic energy production. At all turns they brought the conversation back to this theme, which has clearly been a winning one for Republicans in general and the McCain campaign in particular. Rep. Cantor pointed out that Obama's recent statements of willingness to support domestic drilling "if that's what we have to do" is not leadership and conflicts with his own party's position in the House. The Q&A session was more involved and is discussed below the fold.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:03 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Mets Open Thread

Try as I might, I just can't bring myself to write about this weekend. Have at it, or anything baseball.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:25 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The John Edwards Test

One more on this theme before I move on.

The Obama campaign and its supporters have been quick to throw around charges of racism when their candidate has been criticized. I propose the following easily-applied thought experiment before evaluating such charges: would Republicans say the same thing about John Edwards?

Edwards is not, of course, precisely identical to Obama, but if you were conducting a test for racial bias and needed a white "tester" to change places with Obama, he's as good a fit as you'd be likely to find - close to Obama's age, similar in his level of experience (one undistinguished Senate term, tenuous grasp of national security issues) and accomplishment (close to zero), smooth-talking but challenged in answering tough questions, and drawing his support from a similar ideological base. By far the biggest distinguishing factor between the two men is the color of their skin.

Now, some will argue that this is not the right test, that some attacks that would be fair game against Edwards would not be fair against Obama. But watch for this switch: it's the point at which Obama supporters have stopped asking for sympathy for their candidate having to carry burdens other candidates wouldn't face, and instead are asking for immunity from the burdens other candidates must shoulder. And that's precisely the point at which a lot of people who might sympathize with Obama's appeals to fairness will instead see that he's asking to be judged by a different set of rules nobody else gets to play by.

So, applying that test, where does it get you? Obama has complained about McCain harping on the risk of Obama's inexperience and national security naivete, but certainly Republicans would be arguing that an Edwards presidency would be a huge risk to the nation and its economy (indeed, I challenge you to name a presidential campaign in living memory in which one or both candidates was not accused of being a risky choice, from the 1964 'Daisy' ad to Al Gore's "risky scheme" rhetoric). Obama is squealing about an ad comparing him to shallow celebrities like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, but given that right-wing pundits for years have referred to Edwards as the Breck Girl or the Silky Pony, it's hard to see why the GOP would forego a similar line of attack. Edwards never matched the pomposity of Obama's cult of personality, but not for lack of trying; certainly the absurd arrogance of Obama's declaration that his primary victory would lead to the very tides receding was criticized from the Right on much the same basis as Edwards' claim that a John Kerry presidency would get Christopher Reeve out of his wheelchair. Edwards' left-wing lawyer wife was criticized for some of her pronouncements on the trail just as Obama's left-wing lawyer wife has been, and just as Bill Clinton's was.

Obama has given the Right opportunities Edwards never did, in terms of his associations with Marxist third parties, crooked political fixers, unrepentant domestic terrorists, Palestinian agitators, and the like. But nobody in their right minds thinks Edwards would have been immune to criticism if he'd had the same circle of friends.

Probably the one exception is the Rev. Wright story. Edwards would certainly have faced intense criticism if he'd had Obama's sort of longstanding personal relationship with a preacher who howled "God damn America!" and inflamed the sort of racial resentments as Rev. Wright, and that's true whether it was a racist white preacher or a racist black preacher. But the Wright story is uniquely damaging to Obama because it's a black man's black preacher; it's a story that speaks to white voters' fears that Obama will be willing to listen to the counsel of those who see fairness and equality as secondary to resentment and payback and score-settling.

I still contend that his association with Rev. Wright is entirely fair game - it's Obama, after all, who chose this man as a role model and spiritual mentor, who named his book after one of Rev. Wright's fiery sermons. But at least I can understand why this particular line of attack makes Sen. McCain more nervous than many others, because it undeniably does put Obama in a different place than it would put John Edwards. But in that regard, it is very much unlike any of the criticisms the McCain campaign has actually chosen to deploy.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:14 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Racist Campaign Ad Watch

Given that our betters have been instructing us again and again that it's racist to depict or associate Barack Obama with white women, I have investigated and uncovered scandalous new evidence of more ads and campaign videos that have used this racist tactic. Read on for the evidence of this smear campaign directed at Senator Obama:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:26 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (27) | TrackBack (0)
August 1, 2008
BASEBALL: The Ones You Don't Make

Cerrone summarizes Omar Minaya's press conference on why the Mets made no deals at the deadline. Realistically, having dealt Milledge and stripped much of the farm system's tradeable chips in the offseason to get Santana, the Mets could not compete for the likes of Manny or Jason Bay. Bay brought home 4 prospects - the Mets only really have two prime time prospects now, outfielder Fernando Martinez and LHP Jon Niese, and with a long-term core of Wright-Reyes-Santana-Beltran-Maine (if healthy)-Pelfrey in place, they don't want to totally abandon the future to win now just because they are running near the end of the line with Delgado, Pedro, Wagner and maybe Perez (I won't mention Alou and El Duque here since they aren't contributing now anyway). It's frustrating, since this is a pretty good team now that just has some gaping holes to fill, especially with Church's status perenially uncertain, but I guess we are now wedded to Fernando Tatis as an everyday player, and hoping the 33-year-old Tatis doesn't wake up one morning and realize the 1990s are over.

Cerrone runs down the longer list of guys Minaya talked about as prospects. A quick look:

*Martinez, 19, is batting .292/.332/.420 at AA and has is ailing again, this time his hamstrings. .292 with doubles power is not bad for a teenager at AA, but with no HR power yet and a 14/56 BB/K ratio he's clearly not going to be of any use to the big club this year and probably needs a full year in the minors in 2009 before you can talk about him as a serious major league regular.

*Niese, 21, has just been bumped up to AAA. I assume we see him for a September cup of coffee, earlier only if Maine's rotator cuff is worse than the Mets are letting on. He has a 2.95 ERA and his per 9 ratios are 8.15 K, 3.15 BB and 0.41 HR in 23 starts. His ERA was 4.29, but with similar peripherals, in A ball last year. He seems to project as a third starter type, maybe a #2 at best.

*Robert Parnell, the #2 starter behind Niese at AA Binghamton, pitched really well his first season in low A ball in 2005, but has a 4.39 ERA since then, including 4.32 this season, averaging 6.56 K, 4.32 BB and 0.93 HR. I can't see what in his performance record makes him a prospect any time in the near future.

*Dan Murphy, 23, has good numbers at AA this year (.308/.374/.496 with 26 2B, 13 HR, and 14 steals). Unfortunately, Murphy's a third baseman (and an error-prone one at that, career fielding % of .920) and has little prior track record of minor league success; to be useful to the Mets he would need a new position, but breaking in a new position makes a guy hard to trade while he's learning it.

*Eddie Kunz, 22 and also at AA Binghamton, is a RH reliever who has never allowed a home run in 59 pro innings, has a 2.87 ERA and 7.85 K/9 this season, but also 4.40 BB. Like Murphy, he's only done anything to merit appearing on the prospect radar this season. I can't see the use in rushing a guy like that until his control improves.

There's also Nick Evans and Mike Carp, of course, who will presumably battle it out for the 1B job next season assuming Delgado is allowed to walk (anything else would be nuts) and the Mets finish second in the Teixeira sweepstakes.

One more note: the Mets officially do not miss Paul Lo Duca, who was cut by the Nationals along with Felipe Lopez and Johnny Estrada.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)